So lately I have been having these odd,compelling snippets of dreams that haunt me until I write them out into something. Below is a short one that I turned into a mini-story. Any resemblances to fact are, well, completely fictional. Oh, and its a little girly.
I checked one last time in the mirror before I went down to the café. I should have been tired, but the energy and the anticipation was canceling the exhaustion that comes with hours of travel and a sleepless night. I checked the messages on my phone one more time, though by this time I’d memorized them, having dissected them thoroughly with Graham on the flight over the night before.
I grabbed my bag with the few things I’d need for work – it would be a short day, and I would have the rest of the day to spend with Devin. And based on the texts, I’d need the whole rest of the day. That thought made my heart skip as I stepped off the elevator and headed for the café. As I approached, I saw Graham standing in the courtyard, talking with Devin, their heads together, Graham gesticulating forcefully. They both saw me approach out of the corner of their eye and turned; something in their face slowed my approach. Then I heard the voice behind me.
I could feel my forehead wrinkle for lack of understanding and I looked at Graham to get some perspective. Then I felt her rush past me, this little blur of blonde and cashmere and freesia and breath mints. “Devin,” she purred, as she threw herself at him, and he caught her, looking sheepishly over her head at me. I was processing, slowly, still confused, until she paused long enough in her embrace to lean back in Devin’s arms. “I took the train up here this morning . . . and don’t have to be back until tomorrow afternoon!” This time, when she hugged him, he looked down and away, refusing to catch my eye. I looked helplessly at the two of them, and then at Graham. His eyes were sympathetic: too sympathetic. I felt a wave of nausea, like I’d been punched hard in the stomach.
I could feel a thin film of tears form over my eyes, casting a translucent curtain over the whole bizarre scene, and I could hear Graham’s voice, slightly muted by the buzzing in my head. Her name didn’t register with me; I felt only Graham’s hand on my elbow, turning me and escorting me out of the hotel café. I followed without thinking, not sure if I’d taken a breath since I’d seen the guilt in Devin’s face. It wasn’t until I sat with the cup of coffee in front of me that I could even say anything to Graham, and then all I could manage was a curt “I don’t want to talk about it.”
* * * * *
I lay there sobbing, curled in a ball in Graham’s lap while he stroked my hair as we sat on the bed, two empty wine bottles on the nightstand. “I should have known, G, I really should have,” I blubbered, blowing my nose. “God, I feel so stupid.” I rested my head against his chest, realizing I could still smell his laundry soap through my stuffy nose. He continued to stroke my hair, talking against my head. I closed my eyes, listening to the vibrations in his chest.
“It’s not you Soph, really, it’s not you. It’s him. He’s just like that. I told him not to mess with you. I told him he should tell you.”
“What, you mean like this morning when she showed up?” I asked, blowing my nose, and laying against him.
“Then,” he said. “And before.”
“What do you mean ‘and before’? Don’t tell me you knew, G.” I sat up, looking at him like he’d just grown another head.
He met my eyes, then hung his head. “I suspected before, Soph. I didn’t really know. Until like a month ago. He was asking about that night we all went out – if I thought you had a thing for him. Admitted he had this on again, off again thing. But was looking to be ‘off’. I thought he was off. Until she showed up this morning.”
“God, G, I can’t believe you could know something like that and sit there listening to me go on and on about some stupid text messages and not stop me at some point and say ‘Hey, he might have a girl!’ God, how can you let me be so stupid? How is that being my friend?” I slurred the first couple words, but the rest flowed smoothly as my indignation rose. Graham reached out to gather me up in his arms again, and I tried to hit his chest.
He grabbed my wrists, holding my arms tight. “What am I supposed to say, Soph? Would you have believed me? Would it have mattered? I wasn’t the person who could tell you Soph.”
“What is that supposed to mean, G? You’re my best friend – if you can’t tell me, who can?” I groaned in frustration.
“I don’t know Soph. Maybe someone who was an impartial observer.” He fidgeted. “When I tried to tell Devin, he just accused me of having a vested interest.”
I laughed, snorting. “Vested interest? What does that mean, G? That sounds like some ridiculous way of saying it was like some competition or something. How ridiculous, G, you’re my friend.”
He dropped my wrists, and said “I know Soph. I’m your friend. Just your friend, Soph, I know.” He flopped backward on the bed, staring at the ceiling, and the silence brought me out of my wine-soaked haze.
“Graham, I . . .” I lay down beside him, my head by his shoulder, looking up at him. I rolled on my side a bit, reaching up to brush his hair away, finally making him look at me. So obvious to me now, it still surprised me when he leaned over and kissed me, tentative at first, then hard, crushing my lips into my teeth. When my phone buzzed with an incoming text, I was past hearing it, or caring.
* * * * *
I was giggling as I went to pull the door shut, and we ran down the hall to the elevator. It was late – maybe too late for Sunday brunch. Graham was still tucking his shirt in, and bent to tie his shoe, letting the other passengers off first. I stepped off the elevator, and right into Devin, who was pacing in the elevator lobby.
“Sophia, I need to apologize,” he started, not letting me speak. “She and I – we’re done. Through. I didn’t invite her. She keeps doing that to me. It’s complicated, Sophia – you need to understand . . .” I saw his jaw snap shut, and felt hands on my waist. I could see it processing in Devin’s eyes. The possessive touch. The messy hair. The clothes from yesterday, including the sweater of Graham’s I was wearing. “Sophia, I . . . um . . .”
I couldn’t resist, wondering if he felt like he’d been punched in the gut. I put my hands on Graham’s now tight around my waist. I suppressed the urge to giggle. “It’s complicated, Devin. It’s complicated.”