The Reality of Fantasy
The ceiling fan over the bed was in serious need of dusting. There was a vague, brownish film coating the left edge of each blade which might have been dust that drifted in from outside, or it may have been the daily coat of smog from his nicotine habit. Jim hadn't noticed it the night before, when he'd stumbled into his bedroom, high as a kite and hornier than a roofied pedophile in a daycare center. Nor had he noticed it during the work week when he'd awakened on his belly, drooling out of one corner of his mouth, and stumbled off to the library in a caffeinated, opiated haze. He was only noticing it here and now because he'd been shoved unceremoniously onto his back by one of his overnight guests for round two (or two million, depending on how one wanted to count the rounds) of the usual weekend sexcapades. Barbara, a droopy eyed, snaggle-toothed chick whose hardened face looked eons past whatever could have possibly been her real age, purred and stretched herself along the length of his body, clawing him gently, laving him with her wide, flat tongue, and generally trying to restart his sleep-sluggish motor.
It was working - sort of. The ceiling fan, usually so pristine and white, was really distracting him, though. Jim tried closing his eyes and focusing on the wash of sensation - the soft wetness of her tongue, the sharp tickle of her nails. Instead, he just felt hot and sticky and hyperaware of the fact that he hadn't bathed the night before.
He was about to call her off when the fan suddenly whirred to life, purring softly overhead. Jim's eyes snapped open in time to see Norman, Barbara's ever present shadow, leering over the bed, dangling a dripping wet washcloth in one hand. "Move it, babe," Norman said, flinging the excess water on the panting girl, who hopped away with an indignant squeak, before straddling Jim's hips with a leer. Jim tore his eyes from Norman's greasy, pockmarked face, and allowed himself to be mesmerized by the ceiling fan again. The blades spun into each other, changing from a series of five distinct white, dust covered panels, to a hovering UFO, a saucer of cool air blowing down on his exposed skin. He could see Norman turn his face to the fan in his peripheral vision. "Mmm. It's hot in here."
Jim found himself smiling beatifically as Norman returned his attention to the task of wiping Jim down with the washcloth, using firm, broad strokes. It wasn't the gentle stroke of a new mother's touch, but it wasn't the rough scrub of an overworked custodian trying to eradicate the grime in between the cracks of the tiles in a men's washroom at Port Authority. Jim arched into the touch, flopping his limbs like a ragdoll. Norman chuckled darkly at Jim's obvious pleasure. "That good, Jim?"
Jim stretched luxuriously. "It's excellent."
"Good. I would suggest we get in the shower, but Barb's been bitching about wanting to try something..."
Barbara squealed and clapped at this, and bounced back into the bed with a little too much enthusiasm. "I think you're gonna like this," she singsonged, then nuzzled Jim's neck before diving in to lick him again with renewed vigor.
Naturally, she was right. Before long, Jim found himself flopped back on his bed, keening deliriously at Barbara's baby-soft back, while she bucked and arched and scratched occasionally at the backs of his thighs or the tops of his knees. The soft slick sucking sounds she made while she slammed down on him were almost enough to drown out the less appealing slick sucking sounds she made when she sucked down Norman's tongue. Jim managed to forgive them the display for the moment - he was willing to forgive damn near anything they did as long as Norman stayed buried to the fucking bush in Jim's asshole.
Honestly, Jim found them both quite disgusting. But they worked as a team, they brought plenty of shit to share, and they always seemed to know how to touch Jim's body in exactly the right places, so they were always the first ones he called for a good time. Most of the time, Jim wondered how in the hell they could stand to look at each other, but when they were doing what they came to do, he found he didn't really give a fuck if they looked at each other or not, so long as they didn't fucking stop whatever the shit they were doing to his body.
THUMP THUMP. The thunderous boom of someone banging on his front door stopped everything. The couple atop Jim froze, and he tensed up, aware that there was no fucking reason for anyone to be bothering him on a late Sunday morning. THUMP THUMP THUMP sounded at the door again. Jim heaved an annoyed sigh and reached around his own awkwardly placed leg to smack the woman's pale, hairy thigh. "Up, Barbara."
The man was already pulling out and grabbing at Jim's thrift-store bargained sheets, scrubbing himself down like he'd been buried under a river of mud and would never be clean again. "What the fuck, man," Norman whined. "Did you seriously call us here with the police hot on your ass or some shit?"
