It did not take long for Carter to get the hang of things at the Juice Bar, it turns out he was a bit of a natural. Harvey and him joined forces and put a show every afternoon for the teenagers and adults alike. People were in awe of their talent, even though Carter still had a long way to go before he was a good as his mentor.
But that did not stop him from trying. Every night after Harvey had closed up and gone for his shift at The Brightmore, Carter would stay behind and practice. Now he had memorised the drinks, the tricks came to him more easily, though he still dropped things now and again.
Because he no longer collected glasses or swept the floor, Carter’s relegated reputation had taken a turn and suddenly the girls were throwing themselves at him. Carter drank up the attention, allowing the school-girls to flirt and chat him up.
Harvey would watch his apprentice from behind the bar in wonder, he had never seen such little flirt in his life! He’ll make a good barman one day, he thought to himself.
“Hey mate, it’s your birthday soon isn’t it,” Harvey asked Carter one evening when the bar had gone quite for a few moments. “What have you got planned?”
“Err, not too sure really,” Carter replied. “It’s my brothers birthday too so I had better check with him but I doubt he would want to do much, he’s quite quiet.”
“Well then why don’t you let me throw you both a party here at the Juice Bar? It won’t be anything extravagant and we won’t be able to close it off to the public, but my mates in a band and I am sure he will play for you here. What do you think?”
“Sounds great,” Carter replied. “As long as I don’t have to work at my party.”
“Well I guess I can give you the night off just this once.”
Harvey organised everything, even roping in his friend’s band to perform. Carter did not really think they were that good, but they were free so he couldn’t’ really complain.
Though Charlie had not really been up for the party, Heather had managed to talk him into it. She had turned eighteen and aged up a few weeks before and she was desperate for her boyfriend to follow suit. It was embarrassing going out with a guy shorter than her.
Carter’s cousin Kitty –Boo also came. She too was a young adult and had just gone off to college to study medicine. She made a special trip to come home to celebrate her baby cousin’s 18th birthday though. Kitty-boo always dragged Carter onto the dance floor wherever they went. She just loved to dance and Carter seemed to be the only one who would share her enthusiasm.
As he twirled and spun her around the dance floor a girl in the corner of the room caught his eye. He had never seen her before; she certainly had not gone to his school even though she was obviously a little older. She must have been at least nineteen, but so exotic and striking looking that Carter could not tear his eyes away from her.
As he starred, she looked back at him if only for a moment, blushed then looked away again. Carter had to know who she was.
“Hey Kitty,” he said pulling his cousin in closer. “Who’s that girl over there? The one in the red dress?”
Kitty subtly turned, clocked the girl and replied: “I believe her name is Sadie Woo. She moved here a few months ago and is staying over at Trawler Lodge. Why? Does my baby cousin have a crush?”
“I just think she’s pretty,” Carter replied blushing.
“Well go and talk to her then, you don’t know if you don’t try.”
“You’re right,” Carter replied psyching himself up.
He felt Kitty drift off to dance on her own and took a deep breath. He kept Sadie in his view and walked towards her. Just as he approached she too started to walk forward. When they were almost face-face, Carter opened his mouth to say hi. But instead of replying, she skirted around him and kept on walking past him like he had not even been there.
How embarrassing, Carter thought. But then he heard the singing and realised Charlie was celebrating his birthday and blowing out his candles. Carter stood back and watched as his twin brother was the centre of attention for once.
Charlie quickly blew out his candles and after the insistence of Heather, grew into a young adult.
There was no time for Carter to congratulate his brother as the minute he had aged, Harvey bought out another cake and propped it on a table next to Carter. The party-goes all launched into another rendition of Happy Birthday and Carter blew out his candles, too excited to even let them finish a verse.
After he had aged and everyone had given him a big pat on the back, he spun around to once again be faced with the mysterious Sadie. He looked at her and feeling more confident with having aged up, he went to move towards her to finally introduce himself.
But the moment he lifted his right foot, he heard a scream. He spun around with everyone else to see his brother Charlie down on one knee and proposing to Heather.
“Heather my darling. I know I am not the party animal you are or that I don’t like the colour black. But I know I love you with all my heart and will love no one else for as long as I will live. Will you marry me?”
“YES YES YES,” Heather squealed hardly able to hold still enough for Charlie to slip the ring on her finger.
Charlie bought his finance into a tight squeeze and Carter could not help but think he had never seen his brother so happy before, he just wished he would have told him about his proposal before. He hated it when his brother kept secrets from him.
One thing he knew was that he had to be the first to congratulate him. He pushed through the crowds and threw his arms around Charlie. “Congratulations brother,” he said squeezing Charlie so hard he was sure he heard a bone crack.
“Why didn’t you tell me man,” he asked. “Why didn’t you warn me you were going to propose?”
“Sorry mate, but you know me. I don’t really like to talk about my feelings openly at the best of times.”
“Well proposing so opening was pretty out of character too,” Charlie laughed.
“Yes I guess it was, “Charlie replied. “But I know it was how Heather would have wanted it.”
“Well I think its amazing bro. I am so happy for you, for both of you,” he said giving his brother the thumbs up.
