21-Year-Old Scotch: Chapter 5

By Cris Kane - citizencriskane@yahoo.com
published February 11, 2017
5392 words
Summary

Scott wakes up after his wild night as a twenty-one-year-old.

Scott lay half-awake, his thoughts muddled, his head feeling as if it were stuffed with raw cookie dough. The bed felt incredibly stiff, and so did Scott. Not only was his back killing him, but he had morning wood for the first time in recent memory. He attributed the latter to the rare presence of Amanda’s arm draped across his shirtless chest, although it might also have something to do with that long convoluted dream where has was a college student again. Most of the details were fuzzy to him at the moment, but as it was going on, it had felt extremely vivid. He’d had previous dreams where he found himself back in school, but they usually involved him showing up to class naked. In this one, he had also ended up naked, but this time he was playing Twister with a ludicrously attractive guy. Just the thought of it caused Scott’s hard-on to stiffen further and tilt upward at a thirty-degree angle.

Scott heard a sleepy feminine voice murmur into his ear, “Well, looky there. Rise and shine indeed!”

“Morning, honey,” Scott said, smirking as he rubbed his eyes. He wondered why Amanda’s voice sounded so different this morning, and why the bedsheet felt so flimsy and cool against his skin.

“‘Honey’? What’s the matter, still can’t remember my name?”

In an instant, Scott’s eyes flipped wide open as he realized he was not safe at home in his bed with his wife, but still in the house he remembered from the end of what he thought had been a dream. The place was dark, with only thin shafts of light sneaking past the drawn window shades, but it was easy to make out his immediate surroundings. He was lying on the living room floor, wrapped in a tangled Twister mat alongside that emaciated boy with snarled black hair and smeared makeup. Startled, Scott let out a yelp and scooted backwards, kicking his legs to untangle them from the multicolored game board. As his ass slid across the hardwood floor, he felt a splinter jab its way into one of his bare ass cheeks. He discovered he was entirely naked, save for the purple condom which still clung to his bobbing erection.

The pale skinny boy, wearing only plaid boxer shorts, propped himself up on an elbow, his eyes fixed on the up-and-down movements of Scott’s bouncing cock. “Doesn’t that sucker ever deflate?”

Scott slapped his hands over his boner as he gradually acclimated to his situation. He stared down at his body, still trim, tight, toned, and twenty-one. Details of the previous night’s events slowly filtered into his consciousness. The Rusty Nail. Galaga’s restaurant. Seeing his old roommates. And getting dragged to this party by the boy now stretched out on the Twister board. He even remembered the boy’s name. “Phillipe?”

The young man looked pleased. “You DID remember my name! I guess I must have made some kind of impression.”

“Can I ask you a favor, Phillipe?”, Scott asked with a desperate quiver in his voice. “Can you slap me in the face, like real hard?”

“Sorry, sweetie,” Phillipe said, padding toward Scott on his hands and knees. “I’m not into the whole S-and-M thing. But how ’bout this?” He stretched his neck and lowered his lips around the big toe of Scott’s left foot, licking it like a Tootsie Pop. Scott reflexively jerked his foot away and Phillipe’s face dropped to the the floor with a thud. “Ow, you fuckin’ asshole!”

“Sorry,” Scott said weakly. The word was practically becoming his mantra. The slobber now evaporating from his toe had served the same purpose as the slap he had initially requested, offering a tangible physical sensation which convinced him this was definitely not a dream. “You okay there?”

“Jesus, what is your trip?” Phillipe complained. “You didn’t mind me sucking your toes last night.”

Scott’s memories of the previous night didn’t include a makeout session with this skinny boy. “Did you and I…do anything?”

“We didn’t fuck, if that’s what you’re worrying,” Phillipe said, leaning against the end of the sofa and probing the bridge of his nose with his fingers, inspecting for damage. “After we lugged Jared to his bed, you and I made out a little, that’s all. Like I told you, you straight-acting boys don’t do it for me.”

“But you sucked my toes?”

“Well, to be fair, your toes are pretty gay,” Phillipe smirked.

