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Authors: Jade Goodmore

Winter Blues (8 page)

BOOK: Winter Blues
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He gets what I am asking of him; to be there for me. When the song finishes and the applause lessens, Blue raises his bottle of Corona and winks.
Friends
.

At midnight I am finally done with the encores.
After collecting my things and lugging my guitar onto my back I walk toward the bar. Blue has already given me my earnings from this evening and so there’s no reason to stick around. I have no intention of staying for a night cap as I have done previously. I’m too disheartened for that and I don’t want to drown my sorrows yet again.

Reid didn’t turn up.

After everything that ensued between us both last night and this morning there really was a large part of me that expected him to waltz through the door. What I would have given to see his lopsided smile lighting up for me. I check my phone and nothing. I don’t even know if he’ll be there when I get back. I don’t even know if I want to go back, but I know I have to. Obligations and what not.

“Drink?” Veda asks, already holding a Corona in her hand.

I shake my head. “No thanks, I should go.”

“I’ll walk you,” Blue says as he shrugs into his jacket.

“Oh, you really don’t have to. It’s only around the corner,” I insist. This can’t be a good idea, especially in Reid’s opinion.

“Then it’s no trouble, is it?” He’s already at the door, opening it and bowing theatrically as I pass through.

“I didn’t know you were such a gentleman,” I tease as he sidles up beside me, linking our arms to escort me home.

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me
, Pilgrim.” He’s smirking. It’s distracting.

“So, enlighten me.”

“Okay...” He pauses, pretending to think as we cross the road. “Did you know I have a thing for country girls,
and
girls who can sing?
And
that I’m working real hard to be good right now.” He’s laughing as he speaks and so I feel like he’s joking. He’s joking, right? “Did you know that nobody has ever sang a song for me before?”

“How do you kno
w I sang a song for you?” I ask, knowing that he knew but knowing that I didn’t make it obviously known.

“Because you couldn’t take your eyes off of me for the entire song.” His smile is the broadest I’ve ever seen. It’s infectious.

With a matching smile I continue to tease. “You couldn’t take your eyes off of me for the entire set. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Pausing as we step up to the doors of my building, he eyes me curiously. “It means ev
erything.” His features lose any trace of playfulness as they line up to produce the sincerest expression I have ever seen from him.

He’s actually got puppy dog eyes.

I thought they were a myth.

The ease between us has evaporated into the cold air as we regard each other embarrassedly. It is cold, right? I remember it being cold. For once, I’m actually burning up. Is he flirting? Am I flirting?

Shit.

“I should go,” I whisper a little breathlessly.

“Why?”

“Because this is bad,” I assert, stepping back. He follows. I step again. He follows again. We’re dancing a predatory tango and I don’t know if I can or want to escape. With my back against the wall of my building I am trapped. His face is mere inches from my own but he may as well be pressed up against me for the effect it is having on me.

“No, it’s amazing,” he croons.

I’m stunned still, allowing his lips to clash with mine without any argument from me. I’m frozen rigid with shock until his hand cups my face and I melt into his touch. It’s such a giving kiss. Warm and soothing. I feel looked after in his arms, better than any warm bath or hot drink.

He’s so comfortable.

Too comfortable.

When my hands snake their way up to his chiseled jaw and I feel his ultra smooth skin I realize who I am with and what I am doing. I fist my hand in his shirt before pushing violently away at his chest. He stops, but he doesn’t let go of me so I have to wriggle free.

“You need to stop this
, Blue.
We
need to stop this.” The words are strict but my tone is pathetic.

“Why? You could
use somebody.
I’m somebody. And I’ll be whatever you need.”

“That’s not what the song is about.”

“That’s exactly what the song is about.”

“I need your friendship, nothing else!” I stress, somehow finding the ability to appear strong.

“This is more than that and you damn well know it.”

“Because you’re making it more than that!”
I shout. Blue looks down, instantly rejected and sour. Have I made him think anything different? I thought he understood that all I wanted was friendship but maybe I’ve given him confusing signs. His shirt on his chest is messy and crinkled where I viciously grabbed it, so reaching out and smoothing it down, I lower my tone and try to appease him. “Are we going to be able to do this? This friendship? Because I really don’t want to have to stop seeing you.”

