Despite working together virtually everyday Theo was frustrated that he seemed to see less of Emma than before. She kept her distance, that he knew, and it was because of him that this gulf had grown between them. As he starred across the counter and watched her serve the customers he wished she could be his.
At first he thought she was just a distraction, an alternative option if things with Talitha didn’t work out. But as time went on, and he opted out at every opportunity from pushing his relationships from the murky ambiguity where it currently lurked and into a place of clarity, he wondered if he had his priorities the wrong way round.
Emma lifted the plates and cups from the table and knew the eyes that were following her across the floor. She knew that she shouldn’t enjoy the attention as much as she did but it had been such an infrequent experience that she couldn’t quite reject it altogether. He was there whenever she turned around, he seemed to linger at the end of shifts, arrive early when she was working, even turn up for spurious reasons when he needn’t be there. Through it all Emma did her best to not respond to the attention but nor did she try to stop it. She had thought about what would need to happen to make it a plausible course of action, and although she tried to remove each obstacle that she conjured, more kept on cropping up barring the road ahead.
The two that featured most prominently were Talitha and his refusal to even entertain any notion that he might like to explore Christianity. It was ironic she thought that these two strands became so intertwined. Theo had happily come along to church a couple of times and then suddenly became very opposed to the notion. Before Christmas Emma determined to rebuff all attempts that he made to ingratiate himself towards her, but the constant attention was hard to shrug off. Emma also knew that on a very deep level she loved the idea of being wanted.
It was an attractive notion on the face of it to Emma to only countenance dating Christians but that missed the harsh realities of church demographics. In other churches she might consider her self to stand a good chance of attracting a guy’s attention but in St Bart’s she felt very much in the second division. It wasn’t in her to pimp herself out in prayer meetings or flirt her way through fellowship groups. Even the bible study classes took on the appearance of beauty contests with the carefully groomed girls flaunting their wares to the small cluster of eligible men who deigned to attend.
Against this tyranny of repressed sexuality the idea of letting herself go with Theo was incredibly attractive. Not only did he show her the affection no guys at church had even come close to but he had been clear about his attentions and declared his feelings for her.
Talitha had been a more tricky notion to get her head round, when she came along to church the first time, Emma had assumed that it was simply to follow Theo, maybe even to keep an eye on him. She certainly felt the glower of suspicion penetrating the friendly conversation. But then she had returned, and carried on coming to church.
And it was Talitha that created confusion about Theo’s affection. She had been his obsession for so many months, it was her that he talked about at each turn, whose return to London he longed for when they first met. But who seemed to have faded from his mind. Despite his apparent shift in affection he seemed unwilling to make a final decision.
Emma had not let on to Theo that Talitha had started coming to church, and Talitha had said very little to her about Theo, leaving her unclear about just how much remained between them. She did not know what had been said, or what had been left unsaid, leaving a cloud of confusion hovering in the mist.
Despite his attraction towards Emma Theo could see that he was not making any progress. Usually so easily able to win girls around to his affection he found a brick wall erected in his presence. And that just made it worse, he wanted to break down the divide that had appeared, for the sake of their friendship above everything else he told himself.
But in order to achieve a restoration of their prior friendship he would first need to renounce his stronger affection that currently governed his mind, and this would not be an easy choice to make. Theo remembered watching the film ‘A Beautiful Mind’ and the advice on dating it contained, go for the second best girl, she’s more likely to be available and grateful for the attention. That girl he decided in this context was Talitha, she had been waiting for him to make a move all these months, perhaps it was time to finally commit to that option. The added bonus that pushed Theo into pursuing this course of action was the restoration of friendship with Emma that would hopefully follow a public and obvious renunciation of his rather hasty declaration of love. It had not escaped Theo’s thoughts that it was a desire to rebuild his friendship with Emma that pushed him towards developing his relationship with Talitha. Nor had it escaped his conscious attention that some where in a convoluted corner of his mind that act might be the first step towards a future relationship with Emma.
She gave Theo a smile as she walked past the counter, knowing the latest twist that he almost certainly did not. Emma wondered if the whole situation would become more complicated before it eased off. If Talitha was going to stay involved in the church then this issue was going to have to be dealt with. She felt like she was in an impossible position, how could she offer any advice towards Talitha when she was nothing close to a neutral observer. Telling Talitha to put an end to things with Theo might be the correct thing to say, but an impossible option if there was the faintest chance that anything might develop between them. And if even were it not to, Emma felt unable to switch sides and move from being Theo’s counsellor to helping the girl he was now stringing along.