Jenny was in some ways the oddball of the group as she studied fine art in college. Johnny and Roberta went for business as did I, well, I didn’t finish in business. I guess I was two entrepreneurial to pay attention when it counted so I switched to psychology and philosophy. That’s where Johnny first met Jenny and I guess fell in love. She was beautiful to a fault and had this aloofness that Johnny could never take advantage off. I’m sure that was why he wanted her so badly. He craved her when they were not together and acted like a love-struck teenager when she was around. Some might say he was obsessed with her but she never fought him off or stood him up in any way. She was more than willing to spend time with him and perhaps she got a kick out of his enthusiasm. After all, she seemed to like the attention of men and it drove Johnny crazy if she would even smile at someone else. I couldn’t peg it down but there was a hint of mischievous play in Jenny – like she had her own plan and we were just along for the ride.
Jenny and Roberta agreed to join us at Jason’s, the old college bar where we used to down pitches of draft three nights a week and on weekends, Monday’s and Tuesdays being study time. Today was past the end of term so we were safe. Not too many rowdies. Summer term wasn’t about to start for another couple of weeks so most of the undergrads were out looking for jobs or had already left Alliston. It wasn’t like a ghost town exactly. It was more like a normal Southern Ontario town only the two university campus’s brought in an extra thirty or forty thousand people each year. We were two hours outside Toronto and you’d think we were a thousand miles away every September. The way they leave home and arrive here all gawky and socially inept, first years must be mortified. Johnny and I were from here, went to school here, and stayed.
Jenny on the other hand came from the big smoke. She always said she wanted to get away from the bright lights and big city. She was worldlier than the rest of us it seemed. Right now there was enough we had been through together that any gaps didn’t show. We were the band of inseparable friends at that point.
“So tell us more about the gallery opening Jenny?” I asked.
“Anthony Richards. Well you know he just won that Fuller prize. It’s pretty prestigious as Canadian art goes and comes with $100,000. He’s a mid career artist – which means he’s been shown a number of times and been independently curated, and his works are collected. It also means he’s exciting.”
“Well we’ll take your word for that,” said Johnny.
“No seriously,” Jenny elbowed him. “He doesn’t like to be pegged down by the medium and prefers the process of non-convention, yet he uses traditional techniques in everything from photography to still life. It is exciting work. You never know what to expect. “
“I suppose there will be a cash bar then – that’s to be expected.” Johnny said.
“Is all you can think about tearing one on?” Jenny was getting defensive. We had been to shows of Jenny’s and part of the fun was the people that attended. Some very serious indeed but a lot were just as much fun and willing to let loose as any other celebration. Those were the ones that we gravitated towards. Tonight was a little different because of the prestige. We heard the Lieutenant Governor was going to be there which meant an entourage of the well healed. Jenny made a point of letting us know it was an honour to have been invited and as her guests she was expecting the best behavior from us all.
Johnny didn’t have the gallery on his mind I found. He was more concerned with the gift wrapped package he had in his pocket. He brought it out and made little by way of ceremony and put it in front of Jenny.
“It’s not what you think so don’t feel embarrassed to open it.” Johnny said.
“What is it, open it,” Roberta chimed in. I was as clueless as them all. I hadn’t seen or heard anything from Johnny about this and we had been together for a few hours now. Jenny un-wrapped the gift and opened the box. Inside was a ladies watch. It was impressive I must say, though just a little odd. Not too many people were wearing watches these days. Everyone had a mobile when you asked them for the time. It was a Fossil watch – reasonably expensive.
“It’s lovely,” Jenny said. “You shouldn’t have.”
“Well I did. And now you can spend even more time with me.”
“Aw, that’s lovely,” said Roberta,”truly romantic.” She gave a sideways glance to me as if to ask why I’m not like that but, we were not a couple in the least – we had the opportunity once or twice but that would complicate things and I was never into the cute best friends boyfriend and girlfriend stuff. It had happened once in high school and that was enough. Everywhere you would go, they would go. Everything you would do, they had to do.
Besides, Roberta was only pulling my leg. She knew it had been only three months or so since I broke up with Peggy. Peggy and I had been together off and on for two years and never quite made it. I guess I was too much of a bachelor, living in my apartment on East Street overlooking the river; I preferred the view and the quiet reflection and didn’t want extra baggage in my life.
Jenny put the watch on and it was a perfect fit so she kept it on her wrist.