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Old 08-31-2010, 01:28 PM   #1
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The Next Best Thing - 10

Anyone following this story is going to be so spoiled by the time we get to Chapter 16. I've been putting up clusters of chapters at a time & it's suddenly going to drop off to just one... a week... or so.

Comments welcomed & appreciated.


It was well after 10:00 o’clock in the morning, but as Raye made her way downstairs she realized the house was as quiet as a tomb. There wasn’t a single drop of water running, no muffled voices behind closed doors, no rattling of pots and pans on the stove or smells of breakfast wafting upstairs. All three floors were so far completely silent and she began to worry that maybe the entire group, having grown tired of waiting for her to rejoin the living, had already made their way outside to the beach. She was descending the last of the stairs and was making her way outside to scan the beachfront when she heard some movement in the kitchen.

Expecting to find that Joy had returned for the morning and was cleaning up the breakfast things, Raye was instead surprised and slightly confused to find her self approaching Adam’s back. Seated along the bar side of the large kitchen island, he’d found Lionel’s morning issue of The Wall Street Journal and appeared to be reading contently, a plate of half-eaten toast and a cup and saucer resting on the counter to his right. A quick look around the kitchen showed Raye that she and Adam were the only two in the room. Pretty certain that he’d not heard her and not wanting to startle him, Raye stopped at the entrance to the kitchen before greeting him quietly.

“Good morning. Where is everyone?”

Adam put his paper down and turned around to greet her. “Good morning yourself” he said with a kind smile. “How are you feeling? I see you’ve got quite a souvenir, there; is the back of your head as bad?”

“I’m feeling better now that I’ve had a shower” she answered with a sheepish grin. She reached up to touch the knot on her forehead. “I thought I’d done a pretty good job of covering this with makeup… apparently not, huh? But the back of my head is fine, thank you.”

Adam gave her a doubtful look as he picked up his cup and sipped carefully.

“No, really” Raye said, stepping into the kitchen “I was a little sore when I got up earlier, but after having a good, hot shower and some aspirin I really don’t hurt at all. I’m like a new woman.”

“A nice, steamy shower can do that for you, can’t it?” he chuckled in agreement. Motioning for Raye to take a seat at the counter and join him, he asked, “Would you care for a cup of tea or anything to eat?”

“Oh thank you” she smiled at him. “But I’m a Southern girl through and through - the only tea I drink is iced. I will have some orange juice if there is any. Have you been in the refrigerator?”

“I have and I believe there was a carton on the bottom shelf in the door” he directed her. “There’s also butter and jam if you’d care for toast.”

Raye decided she did need to put something on her stomach besides the acid of orange juice, and with Adam’s help, located everything necessary to produce her breakfast. When her two slices of buttered and jammed toast were resting on a small plate and her glass of orange juice had been poured, she joined Adam, who had resumed scanning the Journal. She picked up a triangle of toast and attempted to take several demure nibbles. Raye’d never really mastered the whole ‘demure’ thing, though, and after just a few bites she wished she’d just stuck with dry toast. Quickly hopping up to grab a paper napkin from the dispenser at the sink, she returned to her seat shaking her head.

“What’s the matter?” Adam asked. He had folded the paper and set it to aside, apparently full of all the current financial news that he cared for.

“I just wonder sometimes how one person can be so painfully clumsy” she complained as she wiped her face. “I’m all but wearing half a jar of strawberry jam on my face!”

“That probably wouldn’t be an issue if you hadn’t put half a jar on just two pieces of toast” he teased her. Raye had to laugh in agreement as she sat back down beside him.

“That’s true. You’d think I’d learn my lesson after all these years of feeding myself, but I almost always end up wearing some of my meal. I justify it by saying ‘If it’s not good enough to wear, it’s not good enough to eat’.” They both laughed and Raye listened to herself rattling on. Oddly, didn’t feel that she was boring her listener like she usually did. She felt completely at ease chatting with Adam and took it as a sign that firstly, he was just exactly the English gentleman she’d always heard he was and secondly, she’d settled down from last night’s shock of seeing the band walk into Leo’s library.

What Raye hoped to prove to them all now was that even though she was a passionate fan of the band and their music, she realized they were all just human. There was no need to resort to idolatry; at the end of the day they were normal people like her. And they seemed to feel the same way – one of the things that Raye loved them for was their humility. Sure, they were recognized the world over and the most mundane occurrences in their lives were usually reported in the entertainment rags, but they had always maintained that they were just four lucky guys from Dublin. They hadn’t turned their backs on the benefits of being famous, but they hadn’t allowed those same trappings to redefine who they were at their core and Raye had a great respect for that amount of self-discipline.

Adam was quiet for a moment, fiddling with the remants of his cold toast and taking another sip of tea. When he spoke again, Raye was fairly certain that she heard the slightest bit of hesitation, maybe even bashfulness in his voice. “May I ask you a question?”

“I think so” she said with a nervous laugh. “That’s so ambiguous; you could go anywhere with it.”

“Oh, it’s nothing like that! At least, I don’t believe it is… if it’s too personal, you can simply decline to answer.”

Raye looked at him anxiously and said, “Okay – now you’re really worrying me. Am I going to want to slap you for asking me this question?” She smiled at him as he began to fidget again with his teacup and spoon.

