Chapter 7

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Friday night came fast. Melanie arrived home at 5:30. She had an hour to get ready before heading out to Staten Island. Brian had argued that he would come back to Brooklyn, but she had insisted that she would come to him. She was to pick him up at his house at 7:00.

When she got in her car to head over she shot him a text to let him know she was on her way. The drive took just under thirty minutes. She pulled into the driveway and parked next to his red Jeep.

As she walked to his door she heard it open. Brian stood in the doorway, leaning on the frame, smiling. "You look beautiful," he said, greeting her with a quick kiss and a hug.

"Thank you," she replied. He stepped aside so she could come in and as he closed the door two cats immediately appeared. Brian reached down and picked up the smaller one.

"This is Brooklyn cat," he said, hugging the cat and kissing her several times on the head before putting her down. "And this is Chessie cat." He reached down to pet that fat cat that was weaving in and out of his legs. She had never seen a man interact with cats like that. Most men loved dogs, not cats.

"They're adorable," she said. "Where's Benjamin?" He was surprised that she remembered the cat's name. He had only mentioned his cats that one time at the pub.

"He's hiding, probably in the basement ceiling. How did you remember his name?"

"Because his name reminded me of a character on Lost. One of the best villains ever on tv." His mouth fell open and he stared at her. "What?" she asked.

"I named him after Benjamin Linus. You like Lost?"

"Are you serious?! That is awesome! Lost is my favorite tv show ever. I've watched the entire series several times."

"It's one of my favorites as well. Let me grab my coat and we can head out. And we can discuss Lost in the car."

And that they did, although it was only a 10 minute drive to the restaurant. It was a hole in the wall Italian place that looked like it had been there for decades.

Brian asked for a table by the window and was accommodated. There were only 6 other tables occupied. Brian was still using his crutches and after sitting down he propped them against the window behind his chair.

"Do you want some wine?" he asked Melanie. She debated whether or not it was a good idea and ultimately decided she would only have a couple of glasses.

He ordered the wine and they looked over the menu. When the wine came they were ready to order. When the waitress left Brian poured them each a glass. "Cheers," he said, raising his glass. She bumped her glass against his and they both took a sip.

"So what do you want to talk about?" he asked her.

"Tell me more about you. You mentioned that you grew up here. Does your family still live here?"

"I have two brothers, one lives in Long Island, the other in Virginia. My parents split their time between the Poconos and Florida. They usually head to Florida the week between Christmas and New Years."

"Do you go down to visit them in Florida? Free room and board!"

"I do when I get a chance. Work has been crazy, with the tv show and the touring and whatever else they throw at us."

"You tour?" she asked, giving him a quizzical look.

"Oh yeah, didn't I tell you that? Me and the guys formed a comedy troupe years ago called the Tenderloins. We still go out and do live shows under that name."

"Are the shows like your tv show? How does that work?"

"No, it's nothing like the show," he said. "The live show is a combination of stand up comedy and improv. We tell stories and show challenges that didn't make the air."

"Oh wow, that sounds like a great show. I'm a big fan of stand up comedy. I would love to check that out some time."

"I'm pretty sure I could arrange that," he smiled, taking another drink of his wine. "So what about you? You said you're from Ohio?"

"Yep, born and raised. My parents still live there. I have two sisters, one older and one younger. Lauren, the older one lives in Texas. She's married with two kids. Cassie lives in Oregon. She's engaged and lives with her fiancé."

"So why aren't you married?" he asked. As soon as the words left his mouth he felt like an ass. It was such a personal question. He had no right to ask that, especially at this stage. "I'm sorry," he immediately said. "That was rude."

"No, it's fine, really." She smiled reassuringly at him. "I was engaged once. Seems like a long time ago but it was only about two years ago."

"Can I ask what happened?"

"He cheated on me."

"Ouch," he said, wincing.

"With my best friend."

"Ooof. That's rough. I'm sorry. You seem to be doing fine without him now though."

"It's taken a while," she said, reaching for her glass. "Looking back on it now I can see that it wouldn't have lasted. We dated for six years and we loved each other, but what we had in common and what we wanted in life were vastly different. I think I knew it deep down but I was too scared to do anything about it. What about you? Why aren't you married?"

"I was also engaged once upon a time. There was no cheating, though. I was in a bad place at that time, in a dark place. I just got up in the middle of the night and left. I'd had enough. I quit my job, which I hated, and moved back into my parents' house until I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life."

"Weren't you already in the comedy troupe?"

"No," he said, "that came later."

"So what did you end up doing?"

"I became a firefighter."

"Really? Wow, that's really cool. What made you decide to try that?"

"I don't know. I guess I just wanted to do something useful with my life, to help people. Now I'm just a dancing monkey on a tv show on basic cable." He said that last part with a smirk. "Real useful now."

"Laughter is very important so I wouldn't be so down on yourself. It's important for your mental state. Seriously. It releases endorphins."

"Yeah, I know but I just feel like a clown most of the time."

The food arrived and as they ate the conversation turned to TV shows.

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