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Old 09-02-2010, 04:38 PM   #1
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The Next Best Thing - 16

This is a fan fic but I'm really curious to know how it reads to others. Do the occurrences seem feasible? Is the dialogue believable? Does the pacing of the story bother anyone? Less words, more making out? Thanks, all!

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Raye woke Saturday morning a full hour before her 7:30 a.m. alarm went off, but she felt completely rested and eager to start the day. So eager, in fact, she decided that continuing to lie in bed would be a complete waste of time. Sitting up, she turned off the alarm and stretched to grab her robe from the end of the bed. Loosely tying it around her waist, she shuffled over to sliding glass door and pulled back the vertical blinds to observe the morning’s weather. She saw that the sun was up but mostly hidden behind what looked to be fairly thick clouds.

“Clouds are fine,” she said quietly to herself, “just no rain.” Bracing for what she feared was going to be a blast of frigid air, Raye slid open the glass door and stepped out onto the balcony. It was cool out, but not as bad as she’d seen some November mornings. She estimated that if the clouds hung around all day, they’d probably see the temperature reach about 50 degrees, maybe 58 degrees if it cleared up. Searching the horizon, she looked for any particularly dark clouds that might be carrying rain and was happy to find none. An overcast day on the beach would actually be much better for her to shoot Paul and Leo than a sunny day – no glaring sun, no strange shadows, no reflection off bald heads.

She smiled and imagined Paul hearing her little joke at his expense, knowing he’d most likely be the first to join her in poking a bit of fun at him. She thought about how down to earth and easygoing he’d been over the last two days – the band too, for that matter – and yes, perhaps she was being naive, but she really believed they weren’t putting on an act. Why should they?, she reasoned. The band had obviously known Leo for years and wouldn’t have to put on any airs for him. Maybe Paul was just being polite to her because she was a guest of his father, but that didn’t mean the rest of them had to.

I mean, they can’t try to befriend everyone they meet a U2 fan and I’m just another fan. A nobody, she thought. Or at least I was. She supposed Larry’s earlier comment in the hallway about her being his ‘new friend’ trumped her ‘nobody’ status. Wait until I talk to Sandra, she thought smugly. Raye then excitedly realized that she could probably reach her best friend before going out on the beach. Sandra had always been an early riser and on the weekend after Thanksgiving, that meant getting up in the wee hours of the morning for some power shopping.

Stepping back inside her room, Raye checked the time. It was quarter of seven, which meant Sandra was long since gone from her house and most likely on her second or third stop of the day. If I get showered and dressed now, Raye theorized, I’ll still have time to grab a cup of coffee downstairs and call Sandra from the garden before everyone else is ready. With a plan of action and plenty of excitement about enacting it, Raye retuned the blinds to their closed position, made sure the door lock was set and headed in for a shower.

At 7:42 Raye reached the bottom step of the back deck and took a seat. Cell phone in one hand, steaming cup of coffee in the other, she dialed Sandra's number with her thumb. Apparently utilizing her Caller ID feature, Sandra answered after two rings and started right into conversation without a greeting.

“So, how was Turkey Day with the creepy old pervert?”

“He’s not the least bit creepy, or a pervert,” Raye admitted sheepishly. “In a word, he’s delightful. And his house guests are absolutely divine.” She really wanted to drop little hints and make Sandra guess about the identity of Leo’s additional house guests, but the anticipation of sharing the secret was killing her. Raye knew she’d cave after about two wrong guesses and had just decided to go ahead and get it over with.

“Hmm, ‘divine’”, Sandra quoted. “Are these divine men single? Or when you say ‘divine’ do you mean it in a ‘I’m such a fabulous queen’ type of way?”

Raye laughed out loud at just how wrong Sandra was. “No, I’m not talking about that kind of divine. And they’re all attached except one – and he may be, I’m just not sure.”

“You say ‘they’re all attached’”, Sandra questioned. “Just how many of ‘them’ are there?”

“There’s Leo…”

“That’s Mr. Delightful?” Sandra butted in.

“Yes,” Raye continued, “and his son Paul and then Paul’s four friends.”

