The Butler - 16. Chapter XVI
February 11th, 2011, Greenwich, CT
The following morning, I woke up far beyond my usual time. Normally I’d get up at 7am, but when I glanced at the alarm, my eyes not yet accustomed to the light that streamed into the room, it showed 09:12am. Yikes! I never sleep in, working for old Mr. Montgomery had prohibited it, and I need my eight hours. Anything less will result in a very grumpy Chris.
I'm usually a morning person, chipper, cheerful, but today, the jury hadn't come to a verdict yet. So I decided on a nice long shower; that usually did the trick.
A long, luxurious hour later, I hummed softly while dressing, opting for casual slacks, a light-grey shirt and a cable-knit black sweater; I’d promised myself all those years ago, never to go back to retail, and I hadn’t. Even these were designer and from the moment I’d started work for old Mr. Montgomery, I had begun to enjoy choosing something new to wear each day. Not the whole thing, of course; sometimes it was new socks, a pair of new boxers or a new shirt. But every day, one new item. Today's were boxers.
Once dressed I went down, humming as I descended the stairs rather quickly, got my jacket and planned to immediately go out; I could only hope the bakery still had the buns I usually get. I was greeted by the smell of coffee though, and it stopped me dead in my tracks; that was new.
Drawn to the kitchen, I found Gregory there, reading the newspaper. He looked up when I came in.
He chose “You’re late” as a greeting, his eyes following me as I came in over the rim of his mug as he took a sip from its steaming contents. “I thought I said we’d have breakfast together as well.”
I went with "And good morning to you too.”
Ok, so I forgot. Had to get used to this meals-together thing. Bite me. He set his mug down.
I went over to the coffeemaker.
“Sleep well?” he asked.
He’d never done small talk before. It was weird.
“Yes, thank you. You?”
Crap; empty pot in the machine. Turning, I noted the thermos sitting on the kitchen table. Had he…?
He took another sip.
“Is there any more of that?” I asked, indicating his own mug and picking up a clean one from the shelf, bringing it over when he confirmed. He reached for the thermos; from where I was, I had to come closer for him to fill my mug.
"Use cream; it's better for you."
"No thanks; black and strong.” He ignored it and poured cream in the mug anyway, then filled it. “Okay then…"
“Try it before you dismiss it.” I took a sip. Hmm...fine. “Hmm… you were planning to go out?” He asked, after a long silence, looking pointedly at the jacket I’d laid on the counter.
I nodded and took another sip.
“You going to continue to read that?' I asked, pulling the newspaper closer. His face betrayed annoyance.
I started to read the headlines, more to have something to do rather than to have to speak to him. I didn’t know what to say, exactly.
He pulled the newspaper away so I had to look at him. He didn't say anything and just sat there, waiting, an eyebrow rising as time progressed.
“What...” I asked, when he tilted his head a bit.
“Where are you going?”
He rolled his eyes.
"Care to be a little more specific?"
“To the bank and then get some groceries. Why?”
“I brought some of my clothes to the dry-cleaners; could you pick them up? Those are the tickets for them.” He nodded at two of them, neatly side-by-side on the counter, then sought my eyes again.
"At what time will you be home?"
I shrugged, pulling the paper back. Again he moved it, this time out of reach.
"Dunno, 3-ish, 4-ish. Depends. Stop that."
"We’re having a conversation, reading is rude. And I need you to be more specific."
"Fine. Three thirty. How's that?"
He seemed to make a mental note or something.
"Why so long? A couple of groceries and a visit to the bank hardly take three to four hours."
"I like to take my time, alright? Jeez."
"I see. Which car?"
"The jag. Would you like me to jot down its mileage before and after?"
Oh, for fuck sake, really? I stared at him as he replied, deadpan, and only belatedly noted the small twitch at the corner of his mouth. Oh, Mr. Funnybone was here again. I smirked sourly.
"Very funny. Anything else?”
He hesitated; then rubbed his stomach, leaning back a bit.
“You haven’t eaten yet?”
“No, I was waiting for you…you’re usually up far earlier. There was no bread…”
So he knew that as well, did he?
I usually took some from the freezer and put it in the cupboard to defrost overnight. I had noticed it was always opened when I took my own. I didn’t take any out, the previous night, due to it being the weekend; then I went out to the bakery and got freshly baked roles and croissants, and stocked up for the week, freezing it in.
Damn it, the bakery would have to wait.
"I'll whip up some pancakes."
"You don't have a phone?" was the first line that came flying as I returned from town, my arms laden with groceries.
He followed me to the kitchen, catching a bag that was about to fall.
"Huh? Oh, yeah; it's up in my room."
Putting the bags down on the counter, I turned to face Greg.
"What's it doing there?"
"Gather dust, I imagine. I haven't used it in ages."
He stared at me and then made a U-ey on his heels, looking at his watch.
"I'll be right back."
Frowning, I wondered what new bug crawled up his ass now, then started unpacking. Last I heard of him was the front door slamming shut.
