Mann and (Two) Women
Hal Mann had his head buried underneath the opened hood of his fifteen year old pickup truck when he heard a voice from the bottom of the driveway. He stepped out from behind the front of the truck and glanced in the direction of the voice. He saw a woman wearing green nursing scrubs and rubber white shoes with long blond hair pulled up underneath a green ball cap slowly walking up the drive. The scrubs seemed to be hanging from her thin frame and her pale eyes were lost on her face.
"Can I help you?" Hal asked with curiosity.
"For Christ sakes, Mann-Mann, do I look that bad?" She groaned.
There was only one person in his life who called him Mann-Mann and he hadn't seen her in years. Hal narrowed his eyes and studied her closely. "Blair?" He asked, his eyes growing wide
"Of course!" She laughed.
Hal was momentarily numbed, unable to respond as his mouth dropped open. Blair opened her mouth wide as if she was at the dentist and he immediately recognized her famously familiar crooked teeth.
"Holy shit," he exclaimed.
"Nice to see you too," she grinned
"Sorry, Blair, but give me a break," he said as he took her into a grasping hug. "How long has it been? Twenty-one, twenty-two years?"
"Thereabouts," she verified.
He broke from the spontaneous and emotional embrace and stood gawking at her like he was looking at a ghost – the ghost of his broken hearted past.
"Could you invite me inside, please," she said, glancing around as if she didn't want to be seen.
Hal snapped out of his fog and motioned with his head for her to follow him into the dumpy looking house in need of repair and updates.
Blair glanced around the kitchen once they entered through the back screen door. "Looks like you're stuck in a time warp from the 1960s," she observed.
Hal stared at her with a bemused look on his face. "What are you doing here?"
She smirked. "I busted out of Rehab."
"Something tells me this isn't going to end well," Hal groaned, sinking into one of the kitchen table chairs and looking at her with an accusatory frown.
Blair took off her ball cap and let her long blond hair roll down her back. "Can I lay low here for a while?" She asked. "I have nowhere else to go."
"Are you clean? Sober?"
"Yes. I just couldn't take the head stuff anymore."
Hal sighed uncomfortably. "I don't know..."
"Hal," Blair said. "I wouldn't be here if I had other options,"
He hesitated while trying to come up with a reason to say no.
"Please?" Blair begged, stepping across the room and taking a seat next to him, smiling…..seductively? "I need to be where nobody will come looking for me."
Hal stared at her and then sighed. "Even after all this time I still can't say no to you," he complained.
She smiled, clearly relieved.
"There's an extra bedroom at the end of the hall."
"Great!" She said with appreciation. "You won't even know I'm here."
"I doubt that," Hal replied seriously.
"Could I use your shower? Blair asked. "I've been riding a bus for two days."
"Sure," Hal replied. "Are you hungry? I have left overs."
"Famished," Blair replied as she disappeared down the hall.
Hal dug out some cold chicken and macaroni salad from the refrigerator while listening to the shower running down the hall. He made some iced tea and he had everything ready when Blair emerged from the shower wearing one of his red 'Mann's Place' work tee shirts – although he was uncertain if she was wearing anything else underneath!
Blair took a seat at the kitchen table and began to devour the food on her plate. Hal slipped into his seat and ate at a more civilized pace.
"So, you're not married?"
"Not anymore," he let her know.
"Did you miss me?" She teased.
"I've thought about you often over the years," he admitted "Wondered what became of you, hoping you were okay."
"Fantasizing about me?" She asked, lifting her eyebrows.
"It's good to see you again," Hal said diplomatically.
"You too," Blair smiled.
The back door opened and an attractive middle aged red-haired woman came barreling into the kitchen, startling both Hal and Blair.
"Oh, I'm sorry," the woman said, surprised to see somebody sitting at the table with Hal. "I didn't realize you had company."
"You never knock," Hal complained.
"There's never a reason too," the woman replied, not taking her eyes off of Blair.
"This is ex-wife Rosie," Hal explained to Blair
Blair laughed at the absurdity of the situation. "You two still talk to each other?"
Hal took a bite of his macaroni salad. "Talk. Yell. Scream. Argue. Debate. Fight," he clarified.
"Oh, it's not that bad," Rosie said defensively.
"No, really," Hal assured Blair. "Trust me, we're always at odds."
"I guess that's why we divorced," Rosie she took a seat at the table and checked out Blair. "Who are you?" She wanted to know.
"Blair," Hal answered for her.
Rosie's eyes went wide. "Your college sweetheart!?"
"Yeah, her," Hal verified proudly. "Do you want something to eat?" He asked Rosie
"Na, I'm good," she replied, still looking at Blair with uncertainty. "I just stopped by to remind you about Bobby's party on Sunday."
"Bobby?" Blair wondered.
"Our son," Rosie said proudly. "He's turning twenty-one."
"Time flies," Hal remarked.
"So, what's your story, Blair?" Rosie asked. "Just passing through? Staying for a while?"
"I'm not sure yet," Blair replied.
"Oh, well, it's none of my business anyway," Rosie said effortlessly.
"Then what'd you ask for?" Hal frowned.
"Shut up, Hal," Rosie said with annoyance.
"I'm not your husband anymore," Hal reminded her. "You can't tell me to shut up!"
"So anyways, my parents are having a cookout for Bobby," Rosie said, ignoring Hal's comment.
"Great, they can hate me in person," Hal groaned.
"It's how I get my perverted pleasure," Rosie smirked,
"Anything else, Rosie?" Hal asked, not comfortable having his former lover and former wife together in the same room.
"No, I guess not," Rosie replied although she seemed to be searching for something else to say.
"Well, thanks for stopping by then," Hal remarked.
"Sure," Rosie said, awkwardly standing. "I guess I should go." She hadn't taken her eyes off of Blair since she walked in the door.
"Bye, Rosie," Hal replied, almost condescendingly.
Rosie almost stumbled as she left through the back door.
"I guess this is a surprise for her," Blair remarked.
"I don't bring women here very often," Hal confessed.
"Where'd you two meet?" Blair asked with interest.
"She was a waitress at the bar when I bought it," Hal replied.
"I guess you kept her on," Blair joked.
"For a while," he smirked.
"Could you take me shopping?" Blair wanted to know. "I escaped with only what I was wearing and the money in my pocket."
"Whenever you want," Hal agreed.
"Thanks," she smiled, pushing the plate away. "I'd better wash what I was wearing."
"Laundry room is right there," Hal let her know, gesturing to the door in the corner of the kitchen.
"Okay," she said, leaving the room to gather her clothes.
Blair was Hal's first love, an intense college love and she taught him the ways of the world He was madly in love with her and he was surprised by how easily he ached for her even now. Her eyes were bright and deep back then and even with the crooked teeth she was beautiful with her long blonde hair and baby smooth skin. Now she was frightfully thin and Hal wondered if she was battling eating disorders as well as substance issues.
Hal wondered what had happened to her during the missing years. He headed east with an opportunity to purchase his great-uncle's bar but Blair had other plans and she dropped off the face of the earth after college until showing up in his driveway a few hours earlier. Hal knew nothing about her life in their post college years. All he knew was he never stopped thinking about her even after she left him with barely a goodbye.
Hal went into the living room to watch a ball game and when she was done with the wash Blair appeared in the doorway
"I'm really bus-lagged," she announced. "I think I'll go to bed."
"Sleep well," Hal said with sincerity.
"You too," she smiled before heading for her room.
Hal sat back in his chair wondering how long Blair was going to stay in his life this time.