As You Wish
Barry was vegetating on the couch with a bag of Fritos in his lap and a can of coke in his hand watching the tube when the doorbell rang. He was slightly annoyed at the interruption disturbing his freedom and independence of enjoying an empty house but he answered the door anyway.
"When's the party starting?" It was Marcia Leavitt, his longtime classmate and sporadic friend.
"Party?" Barry asked with confusion, squinting at her.
"Your parents are gone for the weekend and no party?" She laughed, pushing past him and stepping into the house.
"How'd you know my parents were gone?" Barry asked with surprise, closing the door and following her into the living room. She had gone to the portable bar and was looking for something to drink.
"I saw your sister at the Pizza House the other day," Marcia replied. "Syracuse and Notre Dame, huh? Impressive."
"Just checking out the campuses," Barry said, giving Marcia the long eye. She was still the same princess he knew from his childhood – curly blond hair, dimples, that wonderful smile and delightful laugh. But she did look a little weather beaten from her partying ways, her face slightly drawn and even pouchy
"What are you doing here?" He asked, never sure of her intentions in recent years.
"I told you, I thought there'd be a party," Marcia giggled.
"You know I don't party," he frowned. "Besides, who would come to my party?"
"I would," she smiled, pouring a glass of something before heading to the couch. "Sit with me," she instructed.
"Why aren't you out partying with what's his name?" Barry wanted to know, refusing to acknowledge the stuck up bastard's name.
"Don't worry about him," Marcia smiled. "Tonight, I'm here with you."
"Why?" He asked suspiciously as he sat next to her on the couch, always cautious of being used by his sometimes needy friend.
"When are you shipping out to Navy boot camp?" She sounded sad.
"Two weeks," he answered.
"I'm going to miss you," Marcia sighed.
"I've been missing you for the last four years," he said.
"Be nice," she pleaded.
"You haven't had time for me in quite a while," he said.
"It's not my fault you chose to hide in the shadows," Marcia pouted. .
"You weren't about to be seen in public with a nerd like me," Barry pointed out, trying not to sound bitter.
"I cheered you on in the marching band," she defended. "I went to the chorus recitals. I saw one of your tennis matches!"
"Thanks," he said sarcastically.
"So I've been preoccupied with other things," she defensively admitted. "It's not as if we're not friends anymore."
"As long as nobody else knows," Barry frowned.
"I'm not a snob, Barry-Bear," she insisted.
"But you do have an image to protect," he said with hurt in his voice.
"It's been hard, you know," Marcia sighed. "My parent's divorce. I've really been vulnerable and wounded. You're the only one who understands. Who listens."
"It's easy to relate to your stuff with my Dad being disabled for the last ten years," Barry said. "Any major change in the family can be traumatic and create problems. I understand that."
"I hate my mother," Marcia announced, downing the rest of her drink.
"Is that why you've been acting out so much the last few years?" Barry challenged.
"I haven't been acting out!" Marcia insisted as she headed back to the bar to pour another drink.
"Everybody around school knew you were the party girl," Barry said. "There were all sorts of rumors and innuendos about your reputation."
"Fuck those assholes," Marcia snapped. Then she laser beamed her focus on him. "Do you believe them?"
"I know the real Marcia," he assured her.
She only poured a half a glass this time and she dumped more seltzer water in than the first time. "High school's over," she said with relief. "I get to start all over at Zoo-Mass."
"That's a party school," he warned.
Marcia returned to the couch and sat closer to him this time. "Don't worry about me, Barry-Bear," she purred. "I'll always be your Princess Bride."
"Did you read that book?" Barry asked hopefully.
"Of course," she smirked. "I read all the presents you give me."
"You'll end up marrying Prince Humperdinck," Barry sighed. "I could never be a Wesley."
"You're my Wesley," she smiled.
"The thing about that book is that the writer – William Goldman – makes up this whole thing about an older version being written by someone else which is all fiction as part of the satire," Barry explained with fascination. "He came up with the idea for The Princess Bride after bedtime stories he used to tell his kids."
"It would make a good movie," Marcia said.
Barry was staring at her. "I worry about you," he admitted.
"Don't," she pleaded.
"Are you going to be okay?"
She looked into his eyes. "Yes," she promised. "I'm going to be okay."
He took the glass from her hand and put it on the coffee table in front of them. "You don't have to drink when you're with me," he said quietly.
Her eyes watered. "I know," she whispered, leaning into him until their foreheads rested together. "You're the best," she told him.
"I'm glad you came over," Barry said. "I was feeling lonely."
"Are you scared about joining the Navy?" She asked, her breath warm on his face with the scent of the booze she had consumed.
"No," he said. "I'm ready for the challenge."
"Humperdinck thinks President Ford is going to cause problems with Cambodia because of the Mayaguez incident," Marcia worried.
"I'm sure it will be fine," Barry said. "Nobody is going to want to cause problems with Vietnam so fresh on everybody's memory."
"Just be careful," Marcia pleaded.
"Humperdinck would never join the military," Barry said.
"He's pretty much a rich pinko," Marcia agreed.
"But you won't break up with him," Barry sighed.
She finally moved her forehead away from his. "He takes care of me," she said.
"I'd take care of you," Barry told her with conviction.
"I know," she said, glancing at the television. "Anything on tonight?" She asked.
"I thought the Movie Loft was going to be on WSBK-TV38 but there's a Red Sox game instead," he said. "I think The Six Million Dollar Man and The Rockford Files might be on the other channels."
"I don't want to watch TV," Marcia decided. "Let's go do something."
"Go for a ride," she said, standing. "You haven't been in my new car yet."
"I can't believe your father bought you a new car for graduation," Barry said.
"Guilt for all the family drama," she explained. She gestured at the Fritos bag. "Grab that and get some more snacks and cokes from the kitchen," she instructed before starting for the door.
"You've been drinking," Barry warned as he headed for the kitchen.
"I'm fine," she insisted. "I've built up quite a tolerance these past few years," she added with clear self-deprecation.
Barry stopped in the kitchen to catch his breath. Sometimes he loved Marcia and sometimes he hated her. Sometimes he wanted her and sometimes he rejected her. Sometimes he was jealous of her, other times he longed for her. Sometimes she was full of shit, other times she was sensitive and exposed. Sometimes she was distant and detached, other times she was open and wanting. The bottom line was she liked him but not in the way he wanted her to like him and that left him feeling sad and lonely.
"Can we pretend this is a date?" Barry asked hopefully when he returned from the kitchen, his arms full with a package of Oreos, a bag of potato chips, four cans of coke, and the previously opened Fritos.
Marcia looked at him with a sympathetically forlorn look on her face. "Sure, Barry," she said quietly. "We can pretend this is a date."