((Jeremy Franco continued from A Slight Change of Plans))
This is one for the history books. This is the story of a rat and a freak who probably never even loved each other in the first place.
It was lunchtime it was November it was senior year when he first met her. Not when he first noticed her, of course, it was sometimes difficult not to notice her. Weirdo. Dressed all in black. Scowly face. Drug dealer? Devil worshipper? Who knew. But yes. Easy to notice.
So was he, of course. Weirdo. Dressed in his suits. Rat face. Drug dealer? Well, definitely a coke dealer get it? Get it?
It was lunchtime it was November it was senior year and he finally met her. Finally gave her a second thought (first thought, of course, had been You know what they say about chicks like that in bed, right?), finally gave her a good look. Well. Quick scan around the lunchroom, freshman friends nowhere to be found, smile spread across his face as he made a decision. Fuck it, even if freshman friends were right in front of him plain as day, it wouldn't have changed shit. She was there, she was alone, she was new, she was a possibility (she was hot).
And Jeremy Franco was a man of action.
"Hi there. Jeremy Franco, J. Franco & Associates." Sat down across from her, held out his hand. Considered handing her a business card but that's just a little too forward don't you think? "Pleased to meet you."
And she looked at him for a second, and she pulled his hand in, and she gave it a kiss. "Pleased to meet you too." A smile. That's just a little too forward don't you think? No of course not, for fuck's sake this is Jeremy Franco we're talking about here.
Okay let's be realistic. When he tells the story (mostly to himself, on repeat), he will say he was just as flirty right back. But there he was, awkward laughter and all, cheeks maaaaybe a bit red but probably not red, no definitely not.
Okay. Fall back on what you know.
"Hey, you wanna buy a coke or something? I got like a 24-pack in my locker, plus some coke zero. And one of those big things of chip bags, I could throw in one of those too if you want. Make me and offer." Little pause. Maybe she's not into that kind of thing. "Or we could just play some poker and shoot the shit, whatever's cool."
"I can play poker. I count cards, though." And her grin got a little sneakier, like she was onto something, like she was the only person at this table who counted cards. Difference between them was that Jeremy wasn't gonna say it out loud. Never reveal all your secrets, always keep your cards (no pun intended hahahaha) close to your chest. "And I love coke."
And so he laughed, of course he laughed. It was funny, after all. "Alright, tell you what. The first hit's free, and if you beat me- fair and square or otherwise- I'll hook you up with as many free carbonated beverages as you like, for the next week." Remember: mumble those last four words, say them a bit quicker than the others. Subterfuge. "If I win? You gimme your phone number."
"Fine." Grin got wider. "I'll take it."
And that's how it started.
She won, of course. It was probably closer than she'd expected- because you didn't even know Jeremy was counting cards too! Ha ha what a mastermind!- but it happened. Maybe she had a better head for numbers. Maybe she had better luck. Maybe both. Oh well.
When he tells the story (mostly to himself), he will say he said "oh well" at that moment. But there he was, throwing his final hand (a two and a seven, off-suit) at the table in disgust, shouting about how this was bullshit, fucking bullshit. In his defense, it was. It completely was. And the card slid a little and knocked over a stack of chips, with a pretty little clinking sound and a bunch of fucking bullshit. Oh well.
"Hey, well... fuck. Sorry. You win. The, uh, combination to my locker is 16-34-28. Take what you want, I change the lock every two weeks anyway."
And he started picking up the cards and the chips and the little bit of pride that had fallen onto the table at some point. Still looking a little mad. Trying not to. Trying not to look at her as she helped out, not seeing that she had a little hint of a smile on. Maybe that would've made him angrier to see. Maybe not.
He was fiddling with his cards later that night. Practicing. Trick shuffles and deals, nice flashy things to make sure everyone knew he was hot shit (he was). And they go back and forth between his hands and they fan out and they arrange themselves into neat little piles and the whole thing is just so very pretty and hey hey hey what's this over here?
A name. A phone number. On the Queen of Spades.
That sure was something, wasn't it.
He called her, of course. Waited a few days. He was not desperate. He introduced himself as Jeremy Franco of J. Franco and Associates. He paused for a laugh.
"Listen, uh, I got me two tickets for an MMA show this weekend, I was gonna go with a buddy of mine but he had to cancel so now I'm up a ticket. You wanna come along, maybe? No, uh, no hidden charges here. The spare's yours if you want it, it's free. Or, I mean, if you can't make it, that's cool too. That's, uh, yeah."
And what did she say?
He had shouted a lot, at the table, when he had lost at cards. He had
been trying to count too, but he did it badly; he lost track when he
got excited. He had given her his locker combination and he'd been
honest; it was full of soda and chips. She'd scrounged it for dinners
for a week, this and the unripe pears she brought home from the
cafeteria. Her mom had been worse, the past month or so; Liz had had
to feed her. She wouldn't go to the grocery store, wouldn't cook.
He could become a good source of resources, Jeremy Franco. She knew
about Jeremy Franco; he was richer than God and universally despised.
And, apparently, clumsily interested in her.
She'd flirted. The lines she'd used on him felt unreal, poached from
movies, books. There was something wrong with them, but she couldn't
figure out what. But Franco seemed delighted in them. So she had left
her number on the Queen of Spades (she had always liked the Queen of
Spades) and now he was calling her.
So of course she said yes. There was something wrong in the world when
Liz Polanski said no to a date. Someone who would want to talk
to her for any length of time. Sex. And chivalry at its finest meant
the guy might even pay for her.
Liz was always low on money. It sucked.
MMA. Like wrestling, except some people used different styles. It was
loud there, and full of crowds and sweat, but no one seemed to want to
pay attention to her, in her goth gear, which was a relief. They had
good seats--Jeremy actually had a lot of money--and as soon as they
got there, Jeremy started talking about betting. Betting. Liz didn't
know how to bet. Jeremy had poached an odds sheet from somewhere, but
told her not to trust it. He talked about instinct. He talked about
fighters being "hungry", "wanting it". He could tell, he said, when a
fighter came into the ring, if he "wanted it" enough. He was more
successful in betting than her; she surreptitiously relied on the odds
sheet, the numbers she could trust, but she began to suspect, partway
through, that the sheet was drawn up by morons. Or trolls trawling for
the likes of her. She scowled. But Jeremy let her place small bets
with his money, so she lost nothing at the end of the night.
He talked nonstop. She knew, somewhere in the back of her mind, that
this was supposed to be annoying, but it was more of a relief than
anything. She hated conversations, trying to "keep the ball rolling"
with people who expected more than she could possibly give. With
Jeremy she could relax, nod occasionally, half-listen to him drone on
about hunger and instinct and let the words wash over her like a
pleasant buzz. He bought them two beers in the middle of the match;
she held her liquor better than he.
That night, in his blue volvo station wagon, with crumbs between the
seats and newspaper on the floor, they had sex. He was finally silent
It was sordid, unlovely, but not quite so lonely.