"What the fuck, don't be such a paranoid idiot, Norman! Why would the cops give a fuck about me?" Jim reached out and snatched the sheets from Norman's hand. "And quit rubbing your fucking dick all over my sheets, you neanderthal!"
"Oh god," Barbara stage-whispered, hand placed dramatically against her throat. "I don't wanna go to jail..."
Jim wanted to ask her why the fuck she sold tabs and sexual favors if she was so paranoid about jail-time, but he decided to let her boyfriend/pimp/whatever handle her impending psychotic break, while he handled the door. In all honesty, there were only two reasons Jim was concerned; one was the fact that he wasn't expecting any other visitors, and the other was that trying to deal with the Erotic Neurotic Duo outside of the actual sex act always made Jim a little nuts even when everything was going exactly as planned. He was seriously considering quitting the two of them all together, just so he didn't have to deal with their emotional bullshit. But, irritating as they were, Jim kept calling them back - for a couple of strung out street kids, the sex really was fantastic. Fantastic enough that he was thoroughly pissed with whoever was knocking on his goddamn door like a fucking asshole, eating into his precious scheduled time with them.
Jim got to the door and reached for the deadbolt when he looked down and realized that he was still quite naked - and more than a little hard. Jim growled in annoyance and reached for the cheap, scratchy throw he left on his sofa for snuggling under on the occasional TV night. The pounding, which had been intermittent at first, had escalated to a nonstop rhythm fit to wake the dead. Whoever the fuck was at his door was cruising for a serious ass-kicking - an asskicking that normally he'd be more than happy to deliver. But since one hand was occupied by the blanket he was trying to keep cinched at his waist, Jim opted for stealth instead - maybe he could give the fucker pounding on his door a heart-attack. Jim crept quietly back to the door, turned the locks as slowly as he could, so that whoever was pounding on the other side wouldn't hear the tumblers fall, and yanked the door open as hard and fast as he could. "WHAT!?"
A smallish woman of about fifty stood at the door, fist still balled up, eyes and mouth wide with shock. She blinked a couple of times, as if to compose herself, before looking him up and down with a frown. Her other hand clutched the wrist of a small, serious faced boy with shining blond curls that spilled past his collar to rest on his shoulders. The boy had a duffel bag that was almost as big as he was slung over one shoulder, and was staring intently at one of several planters that was situated periodically along the balcony of the apartment complex Jim lived in. The kid tried to lean a little toward the planter which had caught his eye, but the woman just pulled slowly at his wrist until he was standing upright again. "I'm looking for James Kirk," she said quietly. "Please, please tell me you aren't him."
Jim scowled at the lady. "Okay." He shrugged. "I'm not him."
He started to shut the door, but the woman stuck her foot in the door. "No, wait, please! Do you know him? I mean, do you know where I can find him? Please, it's urgent, and I've had the hell of a time tracking him down for the trail to just go cold now."
Jim's scowl deepened, and he clutched at the blanket threatening to slip off his waist. "I'm really busy."
The woman blinked, and gave him a quick once over again. "So I see." The woman's gaze flickered from his face to a point somewhere in the apartment. He looked back, to see Barbara, still struggling with the laces of the ridiculous corset-type-thing she insisted on forcing herself into. Nice.
Jim grimaced and turned back to the lady. "Yeah, so, if there's nothing else?" He nudged her foot out of the door with his so he could ease the door shut.
The woman allowed herself to be moved from the door, but she edged closer to the doorjamb, as if to make the most of the dwindling crack in the door. "Well, would you tell him that Christine and David Marcus need to talk to him?"
"David Marcus?" Jim straightened up and opened the door fully again. "As in, formerly David and Alison Marcus?" Jim forgot his libido as curiosity began to burn. "Like, Carol's dad?"
The corner of the woman's mouth twitched. "So you are James Kirk." She rolled her eyes, then shook her head and bit her lip as if to keep from bursting into tears. "Well that's just fucking perfect."
