Pressing my fingers to my temple, trying to coax the headache to leave, I head towards the kitchen. I've just switched on the coffeemaker when I hear light snoring coming from somewhere close. I quietly walk into the living room to see Ray literally hanging off the couch. He must have had a late night; he never snores.
I go over and manage to shift him so that he's lying in a better position. I run my fingers through his hair, suddenly feeling bad for avoiding him for the past few weeks. Sighing, I walk back to the kitchen. I've just poured coffee into my mug when Ray appears in the doorway.
"Morning." He yawns, running a hand through his messy hair.
"Can you get me some of that?" He asks. "I'll be right back."
I nod as he turns and heads to the washroom. Five minutes later he joins me on the couch, taking a sip of his coffee.
"Chloe we need to talk."
"Okay." I curl up on my side, facing him.
"I'm only saying this because I care okay? I don't mean to be insensitive or anything, I'm saying it because I'm worried alright?"
I nod slowly and he takes a deep breath.
"This whole drinking thing has got to stop Chloe. I know it helps you forget and all but it isn't the way to handle this. You've never drank so much in your life Chloe and it isn't good for you, you know that. It does more harm than good." He closes his eyes briefly as the guilt washes over me. "And I've been scared to stop you, scared that you'd push me away even more, that I'd lose you completely but after last night.."
"What?" I ask startled. "What happened last night?"
He sighs, "Tarek brought you home. Apparently there was a group of men who were a bit too interested in you."
I feel heat rush to my cheeks, my mouth going dry. "What?" I ask weakly.
Ray nods, looking at me, his eyes filled with pain. "Chloe you're going to kill me one of these days."
"I'm sorry." I mumble, hanging my head.
He places his mug on the coffee table and pulls me close. "Just... you know, relax a little bit. Let others help you yeah? Don't take it on yourself to pressure yourself to feel better."
"I'm just scared I won't be able to move on." I say softly.
Ray shakes his head. "There's no such thing as not being able to move on Chloe. It's all in your head, how you think. You WILL move on because that's who you are. And you have friends who want to help you. It's up to you to let them."
"I want you to help me. I just didn't want to be a burden."
"Chloe! You'll never be a burden! Don't be crazy! And I will help you."
"Promise?" I look up at him.
Sighing, I bury my face in Ray's chest, feeling somehow free. I knew I was shirking my responsibilities to myself, that I wasn't handling it well. But I couldn't bring myself to admit it to myself, scared at how I would deal with that.
"So we're going to start today." When I look up, he grins. "We're going shopping so why don't you get some sleep or take a long bath or something? We'll leave before lunch." I open my mouth to object but he shakes his head. "No work today Chloe. Tarek has the keys and he said he'd take care, so you're spending the day with me."
"Was he very angry? Tarek?"
Ray's mouth bends down a bit and I gulp. Crap. I've completely blown everything. "He was more upset than angry."
Sighing, I lay my head back down.
Around noon, we're both ready and leave the house. Ray refuses to even stop at the bakery for 30 seconds for me to check on it. He starts by taking me to my favorite mall. Ray used to whine, like all other men, at the beginning when we used to go shopping but after a while he got used to it. Started looking at it like a game of finding the real me, whatever that's supposed to mean. But when it comes to shopping for him, he tries everything from having an important meeting to a world crisis to get out of it.
Once I'm done at the mall, we go have lunch at a cafe, sitting out on the sidewalk in the warm afternoon. And then Ray takes me to my usual beauty parlor and sits for two hours, not complaining once, while I get my haircut, colored and get a pedicure and manicure done. He even chooses the hairstyle and shade of light brown to highlight my dark brown hair.
I feel refreshed as we'll leave the parlor and reach over and give Ray a huge hug.
"What's this for?" He ask, smiling.
I look up at him and sigh. Why the hell could we not be in love? He's so good looking, especially at the moment. His brown aviators covering his eyes, a day old stubble, his hair moving in the warm breeze. He's wearing light blue faded jeans and a white collar shirt, the sleeves rolled up to the elbows.
"I really needed all this, I just never realized. Thanks a lot Ray."
He chuckles, his arm around my waist. "Don't thank me sweetheart. I just wish I were a girl to connect with you more."
I roll my eyes, "Ray, if you were a girl, then none of this would be right. I love you because you're a guy."
"Ah yes, you love me for my handsomeness and charming self."
I laugh, "Yeah that I do."
