Chapter One: Wingman
Caleb learned long ago being friends with Martin MacMurtry required two things, inhuman patience, and a tolerance for impromptu fashion shows. The first remained a struggle, but the second he'd mastered by the fifth grade. Reloading a failed level of Angry Birds, he snickered as Martin left to change clothes for the fifth time.
“Worse than my sister. I mean, come on, we passed ridiculous twenty minutes ago.”
“Hey!” Martin’s voice carried into the living room, along with the rustle of cloth and the clatter of hangers. “There is absotively nothing wrong with taking pride in one’s appearance.”
He hiked an eyebrow, glancing up from waging war against the international pig threat. Did he just say, “Absotively?”
Caleb shook his head, returning his focus to his phone as he stretched out over an expensive-a** leather couch. Martin called it Ashley, which worried Caleb before he found out it was a brand, and not his friend naming the furniture. “What I said still stands. What, were you a runway model in another life?”
“First I’m not just changing clothes. These are strategic choices.” Martin’s words preceded his reentry, his fingers fumbling with the belt around a pair of three-hundred-dollar tattered jeans. “Second, your sister wishes she dressed this good.” He held his arms out and struck a pose, the kind in magazines where it’s clear the guy takes himself, and whatever he’s modeling, way too seriously.
“Uh huh.” Caleb took in Martin’s shirt, a pale pink button-down with a silver fleur-de-lis insignia on the lower left-hand side. “If by dress you mean kick a unicorn until it vomits sparkles all over you.”
“What?” Martin glanced down, running his hands over his chest. The metallic finish of the fleur glinted in the sunlight. Realization crossed Martin’s face. “Pink is a manly color.”
“So’s robin’s egg blue, I hear.” They’d spent the past hour on Martin’s ‘strategic choices’. Caleb still had on the jeans and a black Spiderman t-shirt he’d worn to school. It was just a movie. “You ready yet?”
Martin gestured at himself while checking his reflection in the floor-to-ceiling window nearby. “You can’t rush perfection,” he drawled.
“I’m not—I’m rushing you.”
“Oh, you got jokes.”
“It’s already eight, so light a fire under it.” Caleb ended his game and shoved his phone into his pocket. The stupid black bird wasn’t exploding when he needed it to anyway. “I don’t plan on being out all night.”
“One second, funny man.” Martin pulled a familiar patch of black felt from the closet near the front door. He may as well have drawn a gun for the way panic kicked around Caleb’s insides.
“Not the beret!” He sunk farther into the couch.
“Oh yeah.” Martin adjusted the hat on top of his I-wish-I-were-Brad-Pitt haircut.
“Don’t, man. I’m begging you,” Caleb muttered from under the pillow he’d pulled over his face. If he couldn’t see the beret, this wasn’t happening and the hat wasn’t real, waiting for him, mocking him.