Being happily in love with Fran Medici wasn’t hard, and it definitely wasn’t my greatest accomplishment in life. Like finding the gold at the end of the rainbow that’s really only Lucky Charms.
But it started when she asked herself if she was really in love with ‘him’ (like I didn’t know who he was already) or in love with what she couldn’t have. I knew without having to guess that she was talking about me, the way it was I always talking about her to my roommate, to her best friend, both of whom happened to be in that café and be the same person. The question, posed half to herself and half to our group of three on a fall night in that café did not disorient me- rather made me more lucid than ever. At least I wasn’t going crazy.
Maybe that’s why she didn’t say my name- I was too much of a defeatist. God, maybe I didn’t blame her.
I got up and bought everyone another round of coffee that night around eleven, pretending we were studying but mostly discussing the meanings of our fairly don’t-learn-from-their-mistakes lives, if there by then lay much meaning at all anymore.
“Here you go, Your Highness,” I handed Fran her coffee.
“Thanks, fool,” Fran said in her soft, young Molly Ringwald voice, a cocky smile peeking up at me. I grinned uncontrollably, and she managed to wrap her hand around mine for just a moment before taking the coffee.
David said, “When I win the lottery I’m dividing it all up evenly between everyone at this table-“
Meaning me, Fran, and himself, “And you guys are taking it, no questions asked.” He said with a sense of inevitability. I’d called 911 on his retarded ass twice by then for such events really too morbid to mention; I don’t know how many hours I’d stayed up with him half-asleep lying my ass off that there’s a flickering light at the end of the tunnel until he fell asleep. I deserved it by then. I wasn’t sure about Fran, but she I’m sure had one hell of a reason herself. David wouldn’t have said that just to be generous.
“I’ll take it, crazy-ass.” Fran nudged him in the leg, and he smiled. I just grinned, too. I could never tell who she was flirting with and who she was just being cute with. The boundary line was unclear with her. I could never tell if it bothered me or not, either. I just went back to my computer. I’d been trying to finish a book about a young couple in 1980’s DC, but it never seemed to pick up speed. I kept erasing parts, maybe because they became too familiar. I didn’t want familiar, maybe.
Maybe then I just didn’t want strange, either. It belonged in my recycle bin, really.
Fran said she’d never crack it, anyway. She didn’t read romance. Said she wanted to live it herself, not hear someone else be happy and try to be happy for them. I could see her point. Maybe I just wasn’t happy for my hero/heroine. Maybe I should’ve killed them off in the first chapter.
“Are you guys ever worried this is as happy as you’re going to get?” Fran asked neither of us in particular a while later, her small chin set hard. I looked up immediately, and her eyes seemed to settle slightly when they met mine.
“I hope to all hell no, not a knight in the world would stand for your unhappiness,” I shot her a grin, but she didn’t think it was as funny.
“But that’s what I stuck out today for. Just to check and see if it’ll be better this time around.” I shrugged. I’d never seen her look so childlike, all crawled up on the couch next to me like she was; I’d really never seen something more disturbing. I figured if anything I could count on Fran to be an adult, you know? Fran was the poster child of maturity. But I’d never seen her look more like she needed a hug. To crawl up into someone’s lap and hear that it’s all gonna be fine, honey. It’s all gonna be fine, love.
“When do we give up?” She asked me beseechingly.
“Ninety-six,” I said stolidly, and she cracked up laughing. I didn’t get it for a second. Sometimes she found humor in the oddest things- sometimes she was the oddest thing, period. It was absolutely baffling.
“Only if somebody lives to ninety-six with me,” She said softly.
I winced, “Seems like a long time. How ‘bout I get to ninety-five, and then you can outlive me?”
Fran just nodded, “Sounds good to me, sweetie.” She sighed.
It was one in the morning when we wrapped up; I had to get David home or his meds were gonna wear off and then we’d all have problems. Because I wouldn’t sleep. I was cranky when I didn’t get enough sleep.
“Goodnight, sweetheart,” David pecked Fran on the forehead, and she just smiled brilliantly and hugged him back. Everybody loved her, I swear it was not just me. Fran hugged me harder, longer-
“Goodnight,” Fran said to me finally, and stretched way up on her toes to kiss me on the cheek. I babbled something probably really stupid about her having really pretty eyes up close, and for the first time I saw her blush and we both went our separate ways. It just kinda failed when we both turned around to look at each other at the exact same time. I just bowed stupidly, and she laughed again.
My cell phone buzzed about five a.m. and I opened it. It was Fran- Open your door. I didn’t wanna wake David.
I stumbled up and her dark form fell against my chest. She shuddered and I just kinda held her thin body wordlessly, stunned. Something had actually made Fran cry, which was amazing all on its own. She didn’t do much else but smile- she said it was the drugs. For some reason I never bothered to ask what that meant. It was hard to shake Fran, but when it did it came with a tsunami. So…..what now?
“It’s okay, don’t cry.” I whispered. I kissed her forehead and leaned back against the threshold, still holding her. She didn’t even come up to my shoulder. “You’re okay.” She shuddered hard and inelegantly against me, gasping. I just patted her hair awkwardly and held her there in the dorm hall. Fran was warmer than coals. I wanted to hold onto her until I died when I turned ninety-five. Sounded really good to me. Ninety-five wouldn’t be so bad. She’d be there. I’d be warm.
“Yeah, I know.” Fran wiped her red eyes. “Just feels like it. Again.” She said in frustration and squeezed me tighter, rocking against me. I grinned. It was wrong and really, really weird that I’d wanted to be there for so long, but I did. I wanted to be there, no matter the circumstances, really. I tipped her chin up and kissed her without thinking. She just held onto my hand real tight and kissed me back.
When she pulled away, I stuttered, “I-I don’t know what to say.”
“Then just don’t say anything,” She whispered, as if she knew herself.
“O-okay,” I breathed, holding her against me and still rocking. “Whatever you say, my queen.”