Michael sat alone in the big booth in the back corner of the diner. The place was closed, so he was the only one there. He had the day’s receipts and all the cash sorted in neat piles on the table.
There was also a slice of apple pie on the table, but he would only allow himself to enjoy it after he had balanced the books.
He was so caught up in the numbers, that he hadn’t noticed Becky enter and approach the table.
“I thought chocolate cream pie was your end of day reward,” she said with a smile as she sat down across from him.
“We’re all out,” he replied without looking up from the numbers because he was super focused and well aware that Becky was trying to distract him. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to help with the close,” she answered as she reached for a pile of receipts.
He slapped away her hand, his eyes still locked on his work.
“I’m not sure if you heard,” she said as she grabbed the fork from the plate and helped herself to a bit of his pie, “but someone recently robbed me blind. As a result, I like to be wherever my money is.”
Michael finally looked up, just in time to see her put the bit of pie in her mouth.
“Any idea on you robbed you?” he decided to play along.
She smiled, and made a play of slowly chewing her stolen treat.
“They say he was tall, handsome, extremely charming, and once promised to love me for the rest of my life,” she finally answered. “Now that I think about it, that description fits you pretty precisely.”
Now it was Michael’s turn to smile.
“In my defense, when I promised to love you for the rest of your life, I was only seventeen.”
Becky’s smile quickly vanished. “What’s that supposed to mean? Are you somehow let off the hook because you were a stupid high school junior who just wanted to get into my pants?”
Suddenly the smile was back, followed by loud laughter.
“The look on your face, Mikey. It was priceless. And don’t pout because I called you Mikey. I’m the one person in the world allowed to do that.”
Michael smiled, took the fork from her, and allowed himself a bite of apple pie.
“I don’t know why I said that about being seventeen,” he confessed. “I guess I don’t like being compared to your asshole husband.”
Becky shrugged. “I thought you might enjoy knowing that I am well aware of the similarities.”
“It’s not like I expected you to wait for me,” he mumbled.
“And I didn’t expect for you to run off and join the Marines two days after we graduated from high school,” she replied so quickly that one had to assume that comeback was forever locked and loaded and ready for use.
Neither of them said anything for the longest time. Michael finally broke the silence by entering some numbers onto keys of the adding machine.
“I noticed this morning when Travis was talking about our high school days, he made is sound like we were a threesome,” he said in an obvious attempt to change the subject. “Does he not remember that Paige was a part of our group as well?”
“Paige Bentley is not to be forgotten,” Becky answered with a smile to indicate that the serious moment had passed. “My best friend is a force of nature!”
Michael stopped entering numbers and raised an eyebrow. “I thought I was your best friend.”
Becky reached out and patted him gently on the forearm. “You’re splitting hairs. Paige is my best friend that I’ve never been involved with romantically. How’s that?”
“What about that time at Bethany’s eighteenth birthday?” he challenged. “You guys kissed. Half the senior class saw it.”
“That was Truth or Dare, and truth be told, I only did it to make you jealous,” she winked at him and then swiped another bite of his apple pie.
“I have a vague recollection of it working,” he admitted.
Becky smiled slyly. “As for Travis’ seeming to forget about Paige, I don’t think he’ll ever get over the fact that she wouldn’t date him. All these years later, he considers it a snub that he’ll never forgive. Not that Paige has ever asked forgiveness.”
“The day is balanced,” he announced proudly. “Numbers are up again, too. One more step towards putting Jake and that financial crisis behind you.”
Becky sighed while Michael gathered up the receipts, and put the money in the bank bag.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to put it behind me completely,” she said in almost a whisper. “That’s not the sort of betrayal you can ever forget, or gloss over by increasing business. The man who vowed to be with me for better or worse, swindled me out of everything, broke me heart, and shattered my trust. Life is never going to be the same…”
Michael quickly got up and slid into the booth next to her. He put his long arm around her, while Becky rested her head on his shoulder.
“The lawyer called today and advised that I shouldn’t file for divorce right away because it might make it harder for me to recover my half of what Jake took from the joint account if he’s ever caught. The very next call was from that Security prick at Ephrem/Regis threatening to sue me for half of what Jake embezzled from them because I’m his wife, and he’s sure I was in on it with him.”
Michael kissed the top of head, and squeezed her a little tighter.
“We’re going to figure out a way to get you out of this mess,” he vowed. “I promise this time I’m not going to run off and leave you on your own.”
“Thanks,” she said as she wiped her tears on his shirt. “You’re too old for the Marines to take you back anyway…”
He chuckled and she just closed her eyes and tried to think of happier, simpler times.
TO BE CONTINUED…