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Had it been a block further west, the wine bar’s twenty-foot glass windows would have overlooked the river. Instead they stared across Wacker Drive at another equally glassy façade. Alexandra sat at the bar, sipping a glass of Cabernet and replaying her afternoon.
Pretty good, she thought. No awkward silences, no trick questions, no red flags. They seemed impressed with the questions I asked and even laughed a few times. Good interview.
She looked down at her outfit. Black blazer, matching slacks, cream-colored cashmere sweater. Not the best choice for red wine.
When she next checked the entrance, a familiar figure stepped through the door. Alexandra nodded to the bartender, who poured a second glass of the same wine.
Kira eased into the seat next to her girlfriend, wavy blonde hair bouncing.
“So… how did it go?”
“It went well. And you don’t get more until I get a kiss.”
Alexandra was rewarded with long fingers on her neck, tips tracing circles on her skin as Kira planted a less-than-chaste kiss on her lips.
“How does that work?”
“Mm. Gets you a glass of wine, too,” said Alexandra. She slid the second glass over, raising hers to toast. “Thank you for meeting me. Picking me up. Whatever.”
“Whatever,” toasted Kira. “I’ve never toasted to ‘whatever.’ I kinda like it. Health? Friends? Nah, fuck that. Toast to ‘whatever.’ You’re a genius, Henderson.”
Alexandra laughed, sloshing the wine around her glass. “So, yeah, it went pretty well. Won’t know for a little while, but six interviews back-to-back…pretty taxing on the introvert mind.”
“So you went to a bar afterwards. With more people.” Kira gestured around the swanky restaurant, where a variety of well-dressed diners raised a variety of wine glasses.
“Are posers like us even allowed in here? Or can they not tell?”
“Honey, you look like you could work in any one of these offices around here. And me? Well, any of these bitches who look too closely will see that these shoes mean I can pay the bills. So yes, we can hang out here,” said Kira.
There’s nothing terribly remarkable about them. Heels, yes. Nice ones, yes. But I think I’m trailing far behind “bitches who look to closely” in the shoe game, thought Alexandra.
“That was something I’d been meaning to talk to you about,” started Alexandra. “That your family-“
“Yes, my family is wealthy,” interrupted Kira. “Mette told me that she tipped you off. But the fact that you’ve known for more than a week and haven’t acted differently suggests you’re neither impressed nor scared. I like that.”
“It’s just a foreign world to me,” said Alexandra. She sipped the wine, fruity notes dancing in her head.
“You’ll be fine. What Mette didn’t tell you is that her family makes mine look positively middle-class.”
“Her father is on the board of directors of Norway’s largest oil company, the one that has a stake in literally every project in their side of the North Sea. Her mother — they’ve been divorced for decades — is CEO of her family’s little empire in Denmark. So Mette is corporate royalty in two different countries. Don’t let that woman tell you my family’s rich.”
“Even if it’s true,” said Alexandra, a twinkle in her eye.
“Even if it is,” agreed Kira.
“Hi.” The sharp voice came from behind Alexandra’s shoulder. Oh, god. Katy McLean. If there were an internet gallery of faces for that moment when your girlfriend meets your fuckbuddy, well, mine’s now in it. Even if they know each other exist and are both cool with it. Ugh. Alexandra buried her face in her elbow.
Kira stood. “Hi,” she said, shaking the woman’s hand. “I’m Kira. I assume you’re Katy?”
“Impressive,” said the smaller woman, now standing behind the couple’s barstools. “It’s really nice to meet you. Alexandra’s told me so much about you.”
“Likewise,” said Kira.
What the fuck, thought Alexandra. They’re just acting as if this is completely normal.
“Sorry,” Katy said. “I didn’t want to be awkward or anything, but I just wanted to tell Alexandra how impressed everyone was with her today. She really knocked it out of the park.”
Alexandra felt the blush spread across her face. It threatened to consume her. Is there a wine bottle around here big enough to hide in?
“Well, I’m sure she’ll be glad to hear that once she crawls out of that hole she’s trying to dig herself into,” said Kira. She turned to Alexandra. “Honey, welcome to slut life. Sometimes two people you fuck are going to meet each other.”
Katy laughed, and Alexandra finally stole a peek at her. Pink pixie cut swept to the side, leather jacket, super-skinny dark jeans. Her ubiquitous Chucks, this time bright green. She looks good.
