Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Manchild

Category: Issue 19

Darcy walked into his study without bothering to knock, as was her wont. Marcus sat at his computer, reading today’s stock quotes and entering the data into his market tables. From the three month moving averages, it looked like a slight uptick for Google, Pfizer, and Dell tomorrow. That’s where he’d put his money. The market had been quiet for months, and that’s when his investment program worked the best.

“I thought I should move in,” she said, interrupting his concentration. He hadn’t even heard her enter.

He felt the chair rock. She had kicked it with her foot. “Did you hear me?”

He turned around in his chair. She looked down at him with a mixture of amusement and irritation.

He stood and faced her. “Yes, I heard you.”

“Well?” she said, placing her hands on her hips. She’s impulsive and beautiful, he thought.

Darcy craned her neck to meet his gaze. “I could help you pay the rent every month,” she said quickly. “I’ve still got some money left, and I’m looking for a job…and I absolutely hate my apartment.”

She knew Marcus didn’t need the money. He was only seventeen, but so damnably self sufficient! It intrigued her, and annoyed her.

Marcus looked at the woman in front of him and felt a surge of electricity go through every cell in his body. She wasn’t like any other girl in school, probably because she was older. He didn’t have any patience with them, even though he got along OK with them. But he couldn’t get too close, or they might start asking questions. He needed one more year until he was legally an adult, and could buy this house, get the nervous landlord off his back, finish high school, and take control of his life. For that reason, he had deliberately not made too many friends at the school, male or female, holding everyone at arms length. Thank God dad had left him the password to his personal trading account at Merrill Lynch before he died.

And it was good she’d offered to help him with the expenses, he thought. He didn’t like the idea of anyone mooching off him, least of all a girl.

Marcus made his decision. “I’ve got two spare bedrooms,” he said, “take your pick.”

She stepped forward and threw her arms around his neck. He’s gorgeous, she thought. I could do a lot worse than this manchild. “I thought I’d move into your room,” she said. “Unless you’re gay, that is.”

If she thought to get a rise out of him, she was disappointed. “No,” Marcus said, laughing into her brown eyes. “I’m definitely not gay.” The thought of her in his bed made him shiver with anticipation.

She stepped away and smiled at him, an alluring feminine smile that challenged him, and invited him at the same time. She seemed to be saying, ‘Let’s see if you can handle me.’  Then she walked quickly out of the room. Marcus heard the front door close and a car engine start.

Now how did that happen? He asked himself. He had just gotten himself a roommate.


Two hours later Marcus was still at the computer, researching a new stock. He heard a car door slam and then the thud of something hitting the hardwood floor in the foyer. After several minutes, Marcus heard the sound of hard, quick footsteps and his door opened violently. It crashed against the plaster wall, the handle making a little dent in the plaster. A flake of it fell onto the throw rug. Marcus noticed things like that.

“How about a little help?” she said, angrily. “I’m your roommate now!”

“OK.” Marcus brushed by her, not meeting her eyes. The last thing he wanted was an argument. He went out to the car and grabbed two heavy boxes from the big trunk, lifting them easily and placing them next to one which had cracked open, spilling its contents onto the floor. Marcus said nothing and Darcy watched from the porch as he lifted the last of the boxes from the trunk, walking them into the house and setting them gently upon the floor. He was very tall, yet moved with the grace of a ballet dancer, and she noticed with approval how wide his shoulders were. At 17, he was already a man, at least physically, she thought.

Darcy did not offer to help, and he said nothing. She was tired after having to haul her stuff up a flight of stairs into the car from her basement apartment. It was apparent to her that he understood and that no words were necessary. She liked the fact that he got her, and didn’t make a fuss. After three more trips he had unloaded the car. Marcus turned and walked back into his study.

He heard the sound of grating cardboard on the finished hardwood floor, and jumped out of his chair, running into the hallway. “What do you think you’re doing? You’re ruining my floor!” he cried, pointing to the scratches in the finish.

