She had thought it was Mick ringing the doorbell, ringing it instead of coming straight in because he was being weird and distant. But no. It was fucking Charles. Fucking Charles, who never knew when to shut up.
“I’ve realized how right you were, Fran,” he was saying. “I know now that everything you said was true.”
She stood in the kitchen with one hand on the counter, the other on her hip, her head down to hide her expression. Charles should not see her expression. Because while he rattled on and on about how right she was and how much he valued her now, she was thinking about Mick’s cock sliding into her, his mouth on her breasts, his hands everywhere.
All she wanted was to get him out before Mick showed up, or else all her plans were down the drain, her carefully thought out plan of explaining to Mick that she was in love with him and if that freaked him out she understood but he needed to get the hell over it. She was just waiting for Charles to take a breath so she could break in. Finally she couldn’t take it anymore, and she just interrupted him mid-sentence.
“Charles, I appreciate everything you’re saying -”
“I’m so glad, Fran, I’m so glad. I want you to know that I heard what you said and I really understand now how right you are.”
He said that already. In fact, that was at least the fourth time he’d said it.
For the first time, Fran listened instead to what he wasn’t saying.
He wasn’t saying anything about feelings. It was all ideas, all thoughts, all logic and reason and none of it meant anything really. None of it meant change, none of it meant he was connected to her in any way beyond the words he used.
Because she knew now what it felt like to recognize something you’d been denying for a long time, knew the Scrooge-on-Christmas-morning combination of regretted years and joyful surrender to the present and the new future.
And she knew her whole plan with Mick would fail, because there was nothing she could say to him that would give him what she had gotten from Janet Morris. He had to find it on his own. All should could do was hold a space for him to come to, and hope he found his way.
She could be grateful for Charles for showing her that.
And then she heard door open and sawMick let himself in. His opened his mouth. His eyes moved from Fran to Charles. And his mouth closed again.
“Well hi there, Mick. I forgot you had that Friday dinner thing.”
“Memory problems are a first sign of dementia,” he didn’t quip.
“I’m gonna punch you in the face now,” he didn’t announce.
“Fran how could you let this asshole back into your life?” he didn’t demand.
“That was even faster than I expected,” he didn’t say.
Blood was pounding in his head. He could barely hear above the noise; certainly he couldn’t think.
“Well, what amazing meal do you have planned for us tonight, Mick?” Charles inquired.
So Mick broke his nose.
Just a fist to the side of the septum, nothing elaborate, nothing forceful. Just one efficient swing, and then some blood.
Charles bellowed and pressed both hands to his face, eyes watering.
“You broke my dose!”
He turned to look at Fran, who was staring at him, jaw slack.
“I’m gonna call da bolice!” Charles shrieked nasally. “I’ll have you fugging arresteg, asshole!”
“Oh for god’s sake Charles just go home.” Fran was shooing him to the door. She stopped along the way to pull an icepack out of the freezer. “Here you can keep this. Just take it and get out.” Mick watched as she escorted him out.
“Dat botherfugger broke by dose!”
“I know Charles, what can I say? You invited yourself to dinner. It was rude and you made him angry and he’s like that sometimes. I apologize, now get the hell out of my house, okay?”
When at last Charles had been ejected and Fran had slammed the door behind him, she stood with her back to Mick, her hands on the door, her shoulders shaking silently.
She held up a hand to stop him, but kept her back turned, and Mick heard her gasp.
“Frannie, don’t, I -”
Her knees bent, her hands sliding down the door, until she crouching by the door, shaking and gasping, and finally, she rolled to her side on the floor, curled in the fetal position. Mick looked at her face.
She was laughing helplessly.
“That was,” she gasped, “The funniest thing,” she moaned, “I have ever,” but that was as far as she could get before a wild fit of cacchination overtook her and she bellowed out a cackle, eyes closed, mouth wide, wide open. Her whole body shook on the floor and she rolled to her back, her arms warpped around her belly, trying to breathe. Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes.
“Oh my god!” she whooped. “Oh my god!” And another squall of laughter overtook her.
Some part of Mick that had tightened itself into a knot loosened incrementally inside him, and he smiled. But he couldn’t relax, he couldn’t, so he waited while her storm passed. When at last she pulled herself to her feet, last residual giggles slipping from her like the last drop of a sunshower, he was just standing there. Looking at her. Full of… hope? Fear? Anger? Grief? Definitely love. Wasn’t that all of them? Were there any feelings left? He was pretty sure he was feeling all of the feelings at once.
“Oh Mick.” Fran looked at his face and came over to hug him. He stood through her embrace, his eyes closing to focus his attention on her soft body against his. But he couldn’t lift his hands to embrace her. When she pulled away, she kept her hands on his forearms and looked at his face.
“That’s a new one,” she said.
“What’s a new one?”
“That look. I have no idea what that look is about.”