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.