The Quiz Master

I hear her footsteps in the hall. Her tread is casual in that careful way she has. She’ll be at my study door in seconds.

I flick my monitor off, arrange my face and look blandly at her as she comes in.

“You’re here,” she says. Well, there we go. The Quiz Master has the first question on the board already, disguised as a cute little observation. Her eyes rest on me briefly before sweeping the room. They pause on the computer screen for a heartbeat, then come back to my face.

I play the game by not looking at her as if she was an idiot. Instead, I yawn and stretch, to indicate that I’m glad of the break. “It must be getting late,” I say.

“It’s after 3:00,” she says. Aha! Question #2, also disguised with a full stop at the end.

“Yeah, just trying to get these exam papers marked.” I wave at the two piles on my desk.

She digests that. I wait, popping a couple of my finger joints.

“I didn’t hear you come in,” she says. Who’d have guessed: Question #3 also pretends to be a statement.

“The game went late,” I say.

“How’d it go?” Ooops! A direct challenge with Question #4. Tricky!

“We won,” I say. “63 to 54.” Which I happen to know is true.

“The girls must have been happy.” Yes, she IS the Quiz Master, all right.

“Oh, they were,” I say. “It was a close game all the way.”

She turns back to the door. Don’t tell me it’s over so soon! But no, she pauses and does that studied casual thing, against the doorway. Her nose flares as she sniffs lightly in my direction.

“You must be pretty tired.”

It’s laughable how she asks and asks and never really asks. Fancy if she had the guts to actually throw out a question:

“Well, darling, were you off bonking someone again last night? Was it the big blond goal shooter?”

To which I could say: “Sweetheart, you really don’t want to know!”

And Ol’ Straight-Talker would say: “Actually, babe, you got that right. I don’t. You just enjoy your porn and your teenage girls and keep coming home. Can I make you a hot chocolate?”

Now, THAT would be a relationship. I feel dizzy at the thought of it but I keep looking her in the eye. The good thing about questions in disguise is you don’t have to answer.

“I’m making a hot chocolate; want one?” she says. I startle. She spooks me sometimes.

“No, I’m fine,” I say. “I’ll be up soon.”

Her eyes sweep the room again, at the doorway where my shoes are, over my clothes, my hair; into my eyes. Then she breaks into that phony little laid-back walk and disappears toward the kitchen.

The quiz is over. She’s gone.

I laugh to myself. She might be the Quiz Master, but I’m the one with the power.

And my power is growing.

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