Carole was shaking him. "Honey, I'm home. Can you quit your little game for a minute and come spend some time with me? Have you eaten yet, maybe we could go out and grab a bite somewhere. Do you feel like Chinese?"
He blinked looking around him, seeing his study with Carole going on and on talking. Her shaking him had caused his connection to the computer to come unhooked and leave the game. The contrast between her and Darellma was stark. He thought he had feelings for them both, but in different ways.
Part of him wanted to tell her to go to hell so he could get back to the game. Another part knew he needed to pay some attention to her if only to keep the peace. He dispassionately considered both options and decided. He decided to spend time with Carole if only to avoid the pain of not doing so.
"Yeah, let's get some Chinese, that sounds nice," he said.
Her face beamed and she smiled with that smile that even now made him weak in the knees. "Great, let me change quickly and we can go." She rushed out to change leaving him with his thoughts.
He sat looking at the computer thinking of the elegant way they had just dispatched Klandicar. He had known they would do it. He had seen the whole battle beforehand in his mind. He just had a feeling for his guild and what they could do with the right people on line. He was in fact an uber leader of an uber guild. Everyone in the Guild knew this and respected him for it.
His basking in his own glow was interrupted when Carole came back into the room and spoke, "Okay, I'm ready."
He looked up at her and smiled. He knew the rest of the evening was shot. He would have to mentally change gears, downshift, he ruefully thought to himself, and just try and enjoy the experience of Chinese with Carole. There would be no deep conversation, nothing to engage him on a mental level, just a sensory experience with idle conversation, and little of that.
They drove to the restaurant in complete silence. The drive was quite nice, really, but not so nice as to silence them both with the awe of the beauty. It was a wonderful winding road through a forest that he was thinking was much more fun on his motorcycle than in a car.
On an impulse he asked, "Does our not talking much bother you?"
She thought for a moment and replied, "No."
They both looked at each other and smiled at her one word response. Inside though, it made him feel mad. Not being able to have long conversations with the person he was sharing his life with made him feel unloved and unknown. As they drove into the parking lot of the restaurant he decided all this was too much analysis and ended it all by saying, "Here we are, let's eat."
The next afternoon found him in his café with his latte. The waitress from the day before was not there and he realized he was a bit disappointed. Whatever, he thought and tried to convince himself that he didn't really care.
He sipped the latte and looked out the window at nothing. He was thinking about Carole again. It seemed there was nothing really holding them together. They had no kids, and didn't seem to have much in common. What had he ever seen in her, he wondered. They were just so different, he needed to think and talk with another to feel fulfilled, and she needed to experience and do with another. Neither one seemed able or desirous of meeting the other's needs. He shook his head, thinking with some great sadness that perhaps they just weren't meant to be.
He was brought back to the present when he felt a slight breeze as she sat down across from him. He hadn't even noticed her come into the little café. "Heya," she said, "I don't go on for fifteen more minutes so we have some time to talk. Her smile was engaging. She was genuinely happy to be here and see him here. It made him feel good inside to be wanted and to have someone to talk to.
"It's nice to see you," he said, "I'm afraid I was in a bit of a mood yesterday, I am sorry for snapping at you and running on and on. I hope I wasn't a complete bore." He smiled to try and let her see he was in a better mood today.
"No problem," she replied, "Real life can be a bitch sometimes can't it?"
"Tru that," he replied, "and yesterday I wasn't feeling very uber to deal with it. Not that much better today," he replied with a chuckle.
She stared at him, smiling and nodding. They talked for a bit more and found they had both gone to the same college. She had just graduated and was still trying to find a job in her field. He had been out long enough to look back on college with some perspective and gave her encouragement.
There was a moment of silence and they looked at each other. She was the first to break the silence, "You play don't you?" she said.
His heart skipped a beat and he felt a rush of excitement. Here it was, the same thought that had been in the back of his mind for some time now. There was no question of what she was referring to. They both knew and the look in his eyes gave her the answer to her question before he ever said a word in reply. He would never have brought this up, being too shy to expose a part of his life that to him seemed just a bit juvenile. He was glad she did though, very glad. He tried to keep his excitement in check and was almost successful as he smiled and said, "Yes I do, I'm Kinamoor on the E'ci server."
Her mouth opened a bit and her eyes opened in surprise, and then she looked at him warmly and reached over and put her arms around him giving him a hug and kissed him on his cheek. Her lips were warm and soft and he smelled her sweet perfume. Her forwardness in initiating such an intimate embrace and the warmth accompanying it completely disarmed him. He felt genuine affection in her embrace and gave in to it as she whispered in his ear, "I am Darellma."
She drew her head back and still had her arms around him and his were now around her though he couldn't remember putting them there. She looked at him with some affection and was not at all self-conscious or embarrassed about having her arms around him in the middle of the little café. He enjoyed the feeling of holding and being held by her.
"Darellma," he said and all the hours he had spent gaming with her, chatting with her over the last -- how long was it, a year, no two -- raced through his mind. He knew her well, and was quite fond of her, he realized. They had played and chatted for countless hours and in the course of doing so had gotten to know each other well. It was first an intellectual relationship that he realized had kept him playing the game for so long. The combination of competence in a highly complex game and being able to talk with each other had drawn them together. They were two similar minds. He logged on in the evening so he could not only play, but more importantly, meet her. They had started Destinati Conquerors together almost a year ago. Meeting her here in this café, and seeing her compassion and warmth and connecting it with his other memories of her was too much. He looked at her with growing affection, "Darellma," he said again softly. He slipped his hand behind her head and gently pulled it towards him and they kissed.
-- Chas Wallace