Alexandra’s canlı bahis şirketleri eyes met Kira’s. Fuck, she agrees with that assessment.
“So, what brings you two in here tonight?” Katy’s tone remained light.
“I was coming up from the South Side and she… well, you know where she’s been.”
Yes, thought Alexandra. At her office. Being interviewed for a job. I’d like to teleport back there now, please.
“Like I said, she did great. I hope she takes the offer.”
“So what brings you here?” said Kira. She sipped her wine, green eyes peering over the rim.
“Oh, I have a date. I’m just early. And rather than standing in the corner like I was scared of my own shadow, I thought I’d come make Little Miss Cat-got-her-tongue over here as uncomfortable as possible.”
Even better. Your girlfriend meets your fuckbuddy. When your fuckbuddy is on a date. Greeeeeeat. Uncomfortable? You succeeded.
Kira laughed. “Well, I think you’ve managed that.”
“And actually, I wanted to meet you. I know we all crossed paths on the street a while back, and…well, I guess I was just curious.”
“I’m an open book,” said Kira. The bar was filling up, more suits and obvious first-date couples entering than exiting.
“Wait,” managed Alexandra. “A date, you said?”
“Oh, yeah, I dumped Michelle. Right before Thanksgiving.” Said in the manner of someone who’d just tossed a kitchen appliance, not a romantic partner. “So I’m kicking off the search for her replacement.”
“And who’s the lucky lady?” Kira again, leaning forward.
“Her name’s Jade,” said Katy. “If she’s on time, you’ll see her in just a minute. I should probably go grab a table and a drink before this place runs out of either.”
“It was great meeting you,” said Kira, a broad smile. “Hopefully Alexandra will be able to talk normally again in a minute.”
“You too. And Alexandra? Look, the awkward’s on the other foot now. All you two need to do is sit still and you get to watch me on a first date.” She pointed to the window. “What’s that, thirty-eight degrees with a fifty percent chance of absolute disaster?”
“She’ll never know what hit her,” said Kira.
Katy’s meet-up was decidedly not a disaster. Her date arrived precisely on time and strode directly over, giving her a quick peck on the cheek.
“What do you think?” asked Alexandra, watching from the corner of her eye.
“She’s certainly attractive. Let’s see how they get on.” Kira sipped her wine, brushing a red droplet from her upper lip.
Twenty minutes later, the two women were laughing, Katy touching her date’s tight box braids while Jade ran her fingers over the buzzed side of Katy’s pixie.
“Well,” commented Kira. “I hope they don’t order dessert or anything. Might slow things down.”
They were a study in contrasts: Katy’s dark outfit contrasting with her date’s orange dress. A dress only someone with her skin tone can pull off, Alexandra noted with some jealousy.
Mere minutes later, Katy was literally eating calamari out of her date’s fingers.
“I’d say it’s going fine,” said Alexandra.
“Is she that slutty with you?” Kira’s eyes met Alexandra’s. “I’m not judging in the least, just…she’s not the most subtle.”
“Says you, who walks out of the bedroom wearing a corset and thigh highs with no warning whatsoever.”
“So that’s a yes?”
“That’s a yes,” said Alexandra. “Katy is about as forward as I can imagine another human being.”
“I can’t blame her. She’s really attractive, so she…well, you’re the one who’s fucked her.” Kira elbowed her girlfriend in the ribs. “Well done on that, by the way.”
“Your lack of jealousy continues to astonish me,” said Alexandra, drily. Maybe too drily. I wasn’t actually being sarcastic.
“Hard for me to blame you. I’d do exactly the same.”
The bartender offered them a refill. After a quick exchange of glances, they shook their heads.
“Absolutely,” Kira said. “I know she’s rocking Chucks and a leather jacket, but she could have come in here in heels and a dress with sequins all over it and she’d have looked incredible. Good-looking people are just that.”
“So you’re saying I could chop my hair off, get my nose pierced, wear what she’s wearing, and you’d think I was sexy?”
“Yeah,” said the blonde, tilting her wine glass high. “Totally. Why? Are you thinking of doing that?”
“Not all of it,” said Alexandra. She winked and motioned to the bartender for the check, holding out her card. “But yeah, some. You like surprises, don’t you?”
Kira stood. She held Alexandra’s jacket out and watched her girlfriend slide it on. “Depends. You’ve already done the skinny jeans canlı kaçak iddaa and Chucks look before, so that one’s out. So, hair or a piercing, Alexandra?”
