The Strategy Queen
A Proper Send-off for Sarah
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” It was something Sarah’s father had liked to say from the back of his auto shop when the work had piled up.
Sarah had always taken the saying to mean that when things got difficult, the tough people of the world went about working on the solutions. Of course, as she slammed the metal door on the storage locker down, Sarah realized that the cliché could be read another way. “The tough get going” could mean the tough folks simply took off when things got difficult.
As Sarah turned the key to lock up the storage unit, she realized that for the first time in her life, she was leaning towards that reading, just bailing on her tough times. She’d had tough times before, more than most, Sarah assumed.
Her mother had left the family when Sarah was only three years old, leaving her to be raised by her father alone. What that had actually meant was growing up in an auto shop in small-town California, raised by her father and around the odd collection of mechanics her father intermittently employed as surrogate uncles. Add in the fact that Sarah had known she was gay from an early age, and she had definitely faced her share of adversity.
She’d always persevered. Before Sarah was in her teens she’d taken every advantage of her surroundings. She was as talented a mechanic as anyone her father employed and soon he’d actually taken to assigning her work when there was overflow. There was something she found so soothing about the entire process, the way an engine was a simple collection of moving parts that could be diagnosed, repaired, and restored. Sarah found power and confidence in working with her hands that she’d never had in school trying to remember formulae and dates and times. If she was going to grow up surrounded by men who swore and talked sports and girls, Sarah was going to blend right into that too. At nineteen, Sarah was a match for any of the other grease monkeys when it came to talking football or how to please a woman. Sarah even grew to love the bawdy camaraderie that existed within the place.
Then her world fell apart. Sarah’s father died suddenly of a heart attack. Still reeling from the loss of her father, Sarah learned that the business was in bad shape to boot. She’d tried to keep what her father had started going; she was as capable of running the garage as anyone, but the shop was too deep in debt. Sarah soon learned that a nineteen-year-old girl who’d barely made it out of high school was not high on any bank’s list of preferred customers. All of her efforts to secure the necessary financing failed and, still in her teens, Sarah had found herself parentless, unemployed, and without much in the way of prospects.
Again, Sarah had persevered. On the last night that Sarah had gone drinking with the other mechanics her father had employed, one of them had mentioned that the Army was always looking for talented mechanics, especially with a war on. A few months later, Sarah found herself at a recruiting office. It wouldn’t be easy. Aside from the regular tensions and stresses of active duty life, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy meant that Sarah would have to keep her sexuality a tightly guarded secret. It meant that no matter whom Sarah might meet, they’d either have to have a brief fling or conduct themselves in private, risking discharge if she was discovered.
She managed basic training and specialized training with surprising ease. Sarah had always been tall and with a few extra pounds but the rigors and challenges of army life soon had her in the best shape of her life. Sarah found the physical challenges exhilarating and reveled in meeting them and exceeding them. She ran every day, first for a mile, then two, and now she was at almost five a day. By the end of her first deployment, Sarah didn’t have an ounce of unwanted fat on her, her arms were toned and powerful, her legs long, lean, and strong. She even had a halfway decent six-pack going when she really went at it.
To top it off, Sarah found working on Humvees to be as easy as civilian cars, found a vaguely similar sense of camaraderie with the men and women of her unit as she did in the shop–though she did have to artfully deflect more than a few advances–and even bought into the nobler aims of her job. She was serving her country, protecting the land she loved. True, she was well aware of the hypocrisy of protecting freedoms that were, in certain cases, denied to her, but Sarah still dedicated herself to it. In her first three years, Sarah received several promotions and commendations for her almost superhuman work ethic.
Then, on her first stretch of extended leave in years, something wonderful happened. Sarah met Abir, a pretty, slight brunette. Abir and Sarah didn’t have much time before Sarah would be overseas again, but they made it count. They had an intense, thrilling, wonderful few months together. By the end of it, they were saying their “I love you’s” and making plans to live together as soon as possible. Everything Sarah owned was left at Abir’s house on her next deployment and they were, in all ways, a couple.
