Claire told me about her parent’s divorce and her decision to live with her father, who I hadn’t even met and already feared. He went to a birthday party the previous weekend and when trying to break up a fight, some guy said to him “What are you going to do about it grandpa?” Claire’s dad knocked him out with one punch and said “THAT’S what I’m going to do about it, ass**le.” Claire tried to convince me that her dad was a giant teddy bear, but where I come from, you’re not afraid to meet a teddy bear in a dark alley at night for fear that he’ll scalp you and tattoo his name on your ass.
I regrettably told her about Tasha and the reason for the breakup. I even spilled my guts to her about how I didn’t know if I ever even really loved Tasha and was just biding my time until the right person came along. I didn’t tell her more about the one-night-stand from college that Drew brought up at dinner that night and she never asked about it, thankfully. Even though it was easy to talk to Claire about Tasha, it seemed wrong to talk to her about the woman I’d dreamed about for five years. Claire was sweet and smart and funny and I didn’t want to taint any of that with a stupid dream. The more I talked to Claire and got to know her, the more it became clear that she could be the one I was waiting for. I felt like the majority of the time we talked more about me than we did her and when I pointed that out, she just laughed and said there wasn’t much to tell because her life was so boring. Still, with each phone call I learned something new about her and I was willing to spend as long as it took to know everything there was to know about her.
Finally, after fifteen days of hovering in corners at work away from the loud machines to listen to Claire’s softy, husky voice as she lay curled up in bed under the covers talking to me, I was going to see her again. The plant finally gave me a Saturday off of work and I was more than happy to spend it checking out Claire and Liz’s shop (fine, Claire’s ass). Claire had sent me a few pictures on my cell phone in the last week and from what I could tell, they were making enormous progress on the place. In reality, I didn’t care if I was meeting Claire in a garbage dump; as long as I could be close to her I would be happy.
At ten that Saturday morning, I pulled up in front of the address Claire gave me for the shop. I sat in the car for a minute, tapping my fingers against the steering wheel. I probably got around three hours of sleep last night. All I did was toss and turn, thinking about seeing Claire again and being close enough to touch her. I’m not gonna lie though, the thing that gave me the sleepless night was the quote she used absentmindedly on the phone the previous night. It was the second time she’d used it around me and no matter how much I tried to push it from my mind, that stupid nagging though about her popped back up. A lot of people have seen the movie Heathers. And really, "fuck me gently with a chainsaw" could be a very popular way to say "holy shit" nowadays.
Uh-huh, yeah right.
Her use of that saying could be the biggest f**king coincidence in the history of the world, or I just boarded the crazy train headed straight for cuckoo city. I pulled my cell phone out of the cup holder and checked the time, smiling when I saw the picture of Claire that I was using as my screen background. I caught a lot of shit from Drew when he saw it, but I didn’t care. I covertly asked Liz to send a picture of Claire to me and she was more than happy to oblige. The picture she sent was a black and white close up of Claire, laughing unabashedly at something, with one hand held up to her face and her fingers spread in such a way that you could still see her beautiful smile, the mirth in her eyes and the dimples in her cheeks. It was stunning, and I only hoped I would be able to put that look on Claire’s face myself one of these days and be there to witness it.
Looking at the picture of Claire on my phone erased the confusion and questions from my mind and made me just want to concentrate on her, not ghosts from the past. I shut the engine off and got out, finally taking a good look at the building I parked in front of. I was impressed. It was bigger than I thought it would be and it looked great from the outside. I could see Liz through the front window on what must have been her side of the store, so I rounded the front of the car and stepped up on the sidewalk. I started walking towards the front door and had to stop short when a little boy went flying in front of me, arms and legs flailing all over the place.
"Gavin, get your ass back here!"
On instinct, my arm flew out and I grabbed onto the back of the kid's shirt, halting his progress of running away. A guy, probably close to fifty, jogged over to where I was.
"Hey, thanks for stopping him," he said, looking down at the boy with a stern face that would have made me cringe if I was on the receiving end of it. I let go of his shirt, confident that the little runaway wasn't going anywhere now that he'd been caught.
"Gavin, how many times have I told you that you can't just take off when you get out of the car? You have to hold my hand."
The kid shrugged. "I don't know. I was just hurryin' my ass to the ice cream store 'fore it all meltses."
I covered my mouth with my hand to hide my laugh. This kid had balls! The poor guy just rolled his eyes at the boy and let out a sigh.
"If you enjoy your sanity at all, don't have kids," the guy said to me before grabbing the kid's hand and walking away.
"Thanks for the advice!" I yelled to him as the two of them walked into the ice cream shop next door.
Liz noticed me on the sidewalk through the window just then and opened the door for me.