Part One: Spring
March is the month of expectation
Sound waves travelled from a small, concealed device in her hands, through the white plastic covered wires, into the electric blue coloured earphones. The waves continued, transmitting loud music into small ears. Ears, that Vega had been teased about, from time to time, in primary school. They were considered disproportionate and abnormally small compared to her sister's, to all the other girls, and that was a cause for them to point and laugh. Not that it mattered much to her, Vega was never concerned about such trivialities, they worked just as well as the rest of the ears in the class and that was that.
The angry song she'd been listening to changed to a soft, romantic melody. Vega quickened her walk on the concrete path that cut through the grassy park, shutting her eyes and blocking out the trees she'd been inspecting too carefully. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her iPod changing the song as quickly as she could to something else, something less 'loved up', something more 'pissed off'.
Returning it to her pocket, she let her eyes resume their assessment of the trees. The whole row of them lining her walk shivered in the spring breeze that threatened the life of the newly growing leaves. She let her imagination run away with her. They looked like barky hands sticking out of the grass, twisting as if they were reaching up for something.
Another hand perhaps, she thought. Her slender eyes fall into a squint, trying to picture a row of great big hands swooping down from the heavens to hold onto them, to pull them out and free them from their earthly cages.
The trees rustled and cracked more forcibly the closer she stomped to the large round pond that centred the park. She smiled to herself at the thought that her raged steps caused their dancing. Like seismic movements, she pounded and they quivered.
The park was fairly empty despite the sun being out marking the break in fiercely cold weather London had been experiencing. Vega knew it was because it was a Monday and everybody was stuck at work but she had expected young mothers pushing their strollers at the very least. Vega sighed at the isolation in relief. Her soles stepped their way onto the pliable grass and the damp soil it grew out from that suffered from identity crisis. Not dry earth and not squidgy mud, just a confused mix of the two.
Vega ignored how applicable that was to her and instead revelled at the blue of the water ahead of her. The sunlight reflected off the round pond, the breeze disturbed the surface of the water; thousands of little, floating diamonds was created by the combination. The swans were back, ready and waiting for the summer as well. Vega smiled, watching them with keen interest as she sat on a cold iron bench. The beautiful birds had gathered on one side of the pond, busy cleaning themselves and teaching their young to so the same. Their small fluffy white feathers lifted up and around in the air around them, getting stuck in the grass surrounding them like snowflakes.
She took out her iPod again and searched for a softer song - something more befitting her current state of mind. She was near the water. She was calmer. She could think clearly. Vega closed her eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on her face and the cool breeze that water always seems to bring with it. After a moment's thought she took out her pad and her pencil and began to draw.
She wanted to sketch one of the birds but the moment the graphite hit the textured paper it drew of its own accord. She let her mind take the pencil where it willed and fell into the strongest thoughts that had commandeered her consciousness that bright March morning.
The feelings of anger, disappointment and failure that she'd tried to walk off did not disappear no matter how wide she ventured. She was hoping to reach a point, far away from where she was, where everything would go away and she could feel normal again. She'd always been the strong one - no challenge was too great for her to overcome.
So why can't I push myself back up again this time? She thought, her fingers working at a steadier pace than her mind.
She registered a man walking a short distance away, by the swans, observing them with interest as he strolled past them. She sighed and looked up from her pad for a fleeting moment at the wafts of translucent white cloud in an otherwise clear blue sky.
Her pupils widened as her eyelids shielded them from the sun above her, widened further as they returned to her drawing, focusing on each pencil stroke in such detail that the greater image was still a blur to her.
Her mind started up a familiar reel. Images of her father feeding the small birds in their home in southern Italy appeared to the soundtrack of her mother's singing. The birds would always join in with her melodiously, flapping their wings in their decorative white cage trying to catch her mother's attention. Vega remembered the way she would sit at the top of the staircase, her face shaded from the strong Mediterranean sun overlooking the courtyard at the centre of the house while her legs slipped between the black iron railings and turned golden. She would watch the blossoms, from the colourful flowers that decorated the terraces, fly away from their stalks and float around like confetti, falling down on her parents who danced happily to the tweeting and the softly sung poems.
A man stopped and stood on the otherside of the bench, blocking out the sunlight, stealing her thoughts and memories from that happier time. She was brought back to the present. Sitting alone, in the park, feeling colder than she had before she'd drifted into her past.
"Do you mind if I sit here?" he asked quietly.
Vega looked up at him briefly, registering his American accent but unable to place it to any specific region. He was covered in a fleece lined jacket, left unbuttoned because it was too heavy for the sunshine but, feeling the way she did at that point, she envied the warmth he inevitably felt in it.
She shook her head and made a pathetic attempt to smile – free country. She didn't try to meet his gaze or bother to take her earphones out. The park was a landscape of empty benches and she wondered why he'd chosen that particular one to sit on. London was full of weird people and she wasn't in the mood to come up with scenarios and explanations. She'd already spoken briefly to two people earlier and while the first one was friendly, the second reinstated her belief that she shouldn't talk to strangers.
Looking down at her pad, she frowned seeing the picture clearly for the first time. It was still rough and unperfected but the image was unmistakable.
It was the strongest image she associated with her mother, taken from the last time she saw her. Close-up, the day her mother took her last breath, her face buried into Vega's shoulder, the fine lines directed into the centre of her forehead, her eyebrow turned up and the unmistakable smile her lips drew. When she was with Vega, she always smiled, without exception.
Vega looked at the pencil in her right hand like it was Death following her around, not killing her but quite willing to leave her be. She gazed out onto the water again. Her lips stretched into a sad, remorseful little smile.
"Beautiful isn't it?" the man said.
Vega nodded taking out an earphone from one ear, mesmerised by the light on the water and going with it. She would do anything to free her mind from the memory.
"Like little diamonds," he continued, wistful.
"That's what I thought," Vega muttered, too quietly to be heard.
The breeze picked up speed and lifted her long, dark hair from behind her and blew it around her face. She lifted her hand to tuck her hair behind her again but the breeze picked up the sheet of paper that held her picture and carried it away. Vega sat up, shocked, her eyes followed it as it flew away and landed in the pond.
It felt like she'd lost her mother all over again. She wanted to jump in after it, reclaim it, reclaim her mother, or die trying.
"I can get that for you if you like," the man beside her said, watching her carefully in between glimpses at the paper, slowly drifting away.
"That's ok, thank you," she said curtly.