That led to new stresses in Sarah’s next deployment. Now she did have something to hide and Sarah missed home powerfully during the long, hot days and the lonely, cold nights. She and Abir tried to make it work and were successful for two years. Things were looking up. Not only was Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed, but Sarah was nearing the end of her six-year enlistment. Only one more deployment stood between her and civilian life with her girlfriend. Sarah had come back to the states just a week earlier on her two-week leave. It would be the last time she and Abir would be together before they were together for good. Sarah had come home thinking that they would spend the first week in bed, as they usually did, and then would spend the next week planning the rest of their lives together. Sarah had even considered buying a ring and proposing, taking a trip to the nearest state where the two of them could have gotten hitched.
Sarah laughed at that as she walked from the storage facility. She’d come home thinking about wedding bells. She’d come home, instead, to find her life fall apart yet again.
Abir had told Sarah, in no uncertain terms, that she had no interest in waiting another year to be in an actual relationship with someone. Sarah had tried to explain her situation, tried to convince Abir that she loved her and that she was going to be back shortly for their life together but Abirwashaving none of it. She’d made up her mind. Worse yet, Abir had told her there was someone else. Sarah didn’t hear much past that. Feeling numb, she’d left Abir’s house, checked into the only motel she could afford and had spent the last few days in a daze, getting her few meager possessions out of Abir’s house and into the storage unit.
As Sarah walked the streets of the downtrodden area the storage unit was in, she shook her head at her situation. Again she had nowhere to go. The city was the one Abir lived in and even then Sarah had only grown to know the neighborhood she shared with Abir. Sarah didn’t recognize any of the street names of the blue-collar area. Sarah felt exactly as she had when her father had died, only this time she was in her late twenties with no prospects and no home. She had four days left before redeployment.
As Sarah idly walked through the streets in the direction of her motel, she realized that she needed a drink worse than she’d ever needed a drink before.
After a few blocks, Sarah found what seemed to be what she was looking for. It wasn’t much to look at. A small, grimy, two-story brick building with dark windows and a heavy door. It didn’t look like much, but then again Sarah wasn’t looking for much. The sign above the front door read “O’Flaherty’s Pub” and a smaller neon sign pronounced that they had a cold beer. It was enough for Sarah. If she was going to spend her last four days alone and miserable, she might as well spend them drunk.
Pulling the door open, Sarah was even less impressed with the interior of the establishment than she’d been with the exterior. At least the bar itself was nice; near ten feet of long, dark wood in front of what looked like a pretty varied collection of liquor bottles. The rest of the place did not do as well in Sarah’s estimation. Weak-looking tables surrounded by varying numbers of chairs, a few beat-up-looking booths. The best seats in the place by far seemed to be the sturdy-looking stools in front of the bar.
Not that vast seating seemed required. Sarah knew that even the busiest of bars would not have been packed in the afternoon on a Tuesday, but O’Flaherty’s seemed especially deserted. There was only one other person in the bar from what Sarah could tell. An old, rough-looking man in what Sarah guessed to be his mid-fifties sat on one of the bar stools, sipping at a beer bottle and watching the small TV above the bar.
Sarah shrugged and took a stool on the opposite end of the bar. She was no snob, she’d been drinking in dives before, and this place seemed especially reflective of her current mood. The idea of being surrounded by young, happy, successful people making a lot of noise made Sarah sick to her stomach.
The man in the bar took no notice of her. Sarah sat idly for a second, wondering if he was the bartender or just a patron, before the small door at the back of the bar opened. Walking out of it was what Sarah assumed to be a woman with what looked to be nice legs. Sarah had to guess as the person was carrying several stacked boxes of beer, obscuring her completely from the waist up. Confident that service was forthcoming, Sarah turned her attention upwards to the TV. Some sort of trivia show was on. Sarah idly watched as she waited to be served.
“What’ll you have?”
