Back in Guelph my best friend welcomed me with open arms. She was hurt when I told her I had only waved from the highway as I bee-lined for Ottawa. Her mouth fell open when I told her of my past weekend with Dragosani. With a son the same age she was totally against it. But she had been there to help me get away from The Beater and she had known me for a long time. She just didn’t understand or like my reasons for visiting either Ayns or D. The great thing about her – it didn’t change our friendship at all.
She ran a day care out of her home and while kids howled and played around us – we sat at the kitchen table chatting and drinking tea. We didn’t need to ‘holiday’ in the usual sense of the word, we were happy just visiting. Sometimes I took a break from the kids and drove around my old haunts. I went and looked at all the places I had lived and the house I had owned. I drove past my old stores and marveled at what had taken their places. I still couldn’t understand why the woman bought my business and then never reopened it after we did inventory.
One of the biggest changes to my past was the hotel. My old boss had sold to a large hotel chain and opened a bowling alley on the outskirts of the city. The old hotel had been remodeled and the strip joint was now just a memory. I took some time and wandered about the hotel marveling at the chandeliers and new carpeting. The new owners had restructured the entire site and its appearance stunned me. Gone was the smell of stale beer and puke and what enveloped me now was the smell of new furniture and wallpaper paste. When I was asked if I needed help, I stammered that I had once worked in the old hotel. The woman behind the reception desk just smiled sympathetically and looked through me. I knew it was time to move on.
I found my old boss and manager at the bowling alley enjoying their new life. They had tales of many of the other old employees and before I left I arranged to meet my boss later that night for a drink at his favorite bar. As we sat at the bar and reminisced, I finally told him the truth about The Beater. Tears rolled down his face as he stared into his glass and pressed his lips tight together.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked me so quietly that I almost didn’t hear him.
“I didn’t tell anyone.”
“But I could have done something about it! In fact, I could have done several things about it. I guarantee you that if I had known – that bastard wouldn’t have been able to hurt anyone ever again.”
We must have been quite the sight as we sat at that bar, our chins in one hand, our shoulders touching as we leaned against each other, and both of us lost in our memories. A wave of guilt washed over me as I watched the tears running down his face.
“I was always a little in love with you,” he said as he shook his head and swiped at the wetness. “I never understood what you saw in him or why you kept going back each time you had a huge fight.”
“I wonder why I did too,” I said and downed my drink. “Thank God I finally did though. I might be dead otherwise.” Later, as I tried to get to sleep, I thought about my old boss. He had always treated me special, but I had assumed it was because I made so much money for the hotel. I hadn’t known.
As the end of the week rushed towards us, I started making plans for the long drive home again. I had many options open to me, but I only considered one of them. With the car packed and the usual tears, I waved good-bye to my best friend and turned my car towards Ottawa for one last weekend.