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Old 08-31-2010, 01:47 PM   #1
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The Next Best Thing - 13

More fiction.

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When they returned to the garden about 45 minutes later, they were more windblown than when their walk had started, but refreshed nonetheless. The expedition had been a success; Raye’d found several spots that would make for great backgrounds. One was in the dunes, just north of the house, where the wind had blown the sand into a sort of little harbor and the sea grass was tall and healthy, giving them privacy from the beach itself. This spot was of particular interest to Raye because of its protection from any prying eyes.

She had been considering the young ladies in the house next to Leo’s; if they’d brought other friends with them for the holiday weekend, there might be the problem of attracting a crowd should the band decide they’d like to join Leo, Paul and herself. Which only seemed reasonable – they couldn’t be expected to stay trapped in the house or even the confines of the garden all week. What good was getting away for a few days if you ended up feeling caged the whole time? And while Wrightsville Beach was pretty deserted for the time being, as folks returned home from their travels throughout the weekend, the population was only going to increase. Since word of mouth traveled faster here than anywhere else she’d ever known, Raye’d get nothing done if they were having to fend off crowds every time the ‘lads’ stepped out of the house, not to mention the safety concerns that could develop for the band and fans alike.

It was something she was sure she’d need to mention to Paul and the guys, especially if any pictures were going to be taken down near the pier or The Rocks (which wasn’t a very original name for a sea wall made of stacked boulders, but was a beautiful setting for photographs, anyway). Both locations were wide open with nowhere to run to if a crowd did develop. Raye knew she might just be making something out of nothing again, but the fact remained that unless the guys stayed cooped up while she and her ‘models’ cavorted across the sand, it was a real possibility that crowd control could become an issue.

For the time being, though, she just wanted to get inside, find out where all her film was and see if Leo and Paul were in any condition to get started. Paul, at least, seemed to be in good spirits; he was standing on the deck when Raye, Adam and Edge came back through the gate. When they were within 20 yards of the house, he called out to them with a booming voice that carried very well over the wind and the crashing waves.

“Ahoy, there! Be ye friend or foe?” He stood there, feet spread apart and hands on his hips, doing his best pirate impression. Which wasn’t bad, truth be told – Raye thought that with the proper costume and perhaps an eye patch, he could very easily pass as a terror of the high seas.

“We come in peace,” Edge shouted back to Paul, and even held up his hand in the classic Mr. Spock greeting, making a ‘V’ with his fingers.

Raye noted that he did it properly too, splitting his thumb, index and third fingers from his ring finger and pinky, not just making the peace sign like some people did. She giggled out loud at him, surprised that he apparently as geeky as she’d always heard rumored. He turned to her with a questioning look, but she played it off by pointing up to Paul.

“He’s not still tipsy, is he,” she asked Edge. “Or this what he’s like when he wakes up?”

“Oh, he’s not drunk,” Edge assured her as they started up the steps to the deck. He spoke up then to make certain Paul heard him. “He’s just high on life.”

“Who, me?” Paul was grinning like the cat that ate the canary when the three of them topped the stairs.

“Yeah,” said Adam. “Have we ever told you that you’re sometimes disgustingly cheerful?”

“Only a thousand times,” Paul told him happily. “And why shouldn’t I be? I’m highly regarded amongst my peers, an indisputably successful business magnate, and beautiful women the world over fall at my feet – what more could I want?” He shook with a wonderful, deep belly laugh as Adam and Edge just stood shaking their heads.

“Looks like you’re in for quite a weekend, Raye,” Adam warned her with a grin. “We’re used to this attitude from Bono; it’s practically expected from him.” He motioned to Paul with his chin. “But when this one assumes the same tone – you’d best guard your purse and your honor.”

Paul pretended to be insulted. “Well, I’m not going to stand here and take this from the likes of you two, that’s for certain.” He reached out for Raye’s arm and said to her, “Come along, my dear. Let’s go inside and see if we can’t find some gentlemen worthy of our company.”

Raye allowed Paul to lead her back into the house while Adam and Edge followed, calling out in unison, “Fat chance!” They kept up their ribbing all the way into the kitchen where they found Lionel, Bono and Larry seated at the small table in the breakfast nook, just finishing their lunch.

“Nice to see you gentlemen,” Raye said, smiling broadly. “I’m glad you could finally join us on this gorgeous afternoon.”

