Happy Ending

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Circumstances can be a powerful thing. A lot of events in our lives can be related to circumstances, such as the people we meet, date, or even the job that we have. This story takes a peak into the lives of four friends and explores how their lives have been affected by circumstances.

Submitted: December 29, 2008

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Submitted: December 29, 2008

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The business and sheer madness never stopped at this time of day. With that mental note engrained, they moved slowly and steadily through the organized confusion, not breaking stride with their words and gestures. Passing store after store, customers and potential customers in the mall made little differences to them. Hustling served no purpose in this arena.

“At least I am closer to a solution”, Mark dragged on squinting at every advertising board in the mall.

Candice, always sensitive and caring towards Mark emotions, sympathized with his ongoing plight. He just came from the optician’s office where he picked up his glasses. The last diagnosis was more correct but something was still wrong.

“I can’t believe that I have to make another appointment; this kills my Monday,” he continued shifting his vision from his right to left eye. He took a second out of his momentary obsession to give Candice’s hand a squeeze before they moved on to their immediate tasks. She smiled accordingly.

“I can’t believe they’re having a joint birthday. He couldn’t handle losing the attention to his wife on prior birthdays, much less share this one with his brother,” Mark postulated.

“You said it,” Candice retorted.

“Said what?”

“It’s his brother, Mark, of course he would not mind”.

He absentmindedly gave a quick smirk with a shoulder shrug, both actions contradicting the other. Candice shook her head and tried to ignore Mark’s pessimistic thoughts. After spending several hours in the book store, Mark’s temper and frustration flared as nothing surmised as a perfect gift for the guys. He turned to Candice hoping she might have a brighter idea.

“So, I think you can’t decide on anything,” Candice declared.

Mark, being busy digging through several political and art books, made no eye contact with his now impatient counterpart.

“It’s not about not finding anything, but more of my original gift idea did not working”.

“Uh, Huh”.

“Well, what do you suggest, smarty?” he asked returning his undecided gifts to their sections. “We can’t get them both ties; Luke got one from us last year; although Rob does work in an office I would rather not repeat gifts”.

Candice eye brows met. “I know that,” she snapped, “we can get them something from American Eagle. They are having some sales on some polo shirts: fifty percent off on the second shirt after one purchase”.

“Is this a ploy to go shopping for yourself? Okay, you don’t have to pout and it does sounds like a good and reasonable idea”.

That next day, night actually, they gathered and readied themselves for the party at eight thirty. It was already nine. Mark was too wrapped up in this weekend’s MLG championship tournament to verify the time of the party. He was adequately dressed in a blue and white striped shirt, lightly decorated with an embroidered flower pattern; it was Candice’s selection. She was dressed in an off-white, brownish black open breasted top, complimented with dark blue jeans and black shoes, matching half of Mark’s attire.

“I really hope no one is dressed in anything I am wearing,” Mark said as he and Candice grabbed their jackets. Candice just laughed as they exited the apartment.

“I really don’t want to have to spend my time at the party hanging out at the other side of the room avoiding someone,” he concluded.

After scrambling from the apartment to the ATM, they caught a cab to the party.

The drive to the party was short; one of the birthday boys, Luke, lived with his wife, Anna, in heart of the city; it seemed the most sensible location for the party. Mark asked the cabby to stop a few steps from the apartment. He saw Luke and some familiar faces loitering outside. Mark had called Luke while in the cab to meet him downstairs; unfortunately, it turned into a smokers group outside; Candice and Anna disapproved of the occasional smokers’ habit that the boys shared.

Mark and Candice waved at the crowd getting a similar response before meeting the crowd.

“Hey, b-day boy,” Mark said while shaking Luke’s hand, “how’s it going?”

“Good,” he said smiling, “how are things on your end?”

“Same. Just can’t wait to get some drinks in me”. Mark could hear Candice lightly sigh with that response.

The sigh was a benign response compared to the light jab and despondent look he received from Candice after accepting Luke’s offer of a cigarette. Both Mark and Candice recognized three faces of the other smokers but they could only put one name with a single face. Sara was the easiest to remember due to having the same name as Candice’s sister in law. Candice gave Sara an affectionate hug while Luke reintroduced the rest. The only blond of the trio quenched her cigarette and came over to formally introduce her; one of the less bold moves of the night.

“Hi, my name is Janet”.

