“I can’t,” I sighed, resting my head on the table. Ethel had been trying to convince me into showing up for the convention, and she was becoming more and more frustrated with my refusals.
“I can’t believe this! Andrew, this is the third year in a row, you just have to come! ” Ethel pointed out in a frustrated voice as she drummed her fake nails on the table.
I could see Ethan propped behind the kitchen door from the corner of my eye. He looked worried, probably because Ethel was shouting and making a big deal where there was none.
“Please tell him to make the right decision,” Ethel said, turning to Ethan. Ethan reddened at her demand.
“I... I think he should do what his comfortable with...” Ethan trailed, shifting a little for Roxanne who was whimpering in an attempt to get past the door. She stretched tiredly when she finally got.
“Andrew, if this is because of Christopher I’ll kill you,” Ethel said, picking a pen up.
“This isn’t about anything,” I said in defence, raising my head. I was offended. It was not only rude of her to bring up Christopher, but it was awful of her to imply that he was the cause of my refusal.
I looked over to Ethan who was now giving us curious looks. I shook my head, wondering why on earth Ethel had even mentioned Christopher in front of Ethan. He won’t ask about it, but I’m sure it’ll be eating his insides in the absence of an explanation.
“Look, it’s not like he’s going to be there, and even if he was, I highly doubt he’d walk up to your stand just for kicks,” Ethel said, rolling her eyes.
I sighed, shifting in my seat in discomfort. I didn’t want to have this conversation, any of it.
“It’s for your own good... It’s for your career. I doubt your readers will be pleased with you missing the convention for the third time in a row. I know they’re definitely tired of seeing me behind the stand,” Ethel sighed, making me bite my bottom lip in guilt.
“It’s not like that at all...” I trailed, looking at everywhere but at her.
“Well it seems that way,” Ethel pointed out, making a tsking noise. “It seems like you’re not interested enough to see them in person.”
I sighed, shaking my head. “I don’t know what to do.”
“You can come,” Ethel suggested. I ignored her, fidgeting with my fingers As I avoided her gaze.
“I’ll think about it,” I finally muttered, making her sigh.
“You always think about it,” she said accusingly.
“Well, if by some miracle you agree, please ring me up and let me know,” she finally said getting up.
I watched as she gathered her files before stuffing them into her handbag. Roxanne ran across the room for a pat on the head before Ethel disappeared out the door.
“I didn’t want to get me mad,” I muttered to no one in particular. I heard Ethan walk towards me, before the sound of the chair that Ethel had previously occupied being drawn. Ethan sat down, giving me a comforting gaze.
“She knows that,” he said with a pause. “About the convention thing, it’s okay if you have valid reasons,” he said, taking my hand in comfort. I avoided his gaze in guilt; my reasons were not exactly valid. The truth was that I was afraid. I was afraid at the fact that someone who had probably forgotten my name would spot me.
“Who’s Christopher?” Ethan asked, his voice coming out in a rough tone.
“Someone from college,” I said, realizing that wasn’t exactly an informative answer. “I — I don’t like him. He wasn’t exactly nice to me,” I ended up adding.
It was the truth in a way. I like him. I used to like him, so much. I did everything I could to look attractive to him, and he just took advantage of me.
Ethan pulled my head down, so I was resting on his shoulder. I closed my eyes to savor the comfort of his hand that was presently stroking my hair.
We’d become a lot closer when we started sharing a room. He’d shown up at my door late one night with the excuse that he couldn’t sleep. I personally knew he’d heard me crying through the thin walls, and he had just been attempting to comfort me. I’d felt embarrassed and touched at the same time. I’d let him stay, although the sleeping arrangement was rather uncomfortable with Roxanne sprawled over us on the bed.
It’s been like that since then, and I’ve never gotten the balls to admit to him that I’d cried because I’d intentionally thrown up food (something I haven’t done for years) that night. It was too embarrassing and utterly ridiculous to mention. But he’s never asked me, never preyed on my personal business. That was one of the best things about him.
“Do you want something to eat?” Ethan asked, muttering into my ear. My body stiffened, as I mentally did the calorie math.
“Toast,” I muttered. It was around eleven A.M. and I still hadn’t had breakfast.
“And?” Ethan asked suggestively.
“Nothing, thanks,” I said, being stubborn. There was no way I was going to let him trick me into having any more. I wasn’t even planning on finishing said toast.
“You could at least take a mug of tea.”
“You know, I really don’t mind eating plain toast,” I said firmly, making Ethan sigh in defeat.
“I need you to cooperate,” Ethan said, making me fidget with my fingers in guilt. I knew Ethan was uncomfortable with how little I ate. It was a reasonable fear, everyone else was scared.
“Okay,” I muttered in agreement. “I’ll cooperate.”
