A short story of vindication, and things happening for a reason
|It was a beautiful day. The clouds kept the glare of the warm sun to a minimum, but the day was clear and the breeze was warm and caressing. So, when my fiance wanted to know where I wanted to eat for Valentines Day, I opted for the cafe downtown that I’d always wanted to go to. It had a patio where we could eat outside on this unseasonably warm day. We we seated quickly and took in the outdoor fire lamps, the pristine awnings and the fresh bread in the basket between us. Nice.|
Menus open we started discussing the options when a voice interrupted us.
“Andrea?” the gentleman at the next table asked awkwardly. Blinking up from my menu, I looked into the face at the next table and realized it was not the face of a stranger. It was Gregory, my highschool sweetheart. We’d started dating in our sophomore year and had become “that couple”. We graduated still together, went to college still together, then he’d dropped out. We swore the distance would not matter, but after an entire relationship of being together every day… well, the story is common enough.
Then I followed his arm down to his hand and noticed that he was holding the hand of the person next to him, a very handsome gentleman. I busted into a wide smile.
“Gregory, hi! What are you doing here?” I grinned at his partner too. “I mean, obviously, I know you are eating lunch, but I thought you moved to upstate?”
He nodded with a smile, “I did, I still live up there. I wanted to bring Brett to meet Mom.” He held up Brett’s hand, who nodded politely at me. There was no denying the man was good-looking. His blond hair was swept to the side, his blue eyes oddly warm and dark. It was a stark contrast to Greg’s black curls and dark brown eyes. They seemed natural together and happy.
A cough to my left brought me back to present. I turned, noting my fiance looking at me expectantly. “Sorry! Sorry, I’m a little blown away. Gregory, Brett, this is my fiance, Lauren.” Gregory’s eyes opened wide and he looked from me to Lauren and back, then broke into a open warm laughter. That laugh hadn’t changed one bit, it echoed from the past as I took Lauren’s hand, reassuring her.
“Looks like we are still on the same page, huh?” Greg winked at me, then started laughing again. I smiled sheepishly at Lauren and Brett looked amused. It was obvious they both knew who Greg and I had been to each other.
“It’s nice to meet you, Greg. You too, Brett. Andi’s mentioned you a time or two,” she slipped the jab in nonchalantly, her lawyer personality defending her pride. It grew awkward for a second. Hastily, I jumped in.
“Brett, what do you do?” I asked, shooting Laur a dark look.
“I’m a stylist,” Brett smiled in a friendly way. “I work in a salon. Greg came in one day, and the rest was history.” He clapped his hand down on Greg’s knee, who was still chortling. From the tightening around Greg’s eyes and the quick dying of the last chuckle, I knew that grip on his knee was a bit more than affectionate.
“Oh, nice. Laur’s a lawyer. We met a few years ago on a case.”
Brett cocked his head to the side, “Case? Are you a lawyer too?”
Laur snorted a swallowed chuckle as I shook my head in horror, “God, no!” I gasped, smiling. “I’m a medical examiner.”
Gregory choked on his drink and spat out most of it into his napkin. Brett clapped him on the back a few times. “You got through medical school?: he gasped, coughing. The disbelief was rather insulting, but not unexpected.
With a knowing smile, I nodded. “I did. After you left me, I kinda found myself and realized that I had a lot more to offer than just going into computer science. So I switched majors to pre med with a minor in criminology.” Laur took my hand, pride on her face.
“She is amazing,” Laur stated, not taking her eyes off me. She loved making me blush. Brett turned speculative eyes on Greg.
“You told me that she cheated on you,” he queried. “That wasn’t true, was it? You lied to me.” Gregory suddenly looked very uncomfortable. A chirp of disbelieving laughter was out before I swallowed it. “Greg, what happened? For real.” Gregory looked at me and Laur darkly before clearing his throat.
“Brett, we should talk about this later.” Brett shook his head.
“You knew my past, and you used it against me to get me into bed. So, you can tell me, or she can tell me. Your choice.” Brett looked very angry now.
I started to speak, but Brett held up his hand. Gregory looked like he wanted a hole to swallow him. Laur chuckled next to me. “Wow, he looks guilty. And I would know.” She meant it as a side comment to me, but Greg heard her and shot her a very dark look, a look I knew well.
“She didn’t cheat,” Greg mumbled, looking at the fingers fidgeting on the table in front of him. Brett slapped the table in front of him; I jumped. He looked devastated and very, very angry. He turned those blazing eyes on me, and I met his gaze. “What happened?” he asked me.
“Now, Brett,...” Gregory started. Bret held up a hand and shook his head.
“Im talking to Andrea,” Brett said cooly.
In my head, I was wondering how things had turned so quickly. And I wondered what Gregory had told this man, and why. What was this about; he had been such a sweet kid. I was completely taken aback at the man that he had become, a slimy liar apparently. Also, I was relieved that I had Laur and that I’d been given a life away from him.
“We grew apart,” I shrugged. “Once he dropped out of school, he wasn’t there anymore. He moved back here and got a job working for his Dad for a while. It was something he never wanted to do and he was miserable. So when we did see each other, he was angry and hurt that I didn’t want to leave my friends to spend time with him. He asked me to quit school, and I said no. There was a fight, a big one, that didn’t end well. That was when he left. Just packed up and left, didn’t tell me or his parents where he was going. I kept in touch with his mom, so when he finally called, she kept me in the loop.” I shrugged, my narrative obviously not making him any happier.
There was ice in his gaze when he turned to Gregory. Gregory wilted under the gaze. “Is that true? You just gave up and left? You asked her to give up her dream for you?”
Gregory crossed his arm in a huff of petulance, his dark eyes fearful, his posture defensive. “You weren’t there. I was all alone and she wasn’t there for me. Always off with her friends, going out and going to parties. She left me before I left her.” Just like it did in high-school, his chin jutted out defiantly. “It wasn’t even her dream; she changed majors.” he added lamely.
“So your defense is that you were young and stupid at the time. Lying to me and manipulating me was your mature adult decision. I see.” Brett took a deep breath, then spoke in a steely cold voice. “Given our fight the other day, I see now that you are exactly who I thought you were and this was a mistake. I think you know we are done. Do not call me. And find another stylist.” With that he got up and walked out, leaving Gregory embarrassed and deflated at the table. Laur could barely contain her glee as she pulled me up from my chair and out of the restaurant. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I complied.
Outside, we found Brett standing in the parking lot, looking rather uncertain of what to do. My mind caught up with Laur’s; Greg had driven. She pulled me over to Brett and put her other hand on his arm reassuringly. “Need a ride?” she asked.
Looking at us, he groaned, “No, I’ve ruined your date!” Laur burst out laughing, then swung her arm over his shoulder good-naturedly.
“Please! That was the best entertainment I’ve gotten in a long time!” she chuckled.
“Laur!” I admonished her in shock.
“I’m sorry, hon, but that man needed to be taken down a peg or two, and I’m glad you got to see him for the weasel he is. So, Brett, as a thank you, I’d like to volunteer to drive you home and buy you a drink!” Laur laughed again, dragging us both toward her Mercedes.
Word Count: 1510