This little tavern had always been Emma’s favorite in her little hometown. Not that there were any others, but she still loved this one, even if it was a little bro-y. Jake, the bartender, was the owner’s son, and although he was probably a good 5-10 years younger than she was, there wasn’t anything wrong with a little flirting, right? He was bartending tonight. Lucky her. She was back in town to visit her parents, and to sleep in her childhood hot pink bedroom, alone. That’s why she was here on Valentine’s night, by herself, drinking her face off. Well, that, and the fact that her boyfriend of five years had just unceremoniously taken the cat and left her. He’d found someone younger, he said. She left the city for the weekend and came down to see her parents and adjust and get out of that cursed apartment for a few days. Well fuck off, Patrick, she thought. I don’t need you anyway. She signaled Jake for another double Vanilla White Russian. Something about a creamy, very strong alcoholic drink with a hearty dose of vanilla just made her feel better. Until the next morning. She wasn’t concerned about tomorrow now. Tomorrow she would wake up alone and hating the world anyway, so might as well throw some vodka on it now and pretend that inevitable future wasn’t coming in mere hours.
What felt like moments later, she woke up in the corner booth, her hair plastered to her face in a mix of sweat and drool. Geeze, those had been strong drinks. Miraculously, her purse, phone, and credit card were still there. It seemed like someone had put her there to sleep off the drinks; the rest of the bar was dark and totally empty. It was then she noticed Jake, sitting two tables away, staring intently at her. “Oh, good, you’re okay,” he said as she started upwards, nearly smacking her head on the table in the middle of the booth. “I was waiting to make sure you were okay.” Emma smiled. “Well, that’s very lovely, Jake; could you maybe bring me some aspirin and a glass of water?” He leapt up and went behind the bar, filled up a glass, grabbed a bottle of aspirin from under the counter, and came back, sitting across the table from her. She took both gratefully, and chugged the whole glass in just a few gulps. As she set down the glass, Jake grabbed her hands. “I always felt like you and I should be together, Emma. You’re so pretty. You’re so sweet. Let’s go in the back room and make this official.” Emma felt nauseous, and she was pretty sure it wasn’t just the booze. “Jake, you’re sweet, but I should really go home and, like, drink a swimming pool and then go to sleep.” She tried to release her hands, but his grip tightened. Something changed in his face. “Oh, no, Emma, you can’t go. You can’t go. This is our night. Come on,” he said, dragging her out of the booth. Her feet were dragging, slipping on the wet bar floor. “I said NO!” she screamed, yanking her hands out of his, tumbling them both to the floor. She scrambled on all fours to the front door, kicked it open, and hauled ass down the street, as Jake screamed obscenities after her. Never again, she thought, never again will I go into that bar, or any bar like it.
A few years went by. She kept living in the city, and on her trips home, never went to that bar. Eventually, she found out it was out of business. Turns out, Jake had been serving underage kids and not checking IDs, they’d had to pay large fines and lost their liquor license, and Jake did some time in jail before leaving the area for good. Emma knew what she had to do.
She convened with some close friends, and they all agreed to buy the bar and go in on a woman-owned, operated, and staffed bar that would be welcoming and non-threatening to all. A few months later, the Broken Heart was born. It was popular almost from the moment the doors opened, thanks in large part to being the only bar in town, now. But they relished having a space where people, especially women, could feel safe and have fun.
They’d been open about a year when the thing Emma was most nervous about happened: Jake showed up to the Broken Heart, already drunk, right before closing on Valentine’s Day. Because she wasn’t an idiot, she always had her girls close the bar in teams, and made them all leave together. But tonight, she was alone out front. Melissa had had to leave early because she wasn’t feeling well, and she’d sent Cameron home not long before since it was so quiet. She hadn’t been worried about herself, alone in the bar she was part-owner of. Now, the fear was real.
Jake sat at the bar and sneered at her as she served the remaining customers, a couple on their third date that was clearly going well. She tried to be cordial to him, but he ordered his drink and didn’t say another word. She casually picked up her phone and texted an SOS message to her staff members. The couple left. It was just her and Jake. She’d slipped a little paring knife into her pocket when he wasn’t looking, just to be safe, but she didn’t even see him coming. He dove at her over the bar, grabbing her by the neck. Emma somehow managed to grab the knife and jammed it into his side, blood dripping down onto her hand. Suddenly, a bottle smashed over Jake’s head, and then another. Down he went onto the floor, his head cut open spectacularly. Emma gasped and tried to breathe as Cameron came to console her. “Breathe, breathe, you’re okay, I’m here,” Cameron said. Emma’s mouth was a mix of strawberry and blood, and to her surprise, it tasted delicious. She licked his blood off her hand, and smiled.
From that night forward, all problem customers were dealt with discreetly in the back room. Their limited edition cocktail, the Bleeding Heart, became a local staple. Sure, there were some strange rumors about the place that circulated, but if anything, they added to the appeal. The Broken Heart was more popular, and better for the community, than Emma could have ever imagined. Her cold, black heart wasn’t broken any more.
Scent notes: Rich nougat of vanilla, tonka bean and heavy cream poured over marshmallows