There I stood. In a humble black shirt and a pair of jeans that could use a wash, I towered above the lectern. Usually the priest would stand here preaching sanctimoniously every Sunday on how to be good in this world, but I never went. My line of work slowly warped me, twisted me, leaving me in a position where nothing short of hour long confession or divine intervention could save my christian soul, hence I stopped showing up. I was evil. I am evil and I am aware of it, and I will burn in purgatory for millenia when I leave this life behind, but as I stand here towering above the lectern looking at not just one, but two coffins at the center of the sanctuary mere centimeters from the altar, I could see the devil. She was sitting right there with an arrogant gaze shedding crocodile tears waiting for me to give a speech she wrote for me. I might burn in purgatory forever for what I had done in my life thus far, but of all the ruined people, the husks of former respectable human beings, I had left in my wake, if I could add her to the pile, I would burn happily forever. As deep as my hatred ran, and it evidently ran deep, one person in the church, at this double funeral was more angry and loathing than I.
I took up the envelope with her speech in it. She had her creep of a new husband hand it to me as we entered the church. Opening the envelope I found twenty one pages written on machine printed front and back. With a smirk I glanced at her. "Wow," I remarked with a chuckle: "Forty two pages. Did you expect to keep us here all day?". I looked in panorama over the crowd. Divided by the aisle the nave was split into two equally crowded seating areas. To the left of the altar sat her family and friends all of whom knew little of the departed two, if they ever knew them at all. Every single male in this half of the church wore pitch black tuxedos freshly dry cleaned and ironed. Not a tux below two grand, that much was certain, as I have seen many suits in my line of work. Funny thing is, a fifty dollar suit mass-produced in Taiwan can be worn to a fine dinner party without hesitation, since everyone else present will not doubt want to show off their furiously expensive clothes only looking borderline different from everyone else and that difference, at least they convince themselves so, makes the price worth it. All the while, the bloke in the fifty dollar suit looks equally not-at-all different from everyone else. When asked what brand it is a white lie drives it home and that is easily two grand saved on a formal attire.
As for the females present it was hard to tell who was who. Either they had all decided to wear black veils except for the harpy in the front row, rolling her eyes at my previous pathetic humour at her expense, or they had been told to dress that way by said harpy to make her stand out in the crowd. If the latter was true I would honestly not be surprised. Their dresses were all equally approximately identical, black and dull. I digress.
The other side of the nave was crowded by my friends and family all of who knew at least one of the diseased well. Black shirts, black t-shirts and jeans all around, even for the largest part of the women present with few wearing matching black tops, skirts and heels. It was evident we were situated at a funeral. It was equally evident to anyone who would share my panoramic sight over the crowd these were very different sorts of people. The left side chuckled at my joke impatiently and looked longingly for me to get it over with, and the lips of the right side people perched so tightly had I shoved a lump of coal down the throat of everyone there before my complaint, the coroner would have an extravagantly dressed plethora of asphyxia victims and could after the autopsies rightfully change his profession to retired gem stone collector.
I looked down at the first page. "Clearly it was my fault," read the first line and I mumbled it out loud. "Speak up!," shrieked the bat. I darted her a glance, then looked back at the paper, then back at her and back at the paper. I did so with rising levels of fury. "I am not reading this nonsense," I proclaimed. "Sir, the agreement was that you perform a speech written by the lady fair," interjected the priest with a calm and patient voice smiling at the harpy. With a scoff I crumbled up the papers rapidly and threw the paper boulder in the air, then I resumed my seat at the front row. Next to me was an empty seat. Lara had not shown up. I knew she would not. I believe I saw a glimpse of her before the service began, if so she bolted. I did not intend to hold her to it. This was indeed painful, though she worked in law enforcement, this particular departure hit her harder than any sad fate she had ever dealt with on her job. My first thought when I resumed my seat was to pay her a visit later. Immediately next to Lara's empty seat sat Jonas. His gaze flickered haphazardly between a few sheets of paper in his hands, me and the priest. Sweat ran down his forehead and his shirt bore the telltale sign of his anxiety: pit stains. He was visibly shaking. "This is highly irregular," added the priest in an equally calm manner addressed at me. Glancing at the two coffins side by side I added after a while from my seat: "Yes." "Come on David," shrieked the harpy from her seat as her pet husband stood up and brushed his suit. It was not dirty at all, but his precise and casual brushing was meant as a nonchalant behavior to intimidate everyone present and to underline his assumed authority. "According to our agreement," the hollow suit began: "You are legally obligated to perform the speech handed to you." Towering above the seated sharply dressed crowd on his side he looked expectantly at me. Had a hair pin dropped to the ground the impact on the floor tiles would have been deafening.
