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Between Dreams

Book 1 of The Pendant Series
Written by Cynthia Austin

Between Dreams
Copyright © 2015 by Cynthia Austin. All rights reserved.
First Print Edition: April 2015

Limitless Publishing, LLC
Kailua, HI 96734
www.limitlesspublishing.com
Formatting: Limitless Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1-68058-110-2
ISBN-10: 1-68058-110-4
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or
distributed in any printed or electronic form without
permission. Please do not participate in or encourage
piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the
author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and
incidents either are the product of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance
to locales, events, business establishments, or actual
persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
 

Dedication
To Tyler
My little engine that could.

 

Author’s Note
I believe that every song has a bit of a story to
tell. With a combination of my favorite bands
mentioned in the chapters listed below, Sidney
Sinclair came to life. I listened to the music and she
told me her story. There's no other way of
explaining it.

 

Chapter One
Big City Dreams
As I peered through the heavily tinted film on
the window of the limousine, I watched as the
beautiful blue waves washed over the sparkling,
sunny beaches of Southern California. Despite my
excitement of beginning my new experience with
the love of my life, I couldn’t help but feel a bit
nostalgic.
I should be staring at the dark waves of the
Atlantic Ocean right now, I thought as I reminisced
about my recent past.
I had walked away from the offer of a lifetime I
had received just weeks before. All for the man I
loved.
Ray Ryker.
Ray and I had recently graduated from high
school and the world was ahead of us. The doors of
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endless possibilities had been laid open to us. At
least that’s what they had told us during our
graduation walk.
I had spent my entire academic career giving my
soul to the track and field team, so I was immensely
excited when all of my hard work had paid off with
a four-year athletic scholarship to the University of
North Carolina in Chapel Hill. To actually become
a Tar Heel and to run on Fetzer Field was a dream
come true for me. But my dream had been trumped
when Ray received his offer to sign a record deal
with Black Millennium Records; the biggest record
label in the music industry. Ray said he wouldn’t
sign the deal without me by his side. So, I had no
choice but to place my aspiration on hold and
follow his path to success. Opportunities like his
were not handed out lightly and when I weighed
both decisions on the table, the obvious choice
pointed to his future for us.
Now, as we sat in the back of a limousine, it was
eerily surreal to fathom that this new life was
actually mine. Here I was, eighteen years old, riding
in the back of a limousine, sipping on a four
thousand dollar bottle of champagne on my way to
view our newly leased house nestled somewhere in
the hills of Los Angeles.
Ray and I had grown up in a town with a
population of fifteen thousand people. A place
where everyone knew everyone on a first name
basis and the only champagne available in that town
was from the local Safeway, where I worked.
My manager was pretty upset about me taking
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this trip on such short notice but thankfully my best
friend and co-worker, Chrissy Kyle, covered my
shifts for me so it had all worked out in the end. I
smiled inwardly to myself as I envisioned the look
on my boss’s face when he learned I was quitting
and leaving my job in that old, dusty town and
never looking back.
This was my new life.
Ray gripped my hand and squeezed it, bringing
me back to reality. I turned to look at him and
couldn’t help but laugh as I gazed into his blue eyes
as big as nickels, shimmering with excitement. He
held up the crystal champagne glass and lip synced
the words “four thousand dollars” to me.
“Hey, you gonna drink that or just stare at in
amazement all day?” Finn asked Ray as he swiftly
lifted the glass out of Ray’s hand and drank the
liquid down in two gulps.
Finn was Ray’s cousin and guitar player of their
band, Unspoken Words. Their moms were sisters
and they literally grew up blocks from each other.
Because of this, they acted more like brothers than
cousins.
“Hey!” Ray shouted at Finn as he socked him in
the arm.
Finn put Ray in a headlock, knocking his
baseball cap off his head as his showery blond hair
poured out into sloppy curls. Messing up Ray’s hair,
Finn contained him in his grip until Ray finally
tapped out.
Marc, their drummer, jumped up and stuck his
head through the sunroof, screaming to the entire
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Los Angeles freeway as we sat in traffic, “Ding,
ding, ding. Finn is the ultimate champion due to a
tap out from Ray Ryker. All hail Finn Aldman,
world champion, and the crowd goes wild!”
He cupped his hands to his mouth and mimicked
the sounds of a cheering audience just as Finn
gripped his legs and pulled him back inside the
limousine and pinned Marc down. Ray jumped in
and all three of them were wrestling on the floor of
the car as I sat and watched, utterly embarrassed.
Is this really what my life is going to be like over
the next year…living in a house with three
buffoons?
As if reading my thoughts, Rich, the band’s bass
player, looked at me and asked, “So this is it,
Sidney. You ready to live for the first time on your
own with these three stooges?”
“Hey, you gotta live with them too!” I reminded
him.
He smiled and winked at me as he went back to
playing with his bass guitar. Rich was always the
quiet one in the group and pretty much kept to
himself. Ray, Finn, Marc and I had all gone to
school together. Rich lived outside the city limits
and had attended the school in the town next to us.
Finn and he were both high school football players
and one day, after a game, they were talking about
music and Rich agreed to join their band. Although
he was a faithful band mate, Rich attended
practices, performed at the shows, and then went
home. I’d never seen him at any of the parties we
attended afterwards.
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As the limousine turned up Diablo Avenue and
began its ascent into the San Rafael Mountains, I
noticed the scenery changed into a greener picture
of older homes, each with their own unique
characteristics. The area actually had a sense of
familiarity to me as the houses reminded me of our
old neighborhood back home. The scene comforted
me. The higher we went, the narrower the street
became, and I recalled the short bit of history I had
studied about the neighborhood during the plane
ride over here.
Apparently this neighborhood was built during
the turn of the century with no road access. The
developer had built a fancy hotel at the summit of
the mountain as well as an incline railway. He
would give railway tours to potential home buyers.
They would ride the train, view the residences, and
stay at the hotel, which housed a panoramic view
from the summit. The hope was that the potential
buyers would fall in love with the view, inspiring
them to purchase one of the new homes beautifully
laid out on the mountain.
It’s crazy to think that at one time the only
transportation was the train that ran through these
hills. Although, as I watched the limousine driver
haphazardly maneuver through these narrow streets,
I definitely understood and appreciated the
reasoning behind it. I would have hated to drive my
truck through these curves, as beautiful as they
were.
Suddenly, the driver hit the brakes and Finn
crashed into me purposely, as if we’d been involved
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in a huge accident. I shook my head and playfully
pushed his heavy body off of me.
“Gosh, Finn, are you ever serious?” I asked,
halfway laughing.
He flashed me his playful smile as he stole Ray’s
hat and placed it on top of his wild mess of brown
hair. I swear these boys don’t know what a comb is,
I thought.
“I hope you get lice,” I joked.
“I probably will. There’s no telling what lives in
that bird’s nest,” Finn joked back, punching Ray in
his arm, initiating the second round of
WrestleMania.
I rolled my eyes and glanced out the window to
see what the delay was in front of us. Actually, we
had arrived at our destination. The limousine sat
parked as it waited for the black iron gates to open.
The house must have been set in the back, away
from the street, because all I could see were the four
ivory posts that were each topped with black
decorative lanterns. In between the posts were
glossy, ebony bars that curved up into a point.
Attached to the fence were multiple warning signs
that signified the fence was indeed electric. I
supposed the only people that gained entry into this
home were welcomed guests.
As the gates swung open, we slowly began the
long trip up the steep driveway. The front grounds
were covered in several varieties of plants and
shrubbery. I reasoned this had been done purposely
to keep the look as natural to the mountain terrain as
possible.
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Finally the enormous mansion came into view
and my mouth dropped to the floor of the car.
“Holy crap!” I exclaimed.
The boys jumped up, immediately sticking their
faces against the dark windows. Even Rich tossed
his bass guitar aside to join the others as they
looked out.
The house was a two-story Spanish style
mansion with a red tile roof and four matching
garage doors. The native plants continued to grow
up here but they were now meticulously placed and
maintained by a gardener. The entire driveway had
been laid down with natural stone and gave the
whole place the feel of an old Spanish fort. The
front doors were two massively polished planks of
wood. The European-style estate was breathtaking.
“Four car garage,” Marc pointed out. “One for
each of us.” They all high-fived each other.
“I’ll just park my truck on the street,” I mumbled
as I rolled my eyes at their lack of regard for their
fifth companion.
The limousine parked behind a shiny, black
Mercedes-Benz and a tall, thin and very serious
woman with short blonde hair stepped out. Her
eyes, covered by a heavy pair of black sunglasses,
dominated her tiny lips, which were painted a deep
ruby red. She reminded me of a cricket.
It was Rene, the band’s manager. She was the
one responsible for selecting a house and securing
the lease for us. Rene basically acted as the
middleman between the band and the record label.
In fact, everything handled by the label went
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directly through Rene.
The chauffeur opened our door and the boys
rushed out and raced inside the palace to declare
which bedroom was theirs. Alone in the car, I
slowly climbed out, wearing the outfit I had
borrowed from Chrissy…tight-fitting black slacks
paired with a leopard print button-down shirt. My
high heels, of course, slowed me down. I was fitted
with tall black stiletto heels intertwined with gold
straps, which allowed them to match perfectly with
my sexy shirt. I don’t know how she did it, but
Chrissy had a natural talent for perfectly matching
each pair of shoes to her outfits.
The chauffeur extended his white-gloved hand
and I gratefully accepted it as he pulled me out of
the car and then acted as a balance post as I gained
my composure in my newly acquired heels.
Rene greeted me, “Good morning, Sidney. I trust
the plane ride down here was uneventful.”
I nodded my head and thanked her for allowing
me to join Ray in the house.
Rene forced a smile on her tight face as she tilted
her head to the side and answered, “Well, it’s not as
if I had much choice in the matter. Ray was pretty
adamant about having you with him.”
I nervously wrapped my arms around my chest
as I remembered the day the offer came in. Ray
refused to sign the contract unless it stipulated that I
could go with him to Los Angeles. Rene argued on
behalf of the record label that it was never a smart
idea for a band to make their breakthrough album
with any of its members attached to a significant
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other. The boys would appeal more to fans if they
gave the image of being single. After a week of
discussion, Ray still held his ground. He would
walk away if I didn’t go. Rene had no choice but to
agree.
“Nice shoes, Sidney,” Rene complimented.
“Why don’t you make your way inside and take a
look at the place, I’m sure you’ll absolutely adore it.
It’s quite charming.”
Quite charming? I marveled inwardly. It’s
Spain’s version of the Taj Mahal!
As I made my way into the large building, I was
flabbergasted by what I saw. The ivory walls were
well complemented by the dark wood, which
elegantly framed the many windows. The house was
beautifully furnished with matching mahogany
furniture. The dark wood floors shined so brightly I
could see my reflection in them. I hesitantly walked
across the floor as my heels click-clacked with each
step I took echoing throughout the house.
In the living room, there was a massive stone
fireplace set as the focal point with a velvet maroon
couch paired with two leather recliners on each
side. The upstairs walkway wrapped around the
room like a beautiful balcony with black iron bars
expertly crafted to fit perfectly. Each hallway was
cut into an arch and the giant vaulted ceilings had
deep mahogany beams, which crisscrossed
majestically and reminded me of a church cathedral.
“Your room is upstairs, Sidney,” Rene said flatly
as she walked in behind me. “If you could, please
send Ray downstairs to the kitchen. There are some
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papers that I need him to sign before I can be on my
way.”
I nodded. “Sure, no problem. This house is
absolutely exquisite.”
She flashed me that phony smile she wore so
well and spun around on her heels as she walked
towards the kitchen with a manila envelope
swinging back and forth in her hand. I turned in the
opposite direction in search of the staircase that
would lead me to my chambers.
The staircase was back by the front door and I
slowly ascended it in my damn heels. I was grateful
for the maroon runner that muted their sound. The
staircase was one of those large fancy ones that you
see on television that scaled the entire side of the
wall as it slowly curved to the second floor.
There was a massive gothic-style chandelier
which hung from the center of the large mahogany
dome along with three-arched windows, all
intricately placed with stained glass. It irritated me
that the record label assumed since the boys were in
a rock band they were automatically partial to
gothic architecture.
Maybe we would have been happy with an
average cookie-cutter house. Rene doesn't know
what we like.
I suddenly despised her. She was an
inconsequential human being.
Just as I was complaining to myself, Ray met me
at the top of the stairs with a smile so big I thought
maybe he’d eaten the Cheshire cat. I couldn’t help
but be reminded of why I had fallen in love with
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him in the first place.
Ray had that All-American boy next door look to
him. He really didn’t look anything like a lead
vocalist in a rock band. He had tan skin, blond hair,
blue eyes, and nary a tattoo. He actually looked
more like a surfer or a young Leo DiCaprio. Maybe
that’s why the record label signed him. They
wanted to brand “rock” with a new look. Of course,
they were extremely talented. They were really
good. At least I thought so, but then again I may
have had a biased opinion since I was sleeping with
the front man.
“Is this house amazing or what, Sid?” Ray asked,
as he gawked down the steep staircase. “Check out
these windows, it’s like a freaking church up in
here.” His voice echoed off of the walls.
“Yeah, I feel like I’m at Mission Santa Inez or
something. I can’t believe people actually live
here.”
Ray grabbed my hands and pulled me towards
him, his blue eyes shining brightly with excitement.
“We live here, Sid,” he reminded me as he bent
down and kissed me.
I closed my eyes and held on tightly to his strong
shoulders. We had been dating for two years and it
still gave me butterflies whenever he was close to
me.
He pulled away. “Our room’s over here.” He
anxiously pulled me to the west wing of the palace.
We entered through two wooden castle-like doors
and crossed into a bedroom that was the size of the
entire lower level of my house back home.
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The room housed a giant king-sized, four-poster
bed covered with a white goose down comforter and
red velvet pillows. The ceiling was pitched, covered
in the dark wood with giant beams crossing.
Looking up, I saw a beautiful mid-century bronze
chandelier with faux candles hanging down that
served as the focal point of the room.
In addition, there were two sets of French doors
that opened out to our private balcony overlooking
an orange orchard that seemed to stretch for miles.
On the opposite wall was a set of dark mahogany
doors that opened into a fully furnished walk-in
closet.
There was a beautiful bouquet of red roses
placed on the built-in dresser with a card attached. I
picked it up.
Congratulations on your newfound success! We
wish you all the best of luck. Please accept this
small token of our appreciation. To be in the public
eye, you must dress the part.-Compliments of Black
Millennium Records.
In the closet hung some of the most expensive
pieces of clothing I had ever seen in my life. They
had all of our sizes perfectly measured.
“Weird.”
“What’s weird?” Ray asked as he plucked a
brand new hat off of the hat rack and placed it on
his head, covering up the mess of blond curls. He
did it so carefree, as if the hat had always been his.
It was that easy for him to just take something
that didn’t belong to him. I don’t know why
witnessing his behavior here bothered me so much,
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but it did. Just because it was there and readily
available, didn’t mean he should just take it.
“Everything. The limo, the house, champagne
and now clothes. Nothing in this world’s free, Ray.
What are we going to have to do to pay it back? It’s
almost like you made a deal with the devil or
something.”
“Don’t be crazy, Sid. You know we worked hard
for this. The label sees our potential, they know we
can make ’em a lot of money. This is just an
investment to make sure we stay with them. It’s
Hollywood, babe.”
“Sympathy for the Devil,” I countered as we
walked back towards the bedroom.
“Does your mind ever stay in the present or is it
always clouded by all those stupid movies you
watch?” Ray asked, becoming agitated with my
analogy.
Ray hated the fact that I related every movie or
piece of music to my life. You would think that
being an artist himself he would appreciate that trait
of mine but he found it utterly annoying.
Just as we exited the closet we were greeted by
Finn holding a second bottle of that expensive
champagne. He must have found more in the
kitchen, which reminded me of my task. I turned to
Ray. “Rene needs to see you in the kitchen,
something about more papers to sign.”
“Don’t worry about it, man,” Marc said as he
entered our bedroom with Rich at his heels.
I grumbled to myself, “I can see it now, this
place is going to turn into an ongoing meeting
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ground where privacy is never an option.”
Marc tossed a plastic card at Ray. “For
emergencies. Rene gave us each a card, in case we
need to fly back home or something.”
Ray took the credit card and placed it inside his
wallet—it seemed to be growing fatter by the day.
“Man, this is B.S,” Finn chimed in. “Just ’cuz
you brought your girlfriend, you get the biggest
room in the place?”
He unhappily plopped down on the overstuffed
couch.
“Well, I suppose this could have been you,
Finn,” I said, referring to him and Chrissy.
“Are you kidding me? You think I’d be crazy
enough to be strapped down to some girl at a time
like this? Chrissy missed the biggest opportunity
she ever had. She’s gonna be miserable five months
from now. And me, well, I’m gonna be here,
whoring it up Hollywood style.”
Ray gripped me around the waist and kissed my
cheek. He slowly brought his lips to my ear and
whispered, “Please don’t get him started on Chrissy.
Especially after he’s been drinking.”
Finn and Chrissy had dated the entire four years
of high school. They were two peas in a pod. A
couple that everyone idolized. She was captain of
the cheerleading squad and he was the All-Star
quarterback that every girl had a crush on. Of
course they were named homecoming king and
queen in addition to being voted cutest couple in
their senior superlatives. So you can imagine it
came as an utter shock to all of us when Chrissy
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broke up with him.
Christine Simpson Kyle.
She came from an upscale family and expected
her life to be no less comfortable than what she had
been accustomed to her entire life thanks to her
wealthy father, Dr. Kendrick Kyle.
When Finn gave her the exciting news about the
band being signed to a recording contract, it crushed
her. She had their entire life mapped out, and he
being a famous guitarist was not part of her plan.
Chrissy expected Finn to go medical school and
become a doctor just like her father. Anything less
than that simply would not do.
So, she broke up with him, leaving him
destroyed. She also told me time and time again that
I was making a terrible mistake giving up my dream
as a track star and following Ray down to L.A.
“I’m telling you, Sidney. You should take that
scholarship and run as fast as you can away from
Ray.” She told me.
But I could never leave Ray. He was the love of
my life and we were in this together.
Or so I thought.
Until I received the phone call that would change
the course of my life.
There was only one thing that could tear me
away from Ray, my granny.
When news about her having a stroke reached
me, I had no choice but to rush to her side,
ultimately leaving Ray.

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Chapter Two
Life
Noddington Heights was a small town just
outside the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in
Northern California. It was basically a desert
wasteland in between the hustle and bustle of the
big cities and the cool refreshment of the
mountains. It was the place where everyone drove
through, but no one ever stopped.
The Heights were flat, dry, and unbearably hot.
The naturally-yellowed landscape intertwined with
a few trees and rolls of grass that were ineffectually
laid down in a feeble attempt to bring a green
lushness to this hideous backdrop. This is where I’d
grown up and this is the hell I desperately wanted to
escape.
The town was established in 1852 during the
California gold rush, when people from all across
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the world hastened to California in hopes to “strike
it rich.” The town flourished for three short years
before miners realized their hard work didn’t pay
off as easily as they had hoped, causing most people
to pack up their belongings, shut down their stores,
and return home to places like Arkansas and
Oklahoma.
A few idiots stayed and planted their roots in this
town. My ancestors must have been in the latter
category because here I was 150 years later, stuck in
this god-forsaken place. I had spent my entire life
dreaming of escaping this town, and by the time I
turned eighteen, I’d been provided with two
exceptional opportunities.
So why was I still here?
I couldn’t leave my granny.
Granny Emmy was like a mother to me. My birth
mother committed suicide when I was just six
months old by jumping in front of a train. The
doctors had diagnosed her with postpartum
depression, and sadly, without the proper
medication, her life ended in tragedy, forever
altering the path of mine in its wake.
My grandmother spoke very rarely of her
daughter, which didn’t leave me with much
knowledge about her life or where I came from.
There was one picture of her in a small frame that
rested on top of the piano in the formal living room.
That was all I had of hers, save for her favorite CD
by the country musician, Jewel.
After my mother’s death, my father couldn’t
handle being a single parent, so he dumped me off
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with my maternal grandmother and never looked
back.
Being abandoned by both of my parents before
my first birthday had a profound impact on my selfesteem—and not in a good way. I’m sure
psychologists would have a field day studying a
case like me. I pray they never get the chance.
Although I didn’t have my parents, Granny
always assured me her love was more than enough.
She participated in every aspect of my life as a child
and treasured me as if I were her own. She wanted
nothing but the best for me, enrolling me in piano
lessons by the age of five and cheerleading for me
as I went through school. Money was never an issue
for Granny, whatever extracurricular activity I
wished to engage in, she always ensured that it was
provided to me.
Later on in middle school, I found my true
passion on the track field. Running gave me
freedom.
Six weeks ago, while I was off gallivanting
through the mansion in Los Angeles, Granny Emmy
suffered a major stroke which left her helpless;
unable to speak or move.
My dear Emmy was always a vivacious woman
with a variety of colorful opinions which she
frequently expressed in the most outspoken of ways.
Her final wish was pounded into all of us: “If
anything ever happens and I’m lying there
dependent on everyone around me, I refuse to leave
the comfort of my own home. I have money, use it
to pay for a nurse. I don’t want to be stuck in an old
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folks’ home.”
Then she would flash that compelling smile of
hers, reminding me, “I worked hard for my money
and it should be used as I damn well please!”
And so I fulfilled my granny’s famous last wish.
I flew home the day of her stroke and made
arrangements with Chrissy’s father, Dr. Kyle, who
also happened to be Granny’s primary care
physician.
The doctor had instructed me, “You do
understand that your grandmother is going to need
round-the-clock care, Sidney.”
“I understand it will be a demanding job, but I
promised my granny I would do whatever it took to
keep her at home, instead of in a nursing facility,” I
adamantly said.
Dr. Kyle placed his hands on his hips and peered
at me through his silver-rimmed spectacles. He
snatched his clipboard off his desk and began
scribbling notes on the pad.
“All right, Sidney, if this is what you want I
won’t argue with you. But I understand you’re
working at a grocery store and planning to register
as a part-time student at the local community
college. If those are your plans, I recommend you
hire a live-in nurse to assist you with your caregiver
responsibilities. They’re not to be taken lightly.”
He ripped the piece of paper from his clipboard
and handed me a copy. “Take this over to the inhome care unit of the hospital and they’ll set you up
with one of the nurses.”
I accepted the slip of paper and thanked Dr. Kyle
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for his time. Thinking of what he said about the
grocery store, I was relieved I hadn’t jumped the
gun and quit my job before I headed to L.A.
As I headed out of his office, I stopped at the
door and turned back to face Dr. Kyle. The doctor
had already seated himself behind the cherry wood
desk and was studying a stack of papers. He glanced
up when he noticed that I was still there.
“Yes, Sidney?” he questioned.
Despite the fact he was extremely busy, he
pushed everything aside to assure that all of my
questions were answered with his full attention.
“Uh, do you know…?” I played with my long
brown hair as I nervously fiddled through my brain
and struggled to find the right words to my
question. “…How long someone in my granny’s
condition lasts?”
It came out heartless. I didn’t mean it that way.
Dr. Kyle put down his pen and brought his hand
up to his chin as he thought about my question. He
finally turned to look at me and answered softly,
“It’s hard to tell with something like this.
Sometimes it’s weeks, sometimes it’s years. Every
case is different. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more
assistance to you. Go ahead and get that nurse
situation in order now.” He picked up his pen and
went back to his work.
As I headed down the sterile hall of the hospital
on my way to the in-home care unit, I thought about
Dr. Kyle’s answer.
Granny could need my help for years.
I wondered if Ray would wait for me. As it stood
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now, he was calling every other minute asking
when I was coming back. Breaking the news to him
that I could be stuck in this town for years might
lead us into World War III. I dismissed the
unpleasant thoughts of Ray’s insensitivity from my
mind and focused on Granny.
***
Dr. Kyle approved Granny to move back home
within a week, but she could no longer retain her
bedroom upstairs and so I asked for Chrissy’s help
to assist me with the task of moving Granny’s
bedroom downstairs.
The large Craftsman home where I had grown up
had five bedrooms: two downstairs and three on the
upper level. I arranged my old bedroom on the
ground floor to be Granny’s new room. It was the
brighter bedroom of the two and was situated in the
back of the house that oversaw a beautiful rose
garden. I reasoned this would work out perfectly
because the room across the hall could be set up as
a nurse’s residence.
As Chrissy and I planned to sift through the
years of boxes in Granny’s closet upstairs, we
discovered the massive undertaking we faced. The
large pink bedroom always appeared to be
immaculately clean with the queen-sized bed nicely
adorned with a floral quilt. The chestnut dresser
shined with a fresh coat of furniture polish and the
mirror lacked any streaks.
The furniture was beautifully preserved and in
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Cynthia Austin

place. That was the good news.
Chrissy had an expression for the bad news.
“Holy crap, Sidney,” she said as she opened the
closet. “It looks like a bomb went off in here!”
As she gaped into the space, I peered in to see
enough crammed boxes and clothes to sink a cruise
line. Adding to the task at hand was the dark, musty
space which may or may not have necessitated
oxygen masks. Chrissy leaned against the door jamb
of the closet with her arms crossed in defiance.
Even as she pouted, the girl was still stunning.
As expected, she hadn’t arrived dressed to work,
but instead waltzed in wearing zebra-printed skinny
jeans and a black loose fitting tank top with slits cut
down the back, revealing her sun-kissed flesh. Her
blonde hair was curled and the top was teased to
add that extra bit of volume. Standing in her white
heels, she shook her head back and forth as she
came up with an alternative plan in lieu of attacking
the devastated closet. “Come on, Sidney. Let’s go
do something fun. We can do this some other stupid
night. It’s Saturday and I want to go out.”
She focused her hazel eyes on me as she pleaded
her case.
Ignoring her, I stepped into the closet and pulled
the long chain attached to the single light bulb that
hung from the low ceiling.
“We’ll go out next weekend, Chrissy,” I shouted
over my shoulder. “Let’s just focus on emptying
these boxes. If I’m going to switch Granny
bedrooms, then I am going to need this closet to
store my clothes. We’ll make two piles, one for
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things we’ll keep, and the other for donations.”
I grabbed the first box and brought it out into the
room, placing it on the soft carpet. Chrissy growled
and kicked off her heels, harder than she intended,
sending one flying through the air and smacking
into the wall. It knocked a chunk of plaster out
before landing harmlessly on the floor.
I let out a huge sigh as my shoulders fell
forward, “Really?” I asked, already growing
agitated with her tantrums. “I guess now I’ll be
forced to paint over this hideous pink.”
“Sorry,” she mumbled as she headed into the
closet and appeared momentarily with a battered
box.
As suspected, most of the boxes were just junk,
and sorting through them proved to go a lot faster
than we’d both anticipated. Chrissy even discovered
an old, tan leather jacket that must have belonged to
my grandmother in the ‘60s. She absolutely adored
it and so I let her have it as payment for helping me
clear out the closet. I was certain the next time I saw
her she would have already bought matching boots
to accessorize it.
We were making excellent time, and midway
through our second hour, Chrissy came out of the
closet, hoisting a heavy box that seemed to be
giving her a run for her money.
She dropped it to the floor and rested her hands
on her knees, breathing heavily. Still staring at the
box, she asked; “Sidney, what’s your mom’s name
again?”
Without thinking, I answered, “Emmy.”
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Cynthia Austin

