The Lunch Date

Lunch: The most useless meal of the day.  At least that’s a t-shirt I’m going to design and market.

Here I was, on my called day off, sharing lunch at the Pencey Cafe with my ex-fiancée and my whatever-he-was.  I couldn’t keep track of anything I was feeling anymore.  It was like being lost in a field of rye, and–

Ashleigh interrupted my train of thought like a car running out of gas on the tracks.  I told Ryan everything we talked about, last night, when he returned home.  All of my concerns and worries.  And your plans to follow him.

Ryan grabbed my shoulder and squeezed.  It must have been as tense as a – what’s that line Kilgore always uses – a proctologist’s Monday.  He actually squeezed my shoulder twice.

Relax, Caulfield.  No hard feelings.  I realize you still care about my beloved and that those old rumblings aren’t going to shut right off.  But I also know you’re not going to try anything with her either.  I mean, you were together for five years and never did!

“Six years,” I said under my breath.  Why do I keep correcting that?

So I’m going to have to let it go.  As should you.  Let’s bury this hatchet between us, because… well, you want to tell him, don’t you, honey bunches of oh’s?

Ashleigh nodded and grinned and grabbed Ryan’s hand.  My lungs stopped working automatically.  I had to remind them to inhale and exhale.

Remember all the things I was worried about last night?

(Duh, it was just last night!)  I wished I’d said rather than thought.

Well, he’s been working extra jobs lately, odds and ends, saving up money for a ring.  Because we’re getting married!

Odds and Ends?  Sounded like a strip club to me.  But when the second half of her proclamation started sinking in, the odds and ends in me started drowning.  If the glowing couple had been paying even the slightest bit of attention toward me, they would have noticed I was going dim.  Was I going to faint?  Was I dying?  Why wasn’t I at Marlin’s Inn?  Better yet, why wasn’t I at work?

Aiden, because you’ve been such a huge part of my life, we were wondering something.  Their eyes bounced back and forth at each other like they were doing Morse code.  Were they doing Morse code?  Will you stand up in our wedding?

The vortex of chemicals spinning inside me had to be the reason why what happened next happened.

I answered:

“Of course.”

The Little Surprise

It sounded like the beginning of a story where you know it was going to end badly.

I called off of work to spy on my ex’s current boyfriend at her bequest.  The Catch: he’s a high school teacher.  The 22: I had to wait in the parking lot.

The sorry truth was that I’m not young enough to be attending there, and I’m not old enough to be working there.  And I’m definitely not a parent.

When the campus security guard asked me what I was doing, I wish I would have said:

“Why sir, I’m waiting for my girlfriend.  She’s a senior.”

Or:

“I’m picking my sister up.  We’re taking the family dog to the vet and it doesn’t look too good.”

Even this would have been good:

“I’m stalking one of the teachers.”

But instead, I said nothing.  Then I started mumbling and bumbling my words.  He asked me again for clarification, and then for my ID.  As I gave up and reached for my wallet, guess who appeared.

Marvin, are you harassing my buddy?

Mr. Antonlini, you know this guy?

Yeah, he’s meeting me for lunch.

Ryan Antolini.  You have good timing.  I’ll give you that.

He rushed over to the driver’s side window I had rolled down for Marvin.  I realized I hadn’t even looked at the security guard the entire time, mostly out of fear.  He didn’t look a day over twelve years old.  I could have took him.

Marvin, you remember Aiden Caulfield, don’t you?  He graduated three years ago, a year before you.

From what school, Mr. A?

This one, you knucklehead.  Ryan fake punched Marvin in the arm, just like how he fakes everything, I’m sure.  Marvin stared at me, trying to place my name with my face.  Ready to get out of here? Ryan asked of me, and I nodded.

How had he seen me?  I was in the back end of the lot.  I didn’t think he knew what car I drove.

He climbed in the passenger side and said, Let’s go.  I’ve got a little surprise waiting for you.

I didn’t inquire about anything that was happening.  My only question: “Where to?”

Pencey Cafe, on Pennsylvania Ave.

So I drove, and neither of us said a word.  I was in a stunned state, and that reminded me of The Stunner that Hank had talked about.  When I mentioned today’s plan to Kilgore, H.L., and Santiago, they all shrugged it off and let me carry it out.  Kilgore at least drew me a map to the bingo hall and said to forget the trailing, but Hank would have set me completely straight.  I wouldn’t have been in that car at that point if he hadn’t stopped going to Marlin’s Inn.

I’d imagine he would have said something like this:

Chasing pussy’s one thing, but following a dick is another.

At Pencey Cafe, we both exited the car with the same speed and momentum.  Whereas my expression was solemn, his was all smiles.

Inside, I found my little surprise: Ashleigh waiting at a table for three.  She waved at me and my stomach devoured my heart.

I knew this sounded like a story that was going to end badly.