Esse Quam Videri Part 3

2.5K 155 106




Jeff walks inside the doors of Holy Trinity School and suddenly stops as Ashley continues walking ahead. It isn't clear whether Jeff is having second thoughts or if his abrupt halt was involuntary – a terror-induced temporary paralysis. There's no question there were only a handful of things Jeff would find more unpleasant than walking back into that gym. As he quickly compiled that list in his head, he immediately came up with: A Real Housewives of ...anywhere marathon, six days trapped in an elevator with Zamphir, master of the pan flute, and three physical acts so vile and stomach-churning, he could not express them aloud out of respect for community standards of public decency. Eventually, Ashley notices Jeff has fallen behind and takes a few steps towards him, prepared to physically escort him inside if necessary. She hopes it won't come to that.

"So we're agreed?" she asks, half-pleadingly.

"That Caddyshack II is so bad it deserves to be recognized as a global atrocity through a joint United Nations resolution? Absolutely," Jeff offers.

"That you apologize for earlier tonight and renounce the trophy," Ashley replies.

"Yeah, I was afraid that's what you were talking about."

Jeff inhales deeply and mentally prepares himself for walking back in to his high school reunion. After a few moments of reflection, Jeff is able to get his legs working once again and he starts towards the gym doors. Before he can get there, he is intercepted by a sight that makes him immediately reconsider his stance on Zamphir and two of the three vile acts. Dennis Bruce wheels by and parks his wheelchair in their immediate path, giving them no option but to stop and greet him. Jeff and Dennis lock eyes; the tension between them is palpable.

"Dennis."

"Jeffery."

A few more seconds of stare-down before Dennis rolls away. "Good Lord! How can someone so close to death muster up so much hatred and contempt for me?" Jeff asks.

"Gee, I wonder what it could be," Ashley replies with as much sarcasm as she can get away with without sending Jeff running out the door.

*********************

Louie is standing in the corridor just outside the gym when Niko walks up to him. They greet each other with the subtlest of nods, not unlike two opposing power attorneys before heading into the courtroom. Neither is willing to lower his guard just yet.

"So Vicky must think we're quite the pair," Niko offers as a trial balloon. It works. Louie loosened up enough to allow himself a tiny chuckle.

"Yeah, between your bladder control issues and my STD, I'm sure she's weak in the knees." The guys now share a laugh over this. "You know we're on a path of mutually assured destruction," Louie cautions.

"I know. If we don't stop this soon, neither one of us will have a shot with her."

"Or worse, we might not be speaking to each other. But I'm not ready to give up and you have dibs so what can we do?"

Niko ponders this and it soon becomes clear he has an idea. "Make me an offer."

*********************

Standing inside the gym, Jeff finds himself struggling with the weight, both actual and karmic, of that huge, shiny albatross Ashley is forcing him to lug around. Giving the trophy back and getting out of there as quickly as possible is Jeff's only goal. Fortunately, he spots the one person who might be able to facilitate this. Jeff approaches Tracey and leans in to her.

"I didn't get a chance to say it before but you still look great," he says gently.

"Thank you. And congratulations. You've really changed since we were a couple. I'd love to meet this lingerie model wife of yours."

The New TwentyWhere stories live. Discover now