A Riverboat EncounterbyAlex the Cat©
Avery Johnson lived in Mexico. No...this story does not take place south of the border where the tequila is ingested like water, and almost anything can happen. This story begins in a small, almost unknown town in the north east part of the state of Missouri. Nestled between the acres of corn, wheat, farms and forest is Mexico. In a rather ancient two-bedroom farmhouse, Avery co-habitated with her cousin Sandy, and Sandy's husband Joshua Cunningham. Avery was in her mid-twenties, and enjoyed living a free-spirited life. She only had a few friends, but she wasn't close to any of them. Only her cousin has been her best friend ever since they lived together when Avery was six years old, and her mother died from kidney failure.
Avery worked as a waitress and part-time barkeep at Little Woody's Bar and Restaurant. She found herself to be rather bored with her life, and more than not, very bored with her sometimes boyfriend Mark Andrews. This is why he was a "sometimes" boyfriend: she had been with him for about a year, and there were times that she just didn't understand why. When she took the time to think about it long enough, she realized more and more that he literally didn't do anything for her. He didn't challenge her mind. He didn't encourage, or support her to be a better person. He just didn't stimulate her at all. And yet all in all, she continued to hang out with him --- that is how bored she felt.
The short blonde finished wiping down the counter top for the upteenth time in the past hour as another regular walked away with his drink in hand. Leaning her forearms against the bar, she wondered if she would ever get out of this one horse town and do something exciting, meet someone stimulating, or just do something with her life. Mark strolled up to the bar, bringing her out of her reverie as plopped down onto the stool in front of her, and said, "Hey, let me have a Bud."
She rolled her eyes at him as she begrudgingly got him the requested beverage.
"Hey, what do think about driving up to Hannibal this weekend?" He nonchalantly asked.
Looking at him with skeptical wide green eyes, she was about to question if he was really talking to her. "Are you serious?"
"Yeah, why not. We'll get on the riverboat and see some of the sights. You always say you're tired of this place. So I figured we should go."
With a squint in her gaze, and folded arms across her chest, she asked, "And what is really your agenda for wanting to be in Hannibal this weekend?"
"What?" he asked as he tried to feign innocence.
"Oh, don't give me that, 'what?' crap. You never want to go anywhere except to the bar. So, out with it."
He stroked the bottleneck with his thumb, while averting her gaze. Clearing his throat, he said, "Tommy, at the shop, was talking about the riverboat gambling and how great it was, and that the last time he went, he came home with triple than what he left with. He said this weekend there was going to be a big poker game and the stakes were high."
"And you believe Tommy even when you've known him to be a compulsive liar for the past five years?" she questioned somewhat harshly.
"Look, I'm willing to take that chance. Tommy's a good friend, and if he said it's great out there, then I want to take a shot at it." He finally looked into her eyes, and putting on his best soft and sappy look, he asked, "Don't you wanna go with me?" He reached out his rough and dirty car greased hand to grab hers. "We can have a really good time. Plus, when was the last time we ever did anything new and different?"
An amber eyebrow rose up her forehead. She knew Mark long enough to know that even though he asked her, this trip wasn't going to be memorable and fun unless she made it that way. With an audible sigh, she conceded to his request.
Dakoda Lanning spent her summers in Hannibal, MO working as a bartender on the Tom Sawyer riverboat tour. When she was not in Hannibal, she occupied her time at the University of Missouri in Columbia as professor of Art History. Being a local to Columbia, Dakoda was very knowledgeable of all the beauty that her home state had to offer. Never one for being idle, she enjoyed busying herself all year around. So working two jobs was definitely not stressful for her. The bartending job made for great temporary and short-term work whenever she wanted it; and it made it possible for her to do it wherever she wanted.
Friday early evening rolled around, and Mark and Avery arrived at the bed and breakfast that she booked for them. Before Avery had the chance to settle into the room, Mark was itching to get on with the gambling.
"Come on Avery, we don't need to spend time unpacking anything. We're only going to be here for the weekend. Why are you settling in like you're going to be here for a couple of weeks?"
