Except it wasn’t. His mother had lectured him enough on the subject. A woman didn’t have to say ‘no’ to mean ‘no’. Unless she was looking happy and having a good time you didn’t. So he didn’t. Which was awful. But as awful as all this was, he knew he’d feel worse if they’d carried on.

He kissed the top of Becca’s head. She sat up. Her eyes were red and her nose pink. She looked terrible, lonely. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “I guess I’m just really confused, you know. I don’t … I don’t know what I want right now.”

“Ya,” he said, trying to act like it was no big deal, but it was. He turned his back to her while he got dressed. He thought of that other girl back in Cape Town who no longer spoke to him. How he wouldn’t be surprised if Becca acted the same way. He would miss her. He would miss her a lot.

He couldn’t breathe.

She touched his shoulder. He turned. Part of him wondered if she was going to demand he walk the whole way back. She smiled at him shyly. He tried to do the same. Her arms wrapped around him while his own arms remained useless by his sides. Her head pressed against his shirt.

“Thank you,” she whispered. It felt nice. He brought his arms up, carefully placing them against her back. His head spun. “You still like me, right?” she asked into his chest.

“Right.” He was surprised to discover how much he meant it. Even though she was complicated, and confusing, and messed with his head.

She didn’t make him walk beside the horse. The ride was quiet. She kept her butt from moving so much. When they got to the barn he slid off and she followed after. He was going to go outside, give her space. But she stopped him with a touch of the hand. “You know,” she whispered, “any other guy would have just gone on and screwed me.”

He reached out and gave her waist a squeeze. “Maybe,” he said, “but then you wouldn’t have spoken to me again.”

“You might be right.”

“Then again, maybe you won’t want to talk to me tomorrow.”

She leaned in and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “No, we’re good. At least I hope we’re good. We good?”

“Ya,” he said, and pulled her closer. “We’re good.”


Tell us: Do people really do silly or reckless things to distract themselves from an emotional problem they are having? Is the relationship between Malcolm and Becca likely to build on a firm base now?