Light Up My Sky

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Chapter 5

“Are you Raymond Cartwright?”

Ray rolled his eyes dramatically. “Derek, we’ve been friends since middle school. You know who I am.”

“Or so I thought,” Derek replied, placing a hand over his chest and closing his eyes like the world’s biggest drama queen. “Are you sure it’s you?”

“Derek—“

“No, no, but lemme get this straight,” Derek cut him off, unable to keep a straight face anymore and pursing his lips against his laughter. “You, you stole a kid’s bike.”

“I paid him for it,” Ray defended. “I told him to buy a new–“

“And you ran over an old lady,” Derek continued, bursting into giggles. “Bet those onions rings were worth it.”

Ray couldn’t stop a small smile from blooming across his lips.

“They kinda were,” he admitted. “The woman has a killer recipe.”

Derek threw his head back laughing and clapped his hands, constantly repeating this was the funniest story he’d ever heard. And after a few solid minutes of hysterically laughing, he wiped a tear from the corner of his eye and grew serious.

“But you still missed your girl,” he spoke, and Ray’s smile fell and he dropped his gaze.

“Yeah,” he whispered then cleared his voice and spoke again. “Yeah. I still didn’t catch Sky. And I’m pretty sure I won’t get such a chance again. Seattle’s a big city. Maybe it’s just not meant to be.”

Derek huffed and smacked Ray in the back of his head.

“Ow,” Ray complained. “The hell was that for?”

“For being a complete moron, as usual,” Derek said cheerfully. “Come on, Ray. You don’t believe that. You wouldn’t have run halfway across the city, stolen a kid’s bike and considered letting an old lady in the middle of the street just to catch a girl if you thought this wasn’t meant to be.”

Ray sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Maybe. But—“

“Shut your face, Raymond,” Derek yelled dramatically. “I have no clue what makes this girl so special or so out of the ordinary for you to lose your head like this. But I like what she’s doing to you.”

Ray blinked. “What’s she doing to me?”

Derek rolled his eyes dramatically and waved his hands around like Ray was the world’s greatest imbecile and he was the only evolved human being in the existence of history.

“Ray, come on. I’ve known you for most of my life. You’re nice and shy and awkward and the most cerebral guy I know. For the past two weeks, you’ve picked up a chick from a bar, left with her, made out and danced in the rain like in those freakish chick lit movies that you hate so much, and now you’re telling me you stole a kid’s bike and ran over an old lady just to be able to catch this girl. A girl you know nothing about, so you’re clearly going on a hunch. And Ray, you’ve literally never went on a hunch, which is why I’m curious what about her was able to bring out this side of yours. ’Cause I’m enjoying the hell of it.”

Ray blew out a breath and ran his hands through his hair. Derek’s speech was enlightening, on point and weird, ’cause Derek didn’t do speeches. But it got Ray thinking. He really wasn’t being himself and his obsession wasn’t anywhere near fading away. Yeah, he decided. This was what it was. An unhealthy obsession. And it ate him alive.

“I really hope you find her, mate,” Derek spoke again several seconds later, serious mood still on. “I like this guy better than the old Ray.”

Ray rolled his eyes at his best friend, but smiled nonetheless. He had to admit, he enjoyed the rush of it. He felt it in his bones, the urge to get his feet moving and start running and not stop until he found her. Yeah, unhealthy obsession was the phrase of the week.

“Anyway, I should get going,” Derek spoke eventually, getting up from his seat. “I’ve got a hot date tonight. Chick’s a kindergarten teacher in the morning, hot stuff at night. The woman can hold her liquor damn well and she’s got these huge –“

“Too much information,” Ray interrupted him before he’d end up with a way too vivid image in his head that he didn’t want or need there. “I should wrap things up as well here, anyway. I’ll close the library and head home soon.”

“Call you later, mate,” Derek called over his shoulder on his way out, leaving Ray behind in the empty library.

