(continues from here)
André and I sat in silence as Mitch walked out, both of us hurting a little and catching our breath.
“Your friend okay?” he asked when we were both breathing normally again.
I looked towards the open door and shook my head. “I don’t think so. He tangled with Max and… I tried to warn him,” I added when André groaned.
“What about you? You okay?”
“Fine,” I said shortly and started to unwrap my hands.
“Oh, we’re done?” André stood up and stretched his arms over his head. “I thought we were just getting started.”
“Oh you want me to kick you in the head some more?” I offered with a grin. “Or maybe here?” I patted his left side where a bruise was already blooming.
“Hey!” He flinched away with a chuckle. “Okay, I concede, you won.”
“Nah, I think we were pretty even.” I knew I’d have bruises on both legs, André kicked hard.
He shook his head. “You got time to eat? My treat since you clearly won.”
“Ah, should have.” I grabbed my phone from my bag to check the time. “Got somewhere in mind?”
“Pizza? Are you trying to trick me into a date?”
André laughed as he held the door to the pizza cafe open for me, such a fucking gentleman.
“Actually, it was my friend George’s choice. You don’t mind?”
“That George likes pizza? Not at all,” I dead panned. “I don’t mind a slice myself.”
“Oh haha. Don’t give up your day job Zander,” André advised as he led the way to a booth.
I slid in opposite him, my back to the door, and grabbed a menu. “So does this date include coffee and dessert?”
“If you like. Followed by a walk around the park to work off the calories.”
“Are you saying I’m fat?” I gasped.
“You know if this were a date you’d probably only order a salad anyway,” he mocked.
“Well lucky it’s not because after kicking your ass I need more than salad.”
“Will half a pie, coffee and dessert do you?”
I heard the tapping sound of high heels approaching and looked up from the menu mostly by reflex, expecting to see a waitress. My mouth dropped open in surprise but André didn’t notice. “Sugar?” Her steps faltered but then he lifted her chin and kept coming until she stopped beside André.
“Yeah sure, sugar for your coffee,” he muttered then she touched his shoulder and said his name.
“George!” He stood up and pulled her into his arms as hers slid around his waist and they hugged. For a minute. Until she eased back a little and sent me a nervous look.
“Who’s your friend?”
“Oh, that’s Zander,” he said dismissively and lifted his hands to cup her face.
If he kissed her I was… what? What the hell was wrong with me?
“You look great. Here, sit down.” He let her go and she slid into the booth opposite me then André slid in beside her. “Zander this is George, my best friend since… well forever really.”
“Nice to meet you George,” I managed to say in a level voice.
“It’s Jorja actually,” she said with a nervous smile at me then a brighter one at André. “Only Andy calls me George.”
“Jorja then,” I said but she kept her eyes on André.
“I haven’t seen George in a couple of years so when she got in touch a couple of days ago and said she wanted to meet up, I said when ever, where ever. Then when she came to the club I was dealing with a situation and she left early. Hope that headache went away?”
“It did,” Jorja said quickly as her cheeks flushed pink and she reached for a menu and knocked over the salt shaker as she did so.
Her fingers were trembling and when I grabbed the salt shaker to stand it up she pulled her hand away and clutched the menu to her chest like… like she needed protection?
“Sorry,” she mumbled then opened the menu in front of her face.
That did it, I couldn’t sit here and make her uncomfortable. I wasn’t that much of an asshole even on my worst day. “I’m going to go,” I said as I slid towards the edge of the seat.
André looked up from his menu with a frown. “I thought you were hungry?”
I shrugged and shot a look towards Jorja but she was hiding behind the menu still. “I’ll grab something on my way. Leave you two to catch up.”
“You don’t have to. We’ve got the whole afternoon to catch up, right George?”
“We do but if your friend wants to go don’t pressure him to stay,” she said softly as she set the menu down and those dark brown eyes locked with mine for a few seconds before she turned to André. “You’re always so pushy.”
