Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Consolation Prize - Chapter 7

The air around him had chilled considerably, and he shivered involuntarily. Will’s mind had gone numb and so, too, had the parts of him that weren’t numb already. He felt entirely trapped in a body that he didn’t know how to move. Closing his eyes, he pulled his hand back to his lap, out of her warm grip. He wished, almost desperately, that she wouldn’t be there when he opened his eyes. Perhaps it had all been some kind of fuzzy dream world. 

But when he did finally return to the scene, Kristin was still there, so close he could smell the perfume she always wore. It was flowery and too strong. He’d never felt that way before, but he didn’t like it. It made the air thick. He pulled his gaze from her and watched Scottie down two shots at the bar, hitch her bag up onto her shoulder, and do an about face, heading toward the exit. He swallowed hard and fought the urge to race after her. 

Kristin was saying something, probably something he had always wanted to hear her say, but as much as he tried, he couldn’t make himself listen. His eyes followed Scottie out the doors, muddled with confusion. She had such angry purpose in her stride, seemingly from nowhere. Had she seen him holding Kristin’s hand? Or rather, Kristin holding his? He felt like a prisoner in his own body. 

Cory shouted something that Will couldn’t make out and started jogging over to their table, as he tried to surface from the mental flood he was currently drowning in. Kristin leaned closer to him and he winced reflexively. Her beautiful face had aged gracefully, of course it had, and it was wide and pale, but soft and kind. And, quite inappropriately, he wanted to punch it. And that thought broke him through the surface, he took a deep breath and unlocked the wheels on his chair. Taking control, he pushed backward away from the table.

“Will,” Kristin’s voice came from the top of a well. There was concern. She had no right to be concerned. But he realized it the moment it was too late—he’d forgotten about the fucking step. It all happened so fast. The polished wood floor rose up swiftly to meet the back of his head. He heard gasps and frantic whispering erupt all around him. Great, he thought bitterly, let’s give ‘em a show. 

Kristin’s face was inches from his and she was saying his name over and over like some demented record player. She had her hand on his shoulder and was motioning to someone he couldn’t see from the ground. He mumbled that he was fine and struggled to push himself into a sitting position, his legs tangled grotesquely in front of him and he felt his face flush. He hated feeling helpless. Because he didn’t use any straps—he had enough trunk control not to need them—there was nothing keeping him in the chair except his own weight. When it tipped he was thrown backward and embarrassingly, sprawled out on the floor in front of everyone, and their mother. Kristin then tried to help him up, but he shook her off. 

“I’m fine,” he muttered, voice sharp as a cleaver. Kristin looked as if she’d been slapped, retracting her hands sharply to her sides. She stood up and backed away slowly, wrapping her arms around herself. Will refused to feel bad for even a second. He didn’t have time to consider it for long though, as Cory and Pete appeared on the fringes of the crowd that had gathered, and Pete cursed audibly and Cory looked as white as a sheet. Cory stepped to put his hands under Will’s shoulders, but Will protested, and Cory stumbled backward, like he’d seen a ghost. He was staring at Kristin who was staring at Will. Will felt a momentary stroke of gratitude at Cory’s reaction to seeing her again. 

The Carnival cruise guide emerged from behind Will and shook his head. Will felt confident that nothing like this had ever happened at the Royal Palms Shuffle Board Club. And if it had, it certainly hadn’t happened to a clumsy, flustered, newly thirty-year-old, guy in a wheelchair who’d only had two drinks. He longed to be that able bodied twenty-two-year-old who’d been over-served and had slipped on his untied shoelace. Will motioned silently for Pete to right his chair, which he did, and bring it over to him, which he also did. 

“How much have you had to drink?” Pete asked quietly, crouching down to Will’s level. His tone and eyes were admonishing and stern. Will scoffed, looking up at Pete. 

“How much have you had to drink?” Will mocked incredulously. 

“Dude,” Pete started to argue, but Will interrupted swiftly. 

“Can we not do this here?” he snapped. Pete nodded solemnly and backed away, knowing that Will wouldn’t accept his help, no matter how many drinks he’d had. Pete skirted his role as brother, never fully stepping into it, but never fully stepping out of it. And Will was forced to waffle between being thankful and resentful for his brother’s concern. It was absolutely infuriating. 

