Alternate Timelines

The Red Door [Chapter 8]

Prologue    l    Chapter 1    l    Chapter 2    l    Chapter 3
Chapter 4   I    Chapter 5    I    Chapter 6    I    Chapter 7

The Red Door

Lime green chalk finishes writing the word “mojito,” before it’s placed down on the easel by Naina, a tall waitress in a dark t-shirt and striped charcoal skirt. Ashton, Michael, and Jeff enter the pub over her shoulder, as she collects menus, before turning to greet them.

“Welcome to The Red Door.” She individually hands out menus. “Looks like the snow’s starting to come down pretty hard out there, eh?”

“You know what else is pretty—” Jeff slowly pushes his way to the front of the group.

“Jeff!” Ashton pulls him back by his hoodie. “We had this talk. You’re a father now.”

“We’re, uh,” Jeff clears his throat, “here for Jack.”

“Let me just check.” Naina sets the extra menus down on the table behind her, and checks a sheet on the adjacent podium. She runs her finger down the list. “I’m sorry, there’s no Jack here.”

“It’s,” Jeff rolls up his sleeve to check his digital clock, “7:16 on a Tuesday. Exactly how many parties are you hosting tonight?”

“Just the one, actually. It’s been booked since the ninth, but it’s not for Jack. It’s a, uh, Kw–Kwrismu—”

“Say no more.” Ashton quickly takes the sheet from her, pulls out a pen, and scratches something out. He quickly scribbles on it before handing it back to her, smiling, “It’s for Jack now. Try not to use that word with anyone else. It’s how you start to lose friends.”

“O…kay,” Naina looks upon the newly minted sheet, confused. “You guys have the whole area in the back. Someone will be with you shortly.”

The pub is quiet. There are a few patrons at the bar, catching up to highlights from the previous day’s football game, and a handful occupying the round tables next to the entrance. The trio make their way through a neatly crafted maze of mahogany tables and chairs to a booth that stretches alongside the back wall of the pub. Jack sits at its center.

“I’m getting a weird, Last Supper, type vibe here.” Ashton greets Jack with a hug.

“You would.” Jack nods to Michael and Jeff, shaking their hands. “Glad you guys made it.”

“You sure know how to pick ’em.” Jeff takes a seat at the far left end of the booth. “Drinks are on you, right?”

“With you here, I’m starting to reconsider opening up that tab.”

“Anyone else here?” Michael takes a seat next to Jeff, while Ashton takes a look around.

“Not yet, but hopefully soon. It’s a school night, after all.”

“Never stopped us before.” Jeff chuckles at his own legend, staring down at his menu.

“We’ll probably be heading out early.” Ashton circles back around to Jack. “I’ve got to take Aiden to school tomorrow, Michael’s got work, and I’m sure Jeff’s got something to do.”

“Hey, I heard that.” Jeff’s echo out of the corner is promptly ignored.

“Yeah, we’ll wrap up in a few hours. I don’t think this place could take too much of us.”

“Not many could.” Ashton smiles. “It’s really good to see you again, Jack. Where you been hiding?”

“Everywhere but here, clearly.” Jack smiles back. “Take a seat. I’ll be right there.”

Ashton joins Jeff and Michael, as Jack makes his way back to Naina to grab extra menus.

“I’m just going to take a handful. That way, you can send everyone straight back. Thanks.” Before he can get on his way, a hand places itself on Jack’s shoulder. He looks down on it, only to have its fingers turn him around to face Mikaela’s and Kiara’s beaming eyes.

“I’m afraid we’re at the wrong party, Kiara. The Jack we know can’t stay quiet for this long.” Mikaela embraces Jack. “You’re an idiot, you know that?”

“I forget sometimes.” Jack gives her a wink, before locking eyes with Kiara. “Well, if it isn’t Ms. Channel 6 herself.” He gives her a hug. “You’re doing great things over there.”

“Stop it.” Kiara playfully slaps him on the shoulder, before running her hand against it as if she had actually hurt him. Jack points them to their area, and Ashton waves them over. Mikaela makes her way back. Kiara stops short. “Want me to come with you?”

Jack is already halfway outside before he sees Kiara’s reflection in the glass. “And ruin that stunning dress? I’ll be back.” Kiara smiles, and shakes her head at him before leaving. Stepping outside, Jack stands below the giant clock right below the logo. It’s 7:26. He paces around the patio area watching traffic go by. The snowfall’s starting to get thicker, as Jack takes out his phone to text. A transit bus pulls into a stop by the plaza.

“The snow! It’s everywhere!” Chris shouts at Jack, as he steps off the MiWay bus. He reaches the patio. “We’re not having this thing outdoors, are we?”

“Nah, those were always more your thing.”

“What are you doing out here?”

“Taking it all in. Where you coming from?”

“Just finishing up at the station. Everyone here?”

“Just about. Go on in. Start placing some orders.”

“Good to have you back.” Chris pats some snow off Jack’s shoulder, and makes his way indoors.

“Good to be back.” Jack goes back to his phone, and reads the screen: Won’t be able to make it. Sorry we can’t get together and be awkward! Jack types back, “Haha and here I was afraid we’d just pick up where we left off.” He watches the message get sent. A few seconds later, the screen reads, Where did we leave off? He quickly types back, “A lot of loose ends.” His finger hovers over the send key, before going back to add, “It’s cool; another time perhaps.” He stares at the message one last time, before finally hitting send, and puts his phone away.

“Of all the days, you butt!” Alice slams the car door with Ryan following behind. “You had to pick snowpocalypse now? Also, hi.” She lightly punches Jack’s arm, and heads inside.

“Missed you too, Alice.” Jack calls out behind her. He shakes hands with Ryan. “How’s it going, brotha?”

“This is like the seventh time we’ve ever met.” Ryan grins, before making his way inside.

“I do love our little catch-ups.” Jack takes out his phone; no new messages.

[Chapter 9]