"Hey, fuck you, too," Jim said crankily, but the woman was already turning away from the door, reaching down to lift the boy and his giant duffel bag into her arms. "Hey," he called out to her retreating form. "Hey, lady! You don't get to pound on my fucking door like that and just walk off! What the fuck do you want from me? Who the fuck do you think you are?" But she just kept walking, and disappeared down the tired old staircase, while the small boy in her arms watched Jim with bland indifference until he too could no longer be seen.
Jim thought about going back to the railing to see where they went, but the rustling coming from his living room reminded him he had guests. Ugly, talented guests who weren't necessarily above taking their party - payment and all - to a more attentive host. Jim sighed and went back inside. "Coast is clear, bitch is gone."
"So you're not gonna be arrested?" Barbara paused in her fiddling to stare wide eyed at Jim, while Norman leaned against the hallway wall and fought to get his giant combat boots on his even gianter feet.
Jim walked over and ripped the lacings out of her fake corset thing. "Just... shut up and get back in the fucking bedroom. Both of you." With some effort, some cooing, and some crushed and water-strained pills served up in a needle, Jim managed to forget the mysterious visitor with strange connections to his past.
Three days later, a middle aged woman with the crankiest face in the world burst into the Manhattan Heights Library like a woman on fire. She strode right past the reference desk without seeing Jim at all to lean on the circulation desk across from him. Most days, Jim might not have paid attention to a patron running to circ, because most library patrons fell into one of two categories: they were either bookworms who visited libraries often and were quite familiar with basic operating procedure of various branches across town, or they were part of the general public, who had no idea that the part time staff at the circ desk didn't have the training (or, considering the minuscule size of their paychecks, desire) to answer most of their questions, no matter how simple they thought the questions were.
But this woman caught Jim's attention easily when she first burst through the inner glass doors that separated the lobby from the rest of the building - he'd have sworn that she looked just like the same cranky woman who'd interrupted his weekend hookup. Jim set aside his magazine ordering list and leaned back in his seat to watch the shenanigans he was sure were about to unfold.
Tonia, a perky little redheaded number with an acid tongue, was the clerk on desk duty during the generally quiet lunch hours. She was buried in paperwork, finishing up the admin-side of processing library applications, when the woman walked up to the circ desk and set her bag down with an echoing plop. Jim couldn't hold back his amused snort - he knew from experience (and the look on Tonia's face) that Tonia was perfectly aware of both the woman's presence, and of the woman's 'you will serve me right this instant, young service woman' attitude that was so common among the entitled public. The patron at the desk seemed to be the only one who couldn't see that Tonia was, therefore, doubly determined to finish up the suddenly overly complicated application in front of her before helping inpatient patron.
But to the woman's credit, there were no verbal demands for Tonia's attention, and (to Jim's annoyance) she even managed to keep her voice quiet enough to not be heard at reference when Tonia did finally acknowledge her presence. Jim had been half expecting the woman to just ask for him by name, so he was surprised when Tonia seemed to settle in to listen to a story. He could tell by the look on the clerk's face that the woman was probably oversharing, but he had no idea what the woman could possibly have to say to Tonia about... well, anything. Finally, Tonia began to speak. Again, Jim couldn't hear what was being said, but she still wasn't pointing the lady in Jim's direction as he'd expected.
The exchange went on a little longer before either of them made any moves indicating that they were aware of the existence of the reference desk. Maybe the lady just wanted a book? Maybe Jim had it wrong and that wasn't the same bizarre woman with connections to Carol Marcus at all? Maybe he was just being overly paranoid? He could see Tonia offering the salutation she usually extended at the end of a transaction, and the woman turned around, looking somewhat mollified by her words. She took two steps towards Jim before stopping in her tracks.
Yeah, okay, there was no way she was anyone but the pissy old bitch who'd interrupted his Saturday-night-Sunday-morning-afternoon-whatever ritual.
She blinked a few times, before slowly backpedaling towards the circ desk. Tonia, who'd gone back to her paperwork, looked slightly annoyed, but she answered the woman's whispered questions, coupling her responses with slight, controlled movements as a counterpoint to the woman's increasingly wild gesticulations. At one point, Tonia referred to the clock mounted up behind her head, and looked almost as if she were explaining how to tell time on an analog clock face. Jim half wondered if that wasn't in fact what she was doing, because the woman seemed to stiffen as Tonia continued speaking. Having apparently noticed the lady's display of discomfiture, Tonia reached under the desk and pulled out a long sheet of paper with lots of tiny print on it - Jim knew just from the shape of the page that she was handing the woman the full list of libraries in the county system, the list with phone numbers and hours printed up for each of the seventy plus branches. The woman looked the list over, nodded perfunctorily at Tonia, and hurried out of the library without so much as an icy glance in Jim's direction. He watched the angry little woman hustle through the sliding glass doors before looking back at Tonia. Tonia was watching the woman herself, but a moment later she glanced at the reference desk, almost as if she could feel Jim's eyes on her.