Kristin hadn’t taken her eyes off of Will since he’d hit the ground and it made him want to scream. He hadn’t seen her in eight years—eight fucking years—and this had to happen? Her soft blonde hair framed her heart shaped face with the birthmark below the curve of her bottom lip, and her green eyes—those eyes—were crinkled with worry. He couldn’t remember a time when he had ever fallen out of his chair since being in rehab. And at least, if he had, it had been in private and wholly uneventful and unimportant. And even if it had been in public, it hadn’t been in front of the girl—the girl he’d once intended on marrying—who’d left him because he’d been crippled by no fault of his own. And she hadn’t stuck around long enough when he’d been in rehab to see him struggle. This was now, essentially, the only experience Kristin had had with him after getting injured. He was probably even less of a man in her eyes than he had been previously, and that was enough to make him scream. But he didn’t. He took another deep breath and faced the task at hand.  

Reaching up he locked the brakes and then pulled his weight up and over into the chair. It wasn’t an easy transfer, it sure as shit didn’t look graceful, but he was practiced, and his upper body could handle it. His face burned with effort and embarrassment as he lifted his legs at the knees and arranged his feet on the footplate. There were so many eyes on him, it almost felt like they were physically pressing into his body. He took a deep breath, looked up, and smiled at the crowd that had formed. Forcing a laugh, he ran his hand through his hair and rubbed the back of his neck. He made some inane joke about wheelchairs, and steps, and alcohol, and shuffleboard fandom not mixing, and to his relief, people laughed. The mood shifted just enough for the burden to lift on the rubberneckers, now that it was clear he wasn’t hurt. It had been a spectacle that would fade into a good cocktail party anecdote, that would fade even further into the oblivion of “remember that one time?” and finally a foggy, but jagged memory he only thought of from time to time. But in that moment, it was crushing him. 

“Will,” Kristin pleaded, reaching for his hand, the look in her eyes a heady mix of pity and regret that made him feel nauseous. “Please talk to me.” He focused on unlocking the breaks and then backing away from her. He wouldn’t make eye contact. He couldn’t look at those eyes again. 

“I need some air,” he replied flatly, pushing past the girl he once would have done anything for, the pain of their breakup as fresh as if it had been yesterday. A ghost of his past, rising out of nothing but a chance meeting at a popular bar in New York City. He hadn’t even known that she’d moved. The last he’d heard she’d lived in Boston. 

The crowd had thinned but he got an excessive number of stares as he made his way smoothly to the entrance. He saw Parker near the bar and Parker waved him over. 
“Wicked fall, man,” he quipped. Will heard himself laugh before he realized he’d decided to—a true, honest to God, reflex. It felt fresh, and good. He shook his head as Parker clapped him on the shoulder. “You know how to make a scene, that’s for damn sure.” 
They walked out together, and the bouncer held the door open for both of them. It was something he did for everyone, but it felt like he was mocking Will. He hated the frustration that had risen in him. Parker pulled out a cigarette as Will looked around the barren street for any sign of Scottie. It was clear she was long gone. 

“At least Scottie didn’t see it,” he reasoned as he waved away Parker’s offer for a cigarette of his own. Parker lit his and inhaled, laughing. 

“She’s cool,” he said simply. “I liked her.” And for Parker, that was the best endorsement he would give. He was a man of few words and an excellent judge of character. Will glowed. 

“I like her too,” Will concurred. 

“I can tell,” Parker replied knowingly. Will smiled and leaned back, shifting his weight. The back of his head throbbed a little from the alcohol and get-together it’d had with the wood floor. 

“Wild that Kristin was here,” Parker mused as he leaned against the ramp railing behind them with one foot up. He took another drag as Will shook his head then rubbed his face. 

“I haven’t seen her since—” 

“I know,” Parker interrupted.

“But you knew she lived here?” he asked. Parker nodded. Will didn’t care that he hadn’t told him. What good would it have done? He wouldn’t have changed anything had he known there was a chance of running into her. It was New York City, the smallest big city in the world. 

“I think,” Parker started then dithered, looking down at the ground. “I think Scottie might have thought that she was your girlfriend.” Will’s mouth dropped open and he turned to Parker. “And I’m afraid I might have played a part in that. I was a little, um, unclear when she asked who Kristin was, unintentionally.” His teeth were gritted, and his eyes scrunched slightly. Will laughed lightly after a minute, rolling his eyes. “But after replaying it in my head, it kind of sounded like, well, you know.” 