“Well, that’s certainly enough for a party. Turn signals, you asshole – use your damn turn signals!”

Raye jerked the phone away from her ear as Sandra worked through some road rage on the other end of the line. The holiday traffic in Raleigh must be thick already, Raye thought. She worried for a second that it wasn’t a good idea to drop such huge news on Sandra while she was driving in those conditions, but she knew there’d be bigger trouble than a bent fender if Sandra found Raye’d been withholding information. She brought the phone back to her ear as Sandra was apologizing for the outburst.

“…about that, dear. These idiots have no idea what it means use a turn signal before they change lanes or turn! I hope your ears aren’t bleeding.”

“I don’t think there’s any permanent damage,” Raye assured her.

“Good. Now about these divine gentlemen you’re spending quality time with - you said they’re all taken but one. Well, one at a time is all you need – so long as he knows what he’s doing. Any chance you’ve snuck off to a dark corner with the single guy for a quickie?”

“My God,” Raye exclaimed, completely appalled. “Does Cooper know what a tramp you are?! Of course I haven’t slept with him!” (Not that the thought hadn’t crossed her mind, but she wasn’t about to admit that to anyone.) Raye knew she was going to have to take control of the conversation quickly or Sandra was going to go on another of her rants. She was convinced that Raye was grossly uptight and her life could be completely transformed if she would just get 'fucked silly’, as Sandra so elegantly put it.

“Cooper has nothing to do with this," Sandra was saying. "But since you asked, yes - he knows it, he loves it, and he begs for it when I'm not.”

Raye didn’t have the time or the stomach to go over this well-trod ground at the moment and took a deep breath to gear up for the big announcement before diving in. “Listen, hon, I didn’t call so we could have this discussion - again. I need you to focus on something else right now and I don't have a lot of time. I’ve got news… big news. Are you still driving?” There was a delayed response from the other line and Raye knew she had Sandra's full attention. Any irritation she'd just felt towards her best friend dissipated as quickly as it had formed.

"I, uh… I'm almost to Kohlman's," Sandra answered hesitantly. "I just have to get through the light and I'll be turning into their parking lot. What do you have to tell me, my little Woman of Mystery?"

Raye would almost swear she heard the wheels turning in Sandra's head as she tried to figure out what Raye might have to tell her. It's almost worth dragging her along for another day or so, Raye thought with a wicked grin. No, I can't do that - if I don't tell San what's going on soon, my head will explode.

"No hints," Raye told her friend firmly. "You have to wait until the car is fully in park before I tell you another thing." Considering how recklessly Sandra might tear through the parking lot so she could hear the big secret, Raye quickly added a caveat. "And if you hit anyone's car or run over anybody in your rush, I won’t tell you a thing."

"You're such a bitch when you get a little bit of power," Sandra joked. "Fine. I'll be a responsible citizen and not kill anyone - although there are so many who deserve it."

"Yes, I know but you’ll have to exact swift justice on the idiots who annoy you some other time. Found a parking spot yet?"
"Mmmm… maybe. Yes…go on, go on - move, woman! Just because you have a Jaguar doesn't mean you own the rest of the world. Move!" Raye listened quietly as Sandra vented some more, finding irony in the fact that Sandra drove a Mercedes and generally expected everyone else to know where she was going and to stay out of her way until she got there. Oh well, now isn't the time to point that out, Raye decided.

"Okay," Sandra said. "Whew… why don't I just shop on the Internet at home? Anyway, I am parked and cutting the car's ignition right now. Here, I'll jingle the keys to prove it." Raye heard the jangling of Sandra's key chain before she impatiently demanded, "Now what's this news that I had to be sitting still for?"

Raye was impressed with Sandra's willingness to comply - which only happened once a decade, it seemed - and started to tell her tale. Discovering who Leo's son was; meeting the band and fainting dead away at the sight of them; getting drunk at dinner, falling out of her chair and having to be carried upstairs; the short pep talk with Bono; Adam comparing her pre-shoot preparations to Anton Corbijn. Details spewed from her mouth involuntarily for at least three straight minutes and when she’d finally stopped speaking Raye wasn't sure if she'd taken a breath since she started or not. As expected, the revelation knocked a bit of the wind out of Sandra, but she recovered quickly.

