He was being dragged to this thing. He knew it. His friends knew it. It still didn’t stop them from dragging him to it, but he was sure he was about to despise every minute of it and Ray promised himself he’d make no effort to hide that. And that he’d drag his best buddy, Derek, to the most boring book release in return. Yeah, that’ll show him, giving him a taste of his own medicine.
But in the meantime, Ray was still being dragged to this thing. He wasn’t even entirely sure where he was being dragged to. It was Halloween, but he’d been told it wasn’t really a Halloween party. It was more like a masquerade, more like a solid excuse for chicks to play mysterious and make it easy for Derek to score. In what concerned him, Ray had drawn the line at having to wear a stupid mask. He already felt silly enough for even going in the first place.
He ran a comb through his hair to smooth it out and put on a beige jacket. This was the most effort he was willing to put into dressing up for the so-called masquerade. Christ, he couldn’t wait to come back to his cozy apartment, cook himself some pasta and finish the book he’d started earlier today. Yeah, so maybe life as a librarian was “boring as watching grass grow”, as Derek liked to put it, but Ray enjoyed it. He was a loner and he was fine with the quietness in which he constantly found himself. Unlike Derek. Loud, outgoing, reckless Derek. Their friendship, like most true friendships, was an absolute mystery.
Ray sighed and grabbed his keys, walking out the door and heading out to meet his destiny.
But his destiny never showed up.
GIRL CAUGHT IN A HIT-AND-RUN ON HER WAY TO HALLOWEEN MASQUERADE
A girl was involved in a hit-and-run as she was headed to a Halloween party.
The victim, a 25-year old blonde, was identified as Alison Parker. First responders took her to the hospital, where doctors tried to resuscitate her for several minutes, but her injuries were far too extended and she died from severe blood loss.
The police are looking for the driver that hit her.
~3 years later~
“Ray-Ray, hurry up, we’re gonna be late.”
Ray put on his coat and smoothed down his hair the way Cindy liked it. There had been a time when he’d have preferred it ruffled and wild, but ever since the two of them got together, he’d felt the need to be in sync with her. And that had turned them into the perfect couple.
He walked out of their bedroom and into the living room. The sight of Cindy took his breath away.
“Wow,” Ray let out a whistle. “You look… like a dream.”
Cindy threw a red curl over her shoulder and smiled sheepishly. She was wearing a red dress that showed off her gorgeous body and she batted her long lashes at her fiancée.
“You clean up well yourself, Raymond,” she winked at him.
Ray got a flash that took him aback for a moment.
“Hey,” he frowned as he put his arms around Cindy’s waist. “You know, Derek was the only one who used to call me that.”
Cindy raised an eyebrow. “Derek? McCarter? Didn’t you guys used to be best buddies back in high school?”
Ray smiled nostalgically. “Yeah. Yeah, we were.”
“What happened?” Cindy inquired, and he shrugged.
“I don’t know. Ever since that Halloween party three years ago, when he kept trying to set me up with all sorts of bimbos, things got cold. We grew apart.”
She wrinkled her nose. “I assume it had something to do with the fact that he didn’t exactly approve of me, as well?”
Ray sighed. As ashamed as he was of it, it had. Things were already bad between them back then, but when Cindy’s dad died, and Ray had showed up and had been there for her when she’d needed it the most, it dawned on him that there was more to Cindy than red curls and pink cardigans and lip gloss. And they’d gotten close. And with every inch they got closer, Derek drifted apart even more, until they eventually stopped talking.
“It doesn’t matter,” Ray shook his head, taking Cindy’s hand. “I sent him an invitation to the wedding and I really hope he’ll be there. We should get going now. They’re waiting for us.”
Cindy looked at the watch and chuckled.
“Well,” she kissed his lips chastely. “The bride and the groom are entitled to be late for their own engagement dinner.”
It was pouring outside and it was already dark. A few stars already glimmered on the clear evening New York horizon. Ray raised his head towards the sky. He found himself doing that quite often. And in many of those occasions, it felt as if the Sky stared right back at him with crystal clear eyes.
He was happy, in a way. He loved Cindy. He missed Derek at times, but he guessed high school friendships aren’t always meant to conquer time. He had the perfect job in a law firm in New York and Cindy had loved him enough to follow him. And he was about to marry the girl he loved.
Yes, he was happy. But at times, he felt as if the best thing that could’ve happened to him simply hadn’t. He still felt the bitter taste of something that could have been. Of a destiny that hadn’t showed up.
“Ray-Ray, what are you doing?” Cindy shrieked. “Get in the car, you’ll get soaked and ruin your tux.”
But he didn’t listen right away.
Two heartbeats and a half.
He wondered if there was someone up there who incited storms for a living.
Before the third heartbeat, he got in the car next to Cindy and went on with his life.
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