“This is an expensive car.” Felix held out his cigarette and delicately tapped a long line of ash onto the driveway. A significant amount sprinkled over his shoes, further discolouring the scuffed material.
Crispin grinned. It was a convertible, currently baring its lush seats to the world. Cherry red, sleek, and just begging for symmetrical go-faster stripes.
“Did your mother give it to you?”
The grin vanished as smoke curled up into the air, tangling in the branches of the old alder tree. Crispin snatched the cigarette and dropped it. “Don’t be daft. I got a job.” He ground the cigarette under his boot, locking gazes with Felix.
Crispin could discern very little beyond the sleepy dark colour. Hooded lids and thick eyebrows failed to rise in response to the cigarette’s death. Felix was a man who could shrug with his face and manner alone. His narrow shoulders rarely bothered with the gesture. “This is a job that pays in advance?”
“What’s it to you?”
“It isn’t anything. I merely asked.” Felix pulled out his pack of cigarettes for a fresh smoke. “Are we going for a ride, or did you simply wish to brag?”
“Put those away and maybe I’ll take you to lunch.”
Back in the pocket they went, with a casual indifference that implied the action had nothing to do with Crispin. “You’re paying.”
He hopped into the driver’s seat, fair hair flopping about almost petulantly. “I just said I would.”
Felix opened the door and climbed into the car. “I’ve known you to lie.”
This struck Crispin as unfair, particularly since he could not deny it. For a few moments, he struggled to think of a response. Then he caught the impudent smile. Grumbling, he fished his keys out of his pocket.
The opulent purr of the engine quickly soothed his mood from sour to self-satisfied. Only Felix could fail to find it impressive. Crispin did not actually know much about cars, other than how to drive them and never to put sugar in the tank. But enthusiasm made up for a lot.
“You look as though you are about to break out in song,” Felix said a few miles after they’d left the house.
“Then you’d better shut up so you don’t miss the show.”
“Is there anything I can do to persuade you to refrain?”
“Not while I’m driving.”
Crispin indulged in a wicked grin. Although Felix never blushed, Crispin liked to think that somewhere under that stereotypically imperturbable European veneer, there was a cosmic flare of embarrassment.
“You could always pull over.”
His own composure had no such impenetrable walls. Crispin gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles. The mottled shadows of the trees that lined the street made everything look too calm. “What about lunch?”
Felix had one arm resting on the car door, and had the other hand tapping out a soundless rhythm on his own knee. Nevertheless, Crispin imagined that he felt the heat of an affirming touch on his leg. “Oh, yes. Lunch.”
Conversation rose up to prevent awkward silence, but for the rest of the drive, Crispin couldn’t help feeling like a heel.