Despite his dislike of Rhyley, which persisted even though he had to put up a front of tolerance for Sandra, it would have been a lie to say that Roger didn’t have fun. Bowling was a way to hang out - a diversion - and he let himself participate in the casual competition incited by Sandra who, when they reached their alley, told them that she was going to beat them both. He was glad for her sake that Rhyley could keep a leash on <I>his<I> hatred as well. But as the bowling game went on and he observed Rhyley’s behaviour, Roger found that his opinion of Sandra’s soulmate was changing. He noticed an easiness and affection between the two that was heartening. Sandra sat on Rhyley’s lap when it was Roger’s turn and he noticed that Rhyley held her gently - not possessively, and definitely not in a reluctant way that might have showed a lack of real appreciation for Sandra - and that he didn’t try to make out with her or do anything else that Sandra would have objected to in a place and situation like this. Maybe he really did love her, as he had said.
It was Rhyley who won in the end. He didn’t rub it in anyone’s face, though. He merely thanked Sandra for organising this and nodded slightly to Roger, murmuring a “Well done”, since he had come second.
“Did you both have fun?” Sandra asked, in that sweet way she had about her.
“Yeah, I did, thanks,” Roger said, smiling.
“Me too,” Rhyley said, his smile quiet but subtly intense as though he wanted to kiss Sandra. Roger thought he would, but he didn’t. He simply took Sandra’s hand and walked her back to the part of the bowling alley where you returned the bowling shoes and got your own back. Roger followed, really quite amazed. Over the past two years Rhyley had seemed to be on a mission to date every beautiful girl he could find, with only one intention in mind. But now ... now he genuinely seemed to care. And if he had stopped being a promiscuous jerk... Well, then Roger had no reason to hate him anymore. After all, they had been friends until year 11.
“Rhyley...” Roger said slowly; “have you ever thought ... that it was a shame how we stopped being friends?”
Rhyley looked at Roger coolly.
“I haven’t thought that for a while.”
Sandra watched with interest.
“I think you do love her,” Roger told Rhyley quietly. “And, for me, that changes things.”
“Oh, it does, does it?” Rhyley asked, one eyebrow raised. “It doesn’t for me. All this time you’ve judged me for wanting a certain sort of relationship. I never stopped being a decent person, and yet you treated me like I was scum. And now, just because I have found love, you’re suddenly willing to forget all the girlfriends I had where you hated me for the way I dated them? Well, sorry, Roger, but I lost your respect once and I don’t care to have it again.”
Roger sighed, not prepared to apologise for his disapproval of Rhyley’s former behaviour but disappointed that the friendship they had once had seemed lost forever now.
“Okay,” he said quietly.
Sandra’s expression was wry, like she felt sympathy for Roger but saw where Rhyley was coming from as well.
“Let’s go get ice cream now,” she suggested, trying to lighten the mood. “There’s a parlour five minutes away on foot, isn’t there?”
“Pieter’s, yeah,” Roger replied disconsolately.
“And I can repay the favour of you buying me hot chocolate,” Sandra said to Rhyley.
“That’s really not necessary, Sandra.”
“No, but I want to do it.”
Roger followed them out of the building. He started to feel like his tagging along was creating awkwardness and that it would be nicer for Sandra and Rhyley to have ice cream together as a couple, though he didn’t at all resent Sandra for this - it was his own feeling, arising from seeing their closeness.
“Actually, I might go home,” he called to them.
Sandra turned, looking surprised and then guilty, as if it was her fault.
“Are you sure? I don’t mind you coming along.”
Roger smiled, nodding.
“I’m good. You two go have fun.”
Sandra bit her lip.
“Thank you, Roger. I enjoyed hanging out with you today.”
Rhyley met Roger’s gaze and a look of understanding passed between them. Rhyley nodded slightly, looking grateful for the opportunity to spend time just with Sandra.
“See you Monday night,” he said, as though it had been established that he and Roger wouldn’t hang out again this week.
Roger didn’t complain.
“Yeah, see you.”
“Bye,” Sandra said.
“Bye,” Roger replied.
He returned to his car and climbed in, thinking about Sandra and Rhyley’s relationship happiness and wondering vaguely if he would have a Wolf Dream himself some time soon. He drove home and was soon absorbed in the delights of a well-written novel.