Yet, marriage – hell, a relationship – is a whole new ballgame when it comes to him and not one I’m ready or willing to play. Yes, I think he’s gorgeous, yes the way he looks at me sometimes does foolish things to my stomach, yes I have often thought about sleeping with him.
I mean, more than I should.
But this kind of agreement – marrying him – wouldn’t work.
Luckily, I know Linden is just joking around.
I take a long sip of my beer, making him sweat it out a little bit, push my thumb into that bruise on his ego, before I nod and say, “Fine.”
“Are you serious?”
“I guess so?”
He smiles broadly enough for those secret dimples to pop up. “You’ve made me a very lucky man, Stephanie Robson.”
I roll my eyes. “We’ll see about that. With any luck, we’ll both be in serious relationships by age thirty and I won’t have to entertain the thought of doing your laundry for the rest of my life.”
“Or doing me,” he adds with a wink which only prompts another eye roll from me. “Pinky swear on it. You know I don’t break those.”
And it’s true, he doesn’t. Maybe he’s more serious about this than I thought.
I swallow and hold out my pinky finger. He swiftly wraps his around mine, his skin hot and soft to touch.
“If neither of us are in a serious relationship by the time we are both thirty,” he says, looking me so dead in the eye that I can’t help but hold my breath, “then we agree to marry each other. Agree?”
I find my voice. “Agree.”
He then pulls my hand toward his mouth and kisses the top of it. Even more air is taken from my lungs.
“I think I just made the best back-up plan ever,” he says, his lips moving against my skin before he lets go of my hand and picks up his beer instead, clinking it against mine. “To us.”
I mouth the words but they don’t come out.
“Damn, it took them forever to leave,” James says as he comes over to us. “How many times can I say ‘we’re closing soon’ before they get the hint.”
“Maybe you oughta start pulling a gun out,” Linden says. “Or better yet, start singing.”
“Shut up,” James tells him. “I sing back-up once and I never live it down.” Linden and James used to be in a local band together, with Linden on vocals and lead guitar and James on bass but although they were good, they weren’t really good enough to keep going. San Francisco has a pretty competitive indie scene.
“Oh guess what?” Linden says, his eyes sparkling.
“Do I dare?” James asks with a sigh as he moves behind the bar to start wiping down the counter for the millionth time.
“Steph and I are getting married,” he says brightly.
James pauses and looks up at me to gauge Linden’s validity. “It’s true,” I say, though it doesn’t sound sincere.
“What?” he asks, now looking at the both of us. I want to say there isn’t a hint of hurt threading his brow but I can’t be sure. Sometimes I forget that we used to be lovers, which is kind of ridiculous. It was only a few days after I started working at The Burgundy Lion, when James and I hit it off and ended up dating for a year. Linden was his best friend and that’s how I got to know him.
Obviously the break-up was fairly amicable because James and I are still good friends, but when it came down to it, I broke up with him and though he acted like it was more or less mutual, I always wondered if I’d hurt him more than I thought.