In response, she kicked a box with her foot, making another six inch scratch.

“We’re not getting off to a very good start,” he said.

“I’ll say. What kind of a guy won‘t help his girl unpack her heavy stuff?”

“You didn’t have to wreck my floor,” he said, irritated. He’d sanded and refinished it himself, learning this skill from his father, who’d done the same on his own floors. This was not at all the kind of roommate he had envisioned, but he was pleased that she had referred to herself as his girl. It made him feel needed, and important.

She kicked one of the offending boxes. “Take this one into the kitchen,” she commanded, pointing to a box that had “Fragile, dishes” written on it in black magic marker.

“I already have dishes,” he said.

“Oh, you mean those plastic things you probably got at a garage sale?” she said contemptuously. “These are real china, and I’ll remind you to take good care of them.”

He just looked at her, his eyes saying, ‘That’s why you just kicked the crap out of them.’

“They’re packed very well,” she said, as if that explained everything perfectly.

He shook his head and smiled wearily, like a father to a rambunctious child, towering over her.

Ooooohh, Marcus Riley, she thought to herself, a flush of red infusing her cheeks, don’t ever do that again or I’ll slap you silly!

Marcus saw her reaction and laughed, infuriating her even more. She had spirit and spunk, he thought, and something in his heart melted just a little.

Darcy calmed herself and looked up at him, gazing down at her, completely sure of himself.

“How did you get to be so self confident?” she asked him, angry but curious.

Marcus shrugged. “I’ve always been that way,” he said. “And my parents didn’t beat it out of me.”

Darcy hung her head for a moment. Yeah, not like mine, she thought.

Marcus stepped forward, put his finger under her chin and gently raised her head. “Cheer up!” he said.

She smiled. Maybe it’s going to be all right, she thought. Maybe she finally found a good guy. A voice in the back of her mind said, ‘Is there such a thing?’ She turned abruptly and left the room.

Marcus saw a tear running down her cheek. Did I say something? he wondered. He lifted the boxes and placed them in the appropriate rooms, each one having its destination written on the top. Then he went back to the computer and planned the next day’s trading cycle.


Two hours later he walked out of his study and into his bedroom. It had been transformed. Darcy had taken the spare bureau, which had been his mother’s,  for her own. On it he saw perfume, lipstick, a large jewelry case, and a vase of flowers. A mirror hung over the dresser, and Marcus unhooked it, expecting to see a bent nail hanging precariously from cracked plaster. Instead, she had carefully drilled two holes and installed anchors in each one. The mirror’s wire was securely fastened to two screws protruding from the anchors. ‘Not bad,’ he thought. He had been so immersed in his research that he had been only dimly aware of her movements about the house.

He replaced the mirror and saw three wall hangings, each one firmly secured. A nature scene, a photograph of da Vinci’s pieta, and one of those Dutch masterpiece paintings hung above the bed. Marcus went over and examined the painting, kneeling on the bed and admiring the incredible detail of every stroke. Just then he noticed that the old grey bedspread had been replaced by one in pastels. The flowers from the bureau filled the air with a pleasant fragrance.

Well, he thought, it sure didn’t take her long to make her mark. He thought about the nick in the plaster in his study, and chuckled to himself. His new roommate was beginning to grow on him a little.

Marcus looked around the bedroom and decided it was an improvement. A big improvement. She had not over decorated, but had given the space a feminine touch.  He smiled and walked around the house, intending to complement her, but he could not find her. He looked out the big picture window in the living room to the driveway, but the silver BMW was not there.

Marcus walked into the kitchen and read the time from the clock above the table. 7:15, and he hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast. He always skipped lunch at school, using the hour to do his market trading, and avoiding contact with the other kids.

Where was she? Oh well, he’d order a pizza.

