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It was a surprise to everyone, especially Jimmy, that Richie and Linda became a regular couple. Jimmy thought it was just a fling and couldn’t accept it. But he could not deny it. He moved out of the dorm suite he shared with Richie after he walked in on Linda and Richie fucking—not in the bedroom, but in the living room area. Jimmy and Linda had never done anything so bold and he couldn’t handle seeing Linda with his best friend. Their relationship hit Jimmy hard, but the pain was not long-lasting. In short order, he found a place to stay in another dorm and his dating habits picked up where he left off. He never regretted having sex with someone else and he felt like Linda overreacted. He always thought of Linda as someone he would eventually marry, but he also felt like it was his prerogative to sleep around. And, theoretically, he thought that Linda should have the same privilege, but seeing it in person with his best friend left him flabbergasted.
Barbara wondered why Richie stopped calling, but that that speculation ended when she went downtown and saw Richie with Linda at a restaurant. It was obvious to Barbara that Richie and Linda were now a couple. Their close proximity, their hands on each other, and the flirtatious gestures Linda made towards Richie stunned Barbara. She wondered how this happened so quickly and why she never had an inkling that Richie even liked Linda. Of course, she realized Linda was popular, but she never thought Richie, a considerate young man, would be infatuated with someone Barbara felt was a bit superficial. She knew Linda well. They were supposed to be friends. Yet Linda never really confided in Barbara in anything meaningful. Certainly they would talk, but Linda never really revealed herself. If she had, Barbara would probably feel even more betrayed. As she looked at Richie and Linda, that word “betrayed” stuck in Barbara’s head. Barbara didn’t cry. She decided they were not worth her tears. But, like Richie, she was stunned and determined to move on.
Linda had no regrets leaving Jimmy. She felt Jimmy did not appreciate her the way Richie did. In addition, she liked the fact that it surprised everyone back home, especially her parents. Her parents had met Jimmy and Richie. Her father never trusted Jimmy and thought that he would be successful as a used car salesman. Richie seemed quiet to Linda’s parents and never knew what to make of him. But when their daughter started dating him, they began to realize that Richie just might be the one to settle Linda down. They always knew Linda was a wildcard and their concern with her was well-founded. They hoped Richie was the antidote to her assumed bad behavior.
Richie could not believe his luck. He liked that Linda was not nearby because it allowed him to concentrate on school. If only he could find an area worthy of his concentration. It seemed like everyone else had already decided on their major and their life plan was laid out in front of them. Nevertheless, knowing he had a “girlfriend” freed him from having to look for a sexual partner. But that didn’t stop Richie from thinking about sex. In fact, now some of his library and internet research included sex practices of different cultures. He applied what he learned with Linda and she was intrigued and entertained by Richie’s inventiveness.
Richie had a job at school working as an administrative assistant in the Department of Philosophy. He finally found the scholarly world he was searching for but he still was not certain what to do with such a precision instrument as his brain. Summer on campus was especially good to Richie because there were less students and less emphasis on sports. Richie’s mom was proud of her son even if she did not understand everything he was studying and could not understand what interested him.
Jimmy was a summer intern at a broadcasting company in New York City. Of course he had been to New York City several times, since it was a just a train or bus ride away. But living there was a lot different. He barely made enough money to survive, but always managed to have enough to drink beer. His work in broadcasting was menial, but exciting nonetheless. He was making connections and he intended to capitalize on those connections.
Linda got a summer and then a part-time job in Rochester, working at one of the major manufacturing companies headquartered there. It was boring to Linda, but it gave her an excuse to stay away from home. Granted she missed the affluence of living at home but she enjoyed her independence and the attention she received from all the men at the factory.
