Swamped Chapter 61 Page 4

“I’m not worried about falling for any tricks,” she says.

And again – telling the truth. But it’s not the same as saying she wouldn’t share the info willingly.

Not that she’s being careful with her words. That has its own tells. But sometimes people tell themselves things. That one more sandwich isn’t really cheating on your diet. That one kiss doesn’t mean anything. Or that telling one person when you have a good reason doesn’t mean you aren’t taking your promise seriously.

That kind of deception isn’t easy to read, no matter how good you are. It might be that’s just what Penelope decided to say, or it might be that she’s feeding you the same excuse she feeds herself, without even thinking about it.

You’ve got a hunch it’s the latter, but you’re not quite ready to bet on that yet. You need to tease out a little more info.

And your best option for that is leading her on with vague answers.

“If you say so,” you say with a shrug. “Well, regardless. Why’s it matter to you why Tom and I were hanging out? We’re allowed to, even if you think it’s weird that he took a break from his project.”

“He’s worked on it every day for the last three years. Even when he was sick. Why would today be any different?”

“Maybe I should put it a different way. How’s it any of your business?”

She’s taken aback.

“Well, I suppose it’s not my business, really,” she says. “But I’m just annoyed. Last week he was asking me to finish faster because he was trying to keep to a schedule. Now he’s interrupting that himself? You can hardly fault me for being upset about that, can you?”

My business. So she is asking for someone else.

“Sounds like something you should take up with him, not me.”

“Please. You think that man answers questions unless he absolutely has to? I thought if I asked you, I might at least get some idea of why he was doing it. But apparently you’re just as stubborn as he is.”

Does she even realize how transparent she is? She’s clearly trying to get you upset.

On the other hand, if you leave things where they are, she might just leave and you’ll have nothing to show for your efforts.

You’ve probably been pushing too hard, considering what you want is to get her to switch sides. You need to show her some sympathy, you think. You’re just having a hard time doing that with the way she’s acting right now.

So what should you say?

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Oh Lisa, not telling the difference between a strategic emotional play and some genuinely frustrated.

Tell her she is right and that it’s not fair to her. You convinced Tom to help you with a project as an old favor.

But of course that somehow still alienates her. Was she not plotting something? Was she just jealous?