Read Warming Trend Online

Authors: Karin Kallmaker

Tags: #Climatic Changes, #Key West (Fla.), #Contemporary, #Alaska, #General, #Romance, #(v4.0), #Lesbians, #Women Scientists, #Fiction, #Lesbian, #Ice Fields - Alaska

Warming Trend

Warming Trend
by
Karin Kallmaker
(c) 2009 by Karin Kallmaker
Bella Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 10543
Tallahassee, FL 32302
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper
First Bella Books 2009
Editor: Katherine V. Forrest
Cover designer: Linda Callaghan
ISBN-10: 1-59493-146-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-59493-146-8
About the Author
Among Karin Kallmaker’s more than twenty-five romances and fantasy-science fiction novels are the award-winning Just Like That, Maybe Next Time, Sugar and 18th & Castro along with the bestselling Substitute for Love and the perennial classic Painted Moon. Sixty-plus short stories and novellas have appeared in anthologies from publishers like Alyson, Bold Strokes, Circlet, Cleis and Haworth, as well as Bella Books. She began her writing career with the venerable Naiad Press and continues with Bella. Her novels have been translated into Spanish, French, German and Czech.
She and her partner are the mothers of two and live in the San Francisco Bay Area. They were married in 2008. She is descended from Lady Godiva, a fact which she’ll share with anyone who will listen. She likes her Internet fast, her iPod loud and her chocolate dark.
All of Karin’s work can now be found at Bella Books. Details and background about her love for stories of life and laughter about and for lesbians can be found at kallmaker.com.
For Maria, for my children and for hope that it’s not too late to truly change.
My first novel, penned about twenty years ago, was set in 1978, and paid tribute to the times of my greatest hero. 
Thirty years later, Harvey Milk is still an inspiration. To homogeneity!
Twenty-one! Finally of age, finally legal.
Chapter 1

Misting, frigid air poured out of the ice maker, pooling around Anidyr Bycall’s ankles as she scooped another bucket full of ice from under the bar. She bumped the door shut with her hip, but there was no relief from the cold. Her fingerless gloves were frosted across the backs and she could see her breath hanging in the chilled air as she worked.

A woman who’d been drinking beers for an hour dropped some bills on the bar before leaving and Ani wasn’t surprised to feel them crackle in her hand. Customers came into the On the Rocks Ice Bar to escape the humidity and heat of Key West, and their currency was damp in their pockets. By the time they left, the money had frozen. She tucked the bills in the till. The cash register was a slight heat source and the money would melt again. It was still spendable, and that was all that mattered.

Lisa, the new cocktail waitress, leaned over the bar to recite her order. Her long blond hair, flowing loosely from under the fur-lined hood of her snowsuit, was reflected in the bar’s gleaming surface like sea foam spreading on cobalt waters. Over the shrill of the music she ordered, “Two Surfer’s Wakes, two margaritas on the rocks with salt, three Conch Indies, and six tequila shooters and beer.”

Ani kept her gaze fixed on the blender as she filled it with the quick frozen ice she’d just replenished. She spared her voice the effort of being heard by answering with a nod. She expected Lisa to take off for more orders or to pull the beers. Elaborate steins made from ice molds were all lined up, waiting to be filled. Instead, she continued to lean over the bar, openly watching Ani work. Beer wasn’t Ani’s job, and Lisa had to know that by now.

She wanted to tell Lisa there was no need to han g around. Like all the other new barmaids before her, Lisa would figure out Ani didn’t need to be told twice. She’d also figure out that Ani wasn’t much of a talker. The relentless
tom-tom
of the dance beat made conversation difficult, and Ani liked it that way. She didn’t need to expend what social energy she had on making nice with yet another Key West surfer girl who would move on after a couple of months. Once the novelty of working in a thirty-degree environment wore off, they all left to chase bigger tips or the perfect schedule that allowed more time on their board or on their girlfriend. With nearly three years invested in bartending at On the Rocks, Ani had seen that pattern repeat again and again. Her track record of not learning anyone’s last name was perfect and she was keeping it that way. None of them knew her last name either, and only one or two had ever cared.

