chapter 5: mind if I come in?
Ralphie decided to make sure Phoebe got in and situated before he dealt with locking his keys in his car. He followed her to the porch and watched her turn the key in the deadbolt.
Phoebe looked at him, confused. "What are you doing?"
"I just want to make sure you get settled in, that's all." Phoebe's expression didn't change. Ralphie took a deep breath and said what he was thinking instead of what would ease any awkwardness. "I'm not trying to have sex with you." Phoebe blushed. "Well I'm not."
"Okay then." Phoebe didn't know what to make of it. She was probably going to spend the next 48 hours camped near a bathroom anyway.
They stood on Phoebe's porch, staring at each other. Phoebe's hand rested on the doorknob.
"I think we've easily reached awkwardness level five by now." Ralphie mused out loud.
Phoebe thought a moment, then nodded. "Look," she said. "I don't know what to say."
Ralphie looked at her. Her face was still red from the makeup reaction, but it was returning to its normal color. She looked tired. She obviously didn't feel well.
The usual roundabout ways of saying things wouldn't work here. She would have to tell the truth or look like an idiot. "I can't say I want to do this again sometime." Phoebe started. "And I wish I could say I had a good time, but I think I threw up too much for that."
"I think you did." Ralphie had never had to factor in amounts of vomit on a date before. It was not something he wanted to do again, either. Phoebe looked downcast. "Look, I'm sorry – I shouldn't have dumped all of my baggage on you. It wasn't fair."
To his surprise, Phoebe gave him a hug. But this conversation was a 'thanks but no thanks'… he thought. "It's okay." She said, still holding on.
"I'm sorry this date sucked." Ralphie whispered.
"Me too." Phoebe decided to continue her honesty streak and just say what she felt. Although it gave her a nervous pit in her stomach to think about it, she said, "Because I really like you."
Ralphie's grip on her tightened, but suddenly Phoebe tensed up and was desperately pulling away. She was aiming for the bushes next to her porch, but managed to get some vomit on the shoulder of Ralphie's shirt.
"Oh my God, I am so sorry!" She exclaimed. Ralphie couldn't help it. He started laughing.
"Of course, the way this was going… of course you would puke on me."
"I didn't mean to!"
"I know." Ralphie said. "So, um… do you mind if I come in? I can get you a bowl or whatever to puke in."
"Oh sure," Phoebe turned back to the door and opened it.
"One more thing. I locked my keys in the car."
Phoebe laughed feebly. "This has got to be the unluckiest date ever. Do you have a spare key?"
"Of course I do; it's at my apartment."
"How far away are you?"
"My apartment key is also locked in the car."
"And the spare for that is in the car."
"Oh." Phoebe thought a moment.
"Do you by any chance have a shirt I could borrow?" Ralphie glanced at the smelly wet mark on his shoulder. "I really, really hate puke."
"Sure," Phoebe went into her room and rummaged through her dresser. She considered her hospitality options as she tossed Ralphie an oversized Penn shirt. "Want to sleep on the couch? Think of what the gang will say!"
"Josie's at home alone. Let me try to get a hold of Arnold." Ralphie took his shirt off and folded it neatly so the puke was on the inside. Phoebe told herself she wasn't staring.
"I got the shirt for free. They only had extra-larges left."
"I thought you only got polo shirts in the Ivy League." Ralphie snarked as he pulled the shirt over his head.
"We don't wear polos to bed." Phoebe remarked. "Just be glad it wasn't the one Keesha wanted to buy for me that says 'I perform castrations for a living.'"
"Nice." Ralphie nodded slowly. "Remind me never to piss you off." He pulled out his phone and called Arnold. No answer.
"I still haven't called in any mortal peril to Keesha." Phoebe offered.
"They're probably all asleep by now." Ralphie sighed. "And I'd never give Carlos the key to my apartment."
"You're welcome to stay." Phoebe thought a moment. "I have an extra toothbrush."
