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Old 08-31-2010, 01:21 PM   #1
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The Next Best Thing - 9

The fiction continues...

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Morning came and attacked Raye with a vengeance. Prying open her eyes to survey her surroundings, she was rewarded with the retina-searing light of the morning sun and could only gaze around groggily by making slits of her eyelids. She awoke completely disoriented, not recognizing the room in which she’d been deposited or remembering how she’d come to be deposited in it. Her neck was stiff and her hair matted from lying on the left side of her face all night. Her shoes had come off (or were taken off?), and although her shirt was twisted and riding halfway up her side, she was relieved to discover that she did at least still have her shirt on; her jeans too, for that matter. To make matters worse, she had apparently eaten a jar of cotton balls and some sadistic bastard had kicked her in the head - or, at least that's how it felt.

Rolling over onto her right side so that her back was to the windows and rising sun, Raye was able to open her eyes a bit more and get a better grasp of where she’d spent the night. She was in a lovely bedroom, obviously decorated with a woman’s touch. That’s right, she rememberd. Catherine’s room. The walls were painted in a muted shade of coral, with vanilla-colored accents on the crown moldings, door frames and window sills. The floors were covered in the same hardwoods as the rest of the home, but a cozy seating area had been created between the bed and the adjoining private bathroom. Two white club chairs in a shade of vanilla similar to the paint trim sat on a tan area rug, accompanied by a small white accent table with a glass top. A simple white vase holding a single, fresh-cut tiger lily sat on the tabletop.

Further inspection of her quarters revealed to Raye that the nightstands, bed frame, and the dresser facing the bed were also painted white and were made in a simple Arts and Crafts style. Besides a large mirror with a plain white wooden frame that had been hung just above the dresser, the only other wall décor were two wooden shutters, painted a dark tan and hung horizontally above the bed. Inserted into the closed slats of the shutters was a collection of black and white photos depicting a variety of tropical flowers: lilies, birds of paradise, bromeliads, and hibiscus. It was a unique presentation and Raye liked it immediately. The color palette in the room itself wasn’t something she would have typically cared for – a room painted any shade of orange she would have normally considered a ‘tangerine nightmare’. But since this particular room was oceanfront and there was plenty of white in the room to help tone down the color a bit, the overall effect was that of a sunny little cottage. She could easily imagine Catherine spending many pleasant days there.

‘Pleasant’ was not the word she could use to describe herself at the moment, though. Throwing her legs off the side of the bed and sitting up, she caught her reflection in the mirror and was appalled at the disheveled hag staring back at her. A terminal case of 'bed hair' framed the wreck that had once been her face, the entire left side of which bore the indentations of the bedclothes she'd been buried in all night. What remained of the eyeliner she had so tediously applied the previous afternoon was now smeared down her face in what looked like a bad attempt to duplicate Alice Cooper's eye makeup. And then, of course, there was the purplish-yellow knot just above her right temple, courtesy of the table leg in the library. She gingerly checked the back of her head for its match. It was there, but not as bad as she’d feared.

"Dear God," she swore out loud. "I wonder if I looked like this before I went to bed?" Just then, she had a vision of the prior night's festivities and remembered she'd not come to bed on her own power. "Ooh," she cringed, "I had be carried to my room. That's great, Raye - just great. Show them all your best moves right up front; now the week can only go downhill from here." She finished chastising herself and spent another moment or two just looking the creature in the mirror with utter disgust. Eventually, her attention focused on her dragon-breath; she was sure that if she waited another second before brushing her teeth, she'd kill the tiger lily from where she sat, over four feet away.

But that was easier said than done. Looking around the room, Raye didn't see any of her luggage or camera equipment. It was all still downstairs in the foyer where she and Leo had set it down last night. Her heart started to pound a little harder as she began contemplating the fact that she'd have to go downstairs (pre-shower!) and possibly face everyone before she could even properly brush her hair. The thought - or maybe all the wine - actually made her nauseous and she suddenly made a dash for the toilet, just in case. There on the countertop sat her overnight bag and purse; her suitcase had been carefully placed on a luggage stand just inside the bathroom door. The queasiness in her gut leveled off and a small smile even found its way onto Raye's face. Leo or maybe the 'lads' - somebody - had made sure to bring her luggage up last night so she wouldn't have to. Now she'd only have to track down her camera things - and that could wait until later.

At the moment, she was only interested in tracking down her toothbrush and toothpaste. Digging through the overnight bag and finally finding them, she went about restoring her dental hygiene. Stepping back into the doorway of the bathroom as she scrubbed her molars, Raye looked to see if there was a clock on one of the nightstands. There was, of course (Leo seemed to have thought of everything), and it read 9:43AM. Returning to the sink to finish rinsing, Raye decided she needed to get a shower and get moving – immediately after taking something for her pounding headache. Digging through the overnight bag again, she was able to find a bottle of aspirin and greedily swallowed two with a mouthful of tap water.

Everyone else has probably made their way downstairs and had breakfast, she worried. Even if they haven’t, I couldn't lie in bed all morning - I've got all my equipment to double check and I’d like to set up some shots out on the beach while the light’s still good. She turned the shower on and went about setting out her toiletries and such while the water warmed up, looking forward to getting downstairs and hiding behind her camera as much as possible. If it was alright with everyone else, she decided, she’d just as well forget her behavior last night and never speak of it again with another living soul.

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It never ceased to amaze Raye how something as simple as a hot shower could turn you into a completely different creature. Before applying makeup or even any hair gel, she had been transformed back into a respectable looking human being – not that she’d dare go out of the room without some makeup and her hair properly styled! After toweling off her hair and drying the rest of her parts, Raye completed her after-shower rituals and got dressed. A final scrutinizing of her skin with the mirror revealed no blemishes; her face was actually smooth and evenly colored. With the exception, of course, of the bump on her forehead, but she’d managed to cover that pretty well with some base and blemish cover. Backing up to take in the rest of her image, Raye decided that the jeans and Duke University sweatshirt she had chosen to wear looked just fine and that she was ready to face her day – along with the inevitable ribbing she’d have to endure. Slipping on her leather boat shoes, she tidied up the bathroom before heading downstairs. Stopping for a moment with her hand on the doorknob, she gave herself a brief mental pep talk. Chin up, back straight, she thought. They’re probably going to give you Hell and you deserve it – there’s nothing you can do now but accept facts and move on. It isn’t like no one else has ever embarrassed themselves before. You just did a better job than most.

Being able to laugh at herself (after some initial embarrassment) had always been one of Raye’s saving graces and she smiled at how ridiculous she must have looked, tripping over the rug, blabbering away in a drunken stupor and finally lying sprawled across the dining room floor. Taking one more deep breath, she turned the doorknob and stepped out into the hall to find her way down the stairs to the kitchen.
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Old 08-31-2010, 11:36 PM   #2
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