Scene Nine

Lights come up on the Sad Café about forty minutes after we leave MAXINE, JEFFREY and COLIN at JEFFREY's home. BELLE and BRENDAN are standing behind the counter together talking, and ARTHUR is giving them a hard time. GINNY is waiting a table where two young women are sitting, and GINNY looks alternately jealous of BRENDAN's attention to BELLE, and relieved that she's away from ARTHUR.

BELLE: No, you'll laugh.

BRENDAN: I swear, I won't laugh.

BELLE: You can't swear not to laugh if you really don't know what I'm gonna say. It isn't fair to you.

BRENDAN: Look at it this way. I don't have a living, so whatever you do can't be all that pathetic to me.

BELLE: You're an artist.

BRENDAN: Arthur calls me a drifter.

ARTHUR: Hey, drifter. Are you gonna finish that sign or what?

BELLE: Arthur's an asshole.

ARTHUR: Aw.

across the room, at GINNY's table

GINNY: Order?

LISA: Um…

CARRIE: Can I have the fries?

LISA: Which fries?

CARRIE: Curly fries.

GINNY: Right, curly fries, and…is that all?

CARRIE: No, no, curly fries and the beef burger…

GINNY: We only make a beef burger.

LISA: Why don't you make a turkey burger?

GINNY: Why on earth would we make a turkey burger?

LISA: For people who don't eat meat!

GINNY: Turkey is, in fact, meat.

LISA: Oh, you know what I mean…

GINNY: Kay, so, the BEEF burger, the curly fries…

back behind the counter

BRENDAN: You're not serious.

BELLE: Really? Oh thank god, I was worried for a while that this might actually BE my life.

BRENDAN: You're a writer?

BELLE: Guilty.

BRENDAN: What have you written?

BELLE: Nothing you've read.

BRENDAN: No, for real, what have you written?

BELLE: (with a hint of sarcasm in the "for real") For real, not your kind of literature. I'm a kid's writer. You know. Toddler fiction. Picture books.

BRENDAN: I'm incredulous. I'm intrigued.

BELLE: (more amused than disturbed) You're a little creepy.

ARTHUR: You just picked up on that?

BELLE: (to ARTHUR) You're a little creepy too.

ARTHUR: Damn straight. And I'll go all creepy on your ass if you don't stop talking to this boy and let him get back to work.

BELLE: Do you ever drop the scary boss act?

BRENDAN: Didn't you used to work here?

BELLE: Right, stupid question.

BRENDAN: Who illustrates for you?

BELLE: I do.

BRENDAN: Yeah? Can I see?

BELLE: No.

BRENDAN: For real.

BELLE: No, you cannot see my illustrations.

ARTHUR: I want to see.

BELLE: (Alarmed) YOU want to see?

ARTHUR: Yeah, let's see it. Let's see what you've been doing with yourself all this time.

BELLE: The point is the story, not the pictures.

BRENDAN: A picture is worth a thousand words.

BELLE: Yeah, well, no single page of these is more than a hundred…so a picture might be wasted.

ARTHUR: We're still waiting. Chop chop, girl.

BELLE: What do you expect me to do, drive home and pick up a copy? Or, sure, I'll just pop over to the nearest bookstore…oh, haha, wait, I'm unpublished!

ARTHUR: That's pretty lame.

BRENDAN: (encouragingly) I'd wait for you to get one from home.

BELLE: (while glaring at ARTHUR, who is snickering) You're both being idiots. There will be no showcase of Belle's work. Kapish?

BRENDAN: (let down) Of course, if you really don't want to…

BELLE: I don't.

ARTHUR: She doesn't.

BRENDAN: Right, got that.

At this opportune moment, COLIN comes bursting in followed by JEFFREY and an anxious looking MAXINE. JEFFREY and ARTHUR eye each other dubiously, while MAXINE beams at everyone. COLIN makes a bee line for BELLE, who blinks, and then waves an apprehensive hello.

