Warming Trend – Paperback
Warming Trend by Karin Kallmaker
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Anidyr Bycall is frozen in her past, regretting words never spoken to the woman she loves and the one impulsive act that cost her all her dreams. Running from the courts of public and academic opinion in Fairbanks, she has landed in Key West. The nights are hot but she is colder than the glaciers she once explored.
Tending bar by night, she spends her days immersed in the research of her only remaining passion in life: the ice fields of Alaska. But trends may be improving when news from home hints that those she harmed may have moved on, and she can at least recover the papers and books she left behind. The respect and affection she once saw in Eve Cambra's eyes is gone beyond recall.
When a few innocent questions raise Ani's doubts about what really happened three years ago, she realizes she may have a chance to clear her name and reclaim her career. But there's no data to prove that Eve has thawed and that the fire they once shared can be rekindled.
Golden Crown and Lambda Literary award-winning author Karin Kallmaker brings her readers a romantic story of the icy north where passion may melt even a frozen heart.
What People are Saying:
- Reader Comments about Warming TrendGreat writing, smart story with fascinating, unusual, and well developed characters. People you would like to know.
- L-Word.de reviews Tanz auf dem EisDie Happy-End-Garantin schafft es spielend, mit Hilfe von Freundschaft
- Anna Furtado reviews Warming TrendThe broken relationship between Eve and Ani will have the reader on tenterhooks until the end.
- Warming Trend at The Lesbian ReviewThis is a beautiful romance, a story of two people who are so destined to be together that no matter how big the gulf between ...
- Audio Listeners on Warming TrendSmart story with fascinating, unusual, and well developed characters… Of course Abby Craden always gives an unbelievably enjoyable narrative.
- Warming Trend at Just About WriteA diabolical plot and how two friends, Lisa and Tan, work with Ani and Eve to clear Ani’s name.
- words: 87000
- All About Warming TrendFans of this book won't want to miss the follow-up wedding short story "Good Morning" in Frosting on the Cake 2: Second Helpings.
- Alaska - there is no place like it. The cold, the beauty, the vastness of it. So why would a woman who loves Alaska run all the way to Key West to escape it? That's the thought that inspired this novel. And it's always wonderful when a sidekick like Lisa takes over. Hands down, Lisa is everyone's favorite - just ask her.
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 snow suit, 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 hang 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 snow suit, 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 hang out 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?”
“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 crevices 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.
Lisa’s hand drifted over Anidyr’s more than once as she collected beers, drinks and pitchers throughout the night. The pace of the bar peaked at about one-thirty, just before last call. The noise was deafening, so she merely tugged her earlobe and shook her head in answer to questions about locations of after-hours clubs.
The music stopped at two, and the lights finally steadied to a wan yellow. The blazing neon bar signs were switched off and the high energy of people with nothing to do but party transformed into weary travelers and staff all looking for bed. Ani spotted the blonde and the redhead necking on their way out.
Lisa counted out her tips and divvied up shares with Ani and the table jockey. Ani balanced the till and divided the leftover cash between herself and the table jockey. The club wasn’t quite as busy on weeknights, and because Ani could keep up with the pace, she didn’t share the bar except on Friday and Saturday nights. The assistant manager checked inventory and—as usual—didn’t find a bottle missing, so Ani didn’t owe anything back. She tucked the roll of mixed currency in her pocket, alongside the paycheck for her hours worked and the tips customers paid with credit cards, and headed out through the utility back room. It would be just a few hours before the restoration crew came in to fill molds and replace the ice glasses consumed during the night, and groom the walls and ice sculptures for the next day’s trade. She didn’t look at the ice sculptures much—even with the slowest freezing process they could manage, the clarity of the ice was nothing like Fairbanks, which hosted the World Championships every year. She shook off the thought. It wasn’t productive.
“Hey, Ani.” Lisa fell into step alongside her. “Do you remember Kirsten?”
“Sorry. If I saw her I probably would.”
“Well, she remembers you. She said to say hi.”
Ani gave Lisa a sideways look. “She a friend of yours?”
“Not really, but she did say I should try to get a job here.” They turned the corner in the long corridor that ran almost the length of the resort’s main buildings. “And that you would be one of the highlights.”
“She was joking, I think.”
Lisa put one hand on Ani’s bare forearm. “You walk really fast. It’s the long legs.”
“It’s late and home is calling.”
Lisa moved closer, temptingly warm after all the hours of cold. “Bed is calling me.”
Ani tried to look as if she didn’t understand the invitation, then she tried frowning, but Lisa continued to look at her with the big blue eyes and a not-so-subtle heave to her bosom. Under her unzipped snowsuit she wore a ribbed tank that left nothing to Ani’s imagination. “Look, I don’t know what Kirsten told you—”
“That you were fantastic with your hands.”
“My handiwork is all at the bar. I don’t go home with anybody.”