Candice shook her extended hand and returned a similar greeting.

Mark made small talk with Luke talk but he could not help over hearing the girly conversation right behind him.

“I have to say that I have a similar top,” she laughed out. Candice just met her response with a quirked eye brow followed by a customary smile.

“It has an open cut right above the breast, right?” Janet continued.

“You are right,” Candice responded not feeling it necessary to verify Janet’s curiosity with a little show and tell.

“And I was worried about some guy wearing something similar to my shirt?” Mark jumped in hoping to relieve some of the attention from Candice as the smokers took interest having quieted their nicotine thirst. Everyone chuckled.

“Girls usually have that rotten luck,” Candice laughed out.

“We should go up,” Luke said opening the apartment building door with his fancy key sensor. Everyone filed in through the door, Luke entering first with his guest not to far behind.

“Guess I almost got isolated in this party,” Candice whispered. Mark just smirked.

The party was in full swing. Mark and Candice were truly late; small cliques had already formed. The apartment was small but adequate for this mixed and eclectic group. It was a one bedroom apartment with the usual filling, having a bathroom joined to the bedroom by a walk through closet. The only section of the apartment that justified the uptown price was the glass enclosed carpeted glass patio. Luke turned the area into a temporary DJ spot, a change from his private law study room. Anna was busy mixing and mingling with her Latin flavor of friends behind the kitchen counter; they were mostly Argentinean. She waved and blew kisses across the crowded party bar. The party seemed one sided, mostly due to seeing so many of Anna’s friends. Luke only had a handful of friends; a testament to his career and character. Mark recognized a few of Luke’s friends but did not feel like saying hello. Honestly, he truly did not remember all of their names, Andy being the exception. Like Luke, his friends were all lawyers. Mark could hear them heavily discussing the vice presidential debate as he poured a glass of wine. It was all politics with this bunch.

“All she did was wink when she did not have a response,” Andy impolitely barked.

“Yeah, she spent the time discussing her views,” Luke agreed. “The Republicans made a great choice,” he sarcastically added. Despite his intellectual view, Andy was a character. At a prior party, Mark remembered having heard a rumor about his love for Kosovo and a midget. Mark shook his head to dislodge the possible horrible thoughts from that rumor.

“Mark, do we give them the gifts now?” Candice asked.

“Ahh, we could hand it to them right now”.

Luke and his brother, Rob, were conveniently catching up at the time.

“Hey guys happy birthday again,” Candice and Mark said simultaneously.

“Oh, you guys did not have to do that,” Luke said smiling, “but thank you”. Candice returned the smile and handed the boys their respective gifts. Candice’s smile was short lived; her thoughtful gifts were simply placed into b-day boy’s bedroom without a glance or a peak as to what the items were. Immediately, Candice leaned into Mark affectionately and shared her warning thoughts.

“I can’t believe that just happened,” she said angrily through smiling gritted teeth. “They did not even open them. How will they know which shirt to take?”

Mark smiled and gave her a comfort hug. “I imagined Luke as a green polo shirt kind a guy; Rob seems like a purple”.

“Well, they better pick the right ones,” she said still sulking. Luke quickly turned from the bedroom but was snatched away by Rob; they disappeared down stairs, probably for another smoke, Mark thought. With the primary objective out of the way, he and Candice could finally, or so they thought, relax and enjoy the party.

Luke and Anna pulled out all the stops. The bar was fully stocked from wine to patron tequila. The snack table followed a similar suit having several choices in cheese along with unique items like sushi and taquitos.

“Oh, hey Mark,” said a familiar voice interrupting his short delight. Mark glanced up responsively shook the guy’s extended hand.

“Hey man,” said Mark cringing that he could not remember his name. He waved and said hello to Candice. Mark hated these moments. He always felt like a douche when someone was kind enough to remember his name but he could not do the same. As they conversed Mark said little as he was too distracted with trying to remember the young man’s name. He hoped Candice would hold him at bay so that he could close the conversation acknowledging his name. Mark took so many mental check points and still could not remember his name; he continued to smile, talk, and nod, hoping for his name to click or someone to call him away giving up his name. No matter how hard he tried, Mark could not remember Luke’s old colleague name. As the mystery man continued talking intellectually about recent politics and matters Mark could only match him with the inadequate, yet funny matters. He recalled how Luke’s colleague got so intoxicated that he did not realize making several passes at a girl; he was told to leave before his actions approached the point of sexual harassment. The guy did make up for the moments later on, but these moments stood out more than anything. Mark second option par way came true. The conversation slowed and he asked to be excused as JP called him away.