“You don’t need to hang around,” she finally said as she shook the blender.

“I’m not used to a place that doesn’t use a computer for orders.”

Ani nodded toward the ice-made bar-height tables that ringed the dance floor. “The longer people wait at a table for you the more likely they come to the bar and order direct.”

“Less work for me then, isn’t it?”

Where did management find these girls, Ani wondered. It was a matter of simple math. “It’s up to you, but you share your tips with me and I don’t share mine with you.”

Lisa looked like Ani had popped a balloon in her face. Her big, blue eyes swam with big, blue tears. Ani was willing to bet Lisa had gotten out of everything from parking tickets to bad grades with those shimmering, glittering eyes, not to mention the waves of blond hair. Black-eyed girls with mops of inky hair never got away with anything at least that was her experience.

“Didn’t they explain it to you? We both share with the table jockey because tables with empty, slowly melting ice mugs don’t attract more orders, and the faster he clears and grades the table surface, the more drinks we serve. But without me, you have no drinks to serve.” She turned to a customer who leaned in between two of the bar stools. “What can I get you?”

A rum and Coke took about twenty seconds to make, and Ani pocketed the cash to make her point to Lisa. “It’s really up to you. You get to him before he gets to me, you make more money.”

“Well, thanks. I guess.” Lisa managed a convincing flounce as she departed to collect a few more orders. With that figure, still noticeable under the tailored, cinched waist of the vivid blue snowsuit, she would easily pull in good tips.

Nevertheless, Ani gave her two months, tops. The money was indisputably good at On the Rocks, but work was required to make it.

Her hands passed quickly over the bottles she needed, chugging alcohol into the blender, followed by scoops of fruit. Ani focused on the frost building on the outside of the blender as it chewed up ice, fresh pineapple and frozen strawberries and frothed them together with dark rum. Conch Indies were one of her signature drinks. The concoction had gotten her this job and the tourists still loved them. The contents weren’t exotic, but customers who chose the On the Rocks were looking for flash and sparkle. They wanted the novelty of drinking from a crystal clear flute made of ice. A Conch Indie tasted good and looked pretty, bottom line. She poured the fragrant pink slush into two tall glasses, then deftly used long-tubed injectors to stripe the glasses along their insides with blue Curacao and Chartreuse. Tomorrow might be the Fourth of July, but in Key West red, white and blue gave way to pink, lime and cobalt. The required tiny umbrellas imprinted with the Conch Republic flag underscored the community’s proud colors.

Customers in lime or pink parkas, provided as part of the bar cover charge, leaned on the tables to yell over the music as they drank. It made for a bizarre contrast with the patrons in their shorts and tanks, staying warm as they danced. The barware, from rocks glasses to brandy snifters, were all the colors of the Conch Republic, either clear or frosted, depending on the method used to freeze them in their molds. The effect gave the inside of the bar the same riotous colors as every other tourist hangout in Key West it was just sixty degrees colder.

She finished stirring up the margaritas, and briefly rested her fingertips against the warmth emanating from the cash register. Her hands were always cold while the rest of her was just fine, even though she only wore jeans topped by a cobalt blue tank top with the On the Rocks logo. Lisa was on her way back with more orders, but it only took Ani a moment to fill six lime-flavored shot glasses with tequila. She winced as acid from the lime peels she twisted into the glasses irritated a hangnail. Only the Surfer’s Wakes were left to prepare. Lisa’s tray was already laden with six drafts she’d figured out that was her responsibility. At least the girl was efficient when she was thinking about it. Crushed ice clung to the sides of the frosted ice-molded steins, glittering with gold as it refracted the strobes and the ale inside. Ani blinked away the memory of that kind of golden light lancing along the crest of a glacier wall.

