I promised some of my Twitter peeps a new short, and I rarely lie. Well, sometimes. When it’s important. Or useful. Or I’m writing. I considered splitting this into three parts due to its size, but I figured that’d just make some of you pissy…and I didn’t want that. So, here’s a longer short (ha!) for you:
Romeo and Juliet in Tango
They sat in the same spots in the park every day for three months now. She came down to eat her yogurt and do a page of Sudoku, and he came down at the same time to work on his laptop. Maybe he was a writer or something.
This morning her horoscope had suggested she take the leap that would not be denied…whatever that crap meant, but that wasn’t what had her thinking of talking to him. It was this stupid birthday. She’d be thirty in two weeks, and it was time to stop acting like she was sixty. She could talk to him…it would just be talking.
The blind Asian man in his fifties sat beside her—as he did every day. Wow. They were really all creatures of habit.
“How are you, Jenny Talmage?” he asked. He always used her full name as if anything less just wasn’t her name.
“I’m fine, Ken,” she said, staring at the other man who was working on his laptop. Normally, she made eye contact when she spoke with someone, but Ken never looked at her—they just always sat side-by-side and talked. Besides, today, she was going to force laptop guy to make eye contact with her by sheer will. Stare. Stare. Staaaaaare.
Who was she kidding? Maybe he hadn’t even noticed her in three months? Why would he? He looked all rough and steamy…and she looked so normal. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Her mouth had always seemed to be too full, but no one else had ever said anything. Still—nothing added up to equality with laptop guy. Plus, she was queen of the nerds. The building behind her that she worked in basically stamped her as untouchable to a guy like laptop guy. Out of her league. Way out of her league.
“Jenny Talmage, how often does the hummingbird flap its wings in an hour?”
Ken asked weird things like this all the time. It was mostly science and animal questions, and sometimes she tried to get ahead of him by asking her own odd questions. It seemed impolite to not venture a guess—so she always did. Strangely enough, she’d studied hummingbirds for her project, but it was because they could fly backward. If you could make a thing fly backwards…well, that was useful, amazing, and beautiful.
“Five hundred sixty-one thousand times,” she guessed. It was a reasonable guess.
“Really?” he asked.
Jenny shrugged even though Ken couldn’t see her.
The laptop guy looked up at her bemused, even though he couldn’t have possibly heard her. He was on a bench forty feet away. Weird. Then, he was looking back at his laptop as if the moment had never occurred. Maybe it hadn’t.
“They beat their wings more frequently during courtship,” Jenny said.
“What does that mean?” Ken asked. He tipped his head slightly as if her comment was more ridiculous than normal. Yesterday, they’d discussed whirlpools. This really wasn’t that far from the norm. Maybe he was old-fashioned and felt even the word “courtship” was dirty.
“That their courtships are more exhausting than humans,” Jenny said, setting her yogurt to the side and opening up her Sudoku book to a new puzzle. With Ken feeling chatty, there would be no way she’d get an actual puzzle done, so she started making notes in her code to transcribe later in her lab’s computer. She really ought to know how often they beat their wings—it’d be useful information possibly.
“Hotel uniform” she scribbled into some of the boxes to remind her to look up an “Hu” word when she got back up there. That would be enough to jog her memory. It’d be interesting if she’d guessed close. “561,000,” she wrote in the next box, murmuring it under her breath as she did.
There! Again! She’d seen it in her periphery; the laptop guy raised his head topped with “cinnamon toast” colored hair, and his blue eyes focused on her for a second in surprise.
Jenny looked behind her. No one there; it was just she and Ken, same as every day for the last three months when he’d been here, and she’d been wanting to talk to him.
When she looked back at the laptop guy, he was staring at his laptop. Maybe she’d imagined it. Weird.
“You’re sure? Five hundred and sixty-one thousand times?” Ken asked the oddest follow-up questions. He had a sense of humor so he had to know she was kidding with these guesses, right?
“I would never venture a guess at something as important as wing speed if I wasn’t sure,” she said.
“Would you say we might be able to see such a thing today?” Ken asked.