It would have been so easy to just fall in love with each other. Ray and I know each other inside out, our likes and dislikes and along the years they've become more and more similar. We've had our drunk moments during college and a few after as well but there's never been that spark, that excitement. I think that's one of the reasons why it won't work out between us. And the fact that we're so similar. Both of us need someone who'll bring color into our worlds, make us see things in a different light.
On an impulse we go for a movie and it's late evening when it's over and we're walking out of the theater. I suggest we grab a takeout and go home but Ray has other plans. Apparently the night's just begun and he's going to make me embrace my singledom. We go to a small diner and share a plate of pasta and meatballs before driving back home. Ray gives me half an hour to get dressed while he makes some calls.
I put on a short violet dress that reaches my knees and pair it with silver heels. I leave my hair loose, loving the highlights and bounce to it, and put on a chunky silver necklace and ring. When I emerge from my room, Ray's leaning against the wall dressed in a v-neck dark blue shirt and jeans with his light blue moccasins. He looks up from his phone as I step towards him and lets out a low whistle.
"Damn! The men better look out tonight, they're not going to know what hit them when you walk by." He smirks.
I roll my eyes even as my cheeks redden.
The next day at work, Tarek is at the bakery with Darren and Alice when I arrive, hard at work. It's a bit awkward at first with Tarek but Darren and Alice notice nothing and fill the room with their chatter. Once they've left for school though that's a different story.
It takes me all of my courage to apologize and Tarek just stares at me once the words do come out. Sighing he pulls me in for a hug and makes me promise never to do something so stupid like that again. I happily comply.
Ray puts his plans into action almost immediately. I'm out every single night, but not just with him. To make me meet different people he arranges nights with my staff. Tarek takes me out for dinner and then to a club one night where I meet a few of his friends who turn out to be a lot of fun. All his guy friends fight over me to dance with which is quite flattering actually. I spend the evening with Susan once on her day off and it begins with some quality time with her daughter before we hit the clubs with her girlfriends. They're all a bit older than me but party just as hard and so I have a great time. Even Foster pitches in and one day quite literally sweeps me away to meet his 'artist-friends', where I learn that he's 57 and see all the artwork he's done. His friends are all great, all of them varying in ages and one of them insists I sit down so that he can paint my portrait. I even treat Darren and Alice to a day of shopping and a movie.
Everyone had found out by the time the day of the wedding had come around and everyone's reactions were different although they all agreed it was good all this happened before I'd gotten married.
On THE day, I got a big surprise when I looked up to see James, Ben's brother, standing in front of me, opposite the counter.
I open my mouth for a second and then close it before finally saying, 'Hi."
"Hey." He leans against the counter and looks at me. "How are you?"
I nod, "Fine thanks."
"Look Chloe, I came here to tell you something. I think what you did was great. I mean, I love my brother and all but he can be... hard headed. And you deserve better, you really do. I don't understand why Ben bends his head down to everything mother says but he does and I'm here to tell you, you can't live with - let alone marry a guy like that. So although Erica and Dad and I all really love you and were excited about you becoming a part of the family, we think it was brave what you did."
"Thanks." I smile, surprised yet pleased.
I didn't see Ben again though for a long time after that encounter at the bakery. Erica called to chat sometimes and James had said to never hesitate if I ever wanted anything.
The best nights out though were the ones I spent with Ray. He was the best dance partner, knew when I'd had enough and looked over me with a sharp eye.
We usually varied the clubs we attended and one night he took me further from home than usual, since it was a Saturday night it was fine, to a new club that had opened in the heart of downtown.
It was getting colder as the weeks went by and I was glad, I could start wearing my autumn dresses since I was already pulling strings, thanks to all the going out. I seriously needed to go shopping again.
So I am in a baby pink sweater dress that fell to mid-thigh and black stilettos, my hair up in a pony with pink hoops and a long black necklace while Ray has a red polo shirt over his black jeans and his black leather jacket thrown on.
The club's great and it's packed, like a new club usually is in its first week. Ray leads me through the crowd to the bar where we both find an empty spot in the corner and order our drinks, sitting on the stools.
"So, what do you think?" Ray turns to me, smiling.
"They have great taste in music!" I reply, my feet already moving to the beat.
He laughs, "I agree with you there! Let's get our drinks and then hit the dance floor!"
Ten minutes later, we both moving to the beat on the already packed dance floor. Ray's a great dancer, something I take credit for. About four years ago, on a whim, I'd signed the both of us up for dancing classes and although he was dead set against it at that time, he came around to it after much coaxing and enjoyed them at the end.
