Authors: Jessica Gray
I entered my apartment, sobbing and not caring one bit. Lara Bishop should be locked away. I stripped out of the borrowed, and now soggy dress – leaving it lying in a heap on the floor. Clara would probably kill me tomorrow, but she couldn’t make me feel any worse than I already did. I collapsed on the bed, my eyes red and swollen from my tears and crying so loudly that I didn’t hear Karen until she touched my shoulder.
“Rachel?” Karen asked, alarmed at finding me so distraught. “Honey, what’s wrong?”
“Karen?” I tried to stop my tears, but they just kept on coming. “When did you get home?”
“I took an earlier flight and Michael picked me up at the airport.”
Upon hearing Michael’s name, I sneered, “That useless rat!”
“What are you talking about?” she asked confused.
“Didn’t Michael tell you about our trip to Yosemite?”
Karen shook her head, “When did you and Michael go to Yosemite? Why didn’t he tell me about that?” She smiled knowingly, “Did Michael finally ask you out?”
I looked at her aghast, “Not if he was the last man on earth!” I assured her.
Karen looked even more confused, “Calm down and tell me everything from the beginning.” She handed me some tissues and I blew my nose, trying to gain control of my tears.
“Okay. It all started…” I proceeded to tell Karen everything about the trip to Yosemite, Michael abandoning me, meeting Peter and then getting stuck at his uncle’s cabin. I was just launching into a by-play of tonight’s disaster when she stopped me.
“Did you say Lara Bishop?” When I nodded, she continued, “What’s Peter’s last name?”
Karen looked stunned, “You’ve been dating Peter Shaw? Girl, do you have any idea who he is?”
I shook my head, once again reminded that I should have done some checking up on him. “Should I?”
“Oh, you just wait right there.” Karen ran from the room, returning moments later with several tabloids upon which was Peter’s picture with a lovely Lara plastered against his side.
I grabbed the magazines, looking at the dates, relieved to see that they were several months old. “That’s old news.”
“Peter Shaw is one of the most eligible bachelors in Silicon Valley society. You honestly didn’t know who he was?”
I shook my head, “It doesn’t matter anymore. I embarrassed him in front of said society.”
Karen waved that away, “According to rumors, it won’t matter to him. He’s never been one for conforming to rules and has no problem making a scene if the need arises. I heard he was engaged to Lara…”
“Peter explained that.” I proceeded to share with Karen everything he had told me about Lara Bishop and her eyes got wider and wider. “What a bitch!” she exclaimed.
I went on about her having my hair set on fire and showed Karen the evidence. The ends of my hair were all shriveled up and melted together. Karen looked at the damage and left, coming back with her hair scissors and urging me to turn around so she could take care of it.
My phone rang, and when I ignored it, Karen reached over and answered it. It was Peter checking to see if I had made it home all right. Karen assured him I was fine, just upset. He offered to come over and she suggested he give me some space and contact me tomorrow. Evidently that was acceptable to Peter and he promised to call me in the morning. Karen then resumed working on my hair.
By the time she had finished, she had removed a full two inches of my hair and I was furious once again.
How dare that woman try to set me on fire? What on earth was she thinking?
“You need to go see Peter.” Scooping up the evidence of my burnt hair, she slipped it into a small plastic bag and handed it to me, “Show him the evidence.”
“I don’t know, Karen. Maybe I should let it go and concentrate on finishing my internship. I have just a few weeks to go…”
“You’ll always wonder ‘what might have been’ if you don’t talk to him. What can it hurt?”
I finally agreed.
What could it hurt? I would visit Peter tomorrow morning in the office and find out if there was anything left worth saving.
The next morning, Karen made me breakfast and gave me a pep talk before sending me out the door. I was nervous and anxious about the outcome, and the longer it took me to drive to his office, the more my nervousness gave way to anger at his ex. By the time I had reached the office building I was ready to tackle the world and get revenge for Lara’s attack.
After parking my car, I retrieved the bag of my singed hair and headed towards the building. A security guard asked me whom I was there to see and instructed me politely to wait in the chairs he indicated. While he spoke on the phone, I skirted around the security desk and helped myself to the elevator.
Peter was going to cope with my anger, whether he wanted to or not. I needed a fight, and didn’t care one bit whom it was with. When I stepped off the elevator, another security guard showed up who wanted to escort me back downstairs, “Ma’am, please come back downstairs. When Mr. Shaw is available we’ll let you know.”
“I’m not waiting! I need to talk to Peter now. Peter!” I shouted to the empty reception area with exasperation.
