“Jealousy isn’t cute.”
His mother was right and deep in his head he knew it, but the bitterness of his own life crumbling kept his heart on the power seat. “And who would I be jealous of? You?”
No, this wasn’t right. This wasn’t the emotion messing with his brain. If anything, it was anger building up deep in his stomach, because he could see so many problems and not one solution that would have included escaping to an island in the middle of a volcano that probably has nothing more than two trees for a hammock.
“I don’t want to fight, Efren. This is a new start, a good chance for both of us and I hope you can see it too. So what if it’s a bit unusual, it’s still something.”
This was getting nowhere, Efren though as he watched the woman’s lips continue moving while a lot of crap came out of it that had nothing to do with his reality. It was her reality, her imagined truth that she hoped would become crystal clear.
“Are you listening to me?”
“No.” He whispered.
That clamped her up for a bit. She clutched at her purse and sat there for a long moment in defiant silence. “I would still like you to come to the wedding. Even if it isn’t much to you.”
It stabbed his heart. Of course it meant more to him and he wanted to be happy for them. He just couldn’t understand, why they needed to make all this fuss? An envelope appeared on the table next to his coffee cup. It had ivory like front with golden threads running through the expensive paper. It was a bad reminder of the different worlds they inhabited.
“Will you bring your boyfriend?”
“I don’t have one right now.” He huffed. Hadn’t Jed already checked that?
“Well,” her eyes sparked up with what he could only consider as a relief, “it does say, bring a date. It’s not in good taste to come alone.”
With those words she left, leaving him there alone while he waited for the bill. He was just putting away his wallet, when his phone rang again.
“Hmm, aren’t I Mr. Popular today? Hello?” His eyes widened as he listened the older woman on the other side of the phone in quiet amazement. “I’ll be right there.”
Half an hour later he had a new woman walking by his side. Way younger and obedient compared to the social shooting star he’d met only an hour ago.
“Pearl, why am I listed as your uncle in your school contact info?” he asked the young girl pouting on his side while they kept walking down the pedestrian street through the large business buildings. Over the years Marc had used him a lot as his backup to get her from various places, but those had all been innocent white lies. Yet every now and then the cook still managed to surprise him. The only thing he really found surprising was the little fact that school hadn’t called him in yet.
She shrugged. “Dad thought it would be ok?”
In what book would that be ok? If they found out they could face penalties for lying. “Then I can tell him why they called me out today?”
There was a long pause. Then there was a long drawling of a no.
“Smoking is not ok. In no situation is that alright.”
“But you smoke?” she tossed out, trying to bend her guilt, but it didn’t work.
“No, I just smell like pipe, because my colleagues do.”
“Oh.” There was a dangerous hint of hope in that.
“By the way, that excuse won’t work on teachers.”
“Oh.” The hope was distinguished.
“I think it’s very bad habit. Promise me, you won’t do it ever again.” He knew she wouldn’t keep it, but he could blackmail her later if he needed to.
“What do I get out of it?”
“A wedding?” He hadn’t thought about it, but now that he said it out loud – he liked it!
The pigtailed head stopped and stared at him with her beautiful big eyes. “I’m 13 – too early.” Then she continued walking, shaking her small shoulders. “I’m flattered, but I don’t think dad would approve that.”
“In your dreams, sweetheart. They want me to bring a date in mom’s wedding and I need a safe choice. You’re it.”
Her echoing laughter filled the street and made people stare at them for a while. “Me and safe? Dad’s right! You have lost your mind!”
“I don’t have many female friends, you are well aware of that by now. As they don’t want me to show up with my usual lot, I think you’ll do.”
“I don’t find it convincing at all!” she protested. He could read between the lines that she was expecting a better, more humiliating reason for it.
“I need a friendly face there, that’s all. There will be lots of big noses, so I need a small snotty nose there to remind me I’m not walking around in a dream.”
There was a long pause while they both were thinking. Efren on his cage life, Pearl about his inevitable catastrophe.
“You’re still gonna snitch.”
“I don’t have to. Even toothpaste won’t take that reek off.” He glanced right in time to see her do the breath test and her shoulders slumped. He decided he would not be part of this conversation. He checked his watch. “I still got few hours, if you wanna start the tutoring?”
“Nah, too much school for one day.” She decided and waved. “I’m gonna play with the kitty.”
“It’s about time for her lunch too!” He shouted after her while she made a quick getaway.
He felt better. Not enough to face his own life yet, but meeting with Pearl had calmed his mind and now he could at least think instead of panicking. And first things first, he decided – he needed groceries for dinner.