Taking advantage of the momentary distraction, Mark leaned in and whispered quietly to Candice; she could not recall his name either. The friendly guy returned his attention to the young couple to apologetically end the conversation before heading off to mingle with the new comers entering the party. Mark sighed with great relief and hoped the guy did not pick up on anything. With the coast being clear, Mark quickly went to the “bar” to get a drink along with some answers.

“Hey, Anna,” Mark asked as he poured another glass of wine. “What’s that black guy’s name again? You know Luke’s old classmate?” It was not hard to spot him. After all Mark and Candice were the only other blacks at that party.

“Oh, you mean Andrew?” she responded.

“That’s it. Andrew,” he said with every bit of glee he could muster. “Thanks, I don’t know why I was having such a tough time remembering it”.

He raised his glass in salute, took a swig and returned to Candice. How could he not remember the guy’s name? Andrew. He knew it was something biblical. The new comers filed in, Luke and Rob following behind the bunch. The couple could only identify one face and wondered why she would be here. In walked Elizabeth, looking as smiley and beautiful as ever.

It came as a shock to both Mark and Candice; Rob broke up with her. A break may be the wrong word of choice since he technically only dated a few times before pulling the relationship to a halt. It appeared as if nothing happened. Mark wondered why Rob walked away; he thought they would make a great couple. Elizabeth was a law student attending a school in the area. Their relationship started in the not so usual manner. Elizabeth and a few friends were having drinks at a small friendly bar where Rob bartended at the time. She thought he was cute, and so did he. Elizabeth waved and the couple returned the gesture. As Elizabeth continued her greetings he could see the balance she brought to Rob. In a matter of minutes Rob and Elizabeth made themselves comfortable, drinking and celebrating with everyone. They continued their merriment and greeting, drifting towards Mark and Candice.

“Hey Elizabeth,” the couple said simultaneously exchanging hugs with the b-day bashers.

“Oh, yeah. Sorry about not responding earlier to the message about the debate” Rob said.

“It’s no problem,” Mark said. Rob was still new to the city and had not gotten a chance to obtain a Tele.

Elizabeth seemed happy to be here; Rob showed no sign of indifference to what had happened. They looked like a great couple.

“How’s everything, Elizabeth?” Mark asked as the couple settled themselves with another drink.

“Good”, she replied.

“So what did you think of the debate?” he asked hoping to break the conversational ice.

“Biden was great; Palin was a wow,” she said with a little sarcasm.

“She was terrible,” Candice added. “She did not answer any of her questions well”. Everyone nodded and smiled in agreement.

“I can’t believe McCain went ahead and picked her as a running mate,” said Elizabeth, taking another sip of her beer.

“What else could the guy do?” Mark responded, “he is running against an intelligent, sane competitor. If Obama was white, McCain would have picked a male running mate. He is only doing this to sway a few votes, mainly the Clinton’s female voters”.

Elizabeth shook her head. “He definitely made the wrong choice,” she said, “there are several more qualified female members he could have chosen but he must have thought she was cute”.

Everyone chuckled.

“Yeah she just winks at everyone after her statements,” Mark said trying to contain his laughter.

Elizabeth’s expression shifted from entertaining to serious. “How can those actions be portrayed by someone running for the Vice presidency?” Elizabeth continued in an annoyed voice.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Mark said butting in. “Palin was winking at me,” his face became just as serious as Elizabeth. “Sure I am not American but she winked at me”.

Everyone laughed, easing Elizabeth momentary tension.

“Yeah, the Republicans will do anything to get their “Maverick Message” across,” Rob added.

“Those Mavericks acting so Mavericky,” Mark said.

“So guess what?” Rob said in an excited tone. The b-day boy got the private circles undivided attention. “I lost my keys”. Everyone gave Rob a shocked, yet sympathetic look. “Well, I thought I did,” he continued jokingly. Everyone looked at him confused.

“Ok?” Mark said sounding a bit confused.

“So where did you find it?” Candice asked.

“I had not realized that I lost my keys until I got home,” Rob continued. “I could have gone back but I was afraid to”. This response was met with even more confusion.