Keesha, knowing that Ralphie would never cause Phoebe any mortal peril, had left her phone in her purse all night to keep her from being tempted to text her best friend intermittently. After getting out of bed and sauntering around the best she could with a broken foot the next morning, Keesha made it to her phone.
"What?" Keesha asked her phone.
"What?" Carlos asked back.
"Phoebe didn't call me. Or text me. Or anything!"
"Your little birdie has grown up!" Carlos called down the stairs. They shared a fairly new townhome they were able to snag when the previous owners had to short-sell it. It had three bedrooms, which was plenty: a master bedroom, a guest room, and an office decorated with Temple regalia, including Carlos' DDS diploma. Although Carlos was making quite a bit of money as a dentist, they both had a boatload of student loans to pay off. They figured they'd "swankify" their townhome and sell it, enabling them to move on to bigger and better things in the long run.
"Or she lost her phone." Keesha wondered. She called Phoebe. "And now she's not answering."
"I hope this means what I think it means." Carlos smirked.
"I'm going to drive by her house." Carlos decided. "Drop off the dog."
"What if she's not home?" Keesha asked.
"Then we come back. Come on, Hunt, want to go for a car ride?"
"Still no answer." Ralphie rolled his eyes. "Seriously, Arnold…"
"Okay, so why do you and Arnold live in an apartment if you've both got advanced degrees?" Phoebe was sitting on the couch with a tupperware bowl, just in case.
"Student loans." Ralphie shrugged. "And we don't want to buy a place yet."
Phoebe tried to ignore the image she got of Arnold and Ralphie looking at places together, like an adorable gay couple, but she couldn't.
"But Arnold may be moving downtown, so we'll see." Ralphie texted "CALL ME NOW" to Arnold.
"But I'm busy." Arnold replied.
"Dammit, Arnold." Ralphie muttered as he texted "I'm locked out of my car."
"What if I'm in Pittsburgh?"
"Then I will kill you. Think of the dog." Ralphie looked up from his phone. "So… Arnold may be on the other side of the state."
"Can't you call your landlord?" Phoebe suggested.
"Changing the locks on Arnold sounds just about mean enough…" Ralphie mused. He looked down at his phone.
"Please don't kill me. I'm in Philly." Arnold wrote. "I will save you."
There was a knock at the door. Phoebe and Ralphie exchanged a look before Phoebe went to the door. Ralphie had wanted to get the door for her (the last thing he wanted was for Phoebe to puke on anyone else), but he had no idea who'd be there and what they'd think. She opened it just wide enough to stick her head out. It was Carlos and Huntington.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything." Carlos tried to peer past Phoebe into the house.
"So... Ralphie's here." Carlos could swear Phoebe paled when he said so. "His car's out front."
"He locked his keys in his car." Phoebe took the leash and tote bag. The door swung open more than she'd wanted it to.
"Can't I say hello to Ralphie?" Carlos asked.
"Hi Carlos." Ralphie waved from the couch.
"Dude, are you wearing her clothes?" Carlos pushed the door open wider.
"Do you really want to know?" Ralphie replied.
"It looks like I already do." Carlos raised his eyebrows and pushed past Phoebe into the house. Huntington was waggling like crazy at the end of his leash, trying to get to Ralphie. "So… why didn't you answer your phone, Phoebe?"
"I was probably puking." Phoebe replied. Two could play Carlos's stupid game. She asked Huntington to sit, then took off his collar. He immediately ran up to Ralphie and began sniffing and licking his hands.
"From the sex? He's that bad?" Carlos exclaimed. Ralphie rolled his eyes.
"From the food poisoning I got yesterday." Phoebe's work cell rang in the other room and Phoebe rushed over to it. "Oh crap… probably an HBC…"
"What?" Ralphie & Carlos asked.
"Hit by car." Phoebe explained.
