A storm was raging outside and Janet puttered around her house lighting every candle she could find and throwing a couple of logs on the fire in the furnace. She hugged herself tightly as she followed the rattling of some blinds in her bedroom.
The storm was a freak of nature at best. Weather forecasters all over the news claimed it was the most unexpected storm they experienced that year. Janet was always prepared when she saw storm clouds rolling in, but this was something she just wasn't prepared for. She pulled the opened window shut and locked it tightly, drawing the curtains and hurrying back into the lounge where all the light was. She sat in front of the fireplace and soaked up all the heat she could get. Reaching for her glass of wine, she sipped it and stared into the fire, mesmerised by the flames.
Suddenly the thunder boomed in the sky and she jumped a little. Before her next sip, there was a knock at the door. Frowning, she got up and went to see who it was and was surprised to find Eddie Latekka's pick up outside on the street. She frantically looked around for her keys and unlocked the door.
An extremely wet Eddie stood in the doorway, drenched. "Eddie! My gosh, you're totally soaked through," she said unlocking the screen door for him.
"Hey, sorry to bother you like this. My truck broke down," he said in a loud voice over the rain. A flash of lightening zigzagged across the sky. He stepped into the open doorway she offered him and began taking off his coat. "I would have called Triple A but I realised I was right in front of your house, so…"
"Oh hey, don't be silly. I'm glad you came in," she reassured him opening up her linen closet to get a fresh towel out.
Eddie and Janet had known each other for years. It was no secret to the town that Eddie was quite fond of his favourite barkeep at the local watering hole, Sully's Tavern. Whenever they got together, they got along like a house on fire.
Eddie took the towel she handed him and began drying himself off. "I would have walked back into town but it has been pouring down and it didn't look like it was going to let up anytime soon."
"Here, I'll get you some dry clothes," Janet said disappearing into her bedroom.
Eddie began to protest but Janet was already gone, "Janet don't bother. I'll just call Owen and he'll get me home in no time."
"You can't stay wet. You'll catch pneumonia," Janet reasoned.
"I can risk it," Eddie replied.
"Well I won't," Janet insisted.
Eddie sighed and then scoffed, "You're miniature. What of yours could possibly fit me?"
Janet came back with a set of oversized sweats, "You'd be surprised," she said with a smile as she tossed them to him. "Those are my brother's. Return them whenever you're done."
Eddie held up the shirt and eyeballed it, "Hm. May work," he began taking off his wet clothes.
"Whoa! Eddie," Janet said holding up a hand and looking away, "Wouldn't you rather go into my bedroom and do that?"
"I'm not shy," he said with a smirk and continued pulling off his wet shirt. Janet caught sight of his six-pack and didn't realise she was staring. "Had I known this was going to happen, I would have done a few push-ups," Eddie added looking down at his torso.
Janet's eyes darted up to meet his and she blushed, "I'll go make you something warm to drink," she said grateful for the excuse to leave the room.
Eddie stared after her with a grin on his face. Janet was cute when she was flustered, "Hey I didn't mean to bother you, really. I just needed a phone to call Owen. His car has a tow-hook that can hook up to my truck and tow it back home," Eddie said.
"Well now you can do all of that when you're dry, warm and out of danger of catching a cold," she said, "Hot chocolate?"
Eddie sighed giving up, "I'll have whatever you're having."
"I'm having wine," she called.
"That works," Eddie shrugged.
"But that's not warm."
"It's booze," Eddie retorted, "The warmth is implied."
"Wine coming up," she snapped her fingers.
"You know you're my bartender when we're at Sully's. You don't have to be when we're in your home," Eddie said taking off his wet jeans and boxers and pulling on the sweat pants Janet gave him, following her into the kitchen.
"I know. But you're still my guest," she wrinkled her nose, "Sort of." She gave him a once-over, "Hey looks like they're a perfect fit."
Eddie chuckled and leaned against the counter as she reached up to the cabinet shelf for the wine. As she did, the lights in the kitchen went out. "Uh oh," Eddie said.
"Drat. I guess the power is out too," Janet said.
"Don't worry about it, we'll follow the light of the candles in the living room," Eddie said, "Here. Take my hand."
"I don't know where you are," Janet said her hands outstretched in front of her to feel her way around. Suddenly two strong arms encircled her body.
"Here, I gotcha," Eddie said somewhat softly. His arms slid down hers and he took her hand, "Just follow close behind alright? Be careful."
Janet had a huge lump in her throat so she couldn't respond. She just silently followed him back into the living room. The fireplace had a healthy fire going, one that would keep them warm for the next couple of hours at least. Janet looked at it and back at Eddie, then down at their hands holding each other. She quickly pulled her small hand out of his and fidgeted with her hair, tying it up out of her face. "I guess you can forget about the phone," she said breaking the silence.
"Yeah I guess so," Eddie said quietly picking up the cordless phone and tossing it on the couch.
They stood awkwardly a moment longer before Janet told herself to grow up, "Hey, since you're here and you… can't escape, you can help me organise my photo albums. I was going to do that before you came in."
Eddie raised his eyebrows in surprise. He really wasn't in the mood for photos but he didn't want to be rude, "Really?" Janet nodded smiling, "Uh… sure! Let's rock out with photos," he said following her to the hall closet adding under his breath, "Hopefully with pictures of you in diapers."
She turned around, "What was that?"
"Nothing. So is this the box?" Eddie asked pointing to the giant box hoisted on the top shelf.
"Yep. Be careful," Janet, said taking his glass of wine out of his hand.
