Group Discussion

backlit dawn foggy friendship
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Author Note:  This was a rewrite for “Power Outage”.  Roughly the first three pages are the same as the previous, but it takes a totally different turn.  So if you read the last one, then just skip ahead.

Group Discussion

The candle flickered in the wind as the slight breeze whisked through the window. The night had a severe chill to it and it was uncomfortable for Renard as he sat sipping his hot chocolate. It wasn’t his first drink of choice for the weather, but it had gotten cold quickly and it was the only things that he had in the house at the time, so he just made it. He was actually enjoying it a little too. He wasn’t sure how long it had sat at the top of the cupboard, but it had the little marshmallows in it, that made him smile when he first saw it. Now he was just sitting there.

Normally it wouldn’t have been a problem for him, but the power had gone out as well, thus the candle. Now he was just waiting for them to fix it and to get the furnace started. He was using an electric one. The gas lines didn’t run to where he lived. He had to open the window because the only candle he could find to provide light as the sun set let off some smoke, he wasn’t sure why, but it did. His old camping stove provided a place to make his beverage and to make some dinner, which was just a can of soup he found in the same place as the hot chocolate.

There was food in the fridge and freezer, but nothing that he wanted to try and cook on the little stove. Plus, he didn’t want to open the fridge and risk is thawing out. He had no idea about when the power would be back on, so he decided to play it safe. The one thing he had to be able to do though was to read, and the smoky candle provided him with the light he needed to do so. He thought that he had hit pay dirt when he dug out the old stove, but the flashlight that was with it was dead and he had no extra “D” batteries handy to replace the old ones with. SO here he was wrapped in a blanket by a slightly open window with a smoky candle sipping hot chocolate and reading a book.

It was still an hour or two before he went to bed and he kept checking the website of the power company on his cell phone to see the updates of the power line repair. There was a small storm earlier, but nothing that would have knocked out the power. When he finally got to the site he read that it was an accident caused by the storm. A car had hit the post. That was all it said. He wanted to check the news for more information, but he didn’t want to waste his battery. Right now though he was only concerned with reading the book that he had started a few days ago and getting through the night.

As Renard turned the page to start the next chapter, there was a knock at the door. It took a moment for him to realize that it was his door. He was that absorbed in the story he was reading. Another rap at the entry made it clear it was his. He carefully put the bookmark in the page he was on and set the paperback down. Then he got up and tossed the blanket on the chair he was in. He slowly made his way to the front entrance. It was dark everywhere else in the house and he didn’t want to stub a toe of anything.

The knocking kept coming at regular intervals as he worked towards it. He finally got there and peeked into the small lens that allowed him to see who was on the other side. It was dark outside too and the streetlights were not on, so at best he could only make out a shadow. It was probably just a neighbor who needed something. Renard wasn’t that familiar with many of his neighbors, but he thought himself friendly enough when he did engage with them. He opened the door to expect to see Mrs. Landon from next door, who might have lost one of her small poodles. They were yippy whenever he walked by, but they were small and cute.

It could have been Mr. Kowalchek from across the street, a retired Navy man who always made sure to raise and lower his American flag at sunrise and sunset every day. He was a stickler for that and for as long as Renard had lived here he believed the old man never missed a day doing it. He went on vacation once for a week and had asked Renard to do it. Getting a reputation of being unreliable was a bad thing in the area, besides Mrs. Kowalchek made the best cupcakes. Ever since he had helped with the flag for their vacation she had made him a batch every major holiday. That was a privilege he didn’t want to lose.

He fumbled with the deadbolt, then the lock on the door. He slowly opened it. When he was finally able to see the person on the other side it was an unfamiliar face. “Excuse me,” the still unknown face said, “the power is out and I wanted to talk to you anyway.”

Renard’s vision adjusted to the dim light and he realized it was Amy. He had just recently asked her out. They had gone on two dates so far and he really liked her. She only lived a few blocks away and worked at the corner coffee shop, which is where they met. “Oh, hi. I wasn’t expecting to see you tonight.”

“And I wasn’t expecting to come over. But after a while of sitting in my apartment I started thinking of you and decided just to risk it and come over.”

“Not an unpleasant thing to do. Come in, I just made some hot chocolate, would you like some?”

