Second Chances – Chapter 14

Long, strenuous, painful week.  SO glad it’s over.  On a good note – finished up the chapter.  Another short one – VERY short, in my opinion – but I think it covers what it needs to …

14 ~ Resolutions ~

“You wanna run that by me again?”  I looked at Jared incredulously.  “You quit?”

“Yep,” he answered with a grin.  “Gave my notice this morning.  In two weeks I’m gone.”

We sat on the deck outside my house, drinks in front of us, bottles and ice at the ready, each of us smoking.  The large ashtray in the center of the table was half full of cold remnants.  The sun was just about to set; the air had cooled slightly and there was a breeze off in from the hills.  A calming end to a warm summer mid-week.

“I thought you liked your job.”

“I do.  Did.  Have always loved it at the ‘Labs’.  But …”  He paused, the imp shone bright in his eyes.  “As the saying goes, I got an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

“So where are you going.”

Jared leaned back and took a slow drag off his cigarette.  I knew him too well to push for the information; he was in his “game mode” and would tell me when he was ready to.  Any prodding for more would just delay my answer.

He took a long sip of his drink, watching me over the glass.  I was becoming infuriated, wanting to reach across the table and slap the silly out of him.  At last he ground out his smoke and looked me square in the eyes.

“I’m going to run sound for Mike.”

“Seriously?”  The pang of jealousy rushed through my veins.  I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  In all honesty I did not regret turning Mike down, but the old second-thought demon flared its nostrils deep inside me hearing my best friend was leaving for a related gig.  “He must overpay his crew.”

The words were out of my mouth before I could catch them.  My friend looked at me sadly.  “You could have been coming along,” he jibed.

“I’m happy for you, Jer.  Really.  Not gonna be the same without you around to pick me up when I fall flat on my face.”

“You’ll be fine; you know how to use the phone.  Besides,” he added, lighting up a fresh smoke, “I’ll be back sometimes.”

“How’s that work?”

“Sometimes there are gaps in Mike’s schedule.  You know that.  And I don’t want to let go of my place, I’ll never find another like it.  It will be nice to have a ‘home’ to come to during those times when I can let the suitcase air out.”

“So … when do you head out?”

“First of the month.  Wanted to give the full two weeks to the Sound Labs, and need to make sure everything’s lined up for watching the place while I’m gone and all.  I’ll meet up with Mike in Houston.”

“Houston?  I imagine you’ll enjoy that.”

He winked.  “I plan too.”

“You are one hundred percent hound dog, my friend.”

“At least I still feed the puppy.”

“Uh huh.  Well, I do wish the best for you.  It will just be different is all.”

He refreshed his drink.  “So tell me about Cheryl.  Things still moving ahead with you two?”

“We’ve decided to just back off and chill.  She’s pushing hard for making things permanent and I’m just not ready to settle down.”

“Wait a minute.  You’re the one that’s always pushing for a one-to-one relationship.  And now you want to play the field?”

“Shut up, Jared.  She doesn’t want marriage, just moving in together.”  I drained my glass.  “It’s not for me.”

He finished his drink and stood.  “Your decision, but you could do a lot worse than Cheryl.  She’s alright.”

I followed his lead and stood.  “More than alright.  And I love her dearly.  But I’m not in love with her and I won’t tie myself in a relationship my heart isn’t in completely.”

“I suppose.”  He grabbed the bottles and the ice bucket.  “Let me help you take stuff back in.”

I grabbed the ashtray and dumped it in a metal trash can, replacing the lid.  Placing the tray back on the table, picked up our spent glasses.  “Thanks.”  I headed into the house, Jared close behind.

I set the glasses beside the sink then turned and took the things from him.  “So, you’ll be back by before you leave town?”

“Several times, I’m sure.”  He paused and looked at me, the imp fading away.  “You are my best friend, Paul.  I’m not going to lose touch.  You have my word.”

“I know.  Thanks.”  I pulled him into a hug.  “I appreciate it more than you know.”

“Enough to …?”  He let the question dangle.

I laughed and smacked the back of his head.  “No.  But thanks for asking.”

“Had to ask.  Had to ask.”

I saw him out through the kitchen then walked through the house, locking up.

The end of an era.  Why does this feel like such a definitive end of all I’ve known?

. . . . .

Three weeks later I rummaged through my bedroom, packing up my own suitcase.  I glanced at a hand-written note on my bed-side stand.

Mail covered – check.

House and yard maintainance – check.

Kids told – check.

Cleared out my office – check.

Called Cheryl and Jer – check.

Car packed – check.

Guess I’m ready.

I looked around the room once more, closed up the suitcase, switched on a night-light then shut off the overhead.  I set the case by the front door before walking through, checking windows and doors, ensuring everything was set for me to leave.  I paused only a moment before walking out the kitchen door and locking up.

I slipped the suitcase into my trunk then climbed into the driver’s seat.  Annie and I had always planned on seeing the country – I had the money and now the time.  I needed to start living for me.  The kids had mixed reactions, but for the most part they were with me on it.  At least none of them tried to talk me out of it.

I reached out and turned a small photograph hanging on the rearview mirror so I could look at it.  It had been laminated, hopefully it wouldn’t fade.  Our wedding day.  I smiled wryly as I looked at the one true love of my life before releasing the photo to swing freely and starting the car.   The CD player kicked in and Helen Reddy’s voice drifted through the car as I headed off to parts unknown.

“And when one of us is gone
And one of us is left to carry on
Then remembering will have to do
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you –

You and me against the world”

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