Book Three of the DPA Declassified Files: Iteration
Lysandra watched the steam from her coffee swirl in the afternoon sunlight. Her mind turned over all the possible explanations for the consistent smell of boiled cabbage that permeated the tiny cafe.
“So...” Matt sat down across from her with his usual glass of whole milk and a warmed chocolate chip cookie.
The Formica table they sat at looked like it had been stolen from a fifties drive-in dinner. The small mom and pop type shop was directly across the street from the Department of Planetary Affairs building. When the DPA had fist moved into the neighborhood people were alarmed by their presence. The imposing uniforms with classified weapons and an association with the government intelligence and the mystique of dealing with aliens unnerved people.
Lysandra imagined this must be what it’s like to be a cop, a strangely contradictory position for her. The nervous looks and the way people moved out of the way for them wherever they went. She had never liked giving the authorities deference and she certainly did not like receiving it.
But now after months, the area workers and residents had gotten used to them and the interactions with public were usually positive. Putting names and faces with mysterious members of the DPA really helped people feel more comfortable with their presence. Most officers had gotten used to the impromptu question and answer sessions citizens asked them. Commander Draegg had been very pleased with this turn of events.
Matt cleared his throat.
“Sorry,” Lysandra shook herself and took a sip from her coffee. “What were we talking about?”
“We weren’t. You’ve been suspiciously quiet all day.”
“What’s suspicious about it? You’re the one who usually does all of the talking anyway.”
“Not all of it. And yes, I have always been more talkative than you, but today it’s like you’re not even here.”
“Sorry, I’m distracted.”
“Uh, I wouldn’t call staying out all night nothing.”
Lysandra could feel the heat in her cheeks. She was not going to be discussing her sex life Matt of all people. The thought made her cringe. How many people knew she had been off the premises all night? Did it matter? She had never cared what people thought about her before, but it could make for awkward working relationships.
“Edward Drake asked me to marry him.”
Matt gagged on his milk and started coughing violently. Lysandra jumped up from her chair and got him a cup of water. She patted him on the back until he regained his composure. “Are you being serious?”
Lysandra nodded solemnly.
“What did you say?”
“What any sane person would say, ‘we’re not going to talk about this.’”
“Uh- huh.” Matt turned in his chair to sit square with the table and held his milk at arm’s length, silent and unmoving.
“Speaking of which, how was your date?”
“Not yet, no changing the subject on me.” He relaxed again and looked at her. “So what are you going to do?”
“Do? There’s nothing to do.”
“Well you have to give him an answer.”
“No I don’t. Where’s the rule on that?”
“Lysandra. Come one. The guy is—“
“Is what, Matt? Being vulnerable with me? Going out on limb? Exposing his soul? What are you going for here, buddy?”
“Okay, sarcasm is your defense mechanism. So for whatever reason, this is hitting a raw nerve. But yeah, all those things. This is some serious stuff.”
“Okay. Now you and me are not going to talk about it.”
“Hey, woman, you’re the one who brought it up with me.”
“True. But only because you’re supposed to agree with me. You’re my friend, on my side, partner.”
“Friends don’t let friends act stupid unless it will be hysterical.”
“I. Am not Derek.” Lysandra tapped the table with each word. “So you do not get to make jokes at my expense.”
“I’m just being honest. I don’t like the guy but I think he’s good for you.”
“Why don’t you like him?”
“For all the same reasons you shouldn’t like him either.”
Esben was the Elbie, not the man. Esben had been the worst of them all and caused all of them the most suffering. Edward, as a host, had not come onto the scene until well after the damage had been done. Being allied with the worst Elbie of them all did not help his case in the eyes of Matt and his friends.
“You mean you don’t like his Elbie.”
“I don’t like either of them, but as a host Edward has really tamed that Elbie and I’m sure the world is a better place for it, even though he refuses to register or cooperate directly with us.”
Lysandra drew doodles in her cup sleeve with her thumb nail. Edward and Esben were very distinct entities that happened to work really well together.
Lysandra looked up. “What?”
“I said, you are smiling.”
“Shut up.” She sat up in her chair and took another sip of coffee. Matt broke off pieces of his cookie, looking at her. “Fine, Matthew. I’ll think about it.”
“There ya go.” He gulped down his milk in triumph.