[Part 5 of a fictional blog serial, told in 7 installments. Only some of it really happened, but all of it is true.]
What does happen nearly doesn't, on account of Billy being so slow on the uptake. There he sits, little rings of pot smoke swirling around his thick head, staring at Michelle in red-eyed confusion, and he actually makes the poor woman repeat herself -- while I'm already half across the table, right up in Michelle's sweet mug, 'cause I want the big screen close-up for this magic moment, I'm not missing a string section-worthy second of this. What else would you expect from his Romance?
I mean, I've been all over this from the top. I called it. He's the one who's always trying to shut me down, just as now, he's ignoring me, he's got me gone fishing, but I'm ahead of him, as always, and I'm the one who's got it right. I can see it in her face.
"The thing is," she's saying. "I'm very, very... shy."
Billy blinks, the stoned sow. "Shy? As in too shy to, like... have bailed on the whole thing right at the airport, the moment you set eyes on me in person..?"
"...or shy, as in...?"
"Sure, I'm attracted," Michelle blurts out. "You really can't tell?"
I don't know whether to hug her or throttle him. I fucking knew it, I knew it all along...
"Honestly?" says Billy. "I wouldn't have guessed that. Not in a million years."
Michelle shakes her head, with a helpless grin that melts us both, then fixes her gaze on her cappucino. "I could get used to having you around," she murmurs.
Billy's looking pole-axed. He's trying to get his dope-soaked mind around the idea that this is really happening, that a dream can come true, despite his practiced cynicism, that he could have gotten it all wrong again. As if the dumb lug's never been wrong before.
"Well, hell..." he says. "You're a tough one to read."
"So are you," she snaps back, looking up at him. "I mean, for all I know, you're the one who's not interested."
"You realize," I tell him, "that if it weren't for you having had your head shoved so far up the butt of rationality, we'd probably all be naked by now."
Billy's incredulous. "Not interested in a beautiful woman? Who's such a good writer?"
Now that's more like it. I turn to get Michelle's reaction, and I'm admiring the welcome blush of pink in her cheeks when I catch a glimpse, in one fleeting second, of her constant companion-- missed before, because Michelle always stands right in front of Her Romance, cannily blocking it from anyone's view. But just for a moment, the kindred spirit that hides in Michelle's shadow peeks out to flash me a smile, and then retreats.
I'm wobbly on my feet when we leave the Grasshopper, hours later, glazed as the two doughnuts I inhaled along with a spliff-sized amount of premium weed. But what's mostly making me walk slow is the weight of My Romance, who I'm carrying on my shoulders, as it hums, happily, one of those Frank-with-Nelson-Riddle tunes, conducting an imaginary horn section in the air.
I'm supposed to meet up with Roy and Tina, and Michelle has a business dinner. She's amused by my stonered-ness, doesn't mind leading me to the nearby hotel lobby where a concierge calls a cab, she waits with me on a bright red lip-like couch. Her usual reserve radiates softly with a newly charged energy. A kind of glow envelops us as we stand, the taxi just arrived. We have arrived. We are here... we are now...
And for the first time this visit, I get to home, as bypassing the dance of the European cheeks, Michelle's mouth finally meets mine.
[to be continued]