THIRTY YEARS LATER
Kate crossed her legs and swallowed hard. She looked at her feet and wondered if the shoes were right. She played with the bracelet around her wrist and looked around the smokey bar, the sound of a cheesy Bryan Adams song filling in where conversations dragged. She wondered why she had ever agreed to this. She wondered what had made her say ‘yes’ to meeting here, in this bar, of all places.
The lights were dim and the mahogany bar was dark. She sat at al table adjacent to the bar and caught snippets of conversations between the patrons sitting on stools and the bartender. The bartender’s hands were working quickly to fill drinks as the place began to become busier with every moment she sat and waited.
She’d been there for twenty-five minutes, the product of a woman who was ridiculously early for everything. Kate knew it would have been much more dramatic had she made him wait and waltzed in at the last minute looking rushed and busy. But that would be a lie, and she didn’t want pretend to be something she wasn’t. She was habitually early for everything. It was her lot in life.
For a moment, she wished she still smoked, wished she could take a long drag off a cigarette and let it fill her lungs with smoke. She wished it wasn’t horrible for your health. She had genuinely loved smoking before she knew just how bad it was for you. She couldn’t identify the last date she had actually held a cigarette in her hands—many, many years—but whenever she found herself in a bar with a drink, she still yearned for one.
Funny how that feeling didn’t go away.
The door swung open, and there he was. She would know his posture anywhere. She felt her heart skip a beat like a teenager. All at once she felt silly and stupid. But she was used to that. She’d made a lot of bad decisions in her life, one right after the other, and she never could seem to keep it all right.
He saw her looking at him, and he gave a wave. He looked the same as he did all those years ago, when they were young and carefree, before life took them in different directions and decisions that were made only seemed temporary and not blinding. She wondered how different their lives might have been had they not gone their separate ways, had she not given the ring back and said she couldn’t do it, not at this time.
She remembered the hurt she saw on his face; she remembered the agony she felt driving home alone that night by herself. She remembered boarding the plane a week later having not heard a word from him. She remembered feeling all alone, afraid, and committed to her decision.
Had she been a fool?
“Hello, Sticky I,” he said. “Long time no see.”
She smiled at him. He had called her the name that all of their friends had called them all those years ago—Sticky I and Sticky II—because they were always together, stuck like glue. Sometimes their friends would just shorten it to, “Hey, Stick.” At one time, they had been the envy of all who knew them. The poster couple of all that was good about a relationship. At one time, they had been inseparable.
“Hi, you,” Kate said.
They stared at each other, and she motioned for him to sit down.
“So, how have you been these last thirty years?” he asked.
* * *