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Advent Day 1: Refreshed


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I've given myself a little challenge to post an Advent Calendar of sorts, posting 12 days of sneezefic from now through Christmas. It'll be a mix of original and fanfic, and I'll mark the days as I go. Hope you enjoy!

Refreshed

It was a tradition at this point. Every Friday night, Adrian and his group of friends got together after work at The Jazz to have a drink and unwind, discussing the events of the week and any plans they had for the weekend. It was all very low-key and relaxed, helped along by the atmosphere of the place. The Jazz was dedicated to being a classy yet affordable lounge, offering comfortable seats, soft music (a mixture of jazz and classical), and a wide variety of drinks. The bartenders often boasted that there was something there for everybody. They actually had a separate menu just to showcase all their beverage options.

How the secondary tradition had come about, Adrian wasn’t clear. One day he had decided to go out of his comfort zone and order an ale beer instead of a lager beer, and had quite liked the taste. So the next week, he’d ordered a different ale, just to see if he liked ale in general. The next thing he knew, he had somehow taken to ordering a different drink every Friday night. He’d slowly made his way through all the beers, then the white wines. His friends joked that he was sampling The Jazz’s entire drink menu, and he had kind of taken it as a challenge. Granted, it would take several years before he would accomplish it, but at least it would expand his palate.

At this point, he had taken a break from wine and was trying out the first page of cocktails. “What’s it gonna be tonight?” Jason asked, grinning, “You didn’t have a lot of luck with that Amaretto Mist last week.”

Adrian shrugged. “They aren’t all going to be winners. And everything’s worth trying at least once.”

Cara winced. “Speak for yourself. I still vividly remember the time I tried that spaghetti meat pie. That’s a dish that shouldn’t even exist.”

Mona peered over his shoulder at the various drinks. “That Root Beer one looks pretty good.”

“You just like root beer,” Adrian smirked, “Besides, that doesn’t particularly appeal to me this evening.”

“So what are you in the mood for?” Cara said curiously.

“I’m not entirely sure myself. I had a long day at work, so I’d prefer something…light. Cool. Crisp. Anything that will perk me up a bit.”

“Sounds like what you really need is coffee,” joked Mona, “Ask the waitress what she’d suggest. I’m sure she can find something on that page that will do the trick.”

Adrian agreed that that might be the best option. When the waitress came by a few minutes later, he let the others place their orders before holding up the menu and asking, “Is there anything you would recommend that will give me a bit of pep without going overboard? I bow to your superior judgment in this matter.”

The waitress, Christine, one of the waitstaff who recognized their gang and was well aware of Adrian’s little project, bent over and quickly skimmed the page. Then she smiled broadly and tapped an item. “This one. The Alabama Fizz.”

“Have you had it yourself?”

Christine nodded. “It’s just what you’re looking for. The carbonation makes it pop on your tongue, perking you up, and the whole taste is very pleasant.”

“All right,” Adrian said with a grin, handing over the menu, “I’ll give it a shot.”

Christine nodded again in approval and headed over to the bar. Mona looked over at Adrian. “You’re gonna have to tell me if it’s any good. She talked it up so much that I’d like to try it now.”

“I’ll give you a sip if I think it’s worth it,” Adrian promised her, “Heck, maybe I’ll do that even if I don’t like it; one less mouthful for me to swallow.”

“Thanks, I think.” Mona said, winking at him. Adrian winked back and stretched out in his chair. “How’s that project been going, Jason? It sounded like you were making headway last time we talked.”

Jason shrugged. “Three steps forward, one step back, really. One of my co-workers is making things…complicated.”

He was in the middle of explaining the idiocies of his co-worker when the drinks arrived. The other three accepted their drinks, then ignored them in favor of staring at Adrian, waiting for his opinion. He smirked at them and raised his glass. “Your health, ladies and gentlemen.” he said, before putting the glass to his lips.

He was dimly aware of the taste, mint mixed with the tang of gin. There was also the unusual but interesting sensation of bubbles popping on his tongue and tingling in his throat. But what was uppermost in his mind was the intense tickle that sprung to his nose as soon as he started to drink. Quickly swallowing, he took a napkin from the table and covered his nose. “K-chht! Stt! It-pssht!”

“Whoa, bless you!” Jason said, the girls adding blessings of their own, “Did the drink do that?”