“I certainly hope not. Well – seems I’ve made a mess of this already. Nothing to do now but just come out and ask you. It’s about your name; ‘Ray’ seems quite unusual for a woman. Is that your real name?” Adam looked back at Raye expectedly, waiting for her reaction. It was swift and loud.

She threw her head back and outright laughed. “That’s the question you were so worried was going to offend me?” she asked incredulously.

“Well” said, Adam, somewhat defensively, “some people – women in particular – are very sensitive to that type of thing.”

Still laughing, Raye willingly provided an explanation. “First off, you may be thinking of a different spelling. My name is spelled ‘R-A-Y-E’, not ‘R-A-Y’ like a man; although, I was partly named after my father. His name was Raymond, my mother was Estelle. They were convinced when my mother was pregnant that they were having a boy and they’d decided the baby would be ‘Raymond Everett Galloway, Jr.’. Needless to say, they were pretty surprised with I showed up instead. They hadn’t prepared a proper girl’s name and they didn’t have much time to come up with one, so I was given a version of their original choice: Rayelle Eve Galloway. “Rayelle’, of course, was the combination of both their names, and ‘Eve’ just a feminized version of ‘Everett’.” She gave a small shrug and smiled. “I’ve had to explain that so many times, I don’t even think about it anymore. I like my name now because it is unique, but when I was younger, that’s the very reason I hated it. You know how kids love to antagonize one another – I was called “Rayelle Gazelle”, “Rayelle the Smell”, even “Rayelle Big Tail”. Boy, did that cause some fights.”

It was Adam’s turn to laugh out loud and he did so, Raye noticed, with the most adorable crinkles around his eyes. “’Rayelle Big Tail’? I can’t imagine anything further from the truth.” He smiled at her kindly and Raye felt the slightest chill up the back of her neck. It suddenly occurred to her that Adam Clayton may have just hit on her. She couldn’t be certain though, because she’d only just met the man and it had been so long since anyone had made a pass at her, she wasn’t sure she could recognize one if it came to her on engraved stationery. Assuming that her imagination was simply in overdrive, she quickly looked away from him as she answered and tried to find a way to change the subject.

“It’s true; that’s what they called me” she said, glancing at the clock on the oven. “Wow – is that clock right?”

Adam consulted his wristwatch and confirmed that it was indeed, 10:45a.m. They’d been talking for almost an hour Raye marveled. Talking to Adam was so effortless. “When did everyone get up this morning?” she asked.

Adam shook his head and answered with a sly grin, “They’re still not out of bed.”

“What?! You’re not serious?”

“Yes – after Edge and I carried you up to your room last night, we all returned to the library for some brandy and cigars. I smoked one and had two glasses before turning in around 1:15a.m. Bono woke me up when he came into our room at four o’clock this morning – and I’m certain he was the last man standing. He never can bear to leave a party before it’s completely ended.”

Raye’s left eyebrow arched itself into a high peak as she took in this useful information. “Oh really?” she asked Adam. “So I’m not the only one who doesn’t know my limits, hmm? Well, thank you, Adam – that’ll be very useful ammunition if they try to bring up my lack of self control.”

She smiled brightly at him and felt the last of her embarrassment fade. Whether they’d done it as a matter of normal occurrence or in a conscious effort to keep Raye from feeling that she was the only one who’d overindulged, the ‘lads’ had also tied one on last night. And, to her credit, it looked as though she’d bounced back quicker than they had. She was more eager than ever to get her equipment set up and completely ready before the remaining sleepyheads made it downstairs. Besides, she thought mischievously, if I caught some ‘morning after’ photos of the guys I just may have some friendly blackmail material. Thinking of taking the pictures reminded her that she wasn’t certain where her equipment was.

“Well, I really need to get my stuff set up” she said to Adam as she stood and carried her dishes to the sink. “Would you be able to tell me where my equipment is? The last time I saw it was last night when Leo set it down in the foyer.”

Adam had gathered his dishes as well and startled Raye a bit when he answered her from right over her left shoulder. “It’s still in the foyer; Edge and I thought it best to let it stay where it was last night. Partly because we knew you’d have to move it from your room anyway, and partly because after such a large dinner and getting you to your room, we just didn’t feel like any further physical activity.” He grinned and gave a quick look out of the corner of his eye to see if she’d caught the little barb he’d thrown at her. She had.

“Alright” she said with a laugh, “I see how you’re going to treat me now. But I’m warning you” she said, raising a fist to him mockingly, “if I hear you even mutter the words “Rayelle Big Tail” under your breath – even if no one else is around – I’m telling you now that I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”

He playfully shooed away her fist and set his dishes in the sink. “OK, fair enough; I can’t say I haven’t been warned. What if, instead of breaking into a boxing match, I go help you move your camera things to wherever you’d like them?”

“That sounds like a deal. I’m always happy to have an extra pair of hands helping me.” Raye cringed as she heard the words that could be construed as a double entendre escape her lips and hoped it passed right over Adam’s head. Fortunately, she was leading the way from the kitchen and Adam was unable to see her reaction. It might also have been fortunate that Raye missed Adam’s raised eyebrows and amused smirk as he followed her out of the room.

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Old 08-31-2010, 11:44 PM   #2
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Ooooooooooooooooooooooooo! It's MR. CLAYTON!?

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Old 09-01-2010, 01:04 AM   #3
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Nice chapter!
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