I folded the red and white checkered napkin over and over, the repetitive action calming.
“May I get you anything else?”
Flustered, I dropped it. I stared at the basket of bread sticks in front of me, the dried grease congealed after two hours of sitting untouched.
Where was he?
“Ma’am?” The waiter’s irritation shined through his plastic smile. “May I get you the check?’
“What time do you close?”
“In an hour.”
“I’ll have a house salad then, ranch dressing on the side.”
“Of course.” He left, annoyance radiating from his body.
I sighed, as frustrated as my waiter. I opened my purse, pulling out a postcard with the state capitol on the front. I flipped it over, reading the familiar scrawl for the thousandth time.
“I’m not dead. Meet me tonight at Guido’s Pizzeria. Tell no one.”
My heart raced again.
John wasn’t dead.
The delicious smell of oven baked pizza wafted through the air, bringing back memories of high school.
Our first date at this same table, tucked into a dark back corner.
His laughter as I pretended to give a blow job to a breadstick.
His tongue licking pizza sauce off my fingers.
His hand, pulling me into the narrow alleyway behind Guido’s, my back against the brick wall as his body covered mine.
“Here’s your salad.” A plate thumped onto the table.
I jumped, nearly knocking over my chair, and shoved the postcard back into my purse. “Thank you.”
“Enjoy your… salad.” He flounced away, no longer hiding his contempt.
I stabbed my food and shuffled it around the plate, pretending to eat; “what if” scenarios flew through my mind.
What if by “tonight”, he’d meant 5 PM, not sometime after 6? Three hours and still no sign of him.
What if this was a trick? I hadn’t seen John in over five years, our communication by email or phone only. Why not email me instead of a cryptic postcard?
What if he was really dead?
I shuddered. He damn well better be alive. I would not mourn him twice in a week.
My cell phone danced on the table. I peeked at the caller ID and guilt washed over me as Danny’s name appeared.
I slid my finger across the screen to answer. “Hi honey.” My voice wavered and I cleared my throat. “What’s up?”
“Me. I’m naked and waiting for you. Where the hell are you?”
I bit my lip. “You didn’t get my text?”
“No, I fucking didn’t get any damn text. What fucking emergency could have possibly happened to make you late after I just spent two weeks working in Hong Kong?”
I cringed as the lie rolled off my tongue. “I texted you hours ago. Amanda’s dad is in the hospital and she needs moral support. I won’t be back until late.” Or in an hour if John failed to show.
“Fuck. Is he dying?”
“The details are sketchy and the doctors aren’t talking. It’s why Amanda is a basket case.”
“Yeah. I’m so sorry.” My gut twisted and I silently cursed John for putting me in this position.
“I’ll try to wait up for you. If I’m asleep, you know how to wake me up.”
“Thanks for understanding. I’ll make it up to you.”
“I’m counting on it, babe. See you later.”
“Bye.” I disconnected the call, shoved my salad away, and smacked my forehead onto the table.
I’d ditched hot sex with my boyfriend for being stood up by a dead ex-boyfriend’s cryptic postcard.
What the hell?
I raised my head and reached into my purse again, ignoring the postcard and selecting two twenties to toss onto the table. I stood and hurried out the door.
A wall of humidity hit me as I strode from the brightly lit entrance into the path of a broken streetlight. I sped up, passing our alleyway, blinking away the bombarding memories.
I removed my keys and a warm hand covered my mouth as an arm lifted my torso – my body pulled tight into another’s. Panicked, I struggled, trying to kick my attacker or gouge their eyes.
My keys clattered to the sidewalk as we disappeared into the alley.
***Now continued in “The Alley”
The Red Dress Club: “One week after attending the funeral of a close friend, you receive a postcard in the mail with the words, ‘I’m not dead. Meet me tonight at Guido’s Pizzeria. Tell no one.’ “
Have FUN with this! Word limit is 700.