“You know what the biggest problem is with American women?” Kevin posed the question as the opening line of tonight’s rant. He was well into his second Guinness and was eyeing the Jameson on the shelf behind the bartender’s back. “The biggest problem with American women is that none of you understand the value of mystery.”
Kevin’s purring brogue cloaked his contempt in an almost musical disguise. It had been that accent — along with his rugged build and dark blue eyes — that had invited Agatha to ignore Kevin’s habit of denigrating everything and everyone that was not Irish. Local craft beers, tipping at bars, gluten-free pasta, apartment doormen, union dues, immigration lawyers and dozens of other topics had been targeted by Kevin’s crusade to point out all that was wrong with his adopted country. The nasty edge to his critiques ate away at Agatha’s initial attraction. Even his spontaneous recitations of poetry eventually lost their appeal.
“You women, you yammer on and on about all the terrible things you do in order to be beautiful. Well, darling, allow me to clue you in — we don’t want to know about waxing and plucking and the various tortures you endure. We like the mystery. We want to see you walk into a room and smile…”
Agatha did not recall ever having mentioned her monthly mani/pedi/waxing appointments, getting her eyelashes tinted and eyebrows threaded or even the cost of her gym membership. She had mentioned a disappointing job review at work and feeling underappreciated by her immediate manager. She thought Kevin, a cabinetmaker, might be interested in the group dynamics of her workplace. He’d certainly discussed and dissected the numerous conversations on his most recent job site — the interactions that had led to his dismissal by the general contractor.
What was he talking about?
A second, equally disturbing question, came to Agatha’s mind: Who was he talking about? It was not her. His nasty speech about women drew specific examples from some other woman’s sad times with Kevin.
“Darling, it’s the mystery, hidden, the unknown, that holds the greatest feminine allure. And yes, I know I shouldn’t speak for all of my gender, but I will. We want you lovely creatures to be like the moon rising silently in the sky, like the first cool breeze on a summer’s night, we want to…”
Kevin stopped mid-sentence. He’d spotted a drinking buddy — a contractor who’d yet to fire him — enter the bar.
“That’s Daniel, love, be back in a few.”
As he rose, Agatha reached over the bar and took a little square napkin from the stack next to the slices of limes and carefully placed it on the top of Kevin’s glass.
“Thanks love. Thanks for thinking of that.”
What he didn’t see was Agatha deftly opening the secret compartment in her ring and dropping a few grains of a lethal white powder into the dark, foamy stout.
“I lack mystery,” she whispered to herself. “Yeah, right.”
The bartender finished making Cosmos for three young women at the far end of the bar. He noticed Agatha’s empty glass and nodded in her direction.
“No thanks. Kevin seems preoccupied tonight. I think I’ll go now.”
“You can do better than him,” the bartender whispered.
“You think so?” She replied, as if she were surprised by the compliment. “All relationships are kind of mysterious. Don’t you think?”
She put a twenty down.
“Kevin’s running a tab tonight.”
“Tonight, maybe I should be on my own tab? Or, even better, add this to the meager tip he’ll give you. Sometimes he thinks a charming story is better than a living wage.”
“Thanks! Don’t be a stranger. I mean, come here without him.”
Agatha responded with a Mona Lisa smile.