Chapter 3 : The Irony of Closets and Curtains
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She’d never really intended to end up working at a cafe. At the age of twenty-four, Frankie knew she should be doing something more important than serving coffee for a living. Most everyone she had been at Hogwarts with was on their way to a successful position at the Ministry, or were abroad in America or were even laboring to support their own company in the slowly declining economy.
When Frankie had told her sisters what had happened the week before at the supermarket, their reactions had been fairly predictable: Clemence, ever the fashionable and broody seventeen-year-old, had made some sort of droll comment about how Frankie should have known something like this would happen if she insisted on wearing sweatpants on a daily basis, while Lettie, who had taken refuge behind the sofa when Frankie promised her death by lamp, had expired into a fit of hysterical laughter.
Frankie had despaired at receiving any sympathy from anyone, even though it was all completely Lettie’s fault. “You know, I really hate you both. I can’t believe this happened because of my hair.”
Still hiding behind the couch, Lettie had let out another peel of laughter and Clemence, who had obviously stopped listening, had turned up the Wireless.
Her family never failed to support each other in times of distress.
Frankie fingered the envelope of Muggle cash she had stuffed deep into the pocket of her jumper. Giving up her apartment to move back home had been a hard decision, but it was better to lose her shabby Muggle place than for her mum to have to give up the flat she had grown up in on Diagon Alley. And with her younger sisters still underage and home for the summer, it was really the right thing to do. She was the oldest; things like this were her responsibility.
Picking up her pen again, Frankie went back to looking over the Daily Prophet Classifieds. The way things were, she would have to take any job she could manage to find. This ridiculous fake-boyfriend-whatever-it-was contract would only help so much and her boss at the cafe, Bert, was getting more temperamental by the day. Just that morning, he had threatened to fire the next person that came in late and Frankie was practically getting whiplash from putting up with his insane mood swings.
She had just circled an ad for an opening as a tester for the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes when she heard Lettie let out a blood-curdling shriek from the next room.
“What the bloody — ” Frankie shoved her chair back and rushed to the doorway. Her sisters were on the couch where she had left them earlier, but now they were both staring in horror at the fireplace.
Frankie followed their eyes and felt her jaw drop to the floor.
There, looking completely out of place as he climbed out of the grate into the middle of her tiny living room, stood David.
Round about the time he saw two teenage girls sitting terrified on the couch, David had the thought that he might have the wrong Floo address.
“Er,” David said awkwardly, brushing the soot from the Floo off his jacket and wincing at the blond girl’s screams. “Does Frankie live here?”
The other girl, pretty face pale from the shock but otherwise seemingly unaffected, looked over his shoulder and he turned to see Frankie standing frozen in the doorway.
“Oh, there you are.” David took in Frankie’s sloppy jumper and rumpled hair and frowned. He really was such a slob, it was almost disgusting. “I hope you’re not planning on going to meet my sister dressed like that.”
Frankie blinked and closed his mouth with a snap, seeming to come to his senses. “Your sister? I thought that was tomorrow?”
“It was, but something came up and we had to change it.”
Jocelyn, David’s older sister, had had a sudden appointment and his mum had been so set on having this stupid dinner that she’d rescheduled, much to David’s soul-crushing disappointment.
“What? You can’t do that!” Glaring at him, Frankie added, “And you can’t just come barging into people’s flats either! That’s incredibly rude!”
“I don’t exactly have another way to contact you, do I?”
David hadn’t actually given the whole thing much thought, but Flooing into the living room of someone you hardly knew a full day before they were expecting you was a bit risky. Who knew what you might end up dealing with. People did all sorts of crazy things in their homes.
“Well, I can’t today anyway. I have to work tonight.”
David looked him stubbornly in the eye. “I’m paying you. This is work too.”
The two girls on the sofa behind him had begun whispering heatedly about something and he tried to tune the girlish sound out.
“If I don’t go to my shift tonight, I could lose my job.”
“If you go to your shift tonight, you’ll lose this job.” Frankie crossed his arms stubbornly and David huffed. “So you’re calling off our deal? Just give me my fifty galleons back then, and I’ll be on my way.”
