It needed to happen, and it needed to happen now. There wasn’t going to be another time at another place when they would both be together. Not like this at least. Dave laughed at himself. How dramatic he sounded. They would probably run into each other again. While it might not be soon or at this bar, it was almost a certainty that he would run into her again.
“Something funny, Dave?”
“Just Mack’s face,” he said raising his drink in his partners direction.
Dave McGruff and Mack Divallo had opened Divallo & McGruff three years ago. So far, business had been good. They had a strong staff of directors, associates, and assistants making their dreams and profit blossom. The idea had come from a night of drinking. Avery, Dave, Mack, and Sheila had all been bullshitting in guy’s apartment. Avery had been talking about books, one of her favorite subjects, Dave had been listening, while Mack and Sheila were partially listening while bouncing between rolling a joint and making out. It drove her mad that there were so many talented writers and artists and none of them were provided a platform to share their work. Unless they had something that fit into the spectrum of what a publishing house wanted or knew how to work with, they were left submitting to various literary magazines to inundated with material to be able to showcase all of the talent. Dave had watched and listened in aw, no one he knew was as passionate about anything as Avery was about books.
He himself wasn’t as in love with his girlfriend, as Avery was with the written word. Bethany hated books. Bethany hated most things that couldn’t be purchased, envied, showcased, and potentially resold for profit. Bethany loved numbers. Hard, cold, factual numbers. She was studying to be an accountant and still auditioning to be a model. She wanted the best of both worlds. Dave fit into her lifestyle. Mack and Sheila, not as much but enough. Certainly not Avery. Sheila was pretty, came from a good family, and was planning on getting her degree in teaching, with a minor in art. Removing her tongue from Mack’s throat she licked the paper and chimed in. Avery had had a point. She was lucky if she was able to showcase her art in the college’s art shows let alone anywhere where they might have thrown her a nickel or two. Mack offered to throw her a bone.
Mack’s eyes bounced between the four of them – between them and Dave’s bitchy bride-to-be Bethany they covered: teaching, art, literature, foreign languages, information sciences, legal studies, business, and finance. It was easy, Mack was certain, between the lot of them they could run a publishing company to cover most fields. They were all subject matter experts, they all had big dreamy plans. Why couldn’t they?
They could, and they had. Mack and Sheila got married right after graduation. Sheila taught elementary school, while Mack worked on passing the bar. Dave and Bethany got married the following year. Bethany and her father had opened their accounting firm, while Dave worked in business saving as much as he could. Avery continued to write while teaching high school Latin, working part time doing something with computers. She was a bartender on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. The four of them still hung out, Bethany was always doing something else more important to go out with them. They still talked about opening their own publishing company. The dream grew to be a publishing and marketing firm. They would run their own section of the world. They would pay their minimal tabs, making sure to tip Avery the difference. They were all making more, and working less than she was. But she cared the most. Mark and Sheila would after closing, marriage had made them responsible. Dave would hang out as Avery closed the bar. He passed her apartment on his way home. It made more sense than having her ride her bicycle home. Not that he would ever say it, especially not to Mack or Bethany, but he and Avery had something special. They had always been closer than the group. They were truly each others’ best friends.
Two years later they somehow had opened Divallo & McGruff. Dave had wanted to include Avery’s name. But she didn’t mind and everyone voted that Divallo & McGruff sounded pretty cool on its own. For the first year Dave and Avery ran that company over morning coffees and cigarettes, and leftovers that Mack, Sheila, and Bethany had deemed themselves to good for. Food was food, and anything was better than living on coffee, chocolate, and cigarettes. While Dave and Mack had put just as much into the business as Avery had, they had partners who made their own money. Avery was alone. She gave her all to Divallo & McGruff. And then she was gone.
After the first year and a half of raising the company to be able to stumble around on its own two feet, Avery approached Dave and Mack privately about leaving. They had said they understood, not really understanding anything at all. Mack assumed it had to have been something between her and Dave, Dave assumed that Mack had made an unwanted pass at her. Before they could confer together, Avery waved to a man standing outside of her office. He was her attorney. Mack was still their primary attorney, and they were all fine with handling this together. Within an hour the papers were reviewed, agreed upon, and signed. Avery would continue to own one third of the business. Since no one was really receiving much of a salary that part had been easy to address. She would no longer be working at Divallo & McGruff full time, but would continue to attend quarterly monthly meetings and be involved in all major decisions regarding the business. It was better this way, or so she believed, as she squeezed Dave’s shoulders on her way out of her former office.
Now, here she was, at the company Christmas party. He hadn’t seen her since last quarter, and he hadn’t seen her socially since last year’s Christmas exchange at Mack’s house. Sheila had wanted to invite everyone over, including Avery. While it was never discussed, they had continued to be involved in each other’s lives. She looked stunning, but also the same as ever. Her hair was probably an inch shorter than last year. It looked as soft and welcoming, sitting on her shoulder trailing down the front of her arm and chest. Dave remembered the drunken nights, after she closed the bar, her gathering it all up to tie back. It had been even longer then. Attacking Dave as she tried to reign it in. Sometimes he would pretend to fight it, swat it out of her hands, it would tangled around the two of them. Dave felt a lump catch in his throat. Maybe tonight was the night. Bethany had already left the party. Maybe he could just ask her why she left the company, or at least working there. Had it been because of him? Dave forced a laugh at something Mack had said. Avery appeared in front of him as he opened his eyes. She was saying something, at first he had been too hopeful, too surprised to hear. She was saying goodbye. She had something else she had to do. She hugged him. He squeezed her back into him as she began to pull away. Their eyes locked for a moment, a small, tight smile was exchanged. Dave watched as Avery made her way toward the exit, her silvery dress catching his eye the whole way. Pounding back his drink he was going to do it. He was just going to catch up to her and ask. He had to. He didn’t think he could wait another year.
Dave put his drink on the bar and turned around. Mack was standing there in the middle of a story Dave had missed the opening to. Handing him another drink, Mack stopped talking. Dave looked between his friend and his new drink. Maybe he could wait another year after all.