As the day hours turned to evening hours, and I kept driving, I was looking forward to that Wednesday night movie more and more. It was New Year’s Eve, and it was crazy busy, even with college out of session. I kept going, until nearly four in the morning. When some guy threw up in the back seat and I called it a night. Minnesota nice had been forsaken, and it occurred to me the nicest person I had encountered all day was from New Hampshire-
so much for reputations.
I promised myself as soon as I had a real apartment I would find a new job. At least I wasn’t going to have to drive on the 1st after my double shift. It gave me a chance to call Susie, as far as I knew she was still the go-between as far as seeing Jennie was concerned.
I called Susie about two that afternoon, and she was just getting home. She hadn’t talked to Lucy yet, but she expected to that evening. I didn’t talk long, just long enough to leave a number where she could reach me, and
to let her know I had found a job, and had set up a date. I figured the news of Tami would tone down the lectures about Lucy.
“Tell Jennie I’m getting myself settled, but I’ll stop and write to her real soon.”
“I will,” she told me. “I’m glad you’re getting out, seeing someone.”
“We’ll see if she shows,” I said.
“She’ll show,” Susie said. I expected more questions, but she didn’t ask any. She told me she expected Lucy within an hour and she wanted to take time to prepare.
I showed up outside the theatre about ten minutes to seven Wednesday night and Tami arrived within a few minutes. “Kindergarten Cop” with Arnold Schwarzenegger was the next movie to start, and it seemed as
reasonable a choice.
The movie was amusing, Arnold gets stuck teaching kindergarten as part of an undercover operation, and the kids are crazy about him. The real teacher’s son winds up getting kidnapped by his own father, who happens to
be a notorious criminal.
I guess I identified with the bad guy a little too much, because I couldn’t help but get a little shook up when he was trying to get the kid to remember him. Of course he didn’t. The mom had taken the kid and bolted when he was a baby. Tami noticed my reaction and smiled at me as she squeezed my hand.
After the movie we went to Perkins, where she worked, to get a bite to eat and she brought it up.
“You’re the first guy I’ve ever seen cry at a Schwarzenegger movie,” she said.
“Well, it’s not the Terminator,” I said.
“I think it’s sweet,” she said.
“It’s the kid. It’s frightening, the life he’s got.”
Tami shrugged. “It’s just a movie,” she said. “You like kids?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I like kids a lot. I’ve spent a lot of time with my best friend’s daughter. She’s almost ten.”
“Are they from that town you’re from?” Tami paused with the question left up in the air, as if she were inquiring about the name.
“Leifton,” I answered. “Yeah, they were. But my friend and his wife both passed away a few months ago. The kid’s in Minneapolis with his wife’s sister.” I wanted to sound as formal as possible. I didn’t feel it was appropriate to reveal my connection to Lucy.
“That’s not fair,” she said. “Do you ever get to see her?”
“I’ve been trying to,” I said, “But it’s hard. The aunt’s husband is a little insecure.”
“I hate that,” Tami said. “Some men think they own women. You’re not supposed to know anyone but them.”
“I’m not like that, Tami,” I told her.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Dennis. I didn’t mean you. You’re a sweetheart.”
“I know you didn’t,” I said, “But thank you.”
The waitress, Michelle, came, and Tami introduced me. She had worked with her, of course, and she told me she was one of the best servers in the restaurant, almost as good as she was.
“You wish,” Michelle said. “Who’s this?” she said gesturing toward me. “I thought you were seeing Rob?”
“Not for the last few weeks,” Tami told her. “This is Dennis. He moved here from Leifton.”
“You go to college?” Michelle asked.
“Eventually maybe,” I said. “For now I’m starting over.”
“Yep,” she said. “Everyone’s got to do that sometimes.”
Tami announced she was starving and Michelle took our order. Tami got a bowl of chili and a breadstick, and I got one of their famous “supreme” burgers-a bacon cheeseburger with barbeque sauce. It was a nice time, and I drove her back to her car after we finished eating.
“You know,” I said as we were driving.
“This was fun, but I want to do this right. I want to pick you up and take you somewhere. Where would you want to go?”
“Hmm,” she said. “We did the nice relaxing thing. I suppose it would be interesting seeing what you’re like when you loosen up a bit. Have you heard of Tav on the Ave?”
“I picked up a few people there on New Year’s Eve. It’s on Madison, right?”
Tami nodded. “Eww, you had to drive on New Year’s Eve, poor thing.”
“Tips weren’t too bad,” I told her, “But yeah, it was kinda boot camp for cabbies.”
“Well, I’m free next Wednesday again, if that works for you,” she said.
“Sounds good. I’ll pick you up about seven?”
Tami wrote her address and phone number on the back of a coffee punch card and handed it to me. She gave me a kiss before she got out of the truck and headed back to her own car. It was friendly, not overly passionate.
“See you Wednesday,” she said.
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