Saturday morning dawned grey and cloudy. Though I was tempted to sleep in, there was a lot to get done today. No need for a shower, though; no doubt I would be up to my neck in the lake later on.
Craig and Ben were already at work in the kitchen, cooking up breakfast. Eggs, sausages, bacon, all of it smelling great. Claire and Eliza were also awake, getting the table set, and putting out fruit, bread, and breakfast cereals, for those who were so inclined.
Claire gave me a funny look. Was she having second thoughts about out tryst in the boathouse? Or did she regret having given me the Bible? Maybe she was just a bit self-conscious in the light of day, with others around.
There wasn’t much for me to do, except dig in. Teresa and Lena emerged from the master bedroom, and wished everyone a cheery good morning. Once again I couldn’t help but notice how ungodly tall Lena was. She sat down opposite me, and asked if I had slept well. Sitting down, she didn’t seem so intimidating. Her height wasn’t so apparent, and she looked lean, rather than thin. But I was struck by her exotically beautiful face.
Over the next half hour, most of the others came downstairs. Leo looked a little worse for wear, and Eric was definitely listing to starboard. Sheila looked dishevelled, and still hung over.
I wished her an extra cheerful “Good morning!”.
– “Fuck off.” she muttered, grumpily. “How can you be happy this early?”
It was late morning before everyone had finished breakfast – except Barbara, who had yet to put in an appearance. Teresa assigned duties: the girls on cleanup in the kitchen, while the guys were to get started on the outdoor chores. Eliza reminded us of what needed to be done, but Leo knew it all well, having been here many times before.
It didn’t take us very long. Taking the dock out of the water isn’t complicated: it just requires at least four strong guys to lift it. As expected, I ended up in the water, with Craig. Ben and Eric got the other end, while Leo supervised. When that was done, we brought the boat in, and winched it into the boathouse. The whole thing only took an hour or so. Many hands – short work.
I did get the chance to ask Leo a question.
– “Who did you draw after Lena, last night?”
– “Barbara, and then Eliza.” he said. “You?”
I told him. But my mind was busy, pondering the implications. Teresa knew of Leo’s crush on Eliza. Was my ex-girlfriend trying to set them up? Was she playing matchmaker with me as well?
Back inside the house, we were told to get back into costume. I headed into my private den to dress up. I was almost done when I heard a tap on the door. Before I could open it, Claire slipped into the room, closing the door behind her. She looked visibly nervous.
– “Geez, Claire.” I said. “If you wanted to watch me get dressed, you should’ve told me. I would’ve waited until you got here.” She was dressed in her own costume, and looked marvelous – but she wasn’t having quite the same effect on me as she had yesterday.
She shook her head. “It’s not that, Colin. I wanted to talk to you … about last night.”
– “What about last night?” I asked.
– “Ummm …”
I took her hands in mine. “Claire. Last night was magical. Unforgettable. I will treasure the memory for the rest of my life.” Then I paused, to see what effect my words were having on her. “But that isn’t what you want me to say, is it?”
Claire shook her head. She was close to tears. “I’m sorry, Colin. But .. can we say that it never happened?”
– “I’m not sure that I understand what you mean.”
– “I mean … can we pretend that it didn’t happen?” she said.
– “OK. I’m not upset. Just explain it to me, Claire.”
She sniffed. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t sleep last night. After … you know. I was just lying there, thinking about you. It was wonderful – in the boathouse. But I sort of realized something.”
– “What did you realize, Claire?” I asked, keeping my voice level.
– “I like you, Colin. I always have. It’s just …”
– “You don’t see us as boyfriend-girlfriend. Or long-term material.”
Her face brightened up. “You see it, too?”
I nodded. “It would be hard on Leo. He would pretend to be happy for us, but all the time he would be dreading the day we broke up, wondering if it was going to damage our friendships: yours and mine, mine and his.”
– “That’s true.” she said.
– “It’s fine, Claire. You don’t have to worry about me. Last night was a dream come true. But I’m not going to demand a repeat, or a full-on relationship.”
– “That’s good.” she said. “But … can we not talk about it? Can we pretend it didn’t happen?”
– “If you want. So Leo doesn’t find out?”
– “Umm, no. Actually …” I figured it out quickly. Claire was frighteningly easy to read.
– “You’re interested in someone else.” I guessed. I hoped it wasn’t Ben. Then I remembered an exchange of looks I had witnessed yesterday. “Craig?”
Claire blushed scarlet. “How did you know? Yes, it’s him. I’ve been dropping hints, but so far … he hasn’t done anything.”
I had no idea about Craig’s private life. He could be gay, for all I knew – but I doubted it. My impression was of a very nice guy, but probably quite shy. “He doesn’t already have a girlfriend, does he?”
– No – Eliza found out for me. He’s single. I thought we were getting closer …and now this. I don’t want him to know.”
– “He won’t find out from me, Claire. I won’t tell a soul. Does anyone else know?”
– “Only Ee. She said I had to talk to you about it.”
– “She was right.” I agreed. “Don’t worry: the secret is safe with me. In fact, we can go with your first idea. It never happened.”
– “You’re not mad?” she asked.
– “No, sweetheart. I’m pleased for you. I hope things work out with Craig. In fact, if I can help that along, I will.”
– “Absolutely.” I told her.
Claire kissed me on the cheek. “Thank you.” she whispered. Then she slipped out of my room.
– “Well,” I said, to the empty room, “that went pretty well.”
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