Just as he was about to pick up the phone, he heard car wheels screeching in the driveway. Darcy appeared in the kitchen with a big paper bag that smelled really good. She slapped the bag on the kitchen table, got two plates from the cupboard and some silverware, and sat down.

“I found this great little Syrian restaurant at the mall,” she said, opening one of the plastic containers and spooning makmoor onto her plate.

“What’d you get me?” he asked, amazed that out of all the places in town, she’d found the Taste of Damascus. It was his favorite carryout place.

“I got you kibbe, babbaganouj, and tebooleh,” she said, pointing to his unopened container. “And some rice pudding for desert.”

Marcus sat across from her, watching her. She ate gracefully, out of habit, and unaware that he was staring at her, his plate untouched. She had gotten him the only four things he had ever eaten from the Damascus, as if they’d lived together for years. Once Marcus decided he liked something, he could rarely bring himself to change.

“How did you know what I liked?” he asked.

She looked up quickly and said, “I didn’t.” Then she resumed eating.


After dinner, Darcy put the dishes in the dishwasher and cleaned the table and the sink. Point for her, Marcus thought. He liked things neat. He went to the bathroom and when he came out, she had left again. Well, she was unpredictable, he thought, and he didn’t own her. He just would have liked to know where she went.

He did his homework and then sat on the couch, turning on the History Channel. Tonight was the conclusion to the series on the rise and fall of the Roman empire, and he didn’t want to miss it. However, every 15 minutes he found himself looking out the window, expecting to see Darcy’s car, and he grew more and more worried.

He slapped himself mentally. She’s 21 years old, he thought, and can take care of herself. Maybe she’d decided to sleep at her furnished apartment tonight one last time.  He was disappointed, and realized that he’d felt a sense of excitement and anticipation all day. He’d assigned that to the normal feeling of eagerness he always had about the next day’s trading. Would his predictive model make him money, or would he lose? Would he be able to make even finer adjustments to his predictive algorithms? But that wasn’t it. He understood that Darcy was the main source of his feelings. The thought of her next to him made him suddenly anxious. He’d never made love to a girl before, and she probably had a lot of experience. How would he stack up next to her other lovers?

Marcus didn’t like the queasy feeling in his stomach. He’d never been at a loss in any situation, even that time in grade school he’d been attacked on the way home by three older kids. He’d gotten his licks in and wound up with a broken nose, but, strangely, he hadn’t been afraid. When he felt the first punch, his nerves calmed and he stepped outside of himself. He saw his own body and his attackers as if watching in a movie theater, and although he was at that time unskilled, had been able to inflict enough damage that he had, from that point on, been left alone. And that’s just the way he liked it. That incident, seven years ago, had been the impetus for his study of Tai Chi and martial arts.

At 11 the show was over and Marcus shoved the recordable disk back into its sleeve. He had hardly been able to pay attention to the last half hour of the program, thinking about Darcy. He went to bed; disappointed, worried, and angry that his new roommate hadn’t bothered to include him in her plans.

Sometime later that night, he heard the bedroom door open softly. A light sleeper, Marcus was instantly awake. In the dark he heard the fall of her clothing to the floor, and then the sheet was pulled back. He was lying on his side, and in the dark, could not see her. “Hi,” she said cheerfully.

“Are you all right?” he asked, worry showing in his voice.

Darcy was thrilled. “Did you miss me?”

“Damn right I missed you!” Marcus said. “You didn’t tell me where you were going or…”

Her fingers touched his lips and he quieted. Mission accomplished, she thought. Then she kissed him.

“You’re not wearing any clothes,” she said.

“I always sleep naked,” Marcus replied, a little jealous, and miffed that he didn’t know where she’d been or what she’d done.  Had she been with another guy? These were emotions foreign to him, but he could not deny that he felt them. “You’re not wearing any either,” he said.

“That’s right,” she replied, pressing herself against him.

Marcus’ anger evaporated as her arms closed around him…

Posted by kjmaclean on 08/05 at 09:34 PM | Permalink
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