“Let me explain. After the debate, and after we had our fill of drinks, we decided to close out. Unfortunately, the bartender- who seemed to be high and wasted- did not realize that he put our drinks on some other guy’s card”.

Everyone was astonished but found it hilarious.

“Isn’t life funny,” Mark said jokingly. “So you just signed and walked out?” Rob just nodded and laughed.

“Well karma came back and bit me in the ass,” Rob responded. “Anyways, I decided that I would go back after work. But I found the keys in my gym bag after work”.

“Now it’s my turn,” Elizabeth said. “So I was in the Whole Food’s grocery store to get some shopping done. There I was, la-de-da-da-ling the time away as I moved from aisle to aisle getting my small items and then out for no where, wham! This kid smacked into me and ran off”. Everyone listened attentively and with grave concern as Elizabeth continued to lead everyone through the traumatic event. “It took me a few seconds to realize what had happened. The little, ughh, robbed me. He took my purse.

“Are you serious?” Mark barked.

“Serious. That little, uggh, prick grabbed it and dashed to the exit”.

“That’s bold,” Mark added.

“Very. No one caught him, though; and yes I screamed and yelled for someone to stop him”.

“I have one story for you when you’re done,” Mark sighed.

“Okay. You know what’s the worst part? That kid made it all the way to the other side of town and purchased something from Best Buy”.

Rob laughed. “What’s so funny?” Elizabeth asked as she affectionately hit him.

“Well, at least your thief has some taste,” he said jokingly. Elizabeth gave him a stern stare then smiled flashing her pearly white teeth.

“So a similar bold incident happened a few weeks ago in your area. You know the video rental store across the street across from the Whole Foods, right?” Rob and Elizabeth nodded.

Mark continued. “The video store usually has one worker during there slow shift. While the worker was alone, someone came in and took a stack full of videogame discs from behind the counter. The worker did not realize anything had happened until he saw a trail of discs leading to the exit”.

“Now that’s bold,” Rob responded sounding a bit shocked.

“Tell me about it,” Mark said swirling his wine glass, “the whole thing does not seem circumstantial to me”.

“Why would you say that?” Elizabeth asked a bit intrigued.

“Do you know how many times I have said to Candice about this store being easy to rob?”

“Countless,” said Candice.

“Yup. But I believe it was an inside deal. The camera was conveniently not working and the store is not that big for the worker to have not heard the robber”.

“Maybe the display TVs were on too loud,” Elizabeth added.

“Maybe, but that would be too circumstantial”.

“If you think that was circumstantial, you should hear this trial case that I have been assigned,” said Elizabeth.

“You sound excited enough,” Mark said teasingly.

“Hey, buddy, it’s good,” she said smirking.

“Well the case is about a guy- a bum really- is staying with his girlfriend. So one night she goes out to get some Chinese food at 7 o’ Clock when some outrageous purchases had been made on the girl’s credit card”.

“How much are you talking?” Candice asked.

“Something like over two thousand dollars”. Everyone’s face was priceless, except for Rob; he must have heard the story before. Her Dad get’s a call, he notifies the police who then go to arrest the guy. Before they could arrest the guy, he asks for his jacket. The police searched him and found the card in the pocket.

“That’s too circumstantial. It sounds like a setup,” said Mark.

“Even though it’s circumstantial, it will be enough to convict him,” Elizabeth responded.

“Come on. The girlfriend conveniently goes out to get Chinese food at 7pm and while the guy buys stuff with her card online?” Mark responded puzzled.

“I know it sounds messy,” Elizabeth rejoined, “but all the items were tech things: 32” flat screen, PS3, and the list goes on. It all adds up to two thousand”.

“No way. That just proves it,” Mark added. “It was the daughter; she was getting back at the bf”. Elizabeth face became sour as everyone slowly picked her case apart.

“No way,” Elizabeth said sounding more defensive. “The girlfriend had only made over the top purchases on clothes and other items, not electronics; she spent only in the hundreds”.

“It still sounds circumstantial to me,” Mark continued, “I think the dad did it, or planned it”.

“Well, why would the guy ask for his jacket just before he got arrested? That’s right. He was trying to conceal the evidence”. Mark simply just shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Elizabeth was acting like the lawyers on the Tele presenting a strong conviction in her flawed evidence. She took another drink and continued her party defense. “Even with the circumstantial evidence my closing statement will be enough to win the jury”.