She spun around with angry sea green eyes, and stated clearly, "Look, I put up with you talking about nothing but gambling the whole way here. This is my first time being somewhere new and different, and I want to enjoy it as much as possible. Now if that means doing things alone while you're busy with your stupid poker game, then so be it." She turned her back on him without a further word.
"Fine," he yelled. Grabbing his room key, he slammed the door as he stomped out.
Avery sighed and shook her head. She knew he was being an asshole as usual, so she was glad when he took off. She had come to learn some time ago that it was better for them to part ways when either one of them was angry because by not doing so only made things worse.
Dakoda stepped onto the beautiful, large red and white riverboat. She had fifteen minutes before she had to be ready behind the bar, as the boat was about to take off for the next tour. With a smirk and a nod, she gave her bartending co-worker and friend, Joe, a low-five smack on the hand as she passed him in the hallway while heading towards her locker. She grabbed her black vest from the hanger, threw it on, and then proceeded to wrap the bow tie around her neck as she peered into the small mirror on the inside of her locker door. With everything in place, and her jet black shoulder length hair pulled back into a ponytail, she shut the locker door and headed to the main room.
Avery thought about taking a leisurely walk around town, and perhaps entertain the idea of some window shopping. She knew it was going to be quite some time before she saw him again. Even though he would often become such a jerk, she did convince herself time and again that he was at least a decent friend when he wanted to be and it was nice to have someone to go out with on occasion. Glancing at herself momentarily in the mirror, she said, "You are here to have a good time, and meet new people, so go do it." She slightly chuckled at herself, and just shook off all thoughts of what happened beforehand.
Avery decided to take a quick shower to freshen up. She had taken out a sheer sleeveless olive blouse, and a burnt sienna skirt; and then proceeded to towel dry her shaggy strawberry blonde shoulder length hair. Low black heels, a silver necklace with Celtic knot pendant, and an intricately knotted silver band on her left wrist completed her ensemble. She looked at herself with a pleasing eye in the full-length mirror. Her black satin bra was showing beautifully and subtly through the blouse. The whole package made Avery feel rather sexy. Grabbing her small black leather purse, she left the room, and on her way to new adventures.
Some of the streets in Hannibal were still cobblestone, and it made Avery smile when her heels clicked on them. The street lanterns were beginning to glow as the sun made its slow decent in the western sky. There were dozens and dozens of tourists walking around, going in and out of all the shops. There were families with children laughing and eating ice cream, sitting on the various benches that lined the sidewalks. A pleasant and refreshing summer evening breeze gently blew across Avery's exposed arms and legs. She smiled at how quaint and beautifully historic the town appeared. Visiting a few of the shops, she lingered in one particular antique shop, and enjoyed a lovely little chat with the gentleman sitting in a rocker behind the counter.
It wasn't long before Avery got hungry, and began looking for an interesting place to eat. A short distance ahead, she saw an elderly couple selling hot roasted nuts from a little vending cart. She stopped and asked where a good place to eat would be within walking distance.
The couple both smiled, and the gentleman heartily pointed behind the buildings just over Avery's shoulder. "Dinner on the riverboat is mighty nice around these parts, miss," he said with a deep and soft voice.
"They have live music, and ya get ta ride down the Mississippi for a ways," added the woman with a shimmering smile.
"Thank you very much," Avery answered. "I think that sounds wonderful."
"Just keep walking down yonder, and turn right at what looks like the next intersection. You'll see the dock right there."
"Thanks again. Have a good evening," she addressed them, as she walked away.
Avery purchased a ticket for the dinner tour in the little shop located right at the dock. The posted sign in front of the shop indicated to all passersby that the riverboat tours began with the ticket purchase, and it also displayed the scheduled times for the tours.
The young blonde felt a sense of exhilaration, as if this night was going to be filled with excitement and adventure, as she stepped onto the outside deck of the massive boat. She went ahead and followed the other passengers who were filing into the main dining room area.
The riverboat was exquisitely refurbished. Everything from the woodwork on the railings to the detail of the lighting fixtures and the painted borders along the walls was worked on and restored perfectly.
