I sigh again. “Not going to happen. Why are you even coming over here anyway? You never come to the west coast.”
“I’m bored,” he says. “And Azurra has family in the Bay Area.”
“Of course that’s her name.”
“At least I have a girlfriend.”
“Nice, Bram. How old are you again, thirty-two?”
“And how old are you?”
“Twenty-eight, as of today. But that’s not my point.”
“So can you take us or not?”
“Hold on,” I tell him, exasperated, and scroll through my phone to my appointment calendar. I have a flight in the morning but nothing in the afternoon. I tell him I can book it for him and ensure I will be the pilot that day, private flight. But there will be no bloody Alcatraz.
As soon as I’m off the phone, I immediately text Stephanie.
What are you doing next weekend? Want to go for a ride?
She knows what that means, she’s been up a few times already and absolutely loves it. My other best friend, James, loves it too but I don’t get quite the same thrill watching him as I do watching her. Her whole face lights up and she wriggles in her seat like a little kid. Besides, she would make a great buffer between my brother and I and I’m sure she could find something to talk to Azurra about. Steph gets along with everyone – for the most part – whereas James can be an emo little fucker.
It doesn’t take her long to answer.
Sure, is James coming?
Now I feel a bit guilty that I’m not inviting him. It’s a matter of space though.
No, my brother will be in town with his girlfriend so I thought it would be just the four of us.
A beat passes before she answers: Like a double date?
I don’t know, do you put out? I text back.
Shut up, she answers. Fine, that sounds good. Are we still on for the Lion tonight?
I close my eyes and lean my head back against the seat rest. I can’t imagine celebrating anything at the moment. In fact, I just want to go to sleep.
Finally I text back: I don’t think I’m going to go.
She answers: But it’s your birthday.
I’m aware. But I think I’m coming down with something. I’m just going to stay at home, watch a movie and take it easy.
You’re getting old, she texts back. She might be right. In the past I would have gone out and pounded back the beers whether I felt sick or not. But now, that sounds a wee bit hellish.
What I would actually like is to invite her over to watch a movie with me.
And normally I would do just that but my invitation has always included James and sometimes her high-maintenance friend Nicola. But I don’t want them there, I just want her there.
A few years ago, I made a pact with Steph that we would marry each other if we weren’t in serious relationships by the time we were thirty. She doesn’t turn twenty-eight until October and we’ve got a few years on top of that but Steph ended her relationship with her cheating turdsniffer boyfriend, Owen, a month ago. I haven’t been seeing anyone for the last two months.
I want now to be thirty. I want now to finally put something in motion.
The thing is, I know Stephanie thinks the whole pact is a joke, something I made up for fun and would never actually follow through on. And why would she think otherwise? Romance, even sex, has never been a possibility for us. We’ve been nothing but good friends from the moment we first met.
Actually, that’s not true. The moment I first laid my eyes on her as she wore her tight jeans, layered ripped tank tops that showed off just the right amount of flesh, her hair this crazy color of blue, being her friend was the last thing on my mind.