Ch 5 ~ Moments Unforgettable
And yet she had the feeling that most of what he was about to say would be.
“I’ve been thinking,” he began, his voice modulated down to something somewhat in the vicinity of a normal volume. This had the effect of reducing his physical presence. You see, Forge was a man of slight build who used his voice like another appendage.
She stared at him, studying.
“It’s true…I have been,” he confirmed.
“Well. Why does that usually make me nervous when you do that?”
Forge cocked his rather large-ish head on his rather slightish shoulders, hoisted a rather tightly groomed salt and peppered eyebrow, and released a rather light chortle. “There was a time, m’dear, when those of your persuasion deemed my thinking to be quite charming.”
“I’m sure,” Emily said. For some reason unknown to even her, she felt compelled to gaze from behind a wisp of her brown hair at the redheaded figure with the laptop.
At just about the same time, Forge’s small hand had swallowed her own (which were still noticeably smaller than even his even though his were very small indeed) and which had been clasping and unclapsing themselves on the tabletop. She returned her gaze to their booth and squinted deeper into the plumpness of his gentle rather soft hand (this was not a man who labored). She watched absentmindedly while his hands politely pawed at her fingers and quietly silenced her fidgeting…something she had been quite unaware she had been doing.
Emily had several nervous ticks. Wringing her hands together while deep in thought was one of them.
“Your inability to focus is causing no small amount of concern in me,” he nearly whispered, all traces of his usual bravado gone and then added after a long pause “…the young fellow works for me. Maybe he’s enough to entice you to come back under my employ again, as well?”
Her eyes, quite almondy and clear, changed. Emily had been blessed with large eyes, this is true. But typically her eyes were described not so much as big, but more said to be bedroom eyes. This wasn’t because of any trying for that effect on her part, no. She just happened to have been born with heavy lids that framed her gaze into a near perpetual come-hither look. But now, as she thought more intensely about the redheaded figure — the quiet, good looking man with the laptop — her eyes pooled wide. Round and huge like two planets fixed in space but not in time.
“I…I think I’ve met him before,” she said just barely above a whisper.
“Oh?” Forge kept his voice low in return. In fact, he had leaned in across the table, impercetibly so, but he had leaned in nevertheless one could only assume in an effort to crowd the thought and back it up into a corner. “With me? Or before that even?”
A small sigh escaped the corner of her large almondy eyes. She knew — all too well — what Forge was asking.
A familar road, this. With the same general conversation signposts, she thought.
“I’m not entirely sure where…”
“Em…” he paused just long enough to make her cast her pooled eyes back upon him. He smiled in that shit eating smile kind of way that he always tended to smile when he knew something and didn’t feel the least bit inclined to share that knowledge. Cheshire cat. He rather enjoyed the knowledge imbalance.
“It’s not so much ‘where’…is it?” he asked just a few seconds after her eyes looked into his, with his lopsided grin egging her on. “It’s more… ‘when’ … wouldn’t you say?”
With that her hand recoiled from under his softened pawing. She quickly withdrew from his physical attempt to pull or poke at meaning in what was for most people casual conversation but what inevitably became for Forge a strategic manuveur. Or maybe it was more tactical than strategic, she thought. In any event it just smacked of “some other purpose”…a thought that always launched an internal argument. She’d had this thought before. She’d had this internal debate before. It’s what all friends do with each other when there are quirks or charactertistics or mannerism that confuse or go against the grain…we react, we make judgements, we get to the point of talking about it or not, we make allowances or not, we come to an understanding or not. We get on with life somehow. It’s all a journey.
She was no different. While her internal debate raged on and Forge stared at her with growing expectation that she would say what was on her mind or he would nag at her until she did, it helped, at that moment, that a young couple had entered the diner. Somehow they were nearly as loud as Forge, and that fact alone had caught everyone’s attention including Forge, who seemed to be quite dismayed that anyone could put on more of a show than he. But he could gather some satisfaction from the fact that it clearly took at least two people — both armed with cell phones — to out-bluster him. But the real thing that caught Forge’s eye was how deeply engrossed this young couple was in their separate phone conversations. They held hands, strolling through the diner to their table, never once acknowledging the world around them or anyone in it save for the other persons on the end of their separate cell phones. Yet decidedly a couple. Most likely, a romantic couple. Hands laced together as they trundled into the restaurant. Laced hands draped across the tabletop as they sat in their chairs and Pat buzzed over them, menus in hand, daily specials rattled off all as if in a hurry, as if somewhere else. The young romantic couple — passing through town, no doubt, and stopping for a bite at the local — never once looked at each other. Even from the distance, Emily could see that their eyes were glazed…tunnelling inward to someplace where the thematic constructs of their separate story-telling was formulated and playing itself out through wireless devices.
He clicked the roof of his mouth and nearly smiled as he twisted slightly around to study them. At the same moment, Emily gathered together the outer corners of her eyes and studied Forge. Always an angle, she thought. And just as quickly huffed at herself. Yes, he is a friend, she chastised herself deep in the silent recesses of her mind, the one place that she felt fairly sure no one was interested in entering. No one…except for this blasted friend sitting across the table from her, twisted into a corkscrew but still leaning forward toward Emily as if his entire body — his shoulder, his adam’s apple, the hair in his ears — could see into her skull without any need to use his eyes to evaluate her.
It’s not that he had that kind of hair in his ears. The point was, he was so *certain*…even about what he didn’t know he didn’t know. How can anyone be that way. That was the thing that usually drove her batty.
“Really,” she nearly snapped, her hands flying up to her side, fingers wide in exasperation. She nearly snapped this to the hair in his inner ear since he was still engrossed in the odd behavior of the young romantic couple who were ever engrossed in lacing their fingers and talking a mile a minute to separate people on their separate phones. They didn’t need to look at each other. Forge made it clear he didn’t think he need look at Emily to know what was on her mind…even though he fully admitted he had no idea.
“Do you all drive like this too?”
“erm…?” His head swirled forward, revealing curious eyes and the corner of a slightly uplifted mouth.
She shook her head and waved at the young romantic couple.
“I know. Utterly *fascinating*…I’m sure they drive like that. Perhaps you drive with your head twisted to the back instead of facing forward.”
“Cranky pants,” Forge mumbled through a laugh and danced on her mood with pitying eyes. He wasn’t one to baby, and she wasn’t one to seek babying. It’s just that she had come back…from that place…with a fright and was quite a bit more out of herself than in herself. Not at all prepared to handle herself around the likes of someone like Forge. Yes, friend. Yes, with an agenda.
Pat sliced through the path of oncoming traffic without batting an eye or volleying a platter that was loaded with table orders. No one batted an eye that she walked as if she were driving in Europe. Everyone did these days. The path of least resistance had become not fast enough, imagine that. People slice out any path they can find anywhere, usually on impulse. She refilled their coffee, mumbling something about “nice junk!” (a double entendre no doubt in reaction to the images of the Real Suburban Trashmen that were being broadcasted into the inside of her head…from the inside of her head…but no one in the diner would know that) and buzzed on.
“Yeah. Well.” Emily wrapped her hands around her freshly topped off cup. “I couldn’t help but notice that…”
“…that nobody noticed? Nobody noticed them? Yeah, fascinating, ain’t it?,” he grinned big and jutted his jaw out with glee. “I suspect, m’dear…” he paused for good measure, certainly for effect, “that you have an idea or two why that is. And probably even more importantly, to me, at least, where that sort of thing might be headed, hmmm?”
NaNoWriMos total word count this chapter: 1,600; total word count todate (not including this notation) this chapter: 5,700.