“Let’s hear it,” Rob said egging her on.

“Really?” she asked. Rob smiled and nodded.

“Okay, why not,” Elizabeth took a semi nervous sip from her glass and cleared her throat. Her audience chuckled.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is a tough and exhausting trial, but it has been a privilege to be before you and the entire chamber. I agree with the defense that both parties have had a chance to fully present their cases. I will not bother to rehash past arguments but leave you with this short story: the story of Robinson Crusoe. During the story, Crusoe was walking along the beach and realized that there were two different set of foot prints in the sand, then fainted. This point was the first time that he knew that after wandering the island for so many years that he was not alone. Although the evidence was circumstantial it was enough to convince him. So the same can be said about the defendant. The card was in his jacket which he requested. The fact that the purchases were all electronic along with the fact that the daughter…and…aahh”. Elizabeth’s clear thought set defense trailed in a line of stutter. Her audience laughed synchronously.

“Hey, it’s my third beer,” Elizabeth said, now in her defense. Either way, she continued on her statement. “The daughter was not there at the time of the purchase. Ladies and gentlemen, however circumstantial this evidence might seem, it is enough to justify and credit the defendant as the culprit of these crimes. Thank you”. Small applauds sounded around Elizabeth as she made small curtsies.

Mark asked to be excused; he wanted to check the MLG scores for Dallas. Legendz survived Antigravity’s onslaught and took the eighth spot.

“Hey, man. What are you doing?” Luke asked walking into his Temp DJ booth.

Mark never liked expressing his fascination with MLG. Videogames were more than a childish obsession like every adult mind considers. It was more of a scene for competition for him.

“Just checking out the MLG’s results,” Mark said.

“What’s that?”

“Major League Gaming,” Mark declared. “It’s a gaming competition”. Luke’s expression said it all; he was the former thinker. Mark just smiled and acknowledged his fascination.

“So how did Rob end up having invited Elizabeth,” Mark said hoping to change the subject.

“We actually saw her at the debate when we were at the bar,” Luke responded.

“That’s cool. It seems that they have put everything behind them. She seems nice, cute and smart”.

“Yeah. And guess what?” Luke said enthusiastically. “She now lives in his building. Isn’t that wild? ”

“Wow, that’s mighty convenient,” Mark admitted. Rob spent so much time trying to escape this girl. Escape seems the wrong choice of words. He was trying to prevent something that might not come to anything. Rob liked Elizabeth but he was not sure if it would amount to anything meaningful. He wanted to spare her feelings; Elizabeth definitely liked him and thought the relationship would be meaningful.

“Imagine that man. He’s giving up free sex”. Mark tried to control his expressions. He simply just smiled.

“Yeah, man,” Luke continued, “he could just continue dating her until something better happens”.

“I guess”.

“Rob does not know anyone here in the city,” Luke said sympathetically.

Mark just shrugged his shoulder and glanced at Rob laughing with Elizabeth. “Yeah, but you can’t blame the guy; he just has their best interests at heart”.

“Well, he won’t know if this is right unless he explores it”.

“Everyone isn’t as lucky as you and Anna, knowing who they’re meant to be with”.

“I don’t think there is an exact someone for each person”. Again, Mark controlled his response. Here he is listening to a person who’s married saying that love and most importantly his relationship isn’t based on true love.

Luke continued his speech. “A relationship is based on rational and factual things, most importantly hard work”. Mark kept his jaw shut and shrugged his shoulders. He just turned his attention to his wine, but he was actually looking at Anna. He always wondered how Lumza and Luke got together.

“So how did you and Candice meet?” Luke said beating Mark to his question.

“Ahh… it was actually pretty strange how we met? Funny enough we did not like each other on first meeting. We met up months later accidentally when a mutual friend of Anna and Candice, Chelsea, had a b-day party. We talked and learned we lived on the same floor. We kept on meeting and the rest is history”.

“That’s cool. So living in the same building worked for someone?” Luke said smirking.

“It worked for you as well.

Luke just laughed. “Well being on the same campus has its advantages”.

“So since we are playing the relationship game, how did you guys meet and why did you marry Anna?” Mark asked.

“We met at a party and we were both interested. It just made sense”.

“Love at first sight,” Mark interrupted.

