Light Up My Sky

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Chapter 3

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“What?”

“You are a complete imbecile.”

Ray narrowed his eyes at his best friend, although he was pretty used by now to being randomly insulted by Derek. He didn’t even question it anymore.

“Thank you for your original insight, Derek.”

“No, but, you, Raymond, are the most hopeless exhibit I’ve had the chance to meet.”

Ray groaned. “I’d like to see your point of view, but I can’t seem to get my head so far up my ass.”

Derek didn’t show any sign that he’d heard them and just kept shaking his head in disapproval.

They were at the library Ray worked part-time at, because Derek had shown up five minutes ago, demanding graphic details about how his night with the ‘hot blondie at the bar’ had gone. Ray told him a shortened version of the story, which had let to an excruciating wave of insults and scolding and lectures.

“So let me get this straight,” Derek continued as he followed Ray through the bookshelves, arranging books.

“By all means,” Ray muttered under his breath.

“You pick up the hottest chick possible in a bar, on Halloween,” Derek stated.

“I wouldn’t exactly say I picked—“ Ray tried to explain himself, but his friend cut him off. Why was he even trying?

“And this chick actually gives you a speech about non-commitment.”

“It wasn’t—“

“And not only this,” Derek closed his eyes and breathed through his nose, as if the whole idea physically pained him. “But she offers getting out of there. That’s dumbass code for one-night stands.”

“I doubt—“

“And yet, Raymond,” Derek raised his voice, and Ray tried to shush him and failed miserably. “You take her for a walk and make out a little in the rain?”

Ray sighed. “Precisely.”

“I would call you an idiot, but that would be an insult for all the stupid people out there who actually manage to get laid.”

Ray pinched the bridge of his nose and put a hand on his hip, sighing loudly. He wouldn’t have expected him to understand. Derek was the ’love ’em and leave ‘em’ type of guy and he’d been trying to convert Ray for a while now, with zero success at the task. Sure, if Ray would have sat him down and explained to him how much last night had meant to him, he was sure even Derek would’ve backed down; they were best friends after all, and understood and cared about each other. But telling Derek didn’t feel right, because they way Sky had made him feel also belonged to that little corner of universe they’d sealed within last night.

“What was I supposed to do, Derek?” Ray asked, then instantly regretted having done so when Derek looked at him like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Wham bam, thank you, ma’am.”

Ray actually chuckled a little at that. “Not everything works this way, Derek.”

“Oh, like hell it doesn’t,” Derek exclaimed.

Ray dropped his gaze for a minute and thought about it then raised his eyes and met Derek’s before speaking.

“It didn’t with her.” A pause, and a shaky intake of breath. “She’s different.”

Silence followed, and Ray wasn’t sure what, but something in his words, or in his tone, or in his eyes made Derek shift his attitude and grow serious.

“So now what, man?” he asked, and Ray knew he was being serious because he wasn’t calling him Raymond anymore. “Are you gonna look for her?”

Ray sighed and slightly shook his head.

“I don’t know. Maybe. No, not really,” he sighed again, frustrated. “I don’t even know her name. And even if I could track her down, she made it clear she doesn’t wanna be found. And maybe it’s for the best. We had a lovely night and now I have some great memories.”

“And still no girlfriend,” Derek muttered under his breath, but kept his mouth shut after Ray shot him a look. He chuckled, but went back to being serious a few seconds later. “I’m glad, man. I really am. Even though you could’ve had some more and funnier, well, fun, if ya know what I mean—“ he winked and Ray let out a breathless laugh, “you do deserve being seen as the nice guy you are. Smart girl, sticking with you. I’m sorry it’s over.”

Ray looked at his friend, impressed that Derek could still see through the gaps in his story and realize the impact this girl had had on him.

“Yeah,” he mumbled, turning his attention back to arranging the books. “Yeah, me too.”

Before Derek got to chance to say anything else, the sharp sound of high heels echoed through the whole library and Ray cringed internally. Needless to say, this was a library and silence was mandatory. And he only knew one person who could not care less about that policy.

“Oh, there you were, Ray-Ray! I’ve been looking for you.”

