4 Calling Birds
For everyone who hated the damn pigeon.
* * * * *
He didn’t see Kara Thrace again for nearly two months. War College and other circumstances kept him away from Delphi – a required seminar, a project to complete, a sprained ankle – but he still could’ve made it if he’d tried harder. They were excuses, but he threw himself into them. Compensation and guilt, perhaps, if he let himself think about it. But he didn’t, and he moved on.
If Zak noticed, he didn’t let on. Their phone calls were the same as always, with jokes and ribbing and a landmine of topics to be avoided. Zak didn’t know to add Kara to the list, however, and his constant stream of anecdotes only made things worse. Walking on eggshells was bad enough, but this was far more stress than Lee wanted at this point in his life. Which meant, of course, that it was only a matter of time before he faltered.
“When you’re in Delphi next week, Kara and I will have to take you out to dinner.”
“What, no home-cooked meal this time?” The words were out there before Lee even thought about them. He grimaced.
Zak just laughed. “Kara doesn’t cook. That little show was all for you, bro.”
If Lee was the honor student, then Zak was the clever one, finding ways to twist the knife even deeper without realizing it. But the trap was set, and the only thing left was to avoid falling into it again.
Declining the invitatation would only make things worse, knowing Zak. So Lee spent the next week trying not to think about dinner, which meant, of course, that he couldn’t stop thinking about it. By the time he pulled into the driveway of his apartment – sublet to a fellow cadet while he was away – he’d run through a dozen potential scenarios in his mind. Pretend that night never happened. Pull her aside while Zak was in the restrooms and tell her it’d been a mistake. Corner her in the parking lot and see if her mouth tasted of lemon and smoke.
Ariadne was up at the base for the day, but she had kept the apartment just as he’d left it. Lee let himself in and stared at the tasteful furniture, spotless surfaces, sunlight streaming through the overhead window. He looked up and saw a group of birds perched on the other side of the glass, and that morning from two months ago rushed through his veins like an oxygen bubble. The absurdity of it all hit him, sent him crashing to the sofa in laughter at how ridiculous he’d been. As Zak always said, shit happened. ”Not the end of the worlds, Lee, so get over it.” Three hours until their reservation at The Vineyard Grill. Whatever happened would happen, and until then he had work to do.
Still, as he spread out his paperwork on the kitchen table, he wondered if Kara would be wearing blue tonight.
* * * * *