I’m sitting at Kane’s restaurant with some friends I haven’t seen in a while. I came back into town this morning for Mr. Brant’s funeral. Growing up, he was like a second dad to me. From what I’ve seen today, he was like that to a bunch of us. He was ran a home construction crew and had built a lot of the houses in the area. I worked with him a few summers during high school before moving away for college. He always made sure to keep in touch, inviting me fishing or out to eat if I ever came back in town. I had planned to go on his next fishing trip, but now that wasn’t happening. Regret sucks sometime.
I ran into some of my friends from school, Weston, and his brother, Dan while running out to the grocery store earlier and we decided to meet up for supper.
I sit down and order a beer, Bud Light, and some chips and queso for an appetizer. Weston and Dan are both living around here still. Neither are married. They play together in a band, mostly at bars around the state. They are pretty good, I’ll admit. Weston places his order then turns to me, “So how have you been, man?” “Good, yall?” I drawl looking around the restaurant. Kane’s hasn’t changed much. Still outdated, still super clean, dimly lit. There’s only a few other tables with families at them. The new Mexican restaurant down the road looked a lot busier. Kane’s offers more home style cooking, which is why I chose here. “We’ve been slammed, man. We did 3 shows this past weekend in Beaufort and a show last night in Bluffton. We are trying to get some radio talk shows in Savannah to give us some airtime between gigs.. you know, to help get our name out there.” I smile over at them. “That’s great y’all! So I’m going to have backstage passes when y’all hit it big, right?” Dan laughs. Weston readily agrees though. We place our orders after the waitress puts our beer and chips down. I order a steak and mashed potatoes, while the guys opt for cheeseburgers and fries.
Just as I am handing the menu to the waitress, a petite woman at the cash register catches my eye. She has long dark brown hair that is almost black, curled down her back, a fitted blouse that works her curves perfectly and a pair of tight blue jeans. She doesn’t look familiar so I ask the guys if they know who she is. Both craning their necks to get a better view, they are at a loss as well as to who she is. Just then, she takes the food and turns around to leave. Her sky blue eyes connect with mine and recognition dawns instantly. Alyssa Dean. “Hot damn! That’s Aly!” I hear Weston murmur. We all jump up to go catch her before she leaves. Each of us tripping over ourselves to get out of the booth. “Aly! Is that you girl?!” Weston practically runs up to her, throwing an arm around her. She smiles up at us. She hasn’t gotten much taller than she was in middle school. Although, those heels she has on help bring her a little closer to our height. She takes turns giving us all hugs before stepping back to get a good look at each of us. “Well y’all! It’s been forever! Back in town for a few hours and wouldn’t you know it, I run into my favorite friends from wayback.” I’m speechless. This girl grew up from a lanky, but cute little teenager into this beautiful woman. Weston takes the lead since I remain silent, expressing sympathy for her grandpa’s passing. She gets a small tear in her eye, talking about him. Without thinking, I reach up and wipe the tear away just as it slides down her check. Shocked, everyone goes silent, staring at me. Her eyes connect with mine as I realize what I am doing. “Oh, uh..” my cheeks burn with embarrassment. “I.. uh.. just remembered you hated for your makeup to uh, get messed up.” Graham, I scold myself, that was lame. She recovers quicker than the other two that I’m with. She tucks her hair behind her ear as she murmurs thanks. “Well y’all, I hate to run but I’ve got to get this food back to the house. I can just hear James whining about being hungry now.” We say our goodbyes and watch her leave. The guys return to the table but I linger for a moment, watching her make it to her car and glance back at me. She freezes, just staring into my eyes for a few moments before I wink at her, noticing a blush form on her cheeks. So I can still do that, huh. Good to know. I head back to the table and listen to the guys talk about the adventures and mishaps we used to get into with Aly before she moved away.
I remember I had just decided to ask her to be my girlfriend that summer… even though I was older than her and Weston told me not to… repeatedly. They had the only pool in the neighborhood and we were always trying to go over there.. or I was.. and I didn’t realize that was more because of her rather than the pool until she announced they were moving away. I knew she had had a crush on me for a while and I just kept putting her off, thinking I was too old for her. I had a feeling that her Mom didn’t care for me either. Then when I did realized it, she was leaving, then she was gone soon after that. They had moved mid-June to Kentucky for her Dad’s job. The neighborhood wasn’t the same after that. I had took the summer jobs with her grandpa, hoping she would come visit, but I always missed her somehow. I’d hear Mr. Brant talk about them coming to visit and kick myself for not catching them.
I can’t believe she is back in town. Well, I can, with her grandpa and all. But running into her randomly after all these years, how about that? We eat when the food arrives, still reminiscing about the old days. Laughing at the mishaps we had. After 9 o’clock, Ms. Diane comes over to run us out for the night so they can close. We pay our bills and head to the parking lot. Not quite ready to go home. Weston opens his truck door and turns to me, “She’s really turned into something, hasn’t she?” I nod. Both of us quiet for a moment. I sigh. “Alright, well I’ll see y’all tomorrow at the visitation?” He nods. I walk over and climb in my truck, waving as I put it in drive and leave. All the way home, my thoughts are on Alyssa. How beautiful she is now. I wonder if she’s still that sweet, playful little minx she was. I hope I get a chance to find out before she disappears again.