Didn't he realize that she knew nothing about carrying on a one-on-one relationship with another person? She hadn't grown close to anyone since they'd found her in that ditch.
"Would it be so hard for you? Am I so difficult to be around?" He smiled at her again, this time more engagingly, and she felt the considerable pull of his magnetism.
"You're not, Duncan. I wish I could explain. You see, I don't think you understand. It's just—just—"
He watched her struggle for words and realized that she wasn't making excuses not to interact with him but was trying to express a thought that she couldn't get a handle on. He waited patiently while she tried to articulate it and wished there was something he could do to wipe that pinched look from her face and the confusion from her eyes.
"I don't wish to avoid talking to you right now, at this moment," Jane finally explained, her face flushing. "It's just that sometimes it's like that for me—I can't get the words out. It might have something to do with that blow on the head."
"Take your time," he told her, wishing that he knew more about amnesia and how it worked.
"Anyway, what I was trying to say is that I'm not so much afraid of you as I am about being around other people. I've learned that you're to be trusted, and Mary Kate and Rooney too, but once I get past that point I don't know how to act. I always had to be careful of other people getting too close so they wouldn't steal what money I had, or of people who had less than honorable intentions, or—well, I'm sure you get the idea. And now..." Her voice trailed off.
"It's okay, Jane, you don't have to talk about it if it upsets you."
"I want to. Before I didn't, but now I do." She drew a deep breath, for some reason feeling free to be straight with him as she never had with any other person within her memory. Maybe it was because he'd been so open with her, but for whatever reason, it was as if all her emotions, pent up for so long, burst forth.
"Don't you see that I haven't had a background of being close to anyone?" she said in a rush. "I don't remember any family. And I never made friends when I was trying to survive out on the streets. The plain truth is that I don't know how to act around you, Duncan. And it's not just you. It's everyone else, too." When she finished speaking, her eyes searched his face for understanding.
He didn't know what to say. It was, he thought, perfectly natural to assume that the people we deal with every day have the same frame of reference that we do. And yet, as in Jane's case, it wasn't always true. Often when dealing with other people we assume too much. We should make an effort to think the way they think. If he had, he might have approached her in a more gentle way.
He raked his fingers through his hair in frustration. "I'm sorry," he said. "It never crossed my mind that just being here with me might take a great effort on your part."
"How were you to know?" she asked, calmer now.
He closed his eyes for a minute, and when he opened them, he saw that hers were brimming with tears.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
She shook her head and wiped the tears away before they could spill down her cheeks.
"No. It's a relief to talk to someone. I've never been that honest before. With anyone. I've had to lie and cheat and—"
"Shh," he said comfortingly, reaching over and stilling her lips with two fingers. The bodily contact startled her, and he took his fingers away, but not before he noted that she had very soft lips.
"I'm not going to lie anymore," she said with great determination. "Ever."
He glimpsed the steel behind those blue eyes, the same toughness that had helped her to survive so many hardships. He cleared his throat. "You don't have to promise me anything else," he said uncomfortably. "You've already promised me the one thing that I wanted—for you to stay until you're well."
She shook her head. "Saying that I'm through lying wasn't a promise to you," she said. "I'm
David Drake, S.M. Stirling