Elena looked around as she and Lucky arrived at the park and followed the stream of people carrying picnic baskets and blankets into the area which housed the band shell near a grove of trees. It looked like nearly the entire town had decided to pack up and go listen to some folk music as it turned out. Food vendors had set up their booths selling everything from street tacos to funnel cakes and lines began to form almost immediately.
Lucky had picked up some takeout from the diner before Elena arrived from her house to meet him. She said it'd be easier if her mama didn't know she was going anywhere but to the concert with Melissa. He'd decked himself out in jeans and a chambray shirt telling her he'd just had time to change after getting off his shift. She'd worn her jeans and a flowery shirt, with a light wrap in case it cooled off after the sunset. Nothing fancy with her hair, she just pinned its curly locks off of her face and kept her makeup casual too. This wasn't a date after all, just a night out with a good friend. She still didn't know what Lucky meant when he wanted to spend more time with her but she needed some time away from Royal.
He hadn't asked her what her plans were when she'd been at the center and he certainly hadn't told her his plans. He only contacted her when he wanted her to meet him for sex, aside from that he barely spoke with her outside of work. Melissa had told her that Lynette and a couple of her friends had been at the diner and that she had said something about being sure that Royal had a woman on the side but not knowing her name. But Elena wondered how many women Royal had been with besides her since he'd been seeing Lynette.
Not that she had plans to think about him tonight or the ice princess or anyone else because she wanted to focus on having a fun evening out with Lucky. They walked through the park and found a spot to spread a blanket and sit down, before the concert got started. Others had the same idea and the green area around the band shell soon was covered with people sitting down and picnicking while several guys warmed up their instruments on the stage.
"They're supposed to be good," she said, as she reached into the basket to pull out some sandwiches and bottles of iced tea. Potato salad and some apple pie completed the menu. They had some paper plates to set the food on and then they started eating. Elena found herself hungrier than she thought she'd be as she ate. Lucky always had a good appetite and would soon make short work of his food.
"I heard them play when I was just out of the military spending time in Walnut Creek," Lucky said, "They wound up playing an extra night."
"So you lived there for a while before returning here?"
"I wouldn't call it living there but I needed some place to stay for a while to decompress a bit before I returned home."
She didn't know much about the time he'd spent in the armed forces only that he'd served on the battle front far away and had made it back in one piece.
"So this is home?"
He sipped his tea and nodded.
"I grew up here," he said, "I thought I'd never come back when I left but I missed it. Missed some people here too…"
She digested that as she continued eating.
"I can't wait to leave," she said, "I just don't know when that will be."
He put his bottle of tea down and sat there looking at her.
"What do you want to do?"
She thought about it for a long moment. No one had asked her that question in a while and been interested in the answer.
"I don't know…maybe go to school if I can get some financial aid," she said, "Maybe just find a job and a place to live."
"It's not easy out there."
She gave him a pointed look.
"I don't expect it to be but it's not always easy here either."
He looked at her as he reached over for some potato salad.
"You don't have to live with your mother," he said, "The offer still stands."
She shook her head.
"It's okay…I'm saving up some money working with Lacey and maybe Melissa will want to share a place."
"But until then…"
"It's alright Lucky, I'll be fine."
A voice over a loudspeaker interrupted them as a man walked up to the front of the band shell and announced that the concert would soon start. So she put aside her dinner plate and leaned back on her hands to enjoy the music which soon filled the evening air.
Elena enjoyed the music greatly and found herself soon under its spell forgetting everything else in her life…except maybe the man who sat beside her. She found herself looking at him as he watched the band. Lucky was a great looking guy, not exactly handsome in the same way as Royal, but more ruggedly so. He kept his body in shape through his military experience and his work and she could see why he attracted women in droves. But he never stayed with one woman for very long and she figured he just lost interest in them after a while and moved on to the next. Many guys were like that after all, though most men in town did eventually marry one woman and settle down to raise the next generation of people.
She figured Lucky would do the same someday. He'd find the woman he would rather live with than without and marry and raise his own family. That woman should consider herself lucky, Elena thought, because Lucky was a great guy. He'd been a good friend to her even as he had teased her like an older brother.
But had she ever looked at him as more than that? She couldn't remember because after all, he'd been gone for a while, off the town's canvas and life had moved forward. Now they sat together listening to music, close enough for their shoulders to brush and his aftershave wafted around her. She closed her eyes for a moment, feeling the music inside of her.
