(Chapter 10 continued)
Sitting in the coffee house, as per usual, Orson spoke up, “What’s on your mind?”
Dani rolled her eyes, “Gah! You know how much I hate that question. Be more specific. Believe it or not I am often capable of thinking many things at once, you know.”
“No need to go on the defensive. You know I enjoy silence just as much as you, it’s just that your face turned sort of stoic all of the sudden. Like, some big question is weighing you down while it goes unanswered. Is it anything you want to share with the class?”
Honestly, Dani was mulling over what exactly Orson was to her. Her mind kept running over their time together, trying to decipher ever conversation, gesture or even tone of voice trying to decode any hidden meaning. Was he really only a friend to her? Would she be willing to gamble the closest friend she’d ever had on a relationship that logically made NO sense?
“World peace” she responded with a sarcastic smile, not ready to share her true thoughts yet.
“Har, har,” he rolled his eyes, “All right then Miss Congeniality, I’ll take the hint. You don’t want to share. Just wait though, one of these days all those pent up questions you never ask are going to explode out of you. I’m not going to answer a single one, just to irritate you,” he said with a chuckle.
Dani gave a dry laugh. “Yes, that’ll teach me a lesson.” Though she said it casually a deep pain pricked inside of her chest. It really was a fear of hers. What if she brought it up, decided to ask the big questions rolling around her head and he couldn’t give an answer or gave the wrong one. She didn’t even know what the wrong answer was (being that she didn’t have one herself), but she sensed she’d know it was wrong the moment he said it. When did friendship become so complicated? “Puberty!” She unintentionally answered herself under her breath.
“What did you say?” One of Orson’s eyebrow’s raised high above the other.
She couldn’t believe she’d let that slip from her brain and fall out of her mouth! Trying to conceal her embarrassment she answered, “Oh, nothing.” She flipped out the newspaper on her lap, “Must have been reading out loud. Guess I spend too much time with you. Now I’m picking up your bad habits. You really do need to work on that muttering thing you do while you read. Drives me nuts.”
“Yeah, yeah. You know, for all my bad habits you’re the one who still chooses to hang around me, Kowalski.”
“Well, I figure it’s a small price to pay to have a human encyclopedia like you around during term paper season,” she giggled.
“And what about the price I have to pay being your encyclopedia?” he retorted.
“Pray, tell. What price is that dear Encyclopedia Hendrix?”
Orson’s face flickered with that look again. Just like before it was gone as quickly as it arrived. By his slight stammer she could tell he had changed his answer as he spoke, “dealing with y-you and your tuneless humming…”
She laughed and responded, “Well, I guess we make quite the pair then, a muttering reader and a tuneless hummer. Good thing we’ve usually got the library basement to ourselves. I’m sure others wouldn’t be so stoked about putting up with our oddities.” She laughed again.
Usually Orson joined with her laughing when he knew she was trying to be funny. This time he didn’t. Instead the look resurfaced, this time not immediately flickering away.
In that moment something unexpected happened. A pleasant sort of heat prickled its way from her chest up her spine only to scorch a visible blush across her cheeks. She was gratified at his look, relished it even, soaking in it like a flower took in sunshine. She’d seen similar looks from dozens of men but this reaction to it was something she’d never experienced.
Later that night as she laid in her bed tossing and turning she dissected every moment of their time together and a realization became increasingly clear. It felt different because it was different. This time the look came from someone she really knew, someone she respected and trusted her real self to.
She sat up, nearly catapulting herself from the bed. It was resolved. She had to tell him. The only question left to answer was, how.