She arrived outside Frys house. She had a tingling sensation at the base of her neck. She didnt give herself any time to think about it, she walked through the gate and up to the porch. There were a couple of steps up and a hand painted sign that hung over the door, it read, Grains and Goodness. She tried not to look at it.
Shed come here to see Fry. That Fry lived in a house that was also a vegetarian restaurant was another bitter pill shed have to swallow.
She remembered Barbras simple advice to knock on the door and wondered if she should return for more, because the door was open and that could throw the whole thing off. She ducked her head through and looked around the foyer. On the wall that faced her there was a bulletin board. She gave it a quick perusal and didnt find any surprises. The usual flyers for community events, ride share offers, business cards and the dreaded lost cat plea. There was a summer schedule of films and other events at the Comstock Community Center. A volunteer signup sheet was pinned next to it.
Welcome to the murky underworld of socialist dining. French shuddered. A dining experience that connected you to the greater world, making you feel part of the whole. That was their illusion and they were welcome to it. She preferred her own and the one shed carefully crafted at Bachanal. Designed to lift you above the mundane to help you enjoy an experience that was anything but common.
Shed thought these places were extinct. A memory best left to haunt the towns of upstate New York and New England. She girded her loins and stepped into what served as the main dining room. She supposed it had a certain dishevelled appeal. Nothing matched, and aside from the overused milk paint schema, she wasnt entirely blinded by the atmosphere. Shed decided that if thered been print napkins and/or curtains, she could call it quits and talk to Fry some other time. No such luck.
There were ten small tables, each had four place settings and fresh flowers. There were three tables seated, two had people reading the paper, the third had a couple having a heated, but quiet discussion.
A door at the back of the room swung open and Fry walked out. Or maybe it was her twin sister, because the last time shed seen Fry, shed had a lot more hair. The look she got from the woman in question cleared the confusion right up. It was Fry alright. The waitress turned on her heel and left the room. French walked across to follow. Every eye in the room went with her.
She was halfway across the room when the door she was heading to swung open and there was no question this time that the figure that passed through was not Fry. This woman was in her fifties, thin, drawn looking, and headed right at her with eyes spitting fire.
You want something?
Ummm. French looked over the womans shoulder at the door that must have lead to the kitchen. She wasnt much taller than Fry. This must be her mother, Priscilla. I just want to talk to her.
Fine, Priscilla spat. You want to talk to her, have a seat. She slapped a menu on a table and stalked off.
French was beginning to feel put upon. It was her nature. She couldnt help but grumble a barely audible, I thought socialists were supposed to be open-minded, friendly people.
What French didnt know was that Priscilla Spark had been a grade school teacher for years before she got involved in the whole foods movement. Nothing got by her ears. She spun on her heel and glared at French.
You must not get out much. And in case theres any confusion on your part about my sociability, you hurt my daughter, my baby girl, you insensitive lout. You want friendly? Theres a Burger King two blocks over, why dont you try your luck there?
French was reasonably sure shed just been told to go to hell in vegan. Most likely it was the closest Ms. Spark had come to cursing in years. French was also certain shed blown any chance of making a positive impression on Priscilla Spark. Though why that should occur to her she hadnt a clue.
What was up here anyway? Why was she being cowed by this small, vicious woman. She could take Priscilla Spark, she wasnt even in shape. But there was something about the self-righteous indignation pouring off of her that gave her pause for thought. Though Priscilla did not have Frys coloring or build, she had her eyes, and a bone deep realness that French had come to respect. She also knew this woman ate tofu on a regular basis. These people were capable of anything.
Im sorry to trouble you. Would you please ask Fry to come talk to me?
Im not sure who that is and Im not sure shell have the time, this is the lunch rush, Violets busy.
French bit her tongue and nodded to the glaring harpy that inhabited Frys mothers body. No one else had entered the room since shed come in. That made four tables in all.
A few minutes later Fry appeared in the doorway again. French released the breath shed been holding, relieved that shed at least get a chance to speak her peace. Fry walked to another table first and served a dark liquid out of a pitcher. French could smell the earthy fragrance and knew without a doubt that it wasnt likely to be caffeinated, or coffee.
Fry smiled at the woman, chatted about something, then turned and headed over to French. All the smile was gone from her face by the time she reached her table. French felt a lurching, twisting sort of motion in the pit of her stomach. She looked down at the table, suddenly fascinated by the menu and no longer sure what to say.
Hi. Frys voice was a monotone. It seemed to French that shed never heard such an empty sound before. She rallied her forces and dove in. She looked up, catching Frys eye and beamed her highest wattage smile at the blank face regarding her.
Hey! I thought Id stop by, and try your special... She began brightly, but Fry wasnt biting. She just stood there staring at her. I hear you serve up a mean plate of crow, figuratively speaking, of course, and Id like an extra large portion. Fry didnt respond, much. French detected a slight movement above her left eye, a sort of a furrowed brow maybe. She plowed on, determined that shed get to some space where she could talk to Fry. She knew that meant shed have to get real. She was sure she could, she was a quick study at most things, why should honesty be any different?
