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Oct
28

WHEN A FRIEND IS REALLY A FRIEND

So where are we now in our boy-meets-girl story? We’re moving to the point of boy-loses-girl.

Mark and Roque, both twenty-four, are roommates. Roque’s a pudgy geek. Mark’s shy, cute and also smart.

Mark met Bridget, a 36 year old surgery nurse when he stopped to help her change a flat tire. As an expression of gratitude, Bridget took Mark to a secret swing party and disappeared, leaving Mark needing a ride home, which he got from a “Goth” tattooed and pierced, blue-haired chick named Amy. She also happened to be a friend of Bridget’s…and a psychic.

Bridget called Mark again when she needed a second emergency ride to the animal hospital. Deeply saddened by her dog’s death, Bridget asked Mark to stay the night, and as they shared their tragic childhood stories a deeper level of intimacy ensued. Hence, they ended up making love and Mark started to fall in love. Bridget however, felt they should cool their relationship back into friends, but she didn’t have the heart to tell him. So as Mark let that thrill of connection sink in, he also began to come out of his shell. His opening up became apparent during his job interview. He held nothing back, even admitting he wasn’t sure he wanted the position.

So here we go, part eight.

 

WHEN A FRIEND IS REALLY A FRIEND – until she isn’t    [Part 8 of 12]

Young Mr. Sidwell’s personal space is the antithesis of Roque’s interior jungle. This bedroom is neat and dustless. Nothing is out of place and nothing exists that isn’t needed. Like Mark’s words, his universe is sparse but functional. Nothing will happen unless it has to. And when it has to, it’s done, without question, just like now. Our lad is scanning puppy pictures from the Pasadena Humane Society. It’s the right thing to do.

Roque wanders in and peeks over his shoulder. “You buyin’ her a dog?”

“Just checkin’em out.” Mark looks up. “I owe you my half of the rent.”

“I’ll take it when a job’s in your life. How’s it comin’?”

“It’s not.”

“What about the paint factory gig?”

“I flunked the interview.”

“Huh? Why?”

“I talked to much.”

“Impossible.” Roque puts a coffee mug on Mark’s desk. It has a spoon sticking out of it.

“What’s this?”

“Ben & Jerry’s,” Roque shuffles out of the room.

Mark grabs the mug, looks into it. Chimes sound from his pants pocket. He yanks out his phone and brings it to his ear. “Hello?” He listens. “Yeah, it’s Mark.” He listens some more.

Roque’s in the kitchen, rummaging through the freezer for Rocky Road seconds. “Whoopeee!  Yeah!!!” resounds from Mark’s room.

*****

 Bridget picks up her phone in the middle of a ring. “I got a job!” bubbles into her ear.

“Wow. That’s great, Mark! I’m happy for you.” She leans against her kitchen counter, her purse in hand.

“I wanted you to know first!” comes through the phone. “Well, Roque knows.”

“I’m glad you told me. But I can’t talk. I was just leaving for work.”

“Let’s get a puppy. I found one like Val.”

She glances at the clock. “I can’t think about that now.”

“Tomorrow, then?”

“Mark… Your heart’s in the right place, but it’s way too soon for another dog.”

“Wednesday?”

 *****

 “I’m just looking,” Bridget tells the young man.

“Okay,” Mark affirms.

“It won’t be today. I’m not ready.”

Mark bobs, his signature bob – chin up, chin down. Chin up, chin down. “What about that one?” he asks. Bridget shuffles forward, not really looking, but following a young lady who works here. They pass cage after cage, dog after dog, wagging tail after wagging tail, bark after bark, until they stop at the back of the kennel. Bridget’s done. She pivots to Mark. “I don’t see him here.”

“Maybe he got adopted,” Mark replies, looking seriously disappointed. His eyes fall onto a scruffy I’m-lost-and-no-one-loves-me canine of mixed something or other. No telling what he is. The dog’s no Valentino, that’s for sure. In fact, in spirit, he’s hardly a dog at all anymore. He’s more like a depressed kitty in a puppy suit, squatting at the back at the cage, not even trying to look cute. The mongrel gave that up weeks ago, after being passed by so many times.