Jenny blinked and turned to stare at the old man. Ken had to be in his late fifties. He always dressed in black—most of the time a black turtleneck and black slacks. She wanted to suggest he wear brighter colors so he wouldn’t get run over. She’d nearly seen that happen once when she found him outside her building. Still, how would he know what colors were bright? Besides, he’d made it to his current age without people telling him what to wear. That bike messenger had really gotten close to nailing him. Maybe like a bright orange or yellow—he’d stand out more.
“The weather isn’t really good for that,” Jenny said, refocusing on their hummingbird discussion. It was November, and Oregon already had a bit of a cold snap moving through.
Ken pursed his lips. “Perhaps tomorrow then?”
“Yes.” Sure. Why not? Wait a second. What did he care about hummingbirds and seeing them? He was blind. Wow. This conversation truly was more strange than normal.
“I will see you here tomorrow at the same time. Five hundred and sixty-one thousand beats is less than I would have expected.”
“Would you like me to look it up, Ken?” she asked. “I might be mistaken.”
“NO! No, Jenny Talmage, I believe you. If you say that—it is just as you say. Five hundred and sixty-one thousand.”
She opened her mouth to say something—but there were no rational replies to his remarks today. She’d always suspected he was senile but…this was just plain odd.
He stood and put his white cane out in front of him. “It will be as you say, Jenny Talmage.” With the click, click, click of his cane on the pavement he was gone—and sooner than normal.
Now, it was just her and laptop guy. Only…it wasn’t. Laptop guy stood up, slapping his laptop closed and shot a quick look her way. Was she crazy—or did he look disappointed? No. Disgusted. He looked angry and disgusted. What? He strode off. Well, that was just rude. The first time he’d really so much as looked at her, and he’d given her this look like she was a disease. No, freaking way. There was no way he’d look at her like that without an explanation. She tossed the yogurt into the trash and took off after him.
Instead of melting in the sea of humanity and going into one of the tall, gray buildings, he walked straight toward an alley which led into a loading dock between buildings.
She followed him, dodging a fork lift, and not making eye contact with someone who looked like he wanted to steal her liver. This wasn’t worth it, was it?
No, she had to know what that look was about.
On the other side of the alley, he took a sharp turn into a place selling antiques. He sold antiques? Wow. Weird. She’d never in a million years have pegged him for an antique dealer. She paused outside the door, biting her lip indecisively. Did she really want to mess this up?
Mess what up?
This beautiful three months of him ignoring she existed?
Buck up, Jenny. It’s time to finally stand up for yourself and quit shrinking your way into nonexistence at age thirty. The door’s bells made a jangling sound as she shoved through. The small shop was crowded with odd items, and she nearly tripped over an ottoman made from an elephant’s foot. Eww. Hopefully that was fake. What was laptop guy doing in a dusty shop when he had a state-of-the-art laptop and wore a black business suit every day?
“Can I help you?” he asked from behind the counter. His eyes were cold, and his jaw was tense. If she’d seen him like this in the beginning, even his sexy voice wouldn’t have made up for it. He was pissed.
“No, I….” She turned to go, pausing with her hand on the door. The stores’ hours were staring back at her in reverse. The store was open until six-thirty. Thirty. As in the age she was turning without having ever seized a moment in her life. Damn it, she was not going back to her quiet lab to stare at monitors for hours while secretly wondering what she’d done to put that look on laptop guy’s face.
Jenny spun back around. “Actually, there is something.” Was she really going to do this? Yes. Yes, she was. This was the leap that would not be denied—the leap from teenage crush attraction to full-on medusa-levels of angry.
“You!” she said. Wow. That had been loud. She pointed at him, stabbing the air. He should know that it was definitely him she was referring to. “Every day you come to the park with your laptop, and you sit there and you type, and you don’t even bother saying hello. I figured you had this stupid shy personality but then, today, you looked at me like I was a flesh-eating parasite, you…you…unbelievable bastard. Let me tell you something. I kept not talking to you because I thought that I was too normal for you to even take a second look at me—clearly, because, I mean, after three months you’ve never taken a second look at me! Then, today, you do…on the day I was finally working up the nerve to talk to you…and….”
