Cam waved down the server while Becky pulled out a chair on the opposite side of me from Pippa. “Is it okay if I sit here?”
I felt Pippa stiffen slightly to my left, and I stuttered out a quiet “Sure.”
The truth was, I didn’t want Becky sitting there.
I didn’t want her anywhere near this trip.
I wasn’t in love with her anymore, I didn’t want to go back and change anything. I didn’t even need a better explanation for why our marriage had ended. I just wanted to move on. And while the rest of my life had become a success, Will was right: my relationship life had been an utter failure, by my own design. I simply hadn’t wanted to deal.
Cam ordered a Bud Light and a glass of the crappy house merlot for Becky. I caught Will’s small laugh before Ziggs must have pinched him under the table because she leaned over, whispering, “Stop it.”
But I knew this was a mistake—playing nice, pretending to be old friends. I couldn’t do it. Will couldn’t do it. And Ziggy especially couldn’t do it. Becky had fucked up. We’d been having a nice time before she came along, and three more days of playing chummy were going to wear on us.
“Where did you guys go for dinner?” Becky asked, smiling amiably.
“John’s Table,” Ruby told her, correctly sensing the slight strain at the table. “It was amazing.”
“I think we have reservations there tomorrow,” she said, looking to Cam for confirmation. He nodded. “We ate at the Lonely Sail. It was pretty good.”
We all gave mild ahhhs as if any of us found this interesting.
“Do you guys remember,” Becky said, smiling, “when we broke the table at that sandwich place . . .” She trailed off, squinting up at me, uncertain of the name.
“Attman’s,” Will said before taking a sip of his beer.
I smiled, remembering. We’d been drunk, and Becky had jumped on my back, propelling us both into the table, where we’d fallen and snapped the top from the stem. The poor kid working there had squeaked out his panic and told us just to go, that he’d figure it out.
“We should have paid for it,” she said, shaking her head.
“The table? With what?” I asked, laughing a little. “If I recall correctly, we shared a sandwich that night because we had seven dollars between the three of us.”
I remembered the rest of that night, too: Will and I tripping back to our room, falling on the floor, and plotting a way we could project the television onto the ceiling so we could play video games drunk, on our backs.
We ended up successfully hooking up the TV to a retired projector we’d snagged from the bio department storeroom that weekend—and it was awesome.
In fact, the bulk of my memories from college were things I did with Will.
Silence engulfed the group, bringing to the forefront the realization—to all of us, I assume—that we didn’t have anything in common anymore.
Cam tapped his knuckles on the table. “Anyone here a Mets fan?”
We all shook our heads, mumbling some version of “No” and “Not really,” and he tilted his beer to his lips, looking up at a television mounted above the bar where, presumably, a Mets game was on.
Ziggy met my eyes and I could see the exasperation there.
The night, which had previously been the kind of fun that would drive me to stay up late, drinking to keep it all going, was losing steam. I missed Pippa’s laugh. I missed the rush I felt when she looked at me and I wasn’t entirely sure what she would do next.
Turning to her, I put my arm around her shoulders, pulling her into me.
“I believe I owe you a song,” I said.
She perked up, grinning at me. “Yeah? Brilliant!”
“Your pick.” I lowered my voice. “I just want to get away from the table.” My gaze flickered back and forth between her eyes, and I wondered if she saw the way they said, I don’t want to be with her.
I saw more than heard her quiet “Right, then.”
And then she took my hand, pulled me toward the corner where the microphone lay on the solitary stool under a single spotlight, and turned the mic on. Feedback squawked through the bar, and everyone winced before Pippa brought it to her lips.
“Hallo, Connecticut,” she sang, doing a cute little shimmy. “Jensen here promised he would sing with me, and so I thought it would be nice to sing something really romantic.”
Will laughed at the table, and my sister watched us with wine-sleepy eyes. Ruby was half in Niall’s lap, either sucking his neck or sleeping there, and the only person watching us with full attention was Becky.
I wanted to crawl out of my skin.
Pippa’s hand came to my jaw, turning me to face her. “This one is for you.”
The opening riff to Violent Femmes’ “Kiss Off” began to play through the bar and Pippa bounced next to me, leaning in to sing.
Will put two fingers into his mouth and let out a piercing whistle. Even Ruby sat up, letting out a prolonged “Whooooo!”
“I need someone, a person to talk to / Someone who’d care to love,” Pippa sang, and after looking at her wide grin, her playful eyes, I couldn’t possibly resist. So I joined her: “Could it be you? Could it be you?”
It was ridiculous and embarrassing, and we sounded terrible, but it was the single most cathartic moment since my divorce. How was that even possible? I was yell-singing an angry song with a woman I’d met only days before, whom I initially thought I’d hate but I’d grown to somewhat adore, and Becky sat watching—Becky, of all people—with a mixture of relief and misery on her face.