Eric Lazzaro was worried.
He honestly didn’t know what to think.
Was she playing with him, stringing him along until he caved in and asked her, just so she could laugh at his embarrassment?
He couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t remember something, well, something like that happening, no matter how drunk he got, and yet Carli had been so obviously upset that he’d forgotten about it, it made him question his inability to recall anything about even seeing her that night, let alone…anything else happening.
He needed to think and found himself heading to the canteen for coffee.
Well at least he had his pass back, he thought, as he turned into the doorway of the large open space that acted as the ship’s dining area.
He stopped short when he saw Carli and her friend Diaz, sitting at a table on one side of the room, but they didn’t appear to notice him coming in, so he ordered a coffee and found an empty table not far from theirs, shielded from their view by a support pillar and tried to pretend to himself that he wasn’t trying to eavesdrop on them.
He casually tipped his chair back, leaning on the pillar and gazing around at the quietly chatting groups of crew members and the occasional table of colonists, nodding politely to acknowledge anyone he knew but not inviting conversation, whilst concentrating on what was being said only a few feet behind him.
But after only a couple of minutes he very nearly choked, then spilt hot coffee on his balls, when the front legs of his chair hit the floor with a thump as he sat forward in shock.
“Shit!” he exclaimed, standing up and brushing at the front of his uniform pants to relieve the burning sensation, then realised he was getting strange looks from people at nearby tables and indicted his overturned coffee, making amused “I’m such an idiot” faces, made as dignified exit as he could, without looking back to see if Carli had spotted him.
Carli had seen Lazzaro enter the canteen and quickly turned away so that he didn’t notice, not wanting to have to talk to him with Diaz around.
As it turned out he did her a favour by choosing a table near to theirs, giving her just the chance she needed to reinforce her story.
When she was sure he was able to hear her, she gave Diaz a conspiratorial wink and said, “You’ll never guess who I had in my cabin the other night, Frankie.”
“Oooh, is it someone scandalous? Are you having an affair with the captain, hahaha?”
“Eeeeww, no!” laughed Carli, “You don’t think I’d tell you about that do you? No, it was Eric, our dashing first officer, he knocked on my door at nearly midnight, can you believe it?”
“Eric Lazzaro, really?” Diaz asked, wide eyed, “I knew you two had something going on, but I never figured him for the forward type, I always thought he seemed like the perfect gentlemen.”
“Oh, he was a gentleman alright,” said Carli, winking broadly once more, laying it on thick for maximum effect, “so much of a gentlemen that he didn’t leave until the early hours.”
“No! You’re pulling my leg? What, just like that, he turns up at your door and…” Frankie’s face was a picture, “What did you do, I mean, what..” she stopped again, blushing.
“A lady doesn’t give out details,” Carli told her, “but let’s just say I found his security pass down the back of my bed this morning, and it takes a lot to move that bed, that’s all I’m saying.”
Which was when she heard a muffled curse from behind the pillar to their right and, sure enough, a moment later she saw Lazzaro, walking gingerly, leaving the canteen.
As she watched him leave she felt a small pang of guilt, then reminded herself that it was all necessary and would all be worth it in the end.
Nevertheless, she felt bad for Eric, he had no idea what was coming, but he’d find out soon enough and she had work to do before he did.