Chapter One: Gray Skies
"Goddamnit, Grey!" A bald man in his fifties flashed a proud smile at the ten page manuscript in front of him. "You did it again!"
Erin Grey watched the bulgy man flip through her 'baby,' happy that her three days of hard work hadn't gone to waste.
"Thanks, Mr. Burke." She replied.
"Ah," he sighed as he placed it down. "If you continue this, New York won't ever give you back to us. This tiny college can't do much for you, after all."
She nodded. Royal Dane College had produced countless journalist in its prime years, and it was because of that reason that she entered after high school.
"Your mother would have been so proud, you know." Mr. Burke said to her, "We used to go to college together," he paused. "I'm pretty sure our professors called her the 'hidden gem' or some of that sort."
Erin Grey stared at the man who was her mother's former admirer. When her mother was alive, she never mentioned anything about herself. She was strict and silent even to her only child. She could not remember having any warm memories, all of those she recalled were cold and somewhat pitiful. She could not even remember the last time her mother had embraced her.
It had been five years.
She looked at her watch. "I have to go, the presentation is in an hour and I need to wrap things up before I fly out." She took her bags and hugged the man who could have been her father. She didn't know of a real one, but this man could have been it and she wouldn't mind at all. He was her source of parental guidance for a few years, and he made her strong enough that she can finally find her place in the world.
"Take care of yourself there, girl. It's a tough world." He squeezed her, and she could have sworn tears were forming in his eyes. "It's a tough world, alright," he repeated, "but not one you couldn't overcome."
Grey left the building, and got insider her car. As she drove, she rolled up the windows to let the cool early morning breeze surround her head and somehow relieve her that everything is going to be alright.
"Today, I leave." She thought to herself nonchalantly. Erin Grey, twenty-three years old. A Royal Dane College alumni and a quiet prodigy in the campus' journalism program. After graduation, she spent the next two years writing freelance articles for the small city, but after a while she received an offer for a position at one of New York's small newspaper agency. She felt delighted by the idea of going back to her city of birth.
But of course, there also lies her bitter past.
"Ah, what a headache?" She whined. As the traffic lights turned red, she dug deep in her bag for the cheeseburger she couldn't eat last night. She gobbled it up in a few seconds, before reaching her office, where she expected to spend one of the three hours left before her flight.
"Well, that's all for today. It's a definite honor to speak with such influential guests," the man smiled at his audience, and he turned the projector off. The lights were switched on, and although she thought otherwise, she noticed the smiling faces of the several prospective investors who surrounded the man of the day.
"Well done," she heard one of them say, and the several men behind him nodded. After the official signing have finished, they left the conference room - leaving the two behind.
"Who would have thought that would work," he tilted his head to laugh, but was stopped when he met her eyes - those big brown eyes who eyed him like a cat. "...what?" He asked.
"My, my." She crossed her arms, and she smiled. "Even a crappy presentation can be turned around when you have those looks, Gary Dean."
Annoyed, he flicked her forehead.
"Hey!" She held her head in pain, and she slapped his shoulder. "I'm older than you!"
He grinned, "A year doesn't count, Erin Grey."
He was about to walk away when her words stopped him from his tracks.
"I'm leaving in two hours."
It took him a few seconds before he managed to turn around.
"Can I really not stop you from going?" He said quietly. She gave him a smile, but she shook her head. "I see." He whispered. "Take care of yourself, then." Quickly he pushed her against him and silently embraced her. "And don't forget about me, if you can." He let her go, and walked out of the room, leaving her clueless in her heels.
"If you felt that way, you should have told me earlier, stupid." She chuckled. But of course, she knew. Why he didn't tell her. And why she wouldn't let him.
It was because of that one man.
It had been five years since she last spoke to him. The man who was almost her brother for the past eighteen years. The man who was her first love. Her eyes watered when she remembered his kindness, his patience, his smile, his laugh, and his love. Her head spins every time somebody mentions his name. She remembered the time when he dragged her on the rooftop of the hospital where he was an intern. She remembered that short black hair, those warm brown eyes, and the white lab coat she always saw him in. His every words were music to her ears. He was the world to her, and she naively believed that she was his.
Things were almost perfect, until it happend.
On the very day, Erin Grey found out her mother was killed in a car accident and had been brought to that very hospital, she tried to look for him to get some comfort. Instead, she found him inside a small room, in the comfort of another woman.
Everything else after that was a blur, and Erin found herself fleeing to Canada after the funeral, where she stayed with close relatives. She continued her studies in Toronto, where she lived for five years. And now she has to go back.
The flight took approximately eight hours, and when she arrived at the airport, she went straight to Langham Place Hotel, where she plans to stay before her apartment is set up. Thanking the hotel staff for bringing her things inside, she laid herself on top of the comfortable mattress.
"Well, I'm back," she whispered to the air. She closed her eyes to get a quick shut-eye, when she heard commotion from outside her hotel room. Erin Grey knew that every night in Manhattan were known to be bustling with excitement, but exhaustion triggered her irritation from the loud scuffling noises, so she stood up and opened the door to see what was happening.
There she found a half-naked man, his biceps big and seducing. Just a view of his back and she could sense he was popular with woman, with a muscular built like that and a subtly tall stature. Of course, he would have a woman surrounding him, her arms enveloping his back while he busied his mouth on her neck.
Erin Grey felt embarrassed opening the door so loudly, because after a few seconds they stopped their shameless business to turn around and see who interrupted them. But her embarrassment turned into something else when she realized the man in front of her. Funny enough, the man must have recognized her too, because his eyes shot up in what could only be quick realization.
Erin didn't know how the words left her mouth, but she managed to say a sentence before slowly closing the door. And those words could very well start another chapter in her life, one she will never forget.
"Good to see you again, Derek Matthews. I see you haven't changed."