"Why Didn't You?" - a short story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Matt and Nia unexpectedly meet after 25 years. Will Matt find the answer to the question he’s harbored for so long?

“Why Didn’t You?”

 

Returning to the city of his birth for a funeral seemed fitting for Matt. When he left all those years ago he was burying his old life, beginning the search for a living reincarnation. Far away. Somewhere warm. He accomplished all three goals.

 

Matt didn’t recognize anything on the drive in from the airport. Well, things change over time, don’t they? But he knew one place would still be there. That’s why he headed to the campus of his alma mater. To stop in at Calvin’s Club 23. He’d spent a ton of time--and money--at Cal’s. A black-owned bar and restaurant, but with the most diverse crowd in the city, Matt came to call it his second home. Still, like most everything else in the city, it had grown old, suffocating. He felt like he was running on a treadmill, ready to leave even before the Brianna bullshit.

 

Brianna Cox wanted Matt in the worst way, but he was dating someone else. Not that he was a saint, but Brianna didn’t do it for him. And the girl he was dating at the time kept him more than satisfied. One night after Matt knew he had drunk too much to drive home, Brianna offered a lift. He hesitated. He could have walked. It was only a few blocks. But, he was tired, so he accepted. As Matt had suspected, Brianna wanted to come in. She was all over him. He pushed her away, got out of the car and went to bed. Brianna returned to the bar, ripped her blouse purposely before going in and told everyone that Matt had assaulted her. A few months later she admitted it was a lie, but damage was done.

 

Matt’s stomach started making noise and he needed a BBQ rib sandwich and a beer; Cal’s had the best ribs in town. He opened the door and ran smack dab into a large piece of his past. A pleasant piece. “Oof,” said the woman, the breath knocked out of her.

 

“Nia?”

 

“Suds?” It had to be Nia for two reasons. She was the only person to ever call him by that nickname, and to that day she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known. Black and Chinese mix; tall; not fat, not skinny. Just perfect. Still stunning.

 

They had met thirty years ago almost to the day on Matt’s 22nd birthday at Cal’s where Nia worked as a waitress. She was eighteen.

 

“Oh wow, wow, wow,” Matt gushed. They hugged strongly.

 

“What the hell are you doing here?” Nia asked.

 

“What’re you doing here?” He countered.

 

“Shit, Suds, you look exactly the same.”

 

“You, too!”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

“You’re right. Just being polite.”

 

“Fuck you,” she said with a laugh.

 

“Oh, now you want to?” Matt put his hand on Nia’s cheek. “You do look as beautiful as ever.”

 

“Thank you. Seriously, what are you doing here?”

 

“My Uncle Doc died. You remember him?”

 

“Vaguely.”

 

“He’d meet me here once in a while. Six-six, skinny as a rail.”

 

“Sure. Not a lot older than you, right?”

 

“Exactly. My mom’s youngest brother.”

 

“Sorry for your loss.”

 

“Thanks. What’re you up to? Wanna have a drink?”

 

“Sure, but not here.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“I’ll tell you while we walk.”

 

Nia told Matt that Cal had passed about three years ago from bladder cancer. He’d still be alive if he’d ever gone to the doctor. His two sons own the place now and it’s a mess. Cal stated in his will that Nia would manage the place as long as she wanted at a very generous salary. Even with the money as an incentive, Nia wasn’t sure how much longer she would stay.

 

“Can we sit here for just a minute?” Matt said as he looked out over the campus lake.

 

“That’s why I walked us this way.”

 

“I don’t see my favorite tree. The big one where I’d sit under and ponder my future. And get high, too.” He smiled at the memory.

 

“Those were the days, weren’t they? My 20’s were a total haze,” said Nia. “As for the tree, lightening strike split it down the middle about ten years ago. They made benches with the wood.”

 

“Cool.”

 

“Is this really your first time back?”

 

“Yup.”

 

“Well, I’m glad your uncle died. Sorry, that came out like shit.”

 

“I know what you meant.”

 

“Would you have tried to find me if…” Nia asked with a hopeful face.

 

“You were on my very short list. The only problem would have been finding you.”

 

“That would’ve been easy,” Nia chortled. “Go to any restaurant in town and ask. I’ve become pretty well known after all these years.”

 

“I’ve always wondered if you really liked being a waitress or you sold yourself short. Guess it’s none of my business.”

 

Nia ignored Matt’s comment. “What have you been up to? And where?”

 

“Highlights now. Explanation over dinner. Left here for New York City. Bartended. Used some of grandma’s

inheritance and moved to Laos. Don’t ask me why. Worked at a bar there for several years. Came back, settled in Charleston and bought a little bar. Added music. Matt stood up and stretched. “Where do you want to eat?”

 

“Let’s stop and buy some wine at Trader Joe’s, then go to my place. I’ll cook dinner.”

 

“That’s crazy! You’ve been working all day.”

 

“Crazy or not, that’s the plan,” Nia said over her shoulder as she began to walk. Matt had to jog to catch up.

 

When they arrived at Nia’s house, Matt stopped. “I’m confused. Like a warped deja vu,” he said as he looked up and down the block.