Christine shook her head in disagreement. “No,
your birthmother. Was her name Isabelle?”
Instantly, I stopped sorting through my box of
old clothing and looked over at Chrissy. It was not
often that the name “Isabelle” was mentioned inside
these walls. In this house my mother’s name had
always been shunned.
Closed up and locked away in a vault, my
mother’s memories filled up a cardboard carton
hiding a terrible sin when she had taken her own
life. For that, my grandma believed she was in hell,
subsequently becoming a disgrace to our family.
She was the dirty laundry Granny chose not to air
out.
Chrissy spun the box around and I saw the letters
handwritten with a black sharpie displayed on the
box.
ISABELLE.
I crawled quickly on my hands and knees to the
box as if it were the last drop of water in a hot, dry
desert. I ripped the cardboard flaps open, anxious to
sort through its contents. I was disappointed to find
nothing but books.
As much as I loved to read, I was hoping to learn
a little more depth about the person my mother was.
I started to toss them one by one into the donation
pile as Chrissy took a break to reapply her mascara.
When I got to the bottom layer I noticed a small tin
case no bigger than a pencil box. I pulled it out and
lifted the lid. Inside there was a picture of my
mother, a man, and a baby.
Chrissy threw her mascara into her large Luis
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Vuitton bag and peered over my shoulder.
“That’s you as a baby,” she observed. “Your
grandma has a picture of you wearing that same
dress down on the bookshelf in the living room.”
I held the picture, intent on steadying my shaky
hands. The man in the picture must have been my
father. I had never seen him before but I could only
assume it was him. This picture must have been
taken when we were still happy. So many years had
gone by since then. I didn’t remember this part of
my life. It may as well have never existed.
Chrissy let out a long whistle through her lips.
“Wow, Sidney. You look just like your mom.”
I looked at the elegant woman in the faded,
tarnished photograph. She possessed the same long,
brown hair as mine but that was where the
similarities ended. Unlike my deep set footballshaped eyes, hers were more pronounced—rounder
with long black lashes complementing them. She
had a tiny button-like nose that fit perfectly on her
face and a radiant smile full of the whitest teeth I
had seen. She was wearing an exquisite brass
necklace that held a sparkling emerald pendant. The
stone was such a spectacular shade of green that it
immediately caught my attention.
It mesmerized me.
Chrissy’s loud shrill voice tore my gaze away
from the picture when she yelled, “I just found the
mother lode!”
She reached across my lap and into the tin box,
pulling out the very necklace I was examining in the
photo.
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Cynthia Austin

“I changed my mind, Sidney. Can I trade that old
leather jacket for this, please? I’m sure it will bring
out the color in my eyes!”
She began to slip the necklace over her head.
Almost reflexively my hand shot across the room
and I ripped the necklace out of her grip. Chrissy
put up her hand as if extending her claws, curled up
her top lip, and made a hissing sound.
“Sorry,” I said, attempting to laugh off my very
forceful display of possessiveness.
I placed the necklace around my neck and
shrugged. “It was my mother’s. Pretty much the
only thing I have of hers.”
As the pendant rested against my heart, for a
brief moment it felt as if I were finally whole again.
My entire life, I had felt misplaced and unguided,
and now, it was as if this necklace gave me a
purpose. It was my connection to my mother. I
silently vowed to myself that I would never take it
off.
The rest of the tin contained a handwritten
journal. I closed the lid and walked the tin box over
to the dresser, placing it into a drawer. Whatever
was in that journal needed to be read privately. This
was not the time.
“Well,” I said, wrapping up a very eventful day
of cleaning. “Let’s throw this junk into my truck
and drop it off at the Goodwill down the street.”
Chrissy, happy to be done with this laborious
duty, jumped to her feet and clapped her hands.
Even though she was a pampered princess who
complained a lot, I was deeply grateful for all the
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help she had given me today.
***
The week passed quickly and uneventfully. I was
so worried I had not gotten everything arranged for
my granny and her nurse. Before I realized it, the
time had come for both of them to arrive home. My
worries were all in vain, as usual. Both ladies
settled in nicely and the new nurse, Nouri, and I got
along fabulously, as we both shared a very special
common interest—Granny Emmy.
Nouri was a Filipina woman who had arrived in
America that same year. She was great to Emmy
and I loved her for it. She didn’t just take care of the
only family I had known, but somehow she became
part of the family.
So many nights after working a long day in the
grocery store, I would arrive home to find that
Nouri had cooked dinner for the two of us. We
would eat the delicious food she learned how to
prepare from her home country and then we would
sit at the table together and play cards.
The evenings would inevitably fade into me
recalling memories of Granny growing up, or the
stories of how Ray and I met and the young love we
shared, our current situation, and how we
desperately were trying to get back to each other.
Nouri never tired of the colorful stories that defined
my world. And most importantly, Nouri loved
Granny.
By the sixth month of taking care of my
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Cynthia Austin

grandmother, Nouri and I had settled nicely into a
routine and found that not only did we enjoy each
other’s company, but we were perfect co-workers.
While I worked during the days, Nouri was home
with Granny. I spent the evenings helping out and
visiting with my elderly relative and then Nouri and
I would catch up with each other over dinner. Life
was comfortable. There was just one thing missing
from it.
Ray.
As Nouri and I sat across at dinner one night at
the circular pinewood table I couldn’t help but
glance down at my phone. As was the case every
day, there were no voice mails or missed calls from
him. I had called Ray three times earlier that day
but had gotten his voicemail every time.
As much as I tried to deny it, it was obvious that
Ray and I were drifting apart. I needed to find a way
to repair our sinking relationship and I needed to do
it quickly or we were over. I tossed my phone on
the table, picked up my fork, and began picking at
my food. I was no longer hungry.
“What the matter?” Nouri asked in her broken
English. “That boyfriend no call you?”
I shook my head, not really caring to discuss Ray
tonight.
Nouri shook her plump round head as she
squinted at me through her brown eyes. “You let me
meet him, Sidney. I tell him what I think. He no
good to you. You find tall, handsome rich doctor.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as she reminded me of
Chrissy’s mantra; always be on the search for a
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successful man with bulging pockets. I pushed my
plate to the side. Scooting my wooden chair back
and standing up, I announced that I was going to
visit with Granny.
Quietly entering Granny Emmy’s room, I tiptoed across the old scuffed wooden floor, making
my way to her side to ensure she was comfortable. I
missed her terribly and wanted to spend some time
with her, to let her know I was there for her.
Always.
The climate that late February was unseasonably
warm and I went to her bedroom window and lifted
the wooden frame, allowing the cool air to push its
way in as a welcome refreshment to bring a little
relief to my granny.
The cool breeze felt invigorating against my hot
skin. I kept my face in the small window for some
time, just taking in all of that sweet air outside. It
was at that instant I decided that I would have to
plant some gardenias outside of her window. Their
fragrance is absolutely heavenly and I thought it
would be a nice gesture to enlighten Granny’s
senses.
I stood by the window remembering when I was
a little girl and this was my bedroom. A simple
white space with four walls, a twin bed, and a small
black and white television on a stand in front of the
bed.
This room had been my sanctuary as a small
child. I would spend endless hours locked away in
here listening to my mother’s CD and writing in my
journals. Mostly I would write about my dreams of
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Cynthia Austin

escaping this place. I stood and smiled next to the
window while all the aromas and sounds of so many
years ago returned to me.
The bed linens were always crisp; a white sheet
set and a white quilt matching the white walls,
including the white rolled up vinyl shade on the
window. As I surveyed the room in the present
moment I realized it was now eerily similar to a
hospital stay.
Ironic.
The very place Granny had insisted she would
never be a part of in her final years now closely
resembled that same hospice. Unknowingly, I had
devastated her wishes as much as I had honored
them. No matter how hard I tried, it always seemed
I was disappointing someone.
I turned from the view outside and walked to her
bed.
Smiling tenderly at my dear grandmother, I
whispered, “There, that should feel better for you,
Granny. I opened the window and let some air in
here for you.”
I always spoke to her defying the words of Dr.
Kyle, who told me she could not hear a word I said.
I smiled inwardly as I conversed with Granny.
“Doctors don’t know everything, they are people of
science, but there are far greater powers in the
world than science.”
I was not a religious person but if there was a
small possibility that God did exist then I would
hold onto that sliver of hope and believe Granny
could hear me. She had always been a spiritual
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believer and there just had to be a God, even if just
for her sake. It would be a tragedy for her to devote
her entire life to something that didn’t exist. I
personally felt many times that religion was a crock
but I never believed there was nothing in the life
hereafter. There had to be something. Otherwise,
what would be the point of all this?
I sat down on Granny’s old Stickley chair and
began reading Wuthering Heights to her. As I
related the moment that Heathcliff came back to
Catherine, finding her married to Edgar and living
at Thrushcross Grange, I suddenly felt contempt for
Catherine for choosing money over Heathcliff.
To be fair, if Heathcliff had stayed and fought
for Catherine rather than running away, then maybe,
just maybe, he could have stopped her from
marrying the wealthy Edgar Linton. They were both
to blame for their life apart after all.
At that moment, I hoped Granny would feel a
similar passion. It would only be fair for a woman
of her great emotion and depth to share this
convoluted love story as the breeze wafted over
both of us in the white room.
I put the book down and took Granny Emmy’s
thin, frail hand. Even with the deep creasing of
wrinkles, her skin was so cool and soft like a
newborn baby. It was a hand that seemed to have
never touched a day’s work.
Her nails were painted a soft pink, like a
blushing rose facing its first spring day. They made
me smile. I remembered that growing up my granny
always had the most perfectly manicured nails. I
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Cynthia Austin

was so thankful for the ever attentive Nouri, who
recognized the importance for a woman such as
Granny Emmy to keep up her appearance. I leaned
over and softly kissed her cheek.
All of a sudden, Nouri came crashing into the
room, holding my phone as it chimed in her hand. I
lunged out of the chair and reached for the phone as
soon as I saw that it was Ray calling.
Nouri handed me the phone and went straight
over to the window and pulled the wooden frame
down. I smiled again at the ever attentive nurse as I
whispered a hurried goodnight to her and headed
upstairs.
“Hello?” I answered, trying to slow my rapid
heartbeat.
“Is your grandma still alive?” Ray asked,
emotionless.
“Ray!” I yelled as I climbed the green carpeted
stairs. “Of course she is. You don’t have to be such
an inconsiderate ass.”
There was nothing but silence on the other end as
I entered my bedroom and closed the door. I sat
down at the tiny desk and listened to Ray’s
breathing.
“I don’t want to fight anymore,” I finally said.
“You promised me you’d be here,” he said,
bluntly reminding me of the circle we’d been going
around for the last eight months.
“Things change, Ray. If I could, I would be
there. You know that.”
“I can’t do this anymore, Sid. It hurts too much
missing you. I’d rather forget you altogether than
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hurt like this.”
I was happy to at least hear that he still cared.
The past eight months had been torture for me. Ever
since I told Ray that I wasn’t coming back to L.A.
he had put up an emotional wall that was impossible
to break down. He had been acting cold, insensitive,
and uncaring. Now tonight, at least he was letting
me in. The wall was finally beginning to crumble.
“I hurt too, Ray. I miss you so much. But it’s
only temporary,” I promised.
More silence.
“Are you there?” I asked.
“I think we should break up,” he said flatly.
Now it was my turn to sit on the phone with no
response.
“I want to break up,” Ray repeated.
My mind raced. Was he serious?
I waited for the punch line but there was none.
Ray really wanted to break up with me. I reached
for anything, grasping at straws, “But I love you,” I
squeaked.
“I love you too, Sid,” he answered.
Okay, so we still love each other, I rationalized
in my addled brain. He’s just mad and believes that
if he tricks me into thinking he’s going to break up
with me then I’ll move back down there. I knew
Ray’s M.O. I knew him better than he knew
himself. This will all blow over, I tried to convince
myself. It has to.
“I’m going to go bed now,” I said, refusing to
take those last words of his seriously. “Call me
tomorrow?”
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Cynthia Austin

“I’m sorry. Goodnight, Sid.”
I hung up the phone and clutched it to my chest.
He didn’t mean that. I know he didn’t, I thought to
myself. Nothing’s changed, we still love each other
and he’s going to call me tomorrow.
I rolled over on my side and thought more about
Ray before falling asleep.

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Between Dreams

Chapter Three
Run Right Through
It has been nine months since I left that
enormous mansion in the hills of Los Angeles but it
looked just the same as I’d remembered when the
taxi cab approached the ebony gates. I smiled as I
recalled the last memory I had of arriving at these
very gates with Ray and his bandmates in the back
of the limousine. We were just five kids from some
small town that day. Things were so much simpler
then.
Ray had changed.
He used to be so noble, always putting everyone
ahead of himself. But now, as each day passed, he
seemed to drift further and further from the man I
used to know. The record label had spoiled him,
granting his every wish. All he had to do was ask
and it was his.
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Cynthia Austin

That first day in the mansion, when we stood
together inside that closet fully equipped with every
article of clothing for a year, I watched him easily
take the hat and place it on his head. I realized now
why it had bothered me so much.
It may have been just a hat then, but what were
his possessions these days? I was afraid to find out
what else Ray was trying on.
I stared at the steel bars that kept me out of the
house as I called Ray on his cell phone. It went right
to voicemail as it always seemed to do lately.
Today was very special to me. It was Ray’s 20th
birthday. I had been saving every extra penny from
my meager grocery store salary to afford a round
trip plane ticket to visit him. The last month had
been a bit rocky, to say the least. Ever since Ray’s
attempt to break up with me I knew that something
had to be done on my part to show him I was
putting forth an effort to save our relationship.
As I ended the call, I attempted to dial Finn,
hoping he would be home and able to provide me
access into the fortress. The last thing I needed was
to wander the streets of Los Angeles. Thankfully,
Finn answered right away.
“Sidney Sinclair…is it really you?” he answered
in astonishment.
“OMG. Is this Finn Aldman, the famous guitar
player from the hit band, Unspoken Words?” I
mimicked the tone of a young teenage fan idolizing
their favorite band.
We both laughed, it was good to hear such a
friendly voice on the other end. “Do you mind
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Between Dreams

opening the gates? I’m in a cab down here.”
“Ummm…” There was a long pause on the other
end of the line. “Sure, no problem.”
“Oh and Finn, don’t mention anything to Ray if
he’s up there. I want it to be a surprise.”
Finn laughed heartily, “Oh, what a surprise it
will be too!”
The gates swung open and the cab began its
short drive to the front of the estate. I paid the driver
and exited the cab. I didn’t bring any luggage with
me since I had only planned to stay one night and, if
needed, I finally agreed in my mind to accept the
free clothes. They were, after all, hand selected just
for me. If I wasn’t going to use them, who would?
As I walked toward the massive wooden front
doors, they opened outwardly and Finn stood in the
entrance to greet me.
“Thanks so much, Finn, you’re a doll,” I said as I
strode right past him.
Finn’s carefree attitude seemed to have
dissipated since our lighthearted phone conversation
just moments before. He was very solemn now as
he gripped my arm and with an urgency in his
voice, he murmured, “Sidney. I gotta tell you
something.”
I shook my arm loose from his grip and told him
it would have to wait. Mounting the stairs, I was
able to take them two at a time as I comfortably
climbed in my red Converse tennis shoes. I thought
I heard Finn call my name but I didn’t turn back. I
was too excited to see Ray. It had been way too
long.
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Cynthia Austin

I pushed open the mahogany doors and entered
our suite. Ray was sitting on the bed wearing a
black button down shirt with matching slacks.
“Happy birthday, babe…surprise!” I announced,
throwing up my hands in the air.
He sat as still as a statue, staring at me in
disbelief as I rushed over to him. I jumped in his
lap, laying a kiss on his perfectly full lips. He didn’t
respond to my touch and instead took my hands and
gently scooted out from underneath me.
“Sid. What are you doing here?” he said in a
hushed tone. Climbing to his feet, he nervously
glanced towards the closet doors.
As my brain began to slowly process the fact that
Ray was not happy to see me, I heard the door to
our closet open and out walked a strikingly sexy
young woman. She had vivid red hair the color of a
fine burgundy wine, full of fire and exotic danger.
Her hair perfectly complemented her catlike green
eyes, which were deep set inside of her perfectly
oval face, reminiscent of a delicate porcelain doll.
She was breathtakingly beautiful.
She was my worst nightmare.
I was mesmerized; I couldn’t take my eyes off
her. She was wearing an expensive black gown with
a neckline cut seductively low, which perfectly
accented her full breasts and flowed downward to
reveal a sensual hint of her long, toned legs. Her
dress was sprinkled with Swarovski crystals woven
into the fabric to make it truly stunning, not to
mention memorable.
I suddenly recoiled in horror…
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She was wearing my dress!
I resented the fact she looked so good in it.
Her cat green eyes were focused on me. She was
appraising me and silently saying, “We both know I
look sexier in this dress than you ever could.”
I looked at her and then back at Ray still trying
to understand why this woman was in our room
with my boyfriend and wearing my dress. My
boyfriend was sitting silently on the bed trying to
comprehend the feminine connection between me
and this goddess who had turned my entire romantic
life upside down.
As his gaze darted back and forth and followed
two women and the competitive dance of our eyes,
Ray had no clue what was going on. He was just
trying to survive. His face had turned a shade whiter
and he appeared on the verge of throwing up, but he
quickly recovered himself.
“Sid, this is Lilly. Lilly Lavelle, meet Sidney
Sinclair.” Ray mimicked the hand gestures of a very
forced introduction.
“Sidney. Of course,” Lilly purred with the
sincerity of a terrorist.
She reminded me of a sleek black panther as she
prowled across the room towards me and extended
her elegant hand. “You’re Ray’s little high school
girlfriend from back home, right? Pretty necklace,”
she purred as she admired my pendant.
I accepted the hand, not knowing what else to do.
At least it wasn’t a razor sharp claw.
“Ex,” Ray corrected.
Lilly had prowled, I mean moved, back to stand
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Cynthia Austin

next to Ray, and brushed her body against his as she
pulled her hair to one side and seductively asked;
“Do you mind helping a gal out?”
I watched in horror as Ray gripped the zipper
and pulled it up, stretching my dress over her
hourglass figure, realizing that he had just called me
his ex-girlfriend.
Still speechless, I looked at Ray, who angrily
stared back at me with cold, emotionless eyes. I
realized, as I observed the beautiful Lilly Lavelle,
that she and my ex were both dressed formally. I
was too late. Ray already had plans to celebrate his
birthday; apparently with his new girlfriend.
Three’s a crowd…guess which number I was. I
had become an unwelcome guest in a house I had
once considered my home. My eyes burned with
salt water. I closed them and tried to force the tears
back inside.
“I feel so stupid,” I whispered as I quickly stood
up and walked numbly to the door.
“Sid, wait.”
Ray reached for my hand as his emotional wall
slowly began to come down. But it was too late.
Just as his wall was coming down, mine was going
up. Ray had replaced me. Just like all of his other
easily acquired possessions, I was no different.
I ripped my hand away from his and vigorously
shook my head. “I’m sorry I came here,” I cried as I
ran out of the room and down the stairs, heading
towards the massive planks of wood that encaged
me in this fortress.
Ray started to chase after me but then I heard the
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panther suggest, “Just let her go, Ray. Move on.”
I heard him as he stepped back to her.
Once outside I gasped for breath, wanting to
escape this burning inferno inside my chest. The
March air stood still and stagnant as the world
around me began to close in and I started to feel as
if it were swallowing me whole. I had to get away
from this place. I scanned the grounds for the
easiest escape route, my feet itching to do a fivehundred yard dash down the driveway.
Then I heard the sound of a car engine roar to
life and I looked up. It was Finn in his newly
purchased Dodge Challenger, another reminder of
who owned these boys. He had tried to warn me
about what I might find upstairs and knowing the
probable outcome, he had been waiting to take me
back to the airport.
I kept my head down as I slowly did the walk of
shame to his car. Without saying a word, I got in
and buckled my seat belt. We began our journey to
the airport and Finn knew well enough to avoid
conversation with me.
I tried to settle myself, to focus on what had just
happened. It had been three months since our
relationship had entered this rough patch. Sure we
had broken up over the phone, but that was just
because Ray was so angry that I hadn’t moved back.
I didn’t think he was serious about permanently
walking away from me. I thought they were all just
idle threats. We had still spoken on the phone every
night and told each other we loved one another.
Deep down he had to understand my dilemma. I
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Cynthia Austin

couldn’t leave Granny by herself in her condition.
My boyfriend knew that.
Halfway to the airport, Finn finally decided to
break the uncomfortable silence.
“Ray loves you, Sidney, you know that.”
I didn’t answer. After seeing that cunning vixen
in my dress and hearing Ray utter “ex,” how could
I believe he had any feelings left for me at all?
I sat in silence, staring at the road ahead. I
realized I had wasted an entire day just to get my
heart broken. I should have stayed home and
continued living in my fantasy where Ray and I
were still a couple.
Ignoring my silence, Finn carried on. “It’s hard
to explain this, but if you had to rate Chrissy, we
can agree that she’s a 10, right? When she goes out,
how many times do you figure she gets hit on?” he
asked. “Truthfully now, you don’t have to worry
about my feelings, I know she’s hot.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know, at least a 10, yeah,” I
answered, hoping he would shut up, but he just kept
on talking.
“The way I look at it is that girls are rated by the
number of times they’re hit on a day. So if you’re a
five you get hit on five times a day and so on.”
I’m getting advice from a rock musician, I
thought, as he rambled on. The universe has
reached untold depths of absurdity.
“All you girls have to do is just sit there being all
beautiful and reject us guys, over and over again.
Do you ever stop to think how many times a guy
has to get rejected before some foolish girl finally
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gives in and says yes?”
Growing impatient with Finn, I turned my head
and glared into his face. “Do you have a point?”
“Simmer down, Old Yeller, I’m getting to it.” He
laughed.
I playfully threw an old empty water bottle at
him. It bounced off his black jacket and landed on
the passenger floor board. I bent down to pick it up
when my phone vibrated. It was Ray. Time for me
to reject his calls, I thought as I slid my finger
across the screen, silencing it.
“Do you know I spent two years listening to Ray
babble on about you in high school?” Finn asked
me, taking on a more serious tone. “Ever since you
guys met, he never shut up about you.”
Ray and I had met in math class during our
freshman year in high school. Our teacher, Mr.
Roman, had put us together in a small group, and
when Ray asked me my name, he cringed at my
response.
I gave him a funny look and he responded,
“When I hear the name Sidney, all I can think of is
the main character in the movie, Scream—you
know, Sidney Prescott. You’re like a hundred times
prettier than her.”
He shrugged and went back to finish his math
problem.
I sat there and thought to myself, I’m a hundred
times prettier than Neve Campbell, the beautiful
model and actress? What is wrong with this guy?
I looked around for a Golden Retriever, figuring
he must be blind.
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Cynthia Austin

From that day on he always called me Sid. He
could have called me Neve too. I wouldn’t have
minded that name, either.
Back then, Ray was a scrawny fifteen year old
boy that wasn’t much to look at. But his kindness
and sensitivity toward others is what drew me to
him. He was the oldest child in his family with two
younger sisters. His dad worked as an electrician
and his mom was a homemaker. They were a
devoted Catholic family that attended church on
Sundays and never missed their faithful family
dinners after Mass.
Ray and I were also bus partners, so we became
good friends. It didn’t hurt our relationship when
we discovered we both took the same bus to school.
Soon, our morning routine consisted of me saving
him a seat on the bus and hanging out on campus
before school started. Over the next few years he
transformed into a man before my eyes. During the
summer going into our junior year he and his
closest friends, along with Rich, formed a band and
practiced in his parents’ garage every evening after
school.
On Wednesdays, I joined his family for dinner
and then we studied together. It was the only time I
truly felt as if I was a part of an actual functioning
family. They were always so kind and welcoming. I
would hang out afterwards and listen to the boys
practice their music in the garage.
By that time, Ray was five foot eleven inches tall
and 180 pounds of muscle. When he gripped the
microphone with both hands, placing his lips inches
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from the transmitter, he would glance over at me
and I would easily feel as if I were the only one in
the room. I couldn’t help but notice how sexy he
had become. He had grown out his blond hair and
left it messy, like a surfer. He had also begun
working out, which left a nice definition to his
biceps. He was no longer that awkward teenage boy
I had met years before. He was stunning.
He had a nose that now fit his matured face and
deep, bright blue eyes. They reminded me of stars
in the sky. I felt I was lucky to be his close friend. I
also felt I was falling in love with him.
As I sat there in Finn’s car, I smiled at the
memory of our times together in high school. It was
a much simpler kind of life. Ray and Sid, together
all the time, laughing, studying, singing…
We knew each other inside and out. Now, I
wondered if we knew each other at all.
My mind took me right back into the bedroom at
the mansion.
“Ray pining after me? That’s not the way I
remember it.” I crossed my arms and glared out the
window, allowing all of the anger to seep back
inside me.
Finn let out another boisterous laugh. “That’s
because you were up there with Chrissy; also a ten.
You think he wanted to take that chance of rejection
with you when he knew the odds were stacked
against him? It took him two years to finally get up
the courage to ask you out, Sidney.”
I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head.
“What does it matter now?” I asked. “If I’m a ten,
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Cynthia Austin

which I sincerely doubt, then Ray’s back in that
house with a twenty right now.”
Finn turned into Los Angeles International
Airport and began following the green signs to the
passenger drop off area.
“Ray’s not stupid, you know. When he put up
that stink about having you move down here with
us…He jeopardized our careers over it. He did it to
keep you, Sidney. Unlike you women, who have a
predisposed genetic DNA to reject every guy that
hits on you, we’re the polar opposite. It’s practically
impossible for us to say no. Ray knew what was
going to happen when we came down here and got
into the mainstream media. He’s not a cheater, and
if you were here, he’d never be able to hurt you that
way.”
I smiled as I sized up Finn in my mind. A sweet
guy, yes; an insightful psychologist—no way.
Finn pulled the Challenger to the side of the curb
and placed the transmission in park. He looked over
at me with those big brown eyes full of sincerity.
“But if you’re not here, it makes the temptation a
little easier. You don’t have to worry about coming
home and looking into the face of the person you
care about the most and lie to them.”
He nervously patted the steering wheel of the
car. He was completely out of his element giving
me this pep talk. “I don’t know. You get what I’m
trying to say, right?”
I grabbed my purse and opened the car door. I
turned to Finn. “Yeah, basically it’s my fault Ray’s
cheating on me. If I never would have left, he would
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have remained the faithful loving boyfriend I’ve
always known him to be. Whatever.”
I exited the car, joyous that I had escaped Finn’s
mental asylum. “Thanks for the ride. I really don’t
know what I would’ve done without you,” I said
with as much sarcasm as I could muster.
Finn smiled and ignored my biting cynicism as
he leaned towards the passenger window. “Hey
Sidney, how’s Chrissy?”
Unintentionally, I gave Finn that fake look of
sympathy which everyone hates to receive. “She’s
doing fine. I’ll tell her you said hi.”
He smiled excitedly and threw the car into gear.
“Cool!”
I nodded at Finn and watched the Challenger as
it exited the airport. Shaking my head, I whispered,
“See you around, Freud.”
I reached into my purse and pulled out my
wasted ticket and turned towards the door of the
Southwest terminal.
God, what a day.

