Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chapter Three

Chapter Three, in which Tim has a flashback.

Tim was nervously twiddling his thumbs on the couch in Marie Lore's apartment while Marie Lore was in the bathroom getting ready. He'd been here plenty of times but he never felt totally comfortable for some reason. It wasn't that Marie Lore didn't welcome him into her home; in fact she encouraged it. But it was so sterile and plain, and with Marie Lore always taking at least an hour longer to get ready than she'd promised, it felt more like a waiting room at a medical office furniture catalog than somebody's home. The walls were white; the linoleum white; the furniture white. The designer in Tim screamed for a bit of color and personality every time he walked in, and in fact the white was so intense it made him feel claustrophobic. If he had to send his dog off to spend the night with Mrs. Purdy every time Marie Lore came over, so be it. Anything for a little color.

Eight forty-five it said on the little silver clock on the side table. Everybody else was waiting for them at the pub for sure. This was going to be the first time they'd all get to meet Marie Lore and Tim was all nerves about hoping to make a good first impression. Introducing her to his family had already gone badly enough thanks to his sister's short fuse, but her opinion didn't matter as much as Gary's and April's and everyone else's. Friends were the ones that were supposed to pick out the big issues and warn Tim that Marie Lore was completely wrong for him, after all. Not that Tim would stop seeing Marie Lore just because his friends told him not to; he was crazy about her after all. But he didn't want a repeat of his relationship with Helen in college and keep his friends and his relationship from ever crossing.

Another five minutes, and Tim couldn't keep quiet anymore. "chérie, you know my friends aren't going to care what you look like. And anyway you look beautiful," he called to her.

"Mais non," Marie Lore whined from the bathroom. "C'est impossible. My hair is very bad today. Nothing looks assez bien for a club."

"I'm sure whatever you're wearing looks fine, chérie," said Tim. "They're all probably going to wearing jeans and t-shirts anyway. It's only an Irish pub."

"Beh, these American women do not know how to go out properly. I do not know what you ever saw in them, Fred."

"Tim, chérie. I really like Tim better," sighed Tim. He'd brought this up several times already but it was like talking to a brick wall. Maybe when Marie Lore has spent more time here in America with English spoken natively she'd call him Tim.

Another fifteen minutes passed before Marie Lore finally decided she was ready to go out. She looked exactly the same as when she went into the bathroom earlier, except now she was wearing hoop earrings instead of silver chandeliers. Tim decided to go heavy with the compliments and agree that it was a huge improvement even though he really didn't think it made a difference. He didn't want to upset her tonight of all nights.

"There they are," said Ricky when he saw Tim and Marie Lore walk into the Bunratty Inn. "Holy crap, she's gotta be at least a foot taller than him," he snickered, easily amused as always.

"I think she's wearing high-heels," said April. "Why is she wearing high heels? And all that makeup? That's not normal." She absently picked at the dry mud on her jeans from working in her garden earlier.

"Tim said French girls are like that," said Elaine, taking a sip of her martini. "And she's only been here a month so- ssh! Here they come!"

There was the usual round of introductions, of course. Marie Lore was always bad with names, and she kept confusing Gary with Ricky (they were both big guys with beards), Elaine with Tomoko ("I'm Korean and Tomoko's Japanese," explained Elaine, hoping that that would help clarify), and April was just a hard name to remember for no good reason. That followed with the awkward chitchat which was made worse by the fact that everybody talked too fast for Marie Lore to understand ("So how do you like the US so far?" "Almost six weeks."). Eventually Marie Lore got sick of small talk and hung close to Tim for the rest of the evening.

"So what do you guys think," asked Tim when Marie Lore disappeared into the bathroom. She had given Tomoko and Elaine a weird look when they got up to tag along so they sat back down awkwardly.

"She's really pretty," Elaine said a little too quickly.

"Her English is a lot better than I thought it was gonna be," added Ricky.

"You don't like her," sighed Tim, sinking a little in his seat. He figured this would happen.

"No no! She's great and I'm really happy for you," said April, jumping in. "She's just... a little different from what we were expecting. More um..." April struggled for the right polite word. "More cosmopolitan than we thought you liked."

"Fred," sighed Marie Lore, suddenly appearing behind Tim. "J'ai mal à la tête. On peut aller déjà?" She had a pained expression on her face.

"Quoi, maintenant," asked Tim, ignoring the confused look on his friends' faces as he switched into French. "Mais nous venons d'arriver! La nuit ne fait que commencer!"

"J'ai mal, Fred," said Marie Lore again firmly, furrowing her brow just enough to show she really meant it.

"Okay, okay," sighed Tim, pushing his chair back from the table. "Sorry guys, but I have to help her home. She's getting a bad headache. We'll see you all later?" They left while Tim's friends said "bye" and "feel better" to their backs.

"Gary hon, you've been pretty quiet all night. Are you okay," asked Elaine after Tim and Marie Lore vanished. Gary growled at her to express his displeasure before popping another peanut into his mouth.

"That girl is the biggest snob ever," declared April, feeling that it was time to really say what she thought. "She came to a dinky pub dressed like she was going to Studio 54!"

"She wiped her hands with disinfectant gel after I gave her a handshake," said Ricky. "I didn't even have food on my hands."