“Don’t you wish you knew?” God, I love teasing her. That hungry look she’s got in her eyes right now.
“Is this a definite thing?” Ooooh, she looks nervous. Actually nervous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kira nervous before.
“Nope. Wanted to see what you thought.” She signed the bill, adding a generous tip.
“What I think? I think your girl Katy’s getting laid tonight,” said Kira, nodding toward the couple. They were holding hands atop the table, eyes fixated on one another.
“Nice dodge,” said Alexandra. Katy’s date — Jade, was it? – stood, presumably heading for the restroom. Katy’s head turned towards Alexandra, grinning when their eyes met.
The pink-haired woman extended a hand, thumb extended sideways. She waggled it up and down. Like you’re actually asking for my approval, thought Alexandra. She extended her own arm, thumb upward, nearly colliding with Kira’s identical gesture.
They received a smile, a wink, and a wave in response. Have fun, Katy McLean. I’m gonna go have mine. By the time Alexandra looked toward the exit, Kira was already three steps ahead.
Alexandra ran across the lobby to catch the elevator. Only when she reached it did she notice the man holding the door.
“Well, I suppose I don’t need to ask which floor?” he said.
“Hi, Paul. Thanks.” The man’s grey overcoat hugged his narrow frame. He stuffed a pair of leather gloves into a pocket.
“How are you, honey? We’ve been meaning to invite you ladies over for brunch sometime.”
“I know. Just such a long walk, all the way down the hall.” Oh, manners. “I’m doing well enough. How’s Darnell?”
“Fine. Working late tonight. Or as late as people keep calling for Ubers, at least. So I’m solo for a while. My last client was at six, so I knocked off a little early.” There was a touch of sadness in his voice.
“Hm. Kira’s out getting groceries. Do you want to come over for a cup of coffee?” He clearly has something on his mind. And this is an easy way to score points with one of Kira’s good friends. Pity it involves inviting someone into her home without her presence or agreement. Oh, well.
He smiled, running his fingers though cropped, sandy hair. “Sure. I’d love that.”
They walked silently down the hall. She slid the key into the lock and opened the door. I should probably text Kira to let her know.
“Well, welcome.” Without Kira, the place seemed strangely empty. “Let me put on a pot.”
“Wonderful,” said Paul, placing his coat on the back of a chair. “I see you have a key, sweetie. Things moving that fast?”
Alexandra blushed deeply as she filled the coffeemaker.
“I suppose so. To be honest, this is the first time I’ve used it. She just gave it to me last weekend.”
“Still. Pretty big deal. You two didn’t spend Thanksgiving together, though?”
“Oh, no way. She was down at her parents’ palace in Houston, and I was up in the chilly hills around Pittsburgh.” Where I was hiding my phone all the time in case Kira texted something lewd. Which she did quite often. “I assume you guys did?”
“Of course. Darnell’s family has a huge get-together every year. Two turkeys, a spread of sides that you can’t even imagine, pies like you wouldn’t believe. And all we need to do is show up and eat.” Still, that touch of sadness.
“I wish my family could match that,” Alexandra responded. The coffee pot began to drip, and she sat at the table with Paul.
“Me too. Today’s my mother’s birthday,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to her in seven years.”
What do you even say to that?
He continued. “It’s strange, you know. She supported me like nothing was wrong when I got sent to juvie. Even though I’m pretty sure burglary to support a drug habit is not exactly a shining example of civic responsibility. But no, that was fine. But when I finally — after a lot of therapy — got to the bottom of what was causing me to act out and then told her about it, that’s when she freaked out.”
“And that was?” The coffee pot burbled. Definitely texting Kira. Does she know about this?
“Oh,” he said, flicking his wrist as if ashing an imaginary cigarette. “Just that I’m gay and for a long time I couldn’t come to terms with that. It’s strange, and I know I’m repeating that word, how different some people’s morality can be.”
Alexandra stood. “Do you take anything in your coffee? Milk? Sugar? Something stronger, maybe?”
He finally smiled, a wide but shy grin. “As strong as you can make it.”
She poured the steaming cups. Texted Kira: FYI, Paul’s here. He needed canlı kaçak bahis some company. Added milk to hers, a shot of Jameson to his.
“Kira never told me about any of this,” Alexandra said.
