Edge had wanted to paint a portrait of Pat for a very long time, ever since he’d left, but he hadn’t had the courage, and now, after nine years, he’d painted what he thought was the end. He needed the closure, and now he had it. Edge put away all his supplies and cleaned everything up before leaving his work to dry and closing his studio door behind him. He went right to his bathroom, stripped down, and got into the shower. All he could smell was oil paint, and he needed it off him.
He scrubbed himself thoroughly and thought about taking a few minutes to get another kind of relief. He’d been seeing Pat in his mind so much since last night that he went around in a perpetual state of semiarousal. But his stomach rumbled something fierce, reminding him how little he’d eaten, so Edge finished up and dressed quickly before grabbing his keys and hurrying out to his car.
He walked into the diner on Second Street and went to the last empty table. He sat down and picked up a menu. He wasn’t really fussy about what he ate and quickly chose the first thing on the menu, already looking around for a server.
“Poppy, there isn’t a table,” a girl said from behind him. Edge turned around, about to offer them the table as a seat at the counter opened up, and he found himself looking straight into Pat’s eyes.
“Here, you can have this one, Pat.” He stood and was about to leave.
“Is this a friend of yours, Poppy?” the girl asked. “He looks like the man in some of the pictures in the album on the counter.” She alternated looking at him and Pat.
“He was a long time ago,” Pat said, and he swallowed hard. Edge watched his throat work. “Emma, this is Mr. Edge. He and I were friends a long time ago before he left town. We haven’t talked in a long time.”
“I’m pleased to meet you,” Emma said, extending her hand like a young lady older than she looked.
Edge shook her hand and then turned to take the stool but found it already occupied. He shrugged and was about to step out of the way when Pat sighed.
“I don’t want to take your table. Emma and I can wait for another.”
“Just join me. The tables aren’t turning.” He said it as gracefully as he could even though his stomach was suddenly filled with butterflies and his heart beat a little faster. “Please,” he added softly.
“Poppy, I’m hungry,” Emma said, and Pat motioned toward the table.
“Thank you.” He slid into the booth after Emma. She was already looking over the menu, chattering on about what she wanted to eat.
“I don’t want any of the fake macaroni and cheese. Can I have chicken?” she asked, looking up adoringly at Pat.
“With honey mustard. It says they have that.” She put the menu aside and turned her gaze to Edge before picking up the crayons from the holder on the table. “Do you have any kids?”
“No. I thought about having them at one time, but I wasn’t ready, I guess.” He saw Pat’s intense gaze and knew he was hanging on every word. “I love children, though.”