Nikki laughed, gasping for breath between chuckles. She was leaning across the couch, propped up on one precarious elbow that nearly slipped under her hearty chortles. Across from her, with his feet and cowboy boots propped up on the coffee table, was Clint. He grinned.
“I don’t think Vanessa would appreciate that,” said Nikki, wiping the tears out of her eyes.
“But it would be delightful.”
“What makes it even better is I could just imagine her face. She’d give me that look like I’d just lost my mind.” She straightened up and shook her head. “Oh my. I’m not sure laughing that much was a good idea under the circumstances. I’m so full. That pizza was really good.”
“Would you like some dessert? I have a frozen pie in the freezer. I could put pop it in the oven and it’d be done in about an hour.”
“That sounds really nice, I’d like-, oh shoot!” Nikki grabbed for her bag and fumbled through it looking for her cellphone.
“What time is it?”
Clint checked his wristwatch. “Seven. Why?”
“I’m late for a date with Tobin. He was supposed to pick me up half an hour ago. I hope that editor was really verbose today.” She pulled out the phone. She’d forgotten to turn it back on after the movie. She switched it on and was confronted with two missed calls and a text. All from Tobin. “Darn.” She sent him a quick message and got to her feet. “I’m really sorry Clint. I was having a very good time, but I do have to hurry.”
“Of course. He’s your boyfriend.”
“No. I mean sort of. I guess. It’s more…we’re dating. We have fun together?” She shook her head. “But I really have to go.”
Nikki swung her purse of her shoulder and hurried out. Why hadn’t she checked the time? And how had she spent several hours here without even realizing it?
She pushed the speed limit most of the way home, and was heading through her front door a little after eight. She found Tobin in the living room, his laptop propped up and typing away.
“I’m so sorry!” she said hastily, coming over to him. “I really am.”
“That must have been one long movie.”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t stand it and left. But I just lost track of the time.”
He shrugged. “No problem. I had to cancel our dinner reservations, but we can stop by a deli near the club for a quick dinner.”
“Actually I already ate.”
“You did?” He stopped typing. “You did.” He shut the computer and glanced over at her. “Did you have dinner with someone?”
“No. Not exactly. I didn’t go to have dinner with someone if that’s what you mean. I happened to visit a friend because I was upset about the movie and we ordered pizza. We talked and time got away from us. That’s why I’m late. But if you just give me five minutes I’ll be changed and ready to go.”
“Wait a second Nikki.” Tobin set aside his laptop and shifted in his chair so that he was fully facing her. Nikki cleared her throat nervously, feeling uncomfortable under his scrutiny. “This friend you had pizza with, it was Clint Morgan wasn’t it?”
“I-, yes. Alright it was.” Whether she wanted to or not, she could tell there was some ‘talking’ about to happen, so she might as well sit down, if nothing else it would make her feel slightly more like they were having a normal conversation and less as if she were being put on some spot. “He’s a friend and I needed to talk to someone about the film. I told you, I was upset.”
“You could have talked to me.”
“And you would have told me that it didn’t matter because I still have my singing career.”
“But it matters to me! I’m the one in the movie. I’m the one people are going to make fun of. And I’m the one who spent a lot of time and effort creating something that I really wanted to be good. It’s not about my career, it’s about me. And it matters to me.”
Tobin smiled. “This is that thing people do isn’t it? Counter an accusation with one of their own?”
Nikki crossed her arms. “Are you accusing me?”
“You clearly feel like I am, so maybe I should be.” He smiled again and shook his head. “But no. I’m not accusing. I’m just trying to understand.” There was a beat. “Nikki, the very first time I met you, I asked about Clint. I was being an ass of course. It was an interview and that’s my job. But this time I think I deserve an answer. Did you two date?”
“I-yes, yes we did.”
“And you still love him?”
“Nikki, come on now. If nothing else, we have been friends. So tell me. You keep going to talk to him, there must be a reason why.”
She sighed heavily and then shrugged. “Yes. But we broke up. And you were not the reason we didn’t get back together.”
“But you just had a very dinner with him-”
“It was pizza.”
“And so enjoyable that you completely forgot about the time,” finished Tobin, ignoring her interjection.
“What does that-”
“Maybe you could get back together.”
“I don’t think it would be that easy.” Nikki laughed. “Besides whose side are you on here?”
“We were never really that important.”
“What are saying?” asked Nikki, frowning. “It didn’t mean anything?”
“It was fun.”
“Fun? Yeah I guess it was. It was a lot of fun.” She smiled for a second before the surprise hit her. “But I think I’m past looking for fun. Wait a second did we-did we just break up?”
“I think so. It certainly felt that way,” agreed Tobin.
“It certainly didn’t feel like any breakup I ever had. It was all very levelheaded.”
“I guess,” said Tobin standing up, “the club will have to wait. I’ll see you Nikki. The best of luck in everything.”
Nikki stood up as well. “Tobin…I may not have fallen in love with you. But you were a heck of a time. In a good way.” She hugged him. “Thank you for everything.”
“Hey, at least I have now solved the mystery of why Clint roped me in to do that first interview with you.”
“Oh you don’t know the half of it. He was my manager for a little while to,” she grinned.
“Geesh. That would have made a heck of a story. ‘Paparazzi Manages Pop Star’. It would have been a doozy. Ah well. You win some, you lose some. See you around.”
Nikki waited till he left the room and she’d heard the front door close behind him, before sinking down onto the couch. Sometimes, change could happen awfully fast.