Chapter 23: Him
I do not get her. At all. Why am I so nervous all of a sudden? It’s not like she’s going to hurt me. Right? She’s more impressive than I could have ever dreamed, a great horsewoman, and a great conversationalist. I can’t say that she’s very pleased to be stuck with me, but it’s better than the alternative. She doesn’t seem to like to be alone very much. She keeps talking softly to that horse. I can’t hear what she’s saying, but there’s no way she’s insulting the horse with that soft tone. Wow. Her voice is really pretty, you know? Like… like it’s something special to her. That the horse matters and she cares what it thinks, and likes talking to it. Like it can talk back. I almost wish these two could. Maybe they could give me some advice on what to do with all these feelings I’ve got for Miss Eliza Rein. I mean, I fell for her snarky, sarcastic, and almost insensitive tone, but there’s something else there now. There’s… there’s a softer side. There’s lots of sides. She’s not a coin. She’s a pyramid.
“What’s with the look, Mr. McPherson? You look like you just had a revelation.” She asks, looking over at me.
“Huh? Oh, nothing. I was just thinking.”
“Careful. Don’t hurt yourself. I don’t want to have to walk the horses back.”
“I’ll be careful.” I look at her again. She bugs me. There’s a piece of her that’s missing. I’ve seen some of her sides: the super snarky, sarcastic side; the ‘lost in thought’ and has-no-idea-what’s-going-on-around-her side; the defensive side I got to see at the ball; and maybe what I’m seeing now is her soft side. Man. Girls are confusing! But if my theory is correct and she is a pyramid, then there’s one more. Oh well. I’ll figure that later.
We get back with the horses on time, she chats with Mr. Black some more, telling him how much she appreciated that he let us ride his horses, that we looked after them, and whatever. None of it was snark either. She seemed genuinely grateful. She even got the grumpy old man to half smile, which is saying something.
We get back in a taxi and ride back very quietly, since it’s getting dark.
“Hey. Can I take you to dinner?” I ask, hoping I’m not pushing my luck.
“Sure. I don’t mind.” She looks out the window, lost in thought again and probably didn’t even hear me.
“Okay… is there a place you’d like to go?”
“I don’t know. I’m not familiar with New York. Is there a place that accepts people dressed like us and smells like horses that doesn’t serve beer?” she half smiles at the window. Ah, so she can hear me.
“I don’t know. I was thinking maybe some fast food or something. Unless you wanted to change.”
“I didn’t bring anything fancy to change into. I have no reason to change anything else but my clothes. So you tell me, what would I change into?”
“I don’t…” I look at her reflection in the window, trying to make out her expression. I don’t know what she means. Is she talking about clothes, or is she talking about her personality? GIRLS ARE SO CONFUSING!!
“You don’t know what I’m asking. I’m sorry. Let me make this simpler. I wasn’t planning on being here this long. I was planning on being home last night at the very latest. I have little to no intention of staying here longer than I have to. I didn’t pack anything that would be suitable for formal dining at a restaurant, and the dress I wore to the ball would be a little too old fashioned, I’m sure. Therefore, I don’t want to change my attire. My apologies. Allow me to amend that statement. I won’t change my attire. Is that clearer for you?”
“Yes, I think it is. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“You weren’t being rude. I wasn’t making myself very clear. I like dinner. I like food. But I understand social norms and I know they don’t accept my kind. Alright?” her voice drips with a special kind of ice that is a little terrifying.
“Your kind? What do you mean, your kind?”
“Foreigners. Strangers. You New Yorkers are a totally different breed. You do what you want, when you want, because you want to, you walk so fast, you move so fast, your life and even the days move so fast. You keep running like hamsters on a wheel, unable to think or feel about other people because everything is so dang fast.” She shakes her head at the window, her expression still hidden to me in the darkness setting in. “My kind are so very far away. So slow. Too different, too bullish and clumsy to your quick and refined ways. I’ve been here long enough to know that people around here are suspicious of nice people like me. Okay. I give. I’ll be on my way as soon as I can, New York, and you won’t have to see me again, I promise.”
“You really think that’s what we are?” I ask, a little offended and sad for her.
“I know that’s what you are. I’m a stranger, an outsider. We see things as a big picture because we’re not part of the painting.”
“You think we’re fast and don’t care about outsiders? That we aren’t nice? That we’re refined?”
“That’s exactly what I think. You don’t even seem to like each other or be nice to each other, let alone a wild Colorado blogger such as myself. Right?” her head turns sharply in my direction, her eyes blazing almost angrily.
“What do you mean?” I look at her, awfully startled. Now that I can see her expression, I wish she would look back at the window. Her eyes are filled with anger, the rest of her face red with some other feeling.
“You’ve paid me an awful lot of attention, Jack. An awful lot. Today was just my ticket to go pretend like I was home again. Cassandra was doing it to hook us together because that’s the kind of thing that she has been known to do. Thanks for going along, but the rest of this is just foolishness. Dinner? What’s next? Wine and then we slip off to your apartment?” her snarky, cold tone is rising up, but her face clearly says disappointment.
“What? You think I—what?”
“What are your intentions with me, Jack? Huh? You’ve been interested and my fan for far too long. There are plenty of fans of mine. I get swamped with letters, to the point where I’ve got about 10 e-mail addresses just to keep my personal space. But you, you went beyond all of that. Dinner. Drinks. A ball. What is this, some fairy tale to you?!”
“What are you getting all mad for?! What did I do?!” I back off towards the door, confused and a little terrified of her tone.
“I don’t know, Jack, what did you do?! Why are you stalking me?! What on earth did I do to deserve to be followed around in a strange land by one of the natives?! What kind of sick lesson is this?!”
“Lesson? Natives? Stalking? Eliza, I have no idea what you’re talking about, or why you’re mad. Please. Calm down.”
“Calm down?! Calm down?! Are you out of your mind?!” The cab driver clears his throat, and her whole demeanor changes at the drop of a hat.
“Would the two of you like to get out, or keep the meter running?” the driver asks us. We’re at the church.
“No. Thank you. I apologize for our behavior. I’m sorry I yelled. It was rude and inappropriate for me. I’m the only one getting out, thank you.” She gets out promptly, shutting the door a little harder than she really needed to.
I give the address for my apartment, taking her behavior towards me to mean “NO” to dinner. I still didn’t get her phone number. I guess I found her fifth side… the dangerous one.