This is really just a second draft.
Lenora Kennedy stood bent over the pool cue. Crack. In went the red solid. She glanced at her watch and turned over her shoulder to look at the bar. Then, she shook her head. Where is George? She kept bending, shooting, and sinking until she had systematically cleared every ball on the table. It was 5:00 on a Wednesday afternoon, and there were very few people in the restaurant, if you could call it a restaurant. The place was called Las Carnitas, and it served some wonderful Mexican food. However, there were only a few tables, and most people ordered from the bar. Had it been her choice, they would go to Applebee’s, but this was George’s favorite, so they came here when George chose. Nora picked up her soda from the coaster on the corner of the table and sipped it while she walked around the table pulling balls out of the pockets and rolling them across to the bottom. Then, she bent her knees, pulled out the rack, and frustrated, put the balls in the rack. Very carefully, she rearranged the balls to alternate between stripes and solids. Then she grabbed the cue ball and walked to the other end of the table. She often played pool while she waited for Georgia to come, and the practice over the last year had helped hone her skills. As the cue slid between her fingers, Nora thought about why she came every day. Georgia was her best friend. They had been roommates in college. Then they both got jobs in the emergency room of the Covenant Medical Center after graduation from Texas Tech University. As an ER nurse, she had seen enough damage from people drinking and driving, so driving with any amount of alcohol in a person’s system was too much for Nora. Ocassionally, Georgia liked to have a drink after work, so Nora began meeting her here on those nights to drive her home when she got an urge. It worked out well since they shared the rent at a cute little three bedroom on the northwest side of town.
Peter McGregor walked out of the police station directly to his black 2004 Ford F150, put his right hand in his pocket, and clicked the unlock button on his keychain. After opening the door, he simultaneously slid in, closed the door behind him, used his left hand to hit the door lock button, and started the vehicle with his right. Pete was a man who worked to minimize and liquidate motion. In his job, it could be the difference between life and death. In his life, it was simply him. He strolled into Las Carnitas, and automatically, his eyes swept the room to be certain nothing was out of place, but this time, as his eyes moved across the pool table, they didn’t want to keep going. They stuck on a woman whom he was sure he’d never seen before. She was average height, about 5’6. Straight Dark blonde hair that when she bent for her next shot, the light hit and it shone like gold. He was intrigued by the way it swung from shoulder to shoulder as she bent over each shot. When her face turned in his direction as she prepared for the next shot, it took his breath away. He couldn’t pinpoint what it was about her. Her eyes were hazel. The shade that turned green when she got angry or sad, but they weren’t spectacular. Honestly, she wasn’t a model, and not the type of girl he usually had relationships with, but there was something about her that made him feel as if he’d taken a punch to the solar plexus. He couldn’t breathe any better than if he’d had the breath knocked out of him. Suddenly, he realized that he had been staring at her for a minute and a half, so he shook his head and continued on to the bar. He smiled and greeted the bartender. “Hey, Tony.”
Tony looked up, smiled at Peter and said, “Don’t think about it Pete. She’s not your type.”
“No one could have missed the way you stared at her except for maybe her.”
Peter turned and looked appreciatively at the woman at the table. “What’s she drinking?”
Peter’s eyes again met the bartender’s, just to make sure he wasn’t joking. He wasn’t. Why would a girl come to this place and drink soda. He knew it wasn’t just a bar, but it was more bar than restaurant. Just then, he saw her face light up and she waved. He thought , Oh, she already has a boyfriend. Figures. But when he looked again, she was walking, almost skipping, to greet a girl who must have come in the minute before.
Nora pranced up to Georgia, gave her a good hug and asked, “Since it took you awhile to get here, I started another game. You wanna play?” Georgia did just what Nora expected by shaking her head and grimacing, so Nora laughed and said, “I’m going to go clear the table then.”
Georgia surveyed her surroundings, noticed that the stools at the bar weren’t full, and since she liked talking to Tony, she slid onto one of the green padded stools at the bar. “Hey Tony, can I get a basket of chips, some queso dip, and a draft beer, please?”
Then, she noticed the guy, two seats down, staring at her friend. He was handsome, and his eyes lit up every time Nora bent to shoot again. She didn’t blame him. Nora was beautiful. There was nothing conventional about her beauty, in fact, feature wise, there was nothing you could really pinpoint that made her pretty, but she glowed. Georgia was about to tell the guy that he should bother but decided against it when she saw Nora put her cue back in the stand and turn toward the counter. He must have noticed it too because he was suddenly very interested in his drink. An avid people watcher, she grinned both at the action and because her best friend was joining her for dinner.
As Nora walked toward the counter, she saw the most gorgeous guy she had ever seen. She noticed the cropped, dark brown hair, eyes the color of hot chocolate with a little bit of milk, and his facial features were almost perfect. On top of that, he sat with confidence. She felt like she should have been seeing a poster instead of a real person. However, in her experience, when a guy looked that good, he knew it, and his actions reflected that. She noticed him glance up to see who was passing him, so she gave him the warm smile she gave everyone, and sat on the stool next to Georgia. Belatedly, she realized that it was also the stool next to him. She was about to subtly turn more toward Georgia when the man reached over with his hand out. “Pete McGregor. I’m a regular here, but I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before.”
