Look the Part (Page 21)
“No what?” I put the car in Park.
“This won’t work.” She shakes her head.
“You haven’t even seen it yet.”
“They’re doing demolition to the building right next to it which means there will be lots of noise while they’re tearing it down and just as much when they start construction on a new building. The noise will be too distracting to some of my clients.”
I laugh, rubbing my temples. “You see the irony in this, right? It’s okay for you to be the one distracting other people, but god forbid you have to deal with a little noise.”
“Harry likes music.”
My head jerks back and I shake it a few times. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“He likes music, but I bet you a hundred dollars he doesn’t like it when people chew too loudly, or the sound of a fountain, or the tick of a grandfather clock, or the constant beeping of construction equipment.”
I process what she’s saying and I’d lose a hundred dollars if I took the bet, but it still pisses me off. “I’m trying to be nice. I don’t have to find you a new place. It’s not my problem. I just—”
“Then don’t.” She shrugs and glances back at Harry.
I’d say he’s not hearing a word we’re saying, but after the seven incident, I don’t trust him.
As if he knows we’re watching him, he glances up from his phone screen. “What?”
“What sounds good to eat?” Ellen asks.
“We’ll eat at home after we drop Ellen off to get her car.”
“Pizza.” Harry grins. “Lucé.”
“I’ve never been. Sounds good to me.” She winks at me.
There’s a twenty minute wait at Harry’s favorite pizza place in downtown Minneapolis. We wait in the bar. Harry gets a lemonade, I get a glass of wine, and Flint gets water.
“Not even one beer?” I ask.
He sips his water and shakes his head. “I’m driving.”
I chuckle. “You must be a lightweight. But that’s cool.”
“He doesn’t drink alcohol,” Harry says, watching the TV in the corner.
I stare at my glass of wine and feel a pang of guilt. Flint doesn’t say anything. When I look up, his dark eyes dare me to speak one word. He has his son on a strict diet for his autism symptoms. He grows everything imaginable. And he doesn’t drink. Maybe he’s an alcoholic, but I don’t necessarily get that vibe. I think he’s just health conscious.
I swivel the bar stool to face Flint. My knee rests along his inner thigh. He glances down to where our bodies touch. My pulse kicks up a notch. I love touching him. His body stiffens, eyes shifting to see if Harry’s still watching the TV.
“I’m done with this,” I tell the bartender as I slide my wine away from me. “Could you please get me a glass of water with lemon?”
“Don’t,” Flint says, sliding the wine glass back toward me.
It’s not that he’s a health nut. The look he gives me is more. That more saddens me.
“You took one sip.”
“I paid for it.”
I narrow my eyes at him.
“Your table is ready,” a cheery brunette says, hugging menus to her chest.
Harry hops off his stool and follows the waitress while Flint and I stand toe to toe. His scowl intensifies. I roll my eyes and reach into my purse, pulling out a ten-dollar bill. He stiffens even more as I slide the money into the pocket of his pants.
“Take the wine.”
“I’m. Done.” I turn and follow Harry. “Do you want to sit by me or your dad?” I ask before sliding into the booth.
“You.” He grins.
“Good choice.” I wink and sit next to him as Flint sets the wine glass on the table and removes his suit jacket before sliding in across from us.
He grunts, squinting at me as I cross my legs making sure the toe of my shoe jabs his shin in the process.
“So what’s good here?”
“What is it we get, Dad?”
Flint hides his gaze in the menu. “Pizza with chicken and veggies.”
“Sounds good.” I smile. “Just get a large and we’ll all share it.”
Flint glances up. “It’s gluten-free crust.”
I shrug. “That’s fine.”
“And non-dairy cheese.”
Rolling my lips between my teeth, I nod a few times. “That’s. Fine.”
He sighs or grumbles. “It only comes in one size.”
“We’ll get two. I’m pretty hungry,” Harrison says.
Why does sharing a pizza with me seem to upset him? We order three salads. Harry gets his with no dressing, Flint orders his with white balsamic vinaigrette, and I order the same. This seems to anger him as well.
“Drink your wine.” He nods to my glass after the waitress leaves with our order.
Holy hell … why did I mention the beer? This is spiraling downward out of control.
“I’m good, but thank you.”
Dinner follows the same theme. I don’t drink my wine. That pisses him off. I say I like the dressing. That pisses him off. I like the gluten-free pizza with non-dairy cheese. That really pisses him off. The autistic twelve-year-old is the mature one out of the two boys at the table.
We slide out to leave, and Flint stares at the glass of wine as he slips on his jacket. On a defeated sigh, I grab the glass and chug every single ounce of it. “Happy?” I shoot him a cold look and turn, quickly finding my best smile to give Harry as we leave the restaurant.
“You wanna hear my new song when we get back to my house?” Harry asks as Flint pulls out into traffic.
“We’re dropping Ms. Rodgers off at the office. That’s where her car is. Besides, you have homework to do.”
We’re back to Ms. Rodgers. I stare out my window and shake my head. Unbelievable.
“The science project was my homework. I don’t have anything else to do tonight.”
“Still … it’s not happening tonight.”
Chugging a glass of wine in under ten seconds has made my brain a little too relaxed, blurring my thoughts a bit. “I’m a little dizzy after drinking that wine I was forced to drink. Maybe you should take me home and I’ll take an Uber to get my car tomorrow.”
Flint grumbles something under his breath as my phone rings. I fish it out of my bag and it slips through my hand between the seat and the console.
“Shoot …” It continues to ring as I try to thread my hand between the seats.
“Here.” Harry bends forward and grabs it. “Oh cool. Who’s Alex?” He stares at the screen a few seconds before handing it to me.
My breath catches as the image illuminates.
“That dude was jumping from a plane.”
I nod slowly, slipping the phone back into my purse. Flint gives me a curious look. I glance away.
“Have you gone skydiving?” Harry asks.
“You ever wonder what would happen if the parachute didn’t release?”
I grunt a little laugh. Harry says absolutely whatever pops into his head.
“There’s a backup.”
“What if it didn’t work? You’d die, right?”
“Harrison …” Flint glances in his rearview mirror.
“That’s the likely scenario,” I say.
“Do you think you’d splatter like a bug or—”
“Harrison,” Flint says with an edge to his voice.
“Jeez, what, Dad?”
I don’t like being the cause of their fights. I also don’t like talking about Alex. It’s still something I can’t find peace with in my life. But I choose to save Harry at the moment. “Alex did all kinds of cool things. Skydiving, scuba diving, and man could he surf. But he loved to journey up mountains more than anything. He was a passionate mountaineer.”
“Like in the snow with ice picks?”
“Has he climbed Mount Everest?”
“He sure did.”
“I want to do that someday.”
Flint pulls into a spot in front of my apartment building and looks over his shoulder. “You do?”
“That requires physical activity. You do realize that, right?” Flint says.
“Shut up.” Harry rolls his eyes.
I open my door. “Thanks for dinner.”
“Can I see your rats?”
I look at Flint.
“You always say that. I told you I don’t have homework.”
I shrug. “It’s fine with me.”
“Thanks.” Harry jumps out.
Mr. Grumbly follows us up to my apartment.
I laugh. This kid lives in a truly cool house, yet he finds my two-bedroom apartment “cool.” I want to be twelve again. “Thanks.” I toss my bag on the kitchen counter. “Follow me. We can let them out and feed them while your dad’s skin crawls.”
Flint leans his shoulder against the wall, messing with his phone. “Five minutes, Harrison.”