“Of course, she thinks that,” he said, laughing harder. “Of fucking course.” 

“Happy birthday, man,” Parker joked, patting Will on the back. Will felt grateful for Parker in that moment. He’d never wavered in his friendship, never even blinked when he came to see Will in the hospital, then at rehab. To Parker, Will was the same guy, even if that wasn’t always true—because Will knew he wasn’t the same person after it happened. He also knew he wasn’t the same person from twenty to thirty, but who was? He didn’t realize how much he would cherish people just treating him like a person rather than someone or something to fuss over. Parker had an easiness about him that made you feel like you were sitting on a sun-drenched porch with a light breeze, the temperature perfect, birds singing, not a care in the world. 

And as far as Scottie went, thinking about her when Kristin was right in front of him was hugely significant. He was moving on, even if the pain was still fresh. But he also felt silly chasing after her. She did, after all, leave him hanging in the front seat of his car. As far as he knew, she came to the party for Cory and Nora. Maybe she was just being nice to him when she came over with a beer. He didn’t know what to do next. He just knew he didn’t want to lose her before he even had her to lose. If he did, he knew that she wasn’t the first, and she probably wouldn’t be the last. But he damn well thought that she just may be the best.

<>

They’d called while he was at work. 

He was at his desk, pulling together a final brand presentation for a new client in Keynote. The mid-afternoon light was streaming through the warehouse windows in the studio and he could hear cars honking down on Houston street. Rubbing his temples, he put his elbows up on the desk and closed his eyes. His computer pinged innocently and he looked up. 

EMILY: Go home. 

He rolled his eyes and straightened up to reply, looking around, his heart speeding up at the thought that maybe she was here somewhere in the office. But one sweep of the small space told him he’d let his hopes get the better of him. 

EMILY: Seriously. Go home, Will. 

Will stared at the chat on his screen. Emily was always worrying about him. She was a few years older than him, Will guessed around 37, and married to a really nice guy named Steve who Will happened to like quite a bit. She invited Will over for dinner at least twice a month, insisting he didn’t get enough home cooked meals. She was probably right about that, as he practically was in a relationship with his Seamless account. Maybe that was why he was single? Emily always sent him home with a full Tupperware of leftovers. And, true to her meddling nature, she had tried, in vain, time after time, to set him up with women she knew. The dates had never gone well. 

“Does she know about the wheelchair?” Will had asked, religiously, each time she’d pulled up a new woman’s Instagram account. 

“What?” she’d hedge predictably, playfully rubbing his shoulder as she leaned over him to proof something on his computer. “You know it’s not a big deal.” 

“Great. If it’s not a big deal, then telling her shouldn’t be either. Does she know?” he’d press, ignoring her platitudes, ignoring her touch. 

“Of course, she knows,” she’d say to his screen instead of his face.

Predictably, she didn’t know—of course, she didn’t know. She never knew. Will couldn’t believe that he kept believing Emily. Seeing the surprise on the women’s faces as he approached them was a particular brand of humiliation, and he felt like he had a pretty high tolerance for it after spending weeks having people do even the most basic things for him. He didn’t blame them though. No one—himself absolutely included—wanted to be ambushed. 

Anna, the most recent in a string of them, an old colleague of Emily’s, had actually been warned after Will demanded proof that she’d been told. Emily reluctantly sent a text while Will watched. But Anna had apparently not done her research, or even cared enough to do so, and picked a restaurant that wasn’t accessible—four narrow stairs down into a garden space in NoHo—and instead of offering to go somewhere else she’d said she would just rather call it an early night. Right. They shook hands at the corner of Lafayette street and she disappeared down the steps to the 6 train. 

Will had called Emily after that most recent prickle and she’d met him at a bar down the street. When she arrived she had been fuming, and the way her face lit up when she tore into the Anna, specifically her ignorance and closed mindedness, was one of the sexiest things Will had ever seen. They’d each had three or four cocktails by the time Emily leaned into him, taking his large hand in her small one, honey golden hair draped over her shoulder. Her cheeks were flushed, and her wedding band glinted when the overhead light caught it. Then she propped herself up with her elbow on the table and Will could smell vanilla on her skin. All trepidation of what was about to happen fell away and she kissed him like she’d been wanting to kiss him every day for the last six years. That night was the first time he slept with his boss. Since then, Will had lost track. It was comfortable, and casual. Emily had rebuilt some of the confidence that Kristin and Katie had torn down. She’d stacked it back up, brick by fucking brick.

