They definitely shouldn’t be walking here at this time of night, but it’s Halloween, so the Uber prices are surging higher than a tsunami wave and if they can agree on one thing—and after a couple months of dating they can actually agree on a few, just barely—it’s that they’re cheap as hell.
“Cheaper than getting drunk on boxed wine,” says Charlie. He says this very smugly, because they just had some rather nice wine at his cousin’s Halloween party, plus immortalized their costumes for eternity at the photobooth. (For the record: Minnie and Mickey Mouse costumes, made of 90% round black ears glued to headbands, 10% dressing in the appropriate colors, 100% failure on both their parts to actually imitate the cartoon voices.)
Usually, Harper would be put off by his smugness, but it was actually a great party and his grin is getting cuter by the day, somehow. “Cheaper than a day’s worth of calories at Denny’s.”
“Cheaper than a dollar store dishrag.”
Harper wrinkles her nose. “Dollar store was in that one, doesn’t count.”
“Okay, then. Cheaper than my grandfather at Christmas.”
“Now that’s just sad.”
Charlie throws his hands in the air. “Everybody’s a critic!”
“Cheaper than a multimillion-dollar man,” Harper says decisively.
“See, that’s not funny. It’s political, but it’s not funny.”
“It’s true, though. Was anybody you’ve ever met cheaper than Rick?”
Charlie tilts his head, deciding. “The guy did go over expense reports with a fine-tooth comb.”
“See? There you go. God, I still can’t believe I thought he was good enough for Kirsten.”
“But you think nobody is good enough for Kirsten.”
“That’s exactly my point!” Harper throws her hands up in the air and bumps into some stranger in a hoodie that smells strongly of beer. She doesn’t bother to apologize, because this is New York and because she’s a little drunk too, but then it turns out she doesn’t need to apologize at all because the guy grabs her arm and before she can even go hey! he growls, “Gimme your wallet,” and for a second she just squints at him, trying to make out his face in the dim streetlights because surely this is a prank?
“Gimme your wallet!” the guy yells and whoa he’s actually really tall and has an actual knife and Harper’s brain flickers once with something from self-defense class—stomp the foot?—then dies of panic entirely.
“I don’t have a wallet!” she says, and then starts doing that thing where she’s babbling so fast she knows nobody can really understand her, but she’s also so stressed she can’t help it. “I swear I used to have one from my mom but it was so old and ugly and I just have the cardholder on my phone now to hold my insurance card and my photo ID and like also Venmo and Apple Pay are working really well now and I thought for like a minute that the security
“Oh my God, street smarts,” she hears Charlie mutter behind her, and then he’s rummaging around in his coat and swear to God she saw him use a wallet like an hour ago to get them tacos at a taco truck but now she’s starting to sweat over the possibility that between then and now he lost his wallet and—
“What?” says the mugger.
“It’s a John Mulaney thing,” Harper says desperately.
“He’s gonna give you the wallet! Just a second!”
The guy pushes her aside and heads for Charlie, who actually does have his wallet out and is fumbling with it for no fucking reason, backpedaling all the while.
“Just a second,” he says in his Office Phone Voice, and the guy says, “What the fuck?” and Harper is dead sure that tomorrow they’re both gonna be nothing more than a line in the New York Post about Halloween homicides but then Charlie hurls the wallet wildly over the guy’s shoulder and something unexpected and primal propels Harper into a full-on sprint. She catches his arm on the way and drags him and they run for four or five chest-aching blocks before they get down into the subway.
They stand around, panting on the platform, and then Charlie makes for the nearest trashcan and throws up. For whatever reason, this tells Harper that the danger is officially over. Charlie only throws up until after dreadfully important business presentations, never before. It’s why Harper will sometimes tell him to pack a toothbrush.
She lurches over to him and rubs his back. It occurs to her that he almost just died.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” she says, just as he throws up a second time.
“I’m okay,” he manages.
She hands him some Kleenex from her purse, and after he gags once last time and wipes his mouth, he straightens up, fixes her with that patented Charlie Smile™, and says: “Street smarts.”
“Asshole,” Harper says, but her chest swells with an absurd amount of affection, so much that she can’t handle it, and her hand is still on his back but that’s not enough and she can’t kiss him either because she loves him but that would be a step too far. She loves him.
“Hey, don’t cry,” Charlie says, and then she’s got her arms around him and they’re both definitely crying a little, which is probably not a good look but also he’s really warm. It’s only for a couple minutes, but it’s still good.
And then of course Charlie tries to fix it. “Hey,” he says, “I’m fine,” like he totally wasn’t crying a minute ago.
Harper barely lifts her head from his shoulder to reply: “I’m crying over the wasted tacos al pastor. I don’t know what you’re crying about.”
She pulls away from him and starts distributing the Kleenex again, sniffling a little. “What a coincidence.”
“Something like that. Are you okay?”
“Yeah.” And she is. They were both really stupid and trying to protect each other and they still somehow got away with it, which is pretty much par for the course.
It’s not until they’re sitting side by side on the subway that she thinks to ask: “What the hell took you so long with the wallet?”
Charlie looks sheepish. “Had to get my driver’s license,” he says.
Harper stares in a way that makes him put his hands up like he’s under arrest.
“Oh my God,” she says. “I’m gonna divorce you.”
“We’re not married.”
“And yet we’re getting divorced, that’s how pissed off I am!” She hits his arm.
“And I’m hungry!”
“I’m the one that threw up!”
“You’re also the one that almost got stabbed because he hates going to the DMV!”
“Everybody hates going to the DMV! Ow! Hey!”
Finally, she stops it and looks him dead in the eye. “Charles Randolph Hooper, you are buying me consolation pizza tonight. A whole pizza. And when we get back to my apartment, I am eating it, every single slice, and you gotta look me in the eye as I eat, and you’re not getting a single slice! Do you understand?”
Charlie looks directly back at her, unsmiling, and leans in.
“What?” she says.
“Sounds kinky.” He grins.
She knows she’s been had so when she groans, “Oh my God,” it’s just icing on top of the cake.
Anyways, later there is pizza. She shares, but only two slices, and she makes him brush his teeth thoroughly first. Then they sit on her bed with their backs against the wall and watch Kid Gorgeous all over again and she pretends to fall asleep because she likes it when he combs through her hair, the way he does when she’s pretending to be asleep, but she doesn’t want to tell him that just yet.