Read Friday Mornings at Nine Online
Authors: Marilyn Brant
Tags: #Fiction, #Contemporary Women
Oh, God. That was almost like talking live for them. More than 60 percent of their college “conversations” had been through online messaging, back even before AOL (when they used Quantum Link) and long before the rest of the nongeek world joined in the fun.
Sure. Next Thursday would work. I’ll be at home all morning.
Thanks. We can chat then. Say around 9:49?
Because, of course, thirteen had been their lucky number. Naturally, he would have e-mailed her first on the thirteenth of last month, planned the party for the thirteenth of another month, chosen every single digit or clock time he could possibly manipulate to be a multiple of thirteen (507, 702, 949…). Something no one but the two of them would have known or understood.
But she’d known: It was David’s apology.
And she’d understood: It was his way of making sure she knew he remembered what they’d shared.
And now this new message on the day he was supposed to IM. So he had an info tech meeting this morning? Shocker. She’d be here at 10:14
., but she just didn’t want to make everything so easy for him. He’d always reeled her in with such little effort. She typed:
Make it 10:27.
She rolled her eyes. Yeah, she was really playing hard to get. She hit SEND anyway.
And sure enough, precisely at 10:27
. Central Standard Time, while she was halfheartedly working on one of her commissioned Web designs, her computer alerted her to his incoming instant message.
Her pulse sped up. She put her fingers to the keyboard and tried unsuccessfully to keep them steady.
Hey, there. How are you?
God, he still typed that word the same way he did at age twenty-two.
Except for the night sweats she got at half past ten this morning and the fact that her fingers were trembling so badly she could barely hit the keys. Yep, she was great.
Been nice being back in touch with you after all these years. Brought back a lot of memories.
He’d hit return after this, but she could see the little message at the bottom of the text box telling her he was typing another line.
So, is your husband home right now? Or your kids?
No. Shelby and Veronica are at school—seventh grade and freshman year. And Michael’s at work. He teaches high school Spanish to juniors and seniors.
She’d expected a reaction, and she got one—quick.
Spanish? No shit?! Did he manage to teach you any of it?
She picked at the cuticle on her thumb for a second before typing back.
Un poco. A phrase here and there. Not much.
Wow. But still…
And she could almost see him standing next to her, grinning. The freckles dotting his nose. The wire-rimmed glasses reflecting her adoring gaze back at her.
We barely made it through Spanish 204, remember? F*king foreign language requirement.
True. But we DID pass.
She couldn’t type any more than that, though, because to comment further would lead only to bringing up additional memories. Like the night they’d crammed for the Spanish 204 final. The drinking and computer gaming before they studied. The making love after.
And although he agreed, he was also noticeably silent on any follow-up reminiscences.
What’s Marcia been doing these days? Still baking?
Okay, she couldn’t resist a little dig here.
Funny you’d remember that…yeah. She works part time at a restaurant. One my sister owns.
Of course she did. Those two were inseparable.
Yep. She and Sandra are still best friends. Which, actually, surprises no one. Half the time I think Marcia married me just so she and Sandra could officially be sisters. Ha!
His laugh, even in electronic form, came across as forced. Especially with his follow-up line.
Sometimes they’re a more compatible couple than Marcia and I are. LOL.
Hard to tell, but wasn’t there a tinge of bitterness in his response? To her it seemed so.
Anyway, she’s…content with life.
And then there was a pause in their IM’ing, long enough to let his meaning sink in, as Jennifer was sure he knew it would.
This was pure David Saxon, Cipher Man. Purposely butchering Karl Marx, David always used to say, “Contentment is the opiate of the masses.” During college, he’d complained about his sister’s “pesky friend Marcia” to Jennifer. “You’ll never believe what a dope she is!” he’d exclaimed, in full irritation mode one day. “I was talking to her about Marx, and she said, ‘Richard Marx? Like the singer?’ I could’ve strangled her.”
But, instead, he’d married her.
She was determined not to get drawn into some marital weirdness and discord although, clearly, David was not content with his wife’s contentedness.
She typed a new line to change the subject.
How about your boys? What’re they like?
Ah, John’s in first grade. He’s into dinosaurs and a wide variety of reptiles. Paul is our two-year-old and he’s pretty much all about trucks these days.
She laughed aloud before responding, tracking his latest clue.
What? Not a guitar between them? (*grin*)
Now, now. I chose John’s name, okay. But Paul was Marcia’s idea.
Oh, sure. And you did nothing to persuade her? Why don’t I believe that…? Does she realize you’ll expect a George and a Ringo, too?
Nah. There won’t be any more kids. Plus, believe it or not, she’s not a Beatles fan.
She rolled her eyes before firing back a reply.
She’s gotta like Wings. Everybody liked them.
She hit return and began to type a new line. She got as far as
Or what about John Len
—before her message was interrupted by his.
Nope. Not “Silly Love Songs.” Not Lennon’s solo stuff. She called “Imagine” BORING once.
Jennifer didn’t know what to say to this. How about:
That’s what you get for leaving me after nearly three years together, running away from our future plans and marrying a little twit five years younger than you.
Tempting as it would be to fling this back at him, she refrained.
Anyway, I’ve gotta get back to work. I wanted to run some places on campus by you, but I’ve got a better idea now.
