I look over at the sound of his voice—sort of tight and thin—and catch his peeved expression. I’m starting to sense that Calvin doesn’t care for Lulu’s brand of crazy.
And I’m not sure I like it tonight, either; she’s dialed up to eleven.
“Well,” I say, putting my hand on his arm, “there was the time my grandmother didn’t recognize me because I’d gained the freshman fifteen.” Jeff coughs, and I amend, “Freshman twenty-five.”
Calvin looks at me gratefully—“That’s brutal”—and bends to write it down in his notebook.
We drink more, tell more stories—about what sports I played (volleyball, briefly), what books I love (many), where I’ve gone on vacation (fewer places than I’d like)—and Calvin shares a few of his own: He used to fish on a lake with his father every Friday morning for Friday dinner; his youngest sister, Molly, has cerebral palsy; he saw Possessed seven times because he was lucky in the lottery twice, and has a truly generous former professor who took him five other times; he doesn’t understand the appeal of sitcoms—particularly Friends; his favorite movie is The Godfather Part II—and I love that this makes him sort of average in at least one way; he doesn’t eat lamb and thinks it’s an abomination to mix anything with whiskey. He also used to help his mom out a lot when he was younger and is apparently quite the knitter.
He nods slowly, relaxed by the food and the alcohol and the company. “Could knit you a scarf and a cap to go with it.”
It could feel like we are taking in information in giant gulps—like one might drink from a fire hose—but the way the stories unwind with tangents and jokes and side stories also makes me realize we truly are getting to know each other, in the intense way that happens when people are cooped up together, like at summer camp.
Jeff stands, beckoning Lulu and Gene to leave when he does, and I appreciate my uncle’s ability to be frank without being rude: “Let them get some sleep. Imagine how exhausting this is.”
He gives Calvin a wary smile before hugging me tightly.
Lulu grabs the remaining full tequila bottle, and Gene sends air kisses on their way out.
When the door closes behind them, Calvin exhales heavily. “Wow. I feel full.” He taps his temple, indicating his meaning. But if the way he looked gratefully at Jeff is any indication, I think he also feels full of social interaction.
Together, we pick up the plates and clean the kitchen. He washes the dishes; I pack up the food and clean the counters.
This feels so easy. Hanging out with my people with Calvin there, cleaning up afterward. Is it because we know how fake it all is, and there are no pretenses? Or is it something more, some matching chemistry?
See, Holland, this is where you’ll get in trouble.
He grabs a beer and moves to the couch, dropping onto the cushion, and I flop down on the opposite end.
“Did you have a good time?” he asks.
I rub my forehead, counting out the four gimlets I drank over three hours. “Yeah. It was fun. I’m tipsy, though.”
His laugh is light, like he finds this charming. “Your nose is all pink.”
And then, unexpectedly, he shifts so that he’s lying down and he carefully lowers his head into my lap. “This okay?”
“Sure.” Tentatively, I lift my hand, brushing his hair off his forehead.
He hums at the contact, and his eyes fall closed. “What a crazy week.”
This moment is so surreal I actually bite my bottom lip to make sure I’m not imagining it. I wonder if it will feel more or less like real life when he goes to rehearsals and I’m back at work, and we come home together every night.
One year. A voice inside warns me to cocoon my heart and expectations in bubble wrap.
“I had enough drink to be comfortably sleepy,” he says. “Maybe loose-lipped.”
“That’s a good thing. Let me go get my list of deeply personal questions.”
He laughs, looking up at me. “I learned a lot about you tonight. You can tell a lot about a person by what their loved ones say.”
I groan, remembering. “Lulu was a beast. Clearly that does not reflect well on my character.”
“I was going to ask about that.” He lets his eyes fall closed again as I comb my fingers through the front of his hair. “She seemed okay at the wedding but was acting the maggot tonight. Is she always so crude?”
“Yeah, Lulu’s emotions can be all over the place, but tonight it felt almost aggressive, like she was trying to out-drama me.”
“What we’ve done is pretty dramatic. From the outside it seems to me that Lulu is used to being the wild one.”
“It’s true.” I look down at his face, enjoying being able to study it without him noticing. His nose is straight and narrow, lips full but not feminine. I love the shape of his eyes. I don’t know how to describe them other than roman, mildly hooded. His lashes are thick but not distractingly long. His stubble grows in darker than his hair, which is light brown, but in the sun it’s cut with red. And, at the back, I know there is a surprising streak of silver there, like crystal forking through dark stone.
He reaches for his phone, typing something quickly before saying, “We should probably talk about the things that new lovers always discuss first.”