Pulling out from behind the diner known passively as Frank's Diner, the fox sighed as he took a puff from his cigar and looked around for the familiar green Ford pickup. The old pickup belonged to a once upon a time partner of his who decided that heading out to the local bar until three in the morning was a form of cheating and only left a note with the words “goodbye, you worthless piece of trash” that seemed to be scribbled through bouts of tears. This get-together was supposed to be a reminder to the two of them that things were getting better between the two since the separation, although it seemed more oblique than anything.
The air had a thick smell to it. He could only guess it came from the power plant just a few miles away from the diner. Since the landscape was a desert paradise, he knew the smell would be traveling for quite some time. The front of the diner was a little barren as well. Two of the letters in the sign were busted out so it read Fank's Dier in bold red letters and would get a few laughs from pass-byers.
With a busy road, it wasn't easy keeping an eye out for a particular vehicle, but he didn't have to wait much longer. The glare from the freshly cleaned headlights on that old green Ford was a sure sign that it was the arctic wolf named Thomas. When he pulled into the parking lot and steered right next to Kyle, Kyle smiled and tossed his cigar. Thomas stepped out and pulled out a pocket-watch. 1:26.
"Damn, you sure know when to be early."
Kyle chuckled, "You know me." The two finished their greetings and went inside.
The diner had a retro look to it. It was like walking back into the eighties with all of the red and white stripped coating and the jukebox sitting in the background with jazz playing as background noise. This diner had a special note, though. It had a special place in Kyle’s heart. This was where the two met. They also had their first date here. Kyle could still remember the waitress, an orange fox with a voice of a chipmunk, accidentally tripping and spilling their coffee all over the place. Even though Thomas went straight to her side to help, Kyle, being the humorous fox that all foxes are, couldn't help but chuckle at the messy waitress. It seemed at first that the date was ruined, but things got patched up after Thomas sat back down and the duo talked for a few minutes in between bouts of laughter and smiles.
Seeing that their old spot was still there and vacant, Kyle gestured over to the table and sat down. Immediately getting a waitress with her pen ready, the two ordered a small coffee and asked for a few minutes so they could get to know the menu.
Looking at the food, Thomas said in drawn-out monotone, "Things never change, do they?"
"Why would they," Kyle smiled, "Life just doesn't have its spectacles as they used to when we were younger."
Raising an eyebrow, Thomas said, "We're only 25. That's not far from when we were kids."
"You're 25, remember. I'm only 22."
"Right." he took a sip from his coffee after the waitress delivered their drinks and went back to the kitchen. "So, how has life been for you? Still living with your mom?"
Knowing that this wasn't going to be easy, Kyle smirked and said, "Yeah. She needed a place to stay after she got laid off. She isn't the worst to live with, though, so it's cool. How about you," he took a sip from his musky coffee, "still striving for that job at Alanca Co?" Alanca Co. was a law firm that Thomas had set his eyes on a couple years before he met Kyle and told him numerous times as they were dating. It’s a big place with tough staff.
“Getting there. I just need to talk to my advisor to get a hold of the CEO. Said I had a good shot if I played my cards right.”
There was an awkward silence after that. Neither of them really knew what to say since it’s been a year or so since they had been dating and, as everyone knows, exes aren’t keen on immediately starting a conversation. When the orange fox came back, Kyle got the Ham Sandwich with a side of fries while Thomas ordered a fresh salad with ranch dressing and extra onion. Now was the waiting game.
“So,” started Thomas, “I heard from a friend of mine that you’re starting college soon. Saw you in the foyer during sign-ups, I guess.”
Kyle smiled, “Yeah, I got a loan from the bank. I’m finally getting my degree.”
“What degree was it again?”
“Oh, yeah. You said something about being a clinical psychologist before. Well, get ready for a rough ride, Kyle. It’s not so fun when your getting piles of papers to do.”
Kyle laughed as he tapped his claws on the table in a psychotic beat, “I know, but I want to do it. Helping others is a passion of mine. Too bad your in the opposite field.”
“Opposite field?” Thomas raised his eyebrow again, “I’m a lawyer. I help others all of the time.”
