Complete (Incomplete)(8)By: Lindy Zart
Mia’s brown eyes narrow and she pulls the menu from my hands, her gaze very obviously set on the pamphlet before her and not me. “How do you know?” Her tone implies a scandalous meeting between Ben and me full of duplicity, lies, hot sex, and ultimately the betrayal of Mia’s friendship.
Biting my lip to keep from saying something snotty, but totally deserved, I inwardly count to five, and then say, “I saw him.”
“Can’t tell you.” I am not being flippant; I really can't tell her due to healthcare laws in medical fields protecting patient identities.
“Oh. Work, huh?” I don’t answer, like she knows I won’t—silent confirmation that she is correct—and her lips purse. “What is he doing back in town? I can’t believe I dated that loser. I am so glad I broke up with him. I thank myself every day.”
This time I can’t hold the words in. “If you thank yourself every day for breaking up with him, why are you bringing him up? And he’s not a loser. He’s actually a gifted artist, which you know, and I can believe you dated him, because you always date guys you shouldn’t.”
The menu slaps to the red and white-checkered vinyl tablecloth. “Which guys are those?”
“Mentally unavailable ones.”
Mia huffs, but doesn’t deny it. Her dating history is well-known to all who know her, and even those that don’t. “Did he get fat? Or bald? Maybe lose a tooth or two?”
I laugh. “No. Sorry. He looks the same—black hair, brown eyes, tan, fit.”
“Damn it.” With a head toss; a signal it is time to move on from the subject of Ben, she locks her gaze on me. “What are you getting?”
“Chicken strips and fries.”
“Same as always. You need to try something new once in a while.” The waitress, a high school girl with short black hair, stops to take our order. Mia waits until she leaves to say, “Ugh. Did you see her hairstyle? Talk about two decades ago.”
I choke on my water, looking up to make sure the girl isn’t within hearing distance. I can't believe she said that. Or rather, I can. I shoot Mia an annoyed look, but she isn’t paying attention, studying her silver nails instead.
“What are your plans tonight?” She glances up before returning her gaze back to her manicure. “I heard a band is playing downtown for the firemen’s street dance. There’s supposed to be some surprise guest or something. You want to go?”
“Surprise guest?” I smile. “Is it Charlie Brown?”
Mia snorts. “Most likely. Shouldn’t he be dead by now? He has to be in his eighties.”
“Whatever. He’s old, that’s all I know.”
Charlie Brown, and yes, that is his real name, is the local talent. Well, the local talent that stayed local. Mid-fifties with a paunch and permanent cigar smell to him, he plays the banjo and sings folk music—which isn’t to say he isn’t good. He is. But his fan base is more of the older crowd and he has been known to put people to sleep while performing with his raspy, quiet drawl. He has played cards with my parents once a week since I was a toddler and used to sing me to sleep when I was younger. I don’t know if it was intentional on his part, but that was the result.
Mia continues, “Bethany is going to try to make it home too. The three of us haven’t done anything together in months.”
“Lily!” Taylor Mohn, a former classmate of ours, grabs my upper arm and squeezes. “Have you heard Thrush’s new song? I just heard it the other day. Oh my goodness, I love it!” Blue eyes shining, she shoves into the space beside me, practically on top of me until I scoot over, looking from Mia to me. “Did you see Grayson’s hand?”
Our food arrives and I direct my attention to my plate so I don’t have to address that. Are people really so clueless? Or are they just callous? Any breakup is hard, and true, it’s been over two years since ours, but that love I had for Grayson—it never went away. I feel like I should marker on my forehead with a black Sharpie: Don’t talk about Grayson Lee to me.