The waitress came over and took our orders. Despite the pretentious name of the restaurant, the staff seemed very cool and relaxed. They were particularly nice to James and tried to entertain the toddler as best they could. One of the other waitresses brought him some crayons and a placemat to draw on. Those all promptly ended up on the floor.
“What did we miss with the rest of the reunion?” Carina asked. “Anything exciting?”
“Not really,” said Jim. “The band played the greatest hits from 2009. There were a surprising amount of hook ups.”
“How do you know they were hook ups?” scoffed Vicky. “You didn’t go to school with any of those people.”
“I know, trust me, I know,” assured Jim with a smug smile on his face. “You could just tell by the way people left together or left early. They wanted to… You know.”
Carina and I shifted a little nervously in our seats. Would Jim be able to tell that we had just hooked up? Would his Eagle eye tell him that we weren’t really a couple? Or was he just bloviating to make conversation? I thought it best to quickly change the subject.
“Looks like the wildfires are finally dying down,” I said. “Turned on the news just briefly while I was getting dressed.”
“Yeah, I think they’re finally on top it,” said Jim. “Although, I swear, I can still smell it here. Can you?”
I sniffed the air. I really couldn’t tell if I was smelling anything burning.
“I don’t know, Jim,” I said unsure. “We’re pretty far from the fire. I don’t think people in L.A. can smell it that far.”
“Sometimes, I swear, I can,” he insisted. “Is it just me or am I weird?”
“You got superpowers, baby,” said Vicky, patting him on the leg. “Everyone knows you can smell a fire from a hundred miles away.”
“I missed my calling,” he joked. “Should’ve been a fire fighter. I’d be leading the entire squad. Is it squad?”
“Department,” I corrected.
“Right, fire department. I’d be leading it straight to the fire with this nose,” he said pointing to his face. “Missed my true calling.”
“You don’t even like to be outside,” noted Vicky. “If you couldn’t be in air conditioning, I think you’d literally die.”
“Are you saying I’m soft?” he asked.
“Yeah, kinda,” laughed Vicky. “Just a little.”
“Baby, I was a boy scout,” noted Jim. “I could survive in the wilderness with nothing but my scout kerchief and a magnifying glass. And a knife. You always need a knife.”
“That seem like a lot of stuff,” noted Vicky.
“To survive? I’d like to see you do it!” countered Jim.
“That’s what I have you for dear,” she laughed. “So, I can survive.”
They kept playfully bantering for a few more minutes, and while it was fun to be around Jim and his wife, this was really feeling like a double date — a real double date. I was still happy to be helping Carina out but was just hoping that she wasn’t getting any big ideas.
I didn’t think I was ready for anything real.
I couldn’t help but be a little jealous of Vicky. James was a handful, but he was her handful. Deep down, I knew kids were a lot of work, but I couldn’t resist the thought of having a son or daughter and dressing them up in cute little outfits.
“James loves trains,” Vicky told me. “That’s why he’s got these conductor overalls. See the little train?”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, finally noticing it. “That’s so cute. You’re such a cutie, James!”
I reached out and grabbed his little hand. James pulled away, made a sour face and threw his sippy cup back onto the floor. He seemed kind of upset.
“Don’t take it personal,” Jim assured me. “He’s in the terrible two’s. Everything’s his or it’s nothing.”
“Mine!” announced James to the table about nothing in particular.
“Yep, it’s all yours, son,” said Jim, just agreeing. “Anyhow, I don’t think I heard how you two met.”
“That’s right,” added Vicky, looking at Leo and me. “I need to hear this story, since you’ve been hiding Leo from us this whole time. Which, by the way, is how long?”
“Six months,” I immediately said.
I was racking my brain for the story I concocted, but under pressure I couldn’t remember any of it! Oh, God! And I’m the one that came up with it. I had to buy us some time so I could remember or think of something!
“You should go first though,” I said. “Tell us your story. It’s been so long I don’t remember how you two met.”
“Well, there’s not that much to tell,” Vicky admitted, looking shy.
“What? It’s a great story,” insisted Jim. “I almost got fired trying to date her. She was a secretary at the first law firm I worked at.”
“No, you didn’t!” she countered. “They would have never fired you. You were the best lawyer there.”