Thomas found Harking Café and went in. He found Julia at a table eating a salad as big as her head. He sat down and, as usual, waited for her to begin the conversation. Two hours before Julia had called wanting to talk to her childhood friend Thomas about her Jeffery.
Julia, her mouth full, waved to Thomas with her fork. After several bites, she started. “You know,”…,”Jeffery hasn’t said anything but I think he doesn’t love me.”
“And, what makes you think that?” Thomas asked.
“I have a feeling that he wants out of our relationship.”
“What gives you that impression?” Thomas looked puzzled.
“He’s avoiding me.” Julia tapped the air with her fork.
“Avoiding you as in not being with you? You two are married.”
“He’s avoiding me by not seeing what I need before I have to ask.”
“Mind reading is not easy. See.” Thomas cupped his hands around her salad bowl and closed his eyes. “I got nothing.”
“Jeffery should at least know how I feel. I don’t feel loved. Aren’t I supposed to feel loved in a marriage.” Julia took another bite.
“Maybe you have never been loved like this before.” Thomas put the menu in front of his face.
Julia stopped chewing, raised her brows and looked at Thomas.
“Oh, I know what love is and what I feel isn’t love. It is more like Jeffery puts up with me.”
When the waitress came, Thomas ordered a sandwich and then winced. High-pitched screams had come from across the room. Two young girls were fighting over the syrup bottle.
The waitress snarled, “Its Kids Eat Free day at Harking.” She put her hand on her hip and looked around. “We supply the food, you supply the environment. This is what I put up with every Tuesday.” She grabbed the menu from the table and was off.
“Have you talked to Jeffery about all this?” Thomas continued where Julia left off.
“Oh, yeah. He says he doesn’t understand what I am talking about. He says he loves me. He says he goes to work every day to provide for us and then comes home to me. It’s nice that he takes care of things but that isn’t what I mean by being loved. I need more.
And, when I ask Jeffery, he says he isn’t thinking of someone else when we make love. But, how can I be sure?”
Thomas looked out the window and thought. “I really don’t want to go there, do I?” After some long slow chewing he looked at Julia and asked. “Do you think of someone else when you make love with Jeffery?”
“Sometimes. I mean, it’s just women’s fantasy stuff, you know? Paperback novel chick flick stuff, not real guys.”
Thomas pressed her. “But, do you think of Jeffery when, you know…?”
After a long silence between bites, Julia said, “In a way I guess. It’s hard for me to visualize him when I’m not sure he’s thinking of me.
“You say that as if you know what Jeffery thinks.”
“Jeffery’s a guy. You know how guys are.”
“Did I tell you that my father was never around because of his sales job?”
“Yes, the last time we talked.”
“Mom told me countless times that she couldn’t count on dad except for his paycheck.”
“Jeff is home for you at night. Do you take advantage of that?”
“I want him to sit with me and watch TV. He likes to go into the garage and work on his car.”
“Maybe, you two should find something you enjoy together. Take a mind reading class together.”
“Yeah, right. It wouldn’t take a mind reader to see that I like certain things a certain way. Isn’t that why he married me – to take care of me? In any case I don’t see him changing. Talking with him hasn’t changed anything. I don’t think he listens to me.”
“Why do you say that?”
“He’s distant, like he doesn’t know how to respond. Maybe he just doesn’t want to be bothered.”
Julia grabbed her purse and got up from the table.
“I’m going to grab a smoke. I’ll be right back.”
Thomas looked down at his half-eaten sandwich. He wondered if this conversation would finish him off.
After several minutes, Julia returned.
“There’s this guy outside,…Bill. He is having the same thing going on in his marriage. He doesn’t feel loved by his wife. He says his wife doesn’t understand him. We have a lot in common.”
Thomas, hoping to change the subject, asked Julia how her telemarketing job was going.
Julia was quick to reply. “Try selling something that people don’t want over the phone. They don’t know you and you are trying to get them to take a credit card offer and one with a 26 percent finance charge. I don’t like manipulating people.”
Thomas choked on his ice tea and covered his mouth with his napkin. He set the glass down on the table.
Julia continued. “Maybe Jeffery thinks he is better than me. Maybe he is better than me. Maybe that is why he doesn’t love me. He must think that I am not worthy of his love.”
“Didn’t you say he brought you flowers the other day?”
“He did. The flowers…I need more than the thought behind it, you know? So, I have a weekend planned for us. I made a reservation at a resort for this weekend.”
“Jeff never mentioned that to me when I saw him yesterday.”
“Oh, he doesn’t know yet. I’ll tell him tonight and see how he responds. If he balks, well…that will tell me everything.”
The waitress came with the check.
“Here”, Thomas offered, “let me pay. I read your mind.” Thomas grabbed her check off the table.
Julia’s phone rang. “Hi Liz. Yeah, let’s get together and talk. See you at Lou’s in about an hour.” Julia ended the call.
“Oh, before I go Thomas, I have to tell you about my dream last night.”
“There’s no sense holding anything back at this point,” Thomas said with a wink.
“I was on the platform at the Metra station. There was a large clock above me. Jeffery was somewhere inside the station paying for our tickets. A conductor leaned out the door of the train and asked me, “How can you be sure?” I looked around for Jeffery and then saw my mother. She told me, “You can’t count on tickets, kiddo.
Then the train started moving, I looked backed for Jeffery and saw my dad. He was the conductor. Then I went through a turnstile and boarded the train alone. I sat down next to a fortune-teller and I asked, “Where are we going?” She said, “If you don’t know where you are going any train will take you there.” And then I woke up.”
“Someone is reading your mind.” Thomas put his tongue in his cheek.
Julia pulled her compact from her purse and checked her look. She then got up from the table.
“Thanks Thomas for…” Julia pointed a swirling finger at the table. “Gotta go.”
Thomas stood up. “You know where I can be found.” But, Julia had already walked out the door.
“Or, maybe not.”
© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2017, All Rights Reserved