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Cynthia Austin

Chapter Four
Cry
I lay awake in my bed staring up at the ceiling in
the quiet pink bedroom of the Craftsman house. The
windows were thin and I could hear every sound the
night brought, which stimulated my mind, offering
no peaceful state of sleep. The swift wind had
howled throughout the night, sending the old bare
branches of the oak tree rasping against the pane.
This was the sixth month of me not being able to
sleep and its effects were truly starting to wear on
me. Ever since I moved into the pink bedroom I
suffered the same fate night after night.
Every time I shut my eyes I would go straight
back into the dream that had kept my mind alert and
spinning.
Like most dreams people experience, it faded
quickly upon waking up. As the sun rose in the sky,
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the memories of our dreams evaporated and in my
case, this was a truism. Except I always
remembered the emerald green eyes of the man.
The image of his eyes reaching deep into my soul
had long been burned into my mind. I called them
“pendant eyes,” for they were the exact same color
as the striking jewelry I had discovered in my
mother’s tin box.
I would fall asleep and awaken with the image of
those eyes in my mind as those first days turned into
weeks and eventually months.
A man with eyes that penetrated my soul.
But he was just a dream. My dream.
It was really no wonder why I had conjured up
this man of perfection in my mind. With everything
Ray had put me through, I was in desperate need to
hold onto the hope there was someone else out there
for me. I would not spend the rest of my life chasing
after my high school boyfriend trying to get back
what we once had. There was no going back. Ray
had broken my heart and in doing so, he had broken
my trust.
My emotional funk had been complicated by
those dreams which had begun around the time I
found my mother’s necklace. I wasn’t sure if they
had anything to do with my newfound possession or
if they were simply the sum of the emotional trauma
taking place in my life.
First I’d undergone the painful loss of my granny
as I had known her, and now I had lost Ray too. It’s
no wonder my mind lacked the warm state of
euphoria.
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Cynthia Austin

I rolled over on my side and thought of Ray
some more. After I had discovered his betrayal and
after his hundredth phone call, I finally gave in and
spoke with him. It took me a month before I could
stomach a conversation with him. My mind always
returned to the scene of me running away from the
house of horrors—or whores.
He apologized profusely and told me he
originally believed that Lilly was what he’d wanted
but once he’d seen me and seen how much his
actions hurt me, he couldn’t live with himself. He
had broken up with the fox and begged me to come
back, but as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t do it.
All my trust in him had diminished.
We were currently working on our long-distance
relationship as much as we could but, as I lay in my
bed I couldn’t help but think our efforts were futile
and perhaps Ray was right when he had originally
suggested we break up.
I replayed our phone conversation from earlier
that night for the millionth time. It seemed now that
instead of going around in circles with the granny
issue, we had begun chasing our tails with the Lilly
situation. I couldn’t get past it.
Ray was pragmatic. “Look, Sid, I know that no
matter what I say it will never make up for the pain
I’ve caused you. It’s just hard sometimes out there,
living this other life. Everyone thinks I’m single,
and for the most part, I am.”
He was once again blaming me for his
unfaithfulness. “I just got mixed up in the moment.
It’s hard to explain but when I’m down in L.A. it’s
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almost like I’m living this other life.”
Yet another hapless attempt on Ray’s part to
justify his actions. It was hard for me to hear. I
knew what he was trying to say but that didn’t mean
that it hurt any less. Basically, when he’s down
there living that other life it’s as if I never existed.
Evidently, I was that forgettable.
“You can only hurt me so much, Ray. You can
only make me cry so much…” I was stumbling
around in my mind, trying to think of the right
words. “…before I have no more tears left to cry.”
As my emotional pain and the recurring lump in
my throat returned, I tried to think of anything other
than Ray. I focused again on the dream. It always
appeared to be the same one. I wasn’t personally
involved in it, instead I was a viewer. Standing on
the sidelines, I was a witness to a play where the
actors played their repetitive roles. No matter how
many times I’d witnessed it, I could never change
the outcome.
Unfortunately, once I woke up, my diluted and
foggy mind would cause me to forget most of the
dream. But one image always stuck in my mind.
They were the eyes of the man, deep and green,
burning with passion as he desperately tried to stay
intensely close to the woman he loved. Thinking of
him, I began comparing his love for the woman in
my dream to Ray and myself.
In the three years that Ray and I had been
together I had never once seen him stare at me the
way this man gazed at his love. If only a man of his
caliber truly existed. Having someone love me that
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Cynthia Austin

fiercely, I would never look back at Ray again, I
thought as my eyes grew heavy and I finally gave in
to the inevitable state of sleep.
***
I woke up feeling groggy and tired and cursed
inwardly for the long, thoughtless consultation I had
in the early morning hours. My mind never seemed
rested anymore and I thought maybe it was time to
invest in a journal. If I could just find a way to get
that haunting dream out of my mind and onto paper,
maybe I would ease up a little and sleep sounder.
But when I wasn’t dreaming I would find myself
daydreaming, thinking about him and those
addictive eyes. I would spend the entire day anxious
to crawl back into my bed and see him again. Soon I
found that I wasn’t even paying attention to the
dreams anymore, but obsessing entirely on him.
There was something about Samael; the man in
my dreams, that drew me. It unnerved me that I
could never remember his face. It was as if I could
feel every emotion he was feeling and his essence
spoke to me in volumes. The draw I had to him was
so strong I didn’t need to see his face to be
captivated by him. I started developing this
attraction for a virtual man who wasn’t even real.
He was just an invisible stranger I created in my
mind, so it confused me to answer the question:
How was it that I could obsess over him?
I suppose I was just taken in by the idea of what
he was. He was truly a fantasy that every woman
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would want; a man with an undying, devoted love
for his paramour. He was willing to go to the ends
of the earth just to be in her arms again.
In my mind, that was the most romantic thing I
had ever imagined in true love. I just wished I could
remember what he looked like. The only thing that
stood out to me were those alluring and penetrating
emerald eyes.
I lazily climbed out of my cozy bed and headed
toward the bathroom to shower away all my foolish
fantasies. I did not succeed. The hot water pouring
all over my body allowed my mind to imagine they
were his strong arms embracing me. I wanted to
remain under the water in his captivating presence
for hours, but the duties of work were calling to me.
After I combed through my wet, unruly hair, I
fought with it a bit in an attempt to style it. Finally
giving up, I just decided to throw it into a messy
bun and put my work clothes on. I looked at the
clock resting on the chestnut nightstand next to the
bed, the red numbers glowed eleven-thirty.
Safeway was about half a mile away from my
house, and since it was such a beautiful day I
decided to walk and get as much fresh air as I could
before being trapped inside the dimly lit store for
the next eight hours.
I quickly rushed into the white room and said
good morning to Granny as I kissed her soft
forehead. “Oh Granny, if you would just wake up,
everything would be so different,” I whispered to
her.
I left the bedroom and headed into the kitchen,
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Cynthia Austin

snatching up a powdered doughnut. I said goodbye
to Nouri, grabbed my purse, and locked the front
door behind me.
The air was crisp, but not too cold. It actually felt
really nice. Spring was arriving and I took notice of
the green leaves budding on the sparse tree
branches, reminding me that even the things that
looked dead received new life as the seasons
passed.
I walked by an old man wearing khaki pants
pulled up to his stomach and a light blue polo shirt
tucked in. He was raking the fallen cherry blossoms
into a pile as his wife held open a garbage bag for
him. I thought to myself that’s how a couple should
be, growing old together and still doing everything
as a team. That was devotion.
And that will probably never be Ray and I.
I arrived to work at 11:59, barely making it on
time. As soon as I walked through the double
sliding doors, I saw Bob, my floor manager.
“Sidney. Register eleven, please,” he
commanded.
Bob was a man in his mid-forties with a bald
head and a potbelly. He was married and had two
small children. His family would come in and visit
every now and then. The children were wellmannered and his wife was a tall, thin blonde who
was completely out of his league. I often wondered
how the two ended up together as they seemed like
such opposites, but I just summed it up to his jovial
personality. He was a pretty laid-back manager and
pleasant to work for but he didn’t handle pressure
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very well.
“Sidney, chop, chop,” he said with his nasally
voice. He was always trying to get everyone to
hurry. Maybe out of a personal paranoia to
compensate for his inability to lead a fluid
operation.
I looked at the registers and noticed the huge line
backed up at each one. No wonder he’s barking
commands at me. His ulcer must be acting up
again.
I walked over to register eleven and punched my
employee number onto the screen as I flipped on
my light.
“I can help the next customer on register eleven,”
I shouted.
Quickly a line with about eight people developed
in front of my register.
Yep, it’s going to be a long day.
The first half of my shift continued on as I busily
scanned my customers’ groceries over and over.
The line never receded, but eventually by 4:30 p.m.
the rush began to die down, and knowing the calm
wouldn’t last long, I decided to take my lunch
break. I scanned the floor to inform Bob but he was
nowhere to be found.
During a lull in the line, I decided to use my
down time to browse the tabloids for any gossip
about Ray. I grabbed the Alternative Post magazine
that was displayed with the other tabloids above the
candy rack.
As I skimmed through it, I saw a picture of Ray
as he performed at The Viper Room in Hollywood.
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Cynthia Austin

His hands gripped the microphone as he sang with
his eyes closed. He looked so cute. I smiled to
myself as I felt the butterflies in my stomach go
wild at the sight of him.
Below his photo was the caption: “Hollywood’s
newest most eligible bachelor? Ray Ryker, lead
vocalist of the band Unspoken Words, who
undoubtedly doesn’t know how to wear his heart
anywhere other than on his sleeve, has a new single
out. Ladies, get ready, because he may be hinting to
the world he’s no longer waiting on his very special
lady friend.”
I slammed the magazine shut and tossed it to the
side of the register. I hated it that Ray wrote all of
his songs about us. It was as if our life was under a
giant microscope and the world around us was
constantly trying to read into Ray’s songs, hoping to
find out their true meaning.
This particular article was in reference to the
band’s latest single being played on all the
airwaves. The focus of the song was Ray asking if
the wait was worth it. I suppose he was referring to
waiting on me while I’m here caring for my granny.
I scanned the empty store for a second time, still
searching for Bob, but couldn’t find him anywhere.
He was probably locked away in the back office
trying to escape the afternoon rush. I shook my head
in frustration as my empty stomach let out a hungry
growl.
Then I noticed someone approaching my line. As
I turned to greet the new customer my heart stopped
as my eyes drank in the sight of pure perfection. I
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couldn’t breathe. The instant attraction I had felt for
this stranger was overwhelming. I just stood there
frozen, completely stupefied and unable to move.
Our eyes locked on each other as if we were setting
up for a fatal duel. We were both frozen in time,
waiting on the other to make the first move.
He wasn’t very tall, five feet nine at the most.
But his face made up for the height he lacked.
He had a pale, round face that was shaped like a
heart with a high forehead and dark eyebrows that
cast a shadow over his big green eyes. He had a tiny
mouth with perfectly lined white teeth. His hair was
straight and jet black. It was messy and slightly
long, reaching his neckline, as it defiantly fell in his
face. My mind focused on one thing only.
His eyes. They were the same eyes that had been
haunting my dreams for the past six months. The
pendant eyes.
Unintentionally, I made the first move when my
hand automatically shot up towards my necklace,
gripping the emerald as it lay gracefully on my skin.
His eyes followed my hands and stayed focused on
my pendant until I began feeling uncomfortable.
Thank God I retained my professional demeanor.
“Sir, can I take that from you?” I asked, nodding
toward the grocery basket he was holding in his
pale hands.
He remained frozen.
Wordless.
Those piercing green eyes staring intently at my
necklace.
“Sir?” I said a little louder. He must have heard
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Cynthia Austin

me this time and he gave me a questioning look.
I smiled slightly and gestured to his groceries,
“Your basket?”
This was fun.
“Oh, of course,” he replied as he placed his
basket on the belt.
I refrained from rolling my eyes and began
emptying the contents onto the belt. Nothing
bothered me more than a snooty customer too lazy
to empty their own groceries from the basket. I
unloaded a loaf of whole wheat bread, lunch meat,
and tomatoes. I scanned and bagged them all into
one paper sack. I could feel those green eyes on me
but I was too embarrassed to look up. By this time I
was over the fact that the poor man couldn’t even
unload his own grocery basket and my thoughts
drifted back to his looks. He was so handsome, and
he reminded me so much of the man in my dreams.
That’s just crazy, Sidney!
“Okay, that will be $10.81,” I said, forcing
myself to look up and meet those eyes.
He made no gesture to get out his wallet and
instead rested his elbow on the check writing table,
placing his chin on his hand.
The young man looked right through me and said
seductively, “That’s a pretty necklace you’re
wearing.”
His comment instantly reminded me of Lilly,
who had said those same words just weeks before. I
swallowed down the sour taste of jealousy in my
mouth and flashed him a forced smile.
“Thank you,” I replied.
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My hand reflectively shot up to the pendant once
again, gripping it tightly, protecting it from his
intrusive eyes. Still waiting for payment, I tried to
focus on anything besides this gorgeous man taking
up time in my line for no apparent reason. I could
feel the fire of crimson burning deeply into my
cheeks. All I wanted to do was take my lunch break,
run into the backroom, and hide.
“Did you buy it around here, maybe at one of
those antique shops downtown?”
Of course I loved the necklace because it had
belonged to my mother, but for a guy to be so
intrigued by it was strange. There were plenty of
prettier necklaces in this world and girls these days
wanted something new and shiny from the jewelers
at the local mall. If he was thinking of buying a gift
for his girlfriend, I doubt my pendant would be her
first choice.
“No. It belonged to my mother, it’s a family
heirloom.” I smiled.
His eyes instantly shot up to mine. He stared into
them as if searching for something. I gazed back
into his translucent pupils that reflected so brightly,
even in the dimly lit store.
Finally Bob came out of the backroom,
immediately breaking our trance. Relieved for the
distraction, I shouted over to him. “Hey Bob, how
about my lunch?” I asked, desperate to escape this
awkward encounter.
He nodded and I flipped my light off. Looking
back at the creepy, cute guy at my register, I
repeated. “That will be $10.81, sir.”
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Cynthia Austin

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a
twenty. I gave him his change and he left, glancing
back at me a few times as he exited the store. I
rushed to the backroom, closed the door behind me,
and let out a huge sigh of relief.
My god, that guy reminded me of the man in my
dream. I had so much adrenaline pumping through
my veins I could no longer eat. I paced back and
forth in the small, bleak room. As I reached into my
purse in search of my phone, Chrissy burst through
the heavy white door and entered the break room.
She was just about to begin her shift and I had
never been so happy to see her in my life. Chrissy
always balanced me and brought a sense of
normalcy into my being which, in the moment, I
desperately needed. We hadn’t had much of a
chance to talk since I’d returned from L.A. and now
she stood in front of me with her big hazel eyes,
demanding that I spill all.
I shrugged my shoulders and sat down in a bright
orange seat that reminded me of the chairs in
elementary school. All of the giddiness I had from
the strange encounter slowly left my body as
Chrissy brought me back to reality.
“What do you want me to say, Chrissy, that you
were right when you said I should have accepted
that scholarship? Well, you were, okay?”
She sat down next to me and placed her hand on
my knee as she leaned forward, her eyes full of
sincerity. “I don’t want to be right, Sidney. You’re
my best friend and I can’t even believe what that
jerk did.”
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She sat up straight and pressed her back against
the chair as she raised her eyebrows. “I mean, I
can’t say I’m surprised or anything, but still. It
pisses me off. I hate Ray for what he’s done to
you.”
Trying to lighten the mood, I changed the
subject.
I sat up and flashed Chrissy a sneaky smile. “On
another note, the hottest guy ever just came through
my line. He had the most beautiful green eyes I
have ever laid witness to.”
That statement demanded Chrissy’s full
attention. She stood up and exclaimed, “What, you
mean ol’ faithful’s looking at another guy? Whoa,
L.A. must have been harsher than I suspected.”
She pulled a pair of gold hoop earrings out of her
purse and placed them on her ears.
Even in her work clothes, she still managed to
look like a Hollywood starlet with her blonde hair
pulled tightly into a bun on top of her head and her
face perfectly painted.
I glanced at the mirror placed in the far corner of
the break room and compared my reflection to
Chrissy. My dull brown hair falling out of the
loosely tied bun I had carefully constructed that
morning. No matter how hard I tried, I could never
achieve the perfect hair that came so easily for my
best friend. She was so lucky.
I glanced at the clock hanging on the wall. It read
5:23 p.m. “Time to get back to the grind,” I told her
as I stood up and headed towards the door.
“Wait,” Chrissy objected as she stepped in front
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Cynthia Austin

of the door, barricading my path. “You’ve been
flaking on me since your grandma returned from the
hospital, and I’m not taking no for an answer. You
still owe me for helping you clean that god awful
space you call a closet. Your birthday is on
Saturday. Let’s go out and celebrate. We’ll get all
dolled up and go dancing.”
Ray and I had birthdays that were one month
apart. He had been held back in elementary school,
making him a year older than myself.
“Sure,” I said, forcing a smile as I accepted
Chrissy’s invitation.
Dressing up and dancing all night was the last
thing in the world that I wanted to do. I’d rather
cuddle up in bed and dream about Mr. Right, but I
knew social protocol would be to accept her
invitation and celebrate my nineteenth birthday as
any teenager normally would.
I threw my phone back in my purse before I
realized I had forgotten to check to see if Ray had
called me.
For the first time in three years I’d completely
forgotten about him. I retrieved my phone and
swiped the screen. There was one text from Ray.
Thinking of you. Always.
I rolled my eyes and tossed the phone back in my
purse. You’re gonna have to try harder than that, I
thought as I swung my purse over my shoulder and
headed back out to register eleven.

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Chapter Five
You’re Not Sorry
This was not how I had envisioned my life after
high school. I had so many dreams and aspirations
as I began my journey into adulthood. I’d gladly
given them all up to follow Ray and I knew I would
have been happy doing so had I continued down
that path with him.
Now as I sat in the old Stickley chair in Granny’s
sterile room I began to feel resentment towards her.
If only she hadn’t gotten sick. Why did she have to
punish me so? She had lived a full and happy life,
and just as it was my turn she’d somehow managed
to prevent me from doing the same.
I’d just finished reading the remainder of
Wuthering Heights to her and now, as I often did
after finishing a classic romance novel, I sat in
solitude with a bittersweet feeling as the characters
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Cynthia Austin

in the book had completed their roles. They had
bowed out mysteriously, leaving the reader to
wonder about the next chapter in their lives. Today,
this caused me to reflect on mine.
I always enjoyed escaping my realities by
delving into a good book but I hated the
overwhelming sadness that flooded me when I
finished it. That feeling of being thrust back into the
harsh reality of the real world reminded me my
fictional hiding place had been laid bare.
I’d been out of school for ten months and here I
was, still stuck in the town I despised taking care of
my elderly grandmother. I had thought I would
enroll at the community college as a part time
student but between work and caring for Granny,
there just wasn’t enough time. I could feel the life
being sucked right out of me as each day passed in
the same way as the last.
Today was my nineteenth birthday and I already
felt like a middle-aged woman drowning in a sea of
lost dreams.
It was in moments like these I often meditated on
the idea that Ray was right—I should have stayed in
L.A. with him. I didn’t see why Nouri couldn’t do
this job on her own. After all, Dr. Kyle continued to
tell me Granny doesn’t hear me, so what would
have been the difference anyway? She would never
know if I was here or there.
As I watched the rhythm of Granny’s chest
slowly move up and down, it created a calming
effect within me which allowed me to further reflect
on the loving parent she had always been to me.
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I remembered when I was five years old she had
thrown me the most delectable tea party a little girl
could ask for. The backyard was set up with fancy
round tables draped with beautiful pink linens,
joined with all of my closest friends and our
favorite stuffed animals.
Granny had never let one day pass where she
didn’t make me feel special. She was the best
mother anyone could ask for and as I remembered
her devotion to me I felt deeply ashamed for my
earlier insensitivity. I realized I had to hold onto
something that Granny always believed in.
Faith.
I had to have faith that she would wake up
someday and smile at me. When she did, she would
see I was right there with her. That I had never left
her side.
And as usual, my mind drifted back to Ray.
So many nights, we had lain in bed together
talking about the future. Our prospects had always
sounded so promising. But it had always centered
on Unspoken Words. All of our plans were built on
this one dream. It was as if I were living in the
shadows of his world. Never once did he wonder
what would happen if my dream of becoming a
track star would come true. Then when it did, it no
longer mattered because his dream had also
materialized and his was more important.
As I reflected on my feelings in the white room,
I came to the conclusion that it was no one’s fault
but my own that I had remained here. Similar to
Catherine, the main character in the story I had just
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read, I had made the fateful decisions that had
emotionally imprisoned me. I had chosen to place
Ray’s dreams in front of my own and then I had
added another layer when I had chosen to place
Granny in front of Ray.
Things were slowly beginning to fall back into
my sad song of Ray putting everyone else ahead of
me. But to be fair, he was up to his ears in music.
With the band’s song climbing higher and higher to
the top of the charts, he and the boys had gained
more exposure than ever before and the label was
taking full advantage of that. Every possession that
was given to them earlier was now expected to be
paid back tenfold. He had no time to be worried
about the state of our relationship.
Every time I’d call he would be busy recording
or in a meeting. It seemed like a decade had passed
since the last time we had just sat and talked about
nothing on the phone. Every conversation lately had
been about his latest single that I couldn’t stand
listening to because it drove me crazy. I hated the
song now that the tabloids were dubbing it our prebreakup song—obviously concluding I was not
worth the wait.
I consoled myself by reasoning that the faster he
did his work there, the sooner he could come home
to me. Once he returned, his insipid lyrics would no
longer matter. They were just a snapshot of a
moment in time when he had decided to reflect on
his feelings. They would mean nothing when he
returned to my arms. The lease to that mansion was
up in June and I anxiously waited for Ray to return.
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My phone rang. His ears must have been burning
with my thoughts of him because it was Ray. I
stared at the caller I.D. as it continued to ring. I
desperately wanted to give him a dose of his own
medicine and forward his call to voicemail but I
missed his carefree voice. Giving in, I answered on
the fourth ring.
“Hey Sid, happy birthday,” he cooed
I smiled because he remembered and thanked
him.
There was an awkward pause.
“How’s your granny?”
His sensitivity shocked me. Ray never cared to
ask about my granny’s condition. In fact he resented
the fact that she was still alive and breathing. I
suddenly began to believe he really was trying to
change. Maybe he hadn’t strayed so far from the
man he used to be. Maybe there was still a chance
to salvage our broken relationship. Maybe there was
still hope for us.
“She’s the same. There hasn’t been much of a
change with her,” I answered.
“I really wanted to make my way up there but
you know how it’s been, crazy busy. We have a
show to do at one of the local clubs in Hollywood
tonight so there was just no way I could sneak
away.” He took a deep breath. “Maybe I can use
that credit card Rene gave me and fly you down
here for the night.”
The invitation sounded forced. As much as I
wanted to jump at his offer, it didn’t sound sincere.
Besides, the last memory I had of that mansion
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was of him and Lilly. One happy couple. If I was
going down there, it would be to burn his mattress
with Lilly on it.
“As fun as that sounds, I’ve already made plans
with Chrissy. She already bought an outfit and
everything, so I’m pretty much committed.”
We both laughed, thinking of Chrissy and her
shallow ways. “You better watch out, Sid, I’m sure
she’ll try to pair you up with a doctor if you’re not
careful,” he said with a tiny bit of seriousness.
“I’d never trade my hot musician boyfriend for
some pretentious doctor. Unless I had cancer or
something. Then I might consider it, being that he
might be able to save my life and all,” I joked back.
We laughed as we imagined me, bald and ailing,
on the arm of a handsome doctor. Ray had a gift of
brightening my day.
“I’m glad you called tonight.”
It had actually felt like the old days. He really
had just called to talk. Knowing how busy he had
been the past few weeks, it warmed my heart to
know he had set aside some time for this
conversation.
“I’ll always call you on your birthday, Sid, no
matter where I am. I’d pay my last dollar to hear
your voice.”
That was the Ray I had always known. That was
the Ray I had fallen in love with. So genuine and
caring.
“By the way, I saw that article about you in A.P.”
He sounded a bit surprised. “Those journalists
don’t know what they’re talking about. I guess it’s
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the price I pay for always writing about my
feelings.”
Another long pause while I thought of the words
I wanted to carefully construct. “Do you still feel
that way, the way you felt when you wrote that
song?” I whispered as I closed my eyes, afraid to
hear the answer.
“If I did, would I be on the phone with you right
now?” he countered.
A smile the size of Texas slowly spread across
my face.
“It’s just a song, Sid, about a specific way I was
feeling at one moment in time. It didn’t sum up my
feelings for you—no one song ever could.”
I heard some shuffling noises in the background
as voices began shouting at Ray to get off the
phone. The drums began playing loudly and for one
second I thought I heard a woman’s voice in the
background asking if he was ready to go. I pulled
the phone away from my ear and stared into the
screen in disbelief. I wished he had called me on
Skype. I put the phone back to my ear and
questioned him in an accusatory manner; “Are you
with Lilly?”
“No,” he shouted back. “You’ve really gotta stop
this, Sid. I’m with the roadies backstage trying to
get the instruments tuned and ready for the sound
check. Remember the show I told you about two
seconds ago?” He explained.
I wanted to believe him but something in the pit
of my stomach was screaming at me not to.
“Look, Sid. I’m really busy here. I just wanted to
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wish you a happy birthday.”
In the blink of an eye, Ray had reverted back to
his old callous self. Again I heard a woman’s voice
echoing in the background, this time giggling.
“I know she’s there with you. I think it’s time for
me to go out and have some fun.”
“What in the hell does that mean, Sid?”
“Two can play this game.”
“I called you because I missed you on your
birthd—”
“Yeah, thanks for ruining it. Goodbye, Ray!”
I slammed my thumb against the end button,
disconnecting our call as I threw the phone across
the room. Luckily the phone had a pretty sturdy
case and survived my brutal attack.
I sat there seething in silence. Had it really only
been one month since that fateful visit to Ray’s
mansion? A mere thirty days and he’s already
yelling at me to get over his affair with the beautiful
redhead.
I rose from the chair in Granny’s room and went
to retrieve my hapless phone. I didn’t know if Ray
had honestly ended things with Lilly but tonight
was my birthday and I refused to allow him the
power to ruin it.
Instead of pouting, I texted Chrissy.
Are you ready?
Stuffing the phone in my back pocket, I quickly
kissed Granny goodnight before heading upstairs to
get ready for the evening.
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I opened my closet, searching through the
bunched up hangers as I scrambled for something to
wear. It was virtually impossible to sort through the
cluster of clothes in that tiny, dark closet. No
wonder Granny always used it to store boxes.
Hanging clothes in there proved to be a very cruel
joke. The space was no bigger than a coat closet.
I had just gotten done running a five-mile trek
and didn’t feel like changing out of my running
clothes. I was wearing my gray and pink sweatpants
and a black spaghetti strapped tank top. I looked
outside my bedroom window for a quick weather
report. The sun was going down but there wasn’t a
cloud in the sky. It didn’t look as if the weather
would change much but I didn’t know how long I
would be out. I grabbed my matching hoodie just to
be safe. Throwing it on, I glanced in the mirror.
I knew Chrissy would be completely appalled
when she saw my wardrobe selection, but I didn’t
care. I wanted to be comfortable and it was my
birthday, dammit.
My hair was pulled back into a ponytail from my
earlier run. Any makeup I had on my face had long
been washed away by my perspiration. I grabbed
my water bottle and looked down at the water mark
it had left on the dresser. I thought how angry
Granny would be to see it.
Gulping down what was left in the bottle I
quickly grabbed my eyeliner and applied a thick
layer to my top lid and fish-tailed it out a bit to give
my eyes a little more length. I hated the small
almond-shape of my eyes. I wished they were big
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and innocent looking like Chrissy’s.
I took one more glance at my reflection in the
mirror as I laughed at my King Tut look with all
that eyeliner. My phone chimed with a message
notification. I opened the text.
Chrissy: Ready. Come get me.
I grabbed the truck keys and headed towards the
garage. On my way, I ran into Nouri, who was
outside wearing a straw hat to shield her from the
evening sun as she pruned the rose bushes. She
looked over at me and smiled. “Happy Birthday,
Sidney. You go out with a handsome doctor
tonight?”
I laughed. “Nouri, he doesn’t have to be rich or a
doctor, just nice-looking.”
She opened her big brown eyes as wide as she
could and looked around the yard. “Go out, meet
nice rich man and bring him back for me to meet.”
I nodded. “Sounds like a plan to me.” I opened
the door to my fully restored 1970 pale green Chevy
truck. It had originally belonged to my grandfather,
and after his death Granny had it restored to its
original condition as a way to commemorate his
life. Upon my sixteenth birthday, she had given it to
me a gift. As was her custom, she always made me
feel special.
I pulled up to Chrissy’s house, which was set at
the end of a cul-de-sac. Her parents had a pictureperfect yellow Victorian home with a beautiful
white balcony that wrapped around the entire front
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porch. It was the ideal house for lolling lazily on a
breezy summer night while sipping iced tea. There
was a massive water fountain that sat in the middle
of the perfectly manicured green lawn as well as a
cobblestone pathway which led to the front door.
As soon I put the truck in park, I saw Chrissy
emerge as she closed the front door. She ran down
the porch steps and flew into the truck, jumping
exuberantly into the passenger seat.
I smiled at her. “Don’t you look cute tonight!”
Chrissy always looked cute, and she knew it.
Everything about her was big. Big hazel eyes
with long, thick lashes, full cherry lips, and thick
blonde volumized hair. Every time I saw her it was
a surprise. She had a style that was all her own and
she always looked good in anything she wore.
Tonight, she had decided to throw on a baseballstyle shirt with army green sleeves paired with
camouflage skinny jeans. I don’t even know where
one goes to buy camouflage skinny jeans. I was sure
it was in a store that was way outside my budget.
Chrissy’s parents were loaded and they were more
than happy to give her whatever she wanted. The
only reason she worked at Safeway was because it
gave her a chance to flirt with the cute guys that
would stop in on their way up to the mountains.
In addition to her part-time employment as a
grocery store clerk, she was also enrolled in a
nursing program. She hoped to meet a head
surgeon, fall in love, and live happily ever after,
counting her riches.
“Thanks,” she responded, batting her perfectly
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dressed eyelashes. “Like my new shoes?”
She lifted her foot and placed it on my dash to
reveal its black strappy leather heels that had to be
at least six-inches high. Normally I would flip out if
someone put their dirty shoe on the dash of my
classic Chevy, but with Chrissy, I didn’t even
bother. What would be the point? She’d just do it
again. If a car wasn’t European, she didn’t respect
it. Chrissy had always drummed to her own beat
and refused to take direction from anyone, except
her father, who possessed the power to cut off her
finances.
I pouted. “Those are pretty dope. I wish I could
wear heels that big. Hell, I wish I could pull off that
whole outfit, but you know me, I’d be sure to fall
flat on my face wearing heels like those.”
Chrissy agreed. “Well, I’d trade places with you
any day, Sidney. I’d much rather be four inches
taller and a buck ten like you than live my life at
five feet three!”
She had a point.
As she said this, her eyes danced over to what I
was wearing as the corners of her mouth slowly
turned down in disgust. “Jesus, Sidney. What are
you wearing? And please do not tell me that you ran
your silly little five-mile run before picking me up?
Did you at least take a shower?”
I smiled and shook my head, pleased to sour her
expectations. Chrissy had been known to spend
hours on her hair and makeup and would never
leave her house until it was perfect. I’ve often
thought this girl belonged on the Upper East Side of
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Manhattan, not casual Northern California.
Among Chrissy’s big features was a big mouth
to go with them. She was overly confident and
incredibly beautiful. She would never put up with
the kind of crap Ray had put me through. She
proved that when she broke up with Finn before he
ever had a chance to try any of Ray’s shenanigans.
Thinking of Chrissy and Finn, I remembered the
last time I spoke with him. “By the way, Finn says
hi.”
I watched as Chrissy’s eyes shot up at the
mention of his name. No matter how hard she
attempted to hide her true feelings, I could see she
still cared for the big guy. She wasn’t as heartless as
she portrayed herself. She played with the paint on
her fingernails, pretending not to be interested.
“What really went on between you two?” I
questioned. “It’s not normal, Chrissy. Something
bad must have happened because you act like he’s
dead.”
“I don’t want to talk about him.”
I decided not to press her any further. She would
tell me when she was ready. There had to be more
of a reason why she broke up with him. It just didn’t
add up. Chrissy could be cold sometimes, but not
like this.
I decided to lighten the mood since tonight was
all about having fun and living life to the fullest; the
gist of the speech Chrissy had given me to agree to
come out tonight. I looked over and saw her face
buried deep in her phone.
“What are you looking at?” I asked.
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She looked up at me with wide, secretive eyes. I
could tell she was debating whether or not to tell me
something.
“Tell me,” I pushed. Chrissy bit her lip, which
was never a good sign.
“It’s probably nothing. Let’s just go have fun,”
she suggested, looking way too excited.
I sat back in the driver’s seat and folded my
arms, looking straight ahead. I knew what she had
to say would have to do with Ray, so I sat there,
waiting for Chrissy to tell me the bad news.
She sat up and turned her body so she was facing
me. “Okay, I’ll tell you, but no matter how bad it
might be you have to promise that you’re still going
out with me. I’ve been trying to get you here
forever and finally I have you out. You can’t go
home now.”
“I promise, Chrissy, no matter what, we’re still
going out tonight.”
She didn’t buy it. She held out her pinky and
made me pinky swear. I reluctantly agreed to
Chrissy’s childish ritual and we were sworn in.
She sat back. “Okay, it’s probably nothing, but I
just checked Ray’s Facebook page and I noticed
that he’s added a new friend,” she said, trying to
downplay it.
“Okay. He’s probably adding lots of new friends
these days. His song is all over the radio,” I
rationalized.
“Well, yeah that could be the case…” Chrissy
slowly began.
“But…” I prompted her.
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“But it says that he’s now friends with someone
named Lilly Lavelle.” She held up her phone
showing the screen of Ray’s new friend status.
I snatched the phone out of her hand and pressed
my finger against the girl’s name on Facebook.
Instantly her profile appeared. It was private but it
allowed me to see her profile picture. She was tall
with long red hair flowing down her back with
those devious green eyes shimmering like sensual
lake waters on a moonlit night. My heart sank to my
stomach. All this did was confirm my suspicions
that he was with her tonight.
I threw the phone in Chrissy’s lap and grabbed
my own phone out of my purse. I called Ray but got
his voicemail on the first ring. I sat there in the
truck. My mind now racing, I calculated my next
move to play in this little game we call love. With
my phone, I logged into Facebook. I went to Ray’s
new friend status with “Lilly Lavelle,” and clicked
“Like.”
Satisfied with my move, I smiled, “Now he
knows that I know.”
I turned my phone off and frowned at Chrissy. “I
think I just want to go home and go to bed.”
I was suddenly exhausted and dreaming of the
green-eyed stranger sounded much more appealing
than putting on a charade of happiness.
Chrissy vigorously shook her head. “Uh-uh. I
don’t think so. I’m done putting up with this B.S.
You’ve been my best friend way too long and most
of the time I have to share you with that jerk Ray,
but tonight I refuse because it’s your birthday,
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dammit, and tonight we’re going out and forgetting
about Ray. Tonight we’ll toast to new beginnings!”
She held up an invisible wine glass as if clinking
it to another invisible glass. I threw the truck in
reverse, did a three-point turn, and headed off
laughing loudly.
“Tonight, we shall paint the town red!”
As soon as I said it, Lilly’s red hair flashed in my
mind. I verbally rebounded, “No, red reminds me of
that home wrecking slut Lilly. Black…black is the
new red.”
“Cheers to that!” Chrissy agreed as we clinked
our invisible glasses in the air once again.

