Monday, April 9, 2018

(Un)Requited Chapter 3

That went well.

That was quite possibly the worst coffee date I've ever been on. It does nothing to soothe the ache to remind myself that I've just seen Bella for the first time in so many fucking years.

She's goddamn engaged. Couldn't spring that one over the phone, I suppose. Better to twist the knife into my gut in person. God, and she looked so good, too. Better than when we were younger. Her hair is longer, thicker, wavier. Her legs were killer in her boots, her body perfect under that dress and sweater. Of course, I know that she's a television personality and that she has to look good, but geez. Just go ahead and stab me harder with that knife.

After her stunted announcement, I choked on my danish, and she just about had to give me life saving techniques. When the wheezing subsided, she looked at me with concern before stuttering that she should really go to the hospital to visit Riley.

Her fiancé. That leaves a bitter, nasty taste in my mouth.

I can't go with her to the hospital without making a bigger fool of myself, so here I am, pacing up and down the office of a car rental place. I have enough meetings to attend while I'm here being tortured that I decided to go ahead and rent something. My ego, okay let's face it, my dick, commands that I get something flashy, with two tiny seats that I'll have to fold my legs into accordion-style.

Have I mentioned that the girl I'm in love with—still—is engaged to her co-anchor?

When the guy drives around from the back with the car, I step out into the tiny bit of sunshine and put on my dark sunglasses, nodding at the ladies crossing the lot and staring at me. This is exactly why I picked this car. My ego needed the boost, it's been so pulverized lately.

I head to the meeting with the team manager for the Sounders, and it goes well. They are extremely interested in taking me on as soon as my other contract is up at the end of the month. We shake hands and agree to meet for lunch one day before I leave, and I move on to the showing of the apartment I'm thinking of renting. I feel productive, but I don't know that I want the first place I see.

I head to the hospital, because I'm a glutton for punishment. After asking at the information desk, I find Riley's room on the 5th floor. My approach slows as I hear voices from inside the open door of the room. It must be Riley, because it's a male voice, but dude, he sounds like an ass.

"I didn't ask for fucking jello! I am sick of hospital garbage! Why don't you take your pretty little ass down to the corner and get me some real food!"

I've stopped just outside the door, and I back up as I hear the sound of heels clicking on the floor. Bella emerges, flushed, from the room. Her eyes are swimming with tears. I put a hand out to stop her, placing a finger over her lips so she won't greet me out loud. Instead, I wrap my arms around her shoulders, pulling her head to my chest and holding her tightly. After a moment, she steps back and flicks the tears from her lashes. There's something so striking about her in that moment; flushed skin, wet, black lashes, large dark eyes. She will always take my breath away.

We start walking towards the elevators without speaking, but I do take her hand in mine once the doors close behind us. We make it all the way out of the building before I finally say something. "Bella, what the hell?" Sorry, but I'm not known for being eloquent.

"That in there… that's not how he is, not usually. We spend so much time together, but there's almost always a camera on us."

"So when the camera goes off, he's a demanding pig?" I ask. Oh, Shakespeare, don't roll over in your grave just yet.

"I don't know," she sighs. "Not before this. He's in pain, you know? He can't get out of bed, he's got to have bed baths and stare at the same four white walls. I'm only trying to keep him happy."

"Whose fault was it?" I ask abruptly.

"Whose fault was what?" See, I'm on a roll.

"The accident. Was it his fault or another driver's?"

She stops walking and looks at me. "How is this relevant?"

"Most likely, it's not. I'm just curious if he caused his own misery, and you're taking on the responsibility." She rolls her eyes, a classic response when I open my big mouth. "I'm right, aren't I?"

She heads off towards the cafe again, ignoring me and my verbal vomit. She heads to the counter and orders, and I wait at a nearby table for her to finish paying. She's been in the same outfit all day, and I think she once told me she gets to the studio at 4 AM. It's currently 8:45, and she must be exhausted, but she doesn't show it. She takes the opposite chair to wait for her to-go order.

She stares at me until I rub the back of my neck self-consciously. "Do I have broccoli in my teeth?"

She barks out a laugh, immediately covering her mouth with her hand. "No," she says around her fingers.

"Good, because that would be awkward. I haven't had any broccoli today." Her shoulders are shaking, and I can tell by looking at her eyes that she's amused but trying not to show it.

She jumps up when her number is called and grabs the to-go bag, gesturing for me to get up and go out the door with her. I walk alongside her in the cold night air, bumping her shoulder with my own. She bumps me back.

"Why were you hiding your laugh in there? Afraid to stroke my giant… ego?"

I see out of my periphery as she smiles and shakes her head. "Someone once told me my teeth are too big. I try to not smile too widely on camera, and I hate for people to see me laugh." She stops walking, looking back at me where I've stopped. "What?"

"I simply can't believe that someone was that insensitive about your smile." I take a step towards her, my fingers coming to rest on her parted lips. "You have magnificent lips, and your teeth are perfectly straight and white, and fit just right in your mouth. You have a contagious, melodic laugh, even when I make you snort." I watch as tears pool in her eyes yet again. I catch them with the pads of my thumbs before they can track down her face. "You've had far too many tears for one day, Bella. You're so tired, let me take you home."

She shakes her head mutely, then takes a deep breath. Holding up the brown paper bag, she says, "Riley is waiting."

Oh, yeah. That son of a bitch.

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