I hear her music before I’ve completely woken up. I can hear her feet padding along the carpet as she dances to her music. I turn over and watch her. The sun rise casts streams of light over her as she swishes her hips and she turns. Her arms reach toward the ceiling as she does, the two black outlined stars on the front of her shoulder perfectly displayed. Her eyes are closed, her long dark hair spilling over her shoulders and down her back. She has a cup of tea in her hand, the one with the Eiffel towers on it and Paris written across it. I can smell the pumpkin spice from over here. She peels her eyes open and smile when she sees me.
“Stalker.” She giggles plopping down on the bed. She offers me a cookie.
“Isn’t it too early for sweets?” I ask as she waves the cookie back and forth in front of me.
“Nope.” She smiles at me “not when you have tea.” She sips her tea, her reddish-brown lipstick leaving a perfect print of her lips on the cup.
“You’ve already got your make up on?” I grab my phone and check the time “it’s only six.” I drop my head back.
“I know.” She says nodding her head, “the suns up.” She smiles.
“Suns up so you’re up.” I roll my eyes, she says it every morning. I wrap my arm around her waist and slide her across the bed toward me and hold her against me. She giggles and holds her cup steady and she eats her cookie and everything is perfect. She is perfect.
“I love you, Lana.” I breathe in her scent as I press my face into her back. She’s not floral like perfume, she just smells like Lana.
“I love you, Theo.” She giggles and she sips her tea and her fuzzy pajamas are soft against my face. God I love this girl I think as I hold her. I don’t want to let her go when she taps my arm and wiggles to escape my grasp.
“Up, let’s go.” She says spanking me.
“Too early for that.” I mumble pulling the pillow over my head, leaving just enough room to watch her walk out.
“I’ll leave without you.” She calls back.
“I’m up!” I close my eyes just for one more minute.
“Theo!” She snaps ripping the blanket away from me. “Come on, let go.”
“Where?” I ask, she’s already dressed, she dresses like a hippie. Her sweater is striped with black, grey, white and yellow. Her jeans hug her curves perfectly leading down to her heeled boots. She’s wearing her favorite black fedora, the one with the smaller brim. She extends a similar fedora to me.
“Match with me today.” She’s smiling. I think matching is kind of cheesy but if it makes her happy, I’m okay with it.
“Did you pick my clothes out before or after yours?” I ask still in bed. She smiles “come find out. She sets the hat down and tugs on my arm. “Let’s go.” She pulls on my arm, I sigh and help her drag me out of bed.
The smell of coffee is all I care about as I stir the instant coffee into my own mug. Lana is perched on the make-shift window seat in the corner as she sips on her second cup. I take a seat at the table, it’s too early to be staring directly into the sun but she loves it. It’s like she’s afraid of missing even a second of the sun. Her eyes are closed when I look back at her, she’s feeling the sun on her skin, the warmth of the cup in her hand. She appreciates those things, I just appreciate her.
“What time are Alex and Shaina are meeting us at the café?” I ask her. Lana doesn’t open her eyes, she just angles her face the slightest bit toward me. “ten.” She says. Her chest rises and falls as she breathes deeply.
“That sounds like we can fit an hour or two nap in before we go.” I suggest drinking my own morning addiction.
“Or we could go and explore the area around the Café and then meet up with them.” She suggests her face never losing its relaxed expression.
“or we could explore afterward.” I suggest.
“You can take a nap.” She says.
“Just me?” I ask. I love her curious nature but she can be difficult to keep up with.
“I can explore on my own for a bit and meet up with you at the Café with Alex and Shaina.” There’s not a trace of annoyance on her face or in her voice right now. That’s another thing I love about her, she never holds a grudge.
“Fine.” I sigh “I’ll come but you owe me a donut.”
“I’ve got just enough for a donut.” She smiles her eyes gliding open to look at me. Her eyes are this super dark brown, they almost look like the same color as her lipstick when the light shines directly on them.
“Alright then, I’m bought.” I take another drink and she goes back to watching the sun rise and we don’t talk. I love that we don’t need to talk.
“Here here here!” Lana jumps onto the edge of a fountain and hands me her phone “take a picture of me!” She’s so excited over nothing. I raise the phone as she poses.
“You’re awfully excited about a fountain.” I say.
