Lip and Annie Ch. 07byjake60©
Angus managed to maintain a straight face for several seconds while he watched Robert's face turn white. That mission accomplished, he quickly added, laughing as he did so, "I'm just having fun with you, Robert. Annie is a big girl now, and she makes those decisions on her own."
"She has told us a lot about you, and just how good you have been to her. She also explained that the room will have two double beds."
Robert was immediately put at ease by the older man's words, and he quickly said, "I'm glad she explained that to you. Annie and I are good friends, and I wouldn't want you to think that I would ever take advantage of her friendship. I really enjoy having her as my friend, and I would never jeopardize that."
Annie had heard her father's laughter and was on her way back to the living room to warn Robert about his offbeat sense of humor when she heard Robert's reply. His words took the smile from her face, and instead of joining the two men, she turned and quietly walked back to the kitchen, a troubled look now on her face.
In the living room Angus and Robert had turned their conversation to Holdem Poker, a game which Annie's father also enjoyed. He limited his exposure to the game to some of the free poker websites available on the Internet. He was emphatic when he stated that Annie hadn't inherited her skill at the tables from him, as he found it exceedingly difficult to build up his stack of free chips at the fun poker websites he visited on occasion.
The two men then moved on to fishing stories, a subject that they both felt comfortable with. It's a well-known fact that two men who enjoy fishing can spend a lot of time discussing their favorite equipment, fishing holes, and the ones that got away. They were still on the subject 10 minutes later when Annie came to get them for lunch.
It seemed to Robert that Annie was a little more subdued than she had been, but that impression faded as the four of them engaged in small talk while they enjoyed lunch together.
By 1:30 in the afternoon lunch had been finished and Robert had received his tour of Annie's house. It was an older home with a lot of character, and she was effusive in her praise for her father and the help he had given her in renovating the home.
Angus made it very clear that the work he had done had been an enjoyment for him, and certainly hadn't been something he had felt compelled to do. He explained how his love of working with his hands had meshed with Annie's desire to restore her home to its former glory.
Later, after the two women had gone back upstairs to get Annie's suitcase, Angus explained to Robert that he and Louise had spent almost 2 years living with Annie after her attack, after deciding to take early retirement so that they could look after her. It was then that he had had the time to do the extensive work on her house.
Angus left him with the distinct impression that without their support and presence, and the wonderful skills of Dr. Maier, Annie's recovery would have been slow, and perhaps even unsuccessful.
Robert was left with the uneasy feeling that Annie's descriptions of her ordeal and its aftermath were perhaps more incomplete and consequential than she had let on. He now had something new to contemplate.
As they were getting ready to leave, Annie mentioned that her parents would be spending Friday night and most of Saturday in Duluth. After hearing that, Robert suggested that perhaps they should meet him and Annie at the Grand Casino Hinckley for supper as they drove through on their way back to Minneapolis.
Angus immediately said, "That's a great idea, Robert. How about we plan that we'll meet you at the restaurant at 6 p.m. Would that work for you two?"
After only a moment's hesitation Annie replied for the two of them when she said, "I'm sure that will be fine. We usually stop for supper somewhere around that time, anyway." Once Robert voiced his confirmation, everything was settled for the next night.
Within another 15 minutes Annie had joined Robert in his pickup and the two of them drove away after exchanging waves with her parents. The hour and a half it took them to get to the casino timed things just about perfectly, as Robert was able to check them in shortly after the 3 p.m. check-in time.
Their drive had been leisurely and they had spent the time driving discussing their tastes in music. It wasn't a subject they had really covered before, and they were both surprised to realize they had been at the same rock concert in Minneapolis during their university days.
There had been a number of gaps in their conversation as each of them considered things they had heard while they were at Annie's home. Each noticed that the other was being quite introspective, and both of them assigned their own reasons for these observations; reasons that were all wildly off the mark.
