There's one thing that is easy to do on screen or stage that is hard to do in writing. That is, to have someone enter the scene at just the right moment to turn an awkward scene into a hilarious scene. It is easy to see someone in the background perk up and look over just as the hero reveals the web of lies, makes a confession or says something that is easily misunderstood.
In text, it is hard to do that, because it relies on the coincidence. Which, ultimately, in text is hard to do, especially if you're doing it in first person. In this section, I tried to keep Fiona, as a character, on the periphery throughout both Lucy and Sam's sections. This means that she isn't just introduced suddenly for the point of the joke. We've established she is there, she is working and that she is, by God, annoyed with Sam, friendly-ish, with Lucy, and that she has every reason to be busying about the O.G., as Sam calls it.
Whether it works though is a question to be left up to the readers. Fiona's timely arrival is solely to make Lucy squirm. Which is what we should fully expect, because that's what happens when people lie in sitcoms. Fiction below the fold; if you're just joining us, the first chapters are available at the links below:
1. Start of Lucy's first chapter
2. Conclusion of the first Lucy chapter
3. Start of Sam's chapter
4. Sam's story continues
* * *
I don’t even remember how long ago Amy, if that is even her real name, blew up at me. I hadn’t said anything she didn’t say, so I don’t quite get it. I’d failed a few more landings since then, though there was on girl who I had a good feeling about. Unlike that bitch Fiona, this girl? She’s always been considerate of my feelings and willing to talk to me. I mean, I would’ve had a date last weekend if she didn’t have a bake sale at her church. I never really saw myself falling hard for a lady of the church, well, except for Mariah in the Sound of Music, but the whole point is that she’s stopping being a nun, or something. But, the earnestness that she had in her eyes when she explained “It’s for the kids,” I felt the warmth of her compassion over whelm me.
So, I showed up and bought about $20 in baked goods, which Kenny and I ate together after our shift at the bowling alley. The look on her face when I showed up was priceless; Kenny was convinced she was speechless at my generosity. Considering that she is normally a chatter box — a less generous soul might say she never shuts up — I considered that proof that I was one step closer to Lucy’s heart.
I had been mildly interested when I first met her at the O.G. She had dark hair, and she moved gracefully. Not in the graceful way of waitresses trying not to drop stuff, but like she had class. So, the whole baking thing made sense to me; she was a lady’s lady. Kenny was convinced she didn’t think much of me, but when she subtly hinted at when she would be free, I figured I’d be an idiot not to try again.
“Lucy,” I said when she got back to her post. She was kind of flaky like that, always disappearing. She was lucky I’d cover for her if anyone ever came looking. “I’ve been thinking about what you said,”
“You don’t need to do that,” She said. She laughed in a way that Kenny would say was a ‘trill.’ I don’t think he even knows what it means. “I’m just being silly, don’t listen to me.”
“I don’t think you’re being silly,” I said. “Unless, you know, you are. But, then I’d laugh, see?”
She was silent and fidgeted with the stack of buzzers. She always stacked them too high, like a Jenga puzzle. It was a nervous tick, I figured, since she didn’t know what to say. We’ve all been there.
“So, anyway, what I was going to ask was,”
“Shouldn’t you check on your tables?”
“I only have one; Fiona keeps stealing all the guests,” I said. I was still bitter with Fiona. “And they’re fine.”
“Oh, well, I’ll make sure the next group are seated in your section,” she said. I thanked her and we stood in silence for another few seconds.
“Look, let’s stop beating around the bush,” I said while she was examining her nails. Kenny had told me that was a ‘preening gesture.’ I’m pretty convinced people don’t preen; that’s a thing birds do. Kenny said he read it in guide to flirting and that it was a ‘good sign.’
“I want to take you out to a romantic lunch, this Saturday,” I said. “A picnic, even, if you’re the out doorsy type.”
Her face said all I needed to know; she was stunned. But not a happy stunned; a kind of melancholy stunned. I suddenly saw why Kenny was a fan of ‘playing coy.’ Because that gave you wiggle room to backtrack. You cannot backtrack from asking a woman to a romantic lunch, this Saturday. It’s pretty much a do or die sort of request.
The good, decent woman showed through as Lucy held her hands in front of her mouth, turning over what she wanted to say. I already knew it wouldn’t be good. I kind of wished Fiona hadn’t snatched away all my tables so I could leave with some dignity before I got shot down.
“I can’t, Sam,” She said.
“You don’t have to spare my feelings, I’m sorry.”
“No, I mean, I can’t,” She said again. “It’s just, I — well, you see. I’m flattered, Sam, I really am. You can’t imagine how nice it is that someone like you even noticed me, but I’m seeing someone.”
It was a hell of a thing to have to tell someone, but it was refreshing. I wasn’t losing out because I was loser or a creep or accidentally telling her she was ugly. Some son of a bitch just beat me to the punch.
“We’re just getting serious, you know how that is,” She stopped and twisted a menu in her hands. I smiled.
“That’s ok,” I said. Then I laughed a little. “Best to get it out in the air now, right? Instead of letting it all get awkward.”
“Oh, it could never be awkward with you.”
“Thanks Lucy,” I said. “Well, I better go check on my table. Hey, you like to bowl? Bring what’s his name around the Bowl America near The Blue Boar tonight, free game on me to show there’s no hard feelings.”
“I couldn’t do that,” She said.
“Trust me, no hard feelings,” I said. Fiona was on her way back to the kitchen with an order — an order that, by the way, rightly should have been mine. The guy was dressed like a secret agent, and judging by how they were hanging onto each other, the woman wasn’t his wife. So that was going to be a gigantic tip too. In cash. That was the salt in the wounds of love.
“No hard feelings about what,” Fiona asked.
“Just Lucy’s boyfriend.”
“I said nothing!”
“A boyfriend! You never said anything to me,” Fiona said. She punched Lucy on the shoulder and the girl recoiled a bit. “So, where’d you meet him?”
“Oh, uh, we’re old friends.”
“You’re embarrassing her Fiona,” I said. “Not everyone likes to share all the details of their love life.”
“I keep the juicy bits to myself,” She said. I didn’t like her. She was pretty, but I didn’t like her. Because she was mean.
“Not really,” I said. “I can name the last five you’ve slept with.”
“And you’ll notice your name is not — and will not — ever be on that list,” She punched Lucy again and then turned her back on me. Which was fine. I didn’t have a comeback to that, and at least, this spared the me the indignity of fumbling for an answer.
“Speaking of names, who is your secret boyfriend?”
“Oh, no one you know,” Lucy said. She had given up on twisting the menu and was now adroitly twirling a pen.
“Try her,” I said. “You’ll be surprised how many men she’s known. Biblically speaking.”
“Very funny. Is that you’re go to joke? Fiona’s a slut,” Fiona said. “You could try to vary it up a bit. Anyway, Lucy, who is this old friend, who we don’t know, who has stolen your heart away?”
Lucy looked around; her lips were pursed. She seemed torn, and I felt bad for the girl. But, hey, she could be the one to tell Fiona to stop being so nosey. Then she could see what it is like to be on her mean side. Which, I’m convinced, is every side. I wish I had a pen so I could write that down for later.
“His name,” There was a pause, and Fiona rolled her eyes and tapped her foot.
“I’ve got a table waiting, Lucy.”
“Fine, his name’s,” She looked at me, then at Fiona. Then, she stood on her toes to look around, as if some escape would magically appear for her. I don’t get the big deal, but hey, maybe she’s one of those girls who likes her privacy? Who knows, right?
“Rusty. His name’s Rusty,” She said. “My old friend Rusty. Now, go take care of your tables.”
“I only have one table,” I said.