Cerise had suggested she come to the bakery every day for lunch but Terry discouraged the idea because he didn’t want to hang out with anyone while Brown was around. So when Brown went out for some unknown reason that morning Terry quickly texted Cerise to let her know the coast was clear. She came in for a muffin and juice and chatted with him while he stood behind the cash. There were a couple people sitting outside but only one customer inside so Terry could have sat at a table with Cerise but he preferred to keep things semi-professional during business hours.
“So you don’t have to visit your dad this year?”
“Nope, just Julie this year. Both Simone and I have jobs so we can’t really leave for like a whole month.”
“How’s Jules taking it?” asked Terry with a chuckle.
“She’s losing her shit obviously. She’s desperately trying to find a job now so she won’t have to go ‘cause they said they weren’t gonna keep paying for her phone if she didn’t. It’s hilarious.”
“Poor Jules. You know I think she and Evan are seeing each other again.”
“I think they’re fuck friends. I think she has a lot of fuck friends actually.”
“Good for her I guess,” Terry shrugged, trying not to judge her promiscuity, recognizing that he had been just as bad at that age.
Vani, Lee and Myles’ voices rang out from the back, singing a song from the ‘50s. It was one of their regular ditties and Terry sang along while making goofy faces and doing Elvis hip thrusts even though it wasn’t an Elvis song. Cerise giggled appreciatively as the guys shuffled out from the kitchen in synchronicity, bopping out to the front counter.
They all stopped suddenly when Brown came back. Terry’s hands balled up into fists as Brown walked by Cerise, overtly checking out her ass as he went.
“Hey virgins,” he barked to Vani and Myles. “Still can’t get any pussy?”
Myles blushed and scampered back to the kitchen but Vani merrily confirmed that he was indeed still as unsuccessful as ever with the ladies. Terry couldn’t believe that Brown would say such things so loudly while there were customers around. It was no wonder this place barely made a profit. Brown was seriously an idiot.
Cerise smiled at Terry sympathetically and walked out without a word. He was glad he didn’t have to tell her to leave.
“Who was that fine piece of ass?” asked Brown, sidling up next to Terry at the counter.
Terry concentrated on keeping his cool and refused to look at Brown.
“Eh? Teddy? Who was that bitch?”
“That woman is my girlfriend,” Terry replied with gritted teeth, knowing full well it wasn’t a good idea to admit to such a thing.
“Ooooh, your girlfriend!” Brown snickered. “She got a tight pussy?”
Terry slowly turned to face Brown and squared his shoulders, looking down at the scrawny little shithead. He wasn’t a short man but Terry was taller and could see the bald spot at the top of the asshole’s head. “What the fuck did you just say?”
“Her cunt. Is it tight?” Brown spoke as though talking to a moron.
Terry tried to stay calm. He dug his fingers into the palms of his hands and forced himself to stay rigid. He wanted to hit Brown so badly but he thought about the stuff Cerise had said about his violent behaviour. If he hit Brown he might get a criminal record and then never get another job again. “Do not ever talk about her like that,” Terry said slowly, calmly.
“Whoa there, big fella!” Brown laughed. “Looks like I hit a nerve! Ok, go get a bag of oatmeal from the basement.”
Terry stayed put, staring down at Brown, knowing he was intimidating him. Brown was starting to sweat and his lip twitched a bit. He laughed again and reiterated his command about the oatmeal. Terry turned around and walked to the kitchen, then stomped down the stairs. He picked up a bag of oatmeal but stayed downstairs for a while, trying to calm down.
“She looked like the type to be tight, don’t ya think?”
He could hear Brown’s voice clear as day. The floor boards were not thick in this building. It was just a decrepit house from the olden days that desperately needed renovating. Brown kept saying dirty things about Cerise, presumably trying to get Myles’ goat.
“Wouldn’t you just love to stick your tongue up a little pink pussy like that?”
No response. Terry’s heart was beating faster and he took deep breaths to steady himself.
“No!” Myles finally said in irritation.
“You wouldn’t want to fuck a pussy like that? What are you, a fag?”
