fic (medium, joe/allison)
title: the breakfast first date
the breakfast first date
(or how to find true love and good coffee in fifteen easy steps)
She is younger than him and she drinks so much faster than him.
Maybe it´s her smile, or her perfect imperfect face, or the way she tucks her hair behind her ears the way movie stars and rebel teenagers usually do, but Joe can´t quite remember which friends he was supposed to meet here.
(the first of many times Allison makes him forget his own name)
(years later, because Marie was too young the second time around, when Bridge asked, and now she is old enough to get an abridged, good-humoured version of the story:
“So how did you guys meet?”
There´s a playful gleam in Joe´s eyes when he says “I picked your mom in a bar.”
“I was drunk.”
“That explains a lot,” Ariel adds and Joe starts pouting at her.
“I picked you up.”
“No, way, I picked you up, clearly.”
“I made you think you were picking me up, but in fact it was the other way around.”
“You can do that?”
“Girls do it all the time.”
“I think I need a moment to process all this.”
She hits him with the pillow.)
It takes him almost a whole hour -Joe, you loser- to make up an excuse to talk to her.
“I think your friend is hitting on my friend,” he slides into the seat next to her, and puts a beer in front of her. She´s been sticking to the rum all night, her thin fingers playing with the straw until the ice melted –not that Joe has been watching her, no.
“Carla would hit anything that moves, I hope your friend doesn´t take it personally,” she answers, gracefully accepting the beer and pretending not to notice how he puts his arm over her shoulders on the back of her chair, aw, boys and she smiles.
She is a bit drunk –just enough to keep them away.
She drinks directly from the bottle –Joe chuckles; sometimes he just loves Southern girls.
Joe and Allison meet. They comment how they both have French family names.
That´s the only thing in common they will ever have.
(he will always remember how the first thing he thought was not my type; he preferred brunettes, tall, women-not-girls, someone who looked like she could hold her ground against him, not someone who looked like she might break any minute now)
Three days later she dreams again.
“I dreamed I married him.”
“Who? The guy from the bar? The friend of whatever was his name that I went home with?”
Allison rolls her eyes at Carla´s promiscuity -this is Arizona, baby, certain things you don´t talk about-, and unwraps her tuna sandwich.
“Yeah, that one. I dreamed I was going to marry him.”
“Big thing. You dreamed you were going to marry Johnny Denham. And on sixth grade you told me you were going to marry Connor Willis, that you saw it in a dream. And have you married him?”
“Well, I haven´t married Connor Willis. Yet.”
They both giggle. Carla steals a corner of Allison´s sandwich.
“So…?” She asks. “What happened the other night? Are you going to see him again? I thought you said he wasn´t your type.”
(Allison did say that –at one point or another or the night she started thinking, for the first time in years, about Clay Bicks and his leather jackets and all the bad boys that got over her head, all the James Deans she still likes and then this guy, this Joe and his good manners and his tallness, limbs growing at inappropriate speed like he was still a teenager, and his bad haircut and outdated clothes but oh, his goofy smile –yes, she told Carla he wasn´t her type)
When they leave the bar, their friends ahead, arms locked, Allison looking down and flushing when she sees this, the pavement looks damp, like after a summer storm, Joe checks his watch.
“This is quite crazy for me, closing bars” he is half a step behind her, enough advantage so that he can look at her without her noticing. “Normally by this time I´m already retiring to my house like an old man.”
Allison turns to him, something wicker than a smile at the corner of her lips.
“Why are you still hanging out, then?”
Joe says nothing, he looks at her quietly. She understands.
On the second bar there´s Patsy Cline playing, and then Rex Avery of course (if they were going to get patriotic, Joe thinks, he wishes they would have picked Charles Mingus) and then Patsy Cline again (“crazy for feeling so lonely”, he actually recognizes that one) and by the time Linda Ronstandt is on Joe whispers to her “what is this? Nashville night?” and she giggles and it´s not funny but you know, it´s that part of the night, that part of the relationship.
They sit on a wooden bench and there are names and phrases carved on it, Allison brushes her fingertips over Billy and Laura and march, 1987; Joe sits closer than in the first bar and his arm around her shoulders, she keeps it there, holding his hand, they don´t talk about it, but that´s the implicit rules of going out.
