Motion (Page 34)
“Fine.” Abram shook his head, turning it away from me and pulling out the book he’d bought for himself. Setting it on the table, he opened it. “Go ahead and read.”
Lifting my book, I grinned secretly, and read.
I had doubts that I’d be able to concentrate, which were initially well-founded. A few times, struck by a bizarre compulsion, I snuck a glance at Abram. He would either: a) already be watching me, which would cause us both to hastily return our eyes to our books, or b) I’d steal several seconds of watching him before he caught me, which would cause us both to hastily return our eyes to our books.
After a few minutes of this unfathomable behavior, we both settled, reading quietly, absorbed in our books.
Sometime later, the arrival of our food surprised me, and I blinked dazedly at our server when he set my dinner down. Despite being hungry, I found the sudden presence of our food inconvenient. Setting the novel aside with a sigh, I placed the napkin on my lap. Apparently, for a moment there I’d forgotten I wasn’t in nineteenth-century England.
“How’s the book?”
“It’s really good. Really good,” I said distractedly, picking up my fork and knife, cutting into the steaming plate of lasagna and adding, “She paints a vivid picture.”
“I have some more suggestions, if you want—”
“Yes. You should write them down.”
“Even if they’re romance novels?” Abram leaned forward to cut his steak, sparing me a quick, amused look.
“But is it really a romance novel?” I lifted my chin towards the book. “It reads more like fiction.”
“Romance is fiction.” He punctuated this statement by taking a bite of steak, and then chewing.
“But it’s- it’s-” Interesting? Well researched? Engaging? Well written? All of the above.
“Not what you expected?” he supplied, smirking around his bite. “What did you expect?”
Shrugging, I lifted a small rectangle of lasagna on my fork and blew at the steam. “I guess something brainless.” I didn’t add that I followed the New York Times Book Review and they’d had more than their fair share of articles calling the romance genre “fluffy.”
If you couldn’t trust the New York Times Book Review, who could you trust?
“Why? Because it’s about love and has a happy ending? And only stories of unhappiness with tragic endings are important? Because a struggle that leads to something good isn’t worthwhile?”
Taking a bite and avoiding eye contact, I shrugged again because he’d just hit the nail on the head. His questions challenged my preconceived notions and made me sound like an idiot. I wasn’t used to feeling like an idiot. Or being challenged. Then again, I usually never deviate from my appointed lane . . .
It was both an uncomfortable and exhilarating experience.
I felt his stare linger for a moment before he spoke. “Glad you like it.”
Grateful he’d decided to let the subject drop, I said quietly, “I do. Thank you for recommending it to me.”
“No problem.” I heard a smile in his voice. “Is it better than Moby Dick?”
“I don’t know. I just started.” I gave the cover a wistful glance before giving Abram my eyes. “But Moby Dick is one of my favorites.”
“Really?” His face screwed up. “Why?”
“It’s about dealing with disappointment and putting things into perspective. Everyone should read it.”
His weird look persisted, like my words made no sense.
So I laughed. “I know, not a very modern concept.”
“You like reading books about disappointment?”
I nodded, agreeing before thinking too much about it.
I hypothesized out loud. “It’s comforting.”
This earned me a single-eyebrow lift. “How so?”
Again, speaking without considering my words, I said, “Think about it. Stories of expectations, hopes, and dreams not being met are confirmation that life is—fundamentally—a . . .” Disappointment.
Staring at him, and realizing what I was just about to say, my chest tightened. I was officially unnerved. Did I really think that? Did I really think that life was a disappointment?
I guess I did.
Abram lifted both eyebrows. “A what?”
“Um,” I stalled.
How could I possibly think life was a disappointment? I lived a charmed life, right? I’d never wanted for anything. I’d been given every advantage. I had the use of all my limbs. I had my health. I’d been told by many people, many times how beautiful I was (if I’d only make an effort). I’d traveled extensively. I’d worked hard to be recognized as a content expert in my field, to be taken seriously, and now I was being courted by all the top research programs in the world. I had everything I’d ever wanted. Everything.
My gaze moved over Abram, his artfully messy hair, his scruffy beard, the twinkle in his amber eyes, the dimple at his left cheek, the curve of his generous lips. I’d almost kissed those lips earlier in the day.
Or maybe, suggested a mutinous little voice, I have everything I’ve allowed myself to want.
“Life is a what? A series of unfortunate events?” he prompted, snapping me out of my contemplations. “A whale hunting trip?”
There was no way I was going to tell the truth of my thoughts, but I had to say something. I decided on, “A challenge.”
“Hmm.” Abram’s eyes narrowed. That paired with the small smile still on his lips gave me the sense he suspected I wasn’t being honest.
We stared at each other for a long moment until he speared a bite of steak with his fork. “You should get a new one.”
“New what?” New perspective on life?
“New copy. Of Moby Dick. Yours is all torn up.” He placed the bite in his mouth.
I averted my attention before I could indulge in my weirdo desire to watch him chew. “Then what would I do with the old one?”
“I don’t know, give it away?”
“What?” I reared back. “Absolutely not!”
“Books are friends. You don’t just- just- just give away friends!”
Abram, his elbow propped on the table, covered the lower half of his face with his hand, but his shaking shoulders gave him away.
Squinting at him accusingly, I crossed my arms. “You’re laughing at me.”
“Yes. I am.”
“How would you like it if someone gave you away?” I muttered, indignant.
“Well, since the question infers that I would’ve had to give myself to that person before it would be possible for her to give me away, I wouldn’t like it.”
The temptation to ask Have you? And, if so, what happened? And who is this stupid woman who gave you away? was nearly overwhelming. If anything was true in the universe, it was that anyone who could willingly give Abram away was stupid (and also Newton’s Laws of Motion).
Locking eyes with Abram, the questions were at the forefront of my brain, that mutinous little voice pushing them to the tip of my tongue, but the server chose that moment to swing by to refill our waters, saving me from making a critical error in judgment.
After ascertaining all was delicious and well, the server left. I did my utmost to ignore the curiosity pressing uncomfortably against my skull, and instead took a bite of lasagna.
I felt Abram’s attention move over me, and eventually he said, “So, you read a lot,” giving me the impression he was trying to get me talking again.
Since this was a benign, previously established fact, I confirmed it.
“Every night before bed, for about an hour. If I don’t have a busy day the next day, I’ll read for an hour and a half.”
“Oh. Really busy day? Like what? Getting a blowout from someone named George?”
I was about to ask him who George was when my slow brain finally caught up. Double yikes. Again, I’d forgotten who I was supposed to be. I blame Lisa Kleypas’s excellent novel.
“Well . . .” I worked for a moment to identify an appropriate response to his teasing. Luckily, I was able to stall by taking a bite of my food. Once I finished chewing, I said, “Who is to say how I spend my time isn’t any more or less important than how you spend your time?”
“Good point.” He nodded eagerly, like he’d been hoping I would respond this way. “So, tell me, how do you spend your time?”
Taking another bite, I chewed for longer than was necessary, my eyes moving up and to the left, because—since I was not in fact Lisa—this was a tricky question. I had no idea how my sister spent her time. Furthermore, I couldn’t help but feel I’d just fallen into a verbal trap of some sort.
Unable to delay responding forever, I eventually decided on, “I sleep.” This was true for Lisa, me, and humanity.
“You sleep.” His voice was deadpan.
“Yep. Speaking of which, did you, uh, sleep well last night?”
Abram’s gaze flickered over me, as though he thought I might be leading him into a trap of my own. Little did he know, I was just trying to change the subject.
“Yes,” he said reluctantly, “I slept fine. Why?”