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“Got a ride in, I see.” Tony greeted me as I got off the elevator. I gave him a smile and nodded.
“Feeling better today?” he asked, following me down the hall to my office.
“So- who is that cute girl in the jeep?” he ventured, raising his eyebrows.
“Family friend- and you’re not to bother her.” I spun around and gave him a look to let him know that he wasn’t to pursue that issue any further. Throwing up his hands, he shrugged and left.

Work passed by slowly, as my mind kept drifting to other thoughts, all revolving around that young woman who had suddenly, out of nowhere, come into my life. Finally the clock granted my leave and I happily gathered up my things and exited.

She was waiting outside in the jeep, and gave me a smile. She had taken off the patch over her eye, and I could see an angry red line where she had been cut.
“That looks painful.”
“It’s a lesson to never fall on your car keys.”
“Speaking of cars, can you take me to get mine?” I asked, already certain of the answer.
“Anything for you, Vanessa Renee.”
“Really? Say that again.” I teased.
“No.” she smiled.

She cooked dinner again, and as much as I hated to admit it, her cooking was better than mine. I was determined to get some answers out of her, but somehow it seemed I always wound up answering her questions. About my boring job as a copy editor for the newspaper, how long I’d lived in Nafrece, and of course, my parents.
“Madlax. We still haven’t talked about how you know me.” I said, sipping my glass of wine. She had not wanted any, saying she preferred water.
She chewed slowly, finishing her mouthful with great care. “It has to be at the right place and time. Tomorrow might be better. It would be better.” she nodded, thinking. “Tomorrow evening I’ll make us a picnic dinner for the park.”
“Tomorrow- that’s Wednesday, isn’t it?” I drummed my fingers on the table, feeling like I had something to do, but couldn’t remember what it was.
“Mmmm.” Her mouth was full again.
“Oh! Now I remember. I’ve got that date with Thomasio.” I snapped my fingers as I remembered, then tried to imagine an outfit for the evening. “I guess we’ll have to wait till Thursday.”
“Date?” she made a small choking sound, snapping my train of thought.
“Well, sort of- it’s a strange arrangement. He runs the advertising section for our sister paper and drops in every few months. Actually, the first time was because my boss begged me to do it for him, but since then…well, he’s just a nice guy.” I finished lamely, watching the expression change on her face.
“I’m finished, how about you?” she asked, getting up and taking up her plate.
“Madlax…” I said to the retreating figure. Not feeling so hungry myself, I got up and took my plate in as well.
She was busily putting the dishes into the sink when I came in.
“Here.” I said, handing her my plate. She took it, but I suddenly refused to let it go. We both stood there, staring, holding the plate.
“So Thomasio- is not your lover.”
“What? Of course not. I barely see him.” I felt myself starting to blush, and let go of the plate.
She took the plate, turned and put it in the sink, then started to run the water, seeming to ignore me. I leaned on the counter so I could see her face.
“I guess you don’t go out on dates then. It’s just good to get out sometimes.” I tried to explain to her, then wondered why I was even making an effort. I was interrupted by her cell phone ringing. She answered it, soap dripping from her hands. I saw her back stiffen and the tone of her voice changed.
“I’ll be there in ten.” she snapped, then wiped her hands on her pants before putting the phone away.
“Goodbye for now, Vanessa Renee. I have a job to do.” she walked past me, headed for the door. I followed her, wondering what sort of job would call her suddenly in the evening.
“Where are you going?”
“To work.”she was hopping on one foot, putting her boots back on.
“When will you be back? Madlax?”
“Madlax!” Now I was getting angry, we were at the door and she had practically ignored me. She opened the door, turned and grinned at me.
“You’re mad because I’m leaving.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!”
“Then why are you following me?” her smile got bigger. I felt my mouth drop open, but no answer came out. She leaned in and closed my mouth with her hand, and briefly ran her hand over my cheek.
“I’ll be home soon.” with that, she gently pushed me back inside and slammed the door. I stood there, unable to believe what had just happened.
“So…so arrogant! So annoying!” I kicked the backpack she had left by the door. A few clothes spilled out of it onto the floor. I picked it up and threw it down the hall.
“And… presumptuous!”

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