Chapter Sixty-five

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Despite not having worked a full day on Friday, I felt as tired as if I had worn wrist and ankle weights all day. For this reason, I hit the sack by ten o'clock.  I dreamed about prison walls or closed rooms all night and woke in time to meet Claudie for lunch.

My stalwart therapist, the Liz-meister, had succumbed to the flu that was going around, so I didn't have to tidy my psyche for another week. And the ever-annoying HAT cancelled yet another tea date. If I didn't know better, I'd think HAT was getting a life. Of course, that was impossible. I denied any possibility that he had a girlfriend. No way C could know him better than I did in her one and only visit. I figured he was snowed under grading student papers.

This change in plans gave me the chance to not only sleep in and lunch with Claudie but also take extra time to primp for my evening date with Jimmy. He was supposed to call later with the specifics. If all went well, maybe we could both get lucky. I left the details to his fertile imagination.

When I got to Alvarez Tacos, Claudie was already installed in her favorite corner booth and chatting up the waiter. If not for her silver TransAm parked outside, I might have mistaken her for a Brittany Spears clone. She wore low-slung jeans with black boots and a little half shirt. Her blond locks were hidden under a blue pageboy cap jauntily turned sideways.

I slipped into the booth across from her, and the waiter walked away. When I spied her white alpaca coat folded next to her on the bench seat, I asked, "Aren't you cold?"

"Nope." Then she motioned the waiter over again and ordered the usual for both of us: chicken mole enchiladas for her and beef chimichanga for me. She also ordered two Dos Equis beers. I checked my watch. It was 11:30 a.m.

I said, "A little early?"

"Oh, live a little," Claudie said.

When the beers arrived, we toasted guys in general and those in Rockford specifically. I hadn't tasted a beer for breakfast since a misguided college camping trip, and the Dos Equis burned the back of my throat. The food arrived soon after, and the grease made the beer taste better.

About half way through my chimichanga, I stopped for breath. "C," I said, "there's something I have to tell you about Will." I know. I said I wasn't going to get in the middle of C's bedroom frolics, and here I was meddling anyway. Better this than admit to her that Simone had dissed me, never answering my text. Before bed last night, I'd confided all to my sidekick, since Odin didn't believe me.

C glanced up from her mole. Mostly, she ate light, but when it came to mole, she always asked for all three enchiladas. "Will who?"

Okay, so he wasn't using his Americanized broker name. "Wilhelm?" I said.

"Oh, Will," she said. "He's hot."

I smiled. That's what she said about every new conquest—until he demanded time outside the bedroom. By then, her ardor would have cooled considerably, and there'd be a hot new guy. "He ought to be," I said. "You're his third woman in a week." C especially disliked other women's cast-offs.

"Really?" she said.

"I work with him," I said. "He tell you what he does?"

"Flamenco guitar."

"Right, and you didn't ask."

She shrugged. "I tend to believe people."

"In real life, he's a stock broker," I said. "And you tend to believe men—especially those of the hot variety."

C smiled. "Whatever."

I took another bite of my chimichanga. "One of those other women is Becky from my office."

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