His face was so shocked—so horrified. It was as if she was speaking gibberish. Maybe she was. Maybe that look just now hadn’t even been personal. Maybe he greeted all potential customers as if they were scum.
He swallowed, preparing to speak.
She almost wanted to run at this point, but then she’d look even more freakish than she already did—if that was possible.
“Jenny,” he said.
“You know my name? Wait! How do you know my name?”
“If I said to you that a hummingbird can beat its wings up to a million times per hour, how would you respond?”
“What is with the hummingbird question?” she shouted. Really? Him too? Plus…. Jenny gasped. “You were listening in on our conversation. You were spying on me.” Why? Perhaps she should be flattered, but if his look in the park had been anything to go by, she’d insulted him with her hummingbird guess, and that was just stupid. “I don’t care! Okay. This might be news to you and Ken, but I don’t….”
“Ken Phan?” He leaned across the counter, staring at her intently. “You mean Ken Phan? The man you sit next to every day?”
“Is that his last name?” Huh. It sounded a little familiar. Why? “Wait…what’s your name?”
Laptop guy shook his head. “It’s not important. So, on the hummingbird?”
She slammed the Sudoku book on the counter, startling both of them. “I’m not going to refer to you as laptop guy in my head. I don’t care if you tell me to call you ‘Cleopatra’ but you know my name…and Ken’s name…and all I know about you is that you have a laptop and, now, that you work in this store.”
“It’s Bryce,” he said, smiling. “And I don’t work in this store. No one does.”
Jenny looked around the small antique store. Okay. Weird. So, they were both trespassing somewhat if they were hanging out while the owner was gone?
Bryce picked up her Sudoku book and flipped through it. He stopped on a page with notations and words inside the boxes rather than numbers and turned it around to show her.
“Yes, I was trying to work out something in my lab, and I brought my work to lunch with me.” So what? There were other pages like that one, and pages where she won games of Sudoku also. In fact, she won quite a bit, but he was focusing on a page of what equated to doodles.
“These words, though….”
Jenny rolled her eyes. “I work for a very paranoid company on a project that I’ve signed away my life on should I disclose it, so I work in code outside of my building. All my notes are in code. It’s a secret. A big, huge, lame secret that has sucked my entire social life into it…like a black hole.”
He pointed to a box. “What does Romeo in tango mean?”
Jenny glared at him and crossed her arms over her chest. What part of “it’s a secret” did genius here not get? Her infatuation had been grossly misplaced. She snatched the book from his hand and stalked out of the building. Unbelievable. Un-freaking-believable. She’d only walked a few steps into the alley when rough hands grabbed her from behind and a foul tasting rag covered her mouth. She inhaled to scream, and a sweet sting hit her nostrils before she fell asleep.
There was a warbling sound in the room that sounded somewhat like talking—like the talking in a Peanuts cartoon—and was almost louder than the shrieking in her head. The noise started to shift into words…said in a whiny voice.
“What was I supposed to do?” a voice asked. “She followed him. We finally placed who he was with. She clearly was reconsidering.”
“He doesn’t matter. He has nothing but coded messages. We need her cooperation…her willing cooperation. I can’t make this work without her,” another voice said. It sounded just like Ken. She must have fallen and hit her head.
“Burg says the stuff he can inject her with will make her forget all this.”
Ken said, “She’ll forget that you tied her up, stuffed her in a van, and brought her to our lab?”
This was so weird. Her hands were tied behind her, though. Wiggling her legs let her know that her feet were tied too. Well, this sucked. It felt like she was on a cot or something. She blinked her eyes open—slowly—really slowly. It was so bright.
There was Ken, arguing with that guy who nearly ran him over that one time. Yeah. It all made more sense with her eyes closed. Ken turned, stared at her for a moment, and then muttered, “You better be right about this.” Kneeling in front of her, Ken looked her directly in the eyes and said, “Hello, Jenny.” There was a loose gag in her mouth that he pulled down to hang around her neck.
His smile was beatific.
