Betad by: Charity
When Michael had a day off and Sam couldn’t get his shift organized, he had asked Kitty to keep his partner company. Michael had thought of visiting the city alone, but at noon the doorbell rang, and Kitty stood behind the door.
”Are we going shopping?” The woman asked, smiling. Michael knew Sam had asked Kitty to accompany him. He knew how uneasy Sam felt about Jean, especially after Michael had seen on a few occasions outside his workplace, looking in at times with sadness and longing on his features, sometimes with venom.
Jean still sent occasional text messages. At times they were beautiful love poems and then other times they were filled with such obscenity that it was impossible to read aloud. Sam’s restlessness was understandable in that respect, Jean’s mental state seemed completely unpredictable. In addition, Jean also seemed to exclude Eric from his life, claiming he had chosen his side when Michael had started dating Sam.
Michael sighed smiling, letting Kitty enter the apartment. “I’m just changing my clothes,” he told her. In a way, he had longed to spend some time alone and on the other hand, he didn’t mind Kitty’s company. Although he felt sorry for Jean from time to time, he understood Sam’s concern that the man could confront him alone. The idea nerved him as well to be true.
Kitty was almost like a big sister he never had, Michael enjoyed the woman’s humor and positive outlook on life. Even now, Kitty was enthusiastically talking about her failed date with a French man who, for most of the dinner, had ended up mentioning his ex-girlfriend in a side sentence, not in a very flattering tone but disturbingly often. Which had raised the assumption that he hadn’t gotten over his ex. Kitty had resorted to an old trick she had already used often, texting a friend who then called her, and she quickly excused herself to her date saying that one of her clients needed her urgently with a makeup catastrophe.
”Why are all decent men either taken or gay or both?” Kitty wondered, grinning at Michael.
“It’s not true, there are good men out there who are neither taken nor gay,” Michael spoke softly, offering her a gentle smile that made her blush. ”He will come along when you least expect it, trust me.”
“That’s what happened to you and Sam,” Kitty smiled back.
”Yeah, that’s a good example.”
”Has Jean still bothered you?” Kitty asked.
“Not that much, not in days,” Michael replied thoughtfully. “Eric said he hasn’t seen him either, Jean refuses to talk to him…” He shrugged. ”I hope he’s all right, though.”
”You’re far too good, Michael,” Kitty said to which Michael chuckled and shook his head.
“No, I’m not too good… I have a lot of faults and those faults are part of the reason for everything that happened. If I were perfectly good, I would never have left home.”
“We all have our faults; it doesn’t alleviate the fact that you are one of the sweetest people I have ever met. You still think well of Jean, even when he doesn’t deserve it.”
“Jean has his faults, but he’s not bad either. He has also done good things for me, and I cannot forget that.”
Kitty was silent for a moment and nodded. Compared to what she had heard about Ricky, Jean was almost a saint. Kitty also speculated that soon they would get to know more outrageous things under Ricky’s surface, and it would be anything but pretty. She just hoped that the detective Sam had hired would get everything dug up soon or even enough to bring the man’s business to the attention of the authorities.
They went together for lunch and then to a kitchenware store where Michael had gotten the gift card for his birthday. The idea formed that they would make dinner for Sam in the evening, so after Michael bought some of the utensils he needed, they moved on to the grocery store. Michael had a recipe in mind that he wanted to try and sent Kitty to hunt for some of the ingredients while he went to search for some spices that he needed for it. He examined the jars in deep thought.
”What do we dare to choose from here?” He heard a woman’s voice asking in English on the other side of the shelf he was standing in front of. “Why does it have to be so hard to write a product description in English? Shouldn’t it be self-evident by now?” She continued with a sigh.
“Some of them have, like this one…” Another voice said.
“Let me see.”
Michael put back the spice jar from his hand and took another. He smiled a little as he listened to the women speak, the accent sounding pleasantly familiar, reminding him of home.
“There is an obscene amount of sugar! Not this!” The woman almost shrieked to her friend and Michael looked up a little. He saw a glimpse of the women between the openings through the shelves, one with long, curly hair and the other with short blond hair. They seemed to examine the package in the others hand until they put it away.
“So, what do we take? Nothing is good enough for you today. And I for one am starving!” The blonde woman sighed as Michael moved forward between the shelves, searching for a certain spice that seemed difficult to find.
”Uh… I don’t know, maybe we should have gone to a restaurant to eat, after all?” The darker haired sighed, moving on the other side of the shelf at almost the same pace as Michael.
”Just make up your mind already, Jenny….”
