Love in a Time of Covid
Gordy was a towering 19-year-old defenceman with the Junior B Chasseurs, of Farnham. Since high school, his manly good looks had caused him to turn down frequent invitations to model sports gear. That being said, he was so protective of his mum (who had raised him alone), and so blushingly shy around girls, that he…
Gordy was a towering 19-year-old defenceman with the Junior B Chasseurs, of Farnham. Since high school, his manly good looks had caused him to turn down frequent invitations to model sports gear. That being said, he was so protective of his mum (who had raised him alone), and so blushingly shy around girls, that he had never had a real girlfriend—like he might say, “a keeper.” His mother told him, “Don’t you worry about that one bit, Gordon. You’ll know the right one when you meet her.”
He focussed on hockey and his part-time job at Sports Experts. Although he was challenged to a fight in every game, and taunted as a “Big Moumoune, and a Ringuette, he adhered to his mother’s religious code of non-violence. Then, one day, before a home crowd, an opposing defenceman yelled, ‘Hey mommy’s boy, your mommy’s an old bag.’ Gord lost it. He took the guy on. A stick to his mouth, knocked out every last one of Gord’s front teeth. He so beat on that stick swinger that a..hole would never again show his cowardly face in the arena. The dentist told Gord that he would need to go toothless for at least six months. All of a sudden, Gord was grateful for his new COVID mask.
It was about then was that he met a girl whom he simply could not get out of his mind. She was from Stukeley, where her family dairy farm made Swiss cheese. Her father was a Swiss-Quebecer—hence the first name that made her cringe—‘Liselotte.’ No one outside her family knew that name. Since the age of two, she would answer only to ‘Lise.’ Her mother, of Tunisian descent, had endowed her only daughter with eyes that were limpid, bottomless, pools of Arabian green.
Lise had gone to a private French school in Granby and her social life had been strictly managed by her parents. That meant no boyfriends before the age of majority! A few days after her 18th birthday, she was kicked in the face by a cow in labour. Her nose was smashed—broken three places. Plastic surgery had been urgently performed in Sherbrooke. Recovery would be at least six months. She told her boss, Pascal the baker, that she could no longer work for him because she was a ‘total hideous mess.’ Her nose was dark purple, and ugly black and blue bags, hung under her enchanting eyes. But all of Pascal’s customers loved Lise—nobody had ever sold more baguettes. He said, ‘Darling girl, thank the Lord for the COVID mask. You will be just as beautiful as ever, and no one will know any better.
Soon after that, Gordy stopped in at the bakery for the first time. He wanted to surprise his mum that evening with a same day baguette. You guessed it—Lise was behind the counter. She had her back to him when he first heard her rich deep voice. “Yes, can I help you?” she asked as she turned to him.’ Their eyes locked. At home, she described this man’s piercing blue eyes, ‘Like steel, maman, but, you know, also soft and sweet. Like a very beautiful summer sky. I was so flustered! It was hard for me to look away.’
When Gord got home that evening, he said, ‘Mother, how stupid is this? I think I just met “the one.” In fact, I’m sure of it. And I haven’t even seen her face behind her mask.’ He went back almost every day. When he didn’t, Lise would feel her stomach rise to her throat. ‘Maybe he’s engaged or something,’ she might think, or, ‘He’s gone away. Even worse maybe he doesn’t even think about me.’
A few weeks later, on a bitterly cold February day, Lise was driving the farm truck to the feed store, to buy some salt licks. Suddenly, at the edge of town, and through the icy mist, she could just make out a person waving beside a car at the side of the road. She pulled in ahead of it. Someone ran up and opened her passenger door. ‘Thanks a lot, eh, just need to get my hockey bag.’ It was him.
As Gord climbed in, he said, ‘I have a practice right now at the arena.’ Lise was tongue-tied. She could only nod dumbly. Gord was feeling lucky that day. He had just read the usual twenty or so Valentine’s messages from the Chasseur groupies—some unfit for a family paper. As for Lise, well she had absolutely no idea that it was the 14th.
Within a few moments of their driving on, the truck was pulled over by a cop. Lise was stunned—and felt even dumber. When she rolled down the window, a young officer said, ‘Excuse me madam but your right rear tail light is burned out. I will need to process a warning. Could I have your papers please?’ Lise looked to Gordon apologetically as she fumbled for her papers. The officer thanked her and, while examining her licence said, ‘For identification, Liselotte! I will need that you take off your mask. You know my grandmaman is also Liselotte. She was a German too.’
Lise’s head went down and she began to sob, and that soon dramatically rose to a keening wail. Both men were panicked. ‘But why mademoiselle Liselotte? It is no problem. You will not be going to jail you know.’ With tears streaming down her face she said, ‘But my I am so ugly officer, my face is a total mess, I was kicked by a cowowowowwow.’
Gord gently placed his left hand on her shoulder. She turned to him. ‘Lise, Lise dear girl. Look at me.’ He pulled off his mask, leaned into her, and, beaming through ragged gums, whispered, ‘Happy Valentine’s you beauty.’
Another short story by Peter Turner