Barbara worked part-time during the school year and full-time in the summer at a plumbing supply house in their hometown. Barbara’s mother worked less and less, but managed to drink more and more. Barbara could never feel comfortable bringing anyone home since she never knew if her mother was going to be drunk or falling down drunk. College students asked Barbara out and she’d go, but she seemed too reserved for most of them. They did not know she was still stinging from the betrayal she experienced from Richie and Linda. At the plumbing supply store, she met a different type of man. She liked how the men were more direct but some of them needed a lesson in manners. Several of them asked her out, but she declined. A contractor, Walt, would come in regularly and ordered entire sets of kitchen and bath outfits. He’d order everything from fixtures to back splashes, cabinetry, counter tops and mirrors.
One day, when he was placing an order with Barbara, she asked him, “Anything else?”
“Your phone number.”
“Can I have your phone number?”
“So I can call you and ask you to join me for dinner.”
Barbara looked at him with a puzzled look, but she did not break composure as she took a business card from the counter, wrote her number on the back of it, and slid it across the counter to him.
“Walt,” she said calmly. “I already have your number.”
Richie, Linda, and Jimmy received invitations for the wedding of Barbara and Walt in their hometown. They were all on the verge of graduating and moving on to even bigger challenges. Of course Richie and Linda, still an item, planned on attending the wedding together, but neither was certain if Jimmy was going to attend. Consequently, they were surprised, but not shocked to see Jimmy outside the church.
“Hey Jimmy,” Richie offered. “How are you doing?”
As with most conversations of a certain generation and experience, answers were more matters of fact than emotion.
“I’m getting a job being an on-air reporter,” and he mentioned the name of an all-news station in New York City. Jimmy’s experience and education at the school of sports journalism made entry into this competitive market a little bit easier.
Another group had gathered close by. Some of them were a little older with weathered features. It was apparent they were not used to dressing for a wedding. Their clothes were clean and pressed, but without ties or jackets that fit well, they appeared a little too casual compared to the others.
“Wow! That’s great, Jimmy,” said Linda.
“What about you, Linda?” asked Jimmy.
“I’m in a management trainee program,” and Linda mentioned the manufacturing company where she had interned.
“Richie, did you ever decide what you really wanted to study?” asked Jimmy. Jimmy always admired Richie’s intellectual curiosity, but never had much respect for his lack of focus.
“Nah, I never really decided on a major. That’s why I’m getting a degree in Philosophy.”
“Philosophy! What the hell are you going to do with that?” Jimmy exclaimed.
“I don’t know. That’s why I’m going to law school next year.”
Jimmy was taken aback, “Oh.”
“What’s Barbara doing? Besides getting married. Does anyone know?” asked Linda. “Who’s this guy she marrying? Walter Scott? When I first saw that name, I thought Robin Hood?”
“Ivanhoe,” “Rob Roy,” replied Jimmy and Richie at the same time.
“You mean Walt?” a big-barreled chest with a face from the other group volunteered.
“Yeah. Is he a nice guy?” asked Linda.
“He’s the best. He’d give you the shirt off his back. I’d work for him any day.”
“You work for him?” asked Jimmy.
“Whenever he needs a good masonry man, I’m there.”
“Walt is a contractor?” asked Jimmy
“Yeah, he’s a main contractor. He does a little bit of everything: Pools, kitchens, bathrooms… you name it. He has a great reputation. He’s never screwed anyone that has worked for him.”
Richie always had this romantic notion about the nobility of a blue collar man. At one time, he would have envied the work of this masonry man. During one summer, Richie occasionally helped a friend of his that framed houses. He quickly realized it was hard work, although he enjoyed the bits of solitude where he completed one physical task after another. He was free to think his thoughts and not try to solve one work problem after another after another. He helped his friend here and there, but he knew he did not have the stamina to work as hard as was required.
Linda, Jimmy, and Richie moved away from the others at the wedding.
“She’s marrying a contractor?” Linda said.
Jimmy was puzzled, too. “Yeah, I know. What’s she thinking?”
Richie interjected, “She’s marrying a man that has his own business and makes more money than any of us.”
“That’s a good way of looking at it,” conceded Linda.
Richie asked Linda, “You were friends. What is she getting her degree in?”
“Last I heard, English Literature,” Linda said. It wasn’t what she said that made Richie curious. It was how Linda said it to Jimmy. She looked a little too long at Jimmy for Richie’s tastes.