“So, lawyer, uh?” He mentally kicks himself for sounding so cliché, so pick-up-line-ish. “Getting the bad guys behind bars and all that?”
“So,” she mocks. “Mathematician, uh? Winning the Nobel Prize and all that.”
“Nah. Not immediately. First write a book, then we can talk about Sweden. Do you like salmon, Allison?”
“Yes, a book. My conversations with numbers, that´s the uh, provisional title.” Mental kick number two, you idiot, Joe, you promised not to act like a geek around pretty girls anymore.
“I see. The numbers talk to you?”
“Yes. Wait, no. They speak to all of us, see…”
(and she will never understand a single thing he says but this is the first of many times they way Joe DuBois´ eyes light up when he talks about maths make Allison catch her breath)
He finds a coin under the bench.
“A penny for your thoughts.”
She closes her hand over his over the coin and Joe swallows a bit, it´s the youngest he´s ever been.
“Save it for the jukebox.”
He gets up.
“You want something more to drink?”
They are both pretty drunk by now, but not as drunk as their friends, dancing on a deserted dance floor with their hands on their respective asses. Joe feels a bit self-conscious looking at them, looking at Allison by the corner of his eye; but he´s never been good at dancing, so he won´t ask (her).
“Would you bring me a salty dog, please?”
It´s the way she sharpens her s like a z, that´s what undoes Joe.
“Of course,” he leaves the table, only to come back seconds later. “A what?”
Allison covers her mouth, bursting into laughter.
“A salty dog, it´s vodka, grapefruit juice, and a salted rim.”
“Hence the salty part,” he looks at her oddly. “You really know this stuff, uh?”
And Allison thinks about ghosts and bodies and genes and grandma and the first drink she ever took and the voices in her head and all the things she can never tell nice guys like Joe.
“You know, Joe,” she starts, with her arm around Joe´s and his coat over her shoulder, not really remembering when that happened but they´ve been thrown out the country music bar and Carla and Joe´s friends (Allison didn´t care to catch his name) were gone on the same cab and Joe is walking her home.
“Joe. Joe, Joe, Joe.”
She taps her fingers against Joe´s shoulder. It´s a cold night but Joe doesn´t feel a thing.
“Allison,” there´s an incredible sense of right when he says her name and he wonders if it´s the hour or the alcohol or the way she shows her teeth when she smiles or something else altogether.
“Joe, I´m bad news,” she puts her head to his arm, stumbling.
“Yeah?” as in I have no idea what you are talking about.
“Real bad news,” she tightens her grip on his arm, there´s a light breeze and she feels suddenly small. “You shouldn´t hang out with a girl like me.”
Joe stops by a traffic light, sobering up on the stop. He brushes some hair off Allison´s face –they way good guys do in films, Joe has seen it- and puts his fingertips to her jaw, cupping her chin.
“How could you be any bad with a face like this?”
Mental kick number three, god, Joe, corny but he can´t help it, doesn´t to.
Allison ducks her head, walks on, walks away.
This part they will tell Ariel, once:
Four blocks from home Allison loses the heel of one shoe -a long night.
They are on 14th street and she is limping.
“You are going to hurt your ankle,” Joe tells her. “Take off your shoes.”
She strolls ahead, stubbornly.
“No way, I´d feel silly walking barefooted.”
“What are you talking about? No one would see you.”
And he is right, it´s before sunrise and nothing awake, except the air desert breeze, and Joe and Allison, meeting. She mumbles something like you would see me, I would.
“Okay, wait,” Joe stops again.
He takes off his shoes and starts walking barefooted on the concrete.
When you are a psychic is hard to tell what you know from what you know and it´s right in this moment that Allison doesn´t know if she is going to marry this man, but it´s right in this moment that she discovers that she wants to marry this man. And it´s not even a real date.
(but she will lie, she will tell Ariel that “that´s when I knew I was going to marry your father”)
“This is my house,” the girl says and that´s usually how these stories end.
Not this one.
“University district, handy,” and stops himself from muttering yet another uh because, seriously, lame, DuBois, lame.
“Yeah, and the rent is okay.”