The guard apparently wasn’t used to treating hysteric women and attempted to grab my arm to calm me down. This gesture made me only more furious and I pulled away with all my strength. My mind held only one thought: “Someone will pay for what she did to me yesterday! I want revenge!” I headed towards the only closed door. “Peter!”
“Ma’am, Mr. Shaw is very busy right now. Please come back downstairs with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere until I speak with Peter!” I reached for the door at the same time the security guard grabbed me. Thrusting the door open, we both stumbled into a conference room where Peter sat at a table with his business partner, Mr. Bishop and several other gentlemen. All eyes turned towards us with raised eyebrows.
Mr. Bishop was the first to recover, “Aren’t you the young lady whose hair caught on fire last night? I’m so glad my daughter was able to offer her assistance.”
That comment was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back and I lost control. I started laughing uncontrollably as tears rolled down my cheeks. Turning, I exited the room shrugging off the hands of the security guard in the process. Muttering to no one in particular, “This is crazy.”
I pushed the button for the elevator and wrapped my arms around myself, I was losing it.
“Rachel?” Peter asked from behind me.
I didn’t turn around, too embarrassed at my behavior to look at him. “It’s okay, go back to your meeting. I shouldn’t have come here.”
“Rachel, look, I have to finish this meeting. I understand that you’re very upset and we need to talk about last night. I’ll be done in about an hour and I’ll come by your place then. Promise you’ll be there?”
I shrug my shoulders, not willing to promise him anything at the moment.
“Rachel?” he said, turning me around and looking at my distraught face, “Promise me. Go home and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
I stared at him and reluctantly nodded my agreement.
“Good. I’ll see you soon.”
The elevator door opened and I stepped inside with the security guard, staring at Peter as the doors closed.
This had been a horrible idea!
Later that afternoon, Peter arrived at the apartment and Karen let him in. After introducing herself, she stated she was going to run some errands and later stop by Michael’s for dinner. Neither of us offered a response as she left.
I wandered over to the couch where Peter joined me. “Rachel, I was worried about you when you disappeared last night.”
I looked at him, and noticed all the anger and frustration coming back. Finally, I spoke up, “Did you actually believe I would come back to the party? After what your ex did?”
Peter looked so confused, “What did Lara do? She saved you.”
I shook my head with vehemence, “No. She made it look like she did. I saw her holding a golden lighter to my hair, Peter. She’s the reason it caught on fire in the first place.”
“Oh, come on. Rachel, she’s a little neurotic, but that’s just plain crazy. People don’t set other people’s hair on fire.”
The urge to strangle someone came back with strength and before I would react to it, I surged to my feet. With enough space between us I retrieved the evidence of my singed hair, tossing it in his face.
Peter caught the bag and looked at it in confusion, “What is this?”
“It’s the hair that Karen had to cut off last night. Open it up and look at it. It’s melted and smells like singed hair. Your ex did that to me.”
Peter shook his head, “Rachel, you must have imagined you saw her. She was putting out the fire with the water from the floral arrangement.”
“No. I saw her before that. She had a gold-plated lighter, and was holding it to the ends of my hair. She tucked it back into the bra of her dress. I observed her.” If he didn’t believe me I’d go mad!
“There must be some other explanation.”
“No!! Think about it. How else would my hair have caught on fire? No one else was within ten feet of me. There were no candles in the ballroom. Nothing.”
Peter looked thoughtful and then horrified as what I was saying sunk in. He pulling me to him, hugging me close, “Sorry, Rachel. I believe you. It’s just so crazy to even think about.”
I took comfort in his arms for a few minutes before I pushed away. “So where does this leave us?”
Peter shook his head, “I honestly don’t know. I love spending time with you and don’t want to stop seeing you. And I’m starting to develop some pretty deep emotions for you. But I don’t want to put you into these kind of situations anymore.”
I stared at him, not daring to hope that maybe my feelings for him weren’t one-sided. My eyes started to fill with tears again.
“Stop crying, darling! Stop, please! Maybe I should tell Mr. Bishop that I won’t go to Spain. There are other IT firms out there that can handle the contract.”
It filled me with joy to listen to his words. Even though this was exactly what I wanted, I couldn’t take him up on his offer: “No! You can’t. What about your business and your career? Not fulfilling the terms of the contract could ruin your company. I won’t let you do something like that.”
“We’d survive. If I told my partner everything that’s been going on, he’d support me. It’d take a while but we’d find new clients.”
