I sat there and looked around the room as the turkey was being carved and shook my head in disbelief at the way things had turned out.
I grew up next door to Matilda and Michael. Matty was sweet on me and Michael, who was two years older than me was a bully. So, Matty and I played and Michael and I fought. Sometimes he would win and sometimes I would and we ended up having a rough and tumble kind of friendship. Matty and I did the usual childhood things that curious boys and girls do; we played 'doctor' and went through the 'you show me yours and I'll show you mine' business and we suffered the ridicule of others our age pointing fingers and yelling "Matty is sweet on Sammy" and "Sammy's got a girl friend, Sammy's got a girl friend." Then one Saturday I went out of my house and saw a moving van parked in front of Matty's house and in two days she was gone.
It was eight years later that I walked into the Student Union cafeteria as a nineteen-year-old freshman and sat down at a table. I hadn't been there a full minute when a good looking redhead sat down across from me. She looked a bit familiar and I was trying to place her when she grinned at me and said, "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours."
It was Matty. We skipped afternoon classes and got reacquainted. Michael was also attending the same college and he and Matty were sharing an apartment. She asked me to join them for dinner that night and I did and soon after that Matty and I began keeping steady company. We were not going steady or anything like that, just spending a lot of time with each other - at least that is the way I was looking at it.
About a week after getting reacquainted I was invited to dinner again and this time Michael had his girlfriend with him. Cindy was an absolute stunner and I had a hard time keeping my eyes off of her. Matty of course noticed and was a little miffed, but I didn't think much of it at the time because we were just friends. Over the course of the next year Matty and I double dated with Mike and Cindy and the more I saw of Cindy the more I wished something would happen to Mike so I could take a shot at her.
The wish god must have heard me because Mike flunked out of school, kissed Cindy goodbye and took off to see the world. Cindy tried to get him to stay, get a job and marry her, but Mike said he was not the marrying kind and then he was gone. Matty felt sorry for Cindy so she would ask Cindy over for dinner, include Cindy on our dates when we went to a show and before long I was dating Cindy. Matty didn't take it very well when I asked Cindy to marry me and she sent back the wedding invitation with "Fuck you!" written on it in lipstick. Cindy and I were married one month after our graduation and set out to start our new life.
Six years went by and then the company I worked for bought out a competitor and I was put in charge of merging the two companies into a single unit. The first person I saw when I walked in the other company's front door was Matty. She didn't acknowledge my presence and somehow that saddened me. After a tour of the facility I moved into an office and set about doing what needed to be done. After two days of plowing through documents and reviewing spreadsheets it was clear that I had some hard decisions to make. There was no way I would be able to keep all of the competitors workforce on the payroll and so I set about trying to figure out who to keep and who to let go. It turned out that Matty was one of their top performers and under normal circumstances she would have been a shoo in to stay, but the circumstances were not normal.
I called her into the office and hit her with it point blank, "I'm sorry that you thought that you and I were more than we were. To me we were good friends, very good friends and I never gave you any reason to think otherwise. But that was then and this is now. You have to make up your mind right now as to whether you and I are going to be able to get along because if we can't you will be one of the first ones out the door. I don't want to do that because from all indications you are one of the better ones here, but this is a business and personal animosity has no place here. Think about it and let me know tomorrow."
She nodded, got up and left.
The next morning there was a knock on my door and when I yelled out that it was open Matty came in and I motioned her to a chair. She was silent for a few moments and then she said, "I was hurt. I thought that you and I had something and it was a shock to me to find out that all I was to you was a friend. I still haven't gotten over it and I probably never will. You were the perfect fit for me and I knew it even if you didn't. I've been married twice since college and neither worked out because in the long run we just didn't fit. There won't be any animosity here Sam, but don't get upset if I spend a lot of time looking at you and wishing that things had turned out different."
Another year went by and true to her word Matty and I did get along. We even started having lunch together and an occasional drink after work. Then one day as we were having lunch together Matty looked at me and said, "So, is your marriage in the toilet yet?"
The question was so off the wall that I almost choked on the forkful of salad that I had just put in my mouth. After I recovered my composure I said, "What the hell does that mean?"
"You don't know? You really don't know?"
"Michael has been home for about six months now. He has a job working the midnight shift at the plant and he stops by your house on his way home every morning after work."
She saw the disbelief on my face and she shrugged and said, "Sorry, I just thought that if you didn't know, you should."
"I don't believe it."
She shrugged again, "Easy enough to find out. All you have to do is go home around nine and you'll catch them." Then she giggled, "Or you could hide in the closet."