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Strangers in a Strange Land -- Gen. 3.0
Published Feb 17, 2013


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Written By

spladoum

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Generation 3.0 ... Dorene.

Generation 3.0 ... Dorene. I hate meetings. Étienne hated meetings. Especially mandatory meetings like this. All managers were expected to attend, so naturally he couldn’t send an underling in his place. So he was, stuck, bored, and wasting time. This was like slow torture. The meeting had been going on for nearly an hour and so far there hadn’t been a single thing said that was worth writing down. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It was a standard boardroom chair—faux leather, not very well padded, supposedly ergonomic. It aggravated the ache in his spine. And this droning speech was boring him to tears.

Coretta, why won't you take me back?

Finally, the senior managing partner addressed Étienne directly.
“Your department made an excellent showing this quarter. Your latest project is excellent. I’ve been told that there may be some consulting positions in the works for your team, and most certainly bonuses. You guys are moving up in the world. Might be time for you start working on your golf game, Shin Yi!”

There was mild laughter from several people. Étienne could barely muster a smile.

Coretta, I'm not angry with you. I don't care what happened. I just want you back.
"… keep up the great work, folks. Meeting adjourned."

Finally.
Étienne walked back to his office as quickly as he could manage. It was a good thing that the secretary took such faithful notes and emailed them out to everyone. The meeting had barely been over for three minutes and already he couldn’t recall anything that anyone had said. "Étienne!"

That would be said secretary, blocking the door to his office. He swallowed, nodded. "Hey there, Dorene."

"Hey there, Dorene," she growled, mocking his voice, and rolled her eyes at him. "I've been trying to catch up with you since last week and all you can say is 'hey there?'"
"I've been busy."

"Yeah you have, I've seen all of those emails you send to Mr. Lundry. You should slow down a little, though! You're going to burn out."

"Thanks for the concern," he said, with faint sarcasm. "Do you need something?" He pushed past her to go into the office.
She followed, uninvited. "Yup, need to know why you're ignoring my emails."

"… they're not work-related."

"Sure they are, they're related to company morale."

"Inviting me to a post-work happy hour has nothing to do with my work morale."
"Ah, but you are wrong, Mr. Shin Yi. So, so wrong. It doesn't really matter that you crank out a whole ream of paperwork every two weeks when everyone knows you're totally bummed out. People gossip, you know. And you can't hide it with a smile in a staff meeting, or by working overtime. You need to get out of this place. You need to have some fun!"

"Thank you, Dr. Phil."
"Are you going to come to happy hour with us, or what?"

"What."

"… is that a no?"

"That'd be a no."
Dorene sighed and shrugged. "Your loss, I guess. See you on Monday, then."

She left.

Finally.
Étienne pushed away from his desk tiredly and just sat still for several minutes. The scene kept replaying in his head, and nothing would make it stop.

… I'm sorry. We can't be together. Please stop asking me to explain. We just can't.

… but I love you—doesn't that mean anything at all?

… Étienne … please just leave.


… why wouldn't she take him back?

***
Despite himself, he showed up at the bar around 7 that night, where he was greeted loudly by his coworkers. Dorene strutted right up to him and all but purred, “Hi.” Not subtle, she. From the moment she draped her arms over his shoulders it was clear what she really wanted from him, and despite the gnawing, nagging pain in his heart, he began to entertain the idea of giving it to her. Once a soloist got on stage and began singing karaoke, most of the crowd moved over to the pit to watch. Étienne stayed on his barstool and Dorene kept herself right by his side. After the second song, she murmured, “Wanna get out of here?”

“Sure.”
They took her car—the newest model Vaguester, certainly not the average secretary’s wheels—back to her luxury unit for one. Again, not something that most secretaries could afford. But these thoughts were driven far from his mind as they kissed long and hard against the front door of her apartment. The night they spent together was fueled by poor judgment and alcohol, both of which wore off quickly, leaving behind the inevitable guilt and hangover. Even the weak sunlight of an overcast sunrise was too much for Étienne’s bloodshot eyes as he woke up squinting.