"Perhaps, we should proceed with our second speech," suggested the priest after a while and gestured at Jonas. He stood up and trembling looked at me. A tear ran down his cheek. "This is so hard to understand," he sobbed. I got up as well: "What do you see?". A while passed when he scanned the church. "I am at a circus," he answered after a while. "No, you are not," I interjected and he scanned the church anew. "A theatre," he asked rhetorically. "No, a funeral," and his gaze found rest on the two coffins. "When sir is ready," interjected the impatient priest with a gesture towards the lectern. "It is flickering," said Jonas. To comfort him I put him hand on his shoulder: "You can do this. For her."
The church gate opened slightly and shut with a loud thump echoing through the crowd and everyone turned around and stared like rabbits caught in the headlight of a car at Lara. She saw me and Jonas at the front row and quickly made her way up the aisle, alone and uninfluenced by the relentless attention of the crowd. "Shameful," added a few of the veiled women from the harpy's nest, but Lara did not heed this. She wore a black tank top, worn jeans and a pair of black sneakers. Her hair was as always tied up in a pony tail and on her right arm she carried the silvery bracelet with the inscription: "For whom the bell tolls." Fitting. Immediately to her left walked Pouncer in his usual gay fashion not even noticing the people around him. Wagging his tail he followed his master until she, Lara, came to a halt near me and Jonas. From her right pocket he summoned a small bag and from it drew a delicate silver chain necklace. It had absolutely no adornments and Jonas at the very sight of it gave a small start. "That was hers," he added and immediately looked at the coffins. "Yes," said Lara: "Turn around." Jonas hesitated for a while looking quizzically at Lara who opened the necklace and gestured towards him. He finally understood her intent and let her put the necklace on him. "She wanted you to have this," Lara interjected and turned him around. With awkwardness she hugged him and took her seat immediately besides me, and Jonas approached the lectern. "This'll be interesting," whispered Lara with humorous anticipation. "Didn't think you'd show up," I added. "Had to take care of something," came the reply.
More nervous than ever Jonas glanced at the crowd and he put his papers in front of him. Pouncer left Lara's side and quickly climbed to the lectern and sat at Jonas' feet. Patting the dog twice Jonas with a smile addressed the crowd: "Thank you, David. Thank you, Lara." Hushed silence fell over the entire room as he glanced at his papers. They were blank except for one pages which he shuffled around to be at the very front. It hard only one word written on it.
"Now let us mourn the losses we witness here today," he started. "I know this is weird, but could I have some water?," he requested when Cory leaped to his feet, grabbed an unopened bottle of water and in a quick run awarded Jonas the bottle with the words: "Sure, YOLO." Equally quickly Cory was seated once more and Jonas took a sip. "YOLO," said Jonas hesitantly, and thus his speech began. Thanks to Lara's illicit recording of the ceremony I am able to present here the exact speech word for word, start to finish.
YOLO. You only live once. You're aware you said that at your own dead girlfriend's burial. right? Do not worry, that doesn't make you the biggest ponce present here, not even close to it. While that was insensitive and rude, I reckon an obsession with the superficial glorification of your wife due to her own selfishness to the exclusion of that fact your step-daughter lies in one of these coffins isn't only atrocious, but considering what that obsession says about your own interests in this ceremony in the house of God it ought to ensure you'll rot in Hell. Both of you. Then again your own greed should have made that clear to you already, isn't that right Diane? You wanted to write every word said during this ceremony yourself just to make sure you had complete control, just as you had complete control of your daughter by any means necessary. For the longest time you attempted to keep me away from your daughter and with good reason, but even to this day you are still completely blind to the story that led to this funeral, or at least any part of the story that does not comply with your own illusions, but since we are all here and you wanted me to perform your speech, just as you wanted David to praise your selfish useless existence to the skies, I will tell you the story in detail from another point of view. No doubt you black veiled ladies and tuxedo ghosts never even knew the departed in these coffins. I will make sure you do. Both of them. I am also certain quite a lot of you know little of Diane except from her model career and her self-branding at social events. You do not know Diane. You know a facade. You know a facade that is equally true and insightful to her character as the facade of this church is, or better yet, the walls of a public toilet, since what it houses is most likely dirty. And shit. And full of piss.
