She was late, as usual, and like a jackass, I’d dressed and arrived early. After all this time, I still was made to wait on her. I wanted this to be quick and easy.
Why did I say yes to this?
Oh yeah, that’s right. She needed closure. She needed closure. Funny how what I needed never mattered.
I tapped my finger against the glass of unsweetened, iced-tea that sat in front of me in our once favorite restaurant. Was she trying to be funny by suggesting Copeland’s? I knew what she was doing, but I refused to let the nostalgia borrow a moment of my present time. My foot joined in on the rhythm that my finger tapped as my regret grew stronger.
“May I get you more tea?” The waitress asked. She’d never told me her name. I glanced at her name tag.
“I’m okay for now, Sharon,” I replied.
“Okay, just let me know if you need anything.”
A map to all your emergency exits. “I will. Thanks.”
She gave a friendly smile then speed-walked off like they all do when there are less people serving than eating. I pulled my phone from my open purse that sat in a vacant chair beside me. I needed to stop leaving my purse open for somebody to rob my ass blind. She was twenty-minutes late now.
“To hell with this, I’m leaving.” I dropped my phone back into my purse and reached for my wallet to pay for my watered down iced-tea. It was only 7:21 pm. I could still catch an early movie or something. I didn’t get all dressed up in my heels and skinny jeans for nothing.
“Melanie?” she said.
I knew that voice. Hated that voice. Used to love that voice. The sound of it saying my name didn’t have the same effect that it used to. I spun around, taking a deep breath as I did so.
She still looked the same: average height like me, chocolate, and beautiful. I hated that. She smiled and leaned down to kiss my cheek as if we were old friends.
Get your lying lips off me.
“Hi Mel, natural looks good on you,” she said, admiring my blonde-tipped afro.
“Lost track of time?” I asked.
“Of course not, I wanted to look really good for you.”
She took a seat across from me and the server rushed over with some menus—sprite for her, more tea for me, one seafood platter, and two martinis. She did the ordering.
“You still remember what I eat,” I stated.
“I never tried to forget.”
Was she seriously trying to charm me? Her vague email typed across my mind like an opening line as I stared at her:
It’s been a long time. I miss you. I should have written this sooner, but I didn’t have the courage. I need some closure. Copeland’s? Seven? You know the date. Say yes.
I’d been trying to forget the date for years. Twenty-six. The twenty-sixth of every month was our day. It was the date we’d first me. The date she’d admitted her feelings. The date we’d made it official, kissed, and made love. Not all in the same month.
“Tell me something good,” she said and leaned back.
Melanie, don’t play her game. You’re thirty years old.
I took a deep breath, sipped my tea, and made eye contact. In my calmest tone I said, “Let’s cut the shit, okay? What do you want?”
The silly smirk she wore faded. “I needed to see you.”
“After how many years? And how many women?” I asked.
“Why can’t anything ever just be simple with you?”
“For whatever reason you can’t ever be straight forward. Do you need some money? Some temporary affection?” I pushed.
“Why are you being like this with me? I know I did some things to you, but I come in peace. I’m picking up the check, so let’s just have some drinks and some laughs,” Erin said.
I’d laugh all right. She was the joke. There was nothing comical about our old union. I was serious, I wanted her, I wanted us, and every minute of my wanting, she played me. I snickered and shook my head as I gave in to the bad memories.
“What do I have to do you make you enjoy this night?” she asked.
“You want me to make a list?”
“If it will make you feel better.”
“It won’t. Erin, you are clueless. Why do you do this every few years. Just pop up like everything is peaches and cream? And before you answer, really think about why you can’t just leave me alone. We both know you got closure long ago.”
She tucked her hands into her pockets and for once she looked like she was having a thought and not acting on that stupid impulse that caused more trouble than thrills between us. Suddenly, she couldn’t look at me anymore. She began chewing on her bottom lip and before she could open her mouth, she was saved by the food delivery.
“Can we get some extra tartar?” she asked the server, still trying to impress me.
She knew I was an extra girl: extra cheese, extra ranch, extra everything that tasted good to my buds. I refused to let her in. I’d dated this girl when I was nineteen, her seventeen. I was her high school sweetheart and she was my young love, my second, first.
“What is it that you want from me, Melanie?” she said, breaking off a piece of catfish and stuffing it into her mouth.
“For you to tell me one honest thing. Before this life is over, I just want one truth from you.”
“Just one?” she asked with a raised brow.
She swiped her hands together several times as if she had dust on them then rubbed them against her jeans. That was a pet peeve of mine. Napkins weren’t just for decoration.
“I feel guilty. I pop up because I feel guilty. That’s my truth,” Erin admitted.
“Guilty for what? You’ve done what you done and I’m over it,” I replied.
“Are you really?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I asked.
“Because just like me, you can never say no. How many times have I invited you here? There is never demurral, you just show up. It may not be for the same reason as me, but there is something. You wanted one truth and there it is. I feel guilty and I believe you want me to fix it. You want me to make everything I did to you right.”
If there was one thing that I hated, it was somebody telling me they knew more about me than they actually did. Not a word she said was true about my acceptance of her invitation, but one thing was for sure. This had to end.
“I really don’t think you should flatter yourself. What you did to me, I made right with myself. You cheated and you lied and neither of those things had anything to do with me and everything to do with your character. I sat there for days on end, staring in the mirror, trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Was I ugly? Was I too dark? Too—”
“Let me finish. You’ve interrupted me for years. Interrupted my time, my life, my true loving… you don’t get to stop me now. I answered all of my own questions, teardrop after teardrop. I came to the conclusion, that you, Erin Davis, are weak. Only the strong know how to love and appreciate. Only the strong know how to be faithful. Strong people accept the challenges that tribulation in love brings. Cowards run, they lie, and they cheat. Any excuse to get away from what they can’t really handle. I should have never questioned if I was too ugly for you. You are the ugly one and it’s sad that you can’t even see it. You feel guilty because I’m the one mirror that you can’t look into and the one you can’t break.” I waved my hand for the serve to come over. “All we ever were was six years of a cheap thrill, two people going through hard times that needed somebody. I should have known that I’d leave with exactly what I came with. I built you up and you tore me down.” The server stood beside our table. “Sharon, may I have one to-go box for my seafood platter and one for her guilt.”
“So, that’s it. You tell me off and you leave?”
“Yes. My wife likes her seafood fresh. You got the bill, right? Enjoy the rest of your closure."
©2017 Christiana Harrell