He returned an hour later, carrying a small box with him. By then, I was getting high on cooking fumes. He inhaled audibly.
"What are we eating?"
"Scallops as appetizer and Linguine with shrimp," I answered.
"I'll get us a Pinot gris to go with that." He disappeared into the wine cellar, re-appearing a few minutes later with the wine. "I haven't had scallops in ages. How long until we eat?"
"About fifteen minutes," I said, eying the box he set down on the table. "What's that?"
"Your new phone."
"But I told you; mine is upstairs."
"Yes, and from what you said, I assumed it to be a dinosaur. So I got you a new one. I'll set it up, while you finish."
"It worked fine, the last time I used it," I muttered, subsequently saying, "nothing," a second later when he inquired what I'd said. He was already tapping away on the thing, engrossed in it really, disappearing in the dining room while doing so.
I half expected dinner to become somewhat of a stunted affair. Just the two of us, eating in silence. It turned out different.
“Now, then,” he spoke, after about two bites, pushing the new phone across the table towards me. “I see a lot of things happening around here, and it’s making me feel like a visitor in my own house. Last week, a roof repairman came by; I didn’t know about it. Two days ago, a pool boy shows up without my knowledge...”
“Those were appointments made before your father passed away,” I cut in.
Nodding, he took a sip and produced one of those handheld devices I'd seen people use. It had a far larger screen than the phone.
“Any more I need to be aware of? I need to know everything.”
Why? That was like…nothing to him, but fine.
“Most of it is all just standard, returning appointments. Like the pool boy; he comes by every two weeks in winter, every week in summer, to clean the filters and such. Most of it is on the computer. Well, was…I guess it’s been removed?”
He raised an eyebrow.
“That old laptop? From the study?”
“Yes. Whenever there was an appointment, I just entered it in and every day, I made a print that I gave your father at breakfast.”
“I see. Hmm, I’ll have to get it out of storage then, and copy the information. We have WiFi installed here now. It won’t work on that old thing, it doesn’t have wireless, but I’ll have it replaced. You can use it after I have an account created for you.”
When he had said he wanted to know everything, he’d meant it. He was tapping his heart out on that contraption of his, as I informed him of things ongoing; he almost tapped faster than I could talk.
I felt mentally drained by the time the main course of dinner was done.
Reaching over, he took the phone again and made it beep, chirp and chime, doing something on it, only god knows what. I’m technology challenged. It didn’t appear to have changed a bit once he returned it to me except it now had a new program and there was an additional icon at the very top that hadn't been there earlier. No idea what it was. But it hadn’t bitten me. Yet.
“What did you do to it?” I asked, eying it with distrust.
As said, I’m not too savvy with technology. That era had passed me by and I wasn’t shedding a tear over it.
“Don’t concern yourself with it; I’ve enabled the WiFi and updated it. You’re connected to the network now.”
When I kept looking at but didn't touch it, he seemed amused.
“Someone your age who is not into the latest thing; and I thought I’d seen everything.”
“Well, sorry, but I just don’t give a flying…”
Our eyes met and I quickly held my tongue, then chose another word.
“….hoot about that stuff. I know how to use the internet. That’s about it.”
“You have it on your phone now, as well.”
“Yes. And I also installed a messaging service. I’d like you to start using it. Like when you go out; you can tell me where you’re going. Or, when you’re in town, and I may need something, I can tell you what to bring.”
Really. He tapped something and my phone began to shake and buzz. Actually, it seemed as if it was approaching me. I scooted back from the table, quickly. What the…
And then I heard a sound I’d heard a long time ago. Years. Gregory laughing.
Looking up, confused from what was happening to the phone, I found a whole different person sitting across from me.
“Seriously…you should’ve seen your face. That was classic. I sent you a text, Chris. I enabled vibrate.”
Fucking hell. That thing would’ve jump out of my pocket if it’d been on me.
I only used the mobile to call and receive a call. No one had my number, except Mr. Montgomery; we’d used it when he was out and needed to be picked up. I hadn't used it in over a year. And now Gregory had the number. I eyed the phone. The display was on, text was scrolling across the screen.
Hello Chris it said.
And I felt stupid. And embarrassed.
“Use the keys. Tap in the text field and a keypad comes up. Try it.”
Picking up the phone, I tried. No dice. It became a mix of letters and symbols. I hit send. A few seconds later, his phone chirped. It didn’t do anything of the idiotic stuff mine had done. He read what I’d sent and raised an eyebrow.
“Are you dyslectic?”
What? Hell no.
“Then what does this mean?”
“I dunno, I just sent something.” He hid a smile, but not fast enough. Great. Fine. Laugh at my expense. Jerk. “Glad to see I’m amusing you.”
“It’s…definitely different,” he remarked. “For lack of a better word; it’s endearing, actually.”
“Now you’re mocking me.”
“You never texted before…and no, I am not mocking you. How come you’ve never done something the rest of the world does like taking its next breath?”
“No. Who am I going to text? The mailman?”
His features sobered.
What friends? I had none.