Michael brought his head up instinctively when he heard the name. The woman on the other side grabbed some product and for a moment between the shelves their eyes met. They only saw part of each other’s faces, Michael swallowed, for a moment he froze to where he stood. Green-gray eyes looked straight at him, full of wonder. ”H-hey?” Jenny’s lips formed an uncertain greeting or question. Michael retreated in embarrassment, his mind filling with some degree of shock. “Wait…” Jenny asked, but Michael knew he wasn’t ready to face her, not now, not like this. He turned and hurried between the shelves towards the cash register. On the way, he almost bumped into Kitty. ”Hey, what’s the hurry?” The woman chuckled.
“I need to get out… I need fresh air…” Michael said and hurried past her. Kitty stood there, in the middle of the fruit department, with the basket in her hand watching with utter confusion as Michael practically rushed out the store door. Kitty turned her head as she heard hurried steps from the direction Michael had come from.
A young, slender, dark-haired woman in a light blue summer dress looked around frantically. She was soon followed by another blonde woman of the same age. ”Where are you going, Jenny?” The other breathed, stopping next to her friend.
”I… I could have sworn I saw him… Michael!” The dark-haired woman frowned, still looking around the store.
”You’re seeing ghosts now?” The blonde asked. ”Listen, it’s probably better for us to go to some restaurant to eat since you’re already hallucinating.”
“What if it was him? It’s not impossible…” The dark-haired one wondered and only when her gaze met Kitty did she realize that she had been staring at them all that time. Kitty gave a nervous smile and turned to the checkouts. She could have sworn she felt their questioning stare in the back of her head and didn’t know what to do. The woman was someone from Michael’s past, someone he didn’t want to see, and although curiosity burned in Kitty’s chest, she didn’t believe that she had the right to address the woman without talking to Michael first.
”Listen, Jenny… Michael’s parents would know if he lived a free life in Paris… This is only because yesterday we talked about him, it was someone else.” Kitty felt her ears burn as the girls approached. They walked empty-handed past the cash registers and as Kitty looked up, she noticed the one called Jenny was looking at her thoughtfully before her friend grabbed her hand and pulled her with and soon, they disappeared outside.
Michael sneaked into a nearby cafe in a hurry, feeling ashamed of what had happened. He walked to the counter, tried to calm down, and ordered coffee before moving to the most remote table he could find. ”I’m waiting for you at Cafe Ada.” Michael texted Kitty before putting his phone back in his pocket and lifting the cup to his lips. He thought about the surprising encounter with his past, wondering if Jenny had recognized him? On the other hand, if he had identified Jenny, why wouldn’t she recognize him? But maybe Jenny wouldn’t believe her own eyes, they hadn’t fully seen each other’s faces…
The memories seemed to rush back to him, the things he had tried to push aside so long because they caused such a painful feeling of regret and remorse. Jenny… He smiled a little wistfully and looked out the cafe window into the street. He had cared about the girl, they had their moments, Jenny had been a good friend and Michael knew he had hurt her feelings.
Jenny had a dog named Filo. The dog had been white, small, and fluffy, partly a poodle and partly a terrier, adorable one. He wondered if Filo was still alive. They had walked Filo together, sharing their dreams and talking about life.
Jenny had dreamed of a family, that one day they would start a family, they would have at least three children… And Michael would have been so eager to grab that dream, he really would have. Yet every time they lay together on the bed of his room or Jenny’s, caressing each other and kissing, his mind had wandered off into memories of one summer night in Ireland when his grandfather’s stable boy Liam had first kissed him and tried to persuade him to do something else that Michael hadn’t been ready for. He had however fantasized how the situation would have progressed or fantasized about Tony and gotten aroused by these images… But he had never taken it further with Jenny even though she would have been very eager to.
Michael remembered the School Disco, remembered dancing with Jenny to the beat of a Whitney Houston song; I will always love you and Jenny had whispered that the song was for them, despite the sad message, they would just do better.
Michael closed his eyes for a moment and smiled sadly, Jenny didn’t know how well the words ultimately described them even though Michael’s love for the girl wasn’t passionate, it had been some degree of love. He looked thoughtfully at the contents of his coffee cup, spinning his spoon in it. How many times during those first weeks and months with Ricky had he hoped that he could have continued living the lie with Jenny for longer? Wondering if he could have turned his head and heart anyway if he had just tried harder? How easy could life have been, how different? Yet… if he had stayed, he would have perhaps been spared of the nightmare he had experienced, but the lie wouldn’t have brought happiness. It would have resulted in different kinds of problems, that would have felt big when you didn’t know about the worst.