The other man thought for a moment, the wheels in his head turning, while his sister’s whispered conversation escalated into some kind of argument. What did girls even talk about when they whispered like that? David had always wondered.
“Fine,” Frankie said petulantly at last. “I’ll go change.”
“I thought I might need to bring something for you to wear.” David chucked the blue button up he had been holding at him. “I picked it up from the boy’s department, so it should fit you alright.”
Snatching the shirt out of the air, Frankie turned to walk down the hallway and then stopped for a moment, shooting David a look. “And be nice to my sisters while I’m gone. I don’t want you traumatizing them or something.”
David turned to look at the two girls, who had thankfully stopped whispering, and the younger blonde one was looking up at him with rapt, wide blue eyes.
“So, I’m Lettie, and this moody cow here is Clemence.” Clemence gave her a withering look over her textbook but Lettie ignored her. “Who are you exactly?”
“Er. I’m David. I met your brother last — ”
“Oh my god, it totally is him! He is so much fitter than I — ” Lettie practically squealed with teenage-girlish glee before the other girl silenced her by stuffing a couch cushion in the face.
“Sorry about her,” Clemence said calmly, ignoring her sister’s muffled yells. “She used to eat paint chips when she was a baby. Never been right since.”
David blinked and said: “Right.”
He thought that crazy might run in the family.
From the other side of her bedroom door, Frankie snickered at David’s attempts at conversation with her sisters. He may not have looked it, but he was so socially inept.
Pulling the blue collared shirt on, she buttoned it and looked in the mirror. If she was really honest with herself, Frankie knew she wasn’t very pretty and her hair made her look like a boy, but the cut of the shirt was just tight enough to show the clear rounded outline of her chest.
There was no way this was going to work.
There was a sharp rap at the door and David called, “You finished in there? We should go soon.”
“Just a second!”
She ruffled her hair and sighed. Well, that was that. She had tried at least. The money would just have to come from somewhere —
Suddenly struck by an idea, Frankie looked at herself in the mirror again. Back in school, they had done a unit in Charms about human applications and Professor Flitwick had mentioned how witches had used Glamours to help disguise themselves as men in the Muggle armies throughout history.
She snatched her wand from the dresser and muttered the simple spell. Immediately, the front of the shirt flattened and, looking in the mirror, Frankie breathed a sigh of relief. That was much better.
“Frankie?” It was David at the door again, sounding exasperated. “We’re going to be late if you don’t hurry up.”
Frantically rummaging around the room, Frankie dug up a pair of grey trousers to replace her sweats. As she pulled them on, David called, “I know it’s probably been a while since you wore a shirt that nice. Do you need help buttoning it or something?”
The doorknob rattled and Frankie looked around the room in terror. How was it possible for her to have so much girly underwear out in the open? Stuffing her wand into her pocket, she practically threw herself at the doorway in attempt to block David’s view as he opened the door.
“Hi!” she nearly shouted in his face and he looked down at her like she was a three-ring circus act. “I’m ready. Let’s go!”
The faked smile dropped off her face and, grabbing his arm, she dragged him away down the hallway. Clemence sauntered past them on her way back to her bedroom and called behind her, “Tuck your shirt in, Frankie. You look like you’ve never worn a men’s dress shirt before or something.”
Frankie heard her snicker quietly and shot a glare over her shoulder that promised death as soon as she came back.
David turned to look at Frankie as they entered the living room, ignoring Lettie’s still-enraptured stare, and narrowed he eyes. “She’s right you know.” He moved forward and began to fix Frankie’s collar. “Otherwise you’ll look ridiculous.”
Frankie swatted his hands away. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Offended, David tried to tuck the shirt in instead. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m trying to help you! Calm down!”
He pushed the front tail into Frankie’s pants, hand going a little bit too far past her waistband, and she jumped violently and shoved him away. Even if he thought she was a man, that seemed a bit much. Besides, he wouldn’t have thought that for much longer if his hand had gone any lower. “Cut it out! I can do it just fine myself — ”
Down the hall, the front door of the flat suddenly opened and shut loudly with the jingle of keys. Frankie’s heart stopped and she looked at Lettie, who sat like a frozen statue of terror on the couch.