"She kept mixing me up with Elaine because we 'all look ze same' to her," added Tomoko with a very bad attempt at a French accent.

Gary growled again.

"You didn't like her either, huh Gary," said April.

"Biggest phony fathead ever," said Gary. "She's way out of his league and he's way too good for her stuck-up ass."

"But what do we do," asked April. "It's not like we can tell him that he has to dump her because we think she sucks. He'd never speak to us again."

"Maybe it was just a bad first impression," said Elaine, ever the voice of reason.

"No, she faked a headache because she hated us too," said Gary. "She said 'aller déjà'. Translation: can we leave already." Spending all that time hanging out with the Harmon clan finally paid off, he thought smugly when everybody else suddenly nodded in understanding.

"Oh this is going to be weird," noted Ricky as he shoved a handful of nuts into his mouth.

Tim meanwhile felt unsure of what to do as he walked Marie Lore back to her apartment. It was only six blocks but it felt like sixty thanks to Marie Lore's sour mood. "Do you want a shoulder rub, chérie?"

"Non, I think not," replied Marie Lore quite plainly. She sure didn't sound angry, but her body language wasn't all that happy either. Tim gave her hand a reassuring squeeze and was happy that she at least squeezed back. If he did something wrong at some point that night at least it wasn't something unforgivable.

"They're not that bad, are they," he asked when they got to Marie Lore's building.

"Non, non," said Marie Lore. She put her hands on Tim's shoulders and pulled him close. "I just do not feel very good. My head is very sore. Is that okay?" She looked down at him with a small pout on her lips. Tim melted.

"Of course it's okay, chérie," he said. He long ago got over the fact that he had to stand on his toes to kiss her and he didn't care that the grumpy guy with the cigarette that just walked by guffawed at them. "So I'll see you tomorrow," he asked when they finally broke apart.

"Ah Fred, I forgot to tell you. I cannot see you this weekend. Tomorrow I have to go with my boss to a meeting with our designers," said Marie Lore. She pouted again and affectionately scratched the back of Tim's neck. Tim melted again. "I will see you on Sunday instead?"

"Sure. No problem," said Tim. He was still woozy from that kiss. God, she's beautiful, he thought as he gazed into her eyes. "I'll call you Sunday morning then."

"Excellent! Sleep well mon petit chou." She gave him another tender kiss before disappearing into her building. Tim breathed a contented sigh and stood by the door a minute longer to savor the moment. Then he left while whistling "Something Good" by Herman's Hermits, feeling just like Peter Noone singing it. He wasn't sure how or what he had done to win Marie Lore's heart, but whatever it was it sure seemed to work and Tim was thankful for it. He had a really good feeling about this budding relationship. Maybe she was even The One...

"Oh god she cheated on me the night she met you guys!"

"What? Who? Where am I?" Gary had been dozing in the recliner and nearly jumped out of his skin from Tim's sudden outburst.

"That night we were all at the pub! She canceled our date after I walked her home because of one of her stupid work meetings!" Tim moaned pathetically as he wrapped his arms around his legs and rocked back and forth. "She left early so she could go be with another man! And I fell for it!"

Gary looked at his watch. It was 10:30 and the night was still young. "Tim, we've gotta get you out of here. There's too much here reminding you of that devil woman." Also I'm sick of sitting here doing nothing, he mentally added.

Tim had apparently cried himself to sleep while Gary finished scrubbing the mattress (and quite thoroughly, it must be noted), leaving Gary with nothing to do. He felt a bit awkward sitting there watching Tim sleep, and he knew that this wasn't an appropriate time to go back home. So he took the liberty of borrowing Tim's computer to play a few Flash games on the Internet, but that got old pretty fast. He alternated with checking his work and personal email accounts but since it was Friday night, not even a new penis enlargement message had come in since he last checked it five minutes ago.

"I'm such an idiot," cried Tim, completely ignoring Gary. "What was I thinking, falling in love with somebody so dishonest like that? I'm the biggest idiot in the world!"

"You're not the biggest idiot in the world, Tim. Just the most lovesick," Gary said gruffly as he unceremoniously grabbed Tim like a doll and hoisted him over his shoulder. "I'm sick of sitting here and watching you kick yourself. You didn't do anything wrong, she's the one who fucked things up and she wasn't worth the trouble anyway." Gary's cranky mood was getting the better of him, and it wasn't just because his evening plans had entirely fallen through. Gary had actually been looking forward to the day when Tim and that French skank broke it off. He'd even written a little song about it: "I Always Knew She Was a Ho, With Clarinet in D". It had a whimsical opening not unlike something from Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" that ended with an abrupt C-sharp and followed with Gary singing, "she's a ho, the biggest ho, the biggest ho to ever ho," and doing a little dance. It was awesome.

Tim didn't bother to struggle, feeling too exhausted both physically and emotionally to do anything more than moan weakly. Couldn't Gary understand that he was genuinely hurt? Marie Lore hadn't just broken up with him- she was too much of a coward for that- instead she spent the last seven months stringing him along while she played with the other boys. Oh god, Daniel couldn't have been the only one, could he?

"Gary, where are we going," he asked when Gary waved at the upcoming bus at the bus stop.

