Rose and Denise were busy cleaning up after the Thanksgiving Day weekend when Jessie came in with coffee and doughnuts.
“Good morning girls, isn’t it a lovely day?” Jessie beamed.
“Oh, hey, girl, what’s got you glowing this early in the morning? Did Eli stay over again last night? Maybe gave you a little something this morning?” Denise did a “Jack Tripper” and Rose roared with laughter.
“Ha, ha, very funny, Dee. Well, he did stay over, but he left early this morning.” Jessie put the coffee and doughnuts on the counter and they all dug in.
“Mmm, sour doughnut, my favorite,” Rose said as she raised it to her mouth.
“Oh my god, the coffee is delicious. Rodrigo must have made it,” Denise surmised.
“Yes, you’re right; Mario is gone back home, something about a new baby in the family.”
“Those people, they’ll use any excuse to party,” Denise said, chuckling. Rose and Jessie giggled. It did seem like Mario was always gone away because of some family thing, leaving Rodrigo alone to run the Coffee Culture.
“So, what are we doing today?” Jessie said, as she finished her kruller.
Denise started to tell her about the work she and Rose had done so far, but Randall came in shouting hullabaloo. He rushed in with flowers and gave them to Jessie, “Congratulations, Jess, Eli is a great guy, he’ll be a great roommate.” Then he walked over and gave Denise a kiss, and left to unload the delivery.
“What! Excuse me! What was that?” Denise was stunned. “Jess, you’ve only known the guy four months and you’ve asked him to move in with you? Don’t you think that’s going too fast? I mean Randall and I have been going steady for a lot longer and we don’t even talk about living together. Are you sure, I mean are you really sure it’s the right thing to do?”
Rose was flabbergasted. She couldn’t believe that Denise was chewing her out like that. Jessie was quiet for a moment. She drank the last sip of coffee in her cup and looked up at Denise and Rose.
“You two are like my sisters, my true friends. We have been through thick and thin and I love you both. And you’re right, Denise, it’s too fast, but something just feels so right. I feel so comfortable around him, like I’ve known him all my life. He’s turned out to be someone I can rely on, someone who respects me, and someone who sticks up for me. I love being around him and I can be myself with him, and he is just himself with me, there’s no act, no false face that people usually put on when they first start dating. It’s like we weren’t even dating, it’s more like we’re an old married couple, just content to be together. So, ya know, I’m not expecting anything from him or this relationship. All I know that right now, it’s good, and I’d rather see where it goes than to let it be. I mean, come on girls, we’re not getting any younger here.”
The room was quiet as Rose and Denise contemplated what Jessie had said. Jessie was a smart woman and she had learned and had grown up a lot since her last broken relationship, and Denise and Rose knew it.
“Well, I guess there’s nothing left to say, except, when’s the Housewarming Party!” They all laughed at that in a group hug. You didn’t have to be blood related to be family in this group.
Randall finished unloading the order and the girls got ready for Halloween. It was a busy day with customers, phone orders, and a funeral, but they managed to get the Halloween decorations up and stock the fridge with the fresh flowers. The Little Shop of Flowers had grown quite a bit since Jessie had first opened its doors under her management, and the regular customers stayed loyal. They had loved Charlie, he was a kind and gentle soul, and they knew how he felt about Jessie, and when he passed and left her everything, they were happy for her, so they remained, they did not want to see the shop close, for it had been there a very long time.
It was almost closing and Randall had already picked up Denise. Rose was waiting for Alex; they were going to see Mazerunner at Orion Gate. Jessie finished up the paperwork and Rose was heading to the front door to lock it. As she was turning the OPEN sign to CLOSE, she screamed. Jessie caught a fright and as she was getting up, tripped and fell to the floor. She jumped up and ran to the door. A familiar face was flattened against the glass. And then crazy, hysterical laughter came from behind the glass. Rose and Jessie blurted out in unison, “Phil, you crazy bastard!”
