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Days With Rob... and Sherri

by Bob Welbaum

“Morning, Sherri! What do you want to do today?”

Sherri looked up from the skillet. “My, Rob, you’re up early!”

Rob grinned, walked over, and kissed her on the cheek. “Gives me more time to be with you.” She giggled as he took a seat at the table. “So what’s for breakfast?”

“Oh, I’m just frying some eggs.”

“Perfect! Save a couple for me.”

“You can have as many as you want.” She turned back to the skillet. “Oh, don’t you like them scrambled?”

“If I have a choice, yes, but I’ll eat whatever you have fixed. It really doesn’t matter.”

Sherri slide two eggs on a plate and presented them to Rob. “Here you go. Sorry they aren’t scrambled.”

“Hey, no problem.” He grabbed a bagel from a plate in the center of the table and dug in.

“So what are we doing today?” Sherri queried as she placed the dirty skillet in the sink.

“Well, let’s see. We could spend a quiet morning reading,” Rob mumbled between mouthfuls, “then go down to the beach, grab some lunch on the pier, go to the Galleria...” Another bite. “Look around, maybe do some shopping, have a nice dinner at one of the restaurants there, then catch a movie.”

Sherri smiled. “Isn’t that what we do every Saturday?”

“Pretty much, yeah.” Rob displayed a clean plate. “But that’s what we both like to do, right? And the important thing is we’ll be together. C’mon, I’ll help you clean up.”

* * *

Free at last! It had been a long day. Rob couldn’t wait to get home. He grabbed his briefcase and headed out the door, almost running when he got to the parking lot. He would go straight home. First he would take a nap, then have a glass of wine. He had a special treat saved for dinner. All he had to do was...

What’s this? The car parked next to his had its hood up. Beside it stood a slim young lady, stylishly dressed in business attire. Her short blonde hair had been perfectly coiffed, but now it was unraveling as she glanced around anxiously, occasionally putting her right hand to her forehead.

Then she saw Rob. “Oh, could you help me? My car won’t start. Please?” She had the biggest blue eyes Rob had ever seen.

Rob inspected the situation. She had a nice car, an Infiniti, although some subtle dents and scratches betrayed its age. “How old is it?”

“I’ve had it for only a year. But I got it used. From my father, who had it, I don’t know, about three years, I guess.”

“Hummm. Has anyone replaced the battery in that time?”

“I don’t know. As far as I know, no.”

Rob quickly slid behind the wheel and turned the key. Nothing. “My guess is you have a dead battery.”

The young lady looked stunned. “But isn’t supposed to give a warning or something?”

“Not necessarily. In some of these cars, batteries die a quick and painless death.”

“Oh, great.” She was too distraught to catch the joke. “Now what?”

“Well, I have a set of jumper cables.” As she looked on anxiously, Rob walked to the back of his car and opened the trunk. He grabbed the jumper cables, opened his hood, and began connecting as she studied his every move. “Let’s see, red clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery, then...”

The cables were just long enough. “And, finally, black to ground of the dead car. That should do it. I’ll start mine. Wait about ten seconds, then try to start yours, okay?”

She nodded expectantly. Rob jumped into the driver’s seat, turned the key and his car roared to life. He looked up to see her watching him, her lips moving, then she dashed into her car. In a couple of seconds he heard a second engine. Great! Now he could start home.

They both climbed out, and he began disconnecting cables. “There you go. And I would stop at a garage on the way home and have them check that battery. My guess is you need a new one right away.”

She approached him, practically glowing. “I realllly appreciate this. I can’t thank you enough.” Her voice was honey smooth.

“Oh, that’s okay. Happy to help.” Rob tried to coil the cables around his arm, but he couldn’t help staring at those soft blue eyes.

“I don’t have any money with me, but tell you what, I’m having a party Friday night. Just a few friends. Drop by and maybe I can find a way to thank you then,” she cooed.

“A party? Oh, I... gee, I...” Rob took a deep breath, ignored the blue eyes and coy smile and found his voice. “That’s very nice of you, but to tell you the truth, I’m in a relationship now.”

“Oh.” Her face fell. “Well, I was hoping... Tell you what—”

Rob glanced at his watch. “Oh, look at the time! I’d better get going. Nice seeing you. And have that battery checked.”

Rob jumped into his car, backed out, and was gone.

* * *

“Nice evening to sit on the porch. May I join you?”

“Sure. Come on out. I’m just reading,” Sherri quickly replied.

“My favorite pastime!” Rob opened the screen door and walked over to a well-worn lounge, a twin of the one she was sitting in. He opened the book he was carrying and settled in.

“Comfy?” Sherri giggled.

Rob looked at her and smiled. “Oh, yeah!”

“So what you reading tonight?” she asked.

“Oh, I found this biography of Ben Franklin at the half-price bookstore. He’s someone I’ve always been curious about. And you?”

“Eleanor Roosevelt. You know, she was practically the eyes and ears of FDR when he was president.”

Rob smiled. “I should have guessed it would be something about history.” He laid down his book and stared into the distance. “Isn’t it amazing how much alike we are? I mean, we both like to read history, we like the same movies, the same music, the same foods. We’re quite a match, huh?”

Sherri laid back in her lounge and was quiet a moment. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. That must be why we’ve been together twelve years now. We have so much in common, we could be brother and sister!”

“Naw, siblings fight too much.” Rob went back to his reading.

* * *

It had happened ten years ago, but Rob still remembers every word.

