~ I had no idea what I was doing alone with Stenton Rogers. Angela would kill me if she knew. She’s been in love with this guy since he was drafted. She’d still not made it clear that Alton wasn’t the father of her baby, and I’m sure she’d question my loyalty even more if she knew I was here with him.
What was even more traitorous on my part was that Stenton and I connected on social networking sites. I thought my budding friendship with him ended that afternoon at the country club when Alton came through like a tornado, but Stenton surprised me when he asked to see me again. What he didn’t know was since I last saw him, I’d stalked all of his profiles.
“You take lots of selfies,” I mentioned casually.
“And you don’t?” Stenton replied just as coolly as he dipped his middle finger in his cup of water, swishing it around.
“How do you know?”
“Because I’ve seen your timeline and photo albums.”
“We’ve only been friends for a few days. Are you stalking me?” My heart stammered in my chest. Why that made me paranoid was beyond me.
“No more than you are me,” his voice remained even as his eyes slowly aligned with mine. “You noted my massive amounts of selfies.”
“I was simply pointing out your vanity. You know they associate excessive amounts of selfies with narcissism, right?”
Stenton picked up his drink as he chuckled. “Well, in my case it’s called business; more specifically, marketing. My publicists pushed for more candid shots on social networks to give the illusion of intimacy. It makes fans feel closer to me…like they actually know me. But if you, my perceptive Elizabeth, look closer—at each picture, you’ll notice they don’t give away shit about me personally. I’m just a sideshow act. I’m not expressing myself; I give the people what they want to see.”
Expressing narcissism to give the illusion of intimacy? Is that what celebrities do? Is it necessary to protect who they really are? This was a hard theory to swallow considering all of the selfies and candid shots I’d seen of him. He seemed to be in his home, the gym and public places, but he was right; they never gave a clue as to who this man was other than his alleged vanity, something that I don’t pick up at all when with him. Who is the real Stenton Rogers? Was he the guy in all the pictures, smiling and appearing well socialized? Or was he the man who secretly invited me to a diner close to midnight in Kingston, a place I’d never heard of until then.
As we were seated in a small booth in the back of an empty section, I’d noticed he’d been quieter than usual tonight. I assumed he was preoccupied with something. I didn’t ask, though tempted to. I wondered if he felt the twinge of guilt that I had, knowing how Angela would feel about us being there together without her knowledge. No. That wouldn’t make any sense, considering he couldn’t give two craps about Angela. He’d only brought her up to express his confusion about our friendship now that he knows we’re actually family.
All of that aside, I needed to get honest about why I was here. I liked Stenton…in a friendship manner. He was funny, engaging and really smart, very much a hidden treasure. And if I was really honest, I’d admit to feeling a surge of excitement at the possibility of being one of the few who knew this side of him. What he saw in me, though, I had no idea. Maybe he felt sorry for me because of how I reacted to learning he dismissed my cousin’s advances via a lie about his relationship status. I still couldn’t believe that. He’d lied. To her. But with me…he seemed very transparent, no matter how annoying he was.
“I’d like to see more of you, though.”
I looked up from the table and saw that look in his eyes again. Stenton guarded his smile around me most days. I finally realized he didn’t trust me. And I got why, eventually. The more we talked, the more I could identify his problem with people always having an agenda and their hands out. I didn’t attempt to prove myself otherwise. My mother always taught me not to fight at getting people to know the real me. She would always say, with time they would know me better than any words could assist with. And that’s what I did with Stenton.
Could that be what the glint in his eyes as he sat across from me was all about?
He inclined in his seat, bringing my attention to those full heart-shaped lips that had recently begun haunting my private thoughts.
“I think you should take selfies. Converse to my reason, you can show people who you really are. Remind them of your natural beauty and introduce them to your incredible sense of humor,” he murmured with squinted eyes.
“Sense of humor? I have a sense of humor?” I couldn’t believe his observation. I’d been told about several of my alleged characteristics, but a good sense of humor—or one at all—wasn’t one.
“Yeah, like when you clown my wardrobe all the time. What was it that you called me? A—”
“A ghetto rocker?”
“Yup.” His lips twitched into an easy grin. “That’s one. A bootleg hood model is another.”
He let out a full laugh with that one. I joined him.
“Well, your style is a bit different. That’s evident in all of your selfies.” I busted out laughing at the recollection of some of them. “But then your poses can be so suave. You be like this.”
I squared my shoulders, straightened my neck and angled my head a few ways to mimic Stenton’s various poses. He tossed his head back and hooted hard. One of his security guys turned to see what was causing the ruckus. When they saw me sit on my knees and snatch Stenton’s baseball cap from his head and attempt my Stenton Rogers impersonating, even they cracked smiles.
Unable to breathe, Stenton yelped, “Give me my damn hat back. You can’t rock my shit and clown me at the same time. Fashion is subjective, man.”
He came over to my side of the booth and tried to grab his hat from my head. I argued, “No, what’s subjective is how appropriate those tuxedo shorts were you wore to that party last month.”
I laughed with him while continuing with my antics. When he was successful in getting the cap off my head, he then grabbed my phone and handed it to me.
“Here. I’m about to coach you on how to take silly pictures.”
I took my phone and went into the picture app. “I’m ready.”
Stenton instantly widened his eyes and stuck out his long and wide tongue. I mean…his tongue darn near reached to the bottom of his chin. I’d idly wondered could it extend longer. And then my curiosity caused me to wonder what it would feel like against my—
I clicked the camera then slammed the phone on the table.
“Got it. Enough of that. Hope you’re happy,” my voice was uncharacteristically low before I forced the straw from my drink into my suddenly dry mouth.
The trail my thoughts were leading down was not holy.
Stenton knowingly shook his head as he turned away from me.
“C’mon. It’s late.” He stood from the booth and offered his hand. “I’ve taken up enough of your time,” he muttered.
I wiggled my phone as I scooted off the bench to stand. “And memory.”
Brain memory, that is.~