A Whateley Tale
2016, Seattle, a diner
“Alright hon, three specials ta go and three lemonades. We’s a little backed up, so ya gotta wait a spell. But I guess yer’re used to that, what with bein’ in the army and such.” The waitress slapped a number in the young lieutenants hands, winked and turned around to the cook and yelled out the order.
“Uh, navy, actually, but...yeah, sure…” the lieutenant shrugged and looked around for a seat whilst idly wondering how this particular waitress had ended up in a progressive city like Seattle.
The small diner was almost filled to the brim, so seating space seemed a premium. There was one booth at the back with just the one occupant, a young woman his age, or perhaps a few years younger. He gave a quick once over, determining whether he could sit there, at least until his order was up. She was quite beautiful. No, strike that, she was hot!
She had that gorgeous chocolate colored hair and what looked like a body to kill for.
He took a few steps closer to get a better look. She wore glasses, but closer inspection revealed her uncanny golden eyes.
“No way!” This time he said it out loud. A few patrons spared him a short look, but otherwise ignored him.
Making a quick decision, despite his misgivings, he walked over and sat down across from the young woman. She was looking through some papers, and appeared to be underlining text, or taking small notes here and there.
“He...hello.” He said, his previous nervous heartbeat having turned to a thunderous chorus with a few droplets of sweat appearing on his forehead.
The woman barely acknowledged him at first, dismissing him with a quick; “You can’t have my number!”
The voice was definitely hers, the lieutenant thought, it had to be her, it just had to!
“That’s okay, I think I may have your old number, at least.” He ventured, his eyes fixed straight on her.
That stopped her. She looked up, into his eyes. A shock seemed to run through her as recognition flashed across her face; “Tommy?”
He nodded and gave her a nervous, and a little apologetic, smile; “Yeah, I thought that was you. It’s...It’s been a while.” He gulped as he noticed how the flash of recognition across her face turned to a flash of panic.
“I... I have to go…” She started to pick up her belongings and made to leave.
“Wait, wait, don’t go. Please.” Tommy said, as he stood up as well; “Just, let me just talk to you a moment, please?” He held his hands out, inviting her to sit down again, which she, reluctantly, did.
Her eyes darted quickly darted around the diner, possibly looking for threats or unwanted to attention.
“What do you want?” She finally asked, not meeting his eyes. “And it’s been almost fifteen years!” The last part was said with a more angry bite.
Tommy hesitated a few seconds, staving off the bad feelings and memories he had from when the two of them had last seen each other.
“I...How, how are you? Are you, are you good? I mean, are you…? He stammered out. Normally he didn’t stammer at all, wouldn’t do to have an officer who couldn’t speak clearly. But there he was, unable to speak clearly in the presence of his old friend.
“I was fine until you decided to sit down! I repeat, what do you want?” She crossed her arms and gave him a hard stare, the flash of panic having turned to obvious anger.
“Well, uh, I guess, I guess I wanted to...It’s too late, I know, but, but I wanted to say, uh, I’m sorry.” He said, now it was he who couldn’t meet her eyes.
“I, I know that I wasn’t, uh, I know that I-” She interrupted him sharply.
“That you betrayed and turned on me? That you called me a freak? That you called the fucking MCO on me?” Despite her sharp interruption, her voice was calm and even.
Tommy scrunched his face in embarrassment; “Yeah...that.
“I’m sorry. I know I-” She interrupted him again.
“If you’re going to say you were a stupid kid who didn’t know better, I’m seriously going to-” Tommy interrupted her back, holding up his hands; “Old enough to know better! I was a stupid kid,
it’s true, I guess you’d know that better than most, given the trouble we used to get into, but I was old enough to know better.
“I don’t have an excuse. I did what I did and I can only say I’m sorry.” He hesitated a moment; “I am sorry!”
They looked at each other for almost a minute before she broke the angry and awkward silence.
“You were my best friend!” She said, almost accusingly.
Tommy nodded, grimacing; “And you were mine, until I…” He left the rest unsaid.
“Was it really so bad? That I was a mutant? Was it really so bad that you had to call me a freak? That you had to call the MCO, even though I’d done nothing wrong?
