October 25, 2014, Saturday
Kao looked in on Saan only to see him snoring. The smell of whiskey and smoke in the room concerned him, but he also smiled at the thought of his younger days. Down the hallway light escaped a cracked door from one of the guest bedrooms.
He knocked lightly.
“Hi, it’s just me,” Jenny said.
“Do you want breakfast?” Kao whispered.
“Okay, Mr. Saeteurn,” she whispered back. “I’m not sure we put out the fire in the field. It was still smoldering last night.”
“It’ll be okay. Do you work out in the mornings?”
“I figured. How’s your dad?” Kao asked.
“Haven’t seen him since yesterday. You can come in.”
She was seated on the bed and putting on her shoes.
“I hope you know you can always crash here,” Kao said.
“I want to talk to you about something.”
“Thank you, Jenny. I have an idea. I’m glad he has friends like you.”
They walked to the kitchen. Jenny’s smile reminded him of Amy, her mother.
“If your dad doesn’t know you’re here, you should give him a call. Or, if you want, I can do it, too. Wouldn’t want him to worry.”
“I sent him a message last night.”
“Good,” Kao said. “Now, don’t go breaking Saan’s heart, you little devil.”
She said nothing while taking orange juice out of the fridge. Kao poured himself a cup of coffee.
“Does Saan know how you feel?” Kao asked.
She shrugged and rolled her eyes. Her phone beeped. “I’m guessing mom and dad are coming over?”
“Yeah,” Kao said, chuckling. “Can you grab a few bottles of champagne from the pantry?”
“God, already? I can’t deal with them.”
“Jenny, you have no idea. How was the dance?”
“Same as when you were in high school, but a lot of phones.”
After three unanswered text messages to Brandon, Elaine became frustrated and anxious. She had been studying all morning at Rubia’s and had a half dozen shots of espresso. She knew he worked the previous night but made it a point not to show up at the bar nor the after party, especially since she herself worked until midnight.
She needed a break from her homework and it was almost one o’clock.
To her surprise, he answered the door two seconds after she rang the bell.
“Hi!” he said.
“Hello,” she responded. “I brought you a bagel.”
“Thank you. Come in. I have some coffee.”
She shook her head dramatically and followed him to the kitchen. He topped off his mug and lit a cigarette.
“Did you lose your phone?” she asked.
“It was dead when I woke up this morning but almost charged now. Why?”
“Hah. I wouldn’t ignore you if I got your messages.”
She blushed. “I’m so wired from all the coffee this morning.”
“You look it,” he said as he walked out onto the balcony. “You didn’t stop by last night. I thought you might be mad at me.”
“Not at all. Just can’t be out all the time. Anything cool happen?”
“I came home after the bar closed and did some writing,” he said. “Wanna meet my mother?”
It startled her.
“I completely understand if you don’t or can’t, but we’re going on a little drive through the foothills if you want to join.”
“Let’s do it,” she said.
Mrs. Fair and Elaine sat in the back seat and chatted, while Brandon navigated his car through the windy two-lane road. During the straightaways he looked at the trees, whose yellow and red leaves were even more spectacular against a blue sky. Every now and then the women asked for his opinion but most of the time they laughed and giggled amongst themselves. It struck Brandon oddly, because his mother had always been lukewarm at best to any girl he ever dated. Elaine even pulled up her shirt to show one of her tattoos.
As they pulled up to a bar in the middle of nowhere, he had a sick feeling in his stomach.
When Elaine excused herself to use the bathroom, Brandon turned to his mother, but before he could say anything, she said, “I’m not dying. So get that look off your face, and give me a cigarette. She’s a nice girl. Don’t be a jackass.”
The older gentleman behind the bar put down a shot of Jameson in front of Mrs. Fair and said, “I think you used to drink this some years ago.”
“Well, mind as well, I’m not driving.”
Brandon shrugged and watched his mother and Elaine walk to the jukebox with their arms hooked.