With Penwarren isolated to his room and people watching him, Frank tries to relax a little. He has dinner with Marka to look forward to, but finds that his usual suave manner is blown to hell by his preoccupation with Ralph Penwarren. Fortunately, Marka still seems to find him charming.
Frank loosened his tie and hung up his suit coat. He realized that he’d left his other clothing in the car. He finished changing and called Marka again before going out to get his things. The temperature outside had dropped considerably. He shivered in his shirt sleeves and trotted back in the building as quickly as he could. He dropped his clothing in his room and jogged down to hers. Arriving breathless, he tapped at the door. Marka opened with a grin.
“Finally! Dinner’s almost ready. Will you open the bottle? It’s one of those tricky wire thingies.”
“No problem. Anything else I can do for you?”
“I’m sure I’ll think of something.”
Her smile held promises that he couldn’t even think about collecting on tonight. He was getting strong vibes from her. She was decidedly interested—quite possibly as much as he was. But she wasn’t gonna give it up to a man she just met. Not that he’d do that anyway. That wasn’t his style. He’d never been a one night stand kind of guy. He’d done it from time to time, but it wasn’t his usual mode of behavior.
“Frank? You in lala land?” She handed him the bottle.
“Guess so. Been a long day. I swear, I’m ready for that man to leave.” He explained the current crisis.
“Are there words to describe a man like him?”
“Haven’t found any that properly do it. Calling him a dick and a douchebag, while satisfying, don’t really do him justice. Insufferable, insignificant prick comes closer.”
“My dad would describe him as the head of a pimple on the ass of the universe.”
“Bingo! Your dad and I would get along, I bet.”
“Like a house on fire. Remind me never to introduce you.” She winked at him.
“There’s a way to slay my hopes.”
“By not introducing you to my dad?”
“Can’t get a man’s opinion if you don’t meet him.”
“Perhaps once I have you hopelessly hooked.”
“You’re kidding, right? You had me hooked when you asked for toilet paper.”
Marka stopped in her tracks, staring at him, her mouth slightly open. “You’re serious.”
“In fact, I think I was hooked when I saw you on TV.”
She still hadn’t moved.
Frank laughed nervously. “What?”
“That’s so incredibly sweet. No man ever fell for me because he saw me on TV.”
“First time for everything,” he said, clearing his throat.
It had finally struck him how his remarks could be interpreted. Not that he cared, he just didn’t want her to think he was some sort of sick, pathetic, stalker type who hadn’t gotten laid in almost a year.
If the shoe fits, boyo. . . . Well, not the stalker part.
He poured them each a glass of the sparkling grape juice. They toasted one another as well as the meal.
“And to Mabel Penwarren. May she recover fast so her damn son goes home!” Frank said.
Their glasses tinked against one another once more.
“Dinner smells great!”
The timer buzzed.
“Let me check it. It should be almost done.”
Delicious smells issued from the oven. She opened the door and pulled out the rack. Frank insisted on lifting the pan out. It was full and quite heavy.
“This isn’t the usual cookware. Where did you get this?”
“It’s mine. I don’t cook in anything else but my stoneware.”
“This smells fantastic.” He inhaled deeply and his mouth started to water. “I’m gonna drool all over it.” He set the pan down on the counter.
He did as she asked while she got the side dishes out of the oven and microwave. There were fresh baked rolls, corn on the cob and a huge salad. She piled food on his plate and heaped salad in a bowl for him.
He refilled their glasses and helped her carry things to the table. He even held her chair as she sat down.
“A true gentleman! Thank you. Do you say blessing?”
“I do whatever the cook wants,” he replied.
Marka crossed herself and bowed her head. “Bless us, oh Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we’re about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord, Amen.”
Frank joined her, dredging up the words from the depths of his memory. Marka smiled at him when she opened her eyes.
“You’re keeping secrets,” she said. “I didn’t know you were a Catholic boy.”
“Didn’t come up.”
“What did you pick as your confirmation name?”
He thought a moment, biting his lip. “Well, that’s a puzzler. I was already named for so many saints, I had trouble with it. My name is Francis Joseph Augustus Steven Atherton.”
“Is one of those your confirmation name?”
“Nope. That’s just genealogy. John. That was it.”
“And I thought Marka Antonia Ventimiglia was a mouthful.”
“Now you know my secret identity. What was your confirmation name?”
He nodded. “My sister wanted her, but Mom made her pick Bernadette.”
“Most of the girls in my class were Bernadette, Therese or Mary. Boring. I wanted Joan of Arc and argued with my mother and the nun for a solid hour. They tried to talk me out of it, but I went to Father McCoy and he told me to follow my heart. If my heart wanted Joan, I could have Joan.”
“Good for Father McCoy.”
“He was a sweet man. My mom as furious. She didn’t speak to me for a week.”
“Oh, the silent treatment. How’d that go over?”
“For me? Fine. I didn’t want to talk to her anyway. She and my dad divorced soon after that. It took me four years of therapy to realize that it wasn’t my fault because I chose Joan. My stepmom is the coolest lady ever. Her, I like.”