“Are you coming tonight?”

And there it was, the olive branch. Very few leaves and the bark seemed to be beginning to peel but a little careful inspection and it would reveal itself to indeed be an olive branch. Regardless, that was all he was going to get for a while so he figured he would be happy to make do with a singular branch. With any luck the rest of the tree would follow on later, he just needed to be patient. It would not be at all beneficial for him to mess it up now, he had spent too long thinking already and his partner was still stood in the doorway, most of him outside leaving just his shoulders and head visible and watching him with a practiced blank expression.

Time to think of some kind of response, perhaps it was best to match the energy and be minimal about it. A nod of the head would do the trick and would be just as good at skirting around unresolved issues as the ‘are you coming tonight’ had been. Alternatively, rather than playing into ignoring everything, he should instead play into ignoring everything in a more friendly manner and launch himself into ‘nothing ever happened’ mode. Possibly spieling on his plans for the evening would be the way to go, strolling along with his hands in his pockets and putting on his best impression of someone who had forgotten all about whatever it was they had disagreed on and had simply no idea the other party viewed things as being quite so serious. The question really was ‘was he coming tonight?’ and he was not sure he knew the answer, so he followed his partner out of the door, settling on a simple “I don’t know”.

Later that day they were sat in the car thinking simultaneously about how uncomfortably cold they were but not daring to test the boundaries of their newfound ability to hold a conversation yet. The ignoring everything in a friendly manner approach was becoming more appealing by the second even though he had not quite settled on which one he would be going with yet, he had been playing it by ear so far. But the temperature in the car along with the hard seats and lack of food was making him miserable and he was quite willing to give up any pride he might be inadvertently protecting by still being angry, just so that he had someone to talk to. Not that he anticipated it would be very enjoyable conversation, not one to boost his mood but it might just cause a distraction enough to help him forget just for a second the fact that he could no longer feel his toes.

When it eventually came time to find food, the need to have a discussion to decide where it should come from was politely prevented by the presence of a burger van at the end of the road that they had passed early this morning. If he was being honest, he was not at all in the mood for a burger, much too fleeting for his liking. He would much rather a large portion of chips at this point, sure to keep him warm for much longer. But he was not about to say that out loud, was he. His partner stated he was going to get them some lunch, he did not quite make eye contact but also somehow did not manage to look like he was avoiding it. By the time he had returned with more burgers than it seemed they could possibly need, he decided he was somehow colder, as if his partner’s mere presence in the car warmed it up somewhat. In his usual silent way he passed him along two burgers, bending himself into unnecessary contortions in order to drop some napkins on his lap without spilling the cup of coffee that was perched under his arm. Why his partner had decided to hold the burgers in his hands and not the cup of boiling coffee, he did not feel now was the time to ask. But he had bought him food along hadn’t he, hadn’t just pretended he did not exist. That must surely be some progress.

By the time they got back to the office, and due to some very cold hands struggling to keep a good grasp on a set of car keys, he even held the door open for him, ushering him into the warm a few seconds quicker than he would have been. At this stage he would take any seconds of warmth that he could get, and he appreciated that his partner still considered him worthy of that. He was beginning to feel bad for his lack of return olive branches, or even a satisfactory response to the ones that had been extended in his direction. Each time he saw a chance to do a Nice Thing to try to convey to his partner his desire to move on, it was always too late. Hindsight being a wonderful thing and all that, he wondered how long he had until his partner settled on maintaining their friendship on this level for the foreseeable future, or extended yet another, more obvious, olive branch that would make the situation all the more awkward, and ever so slightly humorous by this point.

The answer seemed to be to resort to the very beginning, pretend he had been debating his evening plans all along and begin the ignoring everything in a friendly manner. Truth was, he had no plans, and his partner pretty much knew that, but it was still his best option that he could see. He would lead them both into the staffroom, shove his partner into a sofa of some variety in the most playful and non-violent manner he could possibly manage, and he would make him a cup of tea. That might ply him well enough, and if he acted very normal and told him that yes indeed, he would be coming tonight, he might just be lucky enough that his partner may believe he had had it wrong the whole day, that they were not angry at each other at all and that there had been no reason to believe that all along.

July 23, 2021 22:49

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