Over the front door hung a curious sign that looked like it belonged over an Old West saloon; it stuck out from the building’s corner at a forty-five angle, so a good breeze from either of two directions could cause the sign to move. Without a breeze today, however, there was no trouble reading that this establishment was known as The Nook & Cranny. The solid oak door was heavy, and didn’t open as easily as Sarah would have thought. She was able to open it by giving it an extra tug, and walked through.

The Nook & Cranny was at the back corner of a strip mall, and was about as crowded as you would expect it to be, given its name and out of the way location. In addition to the bartender, there were three patrons. An old man wearing a Seattle Mariners cap was sitting at the bar, watching a baseball game on the medium sized television above the bar. There were two Hispanic men in a corner booth that appeared to have come straight from work; whatever their trade was, it appeared to involve a large amount of gray dust.

The main room was about as big as you would expect a place called the Nook & Cranny to be. There was a fifteen-foot bar against one wall, lined by six barstools; a dozen beer taps formed the centerpiece of the back wall. These taps were surrounded by a plentiful selection of liquor bottles; a door to a small office behind one end of the bar was casually left wide open.

The walls were lacquered wood, and the windows all had Venetian blinds, most of which were drawn. The eight tables and chairs were wood as well, and the place had sort of a rustic cabin vibe, although there wasn’t a fireplace or an overabundance of taxidermy to complete the atmosphere. Four booths on the far end of the room completed the customer seating, with a small hallway between them, over which hung a neon sign identifying it as “Restrooms.”

While the establishment had some dive-like qualities, it wasn’t dirty, nor did it feel particularly sketchy. However, those factors still didn’t provide Sarah any clue as to why Katrina had asked to meet here, of all places, while Sarah didn’t feel extremely overdressed in her dark blue pantsuit, she probably could have shown up in T-shirt and jeans and felt a little less conspicuous.

Sarah approached the bar and sat down, three chairs away from the old man. He turned and looked at her briefly; he grunted before turning back to his game. The bartender looked like a typical Portland hipster; her black framed glasses and striped sweater top screamed “I knew it before it was cool,” and her tattooed arm sleeves declared “I’m edgy, no really, I’m totally edgy.” She was short with a slender, almost sinewy frame. Her straight-as-an-arrow reddish-brown hair hung all the way to her waist.

“Hey there. What can I get for you?” The bartender asked, smiling.

Sarah peered at the bottles of liquor behind the bar, inspecting the various options she could see. “Do you have a full bar?”

“For the most part.”

“Alabama Slammer?”

The bartender smiled to herself at some inside joke. “No sloe gin, sorry.”

“Hmm. Well, OK, what’s your IPA selection?”

She rattled off a few names, none of which stood out to Sarah as particularly desirable.

“Well, hmmm. How about a screwdriver? Top shelf.”

“That I can do.”

The bartender turned around, and got to work. The old man muttered an obscenity under his breath; she glanced at the TV and saw the Mariners were leading the Orioles in the seventh inning. Sarah checked her phone, and noticed her messenger had popped up with a message from Katrina — “sorry last client ran long. 10 min late. 1st drink on me.”

Katrina’s Facebook friend request had arrived before Sarah had gotten home from their eventful first meeting. Other than that, it had been radio silence for the better part of two weeks, until a Facebook chat message arrived today. “Want to get a drink after work today?”

Sarah had let the message sit for a good fifteen minutes, trying not to seem too eager. “Sure.”

“Great! 5:30 @ Nook & Cranny in Tualatin?”


“C U then”

Sarah was surprised by how nervous she had become. She’d only met Katrina the one time; saying they hit it off was an understatement, so there was no real reason to be anxious, but still…. she was. She checked herself in the bathroom mirror about five times over the course of the afternoon, wondering if she should stop by Fred Meyer or Kohl’s or even Victoria’s Secret to pick up something new. Any possibility of that, though, got thrown out of the window when a prospect called at 3:30 and asked for a house visit at 4:00, eliminating any possibility of shopping before they met up.

Sarah had never heard of the Nook & Cranny, but the name appealed to her well enough. It was as hard to find as its moniker might suggest; the strip mall it resided in had a vegan grocery store, a rent-to-own place, and some other miscellaneous shops. She had to drive back and forth up the strip mall twice before seeing the service road beside it, and realizing where the bar must be.

