tagNovels and NovellasGaming: D&D Pt. 11

Gaming: D&D Pt. 11

byAspernEssling©

This chapter is for those of my readers who feel that I end stories too abruptly. Thank you all, though, for the supportive and helpful comments I've received. They're the main reason writers submit their work to this site.

Simran strong-armed her boss, and somehow extorted three weeks' worth of holidays. Dr. Welsh fixed things so that I could book my accommodations (big enough for two), and be reimbursed out of his budget.

Simran drove me to the airport.

- "Two weeks." she said.

- "I can't wait." I admitted.

I worked my ass off at the Public Record Office. I didn't want Dr. Welsh to regret allowing my girlfriend to join us, so I tried my damnedest to uncover something useful for him, some material that he could use.

Yvonne Bennett-Smythe joined us for dinner again, only a few days after we had arrived.

- "I can't believe that you know Simran." she said.

- "I can't believe that Simran knows you." I replied.

Yvonne insisted on telling me how intelligent, perceptive, and diplomatic my girlfriend was. I showed her the three photographs of Simran I carried in my wallet.

"And beautiful as well." she said. "You are a lucky fellow."

I knew that. I wrote Simran a three page letter in the first two days I was in London - and mailed it. Then I immediately began a second letter. I recorded what Bennett-Smythe had said about her, and how Dr. Welsh had added his own first impressions. I also tried to express, in words, how I felt about her.

You have no idea how blessed I feel. For years, I thought that I was cursed - at least, in terms of my romantic life. It seemed like one disaster after another. On the plus side, I met Parvani, and Nate.

But being with you ... I feel so lucky, Simran. If I believed in karma and reincarnation, I would have to believe that I had suffered horrible torments in a past life, to deserve you in this one.

I filled pages and pages with minor trivia, and my feelings for her.

Yes, I phoned her, too. It was surprisingly, incredibly emotional - surprising, because, I sensed that she was feeling it, too. On our second call, I could have sworn that she was crying.

- "Simran? Are you okay?"

- "It's just ... I can't wait till I get there. Six more days ..."

We blew a lot of money on those calls, at $2 a minute. I didn't begrudge a penny of it.

During the day, I did my best to impress Dr. Welsh.

- "This is excellent, Ian." he would say, after he had read my notes. I got far ahead of him, to the point where he gave me a day off - which I spent on my own research.

Finally, the day arrived. I met Simran at Heathrow. She looked younger, somehow, in her travelling clothes. But there was no mistaking the pleasure - the happiness - on her face when she caught of me. I'm sure I looked the same.

- "Why did those two weeks apart seem so long?" she asked. I felt the same way.

That first weekend, I fought the temptation to spend all day in bed. We did some sightseeing, and toured around London.

- "Slow down, Ian." she told me. "We don't have to see everything in two days."

- "Not possible." I said. "Not even remotely possible. You'd need two months to see all of London.

Her eyebrow rose. "Exactly." she said.

- "I just wanted to see as much as we could before Tuesday. I'll have to go back to work with Dr. Welsh."

- "We both knew that." she said. "I'll be fine on my own. Besides - " She leaned in and kissed my cheek. "I came to be with you, first. Seeing the sights comes second."

That did the trick. I relaxed, and just enjoyed being with her. It was another revelation. There's something special about travelling with the one you love. Without the pressures and distractions of school, or work, family and friends, and just ... everyday life, we were able to concentrate 100% on each other.

I was amazed at much more there was to learn about her.

On Wednesday, she came to Kew Gardens with me, curious to see where I was working. Dr. Welsh got her a visitor's pass. Simran was fascinated by the place. She loved books as much as I did - maybe even more.

Thursday night we went to the theatre. I had got us tickets to the Mousetrap, the play based on an Agatha Christie mystery, that had been running since 1952 (as far as I know, it's still going).

On Saturday night, Dr. Welsh invited us out to dinner - with Yvonne Bennett-Smythe. Simran had been looking forward to this all week. She wasn't the only one. Yvonne greeted her like an old friend, with a warm embrace.

- "It's so good to finally meet you - in the flesh." she said. "You're even more lovely than those photos Ian carries around."

