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Old 09-02-2010, 04:31 PM   #1
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The Next Best Thing - 15

Rolling on with the fiction...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Just as Raye predicted, she had completed her project, washed up, changed into a fresh pair of jeans and sweater, and was sitting at the dining room table before Lionel could get back downstairs. He entered the room to find her and Paul filling Larry in on the details of the photo shoot that he'd napped through. A bottle of white wine had been opened and the three early birds were already happily sipping from their glasses as they chatted.

"Well - I certainly hope those are the first glasses of the evening," he joked with them, "and not the second or third. I've been thirsty for a bit of wine since we came back in from the beach."

"There's plenty for you - these are just the first of the night," Raye told him, smiling. The bottle was sitting closest to her, so she picked it up and filled a glass for Leo, who happily accepted the offering.

"Although it may be my only one of the night," she admitted. "I need a clear head in the morning and I'd expect you and Paul are going to want the same. I don't think any of us could get up and be on the beach by 8:30 a.m. after another evening like last night." She looked from father to son and back again, not sure who'd reply first. Leo took the cue and answered for them both.

"Well perhaps we could, but no amount of makeup could keep us from looking like the living dead. Since neither of us makes a habit of wearing makeup, I believe we should do everything in our power to look our very best in the morning. What say we put a three glass limit on ourselves for tonight?"

"I'm all for it," Paul agreed. "I have enough obstacles to keep me from looking presentable; I don't need any others to fret about." He playfully pointed to his balding head and protruding belly as proof of his concerns.

"What happened to the 'successful business magnate' who has women 'falling' at his feet?" Raye teased, turning his own words from earlier in the day back on him.

"Why, it’s my being successful that attracts the bees to the honey, if you will," he said, winking at her. "In my experience, everyone's attractive if they have enough cash." He gave a large Cheshire grin before breaking into a tremendous laugh that shook his entire body. Raye couldn't deny that she'd made the same observation over the years and had to agree with Paul.

"You've got a point," she admitted, "but the two of you are going to look wonderful tomorrow. As a matter of fact, I don't know if you care for the suggestion, but I thought we could start in the morning with similar colors on both of you. I'm going to take color and black and whites again, so something simple with no patterns is what I had in mind. Maybe jeans and a white button-up; or khakis, if you'd prefer." She again looked back and forth expectantly as Paul and Lionel thought it over.

"I'm not opposed to that," Leo answered. "Paul, what do you think?" He shrugged lazily and took a deep drink from his wineglass before answering. Raye worried that he was stalling because he didn't care for her suggestion of similar clothing and was trying to phrase his response in a kind way. But once again, both he and his father were completely willing to let her take complete control of the whole project.

"That sounds fine to me. I was just trying to think what things I packed that you may have a version of, Dad. I'm sad to say that I did not bring any jeans, though, so that suggestion will have to wait until another time. I know the guys love them, but I can never find any to fit me properly so I just stick with casual or dress pants. Besides," he said, with a quick nod to Larry who'd been quietly sipping his wine at the end of the table, "I think the denim and leather look is better suited to Elvis here."

"You leave the King out of it," Larry shot back with a grin. "There's nothing wrong at all with the way he dressed."

"What's wrong with the way I dress? I think I'm quite fashionable." Bono, Adam, and Edge had finally readied themselves for dinner and were just entering the room as Larry spoke. They had all changed into fresh clothes as well and were quite a treat for Raye's eyes. Bono and Edge had each chosen a fresh pair of blue jeans and topped them off with collared shirts: an absolutely delicious shade of wine for Bono and a unique turquoise, grey and black paisley print for Edge. (Who, much to Raye's delight, had come to dinner sans the ever-present knit cap. He had the most adorable ears and she was thrilled that she'd be able to see them all through dinner.) Adam had chosen gray cargo pants and a charcoal silk sweater, also quite becoming on him with his silver hair. He and Edge had each settled into their chairs and were filling their glasses with the wine while Bono continued to stand by the table, arms held out to each side with his palms up while he waited for Larry to answer him.

"You pompous arse - you think every conversation is about you! We were talking about Elvis, thank you very much. And 'fashionable' - what's fashionable about wearing every sleeve you've got two inches below your hands? You look like a schoolboy who's been into his father's shirts - you'd think with all the money you've got, you'd be able to find a decent tailor."

