“Hey, Callie! Callie!” I turned in the direction of the voice calling out to me and watched him excuse his way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, smiling as he moved toward me. I felt flustered instantly.
“Fancy seeing you here; you like Choir Boys, the band, I mean?” I said, not knowing what else to say. Then regretting it — ‘you like Choir Boys,’ could I sound lamer? Why did Brendan Maloney put me off-kilter so effortlessly?
“Who are you here with?” He asked.
“My sister, Deb, and a friend,” I said. “I think you know Tam.”
“Yeah, I know Tam — Glutes!” He said, still smiling.
“OK!” I said.
“She’ll know what I mean.” He laughed.
“What about you?”
“Rick, a mate. Can I get you a drink before the band starts?”
“Got one. Thanks.” I said, raising my glass. “I wasn’t expecting to run into you again. How’s your girlfriend?”
“Still in the picture.”
My heart dropped; It had been a couple of weeks since he sent me red roses. Not pink or yellow — red. I thought it was a sign he might be single soon.
“How long have you two been together?” I asked.
“That’s a fair while.”
“You think you’ll get married?”
“Might as well be already, ” he said, not excited by the idea.
“What do you mean?” I asked. I expected a yes, no or maybe answer to the marriage question.
“She’s making plans. Booked a wedding venue, told her parents, and her Mum told mine.” He said.
I didn’t know what to say. He didn’t seem like a guy ready to get married.
“Hearing secondhand that I was getting married didn’t go down well with my parents. I got an earful about it?”
“Oh Shit, you’re engaged?” I said, my heart sinking again.
“No. No! I haven’t proposed.”
“Sorry, I’m confused,’ I said. ‘No ring then?”
“No ring,” he said, looking at the floor. A slight crimson flush shot across his very high cheekbones.
“Bit of a mess, then?”
“Yup.” was all he said.
“Cheers to knowing what you want,” I said, tipping my glass in his direction and smiling.
“Cheers,” he said, returning the gesture before asking me what I meant.
“Just that,” I said. “Cheers to knowing what you want. It seems she does. Do you?”
It was a shitty situation, awkward at best –- weird definitely, yet I could tell he wanted to do the right thing. He didn’t want to hurt anyone.
After parting ways to find our friends, we ran into each again — at the end of the night. We had a quick chat and said goodbye. We didn’t organise to catch up again because he had a girlfriend who wanted to marry him.
I watched him disappear into the crowd spilling out onto the street below. I probably wouldn’t see him again. Watching him walk away now with his easy swagger — and oblivion to heads turning in the hope of catching his eye, was sad.
A few days later, he came to see me at work. My heart thumped madly as I watched him get off his bike and sit his helmet on the rest bars before leaning the bike on the shop window. I could feel the hot sting of a blush rising in my cheeks and chest. What was he doing here?
His tight-fitting blue jersey and matching nix left little to the imagination. He looked very — fit. I remember him telling me he had started to train for short course triathlons while sitting on the Polars balcony the night we met. Shit! What was he doing here?
‘Will you ring me?’ He said, hopefully, after a quick chat about the weather and what we’d been up to since The Choir Boys.
He handed me a slip of paper with his number on it. I said, “sorry, I don’t ring boyfriends who aren’t mine.”
“I knew the answer would be no before I asked — but I had to try. I just want to get to know you better.” He said.
“If you didn’t have a girlfriend, I’d feel the same.”
I told him I was going on holiday, would be gone for a couple of weeks, and it wouldn’t be right to stay in touch when I returned.
As he left, I worked up the courage to yell after him, “if you find yourself single anytime soon, though –- you ring me.”