A Borrowed Boyfriend - Bonus Story
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” I hiss to Griffin.
This being a Star Wars fan convention in Raleigh. Our brothers were the ones who suggested making a weekend trip out of it, and Griffin warmed to it—partly, I think, because of our running joke. The four of us are walking onto the floor of the convention center, entering a sea of people dressed like Androids, Lukes, Leias, Hans, Chewbaccas, and a bunch of other strange getups I don’t recognize, probably because I’ve still only watched the original trilogy.
“Your buns are sexy,” he says, running a hand up my back.
“No, they’re not,” I object. “I look like I have a couple of cinnamon rolls Velcroed to my head.” It’s been several months since Liza lopped off my hair, but it’s still not complicated-bun length, especially since I’ve already gone back to her for one trim. So I’m wearing a wig, lent to me by Nicole, who has more of them than she knows what to do with. Actually, she seemed so amused by the thought of us coming to this convention it’s possible she bought it for me outright.
“I have to side with Marnie on this one,” Drew says, giving us that look he always gets at the first sign of sappiness, like he’s remembering the day he first met Griffin. Granted, Drew’s never going to forget walking in on us post-sex, with my vibrator sitting in the middle of the living room floor. Indeed, he’s assured me on multiple occasions that it’s not the kind of thing a man can forget.
“Sure, but they’re sexy cinnamon rolls,” Griffin says, his eyes dancing, his hand reaching the nape of my neck and lingering there.
He’s sexy. He’s dressed like Han Solo, unlike Drew, who’s wearing a Darth Vader costume that has to be very hot in this weather, and Gary, who has on a robe and is channeling Obi Wan Kenobi.
“Cinnamon rolls can’t be sexy,” Drew says.
“I beg to differ,” Gary says with a sigh. “Cinnamon rolls are very sexy.” Then his eyes go wide, and he glances at me. “I’m not talking about you, Marnie. I meant actual cinnamon rolls. Like the kind you eat.”
“I got it,” I say.
Griffin lowers his arm to my waist. “I’d like to eat yours.”
“Really, Griffin?” Drew says with a wry look that would look a lot more cutting if he weren’t currently dressed in a mostly plastic Vader costume. “You want to eat hair?”
“Oh, put on your helmet,” I say, bumping him with my shoulder.
He gives me a grumpy look. “It’s too hot.”
I gesture to a half dozen other Darth Vaders, who are having some sort of evil meeting of the minds at a picnic table to our left. “They’re suffering for their fandom. Surely you can do the same. In fact, maybe you should join them.”
He grumbles some more and keeps his helmet firmly tucked under his arm, not that I can blame him.
We keep wandering through the cavernous space, passing a table covered with Funco toys and another with several stacks of Star Wars books. A costumed author is signing them with a pen in the shape of a light saber. There are, of course, other tables selling light sabers, furry Chewbacca costumes, candles in the shape of Darth Vader helmets, and dozens of other items peripherally related to the movies. At another booth, there are virtual reality stations, where guests can experience being on the various planets and spacecrafts in the movies.
Crazy. Over the top. Kind of fun.
“It’s the way of the Force, Padawan,” Griffin says, giving me a squeeze.
Another guest, a curly-haired man clad in a Jedi robe, stops in his tracks and frowns at him. “Leia’s not a Padawan. She’s a general.”
“Well, not if it’s early Leia,” says his companion. She sounds like a woman, but her features are completely concealed by a Chewbacca costume that has to be even more uncomfortable than my brother’s get-up. “If it’s early Leia, she’s a princess.”
Good grief. “Guys, I’m a graphic designer. Dressed in a robe with a crappy cinnamon bun wig.”
They give me a scandalized look, like I just ripped Santa’s beard off, then walk away whispering furiously.
“Marnie,” Drew says, although I’m not sure which part he objects to.
“You’re the one who said it looks like cinnamon buns.”
“Where’s Gary?” Griffin says, glancing around.
