Skill, Luck, and Terrible Ideas (pt. 15)

“Now please take the lady for a chat at a table that isn’t mine so I can eat my breakfast in peace.” I exhaled. “Thank you.”

Still seated, Zvonko stared up at me. “Mesa,” he said in a low voice, “what are you doing?”

I lowered my voice, too. “Something stupid out of blind panic.”

Zvonko glanced away toward the table from where Lally and Hunt watched us. “Even if Miss Hunt threatened you,” he said, shoving out of his seat slowly, “you shouldn’t—.”

“Her proximity scares me more than her threats.”

“—You shouldn’t make a scene by blurting that kind of question in public.”

I narrowed my eyes. “It was a mostly carefully chosen question.”

” ‘Will you marry me?’ What possible reason could you say such a thing—presumably on Miss Hunt’s behalf which I don’t believe for an instant—except to antagonize her? Do you think Lally and I are capable of protecting you from her on a whim? And, come now, Mesa, who ever wants to discuss marriage out of the blue like this?”

My annoyance was building. “And that attitude is the reason she’s reluctant to broach the subject of courtship with you at all.”

The way Zvonko’s face lost both expression and color in the space of a second was delightful.

“Although,” I added, “I guess the topic of courtship would have been more logical subject to begin with instead of skipping straight to marriage…” Oops. I would’ve apologized but I wasn’t sure I was sorry—yet.

Zvonko seemed confused and I had no idea what his face was trying to do. “I’ll, uh…” He cleared his throat. “I suppose I’ll invite Miss Hunt to dine with me at a private table.”

He gathered his breakfast things and pushed past me, presumably to collect Hunt.

I stood there maintaining my turned back, unintentionally holding my breath. If Death was coming for me, I preferred not to see her coming.

Lally patted my shoulder, startling me. “She’s gone,” he said.

Heart pounding, I rejoined him at our table and ate.

“Why do you have to do that?” said Lally after a few minutes.

I glanced across at him. He wasn’t eating. Instead, he frowned at my waffle island in a maple syrup ocean. He always objected to the syrup ocean whenever we had waffles. “Worry about your own breakfast.”

Lally’s jaw muscles bulged. “Not everything that crosses your mind is necessarily a good idea and not all of those things need to come out of your mouth.”

Oh. “I know.”

“She could kill you—.”

“I know.”

“She’d love to kill you.”

I never understood why he reveled in stating the obvious. Chewing, I considered Lally across the table. “I think the three words you’re looking for are ‘hey, shut up’, however they’re only effective if you use them in the moment instead of five minutes afterward because then they’re useless. As my only friend, I count on your wisdom in this way to save me from myself.”

“But you don’t listen to me.”

“Sometimes I do.”

“You really don’t.”

“Then knock some sense into me.”

Lally scoffed. “Don’t be dramatic.”

“But don’t politely take me aside and lecture me because, I agree, I will absolutely disregard everything you’re saying. What you’ve gotta do is literally hit me with something like a mop handle, or a chair, or a brick. Just–whack–over the head. That’ll shut me up, or knock me out, doesn’t matter. They have the same effect.”

Lally’s stare screamed ‘You’re not serious’.

“I’m surprised you haven’t done it already.” I stabbed a sopping waffle bite and shoved it in my mouth.

Lally began to pay attention to his own food. “You better watch out, I might consider it.”

“Make sure you follow through when you do. I’m dense so I might not get the point if you simply tap me on the head with a stick. Gotta hit me hard.”

Lally blinked with his characteristic look of amazement. He smiled. “I promise I’ll have no mercy.”

“Thank you.”

[to be continued…]

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