Searching for Swimmers–Chapter 31
Jason, Sheila and Louise walked into the café. Sheila and Louise continued on to the table but Jason held back in order to catch Jenny’s eye. She blushed as she approached him.
“Guess you found them.”
“Thanks to your great tip.”
“Just goes to show, you’re not the only one throwing around great tips.”
“Be careful, that could be taken the wrong way.”
Jenny’s face brightened.
“You know, if I was a little younger, and you didn’t like woman, and I didn’t have a near nonsensical reaction to romantic relationships—”
“Yeah, yeah, you’d screw me and leave me disappointed.”
“Disappointed? All gayness aside, you think I’d be that bad of a lay?”
Jenny’s face flushed again. “Wasn’t referring to the lay.”
“I’ll get you back on my side yet.”
“Yeah, good luck.”
“Oh, and don’t worry. Your crush is safe with me,” Jason said. He walked to the table and sat down.
“You know you don’t have a shot with her,” Louise said.
“I know, plays for your team.”
“Yeah, and she’s in love with the mother of my child.”
Sheila blushed. “Just a crush. Besides, I’m the one that’s fat and peeing every five seconds, which means you’re more likely to turn me in for a younger model.”
“No trade in. Just a test drive,” Louise teased.
“Oh well, in that case,” Sheila said.
Jenny stopped at the table to take the drink orders, and Sheila laid on the flattery.
After Jenny left to grab their drinks, Jason said, “Now, don’t be cruel to the girl.”
“It’s harmless,” Sheila replied.
Louise and Jason both had black coffee, Sheila green tea. Jason did the old fashioned breakfast: two eggs over easy, three pieces of bacon, hash browns and toast. Louise had a Greek omelet and Sheila had the double stack of gingerbread pancakes with two hard-boiled eggs and a double side of bacon.
Jason covered his mouth with his hand. “There’s one last thing I need to talk to you about.” He finished chewing his bite and removed his hand. “I’ve kind of purposefully left it until the end.”
“It’s about my parents, right?” Sheila asked.
A bit surprised, Jason said, “Uh, yeah.”
“Mom, right? Give you the whole weepy, remorseful bit?”
“Didn’t seem like a bit.”
“It never does because there’s a grain of truth to it. Always ends the same way.”
Jason noticed Louise’s deliberate silence. “And that is?”
“She takes his side.”
“I know it’s not my place, but considering the circumstances, wouldn’t now be the time to set aside sides, maybe give it another go?”
Sheila sucked the syrup off her fork and set it neatly on the edge of her plate. “Excuse me. Nature calls.”
After Sheila left the table, Jason looked at Louise worried. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to—”
“It’s not your fault. Everyone has their brick wall. That’s hers.” Louise set down her fork and grabbed her cup of coffee. She took a sip. “I don’t blame her. Her parents have put her through a lot of shit, but at some point she needs to make peace with it. I’ve tried to convince her of it even more lately, but like I said, everyone has their brick wall.”
Sheila returned from the restroom, her natural demeanor restored, and she dived right back into her pancakes as if nothing had happened. The table remained quiet for a few chews and swallows. “So, Jason,” Sheila asked, “what’s next for you? Who’s the next mark on the sperm list?”
“A woman who lives in San Jose. Go figure.”
“You gonna just go there?” Louise asked.
“Yeah, that’s the plan. I tried doing it over the phone, but, now especially, it just doesn’t feel right.”
“San Jose’s not that far away.”
“Yeah, I know. Figured I’d just rent a car. Need to grab my bag from my motel first, then the search continues, so to speak.”
Sheila looked at Louise and through a series of nods and other expressions carried on a short silent conversation. “You know,” Sheila said, “you should use our car.”
“Wow, I’m overwhelmed by your generosity, but I can’t accept.”
Sheila fished the keys from her purse and threw them on the table. “I insist.”
“No, sorry, gotta take a stand. Nothing against you. I just have a sort of phobia against borrowing someone’s vehicle. I mean, regardless of the nature of your good intentions, if, even through no fault of my own, I happen to wreck your car, a piece of you will hate me. And considering what I know about your personality, you’d also hate yourself for hating me.”
“Doesn’t matter. It’s a tool, plus I have full coverage insurance.”
“Still doesn’t matter. Add on the weird factor of just meeting you yesterday, in addition to the holy shit, fuck me circumstances in which we met, and my phobia turns into a full blown lock-me-up-in-a-padded-cell-with-a-straightjacket scenario. Not the kind of mindset you want to be driving under.”
“Fair enough.” Sheila grabbed her keys. “Can I ask you a personal question?”
“You can ask.”
“Do you run away from responsibility or just avoid it?”
Jason dropped his fork and leaned back in his chair. “You know, I’m not sure.”
Louise, Jason and Sheila stood outside the café, saying their goodbyes.
“There’s always a glass waiting for you at our house,” Louise said as she gave Jason a casual hug.
“Even though it terrifies you, I wish we were having your baby,” Sheila said. She embraced him tightly. Jason returned the strong hug, and then Sheila whispered in his ear, “Deep down you wish it was yours, too.” Then she let go.
As the two women walked away Sheila said, “You better let us know how it all turns out.”
“Otherwise, we’ll have to hunt you down,” Louise finished.
“And you don’t want to see me angry,” Sheila laughed.
Jason watched them fade into the distance until Jenny popped outside. “Can’t believe you were going to leave without saying goodbye.”
Jason slipped her forty dollars.
Jenny looked at the money and offered it back. “Oh, shit. That’s not what I meant.”
Jason waved it off. “I know. This is how I planned on saying goodbye. I don’t think you know what you’ve given me.”
Jenny reluctantly stuffed the cash into her apron. She shyly looked up at Jason. “Thanks.”
Jason hugged her and walked off.
“You may not know it,” Jenny said, “but you’ll be back.”