I came into the store two days ago, and found Claire talking to Peter at the front counter. For those coming in late (or those who’ve been following along, but have just forgotten), Claire is my girlfriend who doesn’t know anything about my religious beliefs, and Peter is a retired priest who may be all too aware that my religion requires the occasional human sacrifice and the eventual end of the world.
Finding the two of them chatting it up was not the most comfortable moment in my life.
I waved at them and went into the back to get ready for work. Interrupting them, or showing anything other than a casual, matter-of-fact greeting, would give the game away. The first rule of appearing normal is assuming that everything around you is normal, even when it isn’t.
So when I asked Claire about it later, it was very casual: “How was Peter doing?”
She said he was fine. He’d just come in to pick up his Diltiazem. Why was she talking to him? Because he goes to her church.
I said, “Oh.” Claire looked at me, surprised, and I smiled. “So you know each other,” I said, to cover my reaction.
I was worried that she was a spy. I had to be, because the Whisperers are unforgiving. If there was any chance that Peter wasn’t retired, or that Claire had been sent to learn about me... I needed to know. Never mind that she only goes to church about once a month, or that she doubts that Jesus was a historical figure. She could just be saying that to put me off guard.
She pointed out that there were a lot of people in the congregation, which didn’t help me at all. It could have been a perfectly innocent response, or a clever cover - either one.
I said, “Well, I hope he takes care of himself. He seems like a nice guy.”
She smiled and nodded. “I think so. He’s always been nice to me. And he said the same about you: you seem like a nice guy.”
“Well,” I said, “that’s good to know.”
We grinned at each other and went back to work. I wish it was this easy, but it won’t be. The Whisperers haven’t come around, so our secrets are still safe... but given their relationship, I need to talk to the Elders. Depending on what they know, or what they find, I may have to be rid of Claire - or kill Peter, or move somewhere else. Possibly all three, and none of them sound like ideal solutions.
You don’t last this long if you panic easily. I’ll make my report, and see what comes. I survived quite a while before Claire came along; sure I can continue without her. Surely...