By Kate Byrne
It was nearly midnight when May received the text from Ted:
U make it hom ok
The retired English teacher in May disliked these language shortcuts, but she was happy to hear from him and annoyed at herself for the happiness.
Yes, thank you. Home safe and sound. How about you?
Dont take long ta stumble back from c pub, need p buttr tho, hav ta eat plain banana s,wich
Sorry, I cannot help you there
I know u dont like p buttr
U still up Ten minutes had passed.
Ok, dr open. Cum over
May felt her knees weaken, and she quickly sat down. Maybe she should drive there and confront him face-to-face. Maybe that was the smart thing to do. But it was late, and a confrontation was not what she wanted. An answer was what she wanted. Her fingers were shaky, and she had to rewrite the text twice before she sent it.
Not tonight, although I miss you and am tempted. You and Irene were overly flirtatious tonight, and I’m worried there is something happening between you two. I pray you will deny there is.
Morrie had died sixteen months earlier. It was less than a year after they had both retired, and May had realized she could no longer stand their town, fussy friends, and his overbearing sisters. Despite all the protests, she had moved soon after that, two states away. May had more than enough money to afford her needs, and she’d needed something fresh.
A few weeks later, on a whim, she had followed a co-worker’s advice and sought out Mama’s Place one Friday night for the tuna casserole special and the band.
Within minutes, a big man with a beautiful smile was extending his oversized hand to her from the next barstool.
“You must be new in town, because I know everyone, and I don’t know you. I’m Ted Larson.”
“May Porter,” she’d taken his hand, surprised to be singled out. “I’ve been here three weeks. Really don’t know anyone.”
“We can change that.”
Over the next five hours, Ted never left her side, escorting her from one lively joint to another. It was an exhausting, invigorating night; May had shaken more hands and un-remembered more names than she thought possible. The bands were upbeat and loud. All the musicians and bartenders nodded cheerfully at Ted and winked knowingly at May. Their glasses were never empty.
Shortly after entering Clark’s Pub, while Ted was introducing May to yet another couple, a much-younger woman had pushed herself between them and kissed Ted on the lips, her hands clasped behind his neck. “Hi, cutie,” she purred. Ted pushed her away with a grin. May had felt suddenly alone again; it was her night, lifted up by this man and a lively crowd of new friends. Who was this intruder?
“Get lost, Irene, you’re a pain-in-the-ass. This is May; I’m showin’ her the town.” Ted warmly patted Irene’s shoulder.
“Oh, I see.” Irene said coyly as she slithered into the crowd, patting arms, and kissing cheeks, all with a loud, cackling laugh. Ted indicated more drinks, his eyes in the direction of Irene.
“Never mind her, she’s just the town goof,” the newest person to be introduced said. “Everyone with brains ignores Irene.” Ted chuckled.
For four months, they saw each other every few days. May so loved this new grief-free time, holding enormous hands, swaying to music, always laughing, falling in love. But generally hovering, with a wink and smile for Ted, announced by a booming laugh, was Irene.
She sat on your lap
I know, you have known her since she was a child, but she was too familiar with you.
Hell, thats dumb.
She had her hands all over you. She rubbed your neck.
Sore neck don mean anything
It did to me. We were having dinner.
She just stop by to say hi don mean anything
You know you mean so much to me. You know I so enjoy spending time with you. But Irene is just there too much!
Old fren. Cum over.
I will, but please tell me the truth. You see, you look so happy to be around her. I can’t help being a bit jealous. Is there something romantic between you two? I want you to deny there is, but please tell me the truth. This is important to me.
Ted, please tell me. The final, frantic plea was sent at 2 a.m.
Six months later, May packed to move back home, still hoping for an answer.