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Remedial French

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She taught English, he taught history. He tamed unruly students with a fearsome glare he had perfected over the years; she didn’t have to, because no-one had the heart to upset or disappoint her. He was too intimidating to inspire a nickname; she had been fondly dubbed Disney Princess - Princess for short - because she never seemed to run out of patience and compassion for her lovestruck pupils, and she looked as if forest creatures flocked to her every time she set foot outside her front door. Together, Gold knew, they could rule a country as king and queen. He would govern with a strict but fair hand and inspire fear and respect with neighboring rulers. Her generosity and general loveliness would ensure their subjects’ loyalty while he raised taxes behind her back.

Fanciful nonsense, of course. He was no king. If anything, he was a tired old dragon, and she was a warrior who could reduce his fearsome flame breath to a pitiful puff of smoke with naught but a quirk of her eyebrow, sharp as a sword. But more accurate still - he was a history teacher, and she was an English teacher, and that was that. Colleagues. Acquaintances. But he’d grown very fond of her, and he was definitely not happy with that recent development in his life. Today, for instance, he was overcompensating for exactly that fondness by, perhaps, being too much of an ass.

He just liked the way the golden morning sunlight made her hair look like it was glowing as she busied herself in the little kitchen area of the teacher’s lounge. The decor - if one could call it that - consisted of cheap wood paneling, orange curtains and dark brown upholstered seats that had seen better days (in the late seventies, from the looks of it) and he liked how the color scheme seemed to make sense with her there in that light. Contrast. Dark, warm tones for her to stick out in. He liked it so much he slipped and let himself smile at the back of her head, and when she turned around and almost caught him, he inwardly cursed himself to hell and back. Now he was hiding behind a piece of paper like a shy child.

“Mr Gold?”

“Ms French?” he sighed, not even affording her a glance.

He used to hate Australian accents.

“Would you like some tea?” she asked, undeterred by his bored tone. “I was just about to have some myself.”

But now he loved the way those ridiculous vowels shaped her lips.

Suddenly ashamed of his needlessly unfriendly response, he looked up at her with what he hoped was only a moderately apologetic look, and mumbled, “Yes. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, sunshine.”

It was just a handful of words softly spoken under her breath, but he’d heard them loud and clear. He suspected she meant him to. He considered objecting to the ironic endearment for a moment, but then snapped his mouth right back shut. Better not encourage her. It was a pattern of sorts. Gold would pretend he wasn’t a little bit smitten with her - sometimes to the point of feigning annoyance - and she would pretend he was actually good company for whatever dark reasons she may have had. She brushed off his halfhearted rudeness with a roll of the eyes and an amused little smile, and he would settle down and be grateful she kept it at that and didn’t call him out on it like he knew she could. It was very nice to go home at the end of the day with his dignity somewhat intact, even though he probably didn’t really deserve to.

This had been their pattern since he walked into the teacher’s lounge one day and saw her sitting in his chair. “That’s my seat,” he had said on that fine late winter morning. She’d looked up from her book - hardcover, no dust jacket, bound in black cloth - and raised an eyebrow at him. There was something about her look, then, that made him want to flee the room with his tail between his legs, but instead of doing something humiliating as that he had clarified, “I mean, I usually sit there.”

And she’d just smiled. Calmly. Faintly. Asked him, “Oh, I’m sorry. Would you like me to move?” in that unexpected accent of hers and froze him in place, because by asking him that, she’d put her sword to his neck. It was as if she was testing him. He could have told her no and pretended he was above this sort of thing, but then that wouldn’t have explained why he had mentioned it in the first place. The only other option was to hang in there, power through, and let her know that he was not a pleasant person, and she would do well to keep that in mind. And so he’d nodded, which already felt like a defeat of some sort, so he wasn’t sure why he had let her two seconds of silence urge him into adding, “I would, yes,” for good measure.

“No problem,” she had said with a curious smile, abandoning his seat to settle down into the chair next to his, the avoidance of which was also an unspoken and unwritten rule amongst the staff, who treated him with a well balanced mixture of fear, respect, and pity for having been passed over for the position of vice principal for years, now.

(Little did they know he’d been offered several times. He always kept his reasons for just about any decision he ever made close to his chest, but what it came down to in this particular instance was that a man not officially in power was very difficult to remove from it, and Gold knew that. He wielded enough influence to get his way whenever it really mattered to him. That was all he needed. Much less paperwork.)

