The sun shined on her skin as she slowly drank her coffee on a terrace. She turned the page of her book. There were many days she kept her distance from the outside world. She worked and went back home. Edward hadn’t even tried to reach her. Mary had sent her a long email to explain everything to the smallest details. She apologized for everything she had done to her during all those years. She even confessed she was jealous of the life choices she had made.
Clara was alone despite the crowd that surrounded her.
Her cell phone began to vibrate in her purse. She glanced at it. Mary wanted to see her. She quickly erased the message. She was still unable to talk to her. It has been two weeks now she was avoiding any contact with people, except when she was at work.
She emptied her cup, abruptly closing her book.
“Excuse me, but you dropped this.”
The young woman looked up at the bookmark handed back to her. She laid eyes on her interlocutor. Their eyes met for a short time. Clara was shocked when she saw Jeremy standing before her. He smiled, visibly in shock as well.
“Hi,” he said.
She took her bookmark back without looking away. She was vaguely aware of having greeting him. He pulled a chair, not knowing what to say. He opened his mouth and closed it again like a fish.
“How are you doing?” she asked.
“Good. And you?”
He looked like someone who had just abruptly been back to reality, out of a dream. A little discomfort settled between them. She rummaged in her mind to find parcels of memories. She remembered more or less their evening together. She felt a little embarrassed because she had invited him in her apartment when they first met. What did he thought of her? Pushing that story away, she asked him what he was doing in this café. He simply shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m waiting for a friend.”
He glanced at his watch.
“And he’s late again. As usual.”
“It’s always the case with him?”
“Unfortunately yes. He can quickly lose track of the time when he’s doing something he likes.”
“So you think that’s what he’s doing?”
“He’s a passionate man,” she said, smiling at him. “Don’t blame him for that.”
“Yes, I know. But he spends too much time with his computer instead of going out. It’s not very good for him to be alone like that.”
“For some time, he’s… You’re finally here!”
He stood up, motioning to a very tall man to join them. The newcomer hesitated before coming toward them. He shook hands with Jeremy. Then he introduced Clara who frowned when she saw the expression on his face. She began to wonder if she had something stuck between her teeth.
“Are you really Clara?” he asked.
“Shit… He’s doing it again…” Jeremy moaned, looking away.
“Is something’s wrong?” she asked them.
But the tall guy would just stare at her in silence. Jeremy’s face turned red. He hit his friend, telling him to stop doing that because it would scare her. The guy shook his head. He smiled, a little sad.
“She can’t recognize me, of course…” he muttered.
Jeremy and Clara looked at him for a moment, surprised. The young woman wanted to have some explanations, but Jeremy seemed unable to provide them. He didn’t understand what was happening in his friend’s mind. He appeared intoxicated or drugged. He was just mumbling to himself. Clara had suddenly enough of it. She turned to Jeremy and asked him if she should know his friend. He shrugged his shoulders, but his friend answered to her.
“My name is Ben, but you only know my nickname: BBOY.”
She raised her eyebrows. She had no reaction until she understood what it meant. Her eyes widened. Is it really him? Is he really BBOY? She frowned, wondering why he hadn’t put pictures on his profile. He wasn’t bad looking. It was Jeremy’s turn not to understand.
“How can you know him?”
“Because sometimes we talk on Internet,” Ben explained.
Clara nodded. This situation was one of the most bizarre in her life. Ben held out his hand to officially introduce himself. They exchanged a few words before Jeremy told them he was still with them. The young woman apologized and looked away. Ben went to get something to drink, leaving her alone with his friend.
“I knew he spent much time on his computer, but I didn’t know it was with you.”
“Not on a regular basis. A bit of conversation now and then.”
“He seemed happy… I think. And you were talking about what?”
“Just about anything. He talked a little about his girlfriend.”
“It’s nice of you to talk about it with him.”
“He wasn’t doing it with his friends?”
He turned his head to know where Ben was before turning back his attention to the young woman.
“I… I want to apologize for what happened.”
“I left very suddenly and I…”
She raised her hand to silence him. She told him it was already a long time and that it wasn’t worth the trouble to discuss about it. He raised his eyebrows without saying anything. They had been drinking a lot during the evening and they had made a mistake which neither kept real memories. Ben returned to the table, a large coffee in hand and a large smile on his lips.
