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Old 08-31-2010, 01:17 PM   #1
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The Next Best Thing - 8

More fan fic. BTW, if you've stuck with the story this long, thank you. I don't know how long it will take me to finish telling the whole thing, I just know how it's going to end & some of the stops along the way. My hope is that the writing's good enough & the story telling interesting enough that you'll stick with me if it takes 50 chapters.
(Also: I've gone back & found a number of typos, but I can't change them now. At least, not online. It drives me crazy but is a product of being nervous - so there will likely be more. I hope you can excuse them.)

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

Joy had set a gorgeous table and Raye immediately regretted that the bump on her head had diminished her appetite. All her favorite holiday staples (plus some new ones) were present and their scents were filling the dining room with the most delicious perfume. An elegant bone china serving platter, rimmed with gold, held a roasted turkey that had been circled with sliced oranges and lemons. The accompanying gravy boat carried a delicate au jus sauce. In an assortment of matching serving bowls, there were candied sweet potatoes covered with honeyed pecans, sautéed green beans with pearl onions and almonds, cranberry chutney, a tureen of pumpkin soup sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg; even broccoli cheese cornbread had been prepared. Raye snuck a few quick glances at her dinner partners and noticed she wasn't the only one whose eyes were glazing over in hunger.

Crossing the dining room, she noticed a bottle of white wine was being chilled by Leo's place setting at the head of the table and that wine glasses had been included with every place setting, in addition to the standard water glass. What, she thought, no red wine for Bono? Guess he won't be any passing out in the bathroom floor tonight - such a shame. A wicked smile came to her face for just a moment and then disappeared as Lionel began directing everyone where to sit.

When they all were seated and the wine had been poured, Raye found herself to the right of Leo’s place at the head of the table, and directly across from Bono and Paul. Edge sat at Raye's right, with Larry next to him. Finally, there was Adam at the end opposite of Leo. Bono continued to unnerve Raye with his charming smiles and winks from across the table. Raye knew she wouldn't be able to so much as hold a fork, much less eat, if she didn't stop looking at him, but she just couldn't help herself. The man was a visual black hole - if you were any near his proximity your eyes and attention were uncontrollably drawn to him; you simply couldn't avoid it. He not only fed on the attention of others, he managed to perpetuate it. Grateful that Leo had begun carving the turkey and serving it, Raye tore her eyes away from Bono and concentrated on filling her plate and not breaking anything as she passed dishes to and from her fellow diners.

When Joy was satisfied they had everything they needed to begin dinner, she excused herself and disappeared back into the kitchen. Lionel then gently tapped his fork on the side of his water glass and announced he wanted to make a toast. He slowly stood and lifted his wineglass before them all. "I would like to raise a toast," he started, "not to good times, or good food or even good bottles of wine." His eyes moved from face to face as he nodded at each. "I raise my glass instead to good friends, without whom the time wouldn't be worth spending, the food wouldn't be worth eating, and the wine wouldn't be worth opening. You've each become something special in my life and I am honored to share my home with you tonight. I pray health, happiness and humility for us all." With a playful wink and nod addressed directly to Bono at the mention of 'humility', Leo raised his glass a bit higher and announced, "Cheers!" Five laughing voices returned the sentiment as they raised their own glasses in response, and the first of the evening's wine slid down their throats.

*******************************************************************************************************

Discussion of how wonderful everything tasted and how hungry they'd all been carried them about fifteen minutes into dinner. The moment Raye saw the opportunity to take charge of the conversation, though, she seized it and began interrogating Leo with concerns that she'd had since regaining consciousness upstairs - the second time.

"Alright, Leo," she started, "there's something I've just got to get straight with you."

The directness of her statement got the attention of the group and they all set down their silverware as Leo replied a little hesitantly, "Okay - what is it that's troubling you?" Five pairs of eyes were now on Raye in anticipation of what would come next.

