THANKS FOR COMING BACK TO READ THE SECOND HALF OF Old Friends, Part Two BY CASIE BLEVINS.
“You don’t look much different, you know.” He teased.
“Yeah, well vanity won over I guess. And why not? One trip to the salon and I’m set for ten years. Who could resist that? Besides you, I guess.”
She decided to take offense, falling back on old patterns, “Would you rather see me a white haired crone? Unrecognizable?”
He fingered her long dark hair. “It’s so soft,” he whispered.
She relented, leaning towards him. “I remember your hair, so blonde. Like an angel.”
He snuffed. “Angel, huh?”
They took to sitting on the couch together, not touching, sometimes not even speaking just reading together, each of them turning the pages at their own pace. Aware of each other.
“There’s so much–”
“What?” he turned towards her.
“Okay.” He went back to his reading, one eyebrow raised.
She set aside her book resolutely, and sighed deeply. He cut his eyes at her and waited.
“Why didn’t you–” she shook her head. “No, it’s none of my business, really.” She picked up her book, set it down again. “I just don’t understand–” she pursed her lips. “God.”
He smiled. “You don’t understand God? Join the club, Daisy.”
She looked at him crossly. “Besides the tattooed lady over in Wren building, there aren’t, I mean, there isn’t a single person here that’s tattooed. They got it lasered or did a skin resculpt in the 30’s. But there you are and you, with everything to lose from it–”
“You want to know why? Why I persist in wearing these badges of hate?”
“White supremacist hate. And you’re not even white. It’s not your hate.”
“It’s my stupidity. Why should I erase it? Does it make it go away?”
She shook her head angrily. “No, but–”
“And I am white.”
She snuffled. “You’re a Creek Indian boy. Born and raised.”
“Just like everyone else in Oklahoma. Give it a rest, woman. You’re wearing my patience thin.”
He sighed loudly. “Look, I know it always bugged you–”
“Bugged me? It’s not a pet peeve!”
“Okay, bothered you. I’m just trying to say I understand.“
“So much potential,” she whispered, shaking her head.
“I did alright.” He waved his hands around him. “You made mistakes in your life too, you know. I’m probably one of them.”
“I don’t insist on wearing them on my skin!”
“I don’t either, not really. I just don’t hide from it.”
She snuffled again. It made a certain amount of sense, she guessed. “Not my business anyway.” She opened her book again and tried to look engrossed in it.
“I always loved you.”
She had a decision to make, she knew that. She wasn’t avoiding it, or him, but she just didn’t know what to do.
She was alone now, her family spread all over the states, her grandkids too old to care anymore and if she was honest, she was half a person without Corey. It had only been two years since his passing but she had felt it like a wasting away of her self, a decay of her being. She wasn’t lost without him, she was a perfectly capable woman and always had been, but she was empty without him, purposeless. Restless.
She didn’t want Daniel, but maybe she needed him, just a little bit to fill that emptiness.
And after all, they did have history.
Not all good history but at least a connection that went back decades, all the way to her adolescence. When she was a fresh-faced youth, and was making all sorts of bad decisions that she never had to pay for. She had been lucky.
Daniel had not.
And although he wasn’t the worst decision she had ever made, he had probably made the top three. Just thinking about it tied her up in knots.
They had started small, just teenagers fooling around at the store, daring each other to do stupider and stupider things. Shoplifting, lighting a neighbor’s trash can on fire. Once, they had kidnapped a dog at a park, and had kept it for the entire afternoon, even though it had snarled and bit at them more than once. When they had returned it, the overjoyed dog owner had even given them a reward, thinking them heroes, and not the rascals that they were. They had laughed for days about that, spending the money on a movie date, even paying for popcorn and fooling around in the dark.
She had been his first, charmed by his daring dark eyes, excited over his innocence. They’d both been awful, fumbling more than seducing, driven by teenage hormones. She’d gotten itchy from the grass on her backside and he had scraped his knees on some rocks.
It hadn’t gotten any better, the difference in their experience levels a more widening gap the closer she got to eighteen. And then finally they had simply drifted apart.
Jenn, aka Daisy, had gone to college, met the man she was bound by love to marry, and moved on.
Daniel had stepped up his criminal game, moving from shoplifting to armed robbery, from harmless shenanigans to arson, and had eventually been caught.
