Welcome to the Childhood (5: Luck Be a Lady)
((Author’s Note: Gwen Glover is from the series “Luck Like Hers” and “Occasionally Yours” by TSR’s Spladoum… and this episode of Welcome to the Childhood is co-authored by TSR’s Spladoum. Huzzah and enjoy.))
((Author’s Note: Gwen Glover is from the series “Luck Like Hers” and “Occasionally Yours” by TSR’s Spladoum… and this episode of Welcome to the Childhood is co-authored by TSR’s Spladoum. Huzzah and enjoy.)) Foxgrove, USA The W.J. Billings Theatre for the Performing Arts, 8:00 PM
Standing Room Only area
Ten minutes ago, Gwen Glover performed flawlessly to a captivated audience, with no one more captivated than Jesse Simanski. Although classical is nowhere close to his usual musical taste, Gwen could’ve been plinking out “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” with the use of only her thumbs and the effect on Jesse would’ve been the same. But from the moment he lost sight of her, Jesse has been bored out of his skull. Gwen won’t be returning to the stage until after intermission. Which is going to take, like, forever at this rate. He sighs. He fidgets. He hums “Freezer Bunny Foo Foo” under his breath. The senior usher, ‘Buster Clavell’ by his gold plastic name badge, stops by to fix him with yet another Frankenstare.
[Jesse:] “Dude. If you want to know where I shop, all you have to do is ask.”
Buster marches off in a huff. Jesse is disappointed the old geezer didn’t snap him a comeback. At least that would’ve been amusing. Instead, it’s more of… whatever this is. Serenada of the Living Dead. A Zombie’s Concerto. Cure for Chronic Insomnia in Zzz minor. And then, this happens:
[Gwen:] “There you are!” *takes and squeezes his hand* “How’d you get off work?”
[Jesse:] “I asked.”
Gwen Glover is standing right next to him. How unbelievably awesome is THAT? True, she thought he was someone else when she greeted him. That much is clear by the look on her face now. But even realizing her mistake, she hesitates before dropping his hand, allowing him just enough time to squeeze her hand in return.
[Jesse:] “Hi, Gwen.”
She’s obviously spooked, so he can’t just flip out on her or something stupid like that. Jesse makes himself look at the little chick wailing French opera on the stage, and casually shares the first thing that comes to mind.
[Jesse:] “She’s doing an amazing job. If I wasn’t looking right at her, I’d swear she really was a cat in boiling water.”
Jesse is drawing dirty looks from a few nearby patrons. But a tilt of his head catches Gwen’s lips twitching toward the return of a smile, and that is all the encouragement he needs to keep doing what he does best.
[Jesse:] *sings along* “Help meee, I’m boil-eee-ing here… help meee now… meee-ow, ow, ow…”
Now Gwen isn’t just smiling. She’s giggling. Until she stops abruptly, eyes wide.
[Gwen:] “Oops. I think I just farted off-pitch. I hope that doesn’t mess up her performance.”
Jesse cocks his head, listening.
[Jesse:] “No... I think that improved it, actually.”
Gwen bursts into more giggles. And now they are both drawing dirty looks.
[Jesse:] “Are any of these people your friends?”
From behind her hand, Gwen shakes her head in the negative.
[Jesse:] “Well, that’s good news. They keep going “shhh” at us when they should be thanking us. Our version is way better than what that girl is really singing.”
[Gwen:] “I wouldn’t know. I don’t speak much French.”
[Jesse:] “No? So, if I tell you: Tu es la plus belle femme que j’ai jamais vue… you have no idea what I just said to you?”
[Gwen:] “I got ‘beautiful’ and I got ‘woman.’ What was all that other jazz, sweet talker?”
[Jesse:] “I think you got the idea.”
Gwen’s giggles bring on another round of “shhh!” from everyone in the vicinity. A sound that is collectively louder than any noise Jesse and Gwen are making. Senior usher Buster returns.
[Buster:] “Sir. Madam. I insist that you cease all conversation during the performance, or I will be forced to escort you to the lobby.”
Jesse feigns highbrow indignation.
[Jesse:] “Hey now, the lady has a condition, what the hell’s the matter with you anyway?”
Buster sputters. Jesse takes Gwen’s hand.
[Jesse:] “Come on, darling. We don’t need to stay here and take this crap from these insensitive bastards.”
[Jesse:] “And dude—now I am NEVER going to tell you where I shop.” Gwen allows Jesse to lead her backstage willingly enough, but this area is unfamiliar to him. He slows to a halt and looks at Gwen for some clue what to do next. She is radiant with amusement. Truly the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. He knows she’s supposed to perform again after intermission… but he just has to ask.
[Jesse:] “You want to get out of here for real?”
Gwen hesitates to answer. The fact she considers the possibility at all is enough to give Jesse a shiver of joy. And then she does him one better.
[Gwen:] “Yes. I really want to get out of here for real. Wait right here.”
Jesse watches Gwen go to a door that looks the same as many others and poke her head in.
[Gwen:] “Ellie, you’re playing for me after intermission. See ya.”
[Gwen:] “We can go now.”
[Jesse:] *laughs* “Awesome. I have a truck, and I didn’t use the valet parking. No one ever tows a repotruck. There a backdoor out of here?”
This time it is Gwen who leads the way, straight out the backstage door. Jesse guesses this is where she entered the building tonight, but her first reaction to seeing his truck tells him she must have shown up before he did. Because there is no way she’s seen it before.
[Gwen:] “Er… is that a repo truck?”
[Jesse:] “I did say they never tow a repotruck.”
[Gwen:] “I mean, seriously. That’s a repo truck?”
[Jesse:] *points at self* “Repoman.” *points at truck* “Repotruck. Yeah. Seriously.”
[Jesse:] “Aw, come on. It’s not that bad. It’s clean.”
[Gwen:] *blink blink*
[Jesse:] “The inside is clean, I mean.”
[Gwen:] “Oh… oh, hell with it. Let’s just go.”
Jesse takes his keys out of his pocket and moves to unlock the passenger door. Gwen spots the character on the keychain and laughs.
[Gwen:] “You have a Freezer Bunny key chain?”
[Jesse:] “Sure I do. Freezer Bunny rocks. You play?”
[Gwen:] “Play? I have the all-time high score at our Suds N’ Go!”
[Jesse:] “Yeah? Bet I can beat that.”
[Gwen:] “Bet you can’t!”
[Jesse:] “Bet I can.”
Foxgrove Suds N’ Go / 9:00 PM Gwen’s Freezer Bunny score is kicking the crap out of Jesse’s Freezer Bunny score. Not that he cares. Standing this close to her, he couldn’t effectively play an arcade game if his life depended on it. Gwen is having no such difficulties. Her Freezer Bunny concentration is spot on. Jesse decides he’d like Gwen’s concentration elsewhere. And he’d really like to see her hair down, not stuck to her head like a Cinnabon. One by one he filches Gwen’s gold hairpins. She scolds and swats at him ineffectively as her hair begins falling in her face.
The last of the hairpins are now in Jesse’s pocket. Gwen gives her hair a toss to the side and continues to play. Jesse reaches around and starts slapping the game buttons willy nilly. Finally, Gwen’s last Bunny tumbles into a pond and gets swallowed by a deathfish. Game over. She’s giggling even as she smacks him.
[Gwen:] “Jerk! You ruined my high score!”
[Jesse:] “Aw, tragic—you’re already 80k over my score! You win, already!”
She makes to smack him again, although the last one may as well have been a caress for all the damage it did. Jesse takes the opportunity to catch her around the flailing arms and pull her closer.
Gwen is blushing more than giggling now. Jesse can’t think of a single witty thing to say. He can’t think of anything at all other than how beautiful she is, and how badly he wants to kiss her. She looks like she wants him to kiss her. Like she might even meet him halfway… . . . Just before their lips meet, they are startled apart by the impossibly loud sqeeeak of poorly-maintained door hinges. Prior to this, Jesse and Gwen had been the only patrons at the Suds N’ Go. Now they are joined by Bessie Clavell, who has stopped by to do a little late night laundry before her husband gets home from his ushering job at the theater. [Bessie:] “Well, hello there, aren’t you two a picture! Did you just come from your senior prom?”
This is way too funny for Jesse to be angry at the interruption.
[Jesse:] “Why yes, ma’am, yes we did just come from prom.”
[Bessie:] “You look lovely, dear.” [Bessie:] “And you, sir, you look like a damn repoman.” Bessie takes a change purse out of her sweater pocket, removes two neatly folded one-dollar bills from inside, and holds them out to Jesse.
[Jesse:] “What’s this for?”
[Bessie:] “Shave and a haircut, young man. It’s a start.”
Soon after Bessie’s entrance, Jesse and Gwen, laughing, duck out of the Suds N’ Go. Gwen suggests a dance club. Jesse, willing to go anywhere so long as it’s with Gwen, agrees. The Grind dance club / 10:00 PM When they first arrived, they made a meal out of bar appetizers and Melted Snowman shots. It is now nearly two hours and several stops by the bar later. The place has gotten considerably more crowded. Some of these people seem to recognize Gwen, although she doesn’t seem to know them or care. The music is too loud and too constant to talk much. Jesse limits his attempts at conversation to dirty jokes in Gwen’s ear… or French. Anything he thinks might freak her out but he can’t keep from saying out loud, he forces himself to say in French. Although it isn’t his intention, she seems to think this is as funny as the jokes. Which suits Jesse just fine. By now, Jesse is in a high state of euphoria that has nothing to do with the ridiculous drinks this place serves. He’s a little concerned about Gwen, though. She’s gotten pretty unsteady on her feet. A situation made worse by the fact he keeps making her laugh. But he doesn’t let her fall. Even though every time he catches her she scolds him between giggles for being grabby. [Jesse:] “You know, it might help if you took the killer heels off.”
[Gwen:] “If I did that, I’d trip over the dress!”
[Jesse:] “Ah, well… c’est en option aussi…”
[Gwen:] “Hey! I can sorta understand you, y’know!”
Jesse laughs rather than confirm Gwen’s guess. They both need a break. But this time he doesn’t lead her back to the bar. He leads her to the stairs he’s been wondering about for the last hour.
[Jesse:] “This go where I think it goes?”
[Gwen:] “The hell should I know? I never knew this place had stairs!”
The upper level of the club turns out to be what Jesse thought it would be: Where couples go when they want more privacy. After picking an unoccupied spot to sit, Jesse shrugs out of his jacket like he’s wanted to do since he put the damn thing on. The music isn’t as loud up here. They could talk more easily if they wanted… but Jesse doesn’t want to talk, and by her blushing silence, neither does Gwen. His heart rate has been up for hours. He hasn’t kissed her yet. But he’s beyond sure that’s what she wants him to do now. He’s kissed her so many times in his imagination that when he finally does it for real, it isn’t like a first kiss at all. But the reality of her is so much better than any fantasy of her. He’s living a dream… and he never wants it to end. [Bradley:] “Pst. Gwen. Hey, Gwen. GWEN.”
The speaker, Bradley Steel (who’s known Gwen for years even if she doesn’t currently recall that fact) wants Gwen’s attention, but what he gets is Jesse’s attention.
[Jesse:] “What the hell…?”
[Bradley:] “A bunch of reporters just paid off the bouncer to get in here. They’re looking for Gwen. You probably want to get her out of here. Like now.”
[Jesse & Gwen:] “Reporters?”
[Bradley:] “You two want to go blind from flashbulbs? Get out of here. Like NOW.”
The words ‘reporters,’ ‘blind,’ and ‘flashbulbs’ sink in with Jesse if not Gwen. Getting swarmed by the media will likely be far less fun times than exiting The Grind earlier than anticipated. Jesse gets Gwen to her feet and manages to guide her out of the club without detection, thanks to the assistance of Bradley Steel. Whoever that guy is. The Gwen Glover, Holden Wozny, and Harley Wolff rental residence / 1:00 AM Throughout the drive over here, Jesse had to keep reaching over and tickling Gwen to keep her awake. Even after he parks, gets out, opens the passenger door and kisses her on the cheek, it takes some effort to convince her sleeping in the repotruck isn’t a great idea.
[Jesse:] “Okay, Lady Lightweight. You want me to walk you to your door, or you want to walk some of this off?”
Jesse is relieved when Gwen gets a bit livelier and opts for the second choice. He was beginning to worry she’d overindulged to the point of turning this night into a dim memory by dawn. Even more than not wanting this night to end, Jesse really doesn’t want Gwen to forget it ever happened. They walk down the block and further on, with Gwen cheerfully pointing out the shops, the trees, the flowers, and the wildlife that isn’t there. When she moves on to the moon and the stars, naming constellations by completely inaccurate whimsy, Jesse laughs and shakes his head. [Jesse:] “You really are a lightweight, you know that? No more Melted Snowman shots for you. Tu est très très ivre.”
Gwen blows a raspberry at him.
[Gwen:] “So what is the story with you and French?”
[Jesse:] “My sister-in-law used to snipe at me in French whenever she wanted to feel all big and bad, so I made her teach me. Plus it’s more fun to insult her psycho parents in their own forked tongue.”
They are now passing by the darkened W.J. Billings Theatre for the Performing Arts. Gwen glances up at the marquee and giggles.
[Gwen:] “Whoo boy. I am gonna be in TROUBLE in the morning!”
She doesn’t sound bothered by this in the least.
Jesse tickles her in the ribs. It gives him an excellent excuse to touch her where there isn’t any dress. Gwen squeals and dodges away, making a break for the other side of the street. How she’s still able to move effectively in that gown and those heels is a marvel. Jesse pursues her, at his ease initially, but quickens his pace when he sees where she’s tottering. [Jesse:] “Gwen! Gwen, stop! You’re going to—” She’s falling. He tries to catch her, overreaches… and they both fall in. Jesse hooks an arm around Gwen’s waist and pulls them both to the edge of the pool. This is no rescue though. He can hear her choking on laughter far more than she’s choking on water. By the time he’s hauled himself and her out, she’s shivering and her giggles have turned to chattering teeth. They have no immediate way of getting dry. But they do have a way of getting warm. Neither leads the other to the hot tub—they both move in that direction as soon as they see it. But there is a pause before they get in it. Jesse looks at Gwen for several breathless heartbeats. The way that dress is now glued to her body, she may as well be wearing nothing at all. He steps behind her and undoes the clasp on her dress. Gwen lets him do this without a word. Nearly as soon as the sodden gown hits the ground, she’s up to her neck in warm water. He strips out of his own wet clothes and joins her. Jesse watches for the slightest indication that she doesn’t want him to touch her. Gwen gives him no such indication. Soon the two of them are making out with a passion that promises to go far beyond the previous. This feels so right to Jesse, it’s like nothing in his life will ever be wrong again. It’s perfect. He’d tell her he loves her, but good chance she’ll know that phrase in French. Everyone does. And then, this happens: [Reporter 1:] “Ms. Glover! Is this the Jesse from your ‘Jesse's Girl’ video?”
[Reporter 2:] “Ms. Glover! Are you planning a musical career change?”
[Reporter 3:] “Ms. Glover! Is this the reason your understudy played your parts in the symposium?”
[Reporter 4:] “Ms. Glover! Is this a committed, serious relationship?”
Gwen, finally comprehending that complete strangers are taking high-resolution photos of her in a hot tub while she’s wrapped around a guy, shrieks. Worse, in the midst of the repeated camera flashes, there is an altogether different sort of light. The flashlight of Officer Eugene Hunter.
[Eugene:] “You two wouldn’t be in the public buff, now, would you? Because I’m here to tell you, that is against the law.”
((Special Thanks to:
* TSR artists: Moschino_K (fingernail polish), Spladoum (Foxgrove Suds N’ Go & public pool edits), CycloneSue (puddle, and for just being CycloneSue)
* MTS artist: Purplepaws (roses in vase)
* TSR’s Spladoum for collaborative assistances too numerous to list
* Everyone who pre-read Jesse’s attempts at French… you know who you are ;)
* Many cc creators already credited in this series (and/or my previous series)
* Thanks and apologies to all cc creators that I’ve missed, here or elsewhere
> Readers-to-the-end-credits—was it worth the wait? Jesse thought so… until the cop and reporters showed up… and the Rat went lol lol LOL))
Welcome to the Childhood (5)
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