Vega had come to the park, angry and confused, seeking a cure to her problems. But walks in the park were losing their efficacy and drawing became a hindrance rather than a remedy. They masked the feelings, treated the symptoms but did not cure. Her mother had gone, she knew she had to let go, or life would get harder and more frustrating.
Maybe the paper is a sign, she thought, time to let go.
She bit her lips, her heart raced at the idea of letting go. All she could think of was the betrayal it would be to her mother. Had the situation been reversed, had Vega died, her mother would never have given up her memory for the prospect of a little peace, for sleep. Vega wasn't at the exact place she wanted to be in mentally, the 'normal' checkpoint, but a little switch inside clicked open and gave her some release – like a hit of morphine – just enough to fool herself that everything was ok.
"It's actually the perfect end to that paper and what was on it," she explained, looking at the paper for what it really was.
Vega looked up at the man's face for the first time. She saw him watching her with an interested frown and a smile on his face that crept up higher one side. The lines on his left cheek hinted at a possibility of a dimple. Vega smiled at him, eyes falling to her hands quickly before looking back at the water and the paper sinking slowly to the soundtrack playing in her right ear.
I love you more than songs can say, but I can't keep running after yesterday.
Vega found it eerily appropriate. Another sign to consider, she wondered if it was God trying to show her the right direction or her Mum, up in heaven, shoving her into it.
"Must have been a pretty bad paper for it to deserve drowning," the man commented. He raised an eyebrow, his dark eyes smiling at her.
"It's not drowning," she said, amused. "It's being at one with nature - peacefully going where no paper has gone before."
"Papers have gone into water before," he continued, his hand scratched at his navy wool hat hiding the loose strands of dirty-blonde hair that had escaped from under it before burrowing into his jacket pocket again. "What makes this one so special?"
"It didn't just go into the water," Vega said, looking as the last corner disappeared into the dark world of algae and fish. "It rebelled, dared to do something different. The rest of these papers just stick together, doing what they have to do. But not that paper. That paper is one brave…paper."
"Ah, so it's a revolutionist paper?" he said, as if she'd just explained a great physical phenomenon.
"Paving the way for equal rights for all paper, no matter what colour," Vega told him dramatically. A serious look took over her face but her voice remained light, teetering before it broke into laughter. "And leading the campaign for The Liberation from Binders."
"Give me liberty or give me death," the man said, shaking his head and chuckling deeply.
"I can't believe we're talking about a paper," she mumbled, feeling silly and stupid for talking to a stranger in that way. She placed her pencil and pad back in her bag and concentrated on remaining polite but uncommitted. She told herself to pay more attention to the song that was playing in her ear, a search for clearer signs, but the words melted into nothing when she heard him sigh.
"We did get a bit carried away," he said, cheerful still. "But it was important looking."
"Just a doodle," Vega said, wondering if he was a psychologist or a creep or a serial killer. She watched as he shuffled on the bench, extending his feet in front of him, crossing one in front of the other. "To clear my head, that type of thing."
"I see why you said it's the perfect end then," he said with a smile, looking at her sideways and revealing the deep dimple on his left cheek and shrugging. "Get it out of your system and then set it free."
Vega nodded at him. She had to tear her eyes away from his and mentally chastised herself. Behave, she thought. The idea of him being a rapist quickly left her mind and she assumed he was in the park for the same reason as she, to get away from the bustle, noise and numbness of London.
"It was a lovely drawing though. I'm sorry for looking but it was far too beguiling to ignore."
Vega looked down at her lap quickly, her hands wrung together. Her smile faded and her frown reappeared.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to upset you," the man said, looking at her worriedly.
"No, I'm not upset," she said, strained, eyes still shielded from the world.
She felt him cringing and shuffling in his seat. She watched from behind a curtain of hair as he opened his mouth to speak and closed it again, sighing in embarrassment. He muttered quietly under his breath and sat a little straighter.
"Look, I don't want to make you feel uncomfortable," he said in a kind voice.
"Honestly, it's all right," she said, looking at him and holding back from expression of any kind. "I'm just having a bad day."
"You draw things instead of talking about it," he said softly after a moment silence.
There was a slant in his tone that made Vega feel as if he was asking her to talk about it without actually saying it aloud. She smiled at the subtlety, surprised in herself that she was close to actually telling him everything that was bothering her. She looked at the complete stranger and thought how easy it would be to offload on him, feel better, say goodbye and get on with the rest of her life. Like free psychotherapy.
She didn't say anything though. She just sucked in her bottom lip and let out her breath through her nostrils. That was response enough for her and him both. She noticed the way his eye twitched in a flirty and light wink the same time his smile told her; I know exactly what you mean.
They sat there, seemingly content to sit together in quiet. It was as if the knowledge that she wasn't the only one out there having a rough time, without knowing any of the details, was enough to relax her, to make her day a little better. Even the songs playing in her ear seemed to brighten, switching to happier tracks of their own accord.
Will you follow me now? From this old town I'll carry you home, carry you home.
"So, you like music?" he asked after a while, seeing her leg bopping up and down.
"It has its moments," she chuckled quietly, pulling the remaining earphone out from embarrassment. "Don't you?"
"I do," he nodded as if to emphasis his point, tilting his head to one side and shrugging. "But sometimes I feel like it blankets my thoughts when I really need them. So, every week I come here, no music, phone on silent and just...think. It's freeing."
"Sounds like meditating," Vega noted, wondering if he was one of those new age Buddhists or Hare Krishnas that went around recruiting new people. She looked at his heavy duty jacket and the crisply ironed shirt he wore beneath it, registering that hair was peeking out of his hat again and changed her mind. He was way too hairy for the Hare Krishna and way too conservatively dressed to not be a professional of some sort.
"Don't know about that, never tried it," he said, lifting an eyebrow at her, eyes looking like they were wondering the same thing she had a moment earlier. "It is a bit like church though, without the sermon, the gossip, the sugar-coated neighbourly jibes and the children pushing each other around in the yard. Actually, it's nothing like church."
Vega's chuckle gained strength and she found herself giggling even. She couldn't remember when she'd last giggled, laughed perhaps, but an actual giggle...it seemed too long a time to her. The sound filled the air around them, joined with his throaty laugh.
"Like an empty church – without all the clutter," she said, calming down and wishing she could find one just for herself. "Sounds great."
"Doesn't it feel great, also?" he said, arms stretched out in front of him to make her aware of her surroundings. He smiled and pointed to the sky. "Just you, the ducks and the big guy upstairs."
