Page 64 of The Dancer

“You have? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I thought I did, anyway, that’s not important now. We were talking about Max and you staying here which is a hundred times better than where you were.”

“It’s not that simple Travis.”

“I know you like him.” There was dead air for the

next minute or so.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Look at your face, all red.” He laughed and pointed the spatula in his hand at her.

“I know you better than anyone remember? If you like him why are you giving him such a hard time?” Go kid. Wait, she likes me? My ears were pricked for her answer.

“Because we just met and it’s stupid. Besides, he doesn’t seem like the settling down type and I’m not into casual affairs.”

“See, you didn’t deny liking him. I think you’re just scared. Scared that he might turn out to be like dad. Not all men are like that. I’m his son and I know I’m not, guy’s an asshole.”

“Travis, watch your mouth, he’s still your father.”

“Whatever, we’re not talking about him now either. Look, the way I see it, you can stay here in this nice safe place, or go back to that hellhole. Dad needs his ass kicked for that alone.”

“I don’t get the creep vibe from Max, and he gave you your own room. Even before he knew I was here he’d set it up like that, so you know he wasn’t planning anything funny. I think he’s just trying to help.”

“But why?”

“Damn, have you become so jaded that even an act of kindness is suspect? What kind of life lesson are you teaching your little brother? You trusted aunt Pam and uncle Don to look after me.”

“It’s not the same thing and you know it.”

“Fine, I guess I should learn not to trust relationships either. Maybe the two of us can get an apartment together.”

“We’ll grow old together with a house full of cats, or maybe dogs. All the kids in the neighborhood will make up horror stories about us. The two hermits who never come outside, and never interact with anyone.”

“What are you talking about now?”

“Well, since you never plan to trust anyone ever again that means you’re never getting married, never having any kids.”

“Since it was our dad who made you this way I can’t let you carry the burden on your own. So, we’ll be two distrusting hermits together.” The kid is good.

“You’re not making any sense, and who said I don’t trust anyone or never will again?”

“Well, if you plan on trusting someone why not Max? He’s already given you a job, set you up in a nice place and hey, he even let me tag along.”

“I don’t know, I think he’s a player.” She had him there. I waited to see what answer he’d give her as he stopped stirring whatever was in the pot.

“I think maybe he has been, but that’s not the vibe I get. As far as I know he’s never lived with anyone before. His relationships never got that far if I remember correctly. I think this might be all new to him as well so cut the guy some slack.”

“You’re just saying that because of who he is.”

“You really believe that? That I’d sell my sister out like that?”

“Of course not, I’m kidding.”

“I’m not. I will never let anyone hurt you, not as long as I’m around. I’m a guy, I know how guys are. I know you don’t have much experience.” They both turned red in the face.

“This guy, Max, is the real deal.”

“How do you know?”

“Trust me, I know. What’s more I think you do too you’re just scared. What if you pass up this chance and it’s your one chance at the real thing?”

I chose that moment to walk in and make my presence known. “What smells so good in here?” They were both startled, but pulled themselves together quickly enough.

“Oh Max you’re back. You’re just in time for my spaghetti bolognaise. Sis don’t forget you’ve got

garlic bread duty. She makes a killer garlic parmesan bread.” The kid’s a smooth one alright.

She got up and skirted around me without uttering a word. I was already content with the fact that she was still here and hadn’t pulled a runner, so I wasn’t about to complain.

“So, what have you two been up to? Are you all settled in? Annabelle if there’s anything you need just let me know.” The look she gave me spoke volumes and I was only saved from the sharp edge of her tongue because of her brother’s presence I’m sure.

“So Max, I’ve been looking into schools. I’m thinking your alma mater might be the best fit for me, but it’s so far. I already checked on Google maps. It’ll take me almost two hours to get there and another two to get back by train.”