Loud knocking rose over the sound of the rain that pounded on the roof of his small apartment. He tumbled out of bed and sleepily made his way to the door. If the person calling on him was Alain, there to tell him about another one of his "conquests", his latest girlfriend(s), or anything at all, really, he would be terribly annoyed about it. The man had no regard for hours or time or…even a real job.
Grumbling, he made his way to the door and opened it to find Oscar standing there. He resisted the urge to slam the door in her face out of pure shock.
Instead, he did a double take. It was—he looked at his watch—12:30am, on a Friday morning. Oscar had to be at work by seven, and she almost always showed up unusually early.
This couldn't be the same girl that he had grown up with, because she would have been asleep for three full hours already.
She just continued to stand there in the rain and, oops, it had been a few minutes and she was completely soaked through. Stepping out of the way, he noticed her truck parked haphazardly right between two different parking spaces outside. She let herself in while his attention was on her vehicle.
Once the door was closed, she merely looked at him, and the tears that glimmered in her eyes took him aback. "Oscar, what's wrong?" he asked, worried because usually his friend tried to stay as far away from him as possible when she was in such a vulnerable, weak-looking—in her eyes, not his—state.
Her voice was a low murmur as she averted her gaze, "I'm not getting married…"
"You're…what?" Nothing short of completely confused, he blinked at her. "Of course you are," he said, looking down to her left hand. She wasn't wearing her engagement ring anymore. "…Aren't you?"
She shook her head and stood there in his kitchen looking awkward and tired, almost like she needed to sit down. But her clothes were dripping all over the floor and he knew that she had better manners than to sit on his furniture while soaking wet.
"I, uh… Hold on just a minute; I'll get you something dry to wear."
She gave him a half-hearted nod and he was off, headed to his room to see what he might have that would fit her. Every so often she would borrow something of his, and he had long-ago thought of buying some clothes in her size so that he'd have some on hand that would actually fit her. Not that he minded seeing her in his clothes, of course… It was just…well… Maybe he liked it too much.
After a bit of rummaging, he finally managed to locate a stack of neatly-folded clothes on his closet shelf that he had long ago mentally labeled 'the too small' pile. He'd pretty much stopped growing (taller and wider), so it wasn't like he regularly added to the stack. It was easy to forget that he even had it.
Taking the whole lot with him, he left the room. Oscar was still standing right where he had left her; her clothes and hair still dripped unceremoniously onto his clean kitchen floor.
"Come on," he said, inclining his head toward the bathroom. "I've got some dry clothes for you, and you can take a hot shower and everything. Just let me find the hairdryer and a clean towel."
'The hairdryer' was really Oscar's. She had brought it one day and had forgotten to take it back home with her. So, in a manner of speaking, it was 'their' hairdryer. Not that he really used it very often…
She started, "I don't want to get your carpets all wet." Her voice had regained some of its former strength, but she still sounded so very tired.
"I don't care about my carpets," he insisted, ushering her off of the rug that sat just inside his front door.
"Yes you do," she tried. "It's why you have a cat and not a dog."
He couldn't really argue that. It was completely true. Dogs had a tendency to come back in the house with muddy paws. Plus they smelled awful when they got wet. Chancing a glance down at his blonde companion, he grinned. "Oscar, you're no dog."
She fell silent, and not another word was spoken as she stood in his bathroom while he tried to locate the hairdryer and a nice towel for her. While she waited, she tossed her purse to the floor and shrugged out of her coat before tugging on her wet boots in an attempt to free them from her wet socks.
"Here you go," he finally said, plugging in the hairdryer and setting a fluffy white, neatly folded towel on the countertop. "Take your time. I'll be in the living room reading, and I'll get us something to drink. When you're done, throw your clothes in the hamper or go ahead and wash them."
She nodded, and he was gone, shutting the door behind him. She didn't bother to lock it like most people would do. He knew that she trusted him, and that always did a lot to warm his heart.
Slowly, he made his way to the kitchen, and peered out at her badly parked truck. It was quite amusing to see her precious vehicle taking up two parking spaces, but at the same time, it was something to worry about. When Oscar did something unusual, it was always cause for concern.
