As he was walking upstairs, through the dark floors of... well... his home, Reynie wasn' t sure, what he was hoping for. He wasn't sure, how to adress this topic. In short... Reynie wasn't sure, whether he wanted to see light in Mr Benedict's study or not.
If Mr Benedict was awake, they could play chess or talk, which would distract him from all those stupid thoughts. On the other hand... Mr Benedict would know, he had questions and eventually he would answer them.
„Come in“, said Mr Benedict's voice out of the dark room.
A candle was lit. He could see the reflections of the flame in the window panes.
„Just come in“, repeated Mr Benedict, „I must have tea and cookies somewhere... ah... well! Still warm. I was feeling like having a little picnic on the carpet and got distracted.“
Reynie smiled, entered the room and closed the door behind him. „Just as in the old times“, he remarked, while he tried to find an empty spot on the ground. The amount of books everywhere certainly had not changed during the last years. Finally he sat down between two large piles.
The tea tasted bittersweet. Mr Benedict had stirred some honey into it, just as Reynie liked it.
“So... I assume you have a question, don't you?”
“Well I – I'm sorry, sir, but I just don't quite know how to put it-”, said Reynie, who at the same time felt like he'd been in this situation too many and not enough times.
“I' ve made a few observations lately”, he added.
Mr Benedict smiled and waited, his warm green eyes just as honest as usually.
“Well... Milligan' s wife died a long time ago and Amma is alone, just as Number Two and Rhonda and...”
“Just like me?”, added Mr Benedict calmly.
“Yes sir – so I was wondering... If it even is possible to... find someone. I mean... romantically”
A small moment of silence.
It wasn't unbearable, but...
“I – of course... Sticky's parents are together but I'm not sure, if... their situation can be compared to ours” Reynie silenced himself, at once feeling guilty and scared.
Mr Benedict still didn't speak, so... “Since Sticky's girlfrind broke it off with him - you know, when he was twelve – nothing has happened in that way. I just wonder... If we even can be loved like that” Blinking, he looked to the flickering shadows on the ceiling.
“That is an interesting question Reynie” He heard the smile in Mr Benedicts voice, but also his sadness. “And I'm afraid, I can't simply answer with a clear yes or no. Of course, a good relationship should be based on respect and it is certainly possible to respect someone, who is different than oneself. We know that and I like to believe all of us respect each other. That's how we can be friends and family. Please remember many people are capable of that kind of respect. Some people however... aren't.”
Maybe, Mr Benedict was thinking of all of those people from the government, who hadn't listened to him for years.
“As you might guess, I didn't stay single because of them. I didn't want anyone to suffer because of me. My brother... My brother always meant danger and even without him... Narcolepsy is neither easily explained nor easily dealt with. Till today, I regret allowing Nuber Two to stay with me all the time. She always was a wonderful help... But alone the thought! … that she stayed alone to support me!”
Reynie did his best at looking calmingly.
If Mr Benedict still had had narcolepsy, he certainly would have fallen asleep immediately.
He heard him cry. The sobbing got more quiet and finally stopped.
“Sorry”, mumbled Mr Benedict, “Are you still there, Reynie?”
Reynie tried to calm himself down. “Yes... Yes of course.”
“Sorry again, my friend. I sometimes forget, how perceiving you are. From time to time I... I get the feeling, that the years of narcolepsy made me very bad at handling emotions.”
Reynie quickly stressed he understood.
“Well, what I actually wanted to say... Reynie. That we stay alone doesn't have to be a harsh reality. As a matter of fact, I am rather sure, that Rhonda is dating a charming physician. So, as you can see, romance is possible”
Reynie nodded slowly.
“Thank you. I'll think about it”
“To be completely honest.... I know, that this wasn't the question you actually had in mind.... So... Do you know the expression J'adoube? It might be usefull for your next game of chess and could also be applied to your situation. I am sure, you'll find out yourself. Whatever the truth may be – you won't be alone – we'll always be your family. ”
Mr Benedict put his cup on a high pile of books.
“How did you know...?” J'adoube... Indeed Reynie had heard of these words. They were spoken, when one wanted to adjust a chess piece, to signal, this wasn't one's move.
“Thank you”, repeated Reynie, before Mr Benedict could reply, “And... good night”
There was much to think of.
Slowly he left the room, turning back to the stair.
He would have to be quiet, if he didn't want to wake the others.
“Hey!” whispered Kate's voice. Reynie jumped. “What-?”
“It seemed to be a very good night, to go outside and be a stargazer”, explained Sticky, who seemed to be a little breathless, “There are some interesting constellations to be expected. Maybe we could see-” “It will be great fun”, said Kate, “And I also wanted to try climbing in the moonlight.”
“Kate”, said Reynie slowly, finally recovered from the shock, “Isn't that a bit dangerous?”
“The probability for an accident in the darkness, considering the light of the moon and....”, began Sticky, “... nevermind. It defenitely is a good night to go outside”
“Fine. But we also should try to wake Constance. She certainly wouldn't want to miss this”
The others agreed.
As they were walking through the dark corridors, Reynie couldn't help feeling relieved.
I am in love with one of my friends. Do you think it is possible, that this person has similar feelings towards me? This was the question. At least one of the bigger ones.
J'adoube had not been the answer he had expected. He would have to think about it later. For now he and his friends...
“Why didn't you wake me?” Constance was standing in front of her room, wearing one of Mr Benedicts old jackets and a pink Tshirt.
“We were on our way, my girl”, said Kate, while she failed at keeping up a serious expression.
“Ah. Okay. And who is this physician, Rhonda is dating?”, asked Constance sleepily.
I really should be more carefull with my thoughts, said Reynie to himself.