"Son of a bitch," she said after a brief silence. "Girl, do you realize how many people would happily sell their mothers into slavery for the chance to spend a week with U2?"

"I know," Raye answered with renewed awe. "I keep trying to figure out how I ended up here."

"How about twenty years of letting life kick you in the face and never getting pissed about it> You finally burned off all your bad karma and now the good stuff's coming back to you."

"Life hasn't kicked me in the face for twenty years," Raye said, a bit defensively.

"Well, maybe that was a bit overstated," Sandra admitted. "But for once, something really, really super has happened to you… not to someone you work with or somebody on your street. Something great has happened to you! I'm so excited for you I want to cry."

"Geez, San - if my life were as awful as you make it out to be, I'd tie concrete blocks around my ankles and jump off the Intracoastal Bridge. I keep telling you, I'm perfectly happy with my life."

"You are the biggest liar I've ever met," was Sandra's blunt reply. "You act like everything's fine because it's easier to pretend you never wanted to do anything with your life than admit that you've got the talent to make things happen and you just won't use it."

Both ends of the call were very quiet for a moment. Sandra's because she realized she had probably gone too far. She was always pushing Raye to follow her dream of being a photographer and Raye always had practical answers for why it just wasn't possible. Raye was quiet on her end, because even though the words were spoken a bit harshly and they stung, there wasn't a shred of dishonesty in them. Raye did have a gift and she had ignored it until it'd almost withered and died. Once again, Raye got the distinct feeling that this was her last chance to break her chains. All the signs were pointing in that direction: her meeting Leo and his connections to the entertainment world; Adam's comments comparing her to Anton; even Sandra being harsh, but honest. Raye was about to say so when Sandra began to apologize.

"Honey, I'm sorry," she spoke quietly. "That was completely uncalled for… I'm such a hateful bitch. I wouldn't blame you if you never spoke to me again."

"Of course, I will," Raye answered. "That was a bit harsh, but it got my attention. You're right, as usual, though. I don't know why, but I could never accept that I'm a good photographer - maybe a really good one. And if I didn't accept that I had a gift, there was nothing for me to regret not using, right?"
"That was essentially my point."

"Well, consider the point taken. I've even started toying with the idea of whether I can afford to leave work at the end of the year to focus on going freelance full time."

"Are you really?" Sandra sounded as excited as if she were about to start a new venture herself. "That's wonderful news, honey! And I promise: I won't nag you about it or anything. Oh God - I wish I was there to hug you."

Raye swallowed slowly and took a deep breathe to compose herself before replying; she was so lucky to have the blind support of someone like Sandra and it really touched her to know how much her best friend cared about her.

"Listen, save that hug for now, okay? I can get it when I come up for Christmas - if that won't interfere with any plans you and Cooper may have."

"We have his office Christmas party on the 14th, and we were talking about having a few folks over on the Sunday before Christmas for some hors doeurves and wine, but I needed you to be there and help me with the food for that, anyway. Just tell me when you'll be here; the spare room can be ready in 10 minutes."

"All right, as soon as I know what days I'll have off, I'll let you know when I can be there." Raye looked at her watch and saw that it was 8:20; everyone was probably in the kitchen by now, almost ready. "Oh my gosh, San - it's almost time for us to head out. I've got to go, hon - I'll talk to you soon. Love you!"

"Bye, sweetie - thank you for not disowning me. I'll talk to you later; love you."

Raye disconnected the line and slid the phone into the back pocket of her jeans as she stood up. Finishing the rest of her coffee, she started back up the stairs to find out if everyone was ready. Or, at the very least, if Paul and Lionel were. She stopped before walking back into the house and stared for a moment at her reflection in the glass of the sliding door. Who did you really want to be when you grew up?, she silently asked her image. A professional photographer was the only answer. It had always been the only answer and Raye felt a peace with that now, mostly because she'd just made up her mind to make it happen. Or let it happen, whichever the case may be.
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Old 09-02-2010, 09:42 PM   #2
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What a great friendship! PROCEEDING!
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