“Oh, that’s not what Kirsten said at all.” Lisa leaned even closer, and Ani knew she ought to have felt the heat rising off Lisa’s skin, but she didn’t. She didn’t feel anything but a desire to end the conversation.
“I’m sorry she misled you, then.”
The pouting began. “She said you were hard to get next to, but she’d managed.”
“I can’t explain why she’d say that.” Ani gently removed Lisa’s hand from her forearm. “I have a date waiting for me at home,” she lied. “Sorry.”
Lisa didn’t follow her as she walked onward toward the exit to the employee car lot. Ani consigned the conversation to the list of things she’d make to sure to forget by tomorrow. Why would Kirsten—a woman Ani didn’t even remember—make up a lie? Sometimes she had no idea what motivated people.
Every ten feet the temperature increased noticeably, and her footsteps slowed as she reached the exit door. She was glad to be unaccompanied. No one would understand why she found it hard to open the door to the lush, exotic Key West night.
She told herself she was being a fool, the same thing she did every night. But she couldn’t help it. It was nearing three in the morning and she didn’t want to leave the cold and ice of the club. She so very much wanted to open the door to forty degrees and the night sky already glowing at the eastern horizon. It was the time of year when, at home, the sun almost never set, and the stars faded like pale milk into the indigo canopy. The time of year when two women could touch noses and not worry they might get frostbite. The time of year when dancing on a glacier at three o’clock in the morning wasn’t suicidal madness, and the northern lights blazed in full celebration of whispered endearments.
She pushed the past out of her head. There was no exhilarating chill on the other side of that door, no aurora borealis, and no Eve. She opened the door and let the humid Key West air brutally remind her that it wasn’t a bad dream, she’d still made the mistakes she’d made, and she still had to accept that this was how it had to be. Key West was her chosen place of exile. She loved living in the Keys. The years of bartending to get through her bachelor’s degree at U of Fairbanks had paid off as her only real vocational skill. Who cared if she could set a avalanche charge or tell, just by looking, if the glacial ice was stationary or moving? Useless. So what if she came from generations of sturdy Russian stock that thrived best when conditions were harsh? Why not live in paradise?
She felt heavy and slow as she claimed her scooter from the lot. Find wisdom, she told herself. It’s not about having what you want, but wanting what you have. Key West, oh she loved the humidity and the sparrow-sized bugs. She loved the constant sweat on her palms and the six-toed stray cats. It was always summer, the flowers were always in bloom and nothing ever changed. Who could want more than all that?
* * *
She headed into the thick, cloying night, the sky loaded with stars. She wished she could call it beautiful. She knew that the fireworks tomorrow ought to be spectacular if the clear weather held for one more day. Look forward to the fireworks, she told herself, and stop wishing you didn’t smell of scotch.
Her bungalow was on the other side of the tourist district, past the Hemingway house and into one of the low-rent side streets near the airport. Many of her neighbors also worked in tourism, and she wasn’t the only one arriving home at that late hour. A shower was her top priority, and then a long sleep to start off her Independence Day.
“Ani-dear,” someone called softly, not too far away. She turned to track the voice, and saw Shiwan waving. “A package.”
“Sorry,” Ani said as she crossed the small patch of unmown grass that separated their doorways. “They never get it right.”
“Postman lazy. My door much closer.” Shiwan flashed her a tired smile. “I going to bed, so good thing you come home now.”
“Thanks.” She hefted the box, telling herself not to hope that it was from Tan. “I appreciate it.”
She heard Shiwan’s door close before she was back on her own front porch. Once she was in her own narrow foyer, she glanced at the return address—A. Salek, Fairbanks, Alaska. It was from Tan. She hadn’t lied to Lisa, after all. This box was a bona fide date.
The familiar mix of excitement and dread played out in a rush of adrenaline, and she quickly pulled off the club tank top and kicked off the worn black Levi’s. Within minutes she was in the shower, scrubbing the odor of booze out of her pores. She toweled her hair until it was damp, enjoying the cool feel of it against her neck. Though she reveled in the club’s icy air, it was stale. The bungalow’s lack of central air conditioning was welcome. The moist air from the swamp cooler refreshed her sinuses, doing as much good as the moisturizer she massaged into her rough hands.
Even as she automatically tended to all the steps that would lead her to bed, she wondered what she’d find in the box this time. What gossip from the university? Would there be new issues of geoLogics? Would any of the newspapers mention people she’d once called friends? It had been three years of experiencing a brand new climate, but she missed Alaska desperately. That her exile to Key West was her own damned fault only made it harder to let go. Tan’s box of news was an act of pity by the department administrative director to a former grad student who had screwed up. Maybe Tan—and the rest of the world—believed her guilty of the wrong thing, but she had still made some big mistakes and now she was paying for them. Karma was karma.
Knowing if she opened the box she would not get the sleep she so badly needed to truly study the contents, she made herself leave it on the floor next to the bed. Exhausted as she was, she felt its presence as she waited for sleep. News from home…