“What calls?” I ask, sitting up and pressing my palm to my forehead. “Shit, Sam, what calls?”
“The Sun,” she says, adding, “the Post, and the Wall Street Journal were all today. I knew it was tricky on a Saturday, I’m sorry, it just seemed easiest to move them all so they could run Monday. We’ll reschedule for next week.”
Something breaks inside me, some panic unbottled and poured everywhere.
I apologize, hanging up, and staring at the wall in horror. I spaced three interviews today. I missed a deadline by two weeks. I don’t even know who I am anymore, and the one thing I’ve always known is how to write, how to draw, how to work.
My phone buzzes in my hands, and I glance down at the picture of Oliver on my screen. My first instinct is to answer, to stroll to the bed and lie down and listen to the honey of his voice pour over me.
Instead, my breath gets cut off in my throat and I hate myself so much in the moment I flip my phone over, putting it facedown on the desk before knocking it to the floor. I have to work. I have to dive in, and work, and finish all this. I’m dropping things—not just dropping, abandoning them. I just need to draw one line, and then another, and another, and another until I am done.
The only thing I can do right now is build words and images into a story unfolding and then I will be okay.
I will be okay.
THE HOURS SEEM to bleed together after Lola leaves, details around me fuzzy enough to ignore. The sun beams directly into my kitchen, into the windscreen as I drive, in through the front windows of the store, washing out everything around me, bleaching away color. I don’t want to do anything but be with Lola, in my bed.
As weekends go, it’s a slow one; WonderCon up in Anaheim has most of the local geeks out of town. And I’m grateful for it: I’ve never not felt like working at the store, but this stage of my relationship with her—the hunger, the obsession, the clawing ache all along my skin to be touched, to fuck, to come—brings a delicious distraction. I indulge these daydreams; I hide in my office to avoid conversation with Joe so that I can stare off at the wall and remember waking up, kissing Lola’s warm breasts, following her into the shower.
I tried to be slow, gentle. I was shaking, rigid, and nearly out of my mind when I realized what she was letting me do. She came on my fingers, promised me it was good, but I don’t think she realizes how it changed everything for me.
It feels settled, as if we’ve been together years, rather than days. This is it, she is my life; my heart has already decided anyway.
I call her to make sure she is feeling better now that she’s home, focusing on work, but it goes to voicemail. I know work is overwhelming her, L.A. went terribly. It’s no surprise that she’s shutting herself in to focus.
But this understanding grows into unease when Lola doesn’t answer for the rest of the day and she doesn’t text. Saturday night passes in silence, with me alone at the house watching B movies on mute, trying to read through a stack of new releases from Wednesday.
Trying, and failing, to feel casual about it all, that we don’t need to be together every night, that it’s all right if she doesn’t reciprocate the infatuation I feel.
When I wake on Sunday, I don’t even have a text message from her, and I skip breakfast, feeling mildly nauseous. I get about four hours into busywork at the store—packing up overstock, cleaning out the back counter, putting in orders—before I break, heading into the office and calling Finn.
“Let me ask you something,” I say. “You’re going to have to be my barometer on appropriate reactions today.”
“Wow,” he says, “let me just . . . there. Had to note the time stamp on this conversation.”
Normally this would make me laugh but right now I’m wound too tight. “I last saw Lola on Saturday morning, after not having seen her all week. She’d stayed over Friday. But now it’s Sunday evening and I haven’t spoken to her since then. I’ve called and texted, and heard nothing.” I spin a pen on my desk. “That’s weird, right?”
“That’s definitely weird.” I hear him cup a hand over the phone, mumble something in the background. “Yeah, I mean Harlow says Lola’s home and working this weekend.” Harlow says something else I can’t make out, and Finn repeats it: “For what it’s worth, she hasn’t answered Harlow’s calls, either.”
I thank him and hang up, crossed somewhere between confused and hurt. I understand her wanting to disappear into the work cave this weekend—hell, even last week in L.A.—but it’s mildly fucked-up that she can’t even be bothered to answer my texts, and if it’s going to be something that she does a lot on deadline, we’re going to need to compromise somewhere, or at least give me a heads-up on the deal. When she left Saturday morning, she was eager to get to work, but still, she was nearly boneless in her satisfaction, dizzy smile in place.
I take the stairs to the loft instead of the elevator, trying to work out some of my stress. Outside the stairwell, I walk down the long narrow hall to her door, stopping in front of it to breathe.
The thing is, that’s bullshit. I know Lola. I know every one of her expressions. I have a fucking advanced degree in this woman’s reactions, her fears, her silent panics. Even if it has nothing to do with me, something is going on with her.
London answers a few moments after my knock, with a Red Vine between her teeth and game controller in hand.