This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
‘I’m ready Caitlyn,’ Barry sighed, quickly finishing his coffee and grabbing an apple from the bowl in front of him. Leaning on the counter, he said, ‘Besides, the last time we were supposed to sit down, they cancelled on me. It’s not just me that does it.’
’It’s Time magazine Barry,’ Caitlyn sighed disapprovingly, putting away her brush as she turned to face him. ‘It is an excellent opportunity for you and the company.’
‘You sound more like my marketing team then you do my assistant.’
‘You still listen to me either way.’
Barry smiled and moved to the sink, washing his cup and the cup he knew Caitlyn had used for her coffee and quickly finished up. Drying the cups, he placed them away and turned to see Caitlyn staring at him quietly.
‘What?’ he asked in confusion.
‘You don’t always have to be so neat,’ she replied, grabbing her bag and a pile of folders off the counter.
‘Can’t stand mess,’ Barry said, moving to the table and grabbing his own satchel bag.
‘It’s one cup.’
‘That becomes two.’
Realising she would not win, Caitlyn nodded softly and moved out of the kitchen towards the front door. On the way out, Barry grabbed his favourite coat and locked the door behind him. As he walked down the stairs, he heard his phone beep and he grabbed it from his pocket to notice a new message. As he read the message, he reached the black BMW that sat quietly by the side of the road, the driver standing tall before the open door.
‘Morning sir,’ he greeted, as Barry moved down the stairs, typing away on his phone.
‘Morning George,’ Barry smiled in greeting, hoping into the car as Caitlyn followed.
’So you’re first meeting is with Olivia Paris, the reporter from Time,’ Caitlyn began, handing him a folder as he put away his phone. ‘That’s at 9:30 and I’ve designated an hour for that. At 10:30, you have a meeting with Steve in marketing – they have a new idea to throw out to you about some new features to the site and apps they want to market. At 12, I’ve got you scheduled for lunch – ’
Barry wasn’t listening. His mind was still focused on the text message he had received as they had left the house. His younger brother Luke had messaged him. It had been a while since the siblings had talked, though not from a lack of trying. The siblings had drifted apart since Barry went off to college, leaving Luke at home with their mother. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but by the time Barry had started his company and got his own place, Luke was hurt enough to refuse any help from his older brother and now only texted every few weeks to let him know he was still alive.
A quick thought crossed his mind and he turned to Caitlyn, who was still rattling times and meetings. ‘Did you say Olivia Paris?’
‘Oh, so that you hear?’ Caitlyn frowned, reaching through the folders he had been passed and grabbing the first one. ‘She is meeting you at 9:30.’
Barry stared at the picture inside of Olivia and sudden realisation hit him. It was her – his old next door neighbour, the real girl next door. The pair had grown up together, best friends since childhood. During high school, the pair had been inseparable, along with Barry’s other friend David, and it was during this time that Barry had developed romantic feelings for her. Unfortunately, so did David and when they got together, Barry realised he would never have the same feelings returned. When Barry went off to one college, Olivia and David had gone to another and over time, the three had drifted apart. Like his brother, Olivia blamed his job for neglecting her and eventually stopped replying to his messages.
‘Do you know her?’ Caitlyn asked, staring at Barry in confusion.
‘What makes you say that?’ he asked in reply.
’You had that ‘I’m thinking back on my life’ face you put on when you…well, think back on your life.’
‘I use to,’ Barry frowned, closing the folder and staring out the window and allowing his thoughts to drift off.
Eight years ago…
‘Barry, hurry up!’
Running faster than he had ever done before, Barry huffed and puffed as he ran towards David, holding out his hand. Passing the baton over, Barry collapsed onto the track as David bolted forward, darting to catch up to the other runners. Sweat poured down his forehead faster than it had ever had before as he continued to breath heavy. Slowly getting up, he noticed the sniggers and laughs from the rest of the class. Moving off the tracks as quick as he could, he realised his legs felt like jelly and wobbled with every step he took and he began to slowly stagger as he moved towards the bench.
As he moved towards Coach Thomas, he noticed the coach shaking his head disapprovingly. Turning around, he noticed David finishing the race in second, congratulating first place winner Freddie. Sighing, Barry turned to see Coach Thomas had now moved in front of him.
‘Thompson!’ he screamed, stopping in front of him. ‘That was pathetic!’
‘I thought it was ok,’ Barry replied, leaning down as he continued to breathe fast. ‘It wasn’t so bad.’
‘I’ve seen worse from you,’ Coach Thomas agreed, turning to face the winners. ‘If this wasn’t your last few week before you leave, I’d being yelling at you more.’
‘I’m glad it is then,’ Barry smiled, standing tall and stretching as his breathing returned to normal.
