Author’s Note: The name, Günther, means ‘war’ or ‘battle’.
This is written with great respect, love and gratitude for the talents of Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, and everyone involved in of Once Upon A Time. I do not own these characters, nor do I own the songs mentioned in this story.
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Epilogue
Though feeling a bit battle weary after a long day of negotiations with clients and suppliers of Storybrooke Printing, Izzy-B lives for the deal and the exhilaration that comes with a well-played agreement. However coming down from the rush, she would like nothing more than to go home…well almost nothing more. Plans for future interactions with Mr. Gold will have to be well calculated to optimize effect. Now, unfortunately, she has a date; fix up to be exact. She casually wonders if it would be worth an ambulance ride to walk out in front of a car just to avoid this date. Why had she agreed? Why had she caved to her friends badgering? She had resisted dating Günther for years. Why had their well-meaning, yet offensive pleas of “You’re thirty years old! You need someone!” worked? Begrudgingly, she walks to Granny’s Diner as though walking to the gallows.
Sometime later, Mr. Gold closes his pawn shop. However instead of turning to go home as usual, he finds himself walking to Granny’s Diner with lingering thoughts of cinnamon buns in his head. Hardly anyone is on the street of this quiet little town. Through the window, he sees her; Izzy-B French. She is having dinner with a handsome, rugged looking man with short dark hair. She is on a date, he surmises. He thinks to himself, “Of course she is, you fool! She’s magnificent!” Readying himself to turn for home, he lingers long enough for one last look at her lovely face. Then it hits him…she is wearing a plastic smile and a dead expression in her eyes. He smirks as he thinks, “Hell, I got more of a rise out of her this morning when she was playing her little game.” Mr. Gold is under no illusion that she was in actual fact flirting with him. No, he thinks she was likely showing off for her friend the waitress…but still her eyes danced as she captivated him with her pastry gambit. Upon further observation, he notices something else intriguing about the scene; many of the Storybrooke’s residents are also in the diner, watching the date without any attempt to be subtle. His initial reaction is to be repelled by their rudeness, however after giving it more thought he decides if this is what passes for a spectator sport in Storybrooke, he certainly is not going to pass the grand opportunity to brazenly gaze upon Izzy-B’s lovely face. Nothing could be made of it, as everybody else is doing it too, perhaps not for the same reason.
Upon entering the diner, Mr. Gold takes a seat at the counter that offers him the best vantage point of Izzy-B’s face and the date in progress. She appears utterly bored as her date rambles on, oblivious to her disinterest. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Mary Margret, the drably dressed school teacher with extremely short dark hair. He overhears Mary Margret say to Ruby, “She’s not even trying. Go over there and prod her a bit.” Ruby smiles slyly, “I’m on it.”
With her chin in her palm, Izzy-B stares blankly at Günther as he rambles on about his high school football glories. She grinds her teeth as she thinks, “Good God! It’s been fifteen years…get over it!” Nodding and smiling politely, she sees Ruby approaching. Ruby interrupts brightly, “Hey guys, how’s it going? Ya need anything?” Günther checks out the waitress in her red short-shorts. Upon looking up to Ruby, Izzy-B observes Mr. Gold at the counter watching…with the rest of the Storybrooke peanut gallery. There seems to be something different about the way he watches, something more comforting, yet he is the last person that she wants seeing her on a date. Trying to focus, she says, “Thanks, Ruby! I think we’re good for now.” Ruby announces, “You know, you two have a lot in common.” Izzy-B gawks at her, wondering where she could possibly be going with this. Ruby continues, “Günther has a dog, and Izzy-B has dogs.” Taking the sledgehammer of a hint, Izzy-B, says brightly, “Oh yes, my dogs, Diva and Moon Dancer, are my life! Tell me about your dog.” Shifting in an irritated fashion, Günther spins the salt shaker and says, “I don’t have it any more. I used to take that mutt everywhere. I used to let him ride in the back of my truck, while I’d fly down the road. One day the ungrateful beast puked and crapped all over the bed of my truck. Weak willed mongrel! So I dropped him off in the woods. After all, they came from wolves, right? He can fend for himself.”