“Doesn’t that tell you something?” he retorts, his dark eyes wide and persuasive. I look away, staring at my hand as it falls from his chest.

“Please, Blue.” My voice is tainted with unsaid admittance but he thankfully cooperates with my denial. Nodding his head, he begrudgingly holds out his hand.

“Friends.”

“Friends.” I shake it. “Thank you.”

“I’ll see you Monday?” h
e asks. I nod, strangely bothered that I have to go so long before seeing him again. “See ya, Pilgrim.”

I’m able to smile a little as I make my way into the building and through to the elevator. I think we’ve both silently confessed that we know what is occurring between us but we know that it can’t go any further than being friends. If that’s all I am allowed then that’s what I’ll take.

 

 

 

 

12

Darlene

 

When I open the front door of our apartment I am met with silence. For a moment I don’t think that Reid is home, but when I see his briefcase at my feet I turn the light on and look across the room. Spread out like a blanket on my chair, Reid sleeps soundly. I feel the bubbling of annoyance in my gut but it’s tamed by my own guilt.

He hasn’t even taken his coat off, let alone his shoes. It’s as if he has walked in, sat down and fallen asleep instantly. Is he that tired? He probably didn’t get much sleep last night. Sighing, I turn around to get a glass of water for bed. I’m halted by the flowers laying across the kitchen counter.
Another gas station special.

It’s the thought that counts. I
t’s the thought that counts.

The previous bloom has prematurely died, so I gladly empty it into the trash can. I refresh the water and work at scaling down the stems to fit into the vase, all the while trying to be quiet so as not to wake Reid. When they’re as presentable as possible I walk over to him, wondering whether he will need a blanket despite his jacket. I’m momentarily struck by how even as he sleeps his brow is knotted tightly. Even unconscious he is still fretting. About work? About me? I hope not. God only knows I’ve given him reason to.

Remorse clings to me like sweat and I fall to the coffee table behind me, perching on the wooden rim as I jump off the edge of my sanity. I’m losing all control of my life and with it I’m losing Reid. Or maybe he is losing me. He’s let me down at every hurdle. But that’s his job at fault, not him, right?

Feeling utterly confused and alone
, I stand up, inching closer to Reid before sinking into his lap. I curl up against his chest, finding peace in the feel of his expanding lungs and attempting to pace my breaths in the same way. It doesn’t work. For some reason it just won’t come naturally.

M
inutes go by and I feel increasingly more comfortable. I kick off my shoes and pull my feet up so that all of my weight is carried by Reid. He stirs but doesn’t wake, and then I feel his arms surround me, holding me tight as he sighs heavily. I match his sigh, feeling great relief at being so close to him again, even if he is unconscious for it.

I must have fallen asleep because when I open my eyes it’s light. I’m in the same position, the same arms but without the same warmth. Reid is softly snoring as I scoot off of him. I stand and yawn, stretching out every tight limb. This is the second time I have slept out here with Reid and yet I haven’t spent a single night in our marital bed with him all week. Do I take anything from that? No, because I’m going to be spending the whole weekend with him as previously agreed. Despite the touch of nerves at spending so much time with my practically estranged husband, I also feel excitement creeping in. I can pack while he’s at work and we can leave straight away, making the most of our precious time together.

It’s almost seven. I can’t believe we slept there all night. I turn on the coffee machine and make my way to our bedroom to fish out bags from the closet. I go straight to my underwear drawer, pushing aside all of my basic sets and finding the ones reserved for special occasions. Holding a baby pink slip, a favorite of Reid’s, I turn abruptly when I see him leaning against the bedroom door frame. He’s removed his coat and shoes, loosened his tie and shirt, and he’s flattened his disorderly bed hair. He still looks sleepy but that’s not the most discerning feature of his. No, that would be his frown.

“Morning,” I say, with faint trepidation.

“Please don’t pack,” he instructs. His gaze falls to the silk in my hands and he sighs heavily, slapping his hand to his forehead and pulling it over his face.

