“Can you keep a secret?”
I cursed at myself internally for answering too fast, too eagerly. I glanced up and saw she probably hadn’t noticed. She looked eager herself, her eyes bright and her whole face full of excitement.
A waiter stopped at our table with our coffees. Cappuccino for me, flat white for Em. He flashed a friendly smile and asked if we were ready to order. I glanced over at Em and let her take the lead. If she wanted to ask for another minute so that she could tell me whatever was on her mind, she would.
“Yes, sure! I’m starving!” she smiled at the waiter as he took out a small notepad and a pen.
“What’ll it be then, ladies?”
I ordered the poached eggs and smashed avocado on sourdough, my favourite breakfast standard. Em’s order took several minutes and she changed her mind several times, not exactly sure of what she wanted. She ended up ordering the buttermilk pancakes, with extra whipped cream, extra maple syrup on the side, extra strawberries and a plate of crispy bacon. As the waiter left, I rolled my eyes at her.
“What? Just because you’re too afraid to get what you want.” She took a sip from her coffee. A sharp stab of anger hit me. I hated how casually she said it, as if everything would just fall at my feet if I only asked. Nothing is that easy. Besides, she changed her mind five times while ordering. Make up your mind already! Just tell people what you want! I had to direct my feelings somewhere so I asked her the first question that popped into my head.
“What’s a flat white anyway?” I asked, a little sharper than intended.
She shrugged and took another sip, as if tasting it again would answer my question.
“A cappuccino, but better”, she said with a smirk.
“What’s this secret about then?” I tried to sound casual, but my voice betrayed me with the tiniest shiver. Damn it. I cleared my throat and took a sip of water to cover up.
Why was I so afraid to show her my excitement? Em and I had been friends long enough, and being happy to share a secret was perfectly normal. What was wrong with me?
“Well. Remember when we were out last week?”
“Do YOU remember it?”
She waved me off.
“I remember enough”, she said nonchalantly.
I held her gaze for a few seconds, before looking up at my eggs arriving. Why hadn’t I ordered the pancakes?
The truth is, I had thought about little else than that night but I was afraid to bring it up. She had been so drunk that night, so drunk… Then again, so had I. Otherwise, I would never have dared…
She shifted her attention down to her stack of pancakes. Drenched in the extra maple syrup she had ordered, she cut down as if slicing up a piece of birthday cake.
“Mmmmmm!” she sounded, and very much looked, like a little girl on her birthday. Every day was a birthday to her. She had maple syrup all over her mouth and as she laughed, a strand of her ginger hair got stuck in it. Without thinking, I lifted my hand to move it away from her face, but I changed my mind in the middle of the movement and awkwardly grabbed my coffee instead.
I pretended to take a sip out of my already empty cup.
What was she going to tell me? Was it about that night? Did she remember…?
The anxiety that had started to build when I woke up Sunday morning last week now started to creep up along my spine. At first I hadn't exactly remembered why I should be feeling anxious but lying there in bed, it had suddenly dawned on me and I sat up so quickly it made me nauseous. I had to call Em. Phone in hand, I couldn't get myself to actually do it. I convinced myself she was still asleep and that I should wait just a couple of hours. And maybe text her, not call.
As the Sunday went on, I felt more and more as if it was too late. On Sunday evening, the day-after remorse peaked and I spent it mostly lying down on the cold floor, promising myself I would never drink that much again.
I should’ve talked to her about it first thing on Sunday instead of avoiding her all week like a coward. Now it was too late. Unless she was about to bring it up.
“So the secret?” Was I pressing too much?
She flashed another bright smile between pancake bites. And there it was. I looked into her grey eyes, seeing nothing else but her. I saw her smile that way, last week, a drunken smile full of mischief. I was mesmerised by her, drawn to her, in a way I had never been before, to anyone. Those feelings hadn't worn off along with the alcohol.
Emmanuelle. Even her damn name was seductive.
She touched my hand softly.
“Are you listening?”
My skin burned under her touch. Did she notice?
“Sorry, what did you say?”
“I said, promise you won’t tell anyone.”
“Yes, of course.”
“So last week, apparently, drunk me had some fun.”
That was a little vague for me, so I stayed silent and only slightly raised my eyebrows to get her to go on.
“I kissed someone that night.”
I froze. So she did remember.
She hesitated, before opening her mouth again to continue.
“Apparently, I spent quite a lot of time with him on Saturday, and I don’t even remember even leaving your side. Anyway, he texted me yesterday morning and we went out last night. I slept with him! He broke up with Annie weeks ago, but I don’t think she’s ready to hear that he’s moved on quite yet.”
Yesterday... He texted her yesterday. Almost a full week later. There had been time... I wanted to yell out “why?”. I wanted to ask her if that was the only kiss she remembered from that night. If she had responded to someone else the same way she apparently had responded to Rick yesterday. She never knew what she wanted. I had to let her know what options she had!
She looked at me anticipating, with an unsteady smile. A destructive part of me even wanted to smile and ask her how he was in bed. After sitting silent for way too long, all I could actually say out loud was:
“Is it too late for me to try the pancakes?”
“I thought you’d never ask.” She cut me a generous slice of her birthday cake stack of pancakes and dipped it in even more maple syrup. Balancing a piece of bacon and half a strawberry on top, she handed over the dripping forkful to me. I put the whole thing in my mouth. It was glorious. Damn. I should’ve ordered the damn pancakes.
“They’re good.” I said, mouth full of sweetness cut with salty bacon.
I swallowed, then opened my mouth to say something. Now was the time.
"Hey. I think I really like him. Please don't say anything."
Then again… More than one bite and maybe the pancakes and the cream and the strawberries and the syrup would taste sickly sweet. Maybe one taste was enough.
“Yeah, I won’t say anything”, I said.
“It’s probably best that way”.