Eevee TF Series
Ron pushed open the front door of the restaurant and was at first blinded by the visual contrast. Inside this first chamber were corrugated steel walls and bright white tiles on the floor. He stood still, waiting for his eyes to adjust. Outside, it was getting quite dark, and Ron had only just now noticed this. Emerging from the blur, he made out the figure of Don, waiting for him with his arms crossed. "You comin' buddy?"
Ron gathered himself and approached him, "Yeah, let's go."
Don chuckled and shoved a second door open. He followed inside after Ron and beamed. Several guests looked up from their food and greeted the men with casual enthusiasm. There were many "Hey!"s and "Don!"s shouted around the otherwise peaceful dining room. Don met each of them with a friendly wave or high-five. A waitress waltzed up to the front desk and welcomed the customers. Don did all of the talking while Ron stood aloof. He was still trying to wrap his mind around how much of a celebrity his new friend happened to be.
"Hey, Rhondy! It's been a while! Table for two this time, please? I brought a special friend with me tonight. Ron and I coincidentally were headed to the same place. Ah, how about a seat in the middle, here? No, right here. Yeah that'll do." Don patted Ron on the back and gently motioned him to sit down at the table he had chosen. After Ron had carefully slid into the booth, Don hopped into the booth on the opposite side of the table. It was evident that he was comfortably in his environment.
"Now," the waitress had broken through Don's rambling, "Can I get you gentlemen something to drink? Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, 'Pepper, coffee, champagne? Nah, I'm kidding; we don't have champagne." Rhonda whipped out her notebook, prepared to take orders. Don was first.
"Thanks, Rhondy. You know what I want, coffee- black. How about you, Ron? My treat alright?"
"Oh, uh..." Ron was again startled, and scrambled to recollect himself. "I-I'll just have water, please." He could tell Don was giving him a look.
Rhonda was busy scribbling down her notes. "Alright then, I'll put that in. Here're some menus, boys, and I'll get you those drinks in a bit." She swiftly closed her notebook, stuffed it in her apron, and walked off to another table.
As the waitress walked away, a couple of customers stood around Don's side of table and engaged in conversation with the popular man-about-town. Each local stood right next to Don and a few tried to grab a seat in the booth, a situation that Ron hadn't exactly expected to be in. Obviously it was sort of an honor to be under the wing of the prominent cab-driver, he began to believe, as he was briskly shoved into the corner of the booth by Don's following.
Hearing the mixed conversations, Ron gathered a little bit about Don which he guessed his driver likely wouldn't have brought up in direct conversation. The man appeared to have a kind of leadership with the locals; they looked up to him and practically felt secure when he was around. In fact if Don were ever to leave Coledge for good, his departing shadow would eclipse the city and make public life that much more dim.
Don continued to rant endlessly on public matters, and this amused Ron. Seeing this magical transformation in the man whom he formerly couldn't stand, aroused his enthusiasm slightly and gave him the ambition to join in the talks, and feel like he belonged. If only, he thought, he could project his timid voice and break through the barrier of locals. However, he wasn't much of an extrovert, which made conversation that much more difficult. He eventually decided to keep to himself and sat back in his seat, defeated.
Ron shifted a little in his seat nervously. After a few more minutes of waiting, Rhonda came back with the long-awaited drinks. She casually reaching through the wall of people as though it were a regular thing for her, and set the glasses on the table in front of their respective owners. Some of the men cleared the way as she approached the table, and Ron was able to see the interior of the circle of people that had clustered around them. There were actually only a few men sitting there. When he made eye contact with Don, the man cut off all conversation with a commanding tone:
"Oh, gentlemen! I almost forgot, settle down, this here's Ron, a new friend of mine. Not once but twice we've run into each other today, out of pure luck I guess! If you don't mind, suppose you could quit scaring him and make him feel welcome, that'd be great."
Like a rising sun on a dark morning, the crowd of people turned to face Ron and greeted him with eager politeness. Flustered as he was though, the fact that his sudden inclusion was only possible because Don had to ask for it did not make Ron feel much better. Nevertheless, it felt good to not be left out entirely. He found himself in higher spirits as he was soon firmly gripping and shaking the numerous hands that were presented to him.
As soon as Ron had been fully immersed, having shaken a number of burly hands, the conversation resumed its normal pace. However as soon as the discussion had started, Ron was relieved to see Rhonda walking back carrying the original duo's food, which Don had apparently ordered for the both of them in the uproar.
"Hey, guys, shoo', how 'bout you clear out so I can give this food to these fine gentlemen?"
The extraordinarily talkative men exchanged handshakes once again and made their slow way back to their respective tables and resumed sipping on now-cold soup.
