Matthew was under the covers reading when I came into the room. I rushed toward the bathroom to wash the salt off my face before he could see me, but I was still carrying the sandwich. I put the plate on the dresser and turned back to the bathroom as fast as I could. But before I could shut the door, Matthew was out of bed.
“Are you all right?” He was coming toward me to put his hands on my shoulders. I backed away, sure my distress showed on my face.
“I’m fine.” Suddenly I didn’t have to force myself to smile. The whole thing struck me funny. “My dad’s a shit, did I ever tell you that?”
He stopped short of touching me, unsure how to reply to that.
“It’s okay,” I said, wiping my face. I should have let him hold me. I should have cried on his shoulder and told him about all the times Digger had screwed with me. But I didn’t. I noticed he was still wearing socks, though nothing else. “If my father wasn’t such a shit Remo and I wouldn’t be friends and I’d probably be a shoe salesman right now.” I laughed and Matthew laughed with me. The certainty of what we were about to do clashed with a sudden squirt of fear in my stomach. My voice became hesitant. “Matthew…”
This time I let him put his hands on my shoulders. “Yes.”
“You have to promise me you’ll never tell another living soul about me.” I shook under his touch. His socks were wearing thin in the toes.
He forced me to look at him. “I promise.”
I had never really looked into his stone grey eyes before. I pulled the denim jacket from my shoulders, turned away from him to hang it up. I let it fall to the floor as he pressed up behind me. There would be no more waiting. I turned and he kissed me, with the bristles of his mustache on my cheek and the scratch of stubble as his chin touched my chin.
As I felt my hands travel over his back, I said, “And you have to promise me something else, too.”
“The next time you catch me and Carynne alone, don’t back out the door.” I stripped down to my socks and he smiled.
In the morning, our automated wake up call jangled me right out of bed. I slid out from under Matthew’s arm and went to take my morning piss. The other bed, I realized, looked like it hadn’t been slept in. Well, it hadn’t. As Matthew struggled to sit up, I tore back the bed spread and crumpled the sheets. Then I went into the bathroom.
I was brushing my teeth when he stumbled in. He turned on the shower and sat on the toilet seat while he waited for the water to get warm. I rinsed out my mouth and spat into the sink.
His hand was warm against my ass. I got a rush as I leaned forward onto the sink and thought how easy it was to get hard in the morning. I reached down and touched his nipple with my wet hand and watched it contract against the cold water.
“Let’s get in the shower,” he said.
By the time we climbed, dripping, out of the shower, we had to hurry to dress. I was just throwing the pile of yesterday’s clothes into my bag when Waldo pounded on the door. “Let’s move!” he bellowed.
I opened the door. Carynne was standing next to him, her ankles crossed under the umbrella of her short dress. “We’re coming,” I said.
“We’ll do morning paperwork on the way,” he said, his eyes flickering over me. He nodded as if saying I-told-you-so to himself. I’m sure he’d said it to Remo already. I wondered if he was going to repeat the babysitter comment or mention the vagrancy to me, but he didn’t. “That flight won’t wait for a bunch of derelict burnouts such as yourselves.” He cracked his gum and moved on to the next door. Carynne lingered a moment, then hugged her clipboard tight to her chest and followed him.
I closed the door. “Ready?”
Matthew hefted his bag and put on a pair of sunglassses with round lenses. “I can’t see a damn thing.” He took them off and stuck them on my face. “You wear them. I’ll lead the way.” I followed him to the elevator.
Everyone was hungry by the time we arrived at the airport. The gear had gone ahead of us the night before, it would be waiting for us in DC. After check-in, we descended on a coffee shop that had a kind of Amelia Earhart motif, propellers on the walls and stuff like that. Matthew sat with our dedicated roadies, at a comfortable distance from me.
I sat between Martin and Carynne. Martin stared at the bottom of his coffee cup.
“There’s something seriously wrong here,” he said.
“What?” I looked into the cup.
“There’s no coffee in this cup.”
Carynne put hers down in front of him. “Here, drink mine.”
Martin made a face. “Yuck. Half and half.”
She shrugged. “Ingrate.”
I stood up. “I’ll get some more. I could use a refill, too.” I took his cup.
As I made my way toward the counter I heard him shouting “Black! Black coffee, man! Black coffee for manly men!” and beating his chest. I turned back to see Carynne rolling her eyes in mock disgust. I paid the cashier. When I looked over the sunglasses I could see the whole group, spread out over a few tables. Such an unlikely bunch of people, I thought. No one would mistake us for a family group on vacation. Three women and eight men in the trappings of our trade, satin jackets, promotional t-shirts, laminated tags around our necks, sunglasses. Like a circus troupe who missed their train. Matthew was laughing about something. He was keeping his promise–he’d hardly spoken to me since we’d left the room. I pushed the sunglasses up on my nose again, glad they were there. I emulated his act of indifference.
Remo stood up. “Let’s get back to the gate.” Leading us, he walked this cowboy walk, slow and bowlegged, back to the waiting area. We made a new clump among the rows of seats.
The flight was delayed.