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It's Not Like That

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                It’s not like that.

                That’s what Eliot had told Sophie, but his thoughts turned after they’d parted. Sophie was an expert at reading people, and Eliot didn’t doubt that she knew most people better than they knew themselves. And the more Eliot thought about it, the more he was forced to confront that there was something he was missing.

                Making up his mind, he texted Maria, not to ask her to arrest him, but to invite her to have coffee.

                It was a lovely Louisiana day as they met outside the café, sipped their coffees, and nibbled at the snacks they’d gotten.

                “There’s something I need to tell you,” Eliot started bluntly.

                “Who you work for?” Maria cajoled.

                “No, not that,” Eliot said. “I’m in a polya- a poly- I’m with two people.”

                “Oh. Open or closed?”

                “What?”

                “Are you letting me down or asking me out?” Maria asked patiently.

                Eliot thought back to when he, Parker, and Hardison had all moved in together.

                “Are we all cool with this relationship being open?” Hardison had asked while they were unpacking boxes.

                “Sure,” Parker had said, her words muffled by the fact that the top half of her body had been dipped down inside a large box.

                “Fine,” Eliot had said, although he hadn’t understood the terminology. Now it clicked into place. None of them had had other partners previously, but they were open.

                “Open,” Eliot said, dodging the actual question Maria had asked.

                “Tell me about them,” Maria said.

                Eliot smiled as he spoke, “Parker’s a lot, but you love her for that. And Hardison’s brilliant and warm and-“ He paused. “He’s working out of a town right now.”

                “That must be hard,” Maria said.

                “Yeah,” Eliot admitted. “Parker and Hardison are making it work. They have this amazing bond. They’re like onions and bell peppers.”

                “But it’s not a Holy Trinity,” Maria said. Whenever her mom cooked, there were three ingredients that were always there: onions, bell peppers, and celery. That was the Holy Trinity of cooking, at least in Louisiana. “You’re lonely.”

                “Yeah,” Eliot admitted. He avoided looking directly at her; Eliot had never been good at Feelings.

                “And you want me to be your Pope,” Maria said. That was what it was called when garlic was added to the Holy Trinity for a dish.

                Eliot nodded. He set his hand on the table, and Maria put hers on top of his.