"This looks like the Monolith from Space Odyssey 2000, Janet. There's no way there are only pictures in that."
"Just take it down Latekka," She ordered playfully and Eddie complied.
An hour later, the storm had not passed Massachusetts and the twosome were comfortably seated in the living room, Janet on the plush leather couch with a leg tucked under her and Eddie on the floor next to her his back resting on the couch and his legs outstretched in front of him. "Hey guess who I found a naked baby picture of?" he said teasingly waving a Polaroid in the air and hooting.
"Give it," she said as she snatched it out from between his fingers and looked at it. She laughed, "Eddie," she said between giggles, "How long has it been since you saw a girl? That's Jonah's baby picture." She pointed at the Polaroid.
"Aw jeez, if you could never mention this to your brother that would be great," Eddie grimaced.
"I think he'd be madder at me for letting you see his baby pictures anyway," Janet said laughing as she put it among the rest of the Polaroids.
They were quiet for a moment and then, "So where are your naked baby pictures?"
"Eddie!" Janet bopped him on the head with a cushion, "Hidden. In a place where no one can ever find them," she finally answered blushing profusely.
Eddie smiled teasingly and went back to rummaging through the box. He was right, there were way more than pictures in the box. He found baby clothes, blankets, a small box of milk teeth and yearbooks. Under all that stuff he found a small leather-bound diary. Tossing the other stuff aside he reached for it.
"This is that father-son picnic you and Jonah went to with the dads," Janet's voice ripped into his thoughts. He looked up to find her handing him a photo. "See? That's you cheating in the three-legged race."
"First of all, I did not cheat. Winners don't have to cheat. Secondly, Jonah and Nick got together and conspired against me. Trip me just as I was about to touch the ribbon."
"Jonah told me you'd say that."
"Convenient," Eddie made a face and went back to the box. Taking the leather-bound book he wiped the dust off the surface with his sleeve and noticed it had a fold clasp lock on the front. Glancing slyly at Janet to make sure she wasn't looking he clicked it open and opened to the first page. In neat running hand was Janet's name and the year scrawled across the page. Eddie smiled devilishly, hoping to find some juicy tid bits he could tease her with now. Eddie couldn't explain it. He would rather spend the evening swapping witticisms with Janet than whispering sweet nothings to some tall leggy blonde he picked up at the bar. Janet had such an endearing way about her. The way she blushed when he teased her or the way she tried to cover up the fact that she checked him out earlier in the evening. Janet was so special to him.
He flipped through the book when a stunning realisation hit him; page after page had pink and red hearts on it with the letters "J+E" in them and other drawings with "Janet and Eddie" written in big bold letters. Eddie's blood ran cold and his eyes were wide with shock. His breathing became laboured as he glanced up to find Janet busy with a stack of photos in her lap. When she sensed he was looking at her, she looked at what he was holding and her eyes popped out of her head.
"Eddie where did you find that?" she demanded snatching it away from him angrily.
"It… It. It was in the box with…," he stopped trying to explain himself. He figured that in the grand scheme of things he wasn't the one who had to clear up things. "What was that?" he asked pointing at the book she was clutching close to her body.
"It's… high school," she replied dismissively. Her cheeks were hot now.
"But… how… why didn't I know about… about," Eddie sank back in his spot on the floor, "This is unreal. I swear I'm having an out of body experience right now."
"Oh my God, enjoy Wisteria Lane you drama queen," Janet said sarcastically rolling her eyes. She wanted so desperately for Eddie to stop making such a big deal about something she was already mortified over. "Eddie this was high school okay? It was a crazy, silly high school crush."
"But why didn't your brother tell me anything? We were buddies, and he didn't think to mention that his little sister had a… a…"
"Try not to gag. I just cleaned the carpet," Janet said dryly, hurt by Eddie's over reaction.
Eddie looked at her and realised how it was coming off, "Janet," he said softly sitting up on the couch next to her, "I'm sorry. I just can't believe that you felt that way about me."
"Why?" Janet wanted to know, narrowing her eyes at him, "You were a legend in high school every guy wanted to be you and every girl wanted to be with you. Why is it so outrageous that I would feel…"
"Because you're you!" he practically yelled, "You are the one who has helped me get girls for the past twelve years, and who supplies the drink that leads to the poor judgement. And all this time…"
"Whoa! Cool your jets there. This was back in high school," Janet waved the journal at him.
Eddie was quiet for a moment, "So you're saying you don't feel that way anymore?"
Janet blushed and smiled ruefully at him, "No Eddie. It was a nice thought. But after high school I got realistic about things. I knew that it would be an impossible shot and since it's a Hail Eddie and not a Hail Janet, I left the impossible to the experts out on the football field," Eddie stared back at her, "I let it go and moved on."
They sat in silence for a few more minutes and Janet picked up the stack of photos she was going through and continued to flip through them. "The rain's letting up. I better call Owen."
Janet's chest tightened with a dull ache, "Power's still out. I'll drive you home."
"Uh no that's okay. I'll walk home," Eddie said quickly.
"Eddie, c'mon we're adults here. I'll drive you home and then we can avoid eye-contact for the rest of our lives if that'll make you happy."
"No it won't make me happy, Janet," Eddie said softly, "Fine, you can drive me home. Thanks for letting me stay this long."
Janet nodded and stood up to grab her coat. She took her keys from the bowl by the door and Eddie got his things together.
They drove in silence the whole way to Phil's house. Neither one said goodbye. Janet watched as Eddie disappeared into the house and she sighed rubbing her forehead, before she turned on ignition and pulled out onto the road.