Considering how poorly I’d slept Saturday night, only the promise of hearing the next chapter in the story of Arthur’s reign got my sorry butt out of bed. My head was woozy, and I couldn’t concentrate or seem to think clearly. I hadn’t drunk enough for a hangover; hopefully what I was experiencing was a touch of the flu rather than falling in love.
“What is it like inside her head?” I pestered The Grail. “She held you; you know everything. Give me a little insight, you pewter ingrate.”
Now Bradley Schuster. You vehemently denounce those philistines who kiss and tell. In fact, you used that as an excuse to deceive the young lady, albeit mildly. How can you of all people ask me to betray an intimate confidence so imprudently?
“Well at least tell me if you talked with her.”
My, aren’t we demanding. But I guess it’s appropriate to answer that question so we can get on with the day. No, we did not ‘talk’ as you call it.
That momentarily tempered my exasperation at her stubborn confidentiality. Ten minutes into the narrative, I was too caught up to care about what secrets she wouldn’t share. Particularly since finding out for myself ‘the hard way’ didn’t seem too odious a task.
Anne had hinted that she might drop by late in the afternoon “if you’re sure I won’t be disturbing you,” so I was halfway expecting the soft tap on the door just as Arthur finished off the white stag. “Don’t let me interrupt your work,” Anne said quietly, after she had set a grocery sack down on the table and brushed her lips gently and easily across my cheek. “I’ll make us something to eat for when you’re finished. If you don’t have other plans, that is.”
I didn’t, but as happy as The Marquis and I were to see her, we would have cancelled them if I did.
By the time Arthur discovered that his lover from the night before was his half sister, the intoxicating aroma of stewing chicken filled my apartment—for the first time in the three years that I’d lived there, I might add. Wow. Beauty and brains and personality and she could cook, too! Not that cooking was all that important for me in a girlfriend—that’s just the chauvinism of my upbringing peeking through chinks in the mortar of the brick wall that I’d thrown up to impound the monster.
Knowing a really good opening line when I heard one—and knowing that really good lines were far too rare to discard after only one use—I banged The Grail down on the counter, stepped back from it with an exaggerated motion to show that my hands were nowhere near it, and asked, “Annie Layla Fletcher, without coercion and entirely of your own volition, would you like to kiss me?”
She obliged with a laugh. When my head had stopped moving around in small dizzy spirals (she either considerately gave me time to recover, or maybe she was recovering herself? I could always hope it was the latter), she asked, “Are you ready to tell me what you found out today, or do you only talk while you eat? I only made one course.”
Before I could answer, the Marquis stepped in and replied, “Sorry, I only talk while I’m eating.” Sly devil. Before I’d had a chance to give away the story, he’d set me up for a serious improvement in my dietary habits.
By the end of the evening, I was pretty convinced it wasn’t the flu.