fool / fül

n 1: a person lacking in judgment or prudence 2: a retainer formerly kept in great households to provide casual entertainment and commonly dressed at motley with cap, bells, and bauble 2b: one who is victimized or made to appear foolish: DUPE 3a: a harmlessly deranged person or one lacking in common powers of understanding 3b: someone with a marked propensity or fondness for something 4:  a cold dessert of pureed fruit mixed with whip cream

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Richard Appleby, an architect, left his offices at ABC Architecture (Appleby, Baldwin, and Crab) on his thirteenth wedding anniversary (of which he was just reminded of by his secretary, Ms. Lisa Wilson, and incidentally the day in history when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated), took the elevator, exited, rode the Metro to his stop, withdrew the required amount from the bank machine ($40), and walked into Mme. Bouvier’s flower shop near the Hôpital Ste-Justine to buy flowers for his lovely wife, Christina (who was recovering at the hospital from minor heart surgery). Mme. Bouvier, mistaking Mr. Appleby’s indecision for grief, told her part-time assistant, Nina, to grab a dozen white lilies for his wife’s funeral. At the counter, Richard saw a lovely vase of red long-stem roses, which is really what he had in mind, and reached out to take one. He looked at the counter girl and thought she looked like a model. He then pricked himself on a thorn.

Yes, it can be said that until that moment, Richard Appleby led a pleasant life with his wife of thirteen years, and his two wonderful children, for what followed would cause him to lose his darling wife, his children, his home, and ultimately his own life.

All this happened when Nina, a petite girl of undetermined age, offered him a Band-Aid, and before applying, she took his finger into her mouth, tasted his blood, and sucked on his wound. He bled easily. She liked that in a man. He didn’t take out enough money, so Nina took an impression of his American Express Gold Card, and he left, with an awkward smile on his face, and a dozen white lilies wrapped in paper. Nina took the rose which he pricked himself on. She began plucking petals as she watched him try to get oncoming cars to stop so he could cross safely. “He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.” She did this until each petal was plucked from the stem, and she ended with,

“He loves me.”

She knew he did. She wiped the petals from the counter into the trash.

By the weekend, Richard’s wife Christina was brought home from the hospital. On Sunday they attended church together. His son, Ludwig (six years old and named after Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, not Beethoven), and daughter, Elizabeth (twelve and a third years old and named after no one in particular, conceived on their wedding night in London, England), were excited to see their mother again, and they waited patiently through the morning ceremony on promises of ice skating. Richard, on the other hand, was distracted by a young girl who kept looking back at him. She was sitting next to, he assumed, her grandmother. He thought that he had seen her before, but couldn’t remember where. She was dressed in a short tartan skirt (much too short for church, and with bare legs, in the winter!), a white blouse with dark tie, a blazer and chunky ugly moccasins. It reminded him of a school uniform, although he figured that the girl was much older, perhaps twenty-two. He couldn’t for the life of him figure out why she kept looking back at him. His daughter noticed as well and remarked to him that she had seen the girl before at her ballet school. That put him at ease; he figured that she must be a teacher at the ballet school. That was it. The young woman had seen Elizabeth before, and was just curious about her family.

It made perfect sense to him. With all the standing and sitting and hymns, Richard forgot all about the girl.

At the skating rink, Christina, who was a plump woman, and not healthy during the best of times, sat and watched as the kids and Richard made laps around the rink. She was happy in this role. Richard was not terribly graceful, he was a tall man (over six feet), and on ice skates his awkwardness was accentuated, and she was amused by his efforts to skate.

Richard too, was enjoying himself. He noticed his wife had found friends of hers from work, a couple he wasn’t much fond off (too many questions, and they always had all the latest technological toys!). He waved to them as he went by but pretended to be too preoccupied with skating to give a proper hello. It was just then that someone collided with him, a girl, and he accidentally knocked her to the ice.

He noticed that it was the girl from church. She shouted profanities at him in French, which, he couldn’t speak, or really understand at all, but knew that what she said was an insult. He had been yelled at by French speaking Quebecors for years. “Well, aren’t you even going to help me up?!” He had never seen a young girl show so much wrath toward someone before. Looking at her closely, he realized that she was the girl from the flower shop. He stumbled, and he pulled her up apologizing repeatedly. It was just then when she skated in close to him and put her arms around him as if she was trying to retain her balance. She only came up to his chest.