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Chapter Six
Bulletproof Heart
Chrissy and I decided to hit up a bar downtown
and cut loose. It was well needed after that episode
with Ray and his social media site. Of course I was
little nervous since this was my first time at a bar.
The undisputed fact that Chrissy and I were both
under the legal drinking age was seared in my mind.
Chrissy assured me she knew the bouncer and that
gaining entry would be as easy as stealing candy
from a baby. Of course she was right.
As we walked down the narrow sidewalk
towards the entrance there was a big, burly guy with
a shaved head wearing a jean vest displaying a giant
Misfits patch on the back.
Once he saw my sexy girlfriend his entire face lit
up and I knew we were in. Chrissy had that effect
on guys.
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“Hey Davey,” Chrissy greeted him with her arms
open.
“Chrissy, baby! Long time no see,” he said as he
swept her up into his big arms for a bear hug. He
lifted her completely off the ground as Chrissy
squealed with delight. She bent her knees up,
making sure her heels didn’t fall off. She loved
being the center of attention.
He grinned and pointed to his cheek. “Give me
some sugar, baby.”
I squished my nose like I just smelled dog shit.
What a creep.
But Chrissy knew the game well and she placed
her big red lips right on the side of his face and let
out a loud smack. She stepped back to inspect her
work. Two perfect lip marks adorned his cheek.
“I’m gonna get this permanently tattooed one
day,” he joked.
“Yeah, yeah, you say that every time, Dave. I’m
still waiting!” she cracked back. “So what’s going
on tonight…you’re not gonna try to make my friend
and I pay a ridiculous cover charge to get into this
dump, are you?”
She opened her leather tote bag and pulled out a
stick of red lipstick and began applying a thick coat
to her full lips. She turned and asked me, “Do I
have any lipstick on my teeth?”
I shook my head.
“Oh!” she said, suddenly surprised. “I forgot.
You two haven’t met. Gosh, how rude of me. Dave,
this is my bestie, Sidney.” She put her arm around
me and pointed my face towards him. “Sidney, this
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is my favorite guy, Dave.”
Dave leered at me and reached out his hairy
tattooed arm to shake my hand. I reluctantly
returned his smile and effortlessly placed my limp
palm in his as if I was the Queen of England and he
should be delighted to have such an honor.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Dave.”
My girlfriend took over the dialogue, “Sidney
here is on the verge of a nasty break up or mental
breakdown, whichever comes first, I suppose. I’m
trying to take her mind off all the drama so she can
live it up a little bit. You know; the calm before the
storm sort of thing.” Chrissy winked at him.
I rolled my eyes.
Sometimes Chrissy could have such a big mouth.
I didn’t need the world to know about my
relationship and besides I never once said that Ray
and I were breaking up. I don’t know why everyone
always assumed we were on the verge of demise.
We’re just going through a little rough patch right
now, that’s all.
Dave raised his eyebrows as his beady eyes sized
me up and down. I wanted to barf.
He went into flirt mode. “Well hey, I’m actually
meeting a friend here in a minute or so.” He pulled
out his cell phone to glance at the time. “It’s pretty
slow right now so I’m punching out in about five
minutes. Why don’t you ladies go on inside and
when my buddy arrives, we’ll buy you two a drink.”
I grimaced inwardly. Just what I need; a double
date with two Hells Angels.
I shot a look at Chrissy, my expression
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screaming no. She laughed in response, knowing
full well what I was thinking. I was really not
feeling this place, but one look at Chrissy’s face
told me there was no getting out of it. That’s what I
got for agreeing to go to this biker bar with her. I
focused on putting one foot in front of the other and
headed inside the “club.”
“You seriously broke up with Finn to date some
tattooed biker?” I whispered, not attempting to hide
the disapproval in my tone.
She snarled, “Hey. None of that Debbie Downer
crap. I told you we’re going to paint the town red,
and painting is what we’re doing. And no way am I
dating that penniless bouncer, but how else did you
expect to get inside of here with no I.D.?”
I shrugged and left it alone. Chrissy had made
her point. As we made our way to the bar, I looked
around. The place was pretty small. The walls were
painted a puke green color and I couldn’t help but
think that if I happened to drink too much and get
sick somewhere in the corner, it would nicely blend
into the walls.
I snickered to myself at the thought as I took a
seat on the black leather stool in front of the bar. At
least the place didn’t smell. No one else was inside
the lounge besides an old man with gray hair at the
opposite end of the bar. I couldn’t believe I had let
Chrissy talk me into this. Chrissy must have read
my thoughts because she responded on cue.
“This place usually doesn’t start filling up until
about ten or ten-thirty. We’re way too early but I
figured you needed a drink ASAP.”
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“Thanks, Chrissy. You know me well. Tonight, I
will drown my sorrows in alcohol.”
“Here, here,” Chrissy exclaimed, toasting her
imaginary glasses again. Then in an instant she
slammed her hand down on the table. “Jenna. Quit
acting like you’re busy. We’re the only people in
here and we’re thirsty, I say!” she shouted at the
bartender.
Jenna was a pretty girl masked in tattoos and
piercings. I vaguely remembered her from high
school, although she was a few grades ahead of me.
She never spoke much in school and by the looks of
it her lack of verbal expression had remained intact.
She glanced in our direction and threw her thick,
black messy hair over her shoulder and responded
in a monotone voice, “One second, Chrissy.”
She was bent over a portable dishwasher
removing the hot glasses and placing them on the
shelves. She spun on her heels as her pleated blue
and green plaid skirt twirled crazily, which gave off
the illusion of a pinwheel. Walking straight over to
us she reached her right hand up, grabbed a bottle of
whiskey, and placed it in front of us. She bent over
the heavily lacquered bar and gave her best try at a
smile, which still somehow managed to twist
grotesquely into a frown.
She looked right at me. “Can I see some I.D.?”
I could feel the color in my face redden as I
realized she obviously didn’t remember me from
high school. Or maybe she did, which would
explain why she was carding me.
Crap, I thought Chrissy said this place was cool.
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“I…uh…umm…” I stuttered as I slowly began
to take out my wallet and display my driver’s
license, silently praying that math was not her
strong point.
Suddenly she chortled. “Yo, I’m just messing
with you,” She grinned and bent down, grabbing
three shot glasses and their matching tumblers.
Jenna poured the shots of rich gold liquid and added
side glasses of Coke.
She picked up one of the shots and held it in the
air, waiting for us. I quickly grabbed my drink, and
all at once the three of us were clanking glasses and
downing the liquor. The taste burned my throat and
reflexively I reached for the soda to chase it down.
It quenched the burn in my throat but the flowing
alcohol left a warm sensation throughout my entire
body. I blinked a couple times to stop the tears in
my eyes. In a weird way, it felt really good.
The bartender leaned forward and asked, “So are
you still with that one guy from high school? Ray
Ryker?”
I could see the stars in her eyes as she mentioned
his name. Oh no, not you too? I thought in dismay.
“Yes, we’re still together,” I replied, sounding a
bit possessive. It seemed like these days any girl
who asked if Ray and I were still together were
hoping for a no so they could swoop in and lay
claim to his uprising fame and fortune, not to
mention his bod.
Chrissy added her personal commentary, “For
now,” and then quickly drank her soda, reminding
me of those Snickers commercials where the guy
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stuffs his face trying to avoid an uncomfortable
conversation. The bartender and I both ignored her.
Jenna continued, “I hear the band’s new song on
the radio all the time. I guess they’ve finally made
it. Hey, next time they come to town let me know.
I’d be interested to see if they would do a set here at
the bar. That drummer of theirs is such a hottie.”
She winked and I smiled back, allowing all of the
building jealousy to quickly evaporate.
She grabbed the glasses, wiped down the bar
with a cloth, and turned around to check on the old
man at the other end.
Chrissy quickly interrupted my thoughts.
“Speaking of hotties, has Green Eyes McGee
shown up lately?”
I tried to suppress the smile escaping my lips.
Chrissy had a nickname for everyone. That just
happened to be the nickname for the cute guy that
came into Safeway earlier that week.
“No, I haven’t seen him since that day. We pretty
much know everyone in this piddling town so I’m
guessing he was just passing through. I doubt I’ll
ever see him again.”
“You shoulda got the digits while you had the
chance.” She smirked as she hid her face playfully
behind the Coke glass.
“If you think you can continue to hide behind
that glass, you’re wrong, Miss Kyle.” I playfully
nudged her with my shoulder. Grabbing my purse, I
headed over to the jukebox. The place was dead and
in desperate need of some music. I searched through
the playlist and stopped at ‘Paramour.’ That’s when
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I felt the presence of someone close behind me.
Before I could turn around, a voice said, “Not
‘Paramour.’ We need something more upbeat to
liven up this place.”
I’d heard that voice before but I couldn’t place it.
I spun around to match the face with the voice and
was greeted by those beautiful emerald green eyes.
The pendant eyes.
Breathe, I reminded myself as I stood there
dumbfounded for what seemed like an eternity.
Finally, my anchor on earth, Chrissy, arrived and
broke the trance.
“I thought you were finding us some music,
Sidney?” she asked, pushing her way between me
and the jukebox, completely ignoring the handsome
stranger as she inserted a dollar into the machine.
She punched some numbers and all of a sudden an
Aaliyah song came on. She started singing along
and dancing.
Chirping the lyrics to the outdated song, she
handed me another shot.
I laughed as I accepted the drink. Chrissy had an
obsession with ‘90s music and she had a way of
making the music remain cool and relevant after all
those years. If anyone else attempted to play that
song, I’m pretty sure it would be a party foul.
I tilted back my head and downed the shot. This
one seemed to go down a lot easier than the first.
After I brought the empty shot glass from my lips,
the green-eyed stranger handed me a glass of soda. I
nodded my chin in appreciation and took a sip,
never allowing my eyes to leave his gorgeous face.
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He looked just as he had that first meeting in the
grocery store. His lashes were long and thick. They
matched his jet black hair, which was kind of
greasy, but in a good way. His pale face clashed
with the stark contrast of his dark hair and the black
leather jacket he was wearing.
Suddenly, I stifled my laughter because Chrissy
and I had this long running joke that most TV actors
I found attractive seemed to possess the look of a
heroin addict; with pale faces and dark eyes. The
sexy guy in front of me definitely fit the bill.
I scanned the room for Chrissy, desperately
wanting to share my epiphany with her. Of course, I
couldn’t find her and so my eyes returned to the
stranger in front of me, but when I realized he was
staring back, I quickly looked away, feeling a little
insecure.
At that moment I wished I had decided to put an
effort into my hair and wardrobe. Here I was
meeting a hot stranger and I was wearing running
shoes and sweatpants. Guys usually like girls with
long flowing hair and I had mine pulled back into a
tight ponytail. It was just my luck to look like a bum
the moment he showed up again.
Instead of silently worrying, I made a decision to
take a modicum of control. I opened my mouth to
start a conversation but immediately realized I
didn’t have anything to say. At that moment my
brain shut down. I was blank.
I nervously glanced around the bar. The place
was actually starting to fill up and now some people
were gathering on the dance floor and starting to
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jive. Naturally, Chrissy was dancing in the middle
of all of them. I discreetly tried to get her attention
to tell her who was here, but it was to no avail. She
was in a zone. The hottie was still standing in front
of me and in the absence of words, I began to focus
on the glass in my hand, twisting it around,
pretending to be interested in the bevels of the glass.
The music was so loud it made it acceptable not
to speak or carry on a conversation which worked
out in my favor, since I didn’t know what to say.
Then, he suddenly leaned in and shouted over the
music, “I suppose I should have just let you play
‘Paramour.’”
I smiled and nodded in agreement.
“I can’t believe she wasted fifty cents on this
song,” I shouted back.
We both laughed together at Chrissy’s lame
choice in music. The song ended and another began.
It sounded like Etta James at first, but no, that
couldn’t be it. Hottie and I were looking at each
other, trying to figure out the song. Then all of a
sudden the beat changed.
“Black Eyed Peas,” we both said in unison.
I looked over at Chrissy and she was making her
way over to me mouthing the words of the song,
singing into the beer bottle she was now holding as
if it were a microphone and the dirty black-tiled
floor was her stage.
As she approached, she put her arm over my
shoulder and shouted. “Hey, Sidney, this is your
song. You need to sing this to Ray as you dropkick
his ass out the front door.”
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The song was about a loved one being lied to. Of
course I was mortified.
Her biggest flaw was the inability to keep private
matters private. I was praying that cutie didn’t hear
her but when I snuck a glance at him, I realized he
had. He was standing with his arms crossed and
eyebrows furrowed, looking straight at me. Was it a
look of pity? I hoped not.
Then, every ounce of hope drained out of me as I
watched him grab his glass of soda and head back to
the bar, taking a seat on the last stool in the corner.
Maybe he was just giving me space, I reasoned.
After all, I’m here with my girlfriend having fun,
and he’s just a stranger I don’t even know. He just
didn’t want to interrupt, that’s all.
Satisfied with my conclusion, I grabbed a section
of Chrissy’s big blonde hair and lifted it up so I
could whisper in her ear, “Green Eyes, here and
now. Same guy I was telling you about!”
She was slick when I needed her to be. She never
let the surprise show on her face. She just continued
to sing and then slowly lifted her eyes under her
thick lashes and snuck a glance around the bar. She
casually did a twirl as she continued to dance to the
music, discreetly scanning the room.
Then she looked at me and said, “No can see.”
Dammit, there were too many people in the
lounge now and it was impossible to see anyone
with all of the bodies brushing against each other in
feeble attempts to get around. We were all like a
can of sardines, packed so tightly in here.
I guess the alcohol was making its way through
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my system because I started to feel some of its
liquid courage. I pushed through the crowded space
and squeezed between two guys sitting on the bar
stools. I pounded on the wooden bar to get Jenna’s
attention. She came over with a slight look of
annoyance. It seemed I interrupted her flirting with
a couple of businessmen in suits. I’m sure they were
planning on leaving a large tip for their overlyfriendly bartender. I threw a twenty dollar bill on
the bar to get her attention.
“Two shots please, one for me and another for
the hottie at the end of the bar.” I nodded toward
Green Eyes McGee. Jenna turned around and
looked at him and then glanced back at me with a
question on her face. I suddenly remembered I had
just told her I was happily involved with Ray and
now here I was buying some strange guy a drink.
“I’m just trying to be friendly,” I explained,
shrugging as innocently as I could.
Jenna poured a shot of whiskey for me and then
headed to the opposite side of the bar. She placed
the glass in front of Green Eyes and poured the
shot, whispering something to him, and then
nodding towards me. He looked at me, still wearing
that strange expression on his face. I held up my
shot towards him and then drank. What I saw next
nearly made me spit the whiskey clear across the
bar.
A heavy set balding man who was probably in
his mid-30’s picked up the shot intended for my
hunk and drank it. Then, he had the nerve to smile
at me in appreciation. I didn’t know how to react. I
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just sat there with a total look of disgust on my face.
The audacity of these damned drunks down here.
An instant later, Dave and Chrissy made their way
over to me.
“I see you’ve spotted my compadre,” Dave
shouted over the music.
“Well, we haven’t officially met or anything. He
just handed me my drink and suggested I don’t play
‘Paramour’ on the jukebox,” I responded, assuming
Dave must be talking about Green Eyes. I went to
sneak another look at that beautiful face but was
disappointed to see the stool was empty.
I frantically looked around the room for that long
dark hair but didn’t see him anywhere. The ugly,
old fat guy was still sitting there, smiling some
perverted smile at me, looking like a hungry dog
wanting a bone. My stomach took on a nauseous
glow.
Then chubby boy got up and started heading our
way. I was getting ready to let him have it, and tell
him what a rude cad he was for drinking a drink that
was not meant for him when, without warning,
Dave spread his wide arms and embraced his pal
with a huge hug.
“Jason. It’s been a long time, buddy. I’m glad
you could make it tonight. I have someone I’d like
you to meet,” Dave shouted.
My jaw must have hit the floor. Picking it up, I
rubbed my bruised ego, Jason was Dave’s friend,
not the mysterious stranger that I desperately
wanted to know.
Chrissy and Dave wanted me to meet this brute?
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Was Ray really that terrible that some older, unfit
drunk would be better suited for me than him? This
was really what my best friend thought of me. That
I was so pathetic, I would actually agree to date
some guy that looked like he could be my dad?
I tried to play it off as I fought to contain the
rage filling up inside of me. I began to get really
angry. I also began to feel claustrophobic. The bar
was so small and all of these bodies pressed against
each other reminded me of a Chinese fire drill.
“I need some air,” I said, as I grabbed my purse
off the bar. Dave, Chrissy, and Jason all were
staring at me as I prepared to bolt. I guess the
correct response would have been politeness but I
just couldn’t play the part. This was too much.
“You don’t look too well,” Chrissy said with
more than a note of concern. “Do you want me to
go with you?”
I shook my head. “No, I’m fine. I just need to
some fresh air. See you guys soon.” I wrestled out a
smile but couldn’t bring my eyes to meet theirs as I
pushed through them and practically ran for the
exit.
The cold night air felt good on my flushed skin. I
closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I looked
down at the dirty sidewalk littered with cigarette
butts and noticed the running shoes on my feet.
Perfect.
I turned to the right and took off running.
There was nothing more in the world that I
enjoyed more than a good run. Especially when I
had something to flee from, like the awkward
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meeting with Green Eyes, the even more awkward
meeting with Jason, the low expectations that my
best friend had for my dating life, and the real issue
at hand, the low expectations I had for myself with
Ray.
I had to escape all of the above.
I turned left down Main Street and passed the
market. There were a few cars filled with the local
high school kids, meeting up to decide what party
they were going to crash. I continued running,
thinking about Ray and all of the times he’d hurt me
and put his music before me, before my education,
before my dreams.
What was it inside of me that loved an
obsessively selfish man? I concluded that enabling
others in my life was one of my weaker assets. I
enjoyed being used. I was too loyal, too giving, too
accepting, and far too vulnerable.
He had broken me. Or maybe I was never whole
to begin with. How could I possibly be emotionally
healthy with the parents God had given me?
Now the tears were spilling down my cheeks but
it didn’t matter. I was alone, and this is what I did
when I was alone.
I ran.
I pushed myself as far as I could. My lungs felt
like they were going to explode but I refused to
stop. I refused to acknowledge that my relationship
was an absolute failure. I fought off the truth that I
was born unlovable; a fact that was proven when
my parents so thoughtlessly gave me up. I’d been so
desperate for attention that I allowed my thoughts to
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be completely consumed by a stranger that I’d
talked to for a total of two minutes.
Green Eyes’ reaction to the mention of Ray at
the bar continued to replay in my mind over and
over again. Everything had been fine until Chrissy
mentioned Ray, then it was like I was a diseased rag
or a pathetic leper.
Finally I stopped running. My lungs couldn’t
take anymore. I bent over, resting my hands on my
knees, heaving uncontrollably. It was inevitable
what was to come next as my stomach began to
tighten, spilling all the alcohol I had consumed
earlier in the night. Maybe it wasn’t such a smart
idea to drink so much liquor and then attempt to run
a few miles.
I sat hunched over, breathing heavily with my
hands on my knees. After a few minutes of rest, I
slowly lifted my head up and began to examine my
surroundings. I had run all the way up to the old St.
Catherine’s Cemetery. I took a couple steps over to
the brick stairs and sprawled across them. I wiped
the sweat from my face and took a few more deep
breaths, trying to regain my composure.
“Can I pay you back for that shot now?” a man’s
voice said behind me.
I leapt so far out of my seat that I ended up on
my face in the middle of the street. I kicked my feet
out and spun my body around to confront the voice
head on.
His thin body was leaning against the brick wall
of the wrought iron gates. He brushed a strand of
black hair that had fallen in his face behind his left
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ear and smiled at me, those green eyes twinkling in
the reflection of the full moon. In his right hand he
held a half-full bottle of whiskey. He held it towards
me as some kind of offering.
“Oh what, we’re friends now? We can drink
alone together in a creepy cemetery but not at a bar
like normal people?” I spat, allowing all of my prior
feelings of rejection to resurface.
He gently smiled. “Sorry about that. There were
some unexpected matters I had to take care of.
That’s why I left so abruptly. I did feel bad, though.
That’s why I bought this bottle.”
He held up the jug once more. “I was heading
back to the bar to look for you. But then I saw you
run past the Market and well…” He struggled for
the right words. “I sort of followed you up here.
You looked a little upset.” He ran his fingers
nervously through his hair. “Looks like you could
use a friend.”
I didn’t know how to respond so I didn’t even
try. Instead I grabbed the bottle from his hand and
poured it down my throat. It burned like hell but I
welcomed the fire in my throat. It would numb
away all the unpleasantness tonight had brought me.
“I have no idea who you are. You’re a complete
stranger to me. You could be a deranged serial killer
for all I know. Following me up here in the middle
of the night; that’s called stalking, you know.”
I didn’t even know why I was shouting. All he
was doing was checking on my well-being.
Normally, I would have been flattered by the
actions of a cute stranger but tonight, well there was
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just no repairing the disaster of events that
continued to transpire.
I tipped the bottle against my lips and poured
more of the poison down my throat. He stood in
silence as he watched me chug the whiskey. Finally
I gave it back to him and he took a swig out of the
bottle.
I liked the feeling the alcohol gave me, it cleared
away all of my nervous behavior and allowed me to
express what I really meant to say…something that
would prove to be difficult sober, while staring into
the face of a god.
“Don’t you work at Safeway? I think you helped
me earlier this week…$10.81, right?” He noted
with uncanny accuracy. I smiled at the fact he
remembered me from just from a simple transaction
in a grocery store.
But then I remembered that it wasn’t simple at
all, it was actually really bizarre. He must have read
my expression because he quickly added, “Hey,
sorry about the weirdness. I was just surprised to
see a necklace like that. I used to know someone a
long time ago that had a similar one.”
He extended his hand, “Adrian. Adrian
McAllister.”
I shook his hand. “Sidney Sinclair.”
We held on to each other’s hand a little longer
than normal, sitting peacefully together in the
middle of a cemetery, covered by the darkness of
night. Everything about him was perfect, the feel of
his hand, even his height, everything. It was an
instant attraction that I had never experienced with
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anyone. Not even with Ray.
It was as if the very essence of his being swirled
around me like a wave of ecstasy and with every
intoxicating breath I inhaled, I wanted more. Yet he
was a stranger. I reluctantly let go of his hand and
shook the inappropriate thoughts from my head.
Obviously, I was drunk.
“I’ve really got to get going. It was nice meeting
you, Adrian McAllister.”
I stood up and immediately lost my balance,
feeling as if I was going to fall. Before I could do
anything I felt his strong arms around my waist. I
closed my eyes and allowed his arms to hold my
limp body as I once again inhaled a deep scent of
him. He smelled of liquor and cigarettes. Something
I should have been appalled by, but instead it filled
me with desire. Everything about this guy, the good,
bad, and ugly, I was willing to accept.
“You have really pretty eyes,” I said as I reached
up and put my hand on his cheek. He felt so soft. I
closed my eyes and took another invigorating
breath.
He laughed. “You’re drunk. I think you need
some coffee. Come on, I live just down the street.
I’ll put on a fresh pot.”
I broke away from his grasp and regained my
composure. I may have been buzzed but I wasn’t
stupid.
“I’m not going to your house. You’re a stranger.
How many times do I have to tell you that?”
I spun around and began to stumble down the
road back in the direction of the bar. I hoped
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Chrissy was still there because there was no way I
could drive myself home.
“I’ve already introduced myself,” he shouted
after me. I stopped and turned back around. He ran
the couple of steps to catch up to me and together
we began walking towards the bar.
I slurred, “I know but we’re still in the stranger
stage. I can’t go back with you to your house when
we’re still in that phase of our relationship.”
Relationship? What a funny choice of words.
He took the last swig of the whiskey and threw
the empty bottle into a nearby bush.
“Okay, so how do we come up with a solution? I
mean, how do we move into the friend stage?”
I looked at him skeptically. “So now you wanna
be friends with me?”
He jammed his hands into his pants pockets and
shrugged nonchalantly. “Sure. You seem like a
pretty friendly person to hang out with.”
I smiled at his answer, thankful for the cover of
night that could hide my lovesick puppy expression.
“Okay then, we should learn things about each
other, like…where are you from and why are you in
the Heights?” I asked, the curiosity burning inside
of me.
We walked about a half a block in silence before
he began to speak. “I’m from New Jersey.” I waited
a few more minutes but nothing followed. I wasn’t
buying it.
“You don’t sound like you’re from New Jersey. I
mean, you don’t have that god awful accent like the
cast from The Jersey Shore.”
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If I was giving him any heat, he wasn’t allowing
himself to get burned. He pulled a pack of Marlboro
Reds from his shirt pocket and placed a cigarette in
his mouth. He explained, “First, God has nothing to
with their accents, second, that’s because most of
that cast is from New York, so they’ve acquired that
annoying Long Island accent.”
He pulled a lighter out from his pocket and
stopped while he lit his smoke. Once the red amber
flared up we began walking again. I never thought
smoking a cigarette could look so sexy.
“I still don’t know if I believe you about the
whole Jersey thing, but why are you here in
Noddington Heights? You never explained that
part.”
Squinting his eyes at me, he shook his head.
“I’m getting the feeling you have a lot of trust
issues.”
He calmly took a drag of his smoke and slowly
exhaled.
Sexy should be this guy’s middle name.
“I’m getting the feeling you’re a liar, like most
men.”
He smiled at my accusation as he continued
walking. “My family lived here years ago. I’m
staying in the old McAllister house down on Court
Street. I actually just came here to handle some
family business. I plan to head back home at the end
of the week. At least, that’s what my plane ticket
says.”
He patted his back pocket. I could feel my anger
working its way back up. I was really starting to
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enjoy this guy’s company. Here he was, discussing
the possibility of becoming friends just to tell me
he’s leaving.
I no longer attempted to hide my disappointment.
“Well, if you’re just going to leave in a week then I
really don’t really see the point in being friends.” I
picked up my pace and began to walk a few steps
ahead of him.
He didn’t attempt to catch up to me, and instead
shouted, “Well, if I had a friend, maybe I wouldn’t
leave. I mean, if that friend wanted me to stay all
they’d have to do is ask.”
I no longer heard his footsteps behind me. I
continued walking, too stubborn to give in and play
his game. I was so sick of boys and their childish
ways. I didn’t even know him and now he wanted
me to beg him to remain with me?
I defiantly thought, I’d rather go on a date with
Jason back at the bar.
I kept walking without looking back. I was all
the way down to the Market now and Adrian was
nowhere behind me. I glanced in the direction of the
bar and saw there were still a bunch of people
loitering out front. I could hear Chrissy’s loud
laugh, so I knew she was still there. She was
probably not missing me in the least. I considered
crossing the street and heading back to the bar but
then I thought about Adrian. I didn’t want to leave
our conversation half-finished like this. I turned
back around and began marching back up Main
Street.
A few blocks later I smelled the scent of a
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burning cigarette. My guess was that it was a
Marlboro Red…
He was sitting on a fire hydrant as if he were
expecting me to return.
How arrogant.
I marched right up to him. “Look, I don’t know
you well enough to make that decision for you to
stay or go. If you want to stay, then cool. If not,
then have a safe flight. People from Jersey seem
kind of annoying anyway, so by the time the end of
the week gets here I might be dying for you to go
back.”
It was odd how I was at a loss for words initially
and now I had no shortage of insults to fire at him.
Familiarity really may breed contempt.
He just sat there on the hydrant, looking as if he
were enjoying this conversation way too much. He
took one final drag of his cigarette and flicked it
into the gutter. He brought his green eyes up to
mine and smiled. “I guess we’ll just take it day by
day then.”
I plopped down on the sidewalk next to his feet
and together we sat in silence. A strong gust of
wind blew in, sending a shiver down my spine,
reminding me that winter wasn’t quite over yet. I
crossed my arms, trying to stay warm. Adrian stood
up and looked down at me.
“You didn’t tell me anything about you.”
I looked up at his pretty face, narrowing my eyes
in confusion.
“Friendship is a two way street you know,” he
prompted.
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“What do you want to know?”
He sat down next to me on the sidewalk, his arm
touching mine, once again igniting the spark I
couldn’t deny. “Anything and everything. You seem
like a pretty complex person, Sidney. I’m dying to
peel back those layers and see what’s underneath.”
I buried my head in my knees so he couldn’t see
my face turning salsa red. I didn’t know if he was
referring to my emotional layers or my clothing. I
began thinking of what I could tell him.
“Well, I’m totally obsessed with music and I can
pretty much relate every song to my life,” I spilled
out.
Gosh, what a stupid thing to say, I immediately
thought. Here this guy is asking for something
personal about my life and I tell him that I like
music. What an idiot I am.
“That’s interesting,” he pondered. “So what song
fits best in your current situation and please, don’t
select an Aaliyah song.”
We both burst into laughter recalling our earlier
encounter at the bar when Chrissy cut the rug
dancing to the played out ‘90s music.
“I guess it would be that Lupe Fiasco song,
‘Battle Scars.’ As soon as I said it, I wished I could
take it back. Obviously that song reminded me of
Ray and I still remembered Adrian’s reaction to
Chrissy mentioning Ray at the bar. Not to mention
the song I had chosen was about someone being at
war with love and how the wounds you receive on a
battlefield are similar to the wounds you may
receive in love. The enemy is within and the fire
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you receive is friendly, the wounds never heal, and
they don’t fade.
How pathetic did that make me sound?
“So it must be about you and a boyfriend then?”
he deduced.
“Yeah. Ray.” I guessed now was as good a time
as any to delve into the drama of Sidney and Ray.
“He’s a musician. He’s down in L.A. now, working
on an album. As you can guess, there’s a lot of
temptation in the industry he’s chosen. Let’s just
say we’ve had our fair share of struggles due to that
issue.”
There. I had said it. If Adrian wanted to board
the next plane to New Jersey, then so be it.
Suddenly, I felt a slight vibration on my hip. I
looked down and realized just how close Adrian and
I were sitting to each other. He shifted his weight to
his left side and reached into his jean pocket as he
pulled out his cell phone. It was lit up, signaling a
call was coming in.
He slid his finger across the screen and rejected
the call, putting the phone back in his pocket just as
quickly as he pulled it out. He jumped up anxiously
and said, “Okay. We’re not strangers anymore.
Let’s get you some coffee so you can sober up and
then we’ll get you home.”
He began walking before I could argue with him.
I turned and looked at the silhouettes at the bar one
last time, deciding if I should just go back and find
Chrissy. But then I saw Adrian wasn’t waiting this
time and in a split-second decision, I followed him.

