Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Between the Pages: Chapter 4

"You are the biggest idiot I know."

Meg throws her hands up in the air in exasperation. It's Sunday, a week later, and I've just finished telling her all about Monday. I included all of the juicy bits: how friggin' rare good looking young men are in the archives, how he's finished with his research, that he can actually (kind of) walk, and that (unfortunately) he only wanted my business card. 


That last detail is why Meg is questioning my mental faculties. Quite loudly, I might add. People are actually glancing sideways at us. One older woman casts a disdainful look at our empty mimosa glasses.


"Seriously," she repeats, "the biggest idiot." 


I roll my eyes. "Well what was I supposed to do, Meg?" 


"Flirt!" 


"I'm no good at flirting!" 


"Then make conversation! Ask about his research. Or where he's from. How long he's in town for. But don't just dumbly sit there! You could've at least asked for his card in exchange." Now Meg narrows her eyes. As much as I want to argue with her and plead my case, I know she's right. "Please tell me you at least asked for his card too?" 


I pick at the crust on my grilled cheese. 


Meg sighs. "Do we at least have a name to work with?" 


"Max Ellis," I tell her. Immediately she's on her phone, typing away furiously. "What're you doing?"


"Is that E-L-L-I-S or E-L-Y-S?"


"I didn't know there was more than one spelling of Ellis," I say. "E-L-L-I-S, I think. Why? What're you doing?"


Naturally, Meg ignores me and continues about her own devices. We've been friends since third grade, so while I'm used to her bullheadedness, it still drives me nuts at times like this.


Five minutes later Meg looks up from the phone, smiling in maniac triumph. I'm actually afraid to ask, but I have to. "What did you do?" 


"Google. Duh." She slides the phone towards me. There are no less than five tabs opened up. "Have a look-see at your Lone Researcher." 


So I do, even though I feel voyeuristic about the whole thing. Is it AS creepy if someone else does the internet searching?


I'm immediately impressed. According to The Great Google, Max Ellis is an associate professor at the University of Georgia in Athens. I knew it! I give myself a pat on the back. Next to his listing on Rate My Professor there’s a red hot chili pepper icon. That makes me smirk. Clearly his past students think he's just as hot as I do--wheelchair, crutches, man bun and all.


He's also listed as a board member for the Athens Humane Society and an avid volunteer. God! Be still my beating heart.


The last two tabs are newspaper articles. The headline of the first one reads "Antiques on Atwater: Expanding Horizons and Crossing State Borders” and is dated from 2010. I quickly scan it but there's not anything there that's too interesting. Just a small column about a local antique store opening up a second location somewhere up in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s random and seems more like an advertisement than anything else. Also because there aren’t any pictures, I’m not sure if the article is even relevant. The only hint in the affirmative is that the owners of the store are listed as Maxwell and Katelyn Ellis and it’s from an Athens newspaper.


Alarms go off in my head as I scan the article again. If this is the same Max Ellis I’ve just met...who is Katelyn Ellis? I say a silent prayer that he isn’t another married, cheating dick.


The second article is one from UGA's website. It's a list of the Greymound Plantation Research Fellows for this year. Guess who is listed? One Dr. Maxwell Ellis. 


There's a spiffy looking picture of him standing with the president of the university and with John DeVine, the owner of Greymound Plantation and executive director of the Fellows program. Our archive often works in tandem with the DeVinns and with the numerous fellows that they employ. My grandfather and John DeVinn are also partners at their own law firm. So, I'm pretty familiar with the program. I also know how prestigious it is to be chosen. 


But what surprises me most out of all of these articles is this: "He's a marine biologist?"


Meg grins at me from across the table. "Apparently." 


Hmn. Well, this isn't the first time I've been totally off base about someone's research interests. But, this is one of the most surprising times. Mainly because I imagine marine biologists working mainly in the field: going on dives and scrounging on the beach for microscopic lifeforms. I'm doubtful someone in a wheelchair/crutches could do that. 


Of course, my whole conception of what marine biologists do could also be very far off base. After all, I met him while he was conducting research in an archive, so maybe that's more his speed. Really, it doesn't matter much to me. At the moment, the only thing I'm really thinking as I hand Meg's phone back to her, is the fact that he's a Greymound Fellow. 


Because that fact means he'll be in Savannah for at least the remainder of the summer. Which means that maybe Meg's right: maybe I AM the biggest idiot in Savannah after all. 


***


The next day is July 4th. Meg and I have plans to meet up with some other friends out on Tybee Island for a small clambake. Tybee is full of quirky people and lots of brightly colored cottages, and it's easily one of my favorite places in the world. There's a laid back atmosphere that resonates throughout the town; eccentricity courses through it as well. Littering the storefronts of most of the business around town are bumper stickers that read "Keep Tybee Weird." As I drive past a new bookstore that is painted safety-orange with blue and yellow curlicues, I laugh to myself. Tybee Islanders are definitely keeping the place weird. 


It's a quick thirty minute drive to Tybee, and Rook spends the entire ride with his head hanging out the window, grinning like a fool. He loves the wind in his face. He also loves the beach, and although I'm not actually sure that dogs can remember and know these things, I'm pretty positive that Rook knows the way to the waterfront by heart. By the time we pull up to a tiny little sea-foam green cottage about a block from the beach, he's jumping from the front seat to the back in excitement.


"Calm down!" I tell him exasperatedly. He doesn't listen--of course, I'm a terrible dog mom--and as soon as I open my door he's hopped across me and is bounding away towards the beach. "Rook!" 


