“You’re late.” Tom tapped his beer bottle on the table and glared at Laura. The bar was dark and smokey, and Tom seemed to be a part of the gloom.
Five empty beer bottles were pushed to the far end of the table, against the wall. Tom was drinking more these days. When he drank, he got mean. “Sorry,” Laura said. “Homework and Monica.” Laura slid into the booth opposite Tom. “You know how she gets.”
Tom spun the longneck bottle between his hands. It was almost empty, and the beer in the bottom of the bottle turned to froth. “No, I don’t know how she gets,” Tom said, his voice dropping to a growl. “Why don’t you tell me?” The last was a challenge.
“Don’t be angry,” Laura said, motioning to the bartender. “It’s just–”
Tom reached out and grabbed her hand. He yanked Laura hard into the table so that her face was only inches from his. “I said you’re late.” Tom jerked her arm with each word.
“Just shut up.” Tom shoved her back into the booth. “I told you to be here at 6, and it’s quarter after.” Tom swallowed what was left of his beer and signaled for another one. “Where were you?”
Laura rubbed her wrists. Tom rarely acted this way. She wasn’t sure what to do. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t think–”
“You’re right.” Tom spit the words out. “You didn’t think. I told you when to be here. You’re wasting my time.”
The waitress came up beside the table. Her voice was high, and had a lilt to it. “Two-fifty,” she said. “You want something?” she added, nodding to Laura.
“She doesn’t want anything,” Tom said, throwing three one-dollar bills onto the table. “But I might, later on.”
Laura’s mouth dropped. Tom had never been so crass, nor so cruel. “Are you all right?” she asked.
“I’m fine.” He bit the two words off one at a time. “I’ll be better after I’ve had this beer.”