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“Yes, I do. I never want you to have to go through that again.” Sonia didn’t say it, but we both knew what she meant.
One night when Nate was particularly hammered, he came home saw two empty wine glasses and accused me of having an affair with my friend Danny. Danny is gay, but Nate always insisted that he looked at me like he was interested, or that he could be bi, saying that Danny was pretending to be g*y just to be close to me. Danny and I did spend a lot of time together, enough for me to know he was definitely gay. When I continued to deny Nate’s accusations that night, he hit me so hard across the cheek that I had a bruise that lasted over a month. That was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back and I moved out a week later, staying with various friends, including Danny, until I found a place and met Sonia, who also helped me get the job at Max’s since she worked there part-time while going to nursing school.
Working at a diner was certainly not how I pictured my life at almost thirty. But I was lucky to have a good group of friends there and a place to bide my time while I figured out the next step. I have no real family guidance anymore and so my friends, like Sonia and Danny, were very important to me.
My mother Margo Abraham adopted me as a baby, but died of cancer a little over a year ago. Mom never married, but didn’t want to miss out on having a child, so she visited an adoption agency when she was forty-two years old and after a three-year wait, was finally blessed with a newborn baby girl. She was my whole life and aside from her sister, my Aunt Reeni who lives in New York, I am virtually alone.
Thankfully, Mom had saved a lot of money over the years. She did well working for the city in the Mayor’s office so I have a little nest egg that I am reluctant to dive into and was even more reluctant to waste away on an expensive college so soon. I had a liberal arts degree from a small community college and wasted many years after high school and college working odd jobs, until I decided on special education as a career. But after Mom’s death, I decided until I could save enough money of my own and focus on my studies, finishing grad school was not going to be happening in the near future.
“Are we going out tonight?” Sonia asked. She was antsy and went out practically every night, even if just out for coffee in the North End. I was a homebody and happy to stay home and watch movies most evenings.
“What did you have in mind?” I asked, knowing full well, I would probably stay home anyway.
“I was thinking of calling Tom and seeing if he wanted to meet up with us somewhere, maybe get some cannolis at Mike’s Pastry. They are divine.” Sonia loved sweets and Tom was a guy she was crushing on lately. He lives in the neighborhood and they met while he was walking his dog and she was taking out the garbage. They exchanged numbers and met for coffee once so far.
“You should go, but I think I’ll just stay in.” I said pulling off my beige Ugg boots.
“Suit yourself, babe. You are not gonna call Nate while I am gone, are you?” Sonia lifted her brow at me.
“Of course not.” The truth was, I wasn’t so sure about that. I had no intention of getting back with him, but I was curious as to how he was doing. He was pretty devastated when I moved out and called me every day for two weeks. I know what he did was unforgivable, but I also know that had he not been drunk, it wouldn’t have happened. Nate had never laid a hand on me sober. I just didn’t like the way I ended things, essentially abandoning him and I do struggle with that guilt.
“Alright, I am gonna shower,” Sonia said as she walked out.
I crashed on the oversized green sofa, closing my eyes, thinking about Blue Eyes and the smell of his cologne. I wonder who he is, what his name is and what he is doing right now, as I drifted to sleep.
The rest of the week after Monday’s diner incident went by in a flash.
After just returning from a quick business trip to the New York office, I met Karyn for dinner on Friday night. The Italian restaurant she chose was dark and noisy and I just wanted to get the hell out and go home.
“You seem distant tonight. Everything okay?” Karyn asked me, straightening her napkin as she perused the drink menu.
“It’s just been a busy week, babe. Everything is fine.” The truth was the need to see Allison again was consuming me and only got worse as the days passed.
“What do you want to do this weekend?” Karyn said before she was interrupted by the waitress who came to take our drink order.
“I’ll have a margarita. Cedric?”
“Um…Sam Adams on draft. Thanks.” I was hoping the beer would take the edge of this anxious feeling I have had all week but I probably could have benefited from something a hell of a lot stronger.
“So, what do you want to do this weekend?” Karyn repeated.
“I was hoping you had that mapped out. I am not feeling very decisive tonight.” I said, throwing the menu down.
“Actually, I was hoping we could drive out to Brimfield for the antique fair. I hear great things. It’s only about an hour and a half away.” She beamed.
“Hmn. Ok, sounds good.” Really, I had no use for antiquing, but it might do some good to get out of the city, clear my head and decide what my next move was going to be as far as Allison was concerned.
Saturday’s scenic drive out to Brimfield was pleasant enough. Brimfield is a rural town in the Western part of Massachusetts and it took about two hours to get there. It was a crisp fall day and perfect weather if you had to endure trolling around for other people’s mostly useless shit.
“Look at this pashmina!” Karyn squealed as she lifted up a hideous pink piece of fabric.
She took out her wad of cash and paid for the scarf that ‘she just had to have’ along with about twenty other items I lugged around in an uncomfortably feminine Vera Bradley tote while she ran ahead of me to the various vendors.
Oh, yeah, I felt real f**king manly today.
At one point I lost her and found myself in a tent run by a woman who looked to be in her eighties selling silver and gold rings and necklaces.
The woman approached me. “Can I help you find something for that special lady?” she asked.
“Oh, no thank you. My girlfriend has a mind of her own,” I said rolling my eyes.
The lady ignored me, reaching for something in her stash. “How about this? She lifted out of the clear glass case a silver butterfly on a rope chain that was actually pretty cool looking. The center of the butterfly was encrusted with what looked like diamonds.
“How much?” I decided to humor her, even if I had no intention of buying anything.
“You tell me,” she said.
The old lady had such a sweet look in her eyes and frankly no one else seemed to be coming by.
“Is it silver?” I asked.