Mr. Gold watches as Izzy-B’s eyes become like fire, and her lips clench tight, as she balls a napkin in her hand. Archie enters the diner and meekly approaches Mary Margret, asking “So what did I miss?” Mary Margret shakes her head and says, “Günther said something that rubbed Izzy-B the wrong way. Just waiting for a report from Ruby.” Just then, Ruby interjects, “I tried. I brought up the subject of dogs. People bond over animals, you know. Well, turns out Günther’s dog blew chunks in the back of his truck, so he dumped the dog in the woods.” Mr. Gold scoffs thinking, “Why are they trying to force a relationship between someone as cerebral as Miss French and that cretin?” Archie offers meekly, “I don’t know if it’s healthy for all of us to gawk at her on her dates.” Ruby waves her hand dismissively, “This is a small town, and we need entertainment. Now, the question is how does she dump this one?” Mary Margret says in a reasoned tone, “Look, just because they had a bumpy start, doesn’t mean it won’t work out. She just can’t go flitting around the single life forever. She’s lonely. I can tell.” Ruby walks over to a booth next to Izzy-B’s and Günther’s to wait on customers and eavesdrop. The last part of Mary Margret’s statement catches Mr. Gold’s attention. He thinks, “Lonely? Is it possible for a woman that amazing to be lonely?…like the rest of us?” The thought never crossed his mind. In his eyes, she can have any man that she wants. The mere idea that she could be lonely pains him, as guilt rushes over him for staring at her like some sideshow. He turns away, deciding to read the menu.
As Günther rambles on about trucks and cars that he has rebuilt, Izzy-B’s eyes drift to Mr. Gold. Something in his expression makes her heart beat fast. There is a look of sorrow in his eyes, and then he turns away to look at the menu. She has never seen him actually look at the diner’s menu. Pulling herself away from thoughts of Mr. Gold, she asks, interrupting the monolog, “Günther, what genre of music do you like?”
“Huh?”, he grunts.
“I mean, what kind of music do you like?”, she clarifies.
“You know, the classics.”
Izzy-B smiles unexpectedly.
“She’s smiling!”, Mary Margret whispers excitedly.
Mr. Gold cannot restrain the impulse to see.
Günther continues, “The Beastie Boys are the best.”
The light in Izzy-B’s expression is extinguished and replaced by shock.
Günther says, “’(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)’ really spoke to me.”, banging a fist on the table, as he continues, “They better make it into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame this year.”
Rubbing her forehead, Izzy-B sarcastically says, “Yeah really, The Beatles are nothing in comparison to The Beastie Boys.”, and then takes a long sip of her iced tea.
Putting up his hand, as if waiting for a ‘high five’, Günther says proudly, “My thoughts exactly! I’m glad we think alike!” Izzy-B’s cheeks puff and eyes bug out and water, as she forces her lips tightly closed in order to not spray Günther with iced tea. He starts talking again, but she doesn’t notice the topic, as she chugs the remainder of her tea. She interrupts, “Excuse me. I have to go get another drink.” He counters, “Can’t that chick in the hot pants get it for you. It’s her job, you know.” Izzy-B quickly replies, “She’s busy, and I need a drink now.” After she leaves, just for fun, Günther starts loosening the lids on the sugar, salt, pepper, ketchup and mustard.
Izzy-B dashes to Mary Margret, not caring that Mr. Gold is within ear shot, because all her pride is gone at this moment. Grabbing a butter knife, Izzy-B says, “Quick, help me slit my wrist!” Mary Margret raises an eyebrow, “It’s a butter knife.” In a sharp whisper, Izzy-B says, “I don’t care if you have to kill me with a spoon! Just put an end to it!” Mary Margret chuckles at her friend’s theatrics, and says, “What was so bad?” Izzy-B takes a breath and says, “After talking on and on and on about his high school football days and trucks and cars, I thought I’d try. I really did. I asked him about his musical tastes, and apparently The Beastie Boys are his favorite.” Mary Margret scolds, “So you just ran over here and left him.” Holding her head high, Izzy-B says, “No, I drank all my tea and told him I needed to get some more.” With a stern look, Mary Margret motions to Ruby, “Please get her another iced tea, so she can go back over there and actually try to have a pleasant date.” Izzy-B sees Mr. Gold out of the corner of her eye, as she does her best to avoid eye contact. Ruefully, she thinks, “Seriously? Why did he have to be here tonight, of all nights?” Ruby hands her the iced tea, as Mary Margret says, “Now, go over there, be pretty, be funny and have a nice date.” Glaring at her, Izzy-B sarcastically says, “Yes, mother.”
