If you'll remember, when we left Cora last she'd had a rather "close encounter" with a good-looking, suit-wearing, charm-the-pants-off-you massaging butler, and poor Gary was having a hard time making it into the house without ending up in a pool of darkness (i.e., the game crashing to the desktop). So while Cora fretted over the state of her life and emotions in the bathtub, The Controller went around behind the scenes and fixed up that little cosmic mistake she'd made (although when asked in public, she won't admit to ever making mistakes! Of any kind! EVER!).
I do suppose it's high time we find out where these two (um... three?) are headed.
Gary got home later than he'd wanted to that evening. The pools of blackness that came over him whenever he tried to step into the yard had been confusing, not to mention very wearing on him. He'd really begun to think The Controller had it in for him by the fourth time it had happened, and by the fifth, he was actively repenting of his past slights against Her.
Somehow, that repentance seemed to magically unlock some sort of key to his home, and as the sun was about to set, Gary finally walked through the courtyard to the front door. He was still seeing things - or not seeing things, because his roof was missing - but he figured that had to be the after effects of the nothingness he'd just experienced.
When he finally got into the house, he met Ellis in the front hall. Ellis looked at him only briefly, and Gary swore he saw the tiniest flash of... what was it? Surprise? Unlikely - Ellis never seemed to be surprised by anything. Apprehension? Guilt?
"Nice to see you home, sir. I'll be retiring now. Ms. Dixon is in the kitchen and the special basket you'd requested for tonight is in your car. Have a good evening." And he was gone, leaving Gary to stare after him with nagging thoughts he refused to let to the surface of his conscious mind.
Nonetheless, he was never so happy to step across the threshold as that night! And apparently, Cora was just as happy to see him. She ran from the dining room, dressed in a pretty new outfit, and threw her arms around him.
"I'm so glad you're home! Where were you? I thought we had plans... and... I was waiting..."
"Heh-hey!" Gary laughed as Cora squeezed harder. "Don't suck the breath out of me! I'm glad to see you, too!" He held onto his reality and breathed her in, thanking The Controller for getting him home and giving him this woman. (Yes - he actually thought that. I saw it. At least, I saw it in my head...)
"I'm sorry, Cora, I was trying to get home," Gary began after Cora finally let him go. "But every time I tried to step into the yard it was like ... like everything just disappeared. And then I'd wake up - or whatever that was - and be right back where I started, walking into the yard. And then it would disappear again..."
Cora was staring at him with a worried look.
"No, really, honey, I tried and tried, and it took, like, five times or something..."
Cora's eyes were growing bigger and she was starting to look scared. Gary shot me a look that said, "How the fram do you think I'm supposed to explain your little mistake, huh?"
He decided to change direction all together.
"Never mind. It's not important. So! We have a date tonight, riiight?"
"Well, I thought we did. Gary, are you sure you're all right?" Cora still looked uneasy about Gary's state of mental health.
Gary drew her close and reached into the depths of his imagination for something that might smooth this over. "Sweetheart, I'm fine. It's nothing, I swear. I just got caught up in a story I'm writing for the paper, that's all."
"You're - you're writing a story for the paper?" Cora squeaked.
"Mm-hm. I just got a promotion! The boss wants me to do a piece on alien abduction! I guess I got a little wrapped up in my thoughts on the way home, that's all." He justified the lie about the subject of the article with the fact that at least the bit about the promotion was true.
"Gary, that's great news!" Cora looked genuinely happy and the worry was beginning to be erased from her face. "Well, I guess we'd better go out to celebrate then!"
"Yup, celebrate it is! Now, as much as I love this new outfit on you, sweetie, you're going to need something a little warmer. You go change and I'll grab the car."
"Don't question, just do," Gary smiled.
So Cora obeyed, throwing on a sweater and a pair of jeans before meeting Gary out front. They drove through the city in silence for awhile, Cora thinking about how Gary really was actually on the way up his goal ladder. Why had she doubted him? Was she that fickle - or was it shallow - to allow those kinds of doubts to creep in? To allow thoughts of greener pastures to take root? To allow Ellis to...
