(Last Sunday: Brazil fails to follow up on a clandestine offer for combat veterans.)
With the spur of the moment decision to get married safely in the past, Chartan and Gina settled into a routine of work and discussions about their baby due in three months. The name will be either Jake or Ginger. Chartan will drive for Sloan’s full-time while Gina will take on mothering skills.
Julie has moved into Brazil house but that hasn’t helped, nor hurt the marriage. The moody veteran is off in his own world, stunned by the revelation that the man who tried to recruit him and other combat vets was involved in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Congress. Julie tells herself, not Brazil, that she loves him.
On Friday evenings for the past six months at Ben’s Pizza Palace, Chartan, Brazil and Julie shared a pitcher of beer while Gina passed on alcohol in favor of water now that she was pregnant. They always ordered an extra large with the works. But in recent weeks the Friday conversations have lost their spark. The women have nothing new to say to each other while the men avoid exposing their deep personal thoughts of which they have many.
It is 6:30 p.m., the Friday before Super Bowl. The waitress has taken their order, meaning Brazil smiled and said, “The usual.”
After the waitress leaves, silence hovers over the table. The four adults are looking down at the place mats that offer kids the chance to color the line drawings of animals. No one goes for the box of crayons at the center of the table.
Chartan shifts in his chair. “Is anyone tired of pizza?” he asks.
Brazil squints at his friend. “Is it pizza, or the company?” Julie places her hand over her husband’s thick fingers. The veteran clears his throat. “That was too harsh—I apologize.”
“No need to apologize,” counters Chartan. “I’m at fault. I’ve been thinking about Epictetus lately.”
“Is that a disease?” asks Brazil.
“A Greek philosopher from about 2,000 years ago. He said a lot things that make sense today. For example,”It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
“Smart guy,” said Gina. “Only why didn’t he share that with his wife?”
Laughter took over the foursome followed soon by pizza with the works and no further mention of Epictetus.
Between bites Chartan acknowledged to himself that his relationship with Brazil had gone stale—he wanted to discuss his friend’s anger, but not with Julie present. I will ask him to go to our coffee spot tomorrow. I’ve neglected him recently. Actually, I have to figure out why I haven’t talked to him.
Gina nudged Chartan’s arm. “Why are you so quiet?”
He smiled and whispered in her ear.
(To be continued next Sunday)