Chapter 9: Irreconcilable Differences?
taken by i is Ashby
|Story Type: Original
Content Cautions: None.
Critique: Very, very welcome.
Summary: Leigh has moved from Earth to a station orbiting Mars, and found a lovely native man to fall in love with ... but is the gulf between dirtsider and vacuumborn too wide to breach? Those of you worried about how this comes out can be reassured by the fact that this chapter takes place the better part of a year before the first chapter I posted ... and immediately following 'Breaking Bread and Giving Thanks'.
Having folded the table away and cleared more breathing room (the bowl of fruit and the candlelights go on the countertop in the galley nook -- maintaining a bit of 'mood lighting'; the rest of the linens and decorations tidy away into various drawers), Leigh considered the room as a whole. For a romantic evening at home, something is lacking in the 'two separate dining-table chairs' mode of seating, and she considers how to remedy it. "So," she says, to fill the silence as Jak sits back down, "I was wondering if you've seen much Earth cinema? I don't find it in the entertainment 'nets often."
"Hmm? No, not really," he says. "We've got a very active theatre community out here. Plus a lot of the old films have insanely high license fees, so what's the point?"
"Well, I brought a couple of my favorites out with me when I came, and I was wondering if you'd like to watch one with me?"
He shrugs, and smiles. "Sure, why not?" he says. "Terran holiday, Terran dinner, Terran entertainment."
She crosses to unfold her screen and call up the file she wants. "Well, this is a serious classic. My parents watched it when they were dating, and it wasn't new even then." She grins over her shoulder. "It's sort of a couple movie," she adds, hoping that won't be a turn-off for him. Hoping she hasn't misjudged their relationship -- or can it perhaps become a Relationship?
"All the better," is all he says, though, and hope blooms bright in her heart. And other places.
But let's stick with the heart for now, shall we? she chides herself. She chatters to cover her nervous hopes, "Next time you'll have to pick the movie -- I've tried watching stationer films before, but they never seem to make any sense. I guess I'm just not picking the right ones." She hopes her pick isn't as garbled and incomprehensible to him as the native stuff she's tried ... and that perhaps its theme hints to him that she'd welcome a more, ah, physical relationship than they've had heretofore. Not that chatting and food aren't *fun*, but ... A girl has needs.
She starts the film, dims the lights a little, and goes to pull her chair over companionably close to Jak's before sitting. It starts with one of its many little interviews with long-time successful married couples talking about the fun or silly ways they first met, and then shifts scene to the majestic tree-covered University of Chicago campus and the first meeting of two people who don't know yet that they're destined to be together forever. As it plays on, Jak seems fascinated; she slowly slips her hand into his, and he gives hers a little companionable squeeze now and then. His laughs don't seem to come in quite the same places as hers, though he usually joins in when she giggles. The fake orgasm scene definitely gets him guffawing, though, which is encouraging. She doesn't know what she'd have done if he turned out to be a prude.
Harry's long disquisitions on whether or not men and women can ever be friends, with or without sex in the way, though, seem to trouble him somewhat. Maybe she's being a little too blatant. Hopefully he'll take it in good cheer, even if he's not, well, Interested in that way. She likes spending time with him, and can manage to squash the libido thing if that turns out to be a problem for him.
Embarrassingly, her waterworks go on right on schedule in all the places this movie usually makes her cry; luckily, Jak's still riveted by the screen, so he doesn't see her being a big soppy pile of emotional sop. She can't help it, though. You'd think, having seen this movie every five or ten years since the age of eight, she'd be immune by now, or that at least it'd get predictable, but for some reason it doesn't. She discreetly dries her face off on her sleeve a couple of times, but she gives up on trying to hide it by the final, climactic New Year's Eve party, and the speech that starts, "I love that you get cold when it's seventy one degrees out, I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich, I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts ..." So by the time it cuts to the final married-couple interview and the song over the credits, she's grinning, bright-eyed, and wet-cheeked.
Jak turns to her, and she grins at him. "Sorry," she says, patting at her face with the cuff of her turtleneck again. "I always cry at this movie."
He clears his throat, seeming to be at a loss for words. "Um. It's a happy ending, right?"
"Oh, yes! They were meant to be together, but it takes them twelve years to figure it out."
Leigh blinks, trying to figure out where his disconnect is. "It's a comedy, though, because all the misunderstandings and convolutions are just so *true*. Y'know, everyone overthinks things like that, and lets caution get in the way of being happy."
"... Oh," he says again, but then follows it with a grin. "I guess maybe we do."
Reassured, she leans closer and squeezes his hand gently. "I really enjoy the time we spend together, Jak," she says, gazing into his bottle-glass eyes.
"Oh, so do I," he says, though he still seems a little tense. She's just opened her mouth to suggest that perhaps he might like to stay the night, however, when he glances at his clockring and blinks. "Oh, man, I've got to go ..."
Leigh blinks, surprised, but tries to be a grownup about it as he stands to leave. He does kiss her lightly on the cheek, as they've been doing at parting for weeks now, but the look in his eyes shows his mind is somewhere else. She seals the door behind him and then leans forward to rest her forehead on the cool metal. What did she do wrong?
As the door closes behind him, Jak sighs and leans to rest his forehead against the blessedly cool, solid bulkhead beside Leigh's annunciator button. Good God, is that what sexual relationships are like back on Terra? What kind of tentacled monster has he been contemplating getting involved with? Please let it be a deliberate farce ... He thinks carefully about who he can trust to give him a straighter skinny on that bizarre film. He can't ask Leigh, he can't risk the wrong questions coming off all wrong -- she clearly loves the thing like his baby sister loves her teddy. More than that, it seems obvious and RIGHT to her, like a warm hug.
At least dirtsuckers apparently like warm hugs too. That's a start.