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Posted: Apr 27 2008, 10:56 AM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 17-November 07
For Gray, the next few days were a defining example of the word schadenfreude. After a couple of nights Cressida stopped asking him to cuddle her to sleep and he didn't offer, sensing her need for privacy, fearful of misreading signs; and besides the single bed was really very narrow. The first night he had fallen right off the side, waking himself but not her, and he had spent a few surprisingly fearful and panicky moments groping in the dark to orient himself. But the days were special, even if his companion was pre-occupied with a sadness which transcended most ordinary miseries.
Those days were filled with the simple stuff that memories are made from. Leisurely breakfasts with newspapers and endless supplies of coffee; long walks around the half-deserted campus; idle but heated debates about such vital sociological issues as: where does the garbage go after we put it in the trash can? And long evenings by a crackling log fire drinking wine and playing fool, scanning the too many channels on the TV in hopes of finding something actually watchable, such as a re-run of Ironsides.
But in spite of the proximity there was no sense that they were growing any closer. At times, it seemed that she was actively holding back, keeping her feelings bottled up as though, perhaps, fearful that to open up the door to them would be irreversible, the torrent too strong to oppose. Gray thought it was likely he would be no different in similar circumstances and in that belief he found it easy to empathise with her feelings and needs. He occupied himself, when she withdrew completely, by musing over how she was coping with her grief. She certainly wasn't going through a clearly defined path through the so-called five stages. On the other hand her current condition seemed to be a mixture of depression, denial and anger.
They were having breakfast two days before term was due to start.
“The college welfare people,” she waved a letter she had just opened. “They're offering me grief counselling.”
“Ah.” He looked over his cornflakes at her with cautious eyes. “You're not keen on that, eh?” He tried to keep the tone laconic.
“You think I should?”
“I don't think it's up to me, is it? I'm —” He sighed hugely. “Cress, I don't think you got the right to be so pissy with me.”
She frowned at him. Beneath her arched and neatly plucked eyebrows, her eyes seemed like they had been lost in a dark place and were seeing daylight for the first time in an age. “Sorry ...,” in the pause her mouth worked, poised between tears and speaking. “I don't mean to take it out on you. But damn it I don't wanna talk. Not to a stranger, not to anyone. Talking's not gonna make anything better.”
“It might.” He smiled at her forgivingly. “If you tried it.”
“Yeah? Well, I'll try it when I feel ready. That OK with you?” She added the last defiantly. Perhaps more challengingly than she intended.
Gray chose to end the row before it escalated and got up from the table and took his plate to the counter. Movement outside the window caught his eye. A car drew up and the sound of its dusty brakes' squeal broke the silence of the street. His jaw dropped as the driver got out.
“Good God! I don't believe it.”
“What? Who is it?” Cressida had heard the car and was getting up.
“Where the hell did he come from from?”
“Who —” She reached his side and joined him in looking through the net curtain. “Richard! What? How? Where's Phae?” She leaned across the counter to hammer on the glass and then changed her mind and turned to run out. Gray caught her elbow.
“Wait,” he pulled her back. “Look.” Richard Fosset was helping a blonde woman out of the passenger seat. His attention appeared to be anything other than platonic. “Unless your cousin has joined the peroxide posse, it looks like Tricky Dicky has a new chum. And besides, weren't he and Phae supposed to be at the big family do?”
That was reasonable. “Yeah, well let me go across with you, huh?” He was still holding her arm against a slight tension. She wasn't straining to pull away, but she was letting him know that he was holding her back. He tugged gently. “In a little while, eh? Give them — ” he jerked his head toward the window — “a chance to get inside the house.”
“OK.” She picked up the coffee pot and took it back to her seat. She picked up another envelope and slit it open. Her face darkened as she read.
“Um, yeah. I guess. It looks like none of the houses were insured against a tsunami. This is from our family lawyer. He say the insurance companies aren't paying out, citing Act of Goddess and other bullshit.”
“He's suggesting that I consider selling up the land to pay for the clean up costs.”
“Hell, Cress. Is it really as bad as that? Your family was pretty loaded.”
“If by loaded you mean we had property, then yeah. We had a lot, but it was all on Potter's Beach.” She flipped through the sheaf of legal papers. “The lawyers are gonna have a hell of a job even finding my family's investments seeing as all the records got washed away.” With a decisive flourish she roughly folded the papers and pushed them back inside their original large manilla envelope. “Can you take me over the road now, please?”