“Is that — ” Lettie nodded frantically, her eyes even wider than before and Frankie heard Clemence cackle with glee all the way from her bedroom. She looked quickly at David. “Yeah, um. We’re going to have to hide.”
“What? You mean your mum doesn’t — ”
“No,” Frankie said shortly, wishing that David wasn’t quite so tall and muscular. It was going to be dreadfully hard to hide all six feet and four inches of him somewhere in their tiny flat.
“Aren’t you a little old to be keeping secrets from your mum?”
As the jingling of the keys grew louder, Lettie scrambled up from the couch, pointing at the window coverings. Frankie thought they might be tall enough to work and dragged David by his wrist across the room.
“I’m sorry, what did you say? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of your blatant hypocrisy.” She shoved him behind the curtain covering the far window and Lettie drew it in front of both of them quickly, standing in front of it to cover their feet.
“Really? The curtain? We couldn’t just go in that closet over there?” He sighed fastidiously and muttered, “Dust makes me sneeze.”
“There’s no dust! It’s not like it’s a sty in here. It’s perfectly clean!” Frankie heard him sniffle and rolled her eyes. “And I thought the irony of hiding in a closet might end up killing you.”
“Well at least I don’t still live with my mother,” David whispered at her, his mouth uncomfortably close. She suppressed a shudder as his lips brushed her ear.
“It’s a complicated situation!” Frankie hissed back resisting the urge to stomp on his foot. “What, did you think my two younger sisters were just randomly living with me?”
“I don’t know! A man your age doesn’t usually live with his mum. I assumed there was some other explanation.”
“Oh, why don’t you just drop — ” Lettie kicked Frankie’s shin through the curtain sharply and they both froze. The sound of her mother’s footsteps entered the living room and Frankie pressed herself even further back behind the drape and into David’s chest.
“Lettie, there you are. Where’d Frankie go?”
“Um, work?” Lettie invented, convincing absolutely no one.
“Really? I could have sworn I heard — ”
“Bert owled a bit ago saying the cafe was understaffed and to come in immediately.” Clemence lied smoothly as she walked into the room again, and Frankie could have hugged her — if she hadn’t been stuck hiding behind a curtain from her own mother.
“Oh, that’s too bad. I got Indian for dinner and I know that’s Frankie's favorite.”
Frankie heard the click of her mother’s shoes heading off into the kitchen and let out a relieved breath. Lettie threw back the curtain and mimed for them to get out while they could. Frankie could practically hear the face David was making from behind her and didn’t miss the chance to vindictively jam her elbow into his solar plexus. He hissed in pain through his teeth and she smirked, opening her mouth to hiss another snide remark.
Before she had the chance, David took a firm hold of her wrist and turned on the spot, sucking Frankie into the suffocating void of Side-Along Apparation.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
David wiped his mouth and straightened up from the bush he had ducked behind. The horrible, crushing feeling of Apparation never failed to make him sick. That was why he preferred to Floo or use his car on a daily basis. It wasn’t that he couldn’t Apparate — in fact, he had to do it quite often for work — but he would rather be slightly inconvenienced than have to deal with situations like this.
He walked over to where Frankie was standing on his parent’s doorstep and frowned. Frankie was looking at him, concern all over his face. David knew the other man was only trying to be nice, but he hated it just the same. In his mind, accepting sympathy only served to make a person pathetic.
“I’m fine,” he said shortly, trying to fix his tie. He had loosened it when the cold sweat had started. “Let’s just get this over with.” The thin fabric of the knot kept slipping through his fingers, clammy from Apparation and he made a frustrated sound. “This damn thing. I can’t — ”
David started when Frankie reached up and tightened the tie for him, the knot sliding up to his collar smoothly. Fiddling with it until it was straight, he smiled faintly at David and said, “It’ll be fine. I’ve already met your mother and she seemed nice enough. How scary can the rest of your family be?”
