"You told her yet?"
"No." Troy Garcia looked at his friend. "And don't you tell her, either."
Reed Delaney held his hands up. "Not like I was going to. I'm your sponsor and your friend, but I'm not your mom."
Troy stared at his half-eaten slice of pizza. "I'm gonna tell her."
"I don't know. Soon."
Reed ran a hand over his buzz cut. "That's a little on the vague side."
"Got any suggestions?" Troy glared across the table.
"Oh, for fuck's sake, man. The waiting is going to be worse than telling her. Just tell her."
"I know, I know." Troy sighed and slumped back in his chair. "I just don't know what she's going to say."
"That's no excuse," Reed said. "Troy, that girl loves you and you love her. You tell her this, you just be honest, maybe give her a little time if she needs it, and it'll work out."
"So you say."
"Look, I've been where you are. You know you can't keep this a secret, not if you're looking at a future with her."
"It's the future I'm worried about," Troy said. "We might not have one after I tell her.
"It isn't as bad as you make it out to be, and you know it. I swear to God, man, I think you like the drama."
"Are you a fucking psychiatrist now?"
Reed sighed. "Troy, give it up. You made a mistake once, you paid for it, and it's done. Sylvia isn't going to hold it against you. At least, not if you're honest with her about it."
"Maybe I don't deserve her, anyway."
"Oh, for Christ's sake." Reed studied the check, laid some bills on the table and stood. "Come on, time to go home." They stepped out into the warm night. "You're a lucky bastard, with Sylvia out visiting her sister. You can sulk for a while, then tell her when she comes back."
"Sir, yes, sir."
Reed smacked the back of Troy's head. "Knock it off, dumbass."
The apartment was quiet and empty. Troy blinked and grumbled as the kitchen light assaulted his eyes. Now he had a headache.
He wished Sylvia was there. She was good about giving him space, but also knew when he needed some company. She never asked what he did when he was out with Reed; when he came home she would just smile up at him, her hazel eyes sparkling, and ask if he'd had a good time.
Bored and not quite ready to go to bed, he went to his desk and logged into his computer. After a perfunctory email check, he opened his browser and went to a porn site. He scrolled through the options and clicked on the first clip to pique his interest.
He couldn't help but feel a little guilty; he knew Sylvia didn't like him watching porn. She'd found him doing it once and had been very upset. It had taken some time to assure her that it had nothing to do with her, that he didn't want her to be like those women, and he didn't prefer them to her. When she had calmed down, she'd said that wasn't her concern, but she hadn't specifically said what bothered her.
They'd reached something of a don't-ask/don't-tell compromise. She never mentioned it again, and he made sure to be careful only to look when she wasn't home, and to clear out his cache when he was finished. He also didn't watch as often.
He thought he understood; Sylvia's background was more sheltered than his. No wonder she'd reacted badly--she probably thought it was only something "bad girls" did.
The clip ended and he cleared out his cache before turning the machine off and going to bed.
He did love Sylvia, he thought as he got settled in bed, and knew she loved him. Sometimes, though, in the dead of the night, when it was quiet and dark, he feared that she wouldn't when he told her.
"I'm so glad you came, Sylvia. The party wouldn't have been the same without you. I just wish you could stay longer." Patti gave her sister a quick smile as they drove to the airport on a gray Sunday morning.
"Me too," Sylvia said. "I wish I could have taken tomorrow off. Running out of vacation time, though."
"Yeah, you'll need it for the honeymoon," Patti teased.
"Oh, please. Troy hasn't even proposed."
"He will. You guys are just perfect, you know it. He can't not propose."
"Maybe marriage isn't our thing." Sylvia shrugged. "I don't know if I'm so high on it. Not like we had such great examples."
"You're right, but that wasn't you or me, that was them." Patti reached over and patted her sister's knee. "I'm not saying you need to have a big old church wedding with all the trimmings."
"Thank God for that."
"But I am saying," Patti continued, "that I can see you and Troy getting married. Oh, wow, you'd be Sylvia Garcia instead of Sylvia Thorpe. That sounds so nice."
"Yeah, yeah it does," Sylvia murmured, staring out the window.
"You okay, Syl?" Patti shot her a concerned glance.