Izzy-B takes a deep breath, smiles politely and seats herself across from her date. Günther says, “You like animals, right?” Smiling genuinely, she says, “Yes, I love animals.” Proudly he says, “Then you’ll love this.”, as he extends his arm to show her a photograph on his phone. She leans in enthusiastically. Her face turns to horror, clamping a hand over her mouth, muffling a scream at the sight of a fox with its leg bloody and mangled in a steel trap. Oblivious, he says, “Isn’t it a beauty? I got the little bugger stuffed and sitting on the mantle of my fireplace.” He grins lasciviously, “I can show you later, if you want.” Holding back tears, she says, “Uh, I’ve got to go. I’m not feeling well.” He cringes saying, “It’s not that time of the month, is it?” Initially repulsed that his mind would automatically go there, she then decides to go with it, saying, “Yes, as a matter of fact it is, and if I don’t leave soon, something really bad will happen.”, and then she thinks, “Like I’ll choke you!” Grabbing her purse hurriedly, unaware that her day planner has fallen out, she rushes towards the door. Mary Margret and Ruby stop her, and before they can ask, she exclaims in a whisper, “Trapping animals in steel jaws, then stuffing them, does NOT count as loving animals!!!” The two women solemnly move out of the way. Very aware of Mr. Gold’s presence, Izzy-B closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and then looks Mr. Gold in the eyes and says, “Good evening, Mr. Gold.” With a sympathetic expression, he nods and says, “Good evening, Miss French.” Izzy-B leaves quickly with her head held high and a screaming migraine.
By the time she arrives home, the small house that she rents from Mr. Gold, Izzy-B is furious. She fears all her work to make her own name and get her life in order has imploded in one night with one disastrous date in full view of Mr. Gold. She thinks, “Four years…four bloody years of waiting. Just to have that idiot Gaston blow it! Gaston?…No, the pea-brain’s name is Günther.” She questions where the name Gaston came from, but then remembers that the print shop is publishing a new rendition of the children’s book, “Beauty and the Beast.” Refocusing her attention on those who got her into this mess, she wonders why her friends won’t leave her alone? That cinnamon bun interlude had worked perfectly. Now, after seeing her come unglued in front of him, is this carefully crafted ‘woman in control’ persona gone from Mr. Gold’s vision of her? What must he think of her now? Why does it matter? Why has it mattered for years what Mr. Gold thinks? Talking to herself in frustration, she says, “I don’t even know his first name. Why do I care? Why do I want him so badly?”
Mr. Gold strolls home, reliving the evening’s events. While part of him liked seeing Izzy-B off her game, not so in control, a larger part felt guilt for participating in the humiliation of such a stunning woman. He never wanted to see her humiliated, in fact he just wanted to see her, and yet, the grief stricken expression on her face plagues his thoughts. He keeps going back to Mary Margret’s observation that Izzy-B is lonely and ponders, if indeed it is the truth.
Izzy-B having let her hair fall loose, changed out of her work clothes into black sweatpants and a Talking Heads t-shirt, checks her voice-mail. The recording plays, “Isabelle, it’s your father. I’d like to talk to you…” Before the recording finishes, she stops it and begins talking to the machine, “No, dad, I’m not lending you money that I’ll never see again. It’s because your drinking and debt that I had to wait four freakin’ years to make my move. You always ruin anything good in my life. Well, not any more. I just have to recalculate my next move, so I don’t look like a blithering idiot to Mr. Gold.” She walks to the kitchen, touching the peace talisman hanging on the wall. Taking a deep breath, she says, “I can do this. This is fixable. One day soon, I’ll finally know what it’s like to have his arms around me and look at me with desire, not pity nor disdain.”