“I just don’t look at girls that way,” Myles whimpered.
Brown burst into laughter and Terry could hear Lee’s snickers and Vani’s giggles as well.
“You don’t look at girls that way?” Lee laughed.
“So you admit you’re a fag?” Brown cackled. “Watch out boys, don’t bend over around Myles!”
Terry waited for the laughter to dissipate before he came back upstairs. Brown was presumably in his office but Terry didn’t check. He just dumped the oatmeal in the kitchen and went back to the front counter. How long would he be able to tolerate working here?
The bookstore was open from 10am to 5pm on weekends and most weekdays except Thursdays and Fridays when they were open ‘till 9. Angela was there almost all the time and Cerise worked full-time from Monday to Friday. Trista covered the weekends and evenings. She also came in at other random times whenever Angela had to go do something. Cerise was glad she never had to be at the store alone but still, it might be preferable over Trista’s constant chatter.
Whenever that hippy was around, Cerise let her take the cash and she busied herself with re-shelving books and creating new displays. She was sitting in the window, touching up the display for 50 Shades of Grey when a shadow appeared. She looked up to see Tom making funny faces at her and waved for him to come in.
“What’s with all the crystals?” he asked as he walked in the door.
Cerise shrugged as Trista impatiently explained that the crystals harmonized the space. Tom raised his eyebrows quizzically and Cerise nodded, wide-eyed and tight-lipped.
“Ok, so anyway, just wanted to let you know that rehearsals are going great.”
“That’s awesome,” smiled Cerise.
“Yeah. I played Fire at Will for the guys and they were blown away. Jeff said it’s the best song I ever wrote and I was like, I didn’t write it and he was like, figures.”
Cerise laughed and said she was glad things were going so well.
“So you have to come watch us rehearse some time. We could really use your input on how to make your songs work.”
“Maybe we should hang out tonight and go over anything else new you’ve got.”
“Yeah I guess I’m free tonight,” she shrugged. “We close up at five and then I just have to like, clean a bit and stuff.”
“Cool. I can wait for you at the bakery and like, get myself a sodie-pop,” he said with a goofy smile. “See ya later ‘pardner.”
Cerise laughed and watched him walk off with his legs splayed, as though he were a cowboy.
“Is that your boyfriend?” asked Trista.
“No, just a friend.”
“Are you in a band?”
“He’s in a band. I just write songs with him sometimes.”
“You write songs?”
“Just the lyrics.”
“I write poetry too. I wrote an essay on As You Like It in iambic pentameter once. My professor said it was transcendent.”
“Do you know what iambic pentameter is?” Trista asked with pity in her voice.
“I’m sure either way you’ll take the opportunity to tell me.”
“I can teach you how to write it. It’s not hard. You could probably do it if you tried.”
“Are you sure you have the time? I would have assumed you were constantly busy practicing your unwarranted condescension.”
That shut her up.
Cerise’s ex, Tom came in to the bakery and sat at a table, unfolding the menu that was stuck in the condiment tray.
Terry gave him a moment to read the menu and then walked up to the table. “Hey, what’s up?”
“Not much. I’m meeting Cerise here in a bit. We’re gonna work on songs and stuff.”
“That’s cool. You ready to order?”
“I’ll have the Lucky Luke sub.”
“Can I be honest with you?” asked Terry, lowering his voice and looking around. “The meatballs today, not so fresh. I’d go with the Meat Lovers sub, ‘cause it’s just cold cuts so they’re still good.”
“Ok, thanks for the tip. Meat Lovers it is. With a coke.”
Terry nodded and went to put in the order. He was impressed that Tom was being so cool with him. Even though they’d always been at the same social events all year this was probably the first time they’d ever spoken.
Brown was leaving for the day just as Terry brought Tom his sandwich and at the same moment, a little girl walked in. Brown totally checked her out as he went, which was completely gross. She couldn’t have been more than twelve. Fourteen at the most. She was tall for her age, about Cerise’s height but if it wasn’t for the shit-ton of makeup on her face Terry might have taken her for a boy because she had way short hair and absolutely no boobs at all.