“Sorry,” he said to Jeremy, “but I didn’t know what you wanted to drink.”
“I have to go,” she said, rising from her chair.
Ben strongly protested for her to leave. She merely greeted them before taking the road to return to her apartment. Along the way, she met Thomas who was getting back from the supermarket. This is the strangemeetings today! He asked how she was doing because she looked a little tired. She shrugged her shoulders without saying anything. He was maybe right about that. She just looked away briefly before frozen. Mary was heading towards them with a firm step.
“I have enough you not taking my calls,” she threw impatiently. “Don’t you think it’s ridiculous?”
“This is not the time,” Clara replied, irritated.
“But it’s never the time with you! I’ve already apologized. What else do you want from me?”
Clara was very annoyed to see her again. Thomas watched them for a short time without saying anything. Then he frowned, carefully observing Mary. He touched her shoulder to get her attention.
“Are you Mary Browning?”
She nodded, still waiting for Clara’s response. Clara was curious to hear more. How could Thomas meet Mary? Had he slept with her and now she was acting like she didn’t know him? But Mary’s face suddenly lit up while looking at him. A broad smile appeared on her lips.
“Tommy? Thomas Potter?”
“Yes! Long time! How are you?”
They jumped into each other arms and when he pressed her against him, one of his bags hit Clara. She hastened to leave, finding she was no longer existed for them. She took the opportunity to disappear. She locked herself in her apartment to escape the absurdity of the situation. Nothing worked in her life as she hoped. She switched on her computer and made a great makeover of her virtual bookmark on dating sites. No more profiles!
She really was moving on. She switched off with a sigh. All that had the slightest importance to her. Who did she want to please? No one else cared about what she was doing or thinking. If she changed her life, she was doing it for herself. So why she cared about what people might think?
She listened. Tottering steps had just stopped at her door. When hesitated knocks were struck, she waited a moment before getting up to answer. She had difficulty to contain a little cry when she saw her sister. Victoria was leaning against the wall, a bottle in hand. Long blackish makeup tracks had formed on her cheeks. Her clothes were wrinkled and her hair was a total mess. How long she hadn’t slept? Or even took a shower… She stopped herself from asking those questions. Victoria seemed about to kill someone. The young woman hesitated to let her in.
“Since when are you drinking?”
Victoria shrugged and looked away. Clara stared a moment, assessing the situation. She felt her sister had started drinking about an hour ago. But Victoria wasn’t holding alcohol very well.
“I… I don’t remember…”
“Come in. I’ll make coffee.”
She shook gently her head before finally entering. Clara still went into the kitchen to make coffee. Victoria let herself fall heavily on the sofa and put her bottle on the coffee table. She groaned, hiding her face in her hands. Clara waited until she started to tell her what was wrong while the coffee was brewing.
“Why are you like that?” Victoria asked.
Clara frowned, stretching her neck to watch her sister.
“Always nice and happy…?”
“Why are you asking?”
“Don’t you have enough being who you are?”
Clara raised her eyebrows, more than surprised by the question coming from her older sister. Victoria wanted to know why she was herself. It made no sense. It was simply impossible for her to be someone else. She went to join her in the sofa.
“Well, because I can’t be someone else.”
“I am. What do you want me to answer, then?”
Victoria took a long sip from her bottle before putting it back on the coffee table. She kept her eyes down.
“You’re still the good girl wherever you go!”
Clara sighed deeply, rubbing her eyes. She felt very tired, exhausted. She didn’t want to talk to her sister. Victoria was stubborn, selfish and an awful company. In addition, she was drunk.
“Anyway,” the young woman sighed. “I’ll get coffee to help you get sober up and call you a taxi to drive you home.”
“Voila! You do exactly what I thought you were going to do!”
“When you finished your little delirium, you can give me an explanation.”
“The guy with whom you spend some time is a king of bad boy and the girl is a real bitch.”
“Great. What else?”
“And you’re the nice girl who drowns her problems and daily anxieties in alcohol.”
“Exactly like you do right now?”
Victoria began to giggle like a little twelve years old girl.
“And you drink all the time!”
“Why did you come here? Only to insult me?”
The two sisters looked at each other without saying a word. It was a simple gaze confrontation. Victoria began to giggle again and looked away. She repeated her question again, as if trying to really understand it. Clara didn’t really want to answer to her. Anyway, she wasn’t sure she understood the question. Why she said she was the sweet little girl wherever she went?