It didn't take them long to settle into their room. There was a certain amount of awkwardness as they divided the territory, each of them staking a claim to one end of the bathroom vanity for their toiletries and personal items. They each took one end of the single closet, and then shared the drawers in the cabinet below the big-screen TV.
"Well, Annie, I think this is going to work out quite well. Just be sure to let me know if I step over a boundary somewhere. Don't forget that I've never shared a room with a woman before, and my etiquette may be a little off." Robert laughed a bit after saying this, but Annie quickly assured him that she would let him know if she needed more space.
"If you don't mind, Robert, I'm going to change into a tracksuit that I just got. I'm going to go down to the fitness center, and if it isn't crowded I may use their treadmill and elliptical trainer, if they have one. With my parents visiting, I haven't been able to keep up with my routine."
She gave a nervous laugh before she said, "This will be the first time I've used a public center in years, so if I end up back here in the next few minutes you'll know that I chickened out."
Robert smiled to give her encouragement before saying, "I'm sure you'll be fine, Annie. You are far from being the woman I first met here last fall. I hope you still have your Taser in your purse, if you feel more comfortable with it, but I've noticed that you never keep your hand on it the way you did the first day we met."
"I'll bet you that the gym will present no problem to you. I need to do about an hour of work for one of my old clients, so that should work out just about right."
Annie gave him a nervous smile as she walked to the door. "Thank you for the positive reinforcement, Robert. Dr. Maier says that it seems you say the right thing just when I need it."
Before he turned on his laptop, Robert sat in contemplation about Annie's situation, wondering if beneath the calm surface there was a relapse pending. He certainly couldn't see the signs of anything, but he did feel that he didn't know everything that he'd probably need to know to be certain of that.
He wondered if Dr. Maier would speak with him, if he were to call her. He doubted that she would say anything helpful to him, because doctor's privilege would surely prevent it.
Realizing that there wasn't much that he could gain by just thinking about the situation, he booted up his laptop and soon lost himself in the job at hand.
A little over an hour after she had left, Annie returned to their room. Robert had just finished freshening up for supper, his commitment to his business complete.
"Wow, Annie! You look like you put in a pretty good workout." Her hair was unkempt, and a few straggling hairs were stuck to her forehead. When she turned around to close the door he could see that a dark sweat stain was evident between her shoulder blades.
She was carrying a towel she had evidently brought from the fitness center and used it to wipe her face before answering. "I haven't been in a real center for so long that I think I got carried away trying the different equipment they had there. I don't think I'll ever be satisfied with the little fitness center in my basement again."
She laughed nervously before continuing, "I don't think I've ever looked this bedraggled in front of you before. Please try not to remember me this way," she asked.
"I'm just glad to see that you were able to manage so well. I was sure you could do it if you gave yourself a chance." Robert watched as she selected some fresh clothing from her drawers and the closet before turning towards the bathroom.
"I'll be a few minutes getting showered and making myself presentable again." She took a couple of steps before adding, "I don't want you do take it personally, but I'll be locking the door. It's not that I distrust you, or that I'm a prude, but I'm still not ready to have anyone other than my doctor see my scars."
She gave him a nervous smile before continuing into the bathroom and closing the door. He could distinctly hear the click of the lock.
The two of them went for supper before heading to the poker tables. In an unplanned bit of nostalgia, they were able to return to the booth that they had used when they had their first meal together.
"I almost think we should get them to put little plaque on the wall here. Something that says 'Robert and Annie's Favorite Booth' would seem almost appropriate, don't you think?" Robert was grinning at her when he finished saying that.
Annie had a whimsical smile on her face when she replied, "I don't think they would go for that, Robert. I'm sure the management would frown on us personalizing our favorite booth that way."
There was something Robert couldn't really put his finger on, but he sensed that Annie still wasn't her usual self. It bothered him a little, because he had grown accustomed to her cheerfulness once she had broken out of her shell that night that she had shown him her arms. It wasn't the time or place to be asking her about what was bothering her, but he knew that he would have to broach the subject at some point.