“Hi!” she said brightly, staring at Terry with a huge smile.
He smiled back and returned the greeting. She kept looking at him, biting her lip and grinning stupidly.
“Can I get you something to eat?” he asked kindly.
“How ‘bout you take a seat here by the window. Unless you prefer to sit outside?”
“Here’s good!” she giggled, sitting down.
Terry pulled out the menu for her and placed it in front of her.
“Oooh, you have like, real food,” she squealed. “I thought you were just a bakery.”
“We’ve got soups and salads but our specialty is bread so I recommend one of the gourmet sandwiches.”
“Which one is best?”
“The most popular is the veggy on pumpernickel but something tells me you’d prefer the chicken-salad on honey oatmeal.”
“Ok! I’ll have that!”
“Good choice,” Terry winked and the girl giggled brightly.
Terry put in the order and Vani made the sandwich because both Myles’ and Lee’s shifts had ended. They remained in the bakery though, taking a table to discuss comic books or something. Vani brought out the sandwich, wiggling to the music as he went, and Terry took up the cue, continuing the dance as he carried the sandwich to the girl. Both Myles and Lee moved their heads in time and Tom drummed his fork and spoon on his table. The girl clapped her hands and laughed with delight.
“This place is awesome!” she enthused. “It’s totally gonna be my new hang-out place!”
“As it should be,” said Vani, sitting at Lee and Myles’ table and putting his feet up on a nearby chair. “I’m Vani, this is Lee, this is Myles and the big guy is Terry.”
“That’s a boring name,” snorted Lee.
“We’ll call you Jenny-Jenny-fer-fer,” suggested Vani. “Or Furry Jenn.”
“Ok,” she shrugged uncertainly.
“Don’t be silly, Jennifer is a beautiful name,” Terry assured her and she giggled and maybe blushed, though it was hard to tell behind the pound of makeup.
Cerise came in soon after and kissed Terry. Was it his imagination or did the little girl make a sad face as she watched them? Cerise joined Tom and soon after his band mates came along and sat with them, one of them carrying an acoustic guitar. It was closing time so Terry turned over the sign on the door but he let Jennifer know that she could stick around if she wanted to. She seemed delighted by the prospect.
Tom reintroduced Cerise to his band mates, Jeff, Bernie and Lloyd, who each took a beer offered by Vani. There was an amusingly awkward moment when Vani put out his fist for Bernie to bump, calling him ‘my brotha’ presumably because he appeared to be of east-asian heritage. Bernie went with it and assured Vani he’d see him at the next
Bengal tiger meeting.
Cerise handed her phone over to Tom, showing him a Vulcan love song she’d penned. “I think of it as like a parody of pop love songs basically.”
“This is hilarious,” said Tom, passing the phone around to the guys. “Didn’t I tell you she was hilarious?”
“Yep,” smirked Jeff. “High-larious!”
All of Tom’s band mates seemed a bit older than Tom but Jeff especially. Cerise wasn’t sure but figured he was maybe in his mid-twenties. Either that or he’d been aged prematurely by drugs or something. He was a bit of a poseur, with tight, ripped jeans, an ironic t-shirt and hair dyed blond. She wasn’t exactly sure what look he was going for. And while Tom was always in black, both Lloyd and Bernie had a simple, nondescript style. As a band they had no cohesion.
“Can you believe this guy?” Bernie said, leaning in to Lloyd. “He think he’s gonna get back with her by complimenting this shit?”
“I know,” nodded Lloyd. “Like she’d leave that football player she’s engaged to. Keep on dreaming, Tommy-boy.”
“For realises. Her shit stinks almost as bad as his,” sneered Jeff with a wicked grin.
“Would you guys shut up?” growled Tom. “You’re not funny.”
“Nah, I’m pretty sure we’re funny,” Jeff grinned and even winked at Cerise.
She wasn’t sure how to respond. She knew they were joking but still, they were being kind of harsh and she felt rather uncomfortable.
