Romance Fiction posted April 25, 2016

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Too Cool To Care

by mfowler

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'Love's a loaded word, Jezz. Ya know a guy like me isn't a one woman man. Callin' a chick girlfriend kinda puts limits on a dude.'
Jessica's a nice girl. Hot in fact. But exclusivity's asking too much. I lean in close, try to talk her round, but she's gone all pouty on me.
'I hear you, Vince. You're too good for one girl. You need a harem to prop up your ego.'
I move back from the wall, comb the locks. Good hair calms me.
'I'm not sayin' I don't like ya. You're a bodacious lady. Most guys'd die to 'ave ya as their regular.'
I feel that bewildering tide of emotional uncertainty washing over me. Jessica's a complex woman. She's actually very smart. Studies law at Bell University. Being with her permanently would wind me tighter than a golf ball.
'A regular! Vince, I have feelings, you know. No true woman wants to be a regular. We've been friends since Yr 5. You know me better than anyone. How can you talk to me like that? I want you, all of you. But, I'm not going to be some fancy chick you gloat over with your mates while you make snide remarks to them about banging me.'
I'm winding tighter as she talks. It's taken years to get my cool worked out. The guys call me Fonz because of the hair, the jacket, the way I act like I'm in charge all the time. But Jessica makes everything too big to handle.
'Hear ya, Babe.' I move to kiss her, but she draws away.
'Where are you, Vince? Where's the frightened kid who couldn't cope when the bullies called him names? Where's the sensitive friend who cried with me when Mr Biggles died? This cool dude image is a sham. It's Vincent Mazzollo I love.'
Vincent Mazzollo was the sham. Shit his pants when Tiny D'Angelo and his gang gave him a wedgie.  Cried in a girl's lap when he got detention for being late. No more Vincent. I can't be that frightened kid any more.
'I'm Vince now. Love me as I am, or leave me.'
She looks at me like I've got the pox. I've never seen those beautiful brown eyes look so angry.
'Hate to tell you, Fonz, but it's - leave you! I don't want to cramp your style.'
There's a tear in each eye. Haven't seen those since Mr Biggles passed. She's holding them back. I know her - strong-willed like her mother. Too much self-respect to show me she's upset.
Months have passed since Jessica left. I haven't seen her, but I've missed her badly.
After work at the garage, I hang out at Lounge Lizards 8-Ball Academy with the guys.
Mikey racks them up. 'Coloureds,' he says. He always wants the coloured.
'My break,' I declare. The balls zip randomly about the table. The three and the five balls skid into corner pockets.
'Hey, Fonz. Can't ya control yer balls anymore?' The others roll about laughing.
There's a myth in our gang. They believe I'm a player. A girl every night, but too cool to brag. I let the image rest. It's easier than explaining my pitiful social calendar.
'Yeah, yeah, funny, dude. A man's gotta do what comes natural like. Now, Mikey, your turn.'
The game goes well for my opponent. Mikey's pocketing the stripes like a pro. We high-five and I hand over ten bucks.
'Coke?' says Benny.
'Yeah, that'd be cool.'
We stand back and drink as Mikey squares off against Den.
'I saw that Jessica chick you used to hang with, Fonz.'
 'At the railway station. She's preggers, mate, or she's been eatin' a lotta pizza.'
There's a hole in my heart somewhere that just got a whole lot bigger. The cynic in me thinks she didn't really care. Wanted an exclusive relationship, huh! She hadn't wasted long before finding what she wanted, but now she has a great deal more.
'That so?' I say, brushing my hair repeatedly.
'Big as the Goodyear Blimp, she was. Hey, Fonz. The hair looks cool right now. You'll comb it all out if keep goin'.'
Something's bugging me. It makes no sense. Of course she found someone, probably rich, or smart, or both. But, she's always wanted to be a lawyer. I used to love how she'd give speeches in class about saving the world from injustice. She wanted to join the United Nations. Why the hell would she give up her ambition for a kid?
'Thanks, Benny, you're a pal.'
I find Jessica in McDonalds. She's always liked their blueberry muffins.
As I sit down at her table, I say, 'Gotta feed two of yas now, I guess?'
'Vince!' she says. Her coffee spills a little. 'What are you doing here?'
The question is simple enough, but the answer's not so easy.
'I heard they serve good blueberry muffins to pretty girls. Can't beat a good combo.'
She giggles. Oh, that lovely face. Her stomach is large, and she looks uncomfortable.
'Why are you here?' she asks.
'I heard about the sprog.'
'Yeah,...boy or girl?'
She looks a little lost. Almost embarrassed.
'I don't know. Not sure I want to?'
'What about your studies?' I ask.
'Got an exemption for a year.'
I'm actually jealous.
'I hope the father appreciates ya, Jezz. He's gettin' a great chick, and a child to boot.'
She turns the coffee cup in her fingers. 'He's not involved,' she whispers.
'The mongrel!' I shout. Customers look at me with disdain. 'Sorry, Jezz. How can any bloke in his right mind leave you to fend for yerself?'
'I'll be OK. I don't think he'd be that interested. Mum says she'll help us.'
I kiss her on the cheek, wish her well as I leave for work. 'Oh, when's the big event?'
'Three weeks.'