“You’re behind the desk doing paperwork. I know you don’t get to actually go on the field. Besides, we all know lawyers are in it for themselves, right?” Kyle suddenly realized what he said and bowed his head, “sorry, I didn’t mean to be so straight- forward.”
Thomas sighed, “Do you know anything about my work?” Kyle shrugged. “Then listen to me for a second. I remember this one case of mine with a young woman named Barbra. She was being accused of a murder that I know she didn’t commit. She had that look in her eyes.”
“What look?” Kyle interrupted. Thomas sighed,
“The look of Innocence, Kyle. You can’t deny the look of Innocence and its existence.”
Remembering that he gave Thomas the same look that cold December night, he knew that it doesn’t work. At least for Thomas it doesn’t. He was innocent, but the wolf passed him on as guilty anyway. Didn’t matter that the rain lit his red fox-hair coat with a slight shine of “I’m home and now we can continue our loving relationship” and a brief giggle he gave as he entered the two story home the two were sharing with his boyfriend waiting patiently for him.
“Yeah...” was all Kyle could say. Before Thomas could continue, the waitress came with their food. They ate in silence. Then Thomas continued,
“So, Barbra was being interrogated by one of the special agents over from Special Victims Unit and I overheard part of his rant on how she was guilty of the crime. How she had put the knife in his chest and dug through until all of the zebra’s heart was churned into a pulp. I knew she was innocent. I knew she didn’t commit the crime. What did I do? Well, I barged in and told the agent to stop talking to my client. I told him thatshe didn’t need to hear in full detail about how her husband was gruesomely murdered, nor did she need to be antagonized!”
“What else happened?”
Thomas took another sip, “When she left the room, she came back to find me in front of the elevator doors down the hall. She thanked me and gave me a hug. You see, lawyers can help other people as much as a psychologist, even if I am at the desk doing papers.”
Kyle didn’t believe him. This sounded too good to be true, especially from somebody as cold-hearted as Thomas Straighum. Besides, if it was the same Barbra that was on the news a few months ago, then he knew it as trustworthy as a car full of card sharks. “Why does Barbra sound familiar?”
Thomas shrugged, “I don’t know. Maybe it was on the news?”
So it was on the news? Kyle smiled. He got him on his bluff. “Now I know you’re lying. Wasn’t she on channel 37 back in April?”
“No.” was all he responded with.
“You’re lying.” Kyle stood up and waved for the waitress to come pick up the check, “I got this one.” As he was paying, Thomas asked,
“Why won’t you believe me?”
Here we go. Here comes the guilt trip. “Why didn’t you believe me when I told you I wasn’t cheating on you, huh?” Thomas was taken aback in surprise. Why is he bringing that back up?
“But,” he choked, “You....”
“Didn’t that innocent look in my eyes tell you that I was telling the truth like Barbra’s did? Let me guess, you and Barbra are dating now, is that it?”
“What are you talking about!? What are you implying, Kyle?”
“Admit it, sweetie! You like her more than me! That’s why you’re dating her. I guess I’m just not good enough for your lying tail.”
Thomas slammed his paws on the table, “I’m not dating anybody right now, you moron!”
“LIES!” Kyle ran out of the diner with his final words being, “Why did I even bother asking you out for lunch?!”
With that, Thomas was left with the rest of the diner looking at him with wide eyes. The silence felt like death to the poor wolf. All he was trying to do was get Kyle back and all it did was leave him abandoned at the alter with a worried waitress and a very confused crowd of pedestrians. When the waitress asked if everything was alright, he just walked outside and headed to his truck with tears streaming down his muzzle. Kyle’s car was already gone.
He knew that Kyle was innocent. He saw the look, but he couldn’t accept it. He was stupid. That long night in the hotel room with a few calls to some ‘friends’ to ‘comfort’ him made him think about what just happened. He was as guilty as the claim he placed on Kyle! The next morning, he came back to find a moving truck leaving the house with Kyle gone in the wind. He felt like he was walking the green mile that morning from the hotel to their, his, house.
When he looked up to the sky through hazy green eyes, he saw that the sun was being blocked by a cluster of dark clouds. It was going to rain. Lucky him.