"First we're going to King Pin for some donuts," Gary said sternly. The bus pulled over and Gary climbed in, still carrying Tim on his shoulder. "Then we're going to Ricky's. You need something to distract you from Marie Lore tonight and I'm too cranky to do it by myself. The donuts are a bribe."

"Oh. One more thing?"


"Can you put me down? My belt buckle is digging into my stomach."

"No. It'll help distract you from thinking about the Demon Woman." The hoodlums at the back of the bus were just as confused as the old lady in the front seat as to why a big angry guy climbed aboard with a little weepy guy on his shoulder, but now they had their answer.

"You know what they say young man, there's plenty of fish in the sea," the old lady said helpfully. She was the perfect example of the kind of old ladies you'd find on the bus late at night: cane that was more a hazard to passers-by than it was a walking aid; pink plastic grocery bag with red flowers printed on; thick glasses; and a warm shawl and a hat.

"Marie Lore loved fish," wailed Tim as the tears suddenly started to pour out again. Gary gave the woman one of those "if looks could kill" looks and then shrugged his shoulders. If Tim wanted to embarrass himself and be a blubbering mess in public, that was his problem, thought Gary as the bus pulled over at their stop some time later.

Ricky lived in an overpriced loft a few miles from Tim and Gary's neighborhood. It was one of those neighborhoods that didn't look like more than just a few houses and apartments but there was a lovely little gallery that was unfortunately located a few blocks from the nearest bus stop that had all the kinds of business locales a young person could need to patronize on a Friday night: a couple of crummy Chinese restaurants, a döner kebab stand, a convenience store, a surprisingly not-at-all dodgy bar, and of course King Pin Donuts. Ricky was working on a difficult case that would likely make his slightly mentally unstable client very angry when they met on Monday so Gary made sure to get a couple of extra jelly donuts. Tim still hung limply from Gary's shoulder, sniffling every now and then.

After procuring the donuts Gary carried Tim back to Ricky's building. "Ricky! Open up," he shouted at the window. No sign of life except for the light. "Hey Stupid!" Stupid was Gary's nickname for Ricky. "Tim dumped Marie Lore! And I have donuts!"

As a warning, this chapter has not been beta-read by Randall, so it might not be up to standard compared to previous chapters. As always, crit is welcome, especially in the comments on this site.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chapter Two

Chapter Two, in which Gary gets sick of comforting.

Gary yelped in surprise as his cell phone suddenly rang, causing everybody in a three-cubicle radius to look up to see what was the matter before turning back to their work when they saw it wasn't anything that would get the building evacuated. Gary rolled his eyes and took a deep breath before answering. "'Sup doodlebug," he said, trying to sound cool. He knew right away that it was Elaine because he set his phone to play "Still the One" by Orleans whenever it was her.

"Babe, I'm so sorry but I can't do tonight. There's an emergency at the shop," said Elaine, sounding just a little on edge.

"Aw man! What did that annoying new chick do now? Burn her face with the milk steamer?" Gary threw down his pencil on his desk. It made a nice little CLACK before it rolled off the desk, much to Gary's chagrin.

"I wish. She quit an hour ago and there's only one person to cover me right now."

"What about Rick? It's his coffee shop. He should be ready to take over when there's an emergency." He crawled onto the floor and under the desk with a bit of effort, looking for his rogue 0.5 lead pencil.

"I'm in the emergency room with him right now."

"What? Ouch!" Gary glared at the desk as he rubbed the back of his head. "What are you doing with Rick in the emergency room?"

"He got so mad when Sheila walked out that he punched the window and cut his hand up. Bobby's covering for me right now but as soon as they're done with Rick's stitches I have to go back and help sort it all out." Rick was known for his occasional temper tantrum, so Elaine was able to explain everything without so much as a blink.

"Aw, dammit Rick," whined Gary.

"I know babe. I'll make it up for you tomorrow, okay? Rick's coming out now so I've got to go. Love you."

"Okay. Love you too," said Gary even though Elaine hung up before he had finished. He found his pencil at least.

Gary yawned loudly as he hit the "pause" button on the video game controller later that evening. Video games alone on the couch wasn't how he had intended to spend his Friday night. There was supposed to be a simple dinner and a movie with Elaine. A nice, much-needed night of just the two of them having some much-needed- and simple- fun. And without broken glass embedded in the fist of a scary man Elaine referred to as a “pussy cat”.

"Ricky's still working on that big case so he'll be gone for a while," Gary said to himself, remembering Ricky's long rant about a new client at his law firm. And Tomoko's having that intervention with her room mate; probably shouldn't go mess that up, he thought. And Tim's begging Marie Lore for mercy again and April's visiting her folks. Gary pouted a little longer before taking his cell phone out of his pocket. If he was going to be alone all evening he may as well have some pizza to drown his sorrows in.

He was just about to flip the phone open when the little screen suddenly lit up and played "Libiamo ne' lieti calici"- the drinking song from Verdi's "La traviata".

"Hey, 'sup Tim," said Gary, chuckling at his great sense of timing.

"Do you mind coming over," Tim asked softly. "I just broke up with Marie Lore."

