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You are cordially invited

Chapter 2 of Something Blue.
It's fiction, and a work in progress.


It was early afternoon, autumn in Wisconsin, which means wearing layers, gloves, and something fuzzy on your head. There was no snow on the ground but plenty in the forecast, and outside our workplace it was cloudy, windy, and too darn cold.

"Let's hear it," I said. Something was on Raoul's mind, and he'd dragged me onto the sidewalk to talk about it, but I was dubious. It would have to be pretty good, to make up for coming out of the warmth and into what was almost winter.

"My aunt would like you to come over for dinner."

I looked at him, expecting to hear more, but he just stood there. I said: "I'm single, Raoul, but I'm not a lesbian, and I don't do blind dates."

"It's not for a date," he said. "She has something ..." He took a breath, sighed, and started again. "She needs to talk to someone who's ... not ordinary, and I suggested you."

I again looked at him blankly. "Thank you?"

Raoul brightened, threw his hands over his head, and said, "So you'll do it?"

"No," I slowly said. "If you asked me to dinner, maybe I'd say 'maybe', because I kind of know you. But you're not asking me, are you? Your aunt is asking me — through you? Do I have that right?" He nodded. "Well, I've never met your aunt, you haven't told me anything about her, and she doesn't know anything about me — except I guess you've told her that I'm not ordinary. I don't even know what that means. Seriously, Raoul, as you kids say, W. T. F.?"

"I guess it sounds strange, but —"

"Yeah, it sounds strange, but that's OK because I'm 'not ordinary'." I laughed sarcastically, but inwardly second-guessed that maybe I was being a little too blunt? 'A little too Tina,' as my ex used to say.

Again I waited for Raoul to say something more, and again he didn't, so I said, "Meeting some stranger, and I don't know why I'm meeting her, and it's a meet-and-greet-and-eat? She's going to try selling me Amway."

"She's not selling anything," he said.

"Well, could you tell me why I'm invited to dinner with your aunt?"

Raoul said, "She says she wants to show you something." I waited, and maybe sighed. "I don't know what," he added. He looked like he hadn't brought many words with him, and his supply had run out.

"I like you, Raoul," I said, "but sometimes you're kinda not so ordinary yourself. Tell your aunt I said thanks but no thanks. I'd be awkward and uncomfortable, and maybe afraid." For six months I'd worked with this boy, and he was all right but this conversation was annoying me, and it was cold outside, and I was getting grumpy. "Let's go back inside."

We walked into the building, turned down the hall toward our desks, and Raoul said, "Guess I blew it, didn't I?"

"Well, not quite," I said, "but you're close." Then we went our separate ways, back to our cubicles. In my cubby I sat down, logged in, and thought for a few moments before writing an email to Raoul:

"Try again. Tell me more about your aunt and this second-hand invitation to dinner. Make it sound like fun instead of awful, and maybe I'll consider it. Don't use our company email. Reply to me at tinahyena22@gmail.com."

♦ ♦ ♦

Gmail is blocked at work, so I couldn't read Raoul's reply until I'd come home, and even then I was in no hurry. I ate dinner first, and maybe the microwaved mac-and-cheese brightened my disposition. His email said:

sorry about this afternoon, i got flustered but when i said you're "not ordinary" i meant in a good way. ordinary is average and you're better than that!

I read that and thought, Nice recovery, kiddo.

so lemme try again: you are cordially invited to dinner at my aunt's house. she wants to show you something, but i can't tell you what it is, because idk, she wouldn't tell me.

she only wants to meet you and show you something. it's important to her and nothing weird afaik.

i'll be there 2. i live with my aunt. she'll make dinner and she's a good cook. and i'm supposed to ask if you don't eat meat or if there's any cuisine you don't like. you can pick any night, but she says it has to be soon.

 so — will you please come to dinner with me and my aunt?

I replied,

Raoul, that is the second weirdest invitation I've ever received.

I spend most of my free time alone, because I'm the only person I know who never gets on my nerves. I'll maybe — maybe — make an exception for your aunt, but first a few questions:

Why me? How did I somehow win the lottery to be invited to dinner with your aunt and be shown this super-secret something?

Has your aunt ever been convicted of a felony, and does she have any history of mental illness? Also, I don't know you that well, so please answer that same question about yourself.

 What's your aunt's name? I'm going to Google her.

Also, if I agree to this, will it be just you and me and your crazy aunt for dinner — three people, no Amway, and nothing else unexpected?

If I say yes, which I'm not, is it formal attire, or casual, and am I supposed to bring a dessert?

And the most obvious question: If you live with your aunt, doesn't that get awkward when you bring home a girlfriend?

My phone dinged twenty minutes later, when Raoul replied:

that's a lot of questions, but ok here goes:

aunt agnes told me she needs someone who is, her words, "weird but reliable." She says she knows plenty of weird people but they're not reliable, and she knows a few reliable people but they're not weird, so she asked me if there's anyone I knew who's both. You are the only person who came to mind :) but same as "not ordinary" IT'S A COMPLIMENT, srsly.

convicted of a crime? yes, definitely. she went to prison for dealing, and there may have been other crimes but she doesn't talk about it, so that's all I know for sure. she's not dangerous tho, if that's your worry. 

a history of mental illness? i've never asked, but yes is my guess. in the family we say she's 'eccentric'. she talks to herself and she doesn't trust the government and tbh, sometimes she says things and i don't know what she's talking about. so yeah, she's slightly crazy but she's harmless and i love her and she's a sweet lady and hello? she's my aunt. if you meet her you might like her.

as for me, no mental illness, no felonies, i've never been arrested or even got a ticket. i'm very boring.

her name is agnes miranda jackson. don't tell her i told you 'miranda' cuz she hates her middle name.

the invitation is dinner for three, just you and aunt agnes and me. it's always casual, it's not a trap, and you don't have to bring dessert but i love cheesecake.

and living with my aunt, i think it would be ok if i brought home a girl, but we've never talked about it and it's never happened. embarrassing!

I read it, and then Googled Raoul's aunt, with and without her middle name, but I didn't find much. Maybe prison records aren't public, or aren't on-line. I didn't do a search on Raoul, because the kid is OK and he's entitled to his privacy. I read his email a second time, lingering on the part where he said, sure she's crazy, "slightly."

I stood up and looked out the window for a while. Then I bundled up and walked outside where I'd been looking, and watched my breath in the frosty air. When it started snowing I came inside, and read Raoul's email a third time. And then I wrote the email that changed everything.

Raoul,

I might regret this, but tell your aunt I said yes.

You said I could pick any night, so make it Friday at six o'clock. Please confirm, and send the address. I'm not vegetarian, I'm allergic to shellfish, I'll bring cheesecake, and I'm not totally comfortable with this, so no surprises, OK?

I read what I'd written, and yelled at myself inside my head.

What are you thinking, girl?

What I was thinking is that I was fifty years old, fifty pounds overweight, doing data entry in an office, and twice a month I went bowling, and that's all I had going on. If Raoul's aunt turned out to be a chainsaw-murderer who chopped me into pieces and plopped me into the slow-cooker, well, that would be more interesting than whatever was on Netflix.

I hit 'Send'.

 

Something Blue

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