Just climb out, what are they going to say?
I close my eyes, banging my head silently against Calvin’s knee.
“Where is she?” Robert asks, and within a few seconds, another text pops up on my screen from him.
Where are you?
Running late. Go ahead and order.
“She said she’s running late,” Robert tells them. “Should we order for her?”
“I imagine she’d like the venison sausage,” Calvin says. I pinch his leg and he coughs, reaching down and grabbing my boob.
“She doesn’t like venison,” Jeff mutters absently.
“No,” Robert argues, “it’s elk she doesn’t like.”
“I’ll ask her,” Calvin says, and soon another text pops up on my screen.
Would you like the venison or the grass-fed lamb? Also, I am going to fuck you so hard later. You are a hero to men for even thinking of doing this.
The lamb. Should I just come out?
I think that would be bloody fantastic
Should I warn them?
Above the table, Calvin laughs.
“What?” Jeff asks. I imagine him looking up from the menu, lowering his reading glasses and gazing innocently at Calvin across the table.
“I think you’ll see in a minute.” I can hear his grin when he puts the saucy emphasis on tink.
Jeff’s legs twist slightly, as if he’s turning to look behind him at the door to the street. “Is she here?”
I sigh, texting him and Robert in a shared window.
I’m already here.
Where? I don’t see you. We’re in the back booth.
I’m under the table.
“What the hell?” Jeff bends, lifting the tablecloth. His eyes go saucer-wide when he sees me, and Calvin bursts out laughing.
With a groan, I climb out, sliding onto the curved booth between Robert and Calvin. “I was going to surprise him! I didn’t know you’d be coming along.”
“Surprise—? Oh my God.” Jeff bends, putting his forehead to his palm. “Holland.”
I hold up my hand and stare with great intensity at the menu. “I don’t ever want to discuss this again.”
“I should honestly never try to do something sexy and impulsive.”
Calvin pulls me down onto the bed, digging tickling fingers into my sides. “I will never forget this.”
“Blow job fail.”
“It’s a very good reason for a blow job to fail. I would have had a hard time performing, I fear.”
I groan. “I can’t even contemplate that.”
He laughs into my stomach, kissing as he pushes up my shirt. “It was a nice thought for a birthday gift.”
“There are more surprises to come.”
And no matter how hard he tries to get the secret out of me—no matter how much he makes good on the promise to fuck me hard in gratitude—I hold strong.
I remember coming to New York for the first time at sixteen to visit Robert and Jeff. I landed at the airport, and although Jeff had planned to meet me at JFK, he was held up with some work emergency, and instead texted me directions to the AirTrain, and then the subway, and then the walk to their apartment, where he would meet me.
It sounded simple, but that was before I had the true scale of New York bearing down on my Des Moines naiveté. It wasn’t just the number of people and the number of signs, it was the noise. I felt like a bubble trying to push my way to the top of a carbonated bottle.
And even though New York seems almost comically easy to navigate now, I remember that feeling of complete disorientation as I head out of the apartment. I’ve fooled Calvin into thinking I have a gynecological exam in some mysterious region of Manhattan, and, no, I do not need him to accompany me—because really I am going to meet his mother and sister at the airport.
Nerves are a funny thing. I thought I was nervous at our wedding. And then, no, I realized that had nothing on the jitters of his first rehearsal. But that was swallowed whole by the whale shark of my restlessness during the immigration interview, and—later—on the Night of the Failed Birthday Blow Job. All of that feels like a tiny dot on the horizon compared to my anxiety today.
Despite our many texts, Brigid and I have never spoken. And after our plan to bring her and Marina out here took root, our interactions became pretty transactional, in part because I warned her that Calvin is highly casual about phone privacy—both mine and his. He’ll have me read emails to him while he plays, or answer a text if his hands are full unloading groceries. And although I don’t think he ever intends to be nosy, he’ll often inform me when Lulu or Robert or Jeff has texted or called, asking me if I want him to read it aloud. And usually, why not? I have nothing to hide.
Except this visit, which we are all determined to keep a surprise.
I admit I’m nervous as hell. I’m meeting my mother-in-law. I’m meeting my sister-in-law. These people are technically family, and what if they take one look at me and I’m nothing like what they’d hoped for him?
Calvin is so open and easy to talk to; normally I would let loose all my thoughts about this visit with him. Obviously, that’s not really possible here. And I can’t trust Lulu to keep her trap shut, Robert is composing a new show with a writer friend of his and is completely unavailable, and Jeff has listened to my concerns but what can he say? Don’t worry, you’re perfect?