The grin on Bono's face said not only that he wasn't the least bit insulted by Larry's comments, but that he was quite enjoying getting Larry's hackles up. And to true to Larry's observation, Bono was wearing his shirtsleeves in his trademark style - cuffs unbuttoned and pushed halfway up his forearms, the left sleeve having already fallen and completely covering Bono's left hand. He hastily pushed it back up and was about to respond to Larry when Paul quickly interjected.

"All right, that's enough - we're all gentlemen here and some of us have even had naps today to make us less surly." He shot a quick glance at Larry, who opened his mouth slightly as if to reply, but then thought better of it and decided to pout for a moment instead. Paul intended to admonish Bono for antagonizing Larry at every turn but didn’t get the opportunity because just then, Joy entered from the kitchen to begin serving dinner.

A long, oblong silver platter held glistening pink salmon, fresh off the stovetop grill. Black peppercorns and slices of lemon garnished the fish and filled the air with a mouthwatering bouquet as Joy placed their main course on the table. Steamed asparagus and roasted baby red potatoes quickly appeared, followed by a fresh bottle of white wine and a carafe of ice water. Then, as quickly as she'd appeared, Joy returned back to the kitchen without a word.

Anyone who hadn't already been ravenous for the meal certainly was by the time the various aromas of Joy's handiwork reached their noses. And after Leo offered a simple but elegant grace, they quickly filled their plates and glasses and seated themselves around the table. Talk of the day’s activities, the gorgeous weather, plans for the rest of the week, and compliments to the chef were the bulk of the dinner conversation.

So much, in fact, that it wasn't until everyone had turned in for the evening and Raye had retired to her room that she realized she’d never asked the primary question she had for the band after the initial surprise of meeting them had worn off. She knew from some online gossip she’d seen that they were supposedly putting a finish on their latest album and she wondered if that had been their business in New York. Feeling slightly guilty, but excited at the thought anyway, Raye decided that she’d have to take advantage of her situation and go straight to the source for a confirmation at the next chance she got.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Her nightly rituals finished, Raye was in bed by 10pm and fast asleep within 15 minutes. She was certain when she woke again that she must have been asleep for half the night, but a check of the alarm clock on her nightstand showed it was only 2 a.m. Happy to know she still had about five hours of sleep left, she readjusted her pillows, rolled onto her left side and in a very relaxed fetal position, pulled the covers tight around her and went about going back to sleep. But as the clock ticked from 2:15 to 2:28 to 2:40, Raye began to realize that she wasn't going to get much more sleep unless she tried a different tack.

Sitting up, she turned on the small bedside lamp and reached for her robe at the end of the bed while her eyes adjusted to the light. By the time she had loosely tied the robe, she was able to focus on the reading area between her bed and the bathroom. A small magazine rack that she'd overlooked before could now be seen just to the right of the chair closest to the wall. She quickly chose a year-old issue of 'Better Homes and Gardens' - not the type of reading that would normally hold her attention, but that was exactly the point. A good, dull magazine and a bit of warm milk should have me back in dreamland within 30 minutes, she calculated. Carefully rolling the magazine into a crescent and placing it under her arm, she stepped out in the dark hallway and gingerly began her journey downstairs into the kitchen.

Rounding the corner at the bottom of the stairway and entering the kitchen, Raye was pleased to see that a set of recessed lighting had been left dimmed and she wouldn't need any of the brighter lights to find her way around. She was less than pleased and even slightly startled to find that she wasn't going to be alone for her 3 a.m. glass of milk. Larry sat at the kitchen bar with his back to her, head in his hands, and a half-empty glass of water in front of him to his left.

Less concerned with how nervous he made her and more concerned that he may not be well, Raye gently shuffled her feet as she approached Larry so he could be quietly alerted that he had company. It worked perfectly, and Larry lifted his head and looked over to his right just as Raye reached his side. She paused a moment, not really knowing what to ask him or whether even to ask it. When he raised an eyebrow and gave her an anticipatory look, she decided to try the 'He's a person just like you' approach and forget his celebrity status and gruff reputation.

"Are you okay?" she asked quietly. "You don't look as though you feel very good."

He gently massaged his left temple and stretched his neck once or twice by turning to his right and then his left before answering. Raye was alarmed when he suddenly appeared more exhausted than she’d seen him at anytime so far during the entire weekend.

"Ah, I'll be fine… always am," he answered slowly. Grasping his right wrist with his left hand, he raised both arms high above his head and twisted at his waist. Raye heard an audible pop and grimaced, but Larry seemed rather pleased with the result.

"Doesn't that hurt?" she asked.