Later that night in bed flanked on either side by her dogs, Diva, a female black Belgian Groenendael with dense fur and a regal aura, and Moon Dancer, a male barrel-chested, silvery gray and black Keeshond, who is more fur than body with devoted eyes that seem to admire Izzy-B exclusively. As she drifts off, wrapped in the warmth of her canine companions, Izzy-B wonders, “Why can’t men be as simple as dogs?” Several blocks away, Mr. Gold lies in bed trying to ignore an intense craving for a cinnamon bun.
Four years earlier:
Izzy-B with her hair pulled back into a ponytail, dressed in a white button down blouse, burgundy suede blazer and fitted black jeans, with a cardboard box under her arm, stomps down the back stairs of the apartment above the flower shop that she shares with her father. Ruby and Mary Margret are waiting on the sidewalk. Izzy-B lets out a growl of frustration. Ruby pipes up, “Wow, so you’re really doing it! You’re finally moving out! What was the last straw?” Mary Margret gives Ruby a scolding look for her lack of tact. Izzy-B says in an infuriated tone, “Straw? Straw? It’s a whole freakin’ bale of hay! I’m tired of my life and who I am, being defined by being the daughter of town ‘screw up’. Moe French!” Mary Margret says demurely, “Yes, we understand that better than anyone, but why now? Sweetie, what happened?” Izzy-B closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, and then looks seriously at her friends, “Okay, here it is, but this goes no further…”, looking directly at Ruby, “you tell no one about this.” Both women nod in agreement. “Yesterday afternoon…oh God, this is embarrassing…my dad was going on and on about how much money he owes Mr. Gold. No surprise there, he owes everybody money, including me. Anyway, after he ranted for a while, he got that ‘I’ve got an idea’ look on his face that always means trouble. He said that since I’m currently ‘unattached’, perhaps I should strike up a ‘friendship’ with Mr. Gold, and that the ‘attentions of a pretty thing’ like me, might make Mr. Gold more lenient about his debt.” Ruby and Mary Margret stand dumbly with their mouths gaping. Izzy-B continues, “So I made some snotty comment about why go through all that trouble when I could just stand by a lamppost and sell it on the street. Then he said that I was making a big deal out of nothing, and well, I decided that I just can’t live in his shadow anymore.”
Ruby yells, “That dirty old bastard! He wanted you to go to bed with Gold to get him out of debt!” Izzy-B hushes Ruby, “Shush! For God’s sakes Ruby, remember I don’t want other people to know?!? Don’t broadcast it!” In a quieter tone, Ruby says, “Sorry…it’s just what kind of father wants their daughter sleeping with Mr. Gold?” Exasperated, Izzy-B says, “Way to miss the point, Ruby! It’s not about whom, but rather what he wanted me to do. I’d be upset no matter who it was.” Mary Margret chimes in, “True, but Mr. Gold, really? That’s like having you dressed in steak and feeding you to a crocodile.” Izzy-B retorts, “Hey, that’s quite an assumption! We don’t really know what Mr. Gold is like personally. It’s not fair for us to judge someone we don’t know.” Ruby snorts, “I know enough about that rat bastard as a landlord. I don’t want to know him personally.” Izzy-B is filled with annoyance at her friends’ closed minded attitudes. The truth is she wants to get to know Mr. Gold. She’s wanted to date him for quite some time. To her, he was more enticing than Brad Pitt and George Clooney combined, but if she pursued him now, with her father in middle of things, the relationship would be doomed to go up in flames. Mr. Gold would never really trust her, and what could be her one chance at real happiness would be ruined. No, she would have to wait now…wait to distance herself from her father and his appalling suggestion. Trying to figure out what to say to her friends, her eyes meet a happy distraction to save her from the topic at hand.
