Things have been tough for me. I'm trying to finish this up, and I'm sorry it's taking so long. I'll reply to your comments when I have the chance. It's easier to find me on tumblr, at snakewife.tumblr.com , if you need to - I know some people made noises about "where is she?" I'm not dead, just stressed and trying to finish up Cat Sick and the summaries. Only 6 more episodes of OPB to go!
We left off on a vaguely horrifying point, what with Collin and Leon's violent form of expressing affection and Efrén's nascent friendship with, of all people, Mad Bart.
The repercussions of Collin missing the meeting in France are immediate. Although Corazon Paulin assures Collin via telephone that his role was largely unnecessary, it is clear she is displeased with him. This makes Collin pretty fidgety and pretty cross with Leon, whom he blames for this whole incident. Leon is less than remorseful about jeopardizing Collin's career, and he pleasantly informs Collin that he expects Collin to put things into action and soon. Leon will not accept "no" on this.
This is a threat, don't get this wrong – but it bears noting that in Leon's mind, he is not being a menace so much as he's being a sitcom housewife laying down the law. This is Leon's perspective on his relationship with Collin. Collin is wonderful but needs to be controlled and kept in line. Leon doesn't think of this as abusive. Collin is Homer, Leon is Marge; he is doing what needs to be done to ensure his husband does the right thing. This is Leon's logic, here.
Collin, I should note, is very, very resentful about this turn of events.
After Paulin speaks with Collin, she calls her boss and expresses extreme concern about the future. Her boss is significantly calmer, and while Ms. Paulin suggests people to replace Collin, he shoots her down, stating that of them all, Collin was his only choice for some mysterious thing I won't reveal until next issue. Paulin hesitantly offers herself as an option for this mysterious thing.
Boss: Don't be silly, Paulin, you're a girl.
Ms. Paulin is unimpressed.
Boss: Lighten up, that was a joke. I'm a girl too, sometimes. Sometimes I'm several girls.
P: Yes, sir.
That panel hints at the nature of Paulin's boss. Remember some of what Fox was talking about in Issue 8?
After teasing her, Paulin's boss mentions that there is one person he'd like to see – Penelope Gilpin's son (from Issue 8), whom he also refers to as his son. Paulin promises to track him down.
Mercedes has been nervous as anything at work, meanwhile – as she should, since she is seriously considering going elsewhere. She corners Mr. Hathaway after their shift and asks him about his thoughts – there's no subtle way about it; what she's really asking is if she has any future with him. Mr. Hathaway would not want to be the man who kept a brilliant, talented woman from a bright future, even if it's a future without him. Mercedes accepts this with as much dignity as she can muster, but the embarrassment kills her a little bit.
Danny, meanwhile, finds that Bart has left a message in her photo album - 3 GO NORTH. She thinks for a moment of how Mercedes is considering Chicago, but quickly puts it out of her mind as synchronicity and a message that could be heavily open to interpretation.
Angry Friend drops by to visit Efrén and is surprised to find Efrén heading out. After some dodging, Efrén admits he is off to meet his new friend, Bart. Angry Friend does not scold Efrén, but does mention that Bart creeps him out.
Efrén and Bart continue to meet. Bart's apparently employed as a mechanic in the area, although Efrén has no idea how this would work and doesn't feel intimate enough to ask… which is surprising, considering that Bart seems to be able to get Efrén to open up about a lot. Insecurities, pressure he feels with school and Danny's breakdown, even admitting to being somewhat confused about his sexuality.
Mercedes, meanwhile, has been ill and missing work, an absolute rarity for her. After being badly scared by, of all things, a stray cat, Mercedes realizes that she wants to leave. The only concrete thing she has holding her here is…well, Danny.
Bart and Efrén sit on a couch in a coffee shop and have a long and involved conversation about life, the universe, and Efrén thinking about moving to Massachusetts where he can eventually go to grad school. Efrén worries about leaving his friend – well, friends, now that Bart's in the picture - and family, but Bart advises him to go for what he wants. It's Efrén's life, after all.
Bart then offers to tell Efrén the secret of life.
Bart: Here we go, man. Here's the secret. Watch.
Bart closes his hand.
Bart opens his hand.
Efrén: Was. Was that the sound of one hand clapping?
Bart: *big, big grin* Nuh uh. That was the secret of the universe.
Efrén: *curious* Opened and closed?
Bart: Contraction. Expansion.
Bart gets enigmatic after that, and Efrén drops the subject on grounds that he's not sure if Bart is honestly discussing universal forces or just being a douche.
Mercedes visits Danny, and admits that she's decided to go to Chicago. It may have been looking likely for awhile, but now that it is a certainty, it hits Danny harder than it should. And you know by now what a weenie Mercedes is. There is a lot of crying, as Danny promises to keep jobhunting even without Mercedes around to keep her in line. Mercedes asks Danny to go live with her for the month plus she'll be staying in Houston, and she apologizes for not having offered before – basically, lots of apologies, lots of tears. Danny agrees to go stay with Mercedes.
Later, Danny catches Fox on the phone, but he can't talk for long. He is prepping for a quick interview at a local newspaper, though he admits to Danny that he doesn't think it'll pan out or last long even if it does. But maybe? The paper in question is the North Houston Business Times.
Danny notes the one word and is uncomfortable – not to mention cross with herself for noticing.
A few days later, Hilary arrives at Mercedes' home, magnanimously offering her a ride so they can go help Danny move. Mercedes thanks her, but points out that Fox has already gone down to help Danny. Hilary sulks about this, feeling replaced, but Mercedes points out that she's being ridiculous as Fox has the hots for Danny, and Danny reciprocates, and they need to spend time alone together in order to make their next move. Hilary sulks slightly less, and after awhile, Mercedes asks if Hilary would like to help her make dinner for everyone. Hilary is always up for showing off, and when Danny and Fox arrive, they find the girls happily bickering with each other. Dinner is pleasant, and neither Fox nor Danny is too tired from moving. There's an undercurrent of sadness, though. Danny's unemployed, still, and Hilary still gets sad about her father, and Mercedes' life is tangled up. Fox is doing okay, though. Fox is definitely doing okay.
After dinner, Danny sees him out, but he lingers a bit. This is it, this is the moment, and in the doorway, Mercedes and Hilary are crossing their fingers. Danny notices her two friends being massively unsubtle.
Danny: They're not going to let me back inside unless I go for it. So this is me, going for it. I'm not very good at this, it's been awhile.
Fox: 's cool, I was never good at it, either. How about we get coffee tomorrow?
Danny: Sounds great.
Hilary: (offscreen) YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO KISS HIM, DUMMY.
Danny: *shouts back* I can't kiss him before we have coffee! Who do you think I am, Mercedes?
Danny: *back to Fox* See, she's a tramp.
Fox: *rubs his hair* Well, I haven't been kissed in awhile, so it might be a good plan to wait. I'll spend tonight practicing on my arm.
They smile at each other.
Danny hesitantly gets up on her tiptoes.
Fox leans down and kisses her. It is not really a movie kiss. Just a peck on the lips.
It's enough for those voyeurs at the doorway, though. They are pleased.
In Efrén's apartment, meanwhile, Bart has fallen asleep on the couch. Efrén debates waking him, decides against it, and instead locks up for the night and goes to bed. On the couch, Bart smiles to himself.