Ean turned around, hoping he was wrong. Unfortunately for him he wasn’t: Rachel was there, mouth slightly open and expression aghast as she processed everything she’d overheard. Which – just to turn the screws on awkward – I reminded Ean had included his speculation that she might be a bit on the crazy-stalker side of the sanity line.
"So…" Ean said. "I’d like to go ahead and apologize for anything that might have offended you in anything you just overheard, okay?"
Rachel shut her mouth. She bit her lip while she put together a reply, and then she sat down on the edge of Ean’s desk – legs crossed – to deliver it. Ean swallowed and jerked his eyes back up to her face.
"Don’t worry," Rachel said calmly. "I talk to myself sometimes, too. It’s easy to blurt out all kinds of stuff when you’re processing things."
Ean sighed in relief, and Rachel smiled wanly.
"Here’s the thing," Rachel said. "There is stuff going on – in my head – that you haven’t known about. I’m not good with people. Most of my friends are on the internet. And I’m mostly okay with that. Except… when my last job let me go – the recession, you know? – I found out that my ex was sleeping around behind my back, because when I got home I found him in the shower and one of his floozies still in my bed. So when I saw you and that girl kissing… I over reacted. But I’m hoping that now that you know what was going on, you can perhaps forgive me." She frowned. "And I can do better about it going forward."
Ean, wisely, kept his mouth shut and nodded.
Rachel let out a breath. "Good," she said. "Thank you." She straightened and put the mail she was holding aside.
"Now," Rachel said, "How about a do over? I know your life is hectic – I heard. But I’m not looking for something serious. Every time I’ve thought I was getting into a serious relationship it has ended epically badly. And that’s what went wrong when I slapped you – I was still in ‘serious’ mode; reacting like I was still in my last relationship. But you’re right: we’ve just met. And frankly, all I want after what I’ve been through is someone I can hang out with and have fun with; maybe do some date-ish stuff to get used to being out there again, who makes me feel attractive but doesn’t creep me out. And who will let me know if my issues are getting away with me."
Rachel smiled, and it was one of the most stunningly beautiful things Ean had ever seen. "How about it," she asked. "You have stuff you don’t want me mixed up with – well, I have stuff I have to work through, too. But for the time in between all of that: Want to try and have something relaxed, and casual, and just… fun?"