Like a Memory(6)

By: Abbi Glines

I put a smile on my face before straightening to look Nate in the eyes. “That’s all. I’ll have more later.”

He nodded without eye contact. Again, it made no sense. He’d done the very same thing outside. Was there something on my face or in my nose? I’d eaten a protein bar for breakfast. Maybe nuts had gotten in my teeth?

I quickly went back to unpacking.

“Octavia left me with a list of things she needs done. I’ll go back to the office to begin.” He said it like a question but he ended it like a statement. I nodded. Didn’t say anything. What was the point in responding?

When I was sure he was out of the front of the store I stood up and sighed with relief. That was awkwardly painful and he didn’t even know it. The summer we had been together he was attentive, very different. Not like the man he had become. This guy I didn’t know at all. I guess we all change with age and time. I had just hoped that the memory I had of Nate would remain untouched. But reality was ruining it.

The next two hours flew by. Nate stayed in the back working on the list Octavia left for him. I finished organizing like she had instructed when Octavia called this morning. More things would be arriving this afternoon. I needed to be ready to receive them.

While I looked for something else to do the door opened which spun me around. I began to say “we’re not open yet,” but I stopped when I saw it was Eli. He had two brown bags and a smile.

“I brought food,” he said. “Lots of it.” I knew without asking that he had my favorite burger from The Pickle Shack in the bag.

“You’re my hero, Eli. I’m starving.” I wouldn’t stop working as long as Nate was here. Not to leave and go get food. I wasn’t sure if he’d be reporting to Octavia. If he was, good things needed to be said, because this job was important to me.

“I took a wild guess and didn’t think you’d leave work to get food on your official first day.”

“That’s why you’re my favorite person on earth.” I loved The Pickle Shack.

Eli walked over to the empty counter and put the bags down gently. “This whole place looks breakable.”

“Eli, paper bags won’t hurt it.”

“Good because it’s time to celebrate with some greasy ass burgers. You have a job and you are officially independent as of tonight.”

He wasn’t a big fan of the greasy burger. I knew Eli wouldn’t eat one. He’d have their grilled chicken sandwich. Eli was a fanatical health nut. He ran six to ten miles a day and ate “clean” as he called it, which did amazing things for his body. There was always some beautiful woman on his arm or attempting to lock onto his arm. I tended to get in the way sometimes and I hated that for Eli. We’d fought about this more than anything else because he enjoyed using me as an excuse. A means to free himself from women. Or I suppose I saw it that way. I didn’t want to be a crutch that prevented my friend from falling in love in the future. For some reason, he was scared of that. The idea terrified him.

He had parents like mine, happily married, and he’d grown up in a stable environment. There wasn’t any reason for him to be damaged or be fearful of a real commitment. But he was. To an extreme.

“I know you aren’t eating a burger.”

He’d placed mine directly in front of me.

He raised his eyebrows. “Hell yeah I am! We’re celebrating.”

“You hate greasy food.”

“You love it, so we,” he then motioned with his hand, sweeping it back and forth, “are eating to quicken our deaths, by clogging and sealing our arteries.”

I loved Eli. I wasn’t in love with Eli. I loved him the way I loved my brothers. Once I thought I could love him another way, but we were young. Nate Finlay had walked into my life. After that my sickness and fighting to live, changed everything for me. During that time Eli had cemented himself under the title of “world’s best friend.” He’d seen me at death’s door. Been there when I fought back. Eli was with me through it all.

Nate Finlay

SHE WAS IN there with a guy. I stood outside the storage door listening to them laughing and talking. I should have figured she’d be in a relationship. A girl like that doesn’t stay single. The fact it annoyed me was stupid. But damn, it bothered me. She had remained in my memory as mine. Even though time had passed and we had grown up. She didn’t seem to have changed much either. Other than the fact the girl I thought to be beautiful was now undeniably breathtaking.

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