“Creative and beautiful,” he replied with his crooked smile.
She knew he wasn’t being truthful. That’s what that smile meant. She wasn’t getting a real answer from him. It had become a game of sorts since their first date when he’d picked her up, she had noticed the personalized license plate – C&B – and had asked what it stood for. He’d laughed and said “Carefree and Bountiful,” with that same smile. She’d asked if he was serious and then he’d laughed again, said “No,” and changed the subject so smoothly to talk about the restaurant they were going to she hadn’t realized she’d never gotten a true answer until halfway through their meal and then she was having such a good time she hadn’t want to bring it up again. It hadn’t seemed important.
Not every date after that, but most, she’d asked again and he’d always come up with something different. “Crafty and Bountiful.” “Careful and Benign.” “Controller and Box.”
He was good with words. She had learned that early on. She liked that about him. She didn’t mind that a year later she still didn’t know what the license plate actually stood for.
When she’d started learning enough about him to take guesses of her, she had tried that for a while. “Something do with your middle and last name?” “Something to do with camping and boarding?” “Something to do with your writing?” Each time he’d given a truthful smile and told her they were good guesses but not correct and then he’d given another fake answer.
It didn’t bother her. He’d told her that if they stayed together for long enough he would tell her what it meant. Some days she’d let it go after one answer. Others, though, she made him come up with several. That was part of the game too. To see if he’d slip up and repeat something he’d already said. She wasn’t keeping track so he might have repeated at some point, but he always managed to come up with new ones no matter how many times she asked on a given date.
“Creative and beautiful? Really,” she pressed on, “that’s the best you can do?”
“Well, I was talking about you.”
“You’ve had that plate long before you met me.”
“Doesn’t mean the meaning of it can’t change, does it?”
“Fine,” she smirked. “So, not yet then?”
Suddenly, after a year of the game, she very much wanted to know the truth of it. She couldn’t define why, but she needed to know.
His smile slipped and he looked away, calculating, and then he looked back with his sincere smile. “It is rather silly, a joke from when my brothers and I were kids.”
She was not going to let it go this time, “Couldn’t be that silly if you wanted it on your license plate.”
“Fair,” he laughed.
“Well?” She folded her arms.
“Chaos and Bloodshed.”
He laughed again. “Told you it was silly.”
“You named your car ‘Chaos and Bloodshed’?”
“Not the car, no. I keep transferring the plate to each car I get. You see, it’s like our family motto. Or, it was. My brothers and I were very wild when we were younger. It became this sort of joke. ‘Why is someone always bleeding?’ ‘What got broken now?’ ‘Another plumbing issue on a major holiday?’ And so on. We weren’t wild in the destroy the neighborhood sense. We were just very active, very exuberant, and at some point we picked up this saying from Hamilton, ‘chaos and bloodshed are not a solution’ as our way of life, or something like that.”
She wasn’t convinced but he wasn’t using the crooked smile so she was leaning towards believing him. He had said it was silly.
“Chaos and Bloodshed?”
“And why are you finally telling me now, after a year of giving me false answers?”
His smile deepened and he took her hands in his own. Leaning over he got his eyes on the same level as hers and peered intently. “You know why.”
She blushed. She did know.
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