“Thank you,” he said, getting up. He gave me a smile before heading into the kitchen.
I smiled, thinking about how they’d sent Ethan here so I could be his caretaker ad it had somehow turned the other way around.
I felt Roxanne crawl under the table, moving the chairs before settling down to lick my aching ankle gently with her tongue, and nibble gently at it in her own form of a massage.
I thought about what Ethel had said. She’d been right, I couldn’t be running at the mere feeling that Christopher would be there. As Christopher’s career as critique was being nurtured, I was sweeping mine as a writer under the rug by avoiding the necessary.
I sighed, looking over the cabin’s landline longingly. I thought of calling Ethel, I thought I should tell her to start making arrangements for the convention.
My train of thought was soon disturbed when Ethan came into the living room with a tray of food I never remembered asking for.
“I never asked for eggs,” I said, biting my bottom lip. “Or bacon.”
“I know,” Ethan agreed, placing the tray of food on the table before taking the seat beside me, “but you did say you’d cooperate.”
I gave him an accusing look before looking down at the food with scorn.
“You don’t have to eat everything,” Ethan said in encouragement. I sighed, picking up a slice of toast, before deciding that it wouldn’t kill me to eat a little more.
Ethan smiled, watching me eat as we discussed randomly. He was picking from the food too, making clearing the plate an easier task.
“I’ve decided to attend the convention,” I said, watching Roxanne nibble bacon off Ethan’s hand. It was odd how they’d formed a close bond.
Ethan gave me a small smile. “You’re sure about it, right?” he asked, scratching behind Roxanne’s ears, whose head was now resting on Ethan’s lap.
“I’m sure,” I said, returning his smile.
“It’s over the weekend so you can come along,” I pointed out, making Ethan grin. He would have probably insisted on missing classes to come along if it was during the weekdays.
“Thank goodness. I thought I’d be stuck here worrying about you,” Ethan said, chuckling.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, getting ready to take offence.
“You know...” Ethan trailed giving me a sheepish grin. “I wasn’t quite sure you’d eat. And I thought you may faint at the sight of a box of chocolate if someone offered one.”
“I wouldn’t have,” I said, not even believing myself. “I would have declined it nicely... then fainted.”
At the end of my sentence, Ethan broke out into a full out laugh, leaning forward to peck my lips. Somehow, I lost all the anger I’d managed to gather and settled with flushing in embarrassment as he continued to laugh.
“You know, I was doing quite fine when you weren’t here. You didn’t meet me dead, you know,” I said, trying to bring up some proof of my ability to take care of myself.
“Really?” Ethan asked, raising a brow. “You call being able to pass off as the living dead doing okay?” Ethan asked, giving me a look of mock horror. I sighed, rolling my eyes. He was getting very free with me — and annoying.
“I’m not talking to you anymore,” I said, my voice resounding with clear hurt.
“Wait? Come on, I don’t mean it like that...” Ethan trailed as I stood up in fury.
“Well, there isn’t really any other way to mean it,” I said, folding my arms. Ethan sighed, his expression turning into that of frustration.
“I’d never hurt you intentionally,” Ethan said getting up. “I’m sincerely sorry,” he finished, taking my hands in his. Looking down at our hands I could feel any atom of anger melt away. I sighed, realizing I couldn’t stay mad at Ethan. He was too nice - too respectful.
“It’s okay,” I muttered, feeling the rawness of my throat. “I couldn’t just take a joke.”
“I’m sorry for making it,” Ethan muttered, swinging our hands idly. I was meant to start a chapter of my book a while ago but I didn’t quite care now. Times like this with Ethan were calming.
“I’ll - I’ll go drop off the tray,” Ethan said, letting go of my hand before turning his attention to his tray. I gave him a wary smile as he disappeared into the kitchen.
I rubbed my hands together looking up at the clock. It was about one in the afternoon.
I shoved my hands into my pocket, deciding it was high time for me to call Ethel and start the very due chapter.
As I made my way to my study room I picked up Hector who was snuggling up by the door. He raised his head oddly before giving my hands little scratches in an attempt to snuggle up in my palm.
I smiled down at him before walking into my study. I dropped Hector on the study table and did the necessary by calling Ethel. We talked about the arrangements before calling it a day and hanging up.
It was after the call it dawned on me what exactly I’d signed up for by agreeing to attend the convention. There was no way Christopher wasn’t attending; it was a state convention.
I gasped, realizing I’d been holding my breath for no apparent reason. I settled down on my seat oddly, realizing I’d not quite gotten over the attraction and fear I had for Christopher.
Maybe I shouldn’t have agreed. I shook my head slightly before logging into my computer with a sigh. It was practical to attend the convention, besides I had to call quits on running around in circles when it came to matters concerning Christopher.