It was a mutual admiration society from the outset. Dr. Welsh and I could only watch and wonder. Simran, obviously, was a big fan of Dr. Bennett-Smythe's writing. She had gone out and read all of her publications. The insights she gained from that, it seemed, had helped her to catch two errors in Yvonne's submitted chapter.

- "Minor suggestions." said Simran.

- "Glaring errors." said Yvonne. "I should have been mortified had they appeared in print. You saved me considerable embarrassment. I shan't forget it."

Honestly - that was the way she talked.

- "Publish in haste, repent at leisure." said Dr. Welsh.

- "Have you any idea, Ian," said Yvonne, "what a gem you've got here? I hope you appreciate her."

- "He does." said Simran, as she squeezed my hand.

The two women went into great detail about the chapters of Yvonne's book. But Bennett-Smythe seemed equally interested in Simran's other work. They kept it up all through dinner.

- "They're both so wonderful." said Simran, afterwards. "They have this knack ... they make you feel as if they're more interested in you than you are in them."

- "Do you think they're more than friends?" I asked her.

- "Of course they are!"

- "Are you sure? How could you tell?"

- "Did you not see the way he looks at her?" said Simran, with a smile. "It's the way you look at me, sometimes ..."

That definitely invited a kiss.

"Plus she had her hand on his leg for most of the dinner."

***

After another weekend in London, we were eager to be off, but Simran was more than willing to let me do a few more days of research - for my thesis.

- "Take all the time you need." she told me.

That turned out to be two days. Then we headed for Cambridge, where Yvonne insisted on giving us a tour of the University. It's a magical place. Simran was particularly taken with the Round Church and the Bridge of Sighs.

Bennett-Smythe took us to a little country pub. It was old, and rustic. There was no bar - only taps (the kegs were on the other side of the wall).

- "This is absolutely wonderful." said Simran. "Thank you so much for bringing us here."

- "And for the tour." I added. "It's very generous of you, to spend so much time with us."

Yvonne shook her head. "You don't seem to understand, Ian. It's no sacrifice on my part to spend time with the two of you."

We were both very flattered, and promised to keep in touch.

Simran and I travelled to York, which we both loved. Then we went to Edinburgh, and to the Bannockburn battlefield - a bit of a pilgrimage for me. Stirling castle, Perth, and Inverness, where we had a wonderful time.

But it was our slow progress down the north side of Loch Ness that left Simran completely entranced. She loved Glen Urquhart, and Fort Augustus. But the sunset we saw in the Kyle of Lochalsh won her heart.

We rented mopeds, and drove around the Isle of Skye for two days.

You can learn a great deal about someone by travelling with them. I found out that Simran was easy to get along with; she wasn't fussy or demanding - I suppose you could describe her as 'low maintenance'. She kept her cool when there were obstacles - one day we had a lousy meal, and another evening our accommodations were sub-par - she didn't complain. Learn from the experience, and move on, was her approach.

Every night, we stopped in a B&B or small hotel. And every night, we made love. She had packed some black lingerie, to 'spice up our travels', as she put it. But she never seemed to have it on for long.

I'm not sure how, but I was becoming adept at picking up her signals, the unspoken little hints that she was broadcasting. I somehow sensed when she wanted soft and slow - or hot and hard. We did romantic, and sensual ... and passionate, and just plain lusty.

- "How did you know?" she asked, one night. "That I wanted ..."

- "The way you were twirling your hair at dinner." I said. "That's why I wanted to skip dessert."

She grinned. "And I made you wait while I had that creme brulee." she said. "You know - I wasn't even aware that I was touching my hair. But you noticed it - that's ... hot."

It certainly was. It led to another bout, with her taking the lead. We didn't get much sleep that night.

***

All too soon, our wonderful trip was over, and we had to head home. I mailed off a postcard to Dr. Bennett-Smythe, admitting that Simran couldn't quite decide on the highlight of her trip: the Kyle of Lochalsh, or meeting her.

On the plane, on the way home, Simran and I did have a serious talk. I confessed my growing fear: that after the beauty and excitement we had experienced, it would be difficult to go back to our routines - school for me, work for her.

- "I don't understand." she said. "What are you afraid of?"

- "Well, it won't be as ... exciting ..."

She took my hand.

- "I find you very exciting." she whispered.

- "You know what I mean. I don't want you to be ... bored."

