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He’d done it.  He’d said it.  Got it out.  Got it all out, the falling on his sword thing, the damsel in distress thing, and she looked like she was going to cry.  Fuck.  And on top of that she wasn’t going to say anything.  Any minute now she’d start looking out into the street and then she’d get up and leave him here, feeling like he was stuck on a sandbar. 

That moment where she’d put her hands on his, tongue-tied and cornered, but finally getting where he was coming from and not feeling she needed to go ninja on him.  Ah, that moment alone, was worth the crisis of confidence he’d had over her. 

Now he wanted to take back twelve months of avoiding, ignoring and secretly ridiculing her.  He didn’t know her.  He certainly didn’t understand her, but he no longer felt irritated by her.  She wasn’t a snob, she was focussed and no nonsense, maybe a little shy.  She wasn’t a bitch, that was just how he’d chosen to think of her to make it easier to see her as a rival instead of a real person, and then it was a perfect fit when his own ambitions were stalled.  But now he saw her.  She was suddenly real to him not a cardboard cut-out villain.  She hated olives and anchovies.  She had great shoes.  She was funny.  She was gutsy. 

She didn’t hate him.

But he had no idea what she really thought of him and now for some reason, it mattered.

“I, ah.  I don’t know what to say, Ant.  I had no idea you were under the impression I was in a bad situation.”

He frowned.  She was going to hedge, dodge, tell him bloody nothing.  But she’d called him Ant at least.  She put her hand over one of his again and it was cool and light and he liked it. 

“I’m not in any trouble.  No one is hurting me.  I’m not even in a relationship.  I fall over.  It’s my own fault.”

“What?”  He barked that, and of course she took her hand away.  The odd thing was he missed it. 

“I’m not making an excuse, I play a contact sport.”

“You.”  Even to his own stupid ears that rang with incredulity.

She sighed and pushed back into her seat.  “Now you’ve gone and spoiled it.” 

He had.  He’d done that thing where he led with his bloody ego and didn’t pay proper attention.  Because she looked too small, too soft, he’d taken that to be her whole story, like he’d taken history to be Toni’s present and future.  “I’m sorry.  You don’t seem the type.”

“And what would that be?”  She waved a waiter over and they ordered while the argument hung around on the sidelines waiting for the all clear whistle.  If it wasn’t for Toni, he’d have said more butch, but there was nothing un-girly about Toni, so that wasn’t it.

“The aggressive type.”  She was so tiny, but she’d gone for him across the table yesterday like she didn’t know he was the tree and she was the twig. 

“There are different types of aggression.”


He barely got the word out and she was all over him.  “But you don’t think I’ve got it in me to be aggressive on the sports field?”

All that bewildered quality about her was rubbing off; the serrated edge was back in her voice.  Yeah, there were different types of aggression; hers was the type to cut a guy in half for being honest finally.  “Chicks who play a contact sport don’t have to run around in the shower to get wet.”

“God, you’re so superior.”

“Look, it doesn’t matter what I think.”

“You’re right.”

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