“Would I?” Amy said as she stepped into the house. Renard closed the door behind her. Then he took her hand and guided her to the living room by the candle. She sat on the couch that was across from where Renard had been sitting. He quickly found another mug and made her some cocoa.

“So what exactly were you thinking about me?” Renard smiled as he handed her the mug.

“How much fun we’ve had on our first two dates and what a great guy you are.”

“I’m pretty normal, nothing special.”

“You can say that, I can think differently. I guess we can agree to disagree, but since you have been such a good guy I thought I should be honest with you before we go any further.”

Any warm feelings Renard was having quickly erased. For Amy to go out in a power outage and end up at his dark home and then say what she just did meant it was most likely something bad. His mind started to race at what it could be. He sat down and took a sip from his mug. “It must be something major for you to walk over here tonight.”

“I think it is, but it’s up to you in the end. I might as well just say it and get it out there. I kind of already had a boyfriend when we started going out.”

It took Renard a few moments for what Amy had said to hit him fully. “You’ve been cheating on me with someone else?”

Amy looked at him with her big blue eyes, Renard’s stomach fluttered. She finally spoke, “Technically it’s hm I am cheating on with you.”

“You want to argue semantics? I think you are making my mind up for me.” Before he could continue there was another knock at the door. It took him by surprise, not Amy though.

“I may have told him to meet me here.”

Renard looked at her with a form of shock on his face. Her is this woman that he really liked not only saying he was her side piece, but that she had invited her other boyfriend over to HIS house. It was all happening kind fast and it still hadn’t all hit him yet. Amy moved away towards the front door. He heard muffled conversation. Then Amy emerged into the front walkway. “Can we sit in the dining room and talk?

Renard was still stunned, but understood what she wanted to do. Some kind of choosing game. It was kind of stupid in his opinion, using his house was stupider. If she wanted to play games it should have been at her apartment of some neutral site so that he could just leave. But instead it was here at his home. Renard figured that Amy knew hm enough to know how he would react and this made it easier to keep him from running off. He made his way to the dining room, the other two were already sitting.

Amy was on the far side, away from the door. The other guy was sitting on the side that faced the window. Renard sat at the end with his back to the entrance. Him and the other man sat there looking at Amy. Renard had seen him around a few times, mostly at the coffee shop. He was slightly taller and you could tell he liked the gym, even when he wore heavier clothes. It kind of made Renard insecure. He wasn’t a gym rat himself or really out of shape, but compared to the new guy it really didn’t matter.

The awkward silence was so thick that one could have crashed a truck into the room and totalled it. No one was saying anything. The two men kept looking at each other in confusion. The only person that seemed settled was Amy. She finally broke the silence, “ I suppose you both want to know why I wanted you here.”

“You think?” the other an said.

“Where are my manners?” Amy said, “Renard, this is Mike, Mike this is Renard.”

“Renard? What is he French?”

“No,” Renard replied, “My mother liked French literature though, I forget which one she named me after, but who cares. I want to know what the hell is going on here?”

“That makes two of us,” Mie said, now staring at Amy, “First you tell me we need to talk about us, then you say to meet you here and then at the door you say you are seeing someone else behind my back.”

“Those are the basics,” Amy said with a straight face, “It comes down to this Mike, you are a lot of fun. But that is all it is, fun. I don’t get anything from you besides that. When I need emotional support, or a shoulder to cry on you disappear or don’t’ seem to care. Renard does that for me.”

“You know I’m not that kind of guy babes. You knew that from the start. I’m sorry you think that’s worth dumping me over, but it’s not like I lied to you.”

“I never said you did, or that I’m dumping you.”

“Then why ask me over here? To be honest, a call or text saying you were leaving me would have been simpler.”

Renard felt a small twinge of pride. He always had a hard time approaching women, his friends said he was to soft. But here was someone actually picking him over the typical buff bad boy. It was kind of refreshing. A smile started to appear on his face.

“Don’t get too cocky,” Amy told him. She must have seen the smile and read it right. “I’m not saying you are my everything Renard. I get a lot from you, but Mike does provide me with excitement and experiences as well. I know you like to stay in or go to museums, as do I on occasion, but I grew up riding bikes and snowmobiles. You are what I used to call a candy ass, so in the end you don’t give me everything either.”