It began with a ringing phone. “Hello, this is Rob.”

“Rob, we have to talk.”

“Is this Sherri?” There was a tone in her voice he didn’t recognize. “What’s the matter, dear?”

“I’ve been patient with you, haven’t I?”

“Well, yes, I would say so.”

“Then where is this relationship going?”

Rob hesitated. “I’m... not sure I follow you.”

“Look, we’ve been together two years now. TWO YEARS! And what has it gotten me?”

“Well, it...”

“I’ll tell you what, NOTHING.”

Rob winced. He’d never heard her yell like this. “I wouldn’t say...”

“Let’s face it, Rob. We’re not that compatible. We don’t like the same foods, we don’t like the same music, we do the same thing every Saturday night. You know what I would really like to do?”

“No, I...”

“TRAVEL. I’d like someone I can explore the world with. Or at least the state. But all you want to do is READ.”

“But I thought....”

“And someday, it would really be nice to have a family. You know, CHILDREN? Do you know how much flak I catch during family holidays for not being married?”

“Gee, I never realized...”

“I really thought this would work for me. Oh, things were moving slowly, but I gave you the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because you’re a nice guy with a good job. Not like my first boyfriend, who turned out to be a DRUNKEN BUM. But now I think I’ll never be happy with you, either. You just don’t seem to want to commit. Are you afraid of commitment, Rob? ARE YOU?”

Rob was in zombie mode. Sherri had been his only true love. He’d never imagined this. Everything seemed so... calm, so routine. “But I thought things were fine. This isn’t what you wanted?” he mumbled weakly.

“NO, not for the long term, not FOREVER. But you know what really got to me?”

Uh-oh. Rob held his breath and waited.

“Who is Christine?”

Rob almost dropped the phone. “What?”

“Don’t play dumb. The last time I was at your house, I just happened to see your cell phone bill. There was a whole string of calls to a number I didn’t recognize. I got curious and investigated. And they’re all to somebody named Christine.”

“She’s someone from work. We’re on the same project team, and we’re under a lot of....”

“Rob, most of these calls weren’t during working hours.”

Rob was feeling desperate. “Sherri, please! This is a major project. We’ve been putting in a lot of time. Of course I called her in the evening. When we talked during working hours, we were at work.”

“I’m sorry, Rob. I no longer believe you.”

“Look, Sherri, I’ll agree I’ve done a lot of things wrong. I’m sorry I wasn’t more open. I’m sorry we didn’t communicate better. I should’ve listened to you more, done what you wanted to do more. I’m just not good at relationships.”

The voice on the other end was icy cold. “I sure will agree with you there.”

“Please, Sherri, I can make it up to you. You can’t just give up after two whole years. You’re the first girl I’ve ever met that has liked me. You have to give me another chance. Please!”

“No, I don’t. No more chances. I’ve had enough and I think it’s best that we just pull the plug. Clean break. I wish you the best. I really do. Goodbye, Rob.” Click.

The phone dropped to the floor.

* * *

“Hey, guys!”

“Oh, hello, Rob. Would you care to join us for lunch? There’s an empty seat right here.”

“Thanks, Raj, but I brought something in. Just came in to get a drink.”

“Sure. That is no problem for me.”

Rob took two steps, then stopped. “Oh, Tom, pro football season starts Sunday. You still got Unlimited Ticket on cable?”

“Yep, sure do. Wanna come over?”

“I’d like to. I promise to bring something to put us out of our misery if we don’t win.”

Tom smiled. “Then I’ll see you Sunday afternoon.”

“Great! Bye, guys.”

As Rob hurried out of the cafeteria, Tom picked up a French fry, then chewed absentmindedly on its end as he stared off into space.

“Is something wrong?”

“Huh? Oh, no, I was just thinking.”

Raj grinned. “I hear that can be dangerous.”

“It’s okay, I’m an engineer.” Tom finally swallowed the fry, then picked up another. “No, I was just thinking about Rob.”

“Does he have a problem?”

“Dunno. Do you know what he does in his spare time?”

Raj thought a moment. “I know he reads a lot.”

“Ever been in his cubicle?”

“I have visited him a few times, yes.”

“Ever notice there’s no personal stuff there? No family pictures, no bowling trophies? It’s all business.”

It was Raj’s turn to stare into space. “Now that you mention it, that is true.”

Tom picked up another French fry and stared at it. “Strange. I’ve often wondered why I never see him with a girl.”

Raj brightened. “He did mention a girlfriend to me. I think he said her name was Sharon.”

Tom looked at Raj with a raised eyebrow. “Ever seen her?”

“No, I actually never have.”

“Exactly! I’ve known Rob for, oh, about seven or eight years now. He likes to hang out with me once in a while. And he’s mentioned something about a Sharon. But I’ve never seen her. Don’t know where she lives or what she does. Never even seen a picture of her.”

Raj frowned. “That is strange. I cannot imagine that.”

Rob downed the final fry. “Me neither. You know, I’m beginning to think she doesn’t really exist.”

“Why would anyone have an imaginary girlfriend? Something really bad must have happened to him to cause that.” Raj mumbled, almost to himself. Then he brightened. “Why don’t you ask about her Sunday?”

“Huh? Oh, he’s a very good friend. Helped me out of jams several times. Don’t want to jeopardize that. Besides, if he wants to live in his own little fantasy world, that’s his business.” Tom brushed his hands together over the table. “Well c’mon, we need to get back to work.”

Copyright © 2014 by Robert Welbaum

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