I sit back in my chair, leg stretched forward and reclined back as if I don’t have a care in the world.
I care, though. I care deeply. I let my lip tip into a smile.
“So . . . ?” She narrows her eyes at me, but when she doesn’t object outright, I quirk a brow. “What can you tell me? Other than nothing. I need to know a place to start the game.”
“There is no game,” she finally says.
“There is always a game. You just don’t always know you’re playing it.”
“Fine. Start your damn game. But you won’t find out anything.”
I decide not to start with serious questions. I want her to let down her guard.
“What’s your favorite color?” I ask, my voice dead serious.
“Wow. That’s your question?” she responds.
“I didn’t really think you’d tell me your full name or your Social Security number.”
Her eyes go wide like two large saucers. Almost as if she fears the question.
I lift my hand in surrender. “I’m kidding. But yes, my first question is, what’s your favorite color? You can learn a lot about a person by their favorite color.”
“Well, I really can’t tell you. That ruins the fun.”
“I won’t answer unless you tell me.”
“Fine. Example. Yellow. If you say yellow, I know you are a cheerful person, happy and always looking on the bright side.”
“And if I say black?”
“Well, then obviously, you are dark and morbid.”
“Black.” But the thing is, her answer doesn’t match her eyes. Plus, she looks to the right. She’s lying. I smile brighter.
“How can you tell?”
I have no intention of telling her. If I do, then she won’t let me play this game. I smile bigger.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“And how is it obvious?”
“The three times I’ve met you, you’ve been wearing black. But now underneath your coat, I can see a hint of color peeking out. You might wear black often, but that’s not your favorite color because you’re not wearing black under that coat. Whatever you’re wearing underneath is your favorite color.”
She looks down and notices that I’m right. The color is peeking out through her coat. A coat that is charcoal gray, so the color is bright and vibrant behind it.
“Fine. You’re right. Red is my favorite. Fun game.” She rolls her eyes.
“This is the easy stuff.”
“I know your favorite food is not grilled cheese.”
“That’s because I’m not ten.”
“Again, don’t knock it until you try Mabel’s.” And as if summoned, Mabel appears beside our table with two plates in hand.
“Here’s your food, guys.” She places the plates down. “I’ll be right back with your milkshake.”
Mabel steps back and walks away, so I return my attention back to Willow.
“You know I’m going to make you try this.”
“As long as you don’t make me try it out of your hands again.”
“Fine, I’ll use a knife and fork.”
I shake my head at her but take it anyway, then cut a piece of my grilled cheese off and place it on her plate, handing her back the fork.
I sit back and wait. She lifts the piece and places it in her mouth, her eyes closing, her chest rising and falling. Watching this woman eat could be a religious experience.
She swallows, and I know from the way her eyes dilate that she loves it. But she’s way too proud to tell me. She stifles her moan. The sound might not come out of her mouth, but I don’t have to hear it to see it.
“Admit it’s the best thing you’ve ever eaten.”
“It’s good, but I wouldn’t say the best.”
I look over her features, noticing the tic in her cheek. The tell. She’s lying again. I smirk at her.
“If that’s so, go ahead and eat your sandwich.”
“I will, thank you,” she retorts. She lifts her own sandwich to her mouth, takes a bite, and swallows. “This is so good,” she groans. It’s the same as when she ate mine, so I believe her. Mabel wouldn’t make anything that wasn’t good, but it’s no grilled cheese. And even though she won’t admit it, I see the tic in her cheek.
“Whatever you say.”
We continue to eat, and I can see her glancing at my grilled cheese.
“What?” She lifts a brow at me.
“I see you looking at my sandwich.”
Still staring, she nods. “It reminds me of my mom’s.” Her voice is low, and then she reaches her hand out to grab a napkin.
“What about you, you grow up on Mabel’s?” She leans forward in her chair, and I can tell she genuinely is interested in my life. I welcome the feeling it brings. Like I matter.
“I did,” I respond. “I used to go all the time.”
Willow smiles. “Who took you?”
“I went alone . . .” My words trail off as I remember all the times I would go straight to Mabel’s after school. How she would help me with my homework.