they meet in a small, shabby bar on a chilly, october night.
nancy is exhausted and freezing to death because seattle’s weather does not treat her right. it wrecks her insides and makes her want to vomit, with its awful drizzle that never stops and gray clouds that have taken the sky’s place a long time ago. since she came here, there hasn’t been a single day when the sun was shining for more than two hours. it’s so gloomy and damp and she can swear that at least half of her friends would agree that the weather here perfectly reflects her personality.
seattle sucks and consequently so does she.
it is half past nine when her cold hand reaches a metal handle of a huge, green, wooden door with a dirty window covered with half-scratched stickers that makes an entrance to some local bar she has never heard of before. she’s been running in the rain for the past fifteen minutes, looking for a place to stay until the weather calms down and if she only had more determination inside her, she would for sure find something better, but the water in her shoes does not allow her to even dream about different possibilities. as soon as soaked with cigarettes' smoke’s smell, stuffy air hits her nostrils, she’s certain that this is not a place she wanted to end up in, but a bell above her head rings pretty loudly, making sure that everyone there knows that she’s arrived. nancy wheeler hates little things like this, unnecessarily loud and not cute at all, just useless. hawkins’ stores used to be full of them. she tries to take a quick look around before anybody starts looking at her weirdly and god forbid comes near her asking about anything. the place is not even that crowded, a little bit loud of course, but she can see a few lonely tables in the corners. it’s dark in there, the windows on the right wall do not comply with their duties at all, which makes them as useless as the stupid bell. perfect .
her first step forward causes the floor to creak so loud that she starts to wonder how old the place actually is and how it managed to not collapse for that long. she’s sure that if she was a different person the sound would charm her, make her wonder how many people stepped their feet there before, how many insanely wonderful stories happened here, it would’ve filled her heart with a need to text her friends and ramble about how they have to visit it. has anyone ever proposed to the love of their life inside a small seattle bar she’s standing in right now? how many first dates did take place here? but nancy doesn’t wonder, she shakes off the feeling and moves forward to place her order and get it over with, hoping the rain will pass at least for a while so she can come back to her flat dry. as soon as she looks up she notices the music playing in the background. they play some 2010s playlist which is so not like seattle. the music is fun, lively and reminds her of her high school years. but the city makes her feel like she hasn’t been home in ages in the worst way possible. it’s not a nice nostalgia, it’s the feeling of longing and loneliness wrapping around her bones, shaking her muscles and overflowing her brain making it tremble from the sadness.
she takes a look at the huge menu that's hanging on the wall behind the bar. they serve almost everything that contains alcohol, from beer through whiskey to vodka and only a few other options for those who don’t want to get drunk on a monday evening.
it reminds her of a roadhouse in the suburbs back home. the one with a broken window and old rusty, chevy impala with flat tires parked in front of it since the 80s. there was a time when her dad felt particularly adventurous, probably because of a mid-life crisis, and wanted to buy the old thing. he dreamt of renovating it and taking the whole family on a country road trip. but her mother loved hawkins too much.
“what can i get you?” an unfamiliar voice drags her from her own thoughts.
“what?” she asks quietly, turning towards the direction of the sound.
she sees her. a tall girl with blonde, not too long hair and white, wrinkled shirt with carelessly rolled up sleeves. she smiles at her and for a brief moment nancy feels like in la la land or some other romcom shit (she’s not sure because she really is not that into these kinds of movies) . for a brief moment the music around her quiets down and all the light focuses on the girl and nancy can swear she sees and feels sparks flying around them. because the girl is stunning with a smile that lights up the room and the voice that could sing the most beautiful melodies. nancy wants to look at her forever. she could stay there all night just to stare at her.
“oh, i was just asking for your order.” the girl explains herself quickly. ”sorry if i interrupted something?” she adds with a face so serious and slightly startled, which makes nancy want to giggle.
“it’s fine.” she smiles. “i was just… thinking.” nancy answers, realizing how stupid that sounds. “a tea will be fine.” she adds quickly, hoping she didn’t sound like a total snobe.
you just carry yourself like this nance. making everyone around you feel like you’re looking down on them.
“we have a raspberry or a ginger one with orange slices and clove.” she says enthusiastically.
“the ginger one.”
“someone’s feeling cold today, huh? seattle’s weather not treating you well?” once again, the voice rescues her from herself.
“is it so noticeable?” nancy asks, laughing and hoping she doesn’t look like a wet, homeless dog.
“i mean if you ask me i think you look gorgeous.”
suddnely nancy has no idea what to say or how to breathe.
“but you know, seattle’s weather is a bitch.” she adds with a smirk.
“okay, but does it treat anyone well? i cannot be the only one who just doesn’t get along with it”
“only the lucky ones.” the girl looks at her and winks and nancy feels like there is a plane crashing inside her head.
it all is so new to her, so strangely unknown. because nancy used to know everything, she was a walking encyclopedia, a girl who knew the answer to every question, someone who you could ask for advice. but she didn’t know feelings. she was never good at them, not with her own family or boys and surely not with girls.
she never thought of it as a problem, it was just a part of her, something she didn’t think could be fixed.
this trait was probably running in their family. neither her mom nor dad were expressive people. they never hugged or kissed or even had a small conversation about little nothings in front of her, sometimes she even wondered how they managed to have three kids. days in wheeler’s house were quiet, filled with tv sounds or screams of her siblings’ friends. young nancy didn’t like to invite people over, she didn’t like sleepovers or hanging out until very late hours. she liked spending time with herself and herself only.
until she met barbara.
barb was different, she wasn’t mean and was actually giving some thoughts to her actions. she wasn’t obsessed with smoking cigarettes and making fun of teachers. she was quiet, funny and liked the same books as nancy. they met in the school's library during one of lunch breaks and have stuck together ever since. nancy remembers so well how barb shyly asked her about some book they had to read for english literature and nancy, for the first time, took a chance and instead of just telling her, decided to show her to the right shelf. she even had the courage to tell barb about the book because, of course, she had already read it. and barb didn’t laugh at her, she didn’t call her nerd, she asked nancy if she knew more books written by the author and if she could help her with english lit because she’s really not that good at it. on that day nancy came home happy for the very first time.
they were inseparable.
