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A Tender Trap

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Zeke paced on the boardwalk like a caged lion. Jimmy had asked to meet him there. It was a little after 6am on the morning after ‘The Punch’ and Zeke was still furious. It wasn’t just that Jimmy had acted like a spoiled brat. It wasn’t that he landed a few good hits on him because he could deal with punches. No. Jimmy Jr. had hit Tina. Accident or no, Zeke wouldn’t stand for it. 

He tried to calm down by looking out over the water, leaning on the railing and taking deep, even breaths. At such an early hour no one was out except for a jogger or two. The sun was barely up over the waves and there was a chill in the air. A few wispy clouds rolled around in the sky. It was going to be a beautiful day...just as soon as business was taken care of. 

Zeke turned when someone called his voice. Jimmy and, to his surprise, Rebecca walked up. They were holding hands...huh…His attention turned back to his not-friend when Jimmy started to speak. 

“Hey Zeke. Thanks for WHAM what the hell Zeke?!?”

Jimmy covered his nose as blood trickled through his fingers. Rebecca squeaked in alarm and dug through her purse for a napkin or tissue. 

“You had that coming for hurting my girl,” Zeke hissed coldly. 

“Ib was n ac’iden!” Jimmy protested weakly. 

“I know. It’s why I haven’t broken both of your legs.”

Jimmy and Rebecca both stared at Zeke in shock because they knew he was serious. 

“Zeke...are we ok? Can we talk?” Rebecca said cautiously. 

He sighed and ran his hands over his face. “Yeah, we can talk.”

They were led to a bench where a gym bag was sitting on the seat. Zeke went through it, digging out a towel and a one-time-use ice pack which he handed to Rebecca.

“Premeditated punching?” she asked with a bit of snark as she began to clean Jimmy up. 

“I’m an asshole, not a bastard.”

She nodded as if this made perfect sense. Since Jimmy wasn’t quite capable of talking without a translator, Rebecca handled the conversation. 

“So, what’s the deal?”

Zeke sighed, then began his tale. “Tina has had a long time ‘thing’ for Jimmy. She’s been starry-eyed for him as long as I can remember. Every once in a while some other guy would catch her eye, but it never lasted. Hell, I tried more than a few times, but she always went back to Jimmy. I dunno, maybe she didn’t take me seriously, but I meant every word.”

Jimmy winced as Rebecca put the cold pack on his nose. 

“Why didn’t you ow! say something before?”

“I did. Remember when you stayed at my place the summer before freshman year?”

“Yeah?” he said, not actually remembering. 

“We sat in the backyard and I told you, flat out, that I liked Tina. I told you I was going to ask her out...then two days later you asked her to the movies without telling me.”

Jimmy bowed his head. “Damn...I’m sorry Zeke. I totally forgot about that.”

His friend frowned but accepted the apology. “Kinda gotten used to it. If we’re being honest, you’ve always been a selfish dick.”

Rebecca put a hand on Jimmy’s shoulder before he could react.

“It’s true honey. I had a number of girls warn me off of you. I was pretty cautious till I was sure you really did care about me.”

He thought about this, trying to process the new information. 

“I guess...I guess I am a jerk. I’m sorry Zeke. Honestly.”

His friend sighed. “It’s ok now. I’m in love and you’re in love. Thankfully it’s with two different people.”

Jimmy laughed then immediately regretted it as his nose throbbed. 

“So...we’re good?”

“Yeah, we’re good. Need help getting home?”

“Nah. Figure Becca and I will stay put for a bit and enjoy the sunrise.”

“Cool. I gotta go home and take a nap. I’ve got a big night tonight.”

Both Jimmy and Rebecca gave him a curious look.

“It’s Wednesday. I’ve got a date, a real date with Tina. I gotta make it perfect. It’s all she wants before she goes to college. One perfect summer date.”

Rebecca went misty-eyed. “That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard!”

Zeke blushed a little. “Thanks. Call you tomorrow J-Ju.”

“Good luck man.”

He grinned and picked up his gym bag before heading home. He hoped his head would slow down enough to allow him a little extra sleep, but he was sure he’d just spend an hour lying in bed and thinking about Tina. It wasn’t a bad thing in his opinion.