None of the girls have been ice skating for the better part of three years. With nothing to do on a mid-December Saturday night, she starts a group text called “#squad” with Megan and Victoria as they’re the only girls who are free of office “holiday” obligations that weekend.
“Uh ohhhhhhh, mama hasn’t skated in years,” Megan responds immediately.
Victoria chimes in with a, “Soooo in!” despite the fact that she’s only doing it for the Instagram and hasn’t stepped foot on ice since she begged her parents to give her figure skating lessons after Tara Lipinski’s gold medal in 1998.
And with that, they solidified the time: 8 o’clock, Saturday, downtown, with a 9:15 reservation at Umi immediately following.
She decided to arrive early donning leggings, a waist-level fur-lined white winter jacket, black mittens, and a fur headband that she had inherited from her grandmother. As she approached the skate rental area, she was overcome with amazement from Christmas in the city. There were lights adorning each and every tree, all perfectly coated with the right amount of snow falling from the sky. The four-story tree that had been shipped in from a lumberyard just outside the city had been lit the weekend before and was surrounded by kids and adults alike. In and out of every shop, families carried bags full of Christmas gifts. Among the rosy-cheeked children all playing in a snowbank next to the sidewalk, parents hugged and caught up with one another while their breath steamed like coffee.
But then she stopped in her tracks.
“No, that can’t be,” she thought to herself, “Is that…?”
Suddenly, she could no longer hear the Christmas music coming from the speakers rigged on every lamppost in the square. She stood as blurs of people shuffled around her while peering over at a face she knew all too well.
“Oh my God. It’s Todd.”
Not wanting to seem like a stalker, she hid behind the information booth covered in flyers from around the city. Gazing out to the shoveled path where Todd was standing, she began to loose sight of him as he continued towards the north end of the park with his hands in his pockets and his head down.
Her brain flooded with images of where he was heading and how his night was going to pan out. They had hardly spoken over the past two weeks outside of casual “You doing okay?” texts and views of each other’s Snapchat stories. Unsure of what to do due to her racing mind, she took her phone out of her coat pocket to check the time. It was 8:01.
“Well, the girls are late, must not be showing up,” she said to herself in a hurry as she scurried over to the sidewalk positioning herself 30 yards behind Todd. In the sea of overcoats, she could barely make out which head of hair was Todd’s, but she had a good feeling it was him standing at the corner of 4th and Poplar.
Hanging back to not be seen by him as he checked his phone for texts, she picked the pace back up as he crossed the street. Barely making the light herself, she could see him take a hard left onto 5th Street.
“That little shit, I bet he’s going to McGuire’s,” she remarked under her breath as her phone buzzed with texts from Megan and Victoria inquiring about her location. Putting her phone on silent, she crossed to the other side of 5th and stood next to a magazine stand directly across the street from McGuire’s where Todd was outside having a cigarette before going in.
Todd, peering down at his phone, gave a steady gaze to the entire street in an effort to soak in the Christmas cheer, much like she did in the middle of the park square. Worried Todd saw her, she quickly covered her face with her oversized mittens and pulled her headband down over her brow as a disguise. But just as his stare reached the magazine stand, he was approached by Trip who was also heading into McGuire’s.
“What’s up, you piece of shit?” Trip said with a grin on his face.
“Look at this guy,” Todd responded before going in for a hug.
“What the fuck are you doing outside?” Trip inquired. “It’s like zero fuckin’ degrees out here.”
As they opened the door to head into the packed bar, all she could hear was shouts of girls and guys alike, clinks of glasses, and Bob Seger’s “Main Street.” And in a moment of panic, she abruptly remembered that her and Todd still had their Find Friends locations on.
“Shit!” she audibly gasped before turning it off, forgetting that it would appear on his phone that her location would no longer be shared with him. Realizing that he wouldn’t see the alert unless he actually opened his text conversation with her, she was still slightly panicked as she slid into the Starbucks directly across the street from McGuire’s.
After ordering a grande Peppermint Mocha, she approached the girl sitting on her laptop at the only table next to the window. “Do you mind if I sit here?” she asked while batting her eyelashes.
Confused, the girl begrudgingly moved to the table over before mumbling a swear word under breath.
At that point, it became official — the stakeout was on. Sitting restlessly in her seat wondering what was happening between the walls of the warm bar, she texted Megan and Victoria her regrets for not making it out, along with a little lie about how her “tummy” was upset.
One hour passed. Nothing.
Two hours passed. Nothing.
On hour three, uncertainty began to creep into her head. She began to wonder if she was crazy. After all, her and Todd had completely fallen out with one another at Friendsgiving. They hadn’t broken up, but it sure felt like they had broken up. While reconciling with herself, she began to have the realization that she should probably return the cologne she had purchased for him as a Christmas gift at Nordstrom.
She began to imagine every possible scenario Todd was putting himself in. Shots, girls, pitcher after pitcher after pitcher. “He’s moved on,” she finally accepted when the clock struck 11.
After calling an Uber, she emerged from Starbucks and waited on the curb for the Toyota Venza to arrive. With a single light shining down on her, “Ave Maria” rang through her head in the saddest way possible before re-checking her phone to make sure the Uber driver hadn’t taken a wrong turn. But as she looked down at the map, she was startled by a voice from across the street.
“Hey, is that you?” Todd shouted from afar, hands cupped over his mouth. .
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