"MVA." Ralphie clarified to himself. "Motor vehicle accident." He explained when Carlos looked confused.
"Whatever." Carlos shrugged.
"Phoebe, we're going to need you to come in today to catch up on some wellness exams." Dr. Crosby said.
Phoebe knew what this was really about. "I can't. I have food poisoning."
"Seriously." Phoebe replied. "Do you want a doctor's note?"
"I don't have my forms on me." Ralphie whispered. "Or I'd totally do it." Phoebe nodded.
"Oh, so now you're writing doctor's notes for each other?" Carlos asked playfully.
"Check it out." Ralphie dug in his pocket and pulled out the prescription for Phoebe's phone number.
"She can't get you out of work though."
"I do sports medicine." Ralphie explained. "Food-borne illnesses usually go to other doctors."
"It was fine," Phoebe was saying. "I hope to be back in Monday. I'll talk with Millie's owner to reschedule her to a time I can see her." Then she hung up and rolled her eyes. "The man never says goodbye."
"They were trying to get you to come in?" Ralphie asked.
"For details." Phoebe explained.
"I say we make up details." Ralphie suggested.
"No." Carlos warned. "Real only."
"You won't believe the real details." Phoebe got the bottle of Gatorade out of the fridge. Huntington followed her, hoping for a snack.
"You're out of Gatorade." Ralphie observed as she downed the end of it, then looked at Carlos inquisitively. "Let's get you some more."
"I am not making a drink run for your girlfriend, dude." Carlos said. "I'm not leaving you two alone for 'just a minute' because I'll come back and I know you'll –"
"Fine. I'll come with you." Ralphie said. Phoebe lay down on the couch. Huntington jumped up on her out of habit, and she held her arms and made sure he didn't lie on her abdomen. "Will you be okay?"
"Yeah." Phoebe smiled. Ralphie kissed her on the cheek and followed Carlos out the door. Phoebe's phone rang, and she grabbed it off the coffee table. After looking at the caller ID, she smiled and answered it. "Keesha."
"Phoebe." Keesha replied flatly. "How was it?"
"I'm not gonna lie." Phoebe said. "It was probably the worst date of my life."
"Damn. What happened?"
Phoebe thought about telling the whole story. "I threw up on him."
"I'm pretty sure he told me all of his daddy issues. And his ex issues." Phoebe listed. "I got food poisoning. Oh, and the makeup you made me wear? It made my face swell up."
"Damn." Keesha repeated.
"He compared me to his mom." Phoebe continued.
Keesha shook her head, flabbergasted. I told him to get his Oedipus thing checked out. She thought. "Did anything good happen?"
"Well he stayed the night." Before Keesha could get anything in, Phoebe added, "Because he locked his keys in the car and Arnold wasn't answering. And he slept on the couch."
"Seriously?" Keesha sighed. "Did you at least kiss?"
"I was too busy barfing."
"Only you, Phoebe." Keesha shook her head. "So where is he now? Sitting right next to you?"
"Carlos took him to the store to get me some more Gatorade. Arnold's probably coming over to unlock Ralphie's car."
"Sounds like I'm missing the party."
"I'm too sick to party."
"So…" Keesha started. "What happens when you aren't puking any more?"
Without thinking, Phoebe replied. "I go back to work…"
"With Ralphie, idiot." Keesha listened as Phoebe said nothing, instead opting to bite her lip. This would be the perfect time to puke, which, of course, meant it wasn't going to happen.
"I'd go out with him again."
So… the point of this fic was to write the worst date I possibly could while having the two characters still interested in each other (which is one reason why it's R/P – I love them too much to break them up. Also, I am very very mean to them, and they're so awkward. It's a recipe for horribly awkward awful date.) It was interesting and fun.
Sorry it took me a year to get back to it. We'll see what's next, huh? National Novel Writing Month IS coming up...
Thanks to all of you who read, especially those who reviewed! I was shocked when I came back and people had read this thing!