"Holy crap! What happened?" If Gary had been drinking anything, he'd have done a spit take.

"She cheated. I threw her keys out the window and now my stomach hurts. Can you hurry?"

Gary shook his head and groaned inwardly. Comforting his emotionally-fragile best friend was not how he wanted to spend his Friday night.

"You've gotta admit, that does take a lot of guts," said Gary, putting his feet up on the coffee table. He was wearing his green socks that were in fact clean but always looked dirty. There were holes in each big toe. "I mean cheating on you is one thing, but in your own bed? It's like something out of a sitcom!"

"Uh huh," replied Tim.

"You know, you are allowed the initial reaction of punching him in the face. You didn't have to introduce yourself while he's naked with your girlfriend."

"Uh huh."

"Are you even listening to what I'm saying, Tim?"

"Uh huh."

Tim called Gary and asked him to come over after he had realized that he had been staring at the TV while it was turned off for nearly an hour. It probably wasn't the healthiest thing to do and it left him with a terrible cramp in his left thigh.

Gary rolled his eyes. "Look. Obviously you're taking this a lot harder than you thought you would. I don't blame you, buddy. It's one thing to get cheated on right under your nose. It's a whole other level of screwed up when it's going on in your own bed. That's just plain twisted."

"Uh huh."

"Tim, are you even listening to what I'm saying?"

"Uh huh."

Gary rolled his eyes again. If it weren't for the fact that he was bald he would have run his fingers through his hair to express his exasperation. Instead he settled for pinching the bridge of his nose. He hated dealing with people after a breakup. They were always either terribly cliché like in the movies, or unpredictable and liable to lash out at any moment which on second thought was just as cliché.

The phone rang just then. Tim made no move to get up and answer it so Gary didn't either. After a few more rings the answering machine got it. "Hi, you've reached Tim Harmon. I can't get to the phone now so please leave your name and number. Thanks." Beep!

"Fre- Teem, c'est moi. J'ai besoin de mes clés. Appelle-moi." Click.

"Hey,” said Gary. “She called you Tim for once! That's Great! How did that happen? Tim?"

Tim sniffled and rolled away so he was facing the back of the couch. "I don't know," he moaned, doing a very poor job of hiding the fact that he was crying.

"Aw, come here little guy. Let Gary squeeze it all out for you," said Gary as he got out of the easy chair and plopped onto the couch. He scooped his best friend up for one of his famous back-popping hugs.

Tim wasn't very fond of crying. He didn't like all the wetness and the mucus and the tight feeling on the sides of his head. Worst of all was the hiccuping that always left him incoherent even after the tears had subsided. He was happy for Gary's shoulder though and squeezed back when Gary squeezed him harder. "That's it. Just let it all out," he heard Gary murmur.

Gary stole a look at the time on the microwave while Tim sobbed into his shoulder. You sure do cry a lot for such a stoic person, Gary thought as he recalled Tim's most recent crying episodes: there was the city opera season's opening night when Othello strangled Desdemona- that was only a couple of weeks ago; there was the wicked heartburn from last month that went on for three days, but that crying spell was more because it was so painful physically than emotionally; there was another stupid fight with Marie Lore over something that Gary couldn't understand (as usual); and of course there was April playing "Old Yeller" at movie night the week before the opera opening. Gary wondered if that one should count however since everybody except Ricky and Marie Lore cried. The heartless bastards.

Judging by the growing wet patch on his shoulder, Gary figured he'd be stuck letting Tim cry for the rest of the evening if he didn't do something.

"You know, Tim, some things in life are bad. They can really make you mad," began Gary. "Other things just make you swear and curse. When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble, give a whistle!"

"N-not what I n-need, Gary," Tim sniffed into Gary's shoulder. Gary however would hear none of it.

"Always look on the bright side of life!" Gary paused to whistle. "Always look on the bright side of life!"

"Not he-helping," Tim said a little more firmly. He wanted to glare at Gary but he just realized that Gary was squeezing him hard enough that he couldn't move even if he wanted to.

"If life seems jolly rotten there's something you've forgotten, and that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing." Tim started to struggle, but it was no use. Gary kept singing and even started to sway in time as he approached the chorus. Tim felt like a harvest mouse in the grips of a corn snake.

When Gary finally finished singing the two friends sat on the couch in awkward silence. Tim finally managed to escape Gary's iron grip and curled up on the opposite end of the couch, still sniffling. Gary sat on his end, unsure of what to do next. It wasn't the first time that he had had to come and comfort somebody after a bad breakup, but he wasn't exactly the most reassuring or comforting person in the world.

"So do you feel any better," asked Gary. He twiddled his thumbs, not really sure what to do next.

"Not really," said Tim. He clutched the pillow a little closer to his chest.

"Was it too much?"

"A little. I don't really feel like laughing," he sniffed.

"So I shouldn't try the talking stove thing then, eh?"

"Please don't.”

Gary sighed and leaned back into the couch. He stared a little at the ceiling. "You know, this isn't exactly easy for me either. Do you know how hard it is to comfort somebody after a breakup?"

"Excuse me?" Tim wiped his nose and arched his eyebrow at Gary.

"It's not easy! I know you've been there for me plenty of times, but I don't get so weepy about like you do. It's awkward to hold a crying man, especially when it's out of the blue like this."