They’d always go to Will’s place, but only when Pete wasn’t there. Or they’d find a hotel and get a room for an afternoon, laughing like teenagers as they slipped the card key into the lock. Emily didn’t like to have sex in the dark, so the shades were always thrown open or the lights were always on. Will had argued with her, preferring the shadowy safety, but she’d just smiled that sexy smile and ran her hands through his dark hair. The lights stayed on and Will was forced to face his own broken body. He tried desperately to see it through her eyes. She was cheating on her husband with him—with him. He loved her, and she loved him, he knew that. And they both knew that it would never blossom into something more than it was. They fell into each other’s company like falling into bed at the end of a long day. 

Will prickled a little bit at the thought of her muddling in his life still. The night he’d punched a man at their spot in Williamsburg, Emily had been cooling things off, deciding that they had to stop seeing each other for the time being. She’d been having a crisis of conscience and was worried that Steve knew. Will, however, was staunchly convinced that Steve had known, somewhere deep down, since the very beginning. The way Emily acted when Will came over for dinner after they started sleeping together—like a lovesick teenager—left very little room for interpretation. She all but kissed him at the dinner table. Will knew that Emily called the shots in that relationship—he could feel phantom threads of that kind of dynamic in their own relationship. Steve was easygoing and sturdy—he never wavered. Did Steve not believe Will to be a threat? 

Will could handle a breakup. Nothing could rake him through gravel like his breakup with Kristin. But no, it was from that kernel of anguish that Steve didn’t think he was worthy of his wife that the punch came. Will supposed it was better to cut ties now and try to find his own happiness outside of Emily. She would always mean the world to him, but that was all she could ever be. He knew she’d never leave Steve, and Will, when he was honest with himself, didn’t want her to do that. 

WILL: You’re on vacation, get offline.
EMILY: Touché. But seriously, go to the beach. Get some goddamn sun or something. God knows you need it. 

He wanted to want to go to the beach. He wished it were easier. Last night he’d called Cory to back out of the weekend down the shore for the 4th of July. He’d predictably blamed work and Cory had groaned calling him a workaholic nutcase. Will knew Cory didn’t believe him, but Cory had steeled himself for an argument he wouldn’t win. Nothing he said made a dent, and they’d ended the call when Cory finally threw in the towel, cursing him out and then quietly asking Will to let him know if anything changed. His voice had a bit of an edge, an underlying tone, that Will didn’t like. It was like they both wanted to say something they couldn’t say, and it colored everything. 

Flooded with relief, he’d slept like a baby. He didn’t realize how much he had been dreading the trip until it was no longer happening. He just wanted to take this weekend to laze around his apartment and recharge. It felt like the summer had been busier than normal and he was starting to feel it. His shoulders and back had been bothering him the past few days and he could use a break from his chair, as much as he could reasonably manage. He just spent too much time sitting. His body wasn’t made to sit for so many hours. It was as simple as that. Also, the back of his head throbbed every few hours, an acrimonious reminder of his spectacle of a fall last weekend. Cory had also listed the people going, and it didn’t include the one person who he desperately wanted to see. 

The office was mercifully quiet, and he had been able to focus for the past few hours, losing himself in the work while Monica hummed quietly two seats down as she worked on the outstanding renderings, and Jack stood, attached to his headphones, on the other side of the room. Travis had run out to get coffee for all of them. These were the best kind of work days—especially since he didn’t have Emily hovering around him as he worked. 
The smooth white surface of his desk buzzed against his elbow. Pulling out his own headphones, he stared suspiciously down at the unknown number, and in a fog of hope that it was Scottie, he’d picked up too quickly. But the second he had the phone up to his ear, before he even spoke, his stomach twisted, and he just knew. He just knew it was her.

“Hello?” her voice was wavering and timid over the line. He scrunched his eyes closed and rubbed his forehead. 

“I thought I’d be hearing from you,” he said flatly, pressing the phone against his ear. 

“Oh, Will,” her voice was like honey—too sweet. “How are you?” 

