As we walk, he shares the ins and outs with me, and I can start to appreciate his passion for the game.
He asks about my dad and the things we do together. I tell him I see my dad often and that we have dinner once a week, sometimes more. I mention Penny at the coffee shop, and how I think she has her eye on him.
“Is your dad into her?”
“I dunno. I’d love to see him date again.”
“He hasn’t dated since your mom left?”
“He has. But nothing too serious. A few girlfriends now and then. It would be nice to see him fall in love.”
“I hear ya. I was pretty stoked when my mom met her new husband a few years ago. He’s a genuinely good guy, and he treats her like a queen.”
“The Fitz seal of approval.”
“It’s good to see her happy. I hope your dad finds that.”
I ask about his friends in New York, and he goes on about some guys on the team, then tells me about Summer and Logan. “He’s a cool cat. Very intense and driven, but with a great deadpan sense of humor. He met this woman a few months ago and he’s head over heels in love with Bryn. And then his sister Summer is hilarious. She’s involved with Oliver, another good bud of mine. He’s English too,” Fitz adds.
“Oh, you know another Englishman?” We walk along a side street, passing a newsstand.
“Yes, we have Brits in New York. He’s lived there since he was thirteen or fourteen though.”
“Does that still count in your book?”
“Sure. As long as he’s loyal to . . . proper football,” I tease, then tip my forehead to another side street.
Fitz scoffs. “Too late. I’ve trained him to love hockey, as it should be.”
“Of course you have.”
We turn down the street and reach Leadenhall Market, a covered market with an ornate roof. “Here you go. This is the Leaky Cauldron.”
His blue eyes widen, sparkling with delight. “Diagon Alley.” He wags a finger at me. “I knew you could never stay mad at me.”
I hadn’t been terribly mad at him.
Just irked that he thought he’d cornered the market on cool and casual. I’m as cool and casual as he is. That was why I stood my ground during that conversation. Because I am every bit as invested in this ending as he is, and he needs to know that. I’m not clingy, I’m not a hanger-on, and I’m not a star-fucker.
It’s all for the best that we reset the rules.
If you don’t have rules, that’s when you run into trouble.
“I’m not mad in the least,” I say.
I show him around the market, and he insists on snapping more pictures, and I join him in a few.
“You’re like a teenage girl, with your addiction to selfies.”
“Pictures are more fun when people are in them,” Fitz says. “Now smile for my cell phone, sexy bartender.”
“Here you go, cocky athlete,” I say, giving a grin for the camera.
He snaps the shot, then tucks his phone away.
Along the way to the nearby Millennium Bridge, he demands more photos by the river.
Photos of us.
I wrap my arm around him. “Are you starting a collection now? Working on a photo album of your trip?”
“Yes. I’m going to post stickers of unicorns next to you.” He smacks his lips to my cheek and captures the shot. Then he looks at the picture. “Aww, you look so peeved you had to pose for a selfie.”
“Please tell me that’s not for your friend’s kid.”
He gives me a salacious look. “That’s for the spank bank.”
I roll my eyes again. “I seriously doubt you’re going to whack off to a shot of me rolling my eyes.”
“But it captures your essence so perfectly.”
I laugh as we reach the Millennium Bridge. “Here you go.”
He regards it with eager eyes, a tourist’s delight, and it’s good fun to see him take in for the first time the sites that are so familiar to me.
“What do you think?” I ask. I hope that he likes it, that he likes all of London.
“Love it.” He turns to me. “London is great. I can see why you love it here.”
“I do love it here,” I say with a smile, feeling understood. “It feels like home. It is home.”
“That’s a good feeling.”
We cross the bridge, and soon enough, the long rays of the afternoon sun bounce off the windows of the red phone booth next to the Tube station in front of us.
“I need to go see Emma,” he says, a tiny hint of reluctance in his voice, then quickly adds, like he needs to clarify, “I want to see Emma.”
“Of course you do,” I say, though the distinction is not lost on me. I wouldn’t mind wandering some more with him, walking on into the evening as it spills into night.