David bound out of his seat and headed around the table.
He hadn’t spoken to Matt Pace in nearly 7 years and now here he stood. The two girls who had been standing behind Matt rushed him when David approached causing Matt to jump back out of the way. He looked on, shaking his head.
The scene that played out was amusing and he found it stupid they way the girls were acting; giggling and talking over themselves. One of them slipped David a small piece paper, presumably with her phone number on it. David said nothing about it but quietly tucked it into his pocket. Matt wondered to himself if David would use the number… after–hours, when he noticed a woman standing about 50 feet away next to David’s parents. Great, he sighed. He hadn’t been prepared for a family reunion. In fact, this whole thing had been unplanned.
“Matthew?“ Lydia Troy called, making her way across the now nearly empty bookstore. “Oh my goodness. As I live and breathe! Jack, it’s Matthew!“
“I can see that.“ Jack chuckled teasing Lydia and rolling up beside his wife, leaving the young woman behind. “Well, look at you boy.” Jack Troy boomed. “Don’t you look like a man. When did that happen?”
“I’m..I’m not sure,” Matt stammered. “It’s nice to see you, sir.”
“Sir? Boy, get yer ass over here.” Jack commanded.
In seconds, Matt was kneeling in front of Jack Troy’s wheelchair, wrapped in the best bear hug. He didn’t know if David could see and for the moment, he didn’t care. Jack Troy had been the father he never had. It was Jack who had taught him how to be a man and it was Jack that he tried to emulate as a father to his own son. He and David had both stayed out of trouble growing up, largely because Jack Troy wouldn’t have stood for it. The man had had an accident and had been wheelchair-bound since they were kids, but he was no less formidable sitting down than he had been on his feet. Finally standing and wiping his eyes, Matt towered over Lydia Troy and hugged her hard.
“You’ve grown,” she said wistfully, patting his cheek.
“I’m 30 years old, Lydia. I haven’t grown an inch in twelve years.”
“Well, I think you’re still 10 in my head.,” she smiled. “How’s Brittney, Dear?”
Matt jolted. He had expected to dance around the issue. But she’d asked him directly and with little subtext in her tone. He’d expected to hear bitterness or disapproval. He had, after all, married his best friends girl. But the look on her face suggested nothing of the kind.
“She’s good,” he sighed, relieved and realized that he’d been holding his breath most of the evening.
They were interrupted by the sounds of squealing behind them. All three of them swiveled around to witness David taking a selfie with the two girls.
“Can you believe this train wreck?” Jack asked, to no one in particular.
“He seems to handle it okay,” Matt offered. Though he had to admit, David seemed frazzled. His biggest fans didn’t seem to be taking a hint that the night was over.
The woman that Matt had seen standing with Lydia and Jack approached them. “Do you think I should rescue him or shall we watch him flail for a few more minutes?” she asked, an amused glint in her eye and then offered a hand to Matt. “Hi, I’m Legacy.”
“Matt.” he nodded. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Okay, I can’t,” Legacy laughed. “I’m going in.” She marched straight for David and grabbed him possessively around the waist.
“Hi!,” David yelped, startled for a second and then caught on. He kissed Legacy’s forehead. “I’m sorry, sweetie. Are you ready to go?”
“Yeah,” she cooed. “Your parents are hungry too.” she nodded toward Lydia and Jack and then gave the girls the once over. “Sorry to break up the fun.”
Both girls pivoted on their heels and stomped off in a huff.
“Thank you for that,” David said appreciatively, “I see you met Matt.”
“I did. It’s weird, right? That we were just talking about him and now he’s here.”
“I guess,” David rubbed his forehead.
“So,” Matt approached. “This is what’s it’s like to be David Troy.”
“Not most days.,” David argued. “I still can’t believe you’re here. That you came all this way…”
“I didn’t. The company I work for won a bid to install the AV equipment for one of the new buildings on campus. There’s a lot of overtime so I put in for the job. I just happened to be here and I just happened by the store this morning on my way to somewhere else.,” Matt began, feeling somehow embarrassed. “And what do I see but your pretty face plastered in the window. I almost didn’t come but it felt weird to be in the same place and not see you.”
“I’m glad you did,” David said, quietly. A long silence passed between them and the room almost suddenly turned cool. “How is she?”
Legacy took a cue and excused herself. “We’ll wait for you in the cafe.”
“Your girlfriend is pretty. Seems nice.”
