The subway ride has taken short 30 minutes, and then another five to walk to the front of restaurant. The sun is still shining, despite the clock moving closer and closer to eight. The light warms my bare shoulders and cheeks. I am carrying my cardigan over my arm, hoping to suck as much of the sun into me as possible - its light always leaves me feeling happier. I am a summer person deep to the bone, and always fall madly in love with the heat, the food, the atmosphere and the short (but wild) nights. Summer is, and will always be, the best time of the year. This year, perhaps even the greatest.
The clock reads 08:07pm when I enter through the glass door, and find myself in a cooled rustic designed restaurant. The air has a nice temperature, and is filled with the sound of chatter, laughter and cutlery and above that, the smell of well-cooked food creeps my way. I breathe in deeply, and let my eyes wander over the many faces seated by the tables. I can not seem to find Harry’s.
As I stand there in my own searching haze, a handsome blonde - and very blue eyed - waiter approaches me. “How can I help you?” He asks politely. My eyes instantly search downward and lands on his name-tag. It reads Matt. Short and simple.
“I am meeting someone,” I then reply distantly, “But he does not seem to have shown up yet.” I glance over Matt’s shoulder, but neither this time is Harry anywhere to be seen.
“Miss Stark - is it?” Matt carefully tries.
I look back at him, “Yes.”
His lips pull up in a smile, “Well then your date-“
“- He’s not my date,” it flies out of me, and for a moment I wish I had not said it, because it is not of any importance to waiter Matt - but then again, clearing the fact that we are not dating, would maybe stop him from sharing rumours… Or perhaps he never even thought about it.
Matt chuckles a little. “If you say so.”
It is the second time that day someone has told me, “If you say so.”
He then smiles, “follow me, miss.” And I do. I follow him further back into the restaurant, where the wooden tables and metal chairs, are replaced with diner boots and bigger seatings. This part of the restaurant is just as filled as the other one. Though the parties are bigger here. Once I get a few steps into the back room, I hear my name being called out over the heavy cloud of chatter. My eyes shoot away from a nearby group of friends, and shortly search for the sound. There Harry stands, by the side of a diner booth with a wide smile painted across his face and longer hair than last time I saw him. It still falls in nicely tamed curls and is slicked back. I break into a grin. Matt lets me pass him, as we get closer to the booth Harry has chosen for us to be seated in.
I walk fast up to him, pull up on my tiptoes and swing my arms around his neck. I can feel people stare, but it is an attention he is used to and when he sneaks his arms around my waist and pulls me closer - I knew he does not mind showing the world that we are close. He smells nice. A good, and probably very expensive, perfume. It is different than the one had worn in Christmas. Getting used to seeing him to seldom is weird, even his smell seems to change. But I manage to deal with that. We hug for a little while, until I feel bad for blue eyed Matt, that patiently stands waiting behind me. I pull away from Harry, still with the grin of joy lighting up my face.
“It is so good to see you again,” I breathe happily.
He chuckles softly, “you too, Mel. You too.”
Once Harry and I slip into the booth, and Matt has gone off to get us some menus, I relax a little. I do not know what to say at first - I just look at him. He is smiling. The kind of smile that reaches his eyes and leaves the light green colour shining. The silence hangs over us for about fifteen seconds, until Harry speaks; “Your hair has gotten longer.”
I let out a little laugh and lean back. “That’s what happens when you don’t cut it.” I joke, “guess you got the same idea,” I nod softly at his hair and he smiles a bit wider. “Well, once we get our drinks - we should cheer to long hair,” he says and I nod with a smile, “we surely should.”
“Oh, and to you. College, apartment, new life… Everything.”
“Yeah, it’s exciting. But what’s more exciting right now is seeing you again,” I laugh, “so let’s also cheer to you, and success.”
“We have been doing that for four years now.” Harry says.
“And we will keep doing it until the day you die.” I say.
He smiles a little.
Matt comes in that moment and places a menu card in front of each of us. He then leaves us. He is polite and I get a good vibe from him. He seems like a laid back kind of guy. Harry’s finger run over the different courses for a second, and then he stops and looks up at me. “The burger is supposed to be amazing here,” he says and I instantly know why he has chosen this place. I shake my head with a smile, “as long as the fries are just as good.”
“I bet they are.” He insists.
“Then let’s take two of those and for drinks-“
“- White wine? Beer?” Harry suggests.
“We can’t drink here.” I sadly have to remind him.
He cocks his eyebrows and stares at me with an expecting look in his eyes.
“What?” I ask, growing somewhat confused by his laughing eyes.
“I…” he starts out and sort of waits for me to finish his sentence.
I then breathe out. Of course.
“You can do whatever you want.” I say.
He laughs, “sort of. But perhaps it is a good idea to stick to something non-alcoholic with the pictures that are being taken of us.”
