The worst thing, Theo thought, was the not knowing.
Well, he knew that he and Turtle were having a relationship - that was obvious, and he wasn't an idiot, after all. She'd been his friend, his girlfriend, his long-distance-letter-writing-partner for years. But the main question, as Theo saw it, was did she love him?
Theo didn't understand why Turtle wouldn't just come out and say it. T. R. Wexler never beat around the bush. She liked facts, and she liked hard numbers, and even if she'd stopped kicking shins a long time ago, she never hesitated to let a person know what she thought of them.
Of course, Theo knew Turtle liked him. By her standards, she was exceedingly fond of him, letting him still call her "Turtle" instead of T. R. Theo had tried, he really did, but for some reason, "Turtle" was the only name that felt right for her.
He had to admit, he was pretty relieved she hadn't kicked him the shins the first time he'd called her that.
The thing that bothered Turtle the most was not knowing. Turtle liked to have definitive answers - one reason why playing the stock market was so appealing was that the numbers were always right there, and numbers don’t lie. You know where you stand with numbers. But numbers can't help you figure out where you stand with someone who was definitely your friend, but maybe your boyfriend or maybe something more.
Well, she was actually sure that Theo was her boyfriend, she had to admit. But it was the something more part that was bothering her. If only he’d sign his letters “love, Theo” - then at least she’d know how to proceed. But no, he never did that. And he had to know, didn’t he? After all, he was the only person in the world (besides Sandy, and no one knew anything about that) who was allowed to call her Turtle. If that didn’t tell him she loved him, she couldn’t imagine what else would give him the clue.
And Turtle was fairly sure that writing to him and saying, “Look, do you love me?” was not the thing to do. She couldn’t be certain, that was true. T.R. Wexler was good at lots of things - brilliant, most people (including herself) would say, but even she had to admit that she had no idea what she was doing when it came to love.
Granted, their relationship was a little unusual. After their first few dates, Turtle had gone back to college, and Theo was a cub reporter for a major newspaper, and they both had little time to spare for dating. As Turtle had graduated top of her class, and gone on to first law school, and then business school, Theo had been busy himself, travelling around first the country, then the world, as he rose through the ranks of the reporters at his paper. They had quick weekends together here and there, and occasional visits home at the same time. But the majority of their relationship was conducted through letters. And that, Theo had decided, was the problem.
If only they saw each other in person more often! It would be so much easier to say "I love you" and be sure of hearing it in return, if he could just look at her face while he was saying it. But Turtle's letters were always brief and newsy notes, not long intimate missives. So Theo just wasn't sure if he should start signing his letters, "love." Because of course he did love her, but....was that the kind of thing you should say for the first time in a letter?
Really, there was no one she could ask for help, either, even if she had been so inclined (T.R. Wexler never asked anyone for assistance, not if she could help it), because her social life hadn’t ever been high on her priorities list. She had graduated high school at 16, valedictorian of her class, and one of the most well-known girls in school, not because she was so popular, but because she was so different.
In college, she had requested a single room, the better to concentrate on her studies. And honestly, once her classmates found out how young she was, they were just as happy to leave her alone as she was to be left alone. This worked out well, because once again, she graduated top of her class, summa cum laude, with a perfect GPA, and that was even after she and Theo started dating in her junior year. T.R. Wexler was very determined not to let a boyfriend, even one she liked very much, deter her from her studies.
The boyfriend thing had taken her by surprise, honestly. But Theo had asked her to dinner after the party for Doug Hoo, and he was an old friend, after all, so Turtle had agreed and ended up having a very good time. Theo was funny and smart, and so interesting - his world as a reporter was so different from hers, with her almost single-minded focus on her pre-law and business majors, and her hobby of playing the stock market. So when he asked if they could have dinner another time, Turtle had agreed. And that dinner had lead to others and to Theo visiting Turtle at college when he had time and to phone calls and letters. Lots of letters. Mostly letters, because they both were so busy and Theo was traveling for work and Turtle didn’t have time to go home often, and letters were the easiest way to keep in touch.
Her circle of friends began with Sandy and ended with Baba, and to be perfectly frank, Turtle couldn’t picture asking either of them for advice on her love life. She supposed she could have asked her sister, but Angela was deep in a grueling residency at a busy hospital in New York, and Turtle couldn’t see bothering for her for something like this. She had briefly considered talking to her mother, but the mere thought of asking Grace Windsor Wexler for advice on dating and love caused Turtle to start twitching.
Theo had taken to reading romance novels in his spare time, hoping to find a clue in their pages. Research, he told himself firmly, as he thumbed through stacks of paperbacks, night after night. But even though he read hundreds of different declarations of love, each more flowery than the next, speeches from the hero that melted the heroines' heart, he never could find Turtle in any of those books (although he'd never admit it, he did like to picture himself as the hero now and then). None of those words were anything she'd be interested in hearing, he'd finally decided, after tossing aside Love's Savage Heart one night.
The only thing he'd learned from all those romances was that unrequited love was a bitch. So Theo had come up with an ingenious plan.
Every time he'd write Turtle a letter, he'd send her one of his favorite books, with his favorite passage highlighted. He'd make sure that the passage had the word "love" in it, as least once. It would be like the Westing Game, all these years later - the words would be the clues. And T. R. Wexler, the Turtle-girl of his dreams, was the most brilliant woman he knew. She'd figure it out, sooner, he knew, rather than later.
So T.R. Wexler, already a millionaire thanks to her intuitive knowledge of stocks and trading, with law school behind her and only a few months left of business school, brilliant if not modest, still wasn’t quite sure if Theo was in love with her. And this was a problem. Because Turtle was quite sure she was in love with Theo and had seen enough movies to know that “unrequited lover” was not a position she wanted to add to her resume.
Then Theo had started sending the books, and Turtle had known exactly what to do.
At usual, it took Theo a little longer to catch on. At first he wasn’t sure she understood what he was doing with his letters and maybe she was really just sharing the parts of the books she liked, but soon enough, he realized that Turtle was playing her own version of the game he’d started. He enjoyed it, he had to admit, seeing what quotes she came up with in reply to his carefully marked passages.
And really, it gave him all the answer he had wanted. Turtle didn’t have so spell out “I love you” in her letters. She’d been writing it to him, in so many different ways, over the years.
Tonight, he was taking her out to dinner, to celebrate her first day on the job at Westing Paper Products. Tonight he’d say “I love you” and he’d be the first one, so in a way, he’d be winning the game they’d been playing. But first, he had to check his university email. Turtle had said she’d email to let him know what time to pick her up.
Turtle smiled as she hit send. She had never intended to lose the game.