“Does he have a name?” Mark asks.

“We call him Ruddles,” the shelter girl tells them. “He’s the sweetest little dog. Never barks. An inside pet. Child friendly.”

“You had a retriever on your website,” Bridget states, in a flat, almost accusative tone.

“They go fast. This one here, well…it’s harder for him.”

“What happens if no one wants the little guy?” Marks asks.

The girl sighs. “We’ll have to keep him.”

“In that little cage?”

“We try to move them around.”

Mark bends to his knees, down to pup level, peering through the bars. “How long has he been here?”

“Five and a half months.”

“And he doesn’t bark? Not ever?” Mark asks again.

“He cuddles,” says the girl.

“Okay…  We’ll take him.” Mark looks up. Bridget’s opening her purse. “Check, cash or credit?”

The girl lights up. “Wonderful! Have you had a dog before?”

 

*****

 

Bijou and Ruddles are sniffing butts into Doggie Heaven. Mark and Bridget are watching them, like parents observing their kids the first hour of daycare. But it is not daycare, with either “day” or “care” in place. It’s late afternoon in Bridget’s kitchen, and it’s not exactly snuggly now. Actually it’s tense. Bridge stiffly moves to the fridge for a bottle of wine. “Gewurtraminer good for you?”

“Ah, no thanks.” Mark answers, fidgeting as he turns her down.

“Forgot. You don’t drink.” She shuts the fridge, a little too hard to be kind. “How do you celebrate things? Eat cupcakes?”

Whoa. Her frost is creeping up his legs. He stops it, crossing his arms waist high and dropping his gaze to the floor. Why is she freezing up? Maybe it’s the new dog. Maybe she’s nervous about that. Or maybe she doesn’t want to do what he wants to do. But why? Maybe he should ask. So he does, with wordage just loud enough to reach her. “Ya wanna mess around?”

“Now?”

“You don’t want to?”

“Well. I’m sort of hungry.”

His eyes raise. “Later, maybe?”

“I have an idea.” She grabs the phone on the counter, hits speed dial. “Let’s ask Amy to bring pizza, and she can meet Ruddles.”

Mark watches the call from his corner, his arms still folded over his chest, keeping his heart in place. Now he knows. She’s definitely does not wanna do it. But why? Didn’t they have a bitchin’ time in bed the other night? Weren’t all his parts working? Didn’t she tell him that? So what gives? Why hot-cold-colder? Why bring a girl over so they can’t be alone? And why that girl, if it’s the one he thinks it is. But then again, she was nice. Come to think of it, really nice, even with the tattoos and metal.

To be continued…11/04/2011

 

This segment is all about “mixed signals.” We’ve all experienced them at least once, as relationships grew and then fizzled out. Perhaps we created the mixed signals when squeezed between our own conflicting fears and wants.  I think the difference between melodrama and literary fiction, is the degree of complexity regarding character motivations. Melodrama is fairly straightforward. The good guys are the good guys, the bad guys are the bad guys, and everyone knows what they want and are determined to get it. But in real life no situation or motivation is pure and simple. There are upsides and downsides, especially within romantic situations, and our behavior is determined by how certain we are about what we want. Honesty with our partners, or lack of it, is caused by feeling guilty about our moral contradictions, or the degree to which we are trying to protect our partner’s welfare. We hold back the truth to avoid hurting someone, or ourselves.

As writers, we need to understand the flip-flop nature of our human psyche. And we have to make it very clear to our readers, what the conflicts are about, and why they are in place. In as much as Mark is clear about his desires, and Bridget is not, this segment is about Bridget’s ambiguity. Her problem is this: how will she dial down their relationship without bruising Mark’s feelings?

So here’s the question for you. If Bridget is trying to cool down the romance WHY is she not telling him so, and explaining why?

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