Chuckling, he picked up the phone and rang the circ desk. Tonia picked up without looking at the phone. She hooked at thumb at the lobby doors. "So, Jim, just what the hell do you suppose that was all about?"
Jim laughed and shook his head. "I was just gonna ask you the same thing!"
"I don't know." Tonia shook her head. "She wanted me to look up the legal rights of the sick, the elderly, tenants and the incarcerated." Tonia ticked the listed items off each finger, shrugging at 'incarcerated' before throwing her free hand up in obvious confusion. "And she was... I don't know, really adamant about it, like her head was gonna explode if I didn't magically pull some numbers out of my ass." She grimaced. "What I didn't understand is why she thought I was supposed to help her do all this random research, but she looked at you, the guy sitting under a sign that says Reference in these ridiculously huge letters, like you'd grown an extra head or something."
It was Jim's turn to grimace. "Maybe she didn't like my looks." Or his attitude, the company he kept, his weekend hobbies...
"Maybe she thinks libraries are only supposed to be staffed by ladies?"
Jim wrinkled his nose at that. "Then why did she want to talk to you?"
Tonia made a rude gesture with her middle finger while a patron approached the circ desk. The patron, a regular, waggled her finger and turned to smile broadly at Jim as he hung up the phone. Jim laughed and shrugged, the picture of complete (if totally false) innocence, and turned his attention to the magazine order he was supposed to be completing. The words scrambled on the page like a bowl of alphabet soup in a hi-speed blender, and all he could think about was the strange woman who'd knocked on his door three days ago.
In the back of the library was a series of rooms: a couple of tiny offices for the two library assistants, who in turn were each in charge of one the two levels of part time staff; a wide section of desks cordoned off for three of the four actual librarians themselves (the desk which belonged to the fourth librarian was in an office out front next to the circ desk, as it belonged to the Community Library Manager); a back room Automated Circulation System terminal for adding new books to the system without having to deal with the public; the magazine stacks which held back issues for titles the library kept out front; a single unisex staff restroom; and a break room, which everyone called the kitchen, because, honestly, it was a kitchen.
The kitchen held all the accoutrements one would expect to find in an average kitchen - stove, fridge, table, chairs - but it also held the wall of small lockers for the staff to store their valuables in. The lockers were mostly provided for the part time staff, who had no proper desks anywhere in the building. Sometimes, though, the full-timers would use the lockers to store purses and wallets and other things that they didn't want in their desk drawers but didn't want everyone's grimy hands all over either.
Jim opened up his locker and pulled out his precious dinner stash: ramen that was prepackaged in a styrofoam cup and a crumpled pack of cigarettes. He put a kettle of water on the stove to boil and went back through the rest of the back workroom, to the staff-only entrance by the loading dock where he could enjoy his dinnertime smoke.
A few minutes later, the heavy door creaked open behind him, heralding the beginning of his weekly dinner ritual with the audio/visual librarian. "Thought I'd find you out here," came the low, whiskey-rough drawl. Soft soled tennis shoes shuffled up next to where Jim was sitting and swinging his legs off the loading dock. "Please tell me you aren't planning on eating more of that freeze dried, salt encrusted styro-crap for dinner."
Jim sucked down the last of his cigarette, burning the tube of dried leaves and paper all the way down to the filter before chucking the butt into the dumpster at the far end of the dock. "Yep." He got to his feet and dusted himself off before grinning saucily at his companion. "I don't know why you always ask me that, Leonard. You know I'm going to say yes."
Leonard grinned broadly. "Because I can't believe it. Come on, you passed probation weeks ago! What the hell are you clutching your wallet so hard for?"
