The story, Week 2

What was I thinking, saying yes to lunch with Brandon? I should have known better, but I gave in to that fluttering in my stomach when I heard his voice on the phone. I wanted to pretend I was still cool, just like I’d thought I was, before fashion school, two kids, and a divorce, so I called him “my Brandon Wayne,” as if I owned him. I’d thought long and hard about how to set the hook, so I flirted a bit, that day on the phone, but I never meant to actually meet with him so that he could find out how much I’d slipped down that uncool ladder.

I bragged that I’d gotten my degree in design, which sounds very glamorous, but I didn’t admit that I couldn’t make any money until I took a job making wedding gowns and prom dresses in someone else’s shop. That’s what I do these days. It can be fun, but most brides want one or two classic designs, which means a lot of sewing and refitting and not much creativity. Seems like all I’ve done for the past three months is take out seams because the bride was sure she’d lose weight before her wedding and insisted on one size too small, or because we need to hide that little bulge in the middle of her belly.

As soon as I got off the phone, I knew that I should call Brandon back and cancel our plans before he could see what a failure I’ve become or ask me why I never showed up graduation morning. I started to dial him again, but I couldn’t. What excuse could I give?

In a definitely uncool way, I spent days figuring out what to wear for our lunch date. I think I drove my employer crazy asking her which dress made me look the thinnest. Even though I couldn’t really afford it, I got a trim and had gold highlights put into my brown hair. I tried to tell myself I was just nervous about admitting to the truth about that last day of high school. I had woken up at five to the smell of the cinnamon rolls my mother baked for our journey, got dressed, and then sat on the bed, unable to move, no matter how hard I told myself that he would be devastated. As the hours passed, I believed that in one more minute I would start walking, but I never did. I stayed there until Mom called me to dinner. I realized that day that I was a fraud. I have never been Catwoman.

I almost didn’t recognize him, when I saw him sitting by the potted fern in the atrium of that Middle Eastern restaurant. I should have turned and left right then. I am not sure why I looked through the window at him for so long.

He had gone from being a skinny weed of a boy to a stocky man in a business suit. Balding across the top, he reminded me so much of my ex-husband that I felt instantly disappointed. I wished that I hadn’t spent so much time planning my moves.

My only defense is that I would have left, if he hadn’t seen me.

I still am surprised he recognized me so quickly. I wish he hadn’t.

“Cat!” he waved at me from where he sat, then leapt up and bounded out of the restaurant door and caught my arm as I hurried away. “This is the place! It’s so great to see you!”

“Batman,” I said, softly, almost crying. Two more seconds and I would have gotten away.

Instead, I turned around and hugged him. He gently wrapped his arms around me. By the time he released me, I had replaced the tears with the bright smile I saved for the ugliest of brides. “How is the Bat Cave?” I asked.