Barry was not the athletic type. Tall and lanky, with his messy hair, Barry seemed more at peace in the classroom then he did on the track. He was not good at sports, sucked at running and couldn’t swim. Whatever the coach threw at him, Barry could never fully complete to his coach or peers liking.
David ran up to the pair of them and high fived Barry. Being the local star football star, David was the complete opposite of Barry. Built, fast, athletic and not that bright. David was everyone’s favourite person in school and even though he was teased constantly by his other friends for hanging out with Barry, he never once complained or ignored Barry in school. He was a leader, never a follower, and if anyone picked on Barry in front of him, they would regret it fast.
‘That wasn’t too bad,’ David smiled, slamming his hand on Barry’s back. Barry went flying down to the floor, as the crowd gathered around them began to laugh. David quickly helped him to his feet as he apologised, ‘Sorry man.’
‘It’s cool,’ Barry whimpered, slowly rising to his feet.
Coach Thomas dismissed the class and Barry slowly began to move with David over to the lockers. The pair noticed a group of girls standing and smiling, waving at David. Barry smiled as he noticed Olivia in the crowd, her warm smile making him feel slightly better.
The pair moved into the lockers and showered, quickly getting changed and leaving as the rest of the boys continued to laugh and talk. They moved silently through the corridors towards their lockers, David stopping occasionally to say hi to one of his friends. As Barry reached his locker, he noticed Olivia waiting by it along with her friends Cindy and Linda. The girls giggled as Barry walked up and slowly walked away, looking back at him as they passed.
‘What’s so funny today?’ Barry asked in curiosity.
‘The way you run,’ Olivia smiled, leaning against the lockers next to his. ‘You flailed a little.’
‘A little?’ he asked in disappointment. She held up her hand and pressed her thumb and index fingers together as she smiled in reply. Frowning, he banged his head against the locker.
‘It wasn’t too bad,’ Olivia reassured him, placing her hand on his shoulder. ‘Don’t worry about other people Barry.’
‘Yeah, I guess.’
The pair turned as David finally reached them, grabbing Olivia and lifting her up. The pair began to kiss, causing Barry to blush and turn away fast. As much as he was happy for his friends, he could not help but feel jealous.
Barry and Olivia had known each other their whole lives, living next door to each other since they were born. Until high school, the pair had been inseparable but along with puberty came new schools, new cliques and new friends. David and Barry met the first day of high school when David had saved Barry from a group of bullies. Even back then, a small David was a force to be reckoned with. David became best friends with Barry, which led him to meet Olivia.
Within in time, the three grew into teenagers and along with that came feelings from both boys for Olivia. Unfortunately for Barry, his were not returned and Olivia and David became a couple when he asked her to the Spring Fling. The pair had been inseparable since, even going to the same college after graduation next week. Barry himself was off to M.I.T., ready to study science and technology while David was off to the University of Michigan on a football scholarship, with Olivia in tow studying journalism. Barry and his friends would be separated by over seven hundred miles, the longest and furthest they had ever been.
‘Stop it,’ Olivia giggled as David lowered her, turning to face Barry. ‘Have you started packing yet?’
‘No, not yet,’ Barry frowned, closing his locker as he grabbed his bag. ‘Every time I start, Sam starts to get upset and unpacks my stuff.’
‘He just doesn’t want to see his big brother leave,’ Olivia smiled warmly, taking David’s hand as the three began to move to David’s locker. As he packed his bag, Olivia looked at Barry’s concerned face and added, ‘He’ll be ok.’
‘Not with her he won’t,’ Barry replied sadly, turning to face her. ‘We both know that.’
‘You turned out okay,’ David spoke softly, turning to face him as he closed his locker.
‘I had you guys,’ Barry frowned. The trio moved to the last locker as Olivia collected her stuff. ‘I know he has friends, but I had him. We had each other. He won’t have anyone now.’
‘You can’t put off you future to raise him,’ David replied sadly. ‘I know it sounds harsh.’ Turning around and realising he forgot something, he excused himself quickly and disappeared, leaving Olivia and Barry alone.
‘Barry, you got to remember you’re going to university for him,’ Olivia added, closing her locker and turning to face Barry. ‘There is nothing here for you to do. Not someone with your brain. We don’t have a university or college here in this town that can cater for you and your brains. You can come back once you’re done and take him out of here. A few years max. You know my dad will watch out for him.’
‘I suppose,’ Barry shrugged, leaning against the lockers. ‘I didn’t even apply for M.I.T. I didn’t even want to leave.’
‘Well someone did for you,’ she replied as she leaned against the locker herself. ‘I wonder who did.’