“I’m well,” he replied coldly. Tension cackled over the line. He could almost see her struggling, twisting her hair around her index finger like she always did. He didn’t want to break first, but oddly enough, pity eeked its way into his consciousness. “Kristin?” 

“Oh, Will, I’m so sorry. I know Saturday was awful and I didn’t mean to ambush you,” she pleaded. 

“I thought you’d run into me by chance?” he asked, suddenly dumbfounded by his own stupidity. Of course, it hadn’t been an accident. “Someone told you I’d be there.” 

“Well, I knew it was Pete’s party from a friend, so I just assumed,” she hedged. Something wasn’t sitting right with Will. He didn’t like how dodgy she was being, but at the same time, he didn’t want to give her another minute of his time. Just the sound of her voice brought him back to the sound of his own sobs when she’d left him at the rehab center. 

“It’s just not how I saw my future,” she’d confessed quietly, her shame radiant. She’d managed to untwist and de-tangle their futures. They used to say “our” and now she was saying “my.” That word haunted him. She could walk away, and she did. He couldn’t. 

“What do you want, Kristin?” he asked, his voice genuine and firm. 

“I just wanted to see you,” she said quietly. 

“It’s been almost 8 years.” 

“I know,” she agreed. 

“So, why now?” he asked. There was silence over the line. Then Kristin let out a huge breath. 

“You looked really good,” she replied finally. Will bristled, shook with her tone. Was she trying to back track on the last eight years? 

“Kristin,” he countered resolutely. She let out a nervous laugh. It was odd hearing it again. He knew it was reserved for situations where she didn’t know what to say, as a way to ease the tension. She didn’t like conflict. 

“I mean it, I thought you looked really good,” she continued, voice rising a decibel. 

“Did you not expect me to look good?” Will snapped, unable to contain his hostility. 

“No, Will, that’s not,” she scrabbled quickly, but then stopped as quickly as she started. It has become clear to her that nothing she could say would be right. 

“Kristin,” Will pushed, “just tell me what you want from me. I can’t be your friend I’m so sorry, but I just can’t go there.” 

“That’s not what I want,” she whispered, more to herself than to him. 

“Well?” He hated the sound of his own voice. The pent-up anger was bringing out the worst in him. He took a deep breath and tried to soften his resolve. 

“I did a fucked-up thing. I realize that now. I realized that then, but I just couldn’t handle it.” 

“You couldn’t handle it?” he retorted, his volume drawing the attention of Monica. He pushed himself back from his desk and purposefully didn’t make eye contact as he wheeled to the back of the office near the copy and printer room. He felt like springing out of his skin.

“I know. I know,” she plead, “I didn’t give us a chance, after all we’d been through, I ran away, and I’ve regretted it for so long.” Will heard her words and didn’t understand how he was supposed to respond. Was he supposed to just say he forgave her for breaking his heart at the lowest point in his life? Part of him, the rational part, didn’t even blame her that much. If he had been a better man he should have given her a way out, and maybe he would have once he’d learned and lived the extent of his injury. But she didn’t even give him the chance to get that far. “I just want to apologize for that, and for,” she continued but then she stopped short. Will listened for a second and when she didn’t start speaking again he pressed her. 

“I’m just very sorry,” she squeaked quickly. “Maybe we can get coffee sometime, and if not, that’s fine, but the guilt over…everything…has been killing me. I just had to tell you that. If you change your mind call me, okay? I have to go but I’ll always answer. I’m so sorry.” And just like that, the line went dead. Will pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it, like he couldn’t quite comprehend what had just happened. 

He’d just gotten back to his desk, fighting off the shell-shock, when his phone started vibrating again. He thought that it might be Kristin calling back, but it was a new unknown number. His heart fluttered.  

In the warmth of two beers later, back inside Royal Palms with Parker, he’d decided to call Scottie the next morning and explain everything. But waking up at dawn, blinking stupidly at the weak sunlight peeking through his blinds, his head throbbing from drink and from hardwood, he reconsidered. It became startlingly clear how presumptuous it would be. What was he even supposed to say? Calling her to explain who Kristin was felt incredibly invasive and personal for a woman he had met at a wedding, brought home—not to sleep with— and then kissed impulsively in the front seat of his car. She seemed to like him. She seemed to really like him. But it still felt crazy to call her out of the blue to explain something away he wasn’t even sure she thought. What if she laughed in his face? What if she had left for reasons completely unrelated to him? What if she was relieved that Will had another woman interested in him so she could quietly slip off the hook? The blizzard of questions that had plagued him Saturday morning was picking up steam, so Will took a deep breath to steady his voice before picking up the phone. Oh, and another reason he didn’t call? He was too chickenshit and full of pride to ask Cory for her number. 

