"Make your choice, Ryan."
Ryan felt Rylie scrutinized his expression as he faced her, irritation simmered silently beneath her blue-grey irises. Her usually kind voice had wearied into exasperation, as she repeated her question. "Well, which is it?"
"Right," he spoke thoughtlessly.
"Your right or my right?" Rylie asked, irked. She lifted her arms and shook the shirts, one in each of her hand.
"Mine." Ryan answered. There wasn't an erroneous reply to that question; it was made clear that he would return to their apartment that day with a few new clothes he hadn't asked for. Whether the buttons were made of clay or rubies, or if the shirt's color was green or more of a turquoise, he definitely couldn't be bothered.
"Really?" It was apparent that Rylie was more attentive. Her attention had diverted, annoyance transformed into a slight, but genuine, wonder. "You don't mind the flowered dots at the cuffs and hem of the shirt?"
Ryan hadn't noticed. He just wasn't too keen on selecting a black and orange shirt. "Sure. Pick the other."
"No, no, don't change your mind just because. I felt you might have missed the details, and that's why I said it."
"But," Rylie continued. "There's something I can wear that'll make us match if you pick left." She ended her sentence on a singsong note.
"Pick the other then."
"Are you sure?"
Ryan thought of the shirts in his closet: how they were simple and basic and didn't carry a bigger meaning that just being a shirt. That changed after Rylie was tired of patching up his clothes.
"You have to get new shirts, sweetie." She plopped onto the couch and sat next to him, as they were about to catch a movie. As she nimble on the popcorn, she noticed Ryan lifted an eyebrow in question. She then added: "You do realize that you always tear them during missions. Even your jacket is not going to be durable forever."
Ryan had nodded out of courtesy, out of acknowledgment, out of being a good partner. He had no idea they would end up browsing through shop after shop the very next day, and even after three long, crowded, busy hours - they were still not done.
"I'm fine with the second shirt." Ryan replied her question. Rylie still looked unsatisfied, so she placed both garments against Ryan's chest.
"I don't know..." She sighed deeply. "Which looks better, Ryan?"
Ryan was bemused that someone like Rylie, who made life-or-death decisions on a daily basis, couldn't pick out which shirt he would wear less.
"Left is good."
"But you picked the other one first."
Ryan racked his brain for a response. "I like to match with you."
"Really?" A smile broke out on Rylie's lips and Ryan felt relieved. She was sold. He watched as she hurried to include the selected shirt on top of a stack of shirts she'd chosen earlier. Ryan silently thanked Nicky in his head:
"Women." The blonde-haired man shed away his goofball attitude for a split second. "Sure, take out seven outfits and make us choose. But you can't say 'none of those' or 'take all' - they're going to think you're ridiculous. The key is to select the least formidable, and if they all are, just pick a freaking number."
He took a dramatic pause and waved one finger in front Ryan's face. "And - if you have enough wit - have a reason. It must be one that pleases her - something like 'yes, that incredible shade of blue would pop out my eyes and your hair'. Personal, but charming too."
Who knew Nicky could be relied on?
"Come along, sweetie." Rylie's warm voice put a brake on his train of thoughts.
Ryan dutifully hoisted their bags and heed after Rylie. He was slightly surprised to see that they were heading to the cashier's. Rylie must have caught his expression because she gave a hearty laugh.
"What?" Ryan inquired, as they placed their items on the counter.
Rylie grinned. "It's the first time today that your eyes don't look so tense. You poor thing. I promise you that this is annual event."
Ryan had nodded his head then in relief, in recognition and in joy. But he wondered gravely if the promise had wavered, when he rolled in the hospital ward three weeks later, and the first thing Rylie said to him was:
"Oh no, you ruined the orange-black shirt!"