“We’re glad you could stay conscious for a change,” Larry shot back at her. Raye was fairly sure he was only joking, but since the man gave such a deadpan delivery and hardly ever smiled, she wasn’t positive. She’d done nothing to insult him (not that she could remember, anyway), but reading him was so difficult; she’d just have to take everything he said with a grain of salt. After all, he wasn’t referred to as ‘Sullen Mullen’ for nothing.

“Never you mind Lardence, my dear,” Bono said, all charm and smoothness. “His manners tend to suffer when he doesn’t get enough beauty sleep and he’s cross with me because he thinks I’m somehow responsible for his recent lack of it.”

“You bloody well are to blame for my lack of sleep,” Larry complained. “Flapping your gob until 3 o’clock in the morning; believe you me, I’d have gone to bed long before then if I’d been able!”

“What was to stop you, man?” Edge grabbed a stool and settled in along the island’s bar as he questioned Larry. “Why didn’t you just go to bed when you got tired like Ads and I? We were both asleep by two a.m.”

“Because,” Larry emphasized as he crossed to the sink to rinse off his lunch plate, “this git shut the library door after you two walked out. He wanted to make sure the rest of us didn’t leave while he complained about the difficult choice of whether to continue coloring his hair or let it go natural.”

“And the three of you stayed to listen to that shite?” Adam snickered as he looked around the room at Paul, Lionel and Larry. Raye and Edge stood in amused disbelief, also waiting for Larry's answer.

“The sod was sitting against the door, completely pissed and wouldn’t budge,” Larry defended himself. He looked to Paul for help. “Were we not trapped, Paul?” All eyes except Bono’s turned to Paul for his confirmation or denial. Bono, meanwhile, seemed to have suddenly discovered an issue with one of his cuticles and was inspecting it with great attention to detail.

“It’s true; Bono closed the door and sat blocking it once Larry and Edge called it a night. But ‘trapped’ might be a bit strong – I’m sure we could have persuaded him to move if we’d really wanted to.”

“Pah!” Larry almost spit the word. “If he were open to persuasion, he’d have taken the hint from me at midnight to shut that gaping hole that’s his mouth and let me go off to bed!”

Sensing that Larry could complain about the situation indefinitely, Edge interjected to change the subject. “Well, Larry, you could catch a nap now if you’d like. Raye’s ready to get started with Leo and Paul; unless she objects to it, Adam, Bono and I could join them so you’d have the house to yourself.”

“That sounds like a fine idea,” Bono said, perking up at the chance to change the subject. "I'll be just a minute getting my coat and hat." He quickly gathered up his dishes, walked them over to the sink, and then almost sprinted out of the kitchen upstairs. His exuberance to leave the room generated several quiet chuckles throughout the group.

Edge said to Raye "I hope you don't mind me making that offer, especially now that is seems you're going to have company whether you wanted it or not."

"No, it's perfectly fine. And tell me, did I just witness the one and only Paul Hewson being embarrassed?" It certainly seemed to Raye that she'd just seen Bono’s ego take a beating but she wanted to clarify it.

"That's exactly what you saw, " Larry answered. "And he should be bloody embarrassed… going on about ginger-colored hair versus black hair or highlights opposed to all over color, like we were a bunch of blabbering females in a beauty shop. No offense intended, mind you." The last comment was stated with the utmost respect and directed to Raye with nod of Larry's head. So maybe he doesn’t dislike me after all, she thought.

Lionel, who'd been silently rinsing dishes and silverware before loading them into the dishwasher, finally spoke up. "We've had probably all gotten to sleep a lot earlier, truth be told Lawrence, if you hadn't started debating Bono about whether women prefer the looks of a man who was young for his years or one who was aging with dignity. That's what prompted Bono to bring up the subject of hair coloring - isn't it?" Leo grinned smugly, because now it was Larry's turn to try and save face.

"I… I, um, don't really remember now. We'd had a lot to drink by that point," he stammered, actually backing out of the kitchen now. "Anyway, if you don't need any more help cleaning up, I think I will go upstairs and catch a bit of a nap." Before Lionel could say whether he needed the help or not, Larry had turned and walked out of the kitchen double-time, leaving the rest of the group laughing at his quick exit.