She crinkled her brow, searching for the right words. She certainly didn't want to offend Leo or Paul with her line of questioning, but there was nothing to do than just start asking. “You told me upstairs that Paul is your son – and I don’t mean to seem… rude - maybe I shouldn't even be asking - but if you two are father and son why do you have different names?” Raye sat back in her chair, her total confusion obvious. And for at least the umpteenth time in the evening, she looked at the faces around the dining table, only to find them all smiling slyly at her – like they knew a secret. Which, actually, they did. Raye waited for Father and Son to explain them selves and make her privy to the secret, too.

“My father's name,” Paul began, “is Paul Lionel Arrington, Senior. He prefers not to answer to 'Paul' and is therefore 'P. Lionel Arrington, Senior' on most of his legal documents. I am 'Paul Lionel, Junior' but once I began working, I chose to use a different surname for my business pursuits: McGuinness.”

Of course! Raye felt like slapping her palm against her thick skull. She should have remembered Lionel used the initial 'P' on all the claims paperwork he'd filled out for her back in the summer. That kind of detail normally wouldn’t escape her attention. It was the curiosity in her; she didn't mind folks using an initial in the middle of their name - that was perfectly normal - but when they used only the initial of their first name, it always made her wonder what type of horrible moniker they might be hiding from the world.

“I was at a very successful point in my career when Paul finished school,” Leo was explaining, “and when he announced his interest in working as a manager, I offered to provide him with a few clients who were gaining attention to help get him started.”

“But I didn’t want to rest on the laurels of my father’s work,” Paul cut in. “I wanted to build my reputation from the ground up.”

“That’s true,” Leo continued. “He even refused to let me make any calls for him or offer him referrals to some of my contacts. Stubborn as an ox, he was.” Leo gave a wink to Paul, who conceded the truth of that fact with a simple nod and a sheepish grin.

“He still is,” Larry added, from his end of the table. “It’s what makes him so good at what he does.”

Adam, Edge and Bono all nodded in agreement and Paul playfully bowed his head in their direction and said a quiet, “Thank you.”

“But where did ‘McGuinness’ come from?” Raye still wanted to know.

Paul again took the lead. “Mum’s family name was ‘Guinness’, as in Sir Alec. Fourth cousins, twice removed, something like that - in case you were wondering.” He flashed a quick smile at Raye before continuing. “At any rate, I had an old school chum in Dublin who owned a couple of pubs and knew my plans. When these four started gathering steam,” he said with a wave of his hand around the table, “gaining quite a following and putting out the word that they wanted to find a record deal, I decided to strike while the iron was hot. I reasoned that an Irish fellow might have a better chance with them than an outsider but ‘Guinness’ was already synonymous with stout in Dublin, and I didn't want folks to assume any relation. So, I simply added ‘Mc’ to Mum’s maiden name, had some business cards printed up, and started presenting myself as an established band manager with roots in Dublin, looking to sign some locals. Whenever I was in the city, I’d go get a few pints at whichever pub my friend Sean was in on that particular day, and he’d help the rumor along by whispering my cover story to a few patrons that liked to flap their jowls. It wasn’t long before most everyone in town took it as Gospel that I was the person I claimed to be. It seems to have been a pretty successful scheme, don't you think?” He gave a smug smile and waited with Lionel to see if they had satisfactorily answered Raye’s question. They had, but she wasn't finished yet.

“But how did you convince these guys you were some big-time band manager?” Raye asked. “You didn’t even have any other clients at the time, did you? What about staff and offices and a personal assistant and all that?”

There were chuckles all around as they reminisced about those early years and Larry interjected, “We were so green then, Paul could’ve told us he was the head of RCA Records and we wouldn’t have known the difference!”

“That’s true,” Adam agreed. “We just thought we’d hit the jackpot by getting involved with someone who could provide us an unlimited supply of Guinness beer.”

Raye looked at Paul in shock. “I thought you didn't want people to think that!”