“She couldn’t,” he laughed. “She doesn’t know. I’m not generally one for talking about my past. I’d rather just be a young gay man in the big city, great boyfriend, job I love, than be the pruned branch from the Lilienthal family tree.”
Kira’s voice echoed in Alexandra’s head. You have that rare gift of being able to find common ground with anyone. To talk to anyone, get them to open up.
“I’d never have known any of that if you didn’t tell me.”
“It felt safe talking to you. I don’t know why.” He raised his mug in toast.
“Hang on,” said Alexandra. “This isn’t fair.” She stood, returning from the kitchen with a bottle. “Friends don’t let friends drink alone.”
“I’m not sure that’s the saying, but don’t let me stop you.”
The coffee burned, but not from heat: she’d put too much alcohol in hers. That, on top of that wine…ouchie. Weeknight.
“Honey, before we get too far into the booze, let me say one more thing: your nails are absolutely smoking.”
A compliment that only sounds right coming from a gay man, Alexandra thought. She held up a hand, waggling her fingers. “Really?” She’d only gotten the French manicure because she’d promised Kira. In a moment of…extreme weakness, to be fair. But it had grown on her, and she’d carefully protected it for more than a week.
“Oh my lord, yes. What does Kira think?”
“Kira…” Just tell the truth. “Kira actually requested them. It was sorta a dare, but yeah. I do kinda like them.”
“Don’t you guys play sports?”
“Yes, and I’ll almost certainly break one or two playing soccer. But until then, wine red with white tips it is.”
Paul took a large gulp of coffee. “I suspect they also have certain…um, other…inconveniences.”
Alexandra felt the blush spread across her face anew. Bold, Paul. Bold. But two can play this game.
“I have a mouth, Paul.” She raised the coffee cup, slurping down the warm liquid. “Don’t you worry, friend. Miss Manning is well taken care of.”
“Tee. Em. Eye. Too much fucking information, literally.” But a smile beamed from his mouth, and his eyes joined in.
“You started it.”
They clinked mugs again just as the door opened. Paul rushed to the door, grabbing a handful of tote bags from Kira. They kissed each other on the cheek in greeting.
“Please tell me she’s behaving herself,” Kira said.
“Oh, she’s not, not at all. Just how you’d prefer,” he said. They moved to the kitchen, unloading groceries at a rapid clip. Alexandra slid alongside her girlfriend, giving her a long, wet kiss on the mouth.
“I never behave. You know that.”
“Ladies, ladies. I’m still here.”
“And Alexandra here better be thankful you are, otherwise I’d be doing things to her that you’d rather not see.”
“Tee. Em. Eye. Too much fucking information. Literally,” Paul said. “Again.”
“Kira, could you give us a minute? We have something we need to talk about.”
Paul was gone. Alexandra stood in the kitchen, rinsing the mugs. A pair of arms encircled her waist, pulling her back for a long-delayed kiss.
“A little cheeky, inviting people to my place without asking, wasn’t that?” Kira’s voice was at once playful and aggressive. One hand moved to Alexandra’s rear, fingers raking along the fabric.
“It was just one person.” The fingers raked lower, onto the back of her thigh. “And he’s your friend. You should have seen him in the elevator. He looked like he was about to bawl his eyes out.”
“Still, enough to ask for a private conversation, in my home?” Kira’s left hand worked its way under Alexandra’s sweater, resting on her taut stomach.
“That was about something else.” The hand slid up inside her sweater. Alexandra’s muscles tensed in its wake, her girlfriend’s breath hot on her neck.
“Sorta narrows things down, doesn’t it?” She nibbled on Alexandra’s ear cartilage. “About our discussion earlier?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t play dumb, Alexandra.” Kira unbuttoned Alexandra’s pants. Her fingers teased the waistband. “I want to know what you’re planning.”
“I’m planning to be in bed with you.” She leaned back, trying to kiss her girlfriend’s full lips.
“Nice dodge,” said Kira, turning her head away.
“You too.” Alexandra reached her hand up, turning Kira’s face back to hers. Kira’s hand had found her bra, cupping her breast tightly.
Their lips met. Kira’s still tasted of red wine. And mine probably tastes like whiskey. Oops. They kissed passionately, tongues probing one another. Alexandra twisted her body, turning to face Kira properly. Her eyelashes fluttered as her arms wrapped around her partner’s neck, lips hungrily going after one another.
Alexandra’s sweater swept up her body, following the pull of Kira’s hands.
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