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Two Ways to Sunday by Tom Starita
Chris Marcum was a man who had everything. The perfect wife, the perfect job, and the perfect life. He was also sure his belief in God did not depend on those successes. So when an angel appeared to him on his deathbed with a challenge to prove the depths of his faith, Chris immediately accepted. Relive your life, with no recollection. This time however, without the breaks. What happens when instead of going right, you go left? What if there are no happy endings? How much can a man endure before he hits his breaking point? And what happens then?
Twenty minutes later, Chris joined his friends outside in the back alley for a casual smoke. Even though he didn’t indulge, the alley was a place where you could hold conversations with various strangers without the concern of an overly loud jukebox. His friends were just about finished with their cigarettes and were talking something work related although Chris stood there quietly. He had let his mind wander and had begun counting the number of damaged tiles on the side of the bar. He was up to seventeen when he noticed the same girl from before standing in the back of the alley on the pay phone. Her face had turned slightly towards his and seemed a little agitated. Naturally, Chris moved a couple steps closer to get a better handle on the conversation. It was at that moment when he overheard her exclaiming how badly the date was going. Sensing an opportunity, Chris decided to go for it. The moment the phone hit the handle he approached her with his best conversation starter.
“Hey, can I borrow a cigarette?” said in his most nonchalant voice. He was afraid his voice cracked and hoped she hadn’t noticed. Jen turned around and looked at him quizzically.
“Do you plan on giving it back when you’re done?”
“Sure. Maybe you’d like to keep it as a souvenir.” He waited for a laugh and instead received a slight smirk as well as a possible eye roll.
“I don’t know about that. I’d let you keep it if I had one. Sorry.” She started to walk back to the bar before Chris blurted out,
“Honestly you look like you need one yourself.”
This time he received a small sigh, perhaps laced with a hint of frustration and watched as she stepped back and leaned against the brick wall with her hands behind her back.
“Actually, I’m on a date right now and to be honest it’s not going well.”
Chris took a step closer and whispered, “ugly or boring?” Jen gave a surprised laugh and said,
“To be honest neither. He’s an okay guy, great smile. There just isn’t a spark. Everything about tonight seems forced.”
Chris sensed an opportunity forming. “Does he know you’re outside?”
“No, I said I was going to the bathroom and instead slipped outside to make a phone call.”
“So why not go back inside and tell the guy something came up and you have to leave?” Chris said with a sly grin.
“That’s why I called my friend Stephanie, except she can’t come to rescue me.”
“I could rescue you.” The words came out fast and Jen let out a laugh,
“I don’t even know you!”
“Not to sound overly confident but I’m assuming the past minute of our brief conversation tops whatever you’ve been getting for the past twenty.”
“I’m pretty sure that statement would apply to anyone out here,” she said in jest.
“Okay true true but you’re talking to me and that’s the important thing.”
He wasn’t sure if she was squirming because she wanted out of the conversation or because he was starting to make sense to her.
“Give me one good reason why I should leave one blind date for another.”
“Time out; you’re on a blind date? And you didn’t take your own car?”
“Two things,” she said while making the hand gesture. “One, he offered like a gentleman to pick me up and two I don’t have a car of my own. What other choice did I have?”
Without missing a beat, Chris responded. “I hear the bus is lovely this time of night.”
They both laughed and Chris caught Sammy gesturing from the corner of his eye. He made a motion to say they were going back inside and Chris nodded to go on without him.
“All right. Hypothetically let’s say I agree to hang out with you instead--then what?”
“Same thing you would have done if your friend picked you up. You go back inside and tell your blind date you are so sorry, but your brother just beeped you and you have to leave.”
“And when he offers to drive me home?”
“Say your brother is on his way.”
“Yeah, and what do I do when Henry walks me outside and there’s no car waiting for me?”
“Ah-ha. That’s when I’ll pull up, you hop in my car and we’ll go grab a bite to eat.” She smiled and seemed to weigh out his proposition.
“Did you just think of all this off the top of the head or is this the usual Friday for you?”
“I can be diabolical when I have to be” he said with a devilish grin.
“Remind me again why I’m getting in the car with a complete stranger?”
“Complete strangers? We’re practically best friends.”
“Best friends, huh? I don’t even know your name,” she said with a smirk. He was starting to love that smirk.
“Chris Marcum,” and he gave an exaggerated bow.
“Jen Polanski,” she curtseyed in reply.
“See, we are now officially best friends.” Jen wrinkled her nose in reply.
“Hey, all I’m saying is you have two options. Either you go back inside, hang out with Mr. Personality, and count the minutes till the end of the night or get in the car with me and laugh all night.”
Jen thought about it, smiled and said, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
“To be honest I can’t believe it worked. I’ll meet you outside in five.”
Jen walked back inside the bar with Chris right behind her. He immediately made a beeline towards his friends.
“Sam listen no time to talk I need your car keys fast.”
“Woah Marcum slow down. What’s going on?”
“No time to explain. Give me your keys and I’ll owe you my life.”
“What about us?” Richie said.
“Please guys trust me she’s worth it.”
Book Size: 5.5'' x 8.5'' , 320 pages
Category/Subject: FICTION / General