Half of Me
Bryce Boyle had just stepped off the treadmill in Panther's Gym and was wiping himself down with a towel when he saw a wide-eyed woman with a huge smile on her face approaching him.
"Bryce Boyle!" She said with amazement. "Is that really you?"
He was equally as amazed to see her. "Karina Lavanway!" He grinned. "What's it been - four years?"
"Thereabouts," Karina confirmed. "Where's the rest of you?" She laughed.
"I lost half of me," Bryce smirked. "How are you?"
"Sober," she said seriously.
He had to admit she looked much better than the last time he saw her. Her skin was rosy and healthy, she had lost the flab her drinking had brought her, and her eyes were clear and focused. Her brown hair was shorter than when she worked for him and she looked fit in a blue nylon jogging suit.
"I thought you were in Vermont," Bryce said.
"I was," Karina acknowledged. "I came back. I always liked it here." She studied him for a moment. "You still at the radio station?"
Bryce nodded affirmatively. "It's the best job I'll ever have."
"You're the best boss I ever had," She smiled.
"I fired you," he reminded her.
"I didn't give you much of a choice, did I?" Karina asked knowingly.
"It's really good to see you, Karina" Bryce let her know. "I'm glad you're doing well."
She smiled. "Same with you," she said warmly.
"I should hit the showers," Bryce said, attempting to step past her.
"Do you have time to get a cup of coffee?" Karina asked hopefully. "Maybe across the street at Johnny C's?"
He glanced at the wall clock above the check in desk in front of the gym. "I guess," he said. "Give me ten minutes."
"I'll meet you at the front door," Karina said happily as she headed for the woman's shower and changing room.
Bryce was relieved to know that Karina was doing well but he wondered why she wanted to have coffee with him, the man who fired her four years ago. Did she want to unload her anger, resentment and bitterness on him after all this time?
It was a horrible termination - Bryce the general manager of the station forced to call the Greenville Police to have his sales representative escorted from the premises after she became loudly obnoxious and grossly inappropriate with her insults and tirade upon learning her services were no longer required or desired at good ole WGRN Greenville on the FM Dial.
Bryce tried not to think about that unfortunate incident too much as he showered and dressed in the men's room, hopeful that the new and improved sober Karina would show him mercy for doing his job.
She was waiting for him by the front door when he emerged from the locker room. They were both wearing winter coats with hats and gloves in the cold February weather and they were careful as they stepped through the shoved paths of the snowbanks, crossed Hillsboro's Main Street, and entered Johnny C's Diner, packed and lively as usual.
"Birdy Braft still running this place?" Karina asked as they stood in line waiting for a breakfast crowd booth to open.
"How long have you been back?" Bryce inquired.
"A couple of months," she said. "But I've only been in here a few times."
"And the gym?"
"Part of my recovery plan," she explained. "AA meetings three times a week. Physical Work outs four days a week. Yoga."
"I'm an administrative assistant at the water department," she laughed. "It's a nothing job. Answer the phone. Greet customers. Data entry. But there's no stress like in sales and I enjoy the no pressure job."
Bryce nodded in understanding.
"I listen to the station," Karina reported. "Sounds good. Most of the same voices."
"Jaz-Man retired last year after forty years with the station," Bryce let her know.
"Wow, the end of an era," Karina said.
"Everybody lost a mentor," Bryce agreed.
A booth opened and they claimed their seats opposite each other. The waitress was at the table almost before they sat asking if they wanted coffee.
"Just water for me," Bryce requested.
"Large coffee, cream, four sugars," Karina ordered.
"Four sugars will kill you eventually," Bryce said playfully.
She blushed but didn't say anything.
"And, yes, Birdy Braft still owns the place," Bryce said in answer to her earlier quesiton.
The waitress returned with the coffee and water. Bryce ordered a bowl of sliced fruit while Karina asked for two slices of French Toast with sausage and extra butter.
"Don't say it," she laughed, holding up her hand.
"I'm not the food police," Bryce responded.
Neither of them said anything for a moment.
"Are you going to make me ask?" Karina finally spoke.
"Ask what?" He asked innocently.
"Where the other half of you went?" She asked directly. "And how? And why? What made you do it finally, after all these years?"
"Well, how and why did you get sober after all those years?" Bryce asked.
"I hit bottom," Karina revealed.
"Me too," Bryce smiled.
"Can we talk about it?" Karina wanted to know.
"About what, specifically?" He inquired.
"Everything," She requested.
"I weighed 340 pounds," he let her know.
"How much do you weigh now?"
"One eighty-five," he answered. "At 5'10 I'm still a good 15 pounds out of range."
"You're in your forties," she said. "I'd say you're doing pretty well losing almost half of you."
"Forty-four," he verified. "To be exact."
"I'll be forty in May," Karina informed him. "My liver is about 83."
The waitress returned with the French toast for her and the fruit slices for him.
"I hope you don't mind me asking," Karina said when the waitress was gone.
"Why do you want to know?"
"I'm sure there's a lot of morbid curiosity from people you barely know," Karina said uncomfortably. "That's not why I ask."
"If I confess my fat sins to you will you tell me your drunk tragedy?"
"Yes," Karina replied. "I do it all the time in the halls." She sucked in her breath. "But it will be different telling you."
"I haven't told anybody my story," Bryce revealed.
"I'd be honored if I was first," Karina replied.
"Not here, not now," Bryce said.
She nodded in understanding. "Why don't you come over to my apartment for dinner Friday?" She suggested after giving it some thought. "You could tell me then."
"No red meat," Bryce said.
She smiled. "I can do a veggie dish casserole."
He sucked in his breath, not sure about the invitation. "Okay," he finally decided.
"Six thirty," Karina told him. She took a pen out of her purse and wrote the address on one of the napkins.
"You don't owe me anything, Karina," Bryce told her.
"You don't owe me anything either," she replied knowingly. "But I'd like to make amends and start over if you'd let me."
"It's easier now that we don't work together," Bryce realized.
She smiled. "Much easier."