“Sure you weren’t waiting for one of the Bikini Girls?” I teased him with a sheepish laugh though I was only half joking.
Staring at me blankly, it took him a moment to dig into the well of his memory. Then he tutted with his face scrunched up. “No! I wouldn’t invite…That’s not even proper. And you know what, I tried to find you last night but you’re surprisingly quick on those tiny little legs of yours.”
“Whatever. I wasn’t even walking fast. You were probably blathering away with them until midnight.” I was being facetious.
“Whatever is right,” his tone rose higher as he squinted at me. “Those girls…I, I don’t even think they really want to get to know me. And I don’t just mean the girls in the pool. I mean generally. I suppose, sometimes, there’s a hint of something more or I’m tempted, but…” and he shook his head, spreading his arms out while still holding the bottle of wine and the glass as he searched for the words. “But nothing ever happens, and mostly people just want to say hello.”
I realized he must be quite lonely, although I didn’t understand why he’d want to talk to me. Perhaps I was just convenient.
“I hate to tell you this, but I don’t usually drink wine,” I said, trying to hold back a laugh.
“Oh.” He looked at the bottle as if unsure what to do with it.
“Don’t worry. It’s not like a strict anti-wine policy,” I assured him. “I’ll share it with you, but just a tiny bit.”
Evan bit his lip as he smiled and poured far too much of the red liquid for me. “So, what do you like to drink?”
“Um, well, you could say I’m a bit of a coffee addict—sometimes tea, but mostly coffee. I may or may not have had three rather large, iced coffees just today.” I grimaced as I went on to confess, “And that doesn’t include my morning coffee.”
He chuckled, handing me the glass. “I like coffee. And tea. But I must say I like coffee more than tea.”
“So it’s not like all those English shows with tea in every scene?”
“No, I’m a bad Englishman and I prefer coffee,” he admitted with a tiny, wicked laugh.
I grinned. “I see. Breaking stereotypes, then.”
I nodded as I sipped at the wine. It was way too strong, and I wasn’t accustomed to the flavor, but I tried to hide my inexperience with alcohol by walking over to the balcony balustrade. During daytime, portions of the blue ocean and white sails of passing boats were visible from rooms on this side of the hotel, but now the view consisted of lights from other rooms and nearby buildings. On the streets below, glowing red or yellowed lenses on cars navigating the streets below as they paused at traffic stops and sped off again on the green signals, and, in the sky, blinking beacons of aircraft otherwise hidden by the night’s darkness.
Evan came up beside me and dangled his long arms over the metal rail. When a breeze swept up the ends of his hair, he couldn’t have been more handsome, and I failed to suppress a smile. He smiled back, and I worried that my thoughts were written all over my face, so I drowned them in my drink.
Scratching thoughtfully at the whiskers sprouting on his chin, he asked, “And what about you? Do you meet a lot of potential dates at these conventions? Or do you just like being snippy with the celebrities?”
“Well, I certainly don’t have wine with them in their hotel rooms afterwards,” I grumbled. “Anyway, how do you know I haven’t got someone waiting at home?”
The scratching moved to his head. “True, I don’t know. Do you?”
I laughed into my glass. “No. And, no, I don’t date any of the fanboys who dare make suggestions to me. Besides, it’s not dates they’re suggesting.”
He dipped his head once and swallowed, peering at me for a second in contemplation. “I’m a bit of fanboy myself. I quite like comic books. That’s why I started reading yours.”
I raised my eyebrows and pointed toward the book he’d left on his bed. “OK, that is not a comic book.”
“I beg your pardon,” he said, putting a hand on his chest, and then pinched his brows. “What is it, then?”
“It’s a graphic novel. And there’s no superheroes proclaiming that they create peace with all their violence,” I explained.
“OK. What is it about? Looked like some kind of elves…”
“Well, you’ll figure this out anyway if you read the rest of it, but it’s a romance,” I said, suddenly feeling slightly embarrassed about it. “It’s just in a fantasy setting.”
“So they are elves.”
“Well, I like romance. I mean, I like superheroes and action, too. But I also like romance. And elves are always cool.” Evan seemed to have a knack for disarming my defensiveness.
It was effective, too.
“I don’t…dislike superheroes,” I admitted. “I just think there should be other options.”
“Fair enough,” he agreed as he took two steps back to the table and picked up his glass. He downed the remainder of his wine and sniffed. “Somebody gave me a set of comic books today. I don’t know why people want to give me things, but it’s my favorite superhero, and I haven’t read this set so I’m a little excited. Do you want to see?”
I actually did kind of want to see, so I said yes and followed him back inside. He had to sift through a few other items on the gift-laden table, but finally pulled out three thin comic books, and then flung himself on one side of the bed. As he arranged some pillows behind his head, he patted the open space beside him. I crossed my arms, thinking the comic books were a ploy for something else that definitely didn’t involve reading, but he ignored me, opening up one of them.
But then I thought, Fuck it, and pushed my shoes off. I clambered up next to him but sat with my legs crisscrossed. The comic book was splayed over his lanky legs, which he leaned toward me so I could have a better view.
“Do you like Wolverine?” He tilted his head back to check my face for approval or disinterest.
“Sure,” I said. “Though I suppose I like Storm best.”
His eyebrows went up as he smiled. “I like Storm—I love Storm—but I love Wolverine best. Maybe it’s just because the stories are so prolific.”
“Are you sure it’s not the big muscles and claws?”
Evan laughed. “I’m a little more intrigued by his healing abilities and the way he’s kind of a loner, even though he’s always helping the other mutants.”
He’d turned his face back to the comic. Slightly off topic, I remarked, “You don’t seem like a loner.”
A shadow crossed his face and his lips moved as he tried to get the right words out, though he still maintained a cheerful air. “Well, it doesn’t really do in this business to be aloof, does it? I suppose I do like a bit of a chat, of course. But, you know, I was always a bit of a geek, and it wasn’t cool back when I was growing up like it is now.”
I nodded. “Yeah, it wasn’t really cool being a girl geek, either even around geeky guys.”
“That’s only if they’re idiots.” He shook his head.
“I guess there were always one or two who weren’t complete assholes.” I acknowledged.
“Well, I’d like to think that I’m a decent guy, but you’ll have to decide for yourself,” he said.
Evan turned his attention to the Wolverine comic. He started reading it aloud in an affected voice, changing his voice for each character. I started to laugh and call him a child, but it struck me that he wasn’t exactly ridiculous. Instead, I found myself shifting my gaze between his facial expressions and the graphics of each scene.
When he got to the end of the first book, I told him, “You’re actually quite good at that. It’s like you went to school for it or something.”
His face lit up and he grinned. “I, I did go to school for it! I wonder if anyone will hire me.” He laughed.
“I think you’ve already had a bit of experience,” I snickered.
“Ok, perhaps a bit. But just that much.” He pinched his forefinger and thumb together as he squinted with one eye.
Pushing himself up, he reached for my graphic novel at the foot of the bed. As he leaned back, he grabbed my foot, tugging at it gently. “Wendi, I love your socks!”
“Why? Because they have cats?” I asked with a laugh.
“Well, they’re cute cats,” he said. “Wait, I have to show you mine.”
Evan crawled past me on the bed and crouched down on the floor next to his open suitcase. He pulled out a few pairs of folded socks, then came up beside me, standing on his knees as he pulled them apart, laying them on the bed. His face turned quite red as we both giggled at the prints of tacos, pineapples with sunglasses, and oval shaped, green alien heads.
He was like a five-year-old showing me his prized possessions.