Catch up here.
I gaze out through the floor to ceiling windows from my leather desk chair to the tree-lined street. I still don’t know what to say or do about the situation that I haven’t already said. After the text exchange on Saturday, he gave me my space and did not try to contact me again.
The phone intercom buzzes and shakes me out of my thoughts.
“Lara,” Trevor says in his deep voice through the speaker, “I need you to come up and settle something for me.”
“I’ll be right up.”
I slip my feet back into my silver sandals and smooth out my grey silk sheath dress. A wisp of red leather circles my waist and I make sure the buckle is centered. I still like being presentable even if it’s just to see Trevor in his studio upstairs.
I step out of the elevator into the open studio and the heel of my sandals click on the concrete floor and echo through the space.
Trevor twists around at the waist with his arms over his torso. His short, dark molasses hair is dotted with paint. His muscles bulge through the light denim shirt and the white t-shirt underneath it. The shirts and his army green cargo pants are also covered in paint spatter.
His partner, Dean Baxter, is next to him in a yellow polo tucked into bright blue skinny jeans with a tan and navy striped canvas belt. His mocha hair is slicked back and his light brown eyes shine in the afternoon sun.
“That was fast,” Trevor says.
“You’re the boss.”
He snorts. “I’m the artist. You’re the boss.”
“Whatever you say, boss,” I tease. “What am I settling?”
He points to the three canvases propped up against the wall of windows to the left. They are part of his new cityscape series.
“Dean doesn’t think those will sell.”
”You called me up here to settle a lovers spat?” I exaggerate an eye roll at them. It is not the first time it has happened.
“You’re the impartial party, Lara,” Dean says.
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are. You know which ones will sell.”
“Why does it matter? Trevor already painted them. Make a bet on them and see what happens with the sales,” I suggest as a maneuver to get out from the middle. “I’ll be down in the gallery until close if you need me for something other than settling your quarrels.” I rush to the elevator. “Bye, Dean! Good to see you!” I call as the doors close.
I pick up my cell phone off my desk, unlock it then open the text thread with Robin.
Cuppa Joe in 15?
He knows me so well.
I’ll be there as soon as I lock up.
Kate, a recent college graduate, sits behind the desk at the back of the gallery, watching the front door through her black-framed rectangular glasses. Her white dress shirt is open at the collar and the desk hides her black pencil skirt. She turns when she hears the elevator sigh open. Long jet black curls cascade down the side of her face and past her shoulders.
“Hi, Lara,” she smiles. “All quiet on the home front.”
“Go ahead and leave if you’d like. I’ll take care of things until close.”
“Are you sure?” she asks her brown eyes lighting up.
“Thanks!” she exclaims and pushes the rolling chair away from the desk. She opens the bottom drawer of the desk and draws out her purse.
I drop my purse in the chair then walk the gallery, making sure everything is in order. I lock up and walk next door to the coffee shop.
Robin sits in the back corner with two large mugs on the small bistro table in front of him. He smiles hesitantly and waves. I reach the table and he stands, wraps his arms around me then squeezes me into his chest.
I inhale his spicy cologne and close my eyes. As much as I loved the time I spent with Chase over the weekend, I missed having Robin to talk to about my new relationship. I sit across from him and he pushes one of the mugs in front of me.
“Thanks.” I pick it up and take a sip of the rich espresso.
“I’m sorry,” he says solemnly.
“For what?” I ask for clarification and set the mug down.
“For putting you on the spot like I did Friday.” He sets his forearms on the table. “You were right. I should’ve had the balls to say something before.”
I sit up at the unexpected change in Robin’s attitude. I worried he would try to talk me out of continuing to see Chase.
“And you were right about taking a break. It gave me time to think and see your side.”
“I don’t know what to say,” I say still shocked.
“I was an asshole. If you had shown up at my place while I was getting ready to go on a date with a woman I was into then told me you loved me, I probably would’ve done the same thing. It was completely unfair of me to put you on the spot like that.”
“So where does this leave us? I know you can’t just change your feelings for me.”
“I leave it up to you. You’re the one in the relationship.”
“What about you? I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable with Chase. Or with me.”
“Lara, you’re my best friend. I’d be more miserable without you than seeing you with Chase.”
I exhale and feel as if the world just fell off my shoulders. “I’d be miserable without you, too, you know.”
“You’d be lost without me,” he teases.
“Oh, please. You’d be lost without me.”
“Yes, I would.” He snickers. “So, how are things with Chase?”
“Excellent. He’s coming over tomorrow to cook dinner.”
“Impressive.” He nods his approval.
An idea pops in my head. “Why don’t the three of us go out Friday for drinks? Maybe getting to know him better will help.”
“Will he be okay with that?”
“He wants me to be happy and he knows I choose him.”
He winces almost imperceptibly then nods. Robin is adept at keeping a straight face and only those of us who know him well would catch such a slight change in his facial expression.
I am on dangerous ground.
©Debi Smith, 2014