At this point the priest interrupted and the lawyer husband of Diane the Harpy furiously protested this appalling behavior. The harpy herself gleamed with ominous fury. Jonas, however, continued his walking back and forth in the sanctuary and continued his speech with deafening honesty, quickly leaving the priest and the lawyer, the angel and the devil, silent once more.
Would the clown and the rude sir in the audience, please, shut up. The show goes on as the circus director says it must, and I'll remind you in this circus the director is always observing from the calliope up high, so please, be quiet. I will tell the lot of you how the story started that led to this, and then I hope David will indulge me and perform the speech that Diane wrote for him, or rather wrote for herself, to see how much our stories agree. An officer of the law, present here against all odds, once told me that when considering a case, any case, one ought always to look at the case in at least three ways. One way from the victim of the case, another from the culprit. Finally as an external audience of the case to distance yourself from the harsh and sad reality of this world. I can not do the latter and I will leave this up to the audience present here after I perform this evening's play "The girl who was betrayed." That is not a very informative title, actually that is a bland title that says nothing about the subject matter and I hate those titles. It should be: "The girl whose death was framed by her narcissistic mother."
I started to write this is a note to my biographer to make sure he or she would eventually get all the details down especially regarding this funeral. I knew I would get a biographer one day, since just about every CEO that ever made it to the big league is bound by some unseen unyielding force to have one written on their retirement, hence, it would also happen to me, but it occurs to me now that the speech will not make any sense to a reader who does not know the story that led up to this speech. So much for in medias res. I had better end the transcript of the speech here and back up a couple of years to, what seemed like, any other day at the office and introduce the characters in a more comprehensible succession. It is easy, though, to assume that oneself is the main character in the big story that is one's life, however, just observing the influential presence of friends and family, maybe this assumption does not hold true for everyone. What would Holmes be without Watson? And the sweet angelic ms. Nell Trent without her grandfather? Nonsense.
Of course we assume the roles as main characters in the stories that are our lives because we are by definition main characters of our own lives, but we are not main characters of the histories that are the sums of us all, all our deeds and misdeeds, our adventures and our escapades; history. I would be a fool if I thought I was a main character in everything that happened, good and bad in the world. I have never been deployed thus I would be a fool to claim I was a main character in the Iraqi conflict. Calling me tangentially related to it would also be generous. With this in mind, I assume the role of a supporting character in the narrative that is Jonas's life. On that note…
The sign above the steel framed glass pane doors said: "ZenTech." I was the CEO of the company, a company I had inherited from my father yonks ago. The building containing the company headquarters was immaculate: spotless and clean. The walls were pristinely white with motivational posters scattered about. The floors were lino with a black marble surface and polish and wooden plank panels on the ceiling only broken by the air-conditioning vents scattered equidistantly around the work areas. When I say work areas, you might immediately assume the layout of the typical cubicle, the unyielding office interior where dreams and hopes come to wither and die everyday, where hopeful happy workers show up at eight in the morning and leave tired and soulless husks at 4 in the afternoon after having carried out a piece of work that, at least to the worker him- or herself, seemed unimportant and insignificant. ZenTech HQ was decorated with large polished desks and high backed office chairs of black leather. The work areas had 4 sections of 4 desks facing each other with large potted plants in the middle. Large panoramic windows revealed a tranquil garden outside the work area, kept immaculate by a retired gardener who stubbornly refused to retire on social services and as she put it: "Go to a funeral home and wither away? No, sonny, I would rather die while watering a massive rhododendrum rather than watering myself in a hospital bed." With the work she did and had done I had twice offered her a large salary to retire and let a new gardener take her place, but she stubbornly refused both times.