"It actually feels much better than when I can't get my back to pop. You must be good luck for me - I've been sitting here for about an hour twisting, turning, and stretching every way I could think of with no luck. You walk in the room and I get some relief. Thank you." Larry Mullen actually sat before Raye with a smile on his face and a hand outstretched for her to shake. She slowly raised her hand to his and he gave it a single, firm shake.

"You're welcome," she told him with obvious hesitation and bewilderment.

He chuckled again and released her hand before asking, "You know, contrary to what you may think, I'm not antisocial - I do enjoy other folks’ company. So what brings you to the kitchen at this hour, anyway?"

Regaining her composure, Raye was able to coherently explain what she was doing in the kitchen at 3 o'clock in the morning without a 10-second delay. "I woke up an hour ago and have just been staring at the clock since." She lay the rolled up 'Better Homes and Gardens' issue on the counter and walked over to the refrigerator to search for a carton of milk. "I grabbed a magazine and decided to do what I do at home when I can't sleep - read something a bit boring and drink a warm glass of milk. I don't want to be exhausted tomorrow and I can still get a good four hours of rest if I can get back to sleep."

“Warm milk, eh? I haven’t had any of that since I was a lad. Me mum used to make it when I’d had a bad dream. Hmmm… I’d forgotten about that until just now.” Raye saw a sad smile on Larry’s face as he reminisced and she busied herself finding a mug so he could have a moment to himself. By the time she’d located one in the cupboard and filled it with milk, Larry seemed ready to talk again.

“Does your back bother you often?” she asked him as she walked to the microwave. “I thought you’d had some surgery to correct that.”
“I did have surgery and my doctors consider it a success.” He casually flipped through a few pages of Raye’s magazine while she waited for her milk to warm.

“That doesn’t really sound like you’re happy with the results. Do you regret having it done?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” he answered. “Truth is, I do have much less pain now than before the operation and I don’t regret having it done at all. But as my doctors told me, I will always be stiffer than the average bloke who’s never injured his back. That’s the way it generally is, you know - once your back’s been injured it very seldom can be returned to your pre-injury condition. And the truth is, the way my back usually feels now is better than being in constant pain, which is the direction I was heading prior to surgery.”

The microwave dinged, announcing that her milk was finished heating, and Raye carefully removed the mug before taking a seat at the bar beside Larry. Her curiosity had been piqued regarding his back and the magazine lay forgotten on the counter. Gently blowing the milk to avoid scalding her tongue, she took a small sip before getting back to the conversation.

“So did you do something today to hurt yourself? I thought vacations were for avoiding physical activity.” She flashed him a quick smile, which he returned.

“They usually are and it wasn’t anything physical that got me; it was inactivity - sitting to be precise. I figure the plan ride Thursday morning is probably the culprit. Not that it was a long flight – we came in from New York and that’s only about an hour and a half airtime – but we did have to sit on the runway for almost 45 minutes before takeoff. Considering another fifteen minutes on the ground here, I spent roughly two and a half hours strapped into an airplane seat. It’s not so bad when I can get up and walk about the cabin, but we had a bit of turbulence on the flight down and our pilot felt it was safest for us to stay strapped in until we reached Wilmington. Between that and sleeping on a softer mattress than I’m accustomed to, I had to resort to using my little helper here.” Larry held up a small prescription bottle of medication that Raye had not previously seen and rattled it.

“Well that makes sense’” she agreed. “I don’t have so much trouble with airline seats – at least I didn’t the last time I flew - which has been a while, unfortunately. But I know when I find either too soft or too hard a mattress it wreaks havoc on my back. I fell down some steps a few years ago so I understand about back injuries,” she added for clarification. “I’ve found that seeing a chiropractor occasionally works for me. Does that bring you any relief or do you try to avoid them?”

“I’ve seen one a time or two, but I try to avoid them. Before my surgery I went to one who actually hurt me more than he helped, so I opt for deep tissue massages now. Besides, massage therapists tend to be women and much better looking than chiropractors.” He chuckled softly and took a long draw from his water, draining the better half of the glass before setting it down empty on the countertop.

A large yawn escaped Raye’s lips and told her the warm milk was doing its job, but she wasn’t ready to return to bed just yet. Covering her mouth with both hands, a second yawn followed and she uttered a muffled, “Excuse me” as she giggled at herself.