- "Trampolines, Ian." she said. "Trampolines."

I got the message. I didn't have to try so hard, to impress her, or to hit the 'Wow' button every single time. A little variety would do the trick - I didn't need limousines, or $300 bottles of champagne.

Or trampolines.

***

There was one matter I had to consider when we got back. It was simple enough: stay as Cooper's roommate for another year ... or ask Simran to move in with me. I thought about it, and thought about it - and then I thought about some more.

I even got a sheet of paper, and divided it into pros and cons. Under 'Stay with Cooper', I wrote 'great roomie' and 'He'd be disappointed if I left'. Under 'Simran', I wrote 'Simran' - and the debate was over.

But there was a second question - and the two issues were so tangled up, it was like the chicken and the egg. There was no other way around it. I had to talk to her about it.

- "I don't even know where to begin." I said.

That got Simran's attention. She looked a bit worried.

- "Ian, please give me a hint - at least. Otherwise, my imagination is going to run away on me, and I'll start imagining worst-case scenarios."

- "No - it's not bad!" I said, quickly. "I mean, it's not ..."

Now she definitely looked worried.

"Sorry - here goes: I'm trying to decide whether I should stay with Cooper, or ask you to move in with me. But it's complicated, and there are other things involved ..."

- "Wait." she said. "Say it again - only slower."

I repeated myself.

Simran took a deep breath, and then she nodded. "Okay - please don't do that to me again. You can tell me anything, Ian - just don't scare me like that."

I didn't understand.

"I was afraid." she said. "I thought you were about to break up with me. Or that Diane was pregnant, and you were the father."

- "No!" I said. I hadn't realized what I was doing to her. "Simran, no - I love you. I don't want to lose you."

She smiled, then. "I know. It's still nice to hear, though." She let me wallow in confusion for a while. "Alright. Start over. What's the issue?"

- "Should I ask you to move in with me?" I said.

- "Tempting offer. I can think of a few reasons why you might want to. Why wouldn't you?"

I took a deep breath. "I assume that your parents wouldn't object. You're old enough - sorry - to make up your own mind. And they have to know that we're ..."

- "Being intimate." she suggested.

- "Yes. I haven't actually asked you, so I'm not sure how you would feel about it."

- "Coop might be disappointed. To lose you as a roommate."

- "I know." I said. "But that's not the most important thing."

Simran sat up a little straighter. "Alright - what is? Why are you so worked up about this?"

I took another deep breath. This wasn't easy. "Sim - do you think I should do a PhD?"

- "Of course you should." she said - instantly. "Why wouldn't you?"

- "Because ... I don't want to move away from you."

There. I'd said it.

Simran leaned forward, and kissed me.

- "That's sweet." she said. "Okay - so you want to discuss it? What are the alternatives?"

- "Uh ... get a job?"

- "What kind of job?" said Simran.

- "I could teach." I said. "I could go to Teacher's College after this year. And then teach high school."

- "So, a year to finish your Masters Degree, then a year of Teacher's College - and then you apply for a teaching job, which would probably be somewhere else, because the market for teachers here is terrible right now - and will probably remain so, for the foreseeable future."

- "You've already been thinking about this." I said, aloud, just as I realized it.

- "Are you even sure that you want to teach?" she asked.

- "Yes." I said. I had discussed this very subject with Dr. Welsh. University Professors (with a few notable exceptions) didn't concentrate on teaching. Most of them saw it as a chore - an imposition - that detracted from their research. Many, many profs would have been happier if there were no students at University.

I thought that profs should concentrate on teaching, with just as much attention and energy as they put into their research - regardless of their field. Only a handful of people would ever read their publications, yet they could reach hundreds through their lectures. And then those people might read their publications.

- "Fair enough." said Simran. "But how much of this is because you don't want to leave me?"

She was just too damned smart. And too perceptive.

- "Honestly? I want to stay with you, Simran."

- "That's very flattering, Ian. Thank you. But don't you see? You're just postponing a decision. If you stay here, and then go to Teacher's College - that gives us two years together, instead of one. Then we'll still have to have this conversation all over again."

"Because you'll probably have to move to take up a teaching job. And what if I get offered a better position? We would have to have the same conversation, only with the roles reversed."