Striding over to the women is Sheriff Graham. With wavy light brown hair, piercing eyes, well-trimmed beard, and long toned legs encased in snug jeans, he is just the perfect eye candy to distract Mary Margret and Ruby. He greets them, “Ladies, how are you this fine day?” Izzy-B smirks, watching Mary Margret and Ruby salivate their salutations to Graham. He nods to them, then says to Izzy-B, “Ready for your beat down Sunday?” Smugly Izzy-B retorts, “Ha! Are you bringing someone else to help you spar against me?” He throws his head back in a laugh; before he can respond, she pulls a CD from her purse. His eyes become wide with excitement. Izzy-B presents it to him saying, “1973 rare release ‘Buckingham Nicks’. Play it ’til your ears bleed baby, and you’ll die a happy man.” Stunned, Graham says, “You’re amazing! How did you…”, and then he is interrupted by his cell phone ringing. He answers, “Uh, yes? Right away.” The three woman share a knowing look. He ends the call, but before he can speak, Izzy-B asks, “When you going to end it with Broomhilda?” He frowns, as Izzy-B continues, “Graham, you deserve better than the way Regina treats you.” Trying to throw her off her game, Graham replies, “You making an offer?” She smirks, “No, I don’t think you could handle me…but there are two beautiful ladies right here.” Taking their cue from Izzy-B, Mary Margret and Ruby playfully flank him on both sides, smiling and batting their eyelashes. He puts his arms around both of them and says, “Does this make me a rose between thorns?” He yelps, when Ruby pinches him.
Checking her watch, Izzy-B says, “Well, got to go. I’m looking at a house to rent, and I don’t want to be late.” Ruby says, “Bye. If we don’t see you in three days, we’ll know Gold locked you in the basement.” Izzy-B rolls her eyes, as Mary Margret and Graham mutter words of farewell and good luck, as Izzy-B rushes off.
She strides down the sidewalk to the prospective rental house, which is situated about midway between Gold’s shop and Gold’s pink ‘Victorian’ Queen Anne house. Real estate it’s all about…location…location…location! She feels herself tremble with nervousness, as her stomach twists like a washing machine. What is the power this man has over her? She can physically and verbally spar with Graham any day of the week without a twinge of hesitance. However, the mere thought of being around Mr. Gold makes it hard to breath and her body feel like it is made of jelly. She has only seen him during his breakfast stops at Granny’s Diner and the monthly visits to collect loan payments from her father. It is hardly enough create a crush, and yet he seems like catnip to a helpless kitten. “Remember Izzy-B, no flirting with him. Not yet…no matter how he looks or the rolling R’s when he speaks. No flirting!” Checking her watch again, she should arrive ten minutes early for their appointment. She will not risk being late.
Fifteen minutes before his scheduled appointment with Miss Isabelle French or Izzy-B French, as he has heard her called, Mr. Gold is doing a quick check of the little Cape Cod house that she intends to see. Why in the Hell are his palms sweating?!? She is a prospective tenant, and he is a landlord. He has the upper hand. He always has the upper hand. Everyone is intimidated by him, and he likes it that way. Why should she be any different? But she is different…she smiles at him most times she sees him. She has the good sense to be mortified by her father’s irresponsibility, instead of making excuses for it. His investigation of her work habits, purely for rental references (perhaps, not purely), reveal a hard worker, who worked her way up from the bottom at Storybrooke Printing to become Manager of the print shop. She is business savvy and known for driving an occasional hard deal. Chastising himself, “Seriously, Gold, you are not having a school boy crush on this woman! Women are trouble! Haven’t you learned your lesson? Show her the Monster of Storybrooke. She is at your mercy. She needs a rental, and her options are limited.”
Taking a deep breath, Izzy-B stands at the door. She tells herself, “No turning back now. Be strong and confident. Be someone Mr. Gold will respect.” Setting the box on the porch, she knocks firmly on the wooden door. Mr. Gold opens the door with a stoic expression on his face, “Miss French, you’re punctual, I see. That bodes well.” She offers her hand to shake his, as she says, “Mr. Gold, it’s a pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to see me.” He thinks to himself, “Hell’s bells, she has a firm handshake…and she smells good too! Stop it, Gold, stop it!” She rubs her forearms, trying to dampen the electric shock that ran through her as she shook his hand. If she ever wondered what it felt like to hold onto the clamps of live jumper cables, she is quite sure she knows what it feels like now. With her heart racing, she reminds herself, “Breathe!”