“It’s not just a fountain.” She smiles wide with her mouth open and her leg up and I take another picture.
“The sun hits here so perfectly.” She raises her arms to the sky and she spins and I wonder how she doesn’t fall. I take another picture because I want to look at them when I don’t have her next to me.
“Over here!” Lana jumps off the fountain edge and sits on a bench. She crosses her legs and holds her arms out in an exaggerated shrug and I take another picture.
“Sit.” She orders patting the seat beside her. I do and she wraps her arms around me and I turned the camera on us. She hangs on my neck and my shoulders and she sticks her tongue out and holds out a peace sign and I take another picture. She turns and she smiles at me and I take another picture. I kiss her and I take another picture. I love the way her lips feel against mine.
“It’s almost time.” she says against my lips. I pull her into my lap and I take another picture.
“They can wait.” I say not breaking the kiss.
“It’s rude to keep people waiting.” She kisses me back and she hops out of my laps and she’s standing there and she’s got that look on her face that says she’s feeling impatient. “Life’s too short for waiting.” She grabs my hand and she pulls me up and we run down the street to the café and I love the way her hand feels around mine.
I let her lead me to our usual booth in the center of the biggest window, she pulls me in and she presses against the window.
“It’s nine fifty-eight.” I tell her “what if they keep us waiting.”
“Then I’ll drink tea and you’ll drink coffee and we’ll enjoy each other’s presence.” She watches the people outside the window, her face so close her breath is fogging the window.
“can I start you off with something.” A waitress comes to our table with a notebook and pen with a big fuzzy thing on one end.
“Yeah, if we could get a black coffee and a tea please.” I offer a smile to the waitress.
“Sure thing, what kind of tea?” The waitress glances to Lana, guessing who the tea is for. Lana turns a brilliant smile on the waitress “chamomile, please.”
“Little early for caffeine free, isn’t it?” the waitress smiles at her, Lana smiles back. I love her smile.
“If she had anymore caffeine she wouldn’t be sitting.” I joke. The waitress laughs and Lana wrinkles her nose at me and goes back to staring out the window. I take the chance to check my phone. I see the email notification at the top of my screen, one of the agents I sent my novel to. My hands shake as I click the on the email.
Thank you for your submitting your work to us. Unfortunately, we don’t feel you are the right fit for us. We wish you the best in your pursuits.
“Dang.” I sigh and let go to delete it when I feel Lana rest her head against my shoulder.
“You’ll get it.” She says wrapping her arms around my arm. She tilts her head back trying to maneuver around her hat and presses her lips to my cheek. “The right one will take your book, you’ll see.” She says, I can feel her smile against my cheek.
“Thanks.” I tuck my phone away and take her hand with my other arm that was one of my top five. I try to shake the disappointment off, I knew this was going to be hard when I started. I just didn’t know rejection was going to actually hurt. Good thing I have Lana to soothe the sting. I kiss the top of Lana’s hat.
“Lana!” Shaina screams.
“Shaina!” Lana’s voice is much gentler than Shaina’s.
“You okay?” she whispers to me. I nod and Lana swings her legs over me and throws herself at Shaina.
“Hey man.” Alex maneuvers around Shaina and Lana and slide into the opposite side of the booth.
“Hey.” I exhale and sit back.
“Another rejection?” Alex asks.
“Yeah.” I nod as Lana and Shaina step over Alex and me and take the seats next to the window.
“So…” Lana leans over the table “how’ve you been?” she asks.
“You mean since two weeks ago, when we last saw them?” I laugh. Lana slides a glance at me “a lot can happen in two weeks.” She says. “We got together within two weeks and we got our apartment in two weeks.” She turns her eyes back to Shaina.
“You know you don’t challenge her.” Shaina giggles. Her hair is ith the a mess of curls, her skin a coppery golden color. Lana is jealous in a friendly kind of way of her skin. I try not to think of the conversations Lana and I have had over Shaina.
“He’s still sleepy.” Lana explains as the waitress comes back with our drinks.
“Two more coffees please.” Shaina says, “cream and sugar too.”
“And a blueberry donut.” Lana tacks on smiling at me.
“Alrighty.” The waitress bobs her head and goes to retrieve the coffees.