Oh ho, what Jim wouldn't give to be able to answer that question honestly just once in his life. Oh, I have to be able to pay my dealer, my prostitutes, my second doctor and my actual bills, so you know, food was the easiest thing to cut in the budget. But he'd learned the hard way, a million years ago, that you should never eliminate the barrier between your day life and your night life; the two are like matter and antimatter, and the resulting explosion ruins everything. So he just grinned like a fool and shrugged innocently. "Student loans?"
Leonard shook his head. "Student loans my ass. Do you know how much non-residents have to – aw, forget it." He put his arm around Jim's shoulders and gave him a friendly squeeze. "I know County pay is bad, but hot damn, kid. Let me buy you dinner so I can bitch and moan about work long and foul enough to make your ears curl." He grinned evilly. "Besides, I already turned off the kettle."
Jim rolled his eyes. "How do you know I won't say no one day?"
Leonard guided him towards the parking lot. "Eh, probably because we go through this every other day, and every time I offer you come right along with me..."
Jim shrugged as best he could with a heavy arm draped over his shoulders. "There's a first time for everything. And what are we having, anyway? Something local, I take it?"
"You know it. Italian food - you know where," Leonard said. "I ain't givin' up my parking space to save my life, and there's only one Italian joint within walking distance."
Jim's stomach rumbled appreciatively. "Awesome." They wound their way to the sidewalk and made their way down the steep hill towards the sun that was settling over the calm ripples of the Pacific. They squinted and ducked their heads and pretended not to feel the glare from the ocean, but Jim sighed in relief as they rounded the corner at the bottom of the hill, and entered the tiny little box of a restaurant.
The locals hadn't filed in for dinner yet, so they were seated quickly. Menus were offered and perused, drinks were poured, salads were served, and orders were taken. Finally, the bustling servers swept out of the dining area, giving Jim and Leonard enough peace and quiet to finally start a conversation. "So," Jim said with a smile. "What's up?"
Leonard actually growled. "Your fucking boss has me coming in on Saturdays indefinitely."
"Huh? Wait, what happened to rotating? Why would Chris do that?"
Leonard swallowed half his usual glass of red wine in one unusually large gulp, before continuing with his tirade. "He said he needed someone with stability to come in and man the reference desk in his damn absence."
Jim scowled. "Absence? What absence? Where's he gonna be?"
Leonard slammed back the rest of his wine before shaking his head furiously at Jim. "Hell if I know! What the hell is that shit? And I told him I need to keep my damn Saturdays free, so what the hell does he do? Mean ass sonofabitch..." Leonard craned around in his seat, trying to flag down a waiter for a refill.
Jim chugged down his own lemon lime soda with the hopes of taking advantage of the refilling waiter. "So," he gasped, "wait, does that mean you still have to put in time at the Regional branch on Sundays?"
Leonard sighed and leaned back in his seat. "No, and Chris seemed really surprised that I wasn't bouncing off the walls with joy about that. But Jo's busy on most Sundays, so I'm just gonna be sitting in my damn apartment like a goddamn loser, drinking too damn much beer and hoping like hell that her momma doesn't decide to use my schedule against me, which, let's face it, I already know she will."
Jim wrinkled his nose. Custody issues. Jim thanked every deity he could recall that he hadn't made the mistake of making a goddamn kid, and nodded in sympathy. "What if someone offered to alternate Saturdays with you? I mean, I don't have any major responsibilities, so I could certainly do that..."
Leonard rolled his eyes. "Chris wants someone with stability, remember? Has he ever referred to you as having anything even remotely resembling stability?"
Jim bristled, affronted. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
Leonard laughed uproariously. "Jim, he thinks Spock is unstable."
"Spock is unstable," Jim sniffed. "Anyone wound up that tight would have to be."
Leonard just laughed harder. "Well, okay, and anyone as loose limbed as you are would have to be equally unstable. I don't know what the hell you're so upset about. Chris will be the first to admit that he's the craziest of us all!"
Jim squinted at that bit of non-logic. "So... you're the only stable one in the building? We're kinda fucked, then, aren't we?"
"You know what, Jim? You can kiss my ass." Leonard failed miserably to keep his laughter from bubbling to the surface.
Jim joined in the laughter. When he sobered, he leaned in closer, all seriousness. "I'm still gonna ask. All Chris can tell me is no."