Scott looked down at his bare feet, trying to figure out what looked so gay about his long, knobby toes. He couldn’t recall any of what Phillipe described, but the anxious burbling in his gut reminded him how much he had imbibed. As a tightness constricted his throat, Scott sensed the inevitable. He covered his mouth with his hands and scampered desperately through the dining room and into the kitchen. He dropped to his knees beside the trash can in the center of the room just as a sour-grape blast launched at firehose strength from his throat returning last night’s potent punch from whence it came. After several forceful surges, Scott felt confident that he’d fully purged his system. He staggered toward the sink to wash the acidic aftertaste from his mouth. A quick survey of the post-party ruins of the kitchen did not turn up a clean glass, so he placed his lips in the stream of water from the spigot and lapped up enough to relieve his cottonmouth.

All things considered, he was amazed that he felt as good as he did, which he attributed to resiliency of youth. He had never been much of a drinker, even in college, partly because Amanda had been as opposed to underage drinking as she was to premarital sex. Of course, he eventually learned she wasn’t so keen on overage drinking or post-marital sex either. Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, he glanced at the analog clock on the stove, which read ten past eleven. The house was so dark with all the shades pulled, he was surprised it was so late in the morning.

Suddenly, every nerve in his body snapped awake as it flashed into his head that he should have been at the Pancake Pagoda by eleven. He bounded heavily back to the living room, head swiveling madly in search of his discarded clothes.

Phillipe noted Scott’s panicked face. “What got into you all of a sudden?”

“I was supposed to meet my girlfriend for breakfast ten minutes ago!”

“Girlfriend, eh?”, Phillipe said with an insinuating chuckle before a thought occurred to him. “Oh, was she the GOR-geous brunette who came backstage for you opening night?”

“I guess so,” Scott said distractedly. He still had no real memory of doing the play, but assumed that Amanda would have been the only gorgeous brunette who would come in search of him.

“Oooh,” Phillipe said, practically swooning, “I would strangle a crate full of puppies to have hair like hers.”

Spotting his painter’s pants wadded in the corner, Scott bent toward them but felt a sharp pain as his stiff back seized up. Clutching his spine with his left arm, he extended his right toward the floor, desperately waggling his fingers toward his pants. As he finally snagged a belt loop on the tip of his middle finger and hoisted the pants upward, the contents of his pants pockets cascaded to the floor. The clatter of raining change was sufficient to wake the other sleeping stragglers dispersed around the house, who emitted a chorus of annoyed groans and sickly moans. “Sorry,” Scott announced in a stage whisper as he frantically stuck a leg into his pants, plunging a bare foot through the ripped-out knee and inflicting further destruction on the fabric.

“Here, lemme help you out,” Phillipe offered, crawling over and tearing away the rest of the dangling cloth, exposing Scott’s leg from the knee down. “There, you’ll start a new fashion trend: one-and-a-half-legged pants.”

Scott gazed down grimly. “I can’t go out looking like this!”

“Okay, okay, I’ll go get the scissors. Keep what’s left of your pants on.” Phillipe scampered toward the kitchen.

Scott put his other leg down the still-momentarily-intact leg of his pants, then looked for his shirt. Noticing red-and-white scraps scattered randomly around the place, he remembered that his shirt had been reduced to shreds. When Phillipe returned, Scott asked, “You think I could borrow your shirt?”

Phillipe laughed as he carefully began snipping into Scott’s pants leg. “MY skinny little shirt? You MIGHT be able to squeeze your dick into it. Go dig up something from Jared’s closet. He’s more your size.” Phillipe wriggled the sleeve of white fabric down Scott’s leg, leaving Scott standing in newly shorn white cut-offs which put his firm diamond-shaped calves on prominent display.

“Which room’s Jared’s?”, Scott asked Phillipe.

Phillipe looked up from the floor and pointed toward the hallway with the scissors. “Ear piercing salon. Just follow the trail of blood droplets.”

Scott walked nimbly among the alcohol casualties strewn about the floor and tiptoed his way toward Jared’s room. He tapped gently on the door, then swung it open slowly, its hinges squeaking softly. Jared was zonked on his bed, face down naked atop a pile of his remaining guests’ jackets, snoring like the Concorde coming in for a landing. Scott hit pause for a moment as his eyes lingered on the sight of Jared’s bare ass. Scott’s erection regained strength. He realized it was still encased in its purple condom, but there was no time to deal with that now.

