“Three weeks into summer vacation and I’m already bored,” Andy mused. “This isn’t right.”
She looked across the table and rested her eyes on Tommy’s face. His eyes were closed, and she figured he was dozing off. A flying french fry brought him back to reality.
“What a waste of food,” Tommy laughed, picking up the fry off the table and throwing it back. “Didn’t your mother tell you to never play with your food?”
“If she did,” Andy began. “I paid about as much attention as you did. Some good that did me.”
It was the first week in July, and they were enjoying their lunch at the food court in the local shopping mall. It seemed that, no matter what day they went, the place was overflowing with friends from school that weren’t quite ready to let go of the life they had begun to leave behind. High School graduates out to have their last good times with friends and loved ones before parting ways at the end of the summer.
“So what do we do now?” Tommy asked. “We can’t sit here all day. It’s too...blah.”
“Daily trips to the mall will do that to you,” Andy giggled. “Just let me go to the restroom real quick, and we’ll leave.”
As he watched Andy disappear into the restroom, his phone rang, and he promptly answered it.
“Speaking,” Tommy replied, sitting just a bit straighter in his seat. “Who is this?”
Tommy heard a breath being taken, followed by a short silence.
“It’s...it’s me...it’s Nick.”
Tommy’s eyes widened, and he switched the phone over to his other hand. He suddenly grew nervous, speechless, stunned. This was the ‘what if?’ scenario he and Andy had talked about countless times the past three weeks, and it was finally happening. To him.
“Wow,” he managed to say after a period of silence. “It’s been a while, man.”
“I know,” he replied. “And I’m sorry. You don’t know how sorry I am, I--”
“No need for apologies,” Tommy interrupted. “We know you’re reasons, and we understand.”
“We?” came the feeble question.
“Andy and I. We’ve been talking about it a lot lately. We only found out the day of graduation.”
“Is--is she there?” Nick asked.
“We’re at the mall right now. She’s in the restroom.”
“Oh. So how are you guys? How have you been?”
“That’s years of information right there, man,” Tommy laughed. “But I can give you an overview. We’ve been good. We’ve managed to survive rather well. You?”
“Tired,” Nick began, sighing deeply. “Homesick, overworked, stressed. The list goes on and on.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Tommy said into the phone slowly, realizing only then it hadn’t been all sunshine and happiness for Nick. “Sounds like you’ve been through enough to last you a hundred lifetimes.”
“Oh, you don’t know the half of it,” Nick began. “But I don’t want to get into that right now. No bad news today.”
“Right. No bad news,” Tommy agreed. “So when can we see you again, Nick? We’re practically dying over here.”
“That depends,” Nick replied.
“Oh?” Tommy questioned as he spied Andy making her way toward their table. “On what?”
“On how fast you can get home.”
“Home?” Tommy asked in surprise. “As in HOME home?”
“Who’re you talkin’ to?” Andy asked childishly, sticking her own ear next to the phone.
“Go away, Andy,” Tommy answered her, pushing her away slightly. He fought back an urge to share his news with her right then and concentrated on Nick’s next words.
“Home,” Nick repeated. “Andy’s house. We’re all here.”
“We’ll be right there.”
He hung up the phone and, without any explanations, grabbed Andy by the hand and dragged her right out of the mall and into the parking lot. At his car, Andy yanked her hand out of his grasp and demanded an explanation.
“Andy,” Tommy began, taking his friend by the shoulders. “It was him. He’s in your house as we speak.”
A speechless Andy climbed quickly into the passenger side of Tommy’s car and rode the entire trip across town wondering how she was going to survive the rest of the day. She had longed for this for years on end, and now, when it was finally materializing, she was, among other things, afraid. Would this reunion push them apart even more?
Nick hung up his cell phone and leaned back into the familiar couch. He looked across from him and grinned at Suzie.
“I heard her in the background,” he told her. “She asked Tommy who he was talking to.”
“As you can see, she’s still as nosy as ever,” Suzie laughed. “They’re on their way, aren’t they?”
Nick nodded. “I can’t believe I’m finally going to get to see them after so long.”
“You’ve waited long enough,” Karen, Andy and Suzie’s mother, replied as she and Jane walked into the living room. “And if I know those two, they’ll attack you the minute they get through that door.”
A warm feeling coursed through Nick. He wanted nothing more than what Karen had just said. He had only returned home a few days earlier, and had immediately talked his mother into coming back here with him. She had agreed and, leaving her four younger children in her husband’s care, made the trip with her eldest to their old neighborhood. Although it was a mere three hour drive, to Nick it had felt like an eternity. Yet when he saw his old neighborhood, memories came flooding back, and suddenly the long wait had seemed entirely worth it. They had found no one at Tommy’s house and decided to see if anyone was home at Andy’s place. Sure enough, both families were reunited there, having an old fashioned barbecue in the backyard. Upon their arrival, Nick happily lost himself in the hugs and all the gushing and praising, until Suzie whisked him away and told him to call his friends. Now, as Nick stared at a framed picture of Andy, Tommy and himself as children sitting on the coffee table in front of him, he knew it was only a matter of minutes before this reunion was complete.
Before he was complete.
[chapter list | chapter six]