While she showered, he made up some hot chocolate for the two of them. After carrying the mugs to his living room, he picked up the book he had slowly been working on reading—The Lovely Bones, borrowed from Oscar herself—and he tried to continue. It was really no use. It was quite strange for Oscar to come to his apartment so late at night—or rather, early in the morning—and he didn't know what to make of it.
She wasn't getting married. …She wasn't? Something had to have happened for her to say such a thing, but she didn't just say it. She wasn't even wearing her engagement ring! It had been a nice ring, too. Large diamonds, and he thought he could recall a few sapphires, too. He wondered what could have happened to make her change her mind so…so suddenly.
He yawned and stretched his arms up, reclining on his couch. He had long pajama pants on that were dark blue, and a plain white t-shirt. His feet were bare.
He yawned again just as Oscar came into the room. Her hair was mostly dry, but some of her curls were still slightly damp. She looked much better in dry clothing, too, and he noticed that she had picked a large hooded sweatshirt and long sweatpants to wear.
"Do you have any socks?" she asked, and he noticed with some measure of relief that she had stopped crying.
"Of course," he answered. "Top drawer on the right."
She was gone for only a minute, and when she came back, she held his prized pair of socks in her hands. She probably didn't know that they were his favorites—after all, nobody talked about having a favorite pair of socks—and he wasn't going to tell her, either. She was having a rough evening—morning?—as it was, and he was more than happy to help in any way possible.
"I see you began reading that book," she said as a way of starting a real conversation.
"Yeah." He blinked at her. "It's, uhm…"
"Different?" She threw him a slightly strained smile. "It's good, I promise. It's just a little odd, and perhaps a bit depressing…" With that, she took a seat next to him on the couch, careful not to sit too close.
André wasn't about to let her get away with that. He reached over and grabbed her arm, hauling her closer to him. "So," he asked in a burst of courage. "What's this about you not getting married?"
Truth be told, he was relieved. It made him a bad friend, didn't it, to be relieved—or at least, hopeful—at the news. Well, at any rate, he didn't think Hans was really the best man suited to marry Oscar. For as long as André could remember, the younger man had been drooling all over the wife of his boss.
But Hans had gotten over that, hadn't he? At least, André thought he had. Why else would he date Oscar, and then propose shortly after?
He could still remember the day that Hans Fersen had proposed to Oscar. Why? Oh, because his blond friend had come to him with the news first.
And he had wanted to kick himself because he had waited until it was too late to act, himself.
But now… now she wasn't getting married? That meant he had a chance. If not to marry her, at least to…to… To what? He didn't know. Maybe he still had the smallest chance of winning the 25-year-old woman over.
He raised an eyebrow. "Oscar, I thought it was strange that you would agree to marry him after dating for four months, but you've only been engaged for two months, and it's already over?" He pulled her closer. "I want to know why."
She resisted his tugging. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Then why did you come here in the middle of the night?"
She slumped slightly in his hold, an action that definitely did not escape his notice. He reached over and put the mug of hot chocolate in her hands, waiting until she had a good grip on it before letting it go. Leaning against him slightly, she tucked her legs up to lie on the couch next to her. "I…you're right."
He nodded and resisted the urge to wrap his arm around her. It really wasn't his place to do anything like that, and he wasn't sure how she might react to such a thing. He hadn't done anything like that since they were in high school and she had gotten stood up for her Junior Prom.
"I got off work really late," she said quietly, staring into the hot brown liquid that occupied her cup. "I thought that maybe Hans would like to catch a late dinner, but…"
"But…?" he prodded gently.
"Marie was there." Her words were stiff and a mixture between depressed and angry.
"Maybe she was just picking something up," he tried to reassure her, even though he wanted nothing more than to believe the worst because that meant that she would now be single again and they could go back to their close friendship…and perhaps more eventually.
Her face flushed bright red. "You didn't hear what I heard," she snapped, and then grew very still before she closed her eyes and turned her head on his shoulder. "I'm so glad I didn't sleep with him," she whispered.
Most men would be surprised to hear that Oscar hadn't slept with her fiancé. But not André. Oscar had exceptionally strict morals about such things. And to be perfectly honest with himself, he was glad she hadn't slept with the man, either. Especially if he was just going to go and cheat on her.
