“If I tell you something, do you promise me that you won’t think of it as overly creepy?”
Mara raised an eyebrow as she glanced over the kitchen island at her brother. “Well, that depends. Is it overly creepy?
“Only if you look at it that way,” Andy answered unhelpfully.
Mara reached out and patted Andy’s hand gently. “Okay, Andy, I will try very hard to not jump to the creepiest conclusion. Tell me your story.”
“He watches you when you walk home. After your tutoring sessions, when you’re walking home along after dark. As long as it’s not in the middle of an actual maneuver, he excuses himself and makes sure you get home safely. He knows you are too stubborn to accept actual protection, and you’ll never give up on those evening sessions. So he just makes sure you get home. Creepy?”
Mara set down the spoon carefully. “He does know I can take care of myself, right? He remembers that I went through more training then he ever has, yeah?” Try as she might, Mara couldn’t help but keep a little indignation out of the edge of her voice.
“He knows. And Ava knows. And Diane knows. None of us believe that he thinks he’s actually protecting you. We know that he just wants to see you—and he needs to give himself an excuse to do that. But, I figured I’d let you know. He still cares for you, Mars, and he can’t let himself care. So, he ‘Protects’ you.” Andy paused for a second and held out his hand towards Mara’s across the counter half-heartedly before letting it fall to his side. “Are you mad at me?”
“No—I’m not.” And she was surprised to find that it was true.
“Are you mad at him?”
Mara gave her brother a small smile and started cooking again. “No—I kind of want to be—but no, I’m not mad at him.”
“Do you want me to tell you these things? Or do you just want me to stop mentioning him altogether?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know.” She paused for a second then switched over to chopping up carrots. “I should be mad at him. At you. At everyone—for the implication that I can’t take care of myself. For following me without my consent. For reminding me that I still love him and I can’t see him. But I can’t make myself mad. I guess—here’s what we’ll settle for. Kindly remind Colin that I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Tell him that if he wants to walk me home, and I not opposed to such, but he should walk with me like a sane person rather than stalking me like a creepy demon in the night. If he can’t handle that, then he cannot follow me. If I find that he still is following me—then I will be angry, very angry. You think you can relay that message for me?”
“I think I can.” Andy smiled, “I always liked you two together.” He teased, leaning across the counter like this was just a basic gossip. Like she didn’t have her own personal Batman stalking her in the night. “He’s going to kill me for telling you, you know?”
“Well, remind him that every girl has the right to know about her stalkers, no matter how kind-hearted their intents.”
“Fair enough.” Andy stole a piece of carrot and popped it into his mouth. “I love you, Mars.”
“Love you too, An.” She turned to put something in the oven, and with her back still towards him asked, “Do you think he’ll actually do it? Show up and walk me home, I mean?”
Andy took a slow breath before answering. “I don’t know if this is what you want to hear, but I know he’ll want to. I don’t know if he will. In fact, I don’t know if he can. But I know that he’ll want to.”
Mara turned back to face Andy and gave him a sad smile. “I don’t know if he can, either, but for what it’s worth—I want him to, too.”