For a minute, he didn’t know where he was, or why he was there. Then he saw Dorene’s curvy body sprawled across the bed. She was sleeping hard.

Damn it all, he’d known going out to drink with her was a terrible idea. Had he even used a condom?
He did not want to be around when she woke up. He got dressed as quickly as he could and took a cab home. He didn't talk to either of his parents. He didn't look at himself in any mirrors. He went upstairs to hide in his bedroom, and ironically enough, quickly fell into dead, dreamless sleep, the likes of which he hadn’t had since Coretta left his side.

***
“Is lunch going to be ready any time this decade?”

Coretta sighed. Her older brother was a pest even at the best of times. This afternoon, though, he seemed to be particularly determined to piss her off. And this baby was kicking her straight in the side. And she couldn’t hold the vegetable peeler steady—it kept flying into the sink.

“If you want the food to be ready sooner, you could always help me, Jason.”

“No way, that’s your job,” Jason said with a grin. He might be a better cook than his younger sister, but in the house of Mrs. Odette Lyons, women did the kitchen work. And that meant that Coretta was stuck with the cooking and the dishes, no matter how tired she was or how much she ached from the pregnancy. Her mother was inflexible with house rules.
Jason leaned against the refrigerator, only turning his head as a shadow passed by the window. "… hey, who's at the door? Didn’t the mail already come?"

"I wouldn’t know, I’ve been in here."

Jason made no move to get the door. “That one of your friends?”
“Seriously? I don’t know! Why don’t you just go see who it is? You’re the one with all of the guests!”

“Yeah, I guess I gotta. Otherwise you’ll never finish making lunch.”

"Do you want to eat raw chicken, buster?"

“The way you cook it, it might as well be raw,” Jason smirked, and left at last.
He opened the door to a fairly disheveled-looking young man. “… hey man, I don’t have any change. Sorry.”

“I don’t need change. I was looking for your sister.”

Jason’s eyebrows raised slightly. “… my sister? Where do you know her from?”

“High school.”
“Reeeeeally. What’s her middle name?”

“Jubilee.”

“Huh, guess you really do know her. Sorry. We get a lot of bums looking for money and food around here, gotta be careful.“ Jason looked at the man again, frowning a bit. “Are you that guy she used to date?”

“I’m one of them, yeah.”

“Alright, man. C’mon in, she’s in the kitchen. Yo, Coretta!" And Jason went upstairs, leaving Étienne standing alone in the middle of the living room.
"I'm cooking, Jason!" a voice shouted from the back of the house.

Étienne waited there for nearly five minutes before realizing that the other man had left the area to give him privacy. And obviously Coretta wasn’t coming out of the kitchen. He was going to have to go in there, and face her. The same way he’d faced her so many times before.

But this way, she wasn’t getting away from him.
"I hate this freakin’ chicken!”

Coretta shouted as she shoved a pan into the oven and slammed the door shut. “Jason, would you—"

She stopped short and went visibly pale.
"… what are you doing here?"

"We need to talk."

The sound of Étienne’s hoarse voice, and his red eyes, made Coretta stare closely at him. Her gaze lingered on the makeup on his collar, and she had to fight to swallow through a tight throat.

"… about what?"
"I'm tired of being alone, Coretta."

"Well, it sure doesn't look like you were alone."

"Believe me, I've been lonelier in the past twenty-four hours than I've been in my entire life."

She had no right to be angry with him, she knew that. Wasn't the proof of her own mistakes right in front of her? Still, she wasn't about to feel sorry for him. Not when he'd come in her house straight from being with some other woman!

"I'm in the middle of something," she said irritably, and turned back to the stove.
Waiting for the food to cook couldn't save her from him, though. He caught her arm quickly.

"You can't keep doing this to me. It's not fair. It's not fair to either of us."

