Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Everyone Deserves A Happy Ending

Have you ever wondered about the fate of The Professor’s “not entirely unfortunate-looking” neighbor in the Manulife Building? He’s one of my favorite secondary characters in the Gabriel series. So as a wholly inadequate thank-you to Sylvain Reynard for sharing his wonderful writing with us, I thought I’d draw out the character of The Neighbor a bit, and imagine what could have happened to him after Professor Emerson’s departure.

I’m clearly taking a great deal of poetic and personal license here. There aren’t many explicit descriptions of the character known as SiR, whom I call Handsome Neighbor. So I’ve tried to create a story that remains respectful to the author and SR’s own literary achievement, while fleshing out, pun intended, a little-seen but important supporting player. The resources I’ve used are GI/GR, my own imagination, and Google. (Not Wikipedia, though. I promise.)


Everyone Deserves a Happy Ending

By Mango (Susan/SerendipitousMC)

Mere days after it was listed, the condo formerly owned by Professor Gabriel Emerson was host to a parade of potential buyers and real estate agents. It seemed it would remain empty only for a very short time. Handsome Neighbor across the hall sighed and wondered what the new tenant would be like.

He hoped the new owner was not averse to laying in his own supply of milk. It was rather annoying when The Professor was the only person knocking on Neighbor's door, wanting to borrow yet another cup.

The Manulife Centre was a sleek, multi-use complex in an attractive area of Toronto’s Yorkville neighborhood, so it wasn’t surprising that the apartment would attract prospects. Throughout the week, Neighbor took note of the different people who toured the vacant condo. There were a gregarious man and his sweet, quiet wife; a teacher, a nurse, of course some real estate agents; a number of men and women from other countries…it was like a carousel of humanity looking for desirable housing.

He’d met a few of them during his comings and goings from his own condo. Tonight, he’d just extricated himself from a lengthy conversation with a musician about the live music in Toronto pubs. He was anxious to start his dinner and then try to chip away at the writer’s block that had been his constant companion for the last couple of months.

Before Emerson left, The Professor’s relationship with Julianne Mitchell, his extraordinarily lovely girlfriend, had ended. Handsome Neighbor no longer saw her in the hall or the elevator, and frankly, he missed her. Their few glimpses of each other and brief interactions had been inspiring, and he always found the writing flowed after she’d given him just one of her shy waves of greeting in the doorway. He wondered what could have happened to make The Professor let her go, for she seemed delightful in every way. More than that, he wondered how to get in touch with her. She’d completely disappeared after one tearful encounter in which he’d offered her his handkerchief, which she’d kept. It was obvious she was crying over Emerson, that bastard. Neighbor was certain he could be a much better companion than the carnality-on-legs that was The Professor, if he only knew where to reach her.

And if he only had the nerve to actually contact her.

The blinking light of his answering machine signaled for his attention, and Neighbor hit the button before unpacking his groceries. Most of the messages were from his mother, informing him that she might have the flu (though she’d had a flu shot not long ago), and asking if he could possibly take a few minutes away from his computer to call her. Neighbor rolled his eyes at her unsubtle request for her son’s attention. He enjoyed his mother’s company, but more frequently he chafed at her undisguised concern for him. She thought he spent too much time alone and that most of his companionship was virtual. Unfortunately, she wasn’t entirely wrong in her assessment.

Neighbor set up some water to boil for the fresh pasta and poured himself a glass of red wine from Tuscany before preparing the white wine, garlic and lemon sauce. He’d thawed some shrimp to throw in for good measure.

The laptop remained in its usual spot on the desk in his study. Neighbor tipped up the screen but vowed not to start until after he’d forced himself to have a leisurely dinner. No use tackling the writing while he was hungry; the writer’s block would only frustrate him more.

Dinner was delicious, but really, it usually was. Handsome Neighbor’s culinary skills were quite advanced; and he enjoyed creating new dishes. He often cooked for family and friends, and as effusive as they were in their praise, he longed to have someone else to critique him - a woman who would sit across his table on a regular basis and know the difference between sweet basil, purple basil, and sacred basil, and would want to try all of them.

Several days later, Neighbor was retrieving his morning newspaper at the same time as Krangel, the elderly gentleman next door. “Did you hear Emerson’s condo was sold?” Krangel said in his raspy voice. “About time, too.”

“It’s only been a few weeks,” Neighbor said, puzzled at the man's annoyance.