“Or was it just that I turned into a girl?” She leaned in over the table and whispered the last question, unfortunately giving Tommy a clear view down her not fully buttoned shirt. He quickly averted his eyes, not wanting to make the situation worse.
“I guess I thought it was that bad. I, uh, I remember thinking that, uh, that you had somehow betrayed me. I mean, we called ourselves the studs of the school. And suddenly one of us wasn’t...you know.” He shrugged, still nervously.
“Suddenly one of the studs was one of the chicks, is what you mean?” She leaned back on the bench and gave him a flat look; “You’re a fucking idiot, Tommy! You know that, right?”
“You really don’t have to tell me that, I already know. And I know it wasn’t your fault or something you had any control over. I mean, I know that now.
“I should have known that back then.”
“Yes, you should have!”
“Like I said, old enough to know better, but still an idiot.” He tried to pass his comment off with a joking smile.
“Are you still an idiot, Tommy?” He snorted out a short chuckle at her question; “All men are idiots, I thought all women knew that.”
“That’s the first time since you’ve sat down that you’ve called me a woman, you realize that, right?” She raised an eyebrow, finding it just a little hard to maintain the anger she’d felt a minute ago. Years of therapy had done wonders for her.
“I guess it didn’t occur to me, I haven’t thought of you as anything else the past fifteen years.”
“Oh? Been thinking about me then?” Her pointed question had him nodding.
“More than I’d really care to admit to, lots of regret and...I guess I missed my friend. But I understand why you never...I mean, I sure wouldn’t. Not after what I did, and said.”
“You’re right about that! But, I guess-”
She was interrupted by the waitress putting Tommy’s order on the table, three packets of today’s special, all neatly packed in a paper bag with three lemonades tied together with a string.
“Here ya go, hon, that’ll be $59.99
Tommy put a fifty and a twenty on the table and told her to keep the change. They waited until they were alone again.
“You’re a hungry man.” She indicated the the meals.
He chuckled; “It’s for my parents as well, they’re waiting outside in the car. Anyway, I just wanted to say I was sorry. I guess it doesn’t mean much, now. Too little, too late. I can understand how angry you must have been.”
“I was angry, at first, but after my family and I left town, my parents shipped me off to a private boarding school on the east coast. They had a couple of excellent student councillors. I haven’t been angry with you for over ten years, at least not until you decided to sit down.”
“Yeah, you said that.” He nodded. “Private school, huh? It wasn’t a problem that you were, you know? And that you…?”
“I wasn’t the only mutant at that school, just so you know. So no, it wasn’t a problem. How are they? Your parents?” She suddenly asked, again indicating the food.
Tommy paused at the sudden and rather uncharacteristic shift in topic; “Oh, uh, they’re fine. The old man’s a general now, so that’s fun. He wasn’t particularly happy with how I’d...So he kinda gave me a rather significant…”
“He beat you?”
“Oh yeah, he beat my ass pretty hard. Can’t really say that I didn’t have it coming, though.”
“You probably did.”
“Not probably, absolutely did!”
This time, she actually smiled; “I probably shouldn’t condone parents beating up their kids, but in this case I think I’ll make an exception. you really were an asshole when I needed you the most.”
“I really, really was. Yes.
“Anyway, that’s really all I wanted to say, so I guess I’ll be going...Hey, what are you doing now anyway?” He asked and pointed at her papers.
“These? I’m a Risk Assessment Analyst for MSG. This is a lot of corporate activity bs about new stuff I’m not supposed to tell you about.”
“MSG, huh? Pulling down those big private military contractor bucks! Not bad. I’m shipping out myself, in a couple of days. Heading for the Gulf of Aden to hunt pirates. It’s all over the news, so no secrets.
“But hey,” He pulled out a pen and wrote on a napkin, “feel free to throw this away, or burn it, or whatever. But here’s my number, and email, in case you want to call me an asshole some more.” She accepted the napkin with a nod.
“Take care, okay?” Tommy picked up his order and turned to leave, but stopped; “Hey, it just occurred to me, I haven't asked what name you go by now?”
“Taylor” She answered quietly.
“Taylor. Well, take care Taylor, I hope you’ve got some new friends, better than your old friends.”