“Manny! What is that? Put it down!” Bernard yelled as he entered the shop, pushing the curtains aside. Manny jumped, dropping the books he’d been rearranging. Fran was still snoring on the couch from the night before, Bernard’s coat draped over her. The cigarettes had fallen from her hand and were lying on the floor. Bernard spotted them and scooped them up. He gave Fran a look that would be categorized as fond, but as soon as Bernard noticed Manny looking at him, he barked “What are you looking at? Go make me some toast!” causing Fran to wake with a start.
“Urgh,” she moaned, sitting up and putting a hand to her face, as the ceiling plaster fell off her head and the dust moved down her chest. “What happened?”
“You fell asleep! I did not steal your cigarettes and ceiling plaster did not fall on you,” Bernard stated firmly.
“Hey!” Fran grabbed her cigarettes back out of Bernard’s hand. Bernard made a face at her, and she made one back, sticking her tongue out.
“So,” Bernard said, drawing the word out over three syllables and notes as he turned back around to Manny, “where’s Rowena gone this morning? Couldn’t wait to escape your hairy clutches, could she!”
“She’s just gone home to change,” Manny said calmly. “We have a date later.”
Bernard and Fran looked at each other. “Ooooh,” they said in sing-song unison.
Manny just smiled at them before going back to his never-ending work of organizing the books.
A few hours later Bernard woke from his stupor at his desk, where he had settled after Fran left. “Toast!” he called out, throwing his hand up in the air as he raised his head. Manny scurried in with a plate of toast, and then ran back into the kitchen, returning with a bottle of wine and a glass, anticipating Bernard’s needs. The customers who had been milling around the shop while Bernard was unconscious and thus not harassing them, quickly left once he started yelling.
Fran walked in just as all the customers were scurrying out. “Now what have you done?”
“Nothing!” Bernard yelled, crumbs flying out of his mouth. The toast flew out of his hand as he gestured with it, sticking to the wall next to the curtain.
Manny emerged from the curtain wearing his purple button down shirt under his leather jacket. “Alright then, see you later!” he waved as he walked past them both sitting at the desk.
“Wait a minute! Where are you going! Where’s my dinner!” Bernard yelled, looking around for a new bottle of wine, having already finished the one Manny had set out minutes ago. Fran gulped down what was left in the glass of wine she had poured for herself before Bernard had finished off the bottle
“I told you, Rowena and I have a date tonight. There’s dinner in the fridge. Don’t wait up!”
“I would have had a date tonight too, but someone broke my phone,” Fran looked pointedly at Bernard.
“Ach, it’s not like you would have enjoyed yourself anyways. Remember what happened the last time you dated? They all turned out to be gay, and you ended up in a brace because of the one who wasn’t.”
Fran just slumped down onto the desk, her head in her arms. Bernard patted her drunkenly on the head. “There, there. It’ll be just like old times. Just you, me, and endless amounts of wine.”
“Manny made us dinner.”
“Ah yes. Let’s go see what that mangy half-human made for us. It’s probably barely edible and tastes like feet.”
It was in fact, two racks of lamb with rosemary, oven roasted red potatoes and Fran’s favorite chocolate cake for dessert.
“Look at this! What kind of rubbish is this? How are we supposed to eat this!” Bernard said, shutting the refrigerator door violently.
“Oh, shut up Bernard,” Fran said as she turned on the oven and put the food Manny had prepared in it to heat up.
Bernard sat down at the kitchen table, clean for once, and poured himself another glass of wine from a bottle he had somehow conjured up. A few minutes later, Fran set a plate in front of Bernard. Soon after, the food was gone. “What was that?” he yelled, wine glass in hand.
“Food. You enjoyed it. Now pour me a glass of wine,” Fran ordered. Bernard complied.
The night passed in the way most did between Fran and Bernard, helped along by the chocolate cake Manny had made. When Manny eventually came home with Rowena, Bernard and Fran were still sitting at the kitchen table, drinking wine and singing songs, if it could be called that. Manny went upstairs with hardly a glance at Fran and Bernard, engrossed in their drinking and singing as they were. “The English are all bad!” drifted up the stairs behind Manny. But then the giggling started.