For true old time's sake, they each had prime rib, followed by a shared bread pudding for dessert. They didn't sit around for long after their meal was finished, but instead they headed towards the poker room, ready to go head-to-head with their competition for the night.
They weren't able to get seats at the same table, but did agree to leave together at around midnight, or possibly a little later if one of them was having better than normal luck.
Perhaps it was the poker gods, or maybe it was that neither of them was able to concentrate fully on their cards, but when they met at midnight neither of them had done exceptionally well. Robert was only a few dollars short of breaking even, and Annie was ahead by not quite $50.
"I sure hope we do better tomorrow, Annie." Robert was walking along beside her as they headed to the elevators. Neither of them seemed to be their usual self.
Annie laughed wryly and said, "You have that right, Robert. I just didn't seem to have it tonight. I let a couple of good hands get away from me. There's always tomorrow..."
"Thank goodness for that. I just worry I've used up all my good luck." He didn't continue with an explanation of why he had said that, or what he meant.
They were on the way up to the fourth floor when Annie asked him, "What good luck do you think you may have used up? I wouldn't have thought that you considered poker a game of luck." She looked at him while waiting for an answer.
Robert gave her a quiet smile and said, "I'll explain when I get to the room." This statement left her wondering, and she glanced at him quickly, but it was obvious that he didn't intend to carry on now with an explanation.
He picked up a couple of cans of 7Up along with some ice on their way to their room, and poured them each a glass before inviting Annie to sit in the chair beside him at his laptop.
"I want to show you something, Annie." With a couple of clicks of his mouse, he called up an image of a certificate. He leaned back to let her see it clearly and said, "Read that. I kept it as a surprise until now."
Not having had an opportunity to look at it before or be told what it was, Annie soon said, "You won $10,000? Wow! That's great! How did you do that?"
"I didn't actually win $10,000. Read this part again." He pointed with his finger to the second paragraph.
"Oh! You won a $10,000 entry into a poker tournament!" She reread the whole message again, and then summed it up by saying, "So you won an entry into the World Series of Poker, plus $1000 spending money. That's absolutely wonderful! Congratulations!"
Robert couldn't help but smile broadly as he said, "It's in Las Vegas in July, and all I have to do is book a room and my flights. I can't get the $10,000 in cash; I can only claim the prize by entering the tournament."
He hesitated before continuing, "I've been wondering if you might be able to take a week or two off in July to go there with me. It could be a vacation as well as a tournament. I don't have any illusions about winning the bracelet, but it could be a good time."
Annie was obviously excited as she considered Robert's suggestion. It didn't take her long to say, "I would love to go with you, but are you sure about this? Are you sure you wouldn't want to take one of your friends from Thunder Bay? Someone like Fred, perhaps?"
"There's no one I would rather take than you, Annie. I'm only concerned about whether it would be a strain on you, spending a week in Las Vegas with me. Do you think you would want to talk to Dr. Maier first? I don't want to make you commit yourself to a trip like this without thinking about it."
Annie thought for a minute before saying, "Maybe you're right. Let me think about it." She got up and took her pajamas from the drawer before leaving for the bathroom to change for the night. Once again he heard the click of the latch as she locked the door.
Robert was a little confused by her reaction. From immediate excitement to sudden introspection seemed like an unusual switch for her to make. He was still thinking about this, and the questions he had been bothered by since speaking to her father early that afternoon, when she returned from the bathroom in her pajamas. Robert wordlessly exchanged places with her when he entered the bathroom to change for bed.
He didn't expect her to disturb him in the bathroom, and didn't even worry that the door wasn't fully closed. In less than a minute he was back into the now darkened sleeping area and had crawled into his bed.
A moment later he answered, "Goodnight, Annie. Have a good sleep."
