The following morning Jeff is awakened by the sound and smell of bacon sizzling in the frying pan. For his entire life, Jeff has prided himself on his ability to sleep on the horns of a yak. He's slept through thunderstorms and seismic tremors. But bacon? Bacon is a force too powerful for even Jeff.
To Jeff's delight, he finds Niko alone in the kitchen cooking enough food for either a small army or large religious cult. This is the first time he's seen Niko after Niko's mysterious disappearance at Beth's parents' party. When things get weird Niko tends to clam up, so extracting any information as to what happened would require a deft touch.
"What the hell happened to you last night?" he asks.
Okay, what it lacked in subtlety, it made up for in directness.
"Just had to get out of there," Niko says, tending to his scrambled eggs.
"Did something happen with Beth?"
"I really don't want to talk about it."
The thought occurs to Jeff that it doesn't seem that long ago when Jeff was fleeing an uncomfortable situation at his high school reunion and Niko was the first one to try to get him to talk about it. Now Niko is in full flight from whatever happened at that party and, at the risk of enraging Niko even further, Jeff needs to be there for him.
"Whatever it is, I'm sure I can help," Jeff offers in a calm, soothing voice.
Niko drops his spatula and spins on his heel. "Oh really! Okay then, 'Sage-of-the-mountain', tell me what I should do about Beth's husband asking me to have sex with his wife?"
Jeff just stares at Niko, mouth agape. He thought he had heard it all when it came to girl-trouble but that is one he was not expecting. "Wait, Beth is into the orgy scene?"
"We prefer to call it The Lifestyle," Beth's voice drifts in through the screen door. Neither Jeff nor Niko had noticed her arrival about a minute earlier.
"And it's not an orgy scene...well at least not most times."
Flailing his arms, Jeff tries to dig himself out of it. "No, no, of course. I didn't mean to suggest th-"
"It's okay, Jeff. It's weird for most people at first. It takes some--hey, is that freshly cooked bacon?" Walking in, Beth grabs a piece right out of the pan. "Mmmmmm. Niko, you always made the best hangover breakfast."
"Did you come over just to steal my breakfast?" Niko asks.
"Not just that. You seemed pretty freaked out so I thought I'd come by and see if you wanted to go for a sail around the harbour. It would give us a little privacy so I could explain about last night."
Niko considers it for a few moments. "Okay."
"Great, now let's go prep the vessel," she says with a wink. "And I mean actually prepping the sailboat so don't get any ideas, Perv."
"You're taking cottagers three at a time and I'm the Perv?" Niko mutters to himself.
No matter how stressed they got, or how many troubles seemed to be weighing on their shoulders, for Niko and Beth, a day on the water made it all melt away. If the weirdness of the previous night was the ultimate test of the magical soothing powers of the water, the first 15 minutes of this adventure has left no room for doubt – Niko was back in his happy place.
Despite the awkward conversation and the fact that Beth is now a married woman, being in the boat with her one more time makes him feel 23 again. He forgot how much he missed that feeling.
YOU ARE READING
The New TwentyHumor
***WATTYS 2017 WINNER*** When the newly single, 40 year-old Jeff Dempsey suffers an agonizing humiliation at his high school reunion, he comes to realize he has accomplished almost nothing with his life. Armed with this new found insight, Jeff char...