“What’s that all about?”
Imani James looked up at Steven Cruz, who was sitting across from her. The Filipino-American had his signature smirk on his face. She had met him while exploring her new home city, Portland. She had bumped into him at a bookstore, then a few days later at an eatery. They struck up a conversation that eventually developed into a friendship.
“Hmm?” Imani finished keying in a reply to a message she received a minute ago. “What are you talking about?”
“That little smile, the one on your face,” Steven sat back as the waiter placed a platter of sushi in front of him. “Who are you messaging?”
“No one,” Imani placed her phone face down beside her plate. “So how is Morgan?”
Steven’s eyes narrowed, but he let her change the subject. “She’s good, she’s signed on to a new deal, but I will be seeing her this weekend.”
This was one of the reasons Imani hung out with Steven. He had a girlfriend who, according to him, was the love of his life. The last thing Imani wanted was a friend becoming a love interest. Although he was a terrible flirt, Steven respected his girlfriend enough not to make a move on Imani.
“Cool, I know you were peeved when she canceled last weekend,” Imani took up a roll and bit into it, her eyes closing as she savored the bite size morsel.
Then her phone chirped, a message had come in, but before she could pick up the phone, Steven snatched it up and read the display. His smirk faltered, but he did his best to preserve it. Looking across at Imani, he uttered, “Ian.”
Imani looked away. One boozy night out at a club, Imani had related what had brought her to Portland. As Steven’s friend’s band played, unshed tears glistened under the strobe lights. She told her new friend everything except for one thing. Even though she was drunk, she couldn’t bring herself to tell Steven that she was still in contact with Ian and that their relationship was… different.
Steven pressed a few buttons and Imani heard the melody of her phone shutting down. He then placed the phone exactly where she had placed it before and he watched her. He waited to see what she would do, daring her.
With a sigh, Imani picked up the phone and slipped it into her handbag. “We’re just talking through messenger,” she said. “Nothing else. Plus, what’s it to you?”
“Hmm, let’s see,” Steven tapped his finger on his chin. “This really savvy chick shedding tears over this guy and now she’s…. What is she to him?”
“A friend through social media,” Imani met her gaze. “You know that means nothing.”
“But there are these rare moments when they mean everything,” Steven crossed his arms and leaned back.
“Let it go, Steven,” Imani’s tone of voice dropped a few octaves. Despite the shortness of their friendship, Steven knew what that meant.
“Okay,” he held up his hands in surrender. “Let’s enjoy the food. Are you coming with Morgan and me to the movies on Saturday?”
“Um, I don’t know,” Imani picked up her chopsticks. “I don’t want to be a third wheel.” She was grateful for the change in subject.
“You won’t be,” Steven said, concentrating a little too keenly on his plate. “Lewis is coming along.” When Imani didn’t respond, he looked up, he couldn’t read the expression on her face. “Come on Imani, he’s not that bad.”
“He’s not that good, either,” Imani muttered under her breath. “Fine, I’ll come, but you two will be sitting between Lewis and me. And that’s not up for negotiation,” she added when Steven began to speak.
“Fine,” he said after a few seconds. “How are your rolls?”
The two friends fell into a comfortable conversation about food and drinks, loves and possible loves. All the while Imani’s mind wandering back to her phone and what was Ian’s reply to her question.
Was Ian really coming to Portland?