“Figure out how to balance Oliver with a career you’ve wanted your whole life,” he tells me. “Because you’ll end up with neither if you think you have to choose.”
I STEP OUT of the elevator and see London at the other end of the hall. She’s in shorts and a tank top, and I can make out the ties of her bikini where they’re knotted behind her neck.
With the door locked she straightens, and sees me over her shoulder. “Hey, stranger. I tried to call but you didn’t answer.”
“Sorry,” I say. “I was at Greg’s.”
She nods and drops her keys into her small bag. “I figured. Your toothbrush was missing and you weren’t with Oliver.”
I nod, hitching my bag up my shoulder. “Ellen broke up with him so I went over to see how he was doing.”
She makes a face that perfectly captures my own ambivalence; she knows I wasn’t a fan. “Is he okay?”
“He’s okay.” I chew my lip, trying to make sure I don’t sound crazy or jealous or . . . anything when I ask, “How did you know I wasn’t with Oliver?”
London’s dimples are the cutest dimples in the world, and when she smiles at me in easy reassurance, I want to hug her. “Oh, I ran into him at the Regal Beagle.”
Oliver without me at Fred’s? My heart immediately sags. “You did?”
“I went to talk to Fred about a job,” London says, “and when I came out of his office, Oliver was sitting at the bar.”
I avoid meeting her eyes by searching for my own keys. “Was he . . . with Finn or Ansel or anyone?”
London gives me a knowing smile as she crosses her arms and leans back against the wall. “Nope. Just sitting there by himself, all sad sack and pathetic. We hung out for a few minutes, and when I said you were out for the night, he asked if I wanted to hang out.”
“Oh.” The image of Oliver needing company makes me sad. I’m immediately grateful London was there, with her easy humor and ability to deflect drama. London is Drama Teflon.
Her hair is pulled back from her face and piled high on her head. She nods and the little wispy ends that have come loose move with her. “I think he just needed some company and didn’t want to drink alone. Which was fine, because we all know I didn’t have any plans anyway.” She laughs, and then tilts her head to our apartment. “He’s still here, by the way.”
My skin grows hot, my eyes moving to the door. “He’s what?”
“That boy is a lightweight, too. A couple beers and three episodes into a Walking Dead marathon and he was out. Still is.” She points over her shoulder toward the loft. “On the couch.”
I look down to the keys in my hand. I’d planned on calling Oliver when I got home, or maybe even stopping by the store, but thought I’d have a little more time to think first. “Thanks for keeping him company.”
“No problem. He’s a lot of fun. If he wasn’t yours and I hadn’t sworn off men until menopause . . .” she says, giggling as she pushes off the wall. “Anyway, I’m off.”
“High tide in forty-five minutes. I’ll be back around dinner, though, if you want to hang out?”
I nod and turn to watch her go. “Yeah, I’ll have to work tonight but I’ll be here.”
London takes the stairs and I wait until she’s gone before I turn back to the door, finally fitting my key into the lock.
It’s quiet inside, still early enough that with the curtains closed the apartment is cool and dark. I slide the door shut as quietly as I can and wait, letting my eyes adjust to the dim light. There’s the soft, rhythmic sound of breathing from the couch, and I set down my things before stepping into the kitchen for a glass of water, and maybe a shot of vodka.
The recycling bin is full of empty beer bottles, and my stomach warms with a familiar longing: tipsy Oliver is too adorable, all goofy smiles and happy blue eyes. I’m actually sad I missed it. But then I remember why he was here—because he needed company—and any warm fuzzies evaporate immediately, replaced by the same twisty sensation I’ve had for days.
I reach for a glass and fill it with water, swallowing it down in a few icy gulps.
It’s strange how familiar this feels. Oliver is on the couch again, one foot hanging off the edge, the other bent at an odd angle and tucked beneath his opposite leg. He’s on his back, one arm stretched high above his head, the other resting on his chest. His shirt is askew, the thin blue fabric twisted up around his torso, leaving the majority of his lower stomach and hip bones uncovered. His glasses are on the table next to his phone, and there’s a discarded blanket on the floor.
A night on the couch means he’ll definitely be sore when he wakes up, and I’m not sure if I should wake him or keep staring at him. Staring is definitely easier and my eyes are hungry after days without him.
I miss his hands, how strong and greedy they are. I miss his stomach, the firm skin, soft hair. I miss his forever-long legs, his hips, his—
“Lola?” he says, and I jump, quickly blinking back up to his face.
He pushes a hand through his hair and looks around the apartment. “Hey . . . sorry, I crashed here. I didn’t even hear you come in.”
“I’m a ninja,” I say, and he gives me a wan smile. “You know you can stay over anytime.”