Curiously, a week or two before the chair incident, he had spotted Ms French in the public library. Well, she had spotted him first, to be precise, because he distinctly remembered looking up from his book to see whose flowery perfume that was, and found this pair of striking blue eyes staring at him from the seat opposite his at the reading table. Ridiculously blue, mind. No exaggeration. It was excessive, really, how blue those eyes were, and that was the only reason he’d stared back. She didn’t look away, like most people did, but smiled instead. It was just a quick smile - one you might expect from a daydreaming stranger on the train who hadn’t meant to stare. But then five minutes later when he couldn’t help but look up to see if she was still staring like he suspected she was, it had happened again. There was nothing apologetic about her smile that time. He had thought, then, that perhaps if he glared back at her she would back down, but oddly enough his face wouldn’t cooperate, and he ended up just gawping for a moment. He’d gathered his things and left as quickly as he could. He simply couldn’t concentrate like that.

He remembered that. It seemed that she didn’t. That was a good thing.

So Ms French - the new English teacher, as he later found out - had sat herself down in his chair on her first day. He could forgive her for that because she was new; she had no way of knowing. But the second time around, well - that could only have been forgetfulness or insolence. And yet when he had scowled and opened his mouth to ask which it was, she got up and moved to the seat next to his with a bright smile and a chirpy, “Saved your seat for you!” and he had been baffled into silence.

So there was a third option he hadn’t considered, apparently, but he still wasn’t sure what exactly it was. Not insolence, nor forgetfulness. So a game, perhaps? Only she didn’t seem the type to play them. Instead of curtly informing her that she was the only one who considered his chair appropriate seating, anyway, and that therefore there was no need to guard it like a faithful but misguided dog, Gold had sat down wordless and confused in a faint cloud of her lingering perfume - roses, like in the library. She had let him read his paper in peace.

That was weeks ago. The winter winds that blew his head clean of thoughts of her as he left the building at the end of each day had made way for hopeful spring temperatures, and he felt himself begin to crack and thaw under her sun.

Because since then, his chair was often warm when he sat in it, and she made it a point to acknowledge him with a greeting or a smile in the teacher’s lounge, in the halls, and wherever else she caught him. At the end of the day she would often walk past his classroom, smile, wave and move on. He knew when she was heading his way, because he started to recognize the sound of her quick, small steps as the days turned into weeks. He never waved back, but he started nodding after a while, and she took that as a sign that they were on small talk terms all of the sudden, which meant that he was now answering her yes and no questions and exchanging good mornings and see you tomorrows.

And somewhere along the line, he’d gotten a little bit too fond of her. She was beautiful, of course, which certainly didn’t help, but there was something about her that threatened to disarm him entirely. Her confidence, he supposed, and her subtle irreverence for his darker moods. There was something actually rather comforting about the fact that Ms French could take his distant demeanor in stride. By simply accepting him as a grumpy old fool, she had lowered his defenses to the point that he didn’t want to be rude anymore. He didn’t want to pretend he thought her an annoying little puppy following him around, which he had heavily insinuated once or twice when she asked him to help make sense of a recent schedule adjustment, or something else completely reasonable to ask if you were new on the job. He wanted to find out more about her and learn to talk to her the way she talked to him - with ease and without pretense. But still he mostly let her chat away at him, never offering many words of his own for fear of letting his truth sneak out among the meaningless small talk and the hushed gossip.

So when he sensed his own kind words and fond smiles sneaking up on him as he listened to her increasingly entertaining anecdotes, he would catch himself just in time and veered sharply to the other side with a dismissive comment or even silence, sometimes. Strangely, that didn’t seem to deter her. Perhaps that was exactly his appeal; she probably knew that he wouldn’t for a second be under the illusion that a woman like her would be interested in a man like him, and Gold hoped that his occasional sullen moods had helped cement that impression. Ms French was more likely than not drowning in suitors, and it was entirely possible that she just appreciated his lack of outward romantic interest.

That didn’t explain why she thought he would make for a good workplace friend, but perhaps she was just a mite dafter than she seemed.

