Once Upon A Time

Juteux

From The Queer as Folk Grocery Store Challenge

Feedback is adored. But please be nice to me. *wibbles* <3


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“Make sure it’s vanilla. And non-fat. And then make sure you check the date on it, Daph, because I don’t want you coming home with old yogurt.”

“I know that I have to check the date.” She’s mildly annoyed as she examines the yogurt selection in the dairy aisle. Justin is ordering her around, when she’s the one who’s nice enough to buy his groceries! “Okay, so that’s strawberry yogurt with extra fat. Check.”

“Daphne!”

“Justin, I’m kidding.” She shifts her cell phone to her other ear and grabs a couple cartons, throwing them into her basket. “God, since when do you have such deep feelings for yogurt?”

“I don’t care, Brian does. He’ll only eat it if it’s non-fat.”

She gasps in mock amazement. “You mean the holy Saint Brian eats?! I thought he subsisted on air and blowjobs.”

“That’s what I used to think too, but then one day I caught him sneaking Ben & Jerry’s at three in the morning. And once, I even saw him eat a whole sandwich.”

“Wow.”

“I know.”

She strolls over to the juice section, checking out the varieties of orange juice. “You owe me like a million favours for this, you know that?”

He sighs. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s just that we really need food, and Brian’s sick--”

“I’m NOT sick,” Daphne hears distantly in the background. She grins.

Justin coughs. “Well, I have this project to finish anyway, and if I don’t I’m dead fucking meat. And it’s hard to concentrate when I have to take care of this SICK baby--”

Brian’s voice again. “I’m NOT fucking sick!”

Sounds of a brief struggle follow, with a yelp from Justin, and finally he comes back on the line, slightly out of breath. “Uh…Daph? I have to go. Thanks again for the groceries. Love you.” And he disconnects.

She stands staring at her phone for several seconds, ridiculously thrilled by the “love you.” She can’t remember the last time Justin said that to her. Possibly he never has. Huh.

And that’s when it happens.

So she’s standing by the juices, debating between pulp and pulp-free, and trying to figure out if the pulp adds any extra calories, when she hears someone nearby mention St. James. She thinks it might be an old friend or former classmate, so she glances up eagerly and then she sees him standing by the frozen pizzas, hand in hand with a small brunette girl.

“…assistant coach for their football team next year,” Chris is saying to the girl.

She beams. “That’s great, honey! Hey, do you want pepperoni?”

“Let’s get one vegetarian and one pepperoni.”

“Okay, but make sure it’s thin crust.”

Daphne can just stand and stare stupidly at Chris and his girlfriend as they discuss pizza toppings and she thinks that this is probably one of the more bizarre ways she imagined encountering Chris Hobbes for the first time after the attack.

Okay. Calm, calm. Do not panic.

Daphne orders herself to breathe.

She wonders how Justin felt, seeing Chris for the first time. But he was still so fucked up then, he could barely go into a crowded room without have a panic attack. Nevermind the effect his attacker himself would have.

Justin is mostly better, now. He never mentions the bashing, and Daphne doesn’t ask. Ever since that horrible day she and Brian tried so desperately, so foolishly, to make Justin remember something – anything – they haven’t really talked about it.

If Justin were here – now that Justin is mostly better - she wonders if he would go up to Chris and punch him in the face. Scream at him all the ugly words he has bottled up inside. Daphne has so many ugly words she would love to scream, but then again, this isn’t her fight to fight.

She wonders if he does want to talk about it. Daphne itches to. She wants to sit down with Justin and have a conversation, a real conversation, about his feelings and his hand and what it was like to think that he may never draw again. What was it like to know that the one thing he has absolute passion for might be taken away? Daphne’s never been passionate about anything, really, and she doesn’t mind this; slumping apathetically into a pattern of high school – homework – graduation – college – homework is par for the course for her generation. Daphne is going to go to school for the next four years, and another four years after that, and maybe another four years after that – and she’s not quite sure why. When someone asks Daphne if she has direction, she points to her class schedule and says, “Well, I’m studying biology.”

Justin is a kid who has direction.

She wishes she could tell him that. She wishes he would tell her all the things best friends are supposed to say, but Brian is Justin’s best friend now and Daphne knows this. And she loves Brian, but sometimes she looks at that pretty face and thinks, “You may love him and fuck him and pay for him, but I was the one who helped him ride his bike and built snow forts with him and went trick-or-treating with him. I was here first!” While it’s really not Brian’s fault, at all.

She and Justin still call each other “best friends” out of habit, but it’s a cute little label, like the Gap or non-fat yogurt, that looks good on paper but is basically meaningless.

And she knows, she knows, that all of this is because of the bashing.

Very quietly, Daphne moves closer to Chris, staring blankly at the ice cream section while Chris and his girlfriend pick out milk. They’re talking about college now, and Chris is mentioning all the sports he’s going to play that year and the classes he’s acing and how he thinks he might check out law school after graduation.

Chris is going to law school, while sometimes Justin still can’t use his right hand because it hurts too much from where Chris struck him in the head with a baseball bat.

You fucker, she thinks. You absolute fucker for destroying our lives and getting off scot-free. You took my best friend away from me and sent him to live with his lover, and now I only see him once a week or even less because he’s too busy trying to pretend like his life is absolutely perfect. I know the contents of every single vending machine on the third floor of the hospital because I spent every single day of my summer there. I know more about cranium damage than any medical school will every teach me. I was supposed to have the most perfect prom in the whole world because my date was the most perfect guy in the whole world, and instead I spent it getting coffee for Brian as we waited for the doctor to tell us if Justin was going to die. I know what it’s like to see my best friend have a panic attack when he sees a red tablecloth in a restaurant. Because of you.

Daphne is struck by the emotions that are suddenly pouring out of her, by her small shaking hands that grip her shopping basket a bit too hard. And then she knows why Justin doesn’t talk about the attack. It’s not that he’s afraid, or suppressing it, or trying to make it go away. But sometimes your words are far too ugly to scream. Because if you let them out, they might drown you. Sometimes, Daphne reflects, it’s just easier to tell someone you love them, and do your best dealing with the other stuff. Because, really, what else is there?

Chris and his girlfriend wander away towards the cereal aisle.

Daphne watches them go, takes a deep breath and chooses a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. It’s technically for Brian, but it’s Justin’s favourite flavour. They used to stay up late watching Tom Cruise movies and sharing pint after pint, once upon a time.

Daphne finishes picking out Justin’s groceries and pays quickly and efficiently. Chris never sees her, or if he does, he never says anything, and Daphne leaves the store to drop off the groceries at Brian’s place. She knows that when she sees Justin she’ll probably give him an extra hug or offer to buy him a coffee, and when laughs and questions her motives, she won’t be able to tell him why.

THE END