The Other Side of Parasites
"I got rid of the worms."
Leela stared in dismay at Fry. "What?! Why would you do that?"
"Leela, I had worms. I needed to know who you loved - them or me."
Leela pulled the blanket higher, self-conscious of her clothing, or lack thereof. It was silly - this was Fry, and even pre-worms Fry was no one to be afraid of, even if she were buck naked, let alone safely covered by the twelve square inches of fully opaque cloth in her negligee.
And wasn't his question a valid one? Leela grasped at a straw. "Well...which of you wrote me that sonnet?"
"I did," Fry said brightly, and Leela felt her hopes rise. "I think," he added. "It was probably about fifty-fifty." Leela's hopes fell back, flopping sadly on the ground. "But that's how I really felt about you, I swear!"
Leela wanted to believe Fry. One flopping hope lifted its tattered wings and struggled for the sky. But its flight was erratic. "I don't know...."
"Please, give me a chance to be romantic on my own," Fry pleaded, and Leela felt herself beginning to relent. After all, hadn't the worms just made Fry...more Fry? So now she was back with less Fry...but he seemed so sincere, so eager to please her.
He was holding out a baggie of oil, talking fast and desperate. " - going to give you my super backrub, just like I used to give Amy when I was - "
Shock washed over Leela like icewater. The last of her hopes, pierced by a bolt of mortification, died in terrible suffering mid-flight.
She snatched up the holophoner, and was mildly surprised when it didn't snap in her fist.
Fry was oblivious. "...and she always seemed to - " he finally noticed her. "Uh-oh."
She thrust the instrument at him, not trusting herself to speak.
To his credit - or perhaps just his instinct for self-preservation - Fry left without another word. Leela waited, her hands trembling as they clutched the blanket, until she heard his footsteps fade down the stairs.
Leela's anger broke down. She flopped over on the bed, buried her face in her pillow, and burst into tears.
She wept in hard, painful sobs - as usual. When she cried, she wailed like a siren, choked and gagged; her eye swelled and turned red and her nose ran like a fountain. She'd never been able to cry delicately, like a normal girl. It was just another example of how she was mannish and unlovely and a freak, as the other orphans never tired of telling her.
Well, now she was alone and she could cry as hard as she wanted.
She had almost believed him.
But then he mentioned Amy. Mentioning another woman was bad enough - but he had also reminded Leela of how he acted when he and Amy had their brief little fling.
She's getting way too serious...She's smothering me....I'm not a one-woman man...
So, he thought of her the same way he did of Amy, did he? Amy, who he was happy to have sex with, happy to give backrubs to...and then just as happy to break up with right before Valentine's day.
Amy, luckily, had bounced back unfazed, her emotions as brief and sunny as a tidal pool, and just about as deep.
But not everyone was that lucky.
The storm of Leela's tears finally slowed. She rolled over and sat up, breathing in long, shuddering breaths.
"I'm an idiot," she said out loud. "I was there when he was teaching Zoidberg how to pretend to be in love."
She reached over and picked up the flowers where they lay in the puddle of water and smashed glass. "I just can't believe I was dumb enough to think he'd be any more sincere with me."
The lingering pain in her heart faded beneath the anger. Good, that was how it should be. It was nothing to be upset about, just a nice day with a rotten, humiliating ending. A typical date. It wasn't like it had been anything more important than a brief, insane moment of physical attraction. It wasn't as if she'd started to fall in love, or anything.
There was just one more thing to do.
Leela took a slip of paper from her dresser - the note Fry had given her after the staff meeting broke up. I wrote this while I was waiting for you, he'd said.
She hesitated, torn by a desire to read it one more time - then crumpled it in her fist as hard as she could. Better not to torture herself any more.
She went to the bathroom and dropped the note and the flowers into the toilet. As she watched the swirling waters carry them away, she sighed. Not a one-woman man...too bad I'm a one-man woman.
* * * * *
Turanga Munda bustled happily into the living room of her home in the sewers. "Look, Morris! There was something in the net from our daughter's toilet today!"
Morris looked up from his paper. "A letter and flowers, huh? Another bad date." He shook his head. "I don't like the men Leela goes out with, sweetheart. I'm beginning to think the baby girl we abandoned at birth to strangers has relationship issues or something."
His wife looked up from the note, smiling, her lovely eye misty. "I don't know, Morris. This one seems kind of sweet. Read it."
Morris took the note.
I've never been very poetic before, but I was thinking of you, and this sonnet sort of happened. I hope you like it.
I have seen the pearl-grey, dusty Moon
Turn lustrous in the glow of Earthly light;
And endless velvet black with starlight strewn;
Yet I recall a far more lovely sight.
I have seen blue skies grow thin and turn
To violet satin, deep and rich and fair;
Yet all their beauty only makes me yearn
To see again a fall of twilight hair.
I have skimmed event horizon's edge
And marveled at the thought of worlds beyond,
And caught my breath in awe; but I allege
They pale before a sight unparagon'd
More wondrous far than all the gifts of space -
Your beauty, courage, spirit, strength, and grace.
With all my heart -
"Pretty," Morris said. "But he can't be all that great if she flushed it." He crumpled it again. "Ah, well, I could use some more pulp for the paper-maker. Some corrasable bond always strengthens the toilet tissue fiber."
"No, wait!" Munda snatched the note back and flattened it carefully, smoothing the damp folds. "I'm keeping this one. If nothing else, it's a nice poem about Leela."
She laid it on the curio cabinet with the other fragments of Leela's existence. It was times like this she truly regretted being a mutated monster too hideous to deserve a place in their beautiful daughter's life. She longed so badly to dispense some motherly wisdom. Ah, well.
You know best, Leela sweetie. But if I could, I'd tell you this one has potential. I'd tell you you might want to give him a second chance.
Munda sighed, and went off to finish her dusting.