PREVIOUS “MOUSE” POSTINGS CAN BE FOUND HERE.
The Truth Visits Mouse
Joe, Tom and I meet outside at the appointed time. The wind howls along the street, tossing burnished leaves in its wake. The sky’s clouded with a pinkish hue. A pounding rhythmic beat surges from a club a few door down, a strange contrast to the staid party with cello music we just left.
We are supposed to drive back tonight, but from the expression on Tom’s face, I know that’s not about to happen.
“Change of plans,” Tom says. “We’re going back in the morning.”
I know what’s happening and want to argue. “Why?”
“We’ll be fresher for a morning drive,” he says.
“I feel fresh. I haven’t had a drink. I can drive,” I say. “It’s just two hours.”
“No. We’ll stay in town. I have things I want to follow up on.”
“Someone you want to follow up on.”
“None of your business, Mouse.”
The sharpness of his comment is like a slap. I avert my face and lift my chin. Seeing Joe’s expression, I bite my lip, hard. Maybe I should just bite my tongue instead.
“We’re supposed to be out of here,” I say. “We’re supposed to be on a mission. Not a booty call for you.”
Joe’s hand grabs mine. He tries to pull me along.
“You’re the one who preaches about staying focused on a mission. I may not know the details of what Joe did, but I’m pretty sure it’s better if we’re not around,” I say, trying to pull away from Joe and jab Tom in the chest with my index finger.
“Get her out of here,” Tom tells Joe. Tom stalks back inside the museum.
Dammit! This is so wrong, I think. Tears actually sting my eyes. I know it’s because I’m jealous. I’m not a self-deceiving idiot. I hate that I’m jealous. What do I have to be jealous about? Childish fantasies?
I try to shake loose of Joe’s grip. “It’s okay. It’s not like I’m going to run back in there and make a fool of myself. I’m done.”
Frustration builds inside of me. I want to kick or hit or just yell.
“Do you know who she was?” I ask.
“So it wasn’t pre-arranged?”
“No clue,” Joe says again and sighs. “Let it go, Mouse. You knew he was never into you.”
“What? I’m just telling it like it is.”
“You know during that whole Mouse-is-a-traitor fiasco, he kissed me. More than once. And hugged me. I thought he really liked me,” I say, trying to keep my stupid voice from going all wobbly. Could I sound anymore like a kid?
Joe’s quiet. This is news to him evidently. He puts his arm around my shoulder and pulls me against him. “He’s all about making a situation work. He sees people and detects their weakness. He knew you had a crush on him so he told Nick he’d be the one to test you during that whole thing.”
“Oh. Wow,” I say, the truth penetrating and hurting. “So none of it was real? None of it at all?”
Joe’s voice is gentle. “Probably not.”
We return to the townhouse where we earlier had changed our clothes. I suspect it is a safe house of some kind, but I didn’t ask and no one volunteered. A theme common to my life anymore. After I change back into the jeans and sweatshirt I wore here, I flip the switch for the gas fireplace, which jumps to life with a gasp. I curl up in a chair. Joe comes in a few minutes later with a bottle of wine and two glasses.
The memory of the bourbon barrel stout is still fresh so I nearly wave off the glass of sweet smelling white wine, but change my mind.
Joe sits on the loveseat, extends his long legs, and looks at me.
“You remind me of my little sister,” he says.
I throw my head back and push an embroidered pillow over my face. “Could this night get any worse?”
“No, I mean it in a good way. She tries to act all tough, but she’s a sweetheart. Always looks out for people. Always does the right thing. Takes in stray animals, just like you did with that sorry looking kitten. She’s a good one.”
I look at him. He grins, sips his wine, and shrugs.
“You are too, Mouse. You’re a good person. Don’t let being disappointed in Tom make you less of a person.”
His words make me feel a little better. “Thanks.”
He’s looking at the fire, glances at me briefly, and then resumes gazing at the fire. “Any time. Wanna have sex?”
He laughs. “Gotcha.”
I sip my wine, which has a nice little sweet grapefruity thing going on and I watch him, wondering why I couldn’t be into Joe. He’s cute, funny, lanky, which is so my type.
Why did I have to be into a stocky Brit with a Napoleon complex? Hopefully choosing the wrong men is a phase I’ll grow out of. Here’s hoping.