“Thanks for inviting me in.”
“Oh, no, my pleasure, Gary. I’ve wanted to bring you here for a while.”
Luckily, Fry had closed the door to the living room behind him. A slit of light appeared underneath the door as Leela switched the living room lights on.
“I really need some coffee. Want some?”
“Let me put on some music, here.”
He really should be getting out of here. Then why wasn’t he moving? The closet. He wasn’t done.
“I liked that pretzel move. You were amazing tonight. But then, you’ve been amazing every night.”
“Thank you. I just love dancing so much.”
“And I just love watching you.”
There was a pause that even Fry could tell was awkward.
“I’m sorry I haven’t brought you here earlier. I know we’ve been-talking-for a while. But then… something happened at work yesterday—“
“An ex-boyfriend showed up at Planet Express and it started me thinking about my future.”
Fry frowned. When he had been at Planet Express yesterday, he couldn’t remember seeing Chaz or Adaili during his misadventures there. Man, it must have been crowded in that building that day…
“Anyway, I’m sorry I’ve been so distant over these months.”
“Oh no, please. I know you’ve gone through some rough times over the past year. And you need time to heal from things like that. Believe me, I know.”
“Yes, you’ve hinted at that. Sounds like you’ve had a bit of a tragic and mysterious past yourself.”
“Yes, and I’m sorry, I can’t quite bring myself to talk about it right now.”
“Well, there’s plenty of time to talk. Amy isn’t bringing Nibbler home tonight.” When she next spoke, her voice was a little higher-pitched than the calm, competent tone Fry knew and adored. “Why don’t I get into something more comfortable?”
Why did women always insist on wearing things that weren’t comfortable? Fry wondered. I mean, why not just be comfortable in the first place?
He looked around and saw that he was now in the closet. His body had dashed into it while his mind had been preoccupied. Why had it done that?
The door into the bedroom opened. Oh, that’s why.
The closet was wide and deep, and he found himself staring past what seemed to be an endless procession of identical white shirts and black pants marching down into the gloom of the other end of the closet. His body had decided it couldn’t afford to wait for his brain to catch up, and it had already dropped to all fours and had been crawling away from the crack in the door, squeezing himself between the back side of the mirrored sliding door and a very long boot rack that held what seemed to be countless copies of Leela’s signature footwear. Huh, he never knew she had more than one set of boots.
Why was his body moving so quickly? He thought. Then he heard a voice say, very quietly,
“Time to do this. Time to live again.”
And he heard footsteps heading toward the closet. And his brain suddenly pieced together that if a woman wanted to change clothes she was going to spend time looking into her closet. And his body, although relieved that it was no longer on its own, froze in panic, scared to make a sound as Leela stopped in front of the closet.
Something fell and broke in the kitchen.
“Damn, sorry. Don’t know why I’m so fidgety.”
The footsteps moved away from the closet and left the room. Fry’s body and brain called a truce and he moved on down the length of the closet.
Ah, finally he saw dresses and formal-wear, and a couple of empty hangers. Beyond was the far wall of the closet, and he crawled quickly, pushing his head under the dresses.
“Oh, that’s OK. There’s plenty more cups.”
“Do you have a broom?”
“Better. A laser gun.”
The sound of the laser beam vaporizing the cup shards startled Fry, and he knocked one of the dresses off the hanger. Fortunately, Leela apparently hadn’t heard the slight sound of the hanger landing on his head, as she was now in the kitchen.
Hands shaking, he lifted his arm over his head and hooked the dress back onto the rack. He moved on past the dresses and was within touching distance of the other end of the closet.
And then he saw it. The Negligee. It had always been The Negligee with a capital N since that night he had seen her wear it in bed, looking at him, smiling, happy to see him, almost –relieved?
And then he had insisted on removing the worms and playing the holophoner again…
The holophoner. He looked around. A pile of boxes sat against the far wall, also leaning against the sliding door. OK, that meant she couldn’t slide open the door on this end.
And what was that behind the Negligee? Holy smokes! What was she saving that outfit for? He knew he was entering the city limits of Pervertville.
