The Literary Girlfriend: Response Time
My girlfriend Danielle sometimes got into situations that were tough to explain. For example, Vin, this creepy (and maybe violent) guy from her past, had shown up while we were eating at a Mexican restaurant, and he had threatened Danielle right there in front of me. She’d sent me out on a crock errand to get her bag out of the car when two guys and a busboy told me Danielle had paid them to make sure I didn’t go back into the restaurant. It was tough to explain to them that Danielle and Vin were the crazy ones, not me.
While the three guys were keeping me out, a commotion went on inside the restaurant, the police showed up, and now we could see officers bringing somebody out. Knowing Danielle, I figured there was an even chance she had done something to Vin and had made sure I wasn’t there to stop her. And maybe whatever she had planned had backfired. Whatever had happened, the police were there and somebody was getting arrested.
I really hoped Danielle wasn’t getting arrested, but I couldn’t tell. From my view in the parking lot, I couldn’t tell for certain what was going inside the restaurant. Between the distance, the glare in the windows, and the people in the way, all I knew was that the police officers escorting somebody from the back of the restaurant. It could have been Danielle. It could have been Vin. It didn’t appear to be both.
Please don’t be Danielle, please don’t be Danielle, I thought.
Two police officers came barreling out the double doors with a handcuffed Vin. Vin seemed calm and in good health. He didn’t have any scratches on his face. No silverware stuck out of any of his body parts. There were no food or drink stains on his clothes or hair. I was puzzled. Whatever had happened, I expected more damage.
When Vin noticed me in the parking lot, his eyes narrowed and he shook his head at me. I was offended that a guy getting arrested would shake his head at me, so I narrowed my own eyes in an attempted look of disgust, and I shook my head at him too. We were both shaking our heads at each other when the police officer made sure Vin hit his head on the way into the squad car.
The tall guy watching over me asked, “Who was that?”
“That… was the ‘crazy shit’ from Library Girl’s past,” I said. I had no idea what had just happened in the restaurant, but I figured it was about time to find out. “I’m pretty sure she thinks it’s okay for me to go in now.”
I expected the restaurant to be a disaster area with chairs knocked over and shattered dishes strewn all over the place, but everything looked intact. Most patrons were getting reseated, while a few were still milling around, talking about what had just happened. The couple that Danielle and I had mocked for sitting on the same side of a booth were by the bar now, watching me with sad eyes. That kind of worried me. I picked up the pace and entered the dining area.
Danielle sat at our booth holding an icepack on her forehead, and several wait staff stood around while the remaining police officer her asked her questions. I saw her nod and speak quietly. Her glasses were on the table next to our copy of Pride and Prejudice. Even though Danielle was usually confident (maybe too confident) and loud, now she seemed physically small and vulnerable. I stood still, unsure what to do. Something had happened to Danielle. Whatever it was, I should have been there. I had a vague sense of what had gone on, and I felt guilty.
“What happened?” I asked cautiously.
“Vin hit me,” Danielle said.
“And?” I asked. There had to be more to the story.
“I fell down.”
I probably appeared to be a horrible boyfriend (and maybe I was). I should have been beyond furious that a guy had punched out my girlfriend, but I stood there almost emotionless. Yeah, I was a monotone guy, but still, I had to have a better reaction than nothing. I was relieved that she had only been punched. I had expected a knockdown, drag-out brawl with “crazy shit” woman, and instead I watched quiet, vulnerable Library Girl hold an ice pack on her head. Internally, I was relieved, but I couldn’t act relieved. I had to act outraged. And I wasn’t a good actor.
“Oh my God!” I said, trying to put inflection into my monotone voice. “Are you okay?” Right then, I knew that was a stupid question. “How bad is it?”
Danielle lifted her ice pack to show a red spot on her right forehead. She had a hard head. Maybe Vin broke his hand on it.
“I’ll… I’ll..!” I was about to make some vague threat about what I’d do to the guy who had hit my girlfriend and was already arrested, but I was a skinny guy, and I didn’t carry myself like a fighter, and I had a monotone voice, so if I tried to act tough, I would have been laughed at, but I still had to show that I was outraged by the violence that had been committed.
“I’ll… I’ll make sure that piece of… is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law!” That made me feel better.
A couple other wait staff who had witnessed it explained what had happened. Danielle and Vin had been talking quietly when Vin just belted Danielle out of nowhere. There hadn’t been any arguing or signs of disagreement. Danielle had collapsed to the floor, and Vin just stood over her, frozen. He hadn’t tried to hurt her anymore or help her or apologize. He had seemed shocked by the whole thing as well. After a couple waiters pushed him away from Danielle, Vin had just sat down at a table and waited for the police.
Once they were done explaining, Danielle got up, put her arms around my waist, and guided me back to the booth. We sat on the same side this time, and Danielle answered a few more questioned from the police officer.
“This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t sent me out for the bag,” I said after the last officer left. This was for the benefit of the witnesses. I wanted them to know why I had been wasting time in the parking lot instead of defending my vulnerable girlfriend from an assault. “The next time I tell you that you didn’t leave your bag in the car, you should believe me.”
“You didn’t see it?” Danielle said, a hint of annoyance in her voice. “It’s under the seat.”
“I checked under the seat.”
“You didn’t check good enough.”
“How do you check good enough?” I asked. “You either check, or you don’t check. And I checked, and it wasn’t there.”
“You didn’t… check… good enough!”
I realized I was pushing it by arguing with a girlfriend who’d just been punched out in public.
“We’ll check again when we get back,” I said.
An older lady on the wait staff, probably the manager, said our lunch was on the restaurant, but I knew that what had happened wasn’t their fault (it was partially Danielle’s, I was certain, but I couldn’t say that out loud), so I placed more than enough money (bill plus excessive tip) on the table. I grabbed Pride and Prejudice and handed it to Danielle, and she held my hand as we walked to the exit. The busboy was cleaning tables and didn’t make eye contact. I was pretty sure everyone was glad to see us leave.
The two guys (minus the busboy) Danielle had hired to keep me in the parking lot were still out there, but now they seemed kind of sheepish. I guessed they had heard what had happened and were feeling guilty.
Danielle waved at them and said cheerfully, “Thank you!”
The two guys took that as a sign to approach us. “Are you okay?” the tall one asked.
“I’m fine,” Danielle called out. “I just fell down.”
That was the end of their part of the conversation. Danielle took my hand again and brushed up against me as we walked to the car. Then Danielle turned to me. “If this bruises really bad, everybody’s going to think you did this to me.”
She was right. I groaned.
“I hope you use your power for good,” I said.
“I always do,” she replied.
Danielle was giving me her cheese-eating grin, but she was also walking wobbly, so I knew she needed to rest, maybe to get herself checked out. I was relieved that Danielle was taking everything in stride, but there was still a lot that she needed to tell me.
Who was Vin? What was his relationship with Danielle? What had really happened in the restaurant? How much was Danielle NOT telling me? How many people like Vin did Danielle know, and how were we going to deal with them? I knew she had gotten me out of the restaurant on purpose, but I couldn’t be a good boyfriend (or a real boyfriend) and let Danielle take on situations like that by herself. If Danielle and I were going to stay together, I was going to need some answers.
To be continued in… The Literary Girlfriend: Past Secrets .
And to read “The Literary Girlfriend” from the beginning, start here.