Saturday night, the storm had faded to a faint rumble in the distance and clouds on the horizon, headed out into the Gulf. I drove the truck into the city and parked near a bar called the Apple Barrel in Rene’s neighborhood. I could hear music from the street, and when I went through the door I was greeted by the scents of smoked meat, sawdust, and beer, a press of bodies, and a trio made up of saxophone, cello, and drum kit on a little stage set off by green velvet curtains.
Angelique and Rene were seated at a small square table near the stage. I made my way to them, and Rene rose with a merry, “Sarge!” and shook my hand heartily with both of his. Angelique greeted me much more demurely and kissed my cheek. As they had before, though, her eyes darted to over my shoulder and her face took on a look somewhere between confusion and wonder, but then her eyes met mine again and she gave me a brief, though sincere, smile.
“I brought a friend for you to meet,” she said into my ear once we had settled at the table again.
“Angelique,” I began, “I appreciate the thought, but I don’t–“
“There he is now,” she said and my head whipped around to see a young man approaching our table, a pitcher of beer and four mugs in his hands. He was slight and slender, with dark hair that fell carelessly around his heart-shaped face, and crystal-blue eyes that met mine without faltering.
He smiled. I smiled back.
“This is Dorian Mayeux,” Angelique said as he took the empty chair beside me. “We grew up together.”
“Malcolm Carmichael.” We shook hands, and then out of respect for the music were quiet for a while, sipping our beers. Dorian’s and my eyes met more than once, and I was charmed at the way he would smile and faintly blush and look away again.
When the song had ended and the band left the stage, Dorian leaned close to me and said, “Where did you serve?”
“European theater,” I said.