Rhonda stared down the men until everyone was seated again. At that she turned to face her table, slightly annoyed- even though such chaos was common- and lowered her tray down onto the table. Ron was surprised to find that Don had picked out a whole meal for his guest, and only a burger for himself. Rhonda gently placed everything on the checkerboard table, the freshly washed Pyrex plates making a loud clink when set down. Out of an apron pocket she grabbed two sets of silverware and set them down next to the plates.
After completing her task, she moved to stand over Don and asked, "there anything else I can get you, boys?"
Picking up his burger, Don turned up his head to the waitress, replying, "No, ma'am! I think we got everything we need right here, thank you!"
"Alright, see you boys later then," she laughed, walking off to the kitchen with a smile.
Ron could guess that Don and Rhonda had some sort of relationship, though whether it was just friendship or not was still unclear. He was preparing to bring it up when Don interrupted.
"So Ron, remind me again, what brought you to Coledge? I doubt you came all this way just for my looks, right?"
It was a very unnecessary question. Ron was almost sure he'd made it clear on the long drive over, but since Don broke the silence first he went along with it, clearing his throat. "I'm an intern... and I am going to be working at the regional hospital here for about a week or so."
"Oh yeah, that's right. So, are you in college?" Don started eating his burger.
"Yeah, it's part of my coursework." Ron followed Don's example, picking up some fries. These were questions he got asked all the time, and didn't mind answering.
"Where did you go to high school?"
It was starting to become more obvious that Don wanted to connect with Ron, rather than the other way around. It was starting to feel like an interrogation more than a real conversation, but Ron could feel that it would be his turn soon. Don would eventually run out of questions and give Ron a chance, he hoped. "Ah, Lancaster High- class of '08." He finally seized the opportunity to bring up a topic of his own, after taking a sip of his soda. "That's where I met Julia." He put his glass down with a little pride, finally pushing into the conversation.
"Oh, really? High school sweethearts ever since, I suppose?"
"As a matter of fact, yes," Ron returned, taking a bite of his burger. It lacked condiments, so he took off the bun and added some sauce. "I met her my senior year in chemistry class. We sat together the whole year and we've been together ever since." Ron took a brief moment to reminisce on that day for a moment. He realized that he was getting off-topic and tried to change the subject. Again, Don beat him to the punch.
"So you two're married, then?"
Ron stuttered for a moment before putting down his burger and replying, "Y-yeah, why?" He wasn't exactly offended, but the question was a little unexpected.
"Well, you said you two met in high school, and you just started staring off into space. However, I didn't see any ring on your finger... Sorry, that's probably a bit intrusive isn't it-"
"No, no, it's fine. I do have a ring, but when it was ordered we got the size completely wrong. Now whenever I put it on my finger, it just slips right off! Here it is
" Ron reached his hands behind his head and revealed a chain necklace, slipping it off of his neck. Sliding along the chain was a silver piece of metal, forged in a delicate circle. It appeared to have no edges or ridges in its design, making it very smooth and rounded. On one side of the circle was attached an intricately faceted orange stone that caught Don's curious eye. The bright restaurant lights beamed onto it and refracted some of the light onto the table, adding some brilliant color to the checkerboard pattern. To show what he meant by it not fitting, Ron slipped it on his fourth finger and wiggled his hand. Sure enough, the ring wiggled freely.
"Aha, very interesting! Would you mind if I had a look?"
Ron hesitantly balled up the chain and handed it to Don.
He pulled out his glasses and put them on, holding the chain gently in one hand. He then fished out the ring from the tangle of golden-silver chain material. With an expression of scrutiny, he held up the ring level to Ron's eyes. "It's beautiful!" he whispered in awe. "You're a November then? Ah, look at that, it's like there's a tiny little fire right there in the center!" He shook it slowly and carefully, feeling the weight, and handed it, respectfully, back to Ron in the same manner he had received it. "That's some gem."
Ron was quick to place it back around his neck. Despite his haste, he took another look at it himself, gazing at the fiery center, even though he had looked upon it numerous times before. Still, he enjoyed the warm feeling he got when he held it in his palm. Holding it was like holding Julia again, and it represented her beauty and affection with its intricacy and lacquer. He snapped himself from the spell which the ring had on him and returned to the present. He found he had managed to tune out most Don's babbling about his opinion on the ring. Trying to divert attention from the flawed ring, Ron spoke out. "So, do you live around here?" It was an obvious question, but it was just enough to make Don pause mid-sentence.
"W-huh? Oh, sure I do. I thought I mentioned it before- I'm manager of the local taxi-cab transportation service. Been in business for-"
"Wait, where do you live then?"
"Oh, uh, well
" he stuttered. "Well it's funny you should ask. I actually live at a small hotel in the northern part of the city. It's an interesting place there; it's like an apartment there, and they operate the only hotel in the state that allows and encourages animal residents."