“Looks like you’re ready to hit the sack again,” Larry observed. He suddenly yawned widely and admitted with a grin, “Well, my prescription’s working now, so I think I’ll go back to bed myself. What time are you headed to the beach in the morning? I‘d like to join you if I won’t be in the way – the guys say you really know what you’re doing. I want to see what everyone’s talking about.”

Raye had finished her milk and was standing at the dishwasher when she heard Larry. She almost dropped the mug as she spun around to face him in disbelief.

“They were talking to you about me? When? Why? What did they say?” She fired the questions at him like bullets. What in the world could she have done to have impressed the band? She couldn’t begin to imagine. Larry, though, seemed to think nothing of it.
“Yeah, I was talking to Edge when he came upstairs to change for dinner last night, asking how things had gone. He said you were very professional and seemed extremely capable with the camera and that he, Bono and Adam all agreed that they expect the pictures will be great. Since I’ve always enjoyed watching Anton work, I thought I’d tag along tomorrow and take a look at how you work – you know, for comparison. Is that OK?” He gave a quick smile and waited for Raye’s answer.

Larry Mullen, Jr. was asking permission to follow her up and down the beach – Hell no, she wasn’t going to deny his request. But that didn’t stop her from hardly believing it.

“That’s fine,” she said. “I think everyone plans on going. We’re supposed to leave the house about 8:30.”

“Well that’s settled, then.” He checked his watch and noted the time was 3:35 a.m. “If we both go to bed now we’ll still be able to get about four, four and a half hours sleep, so I’m off. See you in a few hours.”

Larry turned to go back upstairs and was about to start climbing the steps when Raye called out his name. He stopped mid-step and turned to face her as she stood just inside the kitchen. Not sure where she found the nerve do so, Raye proceeded to ask Larry a final question.

“Before you go…,” she walked towards him and stopped right before entering the hallway. “I’ve had the impression several times this weekend that you just didn’t care for me. But I’ve just enjoyed a really friendly chat with you and I have to know – what was it that I did earlier to annoy you?”

He laughed softly before answering. “Not a thing in the world. Honest.” The expression on Raye’s face said that she wasn’t convinced, so he furthered his explanation. “I’m going to let you in on my big secret: I’m not naturally as ill-tempered as my reputation suggests. True, I don’t enjoy being in the spotlight as much as Bono and the other guys, but then, most people don’t. Having constant back and shoulder pain goes a long way toward making you angry with everyone and with my tendency to avoid talking to reporters, people assumed it was because I was ‘difficult’.”

“But you had surgery years ago and your reputation still hasn’t changed,” Raye challenged him.

“See, that’s the beauty of it, dear. Although I eliminated the reason for my being hard to deal with, the expectation for me to act that way was still there. And frankly, I’d gotten used to saying whatever was on my mind. So even once my surgery was done, it was still fun as Hell to speak exactly what I wanted when I wanted. And anyway, you gotta’ give the people what they want, right?” Raye just looked at him dumbfounded for a moment and Larry couldn’t help but laugh at her.

“So you’ve been acting like a grumpy old cuss for the last couple of years – because you can?”

“That’s about it,” he told her with a grin. “And now you know one of world’s best kept secrets. I hope since we’re friends now that I can trust you with that information?” He cocked his head playfully to one side and waited for her reply.

“I guess I don’t have any choice,” she said and shrugged her shoulders. It was Larry’s turn to look confused then.

“Why is that?”

“Because who in the world would believe me that Larry Mullen, Jr. isn’t a complete wanker?” She tried to keep a straight face as she spoke the words, but just couldn’t and erupted into a fit of giggles.

“Very cute, but I guess I brought that on myself,” he said. Lifting an index finger to his nose, he told her, “But just to be safe, remember: mum’s the word. And if you’re finished insulting me now, I’m off to bed.”

“All right - let’s go get that beauty sleep.”

He turned to her as they reached the second floor and raised his right index finger to his lips. “Remember,” he said, before winking and heading down the hall toward his bedroom. Raye replied with a thumbs up and a nod before continuing up the stairs to her room.

Another day, another discovery, she thought as she crawled back into bed and situated the covers around her. As she drifted off to sleep, Raye decided that if she didn’t call Sandra soon that she’d simply burst. I’ll have to do that tomorrow, she decided before drifting into a deep sleep. She dreamed until morning of sitting in the den of Gran and Papa’s old house where she grew up, going over the pages and pages of glossy photographs that she’d just had printed in Vogue and National Geographic.
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Old 09-02-2010, 09:10 PM   #2
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proceeding! larry is such a sweetheart!
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