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Max’s line rang a few times, more often than usual. He must be busy with his own activities. That was good. Sauce for the goose and all that. Though she could hardly help wondering what he was doing, and if he was doing it with people she knew or with new people.
“Thea!” He still answered by almost shouting her name, that special joyous lilt in his voice.
These calls had a routine, by now. They took turns telling the other about what they’d done that day. Did he ever tailor, or even censor, his accounts? Had she been doing the same, without altogether realizing it?
Thea listened to Max’s account of yet another pitch session, one that didn’t sound likely to lead to a job, and of the neighborhood cookout at which he’d proudly taken charge of the grill. The most surprising news: he’d started taking surfing lessons. He’d always declined her offers to teach him, saying he’d rather watch and sketch her instead. Damn—she’d have liked to be his teacher. “So who’s teaching you?”
He looked faintly uncomfortable as he responded, “Just one of the neighbors. No one you’ve met. They moved in later.”
She noted the pronoun with amusement. Max tended to use gender-specific pronouns, probably because he was old-fashioned straight in his preferences and couldn’t help noticing gender before many other characteristics. So the neighbor was probably female and cute. The time might be coming to discuss how they should deal with their sexual needs in the future.
But this woman had better be careful about Max’s safety! “Gotten hit in the head with the board yet? Or thought you were drowning?”
Max chuckled. “Yes to the first, no to the second. It’s all good, except the water’s still a little cold. I tried on your wetsuit, but it’s too loose. No matter. Now your turn. What have you been up to?”
“Well, I just came back from another meeting. We’re taking a break from the new-community development and preparing for the next elections. We each took an elected position or a likely ballot issue and talked about the options we expect to have. It’s something of a waste of time, I suppose, since we don’t actually know what the options will be. But I presented the issue of raising local taxes to fund public support for artists.”
Max um-hummed along as she spoke. When she paused, he threw in, “That’s a subject you already know inside out. If you want to follow up, I can send you the letter you wrote last year, explaining why artists shouldn’t depend on public funding. You could bring it to the next meeting, or distribute it beforehand.”
Thea sat back, stunned. Max had been looking to one side, no doubt searching for this supposed letter on a split screen, but her continued silence made him glance back at her. “What’s wrong?”
“Hon . . . are you sure that’s what I said? Could you be misremembering it?”
“I don’t think so. I remember because you got interested in something political for a change. And because you made your point so well. There were a bunch of comments about that. You changed some minds. . . . Here it is! I’m sending it now.”
Thea waited, holding her breath, until her mail program pinged a moment later. She skimmed the message, then read it again, her heart pounding. “You’re right. That’s what I said. And I sounded very sure of my ground. So why don’t I remember?”
And why had she been so casually and confidently presenting the opposite position?