It was hotter than fish grease outside and I had decided to wear long pants. I wished I had time to go home and change into a sundress which would have been a lot cooler but it was too late. I was here now. I was regretting my decision to come out in this heat. It felt like 2000 degrees in the shade. That if you could find any shade and believe me I looked. I was so hot my sweat was sweating. I didn’t know why I had said yes to this thing but I had and there was no turning back now.
“Table for one?” The host at the restaurant asked me as I entered the place I was going to meet my best friend, Shay and her husband, Drew.
I pulled down my sunglasses from my eyes and attached them to my shirt. I always thought that made me look cool. I looked up and scanned all the people at the tables. I didn’t see my friend.
“No, I have a reservation under Willis.” I told the host as he scanned a tablet in his hands. He looked closely and scrolled down a few times and then smiled and made a motion to follow him. I followed him to the patio area just beyond the last row of tables inside.
“Here we are. Your friends should be here soon.” He said smiling like he had a secret I didn't know.
On the hottest day of the decade Shay had reserved a table outside. What in the world was she thinking? I know she loves to be outside but this is crazy. I will be cooked before the food will. I ordered a tall glass of ice tea and sat closer to the umbrella over my head that was supposed to shield me from the hot sun.
I counted four chairs. Maybe all the tables had four chairs. I knew we didn’t need an extra chair because it was just supposed to be Shay, Drew and me. They had a special announcement to make. I had no idea what it was or why she couldn’t tell me over the phone instead of dragging me out in this heatwave. Maybe Shay was pregnant or they were moving out of state. It had to be something big. I put my empty glass of iced tea on the table and promptly ordered another one. Shay was late as usual. I swear the girl never could tell time.
After I gulped down my 4th glass of iced tea I looked up and there she was, Shay walking over to the patio in a short yellow sundress. Her long black hair had been tied up in a bun on the top of her head and she had on matching sandals to match her dress. She was alway stunning and always looked beautiful in anything she wore. She smiled when she saw me sitting alone fanning myself with the fan I had gotten from the dollar store the day before.
“Hey, girl, what's up?” Shay said as she plopped down slowly in the seat next to mine.
“Nothing but the heat.” I laughed.
“It is hot today. I didn’t think it would be that hot.” Shay said taking my fan I had placed on the table in front of her.
“Where’s your hubby?” I asked looking around to see if he was a little bit behind her.
“Don’t worry he will be here. We have a surprise for you.” Shay said motioning for the waiter to come to our table.
“Yes, a surprise. A good surprise.” Shay ordered the same iced tea I had chugged down while waiting for her.
“You know I don’t like surprises. Every time someone tells me that they have a surprise it never turns out good. Remember my 30th birthday party when you threw a surprise birthday party for me and I got so scared when everyone yelled surprise I tripped and fell on the cake? That was supposed to be a good surprise too.” I laughed.
“It is nothing like that. I promise. You’ll see in a second. They should be coming in a second.”
“Shay, who should be coming in a second? Don’t tell me that you are setting me up on another blind date? You know how I feel about blind dates. I hate them. They never turn out well. Last time you set me up on one the guy could only talk about himself and hot air balloons, how much he liked hot air balloons. I almost fell asleep while he was talking it was so boring and finally I had to fake a phone call just to leave.” I rolled my eyes and shook my head.
“Calm down, Mel, it is nothing like that. I promise. You will like this one. He’s a divorced doctor, a foot doctor, and he doesn’t have any kids and just moved here from Oregon. He’s very nice and he’s a hunk!” Shay tried not to laugh at her use of the word hunk. She never used hunk to describe any man. She didn’t until now.
“Shay, I should leave. Hunk? Hunk? Is that the best you got? He’s probably not a hunk at all.” I laughed.
“Too late, Mel, here they come. They are parking the car.”
“I can still make a run for it.”
“Girl in those shoes you can’t hardly run.” She said looking at my 3 inch heels.
I sighed and prepared myself for the worse and hoped for the best. Shay stood up when she saw them coming and waved them over to our table. I didn’t look. I refused to look until they got to the table. I was trying to think of an excuse just in case he talked about hot air balloons.
“Mel, this is George.”
I turned around slowly and couldn’t believe my eyes. George held out his hand for a handshake. I politely took his hand in mine and said hello. Of course, Shay didn’t know that we knew each other already. George and I had met in college twelve years ago.