“I never had the time to…ugh, whatever. Are we done here? I’d like to clear the table.”
He set his elbows on the table and laced his fingers, then rested his chin on his thumbs.
“No. I think we stumbled onto something here I didn't know of you…and we haven’t had coffee yet. Or dessert, for that matter.”
He sent a meaningful look and I got up in a huff. Fine.
When I returned with the desserts (and had the coffeemaker percolate in the kitchen as well), my phone was doing its little dance on the table again; its screen was black, though. Eying Gregory, he nodded at it.
“A lesson in texting. I sent you a question. Text me the answer back.”
I tapped the button power on the screen.
You don’t have friends?
This was stupid; why not just answer it regular?
“No. Use the phone,” he chided when I was about to do just that. I tapped the chatbox.
His phone chirped. He glanced at it and typed something.
No time to make friends do you?
I have many friends, I received back. Use commas and dots, while texting.
He had friends? I hadn't seen anyone come by since the beginning.
Did you make them do this too?
He smirked at that one. Ok, so this was kinda interesting to do. I didn’t get to touch my dessert, his replies came back so fast.
No, Chris, I did not. They already knew.
You never called me Chris until recently.
He looked up at that one, frowned and then typed.
You didn't allow it? Which do you actually prefer? Chris or Christopher? And you have never called me Greg until very recently, either?
You may call me Chris
When I looked up, he seemed pleased.
Why did you not have time to make friends?
Being here with your father was timeconsuming I just never had thetime
Use commas, spaces and dots!!!
God! Anal! I retyped my reply.
Better. And in New York? Or perhaps Montreal?
He frowned again. And this time, I held up my finger.
How did you know I am actually from Montreal?
I know a lot of things. Do you still speak French?
“Oui, et toi?” I replied, normally.
That made him look up and blink.
“Oui, je parle français mais probablement pas aussi bien que toi.”
“You speak it well enough.” I couldn’t help but grin; his accent was pretty horrible, but passable. “Any other languages?”
“Spanish, Japanese, passable Mandarin and a little German.”
Fuck. Me. I stared at him
A corner of his mouth rose.
“Yes. Really. I travel a lot.”
“No, use the phone,” he cut in. Ugh!
So you’re going to be away a lot, then?
No. Alan will take care of it.
Oh. Well then. There went my short euphoria of a Greg-less house. For a minute I had hoped he’d have to leave a lot.
He is in Hong Kong, right now.
So who is leading Montgomery International?
I am. From here.
“How?” I asked, confused.
Use your phone!!
By, among other things, the technology you are using right now.
Right, that was kinda…awesome.
And I really did think that amazing. A phone, a fax, a mobile and some computers was all it took? Looking up, I found him staring at me.
“What?” I asked.
“You’re so…innocent, in a way. That’s unexpected…”
“You really have no idea how the world works these days, do you?”
“I guess not. Never had much use for the mobile. I use the internet, sometimes email, but that’s about it.”
“We’ll work on that, then.”
He tapped on his phone again.
Do you agree sharing meals together is constructive. That we need this?
Sure. I guess he was right. And it was kinda normal. Yes
Good. Thank you.
“May I ask a live question?” He looked up and turned his head slightly, indicating he was listening. “Since you closed the household account, I have been supplying the groceries. How about sharing costs?”
That sure caused a frown.
“I was not aware…” he began, then halted and sighed. “I see.” He tapped his finger on the table in thought. “Alright, I’ll reinstate your access to the account. That was, perhaps, a little too…impulsive.”
“I ran this household for six years, Gregory. I think I know what I’m doing. And I would never use the account for anything else.”
“Noted. I’ll set it up in the morning.”
“Turn over the receipts of items you purchased with your own account. I’ll make sure you’re reimbursed for it.”
“Alright. Thank you. I'll get the coffee...”
Later that evening, just as I was preparing to go to bed, my phone chirped. I’d been fiddling with it, wanting to get rid of the stupid vibrate option; it made me jump every single time.
I enjoyed dinner and prefer a normal conversation over fighting you. Have a good night.
I had to admit; so had I. And wondered why this one-eighty of his in personality.
I hadn’t imagined to ever be at the point where we could be in the same room for longer than a few minutes and not bite each others’ head off. But we had done just that and I had, unexpectedly, enjoyed it too. It sure had broken up my, perhaps boring, evening which would otherwise have been spent in my room, watching and old movie on television or reading a book. I rarely spent time in the den anymore, knowing Greg frequented it; I used to read there a lot.
Perhaps I could do that again, and not be ordered about or sniped at. And now, at least on some parts of the day, there’d be someone to have a normal conversation with. Well...hopefully. If he stayed this way, kinder and more approachable, who knew; we might actually pull this off without any more fights. Because he was right; normal conversation felt way better too.
(I officially hate this format. I tried to redo it, it completely reset the texting parts, so I edited but kept that part intact. Sorry format-lovers, don't want to do it. )
(Took out some lines for clarity and one that contradicted a earlier chapter)
(edited the French a bit)
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