Tori ran quickly, hoping Gordy wouldn't follow, wouldn't notice where she was going. Tori ran up the old staircase next to a retro wear place and went the back way.
"Good you're home. Where have you been?" Terrence sat on the couch watching TV, playing with the remote.
"I'm just late, that's all."
"The library closes at five on Fridays."
"Yeah, but there's..there's this book sale, you know, I couldn't get out of it." She shook her head pulling back from his hug.
"You smell," Terrence sniffed.
"What?" She backed away further, noticing the long strand of hair on her shoulder. She pulled the strand, let it drift to the floor.
"...like cookies, oatmeal cookies." Terrence smiled.
"Oh, I guess someone brought cookies." Tori examined her blouse a little more closely, wondering if the buttons were all in order. Did she look disheveled? Had she combed her hair? Would he notice anything out of the ordinary? "But I'm hungry. I'm very hungry." She tried a grin.
"Good but, the zucchini might be soggy now."
"That's okay." She saw the plates set on the table. Candles, too. It seemed artificial to go through the motions, but the bread was fresh and in the dim setting, she buttered her roll and started to chew while Terrence served the gooey meal.
"In fact everything might be soggy."
"It looks...GREAT!" She stayed busy with the food.
"How's the library? Did you see that couple, again?"
"You know the high school girl and that fellow?"
Tori blinked. She had seen the girl briefly. She remembered now. God, I passed by her on the way out. How could I forget that? Tori bit into the buttered roll and chewed slowly.
"I don't think they're a couple. I was wrong." She thought of Gordy's sticky lips touching her skin. She felt goosebumps. Maybe she felt orgasmic, or maybe just sick. Something made her nauseous, but she took a deep breath and tried to smile at Terrence.
"The meal is just great. I didn't really deserve this. I really didn't. Why did you go to all this trouble?" Tori tried to focus on Terrence.
"Because I love you." It sounded like a language she couldn't comprehend.
She heard his words, but then she didn't want to hear them. She shook her head, no.
Tori pushed her plate away wiped her mouth with her napkin.
"Don't do this. Really. You shouldn't do this." She rubbed her throat.
"I know, who'd thought, you and me, but it's true. I love you, Tori." His smile made her feel sick.
"We're just friends, Terrence. You have girlfriends. I mean you...did. Everything was going okay. Wasn't it? We talk, we...."
"Tori, this is old news." She looked into his spacey eyes, wondering if he ever exactly knew what she was talking about.
"Wait." He was making her nervous. She didn't want to hear it. She didn't want to know what a great couple they made. She didn't want to hear she was everything he was searching for. None of it was true. "Look." She flashed the library card in front of his face. "See what I found? It's a sign, Terrence. A sign. It's Paul Auster's library card."
"Who in the hell is Paul Auster?"
"You don't know who Paul Auster is?" He wouldn't. Terrence didn't read books. He only went to college one semester. What did I expect, she thought. "He's, he's great. Haven't you heard of the New York Triolgy?City of Glass? A music of chance? Smoke? Leviathan? He's the last existentialist, Terrence."
Tori said, noting her enthusiasm was more high strung than she anticipated.
"What's that got to do with us?"
"It's just more clear to me that...that I need to wait, you know, to think what I really want from a relationship. I need someone like Auster, who can understand me."
"Understand you? What does that mean? Only an existentialist or who ever in the hell he is ...can understand you?" He sounded bitter.
"It's just. I want you to be happy. I do. I just don't think I can make you happy, Terrence." She got up, turned away so she wouldn't have to watch him.
"But, what about that time, us?" She flinched when he touched her. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye.
Her frown grew into tears. This was awful, she thought. Gordy came to mind. The smell of his sweat still on her.
She took a deep breath. His scent. She couldn't avoid it. It was with her. She was sure it would be with her tomorrow and the next day.
