“Man, Dilly — Dillon — it was def the big, dude. You screamed so loud! I betcha people inna lobby heard it.”
“Oh, man. Oh God, I … Sorry. I … sorry.”
“No, no, it’s so my fault an’ shi — stuff. I … I was just up here doin’ rounds an’ whatevs, and I seen ya. Wanted to say ‘hey’, but didn’ wanna scare ya.”
“S’okay,” he waved dissmissively again. “Everybody scares’a crap outta me. It’s me. I gotta learn t’chill-lax, y’know?”
“No big, seriously. No big.” He straightened and wiped his sopping palms on his jeans. “So … hey.” He smiled.
The pink flush pushed her mouth into a smile, partially hiding her eyes. “Hey back. Whuttup?”
“Settin’ up … ‘quipment an’ whatnot. You know. That kinda bullshi — stuff.”
She nodded. “What kinda ‘quipment? What for?”
“Oh, this is a camera. We … the Kileys got us doin’ stuff. I … I guess I ain’t supposeta talk about it, though. Sorry.” His face dropped. He probably just screwed the pooch on asking her out … because of stupid JD’s stupid rules.
Her eyes widened, her tone apologetic. “OH, that’s cool, it’s cool. I didn’t meanta pry or nuthin’, I was jus’ asking. So … sorry ’bout that.”
“NO!” he said too quickly. “I mean … naw, naw, nuthin’ like that. They jus’ don’ want us sayin’ nuthing ’bout it, ’cause it’s all private an’ shi — whatevs.”
“Yeah, no, I so get it. So, where ya goin’ with it? Or — are y’not allowed t’say?”
“I … I better not …” He felt stupid. Like a kid afraid his dad was going to whoop his ass if he broke the rules. Stupid JD … always cramping his style. What a dork.
“Oh. ‘Kay. So … um … I guess I’d better … better get goin’ an’ shi — stuff.”
“Oh. Uh … ‘kay. Hey, I …”
His moment was getting away. He couldn’t remember being so shy around a woman before. It was pissing him off. He stood straight and looked her right in the eye.
“Ya wanna go out sometime? I mean … we could have … I dunno. We could do dinner, maybe? Sometime? Maybe?”
Her smile washed him through with relief. Then he realized she could laugh right in his face and her smile could be the start of that.
“Oh — yeah, I’d love to! I’d love it! That’d be awesome! How ’bout tonight? Is tonight good?”
His brain reeled, knocking around in his skull like a pinball in a machine, bells ringing, lights flashing, all noise and dazzle. He tried to make himself focus, concentrate, concentrate …
“N-no … no, tonight’s lousy. I have this thing with the Kileys … and the dork and Wen, too …”
“Oh, you’re going?? Sweet! Frickin’ sweet! I got invited too, but I was gonna blow it off if you wanted t’hang out an’ shi — stuff. You wanna go with me? I mean … y’know … we can go, like, t’gether. Wanna?”
She took over. He opened the door, but she took control of the situation. He was simultaneously relieved and horrified at his lack of balls. He decided to roll with it.
“Yeah, that’d so be cool. Super-cool, actually. How ’bout it? Meet in th’lobby at, like, 7:45?”
“Yeah! Awesome! I can’t wait! I’ll see ya then, ‘kay? Maybe you can tell me ’bout yer anaconda. But I gotta … I gotta get back t’work an’ shi — stuff.”
“Yeah. Yeah, ‘kay. See ya then!” He felt his smile but couldn’t stop it. He thrust his chin toward her, because his hands were full with JD’s stupid tweety crap and he couldn’t wave.
She backed down the hall, grinning ear to ear, hands dancing, looking for something to do. Her butt bumped the stairwell door so hard it knocked her forward a step. She giggled wildly, a crimson shade crawled up her cheeks, and she opened the door. In a moment, she disappeared into the stairs.
“Fuckin’ sweet.” He laughed aloud, alone in the hall. “That was fuckin’ sweet.”
He whistled as he set the camera up in room 3126, and never once thought about the message on the mirror in the bathroom. Not even once.