Vega had been thinking about ways she could incorporate his weekly routine into her own life before he'd pointed out the obvious. He was right, without even knowing what she wanted he'd given her the answer she'd been searching for. It was right in front of her. The short time alone she owned had never felt substantial because she was always filling it, with noise, music, phones, with all sorts of clutter. She wanted to go back to basics, just her in an empty space, no distractions. Not even a smart, handsome man, she warned herself but desperately wanted to forget it. She hated that logical voice in her head.
"I'm Robert," he said, extending his hand out towards her, grinning cheekily. "Since we're in the same church group and all."
"Vega," she said, taking his hand and shaking it. She felt a smug victory over her inner voice momentarily until it reminded her of the two strangers she'd encountered earlier.
"Pleasure to meet you," he said genuinely, "people in London rarely talk to each other."
"That's because most of the people that want to talk are weird," she said matter-of-factly, smiling to herself when she saw him take the comment to heart. "Or from somewhere else."
"I suppose," he said, looking a little homesick.
"Trust me," she said with throaty emphasis, holding up her thumb and pointing to it with her other hand. "The first person that felt like a conversation with me today was this middle aged Rastafarian."
"Oh yeah?" Robert said amused. "What did he say?"
"He said 'you look like you're getting energy from the trees' and something else along those lines," she said, shaking her head at the memory. He'd made her move from her first stop of contemplation and she was still a little annoyed about it. "But at least he was harmless. The second guy that tried to talk to me was a sleazebag."
Her hands dropped as soon as she'd stuck the second finger up, groaning in frustration.
"Lot of people talking today," Robert commented, watching her hands with deep interest.
"Must have a sign on my head saying 'ignore my pissed off expression I'm just dying to talk' with flashing lights all around it," she said sarcastically.
"What did he say?" Robert asked, his dimple deepening the more intense his frown got.
"First he asked me for the time. I thought, 'simple enough' and gave it to him. Then he asked if I was waiting for someone and I got freaked out, so I lied and said someone would be here any minute," Vega said, stopping and regretting being so open. For all she knew Robert would turn out to be just as bad and she'd blatantly told him that she wasn't meeting anyone – free for the picking. Any murderer's dream.
"Good thinking," he said to reassure her. "I've often wished my little sister was that savvy but she's too honest for her own good. Says everything on her mind and anytime she attempts a lie, she reveals the truth herself moments later. It's endearing to everyone but her big brother."
Vega sighed, smiling at his sweet gesture and the nice way he pointed out she shouldn't be that open, even to him. She was grateful to God, Robert and fate that he wasn't a creep. She was sure that if her brother Ray found out of this, he'd be equally upset she'd behaved so recklessly.
"I'm glad he left you alone," Robert continued, asking his unspoken question again.
Vega wondered if it was a conscious effort on his part or if he wasn't even aware of the way he intonated so persuasively.
"He didn't actually," she said, watching his face to see if he was expecting a response. To her it looked like he'd simply hoped for one. "He asked me for my name and wanted to know if I wanted to meet up for coffee so we can talk and I got hardcore freaked out. Then he kept asking for my name but in a really pressing and sleazy way. I got a bit annoyed and said that I was not going to give him my name or number or meet up for coffee. He then said 'why not, we can meet up for coffee and get to know each other and then do something else' in the most disgusting way ever. So I walked away as fast as I could and here I am, talking to the third stranger of the day even though I warned myself never to talk to strangers."
"My sister would say that we're not strangers anymore," he said, making a steeple with his hands and imitating prayer. He cracked open an eye and watched her smile, relaxing back with an easy laugh. "I find myself in agreement with her too."
"I'll bet." Vega lifted a dark, slender eyebrow at him, pulling the flyaway hairs behind her hair.
"So are you Vega like the star or is there another meaning my simple mind can't comprehend?" He asked, tucking a leg underneath the other as he twisted in his seat to face her a bit more.
"Simple minds know that Vega is a star?" She said noncommittally, looking out onto the pond and the swan drifting in front of them. It looked like it was letting the water push it where it willed, calm and collected, like it had no cares at all. Its yellow feet peddled manically under the surface of the water, working to get to where it wanted, fighting against everything above and below it. Like the silent driver. "Most assume I'm Spanish."
"You don't look particularly Spanish to me," he said with a shrug, following her gaze and watching the swan dip her slender neck low for a delicate sip of water.
"Where do you think I'm from?" she tested him. It seemed to her that he was very in control of himself, confident and holding back a greater knowledge than he dared show.
"I don't know, you look kind of Asian," he said carefully but without hesitation. He looked up at her, eyebrows raised to see if he'd guessed right.
"Asian?" she said. Her frown lifted slightly. "You mean Oriental?"
"I think it's been recognised all over the world that 'Asian' refers to the Orient," he said playfully. "You Brits are convinced Asian refers to the Indian subcontinent."
"That's because it makes more sense," she laughed quietly. "You Americans have swallowed the 'Far East' and made it just Asian...tsk."
"All right, all right," he said, sucking in a breath through his smiling teeth. "You look Oriental."
"You're going to have to try harder than that," she teased. "Any particular part of the Orient?"
He chuckled, scratching his hat covered head and looked at her carefully, appreciating the opportunity she gave him to get a better look. His smile widened when her embarrassment at his attention showed and she turned away.
"Thai," he said, fairly confident in his choice.
"Well, I'm not. Purely Italian parents," she said pausing and looking over at him and smiling. "Weird, isn't it?"
"Not 'weird', just unusual," he said, eyes squinting as he tried to see the Italian in her very non-Italian features. "No Asi-Oriental at all?"
"Most definitely. Nothing but Italian on both sides of the family since the beginning of time," Vega said, pursing her lips around her grin. "Weird, isn't it?"
"Not 'weird', it's special," he said, looking at her with renewed interest that turned curious. "Where did your parents meet? It wasn't in Italy."
"No, it wasn't. But you're not going to believe me," she said wondering if he could tell her parents had a great romance just by looking at her.
"I will," he encouraged with a smile.
The wind had died down a little and the sun felt warmer. The swans flocked to the pond brightening up the view before her. Vega felt as if they all conspired to persuade her, on a subconscious level, to sit there and continue talking. She reminded herself that she never behaved this way before. She was a little too strict for her own good, and never good with people she didn't know. She looked over at Robert and wondered what it was about him that made it so easy to open up to.
"Ok well, there is this really small island in the southern ocean, in between Africa, Australia and Antarctica and it's called Heard Island and McDonald Islands," she told him motioning with her hands on an imaginary map of the world in front of her. "It's a part of Australia actually but, anyway, they met there."
He looked at her with a frown and pursed lips.