“Will Nash,” he said professionally, as if expecting a client. There was some rustling on the line then some kind of clicking noise. “Hello?” he asked curiously. 

“Oh!” she nearly shouted. It was her and her voice was a little bit hoarse. He felt excited. She’d called him after all. Will sensed a slight flicker of embarrassment in her tone. He flexed his hand on the phone and inhaled. 

“Will?” she asked, “It’s you?” 

“It’s me,” he replied.  

“It’s me,” she repeated, but then self-consciously she pulled back, her voice thin. Scottie didn’t think she merited an “it’s me” introduction and she mentally berated herself for skating into it. “It’s Scottie,” she corrected clinically. Will knew, but his heart soared at the sound of her name. 

“Scottie, hi,” he responded, gauging his tone. 

“Uh,” she started again, clumsily, “I, well, I’m sorry to call out of the blue like this. I didn’t mean to surprise you if you’re uh, in the middle of something or with someone.” She faltered for less than a second, but Will knew is that dip of sound that she thought Kristin was his girlfriend. “I hope it’s okay that I got your number from Nora.” 

“Oh, of course,” Will replied, trying and aching with effort, to keep his voice casual. 

“I should have gotten it when you dropped me off after the wedding,” she admitted quietly. “When we—"

“I would have gladly given it to you,” he said over her. He could almost hear her blushing on the other end of the line. 

“I know,” she stammered, “I was, well, I was rude. I shouldn’t have taken off like that.” 

“It’s okay,” I answered, voice kind, “it was a long night. I probably assumed too much.” 

“No,” she nipped, too quickly. Will could feel her backtracking and gauged when he could needle in his apology. “No,” she said again, this time it’s measured and composed. “We can just chalk it up to, well, weddings, I suppose.” The mortification in her voice was plain and she hated the way it sounded over the line. “Well. Anyway, I wanted to apologize for just running off like that.” The air between them crackled and neither of them said anything for a moment. 

“Scottie?” Will asked abruptly. 

“Yes?” she replied. 

“I think I actually owe you an apology,” he said quietly. She could picture him fiddling with the push rim on his chair, his mind working. She steeled herself for his confession of infidelity and regret. She’d already decided that she wasn’t going to make a big deal of it. What was done was done and they could be friends and move forward. “I’m afraid you got the wrong idea,” he continued inelegantly. She went from calm to irritated in a matter of seconds. Where the fuck would she have possibly gotten the wrong idea from when he was the one who kissed her? 

“Okay…” she said, voice lingering. 

“Parker mentioned on Saturday that you might have thought that Kristin was my girlfriend. My, uh,” Will swallowed and pushed forward. “My current girlfriend.” 

“That’s what he said,” she confirmed bluntly, just wanting him to come out and fucking admit he’d cheated and led her on and was generally shitty. But he didn’t say anything for a minute. She could still hear him on the other line, his breathing quiet and measured. 

Will bit his lower lip, unsure how to sum up one of the worst times of his life. It felt trite and dismissive. But if he was going to see more of Scottie, if he wanted to see more of Scottie, which he did, then he was sure there would come a time to truly tell her about this—about everything. Will was acutely aware of Monica eavesdropping again, so he awkwardly wedged his phone between his shoulder and cheek and wheeled into the empty office kitchen. 

“She was my girlfriend,” Will finally acknowledged. Scottie exhaled, feeling vindicated, but only slightly. “What I mean is,” Will fumbled and sighed at his own inability to string two fucking words together. He took a deep breath and focused on the blinking clock on the microwave. It had never been set properly and always blinked 12:00. He didn’t know how long it had been like that, but no one ever changed it. Oddly he found the rhythm comforting. 

And then, as if on cue, the story spilled out without an ounce of finesse. “She used to be my girlfriend. A long time ago. I mean, a very long time ago. In college, which was a long time ago. You know, I just turned thirty. Of course, you know, you were there, right. Well we were together when I got hurt and the relationship didn’t survive it. Not that I blame her,” he lied, “But that, well that was the first time I’d seen her in years and I just didn’t really know how to handle it. Clearly, I didn’t handle it well, but I was pretty shocked to see her.”

