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Old 09-09-2010, 04:10 PM   #1
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The Next Best Thing - 21

OK, what's posted here is actually about 2/3 of what I currently have written. After wrestling with it for 2 days, I finally decided to make two chapters out of what was becoming one ginormous segment. The bad news there is that it makes me feel as though the ending on this is kind of chopped; the good news is, what will become Chapter 22 is moving along nicely.

Anyway, the story's fiction and most of the characters are, as well. Any live persons are referenced to and written in a fictional manner. Thanks for playing along at home.

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The remaining distance to Lionel’s was covered in silence, other than Raye thanking Bono for holding the gate as they re-entered the garden. What she really wanted at the moment was to get away from everyone for an hour or so and organize her thoughts. Maybe just go sit on the beach and vegetate, staring off at the ocean for a while; but that wasn’t possible. Leo and Paul were expecting their next session with her in the library after lunch and skipping the meal would only give the impression that she was avoiding someone or something. Which is precisely what she’d be doing, but Raye knew she couldn’t allow it to appear that way. If she was going to maintain that there was no interest between her self and Adam, mutual or otherwise, she couldn’t cut and run. She’d have to go right on interacting with all of them as she had up to this point. Anything else would just seem terribly rude.

Reasoning this all out to her self as she and Bono reached the deck stairs and began their ascent, she was overcome with guilt for how she’d just reacted to him. He’d only made a friendly, sincere comment and she’d rather succinctly terminated the conversation. She turned to face him when she reached the deck and waited for him to top the stairs. Bono slowed as he came to face to face with Raye and stood looking at her expectantly.

Raye opened her mouth to speak, only to discover that she wasn’t sure exactly what to say. Without the slightest indication that anything unusual had occurred all morning, Bono smiled and spoke very casually.

“Yes? You were going to say something?”

“Well, yeah, I…” Raye stammered as she tried making sense of her internal dialogue. She was once again amazed at all the personalities who seemed to inhabit the one body in front of her. Here was one of the most gorgeous men she’d ever seen, a man whose voice alone could stir her to pure joy or blanket her with passion and whose physique she’d lusted over more than once or twice. Yet now, without anyone else around and his blue eyes focused on her and her alone, she wasn’t even remotely aroused or nervous. (Granted, with the man right in front of her, the fact that he was very happily married also had a sobering effect on Raye’s desires. Fantasizing from afar was one thing – the thought of even trying to seduce him away from his wife was just hysterically laughable and something she’d never attempt, anyway.) Regardless of how she may feel about him other times, at the moment Raye was simply at ease; comfortable. It was such a relaxing sensation that with no thought of it at all, she reached out and took Bono’s right hand in both of hers.

“I need to apologize for the way I spoke to you back there.”

Leaving his right hand in Raye’s, Bono leaned into her and threw his left arm around her shoulder for a quick hug. Being gently squeezed by one of her lifelong idols, her face pressed deeply into the crook of his neck and her nose filling with his scent threatened to derail her train of thought. Okay, Raye hazily thought, now this is arousing. No sooner had she finished the sentence in her head, though, than Bono released his grip and she was able to continue her apology.

“No need for apologies”, Bono was telling her. “I took no offense.”

“Well, that’s great”, Raye answered with genuine relief. “But I could have handled my reaction much better. I was just… shocked, to say the least. What I should have said - what I meant to say - was that I’m sure you’re reading more into the situation than is really there. Adam’s been nothing but cordial to me. As a matter of fact, the most personal thing he’s done all weekend is to ask whether ‘Raye’ is my real name or not.”

Raye gave her most sincere look to Bono and prayed that he’d be swayed to believe her version of events. His reply gave her the distinct impression that he didn’t buy a single, solitary word she’d said.

Pursing his lips slightly and nodding, he simply said, “Well, you may be right. I, mean, he’s only been one of my closest mates for the last thirty years, but I guess you can never truly know another person besides yourself, can you?” He flashed a positively devilish grin at her and without giving her the opportunity to reply, pulled her toward the door as he instructed her with his best English butler impersonation, “Come, m’lady. Luncheon awaits.”

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Two hours later, Raye had finished lunch without any incident and was upstairs in her room, changing into clothes that weren’t covered in sand. Considering that her nerves were mostly shot and she could probably bounce coins off her neck muscles, she decided that comfort and ease were the keys to her wardrobe for the rest of the day and evening. Looking through her luggage, Raye knew that meant one of her favorite fall ensembles: faded, boot leg jeans with a scoop neck tank worn under an old men’s broadcloth button-up that she’d had for years. While a pair of Doc Martens would have typically finished off the outfit, Raye hadn’t brought hers along this trip. Her leather loafers would have to substitute, instead. Loosely rolling up her shirtsleeves to about three-quarters length and leaving the top four buttons undone, she entered the bathroom to check her hair in the mirror.

