I last saw Esther at Ted’s funeral.
Esther’s brother, Ted, had been my best friend growing up. They were especially close. In high school, Esther used to tag along with us everywhere. During the summer, we used to skinny dip in the lake, have picnics, and get drunk on beer. She knew how to drive my pick-up and would get us all home.
After graduation, I went off to college and Ted went into the Marines. He was killed in Afghanistan. At the funeral I realized how beautiful Esther had become. I stayed in town for a couple of weeks. I know our falling into bed together had more to do with emotional need than with true love. We kept in touch for a time which eventually drifted into yearly Christmas greetings. She had moved to LA. She always had a smile on Instagram. Every year she had a different address, a different job, and a different lover.
I married a schoolteacher, which lasted six years. We had three kids, two dogs, and a mortgage with a pool. My CPA firm was opening an office just outside Los Angeles, and I arranged to meet Esther when I came out to negotiate the lease of the building.
We met at a restaurant near the ocean. Throughout lunch I kept having fantasies of lying in the sand naked with her. She had changed her name to “Rose” which was ‘more LA’. Esther rattled on about all the men in her life and the trips she had taken. She had been to London with a broker, to the Caribbean with a sales executive, to Greece with a drug dealer. I finally stopped the chatter and I asked how she felt. She fell silent and her eyes swelled with tears. I wanted to take her in my arms and help her to cry, to face Ted’s death, to face her own destruction. I wanted to save her.
I couldn’t help but reminisce about growing up with this woman. I felt sad about her life, her loneliness. Did she not realize it? I paid the check and we handed our parking tickets to the valet. We kissed briefly as the damp ocean breeze swirled her skirt and the sound of the waves crashed on the shore. I walked her to her car, and she said she would be in touch. She drove away and I knew she would never call and that I would always miss her.
Has it been fifteen years since the funeral? That’s the last time I saw him. Jeff and my brother Ted were best friends. I so had a crush on him growing up. I got to pal around with them and join in all their pranks and parties. And it was me who drove all of us home.
My brother went into the Marines and Jeff went off to college after high school. That summer life―as I knew it ―ended. After Ted was killed in Afghanistan, of course the casket was sent home for the funeral. All the relatives came. And Jeff. OMG―he was the only one I truly wanted to see. We started an affair those two weeks. It was then I fell in love with him, always hoping he’d stay. He didn’t and I soon thereafter moved to Los Angeles. A fresh start, so to speak, in a not so fresh place. LA is Ok. There are lots of ways to make money and lots of people with money already. I spend it either way.
I saw on Facebook that Jeff got married! To a schoolteacher!! Then there were kids, dogs and his pool. He used to send me annual Christmas greeting collages of photos. I was tempted not to open them, but always did. I wanted to be happy for him. He deserved it, didn’t he? But I hated it. It made my own life look screwed up. When he did divorce, I honestly felt terrible.
Two weeks ago Jeff called me out of the blue. I answered without checking. I don’t think I could have phoned him back if he had left a voice mail. He was coming out to LA and wanted to see me. His company was opening an office here. Is he going to move here? Maybe we could be together again?
The day finally came. I tried losing 10 pounds but only managed seven. Getting ready, I tried on my five most favorite outfits at least twice each. I had to look perfect. I was nervous. I couldn’t wait.
Lunch. Did I even eat? I kept bragging about all the “wonderful” people I knew, the “wonderful” traveling I’d done, and my “wonderful” life. Finally, Jeff clasped his hands around one of mine and kissed it softly. I was speechless. Breathless. He asked me what and how I was feeling. I felt embarrassed. I felt silly about my new name. I wanted to cry. I wanted him to kiss me. Is he going to ask me to marry him? “Yes!” I’ll say “yes!” He didn’t ask.
While waiting for the valet, we kissed for a minute while I listened for the familiar squeak of my brakes. I told him I would call him later. I drove away and watched in the rearview mirror until I could no longer see him. I knew I wouldn’t call and that I would always miss him.
Cheryl Ann grew up in Colorado and lived in Los Angeles for 15 years before heading to Kau'ai. She has lived on Kau'ai for nearly 20 years teaching at the Community College as well as teaching online for other schools. She is also a Writing Tutor for Colorado State University-Global campus. Armed with a Bachelor in English and an MBA she became a copy writer for financial institutions in Los Angeles. She has dabbled in writing with short stories, poetry, humorous essays, and creating advertising copy. Photography is another creative avenue for Cheryl Ann. As she heads into retirement from teaching, she wants to combine both creative talents into a book. Being able to brainstorm with like-minded people and network within a writing community brought her to the Writers Guild.