Stu stood again as we got ready to leave, then he said, "Marshall, can you stay for a moment? There's something I want to mention to you."
For a moment, Jan's thin lips pursed, and I knew she was not happy about being excluded. But then, as usual, she decided to treat it as a challenge, a mystery to solve.
When she was gone (and I had peeked out the door to make sure she wasn't lingering and trying to eavesdrop), I sat down again.
Stu smiled. "I wonder if she's realized how unusual this is," he said slowly.
"For her to be invited to speak at a college? She's certainly well-known enough."
"True, but the date is less than a month from now. I'm sure colleges usually book their speakers much farther in advance than that. So, my assumption is that someone else, another speaker, has canceled, and they're looking for a replacement."
I nodded. "That makes sense. And you think she'll throw a tantrum when she figures out that she was not their first choice."
"And you think so, too," he said with a laugh.
"Well," I admitted, "I do think it's a possibility."
"Of course it is. So, your responsibility is to break it to her in such a way as to reduce that possibility. And do it soon, so if she does throw a fit, it will be over by the time of the event itself."
When I got down to the street, she was signing autographs for a group of teenage girls. I waited patiently as she answered a couple of questions, then the girls moved off and she lit a cigarette. She smiled at me, the smoke framing her face. "Just tell me it's not Ashford," she said.
I laughed and I kissed her. The kiss surprised her so that she laughed, too, and I said, "I have no idea who you're replacing, but when I was doing research on him I noticed that he spoke there last year. It doesn't seem likely that they'd book him two years in a row."
She smiled. "Indeed it doesn't. When will the car be here?"
"In about ten minutes."