Every day, she grew on him a little bit more, and he hadn’t counted on that. He had started to look forward to her chirpy good mornings, hoped he’d bump into her in the hallways, was curious to see what manner of fashion sorcery she’d performed in front of her closet that morning to make him want to figure out the science behind it. He liked her, now. He was attracted to her, of course - anyone would be - but he liked her, too, and that was just statistically improbable, really. He barely liked anyone. Ms French was intelligent, amusing and kind, and surely there must have been some huge, unforgivable flaw she was hiding away somewhere? Skeletons in her closet, next to the cute skirts and colorful blouses? Literal ones? He wanted to know what the catch was. He wanted to find out why that Disney Princess nickname the students had given her didn’t really strike him as completely apt.

All of which terrified him to the core. He was a grown man who had long since accepted the fact that he would die alone, crushed under a pile of hoarded newspapers in a decade or three, and he did not appreciate this sudden… infatuation. Not one bit. It was completely useless and distracting. He’d gotten good at being alone. He wasn’t lonely. Well, not often, and not very. Just when he was in an inexplicable good mood and there was no-one to share it with. But that rarely happened, luckily, and when it did, he just threw back a glass of scotch and turned up the music just enough to drown out that hollow echo in the back of his head telling him that one divorce and a couple of disastrous dalliances did not mean he was forever doomed to fuck up every other potential relationship.

That was all beside the point, anyway. He liked her, and she had taken a liking to him in a different way, which was perfectly fine. He could admire her from afar, as long as he kept at a safe distance, although admittedly that was getting to be a bit of a problem, lately. She made him smile and she stressed him out. He was drawn to her and she triggered some sort of fight-or-flight response in him, and that was why today, he’d started off too mean. She’d called him sunshine for it. He’d dialed it back and now everything was alright again. Simple as that. They just sort of worked - precariously balanced though they were.

“Here’s your tea!” she said, handing him his mug and settling down in the chair next to his with her own. He mouthed, “Thank you,” and took a sip. Too hot. Much too hot. He should have known; it was steaming. If she’d noticed, she was keeping mercifully quiet. She abandoned her mug on the coffee table in front of them for a moment to delve into the large leather bag at her feet. When she came back up, she held out a large, red, admittedly delicious looking apple and gestured for him to take it.

“Apple?”

“No thank you.”

She shrugged, dropped it right back into her bag and reunited herself with her own mug. “A friend was staying with me for a couple of weeks while she was flat-hunting. She left loads of these behind and now I’m stuck eating them,” she explained. “I thought I might eat them in between classes, but then I figured, better not give that lot any ammo, y’know?”

He’d been blowing air into his tea in a fairly useless attempt at cooling it down while he listened. He took another sip (still much too hot) then softly said, “I don’t think they’re comparing you to that one.”

“What?”

“Snow White’s not the Disney princess they have in mind, what with your first name and all.”

And when he looked up to find her gawping at him with her brow creased in confusion, Gold knew he had made a mistake. A realization like a punch to the gut.

“Huh? I just meant it’s a cliché for a teacher to have an apple on their desk. Isn’t it? What are you talking about?”

A mistake indeed. She was still staring at him, clearly waiting for an explanation of some sort, and Gold felt the need to put down his tea before his hands started shaking and he ended up with minor burns on his thighs and tea all over the stack of papers still in his lap.

“You didn’t know,” he said. It almost sounded like a question, but not quite.

“I still don’t!” she laughed, crossing one leg over the other, folding her arms on the arm rest of his chair and leaning in closer, waiting for him to explain himself. God, why so close, though? Perhaps she thought she took up less space than she actually did. The poor girl must have been told she was tiny so often she now believed she couldn’t possibly invade anyone’s personal space. Gold tried to scoot to the opposite corner of his chair as much as he possibly could without being very obvious about it - which wasn’t a lot.

“The students,” he explained. “They like to come up with nicknames for teachers, and I’m afraid they’ve settled on Princess for you.”

This was mortifying. This was more than he’d said to her all week. He wished he hadn’t put his tea away. It was taking him quite some effort to keep his hands from fidgeting as he felt her eyes on him. When he finally gathered the courage to glance over, she looked a little less mystified.

Princess? Why? Do they think I’m prissy? Stuck-up?”

“No, that’s not it. Nothing like that,” he assured her. “It’s actually Disney Princess. They’ve shortened it.”

“But why?”

Gold sat up a little straighter. He had just found the last remaining ounce of fight in him, and he was ready to use it. As deadpan as he could considering the fact that he knew he was slowly being backed into a corner, he replied, “Princess is shorter than Disney Princess.”

