[ three ]

Louise went back outside and sat with the rest of the crew. She took a sip of her frightfully hot coffee, and felt it burn its way down her throat. Through the heat it tasted great. The four of them sat there silently for a few minutes without saying a word, just watching the people walk past.

Pandora broke the silence. “Hey Amanda, do you believe in fate?”

“Nope. It’s all about free choice,” she said.

“You don’t believe in destiny or fate or whatever? Not even a little?” Pandora asked with a slightly confounded look on her face. She had always found it hard to believe that anyone could actually hold views contrary to what she believed was certainty.

Amanda continued: “Every action you take, it’s your free will that decides it. You can either do something or not do it. It’s all up to you. No one makes your choices for you.”

Remembering how stubborn Amanda can sometimes be, Pandora moved on to Louise. “What about you, sport?”

Louise, lost in her thoughts, was taken a bit off guard. “Me? A little of both.”

“How so?” asked Amanda.

“Alright. It’s like this. I believe that everyone makes their own decisions.” She took a sip of her hot coffee and said, “But I also believe that there are some things in the world that one can’t control. For example, um, I decided that I was going to come out with you guys tonight. I decided that I was going to get out of the house and come out with you guys. But if someone slipped and spilled their coffee all over me, I can’t control that. We have control over our lives, but to a certain extent. After that, it’s up to fate. Or Karma.” Louise took another sip.

“Yep, she’s right. Karma,” chimed in Jed.

Pandora was distracted. She was looking down the street and yelled, “Bradley! Dana!”

The twins were walking their way, and Pandora started waving to them. Bradley and Dana were fraternal twins who’d spent the first nine months of their lives side by side in Mrs. Wagner’s womb, and hadn’t really left each other’s side since. They were each their own individual person, but together they also made up an aggregate identity. Bradley always carried the money, and Dana always knew the quickest way to get to wherever they were going. Little things like that were the qualities that made Louise adore them so.

“Hey guys,” Bradley said. “Louise!” he added with a bit of surprise.

Dana finished his sentence: “Where have you been? It’s been so long!”

“We were just talking about you this morning!” Bradley continued. “Dana was all, ‘I haven’t seen Louise in forever,’ and I said, ‘Ya know, you’re right.’” He spoke quickly out of excitement of seeing his old friend.

“I’ve been around. Here and there. Ya know,” Louise said.

“We’re really sorry ‘bout you n’ Bill,” Dana said in a low voice.

“Yeah,” said Bradley.

“Well, that’s the way it goes --” Louise said, trying to hide her hurt from the mention of William. “These things, they go away.” She forced a smile to her mouth, and let it disappear just as abruptly.

“Atta girl,” Bradley assured her.

After a pause, Dana said, “We’re gonna go get something. We’ll be right back.” The two went inside.

Louise sighed and drank from her cup.

“So, Louise? Does that mean you believe in coincidences?” asked Amanda, continuing the earlier conversation. “Are fortunate coincidences that happen due to luck or are they due to fate?”

“Nope. There are no coincidences. What people call coincidences, I consider to be acts of fate. If two people run into each other five thousand miles away from home and they hadn’t seen each other in thirty years since their high school graduation, it was fate that brought them together. Not luck or anything like that.”

“You mean the meeting was meant to happen. For a reason.”


Pandora burst out once again: “Lancaster!”

Everyone turned once again and saw Lancaster Tate coming down the street: the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that made up the circle of Louise’s friends.

Amanda tapped Louise on the shoulder. Amanda leaned in and whispered in Louise’s ear, “Watch out. He’s speaking in code again.”

“What’s it this time?”


Lancaster came up to the table, beaming. With an enormous grin, he proclaimed, “Greetings, programs!”

Louise shot Jeremiah a confused look.

“Tron,” he replied with a tired expression.

“Hey Lanky,” Pandora said.

“What’s up, Tiger Lily?” he responded. That was Pandora’s favorite movie. This wasn’t the first time Lancaster had taken to speaking in codes. He started with references to television, moved on to cinema, then literature. The last time he’d talked in movies, Louise got pretty accustomed to the phrases he’d used. Hopefully, she thought, it wouldn’t be too difficult sorting things out. The key was figuring out what movie he was speaking from, using the context of the movie that the quote was said, and applying it to the situation at hand.

