Rob Puckett waited for the perfect words of encouragement from his older brother, Ray. He checked his iPhone for messages. Twice. He witnessed the chubby baby across the restaurant drop his cup. Four times. Finally Ray swallowed a line of cheese and spoke.
“You blew it little bro.”
Rob rolled his eyes and slapped his brother’s hands from going after the fourth slice. He required more from Ray than that non news flash. Ray always had the right answers. It was Ray that encouraged him to propose to Laura Miller. Now Laura was at her mother’s and Rob was physically restraining his sibling from having more pizza.
“Okay, got that. What do I do, Mr. Lawyer? I’m sure you’ve seen couples like this all the time. What do you advise them to do?”
Ray wiped his mouth with a fresh napkin, revealing a smirk when he finished.
“I know this sounds harsh, but I don’t think my clients were that stupid. I mean c’mon, Laura threw you a thirtieth surprise party and you got mad at her? She loves you and was so excited. You humiliated her in front of everyone, and most likely, it wasn’t the first time. She’s hurt and you can bet her mom is ready to throw you to the lions. If mom were still alive she’d have your hide.”
The newlywed banged his head on the Formica table.
“Grrr, I’m a jerk. I have to make this right. Suggestions?”
“Dude, there aren’t enough roses.”
“Well moneybags, you can help out and pay for the pizza.”
Rob drove home thinking back on the times he got it right with Laura. He scored points by asking Laura’s father for her hand in marriage. He could see her smile when they had their first wedding dance. Going further back in his memory back, he transported back to their first meeting. McGinty’s.
By the time Rob pulled into the attached garage to the sounds of Laura’s mutt dog, he knew McGinty’s was the answer. It was a dive even in college, but it was the “establishment” where they met. The place with filthy floors, a temperamental jukebox and stale popcorn. For Rob, it’s where he first met Laura, the overwhelmed waitress. If he were allowed to put a marker on the building, he would plaster the peeling walls with proclamations that this was the site where he was Laura’s hero.
The memory gave Rob incentive to call a travel agent and book a hotel in their old college. He ordered roses and chocolates to deliver to both Laura’s childhood home and to their hotel room. Although their physical, spiritual and emotional lives were as far apart from McGinty’s as heaven and Earth, Rob couldn’t wait to blindfold his bride and surprise her with a dance.
Rob winced through the blistering phone call his mother in law insisted on answering for Laura. After twenty minutes Laura took the phone and listened to Rob’s pleas for forgiveness. Forty minutes later Rob was packing their suitcase.
“Honey, I messed up so big, I’m going to make this right. Promise.”
Rob felt her tears soak through his sweater when he picked her up. They stood for a few minutes, Rob full of apologies and Laura full of hiccup style tears. He reminded her they had a hotel reservation waiting, and that the drive was going to be over two hours.
“I wish you’d tell me where we’re going. All you really need to do is say you’re sorry and think before speaking next time. You really hurt my feelings. We’re best friends and you treated me like your enemy in front of everyone. That’s all I need is for that never to happen again.”
Rob heard the pauses in his beloved’s sentence, struggling not to cry again.
“I know sweetie, but I just wanted to show you I’m on the ball from now on. I’m romantic and with it, and you deserve the best.”
Rob decided to go to McGinty’s first.
Laura remained quiet when Rob tied his workout bandana across her eyes. She held his hand tight as he guided her out of the car and through icy patches.
“Seriously, what are you doing?”
Rob gave her an encouraging hand squeeze, almost to McGinty’s front door. The wooden slabs covered the entire front. Rob peered closer and saw the sign.
Dated three years ago.
Thanks everyone for your patronage. We’re closed for good.
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