Oliver blanches. “No. It wasn’t—I mean, it’s not. We aren’t.”
“A date?” I feel my eyebrows inch up as I try to ignore the growing knot in my stomach.
“No, it’s not like that,” he insists. “Just the chick across the street who works—”
My heart drops—this isn’t “just the chick across the street” but someone we’ve all remarked upon once or twice for her keen interest in Oliver—but I work to give an outwardly positive reaction.
“Shut up!” I yell, smacking Oliver’s shoulder, and adding in a dramatic French accent, “A very hot date.”
Oliver growls at me, rubbing the spot and pretending it hurt more than it did. He nods to Not-Joe. “She wanted to bring us both dinner, here in the store—”
“Yeah, so she could bang you,” Not-Joe cuts in.
“Or maybe because she’s nice,” Oliver says, a playful challenge in his voice. “Anyway, I’d rather go out and celebrate Lola’s movie. I’ll text Allison and let her know.”
I’m sure Hard Rock Allison is a nice woman, but right now—knowing Oliver has her cell number, knowing he can just casually text her to change some plans they made—I sort of want her to get hit by a train in the blackened-soul way that you want horrible things to happen to the new girlfriend. Allison is pretty, and outgoing, and so tiny she could fit in my messenger bag. This is the first time I’ve been faced with the prospect of Oliver dating, the first time our friendship has been faced with this, at least as far as I know. We got married and divorced in less than a day and it’s clear he was never really into me, but we’ve never discussed dates with other people before.
How should I react here?
Cool, I decide after checking myself. Happy for him.
“Definitely reschedule,” I say, giving him the most genuine smile I can manage. “She’s cute. Take her to Bali Hai, it’s so pretty there.”
He looks up at me. “I’ve been meaning to go there for ages; you love that place. You should come along.”
“Oliver, you can’t bring me along on a date.”
His eyes go wide behind his glasses. “It’s not. I don’t—I wouldn’t,” he says, adding quickly, “Lola. It wouldn’t be a bloody date.”
Okay, so he’s clearly not into Allison. The knot in my stomach uncoils, and I have to stare at the countertop with mighty concentration to keep from smiling.
I look back up at him and he’s still watching me, expression as calm as the surface of a lake in a canyon.
What are you thinking? I want to ask.
I swallow, unable to keep from blinking—for just a second—down to his mouth. I love his mouth. It’s wide; his bottom lip and top lip are the same size. Full, but not feminine. I’ve drawn it a hundred times: with lips barely parted, lips pressed closed. With lips curved in his tiny smile or arced in his thoughtful frown. Lips with teeth sharply sawing across or, once, his mouth soft and open in an obscene gasp.
The count of two is all I get before I look back up at his eyes. “Yeah?”
It’s a year before he answers and by the time he does, I’ve gone through a million possibilities for what he’ll say next.
Have you ever thought about kissing me?
Reckon we could go shag in the back room?
Would you ever cosplay Zatanna?
But he simply asks, “What did Harlow say when you told her about the movie?”
I take a deep breath, shutting down the image of him leaning forward and putting his mouth right up against mine. “Oh, I was going to call her next.”
And then what I’ve just said sinks in.
Oliver’s eyebrows go to his hairline, and beside him, Not-Joe makes a high-pitched noise of panic that tells me either the cops are at the door or we’re all going to be murdered by Harlow and it’s my fault.
“Oh, shiiiiiit, why did I do that?” I ask, covering my mouth. Harlow is always the one I tell after Dad. She would kill me if she knew I came here. “What was I thinking telling you first?” I take a step closer and give them both my most threatening face. “You cannot tell her you knew before she did and that I’ve been here for—”
“A half hour!” I cry. “She will cut us into tiny pieces and bury us in the desert!”
“Call her right the fuck now, then,” Oliver says, pointing a finger at me. “I am not prepared to face Harlow with an ax.”
“WHEN DID YOU know, Oliver?”
I look up across the table and grin. “Know what, Harlow?”
“Don’t be cute.” She glances to the side to make sure Lola is still at the bar. “When did you know that the movie was optioned and green-lit in one swoop?”
She looks back and forth between Joe and me, waiting, but Joe bends to take an enormous bite of his burger, leaving me to answer.
“Today,” I hedge. It’s a bullshit answer because even Lola only found out this morning. Harlow wants me to report down to the hour.
Harlow narrows her eyes at me but tucks her smart reply away when Lola returns, carrying a tray of shots. She glances over at me and gives me her secret little grin. I’m not even sure she knows she does it. It starts with her lips turning up at the corners, eyes turning down just slightly, and then she blinks slowly, like she’s just captured me in a photograph. And if she had, the image would show a man who is deeply, bloody lovesick.