Hi. waves. I don’t know when, but when (if) I do, I will most likely very gladly tell you! In the meantime… enjoy! Unedited. Subject to change. Y’all know.
“What the hell are you wearing?”
That was how long it had been since the last time we spoke, and that was how he chose to greet me.
I loved it.
“I could ask you the same thing,” I countered, peering at the screen. He was wearing a baseball cap, pulled low over his face in a way that left it in shadows, obscuring his features – including the thick wavy hair I knew was underneath. “What’s with the incognito thing today?”
“I’m a man of mystery, B.” This time, when he spoke, I noticed an underlying gruffness to his usually smooth tenor. Enough to bring a frown to my face as I studied the screen, trying to discern his surroundings.
“Rafael… are you in an airport right now?”
The brim of his hat bobbed, then lifted, giving me a better view of a face I hadn’t seen in person in a long, long time. Way too long. Rafael was beautiful, with his golden brown skin and sculpted jaw, and dark brown eyes that always seemed to be brooding about one thing or another. He was always so focused, even now, instead of actually answering my question.
“What’s with the feathers?”
“Don’t change the subject,” I immediately scolded. The chin I was used to being smooth was now dusted – more than dusted, shrouded – with soft-looking hair, obscuring his jaw line. He looked older, no longer quite like the baby-faced champion cyclist I was embracing in the picture that had been hanging in the bike shop for years. Not with the facial hair, and the weariness in his eyes.
He looked… tired.
“Yes,” he answered on a sigh. “I’m in an airport. Are you going to let me buy you a ticket to come to me? I need to know if you still smell like oil paints and vanilla.”
I grinned. “Yeah, probably. Where are you? Naples?”
“Nah,” he shook his head. “Not right now. And even if I was, I damn sure wouldn’t bring your pretty ass to Italy, one of these motherfuckers might take you from me.”
“These motherfuckers,” I scoffed, laughing. “With that curly ass hair, you’re not fooling anybody Rafael. You’re “one of those motherfuckers” yourself.”
“Fair enough,” he conceded, tugging the brim of his hat lower again. “You gonna tell me about these feathers, or…?”
“It’s just a robe.”
His head tilted. “So you’re in bright blue feathers in the middle of the day… just because? Aiight – whose ass I gotta kick?”
I laughed. “No ass kicking for you, sir. Those are medal-winning legs, can’t take any chances. How are you doing, by the way?”
Rafael’s only answer to that was a shrug before he was shifting the subject again. “You sure you good?” he asked.
“Are you?” I countered. “You never told me where you were. So at least tell me where you’re going.”
That brought on another shrug. “Shit… I really don’t even know.”
“Um… you’re at the airport, chilling. You kinda have to have a ticket to get in, right? Or is that not a requirement wherever you are?”
He grunted. “Funny – not. I’m saying… I had a destination. I knew where I was going – where I wanted to go. Now… I’m not so sure I can get there anymore. Or if I even want to go.”
“Wow. Are we still talking about flights, or…?”
Raf let out an audible breath, then used his free hand to push his hat back on his head, digging his fingers through the lush, short black curls I’d teased him about just minutes ago. With the hat pushed back, I could see his whole face – could see the fatigue etched into the corners of his eyes, the uncertainty in their deep brown depths.
“I gotta go, B.”
Suddenly, his eyes weren’t on the screen anymore. His head was tipped down, avoiding looking at me.
“What? Why?” I asked, trying to suppress the alarm I felt over his shift.
“Gotta figure out what the fuck I’m doing.”
“You can’t do that with me on the phone?”
“No, actually.” I could see his face again. He was grinning at the screen, shaking his head. “I need to focus, and you’re distracting.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“Yeah, seriously. Excuse me for not being able to focus with you on my screen, looking like a pretty ass… bird.”
A shout of laughter burst from my lips. “The prettiest goddamn bird you’ve ever seen.”
“My very own personal stracciatella,” he mused, eyelids low as he gazed at me via the screen.
That word, stracciatella, brought an instant smile to my face. Well… deepened the one that was already there. The first time he’d called me that, he did so with no explanation, leaving me to figure out the meaning for myself. Leaving me confused.
Stracciatella – noun 1. an Italian soup containing eggs and cheese.
Why the fuck was he calling me soup?
But then, I kept reading.
- a type of Italian or Italian-style vanilla ice cream (gelato) containing fine, irregular flakes of chocolate.
“Reverse stracciatella” was what he’d called me, to be exact.
Chocolate gelato, with irregular flakes of vanilla.
“When am I going to see you, Raf? For real see you?”
“Just say the word, B. You’re welcome wherever I am.”
I huffed. “You know that’s not…”
“Bullshit,” he challenged. “You just don’t want to leave the Heights.”
Pinching the soft flesh inside my lip between my teeth, I rolled my eyes. “You know what that’s about.”
“I know it’s an excuse. Anything else you want to tell yourself about it, is a lie.”
“I thought you had to go?” I asked, prompting laughter from Rafael as he shook his head.
“You’re really not slick, but… yeah. I do have to go. Thank you for taking the time, B.”