“You write like a man,” he told her.
She sipped her chocolate martini. “How so?”
“Straightforward. Active.” He leaned in and she could smell the gin fumes in his throat, welling up from his round belly. “No maudlin sentiment or insecurity.”
She considered this as she surveyed the hotel bar. Dark, polished wood shelves lined with liquor, behind them mirrors presumably intended to let the bartender keep watch over patrons while his back was turned. She could see the reflection of her eyes, but the bottom of her face was lost in a bottle of Jameson.
“I presume you mean that as a compliment,” she said finally.
“Of course. Other women write the same trite, banal garbage for their women readers to consume like greedy children eat candy. But you… you are a true chef of words.” He grinned, and she imagined he was pleased with his analogy.
“Delicious. So there isn’t a single other woman out there who can appeal to your refined palate?”
“Not Atwood, or Lessing, or–”
“None. I see a woman’s name on the book cover and I ignore it. I know I will only be disappointed.”
She crossed her arms. “What if they used a male pseudonym?”
He shook his head and moved even closer, laying a hand on the bar next to her drink. “It’s still obvious when something is written by a woman. Anyone can tell after a few sentences. You, though… perhaps. You would almost certainly double your readership. Appeal to those of us who avoid women writers.”
She looked down at his hand. “But not women in general?”
His smile broadened. “Where would we be without women?”
“Alone in a hotel bar, I suspect. Tragic.”
She looked up at her reflection and saw another pair of eyes approaching behind her.
“Sorry I’m late,” her girlfriend said, wrapping an arm around her waist and kissing her neck.
“It’s all right,” she said. “This gentleman was explaining to me how I write like a man.”
Her girlfriend smirked. “I’ve never thought so. Every inch of you is very, very much a woman. Ready to go?”
“Definitely.” She regarded the man beside her, whose jaw was trying to unhinge like a snake’s. “Tragic,” she said thoughtfully. “Without a woman, you’re alone in a bar. Without a man, I’m still going to get wildly fucked.”
She raised her glass and downed the rest of her drink. “Cheers, asshole.”