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***
I had known the old McAllister house well.
Every Heights resident did. It was a historical
landmark, being the first library built in town.
Established in 1853, its operation only lasted a few
years during the gold rush years before being sold
and converted into a residence.
Before I was born, the owners used to offer tours
to the local school children during field trips. After
its proprietor passed away, it had just been sitting
there vacant for the last twenty or so years.
We strolled up the narrow walkway, passing the
giant flag pole and up the wooden stairs that led to
the stately wraparound porch with two massive
white marble pillars on each side of the red front
door. The porch light illuminated his beautiful face,
which allowed me to sneak another glance.
I whispered, “I can’t believe you’re staying in
this house.”
He smiled as he put the key in the keyhole.
“Why…and why are we whispering?” he whispered
back.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I don’t want to wake
your parents or anything.”
The smile dropped off of his face
instantaneously, “You’d have to try a lot harder
than that, Sidney.”
He turned the key and the lock clicked. Opening
the door, he signaled for me to enter first. As I
passed him he leaned in and whispered in my ear,
“You can’t wake the dead.”
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I stopped in the entryway and turned to face him.
I felt so terrible for even mentioning his parents.
“Oh my god, Adrian. I’m so sorry.”
His smile returned. “I don’t think God has
anything to with it, but thanks for your
condolences.” He put his hand on the small of my
back and gave me a gentle push into the foyer.
He turned on some lights and then headed
towards the back of the house. I glanced around at
the old estate. It looked pretty clean for being
vacant for the past two decades. It had original
hardwood floors with a matching staircase. The
molding around the ceilings and windows were
exquisite. The carvings in each piece were so
unique and original you could tell they were done
by hand and created by a master carpenter years
ago. The living room was directly to the left with
the staircase immediately in front of me. There was
a long hall with several doors to the right. I walked
to the left of the staircase, passing the living room,
dining room, and eventually ending up in the
kitchen.
It was a little outdated in appearance, like it had
been remodeled in the 1930s. Adrian was at the
yellow and teal-tiled counter preparing some coffee.
I took a seat at the small dinette table and rubbed
my eyes. The high from the alcohol was starting to
fade and I was now fighting off drowsiness. I began
to wonder why I had even come back here with
Adrian. It was a good thing my home was only
three blocks away. I could leave any time I wanted,
which prompted me to begin taking mental notes of
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the nearest exit.
“So, I came here temporarily, it wasn’t my
intention to stay very long,” Adrian said, catching
my attention.
He poured two small cups full of coffee and
walked them over to the table and sat down. I took
my cup and drank it down greedily. I needed the
caffeine.
“The truth is that I’m only here long enough to
handle my affairs.”
I scratched my head, wondering why he was
telling me this. Did he plan on getting me back to
his house under false pretenses that he would be
staying and now he was feeling remorse for lying to
me?
“But I can stay longer than the original one
week. There’s a firm in Sacramento that offered me
a six-month contract. If I need to extend it for a year
they’re okay with that.”
My head was spinning, this was too much
information at one time. I didn’t even know how to
process any of it. I laid my head on the dinette table
and closed my eyes.
“A firm…like what kind of firm?” I slurred
slightly, forcing my eyes back open and glancing
over at him.
Adrian cocked his head to the side and gave me
that crooked smile of his. “Is there anything other
than a law firm?”
I sat up. “Okay, Warren Buffet,” I began. “A
firm typically means a large corporation or
enterprise, so if you want to get technical about it,
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then I think I asked a very valid question.”
I could feel my adrenaline returning. I wasn’t
sure if it was the coffee or just him pressing my
buttons.
He was impressed. “Okay, Webster’s dictionary,
who’s getting technical now?”
“As I was saying, are you a lawyer?”
He drank his coffee and then set the mug on the
table. “Not quite yet. I still need to pass the bar
exam. After college my father got me a job in his
firm…primarily as a paper pusher, but it gave me
the experience I needed and prepared me for the bar
exam. When he and my mother passed away last
spring in a car accident, my life was placed on hold
until I could figure things out. Here I was twentytwo years old and the owner of the most prominent
law firm in all of New York City…”
He drifted off, lost in thought.
“So you’re twenty-three?” I asked, doing the
math in my head to figure out our age difference. I
smiled to myself. Four years, not bad.
“Sorry again, about your parents,” I added,
trying to sound sensitive to the situation. “So
what’d you do with the business?”
“I’ll be twenty-four in August,” he confirmed.
“My father’s business partner is taking over the firm
for the time being, just until I can get things taken
care of over here.”
He looked at me. “How old are you?”
It was his turn to figure out the math.
Without thinking of where I had spent the
evening, I blurted out, “I just turned nineteen.
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Today’s my birthday.”
I looked up at the clock hanging over the sink,
which read 1:30 a.m.
“Well, it was my birthday. By the way, you
really don’t look like a lawyer,” I declared as I sized
him up, looking at his long, unkempt hair and
grunge clothes.
He smiled. “I clean up pretty well.”
I just shook my head and asked a stupid
question. “What do you do with all that hair?”
“Lots of gel.” He laughed, running his hand
through the mop of black mess.
“Hmm,” I said, tapping my fingers on the table,
staring at him. “You might actually be kind of cute
in a three-piece suit with some McDreamy hair,” I
joked, referring to one of the characters on Grey’s
Anatomy.
“Gee thanks, I guess.”
I thought I saw his pale cheeks turn a slight
shade of pink. We both laughed.
“So when do you start this new job in
Sacramento?”
It was actually really nice talking to him and
learning about his life. For once my mind was on
something other than Ray and it felt good. I had a
feeling Adrian and I were going to be fast friends.
“I start on Monday.”
“Are you driving? It can get pretty expensive
with gas and that traffic is a nightmare.”
“No, I’m considering taking the train.”
“Oh yeah, that’s the best way to go. Just be sure
that you allow yourself enough commute time.”
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Adrian smiled. “I used to commute into New
York City by bus, subway, and ferry. This should be
a piece of cake.”
He grabbed the empty coffee mugs and walked
them over to the kitchen sink. It was one of those
old farm sinks that started to make a comeback in
those fancy home and garden magazines.
I laughed, a little embarrassed at myself as I
realized I may have sounded a bit too motherly.
“Sorry. I can be a control freak sometimes. I’m sure
you have it all taken care of.”
I got up from the dinette. “It was really nice
meeting you. Thank you for the coffee.”
Adrian turned around, surprised at my sudden
plan of departure.
“You’re leaving?” he asked, sounding a bit
disappointed.
“You invited me over for coffee. I drank it, and
now I’m leaving. If you want me to stay longer next
time, you’ll have to invite me over for more than
coffee. Like a movie or something.”
My mind immediately focused on the or
something add on and what it might entail. I
stretched my arms towards the ceiling while arching
my back. I couldn’t believe how tired I was.
He offered, “Do you need a ride?”
“It’s not necessary. My house is just around the
corner.”
“I’ll walk you then.”
We headed out of the big house and down the
porch steps, past the old, weather-beaten flag pole
and up Court Street towards my house.
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“You’re a lot younger than I thought,” Adrian
observed as we walked together.
“Yeah, Chrissy knows the bouncer so she was
able to sneak us in the bar.”
He just shook his head at our law-breaking
abilities.
“So you’re not staying long then, huh?” I asked
him as I felt a twinge of disappointment. I didn’t
have many friends these days and being with Adrian
was like a breath of fresh air.
He shook his head and we continued walking in
the cold silent darkness of night.
Suddenly Adrian came to a complete stop and
turned to face me, “I don’t want to go back home,
Sidney. It’s just that I came back here for
something. And…well.” His face was twisted in
conflict, as if he were experiencing some sort of
internal battle trying to decide whether he wanted to
share this information with me.
He glanced down at my necklace. “I came back
here for someone and I’m not leaving without
them.”
Now a flood of disappointment rushed through
me.
He came back here for someone. Nobody travels
clear across the country for just anyone. Give it up,
Sidney. He’s obviously wrapped up with someone
else.
I gripped my necklace and absentmindedly
twirled it around my fingers. Adrian’s eyes
followed my hands.
We stood in silence for a few moments longer
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before he finally replied, “Goodbye, Sidney, and
happy birthday.”
Then he was gone, heading back to his big empty
house as I stood there watching. He hadn’t even
walked me all the way home, just to the corner of
his street.
I turned down Sycamore Street and walked up
Magnolia as my house came into view.
That’s odd, I thought as I looked at my green
Chevy truck that was parked in the driveway.
I had left the truck at the bar so how was it
home?

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Chapter Seven
Wish You Never Met Me
The old truck had two sets of keys. I had one set
and I was well aware of who had the other one. As I
got closer to my house I saw the silhouette sitting
on the steps of my porch, his lean body resting
against the wall with his arms crossed. I froze,
standing on the sidewalk staring up at his blue eyes.
“Where the hell have you been, Sid?” Ray asked
as he stood up and marched down the stairs towards
me.
Before he could reach me, I dodged his grasp
and headed up the stairs towards the front door.
After spending the better half of the evening with
Adrian, I didn’t want to soil my happiness with the
bickering that always came along with Ray. I didn’t
have the energy to deal with him anymore.
I heard Ray’s light and airy steps bouncing up
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the stairs behind me. I opened the front door and
flipped the light switch on, but as soon as I did I
remembered that Nouri was probably in bed and I
didn’t want to disrupt her. I quickly shut off the
light and signaled for Ray to follow me up the
stairs. Once inside my pink bedroom, I walked over
to the table lamp resting on the nightstand and
switched it on as I sat on my floral bed.
All I wanted to do was go to sleep but I knew I
had some explaining to do. My gaze seared into Ray
but as soon as I saw him all of my defiance
evaporated like a puddle in the middle of a hot
summer day. His big blue eyes looked me over,
ensuring that not one hair was out of place. He took
a seat next to me on the bed and pulled me into his
firm chest as he wrapped his arms tightly around me
“Why are you here, Ray?” I questioned, still
trying to retain the remnants of my anger.
“I’ve been calling you all night,” he explained.
“When you didn’t answer your cell, I called the
house phone.” He looked at the bed and began
tugging at a loose thread on the quilt. “Nouri told
me you went out on a date.”
I burst into laughter at Ray’s last line. He
brought his lapis eyes up to mine, trying to figure
out what was so funny. “That’s because Nouri hates
you and she wanted to make you jealous.”
“I guess it worked.”
“And what, you cancelled your shows and flew
up here in a mad dash to interrupt my date?”
Ray just stared at me with no hint of a smile.
“I guess I did. I came to the house first, and after
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begging that damn nurse for twenty minutes, she
finally told me you went to The Watering Hole.” He
took off his baseball hat and tossed it on the
nightstand. “Why’d you go that dive?”
“Chrissy.” It was all I needed to say.
“You had me so worried, Sid. It’s not like you to
pull a vanishing act like that. I went to the bar
looking for you and Chrissy had no idea where you
were. She mentioned that you had met some strange
guy earlier in the night. My mind started drifting
into all of these dark scenarios of what could have
happened to you and it was driving me insane.”
I burned with fury that my best friend was such a
chatterbox.
“If anything ever happened to you I don’t know
how I could live with myself. It’s my job to protect
you,” he whispered, kissing my forehead.
I began to pull away and declare that I was an
adult and I didn’t need his protection, but then Ray
inhaled deeply and grabbed my sweatshirt as he put
his nose in it. He asked disgustedly, “Have you
been smoking?”
“It wasn’t me, it was Adrian,” I began to explain
before feeling his entire body tense as he let go of
my sweatshirt and scooted back staring into my face
searching for answers.
“Who the hell is Adrian?” he asked accusingly.
Oh now we’re playing the jealousy game.
“Remember Lilly, Ray? While we’re jumping on
the green-eyed monster train, why don’t we discuss
her and you can tell me why she’s your Facebook
friend again?”
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“Oh, no,” he said, shoving his index finger in my
face. “Don’t even try to turn this around on me. I
asked you a question, now answer me.”
I slapped his accusing finger out of my face and
shouted back. “Why does it matter who I spend my
time with?” Becoming way too defensive, I raised
my voice, “You obviously don’t care. If you did
you’d be here with me and not playing house with
your little whore, Lilly.”
Ray stood up and yelled back, “You’re the one
who left me, Sid! Don’t try to turn this around on
me. You were supposed to be living with me in
L.A. but you left. Maybe if you stayed I wouldn’t
have slept with Lilly. You’re not there, so there are
no rules. Do you understand?”
All I heard was the phrase, “…I wouldn’t have
slept with Lilly.” It devastated me. Even though I
had known they were lovers while he was in L.A.,
hearing it from his lips shocked my soul. I
immediately went into denial mode and changed the
subject in my mind to something far more
emotionally manageable.
If Nouri was asleep before, I was pretty
confident that she was awake now. Hell, Granny
could have awakened from her vegetative state after
all of the screaming.
“Well, that’s great, Ray.”
I folded my arms across my chest and looked
him straight in the eye. Now was the perfect time to
plunge the knife deep inside him and sever the
chains that had imprisoned me once and for all.
“Maybe there will be no rules for me, either. Maybe
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we should break up.”
That swan song changed Ray’s tune real quick.
“I’ve tried to be faithful, Sid, but it’s impossible.”
He moaned, falling down in front of my knees like a
puppy begging for a treat. “Don’t do something
stupid because you’re mad at me. You’re mine.
You’ve always been mine.”
“That’s just it, Ray,” I countered, leaning my
upper body toward him so my face was inches from
his own, hoping he could see just how serious I was.
“You treat me like I’m one of your possessions.
Some toy you just place on the shelf when you’re
done and that no one else can touch. Meanwhile
you’re out there running amuck while I just sit and
waste away. It’s not fair.”
“I always come back to you, Sid. Everything else
that happens, it’s nothing, it means nothing.”
I shook my head and blasted him, “But Lilly
wasn’t just nothing, Ray. I saw you two together
and the thought of you lying in bed next to each
other—”
I couldn’t finish my words. I was losing it.
Ray got off of his knees and began to pace the
room defensively. “You said we could start over,
but you won’t let this go. Why can’t you just let it
go, Sidney? It was a fucking mistake, okay?” he
yelled.
I looked up at him, wiping my eyes, surprised he
called me by my full name. He never called me
Sidney. In the entire five years that we’d known one
another, he’d never said that name.
He must really be pissed.
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I wasn’t going to let him turn this around and
make me feel bad for his mistakes. Not this time. I
narrowed my eyes at him, “People don’t carry on
with a mistake for months. You have led this double
life for a long time. Do you know how bad that
messes with my mind, knowing that I was here
living this life of lies while you were down there in
a relationship with someone else? God, I was such
an idiot.”
I stood up and walked over to my bedroom
window. The sky was still black but there was a hint
of gray beyond the horizon of the foothills. The sun
was coming up. Once again, Ray and I had been at
it all night resolving nothing. It was now becoming
the norm in our relationship.
He came up from behind and placed his hands on
my shoulders. “I know that you need closure, Sid,
but didn’t you get that when I ended things with her
and chose you? Wasn’t that enough?”
“No,” I answered. “It’s not enough. Because I
still don’t understand why. Why did you do it? Did
you not love me enough? Did you not even think of
me when you were with her?” I asked. My voice
cracked as tears filled my eyes. I turned my face
away from him, not wanting him to see me cry.
He began to grovel. “I don’t know what to say. I
tried, I really did. But it all happened so fast. I met
her and something about her mesmerized me. I tried
to shake the feeling but I couldn’t. She would come
to the shows and I would avoid her on purpose but I
couldn’t stay away. It was like we were two
magnets, destined to come together.”
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As Ray spilled his true feelings for the redheaded little tart I couldn’t help but compare his
feelings for her and how much they mirrored mine
for Adrian.
Adrian and I were also two magnets drawn to
each other. The connection between us couldn’t be
ignored. For once in my life, I understood the
feelings my boyfriend had experienced when he
explained why he cheated.
“And I’m sorry for that,” he continued. “How
many times am I going to have to get on my knees
and beg for your forgiveness? I got caught up in the
moment. But I still came back to you. It will always
be you, Sid.”
“Until when?” I mumbled, sounding defeated,
still pondering the fact that maybe we shouldn’t be
together. This was the same conversation we had
been having for a month. Nothing ever got resolved
and it was all starting to feel like a huge waste of
time and energy. How many tears could I cry for
one person?
“Until when?” he asked.
I clarified, “You’ll come back to me until you
find someone better? Someone that’s so beautiful
and perfect that the very thought of her consumes
your mind day and night and you discover that it’s
physically painful to leave her side and I become a
distant memory pushed to the back of your mind
and locked away in a box. Am I supposed to wait
for that to happen?”
The words just flew out of my mouth. All of the
hidden fears I had thought about night after night
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were now pouring out of me.
Ray let go of my shoulders, and walked back
over to the bed. Taking a seat, he placed his face in
his hands and sat silent. “It did happen,” he
mumbled. “And I still came back to you.”
I didn’t know whether to smile or cry. I was
happy he chose me but did he really just admit to
me that he was in love with Lilly? Possibly more
than me? His words were like a bullet from a gun,
piercing my heart. I sat down on the carpet trying to
grasp what Ray just revealed to me. He’d loved her.
He just told me that he had been in love with
another woman. I tried to catch my breath but that
felt impossible. My face was flushed and my head
was spinning, conjuring up all sorts of conclusions.
Ray slid off of the bed and crawled over to me.
“I chose you,” he said. “I’ll always choose you. I
love you more than anything, Sid.” He cupped my
chin with his hand and forced me to look at him.
I shook my head in frustration and tried to push
him away but he locked his steel arms around me,
forcing me to stay close, reminding me of the prison
I had always resided in with him.
He’s not going to see me cry, I vowed over and
over again while I focused on swallowing the lump
in my throat. I closed my eyes so I didn’t have to
look at him. But I could still feel him, his warm
breath breathing close to my face. “I’ll give up my
musical dream and stay here with you if that’s what
you want. I’ll get a real job, we can start over.”
I opened my eyes in disbelief, searching his face,
expecting to see the deception he was spinning but
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instead, I saw nothing but sincerity. I tried to speak
but the lump was still there, refusing to give me my
voice. My tears silently slid down my cheeks. I
shook my head in absence of my voice.
“No,” I managed to squeak out. “I’d never ask
you to give up your dream. Especially when you’re
this close.”
He grabbed my face with both hands and kissed
me passionately. I clutched his blond curls and
pulled him closer. If it were possible, I would have
climbed inside of him, burying my broken self in
the warmth of his strong body. Instead, I crawled
into his lap, kissing him harder with more passion
than I had ever felt in my life, as if I were
convincing him that he had made the right choice in
choosing me. He gently brought his hands down my
back and then up under my sweatshirt, caressing my
bare skin. His breathing becoming more
pronounced as our kissing became more aggressive.
He pulled away as his eyes burned with passion.
“Tell me right now, Sid. Are we going to be able to
survive this? Do you still love me or do you wish
you never met me?”
I smiled without hesitation. “I love you, Ray.
Forever.”
“This needs to come off,” he whispered as he
pulled my sweatshirt over my head. He grimaced.
“It smells like smoke.”
His words reminded me of Adrian, but I forced
the image of my new handsome friend out of my
mind. Ray reached over and flicked the table lamp
off. We both fell to the bed, entwined in each
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other’s arms. It felt good to have him home again
despite my still very broken heart, it felt like we had
made some progress tonight. Our relationship could
still be fixed. Ray was still worth fighting for.
He pulled his face away, breaking from our kiss,
his eyes burning with the same fire he had always
displayed in the past. We stared at each other in the
darkness. “Tell me you want me,” he ordered.
I gripped his neck and attempted to pull his face
down to mine but he remained still as a statue
awaiting my reply. “Say it.” he insisted.
“I want you,” I whispered.
“Only me, say it.”
Now it was my turn to pull away. I looked at him
with more than one question in my heart. I was
surprised to see the pleading in his eyes. He was
desperate to hear me confirm that he was the only
man I desired. I opened my mouth but the words
proved harder to say than I thought.
“Only you,” I lied.
Fighting off the image of those pendant eyes, I
slowly warmed up to him again. He gripped my
face in his strong hands and quickly brought his lips
to mine, rewarding me for my obedience.
***
Afterward, as we lay together both breathless
and exhausted, I rested my head against his chest
and wondered if maybe he and I were crazy. After
all, the definition for that word was doing the same
thing over and over but expecting different results
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each time. Is that what I was doing with Ray?
“Whatever happened earlier tonight, I don’t want
to know about it,” Ray said as he lay on his back,
staring up at the ceiling in the dark.
I opened my mouth to object but he cut me off.
“I know I deserved it. I’ll be a man and step up and
take the blame. It’s my fault we got into this rut.
But I’ll dig us out. Just promise me one thing.”
“Anything,” I whispered.
“Promise me you won’t see him again.”
I sat up in protest. “Ray. He’s just a friend,” I
argued, not wanting to give up my new
acquaintance that easily.
“Just a friend? You spent five minutes with him
tonight and you were ready to throw away the last
three years with me. Has our relationship really
been that bad?”
I returned to my place in his arms and asked,
“Are we evaluating the whole three years or just the
last?”
“I’m serious, Sid. I don’t want you to see him
again.”
I nodded my head in submission as I began to
realize I was like a stray dog, beaten and bruised but
always returning for more punishment. Once again,
I had surrendered to Ray, giving in to his
commands. I was his slave, and however desperate I
was to escape, we both knew I would never leave.
Adrian seemed like he could have been my savior,
my prince who could carry me away from this evil
tyrant who had caged my heart for the pleasure of
making me beg for his touch.
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Suddenly, in that moment, I hated Ray for taking
away my fantasy. I rolled over on my side and said
goodnight to my boyfriend. I gripped my pendant
and closed my eyes. The image of Adrian’s dark
hair came into my mind and I smiled as I dreamily
drifted off into a deep slumber.