It’s hard to visually make sense of anything, given the number of people wandering around in costume. Honestly. If you wanted to get away with a heist and steal...I don’t know...a bunch of plastic light sabers, you could stuff them into your Chewbacca suit and no one would be the wiser. Not that I want a bunch of plastic light sabers...or would steal anything in the first place, but...you get the picture.
“Over there,” Drew says with some amusement in his tone. I follow the point of his Vader glove and see Gary lined up at one of the concession stands selling weird-sounding food.
“Oh, God. Liza’s going to murder me,” Griffin mutters under his breath.
“One treat isn’t going to kill him,” I say. “He’s a fully grown man, capable of making his own decisions. Let him live a little.”
Admittedly, I don’t know what anything on the menu is, but I assume none of it will kill him.
Griffin doesn’t look particularly happy about the prospect. He would probably keep Gary in a padded box at all times if he had his choice, just to make sure nothing ever happens to him. Now that I know Gary better, I understand why. He’s one of those rare people whose heart always has room for one more.
“You’re right,” Griffin says after a moment of contemplation, his lips tipping into a fond smile. “Let’s let him think he’s getting away with something.”
“Nicole would probably take a picture of him so she could use it as leverage later.”
“Undoubtedly,” Griff says, but I’m not surprised when he doesn’t pull out his phone. He’s not the leverage type. Neither am I. Most of the time. When my friends are at risk, I’ll do anything to protect them. Just ask Enoch Laskin.
“Look at that line,” Drew says, pointing toward a huge line up outside of a closed door at the side of the warehouse.
“Nuh-uh. No way. We’re not joining a random line,” I say. “Remember when we did that downtown one time, and it turned out to be for a free STD testing clinic?”
He makes a face. “It wasn’t our finest hour.”
We’d waited for over an hour and a half, only to get the sad news at the front of the line.
“Well, that’s easily resolved,” Griffin says, guiding me toward the back of the line. “Excuse me,” he says to the woman at the end, who’s wearing an elaborate headdress that means nothing to me, but would probably give a true Star Wars fan endless delight. “What’s this line for?”
“One of the original set photographers from Star Wars is here,” she says, as excited as if we were about to be ushered backstage at a concert. “I hear he’s signing photographs.” Her expression turns speculative. “You make a really good Han Solo.”
“His arm is literally, even now, around me,” I say, giving her a look. “He already has his Leia.”
Her eyes narrow, but she turns and starts talking to her companion.
Griffin grins down at me. “I like it when you get possessive.”
“I’m not listening,” Drew sing-songs.
"I will light saber anyone who messes with you,” I tell Griffin, lifting onto my toes to give him a quick kiss. I ignore Drew’s groan. Honestly, he can deal with it.
Grinning, Griffin lifts a hand to my cheek. “Did you hear what she said? A set photographer from the original Star Wars. Do you think it could be...”
“No,” I say. “No way."
But Drew’s pointing mutely at a poster that’s hung up beside the door, and my mouth drops open in shock, because it is him. Reggie, the resident retiree at Griffin's bar, Summer Nights. While he'd told us he’d been one of the original set photographers, we'd doubted him for obvious reasons, being that he takes terrible photographs and is, well, Reggie. I actually got one of the photos he took of Griffin and me framed, mostly for laughs.
Griff and I hung it up in my house a while back. A couple of weeks ago, Sinclair came over. She gravitated toward it and smiled slightly. “That’s the one you sent me,” she said. “The one—”
“Yes, the one you showed to the world on Late Night with Mike.”
“He only has several million viewers,” she said with a smirk. “Yeah. That’s when I knew there was really something between you two.”
“What?” I squawked. “But—”
“Yeah, I know you weren’t actually together at the time. Well, I know now, anyway. But there’s something in your eyes. Both of you.”