As they tour the house, she makes certain to ask the pertinent questions: typical cost of utilities; when was the roof last replaced; is there a functioning sump pump in the basement; who is responsible for repairing damage due to acts of God, such as hurricanes, blizzards and so forth; when was the house last inspected; etc. She prides herself on not turning into a blithering idiot as they stand in the empty bedroom. He maintains a business-like manner during the entire tour, answering her questions without hesitation. He cannot help being impressed by her mental acumen. Most prospective renters are either too intimidated or dimwitted to ask the appropriate questions about a place they intend to live in for an extended amount of time.
In a business tone, Izzy-B says, “Everything seems satisfactory.” Keeping a neutral tone, Mr. Gold says, “I’m pleased you find it adequate. Izzy-B adds, “It’s a nice little property. Does your wife help you with your rental business?” Stoically, he responds, “Actually, I’ve been divorced for quite some time now.” Izzy-B’s mental dialogue says, “Yay!”, while she says to Mr. Gold, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pried.” He shakes his head and says, “No matter. It’s water under the bridge.”, while he asks himself, “Did she look excited when I said I was divorced? Stop it, Gold! It’s just your imagination.”
In the kitchen, Mr. Gold has a card table and folding chairs set up for reading through and signing the rental contract. That is not his standard procedure. Standing uncomfortably often makes renters less detail oriented while looking through the contact. He fidgets realizing there is only one reason why he put the table and chairs there, to spend more time with Miss French. Realizing they are about to formalize their deal, Izzy-B remembers the box on the porch. He asks, “Are you ready to proceed with the rental contract?” Though her logical mind tells her to focus on the contract now and not muddy the situation, an impulse takes over. She says, “I will be in just a moment. I have to get something off the porch.” He looks at her a bit bemused, as she briskly walks out of the kitchen, through the living room, opening the front door and picking up a box. On her way back, she says, “I brought a few things, just in case this went well. And it just occurred to me that I have everything I need for a nice pot of tea, so we can go through the details of the contract pleasantly, if you have the time.” His mind goes on full alert, “Say no, say no! You’re a busy man.”, instead he says, “I have no other appointments coming up. That sounds like an excellent idea.” “Damn fool!”, he chides himself. She responds, “Wonderful! I’ll put the water on, then we can look at the contract.” Filling the kettle with water, she reprimands herself, “What are you doing? You’re making him tea? He’s off limits right now. Okay, okay, this is not a disaster. Just tea…but absolutely, positively no flirting!”
She seats herself across from him, trying not to think about how his dark eyes remind her of melted chocolate. He explains firmly, “This is my standard rental contract. It’s the same for everyone.”, and then he thinks, “But if you’d like to add a clause where I tuck you in at night, I’m available. Knock it off, Gold!” She puts on a pair of glasses, and Mr. Gold steps on his own foot to avoid having the ‘sexy librarian’ fantasy…much. Izzy-B explains, “This could take a while. I’m a little Dyslexic. Granny always made sure that I kept up with reading after my mother died, but it takes some extra time.” She is stunned that she has told him something so personal. Softly, he says, “No problem, dear, take all the time you need.” Izzy-B continues to read. She had spent much of the night before researching rental contracts. She raises her eyebrows and gives a little smile as she reads, prompting Mr. Gold to question, “What?” She shrugs, “Nothing much, I just noticed you included a severability clause. Most people forget to put that in contracts. I’m just impressed that you included it.” In a mildly haughty tone, he responds, “I would hope I could remember something so basic or my law school might want my diploma back.” She looks up from her reading a bit surprised, “You’re a lawyer?” He nods. She continues reading saying, “Hmm…I never knew that.” In a somewhat playful tone, he says, “You’ll find I’m full of surprises.” She looks up from the contract gaping, dry mouthed and trying to remember how to breathe. He smirks at her reaction. Trying to regain her composure, she says, “There’s a clause here that I have a problem with.” Sarcastically, he says, “Really, dear? And what would that be?” She slides the contract over to him, leaning dangerously close. She realizes her mistake immediately, instructing herself, “Do NOT touch his hair! Just breathe. (Oh God! He smells good!) Pay attention to the damn contract!” She points, “See this clause here?” He nods, however truthfully he is having trouble seeing the contract as his eyes drift along her neck and a section of exposed collarbone. She continues, “This states that you get prior approval of who stays here. That’s not acceptable. If I want to have a guest stay here, a week, a month or whatever, and I make sure they don’t cause any trouble, then that should be fine. Heck, if I want to have the rock band KISS crash here for the night, as long as they behave themselves, it’s nobody’s business, but mine.”
