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Chapter 28

"Hiding your feelings from someone you love is like dying alive."
~Soumya Das


James

One month later…

It was supposed to be my day off, but I decided to hang out with Annalise while she worked. I lounged on the couch, mindlessly scrolling through things on my laptop.

“How’s Mia doing?” I asked, breaking the silence.

“She’s good,” Annalise said, not looking away from her computer screen. “She had chemo yesterday, and it wiped her out, so she’s taking it easy today. I’m leaving early to get home to her, hence why I’m working like a madwoman to get all this done. You’re welcome to join us.”

“I don’t want to intrude.”

She peered at me over her computer. “You’re never intruding. You’re family.”

“I’ll cook dinner.”

“I won’t argue with that, but I have no food, so we’ll have to stop by the store on the way back.”

“I’m buying.”

“I’m not letting you buy food for us to eat and keep in our flat,” she argued.

“It’s my treat. I can afford it. Besides, I love cooking for other people. Please?” I begged. My friend made a face, alerting me that I’d won the argument. With a triumphant smile, I started scanning through my recipes to figure out what I should make, casually asking questions about what she and her sister did and didn’t like. I learned they both hated pickles, Annalise liked her bacon soft while Mia liked it crispy. It was the same for cookies: soft and chewy for Annalise, and crispy and crunchy for Mia.

I started to ask another question, but the phone rang. Annalise answered it with a polite greeting. I watched her face scrunch up as she continued speaking to the person. Finally, she said, “Please hold.”

Anna looked at me and asked, “Do you know a Lorraine O’Connell?”

I sat up. “No. Why?”

“She’s asking to speak to Will, but I don’t know if this is some crazed fan that somehow got a hold of this number, or if she’s being genuine.”

“Can you ask Will, or is he in a meeting?”

“I’m one of the few who he wouldn’t mind interrupting any meeting he’s in, but-”

“I hate meetings,” Will announced as he barged into the room, “and I hate politicians. All of them. Babies could have more intelligent conversations.”

“Nice to see you, too,” I said.

“I thought you had the day off?”

“I did, and I’m using it to hang out with Annalise.”

“I see.” I lifted my legs so my friend could plop down next to me. I stretched back out, and Will decided to use my legs as a desktop, pulling out his laptop. “What have you two been up to? Anything interesting?”

“I”m trying to figure out what to cook for dinner,” I said. “We’re also trying to figure out this mystery person.”

“Mystery person?” Will repeated.

“Do you know a Lorraine O’Connell?” Annalise asked. “She’s on the phone and-”

“Oh! Tell her I’ll call her right back. James, move, I need to get up,” Will ordered as he struggled to get up.

“What is it, a hot date, or something?”

“After this phone call, it might b.” Taken aback by the comment, I glimpsed at Annalise to see if she’d heard what I had. While her eyes didn’t meet mine, they watched Will hurry to his office, shutting the door for privacy. Since when did he do that around the two of us?

Annalise returned to the phone and informed Lorraine of what Will said before hanging up and returning to her computer, studiously typing away at something.

I’d always known Will never lost interest in Annalise in the last two and a half years. He’d always been silently in love with her, hiding his affections to avoid scaring her away. But recently, I couldn’t help but wonder if Annalise harbored hidden feelings towards Will. It was the little things- the way she smiled at him when he wasn’t looking, the way she looked at him when he was speaking, the way she rested her hand on his shoulder when she came up behind him to look at something. I’d learned with Annalise that she showed her emotions rather than spoke them. Her actions were always subtle and easy to miss if you weren’t paying attention, but they were there. Ironically, her most telltale expression was when she didn’t wear one at all. It happened when something bothering Annalise on a deep level, but she didn’t want anyone knowing.

It’s the expression she wore right now.

I began to ask what was on her mind when Will came back into the room, a smile on his face.

“I have a date this weekend,” he said happily.

“Who’s the poor girl?” I asked, while Annalise simultaneously said, “Who’s the lucky girl?”

Will laughed. “She’s a friend of Everly’s. We met at the dinner party Ev held after we got back from Africa. She’s just gotten back from South America, where she was helping out an orphanage.”

“Sounds like a nice girl,” I said.

“Extremely. Lorraine gave me her number and said normally she was super shy, but since we’d probably never see each other again, she wasn’t going to have to deal with the embarrassment if we crossed paths. It’s nice to have some honesty from a girl.”

“You do realize Annalise is in the room?” I pointed out. “You can’t get much more honest than her.”

“I meant a girl that likes me in that sense. Annalise doesn’t like me as any more than a friend. Do you, Annie?” Will turned to look at her.

She raised her eyebrows at him. “Even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. Ask me out and see.”

“And have you tell me no just to shoot down my ego? No, thanks.” Anna smirked at him, but said nothing, merely turning her attention back to her computer.

“Where are you taking her?” I inquired.

“I thought she could come here. Then we’re away from the paparazzi, and we can talk and eat in peace.”

“You’re going to need a meal to impress her.”

“They’re going to be eating in Windsor Palace. I don’t think he needs to do much else to impress her,” Annalise said. “All the dining rooms here are stunning.”

“I wish everyone thought the same as you, Annie. We’ve had a few people think they weren’t,” Will told her.

“They obviously have no taste.”

“This is why I love you.” Will checked his watch. “Okay, I need to go get ready for my next meeting. I’ll talk to you two later. Annie, are we still on for dinner to discuss the plans for the upcoming weeks?”

“Yes, we are.”

“Great, I’ll see you later.” Will grabbed some things from his office, kissed Annalise on the head, then rushed out of the room.

I waited until he was sure he was out of earshot before asking, “You okay?”

“Yeah, why?” Annalise responded.

“You just told Will to ask you out on a date. I’ve never seen you do that to any guy who’s ever hit on you.”

“Guys don’t hit on me, James.”

“They do; you’re just horribly oblivious to it.”

She snorted, half amused, and half disbelieving. “Whatever you say.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine, James. Don’t worry.”

Annalise gave me a reassuring smile, and I knew not to push, despite knowing deep down, she wasn’t okay.

I could read the lack of expression on her face, but I prayed Will would recognize sooner or later that his sentiments were being ultimately returned. I prayed he acted on them sooner rather than later before both of them wound up being hurt.

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