“I think so,” Adrian said, rubbing at his nose, “But I’m not sure what set me off.”

“Well, you know what they say about champagne bubbles tickling your nose!” Cara laughed, “Maybe you’re getting first hand experience.”

“Possibly,” Adrian acknowledged, “But this never happens when I drink soda. And I’m sure I would have had a similar reaction before now.” Eyeing his glass, he picked it up and held it under his nose, taking an experimental sniff. The scent of mint did cause a prickle, and he could definitely feel the bubbles bursting against his nose, but there was no urge to sneeze. He shrugged at his friends, who gave him puzzled looks in return, and took another sip. The tickle immediately returned to his nose, and he put the napkin back to his face. “Tchh! Kshh! Ha-chh!”

“Bless you!” his friends chorused. Adrian sniffed. “I have no idea what’s going on. I can’t tell if it’s the bubbles, the mint, or something else.”

Mona held out her hand. “Let me have that sip you promised me. Maybe I’ll be able to figure it out.”

Adrian obligingly passed the drink over and watched with interest as she took a sip. She made a puzzled face, obviously swishing the drink around in her mouth, before she swallowed. “As a drink, it’s pretty good,” she said at last, “And it definitely makes your nose itch a little. But I never felt like I had to sneeze.”

Adrian took the drink back. “Maybe if I sip quickly, it won’t have an effect on me.” Tilting the glass, he took another sip and swallowed almost as soon as the drink hit his tongue. While it did allow him to feel the bubbles bursting against his throat, it did nothing to stop him from sneezing. “Gshh! T-chuh! Ih-pish!”

“This is getting ridiculous,” Jason said, “Hand me the drink. Maybe I can figure out what’s wrong.”

“Be my guest,” Adrian answered, “Misery loves company, after all.”

Mona laughed at that, and Cara bit her lip furiously. Jason gave him a look, but was unable to conceal his own amusement. He gestured extravagantly with the glass before putting it to his lips. He closed his eyes for a moment, then put it down. “Sorry, Adrian, I’m with Mona. It’s a bit tickly, but nothing sneeze-worthy.”

“You try it, Cara,” Adrian said, “Everyone else has at this point, and maybe you and I can be the odd ones out.”

Cara took a quick sip. “I’m with them, Adrian,” she said apologetically, “I’m feeling sneeze-free. I like the taste, though.”

“What’s going on?! Adrian demanded, mock exasperated, “Am I allergic to the drink or something?”

“I think you’d have bigger problems than sneezing if that was the case,” Mona said, “There’s just something about the drink that affects your nose. Nothing much you can do other than not drink it.”

Adrian contemplated the drink, which was about half-gone at this point. When it wasn’t making him sneeze, he had to admit that the drink tasted fine. And since it was drinkable, he didn’t want it to go to waste. For a moment, he considered just swallowing it in one go, but God only knew what the consequences of that would be. Either he’d spend the next three hours sneezing, or he’d sneeze so loudly that the fire alarm would go off. Deciding on the lesser of two evils, he pulled the glass toward him, grinning lopsidedly at his friends. “We’ve gotten off topic. You were saying about your co-worker, Jason?”

The rest of the evening passed relatively uneventfully. Jason, Mona, and Cara chatted about work, while Adrian participated in-between sneezes. When Christine came to collect the check, she gave Adrian an apologetic smile. “Looks like I steered you wrong, Adrian. Sorry about that.”

“It’s ok, Christine. We had no idea this was going to happen. Besides, it did its job; I’m feeling considerably more loose after all that sneezing.” Everyone laughed at that.

“A pretty pleasant evening all around, I’d say,” Cara said as they got up from the table, “Same time next week?”

“Of course!” Mona said, “Maybe next week Adrian can find a drink his body doesn’t object to.”

Adrian laughed and shook his head. “We can hope. Goodnight, everyone.”

As he walked back to his car, he tried to remember the contents of the drink menu. He was sure The Jazz had a few more fizzes hiding in there. He was certainly willing to try them, but he’d prefer not to spend the next few outings sneezing and distracting his friends. Maybe he’d try that root beer drink for Mona’s sake next time, and save the fizzes for when he had a cold. At any rate, it would be an excellent way to clear the congestion…

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