“Gimme that, you fucking loser,” Tom said, grabbing Lloyd’s guitar and strumming it. “So what’s a good tune for this?” He sang the first line in various ways until he hit on something he liked.
Lloyd took out a sheet of blank music paper and began scrawling musical notes on it. How cool. Cerise couldn’t help but feel special, sitting in on a song-writing session like this.
“Help me out here, Cerise,” Tom asked.
She sang along with him, reading the words on her phone. “It was about seven years ago. You came to me with a problem. You said I’m sorry but I really need your help. And I can’t find another Vulcan.”
She was acutely aware that everyone in the bakery was watching them and she felt nervous but kept singing all the same. “We were too far from your home planet. You’d never get there in time. I said slow down, what are you talking about? If you can’t speak, meld with my mind.”
Tom’s voice grew louder. “You said I’m going through the Pon farr. And I need somebody to love me. I’ve given up on reaching Kolinahr. So won’t you be my Pon farr baby.” Tom stopped strumming the guitar and spoke quietly. “And then we can put in a chorus with like a million babies. All Justin Bieber like.”
“Pon farr baby, Pon farr baby,” Cerise sang.
“I think that’s the best song I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Cerise looked up to see Myles smiling, clutching a rag. She laughed and thanked him and everyone else agreed it was hilarious.
“I can sing too!” announced some random girl. “Wanna see my Lady Gaga impression?”
“Desperately,” said Bernie with a straight face.
“Go ahead, sweetheart,” smiled Jeff.
The girl started singing Born This Way, gyrating and touching herself inappropriately. It was highly uncomfortable to watch and everyone stared, mouths agape. When she was done they all clapped, Bernie, Jeff and Lloyd calling for an encore.
She was about to sing another song but Myles surprised them all by jumping in and suggesting they hear the Vulcan song again. Tom and Lloyd went over the music they’d written and asked Cerise to sing it again, which she did.
The rest of the gang arrived, including Janice and Karine’s new boyfriend Mike. As the night wore on Cerise and the band got the preliminary work done on two other songs and everyone was enthusiastic about their progress except Lee who kept declaring their work to be lame, repeatedly prompting Myles to tell him to shut up. He was obviously nay-saying just to bug Myles, who didn’t seem to catch on.
“You got anything else?” Jeff asked. “Anything that’s not about Star Trek or Stargate?”
“Yeah, what about Star Wars?” asked Bernie.
“No, you’ve exhausted my sci-fi repertoire. Everything else is just teen angst bullshit.”
“Teen angst bullshit is good too,” said Lloyd.
She couldn’t tell if he was being serious and gave him a quizzical look.
“Seriously. Not all our songs are about nerd shit. I mean that stuff’s good for the con circuit but we also play in bars. We need more general stuff too.”
“But we don’t want teen girl stuff,” sneered Jeff. “We’re not fucking Avril Lavigne or some shit.”
“Well maybe we should be,” said Lloyd. “It’s not like we’re getting anywhere being the poor man’s Simple Plan.”
“Ugh, bite your tongue,” said Jeff in horror. “Simple Plan is the poor man’s Sum 41.”
“They wish!” said Bernie. “But I’d actually be pretty happy to be the poor man’s Simple Plan. At this point we’re more like the poor man’s… um… I can’t think of a worse band but the point is we suck.”
“Yeah, we seriously do,” whined Lloyd.
“No we don’t!” insisted Jeff.
“Let’s become Cerise and the Cherries,” said Bernie with a smile.
Again Cerise couldn’t tell if she was being mocked so she simply rolled her eyes.
“We actually should,” said Tom. “I mean, not change our name. But it would be cool if Cerise sang with us.”
“Here we go,” grumbled Jeff.
“She’s not gonna sleep with you just ‘cause you put her in the band,” snarked Lloyd. “Unless she is. You do me if I let you in?” he asked with a sly grin.
“No!” Cerise said with a forced laugh. “Like I’d even wanna join your stupid band.”
“See? She doesn’t want in, it’s settled,” said Jeff with finality.
“Can I join?” asked the random little girl.
“Nobody’s joining!” barked Jeff.
