Mark's late, he's late, for a very important date!
He sighed, disappointed that he felt tired so early in the evening. Roger was sitting on the couch, pen and notebook in one hand, guitar in the other. He looked up at Mark's entrance and noticed he was panting.
"Where've you been," the songwriter inquired, "outrunning muggers again?"
"Feels like it. The protest was a bust, it was good but the lighting made it impossible to film. I caught up with the headliner after, and wound up having to jog all night just to keep up with her." The filmmaker sounded put off.
"Bet you got some good footage." Roger placed his pen in his mouth, stringing his Fender with concentration.
"I got fuck all. She wouldn't let me film one damn thing until we got through 'small talk'," Mark did air quotes. "Since when does small talk last four Goddamn hours?"
Roger chuckled, taking his pen out and scratching something down on paper. "So I take it she's a vibrant conversationalist," he insinuated sarcastically.
"She's not boring, if that's what you mean. She was actually pretty interesting, but half the time she was distracted by someone else. She gives me a piece of paper then just leaves out of nowhere. Jesus." Mark put his camera down on the metal table near the kitchen, running his hand through his hair.
"What'd it say?"
"I dunno, I'm too pissed to read it." Mark dug through his jacket, before finding what he was looking for. He tossed a small crumpled paper to Roger. "Tell me what it says."
Roger rolled his eyes, un-crumpling the paper. He adapted a wide grin.
"Well?" insisted Mark.
"'Dear Mark, tomorrow, the Life CafÃ©, 4:15. Don't be late, dear.'" Roger couldn't quite keep the humor out of his voice. The filmmaker was wide eyed.
"She wrote 'dear'?" He asked, incredulous. He had guessed that the woman was friendly, but that pet name seemed a little abrupt.
"Actually, it's spelled D-E-E-R. She must be good lookin', because there's not much goin' on up there." Roger tapped his head, grinning and flinging the paper back at Mark.
The thin blonde thought about it for a moment, before coming to the realization. "You're cute, in a deer-in-headlights kinda way," she had said.
"What a smart ass," Mark muttered under his breath.
"Hmm?" asked Roger, looking up.
"Nothing," he replied. "I'm going to bed. Try to keep the volume of your bleeding heart down."
Roger grinned, before making a face of mock hurt and cradling his guitar dramatically. "Shh, she can hear you."
Mark shook his head, laughed and gave a half hearted wave before disappearing into his room and shutting the door.
The next morning, Mark was awakened by the not unfamiliar sound of Mimi and Roger screaming at each other. He groaned, shoving his head into his pillow. If this keeps up, I'm the one that's gonna need a fix.
Grunting, he leaned over the bed and grabbed his watch.
Mark wasn't by any means a stranger to waking up late, but he was usually up much earlier than this. Wasn't there something I was supposed to do today?
It took a few minutes for the morning haze to clear from his mind. Eyes flying wide, Mark checked his watch again.
Mark practically flew out the door, not bothering with his ritualistic bowl of Cap'n Crunch. He gave a short wave to Roger and Mimi, who were too busy yelling at each other to notice him. Halfway down the stairs, the filmmaker cursed loudly for what must have been the thirtieth time that morning, sprinting back up and grabbing his camera from the table. He was about to run out again, but discovered Roger and Mimi were blocking the exit.
"Let me go!" Mimi screamed. Roger had a tight grip on her waist, trying to drag her away from the door. Her nails dug deep into the door frame, seeming to grasp for dear life. "I need to get out!"
"Like fuck you do!" Roger countered through gritted teeth, pulling harder. Mark was tapping his foot and looking for any opening to get out.
"Guys, I actually need to get out," he interjected.
"Shut the fuck up!" Mimi cursed. Rolling his eyes, Mark remembered a similar situation between him and Roger not long ago, knowing this could go on for quite some time. Time Mark knew he didn't have.
Deciding he couldn't wait any longer, the filmmaker grabbed Mimi's left arm with both hands and tried to pry her away from the door frame. The Spanish girl cried bloody murder before digging her teeth deep into Mark's hand.
"OW! FUCK!" He yelled, withdrawing his hand and holding it close.
"Just take the damn fire escape!" Roger yelled at him. Mark, grumbling angry curses beneath his breath, made his way to the window while Roger and Mimi continued their custody battle of the door. He would have stayed and helped his best friend, but he knew his roommate would come out the victor in any case.
Junkies get a surge of adrenaline, he reasoned, but their strength doesn't last long. Soon, he'll be back to talking her through the shakes.
His shoes finally hit the street as he sprinted around the corner. The Life CafÃ© was only eight blocks down, but he had lost a lot of time in the shower. He checked his watch.
Mark narrowly avoided mail boxes, broken newspaper machines, and people lying face down hung over in the gutter during his frantic dash. He barely reacted in time to hop over a homeless man when he finally saw the Life CafÃ© come into view.
Slowing down, Mark began catching his breath. He straightened his clothes, ran a hand through his light hair and took deep breaths. Checking the lens of his camera and wiping it clean, he began a leisurely walk towards the cafÃ©.
Don't want to look too eager, he thought, that's just what she'd like.
He strolled into the cafÃ©, about to take a seat when the host approached him. "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Mark rolled his eyes, still tired from his sudden awakening and his over 100 meter dash. "Is this about the tea thing?"
"Sir, please, we reserve the right to refuse service," the man said, sounding both fearful and irate.