Scott noticed a number of framed photos on the wall, both candid and formal, showing Jared with a pretty girl with silken blonde hair and a blinding smile with what seemed like far more than the requisite number of teeth. Interspersed amongst those pictures were 8x10 headshots of Jared in various roles. Last night, Scott had found Jared vaguely familiar, chalking it up to their working together on the play that everyone except Scott could remember, but in the relative sobriety of the morning, Scott had a startling realization. This wasn’t just some hot guy named Jared, this was JARED TAYLOR! Scott and Amanda had seen him in several pleasantly inoffensive romantic-comedies back in the Nineties, usually playing the insanely rugged but caddish rival to the more affable, quippier, and higher-billed male lead in their battle for the heart of the too-good-to-be-true love interest. Scott wasn’t entirely surprised that he hadn’t recognized Jared instantly, as Jared’s stunning youthful features had grown even more classically handsome as he matured. Jared at the party was a lovely boy, but Jared Taylor was a man. When he showed up onscreen in those movies, he had definitely left an impression on Scott, particularly on Scott’s inner thigh. Strangely, it had never occurred to Scott that Jared Taylor might be gay in real life, although he did always sense that Jared’s characters were far too attractive to end up with the girl. No woman wants to be the second-prettiest member of a couple. Now Scott really regretted blowing what had undoubtedly been his once-in-a-lifetime chance to make out with an actual movie star. Of course, he’d still be able to tell people about that one time when Jared Taylor had passed out on top of him playing Naked Twister, although he had no idea at the moment to whom he would ever be brave enough to divulge such a secret. It certainly wasn’t the sort of thing he could tell Amanda.

Scott gathered his wits, remembering why he had come here in the first place. He walked to Jared’s closet, but saw only a few items on hangers. Most of his wardrobe was heaped haphazardly in piles on the floor. Scott attempted to bend over, but his back was still killing him. He clutched the first item within reach, which appeared to be a plain purple t-shirt. With effort, he raised it over his head and shimmied it down his torso. It was sleeveless and slightly small for him, but he had no time to be choosy. If he knew Amanda, she’d already be fuming at his tardiness. He gave Jared’s body one last fond glance, then left the room.

When Scott returned to the living room, Phillipe was standing alertly in the middle of the floor, holding Scott’s blue Topsiders like he was Scott’s valet. Scott took them with an appreciative smile and plunked himself down on the couch to slip into them. Scott said, awestruck, “So he’s THE Jared Taylor!”

“Oh, his ego would LOVE to hear you call him that,” Phillipe said with a weary shake of his head.

Scott could have kicked himself for being so dumb. Of course, at this moment, Jared was years away from becoming THE Jared Taylor. Now he was just A Jared Taylor. “So who’s the girl in the pictures?”

“That’s Teresa, his girlfriend from back home. A real sweetie. You met her at the wrap party, remember? No, of course you don’t.”

Scott shrugged off this latest gap in his memory bank as he slid his feet into his still damp shoes. “So is Jared still…in the closet?”

Phillipe cackled. “Sweetie, the only place Jared is out is in this house. That’s why I call this place the ‘out house’. I keep trying to drag him to the Rusty Nail, but he’s bailed on me so many times, I’ve stopped asking.”

“How about you?”, Scott asked curiously. “Are you, ya know…?”

“Honey, anybody who can’t see that I’m gay ain’t lookin’. I’ve never sent out engraved announcements or anything, but it’s not some state secret. My mama’s in denial. She just says I’m loud.”

“Well, you are that,” Scott said with a good-natured grin. He rose to his feet and extended his hand, saying, “Well, Phillipe, thanks for bringing me to the party. I’ll never forget it.”

“Says the man who can’t remember anything,” Phillipe said skeptically. He moved toward Scott with his spindly arms outstretched.

Scott had never been much of a hugger, but the approach of a young man he barely knew wearing nothing but boxers didn’t make him tense up the way he might have before last night. As the two embraced, Scott was intensely aware that his cock was still rock-solid from his visit to Jared’s room and realized there was no way Phillipe wasn’t feeling it pressed between their bodies. As they parted, Phillipe squatted down and spoke directly to Scott’s crotch, delivering a perfect impersonation of Judy Garland in “The Wizard Of Oz” as he proclaimed, “Oh, giant purple cock, I think I’ll miss you most of all!”

Scott chuckled and swept a hand through Phillipe’s dangling bangs, brushing them back behind his ear to reveal what Scott realized was quite an elegant face beneath the smeared cosmetics. “Better,” Scott declared. “Tell Jared I said goodbye.” Scott pivoted toward the front door and was gone.

