The In-Between

''You are beautiful, Susie Salmon.''

''Do you think he's going to kiss her?''

''Only if he dares to.''

''Why wouldn't he dare to kiss the girl? That guy looks great, no one would push him away and tell him to keep his paws...''

''You don't get it, do you? Taking the lead in a love affair can be scary when you can ruin a friendship.''

''I know but... He would never ruin it. I trust him. He's gentle, helpful, intelligent... Everything a woman could wish for.''

''He's a character in a movie'' Melissa said coldly. ''Just a character!''

She fell silent for a while, pretending she watched the movie. I knew better, we'd seen this film all over again. It was our favorite since it came out, and pretending we dodn't know any of the plot is part of the fun, it's one of our little traditions.

I love the way that woman pretends, it makes me weak in the knees. I think I've been too harsh on her lately... She's just like the film's narrator - Susie Salmon - so endearing, so beautiful, so... fragile.

What am I thinking? She's a member in one of world's most feared gangs and she's doing her job better than most, why am I calling her fragile? Because I love her, or... because I'm the only one she's opening up to?

''You are lovely, do you know that?''

No reaction. I'm sure she heard me. Suddenly I don't like the way this woman pretends that much anymore.

''Hm, what?''

''Nothing. I said you were lovely. You didn't listen.''

''That's 'cause eh... Film is interesting.''

''Yeah... we've only seen it sixty times, you with your photographical memory can't have adsorbed the plot just yet.''

She falls silence again. And I decide to do so too.

''Should I get you a nice cup of tea?'' she offers me when the film's playing a dull part about the in-between.

She can't be thirsty, we just drunk seven glasses of soda coffee. Her eightest glass still stands on the side table, partly filled. She just wants to escape the living room for a while 'cause the romantic part that's coming next will get on her nerves.

''I would be a very bad host if my guests had to pour their own tea. I'll get it for you, which do you prefer, mint or Indian Chai? Oh, and of course you can have green tea or Black Earl if you like, I just don't have foolish flavours like mango or coconut...''

''How about the Chinese tea I bought you last month? Or did you already finish the whole tea box?'' she laughs loudly. ''If so, that's alright. I kow just how good it is!''

''Well, actually, yes, I've finished it. But you didn't bring me that last month, you bought me that in May! Presuming it's February now, I don't think...''

''May? No you must be mistaking... It can't be that long! I... I...''

''Work took over lots of our social activities, didn't it?'' I sneer.

''You líve for your work, Vitally! Me too, that's just what... makes us such a great couple... collegial point of view, of course.''

We should be more than just collegues, that's what I want to say but I don't. Instead I ask her: ''So, Earl Grey or Indian Chai?''

''Neither, I guess. Get me the mint. I want fresh leaves and only one sugar cube, not three like Wang usually gives me. Can you remember that all the way to the kitchen?''

''Of course I can, Miss Fang. You're not the only one in this room with an IQ over 150...''

''I know, but I'm the only one in the room that ácts like someone with an IQ...''

''Don't get angry on mé because Wáng gives you too many sugar cubes...''

''I'm not angry with you at all, Vitally Rzeznik! Have you ever seen me in my angry suit?''

''... You aren't?''

''No. And I'm sorry if I act like a spoiled princess but... Don't you realize...''

''I know you are having hard time Liss, I try my best to be there for you but...''

''I know Vitally. And I appreciate. And I...''

''Ah, look, he's reciting her a poem.''

''What..? Oh, the movie! Yes, that parts catches you every time, doesn't it?''

''Yeah, it does..''

We keep silent while watching the romantic scene we both tried to avoid. It's not that bad at all. I don't feel the least uncomfortable.

''Hey, Lissa...'' I say mindful when it's over.

''Yes, Vitally?''

''I could recite you a poem too... If you like.''

A grin from ear to ear.

''I'd love that, well...''

''First I'll get you some tea. Hm, it's getting dark in here... I'll turn on some lights. And let's order some Chinese, I'm starving! Babi Pangang for you, I suppose?''

''Marvelous! Yeah, the red pork stuff, like always ehm...''

I grab the phone to order dinner.