“Jules Winfield, our man in Inglewood!” Lancaster addressed Jeremiah, whose favorite movie was Pulp Fiction.

“Lancaster,” Jed responded in kind.

“Sally,” he bowed to Louise.

“Hey Harry,” she replied with a smile.

Finally, he turned to Amanda, and said in his best Stallone accent, “Yo, Adrian.”

“Oh God,” said Amanda, rolling her eyes. Lancaster knew how much of a cheeseball she thought Sylvester was. “Hey Lancaster.”

His attention immediately shifted in through the windows of Old Man Red’s. He rushed over to the front door and opened it. He saw the twins standing in line. “Luke! Leia!”

Louise smiled at the way Lancaster carried things on, and then looked up the sky. She enjoyed her cup of coffee immensely. She hadn’t had any in quite awhile: her parents had sworn never to drink another sip of the stuff and actually gave their coffeemaker away to Aunt Ruth. Louise watched as the stars were slowly hidden by the fog that moved in like the tide. With the fog came moist air that filled Louise with an indescribable sense of balance and well-being. All the talk about fate and destiny made her miss William that much more. She truly believed that they were meant to be together. And what did she have now? Nothing. Destiny could be a real let-down at times.

Louise lost herself in the sky as her friends engaged in a conversation over the latest reruns of their favorite TV shows. The half moon shone bright and the town’s streetlights dimmed the stars. Soon enough, the fog drowned out the night sky.

The twins came out to the patio with Lancaster. Bradley and Dana put their cups on the table and went to retrieve a couple of spare chairs from other tables. Lancaster stood there, sipping his cup of coffee.

“Lancaster...mind getting us some napkins from inside?” asked Jeremiah.

“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” Lancaster spun around and went in search of a chair for himself. Quite accustomed to a stubbornness that rivaled Amanda’s, Pandora got up and went inside. The twins came back with their own chairs, and soon so did Lancaster. Room was made for the three extra bodies around the table.

Time moved by, and all Louise did was pay attention to the cup of decaf and the fog. The town’s lights reflected off of the sheet of fog and filled the streets with a soft flourescent glow. The voices of her friends drifted in and out of her ears, although she did catch Lancaster shriek, “Thirty-six? Is that including me?” It made her chuckle slightly.

Louise was broken from her trance when a Honda civic pulled up to the curb and while pointing, Lancaster yelled, “There is no Keyser Soze!” Louise looked up, and the last person she expected to see was standing upright out of the sunroof. Her heart dropped from her chest and she almost dropped her cup of coffee as it dangled in her right hand. It was William.

In the driver’s seat was his cousin Mark.

“Hey Marky-Mark...nice set of wheels,” shouted Amanda.

“Thanks,” he said, leaning over the passenger seat.

“Where are you off to?” asked Ridley.

“My cousin Marie out in Woodside is having a party,” he answered.

Louise’s and William’s eyes locked as he steadied himself popping out the sunroof like a jack-in-the-box. Louise felt the months of pain wash away at the sight of his face. Her eyesight was awash in bright light: he was the angel sent from heaven to guide her way. Four weeks, she hadn’t left the house. And on the one night that she came out, there he was.

In the background, she heard Mark and Bradley exchanging remarks about who would be there. All she could do was stare at William, and he, in return, gazed back. Time stood still as she mustered up the courage and the energy to say something to him. Anything.

Bradley and Dana got up from the table and walked over to the car. Dana opened up the back door and they both hopped in. William’s mouth opened slightly to speak, but before any sound could come out, the Honda’s engine roared to life and Mark started moving the car as he shouted, “Alright, we’re outta here!” Louise made to get up, but her will and her body acted as two separate entities and she couldn’t move. As the car raced down the street, William looked back at her sitting at the crowded table until Mark made a sharp right turn around the corner, towards the freeway.

Louise sat upright and stared towards the corner of Primrose and West where the car had made its getaway. She’d seen the way William’s eyes looked. She saw how much he missed her. She saw the love emanating from him like the brightest star in the universe. And it was the exact same look that William saw in her brown eyes as he stood out of the sunroof of that blue Honda.

( FIN. )