“Of course she can,” Lydia says, interrupting me. “Jaimie can cover your next client, right Jaimie?”
All conspiratorial smiles, Jaimie says, “Of course I can.”
I love these women.
I gather my purse. On our way out, I get enthusiastic thumbs up and girls mouthing the words, “he’s so hot”. They don’t even know the half of it.
We ride in his jeep with the top down. It’s a good thing I wore my hair in a sloppy bun today or my hair would be all over the place. I like riding beside him, his tattooed arms resting over the steering wheel, people glancing at us each time we pull up to a stop light. He lifts his other arm, draping it over the back of my seat, fingers caressing the back of my neck, causing me to shiver despite the warm day.
We go to a brightly colored little Mexican restaurant. I’ve lived in this town my whole life and never tried any restaurants that weren’t chains. Kia was always on me about being more adventurous, but I never listened. I will now—even if that starts with eating at new places.
“I was surprised to see you today,” I say.
“Well, yeah. I barely mentioned where I work.”
“I’m an artist. I notice details.”
The waiter comes and takes our orders. I try something completely random on the menu that I can’t even pronounce. Max gets the same thing. I guess we’re both feeling adventurous today.
“So,” he says, sipping his beer. “I was thinking we should go out tomorrow.”
I pause midway to my straw. Is he asking me on a date?
“Do you like art?”
“Doesn’t everyone? I mean, I don’t know much about it, but I like to look at it.”
“One of my employees is having an art exhibition downtown. We should check it out.”
My nerves rise up like a swarm of butterflies in my stomach. My mind is spinning a mile a minute. I’m sure his friends will be there. Does he plan on introducing me? How will he introduce me? Friend, acquaintance, the chick he’s sleeping with? It shouldn’t be that big of a deal but for some reason, it feels huge.
“What should I wear?” I ask.
We eat our food and the conversation comes naturally. I manage to make him laugh, which is the most wonderful sound. Again, it makes me wish I were funnier just so I can hear it all the time. Next trip to the book store, I’m getting a comedy how-to book.
As we’re leaving, I grab my purse and my copy of Pride and Prejudice falls out. He picks it up off the ground for me and looks at the spot where my bookmark is placed.
“You’ve made some progress,” he says, handing it back to me.
I put it in my purse. “Not as much as I’d like, but my work schedule makes it difficult me for me to put a real dent in it during the week.”
“You can always come over after work and I can read to you,” he says with a sly grin.
I match his flirty tone. “Not a bad idea.”
If there were more time, I would’ve dragged him back to his apartment, but since Jaimie was already covering me, I didn’t want to push my luck by being late. He takes me back to the salon. Before I can get out of the jeep, he reaches for me and pulls me into a deep kiss in the parking lot. The wall-to-wall windows of the salon give my co-workers the best seats in the house and I feel their eyes all over us.
“I’ll pick you up at seven,” he says when we finally come apart.
I get out of the jeep. In the side-view mirror I can see everyone—including customers—pressed up against the glass. I shake my head and smile. Of course, I expected this kind of reaction from them. They probably haven’t stopped talking about Max since I left. As soon as I turn toward the building they scatter. When I get inside, they pretend to be reading magazines or curling hair with cold irons.
I have nothing to wear and my apartment is a mess. What if, when he picks me up or drops me off, he asks to come inside. I can’t let him see my place like this or he’ll think I’m a hoarder. It’s mostly the boxes Kia’s mom gave me. I decide to put them in the closet for now until I can go through them. It doesn’t take long. My nerves about going out with Max tonight give me an adrenaline boost. The last box I grab is labeled clothes.