Performing Taekwondo for Rhee was so weird that Brooke put herself in a trance before kicking, spinning, and hand-chopping for him in his see-through booth. Why didn’t Sung take over? She’d had five private lessons and spent ten hours entertaining his cousin.
What a day today! She had felt Matthew’s hand stroke her head when he grasped the theatre door-handle. Her imagination must be as overactive as her sex drive—same thing. A second later, her heart pounded from his stealth in the lobby. And then—there he was, directly behind her in the third row. A terrific dreamlike current curled around her, pulling her into him, stronger than last time. She could practically see it—like those cartoon tendrils enticing Bugs Bunny into an explosion. Except this wasn’t funny.
The actress Annie knew exactly who Matthew was. And she saw the cartoon aroma seducing Brooke. To distract her, the actress had exerted her own considerable energy. If the other actors (men) noticed Matthew, they didn’t blink.
His eyes warmed the space between her shoulder blades but then diffused, because he had obviously made a mistake being there. Instead of leaving, however, he resorted to the same tactic as in the summer when he was pulsing like mad—resisting her. Matthew appeared completely impassive while secretly flexing every muscle in careful succession. He continued this—it gave him something to do—but it drove Brooke even wilder than she was.
After two hours or more when she could finally say, “Thanks, everyone,” Matthew had raced away and the repulsive Axl rushed in.
Axl, whom Fletcher claimed was after his money—Brooke hadn’t thought shabby old Fletcher was rich but he was (not rich like Matthew but rich enough for Axl)—mauled Brooke into a waiting taxi. But she had stolen a sideways glance across the street; Fletcher and Matthew waiting for his car. Good: Maybe Matthew would learn that Fletcher nurtured more romantic ideas about their love than Brooke.
When he admitted being jealous of Fletcher, what was Brooke supposed to say? “Old Fletch has us playing the roles of him and Dickie, who will stay together forever.”
Maybe if it was still summer—early summer—when Brooke had said and done whatever popped into her head because who knew what quirk would make him love her? Then, yes, she might have joked about Fletcher’s extensive fantasies of them. But the longer she and Matthew went on, the more deliberately she blocked her inner life from him. Because Brooke loved and needed Matthew worse than she had imagined. Without him, she did not exist. You wouldn’t think nonexistence could keep hurting more, but it did.
And Matthew already suffered enough. He blamed himself for involving a teenager (and so what if she was not gonna take no for an answer!) in a love affair too intense for most adults. A sensible person would flee from love like this as if it were a house on fire.
But not Matthew. He had always loved her. That’s what he said. He was half-zombie until he found her. He’d love her for all eternity, wherever she was. (Like Fletcher and Dickie.) And no, he wasn’t justifying his crime. He fully realized his wrongdoing. No matter how ferocious her argument: Like, did he see her as a typical teenager? Or himself as a typical Hollywood heartthrob?
Interesting, though, that in 1970s gay culture, nobody disapproved of Markie Fletcher being seventeen and Dickie being forty. In fact, their love fit the platonic ideal.
“Tut tut, Sir Fletcher,” she had said. “You and Dickie weren’t platonic for two minutes.”
“Clever girl.” But then Fletcher had insisted she read the most boring book ever written. Really.
After a tedious skim of Plato’s Symposium, she had asked where the Greek philosophers’ beautiful boy pedagogues came from if girls and women didn’t exist. “Zeus’s head?”
“Nice one, Abom—I mean, angelic child.”
She didn’t mention how awful nonexistent existence was.
Fletcher often said he and Brooke were alike, providing she were a he with violent tendencies and a drug habit. “For I, too, was a wunderkind: a resplendent teenager who knew everything worth knowing. For so very many years, I was so very young and so very, very beautiful.”
And now? So very meddling, very conniving, and sometimes mean: Telling Tara about Matthew and the Bond girl! Naturally, Tara called up the bio—as if Brooke hadn’t memorized it. “Barbie doll collection?”
Yep, so what.
And then, “Brooke, think about Matthew kissing her. Like, eww! How gross can you get?”
“Glad you think so, Tara. Glad you reminded me.”
A year ago, Brooke would have confessed her retaliatory weekend with the ghoul from Boiceville. Now she couldn’t. Tara would call her a masochist and no wonder Pop beat the shit of out her. “You fucking ask for it, Brooke.” Tara would never see Pop again because Brooke just had to hang around watching him in the act with Fletcher—an act Tara bet Brooke’s sick imagination invented. Nobody really did that.
A few hours ago when the likewise disgusting Axl had pawed her in the helicopter, Kevin the pilot who never spoke had shown Axl his fist without turning his head and threatened to throw him from the chopper if he didn’t leave her alone.
At home (meaning Matthew’s estate), Dex and Ivy chattered about their daddy’s swordfight: The playground was cool, too; Ivy had answered Connie’s phone when they were at McDonald’s; Daddy was having dinner at Fletcher’s.
Uh-oh. Matthew and Fletcher getting along was one thing, but teaming up? Not great.
Whereupon Sung arrived.
Brooke bowed, thinking she was free.
But Sung was saying, “Kindly come for a ride with me.”
In silence, he drove away from Woodstock. Brooke hadn’t told him to get in the car, so remained silent, too, (while waiting for his list of demands.)
Practically in Albany, he asked elaborate permission: He said Brooke must not acknowledge Matthew after Christmas. “Behave as if you have never heard of him.”
The James Bond movie would not tolerate a scandal. Especially at this point. Brooke’s existence (yes, he said existence) could easily destroy hundreds of lives and waste billions and billions of dollars. Matthew excelled in Readiness Is All—beyond all expectation. He was a superior man and she was his fatal flaw. Thus, Brooke must vow: No acknowledgement! “The woman determines fate.”
Further, she must not speak of this to Matthew—or Fletcher. “If you hint, you’re asking for trouble.”
Right-o. That’s all she ever did—ask for trouble; and then ask people to tear her limb from limb.
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