Awkward (work in progress)

“Thanks.” She extends her hand. 

“Sure.” We shake. 

Her expression changes to alarm. She is looking past me. I turn my head. Richard is there. His arms are folded.

Stephanie asks, “What?” 

Richard nods. “Hello, Joseph.” 

I return the greeting. 

He shrugs. “What are you doing?”

She frowns and then notices our handshake. “I’m just thanking him.” 

“For what?”

“That stuff Zack brought over, Joseph was good enough to help me put it away.”

“That’s nice of you, Joseph. You can go now.”

I start to walk but Stephanie is still holding on. 

She says, “You don’t have to leave.”

He says, “We have things to discuss.”

“Just a split second after I thank Joseph for helping me, you walk in.” 

“You say that but you’re holding his hand.”

“I’m shaking his hand.” 

“Okay. Now, let go.”

I try to let go but she tightens her grip. 

She says, “You’re not the boss of me. I can thank someone without you getting all strange.” 

He says, “It’s strange what you’re doing. Let go of him.”

“If I want to shake his hand, that’s what I’ll do. Thank you Joseph.” She employs fast up and down movements. 

I say, “I don’t want to be in the middle of anything. I should go.”

“Richard won’t do anything as long as you’re here.”

He says, “That’s enough.”

She sighs. “I’ve had it. I’m not putting up with it, anymore. Today’s the last day. No more mind games. No more threats or jealous bullshit.” 

He shrugs. “Who’s doing the mind games now? I come home and see you touching our neighbor and you’re still touching him.”

“If I want to shake his hand all day, that’s when I’m going to do.”

I say, “I didn’t know any of this was going to happen.”

She says, “You don’t have to explain yourself. We should leave. Let him stay angry in an empty room.”

She walks towards the door. Richard moves out of the way, almost apologetically. As he looks at me, his eyes seem less aggressive and more nervous, is if my presence prevents him from reacting another way. She and I walk outside, her pulling me with a firm grip.

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