The silence hung heavy like wet laundry on a line. Scottie sighed and laughed, the relief palpable in the way she exhaled. Will felt a smile tugging at his lips.  

“Oh,” she said finally. “I definitely did have the wrong idea then.” She felt a bit stupid for her reaction that night. Ripping two shots and storming out? What was she, eighteen? That was something the old Scottie would have done. Not the new Scottie who was getting her life back on track. Or trying to, anyway.  

“Is that why you’re calling?” Will asked in a voice that sounded lighter than he felt. Just saying Kristin’s name sent a shiver down his back. “To get the truth out of me?” She laughed again, deep and bright at the same time. 

“Well, I can’t say it’s not a very nice bonus, but no, I’m actually calling about something else.”

“Okay,” he replied, waiting for her to go on.  

“Well, Nora told me you probably weren’t coming this weekend, but I wanted to check. I wasn’t coming this weekend either, but I…well…I changed my mind. I decided that some time out of the city would be good.” His attitude shifted. He didn’t need the weekend to rest his shoulder. He could go if he wanted, right? 

“Coming to the shore?”  he clarified.  

“Yes,” she said quickly, “I actually don’t even like the beach, but it was always a tradition to go to Cory’s when I first lived here and I kind of want to get back into it now that I’m back.” 

“Well,” Will hedged, “I was thinking I would try, but I’ve been slammed with work.” 

“What do you do?” she interjected with sincerity. 

“Oh,” he stuttered, taken slightly off guard, “I, well, I’m a creative strategist, a creative director, really. I work at a boutique agency in SoHo. I’ve been here about six years. We help new brands, or struggling brands, create or redefine their identity.” 

“I love that,” she replied simply, “I can see it.” 

“Can you?” he teased. 

“I really, really can. You’ve got good taste, Nash.” Will smiled.

“And you?” he asked. She laughed quietly. 

“I’m a writer. I was a copywriter in LA for a few different agencies. Still working through something here. I’ve been freelancing a little bit. Trying to get my bearings, you know, new city stuff.” Will had forgotten that she’d just moved back here. She’d mentioned growing up around here, or something like that. Apparently, according to Cory, she’d come back because she’d broken up with some boyfriend out there. Will felt a chill go down his back at the thought of her with someone else. And immediately, he reprimanded himself for moving too quickly. 

“I can see that, also. You’ve got wit,” he complimented. 

“That’s good, I’m glad you think so,” she responded with gratitude, her smile radiating through the phone. “Look,” she said, shifting gears, “I was going to try and get down there tonight, and I just wanted to check with you before I made plans, in case you were driving or wanted to take the train. I’ve already missed the cars heading out of the city. I was just thinking, if you were going, it would be nice to, well, go together…” She trailed off and laughed.

He smiled in spite of himself. Butterflies ravaged his stomach as he began to feel that kind of naïve teenage hope rising in his chest. The kind of thing you feel before you know much about the world, where anything is possible. 

Will guessed he was going to have to go down the shore.

13 comments:

  1. No no no...I want more Will and Scottie
    Can you post again tomorrow? ;)

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    1. Would love to post it all at once, but week by week is more fun!

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  2. Great chapter as usual! I really want things to go well for Will and Scottie they are so cute together but I have a feeling this is not the last we’ve heard from Kristen. Looking forward to next week already. :)

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  3. Wonderful, as always -- and I also can hardly wait for more!

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  4. Did you write any other stories? If u did, where can I find them? And if you did not..then by all means ypu should

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    1. This is my first story posted here! I definitely plan on contributing past this story, especially since the response has been so positive. Thank you for commenting. I'm so happy you're liking it.

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  5. Thanks for another great long chapter, I love this story and I look so much forward to next week, the two of them alone and sober, this sounds so promising and I hope they get to know them better:-)

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    1. Thank you! Can't wait to share the next chapter.

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  6. I knew it! I knew Kristen was not his girlfriend!

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  7. Oh my gosh! Soooo good. I enjoyed the fall scene and the back story about Kristin. Thank you Annie Grace!

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  8. Another awesome long chapter. I just love Will and Scottie so much. Loved the Kristin explanation and the description of his emotions after the fall. You’re an excellent writer. Please keep it up.

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