With a little shrug, he walks back toward the office. The bell over the door rings and I see Finn and Ansel walk in.
“G’day, Finnigan,” I say. “I didn’t know you were sticking around today.”
He throws me an aggressively patient look at this nickname while he takes off his jacket. “I’ve got the rest of the week off.”
Ansel cuts into the small talk. “Are we going to lunch? I’m starving.” Finn and I exchange amused looks: Hungry Ansel is the only version of our friend who is ever sharp.
“Yeah, just let me—” I start to say, but Lola picks that moment to wander up from the back of the store.
“Hey,” she says to each of them, before finally looking to me. Her cheeks grow pink, smile widens. “Hi.”
Finn turns to Lola. “You wouldn’t by chance have spoken to my wife in the past hour, would you?”
“It will never stop being strange hearing you call her that,” Lola says, shaking her head. “Mia is someone’s wife. Harlow is someone’s wife.”
And Lola was mine, for twelve hours. Then she was something else, something even better, for only a matter of days.
Finn stares at her, mouth pressed in a straight line while he waits for her to answer his question.
“And actually yes,” she says, reaching up to pat his head. He slides his eyes to me as if I’ve somehow put her up to this. “She was driving up to Del Mar to get some signatures from . . . someone . . . and you know how bad the reception is up there.”
Finn nods, reaching over the counter to grab a snack-size Snickers from my secret stash under the register.
Ansel sees and practically knocks him over to get one for himself.
“Lola,” Finn says, tearing into the packet. “Let me ask you something.”
Her eyebrows rise expectantly and the expression is so sweet, I have to look away before I step closer.
“I’m planning to take Harlow up to Sequoia for the weekend. Camping, quiet, you know. Do you happen to know if she’s working?”
Lola smirks up at Finn at the same time I feel my own eyes widen. “You’re driving?” she asks.
Lola glances at me and for a moment, the weirdness between us is gone and we’re on the same team. “You’re driving six hours,” she says, “to take Harlow camping in the woods for an entire weekend.”
His brow pulls tight as he turns to look at me. “Those are the bullet points.”
Finn’s mouth curves into a cocky smile. “She’ll get into it.”
“If you say so,” she says with a wink. Fuck. My chest does a tight twist at the playful side of her coming out. “And yes, I think she has the weekend off.”
“Lola, you’re still here,” Joe says, walking out from the back room with a banana, peeling it suggestively. “Ready to run away with me yet?”
“What were you doing all the way back there, anyway?” he asks.
She stares at him, before glancing quickly to me. “Browsing. And then Benny called. I have something big due next week. So . . . I’m changing the trip I had scheduled to L.A. for the week after.”
I file this away. I didn’t even know Lola had a trip coming up, let alone one she needed to postpone. I hate this distance between us—the pointlessness of it all, the absurdity—the way things seem to be moving forward in both of our worlds and we aren’t compulsively sharing any of it. I miss her.
Fuck. I need to get over it.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” Joe says, “because I wanted to show you something.” He walks to where he was just a moment ago, pointing Lola’s attention to a shelf. “Look what came in.”
“Oh my God,” she says, and moves to get a closer look. From where I stand, I can’t see what they’re looking at, but Lola adds excitedly, “Can you get it?”
Joe smiles over at me. “Oliver? Can you reach the new consignment item?”
“I got it,” Finn volunteers, taking a step toward the ladder, but Joe stops him with a hand to the chest.
“I think Oliver knows what I need.”
I give him a warning look, sensing he’s up to something. But as soon as I get on the ladder and glance up, I know immediately what they’re talking about. Joe has somehow managed to find a set of the action figures based on Lola’s book, and placed it up on the shelf for her. I start to tell her that I haven’t even been able to get these new yet, but when I turn to hand it to her, I realize that her eyes aren’t on the box at all, but on my bare stomach, where my shirt is riding up.
I clear my throat and Lola blinks back up to my face, before turning about six different shades of pink. Joe is already laughing, and wearing the smuggest I told you so face I’ve ever seen.
“You are such an asshole,” she says under her breath to Joe, laughing and punching him in the shoulder before taking the box from my hands. I’m half-irritated with him, half-amused at his persistence.
“Where did you get this?” she asks, avoiding my eyes.
I shake my head, having never actually seen one in person before. They’re not even available online yet. “I didn’t know we had one.”
“I bought it today,” Joe says proudly. “It’s the first one I’ve seen.”