Krangel shook his head. “Eh, there were so many strangers running all over this building. Anyway, now we’ll have to get used to somebody new around here.” His gaze drifted off to a corner of the hall. “Too bad. I liked that little girl who was with Emerson at the end there. They were noisy, though. How many times do you have to push against a door before you’re sure it’s closed? I swear we heard them every night.”

A sense of decorum prevented Neighbor from correcting Krangel on the likely reason for the rhythmic banging on The Professor’s front door. “Well, let’s hope the new occupant is quieter,” he said kindly.

“She looks like a nice woman. All you young people are taking over this place. I suppose that’s the way it’s going to be,” Krangel groused.

Neighbor took note of Krangel’s information on the gender of the new resident but did not respond, bidding his elderly neighbor all best for the rest of his afternoon.

A woman, he mused. Maybe she would be nice. Maybe she’d be personable. Maybe she’d just be normal. And single. Yes, unattached would also be good. He hoped he’d run into her soon - a teaser of this newest resident would be sweet.

Early Saturday morning, Neighbor heard the unmistakable sounds of movers hauling furniture across from his apartment. Their shouts were loud and unrestrained as they called to each between the apartment and the freight elevator. “Krangel’s not going to like that,” he thought, as his own excitement built. He wanted to run to his apartment door and sneak a peek, but he remembered he was wearing his Superman pyjama bottoms of dubious origin along with his argyle socks, and he didn’t wish to repeat the unfashionable introduction he’d had to Julianne. He decided to take a shower instead, assuming that the movers would be there awhile and the new owner would be present as well.

But first, he put up a pot of coffee, quickly grinding some Kicking Horse beans and using them with the DeLonghi coffee machine he was so proud of. He considered making a perfect cup of espresso romano for the new tenant, since he had lemons for the requisite twist of rind, but decided against it. Handsome Neighbor did not want to seem like a pretentious bastard, and at any rate, the woman would likely have her own coffee, considering the hour. (If she was truly the kind of woman he could be interested in, she would.)

In the shower, he rubbed a bar of Provence Sante soap through the small puddle in his hands as he decided what to wear: carefully worn-out jeans and one of the tailored shirts he’d purchased in Perugia, which looked casual but was perfect in its craftsmanship. Neighbor enjoyed dressing well, although he wasn’t beneath wandering around his home in pyjamas and a tee shirt emblazoned with Bruce Cockburn (or Flock of Seagulls, if he was feeling particularly nostalgic). But this morning, he wanted to make a good impression.

It occurred to him that it was especially fortunate that The Professor had left the building. If Emerson was still around and a female moved in, he would likely have pounced and captured the woman’s attentions before Neighbor had even buckled his Italian leather belt. This, and the lingering disgust Neighbor had for Emerson’s treatment of Julia, deepened his dislike of the man. Almost as bad, he had come to believe The Professor was stealing his best sartorial moves, appearing periodically in bow ties and a beret, and carrying the most fashionable of bumbershoots.

Shower completed, hair combed, coffee poured, Handsome Neighbor opened the door of his apartment to see what waited across the way.

At first, the answer to that was bookshelves - many bookshelves. They lined the hall like sentries, and Neighbor became distracted wondering just how many books she owned, and what she liked to read. Two movers were struggling to push a blue sofa through the doorway, which barely accommodated its width. The activity prevented him from entering the apartment, and that was just as well because he was overcome with shyness and doubt. He’d just come to realize how much he’d staked on meeting this woman. She could be anybody! He’d created this image, this persona in his head, and for all he knew it could be no more real than a fictional character in a book.

But he’d lived in the building for awhile now and she was a new resident; the least he could do was introduce himself and offer his help. It would be the polite and neighborly thing to do. He would feel better if he extended himself, regardless of how his thoughtfulness was received.

His hesitation lingered for several minutes until Neighbor heard a woman’s voice....



Elletee said...


Sheila said...

Love this! :)

Lady Fallow said...

I am thankful today for writers like Mango! ♥'d it. When is part deux?

Jenn said...

I believe Part Deux is scheduled to post tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving to us all! ;)

G said...

Oh neighbor...;D HEART this!

Unknown said...

I absolutely loved it! You've got me hooked. Well done!! I had a thought that perhaps the new neighbor is none other than Raven. Of course handsome Neighbor has to be SR. I'm eagerly looking forward to the next installment. :)))

Unknown said...


Jdt said...

Enjoyed it very much! You spinn the story .... And keeping the connection to SR so well,
Well done Mango!

Diana C. Acosta said...

Hehehe The writing is good. I want to continue it. I've always loved that secondary character ... for obvious reasons ;-)

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