The wind hadn’t done her any styling favors, but running her hands loosely through her hair a few times and gently shaking it out, Raye didn’t think it looked too bad. Toying with the longer stands in front that always seemed to hang right in her face, she decided at the last minute that a headband was definitely in order. She rummaged through her toiletries bag until she found one she liked and slid it into place on her scalp. Looking into the mirror again, Raye was reminded of how she’d stood in front of the same reflection earlier that morning, in a much worse emotional state. Not wanting to dwell on her near meltdown, she casually glanced at the bathroom counter too distract herself and saw that she’d forgotten to replace the cap on her bottle of aspirin. Returning the hand towel that she’d also left on the counter to its stand, the bottle cap was dislodged from its hiding place and fell to the floor. Raye grumbled under her breath about her clumsiness and bent down to pick up the cap. Standing upright again, she studied her reflection once more as she closed the aspirin bottle and reflected on what she’d been through in the last several days.

For the first time since she’d arrived at Leo’s place on Wednesday evening, Raye had a moment of solitude to consider not only how she felt when Adam was around, but how he acted when she was around; and whether the combination of those two meant anything. She tried her best – for her own good, she kept telling herself – to blame her tingling spine and shallow breaths on an overactive imagination and an embarrassingly long dry spell in the sex department. She tried blaming them on the thrill of being suddenly thrown into such close proximity to her life-long favorite musicians. She’d have tried to blame them on eating some bad shellfish or the alignment of the stars or even the goose eggs she’d put on her head, but she knew they were all worthless excuses. With Bono’s bombshell now caught up in the whirlwind of her mind, trying to ignore what he’d said or pretend it’d never been uttered was useless.

Thinking of what he’d told her, Raye stood with eyes glazed, lost in a daydream. The same scene replayed itself over and over in her mind’s eye: straight out of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, Raye saw herself caught up in a ‘twister’ with images from the weekend swirling by her window as she looked out. Far exceeding any other surrealism was that Miss Gulch on her bicycle has been replaced by Bono, who kept shouting as he pedaled by Raye, “He’s quite taken with you!” At that point Bono would morph into Adam, standing with legs spread, jamming on his Warwick Buzzard bass, asking Raye, “Would you like to strum it a while?” Sheesh, Raye, she thought to herself as she grimaced at the mirror, nothing remotely phallic there. Laughing outright at herself, she quickly left the bathroom and headed downstairs where her equipment was waiting to be carried to the library.

“If the man was interested in you”, she lectured herself quietly, “it wouldn’t take him long to get over it once he realized how deranged you are.” True or not, Raye couldn’t help but giggle all the way to the great room whenever she re-imagined Bono, frantically pumping his little Irish legs on Miss Gulch’s bicycle.

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The remainder of Raye’s afternoon and early evening was quite successful in relation to the quantity of photos she was able to take and the volume of information she collected. After getting set up in the library, seating Paul and Leo, and beginning the shoot, she was once again focused and completely in control of her camera and the room.

Continuing her habit of chatting with her subjects to relax them, Raye took the chance to pose the one question she kept thinking of, but could never remember to ask. Specifically, what had brought Paul and the band to New York in the first place? The only music rumors she’d heard recently were that they’d begun recording some new material at Edge’s home in France. Without a finished album or a tour to promote, Raye had been really surprised to discover all five of them were in the States at the same time.

Paul dropped his own bombshell on Raye when he told her quite openly that the band had been in Electric Lady Studios, recording for their next release. The sessions had been going well Paul had told her but they’d been getting under each other’s skin the last few days, so the timing of their Thanksgiving getaway couldn’t have been better. He went on to share that after their visit with Leon they would return to Electric Lady for a few more days of work, then they’d be on their way home to put the finishing touches on things at Windmill Studios. Raye’s excitement over the promise of new U2 music momentarily took precedence over her work.

“So, we could have a new album out by…?” She shamelessly fished around for more insider information. It wasn’t like Raye to exploit a situation to her favor, but this was an extraordinary situation and one that she knew she wouldn’t find herself in again.

Thoroughly amused, Paul watched as the grown woman in front of him nearly jumped in place with anticipation of every syllable he spoke.

“Hmm,” he began thoughtfully, rubbing his chin with his left thumb and enjoying Raye’s torture more than he probably should. “Let’s see. Another week in the studio, probably two months for mixing and editing, another three months for pressing… I’d say – “

“Yes?” Raye interjected. “Late May? Early June, maybe?” She knew Paul was toying with her now and it just made her appetite for the information that much more voracious.

“I’m going to estimate a mid-July release”, he finally admitted to her before adding a quick caveat to cover himself. “But that’s just an estimate, mind you. Sometimes we can’t get these things off the ground as quickly as we would like to.”

“Oh, I completely understand. And I swear, I won’t tell another soul”, Raye offered.

Paul and his father looked on as Raye stood just behind her camera, her right palm held up to demonstrate the sincerity of her oath, the sheer joy she was feeling now lighting up the room. On an emotional high after acquiring such deeply coveted information, she went on to finish one last roll of film and had dismissed her models within twenty minutes, insisting that she needed to break down the equipment on her own so she could spend some of her newly pent-up energy.

Leo protested at first, but eventually reached a compromise with Raye – she would pack up her equipment but wouldn’t move so much as a lens cap. He would send a couple of the guys up later to carry it all back downstairs for her. Finally satisfied with their arrangement, Leo told her he’d be calling everyone downstairs for dinner in about an hour. He and Paul said their goodbyes and then retreated from the library, leaving Raye to her task and her restlessness.
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