As I prepare to jaunt down tomorrow to the Hay on Wye Festival of Books, it seemed an AUSPICIOUS TIME to put up the Holly and Angela snippet I had promised.
Looking forward to seeing you, Walesians! Looking forward to seeing you, town of books and books and books!
Angela had agreed to stay in the Water Rising and study Aurimere books with Holly, but Holly was sure that Angie had not thought this process would last long into the night. Angie rested her elbows on the table and regarded the world with a pissed-off stare, as if she hated the night, tables, and air generally.
“What?” she asked flatly.
“Uh,” said Holly. “It’s really nice of you—and Rusty, of course; I like Rusty, who doesn’t like Rusty, he’s so likable—to let Henry stay with you. And to let me stay with you. I really appreciate it. And so does Henry. I’m sure.”
“Okay,” Angela said.
“I mean, it’s not just staying with you, of course. This is a tough time, and—and I bet Henry is grateful for the support. And of course Henry really enjoys your company.”
Angela made a slight face. Holly couldn’t interpret it, other than knowing it meant things were not going well. It was possible that Angie hated appreciation, Henry, the very sound of Holly’s voice, or all of the above.
“Okay,” Angela repeated.
She got back to turning the pages of her book. Holly felt more and more like a creeper, the kind of guy who didn’t say suggestive stuff but did insist on having a conversation, who hassled beautiful girls who obviously wanted to be left alone.
She only knew one way to do things. She didn’t know how girls were supposed to go after other girls.
And yet Angie had fancied Holly once before, and Holly hadn’t even meant to do that. Maybe the problem was that Holly was being too subtle.
“You look tired,” was Holly’s next venture.
She knew that was not the smoothest possible thing to say, but she had a plan.
“Almost constantly,” Angela replied, staring at her book and resting her fingers against her temples. “I am tired of asshole sorcerers, I am tired of having my life threatened, and I am tired in the sense that I want a nap. Yes. And your point would be?”
The temptation to say “Never mind,” and also hide behind the sofa because Angie was terrifying, was almost irresistible.
But Holly wanted to be brave, and she wanted to have this. Guys were often really persistent, and it worked: she didn’t want Angela to think Holly wasn’t trying hard enough because she didn’t like her enough.
Holly braced herself and jumped to her feet.
“Oh, I was just thinking,” she said with forced and perhaps slightly manic brightness. “You must be super tense! How about a massage?”
Before she finished speaking, she had her hands on Angela’s shoulders, so much narrower than a boy’s shoulders and almost fragile-feeling, even though she knew Angie was strong. She felt for an instant a sense of accomplishment.
Angela’s shoulders moved under her hands in a shudder of indignant recoil, like a scandalized maiden snake whose Victorian sensibilities had been deeply offended.
The movement was enough: Holly had her hands off Angela and up in surrender, but Angela spun around in her chair and wheeled on her anyway.
“What,” said Angela, and the ice in her voice chilled Holly, “do you think you are doing?”
“Sorry,” Holly muttered. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“It was right out of order, Holly,” Angela said.
She was not even standing up, but she was a tower of outrage. Angie might go around traumatizing people, but she always knew exactly what she was doing.
Holly didn’t know how to behave, had never quite known how to be friends, let alone anything more. She was the fluffy idiot her parents had always believed, the girl the other girls didn’t want to be around, not someone who knew the magic trick of being taken seriously. She was so, so stupid.
Holly knew she was blushing and was afraid she was going to cry, which would be even more humiliating.
“I was just trying to—” she got out.
“What?” Angela demanded. “What were you trying to do?”