Looking up into her determined face inches away from his own, all he can think is, “Dear God, why did she have to say the word, ‘kiss’?” She feels her legs become weak as he licks his lips. The kettle whistles and they both let out a sigh of relief. As she makes their tea, he says, “You have a valid point, Miss French. I’ll remove that clause.” He makes notations on the contract and initials the notations. “I’ll make a new contract with the agreed upon alterations for us to sign tomorrow, but this will do fine in the meantime.” As she resumes reading, while they drink their tea, he marvels at the fact that never has anyone dared require alterations to his contract nor would he have made such a change for anyone else. He thinks, “Damn her agile mind…and her deliciously beautiful neck!” Somewhat snidely, he asks, “Anything else?” She raises her eyebrow and says, “Now that you mention it…since I plan on being here a while, I want to make it feel like my own. I don’t want to have to ask you permission every time I want to hang a picture or paint something. So can we agree now that I can do what I want esthetically, and then when it’s time for me to move out, I’ll return the house to its original appearance.” The legal voice in his head says, “No, that’s out of the question.”, but then he replies, “That sounds reasonable.” She gives him a beaming smile that renders the legal voice mute. He asks, “How long do you plan on living here?” She replies thoughtfully, “I don’t know exactly, but I have a five year plan. I’m hoping that in five years, that I’ll have a nice down payment saved to buy a house. Of course, it also depends on what houses are for sale at the time. But I’d prefer to own something someday, rather than rent forever.” He grins, “Smart woman.” She blushes and drinks her tea.
He informs her, “The rent is due on the fifteenth of every month.” She nods, pulls out her day planner, and makes rent notations on the tenth of each month. His brow furrows and he says, “Did you hear me? I said the fifteenth.” She smiles at him, “I heard you, but I plan to pay it on the tenth. That way, should I fall down and break a leg or end up in the hospital with appendicitis or something. I have buffer time to make arrangements to get your money to you.” He queries, “You spend a lot of time thinking about what disasters can befall you? You’re a cheery sort.” She looks at him with a smirk and says shrewdly, “I’m practical, Mr. Gold. I’ve learned the hard way what happens when people don’t take their responsibilities seriously.” Impressed, he says, “You’re quite an exceptional woman, Miss French.”, then continues gazing into her crystalline blue eyes. After a few moments, he leans in and says, “I’ll make you a deal. If you slip into a coma at some point, I’ll let you be a wee bit late on the rent.” She giggles at his macabre quip and says, “Gee, thanks! I really appreciate that.”
He signs the contract; R. Gold. Then she signs the contract; Isabelle L. French. Unable to resist, he asks, “What’s the L stand for?” She says, “My middle name is Lacey, but I never go by it. It sounds like I’m one of Granny’s doilies that she puts her knick-knacks on.” He smiles at the verbal imagery. She walks to the box, pulls out a stud finder, hammer, a nail and a metal object with some stones and a design depicting scrolls, doves, an eye and some floral accents. He watches her curiously as she mounts it on the wall. She tilts her head, smiles and answers his unasked question, “It’s a peace talisman. I figure ‘peace’ is a good way to start life in a new home.” He looks back and forth between her and the talisman, finally saying, “I repeat, ‘you’re quite an exceptional woman, Miss French.” She beams with pride and says, “Why thank you. I think you’re quite exceptional yourself, Mr. Gold.” He nods in appreciation. They finish their tea and say their farewells…for now.
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