Usually when I offer cash settlements I do not do it twice. Bad for business. I also tried to get her to take a gardening student that she might help teach and get to know her successor, but to just as little avail as the retirement bonuses. Thus, she still works eagerly and efficiently like a bee despite being 84.
At each of the large polished desks were high performance computers with two monitors, notepads, pencils and all other paraphernalia used to keep the organisation running. While working the busy labourers were free to entertain themselves by listening to music. They were even given the headphones to do so. At 12 an one hour paid lunch break began and the workers happily got up from their desks and walked either outside in the garden to eat their lunch, a popular choice in Spring and Summer, or into the café area densely populated during Autumn and Winter. During lunch tea and coffee was offered ad libitum, free of charge. Myself and two other executives occupied offices adjacent to the work areas featuring the exact same equipment as the labourers themselves. During lunches we three would join the workers outside or inside for lunch depending on the season.
The company had a strict dress code when it came to our employees: they had to dress as comfortably as possible. When meeting with customers and clients, naturally, we all would dress to impress, but for the office work jeans, t-shits, skirts, sneakers and sandals were encountered more often than not. Especially us three executives made an effort to be as insignificantly dressed as possible.
All of this seems strange to the average work force droning for a corporation that does little, if anything, to value and appreciate its labourers. ZenTech was founded on the principle that a happy worker is a busy worker and the 64 employees along with the 3 executives ran over ninety five percent of the company yielding unfathomable profits considering the work force. This is to be attributed to the extreme efficiency of each employee. The top down structure of the typical company easily recognisable by an administration that blindly passes down information and orders while taking little if any in return was not present in ZenTech as we three executives worked with the philosophy, while we were able to sell the products and keep the wheels greased, we had little customer and problem contact, hence we did not know everything there was to know about the operation of everything. Assuming so would be catastrophic. Who would know the detailed situational problems better than the people dealing with them each day and getting paid to do so? Certainly not the people who spent most of their time talking to investors, participating in phone meetings and trying to get new customers.
My daughter June was interning at the office. She had no specific work load and her presence was completely on account of her unrelenting mother and her new lawyer husband who bent me over in court, robbing me of half my fortune in the divorce. Turns out being the bastard son of the supreme court judge who does not recognise his bastard son as his actual son has some benefits. Sadly, I have been unable to prove this relation as both parties deny this relationship and a publicity scandal does nothing to help me regain my fortune which was coming along nicely at the time of the story.
June, however, appeared to be a ball of sunshine and she helped where she could and where she was asked to help. The employees loved her and the little money I paid for her internship was spent on modelling and acting classes taught by whichever supermodel or actor/actress her harpy mother had caught wind of lately, seen in a magazine or starred in a blockbuster movie. Besides work, I only saw June every other weekend, a clause in the divorce. June was 14 when I divorced her mother and she was 17 then. Her mother had for all intended purposes the custody of June and put a lot of pressure on her to become a model or actress, as her mother herself was a model and her beauty was naturally fading with age. Had I been a vengeful person I would be overflowing with joy that her new rich lawyer idiot husband's wallet was taking heavy abuse on account of her repeated attempts to hide her aging with cosmetic surgery, to little effect. It is easy to tell when plastic surgery, Botox or any of the sort has been done on a person.
I really wanted to see June on a different career trajectory, however, under the heavy influence of her mother there was little I could do and I told myself, whenever her photoshoots landed on my desk displaying my own daughter in far too little clothes for my comfort, at least she sold herself to a glamorous industry and it could be worse; she could be a stripper. Worse yet a hooker, but my own reason chirped in the back of my head whenever I told myself so, that no matter how pretentious a facade a fashion magazine can put up it does not change the fact that people will get off to it. This, I repressed, and approvingly applauded her hard work whenever she showed me her articles with such pride, she might as well have been the innocent sweet three-year-old girl giving her daddy homemade crayon paintings again. At least back when she was little I had no needed to store them out of sight in a "Your daughter in, so far, over three hundred skimpy outfits"-binder at home in the bottom of a closet. Bikini season was the worst.
