Sunday, July 24, 2016

When Mike Comes to Town

"Interested in showing a poor guy around Santa Monica this weekend?"

My thumb hovered over the keyboard for a few seconds before I even realized that I should ask for Anna's preference. It was really her weekend, after all, and I didn't want Mike overshadowing my time with her.

"Wow, I'm surprised he hit you up after he didn't text you right from the airport," Anna responded. "But yeah, it could be fun."

So I asked Mike what his schedule was like and we ended up making plans to grab lunch the next day. With that, Anna and I collected our things and made our way back to my apartment.

I told Anna about a few of my favorite places for drinks and food so she could choose one. We ended up going to a great Japanese place for dinner and then went down the street for drinks, where Peggy and Shelby met us. This was the first time any of my friends from home were meeting my coworkers, so I was a little nervous. Anna gets along with everyone, though, so I wasn't legitimately concerned.

While things felt a little strange at first, we kept ordering rounds of drinks, making the night a lot of fun. At one point, we convinced Peggy to request Britney Spears and sing it in front of the entire bar. She should have thanked us, because she ended up talking to this pretty cool guy wearing a suit. They seemed to hit it off and he asked for her number before we left.

I woke up feeling slightly groggy and hungover the next morning. Anna was in my kitchen cooking eggs and looking like she was ready to run a marathon. Wasn't she taking shots the night before like everyone else?

"Morning, hostess with the mostest!" She passed me a cup of coffee as I sat down at my small kitchen table.

"Want to do anything this morning?" I asked her as I took a sip. It tasted amazing.

Anna shrugged. "I don't care."

We ended up going to the beach again for a few hours before heading back to get ready to meet Mike. We met at a sandwich place close to where his cousin lived. I still couldn't believe he had a cousin that lived here and it never came up.

I pushed the wooden door of the restaurant open. It only took me a few seconds to see Mike standing there with a tall, lanky guy standing next to him. I immediately noticed he had a tattoo sleeve on his left arm. Mike was so clean cut, so I was surprised to see him with an inked cousin.

Mike greeted me and Anna before introducing us to his cousin, Anthony. Mike pulled me into a hug that lingered a bit longer than I expected. I have to admit, it felt good, though.

We all ordered food at the counter before sitting down at a booth in the back. It was an odd group, but it was easy to fill the time by talking about how Anthony ended up living here, since he was raised on Long Island, as well, and general catching up. When Mike and I were together, him and Anna got along really well, so it was a pretty comfortable environment.

Anthony was having people over his place so he asked Anna and I to come by. I looked at Mike to gauge his reaction. He smiled at me and nodded. He could still read my mind after all these years apart.

Anna and I went back to my apartment to get ready before heading to Anthony's apartment. There were a few other people there when we arrived, but the four of us ended up sitting around in his kitchen for a while, drinking wine from red cups.

Anthony started asking me about things I liked to do around Santa Monica and we talked for a while before he said that we should hang out. He had been in California since college and had a lot more friends than I did. "I know you've been here for about a year, but I'm sure you'd get along great with my friends."

"That sounds great," I sincerely replied. Shelby and Peggy were great, but I definitely didn't have a surplus of friends my any means.

Anthony smiled at me. "Great," he responded. "I'm looking forward to it."

Anthony excused himself to go mingle with a few of the other guests and Anna said she had to go to the bathroom shortly after that. Mike and I were alone for the first time.

"So," I said as I swirled around the liquid in my cup. "Your cousin wants to hang out with me. I guess he thinks I'm pretty cool."

Mike laughed. "Yup," he replied. "Well, you are pretty cool."

I smiled. "I think he was flirting with me a little." I raised my eyebrows at him and took a sip of my drink. I truly only said that to see Mike's reaction.

Mike let out a deep breathe before quickly saying, "well, he's gay, so you're probably right."

I almost spit out my drink before grabbing his arm. "No way," I responded. I mean, it didn't matter either way, but I was totally surprised that Anthony being gay hadn't come up at all during our day together.

Mike nodded and laughed. "Yeah, sorry to ruin your new, budding relationship."

I rolled my eyes. "Oh, please. You know I wouldn't do that to you."

Mike stared at me for a moment and I could tell he was thinking something. I didn't say anything for a moment. I wanted him to be the one to speak.

"I know you wouldn't," he finally landed on. "You're a really great girl, Caroline."

