“Hasten slowly.” Twenty quatloos – and a free, signed copy of the second edition of “The Fourth Law” to the first person who identifies who is best known for that quote: hasten slowly.
It begins to come out that while they are total strangers, Arpad and Lily do know quite a bit about one another. And it seems they both like what they’ve discovered. Lily’s past is still a splinter in her mind; I know that there are things as bad in his. He’s old enough that his father could have been in the AVO, and so despised. Hell, maybe he’s Orban’s love child?… we’ll see!
It’s lunch time and the sun’s warm!
PS And yes, that’s Lily’s silhouette in the center in black. Cute girl.
Arpad had eaten a little of each of what he’d brought. Lily had a few slices of the salted pork alternated with onions. Mentally kicking himself for not bringing anything to drink, he’d lost five minutes with her as she ran back inside from the hospital’s roof to find them a couple of water bottles. He watched her drink half of hers before she put her hands behind her head, soaking up the autumn sunshine.
Her blue scrubs rendered her body shapeless, but there was still enough of an outline –
“Yes, I know: I’m very attractive!” She kept her eyes shut but a smile played around her mouth. “Try to keep your mind on your mission!”
You shit-testing little minx! he thought.
“And just what is my mission, Lily? I will be leaving soon for points northwest, after all!”
The eating portion of lunch seemed to be over; he put what food was left back into the paper bag.
Eyes still shut, he watched her take her mobile – smartphone, they call them here! – out of her lower shirt pocket and rotate the screen to him. Even in the light, he recognized the animated CG figure of one of the machines. Ai, she said her name was.
“Your mission is to learn, Mister Rigó! That’s all, Lily!” the character from the phone yelled. Lily returned it to her pocket. She let her head roll just a little right toward where he sat.
Her slanted eyes opened. They and the smile on her bow of a mouth were captivating.
“Your Foreign Office wants to know more about my friends; and why they’re my friends!” she laughed at him.
“My, my, miss Lily!” He sat back and adjusted his necktie. “It would appear you know everything!”
The smile became a grin.
“No. I just know what they know!”
In a smooth motion, her legs, which had been stretched out before her and crossed at the ankles, were suddenly back and tucked under in a traditional Japanese pose. On the borrowed blanket on the roof, he was very aware her knees just touching his right leg.
“If you want to talk to them, Arpad, then talk!” A tiny shake of her head. “Lord knows shutting them up is the challenge! But…”
She leaned in, her face no more than a foot from his. He could smell the sunlight on her.
“If it’s me, well, I’m right here!” She blinked slowly. “You’re a diplomat, so I don’t really expect you to tell me the truth, but why would Vienna want to know about a displaced orphan who watches over orphans?”
Arpad chose to advance and took her hands into his.
“The politicians want an easy key to get your friends onto their side.” He leaned half the distance separating them. “I wanted to know the girl who’s picture I saw in the file, better!”
“One orphan to another,” he whispered just short of her mouth.
He watched her suddenly squint against the overhead sun. Her eyes dilated for just a second. What was that?
“I… I didn’t know.” She took a shuddering breath and squeezed his hand. “Not really true for me: my mom and dad adopted me from China when I was a tiny baby. But, starting over in Japan, and then again in Texas… and… after…”
Her head fell, but he did make out her mumble.
“Dad was in your file, too?”
“Clive Barrett?” Arpad asked.
Her entire body flinched.
“Yes, he was.” He’d hurt her. It bothered him that it bothered him.
He shook her hands slightly.
“Need to be back to your patients?”
“Lily?” He pitched his voice enough for her too look up.
“I… don’t have to rush off into the wilderness… quite so soon. May I impose upon you to pick a place that we could have a picnic – I think you say in English – this Saturday?”
While she did let go of his hands to let them slid down onto the blanket, the light did come back to her eyes.
“Arpad! Did you just ask me out on a date?!”