There was very little light in the room, as Robert had made sure the blackout drapes were fully closed, something he did whenever he stayed at the casino. The morning light would usually wake him up, and since a lot of his nights at the casino used to end well after midnight, he had become accustomed to making sure the heavy set of drapes were closed.
Neither of them could see the other as they lay there, each of them thinking about their day and the unanswered questions each of them had.
At least five minutes passed before an errant sound caught Robert's attention. He was certain that it sounded like a suppressed sniffle, and he wondered if Annie was upset.
"Are you okay, Annie? Is sharing this room with me upsetting you? I know this is a major step for you, and if it's a big problem, I could call down to the desk and see if there is another room available that I could move to."
Annie replied quickly, her voice heavy with emotion as she said, "No, Robert! I'm just upset about something. I'm okay with being here in the room with you; that's not the problem."
Robert hesitated a moment before asking, "What is it, Annie? Share it with me, please. Maybe I can help somehow."
He waited another few moments and when Annie didn't answer he continued, "I really want you to tell me what it is that's bothering you. I've noticed all day that you've been out of sorts, not the happy Annie that I've grown accustomed to." He tried to be lighthearted with his last comment, hoping to elicit something similar from Annie in reply.
Her answer came back in the form of a question when she said, "I've noticed that you've been pretty withdrawn at times today, too. Maybe... could you... explain to me why you seem to have changed?"
She gave a short laugh, and it was obvious that it was a strain for her to feign amusement. It was clear that she was still upset, and it seemed to Robert the she was close to a major cry.
Robert wasn't sure if he should tell her about his concerns, but he finally decided that perhaps if he was honest with her, she would answer in kind.
"Yes, I have been a bit more tied up with my thoughts that I would usually be. Something your father said not long before we left has been on my mind all day. From what he told me, it is clear that you were in a much worse.... mental state after you got out of hospital, than you indicated to me."
"He told me they were very concerned that you might never recover, and implied that there were still many things you hadn't told anyone about. I'm concerned that, because you haven't told me about a lot of what happened to you, you're keeping too much inside yourself, and I'm afraid that not talking about it is going to eventually make things a lot worse for you."
His words had come from the heart, and he realized that because of the emotional content he added to the words he had failed to control his speech, and the nasal sound was becoming obvious.
He took a few seconds to regain control of his voice before continuing, "I really... care about you, Annie, and I'm upset and concerned that you haven't been able to get past a few of these things that are bothering you so much."
Robert stopped speaking now, waiting to see whether Annie would reply. He could hear an occasional sniffle and he knew that she was still upset.
Time progressed slowly until about a minute later Annie said, "There are things I haven't told you, things that I want to talk about, but I'm afraid of what you'll think of me. To stay alive I had to do... things, and put up... with things, but I find them just about impossible to talk about."
Robert thought about this for a few moments before saying, "Well, if you want to wait a bit longer before you talk to me about that, why don't you explain what's been bothering you? Is it the same thing that I've been worried about?"
There was no delay this time, and she promptly replied, "No, Robert. What's been bothering me has nothing to do with.... the things that happened to me."
She did pause before continuing, "There was something you said to my father that is bothering me. It's bothering me more than I can really understand."
"I heard you tell my father that I am a friend of yours. We've never talked about it, but I had hoped I was more than just an ordinary friend to you. I.... feel you are... more than a simple friend. I've been developing feelings for you that go beyond friendship, and I had hoped you felt the same way."
The strain of admitting these feelings to Robert weighed heavily on her, and Annie began to cry gently.
To say that Robert was amazed would be a gross understatement. He was shocked, and he quickly said, "I only described you as a friend... because I was afraid.... that was all I could ever be to you. I've never had these types of feelings for a woman, and I didn't want to admit to anyone that I feel you are more than a friend, no, much more than a friend to me."
"I'm sorry if I hurt you with my words; I couldn't bring myself to tell your father how I really feel about you, especially since I have never told you how I feel."