Janet looked at her watch and sighed. 12:30 am. Eddie still wasn't there. Turning to the bar, she reached under it and hauled out a giant box of Papier-mâché pumpkins and orange string lights along with a myriad of other decorations to commemorate the advent of the town's long-standing tradition of Pumpkin Fest.
She was disappointed despite herself. I shouldn't have expected anything. It's not like it was set in stone. She told herself over and over. The bar was almost completely empty now, as most of the staff had left for the night.
"Hey Janet are you sure you're gonna be okay to do this yourself?" her co-worker Jono asked as he opened the door to leave.
Janet turned to face him and smiled sweetly as she leaned on the bar top with her elbow, "If I said no, would you stay back and take my place?" she wiggled her eyebrows comically.
"Nope. But I get brownie points for showing consideration right?" Jono grinned and Janet laughed.
"Get out of here," she said shaking her head.
"I'll see ya tomorrow. Good night," Jono said as he exited.
"Night," she smiled as she watched him walk away and get into his truck.
"Well Janet at least he's consistent," Janet said aloud her thoughts wandering back to Eddie again. "Should know by now, you can't count on a quarterback for anything," she began ranting to herself. She picked up a few paper autumn leaves and began sorting through the rest of the decorations.
"I'm not exactly a quarterback anymore," Eddie said and Janet leaped out of her skin for the second time that day.
"My God, Eddie you scared me!" Janet said clutching her heart.
"Sorry," Eddie said with a shrug as he walked up to her.
"How long have you been standing there?" she demanded when her heart rate returned to normal.
"Just got here. Jono left the door unlocked, the idiot," Eddie said stuffing his hands in his pockets. He had an unreadable smile on his face. "You were looking forward to seeing me."
Janet dropped her gaze to the decorations in her hand, "Only in the sense that you promised to help," she said taking the armload of decorations and dumping it in Eddie's hands.
Eddie nodded, "Uh huh," he teased with a smirk. Janet ignored him and started hanging the strings of lights around the doorframes.
"So…," she said finally after a moment of silence, "What took you so long?"
"Phil needed something to be done," Eddie explained.
"Oh. Can you pass me the tape?" Janet asked not taking her eyes off the lights.
"Sure," Eddie scouted around for the tape in the box and began tearing off a piece for her. "Why is Sully going all out for this fruity tradition anyway? He doesn't usually knuckle under."
Janet glanced over her shoulder and smiled at him, "The Knight's Ridge Decoration Committee struck down hard on him this year."
"Ah. Totalitarianism. Never underestimate it," Eddie quipped as he started to walk away with the tape.
"I'm gonna need that so just leave it with me," Janet said gesturing to the tape before she reached up to tack the wires to the frame.
Eddie tossed the tape in the air and then tucked it into her jeans pocket, his fingers grazed the exposed skin between her jeans and t-shirt making her jump slightly. Eddie looked up in surprise and chuckled when he saw her cheeks turn pink. "Relax I'm just making sure it doesn't fall out."
"Sure, yeah I know," Janet replied dismissively. More silence. "Can I ask you something?"
"Shoot," Eddie replied untangling another string of lights he got out of the box. He hunkered over and went down on one knee to rummage through the box.
"Why do you want to go out with me? Really. You don't have trouble getting girls. Heck you could fling a dart out of the window and the first girl it hits would go out with you. Why me?"
Eddie leaned an elbow on his knee and looked up at her thoughtfully. "Last night we were talking about turning over a new leaf and you said maybe I should be dating a different kind of girl," he shrugged casually, "I thought there might be something to it."
Janet jerked her chin to the side and raised a brow, "Well I'm certainly different," Janet didn't want to admit it to him, but the fact that he thought she'd be a different way to go, hurt a little. Because she knew exactly how she was different to the other girls he dated.
"That's not what I meant," Eddie clarified and stood up to come face-to-face with her. He gazed down at her and his eyes flickered to something behind her. When Janet turned to see what he saw she saw Rooster staring at them.
"What're you doing here?" Janet asked surprised. Rooster stared back with cool blue eyes.
"Sully told me to put up the decorations," Rooster replied.
"I thought you broke your leg. So Sully asked me to do it instead," Janet said.
"Yeah don't sweat it man. Janet and I have got it covered," Eddie said light-heartedly.
Rooster hobbled in on a crutch, "Oh I'm sure you do Eddie," Rooster sneered.
"Rooster," Janet warned. What was his deal?
"Sully told me to do this and I'm not leaving until it gets done!" Rooster snapped, shocking Janet.
"Uh, actually if he wants to take over he's more that welcome to," Eddie told Janet and she turned to look at him with surprise.
"Really?" she asked.
"Yeah. C'mon I'll take you home. You've got this, right man?" Eddie asked Rooster one last time as he led Janet out the door by the small of her back.
"You don't worry about me. I'll be fine."
"Okay," Eddie said playing along. He knew Rooster would be trapped under the ladder before he was done with the decorations but for some reason Eddie felt like busting his chops.
"Don't forget to lock up," Janet reminded Rooster.
Once they were out of the bar and walking towards their cars, Janet turned to face Eddie, "How exactly were you planning on taking me home? We came in separate cars."
"I just wanted to make him mad. He seemed irritated that I was hanging with you," Eddie confessed sheepishly.
Janet laughed, "That's mean."
Janet really wanted to go back to what they were talking about but it didn't take a genius to figure out that the moment had passed. "Well I'll maybe see you round Eddie."
"See you around. Definitely," Eddie said with a smile and she turned to leave, "Uh Janet?"
Eddie hesitated and shifted his weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other, "You're different because you're real."
Janet blushed, "Oh. I see." She smiled at him and he smiled back, "Well I better get going."
"Yeah, it's getting pretty late."
When Eddie didn't make a move to get into his truck Janet stopped short. "Aren't you gonna go home?" she asked confused.
Eddie gestured towards the bar, "I'll hang out here for a bit and then go check on him. Make sure he hasn't killed himself under that ladder."
Janet smiled, "Why Eddie Latekka I do believe you're a big 'ol soft serve inside," She teased and Eddie chuckled shyly, "Okay, well… Good night."
"Night." Eddie smiled back and held her eyes a moment too long. "I'll see you in the morning."
Janet got into her station wagon, looked out at Eddie, and waved before she drove off, feeling elated and full of hope for the possibilities the future held.