But he could have stayed… there were so many different paths… There were so many different roads to go about everything and no one could deny that he hadn’t chosen the worst of them. Seeing Jenny brought it all to the surface, and the longing he felt for those in his past that he still loved, felt shattering.
He had now been in Paris for two years… Paris was a popular destination even though it was a big city… It was no wonder that while he was in Paris there were people he knew from his past visiting the city at the same time. Yet the chance of such a chance encounter should have been small, especially in such a regular store… Isabella would have said that it was a sign from above. Michael could almost hear his grandmother’s whisper; Now is the time to contact your home, no more excuses, Michael. But he was terrified, that was what he would have told her; that he recognized the sign, but he was afraid.
Michael woke up to the bell ringing as the front door opened and he looked up at Kitty, who first looked around in search of him until their eyes met and she smiled at him softly.
She approached with a questioning gaze and Michael was embarrassed by his escape which in retrospect seemed somewhat childish, but at the same time, what else could he have done? Kitty came closer, lowering her shopping bags to the free chair next to them before sitting down opposite him.
”Do you want to tell me what just happened?” Michael was silent for a moment, spinning his spoon in his coffee cup and watching the movement. He shrugged as if he could not justify his behavior.
“It was my ex-girlfriend…” He finally whispered.
“Okay…” Kitty replied slowly, and Michael looked at her from under his brows.
”I wasn’t ready to meet her,” he added, “it came so unexpectedly.” Kitty nodded at him, still looking at him gently.
“I understand,” she said, lowering her hand on top of his own for a moment over the table.
”Do you think they recognized me?” Michael asked worriedly.
”At least that brunette suspected that she saw you,” Kitty replied and was silent for a moment, watching Michael’s worried look. “Isn’t this…” She started, and Michael interrupted her.
”Another sign that I should contact home?” Michael suggested with a cautious smile and Kitty nodded. ”Maybe… I’m trying to gather up the courage for that.” He promised.
“They think of you,” Kitty said. ”Knowledge would be a relief, believe it or not.” She added. Michael finished drinking his coffee and nodded slowly.
“If it weren’t for Ricky, I don’t think I’d hesitate,” Michael finally admitted. ”You understand, right?” Kitty looked at him seriously.
“I understand,” the woman replied, smiling sadly. She hoped the matter would soon be sorted out.
When Sam came home, he found his partner and friend cooking in the kitchen. Or rather, Michael cooked, and Kitty sat at the kitchen table drinking wine by the chopped vegetables next to her on the table.
“It smells lovely in here,” Sam commented with a smile and came closer to kiss Michael on the cheek.
”I hope it tastes good too,” Michael smiled back at him with affection.
“There is no doubt about that! How was your day?” Sam asked as he poured himself a glass of wine as well. Michael fell silent, looking somewhat uncomfortable and Kitty, in turn, watched him expectantly. ”You didn’t run into Jean, did you?” Sam asked worriedly.
“No,” Michael shook his head, focusing his gaze on the food he was preparing.
”Well, something has happened?”
”Are you telling him, Michael, or will I?” Kitty asked and Michael glanced at her before sighing and looking back at Sam.
”Nothing serious,” he hurried to assure. “We were at the store and saw… my ex-girlfriend… from Devonport…” Michael took a short break. ”I left before she had time to realize it was me.”
”And I was stuck with all the shopping!” Kitty sighed, smiling. ”Well, I would probably have fled in Michael’s shoes, too.” She admitted.
”Quite a coincidence,” Sam stated and Michael couldn’t help but nod.
”It was strange,” he admitted, ”just came too unexpectedly.”
”Do you think she recognized you?” Sam asked.
“I heard them talking after Michael left. Yes, she suspected that she saw him, but the other one said she could only see ghosts.” Kitty admitted what she hadn’t said to Michael yet. ”They seem to believe you’re dead.” She added and Michael was visibly shaken by it.
”Maybe it’s for the better,” Michael said quietly.
”That your parents think you’re dead?” Sam snorted. ”Hardly!” Michael frowned.
”I don’t want to talk about this now, would you set the table, Sam?” He asked irritably. Millions of thoughts crossed his mind, memories of the past, longing, regret, and fear. He didn’t know what to do next, the future seemed uncertain and even a small reckless move might backfire.
Sam accepted Michael’s wish, however, thinking that the occasional encounter had been good. Michael had already considered contacting his family and now he had received one more boost towards it.