It was the third apartment we had been to that day. Nice, basic, but a view to kill for. Asher was in another room on the phone – business, as usual. He had been such a life saver, though, letting me crash on his couch after the split with Bruce.
I didn’t know what I would have done without him.
I inhaled deeply, turning back around to take in the room. Asher was such the hustler when I was with Bruce, I was puzzled as to why he insisted on us having separate rooms in our search for a new place for us to share. It seemed that I was the one who had to exercise all of the restraint before. The one night with Mitchell aside, I didn’t want to be one of those guys who is already sleeping with Mr. Next while still connected to Mr. Right Now.
I sauntered back into the room he was in just as he was finishing up the call.
“So, you like it?” he asked, slipping his phone in his pocket.
“I do. It’s like a blank slate … a place to start over,” I mumbled, my arms crossed across my chest.
“Good thing. I’ve already put a deposit down. You can pay me back later.”
I raised my eyebrows at the way he seemed to already know what I would accept. It was true that I liked a take-charge personality, but it almost seemed that Asher was measuring my neck for a leash.
“Let’s go. We’re having a guest over tonight, and I want to make sure everything is set before he arrives.”
“A guest?” I asked, following him to the elevator.
“One of my best friends in the world,” he said, jamming at the down button. “You’re gonna love him. We go a long way back.”
“He travels a lot – just like me – except that I don’t get to hook up with him much in between, so we get to learn what has happened in his life since the last time I saw him.”
He assigned me to chopping salad vegetables. He wrapped his arms around me to demonstrate how delicate the cucumber chips must be.
“Anything thicker might seem provincial,” he snickered, before kissing me ear.
I have to admit; he was a better cook than I. I couldn’t pronounce half of the things he was making, but in all honesty, I really didn’t want to either. All I could think about was the insistence on two bedrooms. True, we hadn’t made love yet, and I wasn’t really in that much of a hurry to, but the whole direction our relationship had been going up until that day had certainly been overtly romantic on more than one occasion. Now, I couldn’t tell if that was our destination, or if I had made assumptions about someone who just really wanted a platonic companion.
He came over and picked up my tray, looking it over once or twice before wrapping it and setting it into the refrigerator. “We could have done better,” he smirked. “But it will do. You should probably shower and change. He should be here in an hour.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but decided against it. I would meet his friend; and I might move in with Mr. Sarcastic … but there was definitely going to be a discussion about the future of our relationship.
Emir seemed happy to see Asher; very happy. Ash had introduced me by name, then whispered something into his ear. Emir’s face seemed to change a bit, but then they disappeared into the living room while Ash pointed me toward the kitchen, apparently for me to finish setting up dinner.
I didn’t mind; but the sounds of laughter and catching up from the front were a little intimidating. When the table was complete, I had to stand there looking at them for four or five minutes before I could get their attention about the food.
Sitting down, Emir finally spoke to me. “Tell me about yourself,” he said, chomping down on his translucent salad with his dinner fork turned downward. Ash would have most definitely made a remark if my salad fork weren’t nestled just perfectly in my right hand. I was making a mental note to add this to the list of a future discussion.
I smiled, and dabbed my mouth, and talked about my short time in the virtual world. He laughed I finished. “No, I meant your real life.”
Wow, I thought to myself. Had anyone been so bold as to ask me about my real life?
“I-I … I’d really rather not to discuss it, if that’s ok,” I stammered, laughing off the question.
It was the last time I was referenced for a while. Emir regaled us with his tales of visiting the Burning Man event and the Grand Canyon, and proceeded to pass around pictures of his time there. It seemed a little odd – this small piece of the Real invading our created world – but it kind of filled out the impression I was making of Emir. He was a guy that moved around a lot – that didn’t sit still for long for anyone or anything.
Kind of like Asher.
Ash looked at me as he stood. “I’ll get desert,” he said, gathering our plates.
Emir playfully slapped my arm once we were alone. “Congratulations are in order,” he said, smiling with genuine affection.
I smiled back, pretending to nurse my wounded arm. “Thank you … for what, though?”
“The relationship … you and Asher. He told me you were his new boyfriend.”
I swallowed hard. New boyfriend? We weren’t going to share a room, and had barely exchanged fluids. Yes, this conversation was going to happen as soon as we were alone!
I smiled and nodded slowly. “Well, I just hope I’m not one in a long line,” I said, laughing.
“I wouldn’t know, but I am his last boyfriend.”
I coughed a little. “Wow … I’m sorry … I hope this isn’t too awkward.” I put down my napkin and touched his arm in assurance.
He shrugged. “Well; I think we both know how Ash can be. I would have just preferred to learn that I was his last before tonight.”