IF THERE WAS one man left standing that Sara still approved of, it would be her childhood buddy — Ed. As the one mutual friend between him and Allison, she could not have dreamt of a more perfect couple. She was there when they first got together. She was there when they drifted apart. She had heard them all, their stories from both sides. Having recently learned of Daniel’s infidelity, in her own wishful way, she had since been ambitious to reunite them, despite already been told “not going to happen” twice, straight from Allison’s mouth.
As per her tip-off, Ed stopped by the pub during his police shift, looking handsome in his uniform contouring his brawny chest and biceps. His short brown hair looked more neatly groomed than usual. His typical five o’clock shadow was gone, making his strong jawline and that slight cleft in his chin stand out. He had just now bothered to put on a dab of cologne behind his ears prior to getting out of his car. He walked in, his eyes locked on Allison and he headed right over.
The moment she saw him coming, she knew it was Sara’s doing. “What is he doing here?”
“Who knows? Let’s ask, shall we? Hey, how’s it going, Ed? Solved any crimes lately?”
“I’m a patrol officer, Sara, not a detective. How are you, Allie?”
“I heard you are still having trouble sleeping. How did that appointment go this morning?”
She shot Sara a glare for again being a blabbermouth, except it was cleverly dodged and ultimately ignored.
Just then, Sara stood up. “I’m gonna go talk to that cute guy over there. He’s been gaping at me this whole time. No point in keeping him waiting, eh?” Swiftly, along she went with her drink towards a fresh-faced male sitting by himself at a booth, swaying her hips as the two watched her till she successfully got there.
The awkwardness was just building up back at the bar, more so for her than for him. Both hoping to smooth the path for the other person, simultaneously they started talking and as such, a little snicker broke the ice.
“Hehe. Ladies first,” said Ed, sitting down on a stool beside her.
“I was just gonna ask how you’ve been. I know we haven’t spoken much since... um…”
“The beginning of August.”
“Right. So, how are things?”
“Good. Work is same old, same old.”
“What have you been up to?”
“Not much really. Just trying for a good night’s sleep I guess.”
“I suppose that’s going to take some time. It’s not something you can rush, you know what I mean?”
He looked away briefly, tapping a rhythm with his fingers against the surface of the counter, and looked back at her. “So, how is that husband of yours? How are things between you two?”
“Oh he is… good. Busy. It’s just as well, we haven’t gotten into a fight for a month now.”
“That sure counts as a record.”
She said nothing.
“Well, aren’t you gonna ask about my love life? After all, that’s what you really care about.”
“Are you seeing someone?”
“Her name is Kate. She’s a lab assistant working at the university.”
“Let me guess, another blonde?”
“A brunette, actually, very attractive. She’s it for me I think.” He feigned a crooked grin, which she saw right through.
“You liar,” she said.
He gave a laugh at her wit. “But really, we’ve only gone on two dates and she’s already acting like we are meant for life.”
“Maybe it was love at first sight for her. You know you always make a good first impression.”
“I think so. You can be quite the smooth talker.”
“Heh. I’m all too familiar with your first point of view, as it has happened to me once too.”
“Mm-hm. The first time I saw this girl, I was at school shooting hoops with my boys. Suddenly she came walking by wearing her long blond hair halfway down her back. I caught a glimpse of her face the moment she turned her head in our direction. Those full lips, that perfectly pointy nose and just the way she dressed, everything about her rang sophistication. But, mostly… it was her eyes, those piercing green eyes of hers — of an angel — that had me mesmerized. She was, and still is, the most gorgeous thing I ever had the luck to come across. I remember swearing to the guys right then, I said, ‘That girl right there, I’m going to make her my girlfriend.’”
It did not take much for Allison to recognize herself as that “angel” in his story, which he told so well. She tried to play it cool after hearing it. “See what I mean? That’s the smooth talking I was just telling you about.”
He was serious after all. “I wasn’t doing that just now.”
Finally, the moment she wished not to deal with. “Don’t do this, Ed.”
“I wasn’t doing anything, only stating the facts. Certainly though, it was more than just physical attraction between us.”
“That was high school. We were like what… fifteen? It’s only natural that things change after ten years, and I’ve been married for four of those —”
“You know what? You are damn right. No man should have to wait forever for a woman. I get that.”
“In any case… I’m happy that you are dating again.”
“Did you say you were happy?”
“Do you mean that?”
Sara came back in time to ease their tension. “I gotta go guys. Something came up,” she said to them, grabbing her purse and leaving a tip on the counter.
The two looked to the exit door, where stood the same young man with whom she was talking earlier, waiting for her.
“Putting out again?” Ed teased her, and simultaneously received a smack on the arm. “I’m just saying don’t overdo it. Remember your kids still need you.”
“You can bite me, Ed.” She then turned to Allison, reminding her, “Don’t forget about my housewarming on the 27th.”
“Good. Alrighty then. Ciao guys.”
After she hurried away, Allison took the chance to take off. “I should get going too. I need to stop by the pharmacy on my way home.”
“I should get back to work then. Still have a couple more tickets to fill the quota by Sunday,” said Ed, and they walked out the pub together.
“Are you planning on going to the party? I heard she’s invited the whole neighborhood. Who knows how many people will actually care enough to show.”
“That’s still weeks away. I’ll see how things go. Dan might have plans for us that weekend.”
“Right… Well, I hope it won’t be long till we see each other again. I sure miss getting together, even if you don’t feel the same way.”
“You know it’s not like that —”
“Hey, I’m a big boy. So, no harm done.”
Right before they parted ways, he extended his arms towards her for a goodbye hug. It seemed like such an innocent request, but still, she was hesitant.
“Would it be totally awful if I was to give my friend a gentle squeeze?”
She smiled and gave in.
He stood embracing her. His arm muscles naturally pulled taut till the gap between their bodies was the narrowest of margins. The fact that he was not much taller than Allison — by three inches at five feet nine — made it convenient for him to sniff her soft, shoulder-length hair, and rub his cheek at it in the process. Just then in a whisper, “Wow,” he exclaimed as if on cloud nine.
“What is it?” she asked him.
“This. I miss this nice… tenderness between us.”
She understood what he meant. She also knew every reason to not surrender to his vulnerability, thus pulling away slowly.
“Stay cool, Ed, and take it easy.”
He said nothing more, but silently endured that inner dissatisfaction exclusive to his comprehension, watching her get in the car and simply drive off in a manner of determination.