She glanced down the length of the bar to make sure her customers weren’t trying to order while Lisa deftly added the shooters to her tray and swayed through the crowd to deliver the rounds. She was graceful and had no trouble with a heavy load, points in her favor. She’d be back in under a minute. Ani set up two tall, narrow glasses and reached for the coconut rum.

Lisa’s hair was once again reflected in the bar. After she relayed her next spate of orders, she leaned over, affording Ani a prime view of her lovely real estate, molded by the half-down zipper of her suit. “That’s pretty. That’s the Surfer’s Wake? What’s in it?”

Apparently all was forgiven. “Coconut rum, tequila, salt, ice and blueberry schnapps for color.”

“And club soda?”

“No.”

“But it’s sparkling. The ice is made from club soda?”

“No. The cubes are quick frozen which means there’s a lot of air suspended in them. That’s why they’re cloudy and they melt fast.” Ani lifted the glass to the light, enjoying the variations in the whites of the cubes as they settled in the clear blue liquid. “When ice is slow-frozen it’s clear because the air has time to purge. If a customer asks, tell them it’s like an Alka-Seltzer tablet in water, without the bicarbonate bitterness.”

She quickly tossed another ice cube in bar salt and tipped it over the glass. The cube plopped into the aquamarine liquid and sank slowly to the bottom of the flute. The salt made the cube melt even more quickly, and pretty strands of escaping bubbles danced upward to the surface, creating a thin foam. If she held the glass just right it looked like midday on a glacier field stark white with crevasses that glowed blue from deep within.

“You sound more like a chemist than a bartender.” Lisa’s eyebrows were arched.

“Bartending is all chemistry.” Satisfied with the bubbles and foam, she set the tall glasses on the tray and was spared from saying more by two women who slid onto the stools in front of her the moment they were abandoned by the previous customers. They giggled as they clutched the bar and each other in equal measures.

“Feel the bar,” the redhead urged. “It’s so cold I’m almost sticking to it.”

Ani wiped the surface in front of them, glad to see a nearby resort room key card peeking out of the blonde’s breast pocket. They’d not have far to stumble. “What can I get you?”

The redhead gave her a warm smile, but it was the buzz-cut blonde who ordered two Conch Indies. Sounding slightly peeved, she added, “My girlfriend thinks you’re hot.”

The redhead’s bold eyes were at odds with the demure smile. “What can I say? It’s freezing in here and you don’t even look chilled. And I like Slavic looks on a woman. Tall, dark and moody.”

Slightly intrigued, Ani lifted one eyebrow. “Slavic?”

“My brother-in-law is from Uzbekistan, and you could easily be one of his cousins.”

“My parents were born on the other side of Asia from there.” She might have specified the Bering Sea, but she was fairly certain the redhead wasn’t interested in a geography lesson. “I was born in Anchorage.”

The blonde put a possessive arm around her girlfriend, her expression sour. “If she speaks Russian, are you gonna let her do you?”

The redhead made a show of pouting. “If she speaks Russian, I just might.”

Go play out your domestic drama with someone else, Ani thought. “I’d better stick to English, hadn’t I?” Besides, her Russian had never exceeded
nyet
—her father had insisted it was her only word until she was four.

The blonde slapped down a twenty for the drinks. “Yeah, you’d better.” Snatching up the glasses, she practically growled as she turned to her girlfriend. “Put your tongue back in your mouth, babe.”

Glad that the blonde then insisted they move to a table, Ani shrugged off the unwarranted hostility. It came with the territory. For some reason, people had no trouble at all airing their dysfunctional tendencies to a bartender, as if bartenders had taken some vow of silence. It wasn’t the first time she’d been used as a jealousy prod. She was going to bet they had hot sex later, and the blonde would give her cute redhead a lot of reasons to forget some bartender she’d never see again. That wasn’t what a relationship was supposed to be about, not to her. Not that she was any expert and she didn’t ever plan to be. The chemistry of ice was far more fascinating and consistent than the personalities of people.

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