Strange Study Habits
Month 3, Day 10
Fuzzy-headed from lack of sleep - or something - Smythe entered the deck 7 recroom in search of a mid-morning cup of coffee. It’s always noisy and crowded here. I’d rather take my coffee on deck 11, but that’s no good, these days. Instead of relaxing, it’s just... boring. Too quiet. Lonely.
He got his cup of coffee and looked around for a place to sit - alone - when a familiar mass of red curls caught his attention. There she is. Looks like she’s abandoned solitude to study in the midst of a crowd. How can she concentrate here? Still, that may be best, if she wants to avoid any more run-ins with Winthrop. She is studying, isn’t she? Wonder what she’s got in the reader right now. If.. she is... afraid of me, or in awe of me, as some have intimated, perhaps I should say a word of encouragement at times like this. When there’s plenty of people around to make sure that I... Ah, it couldn’t hurt, surely.
Uncertain of the wisdom of his decision, Smitty slowly started across the room for a quick look at her viewscreen, but by the time he reached the middle of the room, the room had become eerily silent. Looking around, he found that everyone was watching him.
“Are we supposed to stop him, too?” someone asked in a loud whisper.
“I thought we were only supposed to keep Winthrop away from her,” came the hushed answer. “Smythe is up her chain of command.”
“What do we do?”
“I don’t know. Bugalu never mentioned anybody else by name.”
Is the whole ship involved in protecting her from Winthrop? Good. Novel idea. Why haven’t they done it for any other female? Or all of them? Would that even work?
“Let me handle this,” a woman stated, sounding peeved. A shapely blond rose from a near-by table.
She looks vaguely familiar. Not sure why. She’s not one of mine, I know that. A nurse, maybe? Scientist? Cook? Can’t remember where I’ve seen her before.
“Hello, Bart,” she greeted him and smiled. “Why don’t you sit with me?”
I really hate that name. Nobody who knows me uses it. Who is this woman? “I... was just going to see what MacDowell’s studying today.”
“Oh, she hates interruptions.” The blond took his arm and insistently pulled him to an empty table. “I’ve hardly seen you since shore leave. As memorable as that was, I thought it would soon be joined by many other memories, just as enjoyable.” He disengaged from her grasp and took a seat, while the woman sat down so close, she was nearly on his lap. He didn’t want to be rude, but he moved his chair a hair away from her.
Shore leave? Oh, space, this is the woman who wanted a bubble bath, then forgot all about it. And what does she mean, memorable? I’d just as soon forget it ever happened! What was her name? Liz? Alise? Lisa? Morton? Murray? Face it, Smitty, you weren’t impressed then, and you still aren’t. “I’ve been busy.” He gulped down most of his drink and lowered his voice. “Actually, I don’t really date on board.”
“That’s not what I’ve been hearing.” She leaned even closer with a broad grin and a promise in her eyes.
Who’s been gossiping about me? If I find out, I’ll-
“Okay, that’s enough, Mac.” Smitty’s head whirled toward the voice as Bugalu strode across the room. The helmsman glanced at the redhead’s screen, grimaced and turned off the reader.
“Hey!” she protested and looked up in anger, which quickly drained away. “Oh. Bugs. Already?”
“Already?” he repeated with sarcasm, and began gathering her study aids together. “You spent your entire off-shift here last night. And that screen was in the exact same spot in your studies now as when I went to the bridge this morning.”
“That’s silly.” She tried to reclaim the items he had gathered, but he held them out of her reach.
“Don’t argue with me! You are going to bed, and you will do it now. I want you to sleep today.”
“But I have to study!” she told him.
“All right,” she growled, and drug herself out of her chair. She looked like she had lead feet as she plodded for the door, her shoulders slumped and head down. “But don’t hold your breath on that sleep,” she muttered as her path took her past Smitty’s table.
What does she mean? She can’t possibly have as much trouble getting a decent night’s sleep as I have!
“What?” Bugalu asked as he followed her.
“I’m going, I’m going,” she told him, not bothering to repeat the statement. She raised a hand, apparently to stifle a yawn.
“Good. Open your eyes, Mac, and don’t run into any walls. You obviously need to sleep. I’m glad you’re being reasonable. My break is almost over.”
They were gone. My break is over, too. Smitty turned back to finish his coffee, found himself face to face with the blond. Blue eyes looked at him petulantly, as if he had just been ogling another woman, when this woman had expected all his attention to be on her. It didn’t make any sense to him. “I have to get back to work,” he told the blond, then abandoned the coffee to bolt from the room.