Leonard's nose flared, and he stabbed at his salad with an almost murderous rage. "And he will."
"Hey," Jim said, "he might not. He might tell you no, but that's, you know, you. Patrons find me charming. He’d probably love to have me come in on the weekends."
"Yeah, you keep talking like that, Jim, and that's exactly what'll happen - he'll tell you to work every Saturday forever, and he'll tell me to work every fucking Saturday for fuckin' ever."
The main course arrived before Jim could respond, and Leonard dove into his pasta with gusto. Conversation ground to a halt while Leonard shoveled pasta and bread into his face. Jim shoved his own pasta around on his plate, having filled up on soda and salad already. Finally, Leonard pushed back from the table, full and sleepy looking and already bitching about the walk back up the hill to the civic center where the library was located. Leonard waved for the check before turning his attention back to Jim. "I've been bitching all night. It's your turn now. What's going on with you?"
Every week, Leonard asked him that, and every week Jim contemplated telling him all of the crazy shit he was really into. And every week, Jim chickened out and talked about stupid shit on the job, shit that didn't even bother him, but stuck out in his mind as safe topics for dinner with Leonard.
But tonight was different - he still wasn't going to risk alienating Leonard with his crazy sexcapades, but he was going to go ahead and get personal. It was time to start talking about his past. A little. Ugh.
"Uh, you okay?" Leonard looked like he wanted to scoot his chair away from their table. "You're not a projectile vomiter, are you?"
Jim rolled his eyes. "Haha. I was... trying to figure out how to start."
Leonard looked surprised. "That serious?"
Jim snorted. Was it that serious? Maybe he was making a mountain out of a mole hill. "Honestly? I'm a total drama queen, man. It's probably really minor."
"If it's making your face turn green to think about it, it doesn't matter how minor anyone else might think it is, Jim. Clearly, it's not minor to you. Spill. In words, though. Not dinner. At least not until we're outside and I can outrun your ass."
"Fuck you," Jim drawled. "You want to hear the damn story or not?"
"So sorry. Do continue." Leonard folded his hands on the table, the picture of attentive innocence.
"Okay." Maybe he didn't have to go into the whole thing. "So I have this ex-girlfriend." He paused to see if Leonard was going to interrupt him with another smartass remark, but Leonard seemed genuinely interested. "This ex-girlfriend. I haven't seen her in years. Like... years. I broke up with her when I started library school."
Leonard chuckled. "You're not very old, Jim. What was that, three, four years ago?"
Jim snorted. "Uh, yeah, thanks, but I'm older than I apparently look. It was closer to ten - I took forever to get my thesis written. Anyway. Her parents hated me. That was pretty much the only thing they agreed on by the time we broke up, but, man, did they agree on that. And she and I were... not good for each other."
"Oh?" Both Leonard's eyebrows shot up. "Not good how?"
Jim squirmed. "Uh... just... not good. It's not important."
"Then why the broad, sweeping intro? Cut to the chase, man!"
"Okay, okay! On Sunday this lady came to my door looking for me. I've never seen her before, and she was all OMG, do you know James Kirk, help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope. And I was... busy... doing... stuff, plus I've never seen the broad before in my life, so at first I was like what the fuck, who the hell is this, no I don't know him, and then she was all boo hoo, I have to find him you gotta tell him that David and Christine Marcus are looking for him, and I was like whoa, what-"
"I assume you're going to explain all of that for those of us who just tuned in, right?" Leonard was still smiling, but he looked completely lost.
"I was getting to that," Jim said snippily. "Quit interrupting me."
"Well you aren't making sense!"
Jim slapped his hands down on the table top, rattling the dishes, and garnering the stares of several diners. He ignored them and leaned in to hiss at Leonard. "Goddammit, I thought you wanted to hear this!"
Leonard leaned back in his seat, again the picture of innocence. "I do want to hear this. I apologize."
Jim rubbed his face with both hands as he tried first to recall his train of thought, then to remember to only tell the salient points. "Okay. David Marcus is the name of the father of the aforementioned ex-girlfriend."
Leonard shrugged. "So?"
Jim groaned dramatically before answering. "So I've never seen this lady before in my life, but she comes to me, telling me about this man whose daughter I haven't seen in years."
Leonard shrugged again. "Well, David is a common enough name, and Marcus ain't exactly rare either. It could be a coinicidence."
