Now it was Josh's turn to hesitate. He glanced back at his friends. They were completely wrapped up in an argument. Nathan stood to make a point, his arms gesturing broadly around the table, then pointing to the flat screen television. Sam was laughing at him. Josh turned back to Bree, and nodded to their table, "I doubt my friends will miss me anytime soon, although I'll warn you, I am not responsible for anything they say once they notice I'm missing." He paused, his face suddenly serious again. "You should also know they all lie." He half grinned, stood, and started walking toward a booth at the side of the room.
As she stood, Bree couldn't help but genuinely smile at his obviously good-natured assessment of his friends. "Really? About what?" She left money for the bartender and grabbed her clutch.
"Anything that might embarrass me in front of a lady."
Bree's face fell for the briefest of moments. And now I've made you a liar, she thought, before she recovered with a smile as he turned back to her. "Charmer." She glanced at his friends across the room, hoping to distract him. "What are they arguing about?"
"The football game. Nathan went to Alabama, and Sam went to Georgia. They're best friends now, but they'll never get over it."
Bree smiled once again as she sat down. She couldn't help but think of the many long standing arguments she held with Lynnette and Gaby, over the necessity of slips, proper place settings, and crude language. Susan rarely argued with her, but Bree could scarcely remember a time when her friend had followed her advice when it came to issues of comportment and propriety. She realized that all her arguments seemed preposterous given her recent transgressions. If they ever spoke to her again, she would never win any of those debates. She glanced at Josh. He was studying her. "How long have you been friends?"
Josh could tell that Bree was stalling and distracted by whatever was bothering her, but also that she needed to know the answer to the question. He wondered about the worry and sadness he could see in her eyes. "I've known Nathan since high school, but I met Hafez at church, and Jeff and Sam at work. We've probably all been friends for about 8 years." He thought she might bristle at the mention of church, but it didn't seem to trouble her.
She tilted her head slightly and smiled. She glanced at him briefly before looking back at her drink. "That's wonderful," she said quietly.
Josh watched as Bree pressed her lips together and schooled her features, attempting to hide the almost tears he had seen there. She glanced at her watch. "Oh, I hate to be rude, Josh, but I really must get home. Some other time?" She stood and looked anywhere but at him as she picked up her clutch and adjusted the salt and pepper shakers that sat at the edge of the table.
"That was quick. What was it about my friends that upset you?"
Bree looked at him. Josh was a mystery. This man could clearly see through her act. As their eyes met, she realized that he completely understood what she was doing, masking her pain with bravado and medicating it with alcohol. What surprised her was that she saw no censure there. He did not appear baffled, exasperated, or even bothered by her quick ultimatum. There was something in his acceptance of her that reminded her of Orson when things had been good.
She sat back down quietly. "I once had friends like yours."