“What is that awful noise?” Bernard yelled. Manny ran downstairs, poking his head out from the staircase, “Something wrong? Did you find the dinner alright? Do you need any more wine?”
“We’re fine,” Fran said, waving him off.
“No, we are not fine,” Bernard insisted. “There are horrible noises coming from upstairs and I refuse to hear them.”
“Oh, bugger. We’re out of wine. C’mon Bernard, I’ve more wine at my place and then you won’t have to hear any of Rowena’s giggling.”
“Oh, it’s Roweeeena again, is it? You’re going to leave me, aren’t you? Have little hairy children and leave me forever, you ungrateful oaf. Go on then, leave. Off you go. Back to Rowena!” Bernard started shoving Manny back up the staircase.
“C’mon Bernard, we’re going.” Fran dragged Bernard off Manny, and pushed him out the door. She poked her head back in smiling and gave Manny a thumbs up.
“There, there, all settled now,” Fran said, patting Bernard on the shoulder as she settled him down in her apartment with a glass of wine.
“No ‘t’s not,” he slurred. “Manny’s going to leave me all alone, forever and ever. Just me and the book and the tings. And then they’ll eat me and they’re won’t be anything left for him to come home to.”
“Now Bernard, you know that’s not true. Manny won’t leave you and I’m right here. You haven’t lost me yet, have you?”
“No,” Bernard said, shaking his head like a chastened child. “You won’t leave me, will you?” He grabbed at her arm, pulling her down to his level. “You, with your hair and your face and your…”
“Wine?” Fran finished for him.
“Yes! More wine! Always more wine!”
At some point in the night, had fallen asleep, slumped together at the table. The wine bottle fell from Bernard’s hand, startling Fran awake. She sat straight up, causing Bernard’s head to slip from her shoulder, causing him to grumble and sit up.
“Oh, we must have fallen asleep,” Fran said.
“Oh, me head,” Bernard said, hunching over instead of sitting up.
“Oh, that’ll never do,” Fran said. “Come on now, into bed with you.” She stood up and pulled Bernard to his feet. He wobbled on his feet before slowing leaning, so Fran pushed him in the direction of her bed. She sat him on the edge and pulled his shoes off while he struggled futilely with his jacket. Fran had to get him untangled from his coat and blazer.
“Now I assume you can get the rest yourself,” she said as she went over to her dresser to change into pajamas. “And no peeking,” she said sternly, turning to glare at Bernard who was looking and his belt buckle, perplexed.
“Scout’s honor,” he slurred, holding his hand up in the air in some sort of salute, before putting it over his eyes. Fran turned back around and Bernard opened the closed fingers of the hand over his eyes. He was entranced by the sight of Fran’s skin in the moonlight coming in through her windows. They had forgotten to turn on the lights when they had come in and Fran had lit a candle, but it had long burnt out. Bernard slipped off his button-down and his pants, leaving him in his briefs, a t-shirt and socks.
When Fran turned around, he was just sitting there, staring at his hands like he didn’t know what they were for. Then, as she approached, he looked up, and as if he had finally found a use for his hands, put them on her hips and drew her down onto his lap.
“Bernard, what are you doing?” Fran asked, astonished that Bernard was actually making a move. Usually they just played things off as a joke, but his eyes seemed serious, as if he had sobered up in the moments she had turned away.
“Something I should have done a long time ago. Or well, maybe I’ve done it already, but since I’m not allowed to remember…” He trailed off and pulled her in close, his left hand moving away from her hip to her neck, pulling her in, and kissed her. Their mouths connected and Bernard’s hand on her hip tightened as Fran opened her mouth under his, allowing his tongue entrance. Despite the slob Bernard might seem, he was quite skilled at kissing. He didn’t drool all over her like one might think he would. Fran put her hands on Bernard’s face and leaned in, causing them to fall over. They giggled like loons, their drunken laughter filling the room.
“C’mon now silly, into bed.” Fran got up and pulled back the covers. Bernard wiggled under them and then looked at her expectantly, like a child waiting for his bedtime story.
“Oh all right,” Fran said and kissed him on the forehead and tucked him in before climbing into bed herself. The spell had been broken for the time being, and they both passed out in drunken slumber.