Was she to blame? Maybe it was even her fault. Had it been her idea, so long ago?
Now she watched him, surreptitiously, seeing life’s damage evident on his face, the deadness in his eyes that only came alive when something caught him off guard and made him laugh. The lines and wrinkles that defined his experiences, his hands careworn, the muscles in his arms, still taut, his belly protuberant, but only a little. The young man still underneath, somewhere, she knew, she felt, in the ease she still felt with him.
She had a plan.
She invited him to the Junk Shoppe, then slid a cat figurine into the pocket of his jacket. She narrowed her eyes at him, lifted one finger to her lips and slid away down the aisle, looking back.
He stood watching her for a moment before pulling the cat figurine out of his pocket and setting it back on the shelf.
This was going to be harder than she thought.
She made her fortune writing ads for big box companies and being frugal all of her life. She’d tried her hand at children’s books and published a few to modest sales.
She’d raised four children, sent each one to college and been a dutiful wife to the kindest man that she’d ever met. Not all of their years were good but that just made the ones that were, that much sweeter.
She’d never been one to burgee jump, but she had completely totalled a car, almost on purpose. On the whole she had lived a wholesome life, which was code for boring.
It was time to change that.
She invited him to go on the Target trip with her in the Sandy Pines van.
“Don’t you drive?” he asked.
She looked down embarrassed. “Well, yeah, I mean not so much any more. I actually sold my car last year.”
He pursed his lips at her, reading more into it. “Uh huh,” he said.
She looked chagrined. “Well, may be I never really drove anyways.”
He nodded. That was more like the Daisy he knew. The one that he drove around in her car, when he was only fifteen and not yet legal. “We’ll take my car.”
She raised her eyebrows and shrugged.
They went out to lunch first. It was a divey chain restaurant and she shooed him away from the booths and headed for the bar. If she was going to get through the afternoon and ultimately follow her plan, she needed some liquid courage.
“You…drink?” he asked gingerly.
“Of course I drink. Don’t be silly,” she said cutting her eyes at him.
He opened his hands like he was saying, what-are-you-gonna-do and said, “Get the lady a drink then,” to the bartender.
She ordered something with vodka, and also a turkey sandwich. He ordered a chicken sandwich and added a diet coke.
“That stuff’ll kill you.” she murmured, but not too loudly.
“Don’t you remember when Pepsi got sued?”
She smiled. “You rebel, you.” She nibbled on her straw. “I actually meant the diet part.”
“I’ll just do a cleanse on Friday.”
“Hmmm. Whatever. Your body.”
He chose to ignore that. “Do you remember that time–”
“Nope. I’m old.”
“I’m just messing with you. Do I remember what?”
“Everything. I was just going to say that I remember everything. You?”
“Ohhhh.” It came out breathy. “That.”
He watched her closely and she gratefully turned away when their food arrived quickly filling her mouth and smiling apologetically. He ate his sandwich morosely, breathing slowly. Finally, she couldn’t stand the silence anymore and said “My sandwich is good. Yours?”
“Oh come one.”
“I remember it all, Daniel. Every last minute.”
They stood together in the showroom two highly unlikely buyers. The floor gleamed and the salesman who had taken their drivers’ licenses was standing at the counter and shaking his head at them.
“So, I don’t ever wanna talk about Corey, okay?” she said, strapping on the helmut.
“Alright,” he said, helping her to adjust it. “Are you sure about this?”
She stood looking at him for a long moment, considering his face, seeing through the years, their different paths, their convergence. Seeing the future. She answered honestly. “I think so, yeah.”
“Alright then.” He chucked a finger under her chin and gained an incorrigible smile in return.
“Let’s do this.”
The salesman joined them. “I’ve processed your paperwork, checked your insurance. Your check cleared.” He shook his head one last time. “Frankly, folks, I don’t know why you’re doing this but you’re good to go. Just take it easy, ok? Seriously. You aren’t–” He was interrupted by a burst of laughter, both Daisy and Daniel couldn’t help it, dissolving into something resembling chortling gasping breaths.
“Thanks, you’re a good man.” Daniel managed to say. Then he took Daisy by one hand and together they walked to the bike that was awaiting them. First Daniel climbed on, then Daisy behind him. He started the motorcycle, revved the engine and then slowly pulled out of the garage bay, quickly accelerating.
Daisy said a little prayer, then held on tight.
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