“Can you explain what do you want from me?”
Victoria’s giggles turned into hysterical sobs. She sobbed, her face buried in her hands. Clara watched her silently, not knowing if she should have pity for her. She knew her perfectly well: her older sister loved to play the victim.
“I didn’t know where to go…”
“You have friends. Why not them?”
“You don’t want to see me?”
“We’re not very close. So I guess I’m allowed to ask question.”
“I left Patrick…”
“You guys just got married! What happened?”
“He’s having an affair with Anna!”
The expression on her face reflected the greatest pain. But Clara doubt that was true. Patrick was too stupid to be able to seduce a woman… Even if he has already succeeded with my sister. She shook her head before horrific images invaded her mind.
“You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“It’s true! I’ve seen them!”
What a nightmare! My sister arrives completely drunk to complain her husband is cheating. What do I do? Why did she come here? Clara rubbed her eyes again, thinking about what she should tell her. She couldn’t believe Patrick can sleep with another woman. Simply impossible! He seemed – as disgusting as it sounds – so in love with Victoria. Why risk it all to sleep with someone else after getting married?
“What were they doing when you saw them?”
Victoria sniffed noisily, taking deep breaths to calming herself. She mumbled something before starting to cry. She calmed down again and was finally able to articulate:
“They… they met in a café… downtown…”
“So what? They simply wanted a coffee.”
“But they were laughing! They are never with each other when I’m not there!”
“Oh please! That doesn’t mean your husband is cheating on you.”
Clara sighed, looking at her sister in disbelief. Her doubts were based on no evidence. She only had the impression her husband was having an affair. Nothing formal or even true. The young woman didn’t know what to say to Victoria to make her understand her mistake and get back home. It was quiet stupid to believe Patrick was cheating.
And her sister’s dramas were not interested her. She wanted her to leave!
“Did you talk to him?” she finally asked her.
Victoria shook vigorously her head.
“No need to. I saw them.”
“It’s not a proof of his infidelity.”
“He’ll lie if I ask him! There’s nothing to be proud of. I didn’t ask Anna either.”
The two sisters watched each other in silence again. Then, Victoria began to justify herself. She explained why she didn’t confront her husband or her friend. She didn’t know the reasons for their treachery. Clara wanted to convince her as soon as possible. It was just impossible. She finally managed to convince her to talk with Patrick and Anna. There surely was a logical explanation for everything. Clara was acting as if her sister hadn’t mentioned her friends earlier and insults showed how she was angry. Don’t want to hear about it anymore… But Victoria attacked her again.
“Why are you always nice to everyone?”
“Have you spoken to mom lately?”
Victoria frowned, taking her nearly empty bottle.
“Go home now. Patrick must be anxious to see you.”
“No way! He betrayed me!”
“But you have no evidence and you refuse to talk to him.”
“Why am I asking you advice,” her sister replied with distain. “You have nothing in life!”
Clara took a deep breath before pulling the bottle away from her sister and grabbed her by the arm to throw her out. Victoria began to strongly protest.
“Why are you reacting like that? I’m telling you the truth!”
“You don’t know me. You’re just like mom.”
She opened the door and pushed her sister out.
“You can’t do that. You’re always the nice girl!”
“And you know what the nice girl tells you? Screw you.”
“Go fuck yourself.”
The young woman pushed her sister before closing the door quickly. She locked it and sighed. What a bitch! Why her family hated her so much?
She finished her coffee while printing the list of candidates she made for her new boss. Then she went to Mr. Powell to show him her research. Maurice wasn’t there. Nathan was consulting a file in his father’s office when the young woman entered. He looked up and smiled. He asked her to come in and relax.
“Hello! My father had to attend an important golf tournament. You had something for him?”
Clara nodded, handing him the little file she created for her work. He asked if she would explain to him what she wanted to show to his father. Since he would be her boss someday, she has no problem with it. Anyway, her research concerned him too. She had made a schematic board for the potential candidates’ details, their education and skills. Nathan looked very impressed. He invited her to sit down and then closed the office door and asked her if she had a minute for him. She nodded silently.
“You’re not with us for very long, aren’t you?”
She just shook her head again.
“Do you like it here?”
“You seem to be well integrated with us and I appreciate your work.”
“For the interviews, do you want me to be there or you prefer to handle it by yourself?”
