Ann settled into a chair at Catherine’s dining room table. Tiny laid next to her, nose nuzzling her feet. She curled her fingers around a glass of red wine when a loud barking came from the living room.
The front door opened as a blanketed form with a nose peeking out at one end and a tail wagging at the other confronted the intruder.
“Bonney, you know who I am! You’re such a nuisance!” Delia held up two plastic bags as she tried to walk around Catherine’s dachshund and the blanket that had fallen off in the commotion.
Ann called the little dog over and scratched her head. “Aww, Bonnie don’t listen to her. You’re perfect. If Cath could, she’d have six more of you.”
“Please, one is enough,” Catherine rolled her eyes then smiled.
Bonnie sighed, she let Ann have a few moments with her but quickly decided Delia was worthy of her attention. She was carrying bags with delicious scents after all.
“Did you remember the egg rolls?” Catherine asked the short brunette as she placed the takeout bags on the table.
“When have I ever forgotten them?” Delia smirked as she removed her corduroy jacket, a bi pride pin glinting in the sunshine.
Catherine helped Delia distribute the Chinese food. Ann set up a large board game mat that was resembled a map. She set game pieces in the shape of train cars in front of herself and her cousins.
“Someone in the mood for a vacation? Maybe with a certain someone?” Delia probed as she took a forkful of chow mein.
Ann blushed slightly. Ticket to Ride - Europe was one of her favorites. She had traveled to Paris with her family. But she always wanted to see more. Ann adored daydreaming about places to travel as she pieced together different routes with the color-coded train cars. She picked three destination cards. This time she’d be dreaming of visiting historic Tivoli in Copenhagen, meeting pampered cows with flowered crowns in Zurich, and admiring the stained-glass windows at the Basilica in Barcelona.
“They’ve only been on one date, Deels,” Cath hissed.
“I know, but Anne Lister is a catch.”
Ann looked up at the name, startled from the travelogue in her mind.
“I haven’t even asked if she likes to travel yet,” Ann took a bite of her dinner as her cousins took their turns in the game.
“You know, Ann, I’ve heard from the sapphic grapevine that she’s been to loads of places. I’m sure she’d be up to introducing you to a few,” Delia mused as she neatly placed one yellow train car card on top of another.
Ann shot her a look as if Delia had spent more time with Anne than she did. “Where’d you hear that?”
“At Icarus, of course.”
Ann was crestfallen. She found the lesbian bar to be way too cliquey and packed with people. Ann rarely went. She was out of the loop and apparently Anne was very popular.
“Don’t worry. Anne is lucky to be dating you,” Delia touched her cousin’s hand. She liked to tease but she certainly would never hurt Ann.
Catherine smugly placed four black train car pieces on the game board. Bluffing was not one of her strengths. Ann and Cath once played the deduction game One Night Ultimate Werewolf with a group of friends at a party. When she got her role card Catherine frowned and whispered “oh no.” Cath was clearly a werewolf.
Ann repressed a shake of her head and a roll of her eyes at her cousin’s current gameplay.
“Do you have a second date scheduled yet?” Catherine asked.
“Yes, actually. Her friend who she’s been pet sitting for is back in town on Saturday. We’re going to hang out at Crow Nest for a bit and then head over to her friend’s brewery for dinner.”
Delia’s face scrunched as she pulled some more train car cards. “Would it happen to be Langton Brewing Company?”
“Ye-es,” Ann drew the word out slowly.
“The owner is one of Anne’s exes,” Delia laughed.
Oh good. She was going to be in the same room as an ex. Already!? On the second date. The heat rose in Ann’s cheeks as she returned to the present. “Do you know every woman loving woman in this town?”
“Pretty much,” Delia grinned.
The three continued with their banter as they played through the game. Delia somehow managed to win as she simultaneously strategized and prodded her cousin for details.
* * * * *
Anne grabbed the bottle of water and Ann’s steaming mug of tea that waited for her on the order pickup counter. Water was best. She needed to hydrate after walking Maya over from Tib’s house.
