– “Until the relationship ends?” asked Eliza. I had succeeded in catching her interest.
– “No. Longer.” I said. “Made that mistake ages ago. A buddy of mine broke up with his girlfriend. The way he described it, the relationship was over. He hated her guts. I waited a week or so, but I’d always been curious about her. So I asked her out. He was furious. It cost me a friendship. And he was right to be pissed off at me.”
– “Somehow I have the feeling that this lengthy explanation will eventually come around to me.” said Ee. “Are you trying to spare my feelings?”
– “I’m telling you the truth, Ee. When we started hanging out together, I would have had to be blind not to notice you. To be 100% honest, I noticed both of you. But …”
– “But Claire is Leo’s sister. I didn’t know how he would take it. Besides, as time went on, I began to realize that Claire wasn’t for me, anyway. She and I both know that. We wouldn’t last as a couple. You, on the other hand …”
– “What about me?” said Eliza.
– “Lovely. Kind and generous. Smart. All that I could ask for in a woman. Except that my best friend confided in me one night, over a couple of beers, that he was madly in love with you. I couldn’t go after you, Ee. Not after Leo told me how he felt.”
Eliza was a smart girl. On top of that, she had a heart as big as all outdoors. She understood all too well what I was telling her.
– “That’s so unfair.” she said. But her tone of voice suggested that she didn’t mean it.
– “Eliza, tell me this: if you were really interested in Craig, but Claire said something first, would you say something to him? Would you try to beat her to him?”
– “What if she tried with him, and it didn’t work out?” she asked.
I didn’t even answer. I just looked at her sympathetically.
– “Aww, fuck.” she said.
– “I would never say ‘no’ to you, Ee. But I couldn’t do that to Leo.”
– “Sometimes I wish that the two of us weren’t so noble.” she admitted.
– “I’m not particularly noble, Ee – as I’m sure Claire told you. But if it was to be you and me, I would want it to start out right.”
– “Alright. I got it.” She sighed. “Now, would you get me a drink?”
I did as she asked, and helped myself to another.
– “You’re not the Falcon, are you?” I asked her.
Eliza swatted me on the arm. “You dirty bugger! Trying to catch me in a moment of weakness, are you?”
– “You’re playing a deep game.” I said. “I can’t tell whose side you’re on. But there are at least two sides. And the time may soon come when you’ll need to choose one. I’m holding the door open. But I’m not sure how long I can do that.”
– “Who’s on your side?” she asked me.
– “I’m more certain about who’s on the other side.” I gave Eliza a brief, edited version of my run-in with Ben and Barbara earlier on.
– “Why is this Bible important?” she asked.
I did my best impression of a sphinx.
– “Fine.” she said. “But that means that Claire told them. I know she gave it to you. She tells me everything.”
– “She’s on their side – even if she doesn’t know it yet. I think Craig is, too. But I’m not sure if sharing the treasure is part of Ben and Barb’s plan. My team still has room for some charter members.”
– “You don’t have a team.” she observed.
– “Which is why full shares of the treasure are still available.” I told her. “Get in early, before all of the best seats are taken.”
That was when we heard four bells from upstairs.
Eliza reached up, slowly, and touched my cheek. “Thank you, Colin, for being honest with me. I’m still not happy – but this makes it easier to accept.”
We parted as friends. My next duty station made me nervous, in more ways than one. I knew who it was.
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