I was trying to smile, but I’m sure it did not come off looking that way. Though my cheeks were uplifted, my teeth were clenched tight and the words were slowly spat out of my mouth, “Nice to meet you Charlie.” He has a weird look in his eyes, well, he ought to. My body language, the fists at my side, say I am about to take Charlie’s fucking head off.
Who the fuck was Charlie and what was he doing with his arm around my girlfriend? I think I would have exploded on this guy if not for the look on Lynn’s face. It was half pleading for understanding and half stark fear. Fear of me? Fear of what I might do to Charlie’s face? Fear I wouldn’t understand what was going on here? Hell, I didn’t understand what was going on here. Lynn was my girlfriend and yet she shows up at our church youth fellowship meeting with this dickwad Charlie draped all over her and her friend Judith in tow, looking as frightened as Lynn is. Judith’s fear is masked by a fake smile as well, but while Lynn is standing there meekly, Judith is in motion.
“Hey David, good to see you again. I have a question for you, it’s personal. Can we take a walk?” Without waiting for an answer Judith is pushing me away from the happy fucking couple and whispering under her breath, “I’ll explain. This isn’t what it seems. Do everyone a favor and stay calm.”
We move around the building, “What the fuck is going on Judith?”
She is speaking rapidly, like she thinks I may go off at any minute if I don’t hear it all. “She met him last summer on vacation, before she ever met you. They had a summer thing, but that was all. It is over, only he showed up today, came out of his way to see her. She doesn’t want to hurt his feelings...”
“What about my fucking feelings?” My hands are aching my fists are clinched so tight.
“She hopes you will understand. He gets to be with her tonight, in public, you get to be with her from now on. She picks you, she just hopes you understand the terrible spot he put her in by just showing up on her doorstep. She picks you. He leaves tomorrow and she will end it once he leaves, just…just don’t embarrass her tonight. Don’t embarrass him.” Judith grabbed the back of my head and pulled us together so our foreheads touched and our eyes were locked. “She thinks you are a great enough guy to help her through this…I think you are too.”
I backed up, shook my head “no,” that I didn’t quite get it. “She doesn’t seriously think I am going to sit here and watch the two of them carry on tonight, does she?”
“No, she thinks that would be too hard on both of you. She is hoping you will leave.” Judith could see I was not convinced at all. “She is just trying to not hurt this guy. She loves you.” She poked me in the chest. “You. You won.”
“It doesn’t feel like I won,” but my fists were unclenching.
“She says she will make it up to you tomorrow night.”
I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. I give Judith one of those Bogart-like taps on the chin, “Shit.”
I close my eyes, and center myself for the longest walk of my life. I step around the building and walk toward the crowd of friends. I see that Lynn and Charlie are holding hands now. She looks white as a ghost. As I approach I say to no one in particular, “Something has come up, I gotta run.” As I move past the crowd I look Lynn in the eyes and she looks relieved, but that is all. I don’t look at fucking Charlie at all.
As I get into my car I can hear him asking, “What’s up with that guy?” I think twice about getting out of the car and showing him what is up with this guy. As I peal out I slam my fist into the roof of my car and wish it was Charlie’s pasty fucking face.
Copyright 2014 Barry Keller. All rights reserved.