The music festival crowd came early and Neva didn’t get a chance to get away to work on JR. She tried calling Jesse, but ended up leaving a message on his answering machine. She hated talking to a machine. She put her phone back in her pocket and went to help the owner restock the bar. Neva was amazed at how much alcohol musicians could put away.
“Honey, could you get us a beer?” asked a drunk fiddler.
Neva looked up to see what he was drinking and handed him a Fat Tire Ale. The man paid and walked off. Or, to be honest, drifted off. The music was loud when he opened the door to go back into the main ballroom where the bands were playing. Twenty minutes later, she finally got the restocking done and took a break out back. The air felt good on her face as she sat down.
“Brought you a sandwich,” said one of the cooks. He smiled and then headed back to the kitchen.
“Thanks Tommy!” she called after him. He’d brought her a Ruben. Neva bit into the first food she’d had since breakfast. The sandwich disappeared quickly and Neva took the plate into the kitchen and headed back to the bar. It was only 9pm and the bands were slated to play until 2am. She filled drink orders, fielded complaints from locals and rented out rooms to those too drunk to remember where the door was let alone their car.
“Hey there,” said a deep voice behind Neva as she made change at the till for a waitress.
“Be with you in just a minute,” she said on automatic. When she turned around from giving the waitress change, she looked up into the face of Jesse.
“Oh! I just called you a bit ago. I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten back out there,” she started to explain.
“Neva, it’s okay. We all gotta work when we can.” Jesse smiled at Neva. “Besides, I like the music and figured that I’d enjoy it. How late do you have to work?”
“I’m suppose to work until 11pm, but it may be late as 2am. Why?”
“Well, I enjoyed your company the other day and if you don’t mind, I’d like to keep you company and listen to the music.”
Neva laughed. “Well, I’m stuck here unless I’m running errands or refilling the cooler. You sure?”
“Yes. I can hear the music just fine.”
“Alright, can I get you something to drink?” she asked.
“I’ll have one of those Sam Adams’,” he said.
Neva got the beer and shook her head when he started to pay for it. “This one’s on me. I never really thanked you for helping with the truck like you did the other day.”
“We both pitched in. That’s what counts.”
Neva smiled and took her first good look at Jesse as he turned to listen to a number being played. Starched jeans, a well loved plaid cowboy shirt, and his hat was felt. Probably a Stetson from the look of it. It too was well worn.
“This isn’t your usual country stuff is it?” Jesse asked as a different band began to play.
“No, it isn’t. We have Blue Grass, Country Fiddlers, Celtic bands which include Irish, Scots and Welsh, and then there is one Argentinian harpist and three from New Zealand I think. You missed the step dancers last night. You’d have thought that River Dance had appeared.”
Jesse smiled. “People who move their feet that fast should be given speeding tickets.”
It was Neva’s turn to laugh. “I love watching the dancers, but feel about as graceful as a sheep on roller skates.”
Jesse nodded. “I keep to the slower dances. Less chance of falling on my face.”
Neva smiled. Between customers, waitresses and the owner checking on her, things went quickly. Jesse kept her company and helped with the restocking when she ran low on beer. At 11:30pm, Dave came in and relieved Neva.
“Sorry I’m late. I couldn’t get the restaurant shut down,” said Dave.
“I understand. Be aware, there’s a little guy in a green shirt and a derby hat. Don’t give him any more to drink except water or coke. He’s plastered,” said Neva.
“Well, why didn’t you kick him out?” asked Dave.
“Because he’s in one of the bands. I don’t know how he does it, but he plays the accordion better drunk than he did sober,” said Neva.
Dave laughed. “I’ll keep an eye out for him. You going to go dance a bit?”
“Maybe,” said Neva as she grabbed her bag and gestured to Jesse to follow. They headed into the ballroom and found a table open and sat down. The bands were just changing over and the drunk accordion player was up with a couple of fiddlers and a man with a hand drum. They started out with a slow number that had people tapping their feet.
“Would you like to dance?” Jesse asked Neva.
She looked at him, saw that he was earnest and nodded yes. He took her hand and lead her out to the dance floor. Jesse pulled her close and they started dancing a gentle two step. Neva enjoyed the feel of Jesse’s hand on the small of her back as he led her around the dance floor. When the number was over, they waited for the next one to start, and danced three more times before sitting down. Jesse excused himself and went to get them a drink. Neva was sitting there waiting when a man walked over to their table.
“Lilll layde, would you like to dansh?”
“No thank you,” said Neva. “My date will be back in a minute.”
“Sho, He won’ mind ifin I dansh wif a bootiful layde,” said the drunk.
“No thank you. Please leave me alone.”
“I only whant to dansh,” he said moving closer.
“The lady asked you nicely to go away,” Jesse growled from behind Neva. He put the drinks down on the table and took the man by the elbow.
“Hey!” cried the drunk.
Jesse didn’t stop, but kept on moving towards the door. He’d seen two policemen standing there a few minutes ago and wasn’t surprised to find them still there.
“Gentlemen, this man has had a bit much and was about to cause a scene,” said Jesse. He handed over the drunk and then disappeared back inside to Neva. He found her sitting there looking anxious.
“You okay?” he asked sitting down next to her and taking her hand.
“Yes. I tried to get him to go away, but he wouldn’t. Thank you.”
“No problem. The band is starting up a slow tune. Would you like to dance one more before we go home?” Jesse asked.
Neva looked at him and nodded. They walked out and he wrapped her in his arms as they danced a slow waltz to a Blue Grass tune. He held her closer than the time before and she enjoyed the warmth of his arms. Trying to relax, she put her head on his shoulder. When the music stopped, they walked over to the table and finished their drinks.
Charles the owner walked over as they sat there. “Thanks for taking care of that drunk,” he said to Jesse.
“No problem. He was bothering Neva here, and that is unacceptable.”
“Still appreciated. Neva, I know I asked you to work tomorrow, but why don’t you take the day off? You technically worked a double as it was today,” said Charles.
Neva looked at Charles. “Okay, if you’re sure. I’ll see you on Monday then.”
Charles said his goodbyes and left the table.
“That was unexpected,” said Neva.
“Yes, he usually isn’t that generous during a concert weekend. He must have been happy to not have a scene with the drunk,” said Neva.
“Alright. Shall we go?” Jesse asked.
“Yes. Do you think we could work on JR tomorrow?”
“If you feel like it. It’s nearly 1am.”
“Yeah. Just not as early as last time. My car is over there,” she said as they walked through the parking lot. She stopped and unlocked her car door. “Thank you for keeping me company, dancing and getting rid of the drunk.”
“You’re welcome,” he said moving closer to Neva. “Thank you for a very nice evening.”
Neva looked up and as she did, his lips met hers in a gentle kiss. They stood there for a moment and then gently moved apart as their lips parted.
“I’ll follow you home if you’d like. Make sure you get in alright,” he said.
“That… that would be nice,” she said and got into her car. She let her car warm up for a moment while her pulse settled down and Jesse got to his truck. She pulled out of the parking lot and drove home. When she got to her house, he idled in the middle of the road.
“Good night Neva!” he called from his truck.
“Goodnight Jesse,” Neva called from the top of the steps. He drove off as she closed her front door.