You should never trust a person who smiles for no reason. In fact, the smile and him moving around without fumbling or using his cane…was creepy. Where was his cane? “You’re not blind?”
Ken jerked, scowled, and looked back at the other guy, who was dressed in a suit but had a white lab coat on top. “What did you already use on her? I thought you just knocked her out? She’ll be of no use to us if her mental faculties are impaired.”
“Hey!” Jenny shouted, her own voice making her head hurt worse. “I can hear you just fine.”
Ken turned to her and smiled ingratiatingly. That was creepy too. Where were his strange questions and blank stare? This creepy, new, schmoozing Ken was making her long for weird conversations about hummingbirds.
“Of course you can, Jenny,” Ken said. “My associate says he followed you while you were making contact with an undercover security team. I told him you wouldn’t possibly be selling me out after months of negotiation.”
“Undercover security team?” Her head hurt so badly, and he was speaking in gibberish—plus he could see. “So, you’re not blind?”
Ken swung to glare at the man behind him. “Go find Burg and tell him whatever it was that you really used to knock her out. If she can’t finish the project because you’ve screwed up her brain….”
The other man held up his hands in front of him. “Fine! But I just used the chloroform.” He stormed out of the small lab.
With her hands tied, it was difficult to push herself to sitting on the cot, but it was time to confront this particular hallucination head-on. Well, maybe not “head-on” as her head felt like it weighed a ton and hurt like hell. She must have hit her head after she was doing…whatever she was doing. She’d just walked out of “Bryce’s” antique store that he said wasn’t actually his antique store. Wait, maybe that was part of this hallucination because none of that had made sense either.
“Now, Jenny, you can tell me, were you really contacting someone?”
It wasn’t his cajoling tone that convinced her to tell the truth…because that was really quite icky, but it clearly didn’t matter what nonsense she spouted, and her head hurt too much to play their game.
“I was just following laptop guy because he gave me this rotten look,” Jenny said. “He must have been the white rabbit because I fell down this rabbit hole and now nothing makes sense.”
“Laptop guy?” Ken repeated, the smile dropping from his face. “I’m going to kill Nick for this,” he muttered. “All he had to do was watch you. That was all.” The smile went back up as he said, “Okay, Jenny. I need to go discuss…things…with some of my associates. I’ll be back in a bit, and we’ll give you something that’ll make this all seem like a strange dream.”
“It can get stranger than this?” It would take the Mad Hatter and probably the dormouse to get any stranger. Maybe some pink elephants.
He yanked the gag back up and had it in place before she could protest it. Gross. It was wet from her saliva.
Jenny glared at Ken.
“I apologize about the gag, but…my associate didn’t bring you to the best location.” Ken moved just as she was considering head-butting him. He was so much nicer when he was blind.
The door slammed behind him, but not before she heard, “Nick, you moron, she thinks she was following a white rabbit with a laptop.”
That was totally not what she’d said.
Just as she was considering getting up to hop around on her tied feet and knock over expensive equipment, the window nearby opened, and a black-garbed body slid in. He’d moved so quickly. It was like he was a ninja. Ninjas were better as far as hallucinations went. After a quick glance to the side, he crouched in front of her. Bryce! Wait. Bryce turned out to be a jerk.
She glared at him too.
He flashed her an amused smile and put his hands to the gag. “Now, Jenny, I’m going to pull this down, but you can’t shout or yell or Phan will come back.”
Whatever. Shouting would hurt her head and having the gag out of her mouth sounded really, really good. She shrugged.
“Close enough,” he said, pulling it down. He even brushed the hair from her face. One of his hands stayed, cupping her cheek. That was nice. “Now, are you okay?”
Bryce got points with her for looking concerned.
“My head hurts,” she admitted.
His fingers smoothed the hair back at her temple. “Yeah, chloroform does that. I wish I could get you out of here, but our sting will fall apart if I do that.”
“Sting?” she asked.
He smiled, a quirked, wry twist of his lips. “Yes, apparently, you’re the only one who isn’t actually guilty of anything. I keep thinking back to all those conversations with Phan who has been trying to play along with your use of coded phrases—only I don’t think they were coded phrases at all.”
