He convinced himself to stay home another day.
Alice was mildly reproving, telling him how much work she had waiting for him on his return.
Colton hung up feeling guilty and frustrated. And angry that he didn’t know why.
He went down to the kitchen and methodically ate the steaming breakfast Rosa put before him. He was dreading getting on the computer, of a search of Renee’s name bringing up some unknown picture and tag line.
He should have gone into work.
“What the-?!” Renee shouted from the living room. He flinched, setting his fork down. He went to see what had dragged so much profanity from her lips.
“What is it?” he asked wearily.
She pointed at the screen, her mouth wide and horrified. Colton made himself look.
The picture was of her and Alice, arm in arm, as they had been in front of the restaurant. Colton read the scrolling captions, getting the gist of the problem from them and the photo of him standing alone that flashed across the screen next.
“Call Alice and warn her.” Renee said in a hard voice.
“Is she a lesbian?”
“No.” Colton said firmly, absolutely sure of his secretary’s romantic preferences. “Its just slander. Don’t worry about it.”
The glare she leveled at him told him what she thought of his stupid suggestion. He winced. “I mean, try not to worry about it.”
She snorted and jabbed the remote. The screen went blank, reflecting Renee’s face in the bright sunlight.
Colton sighed and crossed to her.
“Its just talk.” He said gently, his hand on her shoulder. “It will die down in a few days. Besides, I know your not gay-”
“I don’t care about that!” Renee snapped, wiping her cheeks. “I care that they would dare even say anything! How dare that man take my picture and post it all over, making up lies about me?”
Colton didn’t have an answer, so just patted her shoulder lamely instead. “Sorry, Renee.”
She smacked his hand away and stalked out, her fists clenched.
Colton dialed Alice again.
“Do a search of Renee in Google or something.” He could here the chatter of her keyboard, then a long minute of silence.
Alice was even more inventive than Renee.
“Sorry, Alice.” Colton said. “Really, I am.”
She started laughing all of sudden. “My mother is going to have a fit when she sees this!”
“Oh, I know. Don’t worry about it.” She sighed, though. “How is Renee taking it?”
Colton winced as something heavy slammed upstairs. It sounded like her dresser hitting the floor. “Not very well.”
“Poor girl. Easy to fix though.”
“How?” Colton demanded.
Alice laughed again. “Just get caught making out somewhere public. They’ll be so distracted by that that they’ll forget about our supposed love triangle.”
“Absolutely not!” Colton snapped.
Colton caught himself. Alice didn’t know. Alice deserved to know, now that she was sucked into it.
“Look, Alice, its like this.”