“Sarah! Is that you?! It’s been so long!” she squealed as she wrapped her arms around me.
“It has been a long time. What? About 15 years at least”?
“It feels like forever” Allie replied, looking at me like I had a third eye.
“What?” I asked, feeling self-conscious for a fleeting moment.
“You look the same, I can’t believe you haven’t aged a bit”
Yeah right. The extra 20 pounds and crow’s feet forming around my eyes said otherwise.
We sat down, each of us ordering vodka and coke, just like old times.
“So, how have you been, Allie?”
Allie gave me the quick rundown of the last 15 years of her life. Married with two kids, PTA mom sells some kind of fancy make-up in her spare time. Her husband happened to be a very successful .com executive here in the bay area. She had a perfect life. The life I almost had.
“So, what have you been up to all these years, Sarah? I see that you don’t have a ring on a certain finger.” Allie inquired, eyeing my hand suspiciously.
“No, I’m not married, nor do I have anyone special in my life right now. I don’t have time for a relationship with all the traveling I have to do for work.” I replied, trying to convince myself that what I was saying was true.
The truth was my track record in the last few years was like a train wreck. A few blind dates that never went anywhere and then there was William. William and I met by chance at the grocery store. Actually, it was in the parking lot of the grocery store on a rainy Saturday morning.
“Miss! Excuse me, Miss!” some guy was yelling behind me.
I turned around and saw a dark-skinned bald guy running towards me with a grocery bag in his hand.
“You forgot one of your bags, miss,” he said holding it out.
“Thanks,” I said, grabbing my bag.
As he turned to walk back to the store he noticed my Alma Mater decal on the back of my car.
“You went to Berkeley?”
“So did I. I’m originally from the bay area.”
And that’s how William and I spent our first date together. Reminiscing about our college days, even though we went at different times. He was about 8 years older, but you couldn’t tell. You know the old adage “Black don’t crack”. Well, it applied to William in every way. He was young in mind and didn’t look a day over 25.
William and I lasted about a year, until he landed his dream job in NYC on Wall Street. I couldn’t leave the job that I loved so much in Seattle, so we parted ways. Amicably, of course.
Allie saw through me. She always had. Even from the first day we met, she had the ability to know the truth and if she didn’t know, she had a way to pull it out of me. I felt a sense of protection from Allie. Like an older sister, even though she was only about a year older, she still had an aura about her that said Don’t mess with me.
An hour later and three vodkas in, it was just like old times. Laughing about the time I set the apartment on fire because I had attempted to cook chicken for the first time or the time we closed Johnny’s together one Friday night and forgot to lock the door. Johnny was pissed at us for months, luckily nobody tried to rob the place.
It was as if we picked up right where we left off.
“I have something for you” she said, reaching into her handbag.
She slid over a piece of paper across the table.
“What’s this?” I asked, looking at what appeared to be a phone number.
“It’s his number, Sarah” she said, slowly but with a haunting deliverance.
Instantly, I was taken back to another time, when my life was anything but normal.
“Want to hang out tonight?”
It was already past midnight. I was beat.
“I just spent the last 8 hours with you, what more do you want from me?”
Johnny was tallying up the books while I was doing a quick mop of the floor.
“Food. I need food and Jeremy already left.”
“Yeah, about that, thanks letting your only cook leave early, you know I despise working the kitchen.”
Johnny got up from the two top table and grabbed two beers.
“We were slow.”
“I still had to make the tenders!”
He handed me a beer while taking his place back at the two top table.
“I’m not hungry, I could do coffee though, after my beer.”
Johnny grabbed one twenty and a five dollar bill from his apron pocket.
“Sarah, you still here?”
I made my way to the too small of a kitchen to rinse off the mop.
“I’m here, John. Restrooms are clean. I put some air freshener in the…”
“Sounds good, here are your credit card tips.”
Sarah. Just barely twenty-one and in need of a job. In ways, she reminded me of myself just two years ago. Against Johnny’s better judgment, I kind of took her under my wing and begged Johnny to give her a chance. I mean the only reason Johnny was hesitant was that he wanted to bang the new girl. I put a stop to that real quick. Sarah was good, in need of a makeover yet wonderful with the customers. Whether she was serving up a platter of tenders or a round of shots, the customers liked her. Me, I had no patience for small talk, Sarah, this is where she thrived.
“Okay guys, kitchen is closed, floor is clean, stay off it!”
I grabbed one last beer and sat down next to Johnny at the two top table.
“So, what’s the plan,” I asked as I was counting my cut of the credit card tips.
“The plan is I need another beer.” Johnny could drink a Sailor under the table. I guess it comes with the territory. Bar owner and all.
“Hurry up, you are walking me home.”
Just then, the door jingled the all too familiar bell.
“Shit, the sign says closed!”
Johnny made his way to the door, as I took a sip of his beer.
“Sorry man, we are closed.”
“Yeah, I can read, I’m here to pick up…”
What? who is he picking up?
“Sorry, John, he’s with me.”
Sarah! Oh, this must be Derrick, or was it, Eric? I can’t remember. The guy she met online or something.
I got up from the table, made my way to the door as Johnny was sizing up this guy who unbeknownst to him already pissed Johnny off. Sarah was close behind.
I offered my hand. “Hey, I’m Allie, nice to finally meet you, wanna come in for a sec?”
Johnny did not say a word.
“That’s okay Allie, I am just about finished.”
“I’m Eric, I’m here for Sarah.”
Eric, that’s it. Shit. I need to pay more attention.
“I’m good, Sar, hurry up, you said 1:00. I have things to do.”
“Sorry Babe, I’m ready….Okay guys, will see ya tomorrow, at eight?”
I looked at Johnny, “Actually, the shift starts at 7, I am going to be late tomorrow.”
“Seven does not work for us” Exclaimed what seemed to be an annoyed Eric.
“Good thing it does not have to work for you. Sarah, seven pm, you good?”
I noticed Sarah looked at Eric as if asking for permission, asking for his “okay.”
“I said seven does not work for us, I have something going on, she will be here at 8.”
Sarah looked nervous. Maybe afraid? Johnny was pissed, not appreciating the attitude that was coming his way.
“It’s okay Babe, I can walk. Yeah, I will be here at 7.”
“Okay, well if something comes up give me a call, I will switch some things around and come in early.”
Johnny looked at me. His blue eyes told me his thoughts without him having to speak.
“Johnny, it’s okay, really. Sarah, see you at 7 unless something comes up. Nice to meet you, Eric.”
Off they went. Eric and Sarah.
“Al, I do not like that guy, there’s something about him.”
I grabbed my purse, threw our beers in the trash.
“Let’s go, you owe me a coffee or something chocolate.”
Johnny locked the doors as I peered off at Eric and Sarah in the distance. They were walking in the opposite direction of my favorite twenty four hour coffee shop.
I grabbed a smoke a smoke from my purse, gave one to Johnny as he lazily put his arm around my shoulder.
Johnny was right, there’s something up with this guy.