She snagged the only bit of his words that had made sense. “Why does the name Phan sound familiar?”
“They really don’t let you out of your lab much, do they, Jenny? Ken Phan? He works with Creative Mines and they’re competing for the government funding for whatever your project is.” He reached over and grabbed her Sudoku book. “I’m not even a high enough paygrade to know what any of this means.” He gestured at a page filled with her notes of words in the Sudoku squares. “Romeo and Juliet in Tango?” She’d been trying to figure out something while doodling and had just repeated the coded words for her project name over and over.
She swallowed. Even hearing the code out loud made her skittish. He’d have to know what the R in Romeo, the J in Juliet, and the T in Tango actually stood for—in order to even know the name of her project; otherwise, it was just a bunch of words she’d strung together that looked sorta cute as a phrase, but secrecy had been drilled into her.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything about your codes.” He set the book down.
“So, Ken isn’t blind?”
Bryce grinned. “No, he’s not. It’s just his disguise so he can meet you in public without being obvious. It’s a lame disguise if you ask me. I’ve never seen a worse actor. I saw him check out a woman walking her dog last week and wished I had a camera.”
“Wait. I’ve met him…like the real him—the non-blind him…at a few things in town.” Huh. Yeah. She needed to get out more. How had she missed that?
“I don’t think the disguise was meant to fool you.” His smile said he was teasing, but…he wasn’t exactly just a guy with a laptop. Everyone around her had secrets apparently.
“Well, some of us don’t expect everyone we meet to be hiding something,” she muttered.
“I think we’ve all jumped to a lot of conclusions about you—especially Ken. Although, I’ve got pages and pages of your conversations that had me thinking you’re way out of my league in code. Yesterday’s discussion on whirlpools…was that just about whirlpools?”
Jenny shrugged. “What else would it be about?”
“Some of my fellow agents thought it was about reverse-engineering an alternate source of power for your project based on a Singapore company’s device,” Bryce said.
“What?” Jenny shouted.
“Shhhh,” he whispered.
“Is that why Ken kept bringing up typhoons in Malaysia?”
Bryce shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve been watching you every day for months trying to figure out your place in all this. I’ve asked to be reassigned several times partly because of…well, never mind, but also because I thought I was missing industry jargon.”
“My place in this?” she repeated. “Wait…fellow agents?”
“I work for a…security agency. Certain parties may want to bow out of negotiations with your company if one of their leading researchers is selling confidential information.”
Jenny’s mouth dropped open in shock. “ME?” she hissed.
“Shhh,” he said, pushing his finger against her lips. “Yes. Both Phan and I thought you’d finally named your price today.”
“I would never…,” she began saying hotly.
Leaning forward, he shut her mouth with his. It was the best part of this dream of hers, and the only thing that made sense. Well, it didn’t, but it was so good that she didn’t care. His mouth was soft, and his tongue teased her mouth open as his hand slid into her hair. Mmm. When he pulled back a moment later, she wanted to protest.
“I know you wouldn’t, Jenny. I’ve been telling them from the beginning that you might enjoy torturing Ken with strange coded phrases, but you’d never sell out.”
Strange coded phrases? Oh, who cared? Bryce had just kissed her, and it had been fantastic.
“I should go. I’ve been listening in, and they won’t hurt you. They can’t—they need you.” He tapped the Bluetooth device in his ear—the one he wore every day in the park. “I’ll stay nearby just in case you really need rescuing, though.” Leaning forward, he kissed her again. “I’ve wanted to do that for months. You have a mouth made for kissing, and it’s irresistible.”
“Really?” Her mouth wasn’t too big? It was made for kissing?
In answer, he kissed her again—soft and sweet with just a bit of nibbling. Mmm. She really didn’t want him to stop when he did.
“I shouldn’t be kissing you.” Smiling, he added, “It’s really unprofessional, but hopefully I’ll be done with your case by this time tomorrow.”
She was still blinking in confusion when he pulled the gag back into place. She glared at him.
