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Old 09-02-2010, 11:47 PM   #1
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The Next Best Thing - 18

This will be one of the quickest chapters I've written (it came together over the last three hours) but it's also one of the shortest - lots of emotion in this & I'm exhausted after writing it! Positive I won't be able to continue posting 2 new chaps a day, but at least I'm not having the writer's block I was afraid of.

My fictional account continues...

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

Raye’s driving desire as she left the kitchen was to simply reach the back deck and inhale some of the brisk salt air into her lungs. To feel the cool burn of it through her nostrils, down the back of her throat and into her chest. The air at the beach in late fall and early winter always seemed to be at its most pristine to Raye and whether there was any truth in that or not, she always felt cleansed after she’d inhaled it deeply once or twice. And right now, she wanted nothing more than to be cleansed. Stripped of the jumble of thoughts that her mind had become, purified of the rage that she’d just felt towards herself. She knew it was unhealthy to feed herself such poisonous bile and she knew she was none of the things that she’d accused herself of being, but there were times when she simply could not cope in any other way but to barrage herself with insults. She firmly believed in taking responsibility for her own actions and not blaming others when things didn’t go as she thought they should, so who else was there to scream at but herself?

“Fucking responsibility,” she spat the words to herself as she passed the stairs and continued down the short hallway that opened onto the great room. “My whole life’s been a study in responsibility and how’s that worked out for me? I have a career that I tolerate instead of one I love, I don’t pursue most of my interests because that would be ‘too frivolous’ in the opinion of - I don’t know who anymore - and my love life is absolute shit because I’m too damn uptight to let someone flirt with me for worrying that they wouldn’t really be interested once they got to know me, anyway.”

Raye would have continued muttering to her self, having reached the end of the hall and made the left to where her equipment had been set down the prior evening, but as she slowed down to pick up her camera case, she simultaneously noticed three things that ended her soliloquy. Firstly, Bono, Edge and Larry had left the slider open and some of the cool ocean air that she craved was gently blowing through the room. Secondly, the three of them were leaning against the deck railing with their backs to her, deep in a hushed conversation and completely unaware that she was within earshot. Thirdly, her right shoelace had come untied and was flopping around, inviting her to a disaster that involved herself and the stairs that led down into the back yard. Kneeling down to quickly re-tie her shoe, she caught bits and pieces of a conversation that she was certain she shouldn’t be privy to.

“…seen how he looks at her?” Bono’s voice, so familiar to Raye after all the years listening to it that she probably knew it better than her own.

“Well, she’s cute. So what if he’s…” Larry’s voice, carried by the wind clearer than the rest, likely because of the confidence with which he spoke the words.

“…last time…Naomi…years to get over…” Edge’s voice now, only slightly less soft-spoken than Adam’s, was hardest for Raye to make out. She really only heard fragments and had to rely on guesses and intuition to make out his words.

With her heart not yet back to its normal rate and her head now pounding from the headache that she’d predicted to herself in the kitchen, Raye was certain the conversation was about her self, but she didn’t have the energy to get excited about the idea. She was emotionally spent and her nerves were raw – much more hyper-stimulation like what she’d just experienced in the kitchen was sure to send her into meltdown. As if in agreement, Raye’s eyes began to tear up and she knew she was on the verge of collapsing to the hardwood floors in a bawling heap. She abruptly stood up, wiped away the threatening tears in her right eye with the back of her right index finger, and grabbed her camera case before stepping across the threshold onto the deck and announcing her arrival.

“Everybody ready out here?” she cheerfully asked the three, with no indication that she’d heard a breath escape their lips, much less comments that she’d surely been the subject of. Her act was Oscar-worthy and although they jumped slightly at the sound of her greeting, neither Bono, Edge, nor Larry had any inkling that she’d been behind them for the last 20 seconds.

“Sure”, Larry answered as he turned to face Raye and lean against the deck’s rail. “Where’s everyone else?”

“We’re here”, Adam answered as he entered the great room. True to his word, Leo and Paul were just on his heels and they all stepped out onto the deck for their first glimpse of the morning.

As they stood comparing observations with the three that had already been outside for a while, Raye seized advantage of no longer being the focus of their attention and swung her camera case up onto the patio table. She had thumbed open its two latches and was meticulously rattling off a silent inventory of what she needed for the day before the guys had barely finished two sentences amongst themselves. She was still engrossed in the contents of her case when she noticed a hush had fallen over the group. Looking to her left, she met five pairs of eyes staring back at her, some quizzically, come comically. She realized then just how quickly her behavior was going to lead to questions about whether she was okay or not and she knew she needed an excuse to get away from everyone for just a second and regroup before going out to try and photograph Lionel and Paul. Surprised that she hadn’t thought of it in the last minute, Raye was suddenly aware that her head was still pounding. She was almost thankful for the fact, though, because it was providing her with the escape she so desperately needed at the moment.

