Amy stared into the glass, mouth twisted the way the bartender had wrung the lime. Dark pink slivers faded into view then disappeared back into the fog of red. But there was no mistaking it. There was bacon in this Bloody Mary.
In an instant, she was eleven again, sitting at the table while her mother and auntie gossiped: “It’s just a phase, she’ll get over it.” Then years of fish fingers and steak waved in her face just for kicks. Her chest was dark pit of battery hens and grain-fed cattle, draining the excitement from the evening.
Cheery faces and a sea of balloons toasted her. The spirits she willed back surfaced in a droopy half-smile. She raised her glass, but did not drink. The waitress announced they would take orders soon. Today’s special was a gluten-free nice girls don’t complain.
“Oh, Ames, they put meat in your cocktail,” Cherie cried. “Let me get you another one.”
No chance to protest. Her friend flagged down a waiter who apologised even though it was no one’s fault. It was like that time at the school cafeteria. Cherie was always a good egg. The din in the restaurant softened. A new drink replaced the old.
Cherie tilted her glass. Tête-à-tête: “Let’s try this again. Happy 30th.”
Fresh tomato feelings flushed away her mother and auntie and fish fingers and steak. Amy smiled and ordered the vegetarian lasagna.
Practising craft and style.