Just as he pulled himself into a crouch against the boxes, he heard footsteps again. And then the sliding door began to open.
Fry pressed his back against the far wall, not daring to breathe, or even think loudly, as the door slowly kept rolling back, and the shirts, pants, boots, and finally dresses lit up with the light of the bedroom. The door opened as far as it could, and then a hand followed by an enormous forearm reached around the door, snaked down the rail, pulled the rest of the dresses back, and then The Negligee. The bottom half of the Negligee brushed against Fry’s hair as she pulled it out.
It was starting to dawn on Fry that he might be sitting here a long time, and that he was about to experience the worst night of his life. Please, no, don’t make him sit through this, listen to this…
Leela’s shadow lay across the clothes, unmoving, for a few moments, as if in indecision. And then the door slid shut, and he heard steps walking back out of the room.
Quickly he moved his hands around the boxes he was sitting on, finding nothing but packed clothes, and then realized there was a small shelf above his head. He stood up, hunched, in the closest, and shoved his hand over the shelf. He felt a box, but then winced in pain and jerked his hand back. A small I.V. needle attached to some tubing was sticking in his hand.
“Gary, I’m so sorry, but I’m suddenly not feeling very well. Could I axe you to take a rain check for tonight? I promise I’ll make it up to you. Really.”
Fry heard the light-hearted tone that males throughout the universe use to mask disappointment, as he struggled to keep himself from sighing out loud in relief.
“Of course. I’m sorry about that. I had no idea.”
Fry pulled out the needle, lifted up his arm again, and pulled the box down.
It was his holophoner. Not the one he had planned to give as a gift to her, but his original one he had played at the opera. His heart was now pounding so loudly he was surprised that the couple in the living room couldn’t hear it. He flipped open the lid. All the pieces were there. But the skies didn’t open, and angels didn’t sing. The pieces just sat gleaming in the dull gloom of the closet.
There was some squeaking as someone stood up from the couch.
“I’m sorry about this. I really will make it up to you. You’ve been so good, so patient with me. And thank you for never mentioning my eye.”
“There’s something wrong with your eye?”
A guttural growl escaped from Fry, and he crouched back down. Now what was he going to do? And then his hand brushed something on the floor. Something soft.
There was a long pause that may or may not have involved a kiss. Then the front door shut.
Fry pulled up the small object and found himself looking at a raggedy doll. One of the eyes had been carefully removed, and the other re-sewn to create a small Cyclops that smiled up at him. His heart melted. He had never known that Leela kept toys from her childhood at the orphanarium. It was such a gentle side to her that contrasted so strongly with her recent behavior the past few days, that he hugged the doll gratefully, and felt a small measure of comfort gained in the middle of this whirlwind of change.
The door to the bedroom opened again, and he heard Leela walk across the room. OK, he would have to stay here overnight, and wait until she left in the morning. But he might live if he could only keep his bladder from exploding, and if Bender would not get bored with everything and decide to throw a firecracker.
There was an enormous crash, as if Leela had knocked over a large piece of furniture. That’s OK, thought Fry. She’s simply rearranging the furniture. At eleven o’clock at night.
Then he heard a sharp and metallic click, a sound that he had heard many times on deliveries, usually around unhappy customers.
OK, he thought. That’s not a gun. She’s simply unclasping her bra. A really metallic, well oiled—
“You should know I’ve notified the police, that I have a gun, and that I am well-protected. Open the door very slowly.”
He didn’t flinch a muscle.
“I would never hang the purple dress left of the green dress. The purple dress is always the 24th item hanging from the left of the closet. I know you’re in there, and I’m not scared to shoot. It’ll be a pain in the butt to explain to the landlord, but I’m perfectly happy to shoot. On the count of three, open the door.”
Seeking guidance, Fry looked over Bender’s list.
“If Leela finds you, I was never here.”
Fry shoved the list and the holophoner into his jacket.
Frantically he shoved the small doll into the same pocket and started to stand up.
He worked his way across the closet and reached his hand around the door. Taking a deep breath, he slid open the door.
Welcome to Pervertville.