"I know he didn't do it just to spite me," she said. "But if he was still in love with her, why did he date and propose to me?"
André sighed. "He's a fool, Oscar."
If he had Oscar promised to him like that, he would never, ever let her go.
"I shoved the ring under the door," she told him, tilting her head up slightly to smile at him. "I didn't bother with a note. I figured the message would be clear enough without one."
"Definitely," he answered, and for a long time, neither one of them spoke. The only sound in the room was that of the furnace and of them sipping at their warm drinks.
"I'm sorry," she finally murmured, setting her empty mug on his coffee table and squeezing his arm.
"For what?" he asked as she started to stand. If she thought that she was going somewhere, she was sorely mistaken. He put his own empty mug down and tugged on her hand, pulling her back onto the couch messily.
"For unloading everything on you." She smiled tiredly at him. "I should go home…"
"No." His reply was so fast it made him flinch. He didn't mean for it to sound like an order. "I mean, you're tired. You've had a long day. You know, I don't have to work tomorrow, and you never use your sick days. Call off in the morning. Stay here tonight and get some rest."
"Just do it, Oscar. You never take a day off. You deserve one."
She blinked at him slowly and then gave him a hug. He hadn't expected it, and it took him completely by surprise.
"What's this for?" he asked her, not hesitating to hug her back twice as tightly.
"For listening," she answered. "Now, do you have any extra blankets?"
"I'm not making you sleep on the couch," he said, sounding mock-offended. "Take my bed. I'll sleep on the couch."
"I'm not taking your bed." He was so relieved to see the stubborn Oscar back that he almost laughed.
"This reminds me of your Junior year in school," he said teasingly. "Do you remember…?"
"Please, don't remind me of that. It was humiliating."
"It wasn't so bad," he said, standing and leaving the room just long enough to drag a few blankets to the couch from his bed. "Okay, now… Let's just do like we did then, okay?"
"We wouldn't have to do that if you would just sleep in your own bed like a good boy," she kidded slightly.
"I would never let a lady sleep on the couch while I slept in my nice bed."
"So instead you'll share the couch with her?" She sighed as he took his seat again, and leaned over him to turn off the lamp on the end table.
He draped a blanket over her, and one over himself, and then the third over the both of them. "Good night, Oscar," he murmured, brushing her still-damp curls from her shoulders.
"This isn't comfortable at all," she muttered after a few minutes passed, and he noticed that her voice was clogged slightly with exhaustion, and perhaps tears. He didn't really blame her. It wasn't every day that one found out their fiancé was cheating on them.
"Okay," he agreed, and slumped down, shifting his legs so that he was almost lying down on the couch. Oscar moved and used him as a pillow, sighing slightly at the added warmth.
"Better," she murmured. "But I think we grew since the last time we did this. Either that or your couch is just really small."
"It's a combination of both things," he admitted, settling his hand on her back. At least it was totally proper to do such a thing now that she wasn't engaged any longer, he thought. It felt strangely wonderful to have his Oscar back. It was just like the good old days.
"Good night, André."
"Good night, Oscar. I'll see you in the morning."
Just then, a small black shape crawled across Oscar's sleeping form to curl up against her chest.
A loud purr echoed throughout the room.
"It looks like Arras found you," he whispered, stroking the cat's head lightly after brushing Oscar's bangs from her forehead. She said nothing, only gently brushed her fingers across André's cat before finding his hand and giving it a weak squeeze.
He could swear that his shirt was starting to get a little damp, but he decided not to say anything about it.
Okay, so that was lame… Uhm. The original idea sounded a lot better in my head, I swear.
My opinion is probably not the same as everyone else's, but I think Fersen was so smitten with Marie Antoinette that if Oscar had gotten him to marry her somehow, I doubt he would be able to remain completely faithful to her.
The Lovely Bones is a book by Alice Sebold. It's a wonderful book, and apparently it's being adapted into a film scheduled for 2009. But it's not for just anyone. Search it on Wikipedia if you want to know more about it.
Cats are awesome. I don't need to say more about that.