Ray turned his back on Cindy Bennett and mouthed a ‘help me’ to Derek, who looked just as scared.

Cindy Bennett had gone to the same high school as Derek and Ray had. She was your typical bimbo. High heels, short skirts, obnoxious red, curly hair and revealing cleavages, and she clearly could have had any guy she could have ever wanted. And yet, for a reason they couldn’t quite wrap their heads around, she had had a crush on Ray Cartwright. Of all the people she could have tortured, Ray told himself. And it had been years. You’d think she could take a hint. And yet, here she was, like she did every week, showing up at the library, more provocative every time.

“Cindy,” Ray did his best not to groan and knock his head against the closest wall. “Hi. What are you doing here? Again?”

Derek stifled a laugh at Ray’s unexpected rudeness and Ray shot him a glare, begging for help with his eyes. Cindy, however, was still entirely clueless.

“I came to see you, of course,” she purred, twisting a red curl around her finger and tracing lines up and down Ray’s arm. He shuddered a little and forced a small smile in her direction.

“Well, that’s great, Cindy, but, um, actually, Derek and I should—“

“Oh, shoot,” Derek exclaimed, pretending to look at his watch and widening his eyes. Of course he was gonna flee. Bastard. “Look at the time. I have to, umm, be somewhere else, you know. To do that thing with that guy—“

Ray rolled his eyes and tried to look threateningly at his so-called coward friend.

“I should leave you two to your, umm, business,” he said, fighting a smile and took off.

Cindy still batted her eyelashes at Ray as if Derek hadn’t even been there in the first place.

“Well, I was thinking,” Cindy purred again, making Ray want to crawl out of his skin. “Since it’s almost closing time, we might as well grab a coffee and catch up a little. I know a great coffee place. And then, maybe we can go back to my place and dig up some old high school photos.”

The script never changed. Her offer stayed the same week after week and Ray’s rejection always came in variate shades. He was just too nice and wanted to let her down easy, but as time went by and she didn’t back down, he kept dropping more obvious hints that she still didn’t take. And God knew Ray had had enough of it.

“Gee, sorry, Cindy,” he said, mirroring Derek’s action from earlier and looking at his watch. “I actually have to wrap things up early today, my boss sent me to run some errands. Umm, I have to run now. Bye!”

She didn’t wait for her to answer and fled past her, never looking back. He knew he’d eventually have to sit her down and break her heart big time, but for now, there were things on his mind that left no space for anything else.

Sky.

Her hand in mine.

Her lips on mine.

The smell of rain on her skin and on her hair.

He did have an errand to run, even though it wasn’t for his boss and it wasn’t the only reason why he’d been in such a hurry to ditch Cindy.

Truth was, what he’d told Derek was complete bullshit he’d been telling himself all day long. He wanted to see Sky again. Her taste lingered on his lips even now and his fingers twitched when he thought of how smoothly they’d run over her skin. He knew nothing about her. Not her name, nor her face. But he knew he longed to see her again, no matter how small the chances of that happening were.

He walked across the streets of Seattle with his hands in his pockets. The errand he had to run was on the other side of the city, and he should’ve taken a cab or something, but he needed a clear head so he decided to walk instead. Considering he’d left earlier in a hurry to get away from Cindy, he had enough time on his hands.

He was supposed to go to this big law firm to drop by his paperwork in order to be considered for that paid internship he had his eyes on. Sure, his library job paid well and all that and he was like a fish in the water doing it, but a law carrier was what he was aiming for. Going to college and surviving law school financially had been hard enough on him, considering his troubled background, but he’d dreamed about being a lawyer ever since he was a kid. He wanted so badly to make that dream come true.

As his footsteps carried him through the crowded streets, his thoughts flew back to last night. Or morning. The fresh dawn and the silence after the storm felt rather dark and loud in her absence. He had no idea what Sky had done to him, but Ray had enjoyed too much that little taste of bliss to just go back to oblivion. He had no idea how he’d ever meet another girl who’d be able to rise to those expectation Sky had built up in him. And he wanted more of it.

More rain.

More night.

More dancing.

More kissing.

