More Than Dinner Less Than Friends

Matthew Donnellon

Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

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I smiled when she sat down at the table. I had only been waiting ten minutes. She wasn’t as late as she used to be.

“Where’s the boyfriend?” I asked as she sat down. She dressed conservatively, jeans, boots without a heel and a sweater, though one of the those sweaters without the shoulders.

“Nice to see you too,” she said as she looked at the menu.

“Sorry, how have you been?”

“Fine.”

“That used to be your favorite word,” I said.

“I have a new one now.”

“Oh, what is it?”

“If you keep being smart you’ll find out.”

“This is just how I talk.”

“I’m well aware.”

“You used to like it,” I said taking a sip of water.

“You still don’t drink?” she said while she gave the waiter her drink order.

“After what happened?” I said, “No. Never. I’m surprised you do.”

‘What is that supposed to mean?” she asked. She had a way of arching her eyebrows that let me know I crossed the line. I used to care more about not crossing it. But I let it go this time.

She sat silently reading the menu. I’d known her since she was three and she has always made the same face when she read something. Though, now she didn’t wear glasses.

“Seriously, how’s work?”

She finally looked up from the menu. “The kids are good.”

“What grade are you teaching now?”

“11th grade history.”

“I didn’t know you were teaching high school now.”

“I’ve always taught high school.”

“Huh,” I said.

“God, you really never did pay attention did you?”

I let it go. I could never tell if she was trying to get a rise out of me.

“Why don’t we start over?’ I asked. I was beginning to think this was a bad idea.

“It’s far too late to start over.”

“I meant for this evening” I said.

“I suppose so,” she said. She looked at her phone.

“You look great tonight.”

“You’re not going to going to sweet talk your way out of this.”

“I can sweet talk my way out of anything,” I said. I sipped on my water watching her. Smile, I thought.

She smirked. Close enough.

“You haven’t been doing much talking of any kind.”

“I was always a face to face type of person,” i said.

“I know. You used to say that all the time in high school.”

“Well that was just an excuse to see you.”

She blushed. Still got it, I thought.

“You were a lot more charming in high school though.”

“Was I? You never let me know that.”

“That’ because you had the biggest ego of anyone I’d ever met. I thought if you knew that you’d twice as annoying.”

‘I was really only trying to get your attention.”

“You knew you had it.”

“I never had any inclination of that.”

“If you would have stopped teasing me for ten seconds you would have noticed.”

“That wouldn’t have been any fun though.”

“I swear to God you’re impossible,” she said laughing. “I still remember..."

“Don’t bring that up. I felt awful.”

“Don’t. You were so sweet. It’s the only time you look like you cared.”

“I always cared.”

“I know that now. I didn’t then.”

The meal was okay. It was at times jovial, and we remembered some things from our childhood. They were filled with good memories.

“How many years has it been?” i asked.

“Since?”

“Since we talked. Did you think I meant since…”

"Mmmmhmmm."

“I know exactly how long it’s been since that day,” I said. That part was true. The date was burned so bright in mind I could nearly see it when I closed my eyes.

“How are you really?” I asked after a moment.

“I’m good. Work has been busy enough. My mom has been visiting a lot. I think she’s been pretty lonely since my dad…”

“It’s fine you don’t need to say it,” I said.

“Anyway. I’ve been pretty good.”

“How’s Michael?” I asked.

“Do you really care how he is?’

“No.”

“He’s out of town.”

“Business or pleasure?” I asked.

“He’s in Las Vegas,” she said, “for work.”

“I’m sure he is.”

“For once in your life can you not have a smart answer for everything.”

“I can make my answers a whole lot dumber if you want.”

She closed the menu, “I agreed to this because I thought you would be civil. I have a hundred other things I could be doing. I don’t need to sit here and listen to you pretend like everything's some big joke.”

“Okay, okay. Just stay. I’ll behave,” I said.

“He wanted come you know.” she said.

“Who?”

“Michael.”

“I’m glad he didn’t. He has no right to being here.”

“Excuse me?”

“I figured at some point things would come up that are that are none of his business.”

“He knows what happened.”

“Good for him.”

‘Why are you always like that?” she said, “You think just because he wasn’t there he can’t understand.”

“There is no conceivable way that he can understand what happened.”

“I wasn’t there,” she said.

“I know.”

“You need to stop that.”

“Stop what?”

“Stop acting like you had it worse than me. He was family.”

“He was my family too.”

“We can’t keep letting this get between us.”

“It’s always going to be there,” I said, “there’s no getting away from it.”

“We can’t keep letting a ghost stop us from being friends.”

“Were we friends?’

“Why do you always say things like that?’

“Because the only thing we had in common died five years ago.”

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI
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