He took her by surprise. She thought about it for a brief moment before replying it wasn’t necessary for him to be there. She would like to have his first impression of the candidates to be interviewed. He raised his eyebrows.
“You can meet the person I have chosen, if you prefer.”
“I like the way you’re thinking. I can trust you.”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
They exchanged some small talk before Clara has to take a call. She apologized while leaving the office. She locked herself in her own office to take the call. A man of a certain age wanted to apply for the job offered in the company. She took note of some information to fulfill of his hiring record. She hung up and then took another call. She repeated once again.
At lunchtime, she received a very unexpected email from Edward. She hadn’t heard from him for a while – since the beginning of her story with Mary. He said he wanted to see her at 6:00 p.m. in a small café. He absolutely had to talk to her, but he refused to give her more details. She promised she wouldn’t be late.
She spent the rest of her afternoon over the phone. Her file became a little more complete. She now had enough to start making a first selection.
She didn’t return home before meeting Edward. She walked quietly to the little café where her friend wanted to meet her. He remained very mysterious about why he wanted to see her and she had a lot of questions to ask him. In fact, he had only asked her to join him. He was already seated at a table, sipping at a large latté. He gave her a small wave when he saw her.
“I’ve got to talk to you,” he said, watching her taking a seat.
“Can I order something before?”
She glared at him, but replied nothing. She was impatient to know what was going on with him. He made her wait a little longer that seemed to last an eternity. He was relaxed, but also a little nervous. He began to tell her about his job and the mistake he had made. She let him speak, waiting to know the real reason. So much mystery to remind me what I already know? He suddenly stopped talking. He looked up at her and said:
“I’m leaving town.”
She frowned, wondering if she had understood well.
“Where are you going?”
“I accepted the offer. I’ll work in another branch of the company.”
“Wow… Are you serious?”
He simply nodded his head before swallowing a long sip of coffee. She didn’t know how she should react. She was happy for him, of course. He looked very well. He seemed to have given considerable thought before making a decision. He thought he made the right choice and he wanted the support of his friend. The she smiled at him before congratulate him. She was genuinely happy for him.
“Is that why you disappeared for a while?”
“I needed to think.”
“And when are you leaving?”
“Within a month, I guess. Earlier if I can.”
She smiled again.
“I’ll miss you, but I’m very happy for you.”
He smiled back, taking her hand. She was surprised by this affection gesture. It was the first time he was so warmly with her. She squeezed his hand.
“Where are you moving in?”
He sighed deeply, raising his eyebrows.
“What a big change!”
“Will you come visit me?”
She nodded, smiling at him. She had nothing against this particular city, but she was going to lose again a very important person for her.
“Did you talk to Mary?” he asked her.
She pouted and looked away. He insisted on his question, knowing pretty well she didn’t want to talk about it.
“She came to my place and I met her on the street. That’s it.”
“And what did she say?”
Clara sighed, withdrawing her hand. The intimate moment was gone. The spell was broken when he mentioned Mary.
“Nothing very interesting.”
“How long since you guys have spoken? Has she mentioned her friend Thomas?”
She sat up, frowning.
“No, but I was with Thomas when Mary arrived.”
“Did they talk?”
“It’s possible. That’s what they were doing when I ran away. I don’t know all the details of their little reunion.”
A broad smile lit up Edward’s face. The young woman frowned. He knows something I don’t know and he will not tell me. He’s teasing me, bad boy! She wondered if she really wanted to know the details. Normally, Mary fled her old conquests like the plague. There she was happy to see him. Clara didn’t understand what had happened, but Edward knew something.
“Do you want more details?”
“No. It doesn’t concern me.”
“I can give them to you,” a voice behind her said.
Clara looked up at Mary who was standing next to their table. You must remain calm. She took a deep breath before getting up. She wished them a superb afternoon, but Edward took her hand again to stop her from leaving them. He begged her not to disappear immediately. Mary took a chair to join them. Clara sank back on her chair, sighing.
“I know you don’t want to talk to me,” Mary said, “but I’m not asking you to forgive me.”
Clara said nothing.
“You’re my best friend for a long time. I did horrible things and I can’t erase them. Otherwise it would be already done. But I’ve been thinking. It’s because you if I became aware of certain things. Thank you.”
Mary seemed very quiet. She continued her speech.
“You made me understand there was more.”
