He would rather have been in a small river in an out-of-the-way spot, casting a fly line for trout. It was that sort of evening, he thought vaguely. A warm breeze fingered his black hair; the musky scent of dry leaves infused the night air; the sky, black above the treetops, was beginning to show a few stars, the rest hidden behind heaven’s heavy blanket.
He had always preferred the strength and silence of the outdoors to anything else. A small-time outfitter, though, didn’t make much money. He knew that, and acknowledged, too, that life held limitless possibilities.
The sound of voices grew greater and the crowd thicker as the soft notes of a piano danced outside to greet those making their way up the wide cement walkway to the hall. It was a simple affair: an alumni dinner of a small college. Through the double doors, Tab could see long tables set with white paper cloths. Squeals of happy recognition punctuated the steady undercurrent of voices. He hated these things, but had promised to come. He stepped inside and scanned the room for someone he recognized.
“We’re sitting over here.”
The nearby voice was inviting and familial.
Tab looked into the eyes of a tall man who was his double, aside from a twenty-five year difference in age. Max’s hair was graying at the tips and the lines in his face revealed that he was not exempt from life’s hardships, but everyone they passed hailed him and he hailed them back in a mild, relaxed manner.
Walking together they sat across from a pretty woman with sparkly eyes who was chatting up a storm with the young girl next to her.
She reached across the table and squeezed his hand.
“Hi, Mom,” he said to the woman others thought pretty.
Such a thought had never occurred to him. She was always there, always making friends. There was something in her expression that told she was one who didn’t take life too seriously. Her crow’s feet were her signature, witness to an easy and ready laugh.
“I want you to meet Jessica. She’s interested in languages, too.”
This last statement was spoken with an unmistakable emphasis, and Tab caught his parents glancing at each other.
He looked into the round face of a girl close to his age. Her brown hair that hung in a blunt cut below her jaw line exactly matched the deep brown of her large, wide eyes. She wore a pretty, delicately flowered dress. He reached out to shake her hand as she quickly put her hands in her lap.
He pulled his hand back, and offered her an uncertain smile instead.
Jessica thought to herself that she had never seen eyes sparkle so. They were the color of the sea at its deepest point, and she wondered if that said anything about the man across from her.
Her mouth went suddenly dry – unusual for her. She sipped from her water-glass
“It’s nice to meet you, Tab.”
The music suddenly sounded too loud. It seemed a mere ten minutes had passed and it was time to go.
It was nearly 11:00 by the time Jessica pulled out of the parking lot. There was little traffic this time of night. She found herself in her room remembering little of the drive back. Quickly readying herself for bed, she pulled up the covers and stared at the ceiling, wide awake.