Ms French snorted, rolled her eyes and damn near growled, “You know what I mean.”

Fuck. Now he was going to have to…

“You’re just very kind and helpful. Patient with your students. And…”

Beautiful was accurate. Stunning, too. Gorgeous. Breathtaking. Hauntingly beautiful, if he allowed himself to be even more nauseating for a moment. But those were all too personal. Those were the words that held meaning to him. The words that came to mind when he saw her.

“And?”

No stuttering, Gold told himself. Absolutely none of that. It was just a harmless word. Not an entirely objective descriptor, but close enough. He just had to spit it out, and this conversation would be over. Her question answered, her nickname explained, the torture over and done with.

“Pretty.”

Harmless enough, right? Wildly insufficient, but safe.

“Oh!” Her lips rounded when she made that sound, struggling against a smile. “I suppose I can live with that.”

Finally, with her curiosity satisfied, she sat back and stopped leaning on his chair. He sighed in relief as if she was an army of a much bigger country with a much higher GDP and she’d just withdrawn from his borders, but he had the good sense to disguise it as a very soft cough to clear his throat.

“Sounds a bit patronizing at first, I agree, but I’ve heard worse. Much worse.”

“Yeah, I’m cool with it, I think,” she said with a charming lopsided grin. “If I ignore the Disney part, I can pretend they mean Xena.”

“Hm?”

“Warrior Princess?”

“Oh.”

No clue. He reached for his tea again and when he sipped this time, the temperature was bearable. It made him feel a little more competent. A little more relaxed, even though it didn’t look like she was done talking, yet.

“So you do know my name is Belle,” she mused, hiding her smirking mouth behind her cup of tea. “You said they wouldn’t compare me to Snow White because of my first name. I thought you might not have known, but you do.”

“I know everyone’s name,” he mumbled.

She laughed at that. He didn’t know why. It wasn’t really very noticeable if you weren’t paying attention, but he saw her shoulders shake for a moment, and he knew. That wasn’t the first time either; accidentally making her laugh and then being torn between feeling just a little bit offended and a little bit pleased was part of their pattern as well.

“What’s your nickname, then?” she asked.

“I don’t have one.”

“Why not?”

“They only give you a nickname if they’re very fond of you or if they think you’re a complete waste of space. I’m somewhere in between. They like you, hence the nickname. I’m not liked, but I’m not enough of a bastard to be loathed either, hence the lack of one.”

“Oh, come on. I’m sure they like you,” she sang, putting her hand on the arm rest of his chair - a squadron of soldiers right back at his borders.

“It’s not my job to be liked,” he muttered, his voice a little drier than he would have liked. He returned his attention to the stack of papers in his lap and hoped that signaled the end of their conversation. These were almost comically awful. He’d have to sit that lot down and introduce the concept of paragraphs to them soon. But wasn’t that Ms French’s job? And why wasn’t she looking away? He could still feel her eyes on him. It was terribly distracting. From the corner of his eye, he saw her uncross her legs, smooth down her skirt and stand.

He glanced up. She was smiling at him. He almost smiled back.

“I would have liked you,” she said with a shrug. She brushed her apple against the fabric of her skirt to make it even shinier and walked towards the door with a click click click of her heels.

“A bit too much, maybe,” she added in a deeper voice. Then snap, she took a big chunk out of her apple and disappeared around the corner chewing and smiling.

Gold frowned. What the hell was that supposed to mean?

He turned to the next page of the sloppily stapled together paper and narrowed his eyes. Did the font size just change in the middle of a paragraph? Jesus Christ, was everyone out to drive him insane, today? He fished a pen out of his jacket pocket (red, always on his person) and struck through the entire thing with a sense of satisfaction he dared not further investigate for fear of discovering that he was taking out his frustrations on whoever the hell it was who hadn’t bothered to pick a font size and stick to it.

He shoved the papers in his satchel and groaned as he lifted himself up from his chair and ventured into the hallways where some busy young man promptly stomped on his foot - the one that was connected to his aching ankle. The kid stumbled for a few steps, then froze and turned around in slow motion with his mouth and eyes wide open in fear. Gold bit back the tirade he had been fully prepared on unleashing; this kid looked as if he was about to soil himself.

“I’m s-s-sorry, Mr Gold. I d-didn’t see you.”

“Run along,” he muttered with a nod.

