A Friend in Need

“No boys allowed!”

“Aw, come on Jess! I’ll be good! I won’t pull your hair or mess up your dolls or anything. Just let me in, please?”

He was pulling the sad-puppy face on her. Jessie hated the sad-puppy face. If she ever were to write an allegory that featured Guilt — and not the done-to-death personifications of Lust and Hope and all those other vices and virtues — it would wear the face of her brother, looking up at her with those big green eyes and that pouting mouth.

It was that face that had, so many times, made her put her dolls or book down, apologize to Lynn or Clarice or Leona or all three, grab her little brother’s hand, and march him to wherever Tommy was holding court with Will, Lamorak and Galahad. Then she would demand that Kay be included in whatever they were doing, for she knew damned well that Kay only went seeking her and her friends when Tommy had refused to allow Kay to join them.

That had been the biggest source of arguments between her and Tommy growing up. Now, of course, they just bickered over nothing whenever the mood took them, which was to say, whenever they spoke. But back then, smoke would practically leak from Jessie’s ears whenever Tommy told their little brother to go away. Things had gotten better once Aglovale and Elyan had grown to an age where they could be suitable companions for Kay, but the sad-puppy face still worked its magic whenever Kay chose to employ it.

… Except, as it so happened, when Kay was unable to quite hide his smile. Then, of course, it was not a true sad-puppy face, and thus not deserving of the sympathy of one.

So Jessie rested one hand on her hip and shook her head. “Nope! I’m very sorry, Kay, but rules are rules. No boys.”

“You let Tom and Will and those guys in!”

“Ah, there’s a difference there.”

“And what would that be?”

“They’re men.”

Kay blinked, his jaw falling a little. “Oh, really?”

“Yes, really.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to resort to blackmail.”

Blackmail?”

“Aye.” Kay grinned. “I know all your ticklish spots!”

“AACK! KAY!”

“And if you don’t let me talk to you,” Kay shouted above her squeals and attempts to get away without turning her youngest brother into a newt, “I’ll tell Will!”

“That’s mean!”

“So are you!”

“All right, all right, you can come in — I said you can come in!” Jessie shrieked as she darted away from him. “You’re horrible, have I mentioned that to you recently?”

“You’re easy to blackmail, have I mentioned that to you recently?”

Jessie snorted. “In you get. Come on.” She shooed him forward. “Into the parlor,” she added. “It looks just like Mum’s sitting room at home.”

“Why the parlor?”

“Because it’s got the closest couch, dummy!”

“Why can I never speak with you without being insulted?”

“Kay?”

“Yes?”

“There are some questions you just don’t ask a big sister.”

As one they flopped onto the sunny yellow couch in the sunny yellow sofa. They glanced at each other.

It was a rare thing, to find Kay nervous, but if Jessie did not know better, nervous was exactly what she would call him. He brought his hand up, as if he would speak from the heart, but it flopped to his lap before he could speak.

“Kay?”

“Jess, I’m going to ask you something that you’ll think is none of my business.”

“What else is new?”

He took that as encouragement; fortunate, for that was the spirit in which it was meant. “What would be the best way to get Clarice to admit to Freddy that she likes him?”

“Oh brother.”

“Yes, sister dearest?”

Jessie sighed, flopping her head against the wall. This had the unfortunate side effect of pushing her hennin practically onto her forehead, which gave her the excuse of adjusting it to buy herself time before she spoke. “You do realize Freddy has no shortage of advocates, don’t you? Dannie laid into Clarice about it a few weeks before the end of the semester.”

“Laid into her? She clearly doesn’t know Clarice very well if she thought that would work.”

“I know, I know, but she doesn’t know Clarice like you and I know Clarice. Which is why I told her to leave Clarice alone.” The emphasis on the last word ought to be enough to tell her brother what her advice to him was.

“Jess?”

“Hmm?”

“What if I told you,” he asked, leaning close to her with that coaxing tone he used when they were children and he wanted something from her, “that I was trying to help Clarice as much as I was trying to help Freddy?”

“I’d say,” Jessie replied, “that you are of the opinion that Clarice likes Freddy as much as Freddy obviously likes Clarice.”

Kay started back. “How did you know?”

“You weren’t forced to watch, in excruciating agony, as Tommy tried to court one of your closest friends.”

“… If I were, I think I’d have to be hauling dear Tom to a priest.”

Jessie snickered. “Point. But my point remains that I had to watch Tommy court Lynn, and Lynn reacted in much the same way.”

“… I don’t know about that. I think … I don’t know.”

“You usually don’t.”

“Think, or know? Wait — don’t answer that.” Kay shook his head. “I just … I don’t know. I always got the feeling that Lynn knew what Tom was after –”

“And Clarice doesn’t know what Freddy’s after?”

“Would you let me finish? What I was trying to say was … I think part of Lynn wasn’t so scared as she let on. I mean — she was shy and scared, but half of her fear was over what her father would think, you know?”

Kay’s pause was long enough that Jessie felt empowered to ask, “Well, what do you think Clarice is afraid of?”

“Of course that’s part of it. But what I was trying to say was, part of Lynn was running away because she wanted Tom to catch her, you know? Sure she was a bit nervous about what might happen after, but everyone is. I think … I think Clarice is more scared than she should be. Does that make any sense?”

“In a way … but I have a question for you, now.”

“And what would that be?”

“Who are you,” Jessie asked, a faint light leaping into her eyes — the light of approaching victory — “to decide that Clarice is more scared than she should be?”

“Aw, Jess, don’t start.”

“I am starting. You can’t decide for her how she should feel –”

“You know what I mean!”

