When Perry and Priscilla arrive, my throat closes up, and I lean over the table trying to catch myself. It’s been a while since the thought of going out to dinner put me this on edge, but I can work with this. At least I’m sitting down already.
Of course, I keep staring at Priscilla’s sweater vest. It’s argyle. It’s nice. It’s not the usual pinstripe vest I typically see her in, but it’s fine. It’s good. Her pants don’t even have the normal brass or nickel accoutrements, so it’s not like one of her preferred vests would – fuck. It’s because the last time I saw someone dressed just that much off standard –
“Sweater vest,” I manage to mutter, waving a vague hand at her, before I duck my head into my arms and just lie still for a while. I don’t bother to parse the talking I hear, and someone’s opened the bedroom door and wandered inside. I don’t have the energy to care about that, either. At least one of us has picked up around here fairly recently, anyway. A hand rubs my back.
“Hey,” Priscilla says, some time later, tugging at a ragged, faded sweatshirt. “This okay?”
I stare at her for a minute. The logo isn’t one I recognize; it’s probably one Darren’s old ones, but it looks enough like what Pris wears at home that I feel my breathing slow, so at least I’m not actually heading into that panic attack anymore. The feeling doesn’t really fade, but it’s kind enough to start stabbing at the backs of my eyes instead of trying to strangle my lungs, so that’s okay.
“Yeah,” I say, finally. “That’s fine.”
“This is really soft,” Pris says, sticking her thumbs through holes by the cuffs.
“It’s old,” Darren says, with a snort.
“It’s nice,” Pris defends.
“You can have it, if you’re that enamored,” Darren says, and shakes his head, pulling me up from the chair. “Dinner still on?”
“Lucky we’re going someplace casual, then,” he says, then calls out for Perry.
“What?” she says, from what sounds like the center of all of my clothes.
“Stop trying to steal clothes,” he shouts.
“It’s not stealing if you never call me on it,” she says, returning with a hat that I haven’t worn in years and probably looks better on her anyway, and a belt that I definitely do need.
“Perry, that’s my belt,” I say.
“Yeah, it’s your cufflinks, too, but, no, you care about this?” she gestures. “This is plain black and probably the cheapest thing you own.”
“It’s more expensive than it looks, and it’s the only belt I keep at that level of formality,” I tell her. “I don’t even like those cufflinks. You can keep them.”
She preens, playing with the cufflinks. “Why do you bother keeping a specific belt for this? This is, like, what, casual dressy? But, like, office casual dressy, what’s even the fun in that?”
“That’s why I only have one,” I tell her. “Which I need, because if you’ll remember, I work in an office, and I’m sometimes required to wear that belt.”
“You’ll get it back,” she tells me. “Look, I tell you what, I’ll buy you a better one.”
“Perry,” I say, “for fuck’s sake, you are not going to buy me the belt you’re thinking of, because I am not going to wear that to any sort of formal event, ever.”
She flips me off. “You don’t even –”
“I’ve seen your taste in belts, and I’m lucky if it doesn’t have anything written on it,” I tell her, “and you tell me my belts are too cheap.”
Pris laughs. “The ‘fuck off’ belt actually cost about 800 dollars.”
I stare at her.
She shrugs. “Don’t look at me, it wasn’t my idea.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t want a glitter belt that says ‘fuck off’,” Perry says, tucking her thumbs in her belt loops as if she’s not currently wearing the most boring belt in existence, “actually, do you want one? Because I can get you one.”
“That’ll go over great with my boss,” I tell her.
“That was a no, Perry,” I tell her.
“Oh, I know,” she says, “I’ve just decided what I’m getting your team lead for Christmas.”
Darren cracks up.
As Perry starts bickering with him over the funniest way to present that, Priscilla walks over to me, murmuring, “what was it about the vest?”
“I,” I say, licking at my lips, “it’s. Too different from what you normally wear. But too similar.”
“Oh,” she says, about to ask another question, then thinking better of it.
“It, uh,” I say, closing my eyes, “yeah, it’s new, it has to do with Klepto, please don’t make me explain why, and I really fucking hope it doesn’t stick around.”
She nods. “Hey, you stopped carrying your wallet on the right for me. Ain’t one thing for you to worry about, okay?”
I smile at her, but it’s probably not that convincing.
“I tell you what,” she says, “we’ll split a pizza this time, and let these assholes fight amongst themselves on toppings.”
I do manage a smile at that one. “Finally coming around on jalapeno-pineapple?”
“You know what?” she says, “I think I am. Toss some caramelized onions on there, and I’m your man. I’m still getting a pitcher of sweet tea, though.”
I offer my arm to her. “You know they make it just for you, right? That’s not actually a normal part of their menu.”
She tucks her arm around mine. “Well, you know what they say about more flies.”
“I know what I say about more flies,” Darren says, walking up behind us, then immediately clears his throat, “anyway, yes, pizza, time for pizza? Let’s go.”
“Oh, so you and Perry decided what you wanted on yours?” Pris says as we walk out the door.
I take in the smell of rug shampoo in the hallway, hold my breath for a second, and let it out. No, it really was just the vest. The restaurant should be fine, let’s hope.
“Wait, what the fuck did you say?” Perry asks, pulling the door shut behind us just a little too hard. “Who the fuck did you insinuate I’m sharing a pizza with?”
“Me?” Darren says, “you’re the one who wants mushrooms on everything.”
“This assclown better not get his disgusting tomato bullshit on my side of the pizza,” Perry says, looking directly at me for some reason.
“Disgusting?” Darren says, “tomatoes are fucking delicious and you know it.”
“It’s a pizza!” Perry throws her hands up. “It already has tomatoes.”
I laugh, flicking the lock closed behind us.