Short story from Robert Bates

Second Chances
 
Michael Johnson sits alone on his bed staring at an old photo of himself and a girl at their senior prom. He realizes that the girl he is looking at probably doesn’t even remember he exists, but he can hope.
“You should call her,” his older brother says, walking into the room.
“How long were you standing there?” Michael asks suspiciously.
“Long enough. Whatever happened to that girl?”
 “I have no idea. I don’t even know where she is.”
 “Maybe you should track her down.”
“It’s been five years; I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want me back in her life. Anyway, seen any good movies lately?” Michael asks, clearly trying to change the subject.
“You should call her,” Matt says persistently.
“I’m not going to call her,” Michael says defiantly.
“She was your high school sweetheart.”
“Was.”
“You need to call her.”
 “I don’t even have her number.”
“She could still have the same one.”
“I highly doubt it.”
 “Just try it!”
Michael finally picks up his phone and dials in the numbers. After what seems like an eternity, a familiar voice answers.
“Hey! Um…this is Michael Johnson,” he says nervously.
Matt watches his expression change from a look of blank nervousness to a slight grin.
“Yeah, I still live here.”
Matt can only hear one side of the conversation, but it sounds like it is going well, and Michael hasn’t stopped grinning.
“You’re kidding?” Michael says, his expression changing to absolute shock.
“Yeah, that sounds great…groovy…interstellar,” Michael pauses for a moment, puts the cell phone down to his chest, and covers it with his hand so the girl can’t hear.
“Why am I talking like I’m from the seventies?” Michael quietly whispers to Matt.
“Just keep making words, you’re doing fine,” Matt assures him.
Michael raises the phone back to his ear and begins making more words.
“Yeah, see you at seven,” Michael says as he hangs up the phone.
“She’s in town?” Matt asks in a surprised tone.
            “She’s in town!” Michael exclaims happily, beginning to pace around the room.
“That’s awesome! It’s six forty-five; you can pace later, go get ready!”
“I am!” yells Michael, rushing out of the room.
“I’m going to head out!”
“I’ll let you know how it goes!”
“I’ll be at the wedding!” Matt shouts as he walks out of the front door.
Michael changes several times, but finally manages to find some clothes that he looks decent in, and gets to the restaurant before she does. She walks in fashionably late at seven-fifteen and sits down at the table.
“You’re late, Sarah,” he says with a playful smile on his face.
“Well, I had two dates before you and they were both better-looking,” she says with the same smile.
“I’m glad to see you haven’t changed at all.”
They order their food and are quickly served, but there is much more talking than eating.
“So, how is the love life?” Michael asks, scared to know the answer.
“Well, my boyfriend and I broke up a few months ago,” she says simply.
“What happened?” asks Michael, leaning forward in his chair.
“He turned out to be a girl,” she says with a smirk on her face.
 “Why did it take you so long to find out?”
“You know how I am, I like to take things slow.”
“Unfortunately.”
“And that comment is why I’m letting you pay for dinner!” she says with a satisfied smile on her face.
“I’m so glad I found you,” Michael says sarcastically.
“You have a lady in your life?” Sarah asks quickly, sidestepping his sarcasm.
“Ah, yes, her name is Lafonda and we are getting married tomorrow,” Michael says with a smirk on his face.
“I know that’s not true,” she says bluntly.
“Because of the ridiculous name?”
“Because you get this stupid smirk on your face when you lie, it makes me want to kiss you and punch you at the same time. Plus, I know that I’m the only person who will ever put up with you,” she says, raising her glass.
“And I with you,” Michael says as they clink their glasses together.
“But your last statement begs the question, am I getting kissed or punched?” he says, finally feeling some confidence.
“Well, I guess you’ll just have to walk me home and find out,” says Sarah, winking at him.
Michael begrudgingly pays the bill and they walk outside into the chilly night air.
“So, where are you staying?” Michael asks her while putting his jacket on.
“Just up the street actually,” she says, pointing into the distance.
They walk up the white sidewalk and arrive at a run-down apartment within minutes. The paint looks like it has endured a war, one wall looks like it has been pushed in by a bulldozer, and another wall looks like it is trying to leave.
“It’s a…nice place you got here,” he awkwardly lies.
“Don’t patronize me, it’s worse than your dating life,” she replies smartly.
“I was just trying to be a supportive friend,” he says defensively.
“I know. You just suck at it,” she says while turning towards him.
She suddenly leans in and kisses him on the lips. She doesn’t say anything and walks right up to the door to go inside. But right before she enters, she turns around.
“It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while, life gives us a chance to fix something we messed up the first time,” she says, with a rare dose of sincerity.
Michael pauses for a moment, not really knowing how to respond to an overly sentimental statement like that, but he finds some words eventually.
“Are you saying you messed up?” he asks with a satisfied look on his face.
“Don’t push it,” she says, her smile coming back.
“I’ll call you,” he says with a goofy smirk on his face.
“You better,” Sarah says, walking into the house and shutting the white door behind her.
Michael tries to make sense of the weird interaction that has just occurred as he walks away from her house with a smile on his face and a strut in his step.

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