"What the hell did you mean by that?" Brianna's voice had a harsh edge.
"By what?" Jude answered. He had no idea what had provoked her.
"Eskimo, Christian, Italian. No lies."
Jude hid his annoyance. "It's no lie. In order of importance to me, that's who I am."
"How can you be Eskimo and have a name like DiBartolo?"
"Busted," Jude said with a shrug. "Beer?"
"Don't you even feel the slightest twinge about lying like that?"
"Lying about what?"
"Being Native American."
"Eskimo," Jude said. "We're not politically correct. And besides, have you even looked at me? The only Italian in me is the texture of my hair. Most Eskimos don't have curls, and did you ever see a nose this flat in Rome? I have the antithesis of the Roman nose." The word antithesis came out easily. He'd used that line a hundred times. "Beer?" he asked again, with faint hope.
Brianna sat back, eyes narrow, apparently trying to decide if he was yanking her chain. "Beer," she said.
Jude rose, trying to hide how happy he was that she was staying, and went to the refrigerator. "What about you?" he called over his shoulder.
"What about me?"
He brought back two open bottles, not asking if she wanted a glass. "Where does Brianna Dedham come from?"
She looked pained. "My dad was a Monty Python fan. When I was little my mom told me they thought I'd be a boy, and had picked out the name Brian, but really, it's "Bring out your dead."
"Are you telling me this so I won't ever want to meet your dad?"
"No. I'm telling you this so you don't come up with it later and think you're the first person to notice." She took a sip of beer. "So, do you cook any traditional Eskimo dishes?"
He looked at her, not disguising his interest and dwelling on her slender hips. "You don't seem the type to want to chew seal blubber." He managed to keep a straight face, but she hit him with a pillow anyway. "Ow. I make a mean lasagna, though, and if you're hungry, spaghetti Bolognese is moments away."
"Okay, okay, you're Italian. And the Christian thing?"
Jude felt his defenses rise, but he kept it out of his voice. "What I believe."
"Okay," Brianna said again, and the tone meant that it really was okay. "You all right with Catholics, or are you one of those evangelicals that thinks we're idolaters?"
"Nope, we're good."
"Then I guess we're good. Now what?"
"I don't know."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, and Jude realized it was a comfortable silence, but with a certain tension. They were about to embark on something, and he didn't know what. He asked, "You sure you're not hungry?"
She turned and settled her back on the arm of the couch, her toes sliding under his thigh. She did it without thought, not realize how intimate the gesture seemed to him. "Not hungry for food."
It was one of those phrases like Okay that could be said a hundred ways, and with her toes under his leg it could be taken as a crude pass. Jude didn't think so, her tone was so casual, but he shifted away, matching her with his own back to the arm, ankle tucked under his knee, the other foot on the floor.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness?" he quoted.
"There is that, I suppose," she said, a slight frown on her face and her eyes looking to the side, "but really, I was just thinking about conversation. Beer. Talk. Stay up all night and tell earnest stories about our pasts. The kind of thing I haven't done since college."
"I can do that. I guess." Jude was not at all sure he could do that. He liked Brianna. He was pretty sure he really liked her and wanted to know her better, but he knew that old stories were always tailored. He had enough well-rehearsed anecdotes of his own.
They were silent again, as if having decided to talk, there was nothing to say.
"Knock, knock," Brianna said.
"Old lady who?"
"I didn't know Eskimos could yodel!"
Jude threw a pillow at her. "I see your knock-knock and raise you a light bulb joke."
"How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb?"
"Blue fish!" Brianna answered.
He looked at her with his best, haughty, inscrutable Native American expression. "Two."
"Wait, I always heard it was blue fish."
Jude shook his head as if saddened by her display of ignorance. "Two. One to hold the giraffe, and the other to fill the bathtub with brightly colored machine tools."
Brianna laughed. "It's going to go down hill from here, isn't it."
"Yep." Brianna had laughed at his favorite joke, and something unwound inside Jude. "Keep 'em coming."
"I got a million of 'em," she warned.
"Good," he said, but he thought, Now I find out who's there.