I digress. There we were April 5th 2013 in the ZenTech headquarters. I had been in meetings with investors and potential clients all morning and had just returned to the collective luncheon break. It was pouring down so we all relocated ourselves to the café area, at least us who brought lunches from home, while the rest would leave for fifteen to twenty minutes to buy lunch and then return and eat with the rest of us. On that day, Jonas, sat looking at an empty bag he brought from home. Jonas was a statistician, and a rather young one at that, hired to simulate corporate strategies. It was by no stretch a monumental task and he never seemed stressed with his work, always handing in his weekly reports on time written with such care and attention to detail, it was obvious he might even have too much time on his hands during work hours. He was just out of university and this was his first job. While he was indeed overqualified for the labour, he never complained, but rather seemed content with his ability to perform according to company requirements and standards.
He was a tall guy, six foot five, and rather slender most likely from sitting in front of a computer screen for his past many years. According to our personnel files he still lived with his parents, not far from ZenTech HQ. According to my employees, however, he was a weird bloke, a man of very few words and a twisted obscure and at times outright incomprehensible humour. During lunch he just sat and stared at his rather cheap lunch consisting of nothing but a few fruits and vegetables and a small loaf of dark bread with chicken. Same thing, every day. He took advantages of the company's casual dress code everyday and wore to the exclusion of everything else worn and tattered jeans and t-shirts along with a pair of sports shoes badly in need of replacement. With the amount of money he was paid I often did wonder, when I got bored or had nothing else to do, what he did with his money. Obviously he was not living large. Once I had seen him with a cellphone, an old Nokia model, but I had never heard it make a sound or a motion. He worked as quietly as he ate his lunch. He sat in front of his computer screens with old ear plugs listening to music on YouTube as he worked with unfaltering attention towards the computer screens. He typed without looking at his keyboard and considering the immaculate fruits of his labour, this was an impressive feat.
Whenever people are forced together in these work environments certain archetypes are made quickly. Someone will be "the funny one", "the smart one", "the dumb one", "the tattler", "the pretty one" – which was June in this office – and while these are just some of the archetypes, there will also be the "weird one", or "the nerd". This was Jonas and I would love to boast he was never bullied or mocked for his differences, this was altogether not true. Whenever he would leave his desk to grab a cup of coffee or some water from the cooler, it would happen every now and then, he was referred to as the "freak" and such. The worst offender, perhaps a better word is bully, would be June. Somehow, Jonas got out the worst in her.
That rainy day in April, however, he had not brought his lunch as usual. His tattered t-shit was not only worn but indeed foul. Stained. June had entered the café area in such a poor timing the only chair available was situated besides Jonas. Everyone could tell she was reluctant to sit there, but eyeing no other options she forced some dignity on herself and sat down with her small bag of sushi and without even acknowledging Jonas' presence she started eating a few nigiri that would make up for everything she ate that day besides some cabbage and mustard in the evening should she be unable to cope with her hunger; the price for being supermodel thin. As Jonas sat and glanced at his empty bag, June after a while turned her attention to him and spotting his immediate mischief, drew attention to it: "Forgot your lunch?". And of course everyone now turned their attention towards the clearly anxious kid. Chewing and enjoying her sushi, June continued: "How can you forget your lunch? And your laundry?". I shot her a disapproving glance, but she did not heed it. "Mommy forget to do both?," she added after a while. "June!," I exclaimed angrily and she turned her attention towards the remains of her lunch without as much as looking up. Too late, did I intervene. The damage had been done and an upset Jonas sprang from his seat, blew his empty paper bag full of air and smacked it right next to June's ear. The burst startled June and the rest of her pitiful excuse for a meal fell to the floor. Another incentive for her to eat less that day. Great. Jonas proceeded to storm out the door and after a quick moment of me and June sharing a glance, I got up and followed the poor boy out.
He was sitting at his work station almost in foetal position with his arms clutching his knees at his chest. I grabbed a chair and sat down next to him. "Jonas," I started: "Is something wrong?". No response came from him and I was not surprised. "Don't mind her. She's just having a bad day," I continued. He lifted his head from his arms and looked at me with bloodshot eyes: "Her, too?". I could hear his stomach growl. "What's ailing you?". "Nothing," he insisted. A few of the workers returned to their computers to show each other whatever amusing content they had found on the Internet since yesterday. "Why don't we step into my office?," I suggested and got up. "You gonna fire me?," he asked. With a smile I responded: "Oh, no. Just for privacy," and nodded at the cluster of 4-5 HR employees giggling at a computer screen.
