”But, Em… don’t you see? It’s not about being afraid, it’s about not wanting to, that’s all,” the redhead spoke passionately, tracing circles in the air with her long-fingered hands. “He simply doesn’t want this enough, and I’m not about to force him into anything. God knows that I’ve had enough of being forced to do shit I didn’t want to.”
Emily Seston watched her volatile best friend’s face, seeing the frustration and the futility she wore at this moment. She knew that Lani wouldn’t have shown this side to just anyone, and was proud that she was among the select few her guarded friend allowed into her “inner circle”. Independent, strong, resilient, were just among a handful of the words used to describe the flame-headed woman sitting across the table from her in the little cafe’ where they’d chosen to meet today. It normally took too many words to describe her to people, it was one of those things where you had to meet her and get to know her in order to understand who she really was. Otherwise, the words people used who didn’t know her were more along the lines of cold, hard, bitchy, unfeeling…
Emily watched as a hint of moisture gathered in Lani’s already glittering sky-blue eyes, and was just as quickly blinked away. No, she’d never call Lani unfeeling. Just the opposite, in fact.
“I just don’t get what went wrong, Em,” Lani expelled a sigh as though it were poison gas, almost gasping for her next breath. “Everything seemed to be just fine, and then poof! Gone! Smoke… mirrors… no nothing. And I can’t bring myself to force the issue, you know that.”
“Yeah, I know, Lan…” Emily nodded her head in compassionate agreement, “I really don’t know anything either, and it’s infuriating. He hasn’t even talked to any of his own friends about it, to my knowledge, and we both know most of them well enough to ferret out the info from someone! I mean come on, if I can’t get the information from Danny…” Emily batted her eyelashes and pouted her perfectly pink lips in mock adoration.
Lani chuckled, her low, scratchy voice making it sound like that of some evil super-villainess watching the hero fall to his knees before her. Emily had always envied her friend that voice. Able to drop men with a single laugh, Emily knew it for the superpower it was, although Lani never thought anything of it. It was just a part of her… a butterscotchy, whiskey, phone-sex ready, kind of voice. Unfair, totally unfair to pair that voice with that hair and those eyes, Emily whined to herself. Knowing that Lani would heartily disagree with that whole statement, totally discounting most, if not all of Emily’s assessment. Vain – was never a word used to describe her best friend.
“Oh, Em, thanks for that. I needed a laugh, even if it is true. If there ever comes a day when you can’t get intel from some guy, just by blinking those big hazel greens… I’ll hang up my ass-kicking boots and we can both run off and become nuns, hunh?” Shaking her head, Lani swirled her chai tea in the oversized cup and took a quick sip. “I’ve always been jealous of how you do that, you know that, right? You bat your eyes, smile that innocent ‘oh, just tell me, it won’t hurt a bit’ grin you’ve got, and they melt like jello in your hands. It’s a gift, I tell ya, a gift! And it doesn’t hurt that you’re small enough, damn near, for them to put you in their pocket like some kind of adorable chihuahua. Just once, I wish a guy would tuck me under his arm and I’d be able to fit there without hunching up like that dude from Notre Dame. You’re just too damn cute!” Grinning wickedly to take any sting from her words, Lani tilted her head to one side and pointed at Emily, jabbing her finger in the air emphatically.
“That perfect hair, like chocolate, those hazel green eyes you’ve got like lasers when you see something that interests you, you just take over a room when you walk in, you know? Bitch, I think I hate you now, stealing all my spotlight!”
Emily almost spat her coffee out her nose, the surprise catching her in mid-sip. Coughing and choking, she grabbed up a napkin and wiped her face, making sure she didn’t have coffee dribbling down from her eyebrows. Then the laughter took over, and she stuck her tongue out at Lani. “Spotlight, my ass! Lan, you know you hate attention! I’m just saving you the trouble of chasing guys off all night whenever we go anywhere, and you know it!” Heaving a large, mock sigh, Emily placed the napkin precisely on the table, making sure she refolded it exactly how it had been. “Try to do a girl a favor… I tell ya…”
“Well, whatever, Em, If it makes you feel better to do charity work, I guess I can’t stop you.” Lani pulled a grimace and swirled her tea again, uncomfortably, this time. Emily knew the signs, she was headed for the big breakdown now. And Emily knew she wouldn’t want to do this in public. Time to take this discussion elsewhere.
“Hey, Lan, let’s get out of here, I think that last spit-take did me in on coffee, hunh? How bout we just take this back to my place. I have better stuff there… you know, the grown-up stuff. The tequila stuff, if you get my meaning?”
“God, yes,” Lani exhaled, “The tequila stuff… by all means, let’s go get into the tequila stuff.”
As the women grabbed up their bags and wandered out of the coffee shop, neither one of them noticed the man who’d sat at the table next to them, tucked neatly away behind his newspaper. But he rose, leaving the paper folded neatly, and followed them out. He already had his equipment in place, and if he hurried, he could be in position before they reached the brunette’s place. The red-head was just about ready for him to make his move. And when he did, she wouldn’t have a chance to escape. He’d been planning this for months, and everything was going perfectly. It was just a matter of timing.
-Jan. 18, 2014