Soldier Mine (Chapter Six: Petr, page 1 of 5)

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I'm not accustomed to dealing with to people I can't figure out. I've always been a quick judge of character without my sister's emotional edge or Mikael's eagerness to make friends that made him miss obvious warning signs.

I can't quite understand Claudia, though, and it's bugging me more and more. There's no doubt I'm attracted to her, but there are a lot of pretty girls in town. None of them intrigue me. I'm torn between wanting to take her cold shoulder as a hint and asking her for a cup of coffee to see if I can identify what it is about her that tugs at me.

By the time I reach the community center to go over preparations for Thursday, my phone has two texts from Brianna.

Seeing her name on my screen reminds me of how I vet my friends but not my girlfriends. I guess I have a soft spot for women. Or maybe my sister's moodiness and mother's quick temper have made me much more tolerant of behavior I wouldn't otherwise invite into my life.

It's moments like these when I remember that Brianna was sleeping with Mikael and me both at some point several years ago. Anger sparks within me.

Why am I torturing myself by trying to make something with her work out?

Because no one else wants you.

I imagine Hulk-smashing the disgusting thought. It's not healthy. Yet if some part of me didn't believe it, I'd ask Claudia out instead of trying to safely unravel her personality from our daily, two-minute interactions.

I set down my helmet on my bike's seat.

"Hey, Petr!" says Beverly, the director of the community center, a woman twice my age with the energy level of a five year old. "You will love what we're doing this year!"

"I'm sure I will," I say, smiling.

She motions me in. The moment I set foot in the massive auditorium-slash-gym that will be the center of the feast, she starts talking and gesticulating wildly with her hands. She can see the place set up already in her mind, even if I can't quite imagine it. I follow her from empty space to empty space while she describes what'll be there in three days.

"… chocolate turkey!" she exclaims and looks up at me, eyes glowing. "I'm glad we only ordered one. Isn't that amazing it turned out?"

She doesn't wait for an answer but starts talking about the food arrangements. I'm here mainly to make sure she doesn't need more money or people, a job that Katya performed up until moving in with her husband this past summer. I listen to Bev without really understanding what part of her excited rush of words I need to remember and what part is simply informational fluff.

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