Monday, 10 November 2014

His smile was pretty difficult to trust

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His smile was pretty difficult to trust. It was perfect. It always was. That wasn’t what she didn’t trust about it.
She had tried to analyse it and she had decided that it was because it didn’t ever quite reach his eyes. For months, he had watched her and smiled at her as she sat at her desk outside of the office until he was given permission to enter. But she knew, that, too was not heartfelt.
He did it so well and so often; it was as if it was a switch he didn’t know how to turn off.
She suspected that he was on autopilot because she was not a beautiful woman, and nobody flirted with her. Except him.
So, without strictly meaning to, she started to take more of an interest in him. Espionage was a dangerous game. The death rate was high. For a long time she had deliberately taken no interest in any of the agents. Just in case.
But he made the Section Head shout loudly enough to be heard from where she sat. It made her chuckle.
And as she read the field reports, she tracked him and she started to care about his welfare. He got the volatile regions. The areas that lacked everything from proper back-up to electricity and running water.
His record was ... well, it looked exemplary if you went by results only. He got the job done, but he cut corners, and he sacrificed contacts. He came back with the results, but his direct boss did not approve of his methods. He broke the rules.
Success in these areas merely ensured that he stayed there. Especially if people the Section Head thought of as more valuable were going to be risked to replace him.
The body count grew. The trail of broken women increased as well, and yet... he kept coming back. There he was smiling at her and flirting the way he always did. A new scar on his face making him look as dangerous as he clearly was.
Asked to complete a list of candidates for a very high risk job for the top department head, referred to only by a letter moniker, she added his name. She knew that the Section Head cared only for results. He should have been on it for his success rate alone and it was an oversight by her boss that she merely corrected. That was what she told herself. Perhaps she was more adept at lying than she had suspected. At least to herself.
He got the job, completed it and almost caused a full interagency war. The scientist he had extracted, under the most extreme of conditions, refused to talk to anyone else but him and that scientist was supposed to be handed over to the Americans. Now, he was indispensable.
When she got home that night her cat was waiting on the back step for her. “Who let you out?” she asked it.
On her bedside table was a box wrapped in pale blue tissue paper. Inside it was a bracelet. It was one of those ones where you added one bead, or charm, at a time. A plain silver band. Plain; like her. There was only one bead and it was a dark maroon that matched her favourite lipstick perfectly.
There was no card, but she knew who had left it.
The next day he was called in. He perched on the edge of her desk rather than sit on a chair. She tutted at him and tapped the back of his hand where a rather obvious and brand new cat scratch resided. He tapped her new bracelet where it lay around her wrist.
She smiled at him.
He smiled back at her and it took her breath away. It reached his eyes.
She realised that it wasn’t that his smile was difficult to trust, it was that he was.
You had to earn it.

© AM Gray 2014

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