I'd spilled the real story to her one night over drinks, mostly because our relationship has improved so much. We tell each other things now—the kind of things you’d tell a friend and not someone you’re trying to either insult or impress. After she said that, I studied the photo again, looking beyond the shitty angle and the way the top of Griff’s head had been cut off, and I saw exactly what she meant. So maybe Reggie’s not such a horrible photographer after all. Maybe he caught exactly what he was trying to catch.
That photo won’t be hanging in our house for long. Griffin and I are moving in together soon. We’ve found the apartment and everything. I plan on breaking the news to Drew sometime during this weekend trip. The Star Wars stuff is supposed to soften the blow...which is the excuse Griffin used to convince me to come.
It’s weird, the prospect of moving. I’ve lived in my house since I was a little girl. It’s where I learned to ride a bike, drive a car. It’s where I made up first Rupert Wrightman and then Mitchell Mountainbottom. It's a place that means more to me than I can say, and it’s also a little suffocating.
Maybe Drew would be okay with Griffin moving in with us, with me staying, but I'm ready to take a step away from the past. To try something new. For so long, I was afraid to take chances, and now I'm not about to let fear stop me.
It’s a big step for Griffin too. For so long, he’s lived with one foot out the door, not because he had any intention of bolting, but because the impulse was so familiar to him.
Anyway, that’s all beside the point, because apparently we’ve been drinking beside a photographic genius for months without realizing it.
“Do you think he took those pictures of us off kilter on purpose?” I ask Griffin in a hushed voice. I think again about that look Reggie captured. If he can do that, surely he can also take a straight photo that doesn’t lop off body parts.
“No, he seemed genuinely proud of them.”
"Maybe his eyesight is failing," Drew speculates.
“Or they didn’t have high hopes for the first Star Wars movie, so they hired the first person who came along,” Griffin says.
I stifle laughter, and the headdress lady looks back and gives us the stink-eye.
“He was very good,” she says haughtily. “The photos were all compiled in this book.” She waves it at us, and good God, I really want to see inside.
“Where can a man come by a book like that?” Griffin says, and I give him a little shove with my hip, because he’s doing it again, dispensing charm like he can’t help it, although I have to admit it’s to our mutual benefit. We obviously need to obtain a copy of that book so we can have Reggie sign every single page.
“They’re selling them upfront,” she says. “I can’t believe you didn’t know about this.”
She says it in a way that implies we’re unforgivably bad at being part of the fandom. She’s probably right.
I give Griffin a nudge. “Too bad we don’t have that photo from the living room with us. We could have gotten him to sign it.”
“We will,” he says, grinning back. “I have a pretty good idea of where we can find him in, oh, twenty-four hours. No point in waiting here, really, when we can get an up-close-and-personal audience later.”
“Wait,” Headdress Lady says loudly, her friend turning around with her. The friend is dressed like Leia too, only her hair is real, and she looks at my buns with a snide expression that says she agrees with my cinnamon roll assessment but doesn’t find the effect charming.
Headdress Lady is getting a familiar expression. It's the same kind of look I’m used to getting from people who realize I’m Sinclair Jones’s sister...or the woman from that gif/meme that was so popular some months back. I bristle a little in anticipation. Does she recognize me?
Is she going to ask to take a picture with Cinnamon Roll Leia?
It still happens sometimes, although Griffin was right when he said people move on. Strange shit happens every day, and now my story has fallen behind in the queue, thank God.
But then she says, “You know Reggie Simpson? Oh. My. God.”
I laugh, partly out of relief, and partly because it’s refreshing and strange to be fangirled at about Reggie, who drinks flat beer at the bar more nights than not and tells stories that I, until now, assumed were ninety percent bullshit. This certainly casts him in a new light.
“Yeah,” Griffin says, his eyes dancing.
“What’s he like in person?”
Griffin gives me a sidelong look before shifting his attention to her. “He’s really the sort of person you need to see to believe.”
“Like Santa Claus,” I say, prompting Drew to laugh.