“What?” I whisper, “who’s taking pictures?”
Harry leans a bit over the table, and I follow his movement. “The table with a group of friends. Five o’clock.” He whisper. I nod. They are the ones that caught my attention when I first entered. Yet I do not turn around to look. I instead decide to wait and make it less obvious. He understands and therefore changes the subject.
“How have you been?” He asks, still in a small whisper.
“Good - but why are we whispering?” I ask him in just the same tone. Our faces are centimetres away from each other, and our eyes are locked. It seems a bit strange for him and I, but I like the way his eyes looks up close and the way it makes it feel. I was not sure how it makes me feel, but I like it.
“Because it’s sensual.” He whispers.
I wrinkle my forehead a little, “that’s just weird Harry.”
He lets out a laugh, leans back in his seat and breaks our whispering conversation.
I straighten up a little and smile, “that is twisted.”
“No, it’s not!” He defends himself.
“So whispering is a new fetish of yours?” I ask. He laughs and shakes his head. Then he opens his mouth to say something but decides to do otherwise, and closes it again. I am almost relieved he has not spoken what I was afraid he would speak. He sits in silence for a short while, before asking once again; “No really, how are you?”
I breathe in deeply through my nose, “I am good. Have been working my ass off since graduation and now I am here, so I am happy.”
“You’re happy?” He repeats my words.
I nod, “I actually feel happy right now.”
A smile creeps over his lips, “I am glad you do.”
“And what about you?” I ask normally and then decide to take it a step further, “Are you happy?”
He lets out a short air-blown laugh and once again leans a bit over the table, resting his arms on the wood. “I am perfectly fine.” He says.
“I am just as glad that you are doing fine. You have had a successful year.” I say.
He nods, “We have.”
“And still enjoying this…” I glance around us and then turn my eyes back to him, “life?”
Harry’s smile widen a bit, “as long as you know how to keep your secrets from the magazines, and your private life somewhat private, then yes - I am still very happy.”
I smile. His happiness is something that I value, despite rarely seeing him anymore.
“So again, what about you?” Harry manage to turn the subject away from him and to me instead. I believe that perhaps he is tired of hearing about himself, and felt a need to hear about what is happening in his - normal - childhood friend’s life.
“A boyfriend that I don’t know about?” He asks before I get a chance to ask him what he means with; what about you?
”A boyfriend?” I leave the question hanging in the air, watching Harry’s eyebrows hit the roof, “Those you kiss and sleep with?”
“I think you’re supposed to like them too,” Harry says.
“Oh,” I say, “then no. No boyfriend.”
“Why does that not surprise me?” He asks with a laugh.
“Because I have never really been the boyfriend-type.” I answer.
“I do not think there is such a thing.”
“What? A boyfriend-type?”
He nods, “You just haven’t met someone for a while, I think.”
“What? You mean after Jake Bennett?” I can hear the name roll of my tongue with a grain too much distaste, and I instantly regret saying it. I hope Harry has not caught it - but he clearly notices. He presses his lips together and lets out a small, “I’m sorry.”
I shake my head, “No, don’t be. I am very much over that you know - it just makes me angry thinking about how stupid I was back then.”
Harry shrugs, “I don’t think you were stupid.”
“No.” He protests, “You just let him in and maybe that was a mistake, but it sure as hell doesn’t make you stupid. It makes you…”
“Foolish? Pathetic? Dumb?”
“Human.” Harry then says and tilts his head a little to the side, “it makes you very human.” His eyes pierces mine with a tender look, and I have to look down at my hands. They are lying folded on the table.
“No seriously, Mel. You should really stop beating yourself up over the fact that some idiot did not see your worth. It is his loss after all.”
I remain silent.
“What do you say that we call that waiter-“
“-Matt.” I cut him off.
“Yes, Matt. Let’s call over Matt, order some food and something to drink.”
I nod and turn my gaze back to Harry’s face, “I’ll have a coke.”
Harry shakes his head, “A bottle of white. Let’s share. I brought Jake up-“
“Actually you didn’t,” I try to defend him, but he will not let me come to his rescue.
“I turned the subject towards it, so I think I owe you something to drink and then perhaps a real drink later.”
If I had not been friends with Harry for fifteen years, I would believe that he is flirting with me. The way his eyebrows are slightly raised, his eyes sparkly and hopeful and his hand resting on the table, a bit too close to mine. I doubt he even notices, but I do and it makes me wonder for a second if maybe he is flirting with me, but I quickly push that thought away. Childhood friends do not flirt with each other. They have fun and enjoy each others (friendly) company.
I send him a smile, “Deal. But only if you promise to follow me home later.” I am not sure what makes me say that, but the words escape my lips with such an easy that it almost feels natural.
“I won’t let you down.” He smirks.