“Did you change?” he asked, as if she shouldn’t have.
“Yes, I wanted to,” she said, looking away.
“You look nice. Are you cold?” which was the gentlemanly thing to say.
“No, perfect.” She had a sweater just in case.
“How about red?” as if they’d ever ordered anything else.
“I like red.”
“What a gorgeous night,” he said, because one easy truth begets another.
“I didn’t know this place existed,” regretful of all the time she hadn’t known.
“A hidden gem,” he said, not without some pride.
“I brought this for you. In case you get lost while you’re there,” glad of the compass’s weight as she handed it over.
“It will be a good thing to have,” and he thanked her, apprehending the weight of her gift.
“You’re welcome,” which had to stand for everything.
“But you shouldn’t worry so much,” he said, and she recognized the undertones.
“I know,” she said.
“I don’t need to be taken care of.”
“I know,” she said, his unspoken by you hovering ghostlike in her ear.
“You like to tend to wounded birds . . .” he smiled but his eyes didn’t match.
“No — ” because it wasn’t like that at all.
” . . . but I’m not a wounded bird,” said the lone wolf.
She knew. He was not.
“Let’s talk about your trip,” she said, hitting snooze on the conversation that would dismantle her illusions.
Just one last time.
“Let me pour you some more wine,” he said.