“Sorry,” he mouthed and leaned forward to kiss her nose before disappearing back through the window.
A few minutes later, when she was still glaring at the air in front of her, Ken returned with another man in a white coat—with a syringe. Ken sat down and put an arm around her shoulders. It lacked the feel of camaraderie—first, because he was only doing it to hold her still so the other guy could stab her, and, second, because it really made her feel like head-butting him. He wasn’t blind. He’d been trying to get her to give up her company’s secrets, and she’d been confused with that whole whirlpool discussion too!
Wait. This wasn’t happening. This was all too weird. This was a dream.
“You’re sure she won’t have any ill effects from earlier?” Ken asked.
The other guy was flicking the syringe. “I’m sure. You said she likes to talk in code. Maybe she bumped her head in the van, and she’s still using it even here.”
Ken nodded beside her. They were all crazy and, any minute, she was going to wake up.
“How much will she forget? Will she forget the deal from earlier?” Ken asked, gesturing at the syringe.
“It’s not an exact science,” the other man said.
“It should be,” Ken muttered.
She head-butted him just as the needle pricked her shoulder. His shout of pain was satisfying—even if it hurt like hell—and a moment later she dropped unconscious.
The sunglasses were not nearly dark enough. Jenny set her Sudoku book to the side. It was so not happening today—not at all. Luckily, the aspirin she’d tossed back was kicking in. What had she done yesterday? The whole thing was a blur. Pressing her fingers lightly to the huge bump on her head, she acknowledged that might be a part of the problem. Had she slipped and fallen on her way into bed? Was that why she’d slept in her clothes?
Ouch. She must’ve really nailed her head hard. Why had she even come into work? Why had she come down here for her daily lunch break? That’s right. Laptop guy. Today, she was going to finally talk to him. She was going to do it. Only…he wasn’t here.
“Hello,” a voice said behind her.
She looked over shoulder and tipped down her sunglasses. There he was—without his laptop. “Hello.”
His sandy brown hair sparkled in the sun, and his blue eyes mirrored the sky. He was so beautiful—especially when he was smiling at her and looking interested.
“My name is Bryce.” He gestured at the bench beside her. “Can I sit down?”
Her grin must have been answer enough. “My name is Jenny.” He even sat really close to her—it made her heart hammer. “Oh, but…this blind man, Ken, sometimes sits there.” As much as she’d rather have Bryce sit next her, she didn’t want to bump a blind man from his daily routine.
“I don’t think he’ll be here today,” Bryce said.
“You know him?” Huh. Whatever he’d been working on must have really needed focus. He’d never even acknowledged Ken. Then again, you couldn’t really wave at a blind man and have it count—or maybe they weren’t ‘that’ close.
Bryce nodded. “Yep. He’s having—financial difficulties.”
“That’s too bad.” She glanced around him. “Where is your laptop?”
He grinned widely. “I just finished up a big…project I was working on. I’ve wanted to come talk to you for a few months, but this, uh, project made talking difficult. My job is somewhat confidential.”
“I totally understand. I work in that building over there.” She pointed at the ugly, gray slab where she wasted her life away. “I’m working on this…thing, and I have been for forever. I can’t talk about it—which makes me feel like a social leper, and it eats up my life.”
Bryce leaned back, putting his arm on the back of the bench. “Exactly. Keeping secrets makes you feel very separate and alone.”
“Yes.” That was it. He understood. It sounded as if he was keeping his own secrets, but so was she…so they were even.
When she leaned back, his arm was nearly on her shoulders. This was nice. Very nice.
“What are you doing tonight, Jenny?”
She should really try to decipher some of yesterday’s notes—which made even less sense than normal without her memory of them.
Or she could get a life.
She should get a life.
“Nothing.” Hah! Take that thirty years old!
“You know, I think that’s a crime. No woman as beautiful as you should be home on a Friday night. I can’t allow that.”
Jenny grinned. “What did you have in mind?”
“It’s a secret…which is code for ‘I don’t know yet.’ Can I get your phone number?”