"Then refuse service to someone who gives a good Goddamn," a familiar voice said behind them. Mark checked his watch.
She really is a smart ass.
The restaurant host looked humbled. "Miss Dubois! One moment, allow me to find you a seat. Are you dining alone this afternoon?" His words came out in a hurry as he turned a bright shade of pink.
"Actually, I'm dining with my fiancÃ©," Sylvia stretched an arm leisurely over Mark's shoulders. "Surely you weren't about to refuse him service?"
In a deep state of confusion, Mark watched on while the restaurant host stumbled over his words. "N-no, miss, I was simply... I-I was..."
"Never you mind, I'm sure it was an honest mistake that you don't ever plan on repeating," the redhead stared him down and the portly man seemed to shrink beneath her gaze.
"N-no, ma'am..." he mumbled meekly.
"Excellent, then I'll have a cappuccino with extra foam and he'll have green tea." Her tone was friendlier and more upbeat now, but still laced with venomous intent. The host muttered something before scurrying away, and Sylvia and Mark took seats opposite each other in a small window booth.
"What was that?" asked the filmmaker, thoroughly incredulous.
"My daddy dearest helped the manager of this place out when it was just starting. Drop the name Dubois, and they'll treat you like the Dalai Llama," she gave a thankful smile as a waiter brought them their beverages.
"I just set you up big time. They think you're with me, they'll never refuse service to you again. You're golden. Oh, and I want an annulment."
Putting a generous amount of sugar cubes into his tea, the filmmaker had one last question. "Okay, but how'd you know I like tea?"
Sylvia shrugged, putting an enormous quantity of chocolate sprinkles in her cappuccino. "It's a gift. I can tell what people drink. You're tall, skinny, clearly an A/V geek: you're a tea drinker. Your vodka of choice is Absolut but you appreciate a good Stoli every now and then. Favorite soft drink is Diet Coke, but you don't like people to know that. Am I close?"
Mark responded with a skeptical gaze. "... Okay, then..."
"Told you it's a gift. I like to call it 'ESBP: Extra Sensory Beverage Perception.'" She motioned to his camera. "Shouldn't you be getting this on film?"
The baffled blonde was about to reach for his device when Sylvia laughed, taking a sip of her cappuccino. She grabbed his hand before it could reach the camera and rested it on the table. Mark tried not to blush, knowing he wasn't the best at female confrontations.
"Now, now, not till the third date," Sylvia grinned, scooping up some foam with her finger and licking it off, giving him a playful stare.
Mark's throat seemed unusually dry. He sipped his tea, which didn't seem to help, but -with some level of dignity- managed to ask, "Date?"
Sylvia laughed again, releasing his hand and cupping the large cappuccino mug with both of hers. "You're cute when you blush. And I'm kidding, for the record. I do that sometimes."
Mark felt like an idiot. He reached again for the camera, but Sylvia grabbed his wrist gently.
"I wasn't kidding about that, honey. We didn't get to talk much yesterday, so how about we get down to business now. Tell me a little bit about yourself."
"Shouldn't you be telling me about yourself?" he asked in an obvious tone.
His faux-fiancÃ©e shook her head. "I'll tell you about myself next time, with the camera rolling. That's what it's all about, after all." Mark sighed, but Sylvia kept her grip on his wrist. So, he decided to start talking, even though his version of "getting down to business" was decidedly much different than hers.
Three hours had passed by. Sylvia had consumed two cappuccinos, one espresso, and a rum and coke. Mark had drunk three green teas, one vodka slime, and a bottle of Heineken. Sylvia mentioning how she had another "date" and they both came to the decision that it was time to depart. Mark couldn't be sure whether she meant a real rendezvous, or just another meeting.
They both gathered their things and headed to the door, the cafÃ© host bidding them a gracious goodbye. Sylvia decided they should put on a show for the man, and had Mark put his arm around her. He didn't mind, feeling loosened from the alcohol.
Just as they were about to leave, Sylvia looked over her shoulder to see the host still observing them. Grinning sinfully, she slunk her hand down Mark's back and, before he could protest, gave his behind a nice, quick squeeze. Mark jumped in alarm as the doors shut behind them.
"What was that?" he asked, offended.
Sylvia shrugged. "Just keeping up appearances. After all, they think you're my fiancÃ©, and I've brought lovers in there before. They wouldn't buy it if I didn't totally objectify you at some point."
Mark sighed, hanging his head. "We are definitely gong to need marriage counseling."
The redhead grinned, placing her arm around his shoulders again. "Now you're gettin' it!" She bumped his hip with hers. "Besides, be happy I opted for the trunk route instead of riding shotgun in the front seat."
Mark caught her drift and suddenly decided things could have been much more embarrassing.
There was more idle chit chat, before Mark decided he ought to steer the conversation clear of the current subject when Sylvia asked "what was under the hood." Car metaphors aside, the filmmaker was confident he didn't need his package discussed in the middle of a busy sidewalk.
The two began mulled over where they would meet next.
"Can I at least film this time? My camera's feeling rejected," he said sarcastically.
Sylvia rolled her eyes. "I'm your fiancÃ©e, not the camera."
The redhead wrote down a time and place before they exchanged short goodbyes and headed off in opposite directions. As Mark wandered the now darkening streets of the East Village, he was relieved he wasn't actually engaged to Sylvia Dubois. But somehow, he wasn't quite sure why he was so disappointed it hadn't really been a date.