Fiction Friday: Best Laid Plans (August 20 2010)

The door was shut and Louise stood with her fist poised, frozen in the act of knocking. She tentatively reached out and grabbed the note stuck to the door. “See you at Wild Notes Karaoke Bar” it said. Was it a mistake? She fumbled for her phone and dialled the number she had for him. It connected and she heard a cheerful “Hi Louise! Did you get my note?”

“Um, yeah I got it…I’m a little confused? Weren’t we going to the movies tonight?” She paced the small walkway in front of his apartment. In the background she heard raucous laughter and off-key singing and she winced.

“Sorry for changing plans at the last minute, some friends of mine are here from out of town and I thought, hey, what a cool way to spend a date! I mean, uh I guess it’s not a date anymore if my friends are around… ah” the cheerful voice trailed off, sounding unsure. Louise rolled her eyes; a bit late now!

“I’m not really a fan of karaoke. Maybe I’ll take a raincheck.”

“Oh, look I’m really sorry… how about you come, and I won’t beg you to sing or anything?” He sounded contrite so she relented.

“Ok, I’ll look it up and be there as soon as I can. I just can’t stay out too long.” She looked up the location and the transit services to get her there as she walked down the stairs, then hopped on the next tram. As she sat and stared out the window she wondered if this was all a big mistake. After all, meeting a guy through a crazy fling with a waiter probably wasn’t that sane. He seemed nice enough though, and not a player like his waiter friend.

The tram stopped not too far from the karaoke bar so Louise only had to walk a short distance. He was waiting outside for her, and broke into a huge smile when he saw her. He gave her a peck on the cheek and a quick hug. “So glad you decided to come, Louise, it’s great fun in there!”

She smiled back, thinking that he was pretty cute. “Well, Adam, normally I wouldn’t, but I have your word you won’t make me sing, yes?” He laughed, agreed and led her in.

The bar was a bit dingy, and amazingly managed to smell of cigarettes even though they were illegal. There were people clustered around the bar, vying for the limited stocks of alcohol, and another, bigger crowd in front of the stage. The lighting was pretty lurid, all reds and yellows and the singing ghastly. As they approached his friends Louise hung back a bit, suddenly feeling shy. This was a bit much for a second date! Adam turned when he could no longer feel her at his back and backtracked. “I promise they don’t bite!” He had to shout over the music. “I just told them you were a friend, so no pressure.” That smile again, it certainly had a powerful effect on her. She followed him and smiled graciously as the introductions were made. Someone got her a drink that tasted like a weak scotch and coke, and she watched as the group made the rounds of the karaoke stage. At last Adam got up and she was pleasantly surprised by his voice. He wasn’t a perfect singer, but he had one of the best voices she had heard so far. The first song was an oldie but one she particularly liked, the U2 song “With or Without You”. His second song was a surprise, Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, and Louise swore he looked startled when it came on. Still, he sang it with gusto and was wildly cheered at the end. He jumped down and made his way to her, threading through the appreciative crowd.

“Let’s get out of here, hey?” He looked at one of his friends and motioned towards the door and waved, and his friend nodded. Louise glanced around at the crowd and back at Adam.

“Sure, sounds good.”

The night air was still and humid. Louise checked the time. “I probably have to get going soon.”

He grinned at her. “Or you’ll turn into a pumpkin?”

She braced herself, this moment was inevitable. “I have to get home so my babysitter can go home.” Louise held her breath, waiting for his reaction. He paused for a moment, looking thoughtful.

“Well that’s fair enough.” Another grin. “I’m just glad you’re not going to turn into a pumpkin.”

Startled, Louise laughed. “No, no pumpkin… you don’t really understand what I just told you, did you?”

“Yeah, it means you have a kid… or kids?”

Louise shook her head, bemused. “It means I’m on the single mothers’ registry. You’ve heard of that, right?” How could anyone have missed that bit of news? He shrugged.

“Sure, I heard about it, I just don’t really know what it’s all about. It doesn’t really affect me, you see.” He looked sheepish.

“Well, it does if you are going to keep seeing me.” Louise winced at how abrupt she sounded. “Sorry, that came out wrong…”

“No, it’s ok! Look, how about we go have a coffee and chat about this a bit more? You can fill me in. And yes, I do want to see you again, so I need to know, right?”
Louise looked at him. His face was open and honest, and still smiling.

“Coffee it is. You know of a good café around here?”

“Course I do! This way.” He put his arm around her, it felt natural and comfortable, and they walked like that for a few minutes. They were crossing a road when he just stopped dead in the middle of the street. She looked up at him, and found his gaze fixed far ahead, in what seemed like fear. Following where he was looking, she tried desperately to see what it was; there was nothing there but a building. A honk sounded and she tugged at him to get him out of the path of a bus. He stumbled in her wake but still gazed blankly ahead. “Adam! Adam!” She shook him, gently at first and then more forcefully. “Adam!”

Finally he blinked and let his gaze drift down to her face. “Who are you?” She stepped back, a tiny splinter of fear in her heart. He visibly shook himself and awareness came back to him. “Oh God, Louise, I’m sorry, what happened?” She stepped back again, and he grimaced. “Whatever I did, I’m sorry, I can explain, kind of…” He took one step towards her, hopefully, but she shook her head.

“Stop. Adam, you did nothing, you stopped in the middle of the road, there was a bus coming, I had to force you to come, then I couldn’t snap you out of it… I’m sorry I don’t need any more complications in my life right now. You’re a nice guy, Adam, but…” She shook her head again. “I’m sorry”. She turned to go.

“Louise, I can try to explain, but I don’t really know what’s going on myself. I wish you would give me a chance.”

Louise paused, back to him. “I have my son to think of. I’m sorry.” With that she walked off.

Adam watched her go, a small figure in the distance. After she got on a tram he sat on the footpath, head in his hands. “Go away, Jamie,” he whispered. Slowly he headed home.
_________________________

Prompt: The note taped to the door said: See you at Wild Notes Karaoke Bar.

This week I decided to introduce two of my characters to each other. Louise from last week’s Hoops and Adam from the week before that What’s in a Name?. And of course Adam ties into The Empty House. So I have some vague ideas about taking this further, because I want to explore this more!

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