The Red Door, Part II
A plate of blarney chips changes hands as it makes its way down the table, starting with Ashton on one end, Chris in the middle, and Jack on the other end. It’s 8:15. Alice shares a plate of calamari with Ryan, Kiara puts some emerald green salad on her plate. Michael dives into a roasted herb chicken. Jeff is on his sixth pint. Mikaela sips on some red wine.
Jack squeezes his way upward, raising the glass of Schweppes he’s been nursing as champagne most of the night. “This night feels like a long time coming, and I’m just glad you all decided to be a part of it.”
“Not gonna lie,” Chris chimes in, “at one point, we all planned to show up extremely late just to see your reaction.” The table enjoys a laugh.
Naina returns to the table. “Do you have room for one more?” Standing alongside her is Thomas, a boyish looking man with curly hair, wearing a sports coat, complete with elbow patches, and jeans. The table cheers out “Thomas” in a failed attempt at unison.
“Sorry I’m late.” Thomas pulls up a chair to the booth. “I just had to finish up the last round of papers before winter break.”
“It’s quite all right, Mr. Patches.” Jack hands him a plate. “It’s like you stepped off the set of a 90s sitcom. Jesus, I’m starting to think even I had you for sophomore English.”
“I think I would’ve remembered…failing you.” Thomas takes the plate, has a seat, and begins filling up on some chicken wings. He takes a look around. “Where’s James?”
“Ask and ye shall receive.” James, doing what he considers his best Scottish accent, steps out from behind Thomas with Samantha at his side.
“You guys are awfully good at showing up when it’s convenient to the plot.” Jack gives James a hug.
“Relax, Mr. Director. You’re just mad because the life of the party is late.” He takes a step towards the table. “Everyone, this is Sam. Sam, this is mostly everyone.” The table rallies around Sam, as Jack pulls James aside.
“I couldn’t help but notice the name tag. You’re dating co-workers now? I thought you frowned on the whole interoffice romance thing.”
“No, I frowned on your interoffice romance thing. Besides, I’ve learned from your mistakes. Speaking of which, where is she?”
“Still at work, I guess. I called her office, but it went to voicemail.”
“So why didn’t you head down there, surprise her, and bring her here?” James fixes his tie during Jack’s prolonged silence. “Good ol’ Jack. Stuck in once upon a time, but still doesn’t think happily ever after could ever happen, even when he’s got it. Excuse me,” James pushes past Jack, and rejoins Sam at the table.
The pub is starting to slowly pick up as 8:30 rolls around, with a few walk-in customers frequenting mainly the bar. Jack watches the table start to gel together, with people leaving one end to converse with others, or just to grab food that hadn’t made its way to them yet. He sees Jeff being given another pint, only to have Michael nix it, signaling for the waitress to move along. Kiara, Mikaela, and Sam seem to be hitting it off well. James and Thomas talk about off season sports, while Ryan and Ashton are engaged in a political debate. Alice and Chris sit at a separate, short round table in front of the stage for the live band.
“You just can’t help yourself, can you?” John squeezes Jack’s shoulder.
“You’re late, sah.” Jack pretends to doff a hat in John’s direction.
“Nonsense.” John tips his actual baseball cap towards Jack. He glances around the table. “Surprised you got ’em all back.”
“I didn’t think they’d all show.”
“It’s a leap of faith, Jack.” John pats Jack on the back, and joins the table, swiping Jeff’s drink before he can receive it, shaking Ashton’s hand, and sitting down between Kiara and Michael.
Jacks makes his way to the bar. He pretends to be interested in whatever post-game analysis is being discussed.
“You read lips?” Carla sits at the far corner, sipping on a Long Island iced tea.
“The TV. It’s on mute, so unless you can read lips, you’re missing out on a fascinating narrative.”
“Have a seat.” She removes her bag from the seat next to her.
“I should really be getting back.”
“You just got here. I’m trying to get those guys at the other end to stop hitting on me.”
“I don’t know if me sitting here is really going to deter anything.”
“Well, it’s not like you’re a hideous chud or anything. Just be a buffer.”
“I can do that.” Jack takes a seat, tapping his knuckles on the counter. “You’re not from around here, are you?”
“You see anyone else here drinking the iced tea of their people?” Carla takes another long sip. “You don’t sound like you’re from around here either.”
“We’re not so far off. I’m just beyond the turnpike.”
“Aww, you’re from the dirty Jerrrrrrz. My condolences.” She laughs, and finishes her drink. “You’re a long way from home. What gives?”
“Just woke up here one day, and never went back. How about you?”
“I’m just up here for work. I don’t have some cryptic back story like you.” Carla watches the two men at the other end of the bar finally leave some money on the counter, and leave.
“Guess my job here is done.” Jack starts to leave. “Why don’t you come join us?”
“I should actually get going, but thank you for the company.” Carla places a tip underneath her empty glass, and prepares to leave. She sings along to the soulful song playing in the background. “Do you know who this is? I’ve been hearing this song everywhere.”
“Um,” Jack listens to the song, “yeah, he’s a local artist; name’s Shaan.” Carla flings her purse over her shoulder. “Have a good night…I’m sorry, I never caught your name.”
“Carla.” She extends her hand.
“Jack.” They shake hands. “Well, have a good night, Carla.” Jack makes his way back to the table as the song finishes playing.
You’re better off living in my head. In my head. In my head. In my head. In my head.