Fear the Dawn: Chapter 6

Aidan awoke late the next morning. He relished the chance to stay in bed a bit longer, but the sun was already high in the sky, carpeting his apartment in warm light and letting him know it was time to get up. He was shocked to see it was already past 10:00, but he was thankful not to be waking up with a hangover. He suspected Dan was probably still passed out on the couch and might be for some time.

Still in his pyjamas, Aidan wandered over to his kitchen to get something to eat. He had more time to eat this morning, so he took a look through his fridge for something that seemed appealing. Unfortunately, he hadn't been grocery shopping in some time and there was depressingly little to choose from. He settled upon fried eggs and toast. He turned on his stove and heated his frying pan, then coated it with olive oil and cracked two eggs into the pan. They were just starting to sizzle when the phone rang.
It's probably an ad”, he thought. No one ever called him. The phone rang again.
Maybe it was Dan, finally getting up and wanting to know what happened last night. Or to call and complain about the game. That also wasn't worth ruining his breakfast for.
Still the phone rang again. “All right!” he groused, and quickly ran to grab the phone.
Hello?” he demanded, sternly.
Aidan?” He recognized the voice instantly, it was Tina, an old friend of his from university whom he didn't see very often anymore. “I'm glad I caught you, I tried to call last night, but you weren't home.”
He tried to drag the phone over towards the kitchen but the cord wouldn't quite reach. “I was out”, he responded, quickly, almost dropping the receiver.
That's good”, she responded, cheerfully. “You need to get out more.”
I'm kind of busy at the moment, can I call you back?”
Oh, sorry, but there's not much time. It's just that we're in town and I was wondering if you wanted to meet up for lunch. You still haven't met Frank.” Frank was her fiance, but Aidan merely knew of his existence and little else.
He could smell his eggs, they were burning. “I guess I can do that”, he said, hurriedly, “when and where?”
I was thinking we could all go to Ellie's Diner at 11:30.”
Sure, that's fine, I'll see you then.”
Bye Aidan”.
He had already hung up and was back in the kitchen. His eggs were overdone, and he hadn't even started his toast yet. He quickly took the pan off the stove and tried to scrape off what remained of his eggs. If he only made one slice of toast, maybe he could eat around the parts that were the most burnt. He would be having lunch soon enough, anyway.
So, I finally get to meet Frank”, he mused to himself as he suffered through his ruined breakfast. “I wonder what kind of guy he is?”

Ellie's Diner was only a few blocks from his apartment, so he had time for a quick shower before he left. He dressed moderately for the occasion, in a pair of khaki pants and a long-sleeved button shirt. He suspected they would be wearing casual clothes, but he didn't want to risk being under-dressed. He took a warm jacket and left his apartment to walk the couple blocks to the diner. It was a crisp morning, cold enough for his breath to hang in the air for a moment. That seemed a bit appropriate somehow, ever since getting off the phone he'd been feeling a bit apprehensive about this lunch. Aidan found himself hurrying along, not wanting to spend any more time outside than he had to.

He arrived before they did and sat down at a booth. A waitress came over, but he told her he was waiting for some friends and she left. He wondered how he was supposed to greet Tina and her fiance, he didn't want to seem too affectionate towards her, particularly as an old friend. Perhaps it would be best to greet Frank first, that was safer. A solid handshake was always an acceptable greeting when meeting someone for the first time...
He stood up instinctively upon hearing her voice, and she gathered him up into a big hug before he even had time to react. “It's been too long”, she said, cheerfully. He smiled. She looked great, she was wearing a pretty green blouse with a low neckline under her jacket, her face looked just as youthful and vibrant as he remembered it, and her long blonde hair practically glistened under the ceiling lights.
This is my fiance, Frank!” She gestured to him, as though Aidan couldn't figure out which one he was.
Nice to meet you”, Aidan said, shaking his hand. Aidan already knew Frank was a writer, and he looked the part well enough, with short black hair that hung down a bit to one side, a trendy black beard, a firm handshake, and a smug, confident expression on his face. “At least he doesn't feel intimidated by me”, Aidan thought to himself.
You must be Aidan”, he said, “Tina's told me a lot about you.”
I deny everything.”
Frank and Tina both laughed at that stock response. “I told you, he's a character”. They all sat down, with Aidan and Tina sitting on one side of the booth and Frank on the other.
Frank tried to break the ice: “So Aidan, I hear you work at a bank, or have I been misinformed?”
It's not really a bank, it's just a lending company. We do student loans, mortgages, business capital, that kind of thing.”
What kind of work do you do there?”
Process loan applications, mostly. It's not too exciting.”
Tina nudged him with her elbow. “I'm sure some funny stuff might happen there sometimes.”
Oh sure. Sometimes they don't get the money.”
They laughed. Tina scooted over a little closer to him and he felt her leg brushing against his, which really caught him off-guard, but Frank didn't seem to notice.
What was it that attracted you to finance?” Frank asked, after things quieted down again.
Oh, I don't know. Stability, good pay, lots of work. Those kind of things.”
Frank nodded. “That must be nice.” It was true, for all of the issues with his job, it did have a few benefits. At least he never had to worry about running out of work to do or that his company might disappear. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to handle the uncertainty that came with a job like theirs.