“I want a better life, maybe even meet someone serious… You know? Find the perfect man like you seeking for him too.”
“It doesn’t exist.”
“Exactly! It does exist!”
“What are you saying that?”
“For a lot of reasons! Why do you think otherwise?”
Clara only replied a lot of things showed her otherwise. Edward and Mary were sorry to hear it.
“I don’t really want to talk about it.”
“But that what friends are for,” Edward replied. “We’re here for you.”
The young woman rose again, declining the offer. She really didn’t want to talk about it. She had decided to go home. Edward asked her if she had someone in her life, but he hastened to shut up when he saw the expression on her face. Mary made her apology even though she didn’t ask the question.
“We can perhaps introduce you to someone…” Mary timidly offered, looking away.
“I know…” Edward added, clapping his hands.
Clara was going to walk away, but she stopped before turning to Mary.
“Do you still see Mark?”
Mary shook her head.
“He’s avoiding me too.”
“Did you explain to him why you did it?”
“He refuses to listen.”
“I understand how he feels.”
“Maybe he wasn’t worth the trouble,” Mary said. “He didn’t listen and I didn’t insist. There’s nothing I can do about it.”
You had to think about it before you lied to him. Clara greeted them again and got back home. She was still stunned to know that Mary envied her. She would never have believed it could be possible from her friend. She was learning every day! She dropped by the window. She remembered one day she heard her mother told Victoria that if she was expecting her prince charming to come, he would never come to her. Was it a real wise advice or something stupid her mother had told her so she would shut up? Even today, it was still hard to say. Anyway, she had a huge headache just thinking about her mother. She wasn’t depressed, but she wouldn’t think about her mother.
With a firm step, she walked to the refrigerator to remove the list which was still there. She tore it into little pieces before throwing it away. She finally gave up the idea of changing things. It didn’t mean anything to her anymore. The young woman was even asking herself what was she thinking when she got that stupid idea.
It was so ridiculous.
It was a superb Friday. Her mood was just as gloomy as it was at her last meeting with Edward and Mary. It was just work and go home watching TV all evening.
She was quietly returning to her desk when she saw Mark talking with the receptionist. He made her sign a form stating that she had received the package delivered and he looked up when he saw the young woman from the corner of his eye. Immediately, his smile disappeared. We’re adults, right? Don’t bother to behave like two kids. She took a deep breath and gave him her best smile. She didn’t have to be angry at him. He had been fooled by Mary’s lies. She hadn’t seen him since she had been to his apartment. It was perhaps time for her to move on. The receptionist greeted her and handed her messages.
“Hi,” she said with a friendly tone.
“Hello. You… you’re okay?”
She nodded and kept smiling at him. He looked away, very uncomfortable right now.
“I wanted to talk to you, but…” he stammered, “I didn’t.”
“It wasn’t worth it.”
“I still would have wanted to tell you why…”
“I know what happened and there’s nothing more to say about it.”
He frowned and asked if she had spoken to Mary. She just nodded. She suppressed a giggle when she saw his face turned red. He must fell stupid for acting like that. She told him it was nothing, she moved on for a while.
“Mary wanted to talk with me,” he muttered, sighing. “I didn’t want to.”
“She told me everything.”
“I’m really sorry…”
“Everything’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
“I don’t know why I believed her…”
“Because I kept my distance from you for another reason.”
“I went to your place to tell you I felt nothing more than friendship for you.”
Mark looked very surprised. He opened his mouth to answer her, but he hastened to close it back. It was Clara’s turn to apologize.
“You… you wanted to dump me?”
“We were not together.”
“Yes, for me.”
Does he tell everyone he had a girlfriend while it wasn’t the case? She dared not asking him directly the question. She didn’t want to offend him more than he was at this moment. However, he should have doubt her intentions. She was doing everything she could not to see him and she wasn’t taking all of his calls.
“There was nothing between us?”
She shook her head, really sorry.”
“But I thought you and me… well… Whatever…”
“Forget it, okay?”
“Did Mary know…?”
“I just wanted to straight things up since you haven’t spoken to Mary for a while.”