The truth is, Im sorry I treated you so poorly last night. There, shed said it. And Christ did it hurt. And I wanted you to know that this thing Ive been going through lately its been harder than I thought it would be. So its nothing personal, but I dont think us getting involved is a good idea. Someone like you, well, I wouldnt want to mix you up in an experiment. I like you Fry. I have no idea why, I shouldnt really, considering our differences. She laughed a little, but an angry scowl appeared on Frys face and she began to turn away. French decided to change tack and avoid anything that she might consider remotely humorous, this was obviously not a humorous moment in Frys eyes. But I have enjoyed spending time with you and would miss you if you decided to leave for good. I apologize for being such an assho... jerk and I promise to try not to belittle your feelings or efforts in the future. Id like you to come back. Shed made sure to hit each and every point twice if thats what it took, but she hadnt intended on that last little bit. Itd just slipped out.
There was a long moment of quiet as Fry looked into her eyes. She was never so unsure of a response in her life. She began to feel closed in, restricted in her seat. Uncomfortable for the second time that day, but damned if shed show it.
Fry finally huffed out a slightly exasperated breath and put a hand to her hip. Youre expecting a large crowd tonight, arent you? Ive heard stories about the lengths youve gone to to ensure the smooth running of that place on a busy night. Or is it that you need those keys? Is that whats brought on this sudden attack of sincerity?
French was confused. Did any of that make sense? Wouldnt she have just found another waitress? Why would she have to come scam Fry? Why would she leave Bachanal on a busy afternoon? If shed wanted the keys without Fry knowing she would have had them in her hands by now. Did Fry think she was that far gone? Or did Fry suspect that she was incapable of being honest? She didnt have to wait long for the answer.
Or do you just feel guilty?
Frenchs head was spinning. She wasnt used to analyzing what she was feeling while arguing with someone. Okay, that was less than true, shed never done it. And like any intense new experience that involved her lacking complete control, she was easily overwhelmed by it. She was used to having an argument and winning, it had been simple before.
She opened her mouth to speak, looking Fry in the eye, and hesitated, not knowing if what she was saying was right or wrong, only thats its what was true for her. She was pretty sure that wasnt the way to win friends and influence people, but what the hell...
I dont know. She couldnt look at Fry anymore. She wasnt sure what she was doing anyway. She wasnt even sure what had happened here and she wasnt sure she could stay another minute. Then Fry sat down across from her.
After a moment Fry spoke quietly, You hurt my feelings badly... I dont accept that treatment lightly, not from anyone. So I appreciate you coming here and being honest like that. You know I like you French, Im not sure what to do about that if you arent interested. I know Im not your type and ...
Says who? Who are you getting your information from Fry? Id like to know which rumor mill youre getting your information from because I dont have a type. Technically. Unless useful counts as an attribute. The truth is Fry, I dont know what I want anymore.
Someone walked into the room behind French, and she saw Frys concerned and beleaguered countenance change to a shy smile. She waved a little and said, Hi Alyssa. Ill just be a minute.
Priscilla had been in and out of the room a couple of times to attend to her guests and glare hot fury at French in passing. She walked over and gave Alyssa a big hug. She led her to the other end of the room and they chatted quietly.
French remembered that Fry had a few irons in the fire and felt curiously envious for a moment. Why on earth would she envy Alyssa? A little know nothing socialista punk with a couple of overachieving, do-gooder parents? One glance at Fry answered the question, but she wasnt going there, not today. She was getting herself used to the idea that shed admitted to liking the squirt out loud. When shed ever live that down, she didnt know. Having a friend was a novel experience she might enjoy exploring.
Fry continued, I guess I can understand what youre saying about your life right now. I think youre really special French, but I guess I dont have to tell you that. She smiled at her, and wondered why the joke hadnt gone over. Yes, we have our differences and youve made it positively clear what you think of them. Thats one of the things I like about you. And youre the most determined person I know. Youve even tried your hardest to be emotionally honest. And even though I seriously considered making you eat the Tofu Surprise before I told you, Ill come back. However, there are going to be a few changes... One: What you know, I know. Two: I want to know it when you find it out, not when its convenient to you. Three: I defer to you in all matters concerning physical conflict. Four: I agree to follow any reasonable request you make concerning my personal safety without question. Five: If you want out now, you tell me now.
French knew that this was what it felt like to be in a bind. She was giving up complete control. It was a trust thing. She hated trust things. Still, Fry had some good points and if they stuck to them, it might work out... Deal. Only I have one request.
What is it? Fry looked wary, but French could see that there was already a sparkle returning to the younger womans eyes.
Would you do something to your hair before you come in? Its, ummm...
A mess? Yeah, I know, Ill have Mom trim it after lunch.
What happened to it? French had thought Frys hair was nice. It never stayed back in its tie, but it had a soft, fine quality to it.
Its something I do sometimes. When I get upset.
Oh. French made a mental note not to be around Fry when she was upset. She didnt want to get in the way of the scissors.
Continued in Chapter 27.