First parks and rec fic. This one popped into my head one night while I couldn't sleep.
I've thought about it a lot there's no logical explanation.
my beautiful wife
"It was the summer of seventy three."
"Seventy four," Gayle corrects.
"Oh, you're right!" Jerry wraps his arm around her shoulders. "Seventy four."
The girls are grinning ear to ear. "Aaaaand?" Miriam prods.
"Well, I wanted ice cream. So I went into Coney's and ordered a double –"
Gayle interrupts with a peal of laughter. "And next thing I know it's all over my lap!"
"Gayle, go ahead and take your lunch." Her boss lifts the mop out of her hand. He points a finger at her. "Thirty minutes, you're back here and cleaning out the freezer."
Gayle nearly cries with relief. First day on the job, and she's already had her bum slapped twice and a parade of admirers lasciviously licking their spoons in her direction. The doorbell jingles as she leaves, and five minutes later she's jogging back, plopping down outside in one of the wrought iron patio chairs. She pulls out the triple-stacker-double-stacked-baconator-Paunchinat -or, and after a quick bite gets to work on her sketches, being careful to keep the grease from dripping onto her pad.
"Woooow." She hears a low whistle, and groans. "Did you draw those?" She looks up, bemused, then over her shoulder to see a portly man, brown hair, about her age or maybe a little older, hovering overhead. His eyes zoom straight past her face and seem mesmerized by the sea-side cottage drawn out in pastel tones of blue and sandstone brown.
"Um, yeah." She gives a guarded smile. No one has ever been interested in her doodling. "You wanna see?" she asks, inclining her head towards the nearby chair.
"Sure!" he says. The chair is ignored, and instead he leans further over. The top scoop of his cone wobbles, tips, and finally splatters onto the beige couch. "Oh, sorry." He grimaces. He sounds apologetic but doesn't look mortified. "Let me just..."
He reaches over to grab the napkin dispenser, and down comes the second scoop over the seafoam drapes. Before she knows it Gayle is staring at a gooey pool of strawberry ice cream that is dripping onto her lap. "It's all right," she says, laughing. "Here." And begins mopping up the mess, shooing his incompetent attempts away.
Now he does look mortified.
"Ugh, I can't believe it! Third time this week." He groans again when he notices her ripping the drenched sheet from her pad. "Dang it, and I've ruined your lovely drawing."
Lovely. Her smile warms. "Don't worry about it." She shrugs. The mess is cleared and the man has made two trips to the wastebasket to dispose of the spent napkins before he finally sits down.
"I just want you to know that I'm really, really sorry." He begins chuckling, his belly jiggling. "It's one of those days, y'know? This morning I spilled coffee on my shirt, and this was before I even got out of bed!"
"What? That seems impossible!" She is cackling.
"It's true! And you don't want me to get started on what happened during breakfast."
After her laughter dies down she extends her hand. "My name's Gayle. Gayle Sutter."
His hand shakes hers. It is sticky and gentle. "Jerry Gergich." Then she smiles again.
"That...was incredibly boring."
Leslie's face holds a warning. "Tom.."
"What? He spilled ice cream all over her! If that's all it takes to get a woman like Gayle than what am I doing with my dope suits and two hundred dollar haircuts?"
"You spend how much on a haircut?" Ron looks offended. "I've got a box cutter in my desk drawer, I'll do it for free."
The conversation ends when Jerry returns from the bathroom, rubbing his belly. "Never drink coffee after carrot cake!" he says.
"I tried to warn you," Gayle laughs.
Gladys peels off from the Gergich daughter trio giggling over an album to refresh everyone's drinks, eyes shining when she reaches her father.
"Dad, you have got to tell them about the first date!"
Jerry's eyes grow big. "Oh, now that's an interesting one!"
"More interesting than spilling ice cream?"
"Strawberry ice cream, strawberry cheesecake...I'm starting to notice a trend."
"What can I say? I like pink!"
Gayle laughs. "Your favorite color?"
"It's coral, actually." His eyes light up. "I bought some pigment last week that I can't wait to try out."
"Wait." Gayle almost chokes on her bite. She points to his chest. "You paint?"
He shrugs. "I dabble. And I'm not anywhere near as good as you."
She barely notices the compliment, so much her mind is reeling. "Okay, I need to see your paintings, Jerry. I can't believe you didn't tell me you painted!"
"It's nothing, really. Just a hobby!"
Her eyes dance. "No future plans for a career change?" she teases.
"Oh, no no no no." His hands move up and out, as if warding off a bad spell. "I am perfectly happy right where I am, in the city animal control department. I hope I never leave." He finishes his piece of cake, then asks her, "So what kind of plans do you have after you finish school?"
She clears her throat. "I mean, nothing definite." She gives a casual shrug. "I mean, I was thinking about going into interior decorating."
Jerry leans in. "Interior decorating?" he asks with a full mouth.
Her hands fly up. "Am I crazy?"