The warm sun on his skin and the fresh morning air in his lungs had an immediate rejuvenating effect on Scott. He took a moment to get his bearings, then began to jog in what he was pretty sure was the general direction of the Pancake Pagoda. His finely-tuned body swiftly picked up the pace and soon he was in full gallop. Even his back pain faded away as his muscles clicked into gear. He wished that he could have texted Amanda as he usually would, to let her know that, yes, he was late again, as always, but would be there soon. He supposed he could stop at a pay phone, look up the number for the restaurant and ask them to page her, but in his current shape, he would probably get there faster on foot than it would take to go through all of the rigmarole of contacting her.

Even with two wrong turns, he reached the restaurant remarkably quickly. The Pagoda had served Cantonese cuisine for more than two decades before it was taken over by new management who were too cheap and/or lazy to redecorate beyond slapping poorly-spaced decal letters reading “PANCAKE” on the front window. The place still looked like an authentic Chinese restaurant, with essentially an IHOP stuffed inside. This morning, it occurred to Scott that he wasn’t all that different from the Pancake Pagoda, outwardly presenting one image while concealing a completely different identity. As he caught his reflection in the front window, he realized that after the “remodeling” he had undergone last night, his exterior was now a closer match to his interior. In his sleep the gel had formed his mullet into a wedge shape, giving him a striking resemblance to Gumby. As sunlight glinted on the stud in his ear, Scott considered removing it before entering the restaurant, but decided that greeting Amanda with a blood-encrusted hole punched in his earlobe would raise just as many questions as showing up with an earring. He filled his lungs with a deep breath, bracing himself to face the consequences of last night’s actions.

He spotted Amanda at a table for two near the back, beneath the huge mural of the Great Wall. Even from this distance, she was radiant, and her appearance only grew more staggering the closer he got. It was a shock to see her restored to her youthful appearance, stripped of three decades’ accumulation of wrinkles, gray hairs and fatigue. She was just the way he remembered her from their first meeting, the girl next door if you were lucky enough to live next to Jacqueline Bisset. The cascading waves of brown hair were even more bountiful than he recalled, and he could see why Phillipe had been envious. She was dressed simply and timelessly in a white blouse and navy blue skirt. The only thing that screamed Eighties about her appearance were oversized glasses with plastic frames which, contrary to the cliche, only enhanced her allure further, focusing your attention on her striking green eyes with eyelashes so naturally dark and lush that they needed no mascara. She remained the most beautiful woman Scott had ever seen in person.

And Scott realized that in her presence, his cock, which had been at full mast almost constantly since his arrival at the Rusty Nail yesterday, lay limp in his pants, curled like an earthworm. He found that significant.

He stood next to the table, watching her silently, searching for the right words to say. Aware of the presence of someone hovering over her, Amanda apologetically grabbed for her purse and explained hurriedly, “It’s okay, you can have this table. I was just leaving.” As she began to stand, she felt a hand pressing on her shoulder to keep her in her chair.

“Don’t go,” Scott said, “it’s me.”

Recognizing the voice, Amanda looked up with exasperation. “Well, it’s about ti…” She halted mid-syllable as her eyes widened to take in the sight of her transformed boyfriend.

Scott winced and said, “I’m so, so, SO sorry for being late. There’s no excuse.” He slid back the wooden chair and took a seat opposite Amanda, whose brain was busy attempting to catalogue all the ways in which Scott’s appearance was different, from the lopsided hairdo on down.

“What happened to you?”, she asked, studying him like one of those “What’s wrong with this picture?” puzzles in the magazines for kids at the dentist’s office.

Scott had no clue how to answer her simple question. The truth, that he had been transported back in time from his fiftieth birthday, would make him seem insane, and a recitation of everything that had actually occurred to him in the past eighteen hours would sound, at best, wildly out of character. “I know I was supposed to meet you at Galaga’s for supper last night, but…I had an accident.” He could feel himself growing red. It was his tell that he was lying, and Amanda always picked up on it.

“So you had an accident and just happened to land on an earring?” Scott fingered the stud nervously and watched as Amanda’s attention flitted from one part of his body to the next. “What’s that on your hand?”, she asked, pointing to the smudged entrance stamp of the male symbol from the Rusty Nail.

Scott nervously covered it with his other hand and explained, “That’s just from a bar where I went with some friends.” As far as he knew, he had only been at the Rusty Nail with Phillipe, and even that was only based on hearsay.

