I shrugged, waiting for Simon to get settled into the seat next to me. "Didn't feel well. He's staying home."
He paused, the seatbelt halfway across his chest. "Yeah? He okay?"
"Oh, he's fine," I mumbled, promising myself some serious retribution on my skinny-assed partner for making me lie to Simon. "Stomach thing. I didn't inquire real closely, if you get my drift."
I pulled away from the curb, hoping that was the end of it, but instead of letting it drop, Simon pursued the subject.
"Does he need anything? We can stop "
"Nah, Simon, look he'll be fine, okay? C'mon, let's just enjoy the evening."
And for the most part, we did. Before the seventh inning stretch, I excused myself to call my perfectly healthy partner on the pretext of 'checking' on him.
"You're nuts, but then that's not news, is it?"
"Shut up, I am not. Having a good time?"
"Yeah, but well, you know." So I can't tell him that I miss him, that I'm looking forward to getting home, just because I'm in the middle of a stadium with thirty thousand of my closest friends. So shoot me he heard it anyway .
"Yeah, well, for the record, I *do* know," he said, the smoky timbre of his voice confirming it. "But this was important, trust me. You going out afterwards?"
"I don't "
"Go. Have a couple of beers and ask him about Amy."
"Amy? The nurse?"
"Uh, hunh. They're seeing each other, remember?"
"So he's fumbling at the goal line, man! He needs some *serious* coaching!"
Through the crowd, I could see Simon headed my way. "But why me?"
"Because you because you're his best friend, all right?" The slight crack in his voice puzzled me until I looked up and saw the easy smile on Simon's face as he handed me a beer.
"Look," Blair continued, "I'll wait up, okay? I want the play by play and I'm *not* talking about the game. And after that "
"Yeah?" I smiled, hearing the distinct change in his tone.
"Then you and I can make up for lost time."
"I'm telling you, Jim, he misses you!"
"He sees me every day, Chief."
"Yeah, he sees you with *me* every day where there used to be just you get it?"
"So what you're saying is "
"He *misses* you."
"Sandburg, that's just "
"No, it's not. You two used to do stuff together all the time before I showed up, right?"
"Well, yeah, but it's not like Simon doesn't like having you around."
"Duh, Jim, but it's just not the same. Tell you what, I think I'm coming down with a virus or something "
"What'd I miss?" I asked as I hung up, Blair's soft promise flowing beneath my skin in warm waves of anticipation.
"Not much," Simon replied as we headed back to our seats.
Maybe not, but it was time to find out because that's what best friends do.
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