“You don’t want to go?” I can’t hide the disappointment in my voice and I don’t want to.

He steps closer. “Of course I do. But, I can’t.” He deviates from me to the bed, slumping himself next to the bags in a heavy manner. “They’re sending me to New York for the weekend, well, until Tuesday.”

My whole body freezes as a chill runs through my veins and over my skin and I shudder in response. Even my eyes feel cold as I feel the need to blink excessively.

Oh my God, I’m going to cry.

I throw my nightgown at him and rush out the door, needing so desperately to get away from him and control the emotions that are threatening to appear. When he follows me out it’s evident he’s not going to permit me that space.

“Darlene, please, I tried to get out of it but this is a huge deal for me. This author has already had a string of bestsellers and he’s asked ME personally to manage his new release.” He pauses as if waiting for my big congratulations. Well he can go fuck himself! “Look, I’m sorry. I was looking forward to this just as much as you, but we can do it some other time, right?”

I’m leaning on the kitchen counter
, taking deep breaths to combat the need to scream and cry in his face. After several moments of silence I am finally able to turn and look at him. He looks as miserable as I feel, but I have no sympathy. Not after being let down.

Again
.

In the coolest tone I can muster
, I state, “You go to New York. Maybe we’ll do it another time. Maybe we won’t. But I’m not going to put all of my hopes on you anymore. You aren’t going to be the only aspect of my life just like I’m not the only aspect of yours. I can’t be your sheltered, stay-at-home wifey anymore.” I say the words as they come, not thinking about how they sound or even what they truly mean. How I intend them to appear is strong, but they just remind us both of what my life has become since moving here.

“I never intended to be the only aspect of your life.” His voice is faint, pained and I see a little understanding seeping into his expression. I shrug, not wanting to further this conversation, having just explained more about my current feelings in that sentence than I have done in the last few months. He nods at my
placid response and walks away.

 

Reid

 

Is that how she sees herself?

Is that how she thinks I see her?

God, I hope I haven’t made her feel that way. I hope it’s just her being dramatic. I don’t imagine her as a stay at home wife and I don’t want her whole world to be about me. I want her to be independent and fun-loving, hell, that’s what I fell in love with. It’s just circumstance that is to blame. Not me.

It’s killing me that she hasn’t got a job and it’s killing me that it’s killing her. It’s killing
us
.

I had hoped that maybe with these gigs she would find something to fill her time and she has, but it doesn’t look like it’s enough. Or maybe it’s my negativity
toward her being there. It’s not the bar I hate and it’s not her singing. I love her singing again and I’ve been dying to watch her. It’s him I don’t like, and the drinking. Together they make me nervous and I can’t shake the feeling that the two combined spell danger.

It’s been hours since I left but I haven’t been able to keep Darlene from my mind for more than several seconds at a time. James, my senior editor
, is clearly getting annoyed with my lack of focus. He’s been bugging me about what’s troubling me since takeoff but I’m not about to hash out my marital problems with someone who considers a two-time fuck a relationship.

“Look, we’re not meeting Clarks until tomorrow
. Let’s go and blow off some steam tonight. You meet Clarks with this attitude and he’ll tell us to stick the contract. I need Boy Wonder looking hot and talking smart tomorrow, yeah?” James is regarding me expectantly with his glass of whiskey poised to clink mine. I’m drinking water. I don’t think it counts.

“Sure,” I submit, knowing damn well that I need to shake off this mood before we meet Clarks. This is my biggest break yet and if I land
it then maybe, just maybe, my boss will give me the space I need. I’ve been thinking about talking to him for a while now but when I’ve only been with the company for five months I don’t want to seem like I’m not cut out for it. But I can’t just sit back and watch my relationship make room for my job. I’m prepared to do the hard sells and I will work my ass off to find and land everyone we need, but I can’t do the late nights, not every night, and I can’t always do the last minute meetings. It’s unrealistic to expect it of one person when before me it was done by a team.

