The thought was . . . bothersome.
Sofia’s a grown woman, she can take care of herself—and she has no obligation or commitment to me. I understand this. But I’m allowed to care about her—I’m her friend. The idea that she could take up with an Amsterdam, that she may replace me with someone so fucking unworthy, because of a physical need, didn’t sit right with me at all.
Then I recalled my talk with Jenn. I went over it in my head the way a quarterback reviews last game’s tapes. And I saw clearly the tone I should’ve taken, the words I shouldn’t have said. All the worse things I would’ve said if Sofia hadn’t been there to set me straight, to pull me back from the brink. That’s when the notion occurred to me—the solution.
And the more I thought about it, the smarter it seemed. The best course of action for both of us.
When I looked up, I was outside Sofia’s townhouse. Like my feet had led me there on their own. My dick does that on occasion, and he’s never steered me wrong before.
So here we are. Bright and early Thursday morning, in front of the same townhouse, carrying Sofia’s bags out to load up the Porsche for our covert operation.
Sofia’s many, many bags.
“I think I just gave myself a hernia,” Jake complains, dropping a Louis Vuitton duffel that sounds like it’s filled with bricks. Next to five matching—and equally weighted—bags. “Are you going for a week or a year?”
Sofia emerges from the house, wearing a black sleeveless jumpsuit, loose but elegant, with a low-cut V-neck that pushes it to the front of my favorite-outfits lineup. A boxy yellow purse is slung over one arm, a floppy white-straw sunhat sits on top her shiny dark head, and big round sunglasses cover half her face. In the light of the early morning June sun, she’s nothing short of breathtaking.
Brent walks beside her holding Sherman on his leash, listening as she rattles off a litany of instructions. Her dog walker’s still going to take care of the mammoth beast during the day, but his nights will be spent in Brent’s care.
“I really appreciate this, Brent,” she says, leaning down to give the jowly dog a few hugs, a bunch of kisses, and two be a good boy’s. Then she feels Jake’s and my stare. She looks between the two of us. “What?”
I hold up a member of the luggage gathering. “Did you get Porsche confused with Winnebago?”
She takes off her sunglasses, revealing eyes clouded with genuine confusion. “Are you suggesting I overpacked?”
“I’m suggesting you need to narrow it down, Soph. Take only what you need.”
Her hand circles over the bags. “This is narrowed down.”
Pointing to rear of the car, I counter, “We’ve got one compact trunk and a backseat that’s not big enough to fit a . . . Sherman.”
It sounds to me like the dog’s on my side.
Sofia frowns at him, then insists to me, “I need all of it.”
“Do you want to see what I’m bringing?” I march around and pull a battered old gym bag out from behind the driver’s-side seat. “This is my luggage.”
“And I should change my packing habits because you choose to live like a hobo? I don’t think so.” She rolls up imaginary sleeves and looks from the car to her bags then back to the car.
“These will totally fit.”
Jake shakes his head. “No way.”
Sofia grins. “Sure they will.”
“They’re not gonna fit,” I reiterate.
“Watch and learn, boys.”
Fifteen minutes later . . . they fit. Each bag strategically placed, stacked in just the right order—like one of those riddle puzzles that you can’t ever get back together again once it’s taken apart.
I’m pretty damn impressed.
“Now,” Sofia sighs, smile glowing. “Keys, please.”
She holds out her hand for the aforementioned keys. And I start to explain—to argue why it would be best for her to not actually drive my car. I’m good at the arguing.
But before I can utter a single word, her open hand turns into a single finger.
I close my mouth. Then open it again to convince . . .
And the finger strikes again.
“Nooo.” When I scrape my teeth across my lip instead of speaking, Sofia goes on. “You asked for my help—I agreed. If I’m going to the Middle-of-Nowhere, Mississippi, I’m driving there.”
She’s good at arguing too.
I hand over the keys.
And like the Griswolds in a German car, we buckle in for the road trip.