“Enough of the analysis,” Mike chimed in.

“I think he’s right Amy, just get to the point. Which one of us are you going to chose?” Renard added, Mike nodded in agreement.

“That’s the thing you two. I don’t want to chose one of you. I did say earlier that it was up to you.”

“Why should we? You cheated on both of us. Didn’t you think we’d both just leave you?” Mike responded. Renard was liking this guy more and more. At first he viewed him as an adversary. The longer this was going on though the more the two seemed to agree on the entire situation.

“It’s a risk I am willing to take.”

“Well, then I chose to step away,” Renard said, “I don’t like to be lied to.” This time Mike nodded in agreement with him.

“That’s the thing. I could have carried on easily. Mike works third shift and we really don’t see each other that much. I wanted to be honest with both of you. I didn’t even plan on this happening. I went out with Renard because he was a nice guy, I didn’t realize how I felt until after our second date.”

“Let me guess you love him now and not me?” Mike asked.

“I love both of you.” Silence filled the room. Neither man spoke, they just sat there kind of wide eyed. Amy was quiet as well, she was blushing so much that even the limited light from the candle in the middle of the table was enough for all to see.

Finally Renard broke the silence, “What was your optimal outcome for tonight? I mean what did you want to happen?”

Amy sat for awhile looking like she was thinking. The awkwardness was returning. Then she just blurted out, “I wanted both of you to pick me too.” As soon as the words popped out tears started to form in her eyes. Renard immediately regretted being forceful.

Amy wiped her eyes and forced back the tears. Then she continued, “I’ve watched those Romantic Comedies growing up and they always end with the perfect couple. In real life though there is never a perfect match. How many other people have each of you dated? Weren’t there the ones you left where nothing was actually wrong, but not everything was right?”

Both men were silent but looked like they were thinking. Neither of them answered her questions, but instead had a look of understanding across their faces. The fact was the the answer to both was yes for all three of them. Life rarely handed someone a soulmate. There might actually be one for everyone out there, but the logistics of them coming together seemed to elude most people.

Finally Renard spoke, “You were hoping for some kind of consensual love triangle then?” Amy nodded, still on the verge of tears. “Why are you drying then?”

“Because I had this happy ending in my mind, and when I finally said it out loud in front of you I realized how stupid it sounded.”

“The idea of it isn’t totally stupid,” Mike said. The others looked at him. “I mean the wanting everything from a partner part. I’ve never found anyone that I can honestly say was everything I wanted, so I can relate.”

“But I have what I think I want right here at this table,” Amy added, “I know my idea isn’t normal or even really possible, but if I’m going to lose you both anyway why not try?”

“I guess I am still a little confused as to how this would work? Renard said.

“I guess like it has been,but now everyone knows about each other. Though you two wouldn’t have to have anything to do with the other.”

“And what about us? I mean going off of your logic you might not be everything for us either,” Mike stated.

Amy thought a second, “I never thought about that. I was sure both of you would have left or asked me to by now. I guess it would work the same. If you find someone that you like you can see them while with me, or leave. I mean I’m not expecting us all the get a house and dog together……. yet,” the smile on her face forced the other two to smile as well.

Renard commented next, “I haven’t left yet because you decided to spring this on us in my house. I haven’t asked you to leave yet because I can understand what you are saying. Your solution though I am still thinking about.”

“I get that. You both have heard me out at least. I can’t ask anything more of you.” As soon as she finished the lights flickered as the power came back on. Amy got up from her chair and walked over to the door, she flipped the light on then stood there. “I will ask both of you to think about it a while before letting me know.” With that, she walked to the front door and left, leaving the two men sitting there.

Neither knew how long it was before one of them spoke. It was Mike who broke the silence. “We managed to find a crazy one didn’t we?”

“Do you want a beer?” Renard asked. Mike nodded. He got up and disappeared into the kitchen. When he returned he had a six pack and handed Mike one. Renard then sat down and the two men talked for a long time. Neither one knew the time when they stopped.

Amy was asleep when she was woken up by her phone ringing. Her clock read past 4am. he answered it with a sleepy “Hello.”

Renard’s voice came through the small speaker and right into her ear, “Mike and I have been talking for a while and we have something to tell you.”

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