He’d ruined everything. First, he’d left, and now he came back and did this. It was completely unreasonable, and she hated him, and that was that.
Julie had her eyebrows raised. “So, where does Spike fit in all this?”
“Let’s get this straight: you’re going out with a guy who’s not Spike – and it’s not to make Spike jealous, or for the sake of the paper?”
Lynda shrugged. “Who says it’s not in the interests of the Gazette? I want Kenny back in this newsroom, as soon as I’ve put a stop to this rubbish.”
“You’re firing me?” Julie stared. “This is how you tell me?”
Lynda watched her storm out. “Well, actually, I was trying to discuss my love life.”
“Damn,” she said, once she was alone in the newsroom. The one person she’d have talked to about this – if anyone – was the one person she couldn’t talk to.
Lynda reflected on that.
“Kenny,” she said, on the phone, “this guy asked me out.”
“Speaking hypothetically, I mean. This guy, who hypothetically was my best friend before he deserted like a rat. Now he’s back, and he’s asking me out. On an actual date.”
“Lynda, I am the guy. I don’t think I’m the unbiased listener you want for this conversation.”
“You could pretend.”
“I don’t think so.”
It was Kenny. It wasn’t a casual date when you were going out with the person you’d been best friends with since you were four. It was serious, and that always terrified Lynda. It was so serious, they might as well get married after the second date.
“Damn,” she said again. It was Kenny, and she had to think about it.
She wanted what she always had: both of them, in their proper places. Or, maybe, as it turned out, she wanted Spike (who knew why?) and she needed Kenny (though it killed her to admit it).
Well, why couldn’t she have both of them?
“Lynda,” said Kenny, on the other end of the line. “I’m a reasonable guy, and I know I don’t stand a chance, but there is no way I am going to work out a rota for us. Especially since you and Spike aren’t even speaking. I can just see me explaining that to him…”
“I don’t see why not. You like Spike. You’re good at sharing.”
“According to you, I like everyone.”
“And Spike’d never live it down if he hit you, so that’d be okay -.”
“Lynda, dating is an either/or thing. Trust me. Or think about you and the other girls Spike’s dated since you met.”
“Damn!” Lynda slammed the phone down. Then she frowned, and picked it up again. “Kenny, were you waiting by the phone?”
“I may have been …”
“You think I’m going to back out of this, don’t you?”
“I’m timing you, Lynda.”
Why couldn’t he not have said it? There was no point, since obviously, it wasn’t going to happen because… there was a reason it obviously couldn’t happen, even if she couldn’t think of it right now.
Lynda hated losing. She never lost. She especially wasn’t losing Kenny again. She’d find a way to win.
Other people came and went – some of them as if they had a revolving door between here and the airport – but until Australia, never Kenny.
“Damn,” said Lynda, tiredly this time. She’d always screwed up her relationships. She’d thought that was how she was: a walking disaster zone when it came to the emotional stuff. Maybe, she thought, there was a reason, and it was all his fault.
“Lynda,” said Kenny, who was ringing her this time, “I’m sorry. It was dumb. I mean, not how I feel, but… I shouldn’t have said it when I know how it is with Spike. You don’t have to tell me. Let’s have dinner, catch up, and pretend I never said anything.”
Lynda held onto the receiver for a long time. “What if that’s not what I want?”
“Oh, come on. You’re hating this. Me, too, probably.”
“Oh, that, yeah. But I don’t think I know what I want. Maybe I’m working out what’s good for me, though.”
“Great,” said Kenny, after a pause. “Thanks. You make it sound as though I’m cabbage or something, and Spike’s ice-cream.”
“Well? You can’t live on ice-cream, though it’s nice enough while it lasts.”
“I don’t think you’d want to live on cabbage, either.”
“Kenny, I never said you were cabbage. I can’t believe we’re having a conversation this dumb over the phone.”
“Okay. We’ll have it in person later.”
Lynda smiled. “More like potato, or rice.”
“Stodgy and boring? You’re only agreeing to this to pay me out, aren’t you?”
“You don’t know everything about me, Kenny. Not any more. Wait and see.”
“Okay,” said Lynda, when he arrived at her door.
“Okay, let’s go out. You and me. It was inevitable, wasn’t it?”
“One condition,” she said, facing him. “I know pretty much all there is to know about you, but not some of the important things when it comes to a date. How you rate as a kisser, for starters – and, let’s face it, Phillips, the rumours aren’t encouraging. With you, I can’t even take the usual precautions and ask Julie -.”
“You’re evil,” said Kenny. “Besides, I’ve been practising while I was in Australia.”
“On what? Pet koala or passing crocodile? Anyway, fail this, and we’ll have to pretend nothing ever happened.”
“No pressure, then.”
“If it’s any consolation, Spike’s not that great, either, but you know what his ego’s like.”
If he’d ruined everything, she’d hate him. If not – Lynda was beginning to wonder if she was about to lose for good that deep-seated fear that she wasn’t capable of love, and knowing her, maybe she’d hate him for that, too.
One way, or the other, something was going to die with this kiss.