The Call Away

He answers the call outside, but the warm faces behind the restaurant window can see his expression. Their conversation has dropped into an urgent silence and their meals have been forgotten as their attention rests on the tense figure pacing beneath the street lamp. He has not spoken for nearly a minute, but his eyes have been flickering constantly over the cracked cement as he grips the phone to his ear.

Suddenly his eyes rise fiercely, his lips move to form a desperate string of words, and he catches sight of his friends watching him through the window. There is a moment of wild eye contact; Dom looks away, Sarah's expression cracks into one of worried compassion, and Sammie is white in the face. Jeff grips the phone even tighter and turns his back on his friends as he launches into a forceful tirade of words.

Eventually, Sammie slips from the booth. She opens her mouth on the edge of a word, but she is succumbed to silence as her eyes return to her friend outside. He seems lost to his ordinary surroundings as dark thoughts rush beneath the contours of his face, and he steadies himself on the nearby lamppost. Drawing herself back into the room, Sammie takes a breath of courage and pulls her jacket over her bare shoulders.

"I'm going out there," she says. She falters in a moment of indecision and then says, “Stay here.” The others remain in an awkward silence as she hurries for the door.

Before they can see Sammie outside, Dom speaks. “Do you think…” He clears his throat. “Do you think it has something to do with his sister?”

“No.” Melissa shakes her head.

Sammie is seen at the window. She places a hand on her friend’s shoulder. He does not respond, but he seems to be speaking in a more stable manner. Sammie tries to get his attention by slipping around to face him, but he turns away, his shoulder hunched under his thick jacket, his hand covering his face. Sammie is the only one who could plead with him in this way, but even she backs off now and looks back through the window in distress.

Dom pounds his palm on the table and turns from the scene to address the others. “Well. I’m going out there too.”

“No. Don’t,” Melissa says.

Dom grows irate. “Well, what’s this all about?” he asks. “I asked if it was to do with his sister.”

“It’s not. Don’t worry.”

“Don’t worry?” Dom motions to the scene outside. “Jeff is acting like he's on the phone with the grim reaper."

“I don't think anyone has died…” Sarah says slowly. “He looks angry. I think he’s arguing with someone.”

Melissa gives a worried sigh. “Yes. I think it’s…his work.”

“His work?” asks Dom. “He doesn’t have a job. I thought we went over this when we first met him.”

“No. Dom. I remember all of that. It’s just that…I overheard Sammie and him talking." And in response to Dom's sudden stare: "--At the beginning, when we first met him, he joked about what his job could possibly be; he asked us to guess.”

“That’s only because Sammie suspected he must be famous to afford such a sweet place. And didn’t she discover for real that he didn’t have a job? Didn’t he just inherit all that money?”

“That’s what we’ve all thought for the past month. But last night I heard them talking.”

“About what?” asks Sarah, her eyes still watching the fierce phone conversation.

“He said he might have to leave. He might be ‘called away’.”

“By who? He’s never mentioned any family other than his sister who he came here to find. Remember when he first moved here? He was free as could be. All the money he could want. No friends, family, no jobs or commitments…Whatever happened to the search for his sister anyway?”

No one answers as the scene outside changes. He has jammed his hand into his pocket to wrestle a pen and notebook from his jacket. He holds the phone with his shoulder at first, but Sammie moves in and holds it to his ear as he clicks the pen open and begins to scribble.

And then Sammie moves closer. He doesn't seem to notice. But his friends sitting in the restaurant feel the tension double. Rising onto the balls of her feet as gracefully as she can, Sammie tilts her head toward the phone. Her friends watch in growing discomfort as the seconds pass precariously.

And then a dark cloud comes over Sammie’s face--all except for her eyes which are clear and striking. Her reaction an instant later though is violent as she shocks her watching friends by pulling the phone clear from Jeff's ear and jumping back into an upright stance of affront. Jeff whirls around and shouts for the phone, but Sammie holds her ground, her eyes wide with fear or shock or anger--her watching friends cannot tell which, but they are suddenly afraid. They have never seen her like this, especially not around Jeff. She adores him.

Jeff however, is not about to engage in an emotional stand-off while his conversation remains interrupted, and he raises a hand in warning and takes a step toward her. Sammie has tears in her eyes, and she shakes her head at him as he advances. Jeff tightens his jaw and then lunges.

Turning to escape, Sammie is sent stumbling as Jeff staggers into her, flailing for the phone. But the struggle doesn't last long as Sammie suddenly doubles over and clutches the phone to her chest as she presses the button to end the call. Jeff cries out, realizes he is too late, and then lifts Sammie clear off her feet and out of view of the watching window.

At this, a commotion breaks out in the restaurant as both Dom and Sarah press up against the window and then scramble for the door as they hear Sammie's scream. Melissa sits alone at the table and picks at her dessert with a fork.

Bursting out onto the street, Dom cries into the falling night. “Jeff! Sammie! What the hell?” But no one is visible until Sarah points to the sleek blue vehicle pulling from the curbside.

And as the vehicle accelerates past them, they are left distraught as they see Jeff at the wheel and Sammie sitting in the front passenger seat. She waves at them with wide eyes, and mouths something that they cannot interpret.

And then, in the squeal of tires, Sammie blows a kiss and turns to face forward.

The End

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