Tim couldn't believe what he was hearing, and he turned and glared at Gary. "Well excuse me if I made you feel uncomfortable. I've only just had my heart ripped out of my chest and trampled on by the Strumpet of Buxton Avenue."

"Sorry, sorry," mumbled Gary, suddenly feeling very frustrated. When Ricky broke up with his last girlfriend in June, Gary took him out for a few drinks. They got drunk, flirted with some of the women in the bar, peed in an alley on the way to the all-night donut shop, and called it a night. When Gary broke up with Kate three years ago he took a boxing class at the gym and gained fifteen pounds from too much beer and junk food during the first week. It was simple. There was no crying or talking about feelings or wallowing in emotional agony. It was just a matter of-

"Gary, you're talking to yourself again. And I remember a lot of used tissues and a few pints of ice cream after Kate. You're just as emotional as anybody else." Tim grabbed a tissue from the box and wiped his glasses. It was always so hard to get tears out without just smudging it into the lenses and making a mess.

"God dammit! I can't get a break today!" Gary threw his arms up in the air in defeat. "I hate people and relationships!"

"Trouble with Elaine?" Tim offered the box of tissues to Gary who in turn grabbed a few and started wringing them in his hands.

"We were finally going to have a night for just the two of us, and she had to bail out because she has to cover for that annoying girl that just quit. Oh, and Rick got mad and punched a window."

“Is he okay?”

“Elaine had to take him to get stitches apparently.”

“Sheesh, I'm sorry.” Tim put his glasses back on and offered Gary the tissues.

"Don't be. I'm just being pouty," said Gary as he looked down at the small pile of tissue shreds in his lap. "I'm not the one that just got dumped by some stupid whore."

"She only cheated on me. I'm the one that dumped her," corrected Tim. He blew his nose rather loudly.

"Seriously man, you were way too good for her. You treated her like a queen and she never thanked you. You should burn those sexed-up sheets and forget about her. She's not worth the brain cells." Gary winced when Tim sniffled again and he realized he was going far too fast for his friend. It had only been what? Two hours? Jesus Gary, why don't you just stab him with a knife and pour salt in the wound? Rub some lemon juice in there for good measure.

Tim made a strange whining gurgling sound and he waved one hand while he buried his face in a tissue with the other. Gary interpreted that to mean, "Shut up and hold me. I feel like utter crap." He obliged and hugged Tim again. It was probably for the best that Elaine had to cancel; having to leave in the middle of a nice meal, or being too late and finding Tim doing something stupid in the name of love would be an even worse alternative to the night.

Gary was unable to coax Tim to go out for a drink, or to even leave the couch really. At one point during the evening he suggested they strip Tim's bed and give it a good cleaning with some vinegar and detergent to get rid of every trace of what had just transpired, but as soon as Tim saw the bed again he turned into a quivering mass and dragged himself back to the couch to sob. Gary took the initiative and took all of the sheets down to the sidewalk where they'd disappear to a new home within the hour. He emptied the trash too, and tried to hide his disgust at the fact that he was indirectly handling a disgusting used condom with another man's spunk in there.

"Hey Tim, buddy? I'm gonna try and scrub the mattress a little, but I think it's going to be too wet to sleep on tonight. Is that cool?" Tim curled up into a tighter ball on the couch and whimpered, which Gary took for a "yes".

While Gary did all of the dirty work of cleaning up every trace of Marie Lore's infidelity, Tim alternated between sobbing into his couch cushion and sipping water only because he didn't want to get dehydrated. Each time he did though he remembered that Marie Lore enjoyed drinking water and the tears would start all over again.

Worst of all however, was that all the tension in Tim's face was aggravating his old battle wound from the Leslie Anne Shuman Incident last year. It may have taken a month for the bones in his jaw to set after she punched him, but that didn't mean that the injury was completely healed. The throbbing on the left side of Tim's face was just the cherry on top of the shit sundae that his life had just served up for him.

How could Marie Lore have been so cruel? Of all the ways to betray Tim she had to pick the meanest way imaginable. And for how long? Tim groaned as he realized that this affair could have been going on for weeks, months even. All those weekends when she had to go "out of town" for one reason or another... she was cavorting in the nude with somebody else! Why? Oh why?!

Gary shook his head as he sprayed watered-down detergent on the mattress. Tim was like a brother to him, and to see him in so much pain brought out the mama bear instinct in Gary. It tore him up inside to hear Tim wailing, "Oh god! Why?! Why me," into a pillow.

But most of all he was mad. Tim was the sweetest man in the world; he couldn't do any harm to anybody even if he wanted to. Gary really meant it when he said Tim was too good for her; hell, the whole planet was too good for her. He'd been thinking that since Day One! But Elaine and Tomoko insisted that he keep his big mouth shut. "You're not his mother," they said. "You're only seeing one side of her," they claimed. "Okay, she's a bitch,” they admitted not much later. “But it's his life and he has to learn from his mistakes himself.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Chapter One

Chapter One, in which Tim Harmon hopes to make peace.

