A complete crush.
Disclaimer: None of the characters/ familiar storylines are mine.
Alba stared at the floor, the innocent glass marble motionless, casting a light-dappled shadow.
But how could Betty - they were cousins - did Alba look like some woman who'd - how -?
But it had happened, and clearly Betty had got the absolute wrong idea. Though - though - what could Betty have thought, with Daniel's damned reputation?
Though it was true, Alba wasn't a little girl anymore. Time to grow up. How many people had said that to her so far? Far too many for her to be ignoring.
"I'm sorry," she said, abruptly, not looking at Daniel. "I'll go tell her."
She began to leave; then at the door, she asked, "Where?"
"I don't know," Daniel said, turning to face her after a pause. "Just - sit down, Alba. I'll tell her. It has to be me."
They locked eyes; Alba gave a tiny jerk of her head, a nod. "Right."
"Betty, what -"
"Pen - what a lame excuse -"
"Betty, what are you on about?" Christina finally broke through Betty's fragmented ranting.
Betty stared at the seamstress, wild-eyed, dragging a hand through her hair. "Daniel."
"How did it go?" Christina asked, watching the distraught Betty carefully.
"I went in, and - this girl - came out from under his desk and - handed him this pen -"
Christina opened her mouth but did not say anything;
"And then he was like, after this long pause, "This is..."-"
"Betty - no," Christina said, shaking her head. "What do you think this is? Daniel wouldn't - I'm sure it was just a nasty situation -"
"And then he said, "This is Alba,"" Betty concluded, adjusting her glasses and sitting down hard on the sofa in the Closet.
Christina gave a tiny movement of her head.
"What?" Betty asked.
"Alba?" Christina said. "I don't know why, but I've heard that name before..."
Betty felt a strange gloopy dread trickle stickily into her stomach. So it couldn't have been an absurd situation. Christina had heard of Alba; an old girlfriend, probably...
Christina frowned, thinking. "Alba."
"An old girlfriend?" Betty said, would-be-casually, though of course she sounded anything but.
There was a silence, in which the dread expanded, spilling through the pores of Betty's body, seeping into every which organ, and then - then -
"Oh!" Christina cried. "By George, I've got it. Alba. Alba. Of course."
She grinned at Betty.
Thoroughly confused, Betty remained silent, staring at the seamstress.
"Her name," Christina announced gravely, "is Alba Meade."
There was a silence that rang with...with the air conditioning.
"Alba...Meade?" Betty echoed, in a slightly strangly voice.
"Yup," Christina said, looking extremely satisfied with herself. "Alba Meade, daughter of Bradford Meade's younger brother David, kid cousin of Daniel."
"Betty!" Daniel burst into the room; Christina let out a strange little "eee!" sound and Betty stood up automatically.
Boss and assistant, best friends and would-be-lovers, stared at each other. (Christina surreptitiously melted out of the scene.) Daniel fidgeted, messed his hair up awkwardly, shifted slightly, then began, "What you saw - it was actually - you know Alba, she - wait, you don't know Alba."
He let out a long breath, then said, "Alba is my cousin from my father's side; she is twenty-three this year and I have known her as a slightly distant little sister for my entire life. And before you entered she'd been playing marbles, or something, on the floor, and then - went under the desk - it wasn't, wasn't - you know - what - you know." He was slowly turning red.
"No, I don't know," Betty said, wanting for some reason to torture him a bit, bite him, a strange gush of love;
Daniel's mouth worked, but nothing came out. "Uh -"
Betty folded her arms, and tapped her foot once.
"You know," Daniel said, with a choked-up feebleness.
Then Betty crossed the room, calmly, expression unreadable; she could have been walking out the door. Instead, she stopped in front of the tongue-tied Daniel, smiled, and pulled him down into a hug.
"Nevermind," she whispered into his ear.
His arms crept around her waist and they stood; Daniel shut his eyes, braced himself.
"What was that?" he asked her, his voice barely above her previous volume. "What are we?"
She knew what he was asking.
Their eyes met, and she didn't need to tell him. He offered her his arm again, smiling a smile weak with relief, and love finally fully requited.
Betty knew she'd have to deal with Gio, but what did it matter? As she'd told herself before, Daniel loved her; she loved Daniel.
I got you, babe.
She smiled at the sweetness of that memory. Pure friendship then; now, a pure shimmering golden love.
A/N: Thank you so much to those who stuck with this story till the end. While this ending may seem a little abrupt, I felt it was time to wrap up the story - coming ever closer to that Detty-ever-after, interest diminishes. Maybe this is why in the real thing, they want to leave it really late for the relationship - and meanwhile we can keep enjoying those little, awkward, electric moments.
Any comments and thoughts - on this chapter or the whole story - much appreciated.