Laughing, she opened her Sudoku book and ripped a page out. Huh. Phone. That was what else he was missing besides the laptop—that Bluetooth device that had always been on his ear. It wasn’t there today. He really wasn’t working here in the park, and he didn’t have food with him. So, he might have had no other reason to come to the park—besides meeting up with her. Really? He’d come to the park today for the same reason as her? Well, that was an odd coincidence. Odd but nice.
Out of habit, she filled in the Sudoku boxes with her phone number. If he thought it was weird, he didn’t say anything as she handed it to him. He tucked it in a pocket and stayed on the bench, even relaxing against it. He was staying to talk to her.
“Did you know that hummingbirds beat their wings anywhere from ten to two hundred times per second?” he asked.
“I didn’t know that.” What an unusual thing to say. It was somewhat endearing that he knew lame facts.
“They beat them faster when courting another hummingbird.” He smiled at her and added, “It probably makes for an exhausting courtship.”
Funny…that was just what she was going to say. She grinned up at him.
His eyes flicked to her mouth and lingered. What was he thinking?
“They can fly backwards,” she said. There was something about this conversation that seemed weirdly familiar…like déjà vu. What were the odds that they’d had a conversation before about hummingbirds? She must have really bumped her head.
“So, that’s their secret with the ladies, huh?” Bryce asked.
“Women like a man who can do things in reverse.”
“Hmm. So, you’re saying it’ll be okay to start off our date with a goodnight kiss.”
Her mind filled in some blanks, and she could swear she’d heard him say that he’d wanted to kiss her for months and she had a mouth made for kissing. Maybe a dream? A really, really good dream. Her cheeks flamed pink.
“I guess you’ll just have to try it and see,” she said.
“I guess I will.”
It would be good. She knew that kissing him would be good. It was as if they’d done that before too. That must have been some dream.
She wrinkled up her nose. “Have you ever had a weird case of déjà vu where you could swear you’ve had a conversation before?” she asked, the words slipping out before she could think them over. This was just so familiar.
“Yes,” he said. “You know, I could swear that my last conversation about déjà vu was just like this.”
She bumped his shoulder with hers while rolling her eyes.
“Actually,” he said, taking a deep breath. “I’ll be completely honest with you, Jenny. The reason this all seems so familiar is because I’m actually a government-contracted agent who has been investigating your every movement for months. The déjà vu is because your memory of certain events has been wiped.”
Even with her memory of yesterday being hazy due to the bump to her head, it was still so ridiculous. Jenny laughed, picked up her Sudoku book, and held it up. “That would have made for a fascinating file. Monday, subject sat in park, played Sudoku, and ate yogurt. Tuesday, subject sat in park, played Sudoku, and ate yogurt.”
“There was that one day when the ducks attacked you,” he said. “That was interesting.”
He’d seen that? She’d been hoping he hadn’t. “Mmm. So, you’re a government agent?” she asked. “What’s your codename? Don’t all agents have a codename?”
“Sometimes. If we’re on a contract that requires confidentiality, we do.”
He mumbled something under his breath and looked away.
“What?” she asked.
“Sometimes it’s not a codename so much as a nickname given to you due to your tenacious contention that a suspect is innocent.” Well, that was some odd rambling but, coming from him, it was still sweet…up to a point. He went on with, “It was an assertion that was later proven, so that should count for something but it doesn’t. Not really.”
“What nickname? You promised to tell me the honest ‘truth,’” she reminded him, fighting a smile.
Laughing, she asked, “What?” Why was he mumbling over a fake codename or nickname or whatever? He was really taking this whole joke seriously.
“Romeo. They called me Romeo.” He stood up. “And on that note, I’m going to go figure out where we’re going tonight. I’ll call you a little later.”
Feeling bold, she called after him, “What was my codename? Juliet?”
His laughter was her only answer. Looking down, she noticed her book had fallen open to the page that said “Romeo and Juliet in Tango.” Hmm. Romeo and Juliet in Tango, huh? Well, let the dance begin.
Copyright © 2014 by Wendy Sparrow
If you liked Romeo and Juliet in Tango, you’ll love On His List.