Suddenly, he thought about how absurd this whole thing was, pretending to have a boyfriend just to get out of a few blind dates. Did he really want to avoid getting married so badly? Or was that really even why he was doing this?
Clearing his throat, David tried to ignore the fact that he could smell the clean scent of Frankie’s hair when his head was this close and leaned around him to knock on the front door.
How scary could his family be? If Frankie actually thought his mother was nice, he had no idea what he was getting in to.
To say that Jocelyn had been surprised to find out her younger brother had a boyfriend would be a bit of an understatement.
David’s last girlfriend had been — well, if she was really honest, Yvonne had been bold and abrasive and had had very little care for other people’s feelings. But whatever Jocelyn could say about her on those counts, Yvonne had been a woman, and an extremely beautiful woman at that.
“Jocelyn, the fork goes on the other side.” Her mother tisked at her through her teeth from the kitchen. “You’re thirty years old with a husband and a child and you still can’t set a table correctly.”
Jocelyn fought the urge to roll her eyes and moved the fork to the other side of the plate. “Yes, Umma.”
In fact, she was surprised that David had even agreed to bring his new boyfriend to dinner in the first place. Their mother was great, but she tended to be a bit… pushy. She probably hadn’t even given him the chance to refuse. That was more her style actually, and it was the reason she made such a successful businesswoman, but it made her a bit of a taskmaster as a mother.
There was a knock from the front door.
“I’ll finish here, Jocelyn. Can you get the door? It should be your brother and his… friend.”
Jocelyn nodded and made her way down the corridor, passing the gallery of family photos that lined the walls in a mosaic-like timeline, from toddler David pulling her pigtails to the whole family together at her wedding a few years ago.
So that was how her mother was dealing with it: by telling herself that David was bringing a “friend.” It would be a miracle if her father even had a hint of what was really going on.
No matter which way she looked at it, this whole thing had disaster written all over it in bright red ink.
Take a deep breath, like the calm before the storm, Jocelyn opened the front door.
What she saw on the other side was not what she expected: her brother was standing there along with another, much shorter man, and David was looking down into his dark hair, expression unfathomable as the other man’s hands fiddled gently with his tie. They looked like — Jocelyn wasn’t exactly sure what she’d been anticipating, but the two men in front of her actually looked like a couple.
David started when he caught sight of her and he moved quickly out of the other man’s reach.
“Josie,” he said almost anxiously. “I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages.”
There was something tense in the way he hugged her that gave Jocelyn pause. It was only natural, she supposed, for him to be a bit nervous about bringing his new boyfriend to dinner, but there was just something… off.
“Jose, this is Frankie.” He stood back so she could see the other man, who was slight and rather average looking, except for the huge pair of brown eyes that seemed to dominate most of his face. David rubbed the back of his neck. “He’s my, er — my boyfriend.”
Jocelyn narrowed her eyes at her brother as he continued to clasp his neck as she shook Frankie’s outstretched hand. There was definitely something off. David only did that when he was lying; it was a twitch he’d had ever since he was a child.
The question was, what was he lying about?
A/N: Finally chapter three! I would give excuses about the long wait, but they're all rubbish and the truth is I have the attention span of a goldfish. Just know that I offer many, many, many sincere appologies.
But! The Dinner is looming on the horizon and Jocelyn aready seems to have caught on to something. What do you guys think is going to happen? Is David's family going to find out? And what exactly does David think about Frankie?
I can't even begin to thank my friends that put up with me as I tried to write this chapter: Gubby (GubraithianFire), Gina (justonemoreric), Erica (ericajen), Helena (TallestTower), Jordan (Foundriapenguin), Rachel (PenguinsWillReignSupreme), Ash (nextgenoration), Mary (Marzipan) and anyone I may have missed. You're all hilarious and I don't know if I could remain sane you (oh, hush! I'm extremely sane!).
Disclaimer: The wonderful world of Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling and 'The First Shop of Coffee Prince' belongs entirely MBC Korea. I own nothing you recognize.
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