Month 4, Day 11
Anna watched the two men play table tennis. Look at them. Vying for the chance to play the next game with me, thinking it’ll be ping pong. Which one do I want to bed tonight? They’re both good, even though neither one actually has me on their mind, even during sex. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not like I want to get serious.
Smitty missed the ball by a mile and stared at nothing for a moment before whirling around. “Ryan!”
“Sir!” A young man jumped to his feet halfway across the room.
Scowling fiercely, jiggling the paddle in his hand like a weapon he was eager to use, the chief engineer marched over to at the younger man. “Who a woman... entertains... in her room is the business only of the woman and the man she chooses!” He didn’t give the other a chance to respond; he was obviously too angry to listen. “It is unbecoming and unseemly for you to tell anybody what you may or may not have seen! It’s not their business, nor your responsibility to spread rumors! So stop it at once!”
Ryan swallowed, but bravely - or stupidly - responded. “I think I can be excused for needing to vent, Mr Smythe. After all, she’s been lying all this ti-“
“If she’s lied to you, that’s between you and her. It’s no one else’s business!”
“But she’s been lying to them, too!”
“Then it’s up to them to discover the truth. It’s not your responsibility to inform them! And that puts an end to it, understood?”
With a curt nod, Smitty came back, with no thought of looking for the ball, or taking it when someone tried to hand it to him. “What blasted idiots men can be,” he muttered to no one in particular.
“Especially the young ones,” Anna agreed softly, and retrieved the ball for him. Who was Ryan talking about? I wasn’t paying attention. Why did Smitty pay attention? He hates gossip and rumors, but to hear one conversation from across the room is ridiculous. So Ryan caught some girl with a new boy friend. Why would that be important to Smitt- She froze, the ball forgotten in her hand, as one possibility came to her. Smitty’s clearly upset, and not as an officer, as a man. He’d be appalled if anyone said anything about it, and he’s trying to get it under control, get his thoughts pulled together. Poor Smitty. He’s got it bad. She offered him the ball, and when he seemed oblivious to it, asked, “Smitty?”
“I knew that’s how things were,” he muttered, his voice bleak. He sighed, raised his head, and stared at his opponent for a moment. “And him. I knew that, too.” He threw his paddle onto the table but couldn’t make himself look at the doctor again. “Sorry, Drake, I just... remembered something. I’ve got to go.”
He turned but stopped when she put a hand on his arm. “I could go with you, Smitty.”
He turned confused, sad eyes to her. “I can’t- It’s- Wouldn’t be fair.”
“Being with you is never just fair; it’s always good.” She smiled, her voice soft. “Even if I’m not the one on your mind.”
That didn’t have the effect she expected; instead of a wan smile, his face went hard and determined. “You were right before, Anna. I should deal with this on my own.”
She watched him go, aware that Drake came around the table to stand beside her. “What’s got him so upset?” he asked quietly. “He professes anger when he’s squashing rumor-mongering, but this time, he actually seems upset.”
“Perhaps it was the subject of the rumors,” she offered. If Drake doesn’t know about Smitty’s problem, it’s not my place to tell him.
She hesitated. “I didn’t actually hear what Ryan was said, wasn’t listening. I guess you’ll have to ask Ryan.”
“After Smitty just bawled him out for gossiping? Not me. So, would you like to play table tennis? Or we could stroll through the arboretum.”
Anna had thought he was about to suggest seeing the movie, so this other suggestion was a delight. “Arboretum! I’d pretty much forgotten we had one! Yes, please, I could use some air that doesn’t smell canned for a change.” Drake offered his arm, she took it, and they strolled out. I suspect Smitty has gone home to drink himself into oblivion. Can he reach that stage on 3 bottles? And it’s been a while since shore leave; does he even have one bottle left?