For the rest of the flight I ignore James and fish out my book, knowing that the only way I’m going to push Darlene from my mind is by buying into another world. And not a book for work, but for play. The Catcher In The Rye was the book that my gramps first ordered me to read. He told me to stop watching crap on TV that would be forgotten in days and start reading books that would be remembered forever. I thought he had a screw loose, but like with most other things, he was right, and my obsession began.

I started reading every day, every hour of everyday. My grandparents had a collection to rival any library and since I lived with them I had every title to my expense. My grandparents were my legal guardians after my parents split up. My dad moved away and my mom couldn’t cope with being a single parent so she up and left. I have no idea where either of them are to this day. And I’m glad. There is no doubt in my mind that I have had a far better life with my grandparents than would ever have been possible with my mother and father. I would never have even dreamed of picking up a book in their presence.

Almost two hours of reading later and we’ve touched down in New York. Once we’ve collected our bags I turn on my phone to text Darlene that we’ve arrived. There’s already a message waiting for me.

 

-I got the job. Start September-

 

I immediately write back.

 

-Congrats! We’ll celebrate when I get home, promise-

 

She doesn’t reply. I can only assume she doesn’t believe me. Heck, I wouldn’t believe me. But I will make this up to her. I’ll make it all up to her.

Having settled in our hotel rooms James and I have descended into the bar. We last an hour before moving on to the first club we stumble upon. It isn’t my intention to get drunk, but James is ordering drinks for me like I’m a prospective lay, and when each drink eases a little of my angst I find it harder and harder to say no.

James has been working tirelessly on many women but to no success. His actions only insti
ll my appreciation at being married, a failing marriage, but a marriage nonetheless. I haven’t missed this at all, I never have. I tell this to James and he laughs too loudly into my ear.

“You’re in denial. You just haven’t truly embraced tonight,” he slurs, before tapping me harshly on the cheek. I can abide James in a work environment and occasionally socially, but never drunkenly. The sooner we leave the better. I’ve gotten the alcoholic release I came for and now I’m ready for bed.

“Tonight is all about you getting laid, apparently. How am I supposed to embrace that?” I ask, leaning away from his harsh breath.

“By helping a brother out! I’m not leaving here until I have at least gotten one damn phone number,” he declares.

Oh, this is going to take all night. Unless...

“I’ll get you a n
umber, and then we’ll leave, right?”

“Oh, we’re going all tenth grade? Okay, I can live with that.” He nods happily as I down the rest of my beer and stalk across the room. It’s been a long time since I have even looked at women in a bar, let alone sought them out. I know I garner their attention because Darlene is always keen to point it out, so maybe this should be easy.

Choosing a couple of ladies having a quiet drink over a rowdy hen party, I approach them cautiously. I am clocked by the blonde and she smiles sweetly, too sweetly. This is going to be very easy.

“Good evening, ladies,
” I say, smiling coyly as I hide the hand with my precious wedding band in my jacket pocket. “I have an unusual request. Do you think I could sit down and hit you with it?”

They eye me greedily before the brunette shuffles over and allows me into their booth. I feel their attention on me, thick like heat, as they welcome me, a perfect stranger into their space.

“So, my friend over there…” I point to James who is watching us curiously. “…He’s pretty shy. He’s just gotten out of his first and only relationship and he’s never really done the bar scene. He’s been staring at you all night,” I say to the blonde, feeling as though she is the more desperate of the two considering I can practically see her nipples through her shirt. “I told him to come over here and say hi, but he said that you’re just too beautiful. I told him that despite your overt beauty, you are still probably a good person and that you would still be willing to take a chance on a softy like him.”

She rolls her eyes but she can’t hide the proud smile on her unnaturally plump lips. Her friend has all but slumped into the seat, fingering the rim of her margarita quietly. I feel a little bad. Maybe I should have given her friend the confidence boost that
Nipples obviously doesn’t need.

“So...Shall I give him your number or have I got to walk back over there and break his already hurting heart?”

“That depends. I’m not looking for a onetime thing anymore, if that’s what he’s looking for.” Her voice is heavily accented and her hand gesture to word ratio is unbalanced.

BOOK: Winter Blues
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