When she opened her eyes, she looked around and saw some familiar faces. Mostly married couples including some with children they had left with someone to look after so they could enjoy a night out. The mayor and his wife sat in a special section set aside for the more affluent families and as her eyes left them, she noticed another familiar couple nearby.
Royal and Lynette.
It surprised her to see them at the concert because though most of the town appeared to be here, it always seemed as if some of the younger wealth would find something else entertaining to do. But there they sat, Lynette in a polka dotted summer dress and hat it looked and Royal in slacks and a black shirt. An older couple who looked like Lynette's parents sat behind them.
She gazed at him for a long moment, watching Lynette try to engage him in some conversation even as he appeared focused on the music. He didn't appear to notice the woman he was with, the one he'd been so eager to marry. But then it wasn't really her that he wanted, it was what she represented and her net value. Not enough to be faithful to her for sure, but badly enough to marry her and keep his own secrets. Suddenly, she saw him turn his head in her direction and look straight at her. His face didn't register anything before he resumed watching the concert.
During intermission, Elena left to go look at the band's albums which were being sold at a kiosk off to the side. As she picked up a CD to look at it, she noticed Lynette standing next to her also looking through them. Having no desire to speak with her, she just focused on her reading hoping that Lynette wouldn't approach her.
"You think they're that great?"
Elena looked up at Lynette who stood there looking at her. She shrugged.
Lynette smiled with no mirth in her eyes.
"My daddy talked to their manager and booked them here," she said, "they canceled another in a much bigger arena to play here."
Elena didn't know what to say to that.
"You come here alone?"
Elena tilted her head wondering if she should tell Lynette it was none of her business but she didn't want to get into it with her.
"Lucky's with me…"
Lynette arched her eyebrows.
"Really…I had no idea he ventured outside his own crowd."
Elena just looked at her.
"We're just going as friends."
"How nice of him…"
"Yes he is very nice," she said, "We've been friends for a long time."
"Guys don't have girls who are friends," she said, "but in your case, I guess that's all you can hope for."
Elena felt herself bristle and knowing she had the words inside of her that could tear the other woman down a peg or two but she kept them there. Unleashing them would cause more trouble than it'd be worth.
"I mean you're almost pretty enough but a guy like that…you'll need more than looks to get him."
Elena just continued looking at the different albums.
"I mean with Royal it certainly took more," Lynette said, "Oh he might be attracted to a pretty face for a little while but he'll soon lose interest."
Elena turned to look at her.
"Why are you saying this to me?"
Lynette folded her arms.
"I mean if you know who he's been seeing, you best tell her that it won't last," she said, "He knows what he wants and I've got it."
"If you're so sure about that, why are you so sure that he's cheating on you?"
Lynette's face grew a little flustered but she just combed a strand of her hair back with some fingers.
"Men always cheat, they can't help themselves," she said, "and the wives don't care as long as they don't bring it home."
Elena just listened to her wondering how Lynette could say all that so matter of factly. But then again, maybe she didn't know who Royal had been cheating with…yet.
"Well that's hardly any of my concern is it," she said, "if I don't hang out with the rich and famous."
"Lucky's father is as wealthy as mine."
Elena knew that already, but she also knew that Lucky didn't spend any of his family's money.
"But he's different," she said, "He picks his friends for who they are inside and not where they came from."
Lynette's mouth grew prissy as she listened to her because she and Lucky had never been great friends even when they'd been in the same circles. Then Elena looked up and saw Royal approach not looking too happy. But when Lynette turned to look at him, he smiled in the way he knew would please her.
"Hi baby…the concert's getting ready to start again."
"I know…I just wanted to look at the albums and I ran into Elena here."
Royal looked over at her casually.
"Hi Elena…long time no see."
Elena paused and then she remembered he was referring to their work schedule so she smiled but not as easily as he did.
"Hi Royal...just thought I'd check out the concert."
"Not alone obviously," he said, "I saw you there with Lucky."
"We're just here as friends," she said, "not more than that."
He smiled back.
"Didn't need to tell me that," he said, "I'll see you tomorrow at the center…come on Lynette, your parents sent me to find you."
Lynette nodded and then took Royal's hand and they walked on back while Elena watched the both of them before heading back to Lucky.