Ray sighed. He’d always enjoyed the silence and had found it oddly comforting, but lately, it struck him as rather lonely and deafening. Derek was right. This was for the first time in his life when his head was a complete mess. It felt like a puzzle he couldn’t solve, like a disease he couldn’t diagnose, an equation he couldn’t solve, a half written poem or an unfinished painting. Thinking of Sky was ironically like a storm cloud on a sunny day.

He picked up some books and arranged the shelves for the next day absent-mindedly. He looked at his watch and saw he’d just missed the bus he was supposed to catch, so he now had to wait for the next one. An enraged thunder in the distance reminded him it was madly pouring outside and he didn’t have an umbrella, so it was suddenly starting to feel like one of those days when you think it can’t get any worse and then the universe gets the compelling urge to prove itself and prove you wrong.

Ray grabbed his things and closed the library, stepping out in the pouring rain, getting soaked to the bone within seconds. The rain reminded him of that night, and it occurred to him that this storm was teasing him just to spite him. Because this storm knew where Sky was, and he didn’t. Because this storm had her, was owned by her. And Ray only had fading memories, and wet hair she’d run her fingers through, and wet lashes, and wet lips that had kissed hers with raindrops as a seal. Soaked skin and a dry will. Flooded streets, while her memory was like an oasis when the drought wears you off.

The bus station was just across the library, so Ray crossed the library and stood there in the rain, knowing he’d freeze like hell waiting for that bus. It was November, and the temperature was nowhere near mild. And this was Seattle. He could already anticipate the fevers, the runny nose, the shivering, every symptom of the cold he was about to catch.

He waited in the rain for over ten minutes and he was pretty much shivering his ass off by now. The sidewalks were deserted and the traffic was insane, crowded and loud, but there was no one in sight other than a red umbrella somewhere in the distance. He didn’t even realize the person was walking towards him and he didn’t particularly care. His eyes were stuck to the traffic, hoping he’d get to see that freaking bus soon and get home, get into bed and have a hot cup of coffee. Maybe even finish that book now. It had been on stand-by ever since that night with Sky.

He checked his watch again. Where the hell was that bus? His eyes turned slightly to the left and saw the red umbrella right next to him, the person turned to him with her whole body. Because it was a she. A tiny, slim silhouette, wearing a peach coat.

Ray stopped shivering. He stopped breathing. He stopped thinking. And she stood there, in front of him, one hand tucked inside her pocket and the other holding a red umbrella, smiling at him with that same devilish smile that was up to no good, fixating him with her blue eyes. And he was unable to move, unable to speak, unable to breath.

She was the first to break the silence, that sly smile never leaving her lips.

“Dreadful weather, isn’t it?” she spoke, and Ray wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her and ask her why the hell she was standing in front of him talking about weather when he had trouble breathing and shaping actual words in his head. But he didn’t. Didn’t move, didn’t speak, didn’t breathe. And she spoke again, looking around. “All this rain, and not a single ray of sunshine.” She said the words casually, not giving any sign that she knew what her words or the sound of her voice did to him, and then she turned her gaze and met his eyes, smiling. “Well,” she said, letting some subtext come across. “Maybe just one.”

In spite of himself, Ray had to chuckle a little at that.

“It’s you,” he whispered, voice shaky and hoarse. “Sky.”

She didn’t reply, but Ray could see it in her eyes, could read it on her lips and decoded it from the shape of her cheekbones as they were lifted by a playful smile. And good God, she was beautiful. He’d known she was beautiful from that first night, even if most of her face was hidden. He’d known it after he’d seen her on the elevator and on the subway. But as he lay in bed, trying to remember her face, her features were blurry. And having her now standing there, right in front of her, close enough to touch, had him mesmerized, dumb folded, speechless, breathless. She was the most stunning woman he’d ever laid his eyes upon.

They stood there, looking at each other for a few seconds, Ray scorching his brain for something to say, and Sky waiting patiently for him to speak, daring him, teasing him, playing with him with just her eyes. Eventually, Ray spoke.

“I’ve been looking for you,” he said pathetically, and he knew he’d later smack himself for it.

Sky giggled, the same articulate soft sound he remembered.

