The news caught Jars off guard. He didn’t know quite what to make of it. That Nikki could be impulsive was clear to him even from the handful of hours they’d spent together. But her impulsiveness seemed to spring from a rational, clear-thinking mind. For a moment he wondered if this was her way of giving him the slip. He hadn’t shared many of the details of his life with her but from what little he had it was clear that he’d had more than a few bumps along the way. Maybe he’d come across exactly like the man he was, a guy approaching middle age who had squandered the bulk of his time absorbed in his work leaving his wife and kids to fend for themselves until there wasn’t anything left to call family.
He shook his head. No, that couldn’t be it. Nikki’s character wasn’t that thin. If she wanted to brush him off she was the kind that would tell him so straight up. She was strong and wasn’t the type to run into the shadows when his back was turned. Not that she owed him anything. After all, their relationship had barely enough momentum to move the needle on the getting-to-know-you meter. But that it had, even at this early stage, moved the needle towards the positive was undeniable. Why else would he be so concerned with her absence? Jars let out a sigh. His experiment was producing results all right. It was as if the story of his life up to the time he’d met Nikki had been written by an author who had grown tired of the sterile, repetitive storyline and had handed the woeful tale over to someone else to see what they could do with it. And whoever this new guy was, he wasn’t settling for the same-old, same-old. Whoever held the pen now seemed to know that time was a luxury Jars didn’t have. They’d exchanged phone numbers too, another fact that argued against the dumping theory. You didn’t do that at their age unless you were pretty comfortable with each other.
Jars walked outside dropping his tall frame into one of the white wicker chairs thoughtfully positioned about the veranda, choosing one of a pair that were somewhat off on their own. He found Nikki’s contact record on his cell and was soon listening to the sound of Nikki’s own phone ringing in his ear.
“Jars?” Nikki’s warm voice brought with it both reassurance and concern. With a single word she had confirmed what his heart understood all along. That there was something about the woman that he both desired and needed. “I’m so glad to hear your voice! How are you this morning?”
Jars marveled at how she managed to allay his fears with her simple words of pleasure at hearing his voice, while at the same time giving him space to tell about his dinner with Kyle as he saw fit, free of having to answer pointed questions on the topic. It was typical Nikki. She gave him breathing room, the freedom to travel in conversation at a pace he was comfortable with.
“I’m okay. I guess you can’t undo with a single meal what years of neglect have brought about.”
“I’m sorry Jars. For you both.” Her compassion was genuine. She couldn’t imagine what it felt like to try and bridge what must seem to both father and son an insurmountable gap.
A few seconds went by before he spoke again. “I’m actually back in Cooperstown. I thought I’d surprise you and tell you all about my evening with Kyle in person.”
“Then I guess you already know I’m not there.”