“You can’t do that. There’s got to be another way to handle this. Besides, if you lose this contract and your business tanks, I don’t want you ever to blame me for the loss.“
“You say that now, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
We sat, arms wrapped around each other, leaning against the couch, for several moments. After a while, Peter spoke up, “Well, I don’t leave for another few weeks. Let’s make the best of that time and somehow a solution will present itself. I don’t want to give up on what might turn out to the best thing that’s ever happened in my life.”
I blushed. “Me neither. I have to finish my internship, and I got a great job offer at a firm right here in Santa Clara. That means I don’t have to move.”
He kissed me on the forehead, “Wonderful news! I’m happy for you. Don’t worry, things will all work out.“
I nodded my head as he kissed me tenderly and with such great promise I almost started crying all over again.
I had become a human watering bucket lately! It needed to stop!
“Rachel, I need to take care of a few more things at the office. How about we catch dinner and a movie tomorrow after work and we’ll just take it a day at a time for now?”
“Sounds good. I’m sorry you have to go back to work…”
“Don’t be. I’m glad we talked. I’ll call you tomorrow and we’ll decide what movie to see. Have a good night and get some sleep. I don’t like seeing dark circles beneath your eyes.” He kissed me one more time with sweetness and love, before he let himself out of the apartment.
I stayed on the couch thinking about everything that had happened.
Life was full of uncertainties! It was full of twists and turns as well! The best one could hope for was to make the most of each moment as it occurred so that there was never any reason to look back and wonder ‘what if.’
For the next ten days, Peter and I spend as much time together as our schedules allow. We go out for dinner, visit museums, attend movies and art exhibits, but we don’t make love again. As the time grows nearer for him to leave for Barcelona, being together takes on a sad quality that neither of us can combat.
One evening, after returning home Karen decides to tackle the problem. She asked me to join her in the kitchen and I walked in apprehensive and sad. “What’s up?”
“Well, why don’t you tell me? You walk around the apartment looking like you lost your best friend. You’re dating the hottest guy in the city and he walks around with the same hangdog look on his face.”
I nodded, “We can’t seem to get past the fact that he leaves in a few days and could be gone for months, or even a year. And what is worse, that viper, Lara, is going with him.”
“You need to do something!” Karen informed me.
“What?! We’ve thought of everything and the situation’s hopeless!”
“Nothing’s hopeless unless you make it so.” She tells me.
It sounded like good advice, but I was so heartbroken, I had little hope and less imagination.
“Do you love him?”
I started to cry, ”Yes.”
“Does he love you?”
“He says he does.”
“Do you believe him?”
“What’s with the twenty questions?” I asked.
“Just answer the question. Do you believe that Peter loves you?”
“Of course I do. But he’s leaving in a few days for another country!”
“Then we need a plan.” Karen was thoughtful for a minute before she asked, “Don’t you have relatives in Spain?”
“My grandmother’s youngest sister lives there. Near Barcelona.”
Karen clapped her hands together, “Don’t you see it? Barcelona is where Peter is going. Why don’t you check if you can visit your great-aunt for a few weeks? Your internship is finished and your new job doesn’t start until September 1
. That’s still nine weeks away.”
I looked at Karen in surprise and smiled. Why hadn’t I come up with such a simple solution? My brain must have been fogged by all the problems. “Karen, you’re an angel. That’s the answer. I visit my grandma’s sister and have the chance to be with Peter. We’ll be near enough to see each other at least on the weekends.”
Suddenly a distressing thought crossed my mind, “But what if he has to stay longer than 3 months, maybe even a year?”
“You can worry about that when it happens. Let’s go step by step for now, ok?”
I smirked, confident in the future for the first time in weeks. “I need to make some phone calls. What time is it in Spain, anyway?”
“Early morning. Give your great-aunt a call and tomorrow you can start packing.”
I was so excited as I made the requisite phone calls, I could barely speak. My grandmother received the first call, and immediately initiated a three-way call to her sister Sophie. I had never met grandma’s sister, but if she were anything like my grandma, we’d get along perfectly. The woman sounded nice and was thrilled to hear that I was coming to Spain. She lived in a nice villa surrounded by vineyards about 30 minutes outside of Barcelona with her aging husband and had plenty of room for me.
After clarifying the details, Karen helped me find a plane ticket and apply for a quick passport renewal. I had a passport, but we discovered that it would expire while I was out of the country. I went to bed that night gleeful and hardly able to contain my excitement.
Karen and I had agreed that it was better not to tell Peter this exiting news until our last night together. I didn’t want to take any chances that his ex would find out and somehow manage to ruin everything.
Peter and I spent the next three days together and I had a hard time containing my joy. He looked sad, and it took everything I had to keep from telling him my good news.