"What were they doing there?" he asked as if still considering whether to believe such a place existed or not.
"They were marine biologists. They went for some sort of expedition and the saving of seals. The fact that they were both Italian actually played a secondary role to the whole 'we can save the world one sea creature at a time' thing they've got. That's what brought them together," she told him watching as a smile crept on one side of his face. "I knew you wouldn't believe me!"
"No, I believe you!" he said holding his hands up in the defensively. "I just think it's really cute."
Vega smiled proudly and nodded. She thought it was cute too.
"So, what's your story?" Vega asked before he was tempted to ask any more questions about her family.
"I'm from the States," he said before thinking hard. "My parents met while at college."
"Oh, they went to the same one?" she asked interestedly, frowning when he shook his head.
"No, actually my dad studied in Arizona and my mum went to Washington but they met during a basketball game in Texas and hit it off. Got married straight away and moved to Alaska."
"Really?" she asked him, trying not to smile so hard.
"No," he said with a laugh, "but your story was so interesting I had to make something up!"
"How did they really meet?" she asked, laughing with a roll of her eyes at having believed his story. Her accent changed slightly, from the West London slant she normally used into something heavier. Her 'r' sounded stronger, it rolled more, hinting at something more than her Italian heritage.
"Their parents were old friends in California and they set them up when they found out they were both moving to study in New York," he said simply, raising an eyebrow and smiling widely. "My parents were both so against the idea at first they hardly spoke to each other on campus but sparks flew and next thing you know they're in love and everyone was happy."
"That is interesting," she said with a reassuring smile, knowing that love was beautiful in any shape or form it came in; hearing stories of it just reiterated it. "Did they stay in New York or move back to California to live?"
"California. I was born in New York but they moved back after Mum got pregnant with my sister Dani. A two year old and a newborn were too much for them alone. They always wanted to go back, or at least continue moving around, but my brother Mikey came along three years after that and it only made the prospect of a move more impossible." Robert drifted off, watching the flock of swans for a moment before returning to Vega.
She was interested in hearing more but hesitated to ask for it. She decided that he was either psychic or her thoughts must have shown on her face because he gave her a small smile and continued.
"But eventually we did move, when I was eight, to Florida. My youngest sister Rose was born there and that just about sealed any chance of them moving again. But I picked up their nomadic urges. I stayed there until I graduated high school, I went to Canada for college, worked in Boston for over a year before moving here," Robert explained, noticing the way her eyes hardened a little but still appeared interested. "I love living in London. I feel rooted down here for some reason. I don't plan on ever leaving, even if the conversations may be harder to start than in the States."
"What about your family?" she asked.
"You're big on family, huh?" he asked with a smile. "I go back home whenever I can but my parents are hardly ever there anymore themselves so it kind of defeats the purpose of it. They're big time world travellers with a posse of exploring geriatrics and everything."
"I want to be like that when I'm older," she mused, laughing at the phrasing he'd used. She saw the way Robert was looking at her and she blushed a little. He made no attempt to hide his interest in her face and the way the wind blew strands of her hair around it.
Vega looked out at the blue water and the matching sky and tried to calm down her imagination before it got ahead of her.
"Did you grow up around water?" He asked, cocking an eyebrow when she laughed.
"You're very inquisitive," she said, wagging a finger at him, peeling her eyes away from him to the scene before her, lest they give away more facts about her.
"My friends tell me it'll be my downfall," he confessed, hands up in the air, still hoping for an answer.
"My parents were the earth wanderers your parents wanted to be so I grew up in loads of different places...all of them islands," she told him, sighing as images of each came up to the forefront of her mind. Her birth and infancy in Tasmania had few memories for her. Her early childhood in New Caledonia on the other hand was coloured with treks through the dense forests, swimming in the aquamarine coloured reefs and of the French teachers that tried so hard to keep her mind on verbs, nouns and tenses instead of the intense heat and the tropical rainfall outside the class windows.
"All of them?" Robert asked, amazed by it. "How many were there?"
"Tasmania, New Caledonia...that's to the right of Australia in the Pacific," Vega explained like a well rehearsed line. After many years of being asked where it was she learnt to volunteer the information. "Then it was the Galapagos Islands, just off the coast of Ecuador, and lastly here, the UK, with summers in Sicily."
"But London doesn't have a sea coast...what did your parents study here?" Robert asked, looking down at the five fingers Vega held up to show the number of islands.
"There are aquariums here." Vega took a deep breath, weighing up whether she should confess the thought in her head or not, exhaling when she made her decision. "I didn't think that was enough for them either. I kept waiting, expecting a day to come, for my parents to walk in and announce a new island for us to call home. I waited all throughout my teenage years but they didn't. You know what you said about feeling rooted here? That's how I feel, even though I technically don't belong here."
"Well, who dictates where a person belongs? Is it their feelings, the place of their birth, their genes or the colour of their passport?" Robert said, shrugging and taking a deep breath.
"My sister..." Vega hesitated, she tried to think of a new thing to say instead of the truth.
"You have a sister?" Robert asked quickly, sensing her need to change the topic.
"I've got one brother, Raymond who is 4 years older than me," she said, smiling subconsciously at the thought of her brother. If it hadn't been for him she'd have lost her will to live well long ago, and she was all too aware of it. "And, yes, I've a sister, Caprice who is a year older than me."
"Ah, you're the baby," Robert grinned at her, his dimple forming a deep well in his cheek.
Vega thought it was a shame he was sitting to the left of her and she couldn't see more of that dimple. She always did have a weakness for them.
"And that explains a lot, apparently," she added, wondering what he thought about her and then instantly dismissing it. It would do her no good to think of it, or any possibilities at all except the ones she could control. The only thing Vega craved was a sense of control over her own life, or at the very least, some order.
"It explains a few things, that's all," Robert said, soothingly. "My youngest sister, Rose, and I live together. Let's just say I know a lot of things about how the youngest feels. You're bossed around, blamed for all sorts of things...nobody listens to you even though you're right most of the time?"
Vega smiled, tilting her head to the side and rolling it back so that it rested on the back of the bench. She looked up at the sky and tried not to giggle at how right he was.
"Am I cold?" he asked, watching her intently, almost sitting on his haunches in his anticipation. "Am I hot?"
Vega thought he was hot in every possible meaning of the word but she just let out a quiet laugh in response.
"I don't suppose you can dissect the eldest child just as well?" She tilted her head to look at him and raising an eyebrow when he pointed to himself.
