Chicago 1982 is a goldmine for the construction industry, and Eric and his two business partners are thriving. Once living as struggling orphans in a Catholic boys' home, they've overcome poverty and abuse to obtain success. Now living the lives they once only dreamed of, they're sure of one thing: they will never look back.
Then the past returns, by way of a cheap polyester suit and a smile Eric has never forgotten, and all the dark memories come crashing back. Lucky for him, Jimmy has no idea who Eric is, or who Eric used to be.
I keep telling myself to say something: to stop staring at him with the wide-eyed astonishment of a Catholic getting introduced to a real-life angel. And all the while, he's staring back at me with an oh-shit look on his face that I believe is recognition. I mean, I would remember me if I were him. I would have stored every little nuance of my face and inflection of my speech, and I would have branded it on my heart. Mine is the right to retribution, I would have told myself, and I will never forget the pain and the disgrace.
It only takes above five minutes of him not running and screaming for me to realize that he might be shaking in his boots as he stands a polite four feet away from me, but he has no damn idea who I am.
I am not the wiry, angry boy that I used to be. The gym has given me solidity, and hard knocks have firmed my shoulders, jaw, and spine in a way that I am more than proud of. Long hours and pressing deadlines have started to strip the black out of my hair, even though I just celebrated my thirty-second birthday last October. Regardless, one would imagine that my eyes are just as dark. That my voice is still as cold.
Stacy was right; he's gorgeous. But then, he always was. Small and blond and five years my junior, with eyes like ocean skies before a storm -- a dozen different shades of gray all rolled together. One just knows by looking at a sky like that it's about to bring trouble.
"You've already hired someone, haven't you?" he asks me, and my heart starts beating as if it's trying to break through my ribcage and bolt. It's the only thing in me that could, as my feet are frozen in place.
I shake my head, too stunned to speak, and lower my eyes to his resume. Jimmy Rose. Would I have known the name to hear it in passing? Probably not. But I'll never forget his voice. It's deeper now, although not nearly as much as one would expect after a couple of decades. But his tone is still soft, his cadence is still sweet, and the sound of it pleading is suddenly the only thing I hear. "Please ... please ..."
Fate, you wicked, vile bitch; how dare you?
"It's just ... you're not saying anything," Jimmy says. "Did I do something to offend you?"
Yes, I want to tell him. You offend me for every reason that you offended me back then: that you're gorgeous and sweet, and soft and afraid; that you can still seem so nervous standing in front of me; that you somehow didn't turn out hard like they made me. Why did you get to stay so precious when I had to turn out so damaged? Of course, I don't say any of that. I clear my throat and gesture for him to sit at one of the tables then force my legs to walk me to other side of it. I don't catch his anxious gaze with my own. On the contrary, I make a pointed effort not to. This is not the place for him to recognize me. Not even with Mark and Devin just a few steps away.