Theo decided that it was time to make his mind up. But he still could not predict which way it would go. He even contemplated tossing a coin. Instead he decided to push things a bit out of his control and let someone else make the choice a little easier. What was the point in all this pent up frustration if it was without cause. What point was it him dreaming about what life might be like with Emma while supposedly on a date with Talitha?
It was after work one evening, the two of them were alone in the kitchen, tidying up after the shop had closed. All the others had left, in fact, Theo had sent the last straggler home before everything was done, orchestrating their short moments alone.
“Emma, I’ve been thinking.” Theo started before pausing, intentionally signalling the importance behind his imminent words. “You and I are pretty good friends aren’t we? I mean, we talk about a bunch of stuff, about relationships and everything.”
Suddenly Theo’s eloquence resembled an average adolescent at the school disco, “Well, you’ve certainly helped me as I’ve been thinking things through about Talitha, you’ve been very wise, you suggested I was cautious and waited to find out what it was like when we were together and not just at the end of a skype call.”
Emma was curious about where this was going. Part of her wanted it to travel the short distance to where she wondered if he would finish. The other part of her wanted nothing of the sort, but that was the sort that wanted safety and an easy life. The side which needed a thrill, something unexpected, unconventional, that part of her was excited at the prospect. She let Theo continue without interrupting his flow.
“And as I’ve been thinking about Talitha, I’ve also been thinking about you. I didn’t expect to, in fact in some ways I didn’t want to.” Realising what he may have just implied he felt some words to remedy any possible offence were needed, “I mean, I’ve been thinking about you when I think I should have been thinking about someone else.
“I waited for six months for the person I thought I wanted and it turns out that she was here all along. Emma, I think I’m in love with you.”
The certainty of the words shook Emma, she had wondered if he might push things a little closer to disclosing his interest in her, but she had never thought that he would pull that one straight out.
Theo had not intended on saying that either. However, as he saw the expression on her face as he spoke to both assuage her scepticism and capture her excitement at the same time. It was a little more than he really thought. He had held of any such expressions of affection Talitha with a rigid discipline lest he give her the idea that he was completely sold on a relationship.
“Theo, you are a great friend,” realising that this was how most let downs began she moved quickly on, “and this isn’t a let down. Part of me really wants to go out with you, but I’ve just never really thought that it was an option, I wanted you to be happy and if that was with Talitha, then that was how it was to be.
“But, when we’ve been together, when we’ve walked home, when you’ve come to church, twice, I couldn’t help but think that you might be interested. Even when Talitha came in tow. But the two of you seemed so good together.”
Emma did not want to turn down such an eligible guy. Yet she knew that if she listened to her senses, and if she asked for any advice the answer would be the same. That this was a path she should not walk. Not only was he already entangled with a girl who Emma was sure would not approve of this conversation, but he wasn’t a Christian. She could quote chapter and verse but was still unsure what egg yolks had to do with relationships, maybe to do with once you’ve cracked the egg you can’t go back, like the old toothpaste in a tube adage used to encourage purity.
Emma stood tall, stiffened her back along with her resolve. “I don’t think this is right. I’m not going to deny that I have certain feelings towards you, nor that I am hugely complemented that you’ve said this. But I’m not in the same place as you seem to be. Also, I think you need to sort anything out with Talitha, does she know that you’re not interested?”
“Well, we’ve not committed to a relationship or anything yet, we’ve just been exploring how we get on together, and how it all works now she’s back in the country.”
“She’s been back over two months, but you haven’t told her it’s not going anywhere?”
“Not as such, but I’ve tried to avoid having to, I don’t want to hurt her feelings, and, after all, one of my cousins suggested a major reason she came back to the UK was me.”
“Theo, if you’re going to declare your love for any girl it’s pretty key that someone else doesn’t think she’s got a monopoly on your heart. I’m pretty sure that’s what Talitha reckons, if you’ve not said anything, if you’ve carried on dating and waiting for her to noticed you vaguely casual disinterest then that’s not good enough.”
Emma walked home on her own that evening. She knew that the next time she complained about the paucity of guys in the church there would be an increased bitterness that seasoned the taste of the words that left her lips. But despite the complaints, despite the passivity of the most eligible men in St Bart’s, despite the fury she felt, Emma knew that Theo was someone who was not worth giving it all up for. But her attraction had not waned, but it had been supplemented with an insight to his character that she’d not seen before. Before she was the one with interest and he was constrained and unobtainable, apparently that was not an obstacle and it was Emma who threw up the hurdles to block the route to anything between them.
It had not gone as Theo had expected. He thought there were two options, either he was rejected because she wasn’t interested, in which case he could press ahead with Talitha knowing that he’d not let anything slide by which might have been preferable. Or she would be interested and they could take it from there. He knew that he’d have to face up to Talitha but he didn’t want to do that until he’d worked out if Emma would take him.
Instead he was left with a rejection, not on the grounds of lack of affection, but based on his interest in another girl. If only he had not let her come to church with him, if only he had kept quiet about his relationship traumas, if only Emma had not been the one to whom he had gone to for advice, then she would never have known. But, Theo reflected, if he had not gone to Emma with his problems, he would not have discovered what a wonderful girl she was.
Emma had not left Theo with an ultimatum, that he could have coped with, finish things with Talitha and then we can go out, but she had left that hanging in the air, perhaps meant but not spelt out. Without any spoken guarantee of future availability Theo was reluctant to pull the plug on his fledgling relationship, but unless he did he knew he would not have a chance with Emma.
Perhaps, Theo wondered as he locked up the cafe, there was a way out of this after all. May be he would not have to make the hard choice.