"Life isn't fair, we have to deal with it." Oh, how many times had her mother thrown that one at her?
"I would deal with it, if you'd explain to me why you won't even acknowledge me when we meet on the street. Why are you treating me like a total stranger? And I don’t mean today. I mean every day since the Honky-Tonk, you’ve been so off—"

"Because I ruined everything between us."

"Coretta, what are you talking about? You've been saying that forever and I still don't know what you mean."
"I ruined everything!" she shouted, as if volume would make up for his lack of comprehension. She turned away quickly to hide her streaming eyes. "I always laughed at girls on the daytime talk shows. You know, those girls who were on tv crying because they didn’t know who the father of their baby was?

"I always swore that I would never be that dumb. I was going to have one guy, and I was going to be his faithful woman, and I would never give him any reason to be jealous of me, or wonder what I was doing when he wasn’t around.

"And now look at me. Thanks to a margarita, I’m no better than they are. I'm just another dumb, pregnant girl."
"And to make it all worse, when I told Robbie that I was pregnant, he just laughed at me and asked who else I’d gone home drunk and slept with.

"And what could I say to him? ‘I’ve only ever slept with you and my boyfriend?’ I’m already a tramp, I’m not going to be a fool too.”
"Wait, what? Who’s calling you a tramp? Because I have never once thought that about you. Who’s saying that to you?"

She said nothing and looked down at the floor, downcast. Étienne stared at her, only pulling his eyes away when the ceiling above them creaked. Then he jolted, finally understanding.

"… your mother."
Coretta shook with sobs.

"So that's what it's been, all this time? I'm on my hands and knees begging you to take me back, and you wouldn’t because your mother’s been in your ear telling you that you weren’t good enough for me anymore? Come here. Stop crying."

"… why would you want to raise another man's child? …"

"Who says it's not mine?"
At this, she looked deep into his eyes to see if he was making fun of her. But he seemed quite serious. "If your only worry all this time was whether or not it was my baby, I can assure you that I will love your baby, Coretta. No matter who fathered it." "But—"

"No more buts. Haven't we both suffered enough? And for what? You’re not happy without me and I’m absolutely miserable without you. Would you please just come back to me and be mine?"

“Étienne …”

“I don’t expect perfection, Coretta. It’s not like I could meet that mark, myself. I just want the woman who makes me happy.”

The smoke alarm interrupted their moment with its harsh clang. Footsteps echoed on the staircase.
“… damn it!"

Jason came rushing back into the kitchen and shoved past them, but he was too late. As soon as he opened the oven door, smoke billowed out, along with the very unappetizing smell of scorched food. "Man, sis, how'd you go from raw chicken to burnt chicken in ten minutes!"

"Jason, I'm sorry—"

"Would you just get out of here!"

He shooed them both out of the kitchen and in direct defiance of his mother’s rules, started preparing a second meal.
Coretta, too, finally decided to defy her mother, by clinging to her former boyfriend and whispering that yes, yes, yes … she would marry him.

***
More than one person in the office gave him a funny look on Monday, and he had a particularly rude email from Dorene waiting for him. But that really didn't matter to Étienne. Nothing mattered now except finding a wedding gown that would accommodate his fiancee's tender belly, and getting married to her as soon as he possibly could.

He still couldn't believe that Coretta had allowed her mother to demoralize her so thoroughly that she would break off their relationship rather than try to move on. Who cared if she wasn't a virgin bride? This wasn't the 1950s!
"… but … you deserved better …"

"Coretta, listen to me, please. You deserved better. I don’t mean to pick on your mother, but she is dead wrong about all of this. She was wrong to make you feel so lousy, and she has absolutely no idea what I want. I already know that there are plenty of men out there who would turn you away. I am not one of them. Now please, don't keep bringing this up. I'm moving on from all of that, and I want you with me when I do."
There was a knock on his open door.

"Come in."

"Hey, man. You vanished all of a sudden on Friday, what happened?"

Étienne looked up at Oliver, his department's intern, and grinned. Chances were Oliver had already heard all of the water cooler news. But he was a fairly nosy kid, and the gossip mill never had enough grist for him.

