Hmm, good question. What do I mean? Can I even explain it?
Charlie felt herself being lowered even further, and for a split second was reminded of that scene in almost every classic romantic movie- the scene where the couple-to-be would dance, and the man would spin the woman into dizziness and drop her in a dip, after which was the dramatic makeout section of the movie and the screen faded to black. She certainly felt dizzy enough, even without Royce's help, and the chair she sat in was being dipped. Did that count? Did that mean that there was a makeout scene to follow?
No. Behave. And besides, she actually did have something important to say.
"Um..." Charlie frowned up at him, nibbling her lip as she thought. How could she explain it? Should she tell him the truth? "Well, before, I thought you were happy, too. I mean, you certainly didn't seem sad or anything like that. But, then you come in today, being all goofy and stuff... and I just realized that this was you happy. Smiling and playful and... not worried, I guess. I've never seen you like this. I don't know, maybe Rosemary has."
"Just... to me, I guess it always looked like... this is going to sound stupid, but it always looked like you were waiting for something bad to happen. You always seemed on your guard, maybe because you didn't want to be caught off guard, so you were always so quiet and tense."
"And I didn't realize that until just now, looking at you being so not quiet and not tense. And I thought... you looked happy."
It's the same, she thought, surprised. We're the same. And suddenly, she felt like she wanted to tell him. But as soon as the desire to tell him the truth came, so too did the fear right behind it.
It was sort of odd, really. Here she was, lying in a chair that could tip over at the slightest shift of weight, and yet she wasn't really scared because Royce was the one holding it up. Teasing though he may be, she knew he wouldn't let it drop. And yet, despite that calmness, she was afraid of telling the guy she cared about the truth. Talk about ironic. Charlie turned her head, unable to look at him anymore, and instead focused on the hand braced right next to her head.
"I know what it's like, you know," she said quietly, reaching up to fiddle with his shirt cuff. There was a button missing, so she explored the hole it left as if it were the most fascinating thing in the world. "I know how it feels to... to think you're happy, but really you're not. You're just... living. Surviving would be a better word, I guess. You're just... surviving, because... you don't think there's anything else in the world out there for you. So, you're not quite happy, but you're... content. You tell yourself that you don't need anything else. That you're fine as you are."
"And then... then something changes. You might, I don't know, move to a new place. Get a new job. Surround yourself with new people." For a brief second, her grey eyes darted to Royce's blues before quickly focusing back on the button hole. "You... you might make a new friend. And for the first time, you actually get to experience what all those other people had experienced all the time, because now you're actually happy. Not just content, but happy. Really happy. And before you know it, you realize you were an idiot for ever thinking you were fine without this. Because you weren't fine. You never were fine. Ever."
Duncan, don't you dare cry! she ordered herself when she felt a familiar sense of moisture gathering at the corner of her eyes. Blinking, she knew, would only make it worse, so she stared hard at the heel of Royce's palm until she could feel the moisture ebbing away. Good. Don't want him to think you're crazy AND emotional.
She didn't want to look at him. She was too scared too. So, searching for some change of subject, she happened to look down and spot her abandoned book.
"I really do need to read that, you know," she told him matter-of-factly. "For all I know, he might try to test me on it today, and I really don't want to disappoint him."
Nothing happened for a moment, so she took a breath and tried again. "Please?"