"You seem hungry," I commented as Jonas resumed his guarded position on a chair opposite my desk. "And thirsty," he added with a sulk. "The water cooler has just been refilled today," I added: "And fresh coffee is always on the pot." He did not respond verbally, but offered me a frown. "You havn't been moping all morning," I added. "No," he said. A moment of silence passed before he continued: "It's just, why does she do this?". Before I could reply and apologise on her behalf he bursted: "It's not fun!". The thought entered my head that her abuse was entertaining, but only to her and anyone sufficiently juvenile to laugh at Jonas' expense. "And not fair," he added after a while. "I'll talk to her." "Don't bother," he protested: "Not even the best parenting could change that bitch." "What could?," I asked. "A miracle?," he suggested and continued: "Ransom?," "Blackmail?." A moment passed: "Death?". He started to sob at the mere mention of his latter suggestion and a chill went down my spine. After a pause to think, I got up, walked into the café area, grabbed June by the arm and dragged her into my office. These actions were by no means met without protest from June. "Listen young lady," I started: "You're going to take this guy out to get a proper meal. You're going to get one, too. You're going to pay and then you're going to apologise for your actions." With a scoff she looked at me: "As if." She looked at the sobbing boy in the chair, who was by all means in his power, attempting to avoid looking at her. The sight of this shabby bloke in the chair was indeed a morose one, enough so that she took pity on the guy and knelt besides him: "I am sorry." She attempted to seem earnest, but having raised her I could tell a fake apology from a real one. "What do you want for lunch?," she asked and he looked up. With red swollen eyes he met her indifferent gaze. "Could go for a sandwich," he answered: "Chicken and bacon."
She got his and her own coat and off they went. Concerned he would not be back before lunch break was over, he hesitated and discarded her notion to take him out to eat. I insisted and off they went. The two most different people in the office on a minor excursion. I wondered as they left the premises, whether I had put a spark to gunpowder and with an uneasy mind I watched from my window. Situated immediately opposite the ZenTech HQ was a church in gothic architecture with large spires twisting and stretching towards heaven. The building itself was beautifully maintained and the plethora of ornaments on the building itself was completely intact. In a tower stretching higher than any of the many spires on the church aspiring to pierce the pearly gates of heaven was the bell tower with a clock of gold. Immediately above the clock sat a giant brass bell, announcing proudly and relentlessly its message once an hour. When the Jonas and June reached the church, June immediately pointed in one direction and started that way, but a hesitant Jonas turned on his heels and went the other way in rapid speed. June became aware of his departure after around half a dozen steps and immediately turned around and followed Jonas, running as fast as her heels would let her. They had both left my sight.
June had rushed after Jonas, but even in his famished tired state, he was slightly faster than her. She had to remove her heels to catch up to him. Upon reaching him she immediately grabbed him by his left shoulder, but her turned around, pushed her into a bush screaming: "Leave me alone, bitch!". He was crying and running, but June swiftly got back on her feet and followed. The second attempt at stopping him left June stumbling over two strangers at a bus stop. Jonas heard this crash and came to a halt. He turned around and let June catch him: "Can't you just leave me alone?" "Why?" "You hate me and as far as I can tell it's mutual." "I don't hate you," she protested. "You do," he answered with incredible authority: "Now let me be!" Obviously something was bothering Jonas, that much was clear to any who had ever had the duty to comfort a sulky child and his furious attitude did nothing to hide his hurt. "We're going for lunch," said June after a while. "Fine." "You wanted a sandwich, I know just the place." And taking him by his wrist, she led him through the crowd and through the city. "I really am sorry," she said after a while. "For what?" "Don't play dumb, please." "If you're so sorry, why not be sorry before you do that shit, and then not do it? It's called 'being a grown-up'!". "You're one to preach," she added after a while without breaking her gate. "I need to catch my breath," Jonas protested and they stopped. "You need cardio," June commented as he bent over exhausted. No comment. After a breather they resumed their adventure in silence.