“I must see you,” she said, this time soft and sweetly. Her whole face had changed. She tucked an envelope in his pocket and skated away into the crowd.

He barely ate any dinner. He couldn’t stop thinking about the young woman. He had never felt anything like this before. In the bathroom he read her note over and over again.

The envelope was sprayed with her perfume which smelled like strawberries.

The note read:

"I want you. Meet me at (such and such café) at 9 tonight mon chéri. XOX Nina."

He made an excuse (he had to finish a presentation for the morning) and met Nina at the café. It was crowded, and seemed like a hangout for teenagers. She was in a booth at the back. The conversation was clipped with long moments of silence. He was worried someone would see them together. She had to be home before eleven. She said she had to see him. She could still taste his blood in her mouth. This disturbed him, and was at the same time exciting. Nobody had ever wanted him in this way. A guy who looked like he played hockey dropped by to say hello to Nina at the table. His name was Chad. She brushed him off. Richard wanted to pummel him for the way he tried to pick her up. He got the impression that they knew each other well, Chad mentioned chemistry class, and he assumed that they were both taking the same thing in college. He enjoyed college and told her so. She seemed confused by the remark. She ordered poutine (which he found positively disgusting) and afterwards they shared a slice of pie, and he drank tea, and the waitress gave them dirty looks.

Richard told her about his work, and the dream project he was now working on. A house that was positively modern and summed up all of his views on architecture. It would be his crowning achievement. A masterpiece of architecture that would be talked about for years and he was sure his name would be spoken in the same sentences as Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. She listened intently to him and then he paid for her bill. Outside, in a darkened alley, they held hands like school children and shared a cigarette. He hadn’t smoked in years. He wouldn’t sleep that night (caffeine and nicotine and love), and all the next day through work, even twenty stories up on a job site, all he could think of was Nina (although he did give one of his great theories on the Kennedy Assassination, of which he was a bit of an expert, being that he and Christina often sat in bed on their anniversary and over the years, had watched countless retrospectives on the thing). Nina knew he was married but said they were destined to be together. It was fate. He was worried Christina would find out.

Throughout the week Nina and Richard met at the café, and later would sit next to each other holding hands in a darkened cinema and discretely touch each other. They saw three Woody Allen films that week. Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Match Point.

On the weekend Christina wanted to go Christmas shopping. Richard feared at anytime she would accuse him of infidelity, that he made a note to buy everything she mentioned.

All the next week, he never heard from Nina at all, and he stopped by the flower shop four times, and each time buying a dozen roses for Christina. His wife said to him that, “She never felt more loved!” Although she was disappointed that he had taken up smoking again.

On the Wednesday of the following week Richard, Christina, Ludwig and Elizabeth went to a production of Swan Lake, a Christmas tradition. By then he was almost going mad with desire for Nina. He didn’t know where she lived, her last name, and he couldn’t find her on campus at McGill. None of the students he asked knew a Nina that was taking chemistry. It was only late in the production that he realized that she was right before him. She was one of the court guests. Oh! How pleased he was to see her. To watch her frolic across the stage. It was just marvelous. He thought she was just divine, but her part seemed very short. Afterwards, he lied to Christina and said he had to use the washroom, which meant that he had to take Ludwig, but afterward, he said he had to go again and made his way backstage.

He found Nina, but she was none too enthusiastic to see him. She felt slighted, and didn’t want to see him and was horrified that he had seen her on stage. She felt she did an awful performance, which she harshly criticized, and even then thought she did better than the principal dancers, who she said were seriously horrible. She seemed angry that he didn’t even think to bring her flowers. He tried to explain to her that he was with his wife and kids, but she told him to go. He almost broke down in tears in front of Nina and she yelled at him in both French and English (for such a beautiful girl she really had a dirty mouth), and then her grandmother showed up and Nina shushed him away. Her grandmother seemed foreign, like she was from Eastern Europe. Nina spoke to her in some hideous Germanic language (how many languages did she speak?), which Richard understood less than French.

He found Christina and the kids, and they all drove back in their Volvo. He cried in the bathroom when they got home, and then had sex with his wife.

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