John sighed heavily into the phone. Claude was waiting for his answer. He was the swing vote. They'd been asked to play at an Oktoberfest at the last minute because of a cancellation.
The reason John was hesitating?
It was back in the Chicago area. One of the organizers of the festival had heard them at Shermer Days, saw their schedule for that weekend was open, and contacted them to see if they were interested. It was not a hop, skip, and a jump away, but close enough. Claude understood why John wasn't chomping at the bit to return. No one else did.
"I don't know, Claude. It's Oktoberfest in Kankakee. How exciting can that be?"
'It could be worse?'
"Yeah? What?" he asked.
'Remember that carnival we played at in Nebraska?'
John grimaced a bit at that. "Yeah, I remember."
That had been a hell weekend for a variety of reasons. Billy had been sicker than a dog. A Christian activist group decided to swarm the place on the day they were playing and harassed Jazmin because her significant other at the time had been a woman. (They almost thought they were going to get kicked out of their hotel because of it, which would have been interesting after midnight on a Saturday night in the middle of nowhere.) There'd been a huge downpour and there'd been a crack in the back window of their rental no one had noticed so the rental and some belongings in it had been ruined.
Needless to say, it wasn't remembered fondly by any of them.
"Why don't Noel and Billy want to do it?" he asked.
'Noel doesn't want to play an outdoor venue in October in Illinois. Billy actually wants to. I figured maybe it wouldn't be on your list of things you wanted to do so didn't say yes or no.'
"It is a little risky, but I don't think that would be an issue."
"I don't know."
'You could invite her to come down and see us yourself.'
"No," John said simply.
'Why not? You could hand-deliver that shirt you bought for her.'
"No," John said again.
'If we go and are that close to Chicago you know Sean's going to encourage her to come visit.'
"I do," John said, and that's why he wasn't sure.
She knew that he knew who she was. There was no question of that. She'd identified herself as Missy on the phone when they'd talked last. He hadn't acknowledged it and neither had she, but she knew. If he saw her again…
Well, he wasn't sure he wanted to do that. He still wasn't sure what her grandfather and uncle would do to him if they found out he'd had the contact with her he'd had, inadvertent as it was. Her grandfather had told him in no uncertain terms he was not to pursue Claire no matter what his daughter may have said or done. (John had wondered at the time what her father thought she was going to do.) He had made it abundantly clear he had the power, money, and resources to bury him in so much legal red tape he'd be in court until he died. He was persona non grata in the eyes of Frank and Emily Standish. The time or two he'd gotten curious enough to think about possibly finding out what she was like he'd go back to the day at Claude's house when he'd found out.
God, he'd hated her for sending her fucking father. It had taken him a long time, years, to realize that she may not have had a choice. Someone like her, her first instinct was probably to tell her parents what was going on. They hadn't been dating, hadn't been involved. He'd come to realize she probably didn't know how he'd react. Maybe. It was that doubt that usually led to him squelching any desire to seek Melissa out.
'So? I need to get back to them tonight, or they're going to move onto their second choice.'
"Third, you mean, since we're obviously they're second choice."
'Their first choice was cheaper than us.'
"Ah," John said.
'Would it be bad to see her again?'
'Come on. She seemed all right and everything.'
"Sure. In July. Who knows now that she's had time to think about the whole situation or now that she's talked with her mother."
'Her mother doesn't seem upset with you, John.'
"That remains to be seen."
'Well, if we were in Kankakee you could find out.'
"Yeah, fine. Go ahead," he said then before he could think too hard on why the idea of possibly seeing Claire again was an incentive to him. The day he'd shown up at her house he could understand her not being happy to see him or overly pleasant to him. On the phone, though, she'd been nice. She hadn't extended their conversations, but she hadn't hung up on him or told him never to call again either.
'Really?' Claude said.
'How many beers have you had?'
John glanced at the table next to him. There were five empty cans with a sixth one about to join those. "Would you believe me if I said none?"
'No, you agreed to easily.'
"It was not easy," John said.
'I know. Maybe Sean won't…'
"You and I both know he will," John said.
'Can you blame him?'
"Excuse me?" John said.
Claude chuckled at that.
'Ease up there, John. I just meant. You liked her mom when she was this age, so can you blame him.'
