“Nothing.” He nods to the fruit in his hand. “I’m just honestly not sure where I’m supposed to look when I eat a banana. It was a little eye-contacty there for a second. I didn’t want to be suggestive.”
With a grimace, Oliver puts the banana down and pours his cereal. “Hand me a knife?”
I giggle as I grab one, and he rolls his eyes. Every time he says “knife” I can’t help it. It’s one of the only times he’s ever full-on Paul Hogan.
“Do you really think people will recognize me?” I ask, chewing my thumbnail. I can’t even face the idea of Razor as an alien from Mars right now; it’s oddly easier to focus on the publicity side of all this.
Oliver looks up at me, studies my face. I know what he’s thinking when his eyes land on my diamond Marilyn piercing: I’m not very incognito. “Don’t they already, sometimes?”
“Well, now more people will.” He says it with such easy calm. Sometimes I want to put him in a cage with a lion and measure his blood pressure.
“That makes me want to vomit, Oliver. Like, I should actually carry a bucket around with me.”
He shakes his head, laughing. “Come on, Lola. You’re being dramatic. You’re so graceful all the time, why do you think it will be hard for you?”
He looks up at me, and shakes his head the tiniest bit. “Sometimes I wish I could meet you all over again,” he says, slicing his banana on top of his cereal. “And pay better attention.”
My heart catapults into my throat. “What does that even mean?”
“It means exactly what I just said.” He stirs the bananas into the bowl. “You’re bloody amazing. I want to meet you for the first time again. And I want it to be different, and just us hanging out like this.”
“Over Rice Krispies and coffee rather than on the Vegas Strip?”
He meets my eyes, and I know—I just know—he’s remembering my stumbling proposition. I watch as he searches for the right words. “I’m just talking about a situation where no one feels pressured to—”
“I don’t blame you for what you did that night,” I say. I need to put this moment out of its misery. “It was the right call.”
He holds my eyes for a breath longer before he smiles a little, digging into his food.
I lean against the counter and sip my nectar of the gods and watch him eat. In some ways, he’s built like a stick figure: so long, so lean, loping stride and arms, nothing but sharp angles. But also, he’s strong. Muscle ropes around his biceps, his shoulders. His chest is broad, tapering into a straight waist. I could draw him, I think. I could draw him and I might even surprise myself with what I see.
“What are you thinking about?” he asks through a mouthful of cereal. “You’re staring at me as if you’re surprised I have arms.”
“I was thinking about what it would look like if I drew you.”
I feel my eyes go wide. I definitely didn’t mean to say this out loud, and we both know it. Oliver has gone so still, as still as the blood in my veins. He’s looking at me as if he expects me to elaborate but I can’t. Something shuts off in my brain when I’m nervous, some trapdoor closes.
Minutes pass and all I can hear is my own heartbeat, and the sound of Oliver eating. We’re not strangers to silence, but this one feels pretty heavy.
“Well, do you want to?”
I blink up to his face. “Do I want to what?”
He takes a bite of Rice Krispies, chews, and swallows. “Draw me.”
“It’s no big deal, Lola. You’re an artist. And I realize I’m a bit of a demigod.” He winks and then ducks to take another milky bite of cereal.
Do I want to draw him? Hell yes, and real-talk time: I do it all the time. But usually from memory, or at the very least I do it when he doesn’t know what I’m drawing. The idea of having unfettered visual access to that face, those hands, the ropey arms and broad shoulders . . .
He stares at me, giving me a tiny lift of his brow that says, Well? and before I can overthink this, I’m off, running to my bedroom, and digging through my desk for my bigger sketchpad and charcoals. I can hear him in the kitchen, putting his bowl in the sink, running the water to wash it.
My mind is a blender, coherent thoughts are chopped and killed. I have no idea what I’m doing right now but if Oliver wants to be drawn . . . well fuck. I’m going to fill this goddamn book with sketches.
Sprinting back to the living room, I nearly wipe out on the wood floor in my socks and manage to grip the wall just in time to see Oliver with his back to me, looking out the enormous loft windows. He reaches behind his neck and pulls his shirt over his head and off.
He whips around and looks at me, mortification spreading over his face. “Were we not doing this? Oh, God, we weren’t doing this. We were just doing face and stuff, weren’t we?” Holding his shirt to his body, he says, “Fuck.”
“It’s fine,” I manage, looking at a pencil in my hand as if inspecting the quality of the sharp peak. I’m staring so hard I could break it with the force of my eyes alone. Oliver is shirtless. In my living room. “This is totally fine, I mean it’s really good to draw you without a shirt because I can focus more on muscle details and hair and nip—” I clear my throat. “Things.”