“I’m glad we could get together,” Mike told me. “It’s been too long since we did this. You know. Just hung out, like the old days.”
It was true. It had been far too long since I saw my older brother. He and his wife had moved out of state. A happy coincidence of a business trip had brought him back to my neck of the woods. Thus, he was staying with me for a couple of nights until he had to head back out to his wife and my nephew.
The bartender handed us our beers and we returned to our table. Mike flipped through the menu.
“So what’s good here?” he asked me.
“It’s Applebee’s, Mike. Don’t they have Applebee’s in Ohio?”
He shrugged. “Yeah, but Friday’s is closer. Believe it or not, the nearest Applebee’s is probably a good hour and a half away from me. That’s part of why I suggested this place. I don’t think I’ve been to one since I moved. And we used to come here all the time back when we were home from college, remember?”
I smiled fondly. “Yeah,” I replied. “You, me, the girls. Sometimes Brian and Todd would join us. Todd used to always bring that chick with him whenever he came. What was her name again?”
Mike chuckled. “You know, I don’t think I ever bothered to learn it. I knew she wouldn’t last, so I just thought of her as ‘temp’.”
“Come to think of it, you may have called her that at one point,” I reminded him.
“Yeah, probably,” Mike agreed. “That sounds like me. Can’t imagine Todd appreciated that too much, if he wasn’t too blitzed to catch it. Man, I miss that old S.O.B.” He closed his menu and placed it on the table.
“What can I get you two?” a voice to my left asked.
I turned slightly to see that our waitress had arrived. She was beautiful. Long blonde hair, deep blue eyes, bright white teeth. Couldn’t have been a day over twenty-five.
I ordered the three cheese penne pasta. Mike ordered the steak with Jack Daniels sauce.
“I’ll have that right out for you,” she said, flashing a toothy grin. She put her notepad back in her pocket and headed for the kitchen.
“Wow,” muttered Mike. “The waitress is a real looker.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “She’s pretty hot.”
Mike nodded. “Speaking of lookers, you seeing anybody these days?” he asked cautiously. He fidgeted with the label on his beer bottle. He knew that he was treading in potentially dangerous waters.
“No,” I replied softly. “There really hasn’t been anybody since Samantha.”
Mike continued to fidget more with his bottle, clearly trying not to ruin our rare visit by opening old wounds. “Well,” he finally admitted, “I’m sure eventually someone will show up. You know. Not to take her place or anything. But to keep you company at least. Nobody deserves to be lonely. And Samantha wouldn’t have wanted you to be lonely. Certainly not for this long. She loved you too much for that.”
I took a swig of my beer and shrugged. I didn’t really have a verbal response to that and Mike understood my silence.
After a moment and another drink from my bottle, I replied, “I don’t know. Dad never remarried after Mom passed. And Samantha was just as much of a ‘one and only’ type. I’m not sure that I could ever really convince myself that she’d be okay with it.”
It was Mike’s turn to not have a verbal response ready.
Luckily, our waitress chose this moment to return with our food. She placed Mike’s meat in front of him and my pasta in front of me.
She asked us if we needed anything else.
“I’ll take another beer, please,” Mike told her. “So long as Logan here doesn’t mind me crashing on his couch later.”
“Pretty sure that was the agreed upon plan,” I reminded him. “Otherwise you’re sleeping outside with the raccoons.”
The waitress giggled. “And how about you?” she asked me. “Can I get you anything else?”
I looked up at her. Her dark blue eyes caught the light in a way that made them sparkle and her smile was warm and inviting. Without thinking, I responded, “Yeah, your number.”
Mike’s jaw dropped as she smirked. “Okay then, I’ll have that all ready for you in a jiffy,” she said. She put her notepad back in her pocket and walked away.
Mike laughed at me. He couldn’t believe I had just done that. Frankly, neither could I. That just wasn’t something that I did.
A few minutes later, she brought Mike another beer and placed it on the table, along with a scrap of paper. She gave me a coy smile as she walked away.
I read the piece of paper and showed it to Mike. It contained her number, along with the scrawled name Amy.
“You sly dog,” laughed Mike. “Look at you! Picking up a waitress at Applebee’s! I didn’t know you had it in you!” He slapped me on the shoulder. “Good job!”
Amy came back later during our meal to bring us the bill. “I expect you to call that number,” she told me. “And how that call goes will be entirely influenced by how well you tip!” she teased. Mike stared at her exceptional behind as she walked away.
“You better call her,” he told me. “She’s really cute and you know Samantha’s not gonna be mad at you for trying to be happy.”
“I will,” I promised.
But I never did.
I have never dialed those numbers in my life.
And I doubt I ever will.
I can’t do that to Samantha.
C.M. Gabbett lives in New Jersey. He has previously been published in Trillium, In Parenthesis (online), Section 8 and Black Lantern Publishing. He has also published several political articles and is the former co-writer of the webcomic MandMPancakes.