Bono laughed and answered, “No, no he didn't - we just assumed it. Like Larry said, we were terribly green; we simply saw a, quote, record executive with a big car, nice suits and ‘Guinness’ in his name; we thought we’d found the Promised Land. Paul had a devil of a time convincing us that wasn’t what his rumored Dublin roots were, didn’t you?” With that, Bono playfully jabbed his elbow in Paul’s side.

“Ah yes,” Paul said. “Making the four of them believe I knew all about getting a recording contract when I knew very little of the sort wasn’t a problem at all. Convincing them I couldn’t get them all the free stout they wanted wasn’t near so simple. But producing an office with staff and several clients was easy – that’s the one thing I did let dear old Da help me with.” Paul smiled at Leo and nodded for him to take the story from there.

“The office I was in at that time," Leo said, "had an unoccupied loft above it with a separate, private entrance. Paul did allow me to let the space and put his name on the door. I moved a few of my staff and files up there, so that when he took the lads to London for the first time, presto! They walked right in to the bustling office of ‘Paul McGuinness Management, LLC’. With that, and myself acting as Paul’s private advisor on any details he didn’t already know, these poor sods bought the thing hook, line and sinker. By the time they learned the truth of how little Paul actually knew about negotiating a record deal, they’d already made several demos and were on their way to signing a contract with Island.” Leo’s pride over his son’s accomplishments was readily apparent on his face as the two raised their glasses to each other in a small toast to their successes.

“Just imagine,” Bono said as they all resumed eating their dinner, “if we’d known half of what we pretended to, Paul couldn’t have pretended to know half of what he did. I guess that just proves that God does protect fools and children.”

“Yeah,” Larry added. “Which means that you’re covered on both accounts.” He quickly ducked as Bono's linen napkin was flung at him.

"Shut your gob and finish your dinner, Lardence," was Bono's laughing reply. Conversation picked back up amongst the guys but Raye could only manage to shake her head in awe as she returned her attention to her own plate. Awe at the thousands of instances in time that had to intersect at precisely the right moment to bring four Dublin teenagers together to form a band and make them successful. The instances that had to keep intersecting to bring them all here now, to the same dinner table. She chuckled ever so slightly to herself, realizing this left her absolutely undecided on whether the universe was a place of complete order or total randomness. Or both at the same time.

*******************************************************************************************************

Dinner tasted twice as delicious as it smelled and they all had more than their fill. Chilled bottles of wine continued to appear as if by magic (it was actually just a very observant housekeeper, keeping vigilant), and before the pumpkin pie cheese cake could be eaten and the last of the dinner plates cleared away by Joy, three more bottles had been enjoyed by the group. Raye couldn’t really notice it taking much effect on the others, but she knew she was certainly more relaxed than since she’d left her home earlier in the day. Come to think of it, she was more relaxed than she’d been in weeks. Is it the company or the wine, she wondered and giggled out loud at her witty observation.

She’d not spoken a word in over five minutes and her outburst brought conversation at the table to a standstill once again. Realizing she was being stared at – apparently she hadn’t giggled as quietly to herself as she’d thought – Raye sat up a little straighter in her chair and considered trying to explain just what was so funny. She quickly decided to give up that plan – they would never get it. Instead, reaching for her stemware and finishing the last of her sixth glass of wine, she finally felt emboldened enough to question Leo about another issue that had been bothering her since she'd arrived that afternoon. With all eyes still on her, she turned to Leo. Concentrating very carefully on her speech so she didn’t slur her words or alert anyone that the wine was rapidly catching up with her, she leaned forward, her elbows on the table and shook her index finger at Lionel as she addressed him.

“Leo, there’s somethin' I been meanin’ to ask you 'bout,” she started, completely oblivious to the amused expressions watching her now. Leo managed to not laugh at her as she worked diligently to focus her eyes on him. He did have to glance down at his plate and clear his throught before he responded to her, though.

"What is that, dear?", he asked, slightly tilting his head.

Raye appreciated his sincerity and continued with her rapidly deteriorating line of thought.