"Oh, I just left."
"Yeah, man, with Dorene. And now she’s mad as hell.” Oliver came closer to the desk and lowered his voice. “She chewed out a manager over his paperwork this morning. Seriously! A secretary yelling at a boss! And she didn't even get in trouble!"

"Imagine that," Étienne said dryly. "The office flirt not being held responsible for anything she does."

“Yeah, man—but that’s how Dorene rolls. Not like she’s gonna get in trouble for it, not with her uncle on the board of directors, right? No one else could get away with that kind of crap. Now seriously, man, what the hell did you do to her?”
"Not much, just left before she woke up."

“Man, are you outta your mind? First you blow her off for weeks, then you actually sneak out and don’t even leave a note or nothing? You’re messin’ it up for everyone! Guys like me can’t even get a cup of coffee with her, and you’re playing Wham Bam Thank you Ma’am?”

“Sorry, man. I’d have woken her up, but she sleeps hard."

“You’re so full of it. I’ll bet you didn’t even bother to try.”

Étienne grinned.
“Geeez, man. You must got something amazing happening to you if you’re giving Dorene the brush-off. And yo, lemme tell ya … the last guy that hit it and quit it suddenly found himself out of a job. He was a top salesman too. One day he came back from lunch and his key card didn’t work anymore. His office was packed up and waiting for him in the lobby, they wouldn’t even let him back upstairs."

Oliver shook his head slowly. "I dunno, man. You’re either braver than average, or stupid as hell.”
“Either or,” Étienne said cheerfully. “On the bright side for you, maybe Dorene will get some coffee with you today.”

"Are you crazy? The way she’s stomping around, she'll bite my damn head off!"

"No way, buddy! I just made things a lot easier for you. You'll come off like Prince Charming." Étienne stood and patted Oliver's shoulder kindly as he walked the younger man towards the door. "Go get her, tiger."

Oliver left. And Étienne went back to his computer, and deleted all of Dorene’s emails.


~ to be continued
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10 Comment(s) so far


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#1jadababy2003VIPFeb 18, 2013

I'm soo glad to see this story continue!! Kudos to you!! Loved it!!

#2janyangoFeb 18, 2013

Love it!

#3winniethepoohbearFeb 18, 2013

Haven't read this story before, s just started to but there is no generation 1.2, 1.4 or 1.7 so I am getting lost

#4martoeleFeb 18, 2013

\:cool\:*clap-clap-clap* It was worth while waiting for this update, April.
Margo put her hand up to her head and worries...! Will he lose his job... Will Dorene be pregnant as well? Oh my.... I gues I'll have to be patient to know the answer.

#5AlessaFayeFeb 18, 2013

Wow awesome chapter! I love the screenshots! \:wub\:

#6fredbrennyFeb 18, 2013

I am doubting Etiennes sanity if he can't even remember wearing a condom when he was finalyy giving Doreen what she wanted fo so long.... bleh.... would serve him right \:D Raising another kid that is not his own, and leaving his own with the office tramp.... \:rah\: WHAT a GREAT story! Now... I am just assuming \;\) hehehehe

#7cacai_kulehtFeb 20, 2013

this is so cool.

&& Étienne is so damn sweet. he really loves Coretta soo much. ♥ love it.

#8HumorMehFeb 20, 2013

We-eh-ehl-p. I loved every page of that, sladoum. Especially that last conversation between Étienne and Oliver - loved Étienne's cheerful indifference; however Murphy's Law being what is is, I predict this high to be - quickly? - followed by a low. So, I'll wait patiently by my computer until the next update to see what - turmoil? - ensues. . .

#9fruitopiaVIPFeb 27, 2013

Trouble is going to be coming Etienne's way.

Wonderful chapter, glad to see it back.

#10staceface2009pMay 15, 2013

Haha, such an entertaining and great chapter. I'm so happy to see that Ettie and Coretta have gotten back together! Yay! I hope the baby is his by luck!!!

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