Chapter 7.18 – Obtuse

Excited about her new idea for a new book, Amber immediately calls Wendell and asks if he will be able to meet her somewhere before leaving on her overseas trip.
Wendell sounds happy to hear from her, and insists that he has no other plans, outside of reading new manuscripts at the library. There must not be much going in his social life outside of work, if he has nothing else to do on a Friday night but proofread manuscripts. Actually, it seems kind of sad and a little bit pathetic. Surely, a good looking guy like Wendell has a girlfriend to keep him distracted from work. Or does he? She has known him for years, and spoken to him countless times over the phone, but she cannot remember him ever mentioning being in a relationship, or even dating for that matter. Honestly, she doesn’t know much about him at all.
Pondering this curious new facet of her friendship with Wendell, she arrives at the beachfront bar. She finds him sitting alone, sipping on a drink. She greets him with a friendly hug apologizes for the short notice. Now distracted from her earlier train of thought, she gets swept away with a new influx of creative energy. Wendell listens intently, as he always does, and keeps the conversation carefully on track when she does finally begin to stray toward his social life.
Amber smiles. That’s how he does it.
He talks about work, sports, books, and even his time in the military. But he always manages to dodge the topic of his love life by slipping into a funny story or tall tale. Maybe that’s why he has always been so easy to talk to. The conversation has always been safe, innocent, and nonthreatening. He has no agenda and seems platonically disinterested in her. Amber sits back, troubled, and listens to his voice. But she does not hear what he is saying to her. Ever since she was a teen, he has treated her with absolute respect; almost parental, really.
While she doesn’t make a point of flaunting, Amber is quite aware of her physical attributes. Sure, Wendell is old enough to be her father, but he is still a male. He is definitely hiding something from her; something subtle. She would have sensed immediately if he were not attracted to women. And his body language would have given away any tragic loss of love in his past. There is nothing quite so obvious at work here. She becomes instantly frustrated that he has managed to conceal a mystery from her for so long. She is so frustrated, in fact, that she interrupts him mid-sentence with a very direct, personal question.
Wendell stammers, fills the silence with an extra-long pull on is nearly empty drink, then cocks his head and nervously asks her to repeat her question. It was simple enough, really. Amber asks him again if he is dating anybody. She studies his response; his rapid breathing, his lips twitching with hesitation to speak, and genuine distress in his eyes.
Feeling terrible for the discomfort she has caused him, Amber reaches over and touches his hand, apologizing for being so inconsiderate. Wendell shakes his head and smirks, commenting that she does know how to change the subject with gusto. Amber shrugs meekly, unaware of what he had been saying to her for the past few minutes. Wendell stands, and invites her to walk with him, commenting that he’d like to get some air.
As they walk, Wendell resumes his conversation from earlier. But his tone is tentative and his speech is jumbled, as though he were trying read aloud from a moving book. She had never seen him so awkward and scattered before now. And as he talks, he strikes all the wrong chords with her. Wendell knows that most of what she wrote about in her first books came from her own experiences. He points out that this new story idea raises the stakes for her female sleuth. Then he wonders out loud if there may be any other less dangerous mysteries for her to solve. They both know Wendell is talking about Amber and not Amber’s fictional heroine. Just like that, he has turned situation around so that she is now on the spot.
Amber stops and eyes him defensively, asking him to get to the point of what he wants to say.
When it comes to love and romance, Wendell just cannot verbalize his feelings without tripping all over his words. He wants to say that he loves her too much to let her go off on a deadly game of cat and mouse. He would rather publish fifty losers, than see any harm come to a single hair on her perfect head for another best-seller. He wants to be with her; not just now, and not just tonight, but forever. And if that means breaking off the professional relationship to make it happen, then so be it.
Of course, those are not the words that eventually emerge from his mouth. He hears himself saying something about deadly, then something else about losers, then something about breaking off the professional relationship. He’s quite sure it sounded profoundly obtuse, if not downright insulting. The hurt look on Amber’s face confirms it, and feels worse than any other response she could have given him. She leaves for the airport without saying goodbye.
And Wendell remains, standing alone, agonizing over yet another self-inflicted romantic disaster.

4 thoughts on “Chapter 7.18 – Obtuse

  1. The poor guy. They’re both sort of bad at romance aren’t they? He ruins it by talking and she just makes bad choices. I like that she can’t sleuth what’s right there in front of her face.


  2. Aw come on Wendell, just say how you feel before it’s too late!

    ps. I know it’s been a while since I last updated, but there’s a chapter up on my blog now. Can you please read and comment on it? Thanks.! 😀


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