Someone else would fuck up today. On purpose. And then he might dole out some detention and feel less soft and malleable inside. He might feel like a grown man again, not some fantasizing pubescent student of Ms French’s. Daniels, probably. Daniels was always looking to fuck up.

And indeed, later on, it was Daniels who had a plastic container on his desk and was grinning, posturing, and soliciting the attention of the girl at the desk next to his. Gold bit down on his pleased smirk, then cleared his throat and called the boy’s name.

“Yes, sir?”

“What’s in the box?”

“Jason, sir.”

“And what is Jason?”

“A snail, sir.”

A snail. He’d brought a snail into his classroom. From the looks of it, he’d made it a little makeshift terrarium in someone’s tupperware lunchbox. How annoying. Almost cute. Definitely more annoying than cute, however.

“You know how I feel about distractions, don’t you? So tell me, Daniels. Would Jason prefer detention, or to be crushed under my heel for distracting the rest of the class?”

Daniels was a clever dark-haired boy whose growth spurt had never really arrived. He was no idiot, but he had too much energy and spare time on his hands and had decided to act like one. The boy feigned offense and slapped his hand over his heart. Gold crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair with an eyebrow raised in expectation.

“But sir!” he whined. “Could I perhaps deposit Jason on the windowsill and forgo both detention and the grisly execution of my new friend, here?”

Ah, fuck, he hadn’t counted on that. Usually, Daniels relished the opportunity to take a bullet in front of his classmates. Was he wising up? Could he not have chosen any other day to do that?

“Alright,” he sighed, motioning towards the window, “but be quick about it.”

Gold watched as the boy stood up, picked up his box, walked over to the window at a leisurely pace, opened it and swiftly clambered out, box and all, shouting, “Bye, sir!”

The class tittered, and Gold allowed himself a quick smirk while they were all distracted by the class clown running to freedom with his pet snail under his arm. Good old Daniels. How could he ever have doubted him? He would be back soon enough, and Gold could finally pull that trigger he’d been itching to pull. He felt better already. He would let the rest of the class gawk and giggle for another minute or so before restoring order by bringing his fist down on his wooden desk. Sometimes they just needed to get it out of their system.

“Hey, Mr Gold?”

Ms French. He turned to see her grasping the doorframe, peeking her head past the open door. He swallowed nervously and swiveled his chair towards her.

“Yes?”

She took one step into his classroom, unnoticed by the students who had congregated at the window, giggling and pointing at whatever Daniels was getting up to.

“I, uh, I think I just saw one of yours climb out of the window and run off?”

“You did indeed,” he replied, nodding towards the open window with half a smirk. She must have been sitting in the teacher’s lounge if she’d witnessed that. The school was made up of two separate buildings, and this one was L-shaped. From his desk, he had a view of the teacher’s lounge, and he sometimes caught a glimpse of her sitting by the window with her nose in a book.

“Would you like me to go get him?” she asked cautiously - as if she thought he might be offended by her offer to help. He couldn’t blame her for that, really. That was exactly the kind of impression he endeavored to make with everyone else.

“No, that’s fine. He’ll be back.”

“Does this, uh… happen often?”

“This is new to the repertoire, actually.”

She smiled and frowned at the same time, looking adorably confused. The woman barely ever had to raise her voice, so of course she wouldn’t have had to deal with something like this. On any other day, Gold might have shouted thinly veiled abuse after the little fucker already, but for some reason, even after Ms French had made him feel like a bumbling idiot in the teacher’s lounge and that kid had stomped on his foot in the hallway, he was in a good mood now.

And with his good moods came those sudden waves of loneliness, and now he stupidly wished the kids would just fuck off out of the window after Daniels and leave him alone with Ms French for a moment. He wanted to hear her complain about her apple surplus, or verbally tear an overrated novel to shreds with a fierceness that made an interesting contrast with her outwardly level-headed and agreeable demeanor.

But what he needed was for her to leave before his smug smirk turned into a daft, lovestruck smile, so he forced himself to raise an eyebrow and ask her, “Was there anything else?”

“No, I ju-”

She twisted her head around when she heard the sound of running footsteps approaching, and stepped aside to make way for Gold’s favorite fuck-up.

“Speak of the devil!” she chirped.

“Hi, miss!” he said, grinning like the devil himself. He was out of breath. Probably just ran a few laps and then remembered he’d left all of his things in here.

“Hello, Kevin,” she replied with a barely hidden tone of amusement.