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Chapter Eight
Heaven Help Us
It didn’t take long for my exhausted body to give
in to the peaceful state of sleep. As soon as I closed
my eyes, my lids grew heavy and I could no longer
force them open. My drained body, weighted down
in the bed, began to feel as if it were falling. Deeper
and deeper I fell, as I quickly spiraled into that state
of unconsciousness.
It was the smell of the flowers that brought me
back into that familiar territory. I opened my eyes
and found I was back in the place I often visited
when sleep came and collected me. I was in the
Garden, watching the man with the emerald green
eyes. He could not see me, this much I knew was
true.
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As I admired his beauty, I noticed he was not
with the woman I often saw him with. He was alone
as he exited through the north end of the forest. As
if I had a one way ticket into the mind of this darkhaired man, I somehow knew his thoughts and I
could feel his emotions. I was watching him, yet I
almost felt as if I were a part of him.
Eve, his lover, was not far behind as she headed
out of the forest on the opposite end. It had been
eight months since he had first met her and they had
spent every day since then together in secret. He
truly did love her but he was smart enough to know
his father would never allow their union. He had
hoped by sending Eve home through the west end of
the forest, no one in the garden would become
suspicious of them being together. He was wrong.
Samael froze with fear as he met his father’s icy
glare. He kept his face unreadable; he would not
allow his father to know his secret.
“I saw you in the forest with that girl today,” his
father said calmly as he stared deeply into his son’s
face.
Samael held his mask of calmness and revealed
nothing in the form of a reaction. Finally, Samael
spoke. “Am I not allowed a friend, father?”
“Is it a friend you are seeking or a lover?”
His father threw the words back at him like a
dagger. It seemed to pierce Samael deep within his
heart and take his breath away for a moment.
Samael thought, How could he know? Has he
been watching us?
Samael’s mask evaporated into nothingness. He
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quickly composed himself but not before his father
witnessed his mistake. A moment was all his father
needed to reveal his son’s secrets.
“Then it is as I have suspected. Walk with me,
child,” he instructed.
Samael held his ground and angrily responded,
“I am not a child, Father. I am a man of three and
twenty.”
“No matter your age, Samael, you are still my
son. You will always take my order and you will not
speak to me as an equal. Our walk was not a
request. Come, now.”
With one final glare, his father turned and began
to walk.
Samael, his fists clenched, was beyond angry. I
am a prince, the son of this creator, but he treats me
as a mere peasant. He thinks because he is King of
this land that he is better than me!
Samael spit on the ground as if ridding his body
of the venom in his mouth. He wiped his lips and
quickly began to follow his father as he vowed, You
are right, Father, I am not your equal. I am stronger
and better than you. My head is filled with
knowledge you will never know. One day you will
see. I will be ruler of this land and take all that is
dear from you.
They walked in silence together for many miles.
They passed through the forest and finally returned
to their garden. Filled with the scents of rosemary
and basil, Samael began to get hungry as he
realized it was well past suppertime. He wondered
if his dear sister happened to leave a plate of food
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for him. After all, he was her favorite out of all her
brothers. He was sure she would have fought off all
their greedy hands to save him some food. Samael
loved his sister very much. Thinking of her brought
a smile to his face and for the moment she made
him forget the anger he felt towards his father.
“She is promised to another man, you know,”
His father said, breaking the silence and thus
interrupting Samael’s pleasant thoughts.
“How can I forget, Father? After all, it was you
who made those arrangements knowing full well
how I felt,” he sneered.
The more he spoke to his parent, the angrier he
became. Samael had never felt this way before. The
feeling was very foreign to him, but it was not
unwelcome. The stronger his feelings became, the
more powerful he felt. He embraced the feeling. He
wanted more. And with every glance at his father,
he was given more. The feeling of hate was driving
this force. He knew it was wrong but he could not
contain it any longer.
“You do not put in a good word on my behalf,
Father, do you? You know of my lust for her and
you chose to ignore it!”
“Lust!” he shouted. “Do you hear what you are
speaking of? You do not say love, you say lust,
knowing what a sin it is! Lust is the formation of all
that is evil. Is that the path you choose to take my
child? Are you so quick to give in to your wicked
ways? I am trying to save you from yourself. Do you
not see that? I am here to guide you to goodness,
not to allow you to give into the temptations of evil
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and allow your heart to blacken.”
Samael fought back. “What do you know of a
heart, Father? You are ripping mine out of my chest
as we speak.” He moaned. “My feelings for Eve
cannot be wicked! They are different from the love I
feel for my dear sister or brothers. This love engulfs
me, it swallows me whole. I breathe her, Father. I
cannot live without her nor her without me. We are
together in one soul. We become one when we are
together.”
“Together?” his father interrupted. “Together in
what way, child?”
Samael realized at that moment he had said too
much. He had promised himself he would not reveal
his secrets, but now it appeared he had done just
that. It only took one look into Samael’s green eyes
to reveal the truth. He and Eve had made love. He
had taken Eve’s purity, knowing she was to be wed
to another.
Never in all the twenty-three years of Samael’s
life had he witnessed his father so angry. His large
round face reddened as deep as the crimson apples
that hung from the fruit trees to the north. Never
had he seen his father’s body tremble like the great
quakes that shook the land. Gripping his son’s face
in a steel brace, he brought his own countenance so
close to Samael that they were touching noses.
“You are hurting me, Father,” Samael squealed.
“Tell me it is not true!” he roared.
Samael begged for his father to release him.
“I’ve told you, Samael. She is promised to
another! While you are living a life of foolishness
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lost in those books you hide your face in, her fiancé
works hard in the fields so that one day he can be a
great provider!”
“Like the great provider he was supposed to be
for my sister?” Samael returned.
“He is no great man, father. He is a barbarian
who mistreats women. You’ve already subjected
your own daughter to his evil ways and as if that
was not enough, now you must steal my love to give
to him? I loathe him, Father! With all of my heart, I
loathe him!” Samael shouted, no longer caring
about masking his emotions.
“You still have not learned, Samael. Loathe and
lust, you are choosing the path of evil. I cannot help
you if you shun me and refuse to see the path to
goodness. You are to love thy neighbor. Do you
understand what that means?” his father gently
said.
“Help me? You call what you are doing help?
You are killing me! You may as well plunge the
knife deep in my heart and twist it! I am dying right
now. I speak the truth when I tell you I cannot live
without her!” he shouted, tears spilling out his eyes,
running like avalanches down his flushed cheeks.
“You speak falsehoods, boy. You will live
without her. And as far as your sister is concerned,
she is much like you, stubborn and wicked, refusing
to learn the good ways. Adam was the perfect mate
for her. I created them both out of the same dirt so
they would be alike in body and mind. But so much
like you, Samael, you both chose to question me.
You both chose to fight against me instead of stand
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with me. I cannot help you and I cannot help her.”
He spoke with no emotion as he watched his son
unravel emotionally. “You ask why did I not match
you with Eve. You cannot be matched with a dog,
Samael. Not as long as you continue to waste your
days in the lives of fairy tales! Books shall get you
nowhere. They taint your mind and keep you away
from the fields where you should be working hard,
learning the ways of a young man.”
Pulling away from his father’s agonizing grip,
Samael took a step back. With the sun setting
behind him, it gave off a great light, illuminating his
silhouette, giving the vision of an angel. But he felt
like no angel, perhaps a dark one. A fallen angel
that had been stripped of everything he loved.
“I’ve lived a thousand different lives reading the
stories that I do. I pity you, Father, for you have
nothing that drives your soul,” he spat. “You create
people to do your bidding and if they refuse, you
destroy them. You know nothing of love and you
never shall.”
“And you, my child, will never see your love
again. Adam and Eve will be married within a
fortnight. Then they will be turned out of the gates
of Eden due to Eve’s transgressions with you. They
will live a free life on their own. Adam has been
well-trained and will be able to provide her with
food, shelter, and one day, many children.”
“No,” Samael moaned, shaking his head back
and forth vigorously covering his ears. “No Father,
please.”
“You will be kept here in the gardens with your
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books to live your thousand lives.”
Samael, unable to control his shaky legs, fell to
the ground, holding his chest, gasping for air. His
tears spilled on the dry earth, creating a puddle of
mud.
“I’ll burn the books,” he whispered. “Every last
one of them. I will learn, Father. I will learn to
hunt, and work the fields, and build. I will learn it
all, ‘tis not too late. I still have my youth. Please,
just don’t take her from me.” He knelt in the dirt,
looking up at his father’s icy blue eyes with hope,
praying for a rebuttal. His father looked down at his
eldest child, shaking his head.
“She was never yours to take, my son.” A cold
wind blew from behind Samael and brought with it
some splatters of rain. It was as if the feelings of
darkness were cast from his body and into the skies.
He felt the power within him and knew it was he
who was responsible for the shift of weather.
“As you are well aware of what happens once
you cross the gates,” his father continued, ignoring
the rain that began to fall. “You must understand
that Eve will grow old and she will one day die. Her
memories of you will be washed away as this storm
is washing away all of the recent evil that has taken
place in this land. Her soul will be reborn into
another body that will be unfamiliar to you. Eve’s
punishment is the banishment from our gardens.
Your punishment will be an eternity inside the gates
of Eden. You will be allowed to keep your memories
of her but you will never be allowed to seek her. I
know you well, my boy. You are smart and you are
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sneaky. If, by some divine intervention, you do make
it outside of these gates, just remember, there will
always be an Adam whom she will love and she will
have no recollection of the time you two spent
together.”
“All is possible, Father. I will find her again one
day and we will be together,” Samael said through
clenched teeth.
His father smiled and took a step back, opening
his arms. “Then let the challenge begin.”

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Chapter Nine
New Again
I woke up and immediately reached for Ray. The
spot where he should have been was cold.
Panicking, I quickly sat up and scanned the room. I
had imbibed quite a bit last night and I prayed our
previous engagement wasn’t some kind of drunken
hallucination. I let out a sigh of relief upon spotting
his wallet and cell phone resting on the nightstand
next to his side of the bed. Knowing that Ray was
still here, my worries subsided.
Then in an instant, the memories of my wild
dream flashed before my eyes. This dream was
different from the last. And, unlike that tantalizing
first dream, I remembered almost every detail of
this one. Every word that was spoken burned into
my memory, but their faces were still just a hazy
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recollection.
I flung the covers off and snatched my bathrobe
off the closet door. Wrapping it around my naked
body, I quickly headed over to the laptop that rested
on top of the desk. Sitting down, I began typing like
a madwoman.
I sat back and stared at the screen full of words.
That was it. I couldn’t recall any more details other
than what I had written.
Everyone knows the story of Adam and Eve and
I was pretty sure that I had just dreamt the most
confounding version of the oldest bible story.
The story I had grown to love narrated how God
created Adam from dirt and then decreed that Adam
needed a helpmate, and so he created Eve from
Adam’s rib cage. They both lived in blissful
ignorance together in the garden and could do
anything their hearts desired, except of course, to
eat from the Tree of Knowledge.
As biblical history related it, one day Eve met a
serpent under the tree who was really Lucifer, a
fallen Angel cursed by God for attempting to
destroy Him. On this particular day, Lucifer was up
to his old tricks and talked Eve into eating the
forbidden fruit, lifting the veil of ignorance. She
quickly ran to Adam to share with him her
discovery. Adam too ate from the Tree of
Knowledge and in that moment plunged the entire
human race into sin.
Of course, God found out about their betrayal
and cast them out of Eden into the world
condemning all of humanity. Since we are all
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descendants of Adam and Eve we are all paying for
their sin by living in this violent world now filled
with death and destruction. The former location of
the Garden of Eden is now said to be in southern
Iraq in between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, but
spiritually, the gates are forever locked.
When I was a young child, Granny would read
stories to me from the bible every night. Of course,
my favorite one was ‘The Garden of Eden.’ As an
imaginative kid, the Garden sounded so magical and
I just knew that if I tried hard enough, maybe I
could find that beautiful Paradise and live within the
gates as peacefully as Adam and Eve once did.
It always angered me that Adam and Eve
couldn’t obey God’s one and only rule and instead
got kicked out of the garden, ruining it for the rest
of us. But then Granny would wisely remind me
that God had never intended for Adam and Eve to
procreate and so there never was a chance of me
seeing the Garden of Eden, anyway.
No longer that gullible child, I began to realize
that this God my granny spoke so highly of was
pretty relentless. To make all the rest of us suffer
damnation for the sin of another didn’t seem like an
all loving God to me. Of course, had I been Adam
or Eve, I begrudgingly admit I would have done the
same thing.
Upon further scrutiny, I also began to wonder
how Samael played into this new version of the tale
being woven to life during my subconscious state.
From the sounds of the dream, it seemed as if
Samael’s father would play the part of God and
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Adam and Eve would portray themselves. But in
my dream, there was no forbidden fruit anywhere.
Was Samael simply a metaphor for the forbidden
fruit? Was it Eve’s infidelity that got her and Adam
cast out of the garden? She gave in to the temptation
of another man, rather than the temptation to eat
something as miniscule as an apple, or whatever it
was there. I sat there in awe with my sudden
revelation as I entwined my necklace in my fingers.
The sound of my bedroom door opening turned
my thoughts away from the story. It was clear that
my dream was based on the old bible story but there
was an additional character now involved. Another
man who loved Eve, and from my viewpoint,
seemed destined to be with her. I quickly saved my
file and slammed the laptop shut as Ray entered the
room. His tan body was sensually speckled with
drops of water and all he was wearing was a towel.
Our eyes met and I smiled at him.
“I hope your new boyfriend didn’t give you that
god awful thing,” Ray teased, nodding toward my
necklace that I was holding. I smiled and released
the heavy piece of jewelry, allowing it to rest upon
my chest as I shook my head. “I only have one
boyfriend and he’s standing half naked in front of
me. Did you bring any clothes with you?”
He shook his head and made his way to the
nightstand. Picking up his phone, he began dialing
some numbers. “Hey little sister, you wanna do me
a solid?”
I reasoned he must have been calling home. I sat
at the computer desk while he asked his sister to
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drop some of his old clothes off at my house. She
agreed and he ended the call.
“Melody’s bringing over some clothes.”
He walked over to the desk and wrapped his
arms around me, “What do you wanna do while
we’re waiting?” he playfully asked while tugging
on my robe and kissing my shoulder. I turned
around and brought my face to his.
A little bothered by Ray’s earlier insult, I began
to explain, “This necklace belonged to my mother.
Chrissy and I found it when we cleaned out
Granny’s closet.”
Ray lifted his eyebrows in surprise as he gripped
the bronze chain and began to give the necklace a
more thorough inspection. Shrugging, he released
the pendant and replied, “It’s still ugly. I’ll buy you
a prettier one next time I’m down—a sapphire,
maybe.”
His phone rang, interrupting his verbal
insensitivity. His mother’s loud voice sounded out
of the receiver. Melody had made the
announcement to her family that big brother was
home and now his mother was demanding we all
attend Sunday Mass.
“Okay, Ma. I love you too. See you in five
minutes.” He hung up the phone and looked at me
apologetically. I jumped up and headed towards my
closet, wondering what the heck I would wear and
how I was going to get ready in five minutes. I
quickly snatched up the first dress I saw and ran to
the bathroom.
“I’m jumping in the shower. Meet you
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downstairs in a few,” I shouted at Ray as I flew by
him like a tornado. He gripped my arm, stopping
me in my tracks.
“Hey, did you say that nurse downstairs hates
me?”
I smiled and nodded my head. “She gets to hear
me complain about you all the time, so her opinion
has already been formed. Sorry it’s not positive, but
with Lilly and all…” I let him hang on those words
for a minute.
“I don’t handle media sites anymore,” he
explained. “Rene got some intern at the label to take
over all our pages, so if Lilly and I are friends on
some stupid social media site, I don’t know it.”
I smiled and planted a big kiss on his sensual
mouth. “You don’t need to explain anything to me,
Ray. We’re good now. It’s Nouri whose mind you’ll
have to change,” I challenged as I pranced towards
the bathroom.
Ray casually shrugged his shoulders and shouted
after me, “She’s Filipina, right? Give me five
minutes and she’ll melt like butter in my hand.”
I whirled around, wearing an incredulous look on
my face.
He laughed at my response. “What? I’ll go
downstairs and sing some karaoke with her. We’ll
be best friends by the time you get out of the
shower.”
***
As I frantically poured shampoo into my hair I
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not only scrubbed the smell of smoke out of it, I
attempted to wash away all traces of Adrian too. I
was preparing to spend the morning with my
boyfriend’s family so I needed to emotionally focus
on them. I still couldn’t believe it had only been
since last night that I’d been with my beautiful new
friend. It had seemed like a lifetime had passed in
the last ten hours. I had gotten Ray back, but it felt
that I had now lost Adrian in the process.
Turning off the water, I stepped out of the
shower and dried my body with the towel. It took
me no more than ten minutes to dress and make
myself presentable. I had set a speed record here.
Walking down the green carpeted steps, I
clutched the white rail, making sure I didn’t tumble
down the stairs in my heels. Thankfully they were
nowhere near as tall as the shoes Chrissy had leant
me that first day in the mansion, but a girl still had
to be careful. As I got closer to the bottom, I could
hear the sound of a piano being played. I glanced in
the formal living room and saw that Ray was seated
at the piano capturing his audience. Nouri, Ray’s
two sisters, and his parents were all spellbound as
he played the tunes. I entered the room and the
music stopped.
Ray looked me up and down and forced a smile
to conceal his disappointment. I had forgotten that
he hated the garment I was wearing. It was a simple
pale blue A-line dress that I thought looked
absolutely stunning when I paired it with a pink,
skinny belt and matching heels. It had a layer of
silver-tinged lace over the top part of the blue
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material. Ray thought that it looked more like a
nightgown than outerwear.
“Sidney!” Nouri shrieked, as she trotted over to
me embracing me in a hug. “You look so beautiful
this morning! And Ray, he such a nice young man
and sing so lovely!” she gushed.
I tried to contain my laughter as I met Ray’s eyes
as he mouthed the words, “Told you so.”
I took Nouri’s hand and brought her over to
Ray’s family. “Nouri, this is Ray’s mother, Teresa,
and his father, Raymond Senior.” They shook
hands. “And these are Ray’s two younger sisters,
Kendall and Melody.”
Both the younger girls were completely
engrossed in their phones and hardly acknowledged
Nouri. They seemed to wish they could be
anywhere but there. Ray may have been some
famous musician to his fans but to them, he was still
their annoying brother who never stopped stealing
their spotlight.
Once everyone was introduced, Ray’s mom,
Teresa, started organizing everyone. She was a
mighty mite, even with the help of her black high
heels she was still barely over five feet tall. “Sidney
honey, I brought over two garbage bags full of
Ray’s crap. I hope you don’t mind but I just don’t
have the room. Not with these two girls at each
other’s throats. Now that Ray’s gone, they don’t
understand why they still need to share a room and
quite frankly, I don’t blame them.”
Her hands were flying in all sorts of directions as
the highly energetic woman continued. “So like I
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said, the bags are here and you and Ray can decide
what needs to be done with them because I’m not
his personal storage unit.”
I nodded my head as I glanced over at the bags
full of clothes. I wasn’t sure what she expected me
to do with them but I guess this was her way of
saying that Ray’s room was being given to one of
his sisters.
I’d always liked Teresa. Despite her
outspokenness, she was a great person to be around.
She was an intensely loving person and had the gift
of making any stranger welcome in her home. She
was a tiny little Italian woman that looked nothing
like her son. The only physical asset that Ray got
from her was the ability to tan nicely in the
summertime. Apart from than that, he was his
father’s clone; tall with blond hair and sparkling
blue eyes.
After twenty minutes of small talk, we all
decided to ride together in the family Suburban to
the church. As everyone began to pile into the SUV,
I lingered on the porch, saying goodbye to Nouri
and wishing I could switch her places for the
morning.
I just hated attending church on Sundays. “I’ll
see you later this afternoon, Nouri, and I want to
apologize if Ray and I woke you last night with our
yelling.” I looked at her apologetically.
The Filipina shook her head from side to side.
“Oh no, Sidney. The most passionate romances
have the deepest fights. They are the ones worth
fighting for.” I took a step back and questioned her.
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“I thought you hated Ray. Now you say I should
fight for him?”
Nouri took my hands and stared deep into my
eyes. “Go to L.A. with Ray, Sidney. He your true
love. I stay and take care of Granny. I call you if she
wake up. You be with Ray.”
I didn’t know what to say. I just stood in front of
Nouri in disbelief as tears filled my eyes. I grasped
her plump body and gave her a hug. “Thank you so
much Nouri, I love you.”
She laughed and returned the hug, “I love you
too, Sidney. Now go.”
I quickly kissed Nouri’s cheek, turned, and with
those damn heels of mine leading the way, I shakily
tip-toed down the wooden stairs of the old house
and into the family SUV.