“Nice to meet you Mel. Is Mel short for something?” He asked knowing very well what my name was.
“Melanie. It’s short for Melanie.” I said, giving him the side eye.
“Have a seat.” Shay said and pointed to the seat one over from mine.
“So, Melanie, tell me a little about yourself.” He said smiling.
“ I’m sure Shay told you all about me.” I said, gulping down a sip of tea.
“She sure didn’t tell me how beautiful you are.” George said, winking.
He actually winked at me. I can’t believe it. Well, two can play this game.
George and I met in my Freshman year of college. He was a senior. I was coming out of the library one day and literally bumped into him. My books went flying and so did he. After I helped him off of the ground and he helped pick up my books we talked and laughed for about an hour. I thought he was cute and smart. After all, he was going to be a doctor and doctor’s were smart right? That’s what I was thinking in my head at the time. I was only 19 so what did I know?
The next day George and I went out to lunch and the day after that we went to dinner. We talked and talked and we were pretty much inseparable for the whole year. I loved looking into his big green eyes as he tried to explain chemistry to me. I told him I didn’t understand it but I had lied. I just wanted to hear his deep voice and look into his eyes as he tried to explain it to me. He was the best tutor I had ever had and the best looking.
After George graduated and went to medical school we kept in touch for a couple of years. I was totally in love with him. At least I thought I was. When time permitted he would come to the college and spend time with me and we even made plans for each of us to meet our parents that summer, the summer of my junior year.
Summer rolled around and I got a letter in the mail. It was from George. He said that it was over. He found another girlfriend. He said even though he loved me he couldn’t have a long distance relationship any longer. He met this woman in medical school. They were serious. He told me to forget about him and never contact him again and he was sorry.
It was the cruelest letter I had ever read. It truly hurt my heart. I read it over and over again and cried and cried. But, I went on with my life. I graduated and moved back to my hometown. Six months after I moved back home and got a job I met someone who coincidentally knew George’s girlfriend, by now she was his finance. I tried not to get jealous. I tried not to care. But, deep down inside I did care. He was my first love. I would always care. She told me that George was getting married that weekend at the church not too far from my parent’s home.
I told myself that I didn’t care. I told myself he moved on and I had moved on. I was seeing someone too. I told myself I wasn’t going to that wedding. I lied to myself. I saw the wedding invite on my co-workers desk and took it when she wasn’t looking. I put it in my purse. I should have torn it up or better yet left it there. But, I didn’t.
I went to the church and heard the church bells ringing and people singing inside. It probably was the choir. I snuck inside and sat down in the back of the church in the last pew. I saw my former love walking down the aisle waiting for his bride. His bride who wasn’t me. I saw her walking down the aisle in her long white beaded dress smiling at him on the arm of her father. I saw them holding hands. She was standing there with my first love. They vowed to love each other until death did them part. Those words hurt my heart. All I could do was cry.
Soon the wedding was over and rice was being thrown over their heads. They ran to the limo waiting for them and sped off. I sat in the church and cried. Everyone had left but I was still there looking at the rice that littered the floor of the church along with the rose petals the flower girls threw on the floor and cried and cried.
Now, here he was all these years later sitting two feet from me. Each of us pretending that we don’t know each other. We sat there like perfect strangers sipping tea. I never told Shay about George so she never knew we knew each other.
A few minutes after we had eaten lunch making small talk Shay and I excused ourselves to go to the bathroom. She probably was thinking that we were perfect, George and I. We seemed to have gotten along. We seemed not to know each other. We played a good game. He talked about his medical practice and I talked about my job as a teacher. I told him about my students and he told me how he enjoyed being a doctor and where he worked. We made a lot of small talk. We talked about everything and nothing at the same time.
“So, what do you think about George?” Shay asked, fixing her hair in the mirror.
“Umm he’s nice.” I said back as I put on a fresh coat of pink lipstick.
“Nice? That’s all? Shay asked, looking puzzled.
“Yeah, he’s nice. He has a great smile, very handsome and smart.”
“But, would you go out with him again?” She inquired.
“I don’t know yet. I might.” I fixed my hair and Shay and I walked out together back to the table.
“It was a nice afternoon. I have to go now though. I have another appointment.” I said looking at my phone.
“Nice meeting you Melanie. Hey, I have to go too. Do you want to share an Uber?” George asked with a smirk on his face.
“Sure. Why not. I am going uptown and I have to stop on my way to mail a letter.” I said with a coy little wink.