It hadn't been a very good day, but for some reason Tim couldn't help but whistle as he walked home that night, bouquet of white tulips in one hand and a grocery bag in the other. Marie Lore had picked another fight with him a few days ago over something-- Tim was being too much of a pushover about something, though he never figured out exactly what—but after her call this afternoon, it sounded like she was ready to make up with him. She'd been doing this sort of thing a lot lately, and every time it ended with a nice home-cooked meal, flowers, and some pretty amazing make-up sex. Right-- that was why he had to whistle.

Or maybe he didn't want to admit to himself that things with Marie Lore were starting to go downhill fast and the way back up was starting to crumble away. Nah. It had been nine months; they were just starting to settle down as it were. They had just fallen into a cozy routine and were getting a bit complacent. The two of them just needed the passion of an occasional spat to stay excited about each other. One couldn't accept sunshine and gumdrops forever, he told himself.

His mailbox was empty. Eugene, the building's worthless supervisor, had now left the elevator broken for a full week. Fine: if Tim could believe what he heard in Marie Lore's voice today, he was still just two flights of stairs away from seeing her in a cleavage-baring dress and ridiculous stiletto heels.

"I'll give her these nice flowers," thought Tim as he started up the stairs. "And then I'll make her her favorite risotto, she'll say 'Oh Fred! C'est trop!' and this time I won't tell her that I don't like it when she calls me Fred because that makes her mad." Marie Lore had only been living in America for about eight months now, so her English was still rather poor. She used that as an excuse for calling Tim by his middle name, Fréderic, claiming "Tim" was too hard for French people to say properly because it was too nasal. It was the reason for their first fight actually. Tim's mother and her side of the family were all French and they could say his name without any problem; Marie Lore refused to believe this, even when she had dinner with Tim's parents that one time. After several more days of polite nudging, Tim told her that he simply didn't want to be Fred, and that she could find a boy with a less nasal name if that was a problem. She yelled, cried, made him sleep on his couch, and promptly went back to calling him "Fred." In the end Tim relented and let Marie Lore call him whatever she wanted just to get her off his back about it all though he still held out hope that one day she'd call him by his proper name.

Strolling up to the front door, Tim whistled "La donna e mobile", blushing a little as he thought about Makeup Sex, always a happy ending. It was going to be an excellent night. He could tell; things just felt right.

"Marie Lore, c'est moi," called Tim as he carefully pushed the front door open. No sudden movements, don't want to surprise her, he thought nervously. The first few moments of begging forgiveness were always the scariest, and he always felt like a gazelle edging up to a watering hole next to a lion.

"Huh," mumbled Tim as he crept into his apartment. Marie Lore wasn't on the couch. "Marie Lore? C'est moi, Fred," he called again. No answer. The lights were on so she had to have been there at some point. No lights in the bathroom either, Tim noted. But then his gaze caught a little bit of light coming from under the bedroom door. "Oho! So the little minx wants more than just risotto, eh? I think I can do something about that," said Tim with a little too much glee. He dropped the grocery bag by the front door and bounced across the apartment to the bedroom door, pulling down the zipper on his jacket.

"Oh ma petite lolita," Tim murmured seductively as he opened the door. "Intimacy is so hard from this range. Why don't I join you in there for a bit of- oh." Tim flicked the light switch on just to be sure. "Oh." He was sure.

Most women would be very surprised and a bit shocked, disgraced even, at being caught in their boyfriend's bed with another man. Marie Lore just got angry and chucked her pillow at Tim. "Fred! What are you doing here!? Get out,” she screeched.

Tim remained standing there, not quite certain what to do next. Here was his girlfriend, in his bed, in his apartment, in her birthday suit. Tim could process that bit of information just fine. This was normal; in fact this was generally encouraged. But then there was this strange man, tanned skin and blond hair, big muscles, and likely no pants also in Tim's bed in Tim's apartment. He had a dopey grin on his face and one of his arms was wrapped around Marie Lore's shoulders. He probably had some kind of stupid name like "Hoit" or "Aiden" or "Julius". This scene resulted in a "syntax error" in Tim's mind as he tried to put two and two together. Girlfriend, Blond Jerk. Girlfriend, Blond Jerk. Girlfriend, Blond Jerk.

"Um. Hm." In his mind there were a dozen things Tim could be doing right now. Screaming "Marie Lore! How could you," and throwing down the flowers came to mind. Hurling the pillow back at Marie Lore and stuffing the flowers into Blond Jerk's mouth was also an option. And of course he could burst into tears and curl up on the floor in a miserable little ball, but that one seemed a little too messy and premature. Instead, before Tim could stop himself, he held up his right hand and waved. "Hi. I'm Tim."

"Charmed. I'm Daniel," replied Blond Jerk Daniel with a stupid little salute. He still had that dopey grin on his face. "I take it you've met Marie Lore?"

"Yes. Yes I have." Tim took a second to look at Marie Lore. She was pouting and staring at the foot of the bed, and most infuriatingly of all, she dared to tap her foot impatiently as though Tim were wasting her time. Tim wasn't sure whether he should scream or just jump out the window right there.

"Can you please go out for a few moments, Fred? It is rude to stand there and stare."

