Arriving at a small diner, our group found a table near the center of the room. Chatting amongst ourselves, an unfamiliar face took a seat beside my girlfriend, Elizabeth. She was unaware of this new presence for some time. Talking to my only female friend, Crystal, she continued without interruption. Crystal took notice immediately, but kept it to herself. His unwavering expression read of mild annoyance.
“Have you ever had someone cum directly in your eye?” he spoke without any precursor, gaining her attention.
Her head turned to him with a disgusted expression that quickly faded upon recognition of this previously unnamed figure.
“Jackie!” she exclaimed happily.
Her face formed a wide smile, and she got up to wrap her arms around his neck. In an act of overwhelming indifference, his eyes remained forward.
“My god,” she continued, relieved, “if you were anyone,and I mean anyone, you’d need dental surgery right about now,”
“Missed you too, Liz,” he disengaged from her embrace.
“Liar,” she smiled, “So, I hear Mara is pregnant again”
“You heard right,” his smug face said in pure disinterest.
“I don’t know whether to congratulate you or to beg you to get sterilized before you have a baseball team worth of foul-mouthed Jackie clones.”
“As much as I liked to hear you beg, Liz,” his tone was the epitome of emotionless, as he spoke, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
His delivery had the deadpan delivery quality of a young Christopher Walken. It was dry and sardonic, even when he laughed.
“Did Jeremy put you up to it?”
“Not just me,” she appeared to be utterly amused by his irritation, “Your brother got Paulie and Jessy in on it too”
“Explains why you are the fifth person to greet like that”
“Yeah, Jeremy said he wanted to have an “alumni night”. Speaking of which, where are Toby and Lucy?
“Tobias and Luca,” he corrected her, “left after Pops bought the shop.”
“Daddy bought this place?” She cut him off.
“Don’t call my father “daddy” he chastised her, “It only reminds me that you tried to fuck my dad.”
“Operative word “try”” she teased, obviously lying, before getting back on topic, “So, what happened to the boys?”
“Tobias got a better job in the city and Luca started law school,” he explained to her blankly, turning his head to scope the crowd, “You don’t appear to be the token chromosome anymore. Speaking of dicks, how many cocks did you have to suck to come back to this fire hazard? I’m only counting two”
“You’re counting none, asshole,” she swatted at him.
“And judging by your face, you must be the boyfriend,” Jack’s eyes stopped upon me in this sea of multiple stares.
“I am,” I said defensively.
“A blonde, that’s unlike you,” he shrugged, losing interest easily, “I would have guessed the jock”
He was referring to my best friend, Tim, who sat across the table from me. Tongue in cheek, Tim stifled a laugh. Crystal pushed at him to shut up.
“Not coming here to get your job back, are you?”
“Not a chance,” she laughed it off.
“Good, because you aren’t getting it after the shot you pulled before you left”
“I didn’t mean to keep you in the freezer overnight. I thought the boys were coming back to get you,” she defended herself and then with a guilty grin added, “I never apologized for that, did I?”
He shook his head slowly.
“Would you like me to?”
“And hear your false sincerity? No, I’ll let you fake it elsewhere,” he said without remorse, “Just get your ass on stage in 10”
He excused himself to get back to work, as Elizabeth laughed for herself.
“Boo!” Another figure appeared, drooling himself over her shoulders.
Like a long necklace, his arms hung around her neck. This jovial fellow we would soon find out to be Jermey.
“What are you laughing at?” he inquired.
“It’s nothing,” she shrugged him off with a confused look on her face, “Jeremy? Is that you?”
“None other,” he smiled at her.
“Last time I saw you, you were knee high to a bean pole,” she remarked with the same warmness and familiarity as she did with Jack(ie), “I hardly recognized you”
“But you knew it was Jack right away”
“Because he still looks like your mom,” she explained, seeing Jack nearing in the foreground.
Jeremy’s chipper grin remained constant.
“Seeing you is giving me the strangest deja vu. You finally grew into your Daddy’s looks.”
“That’s twice,” Jack shook his head in disapproval as he passed by them.
“What’s he so pissy about?” Jeremy leaned into her ear.
“It’s not your fault that your Daddy is hot,” she called after him.
He held up three fingers in response and warning.
“Did you just call me hot?” Jeremy chuckled to himself, innocently curious.
“Inadvertently, maybe. Unintentionally, I guess I did,” she acknowledged her observational mishap with a shy giggle, “For the longest time, I thought you were lying about being Randy’s son”
“Do you believe me now?” he challenged playfully
“I plead the fifth, before I say something I’ll regret later,” her cheeks burned feverishly with amusement, “If it’s one thing you boys don’t need on me, it’s more blackmail material”
“Suit yourself,” a prideful glow of accomplishment kissed his lips.
His toothy grin was infectious. He was clearly enjoying himself. His brother returned to the conversation shortly after.
“You set me up,” Jack said pointedly at Jeremy.
“What does that mean?” Elizabeth asked, still pink from earlier, “You didn’t”
“I did,” Jeremy admitted impishly.
“Shit,” Elizabeth laughed, biting her tongue.
Turning her attention to the other brother, she added.
“Probably should have been nicer to you, huh?”
“That’d be a first,” Jack barbed, grabbing his brother to rerun to the kitchen where they remained until the floor show began.
“Elizabeth, who are they?” I finally asked, after sitting through that painful exchange.
“Do you remember how I told you I had a roommate named Jackie back in the day?”
“I was under the impression Jackie was a female”
“I never said that,” she guarded, “and the shorter one is his older brother, Jeremy. Jeremy and I were best friends. We hired in at the same time. That’s before I knew his Dad was the boss. That made things really awkward. Anyways…”
Her voice trailed off, trying to figure out how to transition into a new topic, but I still had questions.
“How’d you end up living with his brother then?”
“His fiancé kicked him out and I had a spare room,” she said nonchalantly, forgetting something, “That was years ago. They got back together and Mara, the fiancé, moved in with us until I moved out.”
Her eyes moved from me, over my shoulder towards the stage. The brothers had made their way over there already.
“Can we talk about this later? I promised Jeremy I’d play an old company game before we left.”
“Okay,” I nodded, letting her go and returning my attention to our mutual friend group at the table.
They all had the same mask of confusion as I did, except Crystal. She knew something. That was abundantly evident by the look she had at Jack upon his arrival. There was a continual smirk she carried towards Jeremy, as she waved under the table him. She didn’t want to gather any unnecessary glances from the group. I’d have to inquire later when we weren’t in such mixed company. I would have to inquire about it later.