The waitress came by, and they placed their orders. Aidan was grateful for the momentary lapse in the conversation, talking about his job wasn't really something he found interesting, but he wasn't sure what else to talk about. The waitress returned a moment later with their drinks and the conversation started up again.
How has it been working for the magazine?”, he asked Tina, not wanting her to feel left out.
Oh, great”, she responded energetically, “it's a lot of work, and we have to work a lot of late nights, but it's really exciting and since we work together the long hours aren't so bad.”
Frank reached across the table to touch her hand “You say that, but you always shoo me away when I drop by your desk.”
Well sometimes I have work to do!” she swatted his hand away playfully. He could tell by the way they interacted with each other that they were very close, there was a kind of looseness to their interactions that spoke to a strong comfort level between them. It seemed nice, and he found himself feeling a bit envious.
You know, maybe you should try to meet someone at your work”, Tina said offhandedly, as if reading his mind. “It might make your job a bit more exciting.”
No, no, can't be done”, he said, shaking his head. “Men and women in finance don't mix. We want to talk about their figures, but they're only interested in their figures.”
Tina laughed uproariously. It took Frank a moment to get it, but then he started laughing, too. That was a good one, he should have come up with that back when he used to do that comic for the school newspaper.
I was a finance girl for a little while, you know”, Tina said, placing her hand on his shoulder and leaning on him a little when she finally started to regain her composure. Aidan blushed slightly and was very relieved that she didn't finish that thought, though when she moved away he thought he felt her rub his leg with her hand. She already had it back on the table, so he convinced himself that he imagined it.

Their food arrived. They had all ordered sandwiches, and they ate in relative silence. Perhaps it was that the food was very good and no one wanted to stop eating, though there was something eating away at Aidan as well. He really hoped it wasn't bothering anyone else.
So, I have to ask”, Frank said, after they had all finished their food, “how did the two of you meet?”
Aidan swallowed. Just how much had she told him? He really hoped it wasn't much. “We met at university”, he said, not wanting to leave too much of a pause. “It was during the first week of our first year, in one of the big lecture halls. Neither of us knew anyone there, and we just happened to sit beside each other.”
It was an English class”, Tina joined in. “I didn't have the book yet, so I was kind of looking at yours, and then you asked me if I wanted to share and that's how we started talking.” She put her arm around him and hugged him close to her. “It seems like so long ago now, doesn't it?”
Yeah, it almost seems like a different life”, he said, thinking back on it
So, how come the two of you never got together?” Frank said, asking the question he had been dreading. “It seems like you get along really well.”
Thankfully, Tina answered it for him. “We do. But what we both needed was a good friend, not a lover. Sometimes that's all you're looking for.”
That answer seemed to satisfy him, they paid the cheque and left the diner with Tina and Frank arm in arm. Outside, Aidan excused himself to run errands, and they said their goodbyes.

Aidan spent most of the rest of the day taking care of various chores. He found time to get to the grocery, and bought himself another loaf of bread, some more eggs, a box of cereal, a number of frozen dinners and some assorted raw vegetables. Later, he stopped by the bank to pay some bills and got roped into a discussion about switching his accounts to earn higher interest. He even went to the mall to pick up a few new shirts and some underwear, and by that time it was getting late so he picked up some dinner at the food court before heading home.

But unfortunately, no matter what he tried to busy himself with, that lie just stuck in his head, and he couldn't get it out.

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