He let out a sigh of happiness and watched as Charlie was dragged away by all the ladies in the room cooing about how romantic he was. Then he suddenly remembered – Sadie! He spun around and searched for her but the space where she was standing, was now empty.
“Hey Kitty, where did that girl in the red dress go,” he called out to his cousin.
“She left a few minutes ago,” Kitty replied turning back to her conversation with Victor.
Dam it, Carter thought. I really missed my chance there!
“Hey man, why so sad,” Harvey asked coming up behind Carter.
“Nothing,” Carter replied brushing his thoughts away. “How are you? Thanks so much again for today, for this party. It’s been brilliant!”
“No problem mate, it was easy. In fact I have a bit of a proposition for you. I was wondering if you fancied a full time job?”
“What here at the Juice Bar?”
“No silly! Now you’re 18 you can come and work at The Brightmore with me. The other barman has just left so they are looking for a replacement and I thought I’d ask you first.”
“Oh wow I would love to,” Carter shrieked jumping up and down and trying to hug Harvey.
“Whoa calm down man, it’s just a job not a marriage proposal,” Harvey said pushing Carter off him.
“Sorry man,” Carter replied pulling himself together but he could not hide his smile.
The Brightmore was an underground Jazz Bar on the outskirts of Bridgeport near to the Diner’s and rundown or boarded-up stores of the city. Inside was a haven for all the creative folk who lived their lives on the breadline and came to the Brightmore to listen to a bit of Jazz and to let off some steam.
It was not exactly the place Carter had aspired to work in, but he was just grateful to have a job and work alongside his best friend. The two of them ran the bar every night from 9pm – 3am, mixing up cocktails for all the drifters of Bridgeport.
Carter had learnt so much since working at the bar. How to mix alcoholic drinks, how to break up a bar fight and even how to shut down advances from drunk middle-aged woman looking for a good time. But more than anything he had learnt so much about his friend. Firstly, Harvey did not have many morals. He would take whatever he could get even if it meant stiffing a customer out of their change or taking a bribe to keep quiet when a wife came charging in looking for her cheating husband. And secondly, working as a barman was not the only job Harvey had. At least twice a week a suspicious looking man would come in looking for Harvey and the two of them would stand in the corner whispering together.
Carter would watch with trepidation as the man would pass Harvey a package and sometimes it was Harvey passing the package back. Carter had no idea what they were up to but he knew that every time the man visited, Harvey was suddenly flushed with expendable cash that day.
One evening Carter decided to confront Harvey about his shifty behaviour. “Who was that,” he asked when the man had gone and Harvey had come back behind the bar.
“Who,” Harvey replied.
“The man you were just talking to? I see him in here a lot and you guys are always whispering together in the corner.”
“Oh that’s just my uncle Bob,” Harvey replied stammering on his words. “He’s no concern of yours,” he continued patting him on the head like a child and heading back over to his post.
Carter didn’t like it. He spun around to continue his confrontation when he noticed a customer at the bar. His eyes nearly popped out of his head. “It’s you,” he gasped.
Sadie, the girl in the red dress was sitting across the bar from him looking at the cocktail menu. When she heard his gasp she looked up and laughed. “Yes it’s me,” she giggled.
“Oh…. Erm…” Carter could not get his words out. He took a deep breath pulled himself together and approached the girl. “Sorry about that,” he said. “What can I get you?”
“Surprise me,” the girl replied with a twinkle in her eye.
“Make her a Cherry Casanova,” Harvey mouthed from across the bar relived that his friend had finally found the girl he had been going on and on about for months.
Carter picked up the vodka and cherry-aid spinning them on the palm of his hand and flipping them into the air.
As Sadie gasped in wonderment, Carter continued to show-off flipping, spinning and shaking the bottles and then setting light to the finished cocktail.
Sadie scooped up her drink, knocking most of it back in one. “Yum, that was delicious,” she said. “How much to I owe you.”
“This ones on the house,” Carter replied.
Sadie smiled and finished up her drink. “So when do you get off work,” she asked her eyes glazing over from the sudden surge of alcohol.
Carter looked at the clock on the wall and was just about to tell her he still had three more hours left of his shift when Harvey came over and said: “his shift just finished.” Harvey winked at Carter and Carter winked back. He pulled off his apron and threw it at him before leading Sadie to a table in the corner of the room.
Under the red light of the club, Carter sat talking to his lady in red. He found out that Sadie was a trained hairdresser who was still looking for work since coming to Bridgeport. She told him all about her loneliness in the big city and how she had tried everything to find work but every door was just slammed in her face.
Carter mostly listened, desperately wanting to rescue the poor girl. He told her that now she had met him there was nothing to worry about anymore.
When Harvey kicked them out well after closing time, Carter insisted on walking Sadie home. “I am so happy to have met you,” she told Carter.
“Me too,” Carter replied shyly. “And I would love to see you again. Maybe I could take you out to dinner or something?”
“I choose or something,” Sadie replied moving in closer and gently kissing Carter on the lips.
That night Sadie came and stayed with Carter. There was no going back to her rat infested apartment, she had Carter to look after her now.