Headdress Lady looks sulky, like she thinks we’re holding out on her, or that we might be liars who are only pretending to know Reggie. I grin at her, which does nothing to take the edge off her expression.
“Where’d you get your wig?” her Leia friend asks.
“My fairy godmother gave it to me,” I reply.
She scowls. “No need to be rude,” and they both turn away in a huff.
I shrug. “It’s true,” I mutter in an undertone.
Griffin slips his arm out from around me and takes out his phone to check the time. “Let’s get Reggie to sign something for us later,” he says. “We have somewhere to be.”
“What?” I ask with a laugh. “Did you book some kind of Wookie experience or something? Because if so, you really should have warned me. That’s the kind of thing a girl needs to prepare herself for.”
I half expect Drew to object or offer to come along, but he’s quick to agree. “Yeah. I’ll see you guys around. I’m going to go find Gary.”
Maybe he’s craving cinnamon rolls too. You know what they say about the power of suggestion. Except... I sense something else is going on here.
“What are you guys up to?” I ask suspiciously.
“Nothing, Padawan,” Griffin says. “Nothing whatsoever.”
But his eyes have a mischievous sparkle, and I don’t believe him for a second.
“Okay, I'll go along with this farce, but only because I don’t want to wait in line for an hour to see someone I see at least five days of the week.”
Headdress and Better Leia glance back at me with dark looks. “No need to brag,” Headdress says.
I hadn’t realized I was.
Griffin and Drew exchange a long glance that is mighty suspicious, but I decide to let it slide. If it’s some sort of surprise, I don’t want to ruin it. I only hope it’s a good one. Like cinnamon buns. The power of persuasion is making me want one too.
Drew takes off in the direction of Gary, and I catch Griffin's eyes.
“Does this surprise involve food?”
He laughs, taking my hand. "Do you want it to?"
“I wouldn’t mind.”
“No,” he says as he leads me away. “It doesn’t involve food. But I’ll get you fed later. I know what happens when you get hangry.”
He leads me to another door across the warehouse, this one under a banner reading “The Millennium Falcon” experience. The attendant waiting in front of the door is surrounded by people in various Star Wars costumes, all of whom are presumably waiting their turn. When she sees Griffin, she brightens. “There you are.”
"Are we up next?”
“Yes,” she says, “the previous visitors just left. Fifteen minutes.”
She regards me with speculative interest, but it doesn’t feel like it’s the hey, you’re the girl who tripped down the aisle after your crap fiancé left you at the altar kind of interest. Maybe I'm projecting, but it feels like oh, do you have a surprise in store for you interest.
My heart starts to speed up.
When I glance at Griffin, he’s already watching me, his gaze warm. There’s a small smile on his lips, as if he likes what he sees. It’s the way he always looks at me, just like Sinclair noticed in that picture.
“What’s all this about?”
“I could hardly avoid bringing Leia to the Millennium Falcon,” he says. “It wouldn’t be right.”
“It’s a very faithful model,” the attendant says with an indulgent smile. “There are Easter Eggs throughout the ship.”
“What, like a half-eaten sandwich Han Solo had in one of the movies?” I ask.
“What sandwich?” one of the bystanders asks, perking up.
"A theoretical sandwich,” I say with a shrug. He doesn’t like that, clearly, but he just grunts and turns away.
“Do you need a Chewy on your voyage?” a guy in a big fuzzy suit asks hopefully as the attendant waves us forward. “I couldn’t get a reservation, but she said I might be able to go in with someone else...if they let me.”
He has the pick me, pick me energy of a kid waiting to get selected for a dodgeball team.
I was always chosen last unless Andy was one of the team captains. Needless to say, she’s much better at dodgeball than I am.
“Not this time, bud,” Griffin says. “We’ve got plans.”
My heart decides to beat a little faster as the attendant smiles and waves us forward. We step into the room beyond the door with her, and sure enough, the space is filled with an enormous model of the spacecraft.
