“Yeah,” was all he could say. He didn’t dare smile. Annette tipped back the wine and gulped. It was what he couldn’t say at the moment. Not with the botched smile and nothing between them. He should have smoked. She gulped her wine like Julie after he told her at the dinner table, “I need help,” because he’d lost not only Number One In The Store, but also the job itself.
“Hello? Is something wrong?”
“Do you not want to talk about my videos?” She fingered the stem of her glass, Do You Understand That I’m Trying To Talk To You? Ma said that to him when he was really brushing her off. Then Ma would follow that with, “People need to share things.” And if she were watching Lidia Bastianich on PBS, she’d point to Lidia rolling out dough with her son Joe and say, “See, they have pasta.”
Gian excused himself and went to the bathroom. In the locked stall he sat on the toilet and, on his cellphone, pecked out a message to Annette.
Forget about my Weirdo smile please. It was a mistake. MysteryWhispery you can put me to sleep. That’s an amazing talent
Gian gripped the phone with two hands.
You know why Im texting. Love Gianboy59
He cracked open the bathroom door and peeked out. Her back was to him. She was leaning over the table. She was not Julie. He almost dropped his phone when it buzzed.
Annette texted him: a colon and parentheses.
Annette’s next video was dedicated to him. “For Gian” right before the title, “Makeup Role Play.”
“A little surprise for my Gianboy59,” she told him.
And who cared if it was a little Weirdo that a video like that was dedicated to him?
Gian watched it.
And while watching it he felt like she was in his bed with him, arm draped over his chest, teasing goose bumps out of his skin.