He offered his arm.
“What the hell do you think you're doing here!” She bellowed accusingly into Richard's face as soon as he opened the front door of Fruhm House to Cressida's knock.
“Hello, Cressy,” Richard said smoothly. “What's the problem?”
“Where's Phae?” She pushed him away and barged in. “Where's my cousin?”
“Isn't she at home?”
“What? Haven't you heard?”
“Potter's Beach has gone.”
“Gone?” Richard looked puzzled.
“Washed away, mate.” Gray said. He mimed a breaking wave with his hands.
“Don't oh shit me. Who's the tart you came here with? If you didn't know about the tsunami then you're cheating on your fiancée: my cousin.”
Richard held up his hands, trying to keep some distance between himself and his sudden angry visitor. “No, you got that all wrong. Becca's just a friend from home. I gave her a lift here is all.”
“She's a fresher. I was coming up and she's like a neighbour back home so I said I'd drive here. I was just getting ready to come over and see if Phae was back.”
“No, really. I've been away, working all summer. Phae wanted me to go to the party but I told her I couldn't get away. She understood.”
“Richard! That was nearly two weeks ago. Are you seriously telling me you didn't try to ring her in all that time?”
Fosset looked embarrassed and he shifted uncomfortably. “Um, well, she normally calls me ... you know ...?”
“And you didn't think it was odd when she stopped?”
“I guess I thought she was busy. New term and all. I know —”
A female voice sailed down the stairs. “Richie honey. Who is it?” Fosset's face reddened with dismay. He seemed to shrink inside his clothes.
“Just a friend, eh?” Cressida said as she delivered a powerful slap to his left cheek. “Befriend that.” She turned and grabbed Gray's arm. “Take me home please. I don't like the smell in this place.”
WHY DO THEY CALL IT AUTOMATIC, WHEN YOU HAVE TO PRESS A BUTTON TO START IT?
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Posted: Apr 27 2008, 12:34 PM
Where you at, Hon?
Member No.: 3
Joined: 18-November 07
Maybe that confrontation with Richard will help Cressida confront her grief. And I hope she comes to appreciate Gray's love. He's definitely a good guy to have around.
Posted: Apr 27 2008, 08:16 PM
Member No.: 2
Joined: 18-November 07
I'm more worried about Phae. Sounds like she didn't make it.
I never did like Richard all that much. This seems kind of typical of him.
And honestly, I think there is such a thing as being too nice. I think Cress needs Gray to snap her out of her funk, and maybe not be quite so understanding.
Love the line about reruns of Ironsides.
Posted: Apr 28 2008, 07:09 AM
Where you at, Hon?
Member No.: 3
Joined: 18-November 07
Me, too. It reminded me that I need to keep going with posting the chapters.
And I think you're right about Gray, except that Cressida has lost maybe her entire family, and I also suspect she's displaying some of Mirelly's frustration at losing Potters Beach.
And to think I throw things against the wall when the internet cuts me off unexpectedly. Hate to think about the damage I'd do if my harddrive crashed.
Posted: Apr 30 2008, 09:21 AM
Member No.: 8
Joined: 27-November 07
Maybe Gray needs to try a spot of "tough love"...something to jolt her loose a little. It can't be healty keeping it all bottled up inside!
I want to die peacefully, in my sleep, like my grandfather...
Not screaming in fear, like his passengers.
~ Anonymous ~
Posted: May 23 2008, 07:16 AM
Member No.: 57
Joined: 22-May 08
Wow, this story has got me completely hooked. I love how Cressida's character deepens over time, and her relationship with Gray. I'm really looking forward to the next update.
Posted: May 27 2008, 02:18 PM
Member No.: 19
Joined: 2-May 08
Copy that, yang!
Mirelly, sorry about your crash, but kudos for turning it around so aptly and using it for creative fodder. I can't imagine how infuriating it must be to lose everything for seemingly no reason. My one and only computer death involved a carelessly handled cosmo spilling onto my laptop. At least in my case I only had myself to blame, and it was a valuable lesson learned: don't drink out of martini glasses while computering.
"Danger? I laugh in the face of danger. And then I hide until it goes away."
"I knew it! I knew it! Well, not in the sense of having the slightest idea, but I knew there was something I didn't know."