“Bye mama!” Janet squeezed her balling mother before throwing her arms over me. “Any advice for our wedding night?”
“Watch out for the one eyed snake?” I laughed with the girls.
“I hope you have fun, babe,” Chloe hugged her.
Once Janet stepped out of my line of sight, across from me was Daniel with his hands in his pockets, staring at me with a smile. Peach princess had her arm hooked around his and suddenly I felt colder. I brought the blazer closer into me, feeling a shiver come on.
As Janet and Stanley got into their car everyone cheered them on and waved. The gap between Daniel and I flooded with people, and I could hold myself no longer.
“I’ll see you guys later?” I said to Chloe and Jodie.
They both turned to me, surprised. “What? I thought we were going to hang,” Jodie said.
“You’re calling it a night already?” Chloe added. “It’s too early.”
“It’s past 1AM,” I noted.
“So, grandma?” Jodie teased.
I rolled my eyes and hiked up my dress for a quick getaway. “I’ll see you both later.”
They shrugged and resumed waving and cheering Janet away. Parts of the crowd began to disintegrate and I didn’t even check where Daniel was as I gathered my bouquet and clutch and called for a cab out back. I was in the clear, safe and sound as the driver sped off into the night.
I was met with an oiled up Eric at the elevator, wondering what the hell he was doing here so late at night until I realised stripper hours.
“Hey, haven’t seen you in a while,” he smiled. “How ya been?”
I sighed. “Fine. Tired.”
“Nice dress. Party?”
I furrowed my brows. His eyes were slanted and hazy. “It was Janet’s wedding today, and night.”
“Janet, my friend.”
“Oh, right, the black girl.”
I coughed a little laugh, not expecting that. “Yes, the black girl. Nowadays, though, we’ve become so progressive in naming those ‘black girls’, don’t you think?”
He gave me a confused look before spreading out his features. “Haaa, funny.”
“Ingenious, I’d say.”
It wasn’t like he completely uttered a racial, offensive slur, but if you’ve known about my friends for a while, which Eric has, then it’s expected that you know them by name. I guess I can’t completely fault him though, he seemed like he had a party night too with the way his eyes were going cross ways.
“So…” he appraised me, “how about we go up to my place?”
“Oh come on, don’t be a little girl. You look so hot I can’t resist that ass.”
“Please do,” I said, eyeing him threateningly. Jeesh he was a mean drunk. Or was I too sensitive.
To my rescue, the elevator finally stopped on my floor of what seemed an hours’ long ride. I stepped out and heard him call behind me, “Come and get it!” and then laugh.
So charming. “Goodnight, Eric.”
“Goodnight, Annie,” he copied the monotone of my voice.
I didn’t switch any lights on and went straight to my bedroom. The way there was littered with the muted but resounding light of the L.A. streets peeking through my windows. I hadn’t closed the curtains since this morning, and the curtains in my bedroom were just as wide. I switched on my bedside table light on low and sat on the bed, immune to the insatiable grip of my dress as the day had gone by.
I stretched my hand around to my back where three clasps above a long zip were. Just as I did, a shift in my skin occurred and I suddenly felt colder, lighter. I turned back and there it was, Daniel’s jacket. I completely forgot to give it back to him. How come Eric didn’t say anything? How did I not notice!? Why does panic make me forgetful?
I kicked off my heels and leaned back on the bed, cradling Daniel’s blazer. Puffing it into a makeshift pillow, smelling his cologne and his scent. I’m Buffalo Jill.
A knock on my door made me flinch upwards and my heart began to race. I scare easily and I wasn’t expecting anyone, thus, my weird reaction. As I waddled sleepily towards the door, I was deeply hoping that it wasn’t Eric.
I opened the door, and there in the dim light, was Daniel. He peered up and smiled.
“Umm,” my eyes widened, “what are you…? How’d you even…?”
“Chloe and Jodie told me,” he said. “Blame me if you want someone to blame.”
I shook my head, still distracted by his presence. “No,” I chuckled, “no, it’s…what are you doing here?”
I bounced back and forth on the balls of my feet, like a little girl in a candy shop, feeling heat spring to my cheeks as I grinned widely.
“You took my jacket,” he said, bluntly.
My smile dropped and my heart began to slow. “Oh…yeah, sure. Sorry…come on in, I’ll just get it for you.”
He closed the door behind him as I headed for my bedroom, cursing myself under my breath. Serves me right for expecting too much. He stood waiting at the entryway while I grabbed his jacket, bringing the fabric under my nose for one last sniff. Trying to memorise the scent of him.
“Here it is,” I said, approaching him. “Sorry I took it. I didn’t mean to have you come all the way here.”
He chuckled. “It’s fine.”
We stood a foot apart for a moment, silently hovering near the front door.
“Nice apartment,” he finally said.
I scanned the place quickly. “Thanks.”
“Well,” he waved the jacket in hand, “thanks.”
“Yeah. Thanks for lending it to me.”
He smiled. “No problem.”
He turned around and opened the front door, but froze midway. His eyes were glued to the floor, his hand clutching the door knob. I froze too, now more self-aware than ever. Then, he shut the door and turned back around, facing me as a playful smile began to curve his lips…