When Alexa smiled at him, relief shot through Drew’s bloodstream. She lay back down on the towel, and Drew lay down next to her, facing her. They moved the conversation away from the big topics of jobs and weddings and ex-girlfriends. Instead, they made up pretend conversations for the people around them, fed leftover tortilla chips to a friendly puppy who came by with his owner, and tried not to laugh when a teenage skateboarder attempted to fly down the church steps across the way and fell.
“Shhhh,” he said when she couldn’t hold it in anymore. “You’ll hurt his pride.”
She giggled, and he giggled with her, and suddenly they were laughing so hard they couldn’t breathe. At the delight of watching someone fall down, at the joy that they’d both found it so funny, at the pleasure of being together in the sun, enjoying each other’s company so much. He didn’t even realize when it happened, but somehow his arms were around her and her head was against his chest as they shook with laughter.
When their laughter finally slowed, and then stopped, he looked down at her. Her cheeks were pink from the laughter and the sun, her hair was tousled, and her eyes glowed. Without even thinking about it, he leaned down and kissed her.
He hadn’t kissed her since they’d left the hotel room. He didn’t know why—was he nervous to do it in public? Did they have some sort of tacit agreement that all of that had been left behind in room 1624 of the Fairmont? Whatever the reason, it was clearly a stupid one, because as soon as he kissed her, he wondered why he’d spent all of this time with her today without his hands and lips on her.
They lay there in the sun, kissing lazily. He touched her like she was made out of precious china, like he couldn’t grab too hard or make any sudden movements. He wanted to throw his leg over her body again, wanted to push her over and roll on top of her, but they were outside in full view of hundreds of people, and she was a public servant, after all. So instead, he kept up the long, slow kisses, the gentle touches on her arm, her neck, her back, and hoped she was as frustrated as he was.
Eventually, she pulled away and rested her head on his chest. He wrote his name on the small of her back with his thumb.
“What time is it?” she asked him.
“After five,” he said after checking his phone. Too late.
“You know.” He’d just realized something. “My flight is out of the Oakland airport, so I can drop you off at home in Berkeley on the way to the airport. If you want, I mean.”
She lifted her head.
“Are you sure?”
“Sure that my flight is from Oakland, or that I can take you home? Either way, the answer is yes.”
She pulled his head down to hers and kissed him again.
“That sounds great,” she said, and rested her head back on his chest.
“Do you want to get some ice cream on the way back to the car?” she asked him a few minutes later, her voice muffled, her hand on the bare skin of his hip, right above the waistband of his jeans.
“What does ‘ice cream’ mean exactly in this context?” He pulled back to see her face, to check if he made her smile.
“I mean ice cream ice cream!” She pinched him, and he laughed. “There’s a great place right down the hill.”
“Sure.” He was willing to go wherever she wanted. “Let’s go get ice cream.”
She hooked her finger under his chin, pulled him down to her for another kiss, and stood up. After they tucked the towel back into her purse and tossed the remnants of their burritos, they walked back down the hill hand in hand to stand in line for ice cream.
“What’s good here?” he asked her. The burrito had been hours ago at this point, and all of the ice cream flavors looked great to him.
“Well, my favorite is the salted caramel, but I also love the coffee toffee. And I always love cookies and cream.” She was so animated when she talked about the ice cream that it made him excited about what was coming next. She was like that about everything she cared about, it seemed.
He wondered how she would talk about him.
He moved closer to her and hoped their closeness had the same effect on her as it did on him. She shivered. He smiled.
“All of those sound great,” he said. The line ahead of them moved, and they moved up. He stood behind her and massaged her neck. She sighed and leaned back against him.
“Why, exactly, did you wait until now to let me know you could do that? You could have been doing that this whole time?”
“I didn’t mean to hold out on you,” he said. He ran his thumb down the middle of her neck, and she let out a low moan. “We were a little busy with other things, you know.” He kissed her bare shoulder.
“Next customer in line!” the ice-cream lady shouted at them.
“Salted caramel in a cone, please,” Alexa said.
“And you?” the woman behind the counter said to him as she packed ice cream into a waffle cone.
“Um . . .” He’d stared at the menu all that time they’d been in line, but he’d been distracted by Alexa’s closeness and had barely paid attention. “Cookies and cream?”
They walked slowly back to the car after they got their ice cream, sharing bites with each other.
He drove them across the bridge and followed her directions to a side street off Alcatraz Avenue. The conversation stalled as they got closer and closer to her house. He looked down and saw her hands clasped together, her nails digging into her knuckles.
“So, this is me.” She pointed at a little yellow house. He pulled up in a spot in front of it and hesitated for second before he turned off the car and got out. He pulled her bag out of the trunk and walked up to her front door.
She unlocked the door, and he followed her inside. They walked through a long hallway covered in photographs and into a big living room. A plush yellow sofa lined one wall, covered with bright cushions. It was flanked by fat red chairs and faced a big wall-mounted TV. Magazines and nail polish covered the coffee table, and overstuffed bookshelves lined the walls. It suited her. Bright, attractive, warm. He wanted to flop down on that couch and curl up with her.
“Where should I put this?” he asked, gesturing to the bag.
“Oh.” She paused. Her eyes darted from her bag to his face, then back to her bag. “My bedroom is easiest, probably.”
The afternoon light streamed into her bedroom and lit up the pale yellow walls, the big unmade bed with its green and white striped comforter, the vase full of drooping daffodils on the low bookshelf. He dropped the bag on the floor and turned to her. She had that big smile back on her face. The fake one she’d given Amy and Bill.
“I had a great time this weekend,” she said. Even though he knew, he knew she’d had a great time, that smile made him unsure.
He cleared the two feet separating them in one step and pinned her against the wall. Her arms went around his neck, pulling him even closer to her.
“I know you did,” he said. “And you know I did, too.”
He slid one hand up her body and enjoyed her sharp intake of breath when he got to that spot she liked. Her lips parted and her eyes followed his hand. He pulled her dress and bra down. He needed to touch her, without anything in between them. Her fingers tightened on his shoulders. Oh yeah, he knew she’d had a great time this weekend.
“Don’t you have to go to the airport?” Her voice was hoarse.
“I’ll drive fast,” he said. The hand that wasn’t on her breast skimmed her knee and slid up her thigh under her dress. He kept going up, and then stopped, surprised.
“Have you been walking around all day with no panties on like this?” Without waiting for an answer, he pressed a finger inside of her and she cried out. She leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes.
“Tell me, Alexa,” he said. She kept making those noises that he couldn’t get enough of. “Have you been like this all day without telling me? When we were in the park, lying in the grass, could I have done this as easily then?”
She opened her eyes a sliver and smiled at him.
“I didn’t”—she gasped—“pack extra panties yesterday. I didn’t know I was going to sleep over. What was I supposed to do?”