We looked at each other in silence. I raised my glass of pineapple juice to her and drank, watching her for any sign of embarrassment. There were none. Eventually I said, “Ana? When you said you were on love with me …?”
The hurt I’d heard in her voice yesterday: there it was in her face. I couldn’t help it. I took her hand. “You meant it, didn’t you?” Ana blinked back tears. They’d arrived so quickly. She nodded, not wanting to speak. I took a long, shaky breath. “And when you asked me if I loved you…”
“Yeah” Ana looked at the table cloth. “And you told me not to talk about it.” Her mouth quirked. I’d hurt her.
“Ana, I’m sorry I responded like that. I was trying to protect myself. But you know I love you. Of course I do.”
“Do you?” She was trying to sound calm, but there was too much hope in her voice.
“Yes. You know I have to say, ‘yes, but’, though.”
“Look, you know I think you’re lovely. I mean, of course you’re hot, and I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about you: you’re lovely. Person. A lovely person. If we’d met under other circumstances, we could have been … Anyway, even if I wasn’t with Sa’afia, there’s my job. I can’t get involved with you.”
“That’s a stupid rule.”
“Well, the rule doesn’t even matter, because: Sa’afia. I’m with Sa’afia. But if I put my hands on that pretty little ass -.”
“You’ve been wiggling it at me for the last eight months, Ana. Yeah, I’ve noticed your ass. It’s, um, pretty. But if I did anything about it they’d fire me.”
“That’s stupid. What are you protecting me from? Having a choice? What if you should do something about my fucking ass? What if I want you to?”