“How about we don’t?” I reply, knowing full well that’s not going to satisfy him.
“Nice try,” Bryant slaps back.
This conversation is long overdue, and I can’t say I blame them for being curious since I’ve been spending so much time alone with her. “My time with Chloe has been good. Really good.”
“Really good, huh?” Bryant laughs, nudging Todd. “I think our boy’s done for.”
Cooking allows me to avoid their judging stares. I dunk the fries in the fryer. Todd finally cuts to the chase, and asks, “You’ve been together a while now. Is it more than good?”
“Always the detective.” I glance up. “You’ve hung around her enough to see why I like her.”
“You mean at Lucky’s like a month ago, and then when you stopped by last week to collect that forty bucks I owed you. If that’s the baseline, then sure, she seems cool the two times we’ve hung out. Do you love her?”
Is it wrong to admit it out loud to them before I say it to her? Probably. “I, uh . . .” Returning to the grill, I poke around making a lot of noise for nothing. “We’re getting there.”
Laughing, Bryant cups his ear and leans over. “Say it louder for the people in the back.”
Todd shoves him. “He doesn’t have to. The master of avoidance can’t avoid admitting the truth. He loves her. Shit, that’s a news flash I didn’t see coming.”
“Whatever, man. Can we drop this?”
“We’re giving you a hard time,” Todd says, grabbing a stool and sitting down. “But so you know, if you like her, love her, whatever. We’re good.”
Bryant punches my arm. “She’s cool, but man, I never thought I’d see the day that you were off the market. Chloe Fox lives up to her name, by the way.”
Shaking my head, I know they’re not going to let this lie. “Go ahead and get it out of your systems.”
I chuckle until Bryant adds, “Did you know that she’s Newport’s medical phenom in the making after her dad. It’s next level, brah.”
“I know that’s what he wants,” I reply defensively, not liking they’ve been searching for dirt on her. “You know how? I asked her. How do you know?” Tossing cheese on the patties, I work on plating the food. The meal may be on the house, but I still care about the presentation.
He replies, “I was bored the other night. Just in case she didn’t tell you this, Daddy Fox is not just filthy rich. He’s fucking wealthy.”
“Her coming from money doesn’t scare me.” Chuckling, I ask, “And the distinguishing factor between those two are?”
Todd says, “Old money.”
“So?” I shrug. “That’s half of New Haven.”
“But we’re on the other half,” Bryant adds. “Except this guy.”
He thumbs toward Todd, who says, “But I got here as fast as they could cut me off.”
“You know what I got?” I start, “I got the talk from my mom already, so you don’t need to worry about me.”
Todd says, “Don’t forget she’ll be leaving after graduation, so don’t go running off and getting married anytime soon.”
After putting fries on their plate, I retrieve the burgers and then add the toppings. Some things I want to keep between me and Chloe for now, like discovering stuff that I learn from her and not the internet. “Thanks for the advice,” I reply dryly.
Bryant always has to get in the last word. “For the record, we were disappointed to find so little on her. She is who she says she is. Graduated from high school early and now she’s a Yale student. Boring stuff.”
“She’s anything but boring to me.” Handing them the plates, I stop. His words playing back. “What do you mean graduated early?”
“Yeah,” Bryant says, not picking up on my concern. “You’re lucky you didn’t get busted at Lucky’s.” Grabbing the plate with one hand, he rubs his stomach with the other. “I’m starved.”
We return to the front and they sit at the counter as I get their drinks, Chloe’s age still on my mind. I thought for sure she said she was twenty-one. I was distracted by everything on our first date at the diner. With my mom trying to dote on us to her, Barb, and T doing golf claps where Chloe couldn’t see. Thank God. That would have been more embarrassing than it already was. I still don’t think I heard Chloe wrong. While the guys eat, I grab the dish tub and start clearing the vacated tables, feeling bothered. I have a pretty good memory . . .
“How about a lightning round of get-to-know-you questions?”
“I’m game. Can I go first? Age?”
“Twenty-two next month. Age?”
“We’re the same age—”
Right. I even noted how we were the same age. I’m certain she said twenty-one, but I’ll ask her about it anyway.
After dumping the dishes in the back, I return to the counter. My mom pats my shoulder. “Thank you, son.” She reconciles their bill, and asks Todd, “You’re delivering for me tonight, right?”