The night before, Anne told Tib that she really liked Ann, but she was very timid. Tib suggested bringing Maya for comfort. “My girl could use the walk. Get all that energy out so I can have some snuggle time with her tonight,” Tib instructed.
Anne nodded to Catherine before leaving. Catherine, who was busy helping a customer, smiled at her. Anne walked slowly back to Crow Nest, careful not to spill.
“So, Catherine tells me you’re a boss at backgammon,” Anne said as she placed the tea in front of Ann.
The blond woman looked up from petting Maya, who was practically passed out. “Do you know how to play?” Ann raised an eyebrow.
“I do. I play it with my sister once in a while. Are you up for it?” Anne smiled a toothy grin.
Ann tsked. “Wait here.” She went to the front counter. Behind it were shelves of games removed from their protective plastic, ready for customers to play at the shop. She grabbed the backgammon box quickly.
Anne made a show of rolling up her grey cotton shirt sleeves when Ann returned. “Right, then.” For all the prowess she presented, Anne really did not know what she was getting into.
During the game, Ann moved the white checkers around the board with ease. Her opponent trailed behind her. Anne’s eyebrows furrowed as Ann started to bear off her checkers. Anne still had a few straggling black checkers that weren’t to her home board yet. How many years had it been since she last played? At least two. Her lack of strategy was understandable.
After a few more turns, Anne moved a loose strand of hair out of her eyes. She looked at her opponent as the last white checker was removed from the board. Ann lightly played with the dice cup in her lithe fingers and grinned with self-satisfaction.
“You are good at this.”
“Want to try again?”
“Yes,” Anne leaned over the table slightly, feeding off Ann’s pride. “But don’t go easy on me.” Her words slipped out in a low voice, presenting Ann with an invitation to seduction.
Ann bit her lip as she picked up her checkers. “As long as you keep your mind on the game,” Ann raised an eyebrow.
As Ann finished setting up the game, Anne placed a knuckle to her face and smiled. Ann truly came out of her shell while playing. She was daring, happy and sexy. Maya’s assistance was practically unnecessary.
Anne focused on the game as best she could. She tried to recall how she won in the past. Yet still Ann ended up with all her checkers placed by her side first. The sting of loss was worth it to see Ann’s feisty spirit.
“Well, you’ve thrashed me again,” Anne quickly glanced at her phone for the time. “Are you ready to eat? I’ve really worked up an appetite.”
Ann smiled and nodded.
As they got close to Langton Brewing Company, Maya knowingly tugged on the leash. A few people stood waiting by a food truck parked in front of a small taproom with a patio. Only a few tables were occupied as it was still early in the evening. A woman not quite reaching Anne’s height in a short sleeve button up shirt and khaki shorts strode out.
“My girl!” she jovially cried.
Anne let go of the leash as Maya tugged harder.
The woman scooped the terrier swiftly into her arms and welcomed several wet kisses.
“Did Aunt Anne take good care of you?” she cooed, cradling the dog like a baby.
“Of course I did,” Anne smugly announced.
The woman looked up as she returned Maya to the ground. “Thanks again for taking care of her,” she slapped Anne on the back. The woman turned to Ann with a wide grin, “Isabella Norcliffe, but everyone calls me Tib.”
“Ann Walker,” she shook her hand.
“Why don’t you two get settled. I’ll go feed Maya and be right back.”
“Tib seems nice” Ann noted as they chose a table on the patio.
“She is, very kind, a bit too friendly at times,” Anne’s fingers tapped the table.
Ann perused the menu. Beer was not her forte.
Anne lightly touched Ann’s hand to get her attention.
The touch shot through Ann’s body. She looked up, hoping she didn’t jump out of her seat.
“Would you like a burger?”
“Yes, thanks, with cheese. And fries, please.”
Anne winked, “I’ll be right back.”
Ann only had a few more seconds with the menu when Tib returned.
“Have you made a decision, love?” She asked, crouching down next to the table so she could meet Ann eye to eye.
“I’m not sure, there’s so many to choose from.”
“Not to worry. How about I get you a flight of a few of my favorites and we can go from there?”
“That sounds great.”
“Excellent,” Tib rose to leave.