Rose opened the door and punched him in the arm. “You scared the crap outta me, you damn fool!” She was laughing heartily. Jessie wrapped her arms around her brother and gave him a big bear hug. “Where the heck did you come from?”
Phil was still laughing at the girls. “I just got off the plane. I’m heading to Calgary. A buddy of mine got me a job in the fire restoration business. Anyhow, I thought I’d stop in for a few days and see how you’re doing, sis, catch up, have a few beers.”
“Well, come on in. We were just closing up.”
“And how are you doing Rose? Been a long time.”
“I’m good, and yes, it has been too long. Jeez, I haven’t seen you since the Rib N Roll last May. You sure loved those ribs!” Rose laughed remembering the good time they had at the yearly event in Gage Park. Phil always knew how to have a fun time.
Jessie motioned them inside and locked the door. When they got to the back door, Alex was waiting for Rose. Rose gave Phil and hug, “We have to get together before you go,” she said. Phil agreed.
Alex drove off with Rose, and Jessie and Phil got into her car and headed to her place. “So, how the hell have you been bro? Haven’t heard from you at all, not since last Halloween. You know, since that night, I only went back there once or twice; the place gives me the creeps now.”
“Boy, when I first went back home I thought about it a lot. I told no one what I saw. I’m too afraid people won’t believe me. I just mostly try to forget it. But, I digress. I’ve been good. I met someone and lived with her for a while, but she smoked too much weed and I had to end it. Then I met a guy at a party one night. He just came from Calgary and he was working with my buddy, Bobby. So, the guy gave me his number and so I called him. We got into a big conversation over the phone and by the time we were done, I had a new job.”
Jessie was happy for Phil. Not only was he going to make a new start, but when he got settled, she could visit; she always wanted to visit the West Edmonton Mall; funny how things work out.
Jessie told Phil about Eli and Phil seemed a little nervous; he didn’t want to feel like a third wheel. Jessie told him he was being silly. She parked the car and Eli’s van was parked in the visitor’s parking lot.
“Gee, that’s funny, I thought he was moving in tomorrow morning,” Jessie said. “Come on, bro, let’s get a beer. You hungry? I’ll order us a pizza.”
“Sounds good, wings too, I haven’t eaten since this morning.” Jessie smiled, remembering how much pizza and wings they had eaten throughout the years. They walked up to the apartment arm in arm, chatting and laughing.
When they got into the apartment, Eli had a few boxes piled up in the kitchen. Phil threw his bag on the floor and went to the fridge for a beer. Eli came out of the room and gave Jessie a hug and kiss. Jessie put her purse down and began to introduce him to her brother.
“Eli, I want you to meet my brother, Phil.”
Phil turned around. The beer he was chugging suddenly tasted like moldy barley in his mouth and he choked, spewing froth all over the kitchen floor.
Jessie chuckled and went down the hallway to fetch some paper towels. When she got back Phil and Eli were looking straight into each other’s eyes as if in a trance.
“Hey, what’s wrong with you two?”
And as quick as that, it was nothing. Eli moved toward Phil with an outstretched hand and Phil shook it. “Nice to meet you, Phil.”
Phil shook his head, trying to focus. “Yah, nice to meet you, too. Sorry, I must be a little tired from my trip.” He took the paper towels from Jessie and helped her to clean up the mess.
While Jessie got the bed in the guest room ready, Phil and Eli sat around the table getting acquainted. Phil could not help feel that he had seen Eli somewhere before. Eli’s eyes were the kind that you looked into once and didn’t forget. As the night went on, Phil became obsessed with the feeling, but did not let them see. The pizza and wings arrived, and shortly after they ate and Jessie had cleaned up, Phil retired to the bedroom. He was exhausted, but the feeling that he knew Eli remained, and in the wee hours of the morning he saw Eli in a dream. And under the covers, his fingers flicked at an imaginary lighter in the darkness.