"Of course I can," he laughed. "We're all kinds of awesome. Dependable, funny, protective, smart, hardworking...we get the best of our parents' genes."
"Modest," Vega added, biting her tongue playfully.
"As a nun!" he chuckled, shaking his head at himself.
"Seriously, do you work for a church or something?" Vega said abruptly, twisting her brow at him in confusion. Every time she looked at him in an appreciative way he mentioned God, or Church and she felt guilty for it. "Do you talk to strangers and try to recruit them?"
"No, I'm...I work in IT!" Robert said defensively though the smile never left his face. "Why do you...well, I have been talking a lot about God...I see your point."
"IT? Seriously?" Vega's eyes narrowed in inspection. "Why aren't you in an office somewhere then?"
"Does everybody that works in IT have to be holed up in an office?" Robert returned raising both eyebrows playfully.
"You can't answer a question with a question," She rebuked him in good-humour.
"I don't have set hours," he said simply, smiling at the look on her face. He pulled his workbag in front of him and began to rummage in it. "I'm working on creating new software programs so I don't really need to be in an office. I just need a really good computer and space to work. My company lets me work from home four days a week; I only have to go to the office every Monday morning for meetings and resources. I normally give myself the afternoon off."
When Vega was younger, she had accompanied her father's best friend, Uncle Al, on a business trip to Switzerland. He had taken her to his company's headquarters and showed her the inner workings, the rows of super computers and the men and women behind them. He taught her the importance of each employee's role and how together they all created something greater than average. Advances and pioneering, together, she'd always been intrigued by the genius that went into building and assembling the tools of this age. Vega looked at Robert as if he was something incredible – a single person doing the jobs all those people in Uncle Al's office did.
"Is that productive?" she asked him, watching him intently, wondering what he was looking for in his bag. "Or do you end up working more hours than you would if it was a set time in an office? And don't you get lonely at home by yourself?"
"It works well for me," he said, pulling out a small plastic business card and handing it to her. "It's pretty geeky but I enjoy it so it doesn't seem like work. Plus Rose really doesn't attend lectures as much as she should so she keeps me from turning into a hermit."
Vega nodded to show she was listening, reading the card carefully.
Rock Ltd : Design and Development
"Is this meant to be proof of ID?" Vega said, grinning as she waved the plastic card back and forth. "Is it safe to trust Rock Ltd isn't some cult?"
Robert licked his bottom lip and looked out at the pond, failing to hold back his smile. He shook his head and shrugged, pulling out a leather wallet from his back pocket. "Want to see my driver's licence?"
"Worse than airport security, aren't I?" Vega giggled, shaking her head and declining his offer.
He insisted she take a look, feeding her curiosity, and looking quite happy to do so. She took the pink card from his outstretched hand and scanned it quickly before handing it back to him.
"You didn't even check," he said, grinning at her.
"Sure I did, a picture of you with a shaved head, you've got a squiggly type of signature and your birthday's June 25th," Vega said, biting her lip to stop the smile spreading at the shock on his face. Her eyes were trained to pick up details quickly, she was used to it, but it never failed to amuse her to see others who were not. "I believed you even before you showed me the licence though."
"Thank God for that!" He sighed, pausing midway while returning his wallet to his pocket and sneaking her a sheepish look. "Just a figure of speech!"
Vega smiled and nodded, eyes falling to her lap and realising the way she was sitting. She had unknowingly twisted in her seat to face him. Vega frowned wondering why the pull of the water wasn't so strong with him there. She knew it would be sensible to say goodbye and be on her way but something inside would not let her move. She liked talking to Robert, she liked that he brought out something in her that rebelled against her sensibilities and made her do things she normally wouldn't do.
Maybe I've been playing it too safe all this time, she thought, maybe that's why things only get harder, and worse.
"So what's your excuse?" Robert asked, cheerful as ever, bringing her out of her thoughts. "Why are you in the park during the start of a busy working week?"
"I've got a week off for time-in-lieu," she explained, letting out a short breath and turning wistful. She hadn't been to that park, or any park, in a while. She remembered the Easter holidays off school when she would come here almost every day with her friends. "Just catching up on things I shouldn't have stopped doing."
In actual fact, she just wanted to keep herself occupied. It was only the first day and she'd spent the lazy morning thinking herself into depression. She was happy with the potential rest time off gave her but didn't care for the idleness that awaited her. She liked to immerse herself into work and block out all thought unrelated to it, she missed it even.
"What do you do that takes up so much time?" Robert asked with unrefined curiosity.
"I'm a graphic designer. But it doesn't actually take up that much time...I'm just a little obsessive over my projects," she confessed, smiling shyly. "I'm like you, I guess, I enjoy it so it doesn't really feel like work and it takes my mind of everything else."
Robert nodded slowly, not taking his eyes off her. To Vega, they looked to be stuck in thought rather than any sleazy move of his part but before she could come to a solid conclusion he blinked and was back to normal.
"Do you work nearby?" he asked before a silence could stifle their flow of conversation.
"Not really, it's a small office on the less commercial side of South Bank," she said, smiling at the thought of it. "Family owned and run business, the owner is my boss and my colleague at the same time. She's a friend too, I guess."
"It sounds great," Robert agreed, noticing the way her face lit up a little.
"It is. It's better than I ever dreamed of having during Uni. We heard all sorts of horror stories; a lack of jobs, intense pressure and crippling competition," Vega said, biting her lower lip as she thought of it. "But then you stick a whole bunch of artists together and ask them to stop day dreaming and look for a job...all you'll get is a big mess of melodrama and backstabbing that makes Shakespeare look like children's books. Actually, it was melodrama all the way through, regardless of job prospects or anything."
"What do you mean 'melodramatic'?"
"Think of the most irrational, whimsical person you know. Duplicate that person fifty times and stick them all in a building full of paint, sharp objects, cheap alcohol and no real rules." Vega took a deep breath and let it out, closing her eyes to make a point. She cracked an eye open and grinned at the grimace she saw on his face. "What was your University experience like?"
"Pretty tame in comparison to yours, I think," he chuckled.
"There were no Frat parties, cheerleaders or...any other stereotypical thing that I've seen on TV?"
"I didn't join a fraternity, I lived with the same roommate for four years and I majored in Business and Computing," Robert laughed. "Our pranks were all cyber."
"You mean like hacking into each other's emails?"
"Pah! Child's play!" Robert said, dismissing it with an easy laugh. "But none of us left incriminating evidence on our emails, we had to dig deeper for the juicy stuff."
