Martha strutted across the bar like she owned it in her crisp white wiggle dress and little black hat perched behind those perfect blonde bangs. Her hips twisted in the dress as she walked in her white ankle boots and those same gloves she always wore. She was the last person Bette wanted to see right then.

The guy she was talking to was a dead-end but he would provide a welcome distraction if Martha was there to cause any trouble. Bette spent the last three weeks trying to forget that strange night in the barn and her weird former friend. Though, as more time passed, Bette had trouble remembering exactly how their friendship formed in the first place. She could only really recall hanging out with Martha three times before that night, and as best as she could remember, those were all brief conversations and she had no idea what they were about. In her mind, she could picture them, where they were, what they were wearing, but damned if she could remember what they talked about or how they got to that basement where she showed her the three stag reels she’d starred in so far. There were these massive holes in her memory around Martha, which was all the more reason to keep her distance.

So when she made a beeline to their table, Bette sighed, tried to cover her face with her hair and looked out the window. Rick, the guy who had been chatting her up for the last fifteen minutes, whistled.

“Wowza, lookit her! She a friend of yours?”

Rick tapped her on the hand. “Hey, I’m talking to you.”

Bette looked at him and then up at Martha, who walked up to the table and stood with her hands on her hips like Wonder Woman.

“I’ve got nothing to say to you,” Bette said turning back to the window.

“That’s fine, you just need to listen,” Martha replied in her bouncy southern debutante accent that was both soothing and obnoxiously precious at the same time.

“You can say anything you want to me, honey!” Rick said to her around his tooth pick. He scooted on the bench in the booth they were sitting in and patted the cushioned seat. “There’s plenty of room.”

Martha looked at him like she might look at a cat who just vomited on the floor. Rick was an overweight salesman with dandruff and whatever function he might have served Bette was crumbling away.

“Go away,” Martha said to him. He only stared up at her, not quite comprehending what she was saying.

“What?”

“I said go away. You’re done here. Go sit somewhere else.”

“You can’t talk to me like that,” he said, standing as though he might hit her. Martha picked his hat up from the table and tossed it across the room towards the door.

“Sure I can. Go,” she said. In her heels she was standing eye to eye with him. Bette watched as he appeared to shrink an inch or two and back away.

“You’re a fucking bitch,” Rick said as he left, picking his hat up from the floor. He never looked back. Martha sat down in the booth across from Bette, who finally gave up and acknowledged that she was there.

“That’s really nice,” Bette said, taking a drink of her Coke. She caught a whiff of that coconut smell and could already feel herself being drawn in. It was strange to be aware that it was happening, yet have no power to stop it. There was something magnetic about Martha. That’s all there was to it. She had an almost unearthly ability to force you to look at her. It wasn’t just that she was beautiful and stylish and confident. It was like she had her own gravitational pull that sucked up all the wandering eyes in the room in her direction.

Martha scoffed at Bette’s comment.

“Fuck that guy. I don’t know why you were talking to a mook like that anyway. You can do better than him,” Martha said, taking her silver cigarette case out of her clutch and popping one between her lips. “We need to talk,” Martha continued, lighting her cigarette with a black book of matches from the table.

“I don’t know what we could possibly have to talk about,” Bette said, doing her best to show her distaste for everything that was happening.

“I’m not happy with how things ended with us. I want to make it right.”

“Make it right? There’s nothing you can offer me that will make anything that happened that night better. I don’t want money from you, I certainly don’t want to do any more of that kind of work, and I don’t need your friendship,” Bette said, crossing her arms. Martha sighed.

“He keeps asking about you. Asks how you’re doing, where you’re working, who you’re dating. I felt like I should tell you. I don’t know why he’s got a bug up his butt about you in particular, but he does, and it makes me uncomfortable.”

Bette studied Martha’s face, trying to gauge what angle she was playing.

jack