Chase Hope 2

Chase’s life was one massive delusion. He had spent countless years crafting it. By now it was so fat, unyielding and intricate that it had the power even to fool him. Of course living this type of hideous delusion always requires outside assistance of some kind. Chase found it in all the usual suspects – drugs, booze, and women. The constant presence of any or all of these things allowed him to live the lies of his own making. He was happy with the situation. It worked well for him, or at least it had for the last decade.

As he sat in his office cubicle, not even pretending to do anything useful or productive, he surveyed his facebook wall with disinterest. His profile, as was the usual case, revealed only those elements of himself that he could bear to show the world. According to facebook, Chase’s favourite book was The Catcher in the Rye, the music he preferred was hard rock or alternative, and the movies he enjoyed included Napoleon Dynamite, Pineapple Express, Star Wars and Donnie Darko. Facebook also thought Chase spent his time working, drinking, socialising and running. His religious persuasion was listed as firm atheist, he preferred woman and his status had never been shifted from single, despite many feeble attempts at a relationship.

The most misleading aspect of his profile, however, was the other names that appeared as ‘friends.’ A total of four hundred and eighty one people proudly stood in the friendship line. Two, maybe three, actually meant anything to the man who had claimed them. This then was the personality that Chase Richard Spencer presented to the world.

Any information about his family was absent from the profile. Facebook did not know the story. It did not know what had happened or how it had come about. It did not know that Chase Richard Spencer was a haunted man. It had no idea that nightmares plagued his sleep or why he avoided any kind of meaningful contact with humanity. True, facebook had some notion of how much he hated his job, but it was embarrassingly unaware of his real passions and ambitions. Facebook made no attempt whatsoever to know the soul of Chase Richard Spencer.

*

‘So when am I finally going to meet this elusive father of yours?’ Dean enquired as he sipped his cabernet sauvignon in his overpriced jeans and expertly stitched white collared shirt.

In a red top and tight jeans, with her hair neatly secured with beaded pins, Hope looked up from her tapas to Dean’s grinning face. They were at a sleek new tapas bar that he had been eager to introduce her to. Sitting across from one another on highly uncomfortable stools, Hope looked down at the offensively large plates that took up the entire table, despite the tiny portions of precisely arranged, apparently edible articles, that they sported. The items sat there smugly on their oversized plates as if to say, Yes well I know I’m not satisfying, but I’m fucking gorgeous so who cares darling? For some reason the whole atmosphere bothered Hope far more than it usually did.

Dean, as usual, was oblivious to her lack of enthusiasm. Momentarily forgetting his question, he beamed at her and said, ‘Phil used to work with the chef here. He’s a really innovative guy, loves stirring the pot and thinking outside the square. Like the way he’s done this plate for example.’ He gestured toward one of the oversized plates. ‘He’s taken something so simple here and made it into something different just by mixing up two ingredients that don’t traditionally go together. And the way it’s presented is really interesting, I wouldn’t have thought of that.’

He surveyed the contents of the plate with intense fascination. Hope also looked at the contents of the plate. She looked at the unattractive green stalks with the blob of mustard crap on them that took up one hundredth of the surface area of the plate, and felt like she was going to be sick. She was, of course, used to Dean’s culinary chatter. His passion for his ‘art’ was even something that attracted her to him in the first place. But now, years later, his unwarranted enthusiasm for this mediocre semblance of produce angered her intensely.

Having completed his session of culinary admiration, Dean propped his elbow on the table and smiled at her. ‘Now what was I saying before?’ He furrowed his brow in thought for a second. ‘Ah right – your dad. So, when am I going to meet him?’

He delicately grabbed a fork and began sampling his gelatinous mustard goo. Snatching at her glass Hope drank it in one mouthful. Dean attempted to hide his distaste at her over indulgence, but she saw it in his eyes. She felt like grabbing the whole bottle, the expensive bottle, and sculling it as she screamed, ‘I’ll fucking drink this over priced shit as fast as I want and I don’t give a flying fuck what you or anyone else here who may be people watching us thinks about it!’ However, she managed to hold her tongue as Dean poured her another glass.

