Prose Scene 31

Emma keeps hinting that she wants more, and it’s making Alex nervous. Every time she leaves for the night, she tries to linger a bit longer, and she has often reached over and kissed him on the cheek before he can protest. It kills him to think that just a few months ago he thought this was what he wanted, and now he’d give anything to make it just go away.

The worst of it is, she keeps trying to drive a wedge between him and Zoe. Sure, he hasn’t told her that he’s in love with Zoe yet (he still trips over those words mentally, even though they’re true). But what kind of friend actively tries to make sure that you don’t have any other friends? And what kind of girlfriend would that turn into?

He shudders a little.

“Cold?” Emma asks, noticing immediately and reaching for a blanket.

“No,” he says quickly before she can drape it over both of them. “Just, you know, someone walking over my grave.”

“Oh,” she says, and she sounds disappointed. Disappointed that they can’t share a blanket. It almost makes him shudder again, but he doesn’t dare.

He told Zoe that he was worried about Emma’s home life. And… it wasn’t exactly a lie. She’d had some trouble in the past, and it was the easiest excuse he could think of. And he’d wanted one, because he’d thought…

If you can’t be honest with yourself, then who can you be honest with?

He’d thought that Zoe had been trying to tell him that she liked him. She’d essentially called him her wish come true, and said so many wonderful things. She’d supported him so unconditionally on something he wasn’t even sure about yet. And she just kept writing, kept thanking him for things that barely deserved thanks, and he couldn’t help but think that maybe, maybe she was trying to tell him something.

But he couldn’t quite bring himself to outright ask, because of Kevin. She hadn’t mentioned him much recently, but he knew she liked him. And so, he realized, Emma was his way of testing the waters. The past few letters he’d mentioned her more and more, rationalizing it by telling himself she was a much bigger part of his life now, even if she was driving him up a wall. And finally, writing his last letter, he’d realized what he was doing, and even though he knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, he’d done it deliberately. He’d floated the idea that maybe there was something going on at home, and indirectly asked Zoe for advice (realistically, he probably didn’t even need to ask, just hint that he was debating on what to do, and Zoe would offer whatever she thought).

Ever since he gave Eddie that letter he’s been nervous, even though he’s pretty sure he didn’t give anything away. He’s been trying to hide his nerves and failing miserably. Rachel asked what was wrong at dinner last night, and Emma was sticking even closer to his side (that seems to be her solution to everything).

“Hey Emma?”

“Yeah?” she says, looking up from the reality tv show they- well, she – had been watching.

“Can we go to Cuppa Joe’s?”

“Now?” she asks incredulously, “It’s, like, 7. We’ll be having dinner soon.”

“I know.”

“What’s going on?” She sounds suspicious, and he supposes she has a right to be.

“Nothing,” he answers a little too quickly, “I just, I asked Zoe something kinda… important in the last one.”

“What was it?” she demands, ignoring the most basic rules of privacy.

“Look, it’s not important. Can we please just go check and see if she’s replied?”

Emma heaves a huge sigh, but agrees. Alex hates that he had to bring her in on this, that he’s so dependent on her for everything.

He tells her to wait in the car, and eventually convinces her that she doesn’t need to open the doors, which have buttons for wheelchairs, for him, especially since he’s due to get his cast off in about a week. Inside, Eddie is cleaning up after the pre-dinner rush.

“Alex!” Eddie greets him far too loudly, and the few customers look up in surprise. “My man! Any news?” Alex flinches slightly as Eddie claps him on the back. Eddie has taken to asking him this every time he comes in, and he’s beginning to wonder why.

“Not since yesterday. Do you have a letter?” He tries to keep his voice firm and his nerves under control.

“As it happens, I do! How’s Zoe doing anyway?”

Alex pauses. What was Eddie getting at?

“You saw her more recently than I did,” he says finally.

“Sure, sure. Cappuccino too?”

“No, sorry. Emma’s waiting in the car.” Eddie’s face falls slightly at the mention of Emma, although maybe it’s his imagination.

“Not cool, dude. We’re not a post office.”

Ah, so it was the refusal of a cappuccino, not Emma that disappointed Eddie. Still. Eddie has been acting weird (okay, weirder than usual) ever since the beginning of April.

“I know. I’ll buy extra next time or something,” Alex says. Eddie hands over the letter, and Alex heads toward the door as quickly as possible.

He doesn’t dare open the letter right away, with Emma right there. Waiting through dinner for her to go home is agonizing, though, and he runs upstairs the second the front door closes behind her.

Within seconds his eyes are stinging. That’s it then. She’s pushing him towards Emma. He closes his eyes and refolds the letter. There’s more, but it can wait. The important thing, the thing that’s going to make it so hard to sleep tonight, is that he was wrong. Zoe doesn’t like him, not the way that he likes her. He throws the letter on the floor, suddenly angry that he didn’t say something before she even met Kevin, and angry that he can’t just stop liking her.

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