Good morning. Welcome back to this week’s Tuesday Tales. If you celebrate Christmas, have you started decorating yet? I need to get on that this week. The bins are out filling up the living room. Do you ever stop and wonder how you managed to accumulate so much stuff? Celebrating Christmas together as a family for 47 years definitely leads to stuff. Each year I try to sort through it, give stuff away, but parting with keepsakes and memories is difficult.
I my Tuesday Tales novel, my hero and heroine are dealing with memories, too, most of them sad ones. Have you ever regretted something you’ve done in the past? Have you ever carried a grudge that blinded you to all the facts but those you believed? Sometimes, when we look at the past through the lens of time, we see a different perspective, one that makes us question ourselves, and the process isn’t always a comfortable one.
This week, We’re sitting down at the bar with Michael. Enjoy.
Michael pulled into the parking lot at the Docks, a local pub he frequented on a regular basis. He’d chosen to make his home in one of the small villages outside of Victoria, strangely a place not too different from where he’d grown up. He just hadn’t made that connection until now.
Coming here was probably the last thing he needed tonight, especially if the place was crowded, but going home to his empty house would be worse. Damn Lydia for stirring up memories he’d suppressed for years. Now, he hurt almost as badly as he had back then, but what was even worse was he’d begun to second guess himself.
Twyla had been under her father’s thumb, something pretty normal back then, but what if it hadn’t been her choice? What if Daddy and Mommy dearest had forced her to marry that guy? She’d told him a little about her family dynamics, about her brother who’d run off and joined the army, and he’d met her mother only once. She was a cold fish who’d looked down her nose at him as if he wasn’t worth considering. They’d known her father would never accept a relationship between them. What if Twyla had said something, and her father had jumped the gun and forced her to marry that lawyer? Her folks could easily have intercepted those letters he’d sent. What if she’d thought he’d dumped her? He’d been too hurt at the time to even think of such a thing, and since he’d buried those memories for years … Why was it hindsight let you see things you’d been blind to before?
Entering, he was grateful to see the place half-empty, unusual for a Saturday night. He sat in one of the stools at the end of the bar across from the television set. The Blue Jays were playing the Yankees, and it looked like the birds were on top for the moment.
“Hi, Mike. What can I get you?” Joe asked.
“A pint of Kokanee. Is the kitchen still open?”
“Yeah. Tonight’s special is a salmon burger and fries.”
“That works for me. Where is everyone?”
“Ewan Miller got married this afternoon. You must’ve been invited. Everyone was. Most of them are at the reception down at the Legion. I’ll be dropping by after my shift’s over.” He chuckled. “That party will go on well into the wee hours. Everything on the burger?”
Mike nodded, “Yeah. I forgot that wedding was today. I usually avoid them. Bad memories.”
“Were you married?” he asked, his head tilted to the right.
The bartender nodded. “Be right back with your beer.”
Mike focused on the screen, trying to erase Twyla’s green eyes from his mind. If that marriage had been forced on her, how had she explained no longer being a virgin? That must’ve been a hell of a wedding night conversation. But then he might be deluding himself, and she’d gone into it with her eyes open, making a fool of him just the way he’d believed all these years.
Joe placed the frosted beer mug on a coaster on the bar.
“I wouldn’t want to be whoever it is you’re mad at,” he commented. “There’s more frost in your eyes than there is on that mug.”
Shaking his head, Joe sighed. “I’m not really mad at anybody—just a little pissed at my sister. She wants me to go back east for a wedding, and the idea of going back there dredged up some bad memories I would have preferred stay buried. Those memories are like whales—gorgeous to look at when you see them frolicking on the ocean, but they stink to high Heaven when the get beached.”
“That’s an interesting way to put it.” He chuckled. “Sisters and wives are all the same. Gabby’s been on my case to take her to Edmonton for a high school reunion. I wasn’t crazy about that crowd when I lived there, and I sure as hell don’t care who became a successful dentist or who drives a caddy, but she won’t get off my back until I agree.”
“That’s more or less what I’m up against, too,” Mike said, raising his mug to his lips and almost draining it in one gulp. “Don’t get me wrong. Lydia and I grew up there, and I have some fond memories of the place, but there are some I don’t care to revisit ever again.” He drained the mug. “Get me another one, will you?”
“Any man who looks like that talking about the past has to be remembering a woman.” He shook his head. “Another draft coming right up.”
Within minutes, Joe replaced his mug with another cold one.
Mike focused on the screen above his head, trying to lose himself in the game. The Jays hadn’t started the season well. At the moment, the Yankees were on deck. With one crack of the bat, the man hit a two-run homer and the birds were behind once more.
He huffed out a breath, and raised his beer to his lips, his mind returning to Eastern Ontario. Not all his memories of his time at Indian Lake had been bad ones, just as all his memories of Twyla weren’t. Would she have changed? Had she gotten fat? Her mother had been a little plump but nothing like his mom who’d tipped the scale at close to two hundred pounds. Would T’s hair still be the color of oak leaves in autumn or had she dyed it the way she’d claimed she would as soon as she went to school? He’d begged her not to, but what did his opinion matter?
He looked up at his face in the mirror behind the bar. There was snow on his roof, his mahogany hair having grayed early. The white mustache and goatee he wore hid the two-inch scar on his chin he’d gotten riding hellbent for leather down the dirt road when he’d heard about the wedding just two months after she’d left him.
As far as the rest of him went, while he had a few scars, spending thirty years in the army had kept him lean and toned. Women didn’t run away from him, and it wasn’t as if he’d lacked female companionship, but damn it, there’d always been a part of him missing, a part he’d given away.
Joe set the burger in front of him. “Enjoy.” He noted the empty mug. “Want another?”
“Yeah. Keep them coming. I’ll be cabbing it home tonight.” He reached for the burger and took a bite.
“I’ve known you for as long as I’ve run this joint and I’ve never seen you like this,” Joe said, his brow furrowed. “I know you well enough to realize you’ll keep your word and won’t drink and drive, but if there’s anything I can do … Bartenders are supposed to be as good as therapists and a hell of a lot cheaper. Why don’t you fill me in on your woes? Maybe talking about it will make it easier.”
“You sound like Lydia. That’s why she thinks I should go to this wedding. Twyla will be there, and my sister claims I need to talk to her and settle this once and for all.” He shook his head. “Maybe she’s right, but damn it, Joe. I’m not sure I can face her.”
“All these years, I’ve blamed her for leaving me hanging, for using me, but what if I’m wrong? Sure, I wrote to her, but I didn’t go and confront her, didn’t ask to know why she’d broken my heart. Now, I keep thinking maybe I should’ve gone the extra distance. What if she thinks I’m the one who didn’t care?”
Joe pursed his lips and shook his head. He picked up the empty mug.
“I would say your sister’s right. The only way you’ll ever know what happened is to confront the lady and get it out into the open. At least that way you’ll know whether or not you’re the one who screwed up. Be right back.”
Mike took another mouthful of burger. Joe was right. This was a band aid he needed to rip off once and for all. He pulled out his cell phone and punched in Lydia’s number. When she answered, he didn’t bother to identify himself.
“I’ll go with you. Make the reservations.” He hung up and reached for his third or fourth beer. It was going to be a long night.
That’s it for this week! Don’t forget to check out all the other posts on Tuesday Tales.