Flagler Fiction Series
Maybe I Don’t Know
Charlie Newman ordered two hot teas.
“Leave room for cream and sugar?” Mac asked with a smile.
“Has anyone ever told you that you look like Billy Joel?”
Mac laughed. “I get it at least once a day. I wish I had his money.”
Charlie turned and looked at Edith, who was sitting at the table near the front window. “You need room for cream and sugar?”
Edith turned and faced him with a sour look on her face. “What do you think?”
Charlie had no idea, because he didn’t really pay attention to stupid things like what she put in her tea. They’d been dating for a little over two years but he didn’t make a mental inventory of every food she liked or hated, or what she put in her coffee or tea. He didn’t remember if she even liked coffee.
He was too old for shit like this. Last weekend was his fifty-third birthday. Not that Edith had done anything special for him. She was actually mad his kids had taken him to Alfie’s in Ormond Beach for his special day. Edith and Charlie went to the Golden Lion for dinner and drinks on Saturdays. He’d thrown off their routine by celebrating a birthday.
Charlie shrugged at Mac. “Leave room in both, I guess.” He knew he wanted cream and sugar. He looked at Edith again, who was back to staring straight ahead and frowning at the paintings on the wall.
Mac leaned over the counter. “She likes a little cream and a lot of sugar.”
“Thanks. One day I’ll remember.” And one day maybe I’ll even care, Charlie thought. He took his time, putting cream and sugar in both cups and securing the lids. Every Friday he came to Kokomo’s Café with her, getting two teas and sitting in the same seats and watching people come and go in silence, until it was time for her to leave. He didn’t understand the point of these Friday late morning dates, but Edith insisted. Charlie could count on one hand how many words they’d spoken since they started coming here, in the last six months or so.
He held both cups over the table between them, looking around for the daily newspaper. He wouldn’t actually be able to read it until she left, but he wanted to get an idea where it was, currently, and who was reading it. Once Edith ran off, he could order a slice of cake (she watched everything he ate, like a hawk, and was quick to comment how fattening things were, even though she could stand to lose more than a few pounds).
“We need to talk,” she said, in almost a whisper, startling him, as he put down the cups of tea. He looked around, expecting another person to be near them. Surely, it wasn’t him she needed to talk to. He sat down.
Charlie took a sip of his tea and stared out the window at the young couple sitting outside, at a table under an umbrella, enjoying the breeze off the Atlantic Ocean. He preferred coffee, and never drank tea except on Fridays. It was easier ordering two teas and getting through it than dealing with Edith.
He wondered if they were newlyweds, flying down from some far-off place in the Midwest but unable to afford Hawaii or Key West. Just a couple of young kids with a full life ahead, thinking they’d met their dream companion, and they’d spend the next fifty years in wedded bliss. Charlie wanted to go out there and punch them both in the face. Knock some sense into them.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Of course,” Charlie said and plastered a smile on his face. “I’m always listening.”
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