Sarah looked up, intent on ordering a shot and a beer, and was immediately sent reeling. Standing in front of her was the most jaw-droppingly beautiful woman she’d ever seen. She was tall, Sarah guessed her to be almost as tall as she was, with a thick, luxurious tumbling of silken hair. Sarah wasn’t much for colors but she’d have gone with a light red or deep reddish-brown to describe it. More than that, there were wide, bright, sparkling green eyes, a cute button of a nose, and thick, full, bright red lips. Her face was pale and smooth and made her look barely old enough to be in a bar, let alone working in one.
And as beautiful a face as it was, and it was a beautiful face, it paled in comparison to the body beneath it. The bartender was wearing a tight black t-shirt, stretched to what looked to be the breaking point across two of the largest breasts Sarah had ever seen. They sat high on her chest, almost ballooning outward from her frame. Despite their size and heft, they didn’t seem out of place on her. Skinny was not an appropriate word to describe the rest of the girls. Her stomach was flat but soft looking and a narrow waist flared out into hips that brought to mind the curved highways of her home state. The jeans hugging them struck Sarah as the luckiest garment in the world. Long, shapely legs completed the package, trailing down behind the bar to a pair of sensible black flats.
Sarah barely had a frame of reference for how the girl looked. There was nothing fake or plastic about her like a porn star and she knew the girl wasn’t a size zero like most of the supermodels some guys preferred. None of those models had curves like her anyway. Sarah stared in amazement for a second before she caught her composure.
“Shot and a beer,” Sarah eventually managed to squeak out.
The woman smiled at her, nodded, and turned around to face the bar. As she did, Sarah got a glimpse of a backside that, if anything put the front to shame. Full and round, curved and toned, Sarah again had to marvel at just how well put together she was.
Sarah could feel a strange level of desire build within her. Even if she hadn’t gone without sex for a year she’d have felt the heat just from being in this woman’s presence. Sarah wasn’t much for flowers and hearts. When she looked at this girl, she didn’t want to date her or get to know her better; she wanted to fuck her. Sarah wanted to grab her, bend her over the bar and fuck her nonstop until she dropped from exhaustion. Sarah wasn’t averse to her own pleasure, but she took a special interest in bringing her lovers to orgasm. There was something about the look, the feel, the taste of a woman as she quivered and screamed with pleasure that drove Sarah sexually. Whenever she saw a woman she found sexually attractive, Sarah immediately would begin fantasizing about how they looked in the throes of climax. Sarah had never wanted to see a girl cum more than the girl behind the bar.
“Here you go,” the bartender said as she returned with the drinks, flashing Sarah a sweet smile. “Want me to start a tab?”
Sarah nodded, still dumbstruck. The mystery woman again turned from Sarah and walked to her other patron.
“How’re things, Milu? Need a fresh one?”
“Still working on it,” the older man replied. “How’re things with Rabi or Kabir or whoever it is you’re dating these days?”
The pretty bartender frowned. “Over. And I’m the better for it.” “True.” He nodded sagely. “He didn’t seem up to the task,”
“Ugh, I need a man,” she said in exasperation. “I mean, look at me.” The bartender stepped back from the bar, waving her hand over her torso. “How is it that none of the guys I date are able to take this on?”
Sarah grimaced a little. The woman was straight. Of course, she was. Sarah’s troubles returned to her in full and she turned her attention to her drinks, gulping the cool, bitter beer down.
“It’s because you date young fellas,” the man answered. “Raised on tofu and video games instead of red meat and national service,”
“Mmm, so I need an older man, is what you’re telling me?” the bartender said flirtatiously as she leaned towards her patron. “Think Gladys could share you for a night?”
“Kiddo, she’d tear your arms off,” Milu chuckled mournfully.
“Poo.” She pouted before turning towards Sarah. “How about you? Know any good, available men that you don’t want yourself?”
“I legitimately don’t.” Sarah knocked back her shot of whiskey.
“Figures,” the bartender moaned. “Such is my lot, I suppose. An instrument such as myself and no Hendrix or Page to make it sing.”
Sarah smiled weakly as she ordered another round. The rest of the afternoon went much in the same way. Sarah drank quickly and copiously as the bartender and her other customer talked and flirted. When the bartender flirted with him, he’d beg off and when he propositioned her she’d giggle and call him a “dirty ol’ perv.”
