She was halfway
her seat before Frank looked up from his phone. “Hello, Frank. They’ve changed
the name of the restaurant. Antoine’s now.” She talked too quickly, a hint she
She picked up her
menu, reddening slightly. “Sorry I’m late. Have you been waiting long?”
Something to drink? It’s okay, it won’t bother me.”
Frank had gotten
the hotel restaurant fifteen minutes early. Three years ago, he would have used
the time to check into a room, on this occasion he simply waited for her.
Once seated, he’d
looked around and nodded slightly. Carpeting and heavy drapes kept the
conversations from other diners muted. Cloth table cover and napkins, red and
white wine glasses, but only four pieces of flatware. This hotel restaurant
incarnation was rated as having good but not superlative food, and high but not
outrageous prices. He hadn’t eaten here since she’d told him it was over.
Their server, a
middle-aged woman with only hints of makeup, looked down at them impassively.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
Pellegrino, I’d like an iced tea.”
Frank looked at
Rebecca over the top of his menu. Gray pants suit, cut loose, no jewelry, just
a watch and her wedding ring. Rebecca’s dark brown hair was pulled back in a
bun. Frank noticed a strand of gray that almost matched her suit.
She half smiled,
her lips firmed. “Flattery will no longer get you anywhere.”
He half smiled back.
“I, I’m really glad you texted about meeting for lunch. My eyes hurt from
staring at you across PTA meetings.”
“I think I’ll
the Cobb salad.”
down to his menu. From behind it, in a low voice he asked, “Was what we had so
right. So yes, bad.”
I look at
you, I envy Jonas. How’s he doing?”
She gave him a frozen
stare. “He’s okay.”
He put the menu
“Tell me what you’ve been up to. I can at least share in that.”
“A year ago
promoted to a point where I’m barely competent. I don’t know that I’ll get to
executive VP, and not sure I want to.”
loudly enough that those at the next table turned their heads. “I do miss your
well-meant candor. Both, probably.”
spread his hands apart. “What can I say or do to try and…”
We’ll just hurt each other again.”
The Cobb salad and
soft-shelled crab arrived. They talked politics, which they agreed on, and
raising children, which they sometimes did not. Laughter was frequent. They
always laughed when together.
Dishes were cleared,
and coffee ordered and provided. They’d discussed serious things over coffee.
Frank started in.
accept any chance to be with you, but why are we here?”
Jonas. I need
“Is he sick?
lose his job?”
“I only wish.
got your disease, Frank, got it bad.”
slightly, seeming to think through possibilities. “You’ve already tried the
obvious stuff like AA meetings and rehabs?”
reddened. “He’s relapsed a half dozen times already, each time worse than the
last. He’s cross-addicted now, liquor and coke. Jonas is on a leave of absence
from his job, and probably going to get fired the next time he crashes. When
he’s active he can say vicious things to me and the kids. If he’s at home at
all. I need you to talk with him. You’ve been through this.”
saddened. “I also know what you’re going through, and how hard it must be for
you to ask me. I have no cure, Rebecca, just example.”
years-worth of ivy league tuitions on rehabs and analysts. He’s one DUI away
from losing his license and maybe some jail time. AA, ministers, meditation,
intervention, I wouldn’t be here if I knew of anything else to do.”
His right hand moved
forward on the table toward her, but stopped short of touching hers.
probably already tried intervention, and I’m guessing he’s already had AA
sponsors. I don’t think I can provide any better help.”
better than any of those shrinks. He doesn’t know about us, but does know you
got sober. Talk with him please, maybe go on a trip together. Something,
She was crying now,
neutral. “Is he dry or wet now?”
“If you mean
drinking’, no, he just got back from another resort rehab.”
“If I do talk
him, he’s apt to just ignore me and resent you for bringing me into it. A nasty
part of me says don’t do it, if he stays active on booze and drugs it might
circle you back to me. An even nastier
part says do it badly and make sure he tanks.”
The corners of her
mouth curled up into wet cheeks. “I know. What I’m asking is unfair. Maybe for all
of us. But I want him whole, back to who he is. You did it. Show him how.”
The stoic waitress
had noticed Rebecca crying and was staring at them. While he had her attention,
Frank signaled for the check. He breathed heavily, twice.
him and say I’d heard from a guy in his office about his troubles. That I’d
like to get together for breakfast somewhere. That I’d been where he is. We
share a serious attachment, so maybe something sticks. If he does listen to me,
we’ll see where it goes.”
and touched his still extended hand. “Thank you.”
He shrugged. “I’m
just making an amends.”