I was in a state of mild shock. I hadn't expected that she had given this question so much thought. But Simran was also considering possibilities which involved us being together two years from now - which I found exhilarating.

- "Have you talked to Dr. Welsh?" she asked.

- "Sort of. Not about us. He thinks I should do a Doctorate."

- "So does Yvonne." she said.

- "She told you that?"

Simran nodded. "But that's not the most important thing. Ian - what does your heart say?"

- "Do the PhD." I said. I had known that all along.

- "Good." she said. "Because that's what mine says, too."

- "Really? Because ... I couldn't do it here, Sim. I would have to go elsewhere." It was professional suicide to do a Doctorate at the same institution which had granted you a Masters and an undergraduate degree. Suspicions of favouritism and accusations of parochialism would follow wherever you went thereafter.

- "I know." she said.

- "So it comes down to this: I want to live with you, but I may not be here - correction: I probably won't be here a year from now. Is it fair to ask you that?"

Simran gently took my head between her hands.

- "I love you. I want you to follow your dreams. But I also think that you should keep your apartment - for now."

- "You do?"

- "It wouldn't be fair to Coop, to ask him to find a new roommate a week before the end of August. That's not enough time."

"It's also not much time for us to find an apartment. Is it possible that you're rushing this decision, Ian?"

She was probably right. I did want to get my personal life squared away before September, before the big push to finish my thesis.

- "I can still see you just as often as you'd like - and we can have another conversation about our future whenever you want to. But I think that you need to consider a few more things before you decide - or before we decide." She was very rational, very level-headed about the whole thing.

It wasn't until the next day - about three hours after she'd left, that I realized what I'd missed. It was the 'We' part.

I was trying to make up my mind, to choose between two apparently irreconcilable things: do a Masters, or stay with Simran. As she rightly pointed out, going into teaching might be just the same choice - only a year later.

What she had hinted at, when she suggested that I was rushing the decision, was that I had missed a major part of the equation: her.

I wasn't giving Simran a choice.

That had to be rectified - immediately. I sent flowers to her office, with a small note that said 'Sorry - I'm a fool.' Then I called that evening, to ask her to meet me for a drink, the next night.

- "That sounds fine," she said, "but why are you a fool? What is it you're sorry about?"

- "I'll explain tomorrow." The extra day to think things over did nothing to change my mind. I just felt like more of an idiot.

I didn't want to take her to dinner - ordering and eating would be a distraction. I chose a quiet piano bar, on a night that there was no live music. It was only a few blocks from my place, so Simran drove, and parked her car in front of the apartment. We walked over to the bar.

- "Thank you for the flowers." she said.

- "I felt guilty." I said. I did not mention Diane's theory about men and flowers.

- "What?" said Simran. She stopped, suddenly, on the sidewalk. "What do you feel guilty about?"

- "Nothing serious." I said, quickly. "I'm just stupid. What I said the other night. Please, Sim - I'll explain when we get there. I don't want to have this conversation in front of the dry cleaners."

She looked suspicious, but she didn't create a scene. We got to the quiet little bar.

- "There's no piano player tonight." she said.

- "I know. That was deliberate. I didn't want any noise, or distractions."

Simran was definitely curious, but she was also patient - and discreet - two more qualities I admired about her.

We ordered a drink, which the waiter brought back with commendable promptness. I didn't keep Simran waiting any longer.

- "I'm sorry. I was stupid." I said. "You asked me if I'd considered the alternatives. I had. But only my alternatives. I never asked you what you want."

Simran smiled. She reached across the table and stroked the back of my hand.

- "I knew there was a reason I was going out with you." she said. "Funny. I always think 'My boyfriend is so smart' - and then you surprise me - and I think 'He's even smarter than I thought'.

- "I felt like an idiot." I said.

- "That's what I mean - you're very bright." she said, with a big smile.

- "I want to live with you, Simran." In my head, I could hear Neil Young singing it: "I wanna live with a cinnamon girl, I could be happy the rest of my life ..."

"I also want to do a PhD. You were right - that's what I want. But I'm afraid to choose that option, if it ends our relationship."

"So here's my question: what do you want?"

- "What are you afraid of, Ian? Why does choosing to do a Doctorate have to be the end of us?"

- "Because I don't know where I'll end up. It could be Toronto ... it could be anywhere."

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