"You have…", she began and then stopped. She couldn't remember how many people were in Leo's house and was going to have to do a head count. Sadly, it seemed that during dinner her neck muscles had become stricken with some sort of malady that prevented her from holding her head upright. Raye didn't look around the table so much as roll her head from one shoulder to the next as she noted each occupant of the dining room. With the same limp-wristed motion she'd used to address Lionel, she pointed from seat to seat and tallied the evening's attendance.

"One…two…three…four…five…", she counted clockwise from Paul until she came back to herself. "…Six. No wait - I'm six. I don't count. I mean," shaking her head now as her chin fell to her chest, "not counting us, there are five people here tonight. Right, Leo?" She threw her head back so that it was supported by the chairback and rolled her head to her left, where Leo was now staring into his own wineglass, trying not to laugh out loud.

"That's right", he answered simply, lifting his glass and taking a small sip. It was obvious to everyone at the table (who wasn’t intoxicated) that he was making a strong effort not to laugh out loud.

"OK, so who am I sleeping with?" She gave a confused look as Leo almost choked on the wine he'd just swallowed and her table mates openly snickered at her.

"Well," Bono piped up, "she certainly cuts right to the quick about business, doesn't she?" Another mischeivous grin beamed at Raye from across the table but she was much too drunk at this point to appreciate its powers.

Now it was Larry throwing his napkin at Bono. "Ah, quit makin' googly eyes at her, why don'tcha? You can see she's completely pissed and is talking out of her head. Or maybe you don't see it - you're not used to being on the sober end of these conversations, are you?"

"That's enough, guys," Edge spoke up before Bono had a chance to reply to Larry's insinuation about his sobriety or lack thereof. The two of them quickly obeyed and returned their attention to Leo as he and Paul tried to make sense of what Raye was asking.

Leo had recovered from nearly choking and after a few coughs to clear his throat, began trying to decipher Raye's true intention with such a question. "What exactly do you mean by 'who am I sleeping with'?" he asked.

Raye's exasperation with men was apparent as she spelled it out to him. "I mean, when I was here the first time I saw two spare rooms with four double beds and you told me 'bout your bedroom upstairs - the penthouse." She cackled aloud at her joke, before quickly bringing her index finger to her lips and shushing herself. She checked both ends of the table out of the corner of her eyes before proceeding. "By my count, there's…how many was it? Oh yeah, there's seven of us and three bedrooms and I'm the only girl here. So, who am I sleeping with?" Elbows back on the table, she now rested her chin in her hands to stablilize her neck and turned to Leo for his answer.

"Oh - you want to know where you are sleeping!," he said, obviously relieved. "The lads are bunking in the two rooms on the second floor, yourself and Paul are sharing the third floor with me. Paul will be in the third guest room, you’ll be in Catherine's former room and I, of course, will be in my own bedroom."

"Okay," she mumbled. "Then lead me to my room, please. It's very tired and I am very late." Pushing her chair back from the table to stand up, Raye experienced a strange falling sensation. Until the sharp bang on the back of her head and the sight of her feet well over the height of the table made it obvious that she'd actually turned herself over in her chair. It was quite painful, but she couldn't help bursting into a fit of giggles thinking of the matching goose eggs she'd be sporting in the morning. One on the front of her head, courtesy of the side table in the library; the other on the back of her head, courtesy of the Brazilian cherry floors in the dining room.

Lying on the cool floor with her eyes closed suddenly seemed like the most reasonable place in the entire house to sleep, and she made no effort to leave her newfound accommodations. Later, she would only vaguely recall being carried up to her room in the service elevator by Edge and Adam, before being deposited onto the bed, fully clothed, to sleep it off until the morning.
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Old 08-31-2010, 11:29 PM   #2
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"Then lead me to my room, please. It's very tired and I am very late."

LMFAO!
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Old 09-04-2010, 01:07 AM   #3
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I'm kinda loving that the main chracter is a hot drunken mess.
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Old 09-04-2010, 01:48 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by floridita727 View Post
I'm kinda loving that the main chracter is a hot drunken mess.
Thank you - she's not always, but from time to time....
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