"I think saying I liked her is putting way too much thought into what happened between us."
'You'd had sex before that day, right?'
"Yes," John admitted.
During one of their off nights in Canada he'd told Claude everything from before that day to present. The night in Shermer John had glossed over some things and hadn't talked about anything prior to the day of detention. A month of nothing but one another led to John having loose lips evidently. Claude had been pretty surprised at John's frankness, John was too. He didn't get it, though. He wasn't sure why he cared, or if that was even what he was feeling. How could he care about someone he didn't even know? Claire and Melissa both fell under that category. He didn't know either of them. Why did finding out she danced to a song bother him? What did it mean?
Claude hadn't really had any answers for him, but John had felt better getting it off his chest.
The thing was John knew what he'd felt for her was more than just liking her. It had taken him a long time to recognize that and it wasn't something he enjoyed knowing and he sure hadn't told Claude that he'd fallen in love with Melissa's mother in a matter of hours and hoped that after graduation, once he'd gotten out of his parents' house he'd be able to look her up and offer her something that came close to other guys asking her out could.
'Ever forgot to suit up before that?'
"No," John said simply.
'Ever forget one after that?'
He chuckled again. What the fuck was he so amused for? 'Obviously, I assume after you found out about her being pregnant, but how about before that?'
"I hadn't with anyone after that day."
'Really?' he asked, sounding surprised by that.
So was John to be honest. He'd never really thought on that part before, but he hadn't for quite a while after that day. At first, he just hadn't and then rubbers or not he just found it hard to want to put himself in a position to even have sex again.
"No. I had things on my mind. Getting out of my house being among them."
'I suppose,' Claude said, though he didn't sound convinced.
"What's your point, Claude?"
'No point, just. You told me you thought Missy looks like her mother, so obviously she had to be pretty in her own right.'
"Yeah, she was," John could admit that freely. "I don't think it's a good idea, I really don't. I think there's potential for at the least a hugely uncomfortable situation and at the most a disaster."
'What disastrous could come out of it?'
"Her grandfather could find out."
'And do what seventeen years later, John?'
"I don't know! He's a lawyer, I'm sure he could do something. Search my room."
Claude sighed audibly at that, but said nothing. John didn't need him to say it anyway. He knew what Claude was thinking. Don't bring anything that could get him in trouble if a search of his room was conducted. John didn't want to do that, though.
'So, the shirt?'
"I already put it in the mail to her," John admitted.
'She'll like it.'
"Sure." It wasn't anything special. He'd addressed it to Claire so she could do whatever she wanted with it. For all he knew, she wouldn't give it to Melissa.
'You're not going to cause Sean any problems if she does come down, are you?'
"No, just because I don't think it's a good idea doesn't mean I'm going to do anything."
'All right. Well, Oktoberfest in Kankakee here we come then, I guess.'
"I guess," John said.
They talked for a little while about a few other things before hanging up. The sixth can was now empty. John debated about adding another one to the group, but decided against it.
He turned the lights off after he'd gone to the bathroom and stared at the ceiling. He was watching a movie, but had no idea what movie since he'd been spending the bulk of it talking with Claude. What was the worst that could happen? So what if he saw her again. So what if he was even kind of hoping he would. He'd never admit that, not even to Claude, but a small part of him was really hoping he and Claude were both right thinking Sean would invite her to come down. Maybe she'd invite herself. Would Claire come with? Kankakee wasn't a crazy long drive, but it might be a further drive than Claire was willing to let her do by herself. Especially to an Oktoberfest party.
All things he had no answer to, and he wasn't going to call her to find out. He swore after that last conversation with Melissa he wasn't calling again. He hadn't expected to talk to her, and he hadn't thought talking to her about something as mundane and common as the B-52s would get to him. Showed what he knew, he supposed.
Claude had told him that hearing about a specific memory she had maybe bothered him. It was one thing to know she'd grown up, obviously she had, and had a lifetime of memories that John knew nothing about and likely never would. It was another to get a snippet, a glimpse into who she was before July.
John wasn't sure if that was true. He had no idea. He just knew he hadn't liked the feeling and didn't want to feel it again. The best way he knew of to not feel it again was not to call. It was as simple as that. He had the ability to stop the situation and feelings, so he did.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com