The door to the bar Lapin slowly opened, creaking slightly. Ryuu greeted the customer as he turned away from wiping down the bar. A haggled woman stood there, her hair a mess and her face weary. She looked years past her age, thought she could only be in her early thirties. She was in a mere skirt and blouse for such a harsh winter night, her face and hands red from the cold. He blinked rapidly as she dragged herself over to the barstool in front of him.
“Aren’t you cold, ma’am?” he asked, concerned. “I can make something to warm you up.”
She stared down at the bar, her eyes quivering with unshed tears. Her hands clenched spastically as if she were experiencing sudden stabs of pain. Finally, she looked up at him, a tiny smile on her face.
“Thanks for the concern…”
“Thanks for the concern, Sasakura-san, but I’ll just have a glass of milk.”
With a questioning eyebrow, he poured her the simple drink and set it down in front of her. She looked at it for the longest time before finally reaching out and drinking from it. She put it down after having a small sip. Her hands tightened around the glass as she spoke.
“I forgot to introduce myself. I’m (Last Name) (First Name),” she sniffed quietly. “I work at the restaurant down the street. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
He laughed slightly. “Nothing bad, I hope.”
She shook her head. “I’ve heard that you can help people…solve their life’s dilemmas…with just one drink.”
Ryuu picked up another glass to clean. “I wouldn’t say that.”
(Name) rubbed at her eyes, dark tear stains appearing on the sleeve of her green shirt. She let out a shaky breath. “I came here to…see if you could help but…I realize now that…nothing can.”
Ryuu stopped his work and stood in front of her. Her hands were gripping the glass so tightly, he was surprised that it hadn’t cracked yet. Gently, he reached out and pried her hands free of the glass, setting it down nearby. Her hands found her face instead. Tears leaked from in between her fingers, silently landing on the counter.
“An hour ago…I would’ve introduced myself as (Last Name) (First Name)…single mother,” a sob escaped her as her form shook. “Now…I’m just single.”
His eyes widened. “I’m sorry, I -”
“Would you just…stay here…with me?” she choked out.
Ryuu wasn’t sure what to do, really. The other two were at home while Ryuu took nightshift. He glanced at the clock. He still had four hours until closing. The woman in front of him was a complete wreck. Then again, he had seen worse as a bartender.
As if a dam had burst, she began crying harder than before, shoulders heaving from the effort. Her hand unconsciously grabbed his as she hid her face in the crook of her arm. Ryuu allowed a small frown, placing a hand over top her own.
Sometimes, it was hard to be a bartender.