“Holy shit,” I say. “How did they get this in here?”
“In parts,” she says. “But it was a big undertaking, for sure. It took weeks.”
I glance at Griffin, wondering how much this cost him. Wishing, for his sake, I were a bigger fan.
She opens the hatch or whatever and nods for us to climb aboard. I mean, I’m probably butchering the terminology, but so it goes.
“Fifteen minutes,” she says, tapping her watch, but there’s a knowing smile on her face, and after she closes the hatch behind us, leaving us in a small space that truly does look like the Falcon in the movies, I feel a buzzing awareness of Griffin. Of this moment he’s set up for us.
Something else is going on here, I know it.
I gasp as he gets down on one knee.
“Griffin,” I say slowly. “If you’re just down there because you’ve decided to give me head in the Millennial Falcon, I’m fully good with that, but—”
“That’s not what’s happening here,” he says, holding my gaze. His mouth twitches a little. “At least not yet.”
Then he draws a ring box out of his pocket and flicks it open, revealing an emerald ring set in a white gold band. My heart is in serious danger of beating out of my chest.
“Will you marry me, Padawan?”
“Oh my God, Griffin. Oh my God.” I reach down and pull him up, needing to touch him, needing to have my hands all over him. He rises to his feet, the ring box still in one hand, and I pull his collar down forcefully. “Your mouth, now.”
Laughing a little, he complies, claiming my mouth expertly, and thereby turning me into mush. I pull away while I can still form words.
“Our brothers knew about this, didn’t they?” I ask, running my hands up and down his arms. “That’s why Gary ran off, and Drew let us go.”
“I think Gary really did run off to get contraband food,” he says wryly, “but yes, they knew.”
“Wait,” I say, my eyes going wide. “Did you ask Drew for permission?”
“I didn't ask for his permission, no.” The corners of his mouth hitch up. “You’re a grown woman, perfectly capable of making your own decisions. But I did ask for his blessing.” He shrugs. “Your sister’s too. And Grace and Andy. Damien and Nicole know, too, because they make it their business to know everything.” His smile gets wider. “Nicole special-ordered that wig for you.”
If my heart could get any bigger, it would. My eyes heat. Shit. I always thought it was a racket when people said you could happy-cry. Lo and behold, they were right. “What about Aunt Helen?” I tease. “Don’t forget Aunt Helen.”
“Who could?” he asks, reaching up to trace my cheek. He lifts the ring box higher. “Don’t you recognize the ring? She wanted you to have hers. She insisted on it. I was a bit hesitant because of the whole—”
“Yeah, but she insisted she and her husband were happily married, and your brother backed that up.”
My eyes get hotter, fuller. Good God, he put a lot of thought into this.
“Marnie. You can say no, you know. That’s why we’re in here, where no one is allowed to interrupt us for...” He takes out his phone and glances at it. “Another twelve and a half minutes. Granted, it would be a pretty awkward twelve and a half minutes for both of us if you say no, but I can take it.”
“Oh, Griffin.” He made it a special moment but ensured there would be no external pressure of any kind if I wanted to say no. As if I’d ever say no to him. As if the thought would enter into my mind for even a second.
His eyes get a heated look “You keep saying my name like that, and I'm going to get ideas.”
“Get all the ideas you want,” I say, taking the ring box from him. “Write a book full of them. Of course I'm going to marry you.” I try the ring on, and because it’s not a movie and my aunt has bigger hands than I do, it only fits around my middle finger.
“That looks about right,” Griffin says with a smile. His whole being seems to be glowing. “You did give me the finger the first night we met. Now, I think some promises were made about other things I could do on my knees?”
I wrap my arms around my neck. “I love you. I love you to infinity and beyond.”
“Not a Star Wars quote,” he says, his look somewhere between amused and deeply, deeply satisfied.
“Even so, I do. Let’s make the most of these twelve and half minutes.”
"Yes, Princess Leia,” he says, his eyes shining. “Let’s.”