“Not really. I just think you have to think what’s best for the future”. Mark smiled and controlled his expressions once again. How can someone say or think like this? Mark did not know Anna on a personal level but from what he saw he assumed she would not be the type to get involved without love or passion. From what Luke laid forward, Mark could not see anything else other than a business contract. Either way, they are making things work and they could not be happier.

Rob popped his head in. “Hey guys, want to get a cigarette?”

They grabbed their jackets and headed outside. The elevator ride from the third floor was short but Mark could not help thinking about the differences between the brothers. Luke gave Rob no credit; Rob’s relaxed and nonchalant attitude was seen as a disappointment. Rob was not seeking one of the honored professions, like his brother. His tastes followed art and film. He was a dreamer; Luke was all logic and rational; his occupation demanded this thought process.

The elevator doors opened and they maneuvered the lobby to the exit. Luke reached into his pocket and realized that he only had one cigarette in the pack.

“Let’s walk down to CVS,” Luke said.

It only took them a few minutes until they were at the CVS. Luke left Mark and Rob outside while he went inside to get the cigarettes. Mark decided this was the perfect time to dabble into Rob affairs.

“So why did you decide to invite Elizabeth?” Mark asked trying to hide his annoying contact squint.

“Luke gave me the push, actually,” Rob said. “I am glad she is here, though”.

“So does this mean things are back in the works?”

“Well, I don’t know,” Rob admitted.

“So what are you worried about?”

“Just don’t want to put ideas in her head”.

Mark could understand the finer points of his thoughts. He wished he could have had this level of thought and patience in prior relationships. Either way, Rob was a person who followed his heart and Mark could see that Elizabeth had a special place in his heart. He started to question his own relationship. Mark loved Candice but how could he know if she was the one. They were gorgeous, strong willed and smart individuals who got along fine; the relationship may lack chemistry, he thought.

Luke returned from the store and shaking his head. “There’s always some jerk that holds you up in line”.

Mark smirked and Rob simply laughed. They smoked a few cigarettes as they chatted and walked back to the apartment.

The party was winding down by the time the guys got back. A few of the guests already left.

“Shots,” Anna shouted at the top of her lungs as the guys walked through the door.

“Come on guys,” she continued, “tequila or vodka?”

Mark has not seen Anna this carefree and jolly in a long time. She was usually busy taking care of the house parties to let go and knock back a few. Her mannerisms and joyful mood took Mark back to a safer time.

“Yo, guys shot,” Anna said with another shout followed by a smile. Mark had his dislikes with shots but who would not be persuaded when a friend allows you to reminisce. The only people who were not too welcoming with Anna’s proposal were Candice and Luke. Mark could understand why Candice disapproved; she did not like seeing Mark intoxicated. Luke, however, had no excuse. Mark wondered if this had anything to do with Anna stealing Luke’s spot light two years ago at his b-day dinner: she spent a little more money on herself than him. Luke had one more reason not to fuss with Anna’s fun. In the past he presented her with several bad drinking situations. The two instances that immediately rose to the surface were the New Year’s incident and the Law function. The latter pushed Anna to the edge with his drinking and started what seemed a bitter turning point for Luke. The law function had an open bar and Luke drank like an animal preparing for winter. To put a story short, Anna and Luke put the next day cleaning the whole apartment. It would have been better if he simply passed out again, hugging the toilet like he did at the New year’s Party. With either case, Luke could have joined in and seized the opportunity with his wife. Mark shrugged off the thought and gladly asked for tequila, withstanding Candice scornful stare. Luke just continued to look on.

The night wore on with everyone having a few drinks and a lot more shots. Mark could see memory lane appearing ever so slowly with every shot. Anna of old appeared: Sweet, funny and so different from her husband. Luke was a great guy but Mark now understood that it was a contract between both of them. Luke’s calculated love fit perfectly into Anna’s need for residency.

“Alright guys, time for another shot,” Anna shouted. Mark held up his hands passing on what would have been his third shot for the night; Candice just smiled. Everyone was so distracted by Anna and company’s picture and shot extravaganza that no one saw Mark sneaking off and checking the score of the game. Who got that 7th spot?

Before Mark could even reach for the key board, Candice was caught in a tough spot.

“I have to say that top really looks great on you,” said Janet. “My breasts would never fill the top”.

“Ahh, thank you,” Candice said bashfully. The rest of the guests snickered and laughed; Mark simply smirked at the obvious. He could even here Rob smirking and whispered “who wouldn’t notice”.

