“Heads, I win. Tails, you lose. Your choice.” And the girl smiled as she said it, her mouth a charming, crooked line.
In her chair, she relaxed without leaning either forward or back, her spine carelessly straight. Her dark hair was braided loosely down her back and a too-bright scarf held it back from her face. With one elbow propped lazily against the table, she let the silence stretch. And she waited for the unnecessary reply.
Another beat, and she didn’t seem bothered by time twisting forward. She blinked, and she took a breath, but rested easy with all the patience of someone who had already won, and all the confidence of not quite caring. Maybe her smile grew a little at the edges. Maybe she relaxed a little more. Whatever secret she held was sharp, but she had never been cut by it herself.
As absurd as her statement had been, the longer it hung in the air, the more honest it seemed, until it was almost inarguable and the quiet was almost unbreakable in the too-bright line of her gaze.
Then, “No,” Jenny said. “That’s not what I sound like.”
And the quiet didn’t break, just dissipated in an instant, as if it had never been.
“Yes, it is,” Bess said, the accent that always lurked in her voice, suddenly, elegantly returned. Shaking her head, she leaned forward onto her elbow. She took a longer, deeper breath. “That is exactly you.”
“No,” Jenny said.
“Yes,” Bess said.
“No.” Jenny fixed her with a look that was more challenge than conviction, and stopped her twice as fast.
Bess blinked, breathed, settled her other arm carefully on the table to look her friend in the eye. “I’ve known you longer than anyone alive,” she said, more slowly. “I promise, it’s passable.”
Jenny considered her, considered something else in the air just above her. “I’m not sure they would believe it.”
Bess gave a noise that should have been a groan, but didn’t quite approach that intensity. She dragged the dark wig off her head and dropped it on the table. “This is your fault for dreaming up a plan that requires three of you,” she said.
Jenny didn’t argue. She just smiled.