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  • Jeff Monday

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“Ooh, he’s cute!”

I shrugged. “Yeah. But he’s a five.”

“A five? Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow. That’s too bad.”

“Right?”

“What do you think they are?”

I thought for a second, letting my gaze linger on the man’s well-defined arms and pecs. He was standing near the bar. I could only see three-quarters of his face. But what I could see was classically handsome; strong jawline, thick eyebrows, just a hint of scruff.

“What’s your number?” I replied.

Jamie laughed. “Dis. Connected.”

I gave her a scowl. “Bitch.”

She laughed harder. “Ok, maybe ‘Hi, buy me a drink.’”

“And he just ignores me?”

“Or you say it to his back,” she chortled.

I looked the guy up and down again and sighed. “Too bad.”

Jamie shrugged. “Maybe it’s ‘Come home with me.’ And he says ‘Ok.’”

“Hmmm. That’s a possibility.”

“And then you never say a word throughout the night,” she laughed.

It was my turn to shrug. “As long as the sex is good.”

I gave her a smile, glancing at the glowing numbers that hovered above her head. We were best friends and were at a comfortable 43,573,895. Even after four years of friendship, we’ve only lost 922,663 words. She smiled back, knowing what I was thinking. I nodded to the guy at the bar. “What’s he to you?”

She glanced in his direction. “Zero,” she replied.

“Really?”

She nodded. “Yep. He’s all yours.”

We sat in comfortable silence for a few minutes, yet I never let the guy leave my field of vision completely. What were the five words we were fated to exchange? Even such a small number held so many possibilities. ‘Sorry I spilled your drink.’ Or ‘You’re very handsome. Thank you.’ Maybe ‘My car is around the corner.’ Or ‘Hi. Hi. My name is…’ and then he has a heart attack. But probably something simple like ‘Got a light? Here. Thanks.’

“Have you ever tried to change the number?” I asked when there was a pause in my thoughts. She looked side-eyed me, gauging how serious I was.

“Once,” she finally responded. “Just once.”

“What happened?”

She shrugged. “Not much to tell, really. She was a zero. Wasn’t even really aware of her or anything. Just wanted to see if I could talk to her. It was at a concert. I was drunk. Whatever. Anyway, I walked up to her, intending to say ‘Hi.’ That’s it. Just ‘hi.’ Well, I got next to her just as her friend caught her attention and she walked away. Never saw her again.”

“So you don’t think we can change the number?”

This time her shrug wasn’t as sure. “Maybe. Probably not. Seems like life has a way of making sure things turn out the way they’re supposed to. Like my grandparents.”

“Grandparents?”

She nodded. “By the time Gramma turned 50, they were down to 200 words. So they didn’t speak to each other except occasionally, one would turn to the other and say ‘I love you’.”

“Aw. That’s sweet.”

“Yeah.”

“But wait. 200 isn’t divisible by 3.”

She nodded again. “Gramps got cancer. It was pretty bad, right from the beginning. So they said it more often, neither wanting the suffering to continue. They figured once they were out of words, that would be it. Well, within a month they were down to two words. Gramps took her hand, looked her in the eyes and said ‘Goodbye, darling.’ And that was it.”

“Wow.”

“Yeah.” 43,573,660

“What do you think our last words will be to each other?”

“I don’t want to think about it!” She frowned at me and took a drink. “It doesn’t matter. Whatever they are, they’re a long time away.”

I was about to reply when someone caught my eye. I turned and stared. Jaime followed my gaze.

“What?”

“That guy that just walked in.”

“Which one?”

“The one in the blue shirt.”

“He’s ok, I guess.”

I shook my head. “It’s..yeah. But his number.”

“What is it?”

“78,374,100.”

“What?”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

“You can’t be serious!”

“I’m not kidding. What do you see?”

She gave him another look, appraising every aspect of him. “9,543,779. At least I’m part of this,” she grumbled. I looked at her, knowing what she was thinking. The man I was destined to spend the rest of my life with just walked into the bar and my best friend knew it. From the moment me and that guy start a conversation, she will forever be relegated to second-string status, despite our best intentions. We both knew that someone very important had entered our lives.

Suddenly she reached across the table and took my hand into hers. “Not tonight. Give me tonight yet, at least.”

I looked in her eyes. Fate had dropped my soulmate at my feet. I only had to reach out and embrace him. I glanced in his direction again. 78,374,100. A lifetime of words. Endless nights of talking to each other until we fell asleep. Long car rides and longer nights staring at the stars and sharing our dreams.

“Maybe he’s just a really good friend,” I offered. “Maybe we end up working together and talk all day long about customers and how stupid management is.”

“Maybe. Or maybe you fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.”

“Or maybe he’s a lawyer that I need at some point and is really long-winded.”

She squeezed my hand. “Just don’t talk to him tonight. Please for me.”

I smiled at her. “Anything for you.” 43,573,507

Just then, there was movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked up into his face. He was standing at our table.

“Hello,” he said.

78,374,099

#Whatif #DeepThoughts #Choices #feverdreams

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