Just to be polite, she shook his hand, let it go, and said, “Lenora Kennedy. Most people call me Nora.” Then, she turned back to Georgia and asked how her day went.
“In the hour that you were off before me, we had two car accidents. That’s why it took me so long to get here. We ended up with 5 patients from them, and one of the patients was pretty iffy. He was finally stable when I left, but it was touch and go there for awhile.”
“Garbage, I missed it! The action was just getting good.”
Pete’s eyebrows lifted. Garbage? He thought. Most people would have cursed right there. Even someone trying to clean up his language would have used dang. Who is this girl? He knew that his looks garnered at least a second look from almost every woman he met, but she didn’t show any signs of even noticing his looks, let alone a second glance. She just smiled at him with a friendly, open smile she obviously gave everyone. Even when he introduced himself she treated him like anyone else. Obviously, she wasn’t interested. Her friend had noticed him though, and he could tell that she was intrigued by him. Maybe she would be interested in some company for awhile. Pete wasn’t into casual sexual encounters like most of the unmarried guys in the precinct, but his relationships hadn’t been working out, and he was ready to start looking for someone to settle down with. His mother would be smiling down on him from heaven if he actually brought a girl home to meet his family. He’d never done that before, and he’d only seen this girl for ten minutes. Already, he was thinking of taking this girl home to meet his father? Was he going insane? Maybe he was more desperate for some action than he’d thought. He knew a challenge when he saw one, and he decided right then, Nora was the challenge for him.
He continued listening in on the everyday chit chat of two good female friends. He smiled inwardly at how this conversation reminded him of his little sister. The tones, phrases, and sing-song quality of the voices next to him sounded just like the ones that used to come out of Pam’s door when he was in high school on the few occasions he was at home. He waited patiently for a good opening, and knew it when he heard, “Those accidents must have been worse than they sounded on the radio’s traffic report.”
He leaned over, purposely into what would normally be someone else’s personal space and interjected, “Which accidents are you talking about? I responded to an accident on northwest 289 at 03:45 this afternoon.” He purposely used the police vernacular to state the time, so the women would see something different about him. Frustratingly, it was her friend who responded.
“Did you need to call an ambulance to transport one of your victims?”
“Actually, we called two. One of the guys had to be pried out of the car after we wrestled the door off. I wasn’t sure he would make it there. The EMT said that the other showed signs of a concussion and had a broken femur. Is this the same accident you’re discussing?”
“Yes, it is. I’m Georgia Childress, by the way. We work in the ER at Covenant.”
“Well, I guess it’s time for us to be off, you know I have the early shift in the morning, Georgia.” Lenore cut in. She reached in her pocket, pulled out a ten dollar bill and set it on the counter. Pete was making her nervous. He smelled good, and he was in her personal bubble. She liked her space. Usually, she wanted to lean away from people, but somehow, she felt herself wanting to lean right in. That did NOT fit in her plans. He was friendly enough, and she worked to be friendly to everyone she met, but something about this guy sent up red flags. He was drinking a beer, so obviously he couldn’t take her to the temple. Or maybe, she thought the problem is that I don’t feel the red flags where I think they should be.
“Lenore,” Pete said, “Are you busy Friday night?”
He could tell by the way her eyes widened, and her jaw, not exactly dropped, but fell slightly, that had heard him. The surprise amused him, though.
“It was a pretty straight forward question. Are you busy Friday night?”
“Yes, I already have plans. I’m sorry.”
Immediately, Georgia broke in. “She does have plans, but it’s not a date.”
“It’s dancing.” Georgia continued as if Nora hadn’t spoken. “You’re welcome to come.”
“He doesn’t want to come to my church dance. I’m sure it’s not what he’s used to.” Lenore whispered to Georgia.
“You’re always talking about how you try to be friendly and want to improve the way people think of your church. You have invited every single person you have talked to in the ER and others in other areas of the hospital. Are you telling me that you won’t invite him? He’s been perfectly cordial.”
Her conscience kicked in, so grudgingly she said, “You are welcome to come to the dance my church is holding for young single adults. It’s Friday night, and it starts at 8 but goes until midnight. People will be coming and going all night. Come any time. Here’s the address.”
“I’ll be there.” He said with a smile. He looked at the paper. The address was on Frankford Avenue in the south part of town. It would be easy to get there. He was on duty until pretty much right before 8, but he could see a way to swing it.
The girls turned and left the restaurant. Before she turned, he caught an angry look on Lenore’s face, and he knew that words she was whispering to Georgia must have something to do with butting out of her business and letting her choose guys for herself. He thought, What is today? Tuesday? Just four more days.
Copyright Elinor Robinson 2010