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On So Little Acquaintance

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I watched Oliver’s eyes trail after Rosalind as she left hurriedly, taking the forest path back to our cottage. It was hard to discern the emotion on his face—curiosity, certainly, with perhaps a hint of something more.

“Ganymede, right?” he asked after a second.

“Yeah.”

“Your cousin?”

“Brother.”

“And your name is…?”

“Aliena.”

Oliver nodded, gaze following Rosalind once again. He grinned suddenly. “He’s pretty attractive. No wonder Orlando fancies him so much.”

My heart skipped a beat. “Wait—no—Orlando loves Rosalind—”

“So he says.” Oliver shrugged. “But why would he go along with this whole ‘Ganymede pretends to be Rosalind’ thing if he didn’t think Ganymede was at least a little bit hot?”

I almost snickered. It was true. Orlando had been very, shall we say, eager to kiss Rosalind as Ganymede the other day. How happy he would be when the two were revealed to be one and the same…

Oliver continued. “You know, Orlando can take Rosalind. I’m sure she’s great. I’ll have Ganymede.”

The implication of the statement hit me. So Oliver was gay. I felt relief wash over me—I wasn’t alone in this all-too-heterosexual forest.

“You might have some trouble with that,” I replied with a smile.

“He’s straight, isn’t he.”

I nodded. It wasn’t untrue.

“Ah well. I don’t suppose anyone here would be particularly happy if I fell for a guy.”

The concern was all too relatable. “Same. Er, like. Ganymede is always teasing me about how I should fall in love with a man at some point.”

His eyebrows shot up in sudden understanding. “You too?”

“Yep.”

“So you’re—”

“A lesbian.”

Oliver’s face split into the widest smile I’d seen throughout the entire conversation. “Thank god. I’m not the only one.”

“Does Orlando tease you about it too?”

“Oh, certainly. Well, he did a while ago. Before I started being a dick to him. He would always prattle on about the wonders of womankind and ‘why aren’t you married yet, Oliver’—”

He stopped abruptly, eyes widening, a slow grin spreading across his face.

“What is it?” I prompted.

“Aliena—”

“Please, call me Celia. That’s my real name.”

He didn’t question it for a moment. “Then. Celia. Are you single?”

“Unfortunately.”

“Will you marry me?”

I blinked, unable to comprehend the thoroughly unexpected request. “What the hell??”

Oliver giggled. “Don’t you see? We’re both gay. We’ve both been pressured by our brothers to get with someone of the opposite gender. So why don’t we? It’ll stop my peers from all their recent unnecessary questionings into my sexuality.”

The idea was utterly preposterous—and yet, I really, really liked it. “That’s brilliant. And we can pretend to be in love, too. And be really sappy about it.”

“Yes!!” Oliver lifted the back of his hand to his forehead in mock lovesickness. “Oh my darling heterosexual wife Aliena! I love you more than life itself!”

“Perfect!” I laughed. “If we play the part right, no one will question it.”

The smile slipped off Oliver’s face. “Isn’t it sad that people around here would question the amount of love in a same-sex relationship, yet wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a man and a woman supposedly falling in love in a matter of hours?”

I nodded solemnly. It was too true. “And isn’t it sad that we have to pretend to be straight in this way?”

“Yeah.” A second passed. Then he shrugged. “Well. At least we can make it fun.” He offered me his hand. “Come, my fiancée! Shall we go make out in front of Ganymede?”

I took his hand. “Lead on, my love!”