“Actually, this one is white gold. You can see the 14K stamp here.” She turned the charm around with trembling hands and looked up at me with bright blue eyes, smiling a toothless grin. This woman was probably beautiful sixty years ago and spoke with an Irish brogue.
“This belonged to my mother. All of this jewelry was hers. She was a collector. I held onto all of it for so long, but I have been having some health issues and really need to sell it off to pay my bills,” she said.
I lightly tapped her arm. “I am sorry to hear about that,” I said.
As the lady put the butterfly back in the case, my eyes caught sight of a ring with a unique colored green stone. The shade of green reminded me of a certain waitress’s eyes. It was a lighter green than an emerald, almost a forest green, with just a hint of gold.
“What about that one?” I pointed to the ring. “Is this a real stone?”
She handed it to me and I examined it closer to my eyes.
“I can’t be sure. This ring was given to my mother by my father when he was courting her. They were married for sixty years before my father passed away. It’s not an emerald, but it looks to be a real gemstone, maybe of the citrine family. This one is also white gold. See the marking inside?”
I squinted to look inside the ring. “It’s beautiful. But I would have no idea what to offer you for it.”
The woman thought about it for second. “The filigree style of the setting is just not something you see anymore. You can’t buy stuff this well made these days. How about one hundred? I am sure it’s worth more, but you seem like a good boy…are you Irish?” she asked.
“Actually, I am half Irish on my father’s side. My mom is Italian.” I grinned.
“That explains the dark hair from your mother and blue eyes from your father, I take it. I’d venture to say that wicked grin is the Irish side as well. For a good Irish boy, I’ll give it to you for eighty. Just promise you won’t give it away to a lass unless you truly love her. That ring has special meaning and I believe it should be passed to a woman who is truly cherished like my father felt about my mother.”
“Ok, it’s a deal.” Smiling at the woman, I took my wallet out of my pocket hoping I had enough cash to cover the ring. I had two hundred and emptied my wallet, handing it all over to her.
She closed her eyes and shook her head back and forth. “No dear, I can’t accept this. Eighty will do,” she said
I shoved the money into her hand. “Please, take it. You can use it and you are giving me a special part of your past. Let a lad help out a lass, ok?”
The woman gave me the biggest toothless grin I have ever had the odd pleasure of experiencing and stood up to hug me.
“Bless you. What is your name, lad?”
She clapped her hands together. “Callahan! My mother was a Callahan! Mary was her name. Who knows, we could be linked. Thank you so much, Mr. Callahan. I’m Maeve.”
“Anything is possible, Maeve,” I said, taking the ring, which I placed in my shirt pocket.
Just then, I spotted Karyn walking toward me with more junk and nodded my head to the woman who stood smiling as I walked away.
Karyn handed me another small bag, which I placed in the larger one I was carrying. “Did you buy something?” Karyn smiled.
Looking back at Maeve, I lied, “No, no just chatting to that nice lady.”
The old woman must have overheard me because when I looked over at her again, she winked. I think she probably sensed as I did, that Karyn wouldn’t be the person getting her mother’s ring. She was wise, that Maeve.
The ride back to Boston was not as relaxing as the ride to Brimfield, since Karyn and I got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
After going on and on about the great finds that took up most of the back seat of my Audi RS5, she decided to listen to an audio book on her iPod while I took free reign of the radio.
As I flipped through the channels, I stopped at—of all songs—Mandy by Barry Manilow. Definitely not one of my favorites, but it freaked me out because I remembered that it was playing when I walked into the diner that day. It reminded me of the moment I first laid eyes on Allison. It’s weird how I hadn’t heard that song in years and now I have heard it two times in a week. Maybe it’s a sign that I should go back.
Mondays are the only days in my schedule where I have that kind of time in the middle of the day to make the forty-minute drive to the suburbs. Tomorrow is Monday and I am nowhere near ready to step foot back in there and face her yet. I would have to come up with an excuse to talk to her, but somehow explain the tip I left, if she remembers me and asks. Maybe she won’t bring it up but I have to be prepared. No, I am not ready to face her. It won’t be tomorrow.
Several weeks pass before I finally decide to drive up to the Stardust diner again.
I figured if I dressed casually, maybe she wouldn’t remember me as the tip guy. So, I wore my favorite pair of Levis and a gray cotton shirt under a leather jacket, letting my chin hair grow out a little more for the past few days as well.
I needed to start fresh, grow some balls and somehow start a conversation without coming across as too forward. I don’t want to scare her off. Guys must try to pick her up all of the time and I don’t want her to think that is what I am trying to do because it’s not. I really just want to get to know her. She has no idea how much. Aside from stalking her at her job, I just don’t know exactly how else to make that happen.
Lucky enough to find a space right in front of the diner, I put the car in park and took the deepest breath I could, remembering the breathing technique I learned in the Bikram Yoga class Karyn dragged me to in Brookline last week.
Ok, F-this. What I really needed was a cigarette. I had been trying to quit, but if there were any moment to make an exception, this would be it. I reached into the glove compartment, grabbed my stash of Marlboro Lights, took one out, lit it and inhaled.
Breeaathe. That’s better, I thought as I exhaled. I am so going to Hell. After a few puffs, I tossed it and popped an Altoid, getting out of the car.
You dumb fuck, now you’re gonna smell like smoke.
Bells chimed when I opened the door to the diner. It was much noisier and more packed than the last time and there didn’t appear to be any available booths. The Long and Winding Road by the Beatles played on the stereo system and the only seats available were right up on the counter. Damn it. I conceded that I had no choice and walked over to the counter seats.
An older woman with very bleached blonde hair and bright red lipstick handed me a menu and told me she would be right back. This was the same waitress who worked with Allison last time…Delores…according to her name tag.