- The Wedding Date
“You were smiling at your phone. I was just wondering why.” He sat on the bed next to her in his towel.
“Oh.” She sighed. For a few seconds there, she actually had stopped freaking out about work. “No, I was just laughing at something Theo said.”
He got off the bed and dropped the towel, but too quickly pulled underwear and jeans on. He was still shirtless, though.
“Who’s Theo?” he asked.
They’d spent so much time together that it felt jarring that he didn’t already know.
“Theo’s the mayor’s communications director, my work spouse, a good friend, all wrapped into one.” She got out of bed and reached for the robe that they’d pushed to the floor.
He pulled on a gray T-shirt, just like the one he’d been wearing when they met in the elevator. Maybe it was that same shirt. She remembered that flash of his chest in the elevator under his shirt, and how much she’d wanted to run her hands up and down his chest. She still couldn’t believe it had actually happened.
He looked out the window, not at her.
“Are you guys . . . together or something?”
She tied the robe tightly around her body. Boy, did she not like the implications of that question.
“Me and Theo? First of all, no. But second: do you really think I would be here with you this weekend if we were?”
Weird that he’d think that about her and Theo without knowing anything about him. Even weirder that he’d think she’d cheat on someone.
He looked at her and half smiled. She needed more than his cute little half smile after that. She walked toward the bathroom.
“No, wait, Alexa.” He sat down on the bed and patted the spot beside him. She turned but didn’t move toward him. “Please?”
Well, she was going to be here for the rest of the day anyway. What else was she going to do? She sat down.
“Sorry, I didn’t think . . . That’s not what I meant. I asked that wrong. I just wanted to know, for future reference, if there’d been anything between you guys. And plus, you were texting him on a Sunday morning”—his eyes dropped to her cleavage—“naked. I don’t usually text my work friends like that.”
She thought about asking what “for future reference” meant. But she had no idea how to have that conversation. She was great at difficult political conversations, not so much personal ones.
“I’m just on edge about work and I needed advice. He made fun of me instead; it made me feel better. It was an email, not a text.” She paused. “And I forgot I was naked.”
She grinned back.
“Theo and I couldn’t possibly have more platonic of a relationship if we tried. He’s like the brother I never had.”
Drew sat back farther on the bed.
“What were you on edge about? What did you need advice about?” he asked.
“Oh, this arts program for at-risk youth I’m trying to get the mayor to support. I gave him my memo on Friday afternoon, and while I know he probably hasn’t even read it yet, let alone made a decision, I still keep checking.”
Drew put his arm around her and leaned back against the pillows.
“This program is really important to you, isn’t it?”
She nodded, her head against his chest.
“Tell me about it,” he said, his fingers moving through her hair.
She hesitated. Was she ready to get into this with him just yet? Or ever, really? Would he understand? Would he even care? He kept waiting, though.
“I’ve always been interested in how to help teenagers. There are all sorts of programs for little kids, lots of reading groups and playgrounds and stuff like that. But people stop caring about kids once they hit the age of eleven or twelve. And everyone hates teenagers. Which sucks, because that’s just the time of life when everything is changing and scary and you need help. And then when teenagers screw up, no one ever wants to give them a chance again. Especially teens of color.”
“But an arts program?” She looked up at that tone in his voice and saw his raised eyebrows. “Isn’t that just rewarding kids who get into trouble? How’s that going to deter them from getting in trouble again?”
She sat all the way up and pulled the robe tighter around herself. She should have known he wouldn’t get it. But this kind of attitude from him made her even more disappointed than she thought she could be. Disappointed and angry.
“Sending kids to jail for low-level offenses doesn’t deter them from anything; it just makes it worse. People write them off. People like you.”
He tried to interrupt, but she talked over him.
“And that just makes them more likely to screw up again, because at that point they know that no one cares about them. A program like this would show them that people care. It’s not a reward; they would be required to attend and complete the program, but it would give them different ways of coping with stress, and not push them into a system of punishment that could ruin their lives.”
She shook herself and sat up. How was it that she could argue this point totally dispassionately at work, but not with Drew? See, this was why she couldn’t be trusted with difficult personal conversations; her temper always got the better of her.
“I’ll jump into the shower now, if you’re all done with the bathroom.”
Well, he’d fucked that up. He’d clearly hit a nerve there, and before he’d had the chance to figure out what to say, she’d fled to the shower.
He wondered if he should say something after she came out of the bathroom, but she gave him that bright smile she’d kept using on Amy at the wedding and said she was hungry, so he didn’t bring it up.
Instead, he drove her out to the Valley for dim sum for lunch, to a place Carlos had told him about. After they both had fits of giggles about the embarrassing amount of dumplings on their table, things seemed normal again.
They took a long nap in the afternoon sunlight when they got back to his apartment. He woke up to the breeze blowing her hair into his face and her nose nuzzling his neck. He turned over in bed and pulled her underneath him.
She laughed up at him from the nest of his sheets and pillows and his body, her dark hair fanned around her head like a halo, her brown skin glowing against his white sheets. He laughed, too, just because she was here and he was here with her. He kissed her forehead, her cheeks, her eyelids, and finally her lips. They kissed like that for a while, nothing more, both with their eyes open, looking straight at each other.
After a while, she sighed and put her finger on his lips.
“Drew, as much as I would like to keep doing this . . . what time is it? My flight is at eight thirty, remember.”
He took a deep breath and rested his forehead on hers. He wasn’t ready for this weekend to be over.
Finally, he looked up at his bedside clock.
She sighed and wrapped her arms around him.
“Okay. Did you still want to stop at that burger place on the way to the airport?”
He touched her cheek with his thumb.
“I would rather stay here in bed doing very dirty things with you until we have to go, but if you’re hungry . . .?”
They didn’t have time to get burgers.
Right before he got off the freeway to LAX, he cleared his throat.
“I’m not on call next weekend, so I could maybe come up. I mean, if you’re free.”
She glanced over at him, opened her mouth, and closed it again. Finally, she said, “Yeah, that works for me. You should come. I’ll probably have some work to do, but—”
He interrupted her.
“Did you hear from your boss about your memo?”
She shook her head, reached for her phone to double-check, and shook her head again.
“Hopefully tomorrow.” She shrugged. “I can’t count on it, though.”
He cleared his throat.
“Um, I really hope he says yes.”
She touched his hand, and he grabbed hers.
“Thanks. Me, too.”
Too soon, they pulled into the terminal and he got out of the car to pull her suitcase out of the trunk. Still holding it, he joined her on the sidewalk and kissed her. Her arms went around his waist, and he marveled again at the touch of her hands, how they turned him on and soothed him all at the same time.