“Hey, I’m jealous too,” Anna added in her drunken stupor, “I wish I could wear tops like that; mine does not fill tops like that so well”. As the girl continued talking, Mark wished he could record this moment discussing this ‘illustrious’ topic.

The night played on like the typical party. Some of the guests were getting tired and drunk while others were just getting started. Everyone was fitting into the format except for Luke. He was not longer drinking nor was he having fun. Anna was still on here exuberant high with her friends. She took a few more shots in between pictures. Mark tried to distract Luke but he realized that he rather be an accomplice to an old friends happiness than to a grouch.

The wonder of the final score for the game crept up through his head. Mark took everyone’s momentary shot and picture craze to his advantage and went straight for the computer. Great, his team clutched the final spot for the championships.

“Mark, have you noticed that Luke has been acting a bit strange?” asked Candice.

“You mean the hostile take over of Anna’s party time? Who wouldn’t?” Mark said squinting and rubbing his eyes.

“Are you’re eyes still bothering you?”

“A little,” he lied, “I already made the appointment for Monday”.

Candice smiled and took a seat next to Mark. Shortly after, they observed Luke’s taking the camera away from Anna.

“Baby, you’re drunk,” Luke said sympathetically taking the camera from this happy wife.

“No I’m not,” she responded laughing, “I am tipsy but fine”.

“Let me hold the camera”.

Anna hugged and kissed Luke on the check.

“Baby, I’ll be fine,” said Anna taking back the camera.

It seemed like the worse was over and Mark decided to have a victory drink.

“Mark, picture?” asked Anna.

“Someone is drunk,” Mark said laughing.

“Shh,” she responded as they both posed for the picture.

“Hey, let’s go out,” Anna suggested after the moment was frozen. Mark could only smirk at the idea; Candice was the tired party go-er.

“Ahh, I think it would be great but we’re planning on leaving in a few”.

“Augh, you guys are no fun”.

“We can do this on your birthday,” said Mark, ”promise”.

“Well, I will hold you to that,” Anna responded.

Mark gave her a quick hug and nodded. Anna skipped back to her friends and continued the festivities. Luke was still steaming.

“Hey man, relax” said Mark noticing Luke’s ongoing bad mood, “think about using this as ammunition for when you want to go drinking”.

“Yeah, I guess”.

After Mark calmed Luke, he and Candice said there goodbyes.

Monday came and the mall had its usual luster with people scouring for their various items. Mark, however, had no such intentions. His task had been attempted for what seemed like the third, or was it the fourth? Either way he wanted to get this contact and reading glasses handled today.

One of the receptionist welcomed Mark with a hi and smile. “Do you have an appointment scheduled?”

“Oh hi,” the black head receptionist interrupted with a smirk, “he is here all the time” she added before Mark was able to shake his head, or give a verbal response. I guess this must be his fifth attempt. Mark just smirked and smiled not to let anything get more complicated than they already were; he just highlighted the fact he had an appointment.

Mark walked into the office and realized it was the original Caucasian optician, Dr. Clark. Mark always told Candice this guy had no expression and spoke with a monotone voice. He set his coat down and sat in the examination chair. The examination went as it usually did. Left eye? Right eye? 1 or 2, 5 or 6? Then the examination was over.

“I can’t see anything wrong, “said the optician.

“Ok. Could I see the difference at a higher lens?”

“No,” he retorted, “we have been through and so have the other opticians”.

“I am just asking to try again”.

“We could do this again and you just said a minute ago showed that you could not identify a difference”.

“We could just…”

“I said NO,” said optician in an elevated tone. “I have seen you and so have my other colleagues. I could refund your money and you could get help somewhere else”.

The optician voice got even more elevated and less monotone. “I saw that in the file; some people have cannot adapt to the lens”.

Mark felt a twitch in his eye but this was not due to the contacts. Adapt? The other optician said other clients have stated issues with his old lens like an allergic response. That statement could only be labeled as racism. Mark thought of everything: cursing the guy and down right hitting him in the jar. He knew better and had more self control. “Listen,” Mark started, “I do not appreciate your tone and please do not elevate your voice”. Mark was sure other clients as well as his staff heard the conversation. “Listen, I only came back because it was your colleague who spotted something faulty with the lens that you gave me. There still seems to be a problem and I was hoping to get some help”.

