Well, everyone’s home life is unsatisfying. If it weren’t people would live with their parents forever.
-The Breakfast Club
Brooke traveled light. She only carried a few pairs of jeans, some tee shirts, her mother’s silver earrings, a couple of books and the loud echo of her sister’s admonitions. She’d tried hard to jettison that last one during her bike ride over, but it was a tenacious stowaway.
She knocked on Teddy’s door, still battling bad feelings. But he smiled as he let her in and reached down to kiss her on the cheek. She blushed and felt better.
“I have a surprise,” he said. “Let me show you your room.”
Brooke was surprised. “My room… but I thought we’d…”
“I know,” he interrupted. “But like Virginia Woolf says, every girl needs a room of her own. And this room is more feminine, more appropriate for a young lady. We can still share other things.” And he laughed his gravelly laugh.
The room he led her into was cloyingly feminine. The walls were painted a dusty pink; white, ruffled curtains hung over the windows. A queen-sized bed with a white, chenille bedspread (this was rather nice) was against the far wall. The furniture, which included a vanity, was delicate, white, with spindly legs and ornate hardware. The bookcase held no books, only knick-knacks and some photographs. Brooke, trying hard to mask her disappointment, wandered over to it.
Among the photos was a picture of two middle-aged women, which looked to have been taken in a the 60s, a picture of a younger Teddy standing somewhat apart from a young woman, and a photo of a teenage boy taken (if the haircut is a reliable gauge) in the early-80s.
“Who are all these people,” asked Brooke, still trying to adjust to being Teddy’s roommate instead of his lover.
“Well, these women,” he said, gesturing to the two women in the picture from the 60s, “Are my mother and aunt. The one on the right is my mother and the other is my Aunt Ellinore. It was their father who bought this apartment back around the turn of the century.” Teddy’s mother was a formidable, stern-looking woman with a jaw as set as her hairdo. His aunt, Ellinore, was more delicate with something a little desperate behind her eyes.
Teddy continued. “Ellinore decorated this room in the hopes that her daughter, my cousin Althea who’s in this picture with me, would return from San Francisco. They’d had a falling out and Althea ran off to San Francisco where she had her son, Will, who’s in this last picture. They never did return, though, and this room just kind of stayed. When Ellinore died she hadn’t made any legal arrangements, and the apartment ownership fell to me. So, now it’s all mine. And now it will be ours. Since this room was decorated with such a feminine flair, I thought you’d like it. If you don’t, you should feel free to make any changes you want, or take any of the other bedrooms. I want you to think of this as your home.”
“Oh no,” said Brooke, who didn’t want to complain. “It’s just fine the way it is.” She wandered over to the vanity, picking up a glazed, ceramic cherub from it and examining it.
“Do you ever talk to your cousin,” she asked.
“Oh, Althea died years ago,” said Teddy. “As did my mother and aunt. I wish you could have met my mother. She’d have admired your passion.”
Brooke smiled. “What about her son… Will? Is he still in San Francisco?”
“He is,” responded Teddy, with a grimace. “And he’s not really a kid. He’s older than you by now. And, unfortunately, it sounds like he’s coming back to Chicago soon.”
“Why is that unfortunate?” asked Brooke.
“Oh, everyone on that side of the family is the same, “said Teddy, dismissively. “Reckless, flighty, irresponsible attention mongers.”
“I guess you weren’t close to your family,” said Brooke, looking sadly around the room.
“My mother and I were close,” said Teddy, sitting on the bed. “She was an impressive woman. But she died when I was just a teenager, so I don’t miss her so much anymore. You know, though, as silly as my aunt was, I still think it’s appropriate that you’re in a room decorated by her. If it hadn’t been for her, I might never have met you.”
“How so?” asked Brooke, surprised.
“Her husband,” Teddy began. “Was running for local alderman. He had a fundraiser at The March that I had an obligation to attend. It was my first time there. I had no stomach for politics, but I found I liked the bar. If I hadn’t discovered The March, I might never have discovered you, which would have been a shame.”
Brooke smiled at that. “So, all that’s left are you and your cousin Will.”
“Second cousin,” said Teddy, seemingly eager to put as much space between him and his wastrel kin as possible.
“That’s sad,” said Brooke, thinking of Celia. “It’s not enough family for a big family rift.”
As she said that, she passed Teddy sitting on the bed and he reached out for her arm, pulling her down next to him. He stroked her hair. “I have you now,” he said. “That’s enough. Listen, I hope you didn’t think I wanted you in this room because I wanted you away from me. I just thought you’d like a pretty room like this. At the moment, though, I want you quite near me.” And he reached around Brooke and kissed her with as much passion as he could muster.
I’ll leave it to you to imagine how much that was. Lord knows, Brooke was doing more than her fair share of imagining. She was imagining heat behind his kiss. She was imagining urgency in his hands. This whole love scene is as much a figment of Brooke’s imagination as mine. Teddy’s lovemaking was functionary, unimaginative and brief, something to be got through in between sermons to his rapt congregation of one.
When it was over, dissatisfaction niggled in the back of Brooke’s brain. But Teddy rolled off the bed, pulled up his pants (he’d kept his shirt on) and said, “Shall we have a drink and discuss the book some more? I’ve had a new thought about the small pox epidemic in the Americas that I wanted to share with you.”
Her disappointment melted away. Brooke was happy.