Copyright © Emmi Lawrence
No one had ever sat in my office who could quite compare to Ari Nix. He had an insatiable, yet conflicting curiosity that did not breed questions. Rather, he just touched and poked at my things, chuckling under his breath at jokes to which only he knew the punch-lines. His nose crinkled constantly, in bemusement, disgust or delight, his emotions on parade across his face with little care over who might see them.
This man did not hide things. At least, he did not hide them well.
By the time I managed to cajole him into settling onto the bench, I had already discussed my last few books—which he lost interest in quickly—my taste in music—which he mocked incessantly—and my fashion sense—where he claimed my clothes needed a few more holes and much less grey. I disagreed silently and with a roll of internal eyes, but as I was enjoying his energy and discussion, I said nothing out loud of my thoughts.
“All right, Ari. Let’s get right to it. Since you’ve already pretty much introduced yourself, how are you feeling today?”
“Uh, good. I guess. At the moment at any rate. That might change.”
“Why might it change?”
He shrugged and rubbed at the frayed edges of the cushion. “Life throws things at me constantly. Luck takes its toll. You never know what might happen.”
“Of course. Luck is an interesting topic—”
“So are a great many things,” he interrupted. “Let’s talk about something else.”
“Okay.” I glanced at my list of questions. “Are you involved with anyone right now?”
Ari did not have the same resistance as I, so when he rolled his eyes, it was a dramatic and very outward sign. “These questions are incredibly boring. Predictable. You need to ask more thought-provoking questions like… If you could know when and how you die, would you want to know?”
“No, not really,” I answered.
Ari laughed. “No! No, no, no. You’re supposed to ask me.”
“Oh. So would you want to know when and how you died?”
“Absolutely not!” Ari said. “That would take away one of life’s greatest mysteries. That sounds deep, right? But really I’d just be terrified and then paralyzed with fear every day.”
“I could see that.”
“Okay, now your turn. Ask me something neat.”
I sighed and pushed my notebook away. Why I’d bothered coming up with interview questions in the first place, I’d never know. “Okay… How about, if you were a butterfly, which one would you be?”
“That’s the kind of question I’m talking about.” Then his expression turned pensive. “Not a monarch—that’d be what half the country would say.” After a quiet moment he straightened suddenly and said, “If I were a butterfly, I’d be a hummingbird.”
“Butterflies start out as caterpillars, but hummingbirds are born with wings. I don’t want to do all that work just to get to fly.”
“So you’d rather be a bird who has to flap his wings so many times a minute he’s a blur and be forced to eat multiple times your body weight every day?”
“Better a blur of a bird than a bug.” He spread his fingers wide. “Doesn’t have to make sense. It was a nonsensical question. Next!”
A thought occurred to me, a way to turn this interview back on its head. I smiled wickedly to myself, but hid it behind a hand to my mouth. “If you had to switch places with anyone in your apartment building, who would you pick and why?”
“Hmm. Definitely not Mrs. Jameson.”
“It’d be weird. Plus, I’m not sure I could handle being an old woman. Just don’t tell her I said that. Maybe Annabelle in 2D. Wait, nah, she’s much too anti-social. And Roan never talks to me. There’s Chase down in 1C. Switching with Chase might be okay… I’m not sure actually.”
“You mentioned Roan from 3A, why do you think he never talks to you?”
Ari released a rumbling, irritated sigh, though the irritation was blatantly directed at Roan and not me. “Ah, who knows? Maybe he’s blind. I would love to know the real answer to that—Hey! This was all a trick to get me talking about Roan, wasn’t it?”
“Could be,” I hedged. “But you brought him up.”
“That’s all you’re getting out of me—who knows what you’ll repeat to Roan.”
“Well actually I’ve already done his inter—”
“It’s really unfair. Even Annabelle talks to me. And the Wagners, though I wish they wouldn’t. But Roan…” Ari sighed dramatically and slouched against the back of the bench. “Roan doesn’t even see me. I’m this invisible presence.” He let his head loll to the side, then lifted it sharply with a wide, yet intense, stare. “The past week I’ve missed him almost every day when he got home from work. Timing is everything, you know. Caught him when he was heading upstairs on Tuesday.” His head fell back against the wall. “But he totally ignored me. Why do you think that is?”
“I’m not sure. Why don’t you ask him?”
Ari scowled at me. “Yes, because that doesn’t seem desperate at all.”
I shifted, uncrossing my legs. “Why does it matter so much?”
“I guess it doesn’t. But…” Ari leaned forward, elbows on knees, a desolate expression replacing his scowl. “I don’t know. He just seems rather perfect.”
“Looks can be deceiving,” I pointed out.
“Yes, yes, and there’s plenty of fish in the sea and all those clichés. That certainly doesn’t help matters.”
“So what are you going to do about it?”
For a moment, Ari remained leaning against his knees, face squinched, brow furrowed, nose crinkled. Then, a transformation slowly enveloped his body. His slouch diminished, his lips curved, a sparkle entered his eyes. He shot up from the bench and twisted to look at the clock.
“It’s almost that time! I might be able to catch him today if I hurry. Plus, it’s garbage day tomorrow so he’ll be putting his bags out sometime this evening. That’s twice the opportunity to see him.” He became giddy at the thought, his tortured manner from a few moments before dissipating completely.
“No more questions!” Ari spun toward me, kissed my cheek and hurried to the door. “I have a quest! An important quest!” He barely paused to say good-bye before he left, leaving the door to swing gently on its hinges.
“Well,” I said to the empty office. “I hope he’s not too disappointed when Roan doesn’t say hello to him…yet again.”
~ ~ ~
I actually felt bad ending the interview as I did, Ari so excited, since things aren’t going to go exactly as planned for him :(
Ari’s Tour is starting on Thursday, June 1st. Come follow Ari as he floats his way throughout the apartment building in a graceless and terrified manner.
Also, I have decided to do monthly updates, so May’s is coming tomorrow.
This was a character interview teaser for Bridle the Unicorn. A gay fantasy romance now on pre-order for $0.99.