Will’s face felt stiff. His smile tightened the muscles around his mouth and looked genuine: at least in his own opinion. When he laughed at another person’s attempt at a joke, he forced it to project into his chest and the resulting hollow feeling only served to make the sound louder. Even so, the clambering background noise of the White Crescent Cafe seemed to drown out everything else and Nor was otherwise preoccupied.
It was a few days after they met at The Club. He watched Nor interact with the others. Will felt strangely deaf without the music of The Club completely drowning out all other conversation. Aside from her one quote from The Day the Earth Stood Still, they had barely talked amid the booming percussion of the speakers. It had just been her hands directing his own to her hips as Orbital’s “Halcyon” reverberated gently and transcendentally into the soft luminosity of The Club.
It was just their eyes as Nor smiled at him and he knew, then, that this was an expression that came easy to her. Then there was the night in his room and the exchange of phone calls that came after.
But here, at the White Crescent Cafe, it was different. The place was trendy with its half-moon caricature eating a croissant and holding a cup of coffee. It was crowded with many different conversations that made it hard to hear Will’s own voice: even in his mind. And while Nor’s acquaintances seemed friendly, Will felt that they were very self-involved.
Will continued to answer generic questions about his job (writing) and his “neo-50s look” (which wasn’t a style so much as what he looked like) until his insides ached. The centre of him was tightening until he felt a hand on his arm and saw Nor beside him.
“I have to borrow him for a moment,” she told them.
“Ah, yes,” Will felt himself wink at them with a cleverness he did not feel, “If you’ll excuse us.”
Everyone smiled and laughed as Nor led will outside the Cafe. They went to the side entrance and came to a stop. Will saw Nor looking directly up into his eyes.
“Are you all right, Will?”
“Yes,” Will said quickly, “It’s nice to talk with your friends and everything. They were just asking me–”
“You know,” Nor said, “it’s okay.”
Will blinked, “…what is?”
“You don’t have to pretend with me, Will.”
He felt Nor cup his cheek. It was almost instantaneous. The knot of tension inside the core of Will untwisted. It was as though Nor’s words and her small touch on his cheek were a knife destroying the great internalized pressure inside of him.
Will stood there as he felt streaks of warm wetness trail down his face like blood. The released pain and discomfort was the most silent of assassins: killing his parody of artifice and granting mercy. The two of them sat near the wall, with Nor holding him and stroking his hair.
“You never have to pretend with me,” Nor spoke softly, “I can talk enough for the two of us.”
For a long while, Will didn’t even make a sound as his released tension dripped out of his face and finally dried.
“T-thank you,” Will managed to reply with a tremendous sense of relief, “Neil … likes to say it’s ourselves, but sometimes it really is other people.”
Nor smiles, “It gets easier with practice and with small numbers. But sometimes, you are right.”
The two close the small amount of distance between their faces and kiss. Then they leaned on each other for a time before Nor came to her feet and pulled Will up to his own.
“We can do that later though,” Nor said, “Right now, let’s just go home.”
“Home?” Will asks with a combination of incredulity and a larger amount of hope.
“Yes,” Nor hooks her arm through his own as they began to walk, “Home. Sometimes, it’s other people too.”
Credit: artofimperfektion on Flickr … the couple of which whose pictures they really are.