It seemed to Sarah like a well-practiced routine. Sarah was in no mood for it though. She wanted to drink. She wanted to forget Rahul and the Army and her life. As the evening went on, she even managed to do a halfway decent job of it. The bar remained nearly as empty through closing. Sarah and Milu stayed and every now and then another person would come in for a drink or two.
The night drew to a close and Sarah got up, her head spinning slightly. She’d been drinking solidly for hours and she’d come very close to forgetting every relevant detail of her life.
The bartender noticed Sarah’s movements and walked towards her. “Done for the night?”
Sarah nodded. She was drunk, but she knew that anything she said would have made her sound ridiculous. Even knowing the girl was straight and man-crazy didn’t make Sarah any less self-conscious about looking stupid in front of her. Sarah just reached behind her for her wallet as the bartender put a bill in front of her.
Sarah grasped the small piece of paper and flipped it up and immediately saw there’d been a mistake. She’d only been charged five dollars for what Sarah guessed to be at least a dozen beers and just as many shots.
“You undercharged me,” Sarah blurted, trying to keep her composure.
“No I didn’t,” the bartender said confidently as she wiped down another spot of the bar.
“But I was drinking all night,” Sarah drunkenly protested,
“And that right there is the military price for doing so in O’Flaherty’s,” the redhead said with a wink as she turned her head back to Sarah.
Sarah shook her head. She hadn’t mentioned what she did all day or to anyone. She wasn’t wearing a buzz cut or any military paraphernalia either, her sandy blonde hair was just tied behind her in a tight ponytail and she was in jeans and a sweatshirt.
“Don’t be ridiculous, I can pay my bar tab,” Sarah kept protesting,
The beautiful girl shrugged. “It’s bar policy, nothing I can do. Especially not this time of year.”
Sarah had to struggle to figure out what the last part of the sentence meant for a second before remembering that Veterans Day was a few days away. It actually fell on the day Sarah was shipping out. Sarah had remembered thinking that it would be apropos that her last night with Abir would have fallen on the holiday.
The thought brought Sarah back to her problems for a second and she glumly nodded, reluctantly accepting the bar’s patriotic policy.
Steeling herself, Sarah straightened herself up and allowed the redheaded bartender to catch her eye once more. She’d stolen glances all through the day but this time she took a long, lingering stare as the woman went about the business of running the bar.
Sarah didn’t know if she was trying to make sure the woman was real or was just storing up a mental image for a masturbatory session or some mixture of the two. Either way, the two women’s eyes caught. Sarah nervously turned her head as she was caught, the bartender just smiled to herself.
“Well, I’m off,” Sarah said nervously, realizing the ridiculousness of announcing her departure to a bar of strangers.
“Have enough for a cab?” the bartender asked. Sarah nodded.
“And you’re definitely not driving?” she inquired sternly
Sarah shook her head. The bartender looked her over for a second with a probing eye, as if she could tell if Sarah was lying just by giving her the once over. Apparently satisfied, the bartender gave her a smile and a wink. “Alright then, have a good one.”
The next morning, Sarah found herself in the same spot at the same time. Her hangover had worn off and her desire to drink away her day had returned powerfully. When she woke, she’d briefly considered doing what she could to find a gay bar, maybe try to pick a woman up, but the truth was that even if Sarah were the type to hit the gay bar scene, the possibility of running into Abir made her want to throw up. So she’d caught another cab to O’Flaherty’s early in the afternoon. Sarah didn’t know if the same bartender would be there but she figured it was a win-win situation for her regardless. If it was a new bartender, Sarah could sit in the quiet bar and drink. If it was the same girl, Sarah could spend another day admiring the most sexually appealing example of the female form she’d ever laid eyes on. Pulling open the door, Sarah was pretty sure which of the two options she’d prefer.
To her pleasure, nothing seemed to have changed from the day before. The same older gentleman was on his stool at one end of the bar, the same trivia show was on the TV he was watching and, sitting on the bar with her back towards the door, was a girl that Sarah could instantly recognize as the same one who’d served her the day before. It was just that spectacular an ass.
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