“We’ve been good.” Shaina says sliding a smile at Alex. Alex smiles back “just hanging out, exploring the city… dropping to one knee…” Shaina dangles a hand in front of Lana and Lana squeals.
“He did not!” She exclaims excitedly looking Shaina’s hand over.
“What?” I try to look passed Lana but she’s practically on the table now.
“Theo, look!” She squeaks yanking Shaina’s hand over the table for me to see. Sitting on Shaina’s ring finger is a small clear stone.
“You didn’t, Alex.” I can’t help the laughter bubbling out of me.
“Course I did.” Alex snakes his arm out around Shaina and pulls her against him “I love her, I want her to be mine forever and I want everyone to know it.” Alex pulls Shaina against him and I slide a glance at Lana. She’s smiling, her face glowing as she looks as Alex and Shaina. Her eyes just a little bit unfocused, maybe imagining me proposing to her. Should I? I wonder as she rests her chin on her hand. I don’t even have money for a ring I think sweat starting to bead on my forehead thanks a lot, man I glare at Alex across the table but he’s too busy with Shaina to look.
“You guys are so cute.” Lana says sitting back in the chair. I try to find a trace of jealousy or longing on her face but when she turns her eyes to me, she just looks content.
“Aren’t they?” She asks me. I’ve never met a person as sincere as Lana, I can’t help but smile back at her even though I’m still bummed over the rejection letter and the news Alex one upping me on good boyfriend status.
“Yeah.” I wrap my arm around her shoulders and pull her against me “they’re so cute.” I mimic her, she laughs and she lets herself rest against me as she takes a drink of her tea. I love you I think to her, willing her to hear me.
“I love you, Theo.” She whispers into her cup just loud enough for me to hear.
“Here we go.” The waitress brings the coffees out and hands me my donut.
“big spenders today, huh?” Alex joke with me.
“My motivation for the day.” Lana pipes in.
“Lana!” Shaina giggles “you can’t bribe your boyfriend.”
“Of course, I can.” Lana says matter of fact, “but this was more of an incentive than a bribe.”
“Same difference.” Shaina rolls her eyes and drops three spoonfulls of sugar and three creamers into her coffee.
“A bribe indicates something dishonest or illegal.” Lana says, “an incentive is motivation.” Lana takes a drink of her tea and Shaina shakes her head. I catch Shaina’s eye “you know you don’t challenge her, Shaina.” I laugh and Shaina throws a creamer at me.
“Hey, no wasting food.” Lana crouches under the table and grabs the creamer and hands it back to Shaina.
“You’re right.” Shaina says “I’m sorry. I’ll finish my coffee and throw my cup at him instead.”
“I guess that’s better.” Lana sits back, her eyes drifting to the window again, her hands curl around her cup. Her smile is soft, her eyes dreaming. I pull my eyes away from her as she turns her eyes back to Shaina as if she suddenly remembered her friend is here.
“Dude.” Alex punches me on the arm.
“Yeah.” I look at him.
“Be my best man.” He’s got a huge grin stretched across his face, his arm around Shaina’s shoulders.
“Me?” I ask. Alex laughs “Yeah, of course.” Alex holds his arms out “who else?”
“Jason?” I guess. Alex rolls his eyes “dude, you’ve been my best friend for the last six years. I though asking Shaina to marry me was gonna be the hardest part.”
I slide a glance at Lana, she’s got this huge smile all the way across her face say yes she mouths to me.
“Yeah.” I say “sure.”
Alex stands up “He said yes!” he yells to the café. Applause breaks out and I drop my head back part from embarrassment and part out of disbelief Alex getting married I shake my head. who’d have thought it?
Lana and Shaina laugh and applaud and Alex takes my hand holds it up. The waitress comes back with pieces of apple pie for everyone and a couple three tables down pays our bill.
“You’re an idiot, Alex.” I shake my head at him.
“He did get us a free meal.” Lana says wrapping her arms around me.
“Yeah, you should be thanking him.” Shaina giggles, her arm wrapped around Alex while he drapes his arm over her shoulders.
“Except I’m gonna have a problem with sharing.” Shaina turns narrowed eyes on Alex.
“babe.” Alex drops his head to the side.
“Yeah, Alex.” Lana says leaning around me as we walk. “I’m not okay with sharing, Theo. We kind of already have a thing.”