There was a large crowd now that gathered into the dining room area. It appeared the boat was going to be full for this tour. Since Avery was on board by herself, the cruise Director had kindly asked her if she wouldn't mind sharing a table. Grateful she wouldn't be eating dinner alone; she gladly took a seat at a table with three women who were celebrating a birthday. She was happy to listen to them tell stories of all the crazy things they've done together over the years.
During the course of the dinner, Avery couldn't help but notice a particularly intriguing and radiant individual tending the bar. Every once in a while she would glance over at this tall bartender who was working gracefully with each drink order.
At first glance, it just didn't strike the young blonde that the bartender was female until she saw the beautiful smile and the sparkling eyes. She also was beginning to notice that she continued to glance towards the statuesque beauty more and more often. By the time dessert arrived, Avery had a desire to meet this striking stranger. She couldn't help but find the woman to be so attractive, and yet Avery wasn't sure what she was feeling. She wasn't clueless to the whole gay scene, and she did have her share of a couple of women who have asked her out; but never before has she experienced a warm fuzziness inside of her. As she continued her now open gaze, there was no other word she could form in her mind for this stranger except handsome. Yes, this woman...this female was extremely handsome with her high cheekbones, chiseled features, and Grecian nose. She was definitely not feminine looking yet had enough femininity in her features to make it clear she was a woman. Avery knew she had an attraction to women, especially after the experience in her first year at college when she experimented with her roommate's best friend. She fingered her pendant as she thought about that experience from a couple of years ago, and began to wonder if the reason she wasn't able to find the "right guy" is because she was really wanting a woman.
One of the women at the table leaned over towards the young blonde, and said, "She sure is something to look at, huh?"
The words brought Avery out of her thoughts of the past. Looking a little puzzled at the older woman, she began to smile when she saw the woman giving her a knowing smile in return. "Yes, she is very striking."
"Why don't you go on up and order a drink, and start chatting with her?" The woman asked.
Avery smiled with some embarrassment. "Oh, I don't think I've got the guts for that."
"Well, you should give it a try. You can't always wait around for someone else to take the first step." The older woman casually stated with a wink.
When the tour began, Dakoda was in the process of serving up a few beers when she saw the short young strawberry blonde sit down amongst the other women at the table nearby. During the course of the night she also noticed that the beautiful young woman had been stealing glances her way. At first she didn't think much of it, until she saw the blonde begin to stare more often. In return, Dakoda felt inclined to steal just as many glances, but she also knew she had to concentrate on the customers ordering drinks. Inwardly though, she smiled and hoped that she might somehow have the opportunity to meet the beautiful woman who had caught her eye.
At the end of dinner, as the waiters began picking up the dessert and coffee dishes, Dakoda came up with an idea. She grabbed a tall slender glass, filled it with ice, and began mixing a drink to pour inside. Inserting a purple straw into the glass, she placed three maraschino cherries on the top of the concoction, and smiled with satisfaction. "Hey Joe, I'll be right back," she announced to her co-worker.
"Yeah, okay. I've got you covered." He responded as he took the next order that came from a regular who just walked up to the bar.
With the drink ready, Dakoda made her way over to the table where the young blonde sat fingering her napkin and watching couples dance to the live band playing.
As the glass was set down on the table, Avery momentarily held her breath, almost in fear, as she watched the graceful hand release the cold drink. She followed that hand as it returned to the side of the long lanky body that stood before her. Avery's vision moved up the body, steadily stopping as it reached the angular features of the bartender's face. Soon eyes were riveted to one another --- sapphire blue and emerald green --- slowly getting lost in the hypnotic gaze they saw reflected back at them.
After what seemed like minutes, Dakoda finally said, "I thought you might enjoy a drink." A small smile played upon her lips at those last two words.
"That's rather kind of you." Avery commented, and then asked, "Do you normally hand drinks to strangers?"
Dakoda looked at her with a lopsided grin and a chuckle. "Uhh yeah, especially since I'm a bartender."
Flushed with embarrassment now covering her face in a scarlet hue, Avery realized the foolishness of her question. Feeling now like such an idiot, she laughingly commented, "I can't believe I said that." She closed her eyes, and pinched the bridge of her nose, hoping to calm down her racing heart. "You must think I'm a dope."
