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Frankie's Bar

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"It must have been difficult," Todd says to you as you sit at the bar at Frankie's, a place you thought you'd never ever go, drinking your gin and orange and feeling very sorry for yourself. "Moving to a far away place all alone," he continues, and you manage a nod. "Having to get used to a new country."

"Coming back was harder," you admit to him. "Everything has changed."

"What do you mean?" Todd asks you, his chocolate brown eyes solemn. You let out a sigh. Where to begin, you wonder.

"I didn't go away to university," you say after a moment. "They lost my spot and I had to work as a scullery maid," you explain, taking a minute sip of your drink. "So I'm an entire semester behind."

Todd shrugs. "So?"

"So?" You mimic, somewhat irritated by his flippancy. "What do you mean by that?"

"You'll be alright," he tells you. "You're a smart girl, Liz."

"Thanks," you reply, managing a slight smile. It's the first smile you've given anyone in the three weeks since you've been home. "It's not just school," you admit.

"What else is bugging you?" Todd asks, and you get the sense that he actually cares, even though it's likely that tons of people with pity-me stories come into his bar on a daily basis and tell him their tragic woes.

"Just a lot of stuff," you answer, rather evasively. You don't want to tell him everything, not just yet.

Surprisingly, he lets the answer satisfy him.

 

***

 

"Billie's pregnant," you tell him the next night, almost as blase as if you were discussing the weather. "She's five months along."

You have ordered a beer tonight, choosing to mix it up a bit, and you take a gulp of it, wincing at its bitter taste. Perhaps a PBR wasn't the way to go.

You have never had American beer, though, at least not in America.

"Congratulations?" Todd offers up, and you scoff. "What, is that not a good thing? You being an aunt?"

You roll your eyes a bit. "I didn't know about it," you inform him, taking a slug of your beer for emphasis. "I didn't know about that, or about them being married, or any of it."

He sighs. "Maybe that's your fault," he offers, and your eyes widen.

"How dare you say that?" Your voice is filled with righteous -- though undeserved -- indignation.

"You left, Liz," he says, shrugging his shoulders. "You never called, never wrote, never nothing. It's not like they had much of a choice."

Needless to say, you -- of course -- storm out of the bar.

 

***

 

It's a week before you return, after a fight with Max, and you are relieved that Todd is the only one there.

"I was engaged," you tell him. "I was engaged to the son of an Earl."

You have been crying, and Todd -- wonderful Todd with his chocolate brown eyes and sweet smile -- gives you a tissue.

"What happened?" He asks you softly, pouring you a glass of something, which you discover is water. "Did he hurt you?"

You quickly shake your head. "He's just an asshole," you mutter, and if Todd expresses shock at the curse he doesn't show it.

"You wanna talk about it?"

You nod, much to your surprise. "He wanted me to come back," you say. "I said no. He said I was selfish."

Todd raises his eyebrows. "You're not selfish, Liz," he assures you, squeezing your hand that rests on the bar. "You're a lot of things, but not at all selfish."

 

***

 

"What are you doing for Christmas?"

He shrugs. "Frankie's is closed, but I don't know what I'm going to do," he says. "Why do you ask?"

"I was wondering if you wanted to come over to Mom and Dad's," you say softly. "They said I could invite someone."

"You want me there?" Todd asks, raising his eyebrows. You nod.

"Please," you tell him. "It will be like old times. I would like that."

"Okay," he says, nodding in agreement. "I will."

"Thanks," you say, kissing him on his cheek. "I appreciate it."