Theo spun around as Talitha grabbed him by the shoulder. He had been in a world of his own, thinking about what he would say, thinking about what she had already said. Following their earlier failed attempt to get together, or as his ruefully reminded himself, his own failure to get his priorities right and turn up to the dinner they had planned, he was determined to not miss this chance to be with her. It was not just Talitha that was playing on his mind as the day turned into evening and the headlights shone through the windows to illuminate the mirrored walls that possessed his gaze. He couldn’t get his head around Emma.
He had always assumed she wasn’t into him, but then her caution about asking Talitha out sparked a fresh wave of doubt in his mind. Perhaps, he wondered, she didn’t want us to get together because she wanted me to ask her out instead. And in the fractions of time before his contemplation was brought to a head he reflected that he did quite like Emma, they got on well. Theo even found himself assessing her physical beauty and deciding that despite his lack of specific attraction she was what would be described as good looking.
So as he turned to face Talitha he realised his decision was no longer one dimensional. Theo had found their conversation difficult, it was not the sort of discussion he wanted to have over the phone, he needed to see her face to face, look into her eyes and convey with every ounce of body language his thoughts and feelings, and the struggles and difficulties that had come to haunt his thoughts over the past six months. All he could manage to articulate was that he liked her and had been thinking of little else while she had been away and even more so since she had returned.
Now he was faced with articulating the complexities of his thought process, and knew that he would need every fibre of his communication skills if he was to succeed.
“Hey Talitha, didn’t see you coming, you’d have thought that with all these mirrors I would have spotted you!”
“Well, I crept up on you, I’m like a chameleon, I blend into the background.” Talitha wasn’t entirely sure why she had said that, probably she decided because the tension was unbearable and she found herself uttering the first nonsensical form of words to come out of her mouth. “Let’s eat, I’m starving.”
Talitha couldn’t help but recollect the time not so long ago when she had walked from a bar to a table with a different man by her side. She decided that he really was as straight laced as he’d appeared, and had found the whole episode as awkward as he had made it look. They’d exchanged messages every know and then, she had no one else who understood enough to share in her excitement when he had indicated his assent to her proposal that they explore what it might look like to work out their dreams together.
As Theo played with the food on his plate Talitha decided it was time to move the conversation along, at present they were subsisting on pretty meagre fare, the like of which would have embarrassed them prior to her drawing the curtains back on her feelings and exposing a gaping vulnerability which neither seemed able to bridge.
“I’m sorry if I’ve made it all a bit awkward.” Talitha immediately kicked herself for apologising for her feelings, “but I thought it better if everything was out in the open and then we could see where to go next.”
“And I should have said something before,” Theo interjected into the conversation. “I should never have left you waiting for me. I thought you liked me and I thought I liked you but I just wanted to be that little bit more certain before I made a move.”
“More certain that you liked me, or that I liked you?” Questioned Talitha.
“Both, I think, I was worried that you didn’t like me as much as I liked you, but I couldn’t quite get over the uncertainty as to whether or not I really liked you, or maybe just liked the idea of liking you.”
“Well hopefully I’ve helped answer the first one, and I don’t want to push you. We can take it slowly.” Talitha couldn’t decide for what seemed like an eon whether to say the next part. “Can we have an umbrella of mercy right now? I want to say somethings and I’m not sure that I’m going to get it quite right. Please hear me out.”
If Talitha was hoping for an enthusiastic endorsement of her plan then she would have to wait, instead a dubious inclination of Theo’s head toward her provided the cue for her to go on. Theo was wondering what she was going to say, and thinking if this was the context for him to raise his uncertainties without dashing her hopes, and potentially his all for a misjudged decision to embrace openness.
“Do you like me, I mean, not just like me like a friend, do you like me as I like you?” It was clear as Talitha forced this question out that she was hampered by uncertainty that her affections went unmatched, even after his positive initial response.
He waited and as he was about to commence his response paused again, placed his cutlery down on the side of his plate, dabbed his mouth and chin with the napkin resting on his knees and made to speak. “I really like you. I have thought about very little else all the time you were back in New Zealand, I looked forward to hearing your voice. The week I spent in Munich when I could neither skype or message was agony.
“But that doesn’t answer your question. I don’t know. That’s rubbish, it’s hopeless. It is the epitome of pathetic guy syndrome isn’t it? Hamper you with attention and then say I’m not sure? But that’s where I am and I would be lying if I gave it to you any other way. I hope there is something for us. I want to give it a go, but I don’t know.”
“We can take it slowly, just one step at a time.” Talitha couldn’t quite work this out. He had been so swift to affirm his affection for her when she had told of hers, yet now he seemed distant, detached, to be honest, it struck Talitha as though it was a different person sat across from her that she had shared so many precious moments with despite being separated by oceans and continents.
As Theo waited opposite Talitha to see if there was more which she was waiting to see, he surmised there was so much more she wanted to say but contained it to stop her emotions running wild. He guessed that his reluctance had not been accepted as stoically as she made out. He looked at her eyes, and the fixed stare they held told of how Talitha was trying to hold it all together, he wanted to hold her, reassure her, tell her that he loved her, he wanted to.
But Theo also knew that Talitha was not alone in stirring his emotions. And he knew he was not ready to make a decision to commit to being in love with someone, that surely meant knowing beyond any doubt that they were the one who would make you happy, keep you sane, that they were the one who had a monopoly on your attention and your attraction. Theo felt that he could not give himself whole heartedly to Talitha if the question still lingered in his mind of what lay between him and Emma.
However, Theo knew that he could not leave it like this, he could not bear to watch Talitha fighting back the tears. “Talitha, there is no one who I would rather be with, but I’m a mess, I want to take some time to think about it, work out how it all fits together. All the time you were away I was waiting for this moment, when you and I could be together, when I could look in your face and see you cheeks rise as the smile lights up your face. I pictured your face when you told me your hair had been dyed, I pretended I could see the changes in tone, but longed to run my finger through your curls. Not a day went past when I didn’t wish I could see the depth of your eyes, the bright hues that radiate warmth, but instead send a paltry message instead.
“So when I say that I want some time, I say that because I don’t want to get this wrong.” He left it there, leaving unspoken the conclusion that if it’s right then after time had passed he would walk away, he left that hidden beneath the surface hoping that he had held her gaze, and won her over, and not convinced her that he would flake off at the first hurdle. He held her hand and brought it slowly towards him and gently planted a kiss. Theo held her hand for a moment before helping Talitha drew it back.
Theo walked away from the restaurant, and on from the station where he bade Talitha good night. He threw his head back and looked upon the stars above. They were infinite in their mystery and effervescent in their light stretching down from the heavens and onto his face. And he could not decide what to do and the stars did not help. Theo wondered if some divine revelation might come from the stars as he sat on the bank of the Thames. No bolt of lightening came, no answers to his desperate plea, but as the coldness embraced him he knew that he could not stay this way for long.