“Except Cerise,” smiled Bernie.
“Yeah,” agreed Tom.
“I don’t even wanna join!”
How long was this insanity going to go on? Karine could barely take it anymore. If she were to sing they’d all stop fawning over Cerise and her pathetic little voice. Cerise had like, no range whatsoever. Hugh had totally said so right in front of everybody and he’d said that Karine had tons of range. She could elevate their little band to something special, if she were so inclined, which she totally wasn’t.
She was trying to think of a way to start singing without being obvious about it when Mike pulled out a deck of cards. He suggested they play a round of poker with Janice and Terry.
“How ‘bout strip poker?” suggested the little boy in drag.
“Hey, that’s my line,” said Janice in irritation.
“It could be totally fun,” the boy said, pulling up a chair.
“I’m sorry, who are you?” Karine asked sweetly.
“I’m Jennifer. But Vani wants to call me Jenny-Jenny-fer-fer.”
“Furry Jenn is still on the table,” said Vani from the next table.
“Hey Van, what’s tetracel white?” Terry asked randomly.
“I think you mean Ketracel White,” Vani mused. “It’s the drug the Jem-Hadar have to take to stay alive.”
“Oh ok,” Terry nodded.
“Why do you ask?”
“No reason.” Terry smiled as he gazed at his Cherry angel who was still haggling with those stupid band guys.
“It makes no sense, Tom!” the hipster one was practically screaming. “We go on tour in like, a month! We can’t just add another member at the last minute.”
“She’d only be a half member,” said Tom. “We’d do all our old material same as ever but for the new stuff Cerise would sing too.”
“Yeah, come on,” said the Indian guy. “Didn’t you ever see that episode of My So Called Life where Rayanne Graff joins the Frozen Embryos and she like, rocks their world?”
The hipster guy screwed up his face. “Rayanne Graff proceeded to suck up the joint and Jordan Catalano had to step in.”
“Yeah but it was still a good episode. I have the whole series on DVD!”
“Yes, Bernie. We all remember the fucking So Called Life marathon you subjected us to.”
“Bernie makes a good point though, Tom,” said the other guy. “It is a bit of a cliché to have a chick join a band just like, randomly because the lead guitarist is trying to get in her pants.”
“Shut the fuck up!” Tom said, turning red.
“He’s not trying to get in my pants. He’s been there, done that,” said Cerise. “You’re just scared because you know if I join I’ll get all the attention ‘cause you guys like totally suck without me.”
“Yeah, you’re a regular Gwen Stefani,” said the hipster in irritation. “Let’s not forget how badly she sucked when she went solo.”
They went on and on like that forever until Karine decided she couldn’t take it anymore. She suggested to Mike that they hit the road and he was more than happy to oblige.
When it was finally decided that Cerise would join the band on a tentative basis, everyone went their separate ways and Terry locked up. He drove Cerise home as she chattered excitedly about the prospect of being in Parisses Squares.
“I’m totally nervous, but it could be totally fun, right?”
“Yeah. But are you gonna go on tour with them?”
“I dunno. We didn’t get that far. I guess I’ll have to rehearse with them first. See if it’s a good fit.”
“You don’t sound very excited about it,” she pouted.
“Well I dunno. They’re kind of dicks,” said Terry as he pulled up to her house.
“Yeah well I’m used to dealing with assholes. I go out with you don’t I?” She giggled and nudged him.
“But seriously. Take it slow. Especially with that Jeff guy. I think he’s into you.”
“Jeff? Eww. What are you talking about?”
“I have to figure that’s why he was so against you joining. ‘Cause everyone else was like, whatever but he was being a major prick. And he kept making jokes at your expense.”
“So that means he hates me, not likes me.”
“Tons of guys are like that. He acts like an ass just to get your attention.”
“Well whatever, I don’t care about Jeff.”
“I know, I’m just saying, keep an eye out for him.”
“Do you think I should like, not join?”
He said she should do whatever she wanted and tried to sound encouraging but secretly he wasn’t so into the idea, though he wasn’t entirely sure why.