That evening, after successfully avoiding most of the apartment cleaning and all of the writing she’d used as cover with Alison, Franny met Leo at a tavern that served legendary burgers along with beer ranging from cheap Coors Light for the college students to expensive craft beers for the professors and property owners. She was early, so she ordered a glass of dark stout from the local brewery and a side of french fries, which came quickly, hot and crispy and piled high on the thick white china platter that sported a chip or two on its rim, speaking of its long service. Without having to be asked, the server included little paper cups of tartar sauce, ketchup, and fry sauce, and a pile of extra napkins.
Heaven, Franny thought, and looked up to see Leo making his way to her table. He had to stop and say hello to at least six people before he finally arrived, making apologies for being late, although he wasn’t, really. From the way his eyes stayed less than focused, and his nose stayed a bit red even after warming up, Franny knew he’d already had a beer or two. So she took a pull on her glass, trying to catch up, wondering if that was wise or foolish.
“Hungry?” she asked Leo, who laughed.
“Always,” he said.
“Have some.” She nudged the platter of french fries toward him. “No way I can eat them all.”
“Oh, I’ll bet you could. No hill for a climber,” he smiled, but took a few anyway. “Man, this place is noisy.”
Franny realized the tavern had filled with younger people, and all three televisions were on, tuned to different sports events. “Very,” she agreed, and they ate and drank in silence for a while, not trying to compete with the ambient noise.
Then Franny leaned forward and asked, “So, what is this music thing?” She had to repeat her question a time or two before Leo understood.
“Oh, just some friends and me, playing for a private party.”
“Private party?” Franny frowned, confused. She thought he’d invited her to listen, but now she wondered if this was it, he’d only wanted to meet for food before hand.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be welcome,” Leo smiled. “I checked it out. Plus my friends are bringing their wives, so don’t worry.” Then a look of concern stole across his face. “If you want to come? I mean, I’d love you to, but maybe you made other plans?”
“No, I’d love to,” Franny answered, feeling the alcohol flush her cheeks. “I mean, if you want me to.” Lord, she thought, would someone Alison’s age ever be this awkward with a guy?