The doors to the church opened and the crowd was seated. When the procession started, the only thing Richie could think of was Gone with the Wind. He thought ruffled shirts on men was not in style. And, deep down, he knew the women would regret seeing themselves wearing these big hats years from now as wedding photographs lived on and on. Nevertheless, he could not help but be enchanted by Barbara’s appearance. Her makeup was subtle and highlighted her natural beauty. Richie kept thinking about how there was no stopping adulthood now; one of their own was getting married.
The reception line was the first time the original four had spoken to each other for a long time. The response was genuine. Everyone seemed to be happy to see everyone and everyone was happy for Barbara. Barbara introduced Walt to her old friends and Walt examined them as if he was figuring out why Barbara would hangout with these people in particular. To Walt, they seemed to be examining him like he was an animal in laboratory. He assumed they thought they were better than him. But Walt was determined not to let anything spoil the best day of his life.
The party was joyous and a little rambunctious, just like you would expect. Walt and his friends really seemed to enjoy the Genesee beer, or “Gennys” as the locals called them. Richie did not recall the Genesee Cream Ale, or “Screamers,” tasting so good. Richie thought Linda was drinking as much as Barbara’s mother which was a little too much. Linda had always been a tequila fan and no one, including Richie, was stopping her. Richie managed to make his way to Barbara and have a moment all to himself with her.
“Barbara, I’m really happy for you. How did you know?”
“How did I know about you and Linda?”
Richie was surprised. He thought that was old history, but apparently it was not to Barbara. Going past that bit of the past, Richie pressed on, trying to be polite, “How did you know Walt was the one?”
“Well, I was surprised when he asked me out. I thought, why not. We saw each other regularly and he eventually wore me down, I guess.”
“You’re graduating, right?”
“I graduated already, a BA in English Literature. I don’t know what I can do with that but it’s the only thing that interested me.”
“Maybe that’s your attraction to Sir Walter Scott?”
“I’m more of a Virginia Woolf fan,” she laughed.
“So what are you going to do with that?”
“I’ll work at Walt’s company for a while. He needs some clerical and accounting stuff done. Just until it’s organized. Then he can handle it on his own. After that, I don’t know what. I’ve thought about grad school but I’m not sure for what. What about you?”
Richie told her about his soon-to-be awarded degree in Philosophy and his entrance at law school.
“Wow! That’s great! Law school. Who would have thought you’d become a lawyer? You never talked about it.”
“Well, what do you do with a degree in Philosophy otherwise? This just delays the answer to the question, 'What do I want to do when I grow up?'” Richie laughed.
“When are you and Linda getting married?”
“We never said we were getting married.”
“Indecision is not a virtue, Richie.”
Richie looked around. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. I think I should go find her. She had a few. I know you’re busy saying hello to everyone. I just wanted to take a moment to talk to you and wish the best for you and Walt.”
“Thank you Richie.” Barbara kissed Richie on the cheek and it reminded Richie of earlier times. As he left Barbara, Richie noticed Walt keeping an eye on him. At first, Richie thought Walt was mad or jealous as he walked towards him.
“Looking for your friends? They’re out in the parking lot,” Walt said as an announcer said they were going to throw the bride’s bouquet, garter, and cut the cake.
Richie walked outside to the parking area. He didn’t see Linda. He went to his car and no one was around. He walked to where he thought Jimmy parked and he saw his old roommate sitting in his car, his head back and his eyes closed. As Richie got closer, he could see Linda was giving him a blowjob. Richie couldn’t believe it. Unsure what to do, he stood there watching Linda take Jimmy’s long cock in her mouth. Then he decided what to do. Richie backed away as quietly as he could. He went back to his car, got behind the wheel, started the engine, and drove over to Jimmy’s car. He inched his car as close as he could and revved the engine. Jimmy opened his eyes and stared wide-eyed back at Richie. Linda lifted her head and looked like a deer in the headlights. Richie backed away and drove home.
Chapter 5 will be published Thursday, December 13, 2018.