by Teresa Tumminello Brader

The tour van stops at the jazz club on the corner of a run-down, historic neighborhood known for its music. She walks up the steep steps with the tour group and comes face to face with Jace. What is he doing here? She immediately notices he’s with someone and gives no hint of recognition. He bends down to tie his shoelace and looks up at her, his raised eyebrows a signal. He moves on.

Her mind in a turmoil, she no longer thinks of anything but him. Should she have given him some kind of sign as well? The music is so loud she doesn’t even have to attempt to converse with the people standing next to her.

She and Jace had a ‘thing’ together a few years ago, two consecutive nights that were intense, thrilling and companionable. They both knew it would likely be the only time they spent together but didn’t say so while living it. They kept in touch with sporadic phone calls at work. At first they talked about getting together again, but gradually they stopped saying such things to each other. They lived 500 miles apart and
were both living with someone else.

Jace had previously determined his someone would be his last, the woman he would spend the rest of his life with; he admitted to a fear of dying alone. He’d come to the decision coolly and logically, telling her it
was because his someone was better th an the others he’d been with before. She didn’t understand his reasoning but kept quiet. By the end of their two nights together, he determined she was superior to his present someone. Now what was he to do, he asked her. She wasn’t ready to upset her ‘real’ life: she’d endured enough with her own past someones and was content with her present situation.

But she’s thought of Jace a lot, and the last time they talked on the phone—after the storm—he begged her please to call him once in awhile, so he could hear her voice and find out how she was doing.

Jace hasn’t left the club; he couldn’t have. She’s been standing near the door the whole time. Gripping the railing, she makes her way slowly down the stairs, trailing behind her group. She looks up to the level above, searching, scanning. He’s still here; he has to be. She wants to say good-bye in some fashion. She wants to give him some kind of signal too. She breaks away from the group. She will be quick, she tells herself. She runs up the stairs. She looks around. The crowd is thinning. She should be able to see him. He’s nowhere. She runs down the stairs. Perhaps he’s gotten away from his someone and is looking for her.

She’s outside now. The bleary streetlight illuminates a drunk on the corner and a couple of sleazy guys eyeing her, but no Jace, and no van. She has taken too long.

Teresa Tumminello Brader was born in New Orleans and lives in the area still. She received her B.A. in English from Marquette University and has two children. Her short fiction can be found online at Rumble, , and in an upcoming issue of The Flask Review.  Contact Teresa.