I wondered whether the costs of spending time with this man was outweighing the gains. I have walked past so many red signposts and flashing neon signs telling me to turn the other way, but my feline curiosity drove me onwards. Was this the time to turn my back on Him? Was it time to let my questions flow downriver? Was it time to leave?
“Are you having other thoughts? If you want to leave this job, I will understand, but I urge you not to. You cannot understand how much I—need—you.” Andrew said.
I sparked at those last three words. A power play or sincerity? I figure it doesn’t really matter, as both lead to the same conclusion; if it were a power play, it is a cleverly strung end-sentence to cause me to stay, meaning He needs me in one capacity or another. I simmered the thought, and savoured its fresh, hand-rolled splendour; He needs me?
Usually, I am too slam-door stubborn not to find a conclusion. For better or for worse, I thought I would be in this until the end, until I got the answers my insatiable curiosity so achingly needed, but since I have taken this job, I have changed my skin. I used to be the girl who sank behind shadows and watched the world go by, pleased to be overlooked, pleased to be forgotten. Once, I would have stepped in a cage for own safety and sprinted at the first sniff of danger. Now, I am the one breaking my own cages, I am the one manipulating the world. Now I am the one making herself noticed. Now I am the one whose curiosity burns more reckless and more consuming with each step closer to Andrew—and this is the reason I must step down. I have been abducted, manipulated and man-handled, and somehow I could deal with that, but losing myself was never something I had bargained on.
If we lose ourselves in the process of gaining something else, what have we really achieved anyway?
“You should have told me earlier about the dangers. It was my right to know. I needed to trust you, and you gave me every reason not to.”
“Past tense, I see.” He looked out of the window and watched, as a large white swan took unstunningly to the sky, and flew away.
I noticed a slight flicker of His eyebrows, but otherwise, His face was slick and unsullied as a fresh slice of clay. He nodded in acquiescence, nothing more. No pinch of breath, no briskly ploughed brow, no verse of remorse. Nothing. Perhaps, redressed in His armour, He has resewn His sentiments, and that slight flicker is the only loose thread He will reveal beneath the plates. His need was an ornate power play after all?
I felt the edge of my lips feather lifted and my mood dashed with sugar snow; it was not a smile, it was an upside-down frown. I found it amusing that even now, Andrew would be trying to manipulate me, and despite all my attempts, I was still not able to decipher the code of Him, or read His next page. For all my notes and study of Him, He was almost as predictable as the man behind the two-way mirror. Why I smiled rather than cried, may balance on a gambler’s fifty; head versus tails, or may be the result of my moving Andrew into the past tense.
“I will give you a solid reference for your next job. I can set you up with something well paid.” He turned His back on me, and His voice took on the jaded tip of a stumped quill. “I will be needing that gun now, if you are leaving my employment.”
“You have proved to me that you are unable to properly control your volatile actions, so why should I give you the gun?” We still had to attend a conference together; I didn’t fancy being accompanied by His—potentially—unstable loaded barrel.
He spoke rule straight and kindly, “You speak of trust, but trust falls in two directions, after all, you are the one who initially violated my trust to rootle through my suitcase and remove the gun without asking my need for it, not long after I felt we had grown a connection. I thought we were beyond that. I shared a part of my past with you last night. I thought we were on the same team? Tell me where you put the gun, for our safety—please.”
Please—the afterthought. This man is a dizzy arrow. What could I say? I wasn’t ‘rootling through’ His suitcase, but I couldn’t chuck the maid into the pit and risk her head getting crushed in a vice. I had made peace with leaving this job, so I could bear a false black mark to my name. Despite this, there is some truth in what He is saying; I never thought to ask His need. I made my own assumptions. The question is, no matter what He had said, would I have believed Him? Perhaps I should have asked His need for a gun before I removed it, or perhaps Ruby Red was right He is dangerous, He is fire.
The cards had switched to His favour.
He stepped close, and the olfactory hummed in the scent of His fragrance. The senseless schoolgirl crush whipped up about my legs once more and sent me pitching roses; it was a glass jail. He whispered close into my ear, and I could feel the brush tip of His words flicker and tease my hair, “Please, where is the gun?” His ‘Medical Condition’ curled in lurching great tides around me, piercing my ears, resonating, burning. From the window, I heard a forte soprano of chirrups and cheeps; He had summoned the wildlife again. The softness of His words were betrayed by the savage tips of His ‘Condition’, arching in discontent. If I have learned anything about Andrew, it is to believe His ‘condition’ over and above the words He utters. Another power play. Here we were, back in Act One again.
“Where is the gun?”
Could I trust this man when our entire professional relationship has been based on a series of manipulative game plays? Should I give this unsteady switch of a man, this crusher of small skulls and abductor of innocent women, this man sniffing my neck, the benefit of the doubt? Or is He dangerous, is He fire?