“Let me guess. Your theater friends?”, she said with a peculiar emphasis on the word “theater”. Scott nodded. “Why didn’t you tell me you wanted to go out with them instead of me?”

“I don’t know,” Scott said.

Amanda’s tone turned from disappointment to suspicion when she spotted something alien on Scott’s face. “Is that lipstick on your cheek?”

Now Scott was genuinely surprised. He glanced around for a mirror and eventually picked up a spoon to examine his reflection. There was definitely a smear of something dark across his right cheek. Based on the color, he guessed that it was Phillipe’s maroon lipstick. “Yeah, that might be lipstick. You have to believe me, Mandy. I don’t really remember. I got…really drunk.” Despite Amanda’s disapproval of drinking, he hoped this might elicit a glimmer of compassion. “After all, it WAS my twenty-first birthday!” He tried to smile innocently.

She seemed on the verge of forgiveness until she spotted something on his neck. “Is that…is that a hickey?”

Scott reflexively slapped a hand on his neck, as if swatting at a mosquito. He didn’t even bother checking his reflection. He had no doubt that it was a hickey, also courtesy of Phillipe, but even if it just looked like a hickey, that was incriminating enough.

“Were you with some other girl?”, Amanda asked firmly, with a barely detectable quiver of sadness.

At last, something he could answer 100% truthfully. “No.”

Amanda leaned back and crossed her arms, still searching for the essence of her boyfriend hiding somewhere amidst all the cosmetic changes. Pointing toward his neck, she said, “Tag.”

At first, Scott thought she said, “Fag,” which seemed uncharacteristically rude from his usually kind and proper girlfriend. When he realized what she actually said, he followed the direction of her finger and noticed the label of Jared’s shirt flapping under his nose. In his haste, he had put on the shirt inside out and backwards. “Sorry, I got dressed really fast when I realized I’d overslept,” he explained with a shrug. Typically, Scott would have excused himself to the rest room to rectify the problem, but feeling no body shyness, he simply stripped off the shirt in the middle of the restaurant, flipped it right side out and spun it around, then slid it back down his torso, peripherally noticing some kind of slogan on the front. Scott looked down and deciphered the writing which appeared upside-down from his vantage point. “A HARD MAN IS GOOD TO FIND,” it proclaimed in shiny silver iron-on letters.

Amanda read the message on his shirt, then stared coolly into Scott’s eyes. “Scott, is there something you’re trying to tell me?”

No, he thought, there’s something I’m desperately trying NOT to tell you. Somehow they had avoided having this conversation for more than three decades, but he saw no way to skirt around it now. He knew what he had to say, and was pretty sure Amanda knew it too. This moment was giving him deja vu to the night of their marriage proposal, when he had hemmed and hawed for so long that eventually she did it first. Scott knew that, this time, it was important for him to beat her to the punch.

“Honey,” he said, stretching an arm across the table, while she kept her arms folded across her chest. Scott’s voice grew soft and quiet. “I’m…gay.” He had never said that out loud in his fifty years (plus a day). Now that those words had been set free into the universe, they sounded far less terrifying than he had always feared. They sounded…true.

He could hear a slight murmur of muted commentary from the nearby tables, but Scott’s attention was fixed on Amanda’s face, monitoring for any hint of reaction. Her expression remained stoic. Scott could tell from the way her lips were contorted that she was biting down hard on the inside of her cheek. The fluorescent lights emphasized the water glistening in her eyes. She swallowed hard. In a hesitant whisper, she asked, “Was it…something…I did?”

Scott felt a puff of silent laughter leave his nostrils as a fond smile swept over his face. “Of course not.”

“No, seriously, please tell me. Am I not pretty enough for you?”

Scott’s laughter became audible. When they first met, Scott had found it endearing that Amanda wasn’t conceited about her appearance, but as she grew older, it became clear that she was genuinely insecure about her looks and always had been. “Oh, Mandy, you’re pretty enough for ten girls.”

She blushed but didn’t seem to believe him. She leaned forward and spoke with solemnity, “Is it because I didn’t want to…” Her voice became barely audible: “…have sex?”

Scott shook his head. “No, that wasn’t it.”

A slight stammer crept into her voice. “Because, I mean, I will, if I have to. I know it’s different for boys. I don’t want to drive you away.”

Scott gently took hold of her right hand. “It’s nothing you did. Honestly. It’s me. It’s something I’ve been wrestling with for…for longer than you can imagine.”