"Oh je suis tellement désolé Marie Lore," Tim replied, deciding that spewing his anger was the appropriate response to this situation. "What on Earth was I thinking just standing here in my room like this when you two are obviously so busy having sex in my bed! The nerve of me! Here's what I'll do. I'll go out and let you guys finish up while I make dinner! I'll even get out a third glass of wine so everybody can enjoy. How does that sound?" Tim hoped that last sentence sounded as bitter and sarcastic as he thought it did. He didn't even wait for an answer as he threw the flowers to the floor and stomped out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. There were a couple of half-empty glasses of wine on the counter in the kitchen- courtesy of Blond Jerk Daniel most likely- and Tim chugged them both down before leaning on the counter to collect himself.

"Let's see, what did I do wrong. She got mad at me on Sunday, I know that much. But what did I do?" Tim tried to replay the day's events. What could he have possibly done to offend her? "I held the door open when we went to get brunch. I stood up whenever she left the table. I told her she looked nice in that dress, and then I walked her home and she turned into a demon and hung up when I called and asked if she wanted to see a movie. Was that too last minute? Did I have something in my teeth maybe? It's not that time of the month yet..."

He tapped his fingers nervously on the counter top. It was beginning to dawn on him like the burning in his chest from all that wine that this might have been going on for a while. Not necessarily here in his bed (what kind of sicko does that anyway?), but how could be so sure? She had been acting pretty weird for a few weeks now, even for her. Had she been cheating on him for weeks? Months even?

Tim heard the door creak open a few minutes later. Blond Jerk Daniel made a beeline for the front door, not even turning to apologize to Tim before ducking out. And he still had that dopey grin! Tim wanted to punch him. Marie Lore headed for the couch. She brushed her hair with her fingers and picked her purse up, ignoring Tim outright as she started rooting through it for her compact.

"Who the hell was that," asked Tim. He was happy to be sitting on one of the barstools next to the counter because all that wine was suddenly catching up with him.

"Just a friend," said Marie Lore matter-of-factly, still looking for her compact to make sure she looked presentable when she left.

"Of course. How stupid of me. Let me try again; who the hell was that, and why was he naked in my bed with you? My bed. Not yours."

"We went to the cinema and then he wanted to make love. Your apartment was much more close than his and I had the clés."

"Keys," corrected Tim.

"Yes, I had the keys. Aha!" She pulled the little black circle out of her bag and flicked it open, powdering her nose a little with her free hand.

"So you intentionally had sex with another man in my bed? In my bed?" Tim repeated for emphasis in case Marie Lore didn't hear it the first time.

"Oui. I already said it was much closer." Marie Lore put the compact away and looked at her watch.

"And you didn't think that this might be wrong, waltzing into your boyfriend's apartment to have sex with another man?” He stood up and walked over to her. “I was supposed to cook you dinner tonight! I even left work early for this! And why were you with another man? Why?! What the hell did I do?"

Marie Lore ignored Tim's question. "Non, that was supposed to be tomorrow night. Today is jeudi- non, ehm, Wednesday?" Marie Lore had always had trouble remembering what day it was, even in French. Trying to remember in a foreign language was almost impossible.

"Aujourd'hui c'est vendredi. Friday. Jeudi is Thursday and Wednesday is mecredi. I even got you a bilingual calendar so you could get this straight." Tim didn't realize that he was pulling at his hair in anger. It was always frustrating for him, trying to correct her English. It had stopped being cute ages ago.

"Fred, I do not have time for this. Can we talk tomorrow during le petit déj?" Marie Lore looked at her watch again and then at the front door. Daniel said he'd meet her outside and she didn't want to keep him waiting.

Tim shook his head as he realized what was coming up, and it wasn't pretty. "My name is Tim, Marie Lore. Tim. Timmery if you want to be formal. My French mother gave me that name and none of my French relatives have trouble with it. En fait, tu est la seule française que je connais qui refuse de faire l'effort."

"Not this again! I do not have time for this Fred. We will talk tomorrow and-"

"Tim! Je m'apelle Tim! C'est pas difficile! Pour huit mois je te l'ai expliquais avec les jours de la semaine! Ce n'est pas si difficle!" Usually Tim spoke to Marie Lore in English so she could learn the language, but during heavy discussions and fights he always reverted to French to be extra clear, and lately he found himself speaking French a lot more than usual.

"Okay, Teem," she said competely through her nose so it sounded more like "teen". "I will talk with you tomorrow. D'accord?"

"Non, c'est pas d'accord," sighed Tim as he ran his fingers through his hair resignedly. He looked up at her straight in the eye. "I don't want to see you anymore. There's no way I can forgive you for cheating on me like this.”


"You're rude and selfish and you treat me like garbage even when I bend over backwards to treat you well." Tim couldn't stop the words from coming out. He didn't even realize that he felt this quite way about her, but in his anger all these horrible words and evil thoughts were suddenly rushing out of him. "You've always been cold and thoughtless towards me but this is just disgusting. My home is not a hideaway for you to use as you wish. And especially not for cheating on me like this right under my nose!"

The look of surprise on Marie Lore's face meant Tim had hit a raw spot. "You are leaving me?"

"Yes, I am. And for the record it's never okay to borrow somebody's bed for sex without telling them first. Even if you do think the other person is scum, which apparently I am to you."