“Okay, okay.” Alex sighs and sweeps Shaina off her feet. “Guess It’s just me and you then.” Alex kisses her Lana pulls me to stop right there, pulls her phone out and presses her lips to mine. She snaps a picture and leans back, her eyes following the rays of the sun peeking through the buildings.
“The light is perfect here.” She smiles and tucks her phone away.
“Wait, let me see it.” I reach for her phone but she steps away and shakes her head. Her eyes bright with amusement “it’s a secret.” She kisses me again and takes my hand and she runs to catch up with Shaina and Alex. I love the way she keeps these little secrets.
Shaina and Alex stand beside Lana and me and we walk in no particular direction. None of us are on our phones. That’s Lana’s rule, when we’re together we stay off our phones except a few pictures or a video along the way.
“Lana.” Shaina says as she and Lana drift closer to each other.
“Yes.” Lana links arms with Lana.
“Be my maid of honor.” Shaina smiles, Lana smiles.
“Duh.” She says, “it took you long enough to ask.”
“Well, Alex kind of took the moment.” Shaina glances over her shoulder at us and makes a face at Alex.
“You’re right.” Lana sighs “thanks a lot Alex.” She slides a playfully annoyed glance at Alex.
“Man… I just can’t do anything right today.” Alex sighs but he’s still smiling. I’ve never seen him so relaxed. Like asking Shaina to marry him put him at a new level of peace. I watch Lana again should I ask her? I wonder but how would I get a ring? I kind of want to punch Alex, Lana must be wondering when I’ll ask her, maybe she’s questioning our relationship now. She’ll look for someone ready to marry her now.
“Dude.” Alex punches me on the arm again.
“Dude.” I snap at him rubbing my arm. That one actually kind of hurt.
“Stop worrying.” Alex says looking serious “you and Lana are solid, now was just… it was just the right time for us.” Alex sighs as if he just breathed years of stress away.
“How am I gonna know if now is right for her but not me? What if she doesn’t even want to marry me?”
“Talk to her.” Alex says “Shaina and I, we talk, I knew she wanted to get married soon and after talking to her about why… I realized I did too so…” Alex shrugs “here we are, getting married on September 16th of next year.”
“Doing a big wedding?” I ask.
“Shaina’s doing a big wedding. I just taste cake and show up.” Alex locks his arms behind his head. Lana’s phone rings, Lana always puts her phone on silent when we go out. She takes a look at the number on her phone, her brows draw together.
“Sorry guys. I’m waiting for a phone call.” Lana steps away and answers the call. Her eyes narrow a bit.
“I told you not to call me again.” she tries to whisper but I can hear the anger in it. Lana doesn’t get angry over anything.
“Hey.” Lana walks over to me and tucks herself under my arm. She wraps an arm around her stomach and chews on her thumbnail.
“everything okay?” I ask pulling her hair off her shoulder.
“huh…” Lana glances at all of us staring at her. the anger and confusion vanishes as if it were never there and she smiles “yeah, just… wrong number.” Lana is a bad liar. I love that’s she’s a bad liar.
“Oh, guys.” Alex glances at the time “I got work in a bit so I gotta bounce.”
“Quick photoshoot.” Lana pulls her phone out first and we all pose. Shaina with Alex. I roll my eyes and hold my hand out for the camera. Lana snaps a few more of me and Alex and me and Shaina before she hands me the camera. Alex and Lana stand on either side of Shaina and plant a kiss on each cheek. I take all the pictures they pose for and then we squish in for a few group pics, of course, Shaina has a selfie stick on hand.
“We’ll catch you later.” Lana and I wave to Alex and Shaina as they run to catch the subway.
“What now?” I ask Lana. She could ask to go shopping, which she does love. She could corner me now and demand why I haven’t asked her to marry me, she doesn’t. Instead she smiles and she takes a deep breath and she nods toward the streets. “This.”
“This what?” I ask.
“Walk…be with each other.” She says.
“Are you sure you don’t want to do something more fun?” I ask. She shakes her head “you’ve got to go to work in a few hours, I won’t see you until three in the morning and then I work tomorrow morning and I won’t see you again until after one. This is perfect.” She says, “just me and you after a nice morning with our friends.”
“Okay.” I kiss the top of her head, the subtle scent of her fruity shampoo filling my nose. I love her shampoo.