“i’ll bring it to you.” a happy voice wakes her up.
“cool.” nancy smiles, still half absent.
the table she sits at is small and painted black with a small, barely alive bouquet of tiny, yellow roses placed in a beer bottle in the middle. the wall on her left is made of brick and covered with movie posters and golden, christmas lights. she reaches inside her bag, taking a thick, slightly damaged notebook and a black pen out of it. she began writing earlier this day but now all the words feel like a mess she poured on a paper straight out of her mind without even trying to make sense. she tries to understand them, understand herself, but nancy from this morning doesn’t seem like a person who wants to be understood so she scrunches up the piece of paper and begins again. it is always a little bit awkward, even if everything that is written stays between her and the piece of paper. she looks around as if somebody was watching her and starts writing. at first she always describes her day, then her mood and then everything that is left inside her. it’s therapeutic, being able to put yourself on an object and then hand it to somebody, never reading it out loud but making sure the person knows.
“whatcha' writing?” the girl asks her and nancy starts to think that either she’s losing her hearing or the blonde mastered the art of moving noiselessly.
or probably, most likely, it’s the fact that nancy’s mind is thousand miles away, somewhere she doesn’t even know where, thinking about things out of this world.
“a letter.” she answers politely, giving her a little smile and moving her things from the table, making a space for her cup of tea.
“a letter? in 2022?” you’re really something aren’t you?” she responds ecstatically, leaving her in awe but before nancy has any chance to respond or even gasp, she continues.”I mean it in a good way, no offense ( none taken, nancy thinks) of course, I’m sorry. sometimes i just let the words leave my mouth without even thinking about the consequences. you know, at least once a week i say the wrong thing to a wrong person and boom i earn myself a spot on a manager's blacklist, at least ‘till the next shift because trust me this woman has a memory of a goldfish, or that dory fish, you know which one ( nancy has no idea ), i'm not even sure how she runs this place..” she’s rambling and nancy just focuses on her voice. It’s pretty, with a lot of hoarseness in it. she likes it. “anyway, i told her there is no way i will take this shift with eddie because he may be my friend but let me tell you something, guy is a whole disaster magnet and i’m so not in the mood for whatever.... whenever honestly.” she must sense that nancy is staring because she stops and looks at her. “I am so… so sorry.” she sounds concerned. ”really, really sorry, you have to believe me-”
“It’s fine.” nancy interrupts her before she’s can start another story. “ you’re kinda entertaining. I mean it, you have some gift from storytelling because believe me or not i would love to hear more about this eddie.”
“oh.” the sound leaves the girl's mouth and nancy wants to giggle a little because that may be the most adorable thing she’s seen in months.
“Yeah. I needed something to pull my mind away from all the.. everything” she gasps.
“though month actually.” nancy admits awkwardly.
“tell me about it.” she says standing right in front of nancy, her hands so close to the unfinished letter. nancy notices that she looks at it briefly.
“really?” a tired laugh leaves her mouth.”you wanna hear about it?”
“i mean yeah,” she drawls. “i asked. i may talk a lot but I’m also a pretty good listener and if you’re willing to stay here...” she stops looking at a watch on her wrist. “for thirty minutes more, i’m all yours.”
nancy like the idea.
“deal.” she grins.
“deal. see you then.” she says proudly, turning her back and walking away.
nancy watches her as she’s saying goodbye to the last customers and cleans up all the tables. she has no idea about being a waitress but something tells her that the girl cares at least a little bit about the place. it’s hidden in the way she wipes all the crumbs off the counters and takes each one of bottle-flacons and fills them up with water. it’s between placing all the alcohol bottles in the perfect order on the shelves behind the bar and washing all the dishes in complete silence. because the place itself sucks, it really does and nancy would never recommend it to anyone, based just on it’s looks. but she makes it special. nancy has no idea when she turned off the music. it must’ve been some time between placing all the hairs on the tables and wiping off the floors. those are basic tasks but she can feel that the girl takes her time, making sure everything is sewed up. watching her is so calming, almost unrealistic.
then the girl disappears.
for a moment nancy wonders if she maybe forgot about her, she’s almost ready for lights to go off, but the girl comes back with a plate full of fries and two beers in her left hand.
“want some?” she asks, lifting the bottles in the air.
“thanks, i’m not really… i don’t really enjoy these types of drinks” nancy admits, slightly embarrassed.
“sure thing. drinking’s not everyone’s piece of cake.” she smiles, sitting right in front of nancy, placing the plate between them. “enjoy.”
it smells and looks delicious. nancy smiles and takes one of the fries.
“so..” the girl begins. “how’s your day?”
and nancy tells her almost everything.