Once again, he doesn't listen. What happens next involves me running at top speed down the street and trying to catch up with him, doing so and realizing I left the leash in the car, and half dragging him back by the collar. By this point there's a small crowd of people standing in the front yard of the sea-foam green house, all watching me with amused expressions on their faces. 


"Laugh! Laugh all you want," I shout towards them, very irritated. "See if I help ANY of you in corralling your children today!" 


As expected, but much to my chagrin, this only makes them laugh harder. Finally, my friend Rachel, whose house we're at--and whose rambunctious children I will later refuse to help corral--steps forward with Rook's leash. She's still laughing.  


I practically snatch it from her. "Thank you." Then I look down at Rook, and in my sternest voice, scold him. "Bad dog. Very bad dog."


He looks up at with a sloppy grin on his face. Obviously, my scolding left a lasting impression. 


We head inside after my grand entrance. Rachel and her husband Thad have always hosted a July 4th clambake for as long as I've known them and it seems to grow bigger each year. Besides those two and Meg, I only recognize a handful of the other twenty or so people in attendance. 


As I scan the room for more familiar faces, my eyes light upon one man in particular, and for a moment I'm flabbergasted. Wow. Just my luck. 


"Rachel," I hiss as she walks by a second later. I blatantly point at the man. "Why is he here?" 


Rachel's eyes grow wide and round as look in the direction I'm pointing. A stricken look flashes across her face, and she looks as apologetic as I've ever seen her in the last eight years of our friendship. "You know Thad always invites the entire restaurant staff." 


"They don't work at the same restaurant." 


"Mark left Lady & Sons a few months ago. Like back in February. Or around that time anyway," she explains. "It's an open invitation to the clambake and everyone knows it. Thad couldn’t exclude him, Inez. That’d be incredibly rude.”


I roll my eyes and silently curse her good Southern manners. Rachel gives my shoulder a sympathetic pat. "Don't worry. There's a ton of wine in the kitchen." 


With that she walks away. Well, it's really more of a scurry. And I don't blame her. If I could scurry away into the crowd I would. But I can't. I turn my back and pretend to be really interested at a family picture, but even as I do, I know it's too late. Because he here comes. 


"Nezzie!" 


It's been a year and a half, yet the sound of his voice floods me with memories, and suddenly I'm drowning. "Mark, hey," I say through gritted teeth. "How's it going?"


He smiles brightly. "Great! How've you been?"


"Good," I tell him, more or less truthfully. "At least until now.”


My statement brings the exchange to an abrupt halt, and after that we stand there awkwardly. We don't hug because that would be too intimate. We don't shake hands because that would be too formal. Finally, after a long silence, he clears his throat. When he speaks a second later, he sounds sincere, which makes me uncomfortable. "We should get together sometime. That'd be nice."


Seriously?


"Uh, it’d be something for sure.” I say, dumbfounded. I mean, what else do you say to a man who is your ex-fiancé and who you've called a lying, cheating bastard more times than you can remember? 


Thank God, our stilted small talk ends there. Mark excuses himself, and I try not to watch where he goes. But I'm a glutton for punishment. Out of the corner of my eye I watch as he hops into a conversation on the other side of the room and casually slips his arm around a petite blonde haired woman. He kisses the top of her head affectionately. 


I hate how my heart still physically hurts as I watch them. 


Needless to say I'm not really in the partying mood anymore. 


I head off in the direction of the wine.

*** 


I never manage to get into the festive spirit -- although the wine does help -- and when I get home later I'm (maybe) drunk and very sour.


I crawl into bed, beg a silent prayer that I won't have a killer headache in the morning, and try to fall asleep. Silly me. I figure two extra strength Tylenol will knock right out, but if anything they seem to have the opposite effect. I lay there for a least an hour, willing my body to turn off and go to sleep, but no such luck. 


At two a.m. I'm still not asleep. Rook, meanwhile, is snoring loudly from his spot underneath the bed.

I'm beyond frustrated at how badly I want to sleep but can't. I grab my phone and roll over onto my back. Might as well play a little mahjong. Ugh. I'm such an old lady. I think the only way I could be any more of an old lady would be if I was playing bridge instead.

My game of mahjong is short-lived, and suddenly I’m bored and wide awake as ever. How do insomniacs do it? I swear, I would die of utter boredom if this was an every night thing.

After cycling through every game on my phone, Facebook, and Snapchat there's only one mindless task left to do: clean out my email.

I click on the mail icon, but I never actually get to deleting anything. Because as soon as I open the app I notice a new message from one Max Ellis.  

From: Max C Ellis <mcellis@uofga.edu>
To: Inez Carter <inez@uniarch.edu>
Subject: Unorthodox

Hey, Inez.

I'm going to be at the archives again tomorrow. Only thought my research was finished (wishful thinking, right?) and I was wondering if would like to grab lunch tomorrow? Assuming you have a lunch break, of course.
Hoping that request isn’t too unorthodox,
Max

6 comments:

  1. A great filler-chapter! I also love your fillers! :)
    Looking forward to the evening!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I even checked out what mahjong is and will be playing it until the new chapter appears... :)

      Delete
  2. An email. Oh, Boy!
    Let the games begin!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yea!! That would perk any woman up! Post 5 like now, lol.
    Tc

    ReplyDelete
  4. Unorthodox, Unconventional -- but I love it!

    ReplyDelete