We had a few more game nights like that. She was actually not that bad of a player, really. She gloated a bit more than I thought was seemly when she won. But I was pulling my punches, so it wasn’t too hard to take it. The scary thing was just how much like dates these things started to feel. Not that anyone goes on dates anymore…. I knew how desperately lonely she had to be, so I didn’t want to just break things off. But things really were moving faster than what I wanted. Not that I would have admitted that there was a “thing” happening.
Still I figured… maybe if I could transition her to more group activities things would cool off. I called the guys in the game meetup to see if they could handle a slightly more offbeat “plus one.”
“I have someone that’d like to come to the group, but I wanted to check with you about it first.”
“Well… are you okay with having someone come that will require special accommodations? You know, for… uh, disabilities…?”
“What kind of accommodations…?
“Well… she can’t physically attend because she’s… hospitalized…. She’ll have to call in and we’ll have to hold some of the bits up to the camera so she can see everything. I’ve played with her quite a bit. It’s not been a problem unless she’s not aware of a all her options when she doesn’t want to ask to be reminded of things. If we just make a habit of showing her hand to her, that sort of thing… it shouldn’t mess things up too badly.”
“I’ll take your word for it. What does she want to play?”
“Avalon Hill’s Dune.”
“Will this Tuesday work?”
And that was the end of that. It wasn’t really that big of a deal, but the guys quickly lost their enthusiasm for playing Dune with her after she won two times in a row as the Bene Gesserit.
She still kept after me, though. I tried to brush her off. I started working out more and finding new things to do just so I wouldn’t have to lie when I told her I had a conflict. She wore me down though. I mean… I did feel bad for her. And when I was “with” her, I could almost forget about how things really were. For my part, I guess I was a bit desperate for the company.
I must have been tipping my hand more than I realized, though. Sandra cornered me about it work one day.
“Is there something between you and ol’ Brainiac?”
“Oh, no. No no no.”
“Are you sure, because–”
“It’s not like that. I mean we’re friends outside of work, sure. But we’re strictly Platonic. I mean… how could we not be?”
“Whatever you say….”
That should have been a red flag, but I guess I’ve always had a penchant for fooling myself.
A few weeks later was when I really should have gotten the message. Rachel had started coming to the game meetup again and was sort of dragging her feet a little when it was time to leave. I didn’t think anything of it when she shooed me out of the kitchen and just went back to taking final inventory of all the meeples. I wouldn’t have seen her leave except when she picked her games on the way out, I noticed that she dropped her pen.
“Oh, hey… let me get that.”
I picked it up and then held the door open for her. Maybe I was imagining things, but she seemed to get right up in my space as she walked by. I think my temperature went up a couple of degrees.
“Did you do something to your hair…?”
No, I have no idea what I was thinking. She slowed down a little and looked back at me over her shoulder. She didn’t say anything… she just gave me this sly grin like she was up to something.
“It looks different,” I said. I’m not even sure I was aware that I was at a loss for words.
“See you around, Eddie,” she said
As she disappeared it dawned on me that the phone was still on.
“She’s a tramp, you know.”
“Oh… you’re still here, huh?”
“I can show you pictures I got from her social before she figured out she ought to take them down.”
“Are you… are you keeping tabs on her?”
“Hey, I just thought you should know.”
“Right…. Huh. Remind me to never get on your bad side.”