They greeted each other cordially. She could feel his eyes following her as she was leaving him. She felt guilty for telling him the truth. It was certainly not the first time a woman told him that, but she didn’t like it when she was in the same situation. She knew how he felt. She looked down at the messages the receptionist gave her. There was nothing urgent. She returned to her office to review the past interviews. Mary sent her an email asking if she wanted to join her and Edward for a drink after her working day. Sighing, Clara knew she had nothing better to do after her day. So why not? She still hoped that Mary understood the lesson. And Edward would soon leave town for Toronto. She wanted to spend some time with him before his departure. She eventually told her she would be there. Then she returned to work.
Patricia gently knocked on the door of her office, a huge smile on her lips.
“Can I come in?” she timidly asked.
Clara smiled back at her, motioning her to enter and sit.
“Of course! How are you?”
“Great! The baby moves a lot during the night so I still don’t sleep very well. Nathan told me you are looking for an assistant for him. How is it going?”
“A few interviews, but nothing very interesting yet.”
“Nathan is not very difficult. He will approve your choice.”
“Thanks to reassure me.”
“Otherwise, everything’s okay? You’re getting along well?”
“Yes, I think.”
“Good! I know it’s not always easy to change work…”
The young woman pressed her hands lightly on her belly, grinning. Clara asked her if everything was okay. Patricia smiled to reassure her.
“Little contractions for several days. Don’t worry…”
She grinned again before moaning. Clara saw a liquid running down her legs. She didn’t take the time to ask her again if everything was okay. She took the phone to warn Nathan that the water just broke. He quickly left from his meeting to take Patricia to the hospital. Clara watched them, a hint of jealousy in her heart. Not because Patricia was about to give birth, but because she had someone to share this moment with her. She sighed and folded her arms across her chest. She would walk away when she felt something cold on her toes. She looked down and discovered she saw standing right where Patricia got into labor…
She removed her shoes to dry them. The thin fabric was soaked in amniotic fluid, repulsing her. How lucky I am. She would have to go home before joining her friends.
When she returned to her apartment, she took the opportunity to change clothes. Then she went to the pub. Mary was already sipping a glass and smiled shyly when she saw her approaching. It’s definitely my lucky day. Patricia almost gave birth in my office and now I’m alone with Mary. She made her way through the bar before getting to the table. There was an awkward silence between them and Clara hated it. Was there a way to break this uncomfortable situation? Clara didn’t know, but she decided she was old enough to take her own decisions.
“Did you have a good day?” Mary asked her without looking at her.
“Not bad. And you?”
“I met Mark today.”
Mary raised her eyebrows, looking at Clara.
“Oh yeah? Did you talk to him?”
Clara nodded, looking at the bottom of her glass. Mary wanted to know what they talked about, but she dared not ask her directly. She waited until Clara told her. But the young woman wanted to make her languish for a moment. She didn’t like when the suspense was too long. She told her about their brief discussion. Mary was hurt by what Clara told her. But she should doubt he wasn’t very happy. She lied to him! She drank a long draft and looked away.
When Edward joined them, the pub was quite full. The chattering voices went from one table to another and the service was a bit slower since there was a little less room to move. Edward brought them three drinks to their table and they drank merrily.
“Ladies,” he began, “there’s something new.”
Mary began to clap.
“You’re not moving!”
“You’re too cute. I’m leaving a little earlier than expected.”
“Earlier? But… but when?”
“By next week.”
“Why so early?” Clara asked, with her glass on her lips. “They have an emergency?”
“Apparently yes. I’m not even there yet and they already can’t work without me. This is too awesome!”
His friends laughed, but Mary remained a little less joyous than Clara. It was clear that Edward’s departure didn’t make her happy. To their surprise, she didn’t say any comment. She learned her lessons well. Clara wasn’t very thrilled either. She knew him enough to know Edward needed to make this change. His bad mood was over and he wanted to move forward. He simply had wanted to encourage him and support him no matter what that meant. She was going to lose a good friend. She could accept it if he was happier that way. She told them the next tour was on her. So she went to the bar to order drinks. Waiting to have the bartender’s attention, she looked around her. A familiar face caught her eye. Jeremy’s here? He was talking to a group of friends and he seemed to have a lot of fun. She decided not to greet him, but he saw her and waved. She waved back and the bartender came to take her order. While waiting again, Jeremy came slowly towards her and smiled.
“Good evening,” she said, drumming nervously on the bar.
“Are you here by yourself?”
She shook her head.
“I ordered for me and my friends. I’m waiting of our drinks.”
“I didn’t know you were coming here sometimes.”