The bartender put the drink down in front of her. “Close it out?”

“Leave it open.” Sarah handed over her card, and the bartender filed it before going back to surfing her phone. The old man swore under his breath; the Orioles had drawn a walk. Sarah took a sip of her drink; it was very well made, which Sarah found surprising for some reason.

Sarah watched the baseball game disinterestedly for a couple of minutes, nursed a couple more sips of her drink, then walked beneath the flickering neon sign to the restroom.

There were two bathrooms, both unisex and single occupant, in that weird Portland way that seemed bizarre to anyone from a traditional mindset; most Oregonians didn’t seem to bat an eye. In situations like this, Sarah had a personal policy of always taking the further restroom, as she felt it likely got less used and was therefore probably cleaner.

As it turned out, she need not have worried about the cleanliness of this bathroom. It was square, probably eight foot per side, leaving lots of empty space between the fixtures. The walls were wood paneled in here as well, but for some reason the Paul Bunyan vibe the main bar got from that effect didn’t translate here. A toilet, urinal, and sink were lined up neatly against one wall, and everything was spotlessly clean; there was even a white wicker bench where paper towels, bar towels, and other toiletries were stocked. Presumably, someone could sit there and chat if the old ‘Girls Only Go to the Bathroom in Groups’ stereotype was in play. Sarah couldn’t help but be a little impressed; the restroom felt like it belonged in a significantly higher class of establishment than the Nook & Cranny.

After concluding her business and washing her hands, she returned to the bar. In her absence, the Hispanic men had left, but Katrina had arrived, and was sitting at the bar, having a friendly conversation with the bartender.

“No, that wasn’t the only place we went, there was also the other one over off T-V Highway, I forget the name, but it has the dolphin statues — oh, hi Sarah!”

Katrina jumped up from her barstool and gave Sarah a big hug. Katrina looked as striking as she had during the first encounter; today she was wearing a tight pink workout leotard underneath black gym shorts. Her sneakers and ankle socks gave the impression she had just come from the gym, although her purse struck Sarah as a little larger than expected, given her outfit. Her make-up was minimal, but pristine, which Sarah found unsurprising given what she knew about Katrina. Katrina’s auburn tinted brown hair was tied in a ponytail, similar to how it was in their first meeting.

The hug lasted just a little longer than casual, which made Sarah both nervous and excited. She had spent a lot of time thinking about the evening she had spent with Katrina and Ryan, and many of her fantasies since had been filled with thoughts and memories of the activities of that evening.

“Find the place OK?” Katrina asked.

“Took a couple of extra passes, but I knew it was here somewhere, so it was only a matter of time.”

“Great! It’s a little hard to find, but that’s part of why I like it. Good bartenders, but almost never a full crowd.”

Sarah nodded while taking a demonstrative sip of her drink. “Excellent bartenders, judging from the quality of my drink.”

“Speaking of which,” Katrina nodded to the woman behind the bar, “Harper, this is Sarah. Sarah, Harper.”

Sarah shook hands with the bartender as Katrina continued. “Sarah’s a good friend of Ryan’s. Harper’s been a bartender as long as I’ve been coming here – about a year now, I think. That about right?”

“Sounds about right.” Harper adopted a petulant look. “But we’ve hung out a couple of times outside here, as well. Personally, I’d call us friends, but apparently to Kat, I’m just the bartender.”

Katrina stuck her tongue out at Harper, and they both laughed. Looking a little closer, Sarah noticed Harper had tattooed sleeves with a definite fairy motif.

“Harper’s a great name; any story behind it?” Sarah asked.

“My mother’s favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird, which was as a little annoying as a kid, but when my little sister Scout was born, I felt better about my name.”

“I bet. Sorry; you probably hate people asking about it.”

“It’s not so bad now that I’m an adult. Unless, of course, you’re a drunk guy hitting on me, or you ask me if I play the harp.”

Another grumble erupted from the old man at the counter as something else undesirable happened in the baseball game. Katrina picked up her drink, and pointed to a table in the corner. “Shall we?”

“Sure.” Sarah stood up. She raised her glass at Harper, who nodded; Sarah followed Katrina to one of the booths furthest from the restroom. As they took seats on opposite sides of the table, Katrina stooped to hang her purse underneath the table. “You know what I love about this place? Purse hooks!”

