“Stalactites stick tight to the ceiling; stalagmites might if they could.”
Bruce chuckled to himself. It’s odd the way those little tricks you learn at age ten stay with you for life.
Of course everything that happened to Bruce at age ten had stayed with him for life.
He’d retreated into one of the deepest caverns in the Batcave, where he came when he wanted to meditate after a workout.
Today’s workout hadn’t been productive. His concentration kept slipping.
It was bad enough at the beginning, when they’d meet as enemies in some alley and she’d distract him with a provocative move in order to stall or escape. It was bad enough when she was on a crime spree, that he thought about her (obsessed about her, Dick would say) more between confrontations than he did other criminals when they were active.
But now—now she was throwing him off his game WITHOUT DOING ANYTHING AT ALL! She hadn’t been active; he hadn’t even seen her in over a week, and yet she’d just brought his workout to a screeching halt.
He was aware that his anger was misplaced. He had only himself to blame for the recent shift in their relationship. He could have ignored the episode of her one-woman show, when she placed the ironies of their peculiar situation before the people of Gotham as a kind of performance art. If he hadn’t alluded to it, she never would have brought it up. It could have been—would have been—business as usual that night at the museum.
But how could he ignore it? She stood on a stage and said to anyone who bought a ticket that he was so out of touch with his own feelings that he wouldn’t do what any man in the auditorium would do if a woman like that offered herself to him. How could he let that pass?
Or maybe, maybe what she’d done was make him recognize there was a real person on the other side of all those propositions, a person who felt rejection when he said no. A person he was hurting.
Selina wasn’t stupid. She knew he was attracted to her. God knows he’d never hidden it well. So in a sense, he had repeatedly led her on. He had encouraged the propositions and the semi-serious come-ons, only to reject them time and time again.
So yes, when this unintended but despicable behavior was brought to his attention, he’d lightened up a bit. He’d allowed himself… to smile at her. to flirt a little.
…And even to play a harmless joke or two.
He smiled at the recollection. It had played out so much better than he’d imagined. He’d figured that simple curiosity would bring her to the general area of the proposed rendezvous at the opera house, but that she’d probably back out at the last minute. When she did, she’d want to strike out with a bit of felonious bravado, and she’d break into the jewelry store. It was the obvious target in that neighborhood. She’d find the basket and his note and then… ?… What would she do?
Well she’d surprised him straight off by coming to the meeting without breaking into the store first—and absolutely staggered him with her offhand observation that the Verdi’s Duke in Rigoletto projects his own inability to commit to a relationship onto the women in his life. How can anyone, he wondered, criminal or crimefighter, be so insightful and at the same instant so very blind?
She had come to the rooftop without entering the jewelry store, and so never read the note he planted there. So he nearly said to her face that he’d accept that comment coming from a woman who was unquestionably the world’s leading authority on projecting one’s fear of commitment onto the other party… when the accident with the rigging inside the theatre called him away.
Then she’d shown her colors hadn’t she—the minute his back was turned, la gatta e mobile.
What he wouldn’t have given to see her face as she found that basket and read that note.
His smile faded.
Of course, when he’d said “accept our relationship for what it is,” he hadn’t mean to say it was okay for her to steal. But as he thought about it later, that’s certainly what he’d implied. How could he have done that?
It was almost as though deep down he wanted her to remain a criminal.
That was ridiculous, of course. If she’s a thief he would never be able to see her without feeling guilt… What was he, some kind of masochist? Did he want pain? Even when he’s supposedly relaxing and enjoying himself …What the hell did he have to be beating himself up for all the time?…
A dollop of moisture dripped off the stalactite and the drip echoed through the cavern.
She wasn’t cooperating anyway. She hadn’t been stealing.
It hadn’t gone unnoticed.
To be continued…