“You’ve looked in the wrong places, Ray of Sunshine,” she scolded. “I’m to be found in the night, or in the rain.” She lifted her gaze again, looking at the sky like it was calling her home. Which wouldn’t have surprised Ray that much. “Seems like tonight was double luck.”

There were so many things he wanted to say to her. So many questions. So many pleas. So many, so many, so many, and he was dumb enough to have her standing before him and not be able to utter a single word. Speechlessness was new to him and he loathed it, he loathed the blank file in his thoughts when his heart was beating like crazy, begging him to stop being a complete idiot and to just open his mouth and mutter something. Anything.

“I wanted to talk to you,” he spoke. Still pathetic. Dammit, Raymond, he could practically hear Derek’s voice in the back of his head.

“Good,” she replied, tilting her head to one side a little. “So talk. I like to hear you talk.”

Ray let out a breath in what was supposed to be laughter, admiring and hating and loving the way she was toying him like a cat likes to play with its pray before eating it.

“Out of all the ways I thought I’d meet you again,” he began, smiling against the rain on his lips, “I never thought it’d be as random and hazardous as meeting you on a bus station.”

Sky turned a little to face the street, and Ray instantly missed the intensity of her gaze on him.

“I don’t know about that,” she retorted. “I like this option better than the subway station. It’s more poetic.” Then she turned to him and tuned her voice down to a whisper. “The subway stinks.”

Ray grinned widely at her and she chuckled in return. Then she resumed talking. “Random and hazardous sounds perfect to me. Very Love in the time of cholera, save the gross old people getting it on.”

Ray actually laughed out loud at that, at the cute way the corners of her mouth wrinkled at the thought and at the example she’d happened to choose.

“Funny you should say that,” he said. “That’s actually my favorite book. Sure, save for old people getting it on, but still. I’m quite the fan of the random and hazardous.”

Sky threw her head back laughing at his comment about the book and turned to him again, her red umbrella shattering her from the rain while Ray just stood there, soaked to the skin and letting himself drown in her presence.

He wanted to keep talking. To never shut up, to ask her things, about herself, about that night, about tomorrow, but the bus was coming and he had to go and she had to go and he wasn’t sure he could wrap his head around the concept of letting her go again.

She leaned closer and raised her umbrella so that his height could fit under it, and she looked at him with a warm smile before leaning in and kissing his cheek. His breath caught in his cheek and his fingers twitched with the urge to grab her shoulder and keep her in place, just so that he could search her eyes for that same desire that drove him crazy right now. He wanted to see if she was dying to kiss him as hard as he was dying to kiss her. But she stepped back soon, leaving his body cold in the rain, cold with every step that took her warmth away from him.

“Keep that in mind, Ray of Sunshine,” she spoke as the bus stopped in the station, but Ray couldn’t move, even though he was vaguely aware that he’d have to spend another half hour before the next bus. “Random and hazardous. The best things happen when you least expect it. Live by that rule.”

And just like that, she turned her back on him, closed her umbrella and climbed the stairs inside the bus, and that’s when Ray finally found his voice and the will to move his muscles.

“Wait,” he called after her. “I didn’t catch your name.”

Sky stopped on the stairs of the bus and turned to look over her shoulder.

“I didn’t say,” she teased him, and Ray should’ve known it couldn’t have been that easy. Well, he had to try.

She turned again to leave, and Ray called after her again. He couldn’t let her go just yet. He needed just a second, just one more second of her. Even if this would be all he had of her.

“Wait. Will I see you again?”

She looked over her shoulder at him once more, but didn’t reply this time. She just shot him that sly, teasing, playful smile that Ray had already gotten used to, but there was something more to it this time. She turned around and disappeared inside the bus, leaving him gaping behind. The bus drove again and Ray still stood in the pouring rain.

It was a promise. That’s what her smile held. She didn’t know whether they’d meet again, either, but those clear blue eyes offered the promise that this wasn’t over. And Ray could have tracked down the route of the bus, even though last time he’d done that hadn’t worked out that well. But he remembered. Random and hazardous. That was all she could promise.

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