“Purse hooks are pretty awesome.” Sarah agreed. “So how’d you find this place? It’s not like you were just driving by, and Yelp reviews don’t normally prominently discuss purse hooks.”

“So… the owner is a client of mine over at the gym. I fell in love with the bar’s name, and decided to take a look. He’d told me a little bit about it, but I realized it was my kind of place the second I walked in. There’s hardly anybody ever here except for a couple of regulars like Arthur,” she said, indicating the baseball fan. “The bartenders are all very down-to-earth and know how to make a good drink. He also pays the help more per hour to get over the relative lack of tips, because he wants good bartenders, and I don’t think he really minds if they have a drink or two over the course of a shift, so long as they’re still doing their job well. He also gives them benefits like PTO and health insurance.”

“How does he afford that? Seems like the place would go out of business in a week with so few customers.”

“Well, he owns three or four nice restaurants in the area, which all serve booze, but he didn’t have a bar-style bar, which he wanted. All the restaurants are owned by the same holding company, so he already has a benefit program, adding a few employees probably didn’t matter much. Pretty sure he also owns a share of the strip mall we’re in, so he pays almost nothing in rent. There’s something about tax write-offs, too, I think, which I don’t really know too much about.”

Katrina took a breath and another drink. “Bottom line? I don’t think he cares much if this place loses money, and I don’t think it costs him a whole lot anyway. Great place to get a quiet drink and not feel the hustle and bustle.”

Sarah nodded. “I will admit it looked a little like a dive bar from the outside, but I certainly see some things to appreciate about it. It’s very clean. The bathrooms are nice. Not many people.” She changed her tone to a more sarcastic one. “But you could have pick someplace that served Alabama Slammers, though.”

Katrina laughed. “No kidding! Robert — he’s the owner — tells me I’m the only one who ever requests anything with sloe gin, so they haven’t stocked it yet. But apparently you asked for it, so maybe that’ll help.” She paused, “I think getting the frozen version is probably a little too much to ask, because that takes extra hardware, and they don’t have a lot of bar space to spare. But the standard mixed drink is still pretty damn good, so THEY SHOULD GET SLOE GIN!” Her voice got loud enough that it could be heard at the bar. Harper didn’t look up from her phone, but playfully flipped the bird in their general direction. Katrina stuck out her tongue again.

She turned back to Sarah. “Anyway, yes. This is my local watering hole, even though it’s too far to walk home. It’s less than a ten-dollar cab ride, though, so that’s a plus.”

The conversation drifted to various favorite bars in the area and then touched other areas of similar interest such as hobbies and leisure activities. Although the two women had shared a very intimate evening, they hadn’t actually spent a lot of time getting to know each other. After they had gotten a second drink, they discovered they shared an appreciation for the new trend of theaters that served alcohol, and eventually the topic ended up on Netflix.

“I missed the first couple of seasons of Orange is the New Black when it came out,” Katrina said, “so I’ve been binging that the last few weeks. I’m working my way through Season Three now. What are you watching?”

“I recently got addicted to Game of Thrones,” Sarah said. “The impression I got before watching it was that it was Dungeons and Dragons with tits and ass, but I was finally persuaded to give it a shot by my mother, of all people. So, I did, and now, I just finished season four and can’t get enough.”

“Wait a second,” Katrina retorted. “Last time we met, you told me you had to cancel HBO. Have you been downloading things illegally, you naughty little minx?”

“Good memory!” Sarah exclaimed. “But no. Todd — my ex — had HBO; we watched it together at his house. I have never watched it with Ryan, though. Do you ever give Ryan shit about having the last name Stark?”

“Naturally. We were trying to drunkenly have sex one night after a late night out, and he couldn’t get it up. I grabbed his dick, and said something to the effect of “Looks like George R.R. Martin killed off yet another Stark.”

Katrina laughed and then got a little serious. “Did you cry at the Red Wedding?”

“Of course! I’d heard the big deal about it when it came out because, well, everybody talked about it even though I had no idea what exactly happened because I didn’t watch the show. I had heard about something called the Red Wedding, but I had no idea how big a deal it was. But — holy shit — that was intense.”