"No!" He swallows and shakes his head, waving around his fork. "No! Why would you be?
"I don't know...I don't know." She puts down her fork. "I used to do modeling..." she says quietly."
"Really? What'd you do? Cars, boats? Oh! I have a train set that I put together when I was ten." His eyebrows knit together. "I'm not sure it still works..."
"I didn't mean –" She laughs. "I used to be a model."
"Oh." He puts his hand over his eyes, chuckling. "Well don't I have egg on my face!"
"No, I can see how it would have been confusing!" She's laughing so much it hurts, and all her fears evaporate. "But yeah." She waves her hand. "I did beauty pageants, local ads, that whole thing."
He nods sagely. "Well, I can see why you wanted to leave it."
Her face goes dead. "Um...?"
"I mean, look how talented you are! Art, drawing – interior decorating." He holds out his palms, as if the matter is settled. "That's where your future is."
"Yeah." She nods. "Yeah, it is, right?" The waiter comes by with their second order. "Hey Jerry?" She smiles. "Let's get these cakes to go!"
"First step out of Cakey's and it was pouring with rain!" Jerry pauses while the whole family is dying with laughter. "We ended up having to throw them out!"
"So you got rained on. Thrilling," Ben deadpans. Leslie elbows him.
"Jerry that is so...I mean, it's something. I...I just love it when my dates get rained out," Leslie says.
Millie begins doing the trash rounds, picking up everyone's empty cake plates and red plastic cups. "Last story!" she squeals. "And after much debate we've decided: we want the proposal!"
"Girrrrrrls..." Jerry pretends to scold. "I just told you that one yesterday!"
"Yeah, we wouldn't want to bore anyone," Ben agrees. Leslie elbows him.
"Jerry, we would love to hear about how you proposed to Gayle," Leslie says.
The family begins to snicker.
"They don't understand." Gayle is sobbing into her hands.
"They don't!" The telephone is between them, the angry conversation with Gayle's parents still ringing in the air. "They think I'm wasting my life!"
"They had different plans for you."
"Yeah, to force me into modeling so I could be their full time meal ticket!" Jerry looks shocked. "I'm sorry." She shakes her head, fists balling. "But I'm not going back into modeling! I don't care how useless they think an Art degree is! It's my life!" He strokes her back while she cries. She reaches for the crumpled tissue and mops at her eyes.
"Gayle?" he whispers.
"We both know they're wrong, but I do think they love you. I think they want what's best for you. But you've already decided what that is and they need time to get used to it."
Gayle looks down at her fingernails. She loves her parents. She wants to make them proud. She does. But her whole life has been one long ovation towards that long blonde hair, that magazine-cover face and svelte figure, and she is so tired.
She pulls her hands through her hair while pushing out a long, low breath. "How long do you think that'll be, Jer?"
"I don't know." He shakes his head. "I'm sure once you get going with your decorating business they'll start to see the light."
Gayle laughs. Any future business plans seem as far off as the second star to the right, and she without fairy dust. "So a while, then?"
"Why would you think that? You've got the whole world waiting for you after you graduate. And you'll get there like a shot."
"You think so?"
"Sure." His smile is suddenly shy. "Your special, y'know? Smart, funny, talented."
Gayle sniffs. "And beautiful?"
Jerry looks struck. "Yeah." Then smiles with a dawning dew in his eyes, as if the thought had never before occurred to him. "Yeah. You are beautiful!"
That's when she knows.
"Jerry." She takes his hands into hers. "I want to ask you something..."
"Whoah whoah whoah! You mean you –" Tom points to Gayle, "proposed to him?" he ends, shifting his finger to Jerry.
"She's the craziest person I've ever met," April adds. "And I think I'm in love with her."
Gayle just smiles and smiles in the face of the collective incredulity. "I've never been what you would call a traditional gal, isn't that right Jerry-Berry?"
"Right as rain, my Gayle-Whale!" They start snuggling.
"MOM! DAD!" the girls screech. It takes five minutes for them to contain their disgusted delight, and by that time everyone has already left the party.
The house is cleaned up by ten. It's already half an hour past their bedtime, and Jerry is lagging.
"What. A. Night," he groans.
"You said it."
"A lot of excitement over little old you and me."
"Well, thirty years..." She walks over to the recliner and sits on his lap. "A lot of marriages don't make it that long."
Jerry chuckles, lightly stroking her jawline. "But not us."
"Never us," she says, kissing him.
They pull apart and he breathes into her hair. "It didn't seem like that long, did it?"
"Always waiting for the next thing, and one day we woke up celebrating our thirty year anniversary." He shakes his head, marveling. "How time flies!"
"And you haven't changed one bit!" she says, digging a finger into his chest. "You're still the most attractive man in the world to me."
"Oh, stop it. I know you're the beautiful one."
And when he says it Gayle sees that he is staring straight into her eyes, the window to her soul, and that's how she knows, knows that when he calls her my beautiful, he isn't talking about her looks.