"How dare you! You, you jerk!" Marie Lore's face turned red as surprise turned into anger. "I have done nothing wrong to you!" She really wished right now she knew how to be furious in English, but for some reason she couldn't find the words in French either. "You are the one who doesn't know how to treat a woman! You are a cold fish and you do not know how to be a man! You are a woman with a small penis!"

"And you're a bitch,” Tim shot back. He had no idea where that one came from. He'd never called anybody a bitch in his life.

"You you-" Marie Lore was surprised to find herself actually flailing as she struggled to think of a comeback. "How dare you use that language with me! You are a wet noodle of a man! You never learned how to love a woman correctly and you don't know how to stand up for yourself, and you never will," she shouted angrily at him.

"Just keep telling that to Daniel when he asks what happened," replied Tim coolly as he opened the front door. He smiled when Marie Lore glared at him and he still wasn't sure if it was because he was on a roll or because he was slightly drunk. Marie Lore glared a few moments more and was halfway out the front door when Tim took her shoulder. "Et mes clés?"

"What," said Marie Lore, turning back to Tim.

"Je veux mes clés. I know you have them." Tim held out his hand and waited. "Vas te faire enculer," Marie Lore muttered as she dug through her purse. It was an awkward moment that completely ruined her dramatic exit. The worst part was that they were stuck on her keychain and in her increasing rage she couldn't get them free. She screamed in frustration when she broke a perfectly-manicured nail, hurled the entire keychain over Tim's head, and stomped down the hall towards the stairs. "Ta mere suce le penis d'animaux pour l'argent," she called back.

"Faut péter dans l'eau pour faire des bulles," Tim shouted back as Marie Lore disappeared. Go fart in the water and make bubbles, indeed. If ever there was a classy insult, this was it. There's nothing she could say to that.

Tim stood in the door staring, unsure of what to do next. The high of dumping Marie Lore was wearing off quite fast and he was starting to feel a bit empty inside. Not sad, just a little disappointed, like he was spending a beautiful day inside because nobody has time to hang out and there's nothing to do but nap. He wordlessly closed the door and looked inside the apartment.

The canvas grocery bag with the rice and cheese and mushrooms was still lying there by Tim's feet. He wondered if he should still make the risotto. He hadn't planned on going out and seeing anybody tonight; probably for the best. He stepped over a piece of rawhide that his dog hadn't finished chewing on and looked into the bathroom for no reason. Everything was dry, so nobody had taken a bath or anything during the day. The towels were on the rack as they were that morning.

Slowly Tim ambled into the bedroom. He stood at the foot of the bed with its messed up sheets and the pillow and the tulips that were still on the floor. "Looks like I'll have to burn the bed now," he said to himself. "I never really liked these sheets anyway." Out of morbid curiosity he glanced into the little trash can by the nightstand. His suspicious were confirmed and he felt a little nauseated, and not because of the wine.

Tim sighed and wandered back into the living room. Raymond was staying at Mrs. Purdy's tonight because Marie Lore didn't like dogs and Tim had wanted tonight to be perfect. Should I go get him, Tim wondered. No, I won't be much fun tonight. Mrs. Purdy was looking forward to dog-sitting anyway. Lately it seemed like she had custody of Raymond more than Tim did.

He saw Marie Lore's keys on the couch and picked them up. A couple of antique keys from her old apartment in Paris, keys for that boutique she worked at that looked more like a museum than a shoe store, house keys, Tim's keys, a glittery key chain bob shaped like a pair of ballet slippers, and a grocery store discount card. Tim turned them in his hand to admire them before untangling his keys from the set and putting them on the coffee table. Then, he stood up and carried Marie Lore's keys to the window. The sun was setting and it was a lovely evening. Tim opened the window and took in the cool air. There were a few people on the streets, mostly coming home after a day's work or taking the dog for a walk. Nothing at all out of the ordinary. Tim looked down at the keys in his hand again, idly fingering one of the antique ones. Without warning he suddenly hurled the keys out the window. He didn't really know why; it was just one of those sudden urges.

"Holy shit! My car," somebody outside suddenly cried out. Tim took that as his cue to duck back inside. He certainly didn't mean to vandalize anybody's car. It had to be because of Marie Lore's bad juju. Her keys were cursed and now that Tim didn't have them all that juju inevitably had to go to somebody else. He turned back and looked at his reflection in the TV screen for a few moments, at a loss of what to do again.

"Encore le fromage est le seul," Tim flatly said to his reflection.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


The point of this blog is to showcase my second draft of Don't Let Me In, the working title for my fourth NaNoWriMo novel. The gist, as I say on my author page is thus: A young opera singer-turned-advertising "creative" is confronted with his old music teacher and a capella band while he must also deal with his clingy bromantic friend, his snooty French ex and her new beau, and a ninja chicken that cannot be stopped.

It's rather slice-of-lifey, and downright stupid in some spots, but it's mine and I'm quite proud of it. It's hard to write quality work when you have to crunch 1,667 words a day! With feedback I hope to make this a better story and someday publish it as a graphic novel. If you see any plotholes, horrible dialogue, or other inconsistencies, do comment and let me know. Otherwise yours truly can't improve and stop embarrassing herself.