They both turned around.
Wayne squinted “Ashley?”
“Yeah! How are you? Oh my god Shane Nolin, you two are still attached at the hip I see.”
“I’m still the better half.” Shane said, smiling.
Wayne elbowed him.
“So? What are you two up to these days? My god I haven’t seen either of you since the tenth grade.”
“Yeah that’s when you moved away.” Wayne said. A pang shot through his heart. They had been close friends. Never anything more. In her youth Ashley was a devout Christian, perhaps she still was. Wayne figured that was common when your father was a pastor. When the church asked him to move, she of course went along with her family. “Wow that was what… a little over ten years ago.”
“Oh Wayne don’t say that. You’re making me feel old.”
“Talk about it.” He said, feeling the same reaction from the words. “Ten years.” He repeated in his mind. “That’s a long time.”
“Well.” Shane interrupted. “Thirty’s the new Twenty.”
“Says who?” Ashley said, unconvinced.
“Ugh… you know. Them.”
Wayne smiled. “Who are ’they’ anyway?”
Ashley laughed. “I don’t know. That’s a good question. Shane do you know who ’they’ are?”
“What am I a magic eight ball today?”
Ashley laughed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh nothing, just that Wayne here was asking me for the meaning of life earlier.”
“No, I asked you about how I can be happy for the rest of my life.”
“Wow, that’s a doozy.”
“Hah!” Shane exclaimed triumphantly. “That’s exactly what I said!”
“So, did you deliver?”
“I think so.”
“Well? What was the answer?”
“Ah, I think it’s different for every person. Besides it’s been over a decade. I know Wayne well enough to answer that question for him, but for you… I don’t think I have the expertise.”
“Expertise huh? You two were always the wordy ones.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Shane asked.
“Oh never mind.”
Wayne started, “So what brings you back to town?”
“Um, work actually. I just had an interview for a job at the Wayland Brothers research lab as a project manager.”
Wayne was shocked. “Wow, so you went on to university.”
“Yeah, nine years of it actually.”
“Jesus. I barely made it through four.” Shane said, laughing.
“I didn’t make it at all.” Wayne said, feeling a slight stab of inadequacy.
“Don’t worry about it.” Ashley said, placing an empathic hand on his shoulder as if she felt the stab herself. “It’s overrated anyway.”
“She’s right. Look at me for instance. Four years in Sociology and I’m a guidance councillor at our old high school.”
“No way! You got Mister Branerby’s job? Hah! That is funny.”
“Yeah tell me about it, it’s like my life’s a joke.”
“So?” Ashley said, turning back to Wayne. “What do you do these days?”
“Actually I’m a foreman at a dryer sheet factory.”
“Wow, so you must always smell good then.” She says.
“To be honest if I could rip the nerve endings out of my nose I would be better off. One dryer sheet or two may smell pretty good, but a couple million make you dizzy and nauseous.”
“Huh. I’m surprised out of the three of us you’re the one who never made it to university. You were always so smart. Do you still write?”
That was the question Wayne was afraid of. “Um, now and then. So do you know if you got the job?” He said avoiding the question. Writing had been Wayne’s only way into Ashley’s life when they were at high school. She belonged to a cast of students far above his on the social scale, but their love for literature brought them together in a creative writing class. It was his only window into her world.
“No. I’m not sure. It’s really frustrating actually. See I’m still living back with my parents technically. I don’t know what I’m going to do about a place to live if I get the job, and they’re not giving me any early warning on whether or not I get the job. Basically they told me they might call me one day and tell me I got it and I’d have to be in for work the next day.”
“Jeez, that’s not exactly accommodating is it?” Shane said.
“Not in the slightest. Anyway, um…” She pulled a pen out of her jacket and a piece of paper from the back pocket of her jeans. “Here, you two can share my cell number. Don’t fight over it now.” She said, jokingly.
“We'll try not to.” Shane said between awkward laughter.
“There.” She handed it over to Shane.
“Well.” Shane said, plucking the pen from her hands and tearing a corner off the piece of paper. “Might as well give you mine too.”
“How about yours Wayne?” She asked.
“I actually don’t have a phone right now, but if you can get a hold of Shane you can get a hold of me.”
“Alright.” She said, taking the paper from Shane. “I’ll talk to the two of you soon.”
“Yeah I hope so.” Shane nodded to her.
Wayne waved. “Good luck with the job.”
“Thanks guys, bye!”
They both stood silent watching her disappear into the crowd.
They both turned around.