She wasn’t ready to give up. “Maybe you’re just going through a phase. I mean, sometimes people have feelings, feelings that they know aren’t right, and eventually they grow out of them.” She smiled hopefully.

“Honey, I know. I’ve finally grown out of that phase.”

A cheerful middle-aged waitress arrived at the table with pad in hand. “I see your young gentleman finally got here.” She looked Scott over, then turned to Amanda and said, “I’d say he was worth waiting for,” punctuating her sentence with a wink. “You two ready to order?”

Amanda said, “I’m not really hungry any more,” reaching for her purse.

Scott gripped Amanda’s hand tightly and said, “Stay. Please.” He was about to order his usual scrambled Egg Beaters, turkey bacon and dry wheat toast when it struck him that the cardiologist wouldn’t tell him he needed to watch his diet for another twenty years. Surely a body in prime condition like this could tolerate at least one REAL breakfast. Scott glanced at the menu, then ordered with relish. “I’d like a three-egg omelette with cheddar cheese, onions and green peppers, three slices of your peach French toast with whipped cream on the top, a side order of CRISP bacon…and could I get a second side order of bacon with that?”

“I love me a man with a healthy appetite,” the waitress said with a smile. “Anything to drink?”

“Coffee. Black as you can make it. And could you bring her a fruit plate and some fresh orange juice? Thanks.” Scott had no hesitation ordering for Amanda. She had ordered the same thing for breakfast for thirty years. Odds are this wouldn’t be the one occasion when she wanted something new. He smiled wistfully at Amanda, whose forehead was still creased with worry. “Believe me, Mandy. I know this feels sudden, but it’s been building up, literally for years. Haven’t you ever had the slightest inkling that I might be…?” He dwindled off. He had tried so hard over the years to keep his feelings hidden, yet this moment might go a lot easier if he’d done a piss-poor job of it.

“I suppose, maybe, once in a while I did notice a little something.” Amanda allowed herself a hint of a grin. “You did seem very comfortable with that naked boy riding on your back.”

Scott felt like shouting, “And do you know who that naked boy turned out to be? Jared Taylor!”, but he was having a hard enough time without also trying to explain to Amanda how he could see into the future.

Amanda stayed silent for a while as Scott apologized again at length for not meeting her for his birthday dinner, insisting that he may have been callous or irresponsible at times but he would never intentionally hurt her. Even though the two of them had never had intercourse, he could remember how scary the Eighties had been, so he also felt the need to reassure her that he hadn’t spread any disease to her. Suddenly, Scott fell silent, realizing that he couldn’t be certain that he had never had sex with a guy, given the black hole in his memory for anything prior to last night. His gut told him he hadn’t been bold enough to take that step yet, but he would make a point of getting himself tested on Monday just to be positive (or, he hoped, negative).

The food arrived and the tension between Scott and Amanda faded slightly. Both consciously avoiding the elephant in the room, they fell into easy conversation about classes and finals, although when Amanda brought up spring break, they both realized they likely wouldn’t be spending it together this year. That brought their chat to a dead stop. They focused on their meals for the next five minutes. Scott couldn’t remember the last time he had such a ravenous appetite, and he devoured his unhealthy choices with glee, knowing he could burn off the calories easily during his next long run. Still, he knew he couldn’t make a habit of indulging like this. He silently promised to take better care of himself this time around.

When the waitress arrived with the check, Scott reached for his back pocket…and discovered that his wallet was missing. He realized it must have fallen out in Jared’s living room, along with all of his change and, most likely, his apartment key. He looked at Amanda apologetically and asked if she could cover the bill, insisting that he would pay her back as soon as possible.

“You always pay,” she said. “The least I can do it get this one.” Scott was still eating, but Amanda stood, putting on her jacket.

“Just gimme a minute,” Scott said, stuffing a wad of French toast into his craw. “I’ll walk you home.”

“No, you stay and finish. I just…I think I need to go,” Amanda said, slinging her purse over her shoulder. “You’ve given me a lot to think about.” She paused beside Scott, placed a hand gently on his shoulder to hold him in his chair, and leaned down to kiss him softly on the cheek. The words caught in her throat as she told him, “You be careful, okay?” Scott watched sadly as Amanda hustled toward the front door, handing the check and a twenty to the cashier and exiting briskly.

He wondered if he would ever see her again.

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