“What?” she asked innocently, forcing a feeble smile onto her face.

“Are you alright, dear?” It was Leo who got the first ‘Are you okay?’ out.

Two points for Leo, Raye thought blandly. She kept the smile on her face, though, and began to prepare her getaway.

“I’m fine, just checking my supply of film. It’s too much trouble once we get in place to have to run back up here to the house for something I should have packed to start with.” She noticed that everyone else seemed to be weighing her words, trying to decide if they carried the weight of truth with them.

Leo continued his line of observation. “Alright, it just seemed that you left the kitchen in a big hurry and I’ve not heard you speak a word since Paul, Adam and myself stepped outside.”

Raye was certain that Lionel had put an extra emphasis on Adam’s name, but she didn’t dare look at Adam right now for his reaction. Her head felt like icy spikes were trying to liberate themselves from inside her skull and she feared that on top of having to fight off tears, now she was in danger of becoming irrational and paranoid.

“I’m sorry,” she forced herself to answer in as calm a voice as she could muster, “I have the beginnings of a terrible headache that I thought I could outlast, but it’s just gotten worse over the last ten minutes. I should have gone upstairs when you did and gotten some aspirin, but I thought I’d be fine. Everything that should be in my case is here – if one of you will take it, and someone grab my tripod and the reflector, I can meet you all down by the gate in about five minutes. Deal?” Hoping she could remain convincing for just a few more blinks of the eye, Raye gave her best sweet smile as she looked from Leo to the others.

It worked and within seconds, Bono had stepped over to close her case and take control of its contents while Paul and Adam were stepping inside for her other things.

“Be right back,” she told them all as she walked back inside and headed for the stairs. Stealing a quick glance back at them as she turned into the hallway, Raye saw that everyone was doing just as she’d asked. She paused for a second at the bottom of the stairs, until she heard the slider close and the muffled voices drift away as the guys headed for their rendezvous point at the back gate. Finally alone, she sprinted up the two flights of stairs to her room, groped through her toiletries case until she’d come up with her bottle of aspirin and swallowed three completely dry. Almost immediately, her gag reflex took control and she convulsed over the sink, her tongue sticking involuntarily well past her lips.

Not even having the energy to curse herself for forgetting her inability to take the smallest pill without some kind of liquid, she simply turned on the faucet, cupped her hands to catch a palmful of tap water and blindly slurped it down, taking the three aspirin and most of their nasty aftertaste with it. She waved both hands under the cold water once more, before turning off the flow, and then fell with her back against the bathroom door and brought her cold, wet hands to her face. She stood there like that – eyes closed, hands to her face, with water running down her arms and dripping off her elbows onto the floor - for at least two minutes, until she was sure that her breathing had returned to normal and that she could look at her reflection without bursting into tears. Cautiously taking her hands away from her face and looking at herself in the bathroom mirror, she passed the test. She didn’t begin to cry. But Raye wasted no time in averting her attention away from the woman she saw looking back at her, for fear that her resolve would fail any second. Breathing deeply, she pulled a hand towel from its stand on her sink and gently dabbed her face dry.

She stood at the sink for another thirty seconds before gently reminding her self, “You can’t stay up here all day. You promised to do a job and you’re going to do it. Everyone’s waiting for you at the gate already. Focus on the work and go.” With that, she gently laid the towel down on the bathroom counter, turned off the light and heading back out of her room towards the stairs and whatever the rest of the day held for her.
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Old 09-03-2010, 03:50 AM   #2
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poor Raye. Adam loves her. well...not love but...really, really likes her.
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Old 09-03-2010, 01:13 PM   #3
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I write these things, I read them, re-read them, post them & read them again and I STILL have misspellings, omitted words & phrases that I meant to reorganize. It's torture for a perfectionist!!

Thanks L&L for your comments. I'd love to have more, but I understand my story moves muuuuuuuuuch slower than most fan fics & that's likely a turn-off for a lot of readers. If anyone was wondering, though, there is steamy stuff in the future.
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Old 09-03-2010, 03:24 PM   #4
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I know what you mean. You can re-read over one paragraph five times and find nothing wrong with it until like...a week later. I find that my writing has a lot of grammar mistakes but I just kind of ignore them.

And we're looking forward to the steamy-ness!
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