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Chapter Ten
Devil Beside You
The longest hour of my life always took place on
the Sundays when Ray was home. From 10:00 a.m.
to 11:00 it was allotted for Ray and me to attend
church with his God-fearing family. Although Ray
was raised Catholic, he was an avid reader and
studied many books of various religions.
Upon doing so, he sort of compiled a list of his
own beliefs to live by. At one point, he studied the
Mormon religion and became enchanted with one of
their silly beliefs about having zero tolerance for
tobacco.
He loved to opine, “Supposedly, somewhere in
the bible it quotes God as saying; “And again,
tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly,
and is not good for man, but is an herb for bruises
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and all sick cattle, to be used with judgment and
skill,” which basically breaks down to don’t smoke.
So now, somewhere in Ray’s hypocritical mind,
he’s managed to rationalize that God needs him to
stay away from cigarettes, yet the practice of
premarital sex and infidelity was perfectly
acceptable. I’d pretty much come to the conclusion
that Ray delved into religion so he could use it to
hide behind while patronizing others. After all, he
hadn’t even met Adrian but he had already
concluded he didn’t like him because he smoked.
Well that, and the whole jealousy thing.
Although I attended Mass with Granny every
Sunday as a child, I was never baptized in the
Catholic faith. As a baby, my mother was very
adamant that I was not to be baptized. She insisted
that the door to religion be left open, allowing me to
choose when I was older and mentally competent
enough to form my own opinion. I was actually
surprised Granny honored her request knowing how
she felt about my mother.
Ever since Granny had gotten sick I no longer
attended church. The only time I did find myself
inside of St. Catherine’s Cathedral was when Ray
was home. As much as his family pressured me I
still wasn’t sure about giving myself over to the
church and becoming “God’s child,” as they called
it.
Ray had been baptized Catholic and his parents
continued to push for me to do the same, especially
Teresa. “Sidney, honey, how do you and Ray ever
expect to have a big church wedding if you’re not
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baptized?” she whispered as we walked into the
chilly cathedral.
“I didn’t realize Ray and I were supposed to be
planning a wedding,” I replied back, sneaking a
glance at Ray. His hands were sheepishly stuffed in
his pockets as he pretended not to hear our
conversation.
Every time we saw Teresa, she pushed about
marriage and children. She and her husband,
Raymond Sr., were just eighteen years old when
they married and they have continuously pushed
Ray and me toward that same fate. Of course they
were both oblivious to Ray’s other life down in
L.A.
As we took our places in the wooden pews,
Teresa went on, “All I’m saying is that if you and
Ray decide to live together, I think the wedding
should be done right away. Marriage first, then you
play house, not the other way around. That’s why
the world’s becoming so immoral these days.
Today’s kids are being brought up by sacrilegious
animals, heathens, and role models with no rules.”
Raymond Sr. placed his hand on his wife’s knee,
signaling for her to give it a rest. It didn’t work. She
rattled on, “I want you to talk with Father Renley
after the service today. Maybe we can get a date on
the calendar for your baptism.”
Shaking her head, she added, “If only your
mother had baptized you as a baby, this would all
would be so much easier.”
I responded with more than a tinge of sarcasm,
“Well, my mother was a little busy getting run over
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by a train and all. I don’t really see where she would
have had the time to plan my baptism.”
“Oh Jesus, Sidney. Try not to be so morbid.”
Ray took my hand and scooted me over to his
side, away from his vocal mother. I sat in silence
thinking about Teresa’s insistence on my baptism. I
suppose it was a small price to pay to please my
future mother-in-law. I could talk to Father Renley
after the service, but truthfully, I just wasn’t ready
and I didn’t know if I ever would be. I didn’t feel I
needed to be baptized to prove my faith. I spoke to
God in my own way and didn’t need to make a
spectacle out of myself in doing so. Sitting on this
hard pew, which caused my behind to ache, was not
proving anything to anyone.
Stand up, sit down. That’s all we ever did in
here. Once I counted how many times we actually
had to stand and sit within an hour session and I
counted thirty-two times. This whole process was
utterly ridiculous. Is it church we are attending or an
exercise workout?
I looked at Ray, showing him the boredom on
my face. He narrowed his eyes at me, giving me a
look of disapproval. He looked so much older when
he did that. It made me giggle until I received a
withering look from the entire Ryker clan. I turned
my head toward the front of the altar and listened to
Father Renley. The singing was coming to an end
and the priest, wearing his forest green robe, took
his place at the front of the chapel sitting in his
wooden chair that looked more like a throne. I
wondered if his chair was as uncomfortable as
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mine.
Doubtful.
“In the name of the Father and the Son and the
Holy Spirit; may the Lord be with you.”
“And the Lord with you.” The church responded
like preprogrammed robots.
I held onto the bible the church had provided in
the back of every pew, reading the prayers the
congregation was reciting together. In doing so, I
began to lose myself in thought, as I often did on
Sunday mornings with the Rykers. There was
something about taking away the sins of the world
and begging to have mercy on us that didn’t sit well
with me. I didn’t understand why we had to beg for
mercy every Sunday to some invisible Dictator in
the sky. What am I apologizing for? Was it for the
sins of random human beings who committed
crimes a thousand years ago? Or was I sorry for the
sin of Adam and Eve? What did any of those people
have to do with me and my soul? I was pretty
confident that I lived my life reasonably well and I
didn’t understand why I had to repeatedly ask God
for forgiveness.
I snuck a glance at Ray, his blonde hair combed
back nicely, thick with a gel that almost turned it a
chestnut brown color. He was wearing his longsleeved, black-collared shirt and khaki slacks. His
blue eyes focused at the front of the church and I
wondered if that was the same black shirt he had
worn the night of his birthday when he was with
Lilly.
He had sins to repent for.
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I looked around at the church and at all of the
other attendees.
Yes, you probably all have sins you’re repenting
for. That’s why you all feel the need to come here. If
you were innocent you wouldn’t feel the desire to
seek refuge in God’s house.
This was all a crock, I concluded.
Again, the church broke out in to song, singing
‘Hallelujah.’ The priest repeated his offer that the
Lord be with us and then broke into scripture.
Today he was lecturing us about being a good host
and always taking the lowest place, waiting for
someone to ask that you move up to the head of the
table. This way, the one who humbles himself will
be exalted. Okay, so the moral of the story is to
always be humble. Again, maybe Ray needed to
take some lessons in humility. With his inflated ego
due to his successful rock band, I finally began to
see the benefit that church may have for a
person…like Ray.
The service finally ended and we all assembled
into a line, waiting to shake Father Renley’s hand
and praise him for what a great job he did in
delivering the sermon. I was already feeling the
pain of my new pink heels as we stood in the slow
moving line. Finally it was our turn to shake the
reverend’s hand.
The padre’s aging eyes lit up when he saw me.
“Sidney. It’s been a long time. Please tell me, how
is your grandmother?”
He took my hand and held it very gingerly.
“She’s the same, Father. There hasn’t been much
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progress since her stroke.”
He tilted his head to the side and squeezed my
hands. “Then we shall pray. We cannot lose our
faith at a time like this, Sidney. I’ve noticed that
you’ve withdrawn from the church. Now, more than
ever, is the time that you need God in your life. He
will answer your prayers if you listen, Sidney.”
I immediately felt uncomfortable.
I pulled my hands away from him. “Thank you,
Father.” I headed towards the exit door but heard
Teresa’s loud voice.
“You know, Father Renley, Sidney and I were
discussing the possibility of her baptism. Ray will
be back home in June, why don’t we do it sometime
that month?”
I looked at Ray, silently pleading to get me out
of this but I knew there was nothing he could do.
Father Renley turned and looked at me in
surprise. “Is that true, Sidney?”
I lied beautifully. “Sure. We can set the date next
Sunday after Mass,” knowing full well Ray
wouldn’t be here and I could ditch the service.
Teresa clapped her hands together in an attempt
to conceal her excitement. “Oh thank you, Father.
This is such great news.”
***
In the parking lot, the girls began arguing about
Ray’s bedroom and the fact that some of his stuff
was still in there, cluttering it up. Ray and I had
planned to walk back to the house together but now
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Melody wanted Ray to come back to their house
and remove the rest of his junk.
“Please, Ray, I can’t sleep another night in the
same room as Kendall. She plays her stupid music
all night long and I can’t get one ounce of sleep,”
Melody begged.
“Okay, okay,” Ray answered, unable to say no to
his younger sister.
He turned to me. “You wanna go to my house
for a little bit while I clean out my room?”
I shook my head. I loved Teresa but I could only
take her in small doses. I’d had enough of her to last
me until June. “I think I’ll just head home, change
out of these clothes, and then go for a run.”
He smiled. “Okay. I shouldn’t be gone too long.
See you back at the house in a couple of hours?”
“When do you have to go back to L.A.?”
Ray flashed me a sneaky smile. “Not until
Friday. I lied and told everyone my grandpa’s in the
hospital.”
I shook my head and laughed. “Hey, I almost
forgot to tell you, Nouri wants me to go back to
L.A. with you. She says she’ll stay and take care of
Granny.”
His reaction wasn’t what I’d expected. He
looked happy but the surprise outweighed it. “Okay,
so you don’t want to wait here until I come back in
June?”
I shrugged. “I could. It’s only for a few months,”
I said, thinking about my new friend and how
staying here wouldn’t be that bad after all.
As if reading my mind, Ray shook his head. “On
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second thought, I better take you back with me
where I’ll be able to keep an eye on you.”
My response dripped with sarcasm. “Yeah,
because I’m the one who needs to be watched.”
The horn to the Suburban began to wail. “Come
on, Ray. Hurry it up already!” Kendall yelled out of
the back window.
We kissed goodbye and Ray was off. I watched
the tail lights of the Chevy fade away down the
street and I couldn’t help but wonder.
Maybe he doesn’t want me to go back to L.A.
with him. Maybe he hasn’t ended things with Lilly
after all.
I blew a loose hair out from in front of my face
and slowly started for home.
Am I ever going to be able to trust this man
again?
It was only 11:30 in the morning and I could feel
the sun scorching down on me. I was hot and
sweaty and my feet ached. The weatherman had
reported on last night’s news forecast that we could
expect the temperature to get into the triple digits
today. I was willing to bet a hundred dollars that it
was already at least 90 degrees out here. I wished I
had brought my own truck today. Better yet, I
wished I was still in bed. I hated giving in to Ray
and subjecting myself to this crap about religion. In
fact, it always seemed like I was the one giving in to
him. Where was the balance? What did he ever do
for me?
My thoughts were interrupted by the roar of an
engine behind me. I turned around and couldn’t
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believe my eyes.
It was him. Instantly, I became nervous and
keenly aware of the fact I was sweating. And,
wearing a dress. At that moment, I had really
wished I was wearing something else, like a pair of
Nikes to provide me with a quick escape.
He pulled up next to me in a ‘72 gray primer
Firebird.
“Do you want some candy, little girl?” Adrian
mocked.
“My granny told me never to stop and talk to
strangers.” I played along as I looked straight ahead
and kept walking.
He laughed. “It’s pretty hot outside and I bet you
could use a ride.”
I looked into that old bucket of bolts and replied,
“Yeah, but it looks even hotter inside that old car.”
He smiled. “Only because you’d be lucky
enough to sit next to me. I give off a lot of heat, you
know.”
He pretended to lick his finger and put it on his
arm, making a sizzling sound like he was
smoldering.
That made me laugh.
He warmly smiled. “All joking aside, I just
happened to spot a girl in a pretty dress and I had to
meet her—turns out I already have.”
I kept up my pace as the car crept alongside of
me. Trying to hide my embarrassment, I played
along with his game. “Was she everything you’d
hoped for?” I asked, unable to contain my grin.
“More,” he concluded.
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I stopped dead in my tracks. The car stopped too,
its loud engine rumbling like stomach pains from a
large beast.
What was it was about this guy? How could he
make me forget all of my problems and replace
them with this airy sensation of happiness?
“I thought maybe you could give me a tour of
that old cemetery in the daylight. I might have
missed a few sights last night in the dark.”
“Don’t you have a girlfriend?” I blurted out,
unable to deal with yet another cheater. Ray was
enough, I couldn’t handle two.
Adrian looked down at the floor of his car before
responding, “I don’t remember telling you anything
about a girlfriend, but I guess I could ask you the
same question.”
I opened the heavy door and got into the car. The
seat sat really low to the ground so I had to be
careful with my dress as I settled in. Adrian gave
the car a little gas and my head flew back, hitting
the headrest.
As we headed down the winding, narrow road
towards the cemetery, he looked at me as I
explained, “I guess I just assumed you had a
girlfriend because you said that you were here for
someone. Then you mentioned knowing a girl with
a similar necklace like mine and well, I guess I just
assumed…” I let my voice fade out.
“So, what’s your theme song today?” he asked,
changing the subject to a lighter tone. “Has it
changed within the last twelve hours that we’ve
been apart?”
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I smiled at the fact he knew exactly how long it
had been since we’d last seen each other. It was
kind of romantic to have a guy count down the
minutes since our goodnight.
“Yes.” I smiled. “There’s a new song playing in
my head, but I’d rather not say.” I was too shy to
reveal the new song that now related to my life was
sung as a duet by Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift. The
lyrics revealed that since eighteen hours ago, all she
sees is green eyes and blah, blah, blah. That’s
exactly how I was feeling. Ever since I met Adrian
last night, he was all I could think about. I just
wasn’t ready to state this revelation yet, or ever.
“So, it’s no longer about your boyfriend then?”
he prompted, bringing the conversation right back
to awkward central.
I smiled and shook my head. “No. It’s not about
him.” I looked up at Adrian, meeting his gaze,
hoping if I stared at him long enough he could read
my thoughts and it could save me the
embarrassment of telling him that all I’ve thought
about since last night was him. No such luck.
“Maybe I’ll tell you another time. Right now,
let’s talk about something else,” I suggested.
“Where were you coming from dressed like
that?”
I inhaled a deep breath and slowly exhaled.
Boy, was it hot in this car!
I didn’t know how he could stand it. I was really
missing the inside of the church at this point and the
cool blow of their air conditioner.
“Church,” I responded, wiping the perspiration
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off my forehead. I could see out of the corner of my
eyes he was looking at me with that look of
indiscretion on his face.
“What?” I asked, unable to contain myself any
longer. “Is it so hard for you to believe that
someone like me could attend church on a Sunday?”
He smiled and shook his head. “No, it’s not. It
just kind of struck me as odd, you being religious
and all,” he answered, moving his eyes back to the
road.
“Well, Mr. McAllister, your perspective of me
seems to be right on the money, but my other half
deeply believes in attending God’s good service
once a week,” I responded with a tinge of
resentment.
“So you go, even though he’s not here with
you?” he asked, showing his distaste for the
influence Ray had on me.
“Let’s just say that last night didn’t end after we
parted ways,” I explained. “Ray came home.”
Adrian didn’t look very happy about my
revelation.
“So you’re not buying that whole religion crap,
then,” he prompted, completely ignoring the fact
that my boyfriend had come home last night.
“No,” I began my rant, “church is a complete
load of crap. Have you ever heard that saying ‘If
you’re scared go to church’? I always think about
that quote when I have to sit through Mass. I think
that all of the people in there are giving themselves
over to some higher, invisible power because
they’re scared. Church is for the weak-minded.
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Especially Ray. He thinks he can spend Monday
through Saturday treating me like crap, breaking all
sorts of cardinal sins in the process, and then be
forgiven on Sunday. Well, that’s ludicrous because
Saturday is when confession takes place and well,
since he doesn’t go on Saturday, then he doesn’t
receive forgiveness and he shouldn’t be receiving
communion on Sunday, but he takes it anyway. It’s
just so hypocritical. Plus, I don’t buy into those
silly, little bible stories. They don’t make any sense
to me.”
I rambled on, unleashing all of this anger I didn’t
even realize I had. I guess in my subconscious I had
always felt this way and that’s why I couldn’t go
forward with the baptism. There was something
about Adrian that made it easier for me to let out
my true feelings. I didn’t know him that well, but I
felt like I could say anything when he was around.
“So yeah, to answer your question, Adrian; I
don’t buy into religion. I think it’s a load of crap
because it teaches you to be satisfied by not
understanding the world. For example, if a kid asks
their mom how they were created, the mom
proceeds to tell them the story of Adam and Eve.”
I still had that damn story on my mind from that
crazy dream I had the night before. Adrian flinched
and put his hand to his head, closing his eyes
briefly.
“Hey, are you okay?” I asked.
He shook his head, as if attempting to shake his
jumbled thoughts from his mind. He looked at me
and gave me a reassuring smile, “Yeah, I’m fine.
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Too much whiskey last night, I suppose.”
He smirked, as if he was revealing our secret
rendezvous of the night before. “So you were
saying?”
I continued my blathering. “The story just
doesn’t make sense. God created the world in seven
days and then made Adam from some dirt and Eve
from his rib bone. You can’t just make people from
crap like that. It doesn’t make sense. But as a child,
we just accept it and keep these foolish stories in the
back of our mind because our mommies told us they
were true. They’re nothing more than made up
stories.”
He pulled onto the shoulder of the road, parking
in the dirt. The old cemetery didn’t have a parking
lot. He turned off the car but left the windows rolled
down.
“So then how do you suppose we were created?”
he challenged.
I smiled and carefully thought about the best way
to answer his question. Once again, thinking of
Ray’s variety of religion, I answered, “Maybe we
weren’t. Maybe this life is like what the Buddhists
believe; this world is nothing more than an illusion.
There is no birth and there is no death. We have
manifested into this world because the conditions
just happened to be sufficient at the time. When the
conditions are no longer sufficient, we will cease to
exist.”
I sat still and feebly attempted to backtrack on
my erratic thoughts, “That’s a little too deep. We
obviously came from somewhere. I’m just not so
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quick to give all of the credit to one man that no
one’s ever met.”
Adrian flashed me his perfect smile and said,
“Good answer. I like a strong woman who doesn’t
give in to everyone else’s way of life.” He leaned
over so his face was inches from mine. I think he
did this to cause my heart to begin sputtering out of
control. I wondered if he could hear it as it pounded
against my chest.
“By the way,” he whispered, “did I tell you how
much I like your dress?”
Take that, Ray!
He scooted back into his seat just as fast as he
had brought his face to mine. I was beginning to see
he enjoyed being unpredictable and unreadable. I
sat back in the leather seat, crossed my arms, and
concentrated on catching my breath.
I blurted out, “Did I tell you that I’m not
supposed to see you anymore?”
He looked at me, his face full of amusement.
“Me…what did I do?”
“You kept me out too late,” I said matter-offactly. “It’s not proper to keep a girl out all night
long, you know. I told you I shouldn’t have gone
back to your house.”
He shrugged.” It was your choice.”
“Yeah, now I guess I have to pay the price.”
A sneaky smile spread across his face. “So what
are you doing with me right now then?”
I matched his smile, my eyes glistening with
mischief. “You know how it is. When someone
forbids you to do something it makes that object a
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hundred times more desirable.”
He looked straight ahead at the road. “Lucky
me.”
Truth be told, I didn’t know what I was doing
sitting in this car with Adrian on top of a secluded
hill hidden away by the tall eucalyptus trees. I was
in unfamiliar territory here lying to Ray and running
off with a stranger.
I thought back to my first meeting with Adrian at
the grocery store. I was so overcome by his
attractiveness that I could hardly utter a single word
to him. Now after spending one night with him I
couldn’t refrain from voicing all of my tasteless
thoughts.
Adrian turned and smiled at me. “So you’re not
going to obey, are you?”
“Obey?” I snorted. “What, like I’m a dog and he
barked a command at me? Give me a break.”
“Did you tell him no, then?”
I shrugged. “I didn’t say anything at all.”
“So he assumes you agreed to his request.”
“I don’t know what Ray assumes. You know
what they say about people who assume. It makes
an ass out of u and me.”
He laughed. “Hopefully he doesn’t have any of
his minions watching you and reporting back.”
“I don’t care if he does. We’re just friends and
he’s not the boss of me.”
“Remind me again why you were in church
today?” he countered, knowing full well that I only
went there to appease Ray.
“A relationship is a two-way street, you know.
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Remember that? We both do things we may not
agree with but we do it to make one another happy.”
He looked into my eyes. “So what does he do for
you?”
“He came home looking for me last night, didn’t
he?”
“That was only to satisfy his selfish mind. He
thought you were cheating on him. He came home
to rein you in. He’ll leave again when he feels he’s
regained control.”
I was beginning to believe I was right in my
assumption about people from New Jersey. “I hope
you didn’t cancel your flight back home yet.”
“Why do you deal with it all?”
I took my seatbelt off and just sat there quietly.
Adrian never took his eyes off of me as he waited
for an answer.
“I don’t know. The whole thing is crazy, right?
To love someone who hurts you so much,” I
wistfully responded.
He reached over and placed his palm on top of
mine. It was actually the first time that he’d touched
me since our first handshake. I looked up and met
his burning gaze. He wrapped his fingers in
between mine and brought my hand up to his chin,
where he rested it as if in deep thought.
“No,” he answered insightfully, “it’s crazier to
think that someone who hurts you so bad actually
loves you.”
His words stung like a slap to my face. I knew he
was just trying to be a friend and help me see
clearly but it still angered me. We’d only known
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each other for about twelve hours and it was his
belief he could just come into my life and make
judgments about Ray and me? That had not gone
over well.
Chrissy didn’t even talk to me like that and she’s
known me since kindergarten. I looked back at him
in disbelief, waiting for an apology, but he never
offered one. I pulled my hand away from his and
opened the car door.
“Maybe we can check the cemetery out another
time. I really don’t feel up to it anymore,” I angrily
shouted back as I headed down the road in the
direction of home. As I stormed off, feeling the heat
of the midday sun, I wished I had worn better
walking shoes.

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Chapter Eleven
Cemetery Drive
Instead of heading home, I decided to enter the
cemetery and cool off a bit. I pulled my headphones
out of my purse and plugged them into my phone.
Placing the buds in my ears, I turned up the volume
as high as it would go and listened to Static X play
loudly out of the speakers.
I glanced down at the temperature on my phone.
It read 90 degrees and it was only mid-morning.
This kind of weather was bizarre even for
California. Here we were in the middle of April and
it felt like an Indian summer as the hot sun blazed
down on me. The newsman had warned us all
winter long about the upcoming drought. We’d hit
some kind of record, making this year the driest
winter since 1800, or thereabouts. Distancing
myself from Adrian’s car, I stepped out onto the
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street.
I used to come to this cemetery every day. I had
worked it into my running routine, making two
stops to rest; the cemetery and the old rickety train
trestle located on the other side of town.
Both places reminded me of my mother.
I crossed the street and headed toward the black
iron gates of the entrance, ignoring the large No
Trespassing sign posted on the gate. Now that I was
out of Adrian’s sight, I removed the headphones
from my ears and threw them back into my purse.
I’d rather listen to the sounds of nature than Wayne
Static’s Scooby-doo voice pummeling my
eardrums. The birds were chirping somewhere in
the pine trees and I heard a crow caw in the
distance. The cemetery was quite a hike, being built
on a steep, unforgiving hill. It was daunting to even
the fittest person around. I hiked to the top, taking
the decrepit wooden steps that stared up at me with
an age that told me they had been built 100 years
before.
Just as I reached the top, I jumped at the sound
of a screech. I felt my heart leap out of my chest.
Whirling my head around, I was relieved to see that
it was the unbridled cacophony of a small boy
hiking with his mother on the opposite side of the
chain-linked fence. I frowned at both of them for
the startling intrusion. I began breathing again.
The cemetery was located next to a park, and the
park had various hiking trails that led throughout
the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It was nothing
out of the ordinary to see a family out here hiking,
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even with a child that badly needed a muzzle.
Finally making it to the peak of the hill, I took a
seat on top of a nearby headstone and gazed down
at the distasteful view of yellow weeds and thirsty
trees. Their bare branches looked like arms
stretching to the skies as they pleaded for rain.
I gasped at the lack of oxygen pumping from my
exhausted lungs, it seemed an unfair reward for the
amount of work I had put in to get there. Didn’t
someone once say life isn’t fair? They must have
traversed this ungodly hill too.
I took an orange out from my purse and began to
peel it. I ate half and left the other half for the ghost
beneath the grave I was visiting. I had once read
one of Ray’s books about Chinese spiritual beliefs.
Many held on to rituals of graveyard picnics. They
believed their departed loved ones were still here on
earth, as ghosts.
This tradition entailed the families having
picnics at the gravesite of their departed. They
would burn fake money, eat some food, and then
leave the remainder of the meal on the grave for
their ghost family. This is how the ghost would
survive on the other side. If a ghost was not privy to
this family tradition, he or she would be left to fend
for themselves in the afterlife. Poor, and with no
money, they were reduced to the eternal life of a
beggar, asking other ghosts to share their graveyard
food and fake ghost money. Ever since I read that
book, I always had to leave a small amount of food
for the rest of the non-Asian ghost community,
whose families may not be aware of the rules of the
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afterlife.
I looked down at the name engraved on the
cement stairs; “The Tormey Family.” They seemed
like nice people, so I signed the cross of the Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit while saying a small prayer for
them.
That’s when I heard a branch snap behind me. I
spun around holding my breath, and was greeted by
the face of what dreams are made of.
It was him.
His green eyes sparkled in the sunlight. “Sorry, I
didn’t mean to scare you.”
His thin frame was walking towards me. He had
a cigarette in his hand and brought it to his lips.
He could seriously become a cigarette model.
Like, the GQ version of the Marlboro Man.
Ignoring his beauty and trying hard to hold onto
my anger, I answered, “You’re apologizing for
sneaking up on me? Not for being a rude twit and
overstepping your boundaries?”
My angry demeanor ricocheted harmlessly off of
him like darts hitting a tank. Adrian deliberately
dragged on his cigarette and smugly replied, “You
told me you didn’t believe in religion. Yet I find
you here praying.”
I snarled, “This cemetery is private property.”
“Then how were you going to take me on a
tour?”
I paused for a moment, not knowing what to say.
“I’m visiting my family, and I’m allowed to bring a
guest. But then my guest ended up being a complete
jerk so I ditched him.”
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“Hmmm,” he said, squeezing past me and
walking up the cement stairs that led to the crypt on
which I was sitting. His black boots stomped over
the family name plate. “John Tormey died in 1877?
My heavens, you must really miss him.”
Adrian said this in the most serious, heart-felt
voice he could muster, belying the corners of his
mouth creeping up as he tried to suppress a smile.
“Okay, fine. I don’t have any family buried here.
I’m trespassing too,” I admitted.
He countered, “Speak for yourself, young lady.
Unlike you, I am actually visiting my family.
Would you like to come and see just to ensure I’m
not lying?”
He winked as he uttered his invitation, his black
hair blowing to the left side of his face and falling
into his eyes. He brought his hand up and tucked a
strand of hair behind his ear.
“Why’d you ask for a tour of this place if you
have family buried here?”
Now who’s the liar?
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know…so I
would have an excuse to hang out with you, I
guess.”
That was all it took for my prior feelings of
resentment to evaporate and fall under his spell
again. He could say whatever he wanted about Ray,
as long as he followed it up with something alluring
in that charming way of his.
Looking up at him, as he stood over me wearing
a faded Guns N Roses T-shirt and black jeans, it
was really hard to believe that this guy actually
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worked in any kind of professional job.
I took a deep breath, inhaling the humid,
stagnant air as I stood up and exclaimed, “Why not?
Lead the way.”
He turned around and briskly started walking
down the hill, cutting across graves as he arrogantly
displayed a total lack of respect for the dead. I
meekly followed him.
The cemetery was nearly empty save for an old
bald man in a maroon sweater and jeans. He was
standing in front of one of the newer graves, his
hand touching the giant stone as his head was
hanging low. It made me feel so sad for him, and I
paused to observe his moment of darkness. I would
never want to be in his place, standing over a loved
one’s grave and weeping for them, knowing that no
matter how hard I tried, I could never bring them
back.
“People die, Sidney. It’s a part of life,” Adrian
breathed in my ear, awakening my senses and
breaking my trance as I stared at the stranger
mourning his loved one. He took my hand and led
me down the hill, away from the saddened
patriarch.
As we were descending the dirt hill, I regretted
the fact that I wore my pink heels to a graveyard.
The hill was steep and the dirt was soft. The last
thing I wanted to do was fall on my face in front of
this exquisite human being.
After much concentration we made it to the old
cement road which was probably used for a horse
and buggy long ago. It was nowhere near big
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enough for a car. My heels echoed on the pavement
as we walked side by side.
With every clack I felt a new twinge of
embarrassment.
Adrian stopped and spun around. Bowing, he
pointed to another set of narrow cement steps, this
time leading to the entrance of a massive
mausoleum.
“And here we are, my lady,” he regally
announced with a crooked smile. Taking my hand,
he carefully guided me down the steps. He was so
attentive I almost felt comfortable walking in these
heels. Adrian would never let me fall on my face, I
realized.
At the bottom of the staircase was a small
cement foundation that had a giant crack running
down the middle which separated itself from the
actual structure of the mausoleum. Apart from the
broken foundation, the crypt was stunningly
beautiful with its fancy engraving and curved top.
Above the copper door, which was turning green
with oxidation, was the name, McAllister. He coyly
asked me, “Do you wanna go inside?”
“You’re joking, right?” I said, skeptical of his
invitation.
He dangled his keychain in front of me.
“I’ll prove it to you.” He abruptly brushed past
me, allowing his hands to linger on my body a little
longer than necessary, and stepped in front of the
iron gates. He took a single key from the chain and
put it in the keyhole. He opened the door and
stepped inside.
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I stood there completely dumbfounded. In all my
life, I’d never seen one of these old things open. I
just assumed they were all forgotten, as ancient as
they were.
“Are you coming?” his voice shouted out from
inside.
I opened the door and poked my head into the
black space. Adrian was holding his cell phone out,
using the light as a guide.
“You won’t see anything from out there. Come
on.” He extended his arm out to me and I took his
hand as he pulled me to him. I closed my eyes and
inhaled his scent. I would have been happy to stay
there for the rest of time, in his arms.
He took out his lighter and flicked it open.
Grabbing one of the sconces from the wall, he lit
the wick and lit up the entire place. I saw four
cement walls and a black shiny marble floor. There
was a steep staircase that went down into the earth.
Adrian put both of my hands on his shoulders
and led the way down the steps as he warned, “Be
careful not to fall, or you’ll send us both tumbling
down.”
I exclaimed, “Just don’t let go of my hands.”
When we finally reached the bottom, we went
through an archway and entered a massive
underground room. There were hundreds of sections
for coffins to be inserted into the wall. Some were
full, and some were still empty waiting to be filled
with more McAllister family members.
“This is amazing.” I said, in awe of my
surroundings as I released my hands from the death
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grip I had on his shoulders.
There was intricate brickwork laid for the
ground, some statues, and remains of flowers with
vases that visitors had left throughout the years.
High above our heads were some drainage covers
allowing the sunlight to seep in through the cracks
providing enough light to move around freely.
Adrian just silently stood still, allowing me to take
this all in.
I smiled at him. “I normally don’t follow strange
guys back to their house after drinking a bottle of
whiskey with them in the middle of the night. And I
really don’t follow guys down a hole into the
ground at a cemetery. I guess what I mean to say is
that I feel really comfortable with you. It’s like
we’ve known each other forever or something.”
He tilted his head as if lost in thought and then
glanced down at my necklace. “Maybe in another
life, huh?” he finally responded.
I smiled at his sentiment. “Yeah, maybe that.”
Then Adrian asked, “Tell me about your parents
and your childhood.”
I ended up explaining that I was actually raised
by my granny who had recently became ill and how
I had chosen to stay here and care for her. That
decision, of course, had ultimately become the
demise of mine and Ray’s relationship.
Adrian sat on the brick floor listening, absorbing,
and processing all of my unfortunate problems. He
also told me stories about his life. He grew up in a
small, upper class neighborhood in Alpine, New
Jersey and attended private Catholic schools his
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entire academic career. He attended some exorbitant
college and graduated with a degree in law, which
was pretty impressive by my standards. I guess over
on the East Coast, higher education is not only
valued but expected of you. Here in this rinky dink
town, you’re lucky if you graduate from a junior
college. Maybe because we live in the sticks, they
just figure we can graduate from girl scouts and
become some kind of tour guide up in Tahoe. I can
tie a stellar figure eight knot.
I’d never met anyone as smart and educated as
Adrian and it was truly inspiring to sit around and
listen to his philosophy of life. He didn’t believe in
Heaven or Hell, which was hard for me to
comprehend since he spent all of his primary
education attending a Catholic school. He chalked it
up to the fact the beliefs were too far-fetched and he
believed there was no place worse than where we
were already.
“Think about it, Sidney.” he said, “Is anyone on
this earth really truly happy?”
“Of course they are, Adrian. There are plenty of
people who are happy. I was once happy and I’m
sure that one day I’ll be happy again.”
“You see, that’s just it,” he snapped, pointing his
perfect finger in my face. “You were once happy.
That’s all anyone gets in this life. This tiny little
crumb of happiness before it breaks into a million
pieces, leaving you chasing after that feeling you
experienced for a fraction of your life. You come
into this world alone, you seek it, searching for
someone to make you feel everything that you’re
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lacking, and if you’re lucky you might find it, but
then something always happens to split you up and
spoil that happiness. Your God always takes it
away. Then you spend however many years wasting
your life searching for that false sense of happiness
again, when in actuality it’s exactly what I said; a
false sense.”
I looked at him skeptically. “So you don’t
believe that anyone here on this earth is happy?”
“No. They’re not. They think they are and maybe
for a minute they are, but something always
happens that will change it. It could be a mother
losing her only child in a horrific accident, a
husband learning that his wife has been sleeping
with his best friend, or a family losing their
lifesavings due to an unforeseen medical illness that
ended up bankrupting them. Something always gets
in the way of people’s happiness here. So I don’t
understand why people are so resistant to letting it
all go. There can’t be anything worse out there than
this. This is hell,” he concluded.
Obviously I understood why he felt this way; it
was his grief. The guy just lost both of his parents in
a car accident not even a year ago. I placed my hand
in his and squeezed. “I’m so sorry about your
parents, Adrian. I can’t even imagine what it must
feel like to have parents that loved you as much as
yours go before their time.” I shook my head at the
irony of it all.
Here he had two great parents wanting nothing
but the best for him that ended up dying way too
soon. Then there are my parents that couldn’t give
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two shits about me. Gosh, this world does work in
mysterious ways. Maybe Adrian had a point after
all.
I pulled out my phone and glanced at the time.
3:50 p.m.
I didn’t know how I was going to explain to Ray
where I had been for the past five hours, still in my
dress and heels. It was obvious that I didn’t go on a
run.
Adrian summarized, “Well, it’s been fun but I
guess we should be heading back up to earth now.”
He stood up and took my hand, leading me back
up the steep dark steps. Outside of the mausoleum, I
waited while he locked it back up.
“Thank you for a very interesting day.” I said,
turning around to head for home.
“Sidney?”
I turned around and met his green eyes.
“Do you need a ride home?”
I shook my head and placed my hand on my hip
and in my sassy way I said, “I told you, Adrian
McAllister, I’m not supposed to be hanging out
with the likes of you.”
I waited as he walked down the cement steps to
catch up with me. “Oh yeah, boyfriend’s orders.”
I smiled and just shook my head. “Something
like that.”
We walked down the cemetery path together,
past the two giant oak trees and through the
wrought iron gates that led out to the lonely road.
Once outside of the graveyard, I stopped and faced
Adrian. I had to tell him I was leaving soon and I
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wasn’t sure if I would get another opportunity.
I blurted out, “I’m going back to L.A. this Friday
with Ray.”
If Adrian cared, he didn’t show it. He just stood
there looking at me, a blank expression on his face.
I continued, “My granny’s nurse agreed to care
for her fulltime so I can work on my relationship. I
know from what I’ve told you about Ray he may
not seem worth fighting for. But I refuse to believe
that. I love him and I have to try to make it work.”
Adrian pulled out another cigarette from his
pocket and placed it in his mouth, “I guess this is
goodbye then.”
“It has to be,” I whispered, barely
comprehending why this was so hard for me to do.
“Goodbye, Sidney. I hope you find everything
you’re looking for in L.A.”
He crossed the street and headed towards the
only car on the road. I watched as he opened the
door and climbed in. The car roared to life, the
engine loud and strong.
As he began to drive away, I could hear Bush
playing on the radio. It was the song that said
something about not wanting to come down from a
cloud.
That seemed pretty appropriate at the moment to
describe how I was feeling. Adrian spun the car
around, away from the decaying road, and headed
back into town.
I suddenly felt a chill of remorse. He was gone.