"Those two," Leo chuckled. "They're more like brothers every time I see them - bicker, bicker, bicker. But don't let anyone else say a word against the other. Paul, how do you keep them from each other's throat when you're on the road?"

"I can't always," he answered his father with a straight face. "But making sure they each get a referee and separate bedrooms helps." He pointed to Adam and Edge, who nodded in agreement. Once again, the room again broke into laughter at the expense of the two absentees.

When everyone had settled down, Raye took the opportunity to ask Leo where he'd stored all the film, hoping the subtle hint would prompt him to disclose whether he felt up to being photographed after his late night. He did, indeed, and promptly stepped into the pantry to produce several rolls of 35mm film for Raye. Within minutes she was sitting in one of the oxblood leather chairs in the great room, loading the camera while everyone else gathered shoes, sweaters and whatever outerwear they needed. Checking her wristwatch, Raye was actually pleased to see the time was almost 3 p.m. There wasn't much daylight left, that was true, but the sun would now be low in the western sky and setting. Raye really preferred this type of sunlight for her outdoor portraits; it was bright enough that she didn't need a flash, but not so bright that your subjects had to squint their eyes. Also, as the sun continued to set it would turn any clouds in the sky into the most beautiful kaleidoscope of pink, red, orange and purple, particularly since it was Fall. Other than her handheld light meter, a white reflector (in case there were any shadows under Paul and Leo's chins), and the camera itself, she was ready. Excited. Giddy, even.

Raye hadn't been a regular churchgoer for many years, but that didn't prevent her from having regular conversations with her Maker. As she sat alone in the great room, looking down into her lap at the camera, she said a quick, nervous prayer. God, please let me be as good as they think I am. Let me be as good as I used to think I was. It's been so long, I've probably forgotten everything I ever knew about taking pictures - but I haven't forgotten how much I love this and I want to do it right. So please, steady my hand so I don't shake and just give me the eye to see the right shots. Amen.

She didn't realize she'd closed her eyes and spoken the 'Amen' aloud. It must have been force of habit from all the Sundays spent in church with Gran and Papa. But when she'd finished her prayer, she lifted her head and opened her eyes to find Bono standing at the foot of the stairs, waiting. Her cheeks warmed a bit as she realized he must have been there at least since she'd bowed her head.

"Oh - don't be embarrassed, love." He spoke kindly and gently. "I always say a word or two of prayer before I go on stage; I couldn't go out there if I didn't." He walked over and sat down on the couch facing her. "It's funny, but after all the years that we've been performing - and contrary to what some people may tell you - it's never gotten any easier for me. There are nights when I'm so nervous that I'm physically sick to my stomach. But after I take a minute or so with the Lord, my stomach settles, the cold sweats stop and I'm right as rain. So don't you spend a second being embarrassed about saying a prayer, okay?" He smiled at her then, and for a moment, Raye thought she must know what it was like to be in the presence of a true angel.

What an amazing man, she thought. I don't know of anyone else who embodies so many personalities: sinner and saint, skeptic and believer. One minute I'm sure he's here to tempt me straight into Hell, the next I'm positive his mission is to deliver me right into Heaven. She didn't have the courage to tell him exactly what she was thinking, though; it was way too revealing a confession for her to voice out loud. But she did appreciate his kind words.

"Thank you so much," she told him sincerely. "That was a beautiful thing to say." There was more she wanted to tell him. That his words and songs had comforted her many times before over the years; that as a teenager and young adult, she really respected the band putting so much of their own faith and beliefs into the songs for others to find and relate to. But even if she’d had the nerve, she wouldn't have the opportunity - footsteps in the hall warned that the rest of the group was approaching them and that the moment was gone between Raye and Bono. He winked at her as Edge, Paul, Leo and Adam entered the room and she, in turn, quickly acknowledged it with a small nod. Raye had just shared a very meaningful exchange with one of her lifelong idols and was certain it was a moment that she'd always remember. Eventually, she’d be able to look back and know that it was just one of many such moments that she'd experience over the coming week.
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Old 09-01-2010, 12:19 AM   #2
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I'm totally loving this! I love your characters, the settings, the details. Wonderfully done! I look forward to more!

P.S. Bono going on and on about his hair...f'ing priceless!

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Old 09-02-2010, 12:12 PM   #3
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I am really enjoying this. My only complaint is that I was too busy readingyours to work on mine!
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