“Oh, God. That’s not my girlfriend. She’s a friend. My ex-girlfriend’s best friend so definitely not my…” he trailed off when he saw the look on Matt’s face.
“She’s good,” Matt replied, answering David’s previous question, his jaw twitching.
“Good… that’s good…that she’s…good.” He covered his face with his hands and rubbed his eyes vigorously.
“So,” Matt started cautiously, ” I guess I’m gonna go?”
“No, please don’t,” David begged, “There are things I want to… we… We’re going to eat. Come with us.”
“No. You’re probably going somewhere nice and I’ve only got jeans.”
“We’re hitting the Varsity Club. It’s a bar. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Please?” David pleaded.
“Man, I want to. I do.,” Matt hesitated. “She’s going to call when she gets off from work and I don’t want to lie about where I am.”
“You’re not going to tell her you saw me?”
“I don’t think so, no,” Matt replied, sadly.
They stood, once again in stone cold silence; a million things to say but neither of them had the guts to begin. Finally, David took a long breath. “I’m sorry,” he croaked.
“I don’t know exactly. I just know that this… whatever went wrong…it’s my fault.”
“You had the right to the life you wanted; to be successful. For what it’s worth, I’m real proud of you. But…”
David braced himself.
“But you didn’t have to walk out on everyone and everything that mattered to you. It wasn’t just her you left behind, you know.” Matt was angry. No, he was hurt. A decade of hurt was surfacing and try as he might, he couldn’t seem to make it stop.
“Well it worked out for you, didn’t it?” David asked, bitterly and then added, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
“Yes, you did. And it’s okay. I did this all wrong. I just wanted to see you. I didn’t come here for a fight.”
“Well then let’s not fight.”
“I should have called or told you or something.,” Matt blurted. “I shouldn’t have just married her without telling you.”
“You didn’t owe me anything.”
“Yes, I did. I just was afraid you’d hate me or try and stop us.”
“I was going to try and stop you but I changed my mind. Figured she knew what she was doing.”
“I’m not always sure.” Matt shrugged.
“Meaning?” David wrinkled his brow.
“She… David we love each other but she still loved you when she agreed she’d marry me.”
“I’m sure she’s over it by now,” David said solemnly.
“Yeah, I think so. But every now and then I get this sick feeling that you’re gonna show up on our doorstep and she’s going to pack up our kid and leave with you. It’s stupid but I can’t shake it.”
“Well, you can stop because I’m not going to show up on your doorstep. I have no reason to… is that what this is about?”
“No. It’s not. This isn’t about anything. I told you, I just showed up here without a plan. I just… just…”
“Look, this is my card.,” David offered, pulling a stiff linen business card from his wallet. “I won’t ever bother you if that’s what you want. But you ever want to call or if any of you need anything…”
Matt took the card and nodded.
“I missed you,” David muttered.
“Yeah… me too.”
It seemed like days before they got back to their hotel.
David took a blistering shower and fell onto his bed. Legacy was already waded up in the blankets on her bed but she was wide awake. She waited quietly for him to say something. She’d nearly dozed off when David finally spoke.
“Thanks for making come.”
“You’re not sorry you came?”
“Hmmm. Then what’s wrong?”
“I’m tired. And that…that felt like good-bye.” David frowned. “I can’t explain it but I wasn’t surprised to see him. It’s like I always expected we’d eventually cross paths one more time. And that…felt like one more time. I won’t see him again.”
“You don’t know that.”
“He basically told me to stay away from them.”
“He said that or he basically said that?”
“Basically but I got the gist. It’s fine. A man has the right to protect his family.”
“Does she still have feelings for you?” Legacy asked, surprised and concerned.
“She’ll always have feelings for me. That’s not arrogance. It’s just something I know. I’m not saying she doesn’t love Matt. I have no way of knowing. But what they have won’t ever erase who we were.” He was quiet, almost defeated.
“What if she still does? Should she spend the rest of her life with him when she’s supposed to be with you?”
“Who says any of us are supposed to be with anyone? She’s married and after what happened with your parents, you of all people know how shitty it is to walk into another person’s marriage and wreck it. They have a kid. I made choices and because of them, she made choices. This is how it is. He’s a good man and he loves her. And that’s it.”
“Okay,” Legacy nodded. Taking a the cue to drop it and changed the subject. “So what you were saying on the trip out here, about Carrie not being her replacement…”
David nodded and sighed morosely. “Carrie’s not my Brittney. She never was. She’s my Matt, And I’m losing her too.”