“Let’s say it’s been a while since we have a drink here after work.”
She stretched her neck and then asked him where was Ben. Jeremy seemed somewhat hurt by the question, but he worked very hard to hide it.
“He didn’t come with you?”
“No, he’s… he’s with his girlfriend.”
“Oh? I thought…”
“We also did, but they talked and decided to repair their relationship. So I don’t know where it’s going to bring them, thought.”
She sighed, confessing she was very happy for him. He shrugged, replying that Ben would probably disappear like last time.
“She’s a bit intrusive.”
The bartender brought her glasses and she paid. Jeremy offered his help to bring the glasses up to her table. She accepted with a simple nod. They went to join Edward and Mary, who discussed Mary’s new conquest. Clara raised her eyebrows at the news. I thought she had calmed down a bit on that. She didn’t say anything, judging it didn’t concern her. She introduced Jeremy to them and then thanked him for his help. He bowed before returning to his friends. Clara looked down on table and saw a piece of paper under her glass. Frowning, she raised her glass to take the paper.
“CALL ME IF YOU WANT TO”, followed by a phone number.
When did he leave that? Edward and Mary stopped talking to watch her.
“Something’s wrong?” Mary asked, worried.
Edward took the piece of paper away from her hands to read it. He opened his eyes, laughing.
“You got his number!” he said, showing the message to Mary.
“It’s great!” Mary replied. “When are you going to call him?”
Clara looked at her friends as if she was seeing them for the first time in her life.
“I… I’m not going to call him…”
“Why not?” Edward asked. “This one is good.”
“But I hardly know him!”
“Remember that you already slept with him,” Mary said before taking a sip. “Normally, the number’s coming before the fuck, but you skipped a few steps. Now he wants to win you back properly.”
The young woman felt her face becoming red. She took her glass and drank it almost the entirely. No, I’m not going to call him. He lost a bet with his friends or something like that. Her friends tried to convince her otherwise. She simply didn’t believe it. Edward went to the bathroom, leaving the two women alone.
“I… I have someone in my life,” Mary told her shyly, “and you know…”
“Congratulations. I’m very happy for you.”
Clara frowned, not believing her hears.
“We used to date before he left for another college elsewhere. I hadn’t heard from him since he left and there I found him.”
“Wow… I’m very happy for you both.”
“Thanks to you.”
“I don’t deserve it.”
“We are together since we met in the street. Do you remember?”
Clara nodded. She was able to slip away because they didn’t care about her. Mary found her childhood sweetheart. Very lucky. She wondered if she was really happy or just jealous. After all, it wasn’t Mary who wanted to find someone. Why did she have the right to meet a great man and not her? She couldn’t find the situation very fair. The only dates she had were limited to morons. She was lucky! It really wasn’t fair.
Edward returned to join them, a new drink in hand.
“He’s watching you a lot, you know.”
“Enough,” Clara replied, shaking her head. “I don’t want to hear about it.”
“But why?” Mary asked. “He looks very nice.”
“He might worth it.”
The young woman shook her head again, repeating they had to stop talking about it. The subject was closed. There was nothing more to say. They ordered a few drinks before they go their separate ways after wishing a very nice evening. Mary hugged her, slipping in her hear a simple phone call wouldn’t kill her. Clara pretended she had heard nothing. She looked up. Jeremy stood near the door with his friends. They greeted one another on the sidewalk when he saw her too. His smile froze, almost disappearing. Edward gave her a nod before passing his arm around Mary’s shoulders. They went away, leaving her outside the pub.
“You… you’re still so pretty,” Jeremy said.
She bowed her head without answering.
“Did you… did you found the message…?”
Again, she said nothing. She looked away to watch her friends getting away. She could hear him sigh.
“Can I ask why?”
“You’re wasting your time, believe me.”
Her answer seemed to surprise him. She blamed herself for telling him the truth, but she couldn’t help it. He was wasting his time. She only believed in her work now. And her friends. Love didn’t exist. She didn’t want to make him believe things she no longer believed and he should perfectly understand it.
To her astonishment, he didn’t share her opinion.
“It’s not a reason.”
“It’s the only one I can give you.”
“Listen,” he began, “I’m not talking about love but a single date. We have nothing to lose.”
She had recoiled.
“No…” she murmured.
He bit his lower lip, hesitating a moment.
“Can I take the risk to invite you?”