She waited as he typed a new line, literally holding her breath and wondering what his “better idea” would be.
Mitch e-mailed me a list of possible bars, restaurants, dining halls and stuff. But it’s been a while since I visited C-IL-U. Have you been there recently?
Maybe we could check it out together. It’s been so long, I’m not sure what’d be good anymore. Plus, it’d be nice to catch up in person before the reunion, maybe even take a trip to Russia.
Translation from David-Code: Visit
restaurant. The Winter Palace. The one that served the best Chicken Kiev west of St. Petersburg.
Oh, God. Go back to campus? With HIM?
Is it still there?
I think so. I HOPE so. I know it’s a lot of time to be gone in one day, but if you’re able to, I’d really appreciate your help. Your husband wouldn’t mind, would he? You hanging out with an old friend for a few hours?
Michael wouldn’t be aware of the degree of danger—that was what she
. But that wasn’t what she
No. Would Marcia?
The reply came back perhaps too quickly, and she was confused by the turn their messaging had taken. It was followed by a line far more confounding, however.
It’s just an innocent get-together to scout locations. And we could meet somewhere we both know well. At the front doors of the library, maybe. How far of a drive is it for you? 2 hours?
A little less. You?
About 3. But it’d be interesting to see some of those campus hot spots again.
He didn’t wait for her to construct an excuse.
What are your Fridays like?
Not good. I have yoga.
Even in text form, he couldn’t disguise his shock. In his defense, she’d been pretty anti-floor-exercise in college. Unless he counted the number of times they’d had sex on his sleeping bag in his parents’ basement.
It’s for health reasons.
She didn’t bother explaining she’d had to do
to counterbalance her techie side. She lived so much of her life in her head. And, besides, her doctor had ordered her to do it to “manage her anxiety,” which she always tried to keep hidden. But her blood pressure told the truth, so she’d had no choice but to sign up for classes.
I’ve been going every Friday morning for the past couple of years. It’s a nonnegotiable part of my routine.
This, of course, wasn’t strictly true. She met her friends an hour before yoga was set to begin. She actually left the Indigo Moon Café in time to make it to the gym only about once every third week. But her ex-boyfriend didn’t need to know this, particularly since her husband didn’t.
Well, you always were flexible.
She swallowed and tried to push away the memories that pummeled her at these words, not to mention his insinuations. She didn’t answer.
So, okay—not Fridays. How about a Thursday then? Not next week. I’ve got a presentation scheduled, but maybe the next one?
She was, of course, aware that even though he wasn’t living in California he was still working full time in the high-tech computer world. But she could only guess at what, specifically, he was doing.
She could almost hear his pride.
I’m with Syn-Sig Tech. We specialize in GPS receivers, but I’m also working on a project with our Swedish branch on internal notebook cards. You’d love this stuff, Jenn. You’re still in the field, aren’t you?
Oh, how best to answer him? Much as she would’ve loved to embellish, she opted for honesty.
Yes, but I’m just designing basic Web pages at home. Mostly for local businesses.
She didn’t add that these easy jobs had allowed her the autonomy to be a stay-at-home mom, which had been a priority for her, particularly when the girls were little. Or that they needed her income to supplement Michael’s teaching salary. She especially didn’t mention how much she’d dreamed of being truly innovative in the field or how, maybe, she might have lived up to her programming potential if she and David had stayed together.
I’ll bet you do great work. E-mail me a few links to your projects. I’d like to see them.
Like hell she would.
And, if you help me out with the reunion, maybe I’ll bring you a USB dongle as a gift. Ours are ice-cream-cone shaped, and they come in special neon colors….
Sure, David. Talk dirty to me.
He had a way of making even talk of flash drives sound filthy. She squeezed her eyes shut and typed:
That won’t be necessary.
Then she pulled her fingers away from the keyboard.
C’mon, it’ll be fun. Would two weeks from now work for you? Thursday the 23rd?
She knew she had nothing special on her calendar for that day. But should she drive all the way back to C-IL-U? To
college? Just to see David again? She needed to buy time before answering.
I’ll have to get back to you. Let me check our family calendar and verify a few appointments. I’ll e-mail you next week.
Thanks. And, Jenn?
I’ve missed talking to you.
She clicked off their connection and took several of those deep-cleansing yoga breaths, which supposedly removed toxins and prevented hyperventilation. But would it release all her pent-up feelings about David Saxon from her body?
As much as she didn’t want to have to confess what’d been going on to Bridget and Tamara, she needed to. She had to talk to somebody about this. Thank God tomorrow was Friday.
She wasn’t sweating quite so profusely anymore, but her skin was clammy and her hands still shook. It was a strange sensation, right down to her fingertips—like clipped wings regenerating but still not long enough or strong enough for flight. And, wow, was the process ever painful.
David’s leaving had swept the wind from beneath her in college. She’d felt so unbelievably deflated, all the progress she’d made toward confidence and self-assurance having blown away in his absence. Being no longer sure of her footing on the ground, she was unable to lift off and fly after graduation. Not like she’d hoped.
Michael was David’s opposite and, perhaps, too far a swing in the pendulum of relationships. She’d desperately wanted someone who didn’t remind her of David
and Michael fit that bill like no other: