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Friends in Deed
by Jayne Leitch
Well, Chuck and Patrick seemed to be getting along.
Marissa smiled as she heard another burst of laughter from the bar. When she'd retreated to the office to take care of some overdue bookkeeping, Chuck had been regaling the bartender with tales of Gary's college years; judging from the increased volume of the hilarity, he must've got to the fraternity guillotine escapade. It was probably a good thing Gary was upstairs, or Chuck's life could be in serious jeopardy.
Grinning as she heard Patrick exclaim breathlessly, "Gosh, Mr Fishman, I never knew he was interested in the French Revolution!", Marissa began sifting through the books, searching for the September invoices. She'd heard the guillotine story; if Patrick still thought it had anything to do with the French Revolution, Chuck must not have got to the part about Genie and Gary's stolen cantaloupes yet. Oh, the mirth that lay ahead...
Suddenly the phone rang, but before Marissa could pick
up, Patrick did. The laughter out in the bar died away, and she could
hear him greet the caller enthusiastically, then start to really talk.
Deciding that it must be a personal call, she turned her attention back to
her work, only to be interrupted again a moment later as the door opened and
Placing her hands flat on the books, she turned her head towards his voice and smiled. "Yes, Chuck?"
"You busy?" She heard footsteps, then the creak of the chair as Chuck sat down across from her. "You know, I could give you the name of my cousin's friend's accountant. He could take care of those numbers--"
"No thanks, Chuck. I like the way *my* math works." Grinning, she leaned back in her chair and raised her eyebrows. "So? How's the television business?"
"It's great. Good people, sunshine--I'm practically printing my own money these days, it's scandalous what they pay me for looking after a bunch of scantily-clad young ladies--"
"Chuck." Marissa's grin faded. There was something in his voice... "Chuck, what's wrong?"
"Wrong? Nothing's wrong. It's a great life," he answered, a little too quickly. There was a rustling as he shifted in the chair, and a long moment of silence. "I just--well, you know, sometimes I wonder how you guys are doing here," he said finally, without the bravado of a moment before. "How the bar's doing, how your classes are going, whether or not Gary's saves are working out for him. You know," he said again.
Marissa was silent. Sometimes, with Chuck, it was better to let him work through what he wanted to say himself, without forcing anything. In that way, he and Gary are similar, she thought. Neither of them like to have things spelled out for them if they can do the spelling on their own.
Sure enough, a moment later, Chuck worked it out. "How's he doing?" he asked quietly.
Softening her own tone, Marissa answered, "He's doing okay. Better, now that he's had time to deal with it."
"Good. That's good." Chuck sounded relieved, but not yet convinced. "I mean, it was a while ago. If he hadn't got past it yet, I'd be--well, it's good that he's better," he finished lamely.
"He really is, Chuck." Smiling a little, Marissa continued, "You don't have to worry about him. I keep an eye on him, and I'm pretty good at it."
"Yes, you are," Chuck retorted, the usual note of friendly mockery slipping back into his voice. "I wouldn't have been surprised to come back and find you scheduling his meals for him so he wouldn't miss his daily dose of fibre."
"Well, now that you mention it..."
"It's just that--" Sighing, Chuck shifted in his chair again, then continued, "It was his first failure. A man died; it had to be hard on him."
"It was." Her smile faded. "He was pretty broken up, Chuck. He needed his friends--"
"Now wait a minute. I wanted to be here," he cut in sharply. "I was worried about him, too."
"No one's saying you weren't," Marissa began, but Chuck kept going.
"After you called, I tried calling Gary, but he never picked up. And I know he was there because you told me he wasn't leaving his place." Now Chuck stood up, and Marissa heard the soles of his shoes pad across the floor, pacing away, then coming back. "And when he finally did answer the phone, I just--never knew what to say. I'm not...I'm not good with stuff like that, Marissa. But that doesn't mean I didn't care!"
"I know." Marissa waited until she heard him settle back into his chair before continuing. "You and Gary have been friends for a long time, and I know that you care about him. That's why I called you when it happened; you needed to know. I didn't expect you to drop everything to jump on a plane and come back here; you had your own life, and that wouldn't have been fair."
"I wanted to come." The heat had left Chuck's voice, and he spoke quietly. "My buddy Gar was having a rough time, and I should've found some way to help him. Even just a little."
Now Marissa smiled, warmly. "I know. And so does he. But you couldn't, and that's okay."
"Yeah. 'Cause you were here, and you're great at the whole helping thing." She'd made him smile, she could hear it in his tone. "Marissa Clark, SuperFriend."
She shook her head. "Not really. He was as closed off to me as if I was in LA with you. I tried, but...I couldn't do anything, either. He had to do it himself."
Chuck sighed, then sat silently for a moment. "He is okay now, right?" he asked eventually, carefully.
Marissa nodded. "He's fine."
Suddenly, they heard Gary's door open and slam shut, then the sound of his feet as he clumped down the stairs. Marissa smiled as his feet hit the floor. "In a hurry?"
"What? Oh." There was the crumple of the Paper, then Gary answered, "No, not really. Just had to get a belt that wasn't broken."
"No need to be snide." The chair creaked again as Chuck stood up, then Marissa heard him clap Gary's shoulder. "How about a cup of coffee, Gar? The three of us. We'll catch up."
There was a pause, and Marissa got the impression that Chuck was receiving a very strange look. "Coffee?"
"Sounds good to me." Closing her books, Marissa stood up and grabbed her cane. "I feel like a cappuccino today."
"Well, okay." There was still a note of confusion in his voice, but at least Gary seemed happy at the prospect. "Coffee it is."
And the three friends left the office, and had some coffee.
Email the author: Jayne