“Fine, go if you want to,” he said with a dramatic sigh. “But I still owe you. Both lunch and a rematch?”
“Sure, any time.” I stood up but couldn’t just walk away. “It was nice to meet you Jorja.” I said her name again wanting her to respond in kind.
“You too,” she said with a cool smile in my direction but not at me.
“Maybe I’ll see you at André‘s club sometime,” I said cheerfully and clearly heard her gasp so maybe I was that much of an asshole after all. “See you André,” I added with a grin then walked away.
“Don’t suppose you have any more of that cake?”
“Well hello to you too,” Max greeted me with a clip to the back of my head.
“Hey!” I protested then swivelled my chair to face her. “Well have you?”
“I ate it for breakfast,” she admitted with a defiant look. “It was worth it so don’t even start on me.”
“Don’t even start on me,” I mimicked and she poked her tongue out at me.
“You’re in a mood aren’t you?”
In answer I threw my koosh ball at her as she sat down and jiggled the mouse to wake up her computer. It hit her in the shoulder and she glared at me then threw it back and we tossed it between us for a couple of minutes.
“You want to talk about it?” she asked as she tossed it to me.
“Do you want to talk about Mitch?” I countered with my throw.
She screwed up her nose and sighed as she held her throw. “Nothing to talk about,” she said finally as I caught the koosh and dropped it on my desk.
“Fine,” she muttered and tapped at her keyboard, no doubt entering her password. “Huh. Well we can always just watch your problem.”
“What?” I turned back to my computer and bought up the security feeds, cycled through looking for whatever had Max saying ‘oh yeah’. Of course it wouldn’t be Jorja, she’d made her disinterest obvious, not using the card I’d insisted she have and then pretending we’d never met at all today in front of her best friend André. Which could only mean Luc. And there he was, on the dancefloor but what surprised me was that Levi was on the floor with him. There wasn’t any sound on the feed but I could tell it was a slow song by the way the crowd moved and Luc and Levi were like many others on the floor, wrapped in each others arms.
“Is that what you don’t want to talk about?”
I shook my head slowly. “No, they’re fine. Last time I saw Levi he asked how the club was dong and I told him to come check it out. I’m glad they did.”
Max’s “Hmmm,” said she didn’t believe me. “You telling me you don’t want to be in his place? Luc all wrapped around you?”
Join them maybe, but not replace. I remembered Levi saying he liked to watch and shook my head again. “Nope. No desire to be Levi at all thanks. You?”
“Me?” She laughed in surprise. “I don’t think I’m their type. Am I?”
“They’re not gay Max, they’re like me so you’re still in with a shot,” I teased.
“Yeah well, they want you anyway.”
“Doesn’t everyone,” I said just to get a reaction and Max groaned. I killed the camera feed and went back to the spreadsheet I’d been working on before Max arrived, moved onto some invoices that needed prices checked and before I knew it two hours had gone by.
And I only knew because Max threw her koosh ball at me. “Pack it up Zander, you’re done for the night.”
“What? Why? Oh.” My eyes had focused on the clock and I looked up to find Max watching me. “That went fast.”
“Not really. I’ve been bored for the last hour. Want to go down for a bit?”
I was still in the jeans and tshirt I’d worn to the gym and though I had a change of club suitable clothes I really wanted nothing more than to go home and go to bed. I was tired from my spate of later than usual nights and I didn’t feel like being the gracious host at all.
“Not tonight, I’m wiped out babe. Tomorrow night.”
I walked out into the cool night, the sounds of the club fading as I walked away. Then the next club got close and the sounds rose up then receded again as I kept going. I got called out to a few times, generic ‘heys’ but I kept my head down, I had no interest in anything but getting home. Until I heard that voice calling my name, just the sound of it enough to make my whole body stand up and take notice.
I stopped and looked back, annoyed at myself for not having control, for not just keeping on walking. “It’s been a long day,” I said in greeting when they caught up to me. “What do you want?” See? Asshole.