Day 3: Cognac

Charlii shifted in her bar stool, shaking her head. She opened her mouth to speak, but the front door opened. A party of eight entered the bar shaking off raincoats and umbrellas revealing button-down shirt, slacks, skirts – none too short, heels and loafers, and one man and one woman in suits. Unlike the others, the suits smiled and laughed without making a sound. The man’s hair, cut so close his scalp reflected the lights in the bar, was mostly gray. The woman’s hair, short and sassy, had once been blonde, and a few gold tendrils glimmered in her silver. She led the way down the steps and to a booth and sat with her back to the wall.

“Perhaps,” said Balder. “You seek a sprite genuine in intent, old and true, reliable, and noble.” He smiled and walked around the bar to the tables. The old man stood directing six younger member to slide tables together, and move chairs and candles.

“Look at this place, Margaret,” the old man said, looking at the woman and grinning with perfect white teeth gleaming in the candlelight. “It’s perfect. Dignified enough for you?”

“It’s fine, John,” said Margaret, motioning him to sit down, her smile disappearing.

“A party!” exclaimed Balder, opening his arms. “Nothing like laughter to celebrate.” 

John sat next to Margaret. “A party!” he said. “We just landed the biggest client the firm has ever had. We’re in a whole new league now.” He looked to Margaret. “Let’s do this right. Brandy for everyone.  Let’s sit and savor our victory. What do you all say?”

The group applauded and then placed orders for beer and wine. Margaret nodded to Balder. “Brandy is fine.” Her voice was soft, and would have been drowned out by the others had John not jumped in.

“Excellent, Margaret.” John stood. “I’m going to teach you all a thing or two about class. We’re in a new league now.” He looked to Balder.  “We’ll all have brandy.”

“You’re expensing this, aren’t you, John?” Margaret asked under her breath. She smirked when John laughed. “Thought so.”

“I can’t wait to get to work, Corey,” said one of the young women. “Of course, I’m a huge fan. Sam?”

Sam, sitting opposite Corey and her ringlets of sable and gold, laughed out loud. “I love his movies! Have you seen that old one he did? A real action packed one, especially for the day, and it’s a holiday thing. Go figure.” 

“What’s his name again?” asked the youngest looking man.

“Seriously?” scoffed Sam. “You better learn all you can about him. He’s your bread and butter now.”

“Give Jim a break, Sam,” said a woman with long dark braids coiled around her head.

“Bea,” began Sam.

“It’s Beatrice, not Bea,” she interrupted. “Maybe you want me to call you Samuel?”

Sam laughed, holding up his hands. “Yield! I give-in Beatrice. But seriously, Jim should know all there is about our richest client.”

“Jim and Corey are on the team because they don’t know who he is, Sam. We decided we needed the youth voice.” Beatrice looked to John, who nodded and shrugged at the same time.

Sam rolled his eyes, as he turned his head toward the bar. Under his breath, he whispered. “Loosen up.”

Balder set a tray in front of Charlii. He covered the tray with twelve sniffers. As he turned his back on Charlii to examine the bottles of brandy behind him, he said, “You keep looking at the glasses as though they were individuals. The fairies live in the casks, nipping the sugars and water away until the perfect balance of flavor is made.” Balder returned to the tray and poured eleven glasses from one bottle of brandy. 

Charlii watched the brown liquid fill the bottom of each sniffer and the alcohol swirl and twirl in the bottom of each glass. “I suppose there’s a brown fairy in each of those glasses making the perfect glass of brandy.”

“Fairies spill out of each cack and dance in the bottles until they find a glass. If you honor them, they will honor you. They dance and sing of earth and leaf. If you abuse them, they abuse you.” Balder took a separate bottle and poured it into the twelfth sniffer.

Charlii raised her eyebrow. “Why a different bottle for that one?”

“This,” replied Balder, “is Cognac. The fairy in this glass has traveled far and deserves a person who will receive the true spirit of goodness.” 

Charlii giggled. “Should be interesting.”

Balder carried the tray above his head till he reached the table. “Ladies and gentlemen, May I present you with nectar of true and noble.” He placed one glass in front of each person.

John picked up his sniffer and stopped the others from drinking. “Wait,” he said and stood.

“Oh, not again,” whispered Margaret.

“First, hold the glass in front of you and spin the brandy. Make sure you catch the light. Observe the legs. Observer the colors. Beautiful.”

Margaret sighed and took a sip of brandy. She closed her eyes and leaned back. 

“Now hold it up to your nose,” continues John. “You want to get a good whiff.”

Beatrice put the glass to her nose and breathed in deeply. She crunched her nose and sipped. 

Sam skipped the sniff and drank half his glass. Jim followed.

Corey swirled her glass. Her eyes fixed on the glass. Amber, browns, and golds glittered across her face. She followed John’s advice and put her nose to the glass, sniffing. Her head jerked away from the glass, and she lowered the glass to chest height. Her cheeks flamed hot pink. She took in a deep breath as her her cheeks returned to their blush. With one large inhale, she twirled the contents of her glass again. Once again, she lifted the glass to her nose, twitching her nose once as the scent of the brandy drifted into her nostrils. She breathed again. She sipped just enough to taste. She sipped again, this time a full sip, allowing the liquid to sit on her tongue. She smiled.

John took a long sip of his drink. “Now that is how you do it.” He sat down. “Isn’t it splendid? This is how to enjoy a drink.”

Margaret drank the last of her glass. “Get me a red wine, John.”

John sighed and stood. 

“I’ll take a beer,” said Jim.

“Wine for me, too,” added Sam.

“White for me,” said Beatrice.

John looked at Corey. She smiled. “I’m good,” she said. “This is how to enjoy an evening.”

“You gave the most expensive drink to the prettiest girl there,” Charlii hurrumphed.

Balder shook his head, grabbing wine glasses from above the counter. “I gave the cognac to the person who dreams.”

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