The door opened, I glanced in its direction which was pointless as all I could see was a wall. Then back at Edith which, given the recent revelation/admission/thingy that she was a telepathic vampire was probably a better way to get information. She seemed at ease.
Moments later Charlize entered the room. "Hi Ben," she said, then a moment later she added, "Edith."
"Hello Chief Swan," Edith said.
"That's a little... formal... for me. Especially off duty," Charlize said. "I'm 'Charlize' or 'Ben's mom' or 'Ms. Swan'."
"Ok Chie- Charlize," Edith said. It was different to see her stumble over her words. Humanizing in a way I suppose, even if she wasn't actually human. It brought a small smile to my face and I hoped she wouldn't read it as insulting. I wasn't sure whether it was insulting, I wasn't sure where it came from at all, but I definitely didn't want it to come off as insulting.
There was a moment's pause then Edith asked, "How could I address you as, 'Ben's mom,'?"
"With difficulty and circumlocution," Charlize said. "It works best when talking about me in third person."
Charlize sat down at the table. "Have you eaten yet?" she asked.
"That depends on which meal you mean," I said.
"So you didn't forget lunch."
I just gave her a look.
"I remember the time you forgot to eat regularly for-"
I gave her a different look.
She held up her hands in surrender. But she did get in a parting shot: "I'm allowed to worry." Which, she is. So a peaceable end to things. Helped by the fact that we both smiled at it.
"I have food allergies galore," Edith said. I'm still not sure whether that counts as true or a lie of omission, but it is an elegant away around the inevitable questions about why she doesn't eat. Anyway, she continued, "But don't let that stop you two from having dinner. I'm used to watching other people eat and it doesn't bother me in the least."
"What are you thinking?" Charlize asked me.
"I hadn't been, actually," I said.
"Lasagna." It was only a microwave away.
"What were you talking about?" Charlize asked as I got the lasagna, and she got drinks. Orange juice for me, milk for herself. I knew that she'd accept an appeal to privacy as an answer, I didn't know if Edith would know that --at first just because I assumed she wouldn't, then because I realized I didn't know nearly enough about the mechanics of mind reading-- and so I struggled to come up with a way to answer that would neither be suspicious nor a lie before Edith felt she had to answer. I failed.
Edith hit Charlize with the complete truth: "The potential geopolitical implications of the revelation that vampires are real."
"Oh," Charlize said. "I've always preferred to talk about mermaids."
Edith arched an eybrow and asked, "Mermaids?"
"Did you want something to drink?" Charlize asked.
Edith surprised me by saying, "Water is fine." I suppose it's just like very weak blood. Thus it shouldn't have been surprising that it was vampire-safe, but I had still been expecting an answer of, "No," because I'd basically assumed that nothing a human being might be expected to ingest would be ok for vampires.
Charlize passed Edith a glass of water and sat across from her. "What's wrong with mermaids?" she asked.
"There's nothing wrong with mermaids I just..." and then Edith seemed to run out of words, not something I was used to her doing. "There's nothing wrong with mermaids," she finished.
"70 percent of the Earth's surface is water, don't you think the revelation that that entire area was able to be inhabited by another form of humanity would have some effects?"
"I've never really thought about it," Edith said.
"Or, for that matter, just the revelation that there is another form of humanity. We've gotten pretty used to being alone."
"Well that seems like it would be the same for vampires," Edith said.
"Only if being a mermaid were something you could contract," Charlize said.
I returned to the table with heated lasagna and joined in what proved to be a very interesting conversation about the similarities and differences between the revelation of vampires and the revelation of mermaids. At no point did Charlize give any indication she suspected she was sitting across from the former, which makes sense because who would guess such a thing? Also Edith, once she got going, dived into the conversation from a purely theoretical standpoint so at no time was there reason for her lived-in experience of being a vampire to show through.
The conversation carried on passed the end of the food and eventually I ended it due to a powerful need to sleep. Edith took that as her cue to leave, and so the conversation broke there.
After Edith was out the door Charlize didn't ask me. I expected her to. I knew she was interested. I think maybe the extended conversation had made me forget that Charlize's standard setting was the same as my own: silent.
So since it was clear she wasn't going to ask I just told her: "It was a date, and it did go well."
For a moment she silently considered that, then she said, "That's good."
"If you're interested, we split the day in half. First half she showed me her kind of place: woodlands. Second half I showed her my kind of place: city."
"Are you going to--"
"I hope so, I expect to, but we don't have a date" and suddenly I hated that word because it forced me to use it in two different ways in seven words, so I sort of hung on it before I finished, "set up for a second date."
I turned to go to get ready for bed.
"I hope it works out for you," Charlize said. It was meant to be exactly what the words said, I could tell that much, but something else had crept into her voice and though it took me a few moments I figured out what it was.
The entire reason for my existence was a high school romance gone crap. I'd heard the lies and half truths from my father, of course, but the real details I didn't know. What I did know was that whatever happened it was enough that my mother hadn't stepped back into the dating waters in my entire lifetime.
Maybe that was ok with her, or maybe she was just burned that bad.
Clearly it was time to radically change the subject. I turned back. "I've been remiss," I said. Remiss. There was a word Edith would use. I don't think I'd ever heard her say it at that point and I still knew it would be an Edith word. "I haven't asked you about your day."
Tired as I was, it was worth hearing her talk about her fishing trip to hear that "something else" be vanquished from her voice.