Page 65

"Oh shit" She stumbles up and grabs her robe off the floor and then she's running down the hallway, calling out, "Get dressed- Damien's here."

"Oh shit, baby." Panicked, I sit up, misjudge my place on the bed and fall off. I immediately pull my pants up and tuck my boner, aching and still stiff and wet, back into my Calvins.

"He's early," she groans, racing back into the room. "Shit!"

"Early for what?" I ask.

When I turn around she's at the closet, tearing through dresses and stacks of sweaters until finally she finds a black ladies' hat-cool-looking, with a tiny red flower embroidered on its side-and she studies it for a nanosecond before shoving it at me. "Here."

"What?" I'm asking. "This is your idea of a disguise?"

"Tell him you came by to pick it up for Chloe," she says. "And wipe your face off."

"Lauren, baby," I say. "Chill out."

"You shouldn't have come over." She starts moving down the hallway. "I'm an idiot for not throwing you out."

"I thought we were having a pretty good time," I say, following her.

"Well, that's not what we should've been doing," she yells. "That's not what we should've been doing," she whispers.

"Hey, don't say that."

"Let's just find a place to stand and call it a weak moment," she says. "You shouldn't have come over."

"Baby, you've established that-I get it, okay?" I follow her into the living room and find a casual place to position myself.

"No, stand here," Lauren says, tying the sash on her robe.

"As if we're-oh god-talking."

"Okay, what do you want to talk about?" I ask, calming down. "How hard you make my dick?"

"Just give me that damn hat back."

"Chloe would more likely wear a rotting log around her neck."

"She dates you, so what do you know?"

Damien walks in, holds up the cigar in his hand and says, "Hey baby, don't worry, it's not lit." They don't bother to kiss and in a really serene way Damien nods at me, gives a cute little wave and says, "Hey Victor."

"Hey Damien." I give a cute little wave back.

"You're everywhere today, huh?"

"Everywhere at once-that's me."

"Victor," Lauren says. "Tell Chloe she can return this to me anytime, okay, Victor?" She hands me back the hat.

"Yeah, sure, Lauren. Um, thanks." I look at the hat, turning it around in my hands, inspecting it. "Nice... hat."

"What's that?" Damien asks.

"A hat," Lauren says.

"For who?" he asks.

"Chloe," Lauren and I say at the same time.

"Victor came by to pick it up for her," she finishes.

"When's she gonna wear that?" Damien asks. "What's the urgency?"

"Tonight," I say. "She's going to wear it tonight."

The three of us look at each other and something weird, something a little too intimate, passes between us, so we all look back at the hat.

"I can't look at this hat anymore," Lauren says. "I have to take a shower."

"Baby, wait," Damien says. "I'm in a real rush. We have to talk about something."

"I thought we already discussed what you want to discuss," she says tightly.

"Victor," Damien says, ushering Lauren out of the room. "We'll be right back."

"No problemo, guys."

I check my messages: Gavin Palone, Emmanuelle Beart, someone from Brillstein-Grey, someone else who I've decided looks good with his new goatee. It's freezing in the apartment. Everything suddenly seems slightly exhausting, vaguely demanding: the lifting of a spoon, the draining of a champagne flute, the glance that means you should go, even pretending to sleep. There's a room somewhere and in that room all the tables are empty but all of them are reserved. I check the time. Next to my watch is a stray piece of confetti I'm too tired to brush off and I could really use some chips and salsa since I'm famished. I know who you are and I know what you said.

At the bar Damien pours himself a shot of Patron tequila and stares forlornly at his cigar. "She won't let me smoke in here." He pauses. "Well, not cigars." I'm aware for the first time that Damien's actually sort of really good-looking and in this light I can't even tell he has extensions; his hair looks thick and black and strong, and I'm touching my jaw, limply, to see if it feels as hollowed out as Damien's looks.

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