"Yeah." Sylvia smiled. "Seriously, I'm fine. Really, I am. I can't say I never think about it, or worry about it, but it's over and done, and I can't change it."
"Attagirl!" Patti nodded. "You've worked hard to say that."
"Troy is great, and I love him," Sylvia continued. "If he proposed--and I don't think he will--but if he did, I can't say I'd say no."
Patti laughed. "I didn't think so." She pulled up to a red light and tapped her fingernail on the steering wheel. "Have you ever told him about it?"
"Don't you think you should?"
"I don't know. Why drag it up? And what if ... what if he feels differently after he knows?"
"That'd be tough. But it's kind of a heavy secret not to tell. And he could find out from someone else, or on his own, which would be awkward."
"I know. I worry he'll find something on the internet." Sylvia sighed. "And it's not that I don't want to tell him. I'm just not sure how to approach it."
"Look, he loves you. You guys fit so well. And if he found out, he might be upset but I think when it came down to it, he'd be on your side. It's not something you have to be ashamed of, you know that. Once you told him, you wouldn't have to hide it, and there would be someone else who'd have your back on it." Patti grinned. "And Troy would have your front too."
Sylvia laughed. "Yes, he would. But you have your own someone. Gary's a great guy."
"Yeah, he is." Patti grinned. "I can't believe we're engaged."
"Me either." Sylvia widened her eyes. "Oh, no. You're going to turn into a Bridezilla, aren't you?"
"Damn straight. I have the puce bridesmaids dresses all picked out." Patti looked over and grinned. "Except I know you'd kill me if I did that."
"Damn straight," Sylvia said.
Patti turned into the parking lot, found a space and popped the trunk as they got out of the car.
Sylvia shouldered her purse and took her travel bag out. "Thanks for everything, Patti. I do miss you."
"I miss you, too." Patti hugged her. "Now take it easy, and let me know as soon as he proposes."
Sylvia laughed. "You'll be the first."
Shaking her head and chuckling to herself, Sylvia crossed the parking lot and entered the airport. Checking in went smoothly for once, and she bought a coffee and a snack while she waited for her flight.
She checked her messages and smiled at the last text from Troy. Miss you. Head hurts. Love you.
Love you too. Waiting for the plane now. Can't wait to see you. She sent the reply and sipped her coffee.
Was Patti right? Should she tell Troy? But it was over and done with. Was there a point in bringing it up?
A little privacy, even a little secrecy, was important for people in a relationship, Sylvia thought. So long as the secret wasn't hurtful to anyone, she considered it a good thing to keep a little of one's self separate. Patti's point nagged at her, though; if Troy was going to find out, Sylvia wanted to be the one to tell him.
The boarding announcement drew her out of her thoughts and she grabbed her bag and joined the line. Her mind wandered back to Troy and secrets. She knew he had things in his past he didn't want to talk about, and that was fine.
He was a good man, his actions had shown that. Whatever mistakes he had made, he'd atoned for them as far as she was concerned.
The flight was only a couple of hours, but Sylvia was glad to be out of the cramped seat even so. She collected her things and edged her way down the aisle, wishing again that Patti lived closer. The trips to visit her were nice breaks, but flying was not Sylvia's favorite mode of travel.
At last she was past the other passengers and into the airport. She scanned the small concourse for Troy. He was tall, with dark wavy hair, and tended to stand out in a crowd.
"Hey, gorgeous. Need a ride?"
Sylvia turned around and grinned. "Sure, but my boyfriend might be jealous."
"I can handle him."
"I bet you can. I hear he's got a headache." She laughed as Troy gave her a dry look, then she wrapped her arms around him. "Hey, I missed you."
He dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "Missed you, too."
She looked up into his dark eyes and smiled as he leaned in to kiss her. "Mmmmm. That's nice."
"Let's go home, and things can be a lot nicer."
"So how was everything?" Troy asked as he drove them home. "Have a good time?"
"Yeah, it was nice to see everyone. Patti's thrilled to be engaged. Her birthday party was fun, especially the strip club."
"That's good, the--wait, what? What strip club?"
Sylvia laughed. "I'm kidding. Well, sort of. We went to a club after the official birthday party. Lots of music and dancing."
"But no strip club?"
"No, no strip club." She paused. "Why, would you care if I went to one?"
.... There is more of this story ...