Their 20-minute walk to Rune’s home that afternoon was quiet and uncomfortable, Rex failing at several attempts to engage his younger friend in a series of different topics (their last tournament, school gossip, popular television shows, spectator sports). Rex presented each topic in the safest manner possible, like one of his half-hearted lunges at fencing practice, executed more to elicit a response than to threaten; Rune merely deflected each statement without further comment, an equally weak parry of the non-attack, without even the hint of a riposte.
They walked into the snow-covered subdivision, neither of them haven spoken for several minutes. Rex cleared his throat. “I’ve heard rumors, about you and Annie.”
Rune kicked at a rock lying on the sidewalk. “People like to talk, don’t they?”
Rex grunted. “People are curious, is all. And they care, about both of you. They want to know you’re both happy.”
“Huh.” Rune scanned in futility for another rock to kick. “OK, I’ll admit it, we’re dating.”
“I see.” Rex had fallen behind, a common occurrence for him despite his long legs. He took two quick steps forward, looked over and back and down at Rune. Their eyes connected. “Shall I assume the details of your — dating — are none of my business?”
Rune laughed. “If I told you the truth, and you fed it verbatim back into the rumor mill, by the time it came back out it wouldn’t look anything like what it really was.” He pointed to his house, led Rex into the driveway. “So if it’s all the same to you, yeah, I’d like to keep the details to myself.”