Ron took a moment to think before the realization set in. "Wait, they allow animals?"
"They welcome them."
Ron raised his eyebrows matter-of-factly. "Well, what a coincidence I suppose!"
Don clapped cheerfully and reached over the table and patted Ron on the shoulder in surprise. "So, you're telling me that you are staying at the Black Cat too? That's incredible! It's like we're somehow
it's just- it's very funny, ain't it?"
"You know, how we met up again outside the hotel after I dropped you off- that was coincidence. But it's just strange how we're both staying in that same hotel, eh?"
"Well, I guess that is strange." Ron considered the implications of this fact. He was growing more attached to the guy, but he seriously doubted tat the Black Cat would be big enough for the both of them. "What room do you have?"
"Some room on the third floor, a couple rooms down from the elevators. Unbelievable machines those things..." He rambled a bit as he reached around his back for his wallet and pulled out his key card, and Ron followed suit. Sure enough, the numbers were almost the same. Don made another remark about how ridiculous the whole situation was, and declared his suspicions with a smile. Not getting the reaction he'd hoped for, Don gave a brief laugh and tried to turn the conversation once again.
"So, what are your hours like?"
"At that hospital of yours. What, is it 8 hours? 9-5?"
"Well, no, thank god, it's only about 3 hours. Start at 9:00 and get out at 12:00." At this he shoved the rest of his burger in his mouth and swallowed. Don had finished quite a while ago and had been waiting on him to finish.
"Say, Ron," he continued, waiting for the young man to finish, "think you got time to go on a little excursion tomorrow- after your business with the hospital and all, of course?"
Ron uncomfortably took a quick sip of his drink as he was caught off-guard with the sudden question. Going on an "excursion" with Don wasn't really on his to-do list, but he wasn't sure if he could actually manage to say, 'No Don, I have better things to do than hang out with such a kind person as you in my free time.' He couldn't think of anything he had going on after his intern duties for the next several days, so he really had no reason not to accept. "Uh, sure? What did you have in mind?"
Don was pleased. However, he tried to not seem desperate in front of his friend. "Well, let's see, what's today?"
"Ah, well, it's too late today, I suppose."
"For what, Don?"
"Calm down, calm down. I was going to give you a tour of my city, here. You saw only an unfair glimpse of its beauty this morning when you were half asleep, dreaming of cats and dogs and whatnot. It's gorgeous, especially this time of year, mountains, waterfalls, the whole shebang- you interested?"
Ron was a person who really enjoyed landscapes. He reveled in seeing stone giants forever in their sleep amidst clouds of fog, covered in shades of green and blue-gray. In high school he had taken to mountain climbing not for sport, but for the view from the top. Waterfalls, too, fascinated him; the rare sight of water plummeting over the green mountains, clouded in the mists that tickle the faces of people awestruck by the natural placidity- that peaceful equilibrium between morning fog and a spring downpour
"Yes! That'd be wonderful!"
"Thought you'd think so. How does the day after tomorrow sound to you?"
Ron was no longer thinking about his schooling; he had gotten lost in his thoughts of the serenity his friend had described. "Oh, umm
. that's Thursday?"
"Yep, sound alright?"
Ron pretended to run through his mental agenda. "Thursday shouldn't be a problem!"
Don smiled eagerly. "That's that then, we'll meet for lunch and then be off." His hand landed on the table affirmatively. "Hey, you're not allergic to dogs right?"
"Dogs? No. Why?"
"I was plannin' to bring my- I did tell you I had a little dog, right? You asked about one this morning."
He remembered, trying to not let it haunt him. "Oh... right. Yeah, I don't see a problem there."
"Alright, then. You finished yet?"
Ron looked down at his plate, empty except for a few stray crumbs and a pool of unused ketchup. "Yeah, I suppose. Are you d- well, I guess I don't have to ask you that, you've been sitting there talking to me for the past half-hour!"
Rhonda heard them finishing up and rushed to their table with the bill. "You fellas done already? Well, I'll just leave this here for you to fight over."
Don reached for it, to which Ron firmly said, "No, I got this. You've already been so kind to me today; I couldn't imagine any more of it!" Don surrendered and let his friend cover the meal.
Ron proudly walked through the exit, with Don holding open the door for him. Keeping the thoughts of the future in his head, and glad he had made a new friend in the distant land, he stepped out into the cool outdoors.
Unsurprisingly, it looked as if it had lightly rained while they were inside. The air was very humid, and there were drops scattered all over the windows. It was also noticeably cooler. Don unlocked the doors, and the two got in. This was the first time Ron had taken the front passenger seat. The dinged up yellow cab backed out and, lights on, sped off back into the city.