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Chapter Twelve
Downfall
By the time I got home, my feet were aching to
get out of my heels. I really wished that I had
accepted the ride home from Adrian but I didn’t
want to risk the possibility of Ray seeing him and
the uncomfortable situation it would bring. Ray
asked that I not see him anymore, so by me telling
Adrian goodbye, I pretty much took care of that
aspect on my boyfriend’s wish list.
I opened the front door and my senses were
immediately drowned in the sensational aromas of
Nouri’s cooking. Stepping out of the pink heels, I
walked barefoot into the kitchen. Nouri was
standing on a stepping stool using a wooden spoon
to stir the mixture inside a large pot. She looked like
a small child invading the cookie jar. I walked
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briskly to her and gently took the spoon from her
hand, “Here, Nouri, let me help with that.”
“Oh thank you so much, Sidney.” Nouri
answered as she stepped off the stool and quickly
placed it back into the pantry.
“It smells like heaven in here. What are you
cooking?”
“It called Machado, it’s a delicious beef stew.”
“I can’t wait to try it. Uh, is Ray home yet?”
Nouri shook her head. “I had him put all of his
stuff in the back bedroom upstairs so it out of your
way. He say he no like meat so he go out to eat. Be
back by seven.”
I rolled my eyes as I remembered Ray deciding
to go vegan a while back. It seemed to be the
fashionable thing to do in Hollywood. It baffled my
mind.
Was it something in the water down there?
I plucked a chunk of beef out of the stew and
popped it in my mouth, simply doing it to spite Ray
and his silly beliefs.
After dinner, I visited with Granny a bit before
deciding to go upstairs and hit the hay. Between
staying out with Adrian, fighting with Ray, and
those meaningless dreams, I was exhausted.
As I said goodnight to Nouri, she asked me if I
had planned to take a shower.
“Why do you ask? I took one this morning.”
Nouri scrunched her nose up and frowned,
“Because you stink, Sidney. You smell like smoke.”
Remembering my afternoon with my smoking
friend, I thanked Nouri for the reminder and ran
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upstairs to shower away any traces of Adrian before
Ray came home and discovered my secret. After my
shower, I wrapped myself up tightly in my bathrobe
and collapsed on my soft bed. I was asleep before
my head hit the pillow.
***
This dream was different from all the others. I
was being pulled down the same dark steps that
Adrian had led me down hours before. But this time,
I could not see who my escort was. I moving so fast,
and despite my struggle against the invisible force, I
couldn’t break free from the grip. In a flash I was
thrown to my knees on the brick floor of the
McAllister Mausoleum. I searched the empty room
but the perpetrator had already vanished.
My attention was brought to the muffled cries
from the corner of the dark mausoleum.
“H-hello?” I stammered.
Making my way towards the cries, I set my sights
on a woman seated underneath a sconce. She was
very distraught as she cradled her knees and rocked
back and forth.
“Are you all right?”
The woman’s sobbing halted but she didn’t turn
to look at me.
“You can you hear me?” I asked in surprise.
“You never should have found that necklace.”
The unidentified woman spoke, still facing the wall.
“Who are you? What do you know about my
necklace?”
“I assume the dreams have already begun? You
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don’t have much time. You need to get away from
here, Sidney. Your life is in danger.”
I took a bold step closer to the woman. “How do
you know my name? Turn to face me.”
“Samael’s coming for you, Sidney. Don’t let the
dreams or his charm fool you. It’s all lies.” She
finally turned to face me, but I was looking at
nothing more than a reflection of myself. Frustrated
with the riddles of this madness, I charged the
mirror and put my fist through it.
The glass shattered and in its place, the figure of
a woman that I had only seen in pictures stood.
“Mom?” I gasped.
She didn’t answer, instead she puckered her lips
together, leaned forward, and blew. A cold wind
swirled from the ground, growing into a small
tremble. The earth began to shake and the coffins in
the wall began to fall. When the shaking stopped,
there was only one coffin remaining. There was a
tiny brass nameplate on the pine box. I took a step
closer to read the name. Just before I reached it, a
gust of wind blew out the sconces and all was black.
“Run, Sidney,” the eerie voice howled with the
wind.
When I opened my eyes the house was dark and
silent. Breathlessly, I gripped my necklace and
thought about my dream. I had seen my mother. She
had spoken to me. More important, she had warned
me against this necklace and against the man from
my dreams. How did she know about him? And
what did she mean he was coming for me? This
made no sense at all.
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I looked over and found that Ray was sleeping
peacefully next to me. I had no idea what time he
had gotten in but I could smell the liquor seeping
out of his pores and I surmised that he hadn’t been
asleep very long. More than likely he had met up
with some old friends and stayed out all night
getting wasted after eating his health conscious
dinner. I quietly got out of bed and tip-toed to the
bathroom.
Upon my return, I realized anew just how
exhausted I was. I hadn’t been sleeping very well
with my mind running these “movies” through my
brain all night. My mother seemed to know about
my struggle. Could they really be linked to the
necklace I had found? Gripping the pendant, I
contemplated removing the jewelry from my neck
but couldn’t bring myself to do it. In my entire life,
I had never dreamt about my mother and now I
have. If this necklace is going to allow me to see her
beautiful face again, there’s no way that I will ever
remove it.
Ignoring her warnings, I kept the necklace
around my neck and crawled into the bed, scooting
next to Ray for some warmth. The silent house felt
like an icebox. My teeth chattered violently together
and I wasn’t sure if it was from the cold or shock
from my dream. I inched my foot in between Ray’s
legs and he gasped, instantly being shaken from his
slumber.
“Sid, your foot’s freezing! Stop it!” he scolded,
with his back toward me.
“I had a bad dream.”
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“What are you, two years old? You need me to
go downstairs and heat you up some warm milk and
tell you a bedtime story? Go back to sleep, Sidney.”
I rolled my eyes and turned on my side.
Sometimes he could be so insensitive. I shook the
unnerving thoughts from my head and closed my
eyes. I hoped my mind would allow me to sleep in
peace the remainder of the night.
I woke up the next morning well relaxed and
feeling refreshed. The curtains were open and blinds
were pulled up. It was a beautiful morning. The sun
was shining brightly into the room, and the birds
were chirping outside. It seemed as if the coldness
of last night had been passed over and replaced with
its rightful season—Spring. I inhaled the fresh air
and sat up.
Last night’s dream was just a memory of garbled
images. Of course I remembered my mother’s
warning but the intensity of it seemed to diminish as
I accepted the fact it was nothing more than a silly
dream. Besides, my mother suggested that I ‘run
away’ and I was doing just that on Friday. Perhaps I
would leave the necklace here at Granny’s when I
finally made the move.
I looked over at Ray’s side of the bed but he was
gone. I could tell it was late morning or maybe the
whole house just seemed brighter with the presence
of Ray around. It seemed like this old place
somehow came to life when he was here. In his
absence, it was just a cold and dark shell of a house,
old and haunted with centuries of old memories.
But when Ray was present, it was our home,
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beautiful and welcoming, inviting us to make a
lifetime of our own memories. I desperately wished
that this could be our life every day.
I rose from my bed still clothed in my blue terry
cloth robe and began searching for Ray. I found him
in the kitchen sitting at the table with his notebook
and pen, a cup of coffee in one hand and his iPhone
in the other.
He was wearing sweats and a white undershirt,
revealing his muscular frame. He caught me gazing
at him and smiled as he mouthed, “Morning,” to
me.
I smiled in response. I had forgotten how much I
loved waking up with Ray in the mornings. My
black and white world was now speckled with
beautiful drops of color.
“Okay, that sounds great, Rene. Just go ahead
and forward me the details. Okay, great. See you
later today.” He hung up the phone and tossed it
down on the table. Picking up his pen, he resumed
writing some lyrics into his book, completely
ignoring the fact that I was standing in front of him
on the brink of a nervous breakdown.
I furrowed my eyebrows and bit my bottom lip.
See you later today? But he was supposed to be
here for at least the next four days. He promised
me.
Dark thoughts of self-pity began racing through
my brain, flooding my mind with all of those
horrible memories. I felt my chest rush in and out as
my breathing became labored. Finally, Ray looked
up and saw my face. He quickly got out of his chair,
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rushed over to me, and began to rub my shoulders.
I heard the sound of plates being clattered and
turned around to notice Nouri at the stove. She was
cooking breakfast. I had been so overcome by the
sight of Ray in the morning, that I hadn’t even
noticed her or smelled the aromatic wafting of
bacon and eggs. Nouri brought two plates over to
the table and set them down for Ray and myself to
eat. She refilled Ray’s coffee before heading into
Granny’s bedroom to check on her. Breakfast
turned out to be two slices of bacon, an over easy
egg, toast, and some hash browns. Everything
looked delicious but I lost my appetite.
There was nothing but knots in my stomach. But
Ray was ravenous. He let go of my shoulders and
took his place at the table, stuffing his hungry face
full of Nouri’s cooking. Granny used to always tell
me that the fastest way to a man’s heart was through
his stomach.
Perhaps I should take some cooking lessons from
Nouri.
I looked at his face, begging him silently not to
leave me as I sat down at the breakfast nook and
accepted the plate of food. Ray tilted his head to the
side and asked, “Why the long face, sugar? What
are you thinking?”
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?” I asked, showing
no attempt to eat my breakfast. “You’re going back
down there?”
Ray brushed his blond hair with his hand and
gave me a smile. “You do still love me after all,” he
joked. “I told you, I’m not going anywhere until
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Friday and when I leave you’re coming with me.”
I blinked my eyes in disbelief. “Then what did
Rene want?”
Ray took another bite of his toast and washed it
down with his coffee. “She got me hooked up with
a radio interview in San Francisco today. It’s an
important one because once our album’s completed,
all of the local radio stations in the major cities will
be hosting our record release parties. This interview
will pretty much seal the contract between the label
and the station, securing airtime for our songs to be
played.”
As always, once Ray began talking business and
the logistics of it, my mind automatically tuned it
out. I loved music, but didn’t really need to hear all
of the behind-the-scene details.
He summarized, “So, I’ll head down to the
station after breakfast and take care of that. The
record’s almost ready to go, the label wants us to
redo one of the new songs we’re working on and
create three more songs. Then we go back into the
studio to record them and that’s it. We’ll be free.”
I rolled my eyes and took a bite of my eggs.
I pointedly remarked, “I’m sure it won’t be that
easy. What do you think is going to happen after
your album gets released? They’re going to put you
on a bus to tour the country and who knows when
I’ll see you again.”
“Sid, I’m under contract. I have no other choice.
They say jump, I have to jump. You know that.”
“Yes, Ray. I know that. It doesn’t mean I have to
like it.”
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I knew this day would come. I just thought we
would have more time to work through our issues.
Ray’s time here had changed a lot of things and
while it did help, it wasn’t enough.
Could I really trust him while he was away on
tour?
“Don’t be sad, Sid. This is my dream and I’m so
close to it right now. I can feel it in my bones,” he
said wistfully, wrapping his arms around his white
t-shirt like a small boy clutching his stuffed teddy
bear.
“I know, I know…I’m here to support you.” I
forced the words out of my mouth.
I’ve said those words so many times over the
past year and now I wondered if I ever truly meant
them. I knew now that I didn’t. I couldn’t support
this lifestyle anymore. It was too hard on me. I
could never be happy living this way, even if I went
back to L.A. with Ray and stayed with him for the
next two months. How much would really change?
In the end, he would leave to go on tour and I would
be left somewhere. I was tired of being left. I knew
that it was time to give Ray a deadline to this
dream.
Maybe I’d give him one more year to “make it
big,” and if it didn’t happen by then he’d need to
hang it up and get a real job. I also knew I would
not stand by and deal with another affair. If he did
this to me again, it would truly be over. I would tell
him, I decided.
When he gets back from his interview we’ll have
the talk.
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I looked at the clock on the microwave, the big
red numbers glowed 10:35 a.m. When I glanced
back at Ray, he was already lost in concentration
writing more lyrics in his notebook.
“I have to be to work by twelve, but you could
take the truck if you need to get to San Francisco,” I
offered.
He shook his head. “Not necessary,” he
answered, picking up a set of keys from the table
and waving them in front of me.
“Rene secured a rental for me already.” I noticed
the silver keychain with a picture of a jaguar etched
on the front of it.
Of course, the soon to be famous, rising rock
star couldn’t be driving anything less than an
impressive, imported car.
I pushed my feelings of resentment into a black
void that seemed to be filling faster than I could
release it and took a deep breath. Ray came over
and gave me a kiss. When he pulled his face away
his eyes were still closed. He rested his forehead
against mine and whispered, “Things will start
getting easier, I promise. Once this album’s
released, I’m finally going to get a check, and not
some lousy credit card that reminds me every day of
who I’m indebted to. I’ll buy you that pretty
necklace. I’m going to be able to provide you with
everything you want. And I promise you, Sid, I’ll
pay for whatever college you want to go to. We’ll
focus on your dream too. Just support me while I do
this.”
This was the sweet Ray I had always known.
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This was why I loved him so much.
I grabbed his face and kissed him long and hard.
I pulled away and wrapped my arms around his
neck, never wanting to let him go. Maybe we didn’t
need to have that pesky little conversation after all.
“I love you so much, Ray, but I like my necklace
just fine.”
I got in the shower and got ready for work. Ray
knocked on the bathroom door to let me know he
was heading to the station. We said our goodbyes
and he told me he would see me that evening.

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Chapter Thirteen
A Beautiful Lie
I decided to make a detour on my walk to work
and stopped by the quaint yellow Victorian home of
the Kyle family. I hadn’t seen Chrissy since my
abrupt departure on my birthday and I felt like I
owed her an explanation. So many things had
happened since then. I wanted to tell her all about
Adrian, but then I realized I was leaving on Friday
and so my meeting with Adrian was somewhat
irrelevant. I would probably never see him again.
I began to think of Adrian’s words that first night
we’d spent together. He had told me that he came
here searching for someone. Now, with me no
longer a distraction, I’m sure he’d be able to find
what he came here for and return home. To New
Jersey.
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As I stepped onto the front porch of the Kyle’s
home, my thoughts were interrupted by a loud crash
and the sound of a bloodcurdling scream.
“I don’t care what you say, Daddy. I’ve tried.
I’ve been trying for almost a year and it hasn’t
gotten better!”
Chrissy’s loud shouts could be heard through the
massive front window which had been left open to
get a breeze, allowing the entire world to listen in.
I heard her father’s voice respond back to her,
“He made his choice, Chrissy. You’re my daughter
and you know that I would do anything for you, but
I never liked that boy much and out of my love for
my daughter I agreed to write those letters of
recommendation to help him get into a good
medical program. He chose that foolish band rather
than his education. You couldn’t expect your
mother and me to sit back and watch you throw
away your life trailing after him.”
Another loud crash followed by the sound of
breaking glass. It seemed that Chrissy was throwing
quite the fit. “It wasn’t your choice to make, Daddy.
If I wanted to follow Finn down to Los Angeles,
you should have let me go with him.”
I found myself in a dilemma here. I wanted to
ring the doorbell but I didn’t want to interrupt. Plus,
if I made my presence known then Chrissy’s secret
feelings for Finn would be revealed to me and she
may not be ready for that revelation.
I had no choice, really. I turned quietly around
and began to tip-toe off the porch when I heard the
mention of my name. I turned and moved closer to
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the window and listened in.
Dr. Kyle was on the attack, “Follow that boy
down to L.A. like Sidney foolishly did? Thank the
Lord her granny got sick and opened her eyes to
priorities. You girls belong in school and in time
you’ll meet someone who shares the same
aspirations, beliefs, and values that you do. Those
rock and roll boys are not them.”
I’d heard enough. But as I turned around, the
front door of the house flew open.
“Sidney, what are you doing here?” Chrissy
sniffled, trying her best to pretend her watery eyes
and runny nose was a reaction to her seasonal
allergies.
“I knocked,” I effectively lied. “But there was no
response so I assumed no one was home.”
Chrissy stepped out on the front porch and
closed the door behind her. “So what’d you hear?”
I abruptly confessed, “Everything.”
“I guess now you know why I broke up with
Finn.”
I became an instant therapist. “How come you
never told him?”
Chrissy sneered, “Told him what? That Daddy
gave me a choice between him and money and that I
chose money? No thanks. I’d prefer him to come to
his own conclusions about me. It can’t be any worse
than the truth.”
She broke down on the porch and sobbed
uncontrollably. I had never seen Chrissy like this
and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I tried to think of
all the times the roles had been reversed and what
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Chrissy usually did in these situations. I reached my
arms out and embraced her tightly in my arms.
After another minute she regained her
composure and was Chrissy again. She broke away
from our awkward embrace and sat on the porch
swing, fluffing her hair. “So what brought you out
here this fine afternoon?”
She calmly asked this as if she hadn’t just gone
through a complete emotional breakdown. Her
demeanor bothered me. She had been in love with
Finn for four years and all he got from her was a
few seconds of emotion before she locked his
memory away and resumed living in a world where
he no longer existed. She returned to living in her
pampered world that was nothing more than a
beautiful lie.
“I’m going back to L.A. on Friday with Ray.”
She brought her eyes to mine and for a moment I
saw something I had never seen before in Chrissy’s
eyes.
Envy.
I sat down on the swing next to Chrissy and took
her hand. “You can come with me, Chrissy. We can
find jobs down there. You don’t need your dad’s
money. You and Finn will be together and that’s all
that matters.”
As if the last five minutes never existed, Chrissy
coolly said, “You’re such a fool, Sidney. Here I
thought you were finally ready to move on and now
you’re falling right back into his trap. He’s just
going to hurt you again.”
I quickly withdrew my hand from Chrissy’s in
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Between Dreams

the same way I had done with Adrian in his car
when he had also insulted my relationship with Ray.
I stood up and stared down at the ice queen,
“Wow, Chrissy. For a minute I actually thought you
had a heart. I guess I was wrong. I gotta go to work.
I’ll be sure to send Finn your regards when I see
him next.”
I began to jog down the stairs, desperate to
escape Chrissy’s house of lies; the sooner, the
better. I heard her shout after me, “Don’t you dare
say one word about me to Finn, Sidney Sinclair!” I
made no acknowledgement that I heard her and
continued heading down the street.

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Cynthia Austin

Chapter Fourteen
One-Eighty by Summer
Work moved on just as any other day, perhaps a
little slower since I was still seething from my
earlier encounter with Chrissy. She was just so
stubborn. I knew she still loved Finn. That much
she admitted to me. So why wouldn’t she follow her
heart and be with him? Was money that important
to her that she was willing to give up the one thing
she loved most? How was this selfish person my
best friend?
Perhaps she would make a 180 by the end of
summer and realize how foolish she was. Hopefully
Finn wouldn’t have moved on by then. They
deserved to be with each other, even if Chrissy
could be a shallow parasite at times.
I considered giving my notice to Bob, accepting
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my last paycheck, and getting the heck out of dodge
but couldn’t shake the memory of the last time I had
almost quit. I was so thankful I never told Bob my
plans of leaving after I ended up coming home from
L.A. the first time around. I decided I would tell my
boss about my plans after my shift on Thursday. So
much for providing a two-week notice.
My shift ended at four o’clock and by the time I
had gotten home there was still no sign of Ray. I
poked my head into the white room to check on
Granny. Her old, frail body lay frozen in her bed
next to the window. Tiny rays of sunlight poured in
from the glass and were bathing her body in
sunlight and warmth. Just then, a breeze blew in,
reminding me of the last errand I had to do before
leaving her.
***
I stood inside the nursery gazing in front of the
rows of tiny green plants. I began scanning the
shelves for what I was looking for. I felt as helpless
as a newborn gnu in the Serengeti.
Finally I spotted the thick green leaves with the
beautiful white flowers poking out at me. I leaned
forward and inhaled, taking in the intoxicating
perfume that poured out of the blossom.
Yes, these will do perfectly, I thought as I
plucked up four shrubs and brought them to the
register.
Upon returning home, I parked the truck in the
garage and went to retrieve a shovel and a pair of
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Cynthia Austin

gardening gloves. Collecting my tools, I headed
straight to the small mound of dirt that lay beneath
Granny’s open window. The sun was beating down
and I thought about going inside and asking Nouri if
I could borrow her sunhat, but on second thought, I
decided against it. I didn’t want to bother her for
something as inconsequential as a hat. I could
withstand a few minutes of sun.
I knelt down in the dirt and began digging four
small holes while I softly sang that new Drake song.
Gently taking the flowers, I held them as if they
were tiny infants in need of coddling, and one by
one, I began placing them in their corresponding
holes. When my work was completed, I sat back
and inspected my results. I was more than a little
pleased. Four perfect little plants sat erect
underneath Granny’s bedroom window. A gust of
wind blew by and I joyfully inhaled the thick
tropical scent.
“There, Granny, now you can have a new smell
blow into your window and think of me. I’m only a
phone call away,” I whispered.
It was in that moment when I heard the sound of
metal dragging across the cement. I looked to my
right, just in time to see the shovel being swooped
up into the air. My first thought was that the ever
attending nurse must have stepped outside and was
now helping me to clean up.
My eyes followed the movement and I looked up
expecting to see Nouri, but the sun was in my eyes.
All I could see was the dark shadow of a figure, but
the figure was much taller than Nouri. Immediately
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I recalled my latest dream, which included my
mother’s warning of danger nearby. The hairs stood
straight up on my arms as an overwhelming sense
of danger swept over me. Before I had time to react,
I saw the head of the shovel swiftly come down and
heard the loud crunching sound against the left side
of my face.
Then, everything went black.

195  
 

Acknowledgments
I would like to express my many thanks to my
editor and friend, Pat Hurley. Who would have
thought that a simple conversation beginning with
“I have this idea….” would turn into this entire
world of Sidney Sinclair’s life? You have
encouraged, taught and opened the door to my
adventurous journey of writing.
Many thanks to my Beta Reader and good friend,
Margaret Potter—Thank you so much for your
support, enthusiasm and your keen eye in catching
some important errors that almost slipped through
the cracks!
Thank you to my loving husband, Robby, who
has spent countless hours enduring the readings of
the most boring essays ever written while in school.
Thank you for doing it-even though I forced you to
listen. Now you can be rewarded by reading my
trilogy about Sidney’s life.
Last, a big thank you to the team at Limitless
Publishing for seeing the potential in my story and
taking a chance on me! Thank you so much Dixie
Matthews, Jessica Gunhammer and Jennifer
O’Neill. This has been quite a journey and I am
really excited to continue on this path with you all.
Thank you to my second editor, Toni Rakestraw.
The simple things, such as reminding me that one’s
eye should not be described as a walnut; which is

 

Between Dreams

round and lumpy are very appreciative. Thank you
to Ashley Byland at Redbird Designs for the
amazing cover she designed for the series. Thank
you to IndieSage PR and all of their many bloggers
who have helped spread Between Dreams all over
the internet, and a very big thank you to anyone
who has taken the time to read and enjoy this story.
This is truly a dream come true and none of it could
have been done without each and every one of you.

197  
 

About the Author
Cynthia Austin lives in Northern California with
her husband, two boys, and Olde English Bulldogge
named Count Dogula. They love all things horror,
gothic, and Victorian which prompts her friends to
dub them as “The Adams Family.”
She is an avid reader who may be slightly
obsessed with music. She hears music in a way that
she believes the artist intended it to be heard:
visually, with a storyline that follows. Listening to
the songs by her favorite artists, she was inspired to
write her first series titled “The Pendant.”
Cynthia has been published twice in The
Writer’s Monthly Magazine as well as the online
news site, Yahoo! Voices. She currently attends
Diablo Valley College, in Pleasant Hill, California,
where she is working to achieve her degree in
English.

 

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