Shapshot Conversation

"Why do you always cringe from me?"

She sighed and conciously moved, bringing her body out of the protective hunch she had put herself into.

"You always do that, every time."

"I know." Her voice was subdued, hesitant.


"Sometimes, Brad, it's not the things you say, but the way you say them."

"The way I say them?"

"Like it's my fault."

"It's not your fault, it rarely is. Why would you think that?"

She shrugged. "Habit, I suppose."

"You need to get some new habits, then." He sighed, annoyed. "You did it again."

This time she couldn't help but curl tighter into herself. She bit her lips together and looked away, down at the pristine white table cloth that covered the round table she sat at.

"Will you please stop that? You're going to give people the impression that I beat you up or something."

"Sorry." She still wouldn't meet his green eyes.

"You always assume the worst of things. Why is that?"

She shrugged, a fleeting, carefree smile crossing her lips. "So maybe I won't be disappointed?"

"Deeper than that. You have no confidence in yourself, do you?"

"Very rarely. The curse of artistry."

"More like the scourge known as high school. They tear you down, but give you know clue as to how to build yourself up again."

"I didn't have any problems in high school."

"You had more problems than I knew how to count. I watched you, Milly. You kept going further and further down the spiral, but you kept a smile on your face the whole while."

"Didn't want to worry anyone," she muttered into her teacup.

"You failed, honey. Big time. Half the school wondered if one day we were going to hear that you comitted suicide. We were practically walking on eggshells around you, hoping that you wouldn't crack under the slightest pressure."

She sighed again. "Sorry. Guess I'm a failure at that, too. Just like so many other things."

"You're not a failure."

The carefree smile flitted by again. "Keep telling me that. One day, I just might believe it."

"How can I make you believe it now?"

She shrugged and sighed through her nose. "I guess that one day, I'll have to learn to accept praise and critism with a balanced hand. But it's not looking like today will be the day."

He muttered something under his breath. She only caught the words "do" and "see." She slanted him a curious look, one that he brushed off with a negligent hand.

"We still worry about you," he finally said after a space of silence.

"Why? I'm nothing special."

"Friends are supposed to worry about each other."

"I don't know why you guys still consider yourselves to be my friends. I'm not good at this thing."

"Let us decide how well you are at this thing," he chastised gently. "Just don't do anything stupid, okay?"

She smiled, a small twist of her lips. "I already promised."

"I know, but I wanted to reiterate the fact that we don't want to see you hurt."

"Consider it reiterated."

"Good. Do me a favor?"

"I'll try."

"Do or do not. There is no try," he quoted.

She rolled her eyes.

He smiled. "Start believing in yourself."

She was silent for a long minute. "It's going to take some time."

"I'll wait."

"That sounds like a promise," she teased.

"Maybe it was."

She opened her mouth to say something, then promptly snapped it shut. "All right. I won't say anything bad about myself this time."

"I'm on a roll now."

She smiled fully then. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Keep up the good work."

He leaned back into the seat, folding his hands over his stomach. "And my work is so enjoyable, too."

She let the smile linger on her face and in her heart. "Finish your tea, Brad."