The restaurant was small, bright and lightly furnished embodying every aspect of minimalism. White walls, stainless steel and abstract art along with birch wood furnishings left the small room with a feeling of grandeur. "I don't like it," commented Jonas when asked about the decor. June frowned: "But it's so stylish." "Yeah." "And clean." "Exactly. Feels like we're in an OR." A posh waiter eventually showed up in a white formal attire: "Hello, what would you two doves–," but was immediately interrupted by Jonas: "We're not together." "Ah, my apologies. Would would the lordship and ladyship be having?" "I'll pass," said June. "He said you should eat," commented Jonas with a smirk. "I am still full," she replied with a gracious smile. "From three pieces of nigiri. Right. She'll have what I'm having," said Jonas. "What would that be, sir?," asked the waiter. "Bacon and chicken sandwich. And a coke." June frowned. "Non-diet," added Jonas matching June's gracious smile, but he failed to consider his eyesore of a presence. "Thank you," said the waiter and left the table. "Why?," she asked when the waiter was out of earshot. "Shits and giggles," came the spiteful reply from Jonas. "You know I have a photo shoot tomorrow, right?," she asked: "Bikini shoot at that. I can't eat that." "Don't then. You're still paying." "You know, I am trying to be nice to you. You're just being a jerk," she said in a hushed voice. "You're being nice because you were told to do so. You've been a bitch to me ever since I was hired. I've got some catching up to do." "How many times do I have to apologise?," she asked annoyed after a while. "Only once, if you meant it." The waiter returned with the drinks: "I apologise, the kitchen is backed up due to the bulk of orders here during lunch time. It will be a few minutes." "That's fine," said June with a smile and gratefully accepted her drink with a polite: "Thank you." Jonas did not show such social prowess. He immediately drank greedily from the glass. The carbon acid eventually became too much for his throat to handle and he had to put down his drink rapidly spilling a bit on the otherwise clean birch table. Wheezing he smiled: "That's the stuff." June grabbed a tissue and wept up the spillage. "Are you going to tell me, what's bothering you?" she asked folding up the tissue. "You don't care," came the reply swiftly. She pondered this for a while.
"I first came here with my high school boyfriend," she said after a period of silence and waiting. Her first boyfriend was a Canadian bloke named Jake who moved to town because his mother had landed a good supervisory position in an advertising agency. He was a the 'teenage musician'-archetype, mooching of his mother's fortune under the assumption that three power chords on an acoustic guitar and lyrics on unhappy love and the existential crisis of the teenage years would someday get him on a big venue with a plethora of fans along with booze, money and chicks galore. Him and over half his generation. Dumb as a lamppost he took guitar lessons, but never singing lessons leaving his 'performances', if I might describe his musical recitations that generously, rather ambiguous. He was a fair guitarist neither good nor bad, but a poor singer at best. The instrumental parts he played was not that hard on the ears, but the second he opened his mouth, whether singing or not, everyone cringed. Except June. She was convinced he was an excellent musician and a good person. "Why did you break up?," asked Jonas sipping on his coke. "He got kicked out of school," she said copying Jonas's nonchalant sip. Before Jonas could ask the obvious question she continued: "Ran a dog fighting ring in the school basement." "Uh-huh," came the response after a while. Turned out Jake's mom got the boot for blackmail and he had to do something to get cash to fund his frivolous way of life and his expensive guitars. The food eventually arrived and with a smile and a silent: "Thank you," Jonas copied the grace of June when receiving his lunch. She chuckled at this. "What do you do, when you're not a work?", asked June after a while. "Why?" "I'm curious," she said glancing at he sandwich. He took a bite of his and with his mouth full he continued: "I game," he said. With a puzzled look she stared at him. "Computer games," he clarified. "With friends?," she asked. "Alone, mostly, or with people over the Internet." "So with friends," she concluded and picked up a single crumb from her plate. "No, strangers," he replied. "What else do you do?" Jonas pondered a while. "I used to play music," he said: "Piano." "Are you any good?" "No." A while passed and Jonas took the word: "That's why I play alone. No one to judge." She smiled, but it quickly faded: "Don't you have friends and family?" "No," he replied after a while taking a ferocious bite from his sandwich and chewing violently, yet not loudly. "But you live with your parents," she continued with certainty. "No," he replied with a sad glance. "When did you move out?". "I didn't. They vanished." A shiver ran down June's spine: "Last night?". A moment passed, Jonas swallowed and drank. Finally he replied: "Yes."