And it makes Joe want to ask about her family, why doesn´t she live with them, if she´s spent all her life in Phoenix, if she has a flatmate, if she has her initials on her towels, Joe wants to ask everything, Joe wants to know everything, he wants to spend the rest of his life listening to this girl.
“Well, I guess this is-“
“Look,” he checks the time, this is crazy. “There´s a diner two blocks from here, and it opens in ten minutes. The walls are covered with posters of old movies and the food has extravagant names like the Rita Hayworth special or something. I know- I know you´d love the place. Let me buy you breakfast.”
Allison smiles, hides it.
“I know the place.”
“Joe, it´s 5:45 in the morning.”
“Aproaching 5:50. Ten minutes, Allison.”
She is sobering up, dawn is the time of ghosts again. But she doesn´t want to go home.
She orders the Veronica Lake breakfast (omelette and salad and tomato juice) and Joe smiles with his mouth full of food and that´s it, really.
That´s how you fall in love.
There´s sunlight and orange and a smell of beginnings everywhere when he walks her to her door, (again).
Joe scribbles his phone number in the back of the restaurant´s check and he feels seventeen, he looks up at her and feels fifteen. He watches as Allison carefully folds the paper with quiet, small fingers and shyness and puts it in the back pocket of her jeans.
“Well, goodbye, I guess,” she shrugs and Joe nods, only because he hasn´t come up with plan C yet.
She waves a little farewell with her hand and turns around, closing her eyes and hurrying with all the should I say something else? in the world.
But the she realizes, she walks back.
“Hello again,” Joe delights, when she reaches him again. Now they stand closer than they´ve been all night.
“Your coat,” she says, very small voice.
Joe´s smile freezes into an oh, but he gets it together after a moment, gently brushing his fingers against her collarbone.
“You know what? You should keep it. As a safety clause; that way you´ll have no choice but to call me, if only because you feel guilty for stealing my coat.”
(what he doesn´t say: I like the idea of you wearing my coat, I like the idea of it smelling like you when I get it back)
She laughs, okay, okay and she turns around but this time it´s only a couple of steps before she comes back, their back-and-forth dance. They are so young.
This time she takes long steps and tiptoes and kisses him.
It´s quick and sudden and hard and it catches Joe´s grin from watching her walk away. He doesn´t have much time to react, he has barely enough time to close his eyes and feel her hair in his fingertips.
And then she´s gone.
Ten minutes after and Allison is about to brush her teeth when she hears the door ringing.
“I looked your flat up in the mailboxes.”
“Who is this?” she teases.
“Joe DuBois, you´ve just had a terrific date with him. Smart, handsome, funny.”
“Sorry, doesn´t ring a bell.”
“Okay. Joe DuBois, geeky, desperate, horrible Hawaiian shirt.”
“Oh, that Joe DuBois.”
“You giggle like a little girl, somebody ever told you that?”
“And what does Joe DuBois want at seven a.m.?”
“To see you again.”
He is dead serious –it scares her a bit.
“You´ve just seen me.”
“Do you want to have lunch with me?”
“We´ve just have breakfast.”
“We could wait together for lunch time.”
“I´m dead tired, Joe, I´m hungover, I´m already in my pyjamas.”
“We could sleep.”
Joe realizes what he has just said and begins to stutter.
“Not together, I mean. I mean, together, but not sleep. Well, yes, sleep but just that, if you know what I mean. Which of course you don´t. Please kill me now?”
Laughter on the other side. Great, Joe is beginning to think all that mental kicking doesn´t work. He just keeps on doing it.
“Okay what? Okay you are going to kill me?”
“Okay come up.”
And they sleep, just that.
Joe in his briefs and t-shirt and it´s not awkward, Allison watching as he undresses, it has the nicest feeling of deja-vu. Her pyjamas are blue.
He stays in his side of the bed for a while, but then Allison takes his hand in hers and sleeping with his arm around her waist is the most comfortable she has ever been.
(that night she dreams about Joe and her, in her dream they are discussing how to spell one of their children; they´ve agreed on Bridget but Allison wants the French spelling, Bridgette and Joe is scribbling the different versions of the name on a napkin –and in her dream Allison thinks that´s what happiness must look like)