“I was watching it live, and knew something was coming, but not that. I don’t know what I was expecting, but not that. Instant tears. Went to bed and cried myself to sleep; I never realized what effect a completely fictional TV show would have on me.”

“I know, right? I was a blubbering mess, felt like an idiot for caring so much.”


“Ditto?” Sarah raised an eyebrow. “Is that a Ghost reference or did you actually just say ‘ditto’? Seriously, who says that?”

Katrina turned a little red. “Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s just something my father said as a kid, and it’s always stuck with me.”

“Maybe he got it from Ghost?”

“Doubt it. My dad was about as romantic as a sack of potatoes.”

“Yeah, fair enough. Mine, too.”

Katrina raised her glass. “To Dads and their potato-quality gestures of romance!”

Sarah laughed, and they clinked. “To Dads!” Both girls took a sip of their drinks.

Katrina brightened up. “Oh hey, you know what else I’ve been watching a lot of?”

“No. What?”

“The X-rated videos you and Ryan made.”

Sarah instantly turned a bright shade of red. “Oh my, I…I had, uh, forgotten we talked about those.”

“Don’t worry, they were fucking hot as hell. You know how many times I’ve played with myself watching those in the last two weeks?”

“Really?” Sarah felt a little less embarrassed.

“For sure. I’ve watched them all. Some of them several times.”

“Good lord; I didn’t think there were that many.”

“Oh yeah. There’s like, seven or eight. Ryan’s involved in most of them, but there are two of you by yourself. One’s just a couple of minutes; you’re just playing with yourself in the shower, you didn’t realize he was taping you at first. Then you noticed, and just kept going. The second one, you’re very drunk and teasing Ryan through the camera. You made some comment about him being too drunk to get it up, so all he’s good for is holding the camera. One vibrator, one dildo, and two stuffed holes later, you have a very loud orgasm and then fall asleep.”

“Oh wow. I vaguely remember the shower one, but I don’t remember the other one at all.”

“The drunk one was equal parts funny and hot, which makes it one of my favorites. At one point while you’re trying to shove the dildo in your ass, Ryan asks if you need lube, and you turn and point the toy angrily at the camera and shout, in a drunken slur, “Lube? I don’ need no steeenken’ lube!” Then you try again, jab yourself somewhere else, and fall onto the bed, and say “But I do need better aim.”

Both women laughed loudly at that. “Seriously?” Sarah asked. “I said that? I must have been really drunk.”

“Oh yeah, it was hilarious. Don’t believe me? I can show you next time you’re over.”

“I…hmm. I guess I never found the idea of watching myself have sex on tape to be at all interesting. More awkward than anything, really.”

“I suppose I can see that, but … you should definitely watch them. You’re hot.”

“Thanks. I think.”

“The other videos are you and Ryan together. There’s one, which I think is the first one you guys shot, where he sets it down on the desk and you guys have sex on the bed on the other side of the room. Terrible camera work.”

“I mean, it is kind of hard to hold a camera when you’re across the room.”

“True. Another one, though, you’re on top in cowgirl, playing with yourself while you ride him, but he’s holding the camera the whole time. You then flop over once you come, and he fucks you doggy style until he pulls out and blows his load all over your back. The camera gets a little shaky near the end, but it’s definitely a cinematographic improvement over the first one.”

“Sounds like a random Tuesday.”

“Yeah, pretty much. There’s another one where he puts the camera on you, and you drop to your knees, whip out his dick and suck him off, swallowing every drop, and making eye contact the whole time. Hot stuff.”

“I do remember that one. That was good.”

“Maybe my favorite one was where he walks into the room while you’re on the phone, and kind of pacing back and forth, going over all the details of a house you’re trying to sell with an oblivious client who needed the same basic shit described to her over and over. You give Ryan an exaggerated look of exasperation at the phone, and stop your pacing for a minute behind the couch. He comes up behind you and starts grinding on you.”

“I remember this one. It was pretty awesome.”

“You push him away at first, but then you start to get into it. He slides your skirt up with one hand, exposing your ass, and then bends you over the couch. He starts rubbing his fingers on you through your panties, the whole time you’re talking on the phone with this client whose whiny voice on the other end sounds a little like an adult from a Peanuts cartoon.”