Act III, Scene IV
‘Did I say something wrong earlier today?’
Anna shrugged, staring at her feet as they walked further into town. Tom had mentioned a tiny Italian restaurant that apparently served great pizza, and they had decided that walking there was probably faster than trying to find parking space closer by. ‘I don’t know, it’s just… Lately I have been trying to get back into this whole “life” thing. I’m slowly becoming a real girl again, and others treat me like one again as well. And I have been doing better, I just can’t… I’m not…-‘
‘You’re not ready for mindless flirting?’
‘No, I guess I am not.’
‘I apologise for making you uncomfortable, Anna. I didn’t think about it, but I should have. I will try to refrain from any romantic jokes as long as you are not ready, promise.’
She sighed, looking down at her hands with a sad expression. ‘The truth is, I don’t know if I’ll ever be.’ The truth was that as long as she kept people at a distance, she could pretend. Pretend she didn’t still cry herself to sleep over her dead ex-fiancé, pretend she did not still stare at that bottle of sleeping pills in her bathroom from time to time. Pretend she was strong.
To her surprise, she felt a larger, warm and calloused hand encompass her own, giving it a soft squeeze. ‘Then that would be all right, too. I’ll be your friend no matter what.’
Despite his encouraging words, Anna suddenly didn’t feel much like having something to eat anymore. She had been doing so well recently, but now she was reduced to the same lost and lonely girl that had first written a letter to her teenage idol – and all because of a simple, innocent joke. Her feet suddenly felt very heavy, and she felt angry, stupid tears burning in her eyes. In an attempt to hold herself together, she wrapped her arms around her torso as she stepped into the restaurant behind Tom.
They were quickly seated at a small table in one of the corners – something Anna was secretly relieved about, given that she hadn’t had time to change out of her waitressing costume. When Tom reached up to remove his cap and glasses, and unzipped his hoody to reveal a perfectly normal dark blue jumper, she felt even worse about her own outfit.
She was just contemplating asking to go home, when Tom spoke. ‘So, you said you had a lot to tell me.’
Biting her lip, she tried to remember all the things that had changed lately. She had been doing so well, things had turned for the better, but suddenly all she could think about was that stupid wedding invitation that still lay unanswered on her bedside table. ‘Tell me about Germany first,’ she asked, almost begged as she discretely swallowed back the lump in her throat.
Tom looked a little surprised, but nodded regardless. After a quick interruption by a waiter who came to take their orders, he started by saying, ‘It wasn’t all that interesting really. We had to attend some parties, showed up on some talk shows, and then of course there were the mandatory visits to family and friends. We spent Easter with our Mom at home, with a brunch and the egg hunt Mom has organised ever since Bill and I were little children. To be honest, that was the most fun I had during the entire holiday.’
Scrambling for something to say, Anna settled for a pathetic attempt at teasing, that came out neither teasing, nor funny. It just sounded bitter. ‘Sounded like you were having some fun when you decided to call me in the middle of the night.’
Tom had the decency to look ashamed, and scratched the back of his neck somewhat sheepishly. ‘Yes well, I was very drunk… So eh, back to you.’
Luckily the waiter chose that exact moment to return to their table carrying their drinks and their starters, and they were saved for the time from having to say anything at all.