Vega looked at him like he was a shiny new toy. She was as skilled as she needed to be in computers and then some. But the idea of someone who could bend a computer to their will rather than succumb to it had her excited. She had to hold back from all the devious plans running through her head, computer or otherwise.
"What was your minor?" she said, clearing her throat and mind.
"I minored in dance," he said quickly after a split second's hesitation.
"You're a dancer?" she asked, eyebrows rose.
"Nobody's ever interested in the business side," he said, mumbling comically.
"What type?" Vega asked. Her hand that was resting on her thigh lifted and landed on two fingers forming a triangle. Quickly, her fingers bent and flex, the left and then the right, and back again. "Cancan?"
"It's my turn to ask questions now," he said smiling at her fingers and pointing at himself for emphasis.
"I didn't realise we were taking turns asking questions," she said with a cheeky smile, pointing to the swans on the lake. "Do you dance ballet?"
"Not very well," he said, shaking his head and laughing.
"Can you tap?" she asked excitedly, laughing when his smile deepened and a blush appeared. "Can you do all those ballroom type ones they try and get celebrities to do for the public's mindless entertainment?"
Robert's laughter increased, his body shook and he hid his mirthful eyes behind his palms. "Yes, I can do them, but still not my preference."
"Well, what is it?" she asked, trying to think of more.
"Nuh-uh," he said wagging his finger back and forth pointedly. "It's my turn to ask questions."
"Reggae?" she continued, tapping a finger to her chin and putting on a Caribbean accent. "A bit of the calypso, grinding and booty shaking? Do you shake your booty?"
"Only on the weekends," he joked, winking playfully at her before cocking his head to one side. "Do you speak loads of languages or are you just gifted at accents?"
"Not loads. English and Italian obviously, French because of Caledonia, Spanish 'cause of Galapagos," Vega told him honestly. She sighed before looking up at him hopefully. "Street Dance? Break Dancing, free-styling – that type of thing?"
"How do you know so many dance styles?" he asked with a chuckle, his eyes following the rise and fall of her shoulders when she shrugged. He saw the despondence on her face and gave in. "I'm into Latin dance. My favourite's Tango but not a lot of people know that so...between me and you, yeah?"
Her hands crossed over her heart as she grinned at him, holding back the burst of excitement that threatened to erupt.
"You look like you've come to an interesting conclusion," he said slowly tilting his head back and looking at her through slits, his lips stretched into a wicked smirk.
"It's just...you're so cool, man," she said enthusiastically letting her thoughts out.
She sighed and shook her head, looking out at the sun. It was darkening into a darker shade, hinting at the prospect of a gloriously colourful sunset. Vega tried to put her butterflies to sleep, reminding herself that Robert was only a stranger. She shouldn't feel so comfortable, so at ease, so willing to let everything go. But he was like something out of a story, those imaginary men she used to picture during girly nights with her best friends. They would make such unrealistic demands: rich, handsome and ridiculously in love with them. They expected such great personalities that they never came across in their entirety growing up...and yet there he was. Vega had to swallow the lump in her throat and force her eyes to remain looking away from him.
"Do you dance as well?" he asked sweetly.
"I know the Latin ones from when I was little," she said, scrunching up her nose and weighing up whether to admit Tango was her favourite too.
"From Galapagos?" he asked, leaning in eagerly.
"Hmm, we had Argentinean neighbours and they threw a party, like, every weekend!" Vega let out a breath and smiled to herself. "It was fun, I can't explain how much..."
"I can imagine," he said, sounding exactly the same way she was feeling, like he'd do anything just to go back to those warm afternoon, filled with music, food, drink and laughter, endless laughter. Everything was so simple, so innocent back then. Vega closed her eyes and tried to remember it all. She pictured it with high definition, the way her mother looked at that time. Her light brown hair was long then, let loose in its untamed waves. Her mother's smile never left her face; it was brighter than the sun. Her Spanish could put the locals to shame but she never did. She would do everything as if it was the most natural thing in the world, even if it was a brand new experience, and Vega admired her confidence. Her mother would dance with Vega's father in such a way it had the neighbours whispering and the children giggling.
"Wait a sec...Argentinean neighbours?" he said perkily. "This is...like...Would you like to dance?"
"I'm sorry?" she asked, surprised, convinced she'd misheard him.
"Yeah, come on, we can do it now," he said, getting up and walking over to the grassy area behind the bench.
Vega turned around in her seat and followed him with her eyes. She watched as he unzipped his jacket and threw it on the ground, over his bag, before waving her over eagerly.
"This is ridiculous!" she said, laughing at a pitch higher than normal. She bit her lips and reminded herself that this was exactly what the old her would have done without any hesitation or fear. She frowned remembering she wasn't the same girl she used to be. "You don't even know if I can tango!"
"Maybe it is. Maybe you can't, but, I have a deep belief that you can," he said, laughing with her, pressing his palms together pleadingly. "Come on!"
Vega sighed and sat up straight again. She wondered how crazy it would be to dance with a stranger in the middle of the park, a tango no less, and with no music. She taunted herself with her thoughts convincing herself that she should behave better than that. Yet her mind contradicted itself, teasing her about how long she willed for some excitement, a change in the winds, a reason to feel alive again to come her way and when it did, she was quick to refuse it.
"What if I told you I was dying and it was my sincerest wish?" he said, having crept closer behind the bench, leaning on the back of it and looking at her warmly.
"I'd say 'don't joke about death'," she said abruptly, picking up her bag and marching over to where he stood behind the bench. She faced him in full seriousness, took in his full size as he stood six inches taller than her, broad shoulders under his white shirt, striped with narrow grey lines.
"I'm..." Robert's whisper fell to silence when she looked up at him. They looked as if gravity was not what was holding her to the earth but the sheer will in her black eyes. "I didn't mean to offend you."
"You didn't offend me," she murmured, losing the hardness but none of the internal pain. She held the slightly stunned gaze from his brown eyes and slowly placed her bag on the floor beside his jacket, laying hers on top of it. She held up her iPod and shook it a little. "It's not going to be that loud but it'll do something, right?"
It'll do something alright, she thought as she looked down at the screen to pick a song with an appropriate beat. It'll mark the end of my decline.
"Right," Robert agreed, still in whisper, intrigued by the way her eyes hinted at the feelings she tried to hide.
She edged away a little so they had space to move while the sound of quivering and seductive strings filled the air around them and disappeared into the grass and trees slowly. Vega raised her chin boldly and waited for him to take her in his hold.
"Show me what you've got, Señor," she said temptingly, lifting a slender eyebrow as she stood on the balls of her feet, readily.