I don't know what it was, but for the first time in a long time, all the amazing parts of our relationship were fresh in my memory. And suddenly, I really wanted him.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

New York Bagels

I stared out the window of the conference room. It was a beautiful day in Santa Monica and while I would have rather been spending it on the beach, I was stuck at work. Pete looked especially good, though. He’d definitely spent some time in the sun that weekend. Staring at him while he spoke wasn’t bad to look at.

Even though I wasn’t at the beach, I was excited for my weekend. Anna was coming to visit. It had been a while since anybody came to California and even though I had been home, it was a different feeling to have somebody fly out to me.

I really zoned out during the meeting and was almost startled when I heard people pushing their chairs out to stand up. I closed my notepad and pushed my pen through the spiral before standing up. I fixed the bottom of my skirt and when I looked up, Pete had walked closer to me.

“So I’m going to be on your stomping grounds this weekend,” he said to me as he fixed the cuff of his sleeve.

“New York?” I asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Why are you going there?” Pete told me he had only been to a New York a couple of times. He didn’t know anybody there and never had work there, so he’d only gone as a tourist.

“Just a few things to take care of,” Pete said with a smile. “Want me to bring you back anything?”

“A bagel,” I said before thinking.

Pete laughed. “You love your carbs.”

I laughed as I felt myself blush. “Hey, that’s why I go to the gym 5 times a week,” I began. “Well, carbs, and that I don’t have a life.” I would have never said something so self-deprecating in front of Pete when I first started or even within the first six months, but I had been with WebMatch for almost a year at this point. While I still found Pete super attractive and slightly intimidating, we regularly talked about our personal lives.

Pete knew that I hadn’t started seeing anybody since the whole Mark debacle. I even told him about the whole wedding, even though I was super embarrassed. I talked to a few guys online and had even gone out with Shelby a couple of times, but I wasn’t really getting anywhere. I think I just needed some time to focus on myself.

“Well, I’ll bring you home a dozen bagels on one condition. You have to go to that yoga class with me when I get back.”

I rolled my eyes. “Pete, you can go to a yoga class by yourself. Plenty of guys do it; it’s not girly!”

“Do you want the bagels or not?”

I agreed to Pete’s silly deal even though Anna was bringing me a couple bagels that weekend. Besides, I obviously wanted to go to this yoga class if only to see Pete in athletic clothing.

Later that day, I got a text from Anna letting me know that she had just landed and she was heading over. Then she added, “And you’ll never guess who was on my flight.”

“Who?” I sat on my couch staring at my phone for what felt like an hour. How could she hook me with that text and then leave me hanging?

I finally threw down my phone when she didn’t respond and got up to finish preparing for her arrival. I had bought a bunch of Anna’s favorite foods and cleaned every inch of my small, studio apartment.

When Anna showed up at my door, I immediately wrapped my arms around her and squealed. But that doesn’t mean I waited more than three seconds before asking about her text message.

“Oh!” She exclaimed. “So, as I was getting out of my seat, I looked toward the back of the plane and Mike was there.”

Mike, my first boyfriend, was in Santa Monica? What was he doing here? And why didn’t he tell me? It’s not like we weren’t on good terms, especially after we saw each other about a year back.

“Did you talk to him?” I asked. I couldn’t tell if I was excited at the possibility of seeing him or repulsed. And I’d be lying if the possibility of sex didn’t go through my head. I mean, it had been a while and the chance at familiar sex was something I was ready to go for without a second thought.

“Yeah,” she responded. “I waved to him and then looked for him at baggage claim. He said he has a cousin here.”

I furrowed my eyebrows. How did I not know Mike had family here? He had a lot of cousins, though, and I’m sure one of them could’ve moved to California for work or something.

“Do you want to see him?” Anna asked.

I realized that I had been sitting there processing all this information. I shook my head and focused. “Uh, no. I mean, not necessarily. You told him you were visiting me, right? So if he wants to see me, he can reach out.”

“Right,” Anna replied. “But it’s honestly fine if you want to text him. I won’t judge you.”

I laughed and hugged Anna again. “Damn it, dude. I missed you!”

“We miss you,” Anna replied as she hugged me tight. “Okay, we’re watching Broad City and drinking.” Anna pulled out a bottle of rosé. “But I’m not drinking too much. I want to look skinny tomorrow in my bathing suit. There’s only so much Instagram filters can do.”

Anna and I caught up while we finished the bottle of wine before falling asleep in my queen size bed. Early the next morning, we got ready and headed for the beach.

We spent time laying in the sun and floating in the water. I didn’t look at my phone until we were getting ready to leave around three, but sure enough, I had a text message from Mike.