She laughed lightly. “You won’t believe this but I’ve been practicing for that.” Another light laugh. “You know what? Can you call me later, like tonight? I’m in the middle of something right now . . . ”
“Definitely. I will!”
“It was nice of you to let me know.”
He hung up the phone. Then a fist pump. The office clock said 9:47am. There was still a long way to go.
For that night’s call he had the words ready: Wonderful, Beautiful, Fantastic, and the phrases: I Really Enjoyed It, You Have A Talent, Where’d You Learn This?
“I’ve had it since I was a little girl,” Annette explained. “I remember watching one of my friends color and it was so calming. I have to tell you, if I’m at the supermarket, I sometimes catch myself watching the stock boys stacking. I know, it’s a little perverted.” She laughed and Gian did too. Her laugh didn’t sound that much like Julie’s anymore.
“Can I try something on you?” she asked.
“Okay.” He heard clinking in the background. It sounded like she was getting a glass.
“Annette?” Gian asked.
“Alright, I got it.”
“Listen, I want to see if I can do this over the phone.” The clinking came louder. “It’s my bottle of Chanel.”
“You don’t sound very enthusiastic.”
“No, I am!” Then he remembered, “It’s very Wonderful!”
Annette laughed again. At him? At the word?
“You’re too riled up,” she said. “You’ve got to relax, otherwise it’s not going to work. You promise to relax?”
“Yes,” he said, and slumped.
“You promise to pay attention to me and only me?”
He heard her fingernails on the Chanel again. “Close your eyes,” she said. He did. Then she whispered, “I got this bottle as a graduation present from my mother. I was so excited to finally wear it. It made me feel special. You don’t smell like perfume with this; it becomes a part of you. That’s why I love it. It blends with your own smell but everybody still notices.” Julie had said something like that too about perfume, but the memory couldn’t get solid in his head. She was floating there, arms crossed ethereally, and then, bye-bye. He sagged even more. He was having trouble holding the phone to his ear. Annette’s voice soaked into all of him. There was 100% something between them.
“Isn’t it nice to look at this?” she whispered.
“It’s lovely,” Gian whispered back.
Mostly they texted. Lol’d that they were a little old for this.
He thumbed out little messages in bed, at the arcade, in between bites of sandwich. Which were things his knucklehead workers did and maybe it was a little Weirdo, but he wasn’t going to complain.