“Oh, I didn’t ask Anne what she wants,” Ann faltered, embarrassed.
“Ugh, old goat always has the same thing. I can’t get her out of her comfort zone.”
Ann laughed as Tib went back inside. She guessed she didn’t have to worry about her. She was sweet and seemed to treat Anne like a sister. Ann nodded her head to the 80s pop music lightly coming from the taproom speakers. The heat of the sun warmed her face. Anne caught her eye as she stood waiting for their food.
Anne’s hands clasped behind her black vest. She wasn’t tempted to pass the time browsing social media on her phone. She tried not to stare too long, but Ann in a red sun dress swaying to the beat easily held her attention.
Both Anne and Tib returned within seconds of each other to the table.
Tib provided Ann with a brief description of each tiny glass of beer. Ann listened with interest. Across the table, Anne tried to hide her concern, but she knew full well that Tib was going to make a crass remark about the last glass.
“Now this one on your right is what Anne is having.”
“Tuft Hunter?” Ann laughed.
“Yes, Anne’s favorite on account of –“
“Tib,” Anne shot Tib a look before she could continue.
“Oh, it’s not dirty!”
Anne continued glaring at her.
“I’ll let you two be then. I wrote a list for you in case you forget,” she smiled gleefully as she placed a note by Ann’s glasses.
“Thank you for your help, Tib” Ann smiled, amused that she could embarrass Anne so easily.
“Of course,” Tib nodded and left the two women to their date.
Ann picked up the wheat ale on the right and raised an eyebrow. “Well, if this is your favorite,” she took a sip. It tasted citrusy with a little spice. “That’s nice.”
Anne smiled, “I’m glad you approve.” She nodded towards the beer flight, “I’d take it easy on that dark one.”
Ann referenced her note: Morpheus – Stout, 8% ABV (it packs a punch, but I think you’ll get a kick out of it).
She carefully brought the glass to her lips. The beer tasted strongly of coffee. Ann’s nose wrinkled.
Anne smiled before popping a fry in her mouth. “You can take a break if you want to.”
“No, no. I’m game.” She picked up Reprobate, an IPA. Ann grimaced as the taste settled in her mouth. “I’m afraid it’s not for me. It’s too bitter.” Ann took a bite of her burger, hoping to rid her mouth of the aftertaste.
Finally, she tried the red ale. “Mmm,” she smiled at the mild caramel flavor. “Purse Dipper,” Ann waggled her eyebrows.
“Is that the one?” Anne asked, almost choking on her burger. She wasn’t sure if she was more taken aback by Ann’s mild lewdness or the fact that she had forgotten one of the more vulgar of Tib’s beer names.
Anne clinked her glass lightly against the small one in Ann’s hand.
Ann ended up enjoying Purse Dipper so much that she had two pints. She drank them slowly while finishing her meal, not wanting to be totally smashed and embarrass herself.
Anne found that her companion enjoyed talking while she was under the influence. She regaled stories of her cousins, bad dates, and her dog’s antics at home. Her hands gesticulated wildly while she spoke. This woman was adorable, Anne mused to herself.
As the evening grew dark, fairy lights illuminated the patio. The light perfectly highlighted Anne’s face, her strong cheekbones and elegant nose. Ann realized she was somehow still talking. And she was enamored. She knew it wasn’t just the beer’s doing.
“Tell Tiny I will have to see her soon,” Anne was slightly tipsy herself as they stood on the sidewalk a few minutes before Ann’s cab was due. Anne planned on getting a ride home from Tib.
There was a silence as they both stood gazing at each other. Ann couldn’t keep her eyes off her date. Fueled by the gumption that alcohol gave her, she leaned in and pressed her lips to Anne’s. The taller woman wrapped her arm around Ann’s waist and deepened the kiss.
The grinding of wheels startled Ann and she pulled away. A cab stopped in front of them.
“Thank you for tonight,” Anne pressed a hand to Ann’s elbow. “I’ll call you tomorrow, alright?”
Ann nodded, “Thank you.” She turned and opened the taxi door, the sheer excitement of their kiss lingered in her body.