BELLE: Oh. Hello…Colin.

BRENDAN: Hi! Can we help you?

ARTHUR: If you want to order, you have to go to the OTHER side of the counter.

COLIN: We've met.

ARTHUR: I know.

COLIN: Old friends don't get a special dispensation?

ARTHUR: (pointedly) Old friends might.

BELLE: (avoiding and ignoring pretense) So I guess you got a call from work.

COLIN: Yeah. I did.

BELLE: I feel that playing hookie every now and again adds some variety to one's life…

GINNY: (from across the room) Hear hear!

COLIN: And you weren't planning on saying anything? You were just gonna let me worry about it?

BELLE: Why should you worry about it?

COLIN: What else do you expect me to do when I get a call saying you've gone missing?

BELLE: Nobody said anything about me going missing.

COLIN: You weren't where anyone expected you to be.

BELLE: (starting to get pissed off) Wasn't aware that I had a curfew.

COLIN: Don't be juvenile.

BELLE: And after THAT you tell me not to be juvenile? You're the one who started acting like I'm a recalcitrant sixteen year old who took the car out after midnight.

JEFFREY: Colin.

COLIN: And you don't think it's reasonable for me to want to know if you're okay?

BELLE: You don't want to know if I'm okay! As long as you're sure that I'm not fucking somebody else, okay doesn't have anything to do with it. Haven't we already had this conversation?

JEFFREY: Christ.

BELLE: I mean, when was the last time you asked me if I was okay and meant something other than "are we okay?"

COLIN: You're getting emotional.

BELLE: I cannot believe this conversation is actually happening. It sounds like something out of a fucking "men are from mars, women are from venus" romantic comedy. Only it's getting less and less funny by the second.

COLIN: It's not supposed to be funny.

BELLE: Damn straight!

Pause. BELLE looks at ARTHUR, who raises an eyebrow at her. BELLE takes a moment to regain her composure, while COLIN looks a bit out of his league and embarrassed in the middle of all these people.

ARTHUR: Do you want me to throw him out?

JEFFREY: What? No. Of course she doesn't.

ARTHUR looks at BELLE, and doesn't need her to respond to know the right answer.

ARTHUR (to COLIN Get out.

COLIN: Absolutely not.

ARTHUR: (For the first time being really, legitimately scary, rather than just curmudgeony) Get. The fuck. Out of my café. Now.

COLIN opens his mouth to protest, then notices that BELLE is staring at him expectantly as if she's waiting to see his reaction. He nods, swallows, turns on his heel and walks out of the café. BELLE watches hi go without flinching.

As the door closes behind him, JEFFREY looks horrified, BRENDAN looks absolutely bemused, and ARTHUR looks at BELLE. It is finally MAXINE and GINNY who break the tableau and do something constructive. GINNY goes behind the counter to get the food for the customers, who are staring wide-eyeed at BELLE and ARTHUR. MAXINE takes JEFFREY by the hand, and starts pulling him in the same direction as GINNY.

MAXINE: I've always been curious what it looks like back there.

JEFFREY: It looks like…everything else in here, actually.

MAXINE: (under her breath) Would you move, please?

JEFFREY: (taken aback by her unfamiliar tone of command) Yeah, okay. Sorry.

BELLE and ARTHUR are left standing in front of the counter by themselves, still looking at the door. ARTHUR strolls over to the table and addresses the two gawking women.

ARTHUR: The show was costs extra, by the way.

LISA: Pardon me?

BELLE comes to join him, and inserts herself in front of him.

BELLE: Actually, today it's complimentary. Are you being served?

CARRIE: We've already ordered. Is everything okay? Should we order again? I wanted to beef-

BELLE: No, everything's fine. Your food will be right with you.

BELLE and ARTHUR walk a little farther away from the two women to have their conversation, while the rest of the cast continues to putz around behind the counter.

BELLE: Don't say anything.

ARTHUR: (shrugging) Okay.

Scene.