Her thoughts were abruptly cut off as Gary pulled over in front of the little park where they'd spent their first date. He looked over at her and grinned like a Cheshire cat before hopping out of the car and grabbing a picnic basket from the back seat.
Before she knew it, Cora was comfortably settled on a checkered blanket in the middle of the gazebo where they'd shared their first kiss, tucking into the tasty dinner Gary had brought.
While they ate, Gary told her all about the promotion and how he'd gotten it, what his new position would be like, and all his ideas for new stories. Cora started feeling that wonderful connection with him again. She chided herself for forgetting it at all and letting herself get wrapped up in something - someone - else.
But that thought only prompted guilt and a desperate need to eliminate the source. "Gary, I've been thinking," she started when he'd paused to take a bite. "Maybe we should let Ellis go. I mean, there's only the two of us, I'm sure we can look after ourselves well enough. And his is the only other bedroom in the house - we might need that if we.. when we... well, if kids come along," she finished.
Gary put his plate down and stared at her. For a long time. Cora frowned. What had she said? Was Gary so attached to the thought of having a butler that she'd offended him? Was it some kind of status symbol to him? Maybe he thought she didn't trust him to be able to pay for the butler when she was pregnant and not working, and he'd taken offense to that idea, and...
Cora's thoughts kept racing and her stomach tightened uncomfortably as Gary kept staring.
Finally, he moved, looking down at the picnic in front of them. He took a big breath, held it for a minute, then let it go in a resigned puff. When he spoke, he didn't look at her.
"I can't have kids, Cora."
"What??" Cora breathed. She closed her eyes and re-played his words in her head. They'd talked about everything and anything, and he hadn't told her this? Surely she'd heard wrong. Surely he'd said something else.
"You what? You mean, you don't want, or you can't..."
"I can't," Gary emphasized. "I just can't, Cora."
"It's a physical thing," he went on to explain. "I.. I was just born with it, and don't even ask me how I found out about it, you don't want to know that story," he stuttered on. "Suffice it to say it was an unpleasant medical procedure and that was the unexpected second thing they found out..." He huffed again and wiped a hand over his face.
"You never told me," Cora said quietly. "All this time and you never told me." Then anger started to build. "I mean, why the hell not, Gary? Huh? Is that something you just keep from your fiancé, huh?"
"Do you want kids, Cora?" Gary voice was quiet, but tense.
"What the fram does that matter now!? I don't know... I've never specifically planned on having kids, but I've never specifically written the idea off, either!"
"There are other ways to have kids. You know, maybe we could adopt or..."
Cora cut him off. "Gary, that's not even the point! The point is, you've kept this hidden from me! How long were you planning on not telling me this little tidbit? I mean, why choose literally days away from our wedding to divulge this secret to me, huh?"
Gary's features tightened. As morning light began creeping into the world around them, Cora could see a muscle in his jaw flick and his Adam's apple move as he swallowed.
Then his face changed, as if everything inside of him emptied out, and he waved a hand in a hopeless gesture.
"Don't we both have secrets, Cora?" He sounded as empty as he looked. Cora took a turn staring at the basket in front of them and tried to breathe. Did he know?
But her throat was tight and she couldn't answer him. She turned away. She heard the tell-tale angry blow of air through his nose that let her know her silence had just confirmed his suspicions. A deadly quiet moment later, he rose from his spot.
"I think it's time to go," he said flatly.
He packed the basket quietly. Cora stood, painfully aware of the thorny silence between them. As they moved woodenly back to the car in the first morning rays of the warm Los Aniegos sunshine, a chill descended into the midst of Cora's very being and and the ice in Gary's heart was evident on his face.
Hope and happiness had been restored only to be cruelly ripped away, all in the space of one night. Nothing could ever be the same again.