'That soon?'
The Ford I'm fixing is driving me spare. I can't get Jessica and the baby out of my mind. I guess I'm feeling protective.
I drop a wrench, and as I pick it up, see the Goodyear calendar above the bench. It's the 5th July, 1984 today. I've never been good at sums, but I figure she'll be due about the 26th. I smile, only two days before my birthday.
Then the penny drops. Jessica only left me seven months ago. I could easily be the father.
'Hey, Fonz.  Ya look like you've lost a buck and found a hundred,' says Benny as he slides out from under the Cortina.
I find Jessica at the same table at McDonald's. I watch her carefully from the entrance as she forks the muffin crumbs from her plate. It reminds me of when Mr Biggles was dying. That poor little kitten had her tied in knots for weeks. She'd use a bottle from her old doll's house set to suckle him on warm milk. She tried so damned hard, leaking those tiny sips into his little pink mouth, but the kitten died anyway. Watching her caring for that helpless cat really got to me. I guess that's when I first realised my feelings for her.
But I was dumb kid, and love wasn't a concept easily put into words, not when I couldn't even cope with my fears about the world. So I settled for just being there for her.
Look at us now, still dancing around the same emotional bonfire, no-one game enough to add the spark to let it roar.
'Hi, Jezz. Thought we'd finish our conversation from the other morning.' She's smiling, so I take it she's pleased to see me. Our last meeting had been a bit tense.
'I couldn't tell you, Vince. I didn't want you to think I was trying to trap you, or anyone else for that matter. I made my own bed and now I've got to lie in it with the baby.'
I consider my words carefully. 'You were right, Jezz. I'd 'ave taken off. But, I've had time to think. You were always there while we was growing up. Least I can do is be around when you need me.'
Talking about responsibility, babies, love for that matter, still isn't easy. I know I've said that upside down. Her eyes are creasing, so's her forehead.
'No need, Vince. I'll be a good mother, and I don't need some male figure hanging about confusing her.'
'Her! You said...'
'I didn't think you'd care.'
'I'm gunna have a daughter. That's so cool.'
'You know!' she says.
'Nine take seven. Even Vince can figure that? What are we gunna call her?'
'Wait on, Vince. You really want to be part of this?'
I'm bubbling like shaken champagne. 'Hell yeah, I love the pants off ya, Jezz. Missed you crazy big time. I'm in for the whole ride. Marriage, kid, anything you want.'
She squeaks past the booth table and comes around to my side. 'You mean it, Vince? Really. What about your cool, Fonz?'
I comb the locks three times for good luck. 'Yeah, I'll now be the coolest husband and father goin' round.'
She throws her arms around me and I feel the bump slide inside my open jacket. The baby kicks, and I know my life's just about complete.


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