Robert grinned, watching his feet while he took a deep breath and plucked up some nerve to match hers. With the beat, he slid over to her, claimed her free hand and tugged her closer with a hand on her back.
Vega bit her lip through the first sequence of foot movements before the soft flesh escaped her teeth and broke into a smile.
"Am I that bad?" he asked, mirroring her actions, letting their feet dance playfully.
"No, not at all," she assured him, feeling his shoulder muscles flex under her hand. She flicked her leg between his, remembering just how much she enjoyed dancing, feeling the urge to laugh resurface when her stomach fluttered giddily.
She broke away, not used to the feeling anymore. She clasped her hands over her mouth and tried to control the laughter.
"Stop laughing," he said, doing so himself as he watched her.
"You stop laughing!" she said, keeping her back to him while she tried to control herself.
"You've got an infectious chuckle," he said, circling around her so they faced each other again. "I like it."
Vega looked up at him, sobering up, and shook her head dismissing it. The little voice inside told her he was right, it reminded her that her mother always used to say the same thing.
"Shall we try again?" he asked, holding his frame readily.
"That's all I've got in me," she apologised, frown returning for a moment before a passive expression took over her small features. She looked up at his questioning eyes and shrugged as she sat down on the grass. Turning the music off, her light skin slightly flushed from the exertion and embarrassment.
"Can I at least hold onto a promise of more, soon?" Robert said, sitting down beside her, trying his luck.
Vega smiled at him, saying nothing as she looked back out at the water, watching the setting sun change the hue of the water. She knew he was watching her, she could feel it without needing to sneak looks at him. Her chest heaved up and down with deep breaths as she battled with the nervousness that had overcome her.
"What do you mean?" she said calmly. "Do you run classes?"
"You don't need classes," he said with a smile at the way she tapped her foot nervously.
"I don't believe that," she said, smiling and sighing. "I've seen enough Milongueras to know I'm lacking. Have you ever been to Argentina?"
"Not yet," Robert sighed. "I'm waiting for the right time, it's a special place, you know? I want to make sure it's perfect - that I'm right for it – so I can get what I've always wanted from it."
"You really do love the dance, don't you?" Vega said, watching the way his eyes lifted and his smile harden with determination at the thought of the journey.
"If you go on Youtube and check out the old dancers, man, they've got something in them you just can't learn," he admitted, scratching at his chin and chuckling at himself. "I know, I sound like a loser but it's like they've a slow burning fire in their bellies, it's amazing."
"Youtube isn't just for bored Vloggers trying to catch their fifteen minutes of fame," she said supportively. "You got any up on your channel?"
"What makes you think I have a channel?" he asked defensively.
She frowned, raising one eyebrow at him.
"Yeah, ok, I have a few," he confessed, grinning guiltily.
"What are they about?"
"Go on and see for yourself," he suggested easily. "Search Tapper and that's my channel."
"Tapper?" she repeated, smiling and committing it to memory. "That's cute. Is it because you're so great with the computer? You tap away at the keyboard?
"You got any videos up?" he asked her, dismissing her questions with a meaningful shrug.
"Videos," she said, pouting her lips and then pursing them.
"You're aiming to be mysterious?" Robert leaned in to get a better look at her after she hid behind her hair again, smiling when he saw her watching him curiously as soon as he'd popped into her view.
"No, but I'm not sure I want to tell you." She hissed a small laugh and twisted her long hair to one side, pulling it away from her face. It glowed by the light of the red sun.
"Why? What are they about?" he asked.
Vega shook her head and laughed, still looking out onto the water. "They're just some skits I made with my friends when I was younger. A couple of pranks."
"Channel name, please?" Robert asked, grinning at her as if he'd just found a treasure chest.
"Duffelbag," she mumbled, looking away while she wished she'd taken those videos off when she'd had the chance.
"What was that?" Robert asked taking out his phone.
"Duffel. Bag. One word," Vega replied a little more clearly, planning to erase them as soon as she got home before he could check them. She heard tapping and looked over to him and saw him looking at his phone. "What are you doing?"
"Watching your videos," he said casually. He smiled when she leaned in closer to see the screen and tilted the phone in his hand so she could see better. "Which one do you recommend?"
"Anyone ever told you that you're really impatient?" she said, shaking her head, eyes glued to the screen to see which one he'd eventually pick.
"Never!" he said sarcastically, watching her face redden. "Pick one?"
"This is a bit embarrassing." She sucked in her breath through her teeth and let out a single laugh.
"Why? Tons of people watch them, why not me?" He grinned at her, picking the first one on her list.
"Because I'll actually have to see your reaction when you're watching it," she said to him, frowning as she saw his eyes concentrate on the video that stated playing. She covered her eyes wither hands and groaned. "Of course! You just had to pick that one!"
Robert smiled at the way she watched for his reaction through parted fingers and continued to watch the video, a skit about two robots that fall in love.
It was shot years ago, when Vega was still at University. Vega played the girl robot and her friend, Jack, was playing the other robot. It had been conceived and carried out as an extreme method of procrastination from mid-year exams but ended up as much more. Vega bit her lip as she watched it, glad that there was hard proof of her fun and carefree days. She tried not to focus on how much younger she looked but muttered indiscernibly throughout the video's dialogue despite it. She removed her hands and crossed them under her chin, watching as Robert laughed when the musical montage began. Happy romance music played over clips of the two robots doing couple-type things; running through a field, watching a robot movie in the back row, oiling each other tenderly. The film cut to a dancing scene in the rain.
"Oh dear," Robert said, shaking his head, watching as the man robot began to rust.
'I'll never forget you, Lady,' Jack, the man robot said, arms outstretched melodramatically, 'my special robot that does not rust!'
Vega covered her smile behind her pulled up knees, delighted when Robert started laughing quietly as the robots said their goodbyes on his phone screen and the music swelled into a loud crescendo. It faded into silence as the robots shared their last kiss and the screen blacked out with 'The End' filling the space left empty.
Robert smiled, looking up at her bright red face and nudging her with his shoulder playfully.
"That was good!"
"You liked it?" she asked unsurely.
"It was really good," he said with more emphasis. His eyebrows twitched and he snuck her a sideways glance. "Who's the man robot? Your boyfriend?"
"No, he's one of my best friends," she said, smiling at the unabashed curiosity in Robert's voice.
"Did it piss off your boyfriend?" he asked her, looking at his phone as if staring at it would give him the answer he wanted.
"What makes you think I have a boyfriend?" Vega sighed, wondering if he didn't notice it was years old or whether he was trying to mask his intentions.
