“Grace told me about your fight with Anne…in the washrooms”
He’s waiting for a response; it will tell him whether or not he should confess.
His chest feels as if it has tightened, every breath feels shallower and shallower. The pulse is back in his fingers and it feels like he’s breathing is getting louder and louder. He leans back in the chair, an attempt to put some space between them lest she senses what he’s feeling but far enough to see what’s going on with her. At least what she’ll allow to slip past her defenses.
And she’s letting a lot get through. He must have caught her off her guard. Her eyes have widened and she stares blankly at him. The anger in her eyes has given way to confusion and her eye brows are raised. Her shoulders have dropped as well.
“She told me you had a fight in the washroom…with Anne”
“The girl from church. The one in praise and worship”
“That Anne?! Yeah, so?”
So? So? The defiance in her tone is clear. She dares him to have an opinion about the fight, invites him into another. Her shoulders are back level, her eyebrows are furrowed and the softness has vanished from her eyes. He knows this is not a good sign. He knows this because he has a sister and awkward as she is Grace is a woman and the signs are universal, the consequences not so much.
He sits up, levels his own broader shoulders and leans forward. Close enough to look into her eyes, where he’s sure she can look into his. And he hopes his eyes are placid, hopes they’ll calm her down. Hopes silently that she can trust him.
“She’s the one who started it!”
He hazards a risk and places his large hand on her smaller, more delicate hand. Her hand slides away from underneath his, but not too far, her fingers stop just shy of his warm touch. The soft fingernails coated in black tint are cold under his fingers.
“Just tell me what happened”
She exhales deeply and looks at him. “She was just being stupid. Telling me I was stupid for stopping that fight between you and Bosco”
“That wasn’t stupid”
“I know right!”
“You were just doing the right thing”
She sits back, it seems relieved that someone’s taking her side. “Is she like that when you guys sing?”
“Nah, I was just asking because Grace made it sound like world war three. Did you really slap her?”
He can’t help but smile at this. The thought of someone slapping Anne was hilarious, he was only sad he’d missed the actual thing.
“Is that what you wanted to talk about?”
He freezes. It was not. It was just one more thing to get out of the way before he could say his peace and suffer the consequences. And that was precisely what was going on, he was suffering. A large number of the things he had done this far had been intentionally geared towards this moment. Sure he had hoped it would have been under more luxurious circumstances but he had to make do with what he had. Besides, less luxury was good considering what was on his mind (and had been for some time now).
He pokes at a French fry and lifts it to his mouth. He watches as she sips her milkshake, she’s nervous about what she thinks comes next, he can tell. And that does not make it any easier to do. The restaurant feels crowded and hot even though most of the patrons have begun leaving. The food in his mouth loses all taste as it becomes mashed and unidentifiable. Swallowing becomes a task of herculean proportions. His eyes feel as though they’ve suddenly dried, forcing him to blink like a moron.
“I forgot to order a drink”
“I’m serious. This food is dry”
She offers him her milkshake. He stares at the liquid and back at her.
“This won’t be enough”
“Ok, I’ll buy you a soda”
She’s clearly not letting him get away with this one. His mind is instantly clouded with regret. ‘Why did I have to bring this up today? I was doing just fine’
But he wasn’t. He knew it. Deep down he felt miserable and alone and right now she seemed like the cure to that. She is bold, courageous, kind, thoughtful…she’s a whole lot of woman and he knew enough to know he had a chance at happiness with her. Even if it didn’t last forever, even if it ended tomorrow, he had a chance.
But his thoughts failed him and his tongue refused to budge with the realization that she was waiting for him to ask her this mystery question.
She’s standing, hand stretched out towards him. He looks at her for a moment then he remembers the events leading to this evening snack. She mustn’t have carried any money.
“Just get any,” he says as he gives her a crisp note. He chose it deliberately because subconsciously he knows image is everything.
“Don’t touch my milkshake”
Once she’s out of sight he exhales. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ he thinks as he puts more food in his mouth. He looks across the room and his eyes land on a young couple, teenagers. He can tell from his strange Mohawk and her multi-colored hairdo. The teens kiss and he watches them, admiring they detachment from the world around them. He feels the guilt welling up within his spirit. These two kids with no real grasp on the real world are brave enough to kiss in public but a grown man like him can’t tell a beautiful woman he likes her? Rubbish!
He reaches across the table and pulls her milkshake towards him. He takes the straw out and lays it on a clean serviette. Then he puts it to his lips and tilts the tumbler.
“Is that my…”
She’s back, her face a mixture of shock and mock anger. She shakes her head and sits, a playful grin on her face.
“It’s alright. You needed it.”
She pulls the tumbler back and takes a sip, without the straw! She sets the tumbler down and looks him dead in the eye. He looks back. She slides his drink to him, in silence and her hand lingers on the bottle. He reaches for it and wraps his palm around the base of the bottle, his fingers just covering hers. She doesn’t pull away.
“So, what’s this thing you wanted to ask me? No jokes this time.”