"It really wasn't sex," she said. She wondered for a moment who she was talking to and what was she really talking about. "We're friends, Terrence. That's all."
"What? What about New Year's Eve? Huh, that was- well, you were there." He rubbed his forehead like he was having trouble remembering.
She shook her head, remembering him so bombed out. He talked endlessly about this chick he had met at an amusement park last summer when he wanted to be a carnie. Tori remembered him talking about Leann Rhimes. It had been boring, but she listened, drank the wine and dozed off in his arms.
"Terrence, we slept together! That was all. I fell asleep."
"No, no...it was more than that, and you know it."
"You were dreaming. You had to be dreaming." She wanted to spit in anger. "Quit holding on to something there never was! Just forget it, Terrence! Forget it!"
"No, I can't. It was special. It was you." He sounded like a child to her. Like she was his first.
Tori raked her fingers through her stringy hair.
"Terrence, please, don't do this. I'm not what you want. Really, I'm not. I'm ..I'm foolish, I'm self-centered. I'm a bitch. I'm not even pretty." She tugged at her collar.
"Don't talk like that."
She hated it when he wouldn't take his eyes off her. Her eyes watered. She rubbed her runny nose.
"Go, please. Please. Go! I can't- I can't be what you want me to be. I just can't, not now. You're too nice to me. You need someone who wants to be nice to you. Who wants what you want. And I don't know what I want, Terrence."
She sank into the couch.
"This is about that old guy, isn't it? You dropped out of college because of him."
She laughed. That was over. There wasn't that much to the fling. It was a one night stand. She couldn't remember the details.
"It was just a stupid ass thing. I do a lot of stupid ass things." She grinned for a moment, wiping her nose. He handed her a napkin, and she blew her nose hard.
"Yeah, but he was your father's best friend."
"I don't want to talk about that."
"You used to."
"See how much you know about me? You know too much. It doesn't help, Terrence. It doesn't help."
"Tori, you can't even go home. You say they don't want to see you."
"They don't." She shook her head and rubbed her nose with the napkin. It smelled faintly of garlic. "I don't want to see anybody right now, Terrence. I've decided I'm going to wait for Paul Auster."
"Wait for him?"
"There's a chance we'll meet." She liked the hope in the words.
"Then what? Are you crazy?"
"No, something like this'll stop me from doing something crazy. I'm tried of doing crazy things, Terrence." She stared at the library card, thinking of Gordy. Even that was crazy and selfish. Paul Auster would be her religion.
When she looked up, she saw him staring at her. His jaw was tight. She knew he was angry. He tore the library card from her hand and pushed her down on the couch.
"You know I'm the best thing that ever happened to you." His forehead almost touched hers.
"Don't do anything crazy, Terrence."
He sighed. "Damn, you make me so mad."
She thought he was going to kiss her on the lips, but he didn't. His fingers touched her hair.
"All that touchy, feely stuff doesn't count, huh?"
She cringed. She couldn't say it was something to pass the time, something she needed. It was true, but she couldn't admit it.
"Everything counts just as much as nothing counts." She stared into his eyes.
He almost laughed. "I wish I knew what in hell you were talking about."
His weight pushed against her. She felt him between her thighs. He gnawed at her lips. She squirmed.
She kicked back, fought with her arms, pushing him away, but he was still on top of her, pushing down, pressing her against the couch.
"Stop." Her cry was a whisper and then she yelled, "STOP, TERRENCE!" Her teeth clench, her fist tight. Her blouse ripped. Her hair fell in her eyes, and she felt his sweat. But she kept kicking, crawling, fumbling away. Finally, he stopped.
Her body trembled. Tori tried to catch her breath. Staring at him, she wondered what kind of initiation this was? Were they enemies now?
She crossed her arms and didn't say a word. Finally she turned away. Her fingers shook as she picked up the library card from the floor. She focused on the name, Paul Auster. She found comfort in the name. When she looked back, Terrence was gone.