Shooter Flash: “Gentleman’s Relish” by A. S. Partridge

Ryan scrolled through his cache of hotties, looking for the girl eating watermelon. He’d accumulated mostly blondes and the golden manes blurred into a comet streak down the screen of his phone. Quickly, he scanned for the flash of crimson. He needed a quick reminder before their date, for which he was going to be late. Not that he cared.

There: the juicy bite, the tilt of the head, the sexily blackened eyes stopped him like a traffic light. Jana. They’d been messaging for about two weeks. The usual banter, followed by sexting, plus a bonus shot of her in a latex nurse outfit. 

Conveniently, Jana had agreed to meet him at the Looking Glass Cocktail Club, right around the corner from his apartment building, a new five-story development thrust up against a railway arch down a dingy Shoreditch side street. Ryan pushed into the cocktail bar and immediately spotted his date, perched at a corner table, crossed legs punctuated by four-inch stilettos.

“Heyyy,” she squealed, struggling upright to smooch him on the cheek and enveloping him in a fragrant mist.

“Jana. Good to finally meet you.” Ryan deepened his voice slightly. “Can I get you a drink or,” he nodded in the direction of her fruity concoction, “are you okay for now?”

“I’ll have another,” Jana purred, twisting a lock of hair around her finger.

Ryan went to the bar and ordered his usual, a Gentleman’s Relish – gin, something ginger, rhubarb bitters and a splash of tonic – and a Twisted Sister for Jana, with its exclamations of citrus rind. By the time they’d covered the standard topics of work, travel, and where they’d grown up, Jana was leaning into him, fingering the edge of his jacket.

“Your texts were really funny,” she said, “but I didn’t realise what a sweetheart you’d be in person.”

“No-one at work knows that about me,” Ryan sighed, looking deep into her eyes. “They all think I’m a robot. But I feel comfortable with you. You have such a calming energy.” Jana’s eyes grew large as she smiled back at him: widening pupils, a sure sign of attraction.

“Let’s get out of here,” he murmured.

Jana seemed amused to discover how close by he lived, but she more than willingly tottered over to his place. They kissed in the lift, and by the time Ryan opened his front door, Jana was clawing him like a cat on a scratching post.

He’d tidied up beforehand. The duvet – a masculine brown – was smooth on the bed. The side lamp cast a dim glow. Ryan pulled her onto the bed and resumed kissing her, stroking her back until she was ready for more. Soon enough, Jana rose and started tugging at the buttons of his shirt. He eased off her top, plucking open the buttons of her jeans in preparation, then turned his attention to her chest. As he ran his hands over her curves he realised, with disappointment, that her bra was heavily padded. Quickly he reached around to unhook the back but as the bra fell away, Jana flattened him and pressed her mouth ardently against his.

He let her writhe around on top of him for a while, then flipped her over and reached into her jeans. Jana’s hips began moving more violently against his hand and soon she yanked herself upright, peeled off the rest of her clothes and began tugging at Ryan’s trousers. She seemed pretty intent; he might get away without using a condom. She wasn’t pausing. He was just going to let her ride.

When it was over, Jana collapsed beside him. She was panting and sweaty, but Ryan didn’t mind, now that it was finished. He let the dopamine wash him into a doze.

Later, he woke to Jana padding back from the bathroom, fully dressed.

“Hey,” she whispered, leaning over him. “I have to go.”

“Okay,” he said, feeling relieved. It was still ridiculously early; the sky past the edge of his blind glimmered weakly against the dark steel of the elevated railway tracks.

“Thanks,” she said, lowering to kiss him.

“Thank you,” he stirred himself to utter with sincerity.

The next few weeks were rammed as usual. He fit in a few fresh Tinder dates, keeping up the rotation. He thought about following up with Jana, but decided not to bother.

He was snatching lunch in the middle of a frantic day of meetings when his phone pinged and the watermelon materialised on his screen.

Hey Ryan, hope you’re well. Can we meet up this weekend?

Ryan smirked, fingers hovering. She’d probably been waiting for him to contact her while the frustration built to volcanic proportions. Why not see her a second time, he figured, starting to tap a reply. Toss her a pity bang. Then delete her.

He met Jana for dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant along the roaring Kingsland Road. He was there first this time and failed to recognise her when she walked in, wearing a blue sweater, flats and a bare face. Pretty cocky to make no effort, he thought. She strode over and coolly kissed him on the cheek. Where was watermelon girl? All her flirtiness had dissolved.

“Red or white?” he asked, feeling disgruntled. He took his time scanning the menu. Not much of a face to look at tonight anyway.

“I’m not drinking,” she said, settling down. He could feel her eyeing him. Jesus, was she about to give him a hard time? Ryan figured he’d get a glass of the more expensive Sauv Blanc, if he was just buying for himself. A large glass.

“Maybe I should get a bottle anyway,” he said, trying to shift the mood. “I’ll drink for two.” Her face split into a satisfied grin. At last. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

“Perfect,” she said, opening the menu, “as it turns out that I’m eating for two.”


A. S. Partridge has published poetry, flash fiction, and short stories in numerous magazines including Aurora, Malahat Review, Popshot, Scribble, and others. She lives in Edinburgh, where she is working on a satirical novel about motherhood.