"Do you?" he asked, still playing with the phone.
"That's not the point of discussion," she said matter-of-factly.
Robert smiled to himself and lost interest in his phone, finally looking up at her again.
"Where's the sequel?" he asked, relaxed as he was before.
"There isn't one." Vega looked at him apologetically; the thought of one hadn't even crossed her mind.
"But there should be," he said enthusiastically.
"Lady Robot finds a new titanium robot?" Vega suggested, grinning.
"That doesn't rust!" he said, shaking his phone at her. "Come on, you have to do a sequel! Have you seen the responses you're getting?"
"I haven't...but my friends and I aren't as free as we used to be. Even if I wanted to, it's highly unlikely..." she paused to laugh at the robotic arm movements Robert was performing for her. "You do a pretty mean robot!"
He looked at the grass, plucking up enough courage to say what he was thinking. His smile turned cheeky, eyes big, and he continued softly, "My robot likes your robot."
Temptation. She saw it slipping between them and drawing them closer.
She used to read stories where the two main characters would have a chance meeting like this, they became friends, lovers...something more - happy ending. Vega tried not to audibly scoff at the notion. There were no happy endings. Happiness was fleeting, short-lived, easily stolen and broken. She called herself a fool for ever hoping for it. It just raised people so that the subsequent drop was greater, it would hurt a lot more.
Vega knew she didn't need any more pain in her life but she was intrigued by the prospect of joy, however fleeting life would force it to be. She didn't need a happily ever after, she needed a happy for now.
Vega had crowned herself the Queen of Avoidance. If she wanted to ignore something she could. She had a million ways of changing the subject, a million excuses to leave but none of them convinced her to follow them through. She wanted to stay, she liked that he had been subtly pursuing her, with all her mood changing and half-answers. She liked that even though it was crazy to admit liking a stranger, he did it. She smiled shyly at him for a moment, sighing at the confidence in his eyes unmarred by cockiness.
"My robot likes your robot too," she said quietly, smiling widely as she turned her face away and calmed down her somersaulting stomach.
"Think we should get them together sometime?" Robert's voice gave away his nerves.
"Chaperoning or like a double date?" Vega asked him, regaining confidence and turning playful.
"You free tomorrow?" he asked her, laughing gently.
"What time tomorrow?" Vega raised her eyebrows and shrugged. "I'm not doing anything but my robot leads a pretty hectic life."
"Oh right," he said, finger to his lips. "You've got the week off but no such luck for you robot?"
"Exactly," she said with a nod and giggle.
"Five o'clock tomorrow?" Robert suggested.
"Five is fine," she said.
They sat in silence for a beat, some sort of electricity buzzing between them as they looked at each other, looked away before coming back again.
"What are we going to do?"
"I don't know," he said truthfully, letting out a breathy laugh. "Is there anything in particular you've always wanted to do?"
"Can't give you my ideas!" she teased with raised hands and a chuckle. "I want to see where you go with this one yourself."
"Alright," he said graciously. Robert smiled widely, leaning forwards and wrapping his arms around his raised knees. He looked back at her sideways.
"Nothing," he said to her, shaking his head.
"What is it?" she asked, nudging him slightly. Robert laughed.
"I'm just glad you didn't give up talking to strangers," he admitted, looking out to the water.
"I thought we weren't strangers anymore?" she said to him.
He tilted his head from side to side. "Yeah but we were to begin with and I'm glad we got talking."
"I can validate my gladness too as soon as I have verbal confirmation that you're not working with that sleazebag who wanted 'coffee' earlier," she told him teasingly.
"I am in no way affiliated with sleazebags!" he said with a shocked smiled. "I just had a strange morning and I wasn't in the calmest mindset. Sometimes one small thing can put you off balance and I would have spent the whole afternoon thinking about it but you sort of put that in a drawer and locked it.
Vega smiled, to her he'd seemed so relaxed, so eased and happy as it were. She couldn't picture what he'd be 'calm' if what she'd witnessed was 'stressed'. Nodding in agreement with what he'd confessed, she leaned forward, picking up her jacket and putting it on.
"Are you cold or are you leaving?" Robert asked, helping her when her sleeve got caught midway up her arm.
"Cold," she said, seeing the sun close to disappearing behind the skyline of old Victorian buildings and gothic church spires. The full moon had appeared as a faint white circle in a sky hued in orange, pinks and purples that desperately clung onto the last of the blue.
Vega remembered her sister, her depressive opinions about the moon, and her smile dropped. Her sister would have said all the romantic notions running through Vega's head were silly. She would have said the moon was a sign it was trouble had she been there with them. Caprice would have pulled her away from Robert and hurt him for every thought he had about Vega, good or otherwise.
"I thought I scared you off for a minute," he said.
"Dude, I'm like a ninja - I don't scare so easily," Vega told him, smiling in response to the cheerful look on his face. "But it's getting dark and I'm a little hungry so I will be leaving soon."
It wasn't that Vega was careless, just that she did things differently to Caprice and was always lambasted for it. Vega considered the idea that she was wrong, that she might end up paying the price for her spontaneity but it felt good letting loose and that was something she wanted to hold close to her.
Robert looked at her and grinned, holding up his hands in surrender. He stood up quickly, extending his hand to help her up. "You were saying something about food, were you not?"
She smiled and took his hand, grabbing her bag and his things, giggling when she was pulled up.
"Thank you," he said, taking his things off her hands after a moment of simply staring at her.
"What?" She looked up at him with an amused frown.
"Nothing." He shook his head.
"This is either a case of déjà vu," she said with narrowed eyes, "or you've got a habit of doing that."
He smiled and looked at the ground, putting his hands in his pockets. Raising his eyes to look at her he kept his head lowered. "Déjà vu, definitely."
"Next time I get déjà vu, I'm holding you responsible though," Vega warned him, sighing herself into a smile.
"Ok, next time," he said as they began walking. "But right now we need to think about where we're going to eat?"
"We?" Vega said, swinging her bag as she walked.
"Uh-huh," Robert said confidently. "Me and you. We're going somewhere to eat."
"Do I actually have a choice if I want to have dinner with you tonight or not?"
Robert stopped walking, looked at her kindly and held his hand over his heart and smiled, his dimple deep on one side of it. "Would you like to have dinner with me tonight?"
"I bet you think that smile works for you every time," she said, looking at him sideways.
"So what do you say?" he said, shrugging shyly.
"I say, which way are we going?"
A/N - So...new story...what do you think?
I'm pretty sure I have some typos...