The tall woman pulled out a chair, and took a seat. "No. I think you're cute...beautiful actually." She chuckled again because she could see the young woman's cheeks grow redder. "I don't make this particular drink for just anybody. It's not a commonly requested beverage. It's my favorite though, so I hope you like it."
Avery took a look at the tall perspiring transparent glass with the vibrant, almost glowing greenish liquid inside. "It reminds of Absinthe. Not that I've ever had it, but I remember it from when I watched that movie, Moulin Rouge."
Dakoda chuckled lightly. "It's definitely not Absinthe." She watched the young woman take hold of the glass, bring the purple straw to her lips, and take a sip. Dakoda saw the beautiful sea green eyes brighten with pleasure, and it made her happy.
"Wow, it's tangy yet sweet. That's very nice. What is it? What's in it?"
Dakoda chuckled again. "It's called a Melon Ball. It has Midori Liqueur, Absolut, and orange juice. I take it you like it."
Closing her lips around the straw, and taking another sip, Avery nodded. "Yes, I do."
"Good, I'm glad." Ocean blue eyes drank in the features of the beautiful strawberry blonde. Her nose picked up the scent of Ralph Lauren Romance, which Dakoda greatly enjoyed smelling on a woman. The scent of a woman could drive Dakoda insane with need, so it was always one of the things that she definitely took note of. Her eyes wandered to the play of muscles on the young woman's neck, and then trailed back up to those sea green pools that looked right back at her. She momentarily cleared her throat because she had been caught openly staring. "Well...I have to go finish my shift. I'll be done in about thirty minutes. Would you like to chat more later?" Dakoda asked.
"That would be wonderful. Why don't you come find me on the upper deck." Avery coyly answered.
"Will do," Dakoda stated as she got up, and then walked away.
Avery watched the retreating figure for a few moments. Mmm, that ass looks nice and firm...and those broad shoulders are heavenly. Wait a minute; I'm actually checking her out...like seriously checking her out. Wow have I done that before to others and not realized it?
When the shift finally ended, Dakoda quickly went to the bathroom to give herself the once over before she went in search of the heavenly blonde angel that struck her fancy. Rolling up her sleeves part way, she then began to loosen the bow tie and just let it hang around her neck. She pulled her hair out of the ponytail, ran her long fingers through the jet-black tresses, and headed out. Reaching the upper deck, she peered over the groups of people everywhere until she spotted the short woman leaning against the railing and peering up at the starry filled night sky. Dakoda sidled over next to her, and softly said, "Hey."
"Hey stranger," Avery commented with a smile. She looked out onto the black river water before continuing, "Ummm....you do know you have yet to tell me your name."
"Heh...I guess I do," the tall bartender said. "Forgive my lapse of manners. Let me introduce myself. My name is Dakoda Lanning." She bowed part way in a gentlemanly manner.
With a smile, the short blonde responded, "And my name is Avery Johnson. It's nice to make your acquaintance Dakoda." She extended her hand for a shake.
The bartender gently took Avery's hand in hers, kissed the back of it as eyes briefly met, and said, "Oh, but the pleasure is all mine."
They engaged in idle chitchat about their lives, and some light banter as the riverboat made its way back to the dock. Dakoda learned that Avery was tired of her job, and wished she could do something different with her life. "So are you just visiting Hannibal? Or do you live in the area?" Dakoda asked.
"I live an hour from here in Mexico. I just came up for the weekend with my ex-boyfriend, Mark, who apparently ditched me seeing how I'm alone tonight."
"I'm here." Dakoda commented in a sexy low tone as she moved closer and slightly behind the shorter woman.
Avery felt a slight chill as the fine downy hairs on her arms stood up from the closeness of the contralto voice. She knew she was very much enjoying the close proximity of their bodies. "Yes you are," she responded softly.
"So when and why did you and Mark break up?"
"Well there was never an official break. We just agreed to be friends and casual dates if need be with no strings attached. He sees who he wants and I see who I want." Avery turned around, her back now to the railing and Dakoda mere inches from her. She looked up into cobalt blue eyes that captured her soul.