Thursday, November 13, 2014

The March, Chapter 47:

Chapter 46

It happens sometimes.  People just explode.  Natural causes.
-Repo Man

As the party raged on at the March, Teddy was finishing up his nightly trip to Scottie’s.  On his way home, he’d stopped at The March and noticed that Will was nowhere to be seen.  He decided to stop in for a nightcap.  He was curious about the new look.  And he was curious about Brooke. He’d lost sight of how she was out of his sight.

At the bottom of the stairs, he ran into Caleb, who was keeping watch at the door.

“How you doing, Teddy,” Caleb asked, extending a hand.

“I’m doing well,” said Teddy, returning the handshake.  “Has your party been successful?”

Caleb nodded and smiled.  “Surprisingly, it was OK.  Started off a little stiff, but give people enough free booze and it’s hard to stop a good party from breaking out.

“I see,” said Teddy.  “Perhaps I’ll make my way to the bar.  I see there’s a seat available.”

“Nice chatting with you,” said Caleb, with an ironic grin.  “Enjoy your beer.”

But Teddy stopped midway to the bar.  He saw that the whole staff was gathered around the wait station, doing shots.  Gio was leading the toast: “Here’s to free drinks, free love and pretty, pretty people!”  Brooke laughed with the others and drained her shot.

Will, standing right next to her, drained his and let out a “Woo!”

Teddy turned on his heel and left, without Brooke having seeing him.

An hour or so later, Caleb cut Brooke.  She and Gio split their tips, Brooke had a drink at the bar with the first cut waitress.  At around 2:00 or so she headed home, on foot, as she was inclined to.
A block or so into the walk. She was surprised to find Teddy sitting at a bus stop, smoking a cigarette.

“Teddy!”  she said.  “What are you doing here?”

“I came into The March to see you, but you were drinking with your friends so I decided to leave you and just wait for you here.”

“Why didn’t you just come in?” she asked, exasperated.

“I didn’t want to interrupt you with your friends,” he said.

“Well, let’s just go home,” she said, starting to walk.

“I’ve been here for hours,” he said, still sitting.

“I was working hours ago,” she said.  “I didn’t have a drink until about a half hour ago.”

“Yes you did,” said Teddy.  “You were at the bar with Will and you did a shot.  I saw you.”

“Wait…” said Brooke.  “Are you talking about staff shots?  We do staff shots every night at midnight, Teddy.  All of us.  Not just me and Will.”

“You should quit,” said Teddy.  “I have enough to support us both.  Maybe you should quit and we could get married.”

“Oh, Teddy,” said Brook.  “It’s 2:00 a.m., and you’ve been drinking and I’m tired.  I don’t want to talk about getting married.  Let’s just go home.”

“When you leave me,” said Teddy. “Promise me you won’t start sleeping with Will.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake, Teddy,” said Brooke.  “Don’t be so stupid.  Let’s please just go home.”

“Not until you promise me that,” said Teddy.

“Why are you so freaked out about Will,” said Brooke.  “We’re barely friends.  We’re just people who work together.”

“Then it shouldn’t be hard to promise me that,” said Teddy, standing up and looking down at her.

“Fine,” said Brooke, walking away.  “I won’t ever date Will. I won’t ever sleep with Will. I won’t flirt with Will. Now can we please just go home?”

Teddy smiled and took her hand as they started walking home.  After a few steps, Brooke pretended to have an itch on her shoulder and dropped his hand to scratch it. 

As they walked into the apartment, Teddy asked her if she were hungry.  He usually only asked that when he wanted something to eat, and Brooke generally took that as a cue to make him a sandwich or something.  But this time, she demurred saying she was really tired.  She washed her face and then went straight into her room.  She sat on the edge of the bed, thinking.  She heard Teddy cooking a grilled cheese sandwich.  She heard him not doing his dishes.  She heard his snuffling and grunting walk down the hall.  She heard the old man noises he made in the bathroom.

And, all of the sudden, just like that, she was done.  She didn’t want to be there anymore at all.  She was sick of the smell of Teddy’s cigarettes and the food he ate.  She was tired of washing his clothes and cleaning his house.  She was sick of the condescension and superiority.  And she was sick sick sick of the endless fucking research for a book she knew would never be finished.

She sat on the bed for a few more minutes, gobsmacked by the revelation and the feeling of relief that poured through her.  She looked at her watch and saw that it was just past last call at The March.  Caleb and Gio would still be there.  She could go home with Gio and stay with him and Celia.  She grabbed a few things, stuffed them in her duffel bag and fled from the apartment, walking swiftly back to The March.

Teddy lay in bed and listened to her leave.

Brooke got to The March a little after 4:00.  The doors were locked, but she knocked loud and Will let her in.  “Did you forget something?” he asked.

Brooke couldn’t quite find the words.  She stood there, dry-eyed and shocked, stammering, “No… Teddy and I… I just…”

Gio who’d been counting tips at the bar, looked up and said, “You broke up?”

“I left,” said Brooke.  “I just didn’t want to be there anymore.”

“Oh, Brooke,” said Gio.  “That’s gr… Um, are you OK?  Do you want me to take you back to our place?  Celia’s asleep, but I can probably wake her up?”

“Not yet,” said Brooke.  “Can we just sit here for a minute?  Can I have a drink or something?” 

“Caleb,” called Gio.  “Brooke’s here.  Can she have a drink?”

Caleb came out of the office, took a look at Brooke and said, “Sure.  Have ten drinks if you want, sweetheart.”  He walked behind the bar and mixed a cocktail.  “Jack and coke, honey.  Good for heartbreak.”

And just like that Brooke’s disastrous first love ended.  She emerged as most of us do: older, wiser, and glad of her friends.  Gio told her funny stories about the night.  Caleb resisted the urge to hug her. Will hung back and grappled with the glad feelings coursing through him.

When Brooke got back to the apartment she once shared with Celia, she crawled into bed with her sister and cried a little.

She’d loved neither well not wisely, but she’d been brave enough to give it a shot.  And love is one of those things you get better at with practice.

As Brooke lay in bed, softly crying on Celia’s pillow, Will sat on a rock at the shore of Lake Michigan and started out at the water, letting his mind wander.  He thought about Harold Washington and ward leadership.  He thought about his own grandfather.  He thought about school and classes and how The March looked all polished up.

And he thought about Brooke.

Teddy lay in his lonely bed, in his lonely apartment, thinking less of Brooke than of the empty space she left behind.