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Nothing emboldens sin so much as mercy.
I'm mean no I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."
She never got a chance to finish. One of the ladies pushed a tray filled with crackers and cheeses in front of her; "here." She turned away.
Cathy took the tray, as she turned to go back in the living room she made a last appeal, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to..."
The woman had already turned away. Cathy felt like someone who'd just drowned a basketful of kittens. She sped back to the living room.
What Cathy didn't hear as she left the kitchen was the two women speaking in Spanish. In a loose translation of their brief conversation one asserted how badly she felt having to be so rough on the girl, and the other agreed citing the considerate way Cathy had treated them the whole time she'd been there. The first agreed and suggested they say something to Steve when it was all over. The second nodded.
Cathy got back in the living room just in time to see Steve point at her and then at the bartender. Oh my she thought, the drinks. She tiptoed over to the waiting and obviously unhappy bartender.
When she got there the bartender looked at her and said, "Where have you been. Their drinks are going to be all watery."
Cathy looked at the drink tray and saw the drinks arrayed in a neat circle. She forced a smile at the bartender, "Don't worry I'll get them right over." She picked up her tray and looked around for her spiral pad. She looked at the bartender, "Where's my pad?"
He looked incredulous, "What pad?"
She turned white. Eyes wide with fear she replied, "My pad with my notes on who gets what drink."
He looked at her with contempt, "I don't know where you put your pad. Don't you remember?"
She didn't, and what was worse when she looked at the drinks she couldn't tell one from the other. They'd all ordered something with color. She didn't have a clue. She looked over at the partiers. They were all looking at her. She looked at the bartender, "I don't know."
He didn't smile, "Don't know what?"
For all she was worth, though Cathy had been around drinkers and at parties for years she seldom drank anything herself, and never paid any attention to what other people had. Waitresses and waiters always brought those things. She'd never had to do it, not once. She was desperate, "I don't know which drink is which."
The bartender gave her a quick review, "This is a Jack and coke, this is Jim Beam and coke, that's an Old Fashioned, this here is a Margarita, that's a Manhattan, and that's a Long Island Iced Tea.
She looked them over, "OK Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, an Iced Tea, and a Margarita."
He corrected her, "Long Island Iced Tea."
She nodded, "OK, Long Island." She picked up the tray and dashed over to the circle of partiers. She looked around. No one was smiling, She asked, "OK, who gets the Margarita."
Theresa Stockton raised her hand.
She passed her the Margarita.
Now who gets the Jack Daniels?" Barry Austin held his hand up. She handed him his.
Now who gets...?"
Mr.Austin tasted the drink and interrupted her, "This is Jim Beam."
Cathy looked at him. Now she was confused, "Oh." She took back the Jim beam, "Who gets the Jim Beam?"
Steve held up his hand, "I get the Jim Beam.
Cathy handed him the recently tasted Jim Beam.
Steve stopped her, "Cathy do you know what you're doing?"
She was scared. She wanted to cry, "I'm giving every one their drinks."
He looked at her with compassion; it was the first nonthreatening look she'd gotten in forty minutes, "You gave me a drink somebody else already drank from."
She was crushed. What should she do? She put the tray down on the coffee table that sat in the middle of the circle of people. I'll be right back." She looked at Steve, "You get a Jim Beam, and Mr. Peregoy gets a Jack Daniels."
Steve corrected her, "No Mr. Austin gets the Jack Daniels. I get a Jim Beam. Mrs. Austin gets the Manhattan."
Cathy wanted to cry, "Oh, I'll be right back." She started for the bartender again.
Steve stood up and caught her by the arm.