Later that afternoon, Lyssa recalled Marty's comments about the adhesive effects of the coffee break, and set about to make a conciliatory gesture. She stuck to her principles, however, and made tea as well.

As the coffee machine gurgled away, the faces in the office became brighter. Harry even laughed out loud. Diana, printing out a review of some local bands, looked over at him and smiled. "Harry's doing the personals."

"Listen to this one," Harry said. "`Seeking cute male buns with semi-intelligent man attached.'"

"Diana could have written that one," Marty said.

Diana shrugged. "I don't need to run ads in the personals."

"Any kinky ones?" Marty asked. "I like the kinky ones."

Lyssa looked suspiciously like she was blushing. "Coffee's ready," she announced.

Harry got up, still reading. "Here Marty: `Leather lady seeks submissives. No sex, just kinky, clean fun.' That up your alley?"

Marty threw his head back and laughed hugely. "Oh, I don't go in for that kind of thing, I just like to read them."

"Don't we all," Diana agreed, leading the way to the coffee machine.

Lyssa dug out some granola bars she had stashed away, and soon office harmony was reestablished, temporarily at least. "Sorry I've been in a bad mood lately," she said. "It's not anything any of you did."

"What then?" Diana asked.

"Family," Lyssa answered in a tone which did not invite further inquiry. Diana got the message for once and did not inquire further.

After coffee, tea, granola bars and a drawn-out discussion of the political correctness of some kinds of personals (mainly the ones in which the man promised to be generous), Diana got up and looked at her watch with an impatient gesture.

"You don't have to stick around," Lyssa said. "I'll clean up the coffee things."

"Got a guilty conscience?" Diana asked.

"Well, yes," Lyssa said smiling.

"I'll help," Marty offered.

Whether for diplomatic or selfish reasons, neither Harry nor Diana volunteered, and Marty and Lyssa were soon left alone with the dishes.

"I owe you an extra apology for the way I acted today," Lyssa said as she threw the old tea leaves in the wastepaper basket. "It's not you personally."

Marty was standing over the sink rinsing cups. "It isn't?" he replied, one mobile eyebrow shooting up over the rim of his glasses. "I was beginning to think I had developed body odor." As nervous as she was, Lyssa laughed dutifully anyway. "Well, if it's not me, and it's not anyone else on the staff, and it's not family, then what is it?"

"But it is family in an indirect sort of way," Lyssa protested. "I wasn't really lying, you know."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Marty asked, his brown eyes going from humorous to intense.

"I don't know if I can yet."

"You're speaking in riddles, boss."

"Probably."

"Well, why don't we try solving them over pizza?" Marty suggested as he dried off the last mug while Lyssa looked on, distracted and slightly unfocused. When Lyssa didn't respond, Marty added, "Tell you what, if the solving part doesn't work out, we'll just appreciate the pizza."

Lyssa looked into his gentle, laughing eyes. "Okay."

"Terrific. How about Hot Lips?"

"Anything but Dominoe's."

"Dominoe's isn't that bad."

"But it's not politically correct."

"Oh, sorry," Marty said with an ironic grin. "I forgot."

"Did you ever know?" Lyssa asked playfully.

Marty's eyes lit up. He was definitely making progress. "I'm sure you've already told me." Lyssa laughed again.



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