Having been asked the same question twice, Hope knew she had to stop stalling and answer it. ‘Well I’m not sure when I’ll be seeing Jack next. There was some talk of a family get together, whatever that is. Dad thinks we should all give it a go, but I don’t think it’s a good idea, and I’m not sure that mum is convinced either.’

Dean looked slightly puzzled. ‘Why not? I think that it’s good that your dad wants to do that.’

Hope glared at him. He didn’t understand anything. She really wanted to slap him. Calmly she began to explain her hesitancy. ‘Well just think about it – mum and Ian, Tanner, me, and Jack? All together? Don’t you think that would be a bit weird?’

She stared at Dean with a tiny flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, he might grasp the gravity of the situation. She was disappointed.

Dean mused for a few moments then came out with, ‘No, I don’t think it would be weird. I mean, yes, it’s not your average situation, but we’re all adults and we can behave as such.’

Hope felt fury burning within her at his attitude, and his incredulous inclusion of himself in the scenario. He just didn’t get it. Pointlessly she pressed on. ‘You don’t think your brother, mother, your step-dad who you’ve known all your life, and your real dad, who you only just became aware of, all sitting down to a family meal together, would be at all awkward?’ Hope stared at him angrily.

Dean allowed no time for reflection and hit her with, ‘Yeah, but we all need to push past the awkwardness. The situation is what it is. And besides I’ll cook up such a storm that everyone won’t be able to help being merry.’

He grinned childishly at her. Fighting back the urge to slam a giant wet fish into his face as she roared THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU! YOU HAVE NO SAY AND IT’S NOT YOUR SITUATION! IT’S MY MESSED UP FAMILY, MY FEELINGS, MY LIFE AND YOU’RE STARTING TO BECOME A REALLY ANNOYING PART OF IT!, Hope quietly sipped her fresh glass of wine and said, ‘You’re probably right. I’ll tell mum we’ll have the dinner.’

*

Tanner waltzed into the BP on Stirling Highway in Claremont. Behind the counter Amy chatted away to an older customer, as Tanner went to the back fridge to get a bottle of water. Amy was a hauntingly attractive girl of 22 – slender, petite, and delicate. She had honey blonde, straight hair that was at the moment partly out with a braid across her forehead. It looked really pretty against her heart shaped face, her pale blue eyes that were set wide apart, and her high cheekbones.

Tanner perused the dismal array of flower bunches BP had to offer. It will be gerberas today. With his book laden backpack slung over one shoulder, he took his purchases to the counter and waited. Amy. Finally it was his turn. He pushed the flowers gently towards her and thumped the water down as he fumbled in his pocket for change.

Amy took the flowers and blushed slightly, ‘They’re beautiful.’

She placed the cluster of change in the register and smiled warmly at him. Tanner took his water and smiled back. ‘I’ve been meaning to ask you – what’s your middle name Amy?’

Quite used to Tanner’s odd questions, Amy smiled and rolled her eyes. ‘It’s embarrassing. It’s Helen – after my grandmother.’

Tanner’s face lit up like a beacon. ‘The face that launched a thousand ships,’ he whispered.

Giggling, Amy furrowed her brow in curiosity.

More vocally Tanner eagerly explained, ‘Helen was the queen of Sparta once, married to Menalous. But she fell in love with a Trojan Prince – Paris – and ran away with him to his kingdom, launching the greatest war the world had ever seen. The face that launched a thousand ships.’ He paused and looked intently at her. She blushed. ‘It’s perfect,’ he said softly.

The look he gave her as he left was not one of a boy, but a man that was deeply in love.

The manager of BP, who had been secretly privy to this strange interchange as he arranged the smoke shelves, felt it was now safe to comment. ‘You know Amy, most people take their purchases with them when they leave.’

Amy bashfully adjusted some obsolete items on the counter. ‘Every Monday morning at 8:15 this kid comes in, buys a bottle of water and some flowers, and then he gives the flowers to me.’

The manager raised his eyebrows. ‘An admirer then hey?’

‘Something like that. The first time he did it – a few months ago – I asked him what they were for. He said it was Monday, the first day of the week – the day of possibilities.’

‘O – kay then!’ the manager replied with a laugh and a what a weirdo look on his otherwise strictly logical face.

He stalked off to attend to other pressing matters without giving it another thought. Amy pulled the flowers out from under the counter and twiddled with the petals as she yearned inside.

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