Much, much later on in the night, my feet completely exhausted from all the dancing, I make my way to the bar, pushing off over eager hands on the way. Ray's still dancing, about a million and one different girls throwing themselves on him, something that's irritating him beyond belief.
Hopping up on a stool, I wait until I catch the barman's attention and then order a beer. Sipping my drink, I survey the crowd, enjoying the music. A song by Shane Ward, a very old number, but my favorite nonetheless had started as I'd left the dance floor and I hum with it, relaxing in my seat.
I feel so much better since Ray did exactly what I wanted him to do, that is, take my life in his hands, for the moment at least. I'm not completely over it per se but I'm getting there and that feeling itself is enough to make me happy.
"Shall I get you another drink?" A voice to my left asks.
"No, thanks." I reply, taking my last sip for the night.
"Oh come on." The voice is deep, sexy. "It'll be on me."
"Nope, but thanks. I'm not allowed anymore." As I say this, I swivel around to see what drunk idiot is trying to hit on me.
What happened to drunken idiot?
This guy isn't even drunk, I think as I stare into his clear grey-blue eyes.
"You're not allowed?" He asks, raising one perfect eyebrow, making me swoon even more.
"Nope," I answer, popping the 'p', surprised I'm able to answer at all, what with me not being able to formulate a complete thought. "By my best friend."
"Aha. Your best friend. And is she here?" He asks, leaning an elbow on the bar beside him.
"Yup, he's here."
"He?" The eyebrow goes up again. "I should have known a beautiful girl like you wouldn't be alone."
I feel my cheeks heat up with the compliment but I answer as casually as I can. I get to my feet and lean in a bit closer so that he can hear me over the music. "Well, I should say the same about you, handsome stranger. But he IS just my best friend."
I watch his amused expression for a second before turning and walking back to the dance floor. Ray pulls me into his arms and I chuckle, looking up at him.
"What are you doing?"
"It's so satisfying to make someone jealous, don't you think?" His eyes flick over my shoulder for just a second.
"Ray! What are you doing?"
"Your new friend has got his eyes glued to you."
I smile, "He isn't my friend."
Ray raises an eyebrow and pulls me close. I dance against him and glance up as the song comes to an end.
"What's that Ray? I thought you thought of me as JUST your best friend!"
He groans, "I do! It's all your doing!"
"Oh really?" It's my turn to raise an eyebrow.
"I AM a man after all!"
I chuckle and step away from him. He glares at me and I laugh.
"Come on Ray. Let's go home. My feet are killing me! And I don't think you can dance very well anymore." Chuckling I glance down. He growls, glaring at me but follows without protesting.
Replies to comments
Macy - Thanks!
Jenifer - Hey, hey! I'm great thanks! How about you? Hahaa I'm glad you do! Yeah, no one can beat Ray! Lol 3rd best? Who are the first 2? Things will change next chapter... hopefully! Enjoy!
PH - Yeah, it was a surprise. Lol I'm sure he will. Hahaha I'm glad you do! Lol you're not the first one to say that! But I've already got two couples in my hands. I can't promise anything but let's see maybe something will happen between them! Lol soooowee I should have included it right? Oops, hahahaa aw come on my cliffhangers aren't that bad lol. Aaah I didn't mean for that to be as a cliffhanger. This chapter IS shorter than the others and I remembered you lol. I'll try my bestest, no worries! Aaaw thank you! LOL, I'd posted before you commented the second time!
Jar - Hahaha I know you do! Yeah like let's hope he doesn't turn up anymore. Ever! Yeah they mean everything to each other... hahaha huush don't give anything away Jarry! Lol and yesh, yesh I know! You've told me the same thing since the beginning!
-Justice - Aaaaaww, thank You! I'm glad you love them! Yeah sure. You need to become a member, have an author account. Just type in sign up in the Google search bar at the top of the page. Oh my gosh, that's so sweet! I'm so honored! Thanks a lot!
Tamika - Hahaha glad I've surprised you! Lol yeah she is young for him in a way hahaaha. Yeah she stood her ground! Big strong girl hahaha... yeah I guess as time went on she just lived one day after the next with their relationship, she just didn't know what she wanted to do. OhmyGosh! Hahaaha I love the way you think girl! Lol. Thank You!! I will!
Sants - Thank You! I will!
MayJuneJuly - Haha thank you honey! She'll stop no worries! Lol I know lol, Darren is cuuuuute hahaha love you moster.
Lucy - Apparently yeah, that's all he does. Well you'll see next chap! When are you posting by the way?
LJ - I know shocker right? Thanks!