“But you don’t know what I mean. By the Sisters Cordial, Kay! She’s been told her whole life how she should feel and what she must do, or else — give her some space to decide for herself how she wants to feel about Freddy.”

“But she’s not happy — I saw her face, she feels terrible –”

“So? If she feels terrible, she’ll stop playing … no, if she feels terrible for mistreating Freddy –”

“You admit she’s mistreating him!”

Jessie rolled her eyes. “In a manner of speaking … I … well, I would say that she’s so confused when it comes to him that she scarcely knows which way is up and which way is down, never mind how to get it across to him that she needs space and time to figure this out without hurting his feelings.”

“Oh, for Wright’s sake, Jess. She could try talking to him. You know, like one Sim to another? I know you and your friends like to laugh at how dumb you say we men are–”

“Who let you into the ‘man’ club?”

“Shut up. I know how you and your friends like to joke. But if she just told him how she was feeling, Freddy would give her some space if he knew that she was going to let him in afterward!”

“Kay?”

“Do you know why we like to laugh and say you’re dumb?”

“Um … because you’re women and you like to pretend that you’re superior?”

Pretend, he says! Jessie shook her head. “No. Because you men need to be told everything. You don’t … pick up on subtler signals.”

“Jess, the only signals Clarice is giving off — that she lets Freddy see — are ‘stay the hell away from me’ signals.”

“And does Freddy stay away?”

“He’s gonna have to marry her, Jess! And he’s in love with her. How would you feel if someone told you you had to stay away from Will?”

“Step away from the jugular, Kay. It’s not the same thing. Besides, there’s something to be said for … playing hard-to-get.”

“Meaning?”

“If Freddy backed off for a bit, Clarice might come to him.”

“Oh, come on. She’s Bors’s daughter! They don’t go near men if they can possibly help it?”

Jessie just raised one eyebrow.

“Well, all right, except Lynn with Tommy, and Angelique with everyone, before she became a nun!”

Jessie rolled her eyes.

“But Jess, you know what I’m talking about … if Freddy backs off now, he might never get her back again. The de Ganis girls aren’t brave, you know.”

“I think you underestimate them.”

“You think Lynn would have chased Tommy if he’d backed off?”

He had her there.

“Exactly! He knew he couldn’t leave this to chance! He had to take up the chase! When’s the last time a doe came and just ate out of the hunter’s hand, eh?”

“Kay?”

“What?”

Bad metaphor! And don’t ask me to explain what a metaphor is to you again!”

“… It’s like a simile, isn’t it?”

“Yes, yes, Kay. It’s like a simile.” Jessie took a deep breath. “What would happen to the doe if she came and ate from the hunter’s hand?”

Kay’s mouth opened, but Jessie watched his eyes, waiting for his brain to catch up.”

“… Oh.”

“Right. Venison for dinner.”

“But Freddy …”

“She doesn’t want to end up like the doe, Kay.”

“You just said that the meta-five was bad!”

“Metaphor!”

“Whatever!”

“Still, there’s gotta be …” Kay snapped his fingers. “I know!”

“Oh, no.”

“Shut up. What if Clarice got to know Freddy in a non-threatening way?”

“You mean, what if he backed off and gave the girl some space?”

“… Shut up! But that’s not what I mean! I mean — what if Clarice got to see Freddy the way he really is? Not as some threatening suitor, but as, you know, a nice guy. He is a nice guy, Jess.”

“Oh, I’ll believe it.”

“So — so we just have to … hmm … the first thing we should do is have him rescue Galahad from his own stupidity–”

“Galahad? Stupid?”

Social stupidity.”

“Ah, that makes more sense.”

“I thought it would. Anyway, we need Freddy to rescue Galahad before he gets beat up, while Clarice is watching.”

“Oh, that ought to be easy to arrange on demand.”

“… Well, it would work wonders, you have to admit it. Especially if Freddy didn’t just do what Will usually does –”

“Drag Galahad away by the ear.”

“Right, but Freddy would try to reason with everyone. Don’t you think that might help?”

Jessie frowned.

“Jess?”

“Tell you what,” Jessie said finally. “I have an idea.”

“What’s that?”

“You try, as best you can, to keep Freddy from — from cornering Clarice when she’s alone–”

“Jess! Do you think I’d be trying to help the man if he was going to hurt her or dishonor her?”

“Of course not, Kay. But the fact remains, she’s nervous when they’re alone. Whereas, if she saw him … being himself, when she was with some of us –”

“Us?”

“Her girlfriends?”

“Oh!”

“Right. So, if she had some of us with her — she wouldn’t feel so ill-at-ease. And she would be more likely to notice Freddy being a good guy.”

“… How do we arrange for that?”

“Just tell me when and where Freddy and Galahad are likely to be out in public together,” Jessie answered, a mischievous smile poking at the corner of her lip, “and I’ll send Clarice and Leona out, and within three times, I daresay part of our little problem will have taken care of itself.”

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8 thoughts on “A Friend in Need

  1. Well, at least Kay is dedicated. It’s kind of sad that Galahad is being set up to be the fall guy because he is so predictably socially inept, though. Oh well. C’est la vie.

    • He’s not getting set up! He gets into situations on his own. The only thing Jessie and Kay are planning to do is make sure Clarice is in the room when Freddy gets him out of it. 😉

      And Kay is very dedicated when he puts his mind to something. 🙂 Thanks.

    • It should be fun to see, once I take the pictures for it! 😀

      Lol, I’m glad I’m getting the little-brother vibes right! I do have a younger brother, but … we don’t always get along as well as Kay and Jessie. 😉

      Thanks Van!

  2. Ah, I finally found some time to read again. Got quite a bit to catch up! 😛 I like their little plan. Now it just has to play out…

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