Here is Episode 4 of “Familiar.” Thanks for reading!
Of course the sun was shining that morning as I drove to the breakfast spot where we had agreed to meet. I had the radio on louder than I should have blaring love songs I’d be ashamed to admit I enjoyed. I thought about Olivia and what I’d say and what she’d say and did my best to push out every negative thought that popped out from the recesses of my mind.
I parked my car and checked the time on the dash. Two minutes early—which is more like fifteen minutes early for me when it comes to social engagements. I got out and walked into an empty restaurant lobby. Not a good sign. I scanned the booths and tables for her but didn’t see her long blonde hair anywhere.
A hostess returning to her station asked, “You meeting someone, honey?”
I nodded and she said, “She’s right around that corner,” pointing to a smaller section to my right. Then she added, “First date?” I nodded again, and a smile spread across her face. “She’s a pretty one—good job.”
I smiled and thanked her and turned the corner to see Olivia sitting in a corner booth taking a drink of coffee. She was a pretty one.
She put the mug down when she saw me, and flashed a big smile. I waved and she waved back, and then we were sitting across from each other—both smiling.
“Sorry I didn’t wait for you,” she said holding up her mug. “I figured you’d prefer me with a little caffeine in my system.”
I laughed and said, “Oh I’m sure it’s not that bad.” She assured me it was that bad, then I added, “I guess I will just have to see for myself some time.”
This really made her smile—the corners of her eyes wrinkled, her nose slightly scrunched—and I thought this must’ve been how she smiled when she was a kid. Genuine, joyful, nothing resembling the polite smiles we’ve learned to flash after years of social interactions telling us that’s what we’re supposed to do. I almost told her that. She did something that made me want to say all sorts of things I normally wouldn’t.
But I remembered how much I didn’t know about her and said, “But I suppose we should probably know each other a little bit better before we get there.”
“I agree,” she said, still smiling. “So what do you do for a living?”
I started to tell her about my desk job and the beige office and Todd, but I was cut short by our waitress asking if we were ready to order. Olivia was. I was not, but I said I was anyway.
“You haven’t looked at the menu since you got here,” Olivia said laughing.
I laughed too and the waitress said she’d give us some time.
Olivia kept laughing.
“Well what are you going to have?” I asked.
“French toast. I love French toast.”
“Good to know.” I smiled. “I’ll get that too.”
“So you work in an office?” she asked.
Then I did tell her about my accounting job and the office and she laughed when I told her about Todd.
“I think every office has a Todd,” she said.
The waitress returned and we ordered our French toast, and then it was her turn to tell me about her job.
She smiled, “I’m a graphic designer.”
I waited for her to continue, and before I could ask a follow-up, she went on offense again, asking where I went to college.
Our conversation went on this way for the rest of the date—only interrupted by bites of French toast or eggs and sips of lukewarm coffee—and before I knew it, I was telling her things I hadn’t told anyone else. Well, hadn’t told anyone else except that other pretty blonde girl.
She looked out the window. I took a drink of coffee. I thought her barrage had ceased, and felt embarrassed that I had basically spilled my life’s story on a first date.
Then she asked, “So what happened?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You said you dated this girl in college. I assume you aren’t still dating her,” she smiled again, “so what happened?”
The million dollar question. So what happened. The question I knew would come but wanted to avoid. I couldn’t remember the last time I talked about what happened. I didn’t talk about it much—and still don’t—but something about Olivia made me feel like I could tell her. She made me feel like I could tell her anything and she would make it all right.
So I told her. I told her about the car accident—the night I found out, the week of not knowing who I was anymore, everything.
She got up and sat next to me.
“I’m so sorry.”
She put her arms around me, and in that moment, everything was all right.
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