The optician carried on in the same tone. “I just said we can…”

“Could you please control you tone”. The optician took his advice this time.

Mark realized this conversation was not going anywhere. “I would like to step out and consider my options”. He grabbed his coat and stepped out of the office.

Mark had to blow off the tension and aggression clouding his mind. How he could not focus on the problem at hand? He was insulted and disrespected. He had to call Candice; she was even more shocked at what happened.

“I am so pissed right now,” he said in a controlled tone, “I am so mad that I would hit any white guy, even a friend”.

“You can’t be serious,” Candice exclaimed, “you would hit Luke?”

Mark was not sure but at this moment a line had been crossed in that office.

“So what are you going to do,” she asked empathetically.

“I don’t know. If I gave back the glasses I would have to rely on my contacts, which are not perfect”.

Candice’s silence was a sure of agreement, he thought.

“Well, I will have to “adapt” to the glasses,” he concluded. “I will call you back in a few”.

Mark hung up and went over to the receptionist.

“Firstly, I will keep the glasses but the lens needed to be replaced; I received them scratched”.

“We can do that,” the black receptionist replied.

“Secondly, I felt extremely disrespected today. I only came back because something was wrong with the diagnosis. It took the third visit and the Asian optician, Dr. Wong, to realize there was an issue with the lens material. If I came back, I’d like only see Dr. Wong”

“Sure,” she said.

Mark could see that the receptionist was being helpful and apologetic for what had happened. Her apology was not necessary; the optician should have been the one present. The receptionist scheduled the replacement lens, and Mark thanked her and left.

Anger still flowed through him as he wondered around the mall. Mark had his phone in hand; but Candice called before he could dial.

“So I kept the glasses,” said Mark, “I’m still mad as hell”.

“Ok. I can’t believe you said you would dislike Luke,” she said sounding concerned, “he seems like a good friend”.

“He’s not who he seems, Candice,” Mark declared. He could hear every loud and obnoxious sound crowding him within the mall; Candice was silent on the other end.

“He’s a jerk Candice,” Mark continued. He started to rub his eyes again; unsure whether declaration arose with the contacts or the prior circumstances.

Candice broke her silence. “He seems so nice though. He invites us out and we hanged out with you the entre party”.

“He’s not though,” Mark admitted, “I had my suspicions and he confirmed them this weekend.

“Luke did one unexpected thing this weekend“. Candice resumed her silence giving him her attention. He thought deeply and carefully because what he was about to say would declare a tainted friendship.

“Well Luke mentioned that Rob should keep Elizabeth basically for free sex”.

“Wow”.

“Yeah. His ethics are out the window,” said Mark, “Rob’s sex opportunity”.

“I can’t believe he said that,” Candice said a bit shocked.

“Elizabeth is a sweet and smart girl,” Mark continued, “Rob respects her and believes Luke initiated their meet up out of love and care”.

“Instead, Luke hopes he gets a booty call,” said Candice, “Jerk”.

Mark gave a brief weak smile while squinting at an express Ad.

“Oh, well. It’s called an opinion; unfortunately everyone is entitled to one,” he concluded. “It’s a shame he does not see who she really is”.

“Well, I can believe that because he even got mad at Anna,” said Candice, “Are you feeling any better?”

“Yeah. I guess,” he confessed, “you know what. I think the reason he got mad, the optician I mean, was that I challenged his professional opinion”.

“Maybe”.

“Think about it,” he said, “I saw him and then I got the opinions of his colleagues; funny enough it was the minority that pointed out the issue and gave me a solution”.

“Sounds possible,” she declared, “it made no sense why he would get so mad and unhelpful”.

“It’s over now,” he admitted, “I’ll call you when I get back”.

They hung up but Mark decided to circle the mall for a few more minutes. When he finally weathered his temper, he changed his location to the metro entrance; he could not help wondering if everything was circumstantial: the optician’s action, Rob’s feelings for Elizabeth, and his thoughts on even his own relationship and his future with Candice. Before giving this idea anymore thought he held his left eye closed and glanced at the closest billboard; he looked on and sighed. Almost perfect he thought. Is that the way we should see life? Almost perfect? Are we suppose to accept things the way they are and ignore circumstantial differences? Or should he see another optician? Mark shook his head to shrug off the temptation of returning the glasses. He slipped the card into the metro card slot and caught the next train home.


© Copyright 2019 McConnel. All rights reserved.

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