Jim nodded. "It isn't – I asked her if David Marcus had been married once before to a woman named Alison, and the lady at my door knew I'd lied to her about not being James Kirk. Anyway, today this lady came into the library, asking Tonia some crazy reference questions-"
"She told me about that! And the woman freaked out when she started to go to reference, like she had just seen your face on a most wanted list, and she had to get the hell out before you killed her or something."
Jim snorted. "Yeah. That was the lady who told me that David and Christine Marcus were looking for me."
Leonard frowned. "Okay. But I still don't know what that has to do with your girlfriend. Ex-girlfriend. What have you."
Jim shrugged. "Like I said, we ended on less than friendly terms, and it was something her folks were gunning for. I just don't understand why some strange woman I've never seen before would tell me that a man who hated me when I was a kid wants to talk to me now that I've left his precious little girl alone." Jim shifted in his seat. He didn't know why the conversation was making him so uneasy, but Jim was starting to feel a little dirty. "It's bugging me, especially since this new lady obviously thinks the same things his first wife was thinking about me. I want to know what it's about, but I don't want to open up a can of worms."
"Uh-huh. And how would you open up this hypothetical can of worms, exactly?"
Jim ducked his head, feeling more foolish as the conversation wore on, though he still didn't know why. "Well, I was thinking of trying to get in touch with Carol - my ex - again."
Leonard looked thoughtful. "Why? Is this girlfriend the one looking for you?"
Jim shrugged. "The lady didn't mention Carol."
"Then why bring Carol into this?"
"Because she might have the answers...?"
Leonard shook his head. "Then she would be the one trying to reach you, not this strange woman."
Jim sighed. "I just mean the answers to who this woman is - I don't know if I trust her."
Leonard laughed outright at this. "Well, what's she gonna do, steal your identity? Come on, Jim, what's the problem? Worried she's trying to run a scam?"
Jim shrugged. "Maybe. I don't know who she is! And she approached me - I think I have the right to be skeptical."
"Okay, so you want to check her out. That doesn't sound too unreasonable. Did the woman leave a way for you to get in touch with her?"
Jim snorted. "No. She kinda changed her mind when I let it slip that I might actually be Jim Kirk."
Leonard blinked. "Why would she - you know what? Doesn't matter. The woman didn't leave you a forwarding address, so whatever it was that she wanted to bother you about wasn't important enough for her to pursue, and like you said, she approached you. If she couldn't be bothered to tell you want she wanted, then fuck it."
Jim fought the urge to kick his feet in frustration, but he couldn't stop the whine that escaped. "But I hate having mysteries on my hands!"
It was Leonard's turn to scrub his face with both hands. "Yeah, I get that Jim, but lemme ask you something: do you want to talk to Carol?"
"Do you want to talk to your ex-girlfriend?" Leonard leaned forward, eyes keen and bright. "Listen, Jim, I can only speak from personal experience here. But if I could avoid talking to my ex-wife for the rest of eternity, I sure as hell would. The fact that you haven't talked to this ex-girlfriend in a decade, and the fact that you look like you want to hurl when you talk about her makes me think that maaaybe you're not that interested in having a conversation with the woman. So why try?"
"Because... I don't know who that lady was, or how she got my name, or what she has to do with my past?"
Leonard shrugged. "Does it matter?"
Jim froze, unsure of how to answer. "Uh... I..."
"Did she subpoena you?"
"Has your credit score taken a hit? Would you even notice? Why worry about it? If the lady didn't want to talk to you, and she didn't leave contact information, why worry about it?"
Jim's mouth worked silently for a moment. He really didn't have an answer for that. "Because... I have to have everything in a nice, neat tidy little package?"
"Jim," Leonard said. He plopped some cash on the table and stood up. "Let it go. Take a deep breath, and let. It. Go."
Jim took a deep breath, and he did let it go. He let go of the idea of looking Carol up. He let go of the weird conversation on Sunday. He let go of the frankly insulting way this Christine Marcus person, if that's who she was, had turned tail and ran from him. He let go of his concerns about his already bad habits exploding out of control with the reintroduction of Carol. He let go of it all, and found that he was nearly at peace. All he needed was another cigarette. And maybe a plate of tiramisu to go.