Earlier that evening...

Two years ago, when Petra had first broken off their engagement, Allen was certain he'd never see her again. When he did imagine seeing her again, it was never like this. It was at posh parties where he was being honored for some tremendous achievement, and he was always looking a good deal neater and more fit, and usually had at least four beautiful, sophisticated women hanging on his every word when Petra, the guest of someone far less important, came up to say a timid hello to him. He'd graciously remove himself from his many admirers, just for a moment, long enough to tell her how lovely it was to see her, in a tone that made it quite clear he was only being polite.

And that's when he imagined seeing her at all. To be fair, he mostly didn't.

But he especially didn't imagine seeing her in a basement pub, high as a kite and singing gaily at the top of her lungs alongside ten of his younger contemporaries.

He'd rejected Stephon's invitations for a drink dozens of times. It wasn't personal, exactly, although there were loads of artists in town he'd sooner have gone drinking with. And Stephon was all right, if a bit dim. Allen just found him so very different from himself. Stephon was barely past twenty, he partied into Allen's breakfast hour, he had never had a paying job in his life, and he used spray paint and a stencil to sign his canvases. Also, Allen was never sure whether Stephon's intentions with him were entirely honorable. So he had avoided the invitation for as long as he could.

Tonight, spurred by a couple early glasses of wine in the studio and a realization that he had no plans at all for the whole weekend, Allen had agreed to come along and meet some of Stephon's friends at what Stephon had referred to as, "this place. It's just this kind of, like, place, you know? You'll love it."

"All right," Allen had finally acquiesced. He had tapped the stack of papers from the day's earlier meeting with the Finnish art dealers against the desk in mock seriousness. "But no funny business."

He wasn't sure what he meant even as he was saying it, but he was fairly sure he did mean it, whatever it was. So after they'd arrived, and Allen had pretended to commit to memory the names of all the university students and "graphic designers" he was introduced to, Allen had turned down Stephon's offer of some substance in a tiny baggie with a friendly wave of his hand. "Ah-ah! Noooo funny business," he had repeated amicably, and Stephon had grinned at their private joke and nodded respectfully.

All the while, Allen watched Petra from the other side of the bar. Should he say hello? He waffled and in the end decided against it. Tiny as the place was, there'd have been no way she'd not have seen him, had she been in her right mind in any way. The four people she was with looked a bit sullen, but Petra's voice rang out periodically with joyous howls. Allen began to think he did in fact know just what kind of place this was.

"You probably know all about that, right, Allen?" One of the students was smiling expectantly at him.

Allen was flustered; had he been staring? "Sorry?"

"Those clothes," offered another. "In the eighties. That they're starting to wear again, with the leg warmers and all that? Just horrifying." The young woman speaking was, at this very moment, wearing a blue Members Only jacket over her white t-shirt. Allen wasn't sure how to answer.

"Here you go," said Members Only, holding a shrivelly little cigarette out toward him.

"None for me, thanks," he'd replied. He sipped at his Irish coffee.

This seemed to have caught the full attention of the group. "What do you mean?"

Allen felt his cheeks grow warm. He tried to come up with a less-geriatric-sounding way of saying that he couldn't trust his body's reponse to powerful substances. Where once he had worried that it made him sound like a fragile child, suddenly he felt self-conscious of the few years he has on these people, and thought it sounded like something his grandmother would say.

"He's just not into it," Stephon said simply, and the conversation carried on amid smiles and shrugs.

After a few more drinks and some chitchat, Allen loosened up a bit and laughed along. Stephon and his friends delighted in his William Shatner story (about the time Shatner had been gifted an abstract painting of Allen's by a fan and mentioned it on a talk show because they all thought it was a painting of the Enterprise surrounded by tribbles) and Allen genuinely enjoyed listening to tales of their largely drug-induced adventures. Stephon was, to his credit, a far less shallow person than Allen had suspected, and had an incredibly sharp wit that he apparently saved for special occasions.

One by one, Allen's new friends said their goodnights, and his attention was eventually returned to Petra and company at the other corner of the pub. When at last only Stephon and Allen remained at their table, Stephon ventured, "Well, I supposed we'd better call it a night, or..."

Just then, Petra dove into Allen's lap. She grinned, upside-down, into his startled face.

"Don't worry!" she cried. "I'll stay with Allun!"

Allen froze. She giggled wildly for a few seconds, then went limp, lying across his lap in her wrinkled skirt suit. He looked up and the place was empty except for the three of them.

"Oh, I didn't realize," Stephon said flatly.

"Er, Stephon, I guess I'd like you to meet my ex-fiance, Petra."


The End

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