More Sky.

None of that.

He’d been such a complete moron to let her go like that. It’s not like he could just stop thinking about her so easily, not when his hair still smelled like rain and still held the touch of her fingertips.

He arrived at the law firm an hour later, barely feeling his feet and his head all over the place. He tried to get a hold of himself in order to make a good impression and make a solid candidate for that internship. He took the elevator to the 7th floor and made his way to Michael Smith’s office, the lawyer whose intern Ray was going to be if he got the job.

He knocked twice and he was welcome in by Michael Smith, a man he looked up to, so he anxiousness was of no help to his mood.

Ray cleared his voice.

“Hello, Mr. Smith,” he spoke, his voice loud and confident, surprising even himself. “I’m Ray Cartwright. I’m here to apply for the internship, I’ve been e-mailing you.”

Michael Smith was a tall, sharp-dressed man, with a sly smile plastered on his face and wicked eyes. He looked young enough, but Ray knew he was over 50. He was a little scary, but the man hadn’t lost a law suit in years. He was a legend in the Bar of Seattle and his law firm was one of the pillars of the city. He was Ray’s guy if he wanted to build a safe and successful path towards a carrier in law.

Michael Smith studied Ray for a minute, then smiled widely. Ray couldn’t bring himself to trust or to return that smile.

“Ah, Mr. Cartwright,” Mr. Smith exclaimed. “Yes, I recall. Your e-mails were fairly impressive. You are one of our strongest candidates. We could use someone with your potential here in our firm. Your boldness and ambition remind me quite a lot of myself in my youngest years.”

Well, Ray wouldn’t have exactly describes himself as bold and ambitious, but when it came to his carrier, he’d made sure to sharpen some qualities. He was happy Michael Smith seemed to be appreciative of those qualities.

“Thank you, Mr. Smith,” he replied.

The man studied him for a few more minutes, then sat back in his chair, compliments time clearly over, and Ray wondered if he gave the same encouragement speech to all the candidates.

“Good to have your application, Mr. Cartwright,” he spoke eventually. “Make sure to leave your papers to my secretary and expect a call for an interview soon enough. With such a strong file, a spot as an internship here might as well be yours.”

Ray couldn’t help a wide smile from spreading across his face. Having a little insurance was nice. It helped to know that all of his hard work was finally paying off.

“Thank you, sir,” he repeated.

“My pleasure, son. We’ll call you soon.”

Ray understood the dismissal and turned on his heels, stopping by Mr. Smith’s secretary to drop his papers on his way out.

He made his way to the elevator, a huge smile plastered on his face. His mood wasn’t entirely lit up, but it was most definitely improved. Three years through pre-law and college itself hadn’t been at all easy. But Ray never gave up, no matter how hard it got, because he believed he could make a difference. He had to make a difference, if only to prove himself the world wasn’t as messed up as he’s grown up believing. And he’d spent 25 years searching for a truth that was good enough to live with. His law carrier wasn’t that much for the carrier itself, as it was for what it stood for. For what it symbolized. Ray’s life-long beliefs.

He was a few feet away from the elevator when he noticed the doors were halfway closed. He started running towards it.

“Hold the doors!” he shouted, although he knew he’d miss it and he’d have to wait for the next one.

But just as he was in front of the elevator, he stopped dead, barely breathing. Maybe he could’ve made his way in, but he was too dumb struck to be able to pull off a decent reaction time.

The elevator was full of people, but there was only one he had his eyes on. He wasn’t sure, he wasn’t sure of anything at all anymore. But he could sweat they were the same eyes, those blue eyes looking back at him so wide right now.

He had but two seconds to take it all in before the elevators doors closed and he was left hanging, wondering if his imagination wasn’t playing tricks on him. But for those two seconds, as the doors fractured the girl’s silhouette, Ray kept his eyes glue to her face, wondering if it was the same smile, if they were the same eyes who held the sky captive, if they were the same lips who taste he knew by heart.

But before he could answer these questions, the doors closed and the elevator went down, and Ray just stood there, breathing heavily, thinking he was either going mad, or he’d missed his final chance to chase the girl of his dreams.

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