"I spoke with Claudia today," Janine said as she eyed her menu.
"Oh?" Charlie replied distractedly, hiding behind his.
"She is quite excited about her visit next week."
"I thought she might like to see the Art Institute while she is here," Janine continued.
"After that, we could strip naked and run into the ocean to avoid the impending alien invasion," she deadpanned.
"I'm sure she–" Charlie stopped mid-sentence. "Wait. What?"
"Ignore me all you like," Janine teased gently. "Just don't come crying to me when the aliens land in San Diego, and you don't know what to do." She reached across the table to take his hand. "You seem distracted. Is something wrong?"
Charlie nodded his head toward the bar. "Don't look, but my father just walked in."
Janine turned slightly, confused. "Why would he be here?"
"I said don't look! I don't know why, but, oh, shit. He's coming over here. Shit shit–"
"Charlie," a voice boomed from several tables away. "I thought that was you."
"Hello, Patrick," Charlie said through gritted teeth. Janine's jaw dropped.
"Bob, come over here," Patrick called, motioning to a short, balding man standing at the bar. "I want you to meet someone."
The man grabbed his drink and lumbered across the restaurant. "Bob," Patrick said, clearly oblivious to the fact that his presence was not welcome, "This is my son, Charlie. Charlie, this is my old friend, Bob."
Bob grinned widely and stuck out his hand. "Of course," he said. "I should have known. You look just like him. Nice to meet you, Charlie Thomas."
Charlie glared at Patrick. "Actually," he said as he shook Bob's hand, "It's Brewer now. Charlie Brewer."
"Excuse me?" Patrick asked.
"You heard me."
"When exactly did this happen?"
"Six years ago," Charlie spat out. "You remember, about ten years after you abandoned our family without so much as a word?"
Bob shuffled his feet uncomfortably. "So..." he said, looking down at Janine. "Who is this lovely young lady?"
Janine gave a concerned glance at Charlie, who was staring at his father with fists clenched. She cleared her throat. "Oh. Uh... Janine Kishi. I'm Charlie's fiancé."
"And when were you going to bother telling me you'd changed your name?" Patrick asked angrily.
"Fiancé?" Bob repeated with forced cheerfulness. "How nice. Congratulations!"
"After the next birthday card you sent me," Charlie retorted. "Or maybe the next time you called to see how I'm doing, which is great, by the way."
"Um, thanks," Janine replied to Bob, who was now tossing back the last of his gin and tonic with a large gulp.
"You are my son," Patrick said, pointing at his own chest forcefully. "He is not your father."
"Well he sure as hell acts a lot more like one than you ever did!" Charlie pulled his wallet from his back pocket. He tossed a few bills on the table and stood up. A brief, pleading look flickered across his face as he turned to Janine. He had to leave, now, before Patrick had the chance to get the upper hand in the conversation. Somehow Patrick had always been able to sweet talk his way out of pretty much anything, and Charlie did not want to hear any of it.
Janine stood up and grabbed his hand. "It was nice meeting you, Bob." She raised her eyebrow coolly. "Patrick."
Charlie and Janine walked toward the exit, leaving the two older men standing in the middle of the restaurant, Patrick still red-faced and blustering, Bob trying to calm him down. Janine whispered to the hostess that they'd left money for their drinks on the table then ushered Charlie out the front door.
Outside, they both took a deep breath of the cool evening air. "So," Janine said, giving his hand a squeeze. "Pizza?"