This isn’t meant to show that Marshall is wrong or peculiar, but more that this would be a pretty common reaction in this situation. If anything, in this situation, it’s Pete whose reaction is unusual, though not unusual for him.
But even Pete’s relaxed, bohemian approach to these things is tested by what he learned at the end of the last chapter, of course.
Cyndi got a laugh out of this:
“Good God,” Marshall said, leaning back on the bed, “the poor bastard didn’t stand a chance.”
I commented that Marshall is always working to contain and control his employer’s sexuality, and to belittle her attractiveness, in various ways, to which Cyndi remarked, “Feh.”
In Marshall’s defense, I mentioned that this game the two of them play is far from being as unequal as it might appear at this point.
Cyndi also commented on Jan Sleet’s not remembering the name of the young man she had the date with. I commented that she probably did remember his name, and was just playing it casual. I also mentioned that we would meet the man in question, Dennis, in a later chapter.
One thing Cyndi commented on was that Marshall is in a situation, unusual for him, where he is being noticed for himself, not just as the assistant of a fairly well known reporter and amateur detective. Both Vicki and the Jinx, especially Dr. Lee, are quite interested in Marshall for himself, including inviting him to a funeral to which is employer is specifically not invited. As I say, this is an unusual situation for him, but it is one which he, rather quietly, enjoys.
Pete is in a precarious situation at the funeral, though only he is aware of it, because only he is aware of how conflicted starling is about being there. He persuaded her to come, but he knows there is a very real chance she will flip out and people will die. This is not a situation she would ever have let herself be in under normal circumstances.
This leaves Pete very little attention for other questions, like how Donna feels about what Frances says to her, for example.
But it’s not just the worry that starling will kill somebody, though he can tell himself that’s the main issue. But the main thing is that he cares about her, more than he would admit to anybody, including himself.
Which is mutual. In this exchange, I show it in miniature: “I’m going to get another beer,” she said, getting to her feet. She thought for a moment, then she added, “I’ll get one for you, too.” She hesitated. “Do you want one?”
A friend I knew on the BBSs years ago, named Bob Bernstein, said that in his work as a therapist, with some patients the most important thing he could do was to (re)teach them how to relate to other people, using their sessions with him as a classroom, so they could learn the skills they could then apply in other relationships in their lives. When he said this, it really gave me the key to starling’s relationship with Pete (which is why Bob got a thank you here). This is what Pete is doing with starling, not intentionally, but simply by being willing to accept her for what she is, by being willing to treat her as a person, without pre-judging her for what she’s done. In that little excerpt above, we see her (as I say, in miniature, in one paragraph), start to figure out how to include someone else in her life, how not to be so completely alone as she has been for a long time.
(Reminder to myself: Add Cyndi and a couple of others to the Thanks page.)
One thing that’s interesting about Christy is that, as Cyndi and I discussed, she’s fairly “girly” (shy and awkward about her attraction to Marshall, wearing skirts and glowing stuff in her hair), but you can never forget that she’s a Jinx. She’s unfazed by starling, she’s not fazed by very much, as we (and Marshall) will see more in the next chapter.
The coffee scene strikes me funny at this point (starling and Pete buying the special coffee), because when I first wrote that scene, I set the price at $2 a cup, which at that point (over ten years ago) was a ridiculously high price for a cup of coffee. When I was rewriting it a couple of years ago, I raised it to $4. I obviously should have made it more, but it’s difficult to come up with a ridiculously high price for a cup of coffee these days which doesn’t become commonplace the week after. I should write a PHP script to increase the price on a regular basis, trying to keep it ahead of reality.
I also mentioned the agreement between starling and Pete, that she will be his friend. One thing which they have in common is that they are not, as the phrase goes, “in touch with their emotions,” and so they had to find a way to be together, which they both obviously want to do, without either one of them having to actually talk about how they feel. This is one reason I’ve emphasized in a couple of places how similar they look (height, build, hair color) because, despite their obvious differences, they are very similar in many ways.
This chapter and the next one used to be one chapter, but I broke it into two partly because I really didn’t want another very long chapter right after Curse the Darkness, but also to highlight this moment, their agreement, because it looks like it’s not that big a deal, but it sets the course for the rest of both of their lives, including in the chapter I’m writing now, where things will take a sudden turn that neither of them anticipated.
Speaking of that chapter, Undertown, the first part is posted here. More will be made available as it’s completed (and my usual little teasers will be added to each part). And thanks also to Cyndi for reminding me of the Undertown project, which is about to become a major plot point in the new novel.