Saw this part and most of tomorrow’s at lunch today. As tomorrow is Good Friday, I’ll fast through lunch and try to get out of DayJob 30 minutes early.
I’m giving very serious thought to, next week, telling this story through Lily’s eyes. I wonder, my few regular readers, if you see what I see with Lily today?
He kept his face impassive while he sat without moving. The human eye is attracted to movement and he wanted to study her for as long as he could without her gaze on him.
Mid twenties. Hospital scrubs, like the picture. But she’d let her hair grow out past her shoulders, kept back in a simple ponytail. The small purse over her right shoulder moved oddly against her left hip: there was a object of some mass in it. Arpad assumed a pistol.
She spoke easily but softly with the café’s owner. A younger man came out from the kitchen to speak with Mort but was interrupted by Barrett giving him a hug and brushing her lips to his cheek. He just barely caught a name: “Erik.”
I wonder what story is there?
The owner said something to the young man while waving where Arpad sat. That was enough for his subject to turn, too.
The smile fell from her mouth but her eyes were dancing.
What does she know?
He saw the tiny, dismissive gesture of her right hand towards Mort. She walked directly to his table. Arpad rose. She spoke from still two paces away.
“Mort tells me,” she said, drawing close to him and extending her hand, “that you like Rakott Krumpli, too!”
He took her hand and gave a short, sharp bow. He knew clicking his heels would have been wildly inappropriate.
“It’s the pinnacle of Hungarian cuisine; so long as it’s followed by palacsinta for dessert! Alas, I didn’t see that on the menu board.”
He used his left to wave over her right shoulder. For an unknown cultural reason she had not let go of his right.
“Not goulash?” The twinkle was still in her eyes.
He made a moue.
“Never liked it.”
She let go his hand. Now she almost smiled.
“Me, neither! I’m Lily Barrett!”
One more quick dip of his head.
“Shouldn’t that be Rigó Arpad?” She indicated the chair opposite his. “May I?”
“Of course.” He’d not thought meeting her would be so easy.
“<I’m surprised an Oriental in the Republic of Texas speaks Hungarian.>”
“<I… not really.>” She finally smiled. “My mom spoke it. I know just enough to talk to dogs. Oh! Please don’t take that the wrong way!”
“Not at all,” Arpad replied, somewhat unsure as to what she’d meant by that. He watched as she took her mobile out of her pants pocket and place it onto the table next to her left.
“Mort said you’re just passing through? To where?”
As an underofficer in Military Intelligence and later in the Foreign Office I’d plenty of lessons in passive interrogation. Where did she learn? Her father?
Half lies are better than lies.
“After my time here, I thought to find out more about the Rocky Mountain Federation and the Deseret Republic. The Empire is beset on all sides and never knows where an ally might be found.”
“Not in either of those places,” her smile fled. “The former’s a fiction and the latter almost completely insular. Oh! Dinner!”
The owner came out and placed a platter with a huge helping before Arpad and a cardboard box wrapped in butcher paper before Lily.
“You… you’re not eating?” He asked.
“Nope! Gotta get back to the orphanage. I’ll heat this up tonight!”
He stood as well.
She was fighting the twitch at the corners of her mouth.
“I…” Arpad looked down at his dinner. His mouth watering from the aroma of home. “May I please see you home? I’ll have this packed as take-away.”
He took in the tiny shudder she could not suppress.
“S…sure!” She beckoned at the owner for a to-go box.
The sun was on the horizon as she unlocked her bicycle. She pushed it while they walked.
“You must think it odd, Miss Barrett, that a man you just met, from the other side of the world, walks you home!” He tried being clever. “Quite the coincidence, what?”
Her laugh began deep within her. Her legs then her arms were shaking. He had to grab the bike when she let go and walked a few paces out into the street, holding her sides and howling her laughter. A few people stared but no one stopped them.
“S… sorry, Mister Rigó! Hah! Hah! Hah!”
She was off again.
“My apologies for my American English. I did not know I said something so humorous!”
“It’s not your English,” she said, getting a-hold of herself and wiping her eyes. “It’s just that…”
She very deliberately raised her left index finger into the air.
“There are no such things…”
She put it right in the middle of his chest.
“… as coincidences!”