“Welcome back, Daniels,” Gold sighed as the kid went around collecting pats on the shoulder and appreciative smiles from his admiring classmates.

“Thanks, sir. How many?”

“Well, this little stunt was a bit more irresponsible than the others,” mused Gold. “Plus, you trampled the marigolds. Five days, I think.”

Daniels settled into his seat with a sigh, shrugged and muttered, “Yeah, I guess that’s fair.”

The kid was relatively reasonable sometimes, all things considered. Gold turned to thank Ms French for the offer of help and dismiss her (she was still hovering in the doorway for some reason) but then he noticed something. Or, well, the lack of something.

“Where’s Jason?” he asked, brow furrowed. Daniels opened his mouth to answer, but before he could get the words, out, Ms French spoke up.

“Who’s Jason? Did another boy run after him?”

“No, no,” Gold hurried. “That was -”

Daniels threw his head back and cackled. Gold clenched his jaw and shot the boy a glare that would have been lethal had he actually been looking back at him.

“Daniels’ pet snail,” he explained meekly after swallowing down his rage, feeling the beginnings of an entirely unnecessary blush creep up his neck.

“Oh, I see,” she lilted, grinning.

“I set him free in the marigolds, sir.”

Why had he even asked? He didn’t care. Ms French disguised a giggle with a cough and walked away, the sound of her heels echoing in the hallway. And then he finally heard that giggle burst free. He felt himself begin to smile despite his best efforts.

Should have crushed the damn snail.

The sun was starting to set and the kids had all run off to whatever it was they got up to on a Friday evening these days. He would sit at his desk for a little while longer and have another look at those papers. He wouldn’t have to see Ms French for a couple of days; perhaps he’d come to his senses in the mean time. Perhaps he’d like her less on Monday. Perhaps she would have forgotten about the snail thing by then.

And the fact that he’d called her pretty.

He sat at his desk and sighed at the end of damn near every other sentence, shaking his head and tapping his fingers on the desk just a little bit too hard to distract himself from the pain pulsing in his ankle. Yes, he would go home soon, take his pain meds and stop thinking of her.

A soft knock on the doorframe made him look up, and there she was again - smiling and cocking her head to the side just a bit as if asking for permission to come bother him. He hadn’t heard her approach this time. He’d been too focused on the pain and the terrible grammar. Oh, but how he loathed that split second fluttering in his stomach whenever she caught him on his own. There was some cursed part of his brain that refused to listen to reason and made him feel these pinpricks of excitement, of expectation and potential where really, there was nothing at all.

“Hey.”

He allowed himself to smile this time. He was off the clock, really, and there was no mob of unruly adolescents nearby to intimidate, so it was alright.

“Hey,” he replied.

“You up to anything fun this weekend?”

“Afraid not.”

She just stood there and smiled, and he didn’t know what else to do but smile back. What was she expecting? Him to have an interesting social life? Unusual hobbies? Was she waiting for an explanation as to why he didn’t have anything planned? Was she waiting for him to ask her the same question?

“Alright, then,” she sighed, still smiling away. “Have a good one.”

“You too.”

“See you Monday.”

“Monday. Yes.”

Why was she still standing there staring at him? Why did she always make him ask himself so many questions? If he had to sit there and smile much longer, he’d surely get some sort of facial cramp.

“Bye, Mr Gold.”

And she was off with a polite nod and a little wave. Finally. Gold sighed and sank down into his chair, dug his fingers into his hair and listened until the sound of her footsteps died out. He had said more to her today than he had in the entire week, and he was exhausted. His ankle hurt, he was starting to get a headache, but he was in such an inexplicably decent mood that when he got home that evening, he didn’t want to crawl right into bed.

Instead, he sat out in the garden with a cup of black tea steaming elegant white curls into the chilly nighttime air and enjoyed the sight of the full moon. At least his vision was still good. That was something, wasn’t it? Two whole days. Two whole days to stop being quite so fond of Ms French. It hadn’t worked the weekend before, nor the weekend before that, or any of the other weekends, obviously. But perhaps this weekend would be different.

Gold sat. He sipped. He wished he still smoked. He stared up at the stars and the moon and silently recited key dates in US history as if he still needed to after decades of trying to shove them into teenage skulls. A glass of scotch, later. After his tea. But he would sit out here for a little while longer still.

He bet her eyes were a sight to see in this bright moonlight.

He was fucked.