 

“I figured you would be,” Nia guffawed.

 

“Same street. Same address.”

 

“Same house. A bunch of years ago I started a complete renovation. Inside and out.”

 

“What about the upper flat?”

 

“Gone. It’s my woman cave. Big bedroom and bath and walk-in closet. Whole project took four years to finish. I’ll give you the tour.”

 

Once inside Matt couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Modern. (Since everybody’s idea of modern likely differs I’ll let you put your imagination to work. Take your time.) The pre-reno house was nice, but this--Nia’s had a successful life since Matt last saw her.

 

“Open some wine, would you, Suds?”

 

He did and Nia brought in two glasses.

 

“Do you have any juice?” Asked Matt.

 

“Sure. You want a cocktail?”

 

“I haven’t had a drink in over twenty years.”

 

“I never thought you were an alcoholic.”

 

“Don’t think I was. But, all the hours I spent in bars, well, I decided I should put that time to better use. And improve my health. Quit smoking, too. Tobacco,” he said with a toothy smile.

“Congrats, man,” Nia said as she poured a juice for Matt. “I haven’t quit, but I’m at about twenty percent of where I used to be.”

 

After a delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, a dessert of brownies and ice cream filled them both to busting.

 

“Another glass of wine, m’dear?”

 

“Ooh, one more and I don’t believe I can be held responsible for my actions.” Nia giggled as she pushed her glass closer to Matt.

 

“I don’t think I have anything to worry about considering we shared a bed several times and nev--”

 

“Tonight might be different,” Nia said, looking over the top of her glass, eyes sexy as ever.

 

“Answer me a question. And ‘I don’t know’ ain’t a satisfactory response, ok?’ said Matt as he cupped his hands around one of Nia’s.

 

She nodded.

 

“Why didn’t you?”

 

“Didn’t what?”

 

Matt ignored the question and waited.

 

“When I met you I’d just had Carrie. I didn’t like the way my body looked.”

 

“That’s bullshit. Carrie was already three and you dated two or three guys the first couple of years we knew each other.” Nia sipped her wine, stalling for time. “It was a long time ago, Nia. Just be honest.”

 

Nia waited several seconds before answering. “You’re right. Two reasons. Both connected. One, I was a fucking mess with the booze and the drugs. I honestly don’t know how I survived the 90s. And two, I didn’t want to drag you into that world. You always talked about that nun in grade school who inspired you to see the world.”

 

“Yup. Sister Maria Blanca’s geography class.”

 

Nia pulled Matt’s hand to her lips and kissed it gently. “But, now things are different.”

Matt just as gently kissed hers and disengaged. “No.”

 

“What the hell? Did you give up sex, too?”

 

That broke Matt up until tears ran down his face. “Oh my god, that was funny. No, I haven’t not at all,” he said as he wiped the final tears away.

 

“You’re getting even? Your turn to say no?”

 

“Why would you think that?”

 

“So, you’re involved with someone.”

 

“In a manner of speaking. More like a ‘friends with benefits’ kind of thing that has potential.”

 

“I’m happy for you. Who is she?”

 

“A singer at the bar. An architect by day, songbird by night.”

 

“Carrie’s an architect.”

 

“Is that right?”

 

“And a singer,” the beginning of a smile forming on her face.”

 

“No kidding! Two coincidences. What are the odds?” Matt said playfully.

 

“This ‘friend’ have a name?” said Nia as she started to clear the table.

 

“Funny that. I don’t believe she’s mentioned it yet.”

 

“Strange.”

 

“Yes, quite. I need to make a note to ask her when I get back.”

 

“Could her name be Carrie?”

 

“Well, since I don’t know it, it could be anything. Could be Carrie.”

 

“What does she look like?”

 

Matt gives Nia the once over. “She’s darker than you and maybe her eyes are like yours. But, for sure, she resembles you in one way. You have identical bodies. Well, I can’t be totally sure, but you’re the same height with long legs and boobs just the way I like them. About a handful.”

 

“I can’t play this anymore. I know about you guys.”

 

“I figured you did, because one day Carrie told me she mentioned me to you. And there’s enough of a resemblance that I asked her for your name.”

 

“She likes you.”

 

“That’s nice to hear. We have fun.”

 

“What about the age difference?”

 

“It doesn’t matter to her and that’s all I need to know.”

 

Nia walked over and sat on Matt’s lap, putting her arm around his neck.

 

“Ok, so before you two move your FWB to the next level, whadya say we find out what we were missing back in the day?”

 

“You and me? Now?”

 

“Why not? As I recall, you were the king of the one-night-stands.”

 

“Yeah, but those were throw away chicks. With you, it’s...”

 

“This one-time offer expires in three minutes.”

 

“Hmmm.”

 

“Never to be made again.”

 

“To be honest, after learning Carrie was your daughter--you know, I’d forgotten her name it’d been so long--I started to wonder. How much do your bodies look alike? Who kisses better? Would having sex with you feel the same?”

 

Nia stood, finished her wine, took Matt by the hand and looked at him. “You’re about to find out.”

 

THE END


Submitted: May 03, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Michael Licwinko. All rights reserved.

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