‘I don’t know if I can,’ Barry frowned, turning to face her. ‘I won’t know anyone, you won’t be there, Sam won’t be.’
‘You will have a blast. College houses, parties, girls…’
‘No girl is interested in me,’ Barry smiled weakly, turning away from her.
‘Barry,’ she frowned, turning to face him. ‘There is the right girl out there for you. Sometimes, things can be staring you right in the face and you don’t even notice.’
‘Like what?’ he asked innocently.
‘Maybe you already know her?’
‘Don’t think so,’ he frowned, sighing heavily. ‘It doesn’t matter at this stage – I’m leaving anyway remember? I guess I should just focus on that.’
Placing her hand on his arm, she smiled warmly. ‘I believe in you Barry – you just need to believe in yourself as much as I do. You will achieve great things Barry Thompson – just not here.’
Barry smiled in return and the pair stared quietly at each other for a few moments before David coughed. The pair turned to face him quietly, not realising he had returned. Without saying a word to either of them, he turned to walk out the front door of their school. Olivia smiled once more at Barry and followed him, not once turning back to see if Barry was following.
Barry sat in his office, staring out the window. He could not stop thinking about Olivia, not since her name dropped this morning. Memories continued to flood back from their past, and all the feelings he thought once buried had begun to resurface. The soft knock at the door caught his attention and he turned as Caitlyn walked in, moving towards his desk. Slowly rising from his chair by the window, he moved towards the desk and sat in his office chair.
‘Still thinking about her?’ his assistant asked, staring him directly in the eyes. ‘Better question, still in love with her?’
‘That obvious?’ he replied with a frown.
‘Barry, I can read you like a book,’ Caitlyn smiled warmly, taking a seat on the edge his table. Passing him more files, she continued, ‘The last time you looked like that, you were about to propose to that supermodel bimbo who left you for that other supermodel bimbo.’
‘You mean your bimbo?’ he replied with a frown, memories lost returning again.
‘Whatever,’ Caitlyn frowned, turning away from him. ‘His and her loss.’ Turning towards him, she leaned in and whispered, ‘I heard he cheated on her and she got fat.’
Barry smiled and began to turn through the folders as his phone began to ring. Caitlyn began to file her nails as the phone continued to ring. Barry stared at her in silence before realisation hit her.
‘Oh right,’ she smiled as she reached for the phone. ‘I don’t normally answer it in here.’ Smiling as she put the receiver to her ear, she greeted, ‘Good morning, Mr Thompson’s office, Caitlyn speaking. How can I help?’
Sitting in silence, she nodded as if she was talking to someone in front of her and frowned before slowly smiling again. ‘Not a problem, send her up. Thank you.’ Turning to face Barry, she relayed the message to him. ‘Your girlfriend is here.’
‘She isn’t my girlfriend,’ Barry smiled, smacking her softly with the folder to get her off his desk. The soft knock at the door drew his attention and the pair turned as the door opened softly. The all too familiar face of his oldest friend popped into the door and she smiled as warmly as ever as their eyes locked.
‘I’ll leave you too alone,’ Caitlyn whispered with a smile, holding out her hand and greeting her as the woman approached each other. ‘Miss Paris? Please to meet you. I am Caitlyn, Mr Thompson’s assistant. Please take a seat. Can I get you a drink? Coffee? Tea?’
‘A water will be great thanks,’ Olivia smiled in return.
Caitlyn nodded softly and turned to move out the door. Before she left, she turned to Barry and shot him a thumbs and an okay. Barry quickly did his best to hide his laugh as he rose from his chair, walking over to Olivia.
‘Hey,’ he smiled, moving in for a hug that Olivia was happy to return.
‘Oh my god Barry,’ she said, finally taking a step back. ‘How long has it been?’
‘Six years?’ Barry replied, pretending to try and think how long it had been. ‘Just before my twentieth.’
‘You look amazing,’ she beamed, placing her bag down on his desk. ‘Twenty-six and a CEO of your own company. Wow Barry.’
’Me? What about you? Journalist for Time? Bet David is proud.’
‘I wouldn’t know,’ she replied, her smile slowly fading. ‘That would require us talking.’
‘You two ain’t…’
‘Broke up during college,’ she replied, sitting down in the chair before his desk. Barry leaned against his desk as she continued, ‘High school love that didn’t last. We started hanging with other crowds and things began to unravel. We realised something was missing and couldn’t survive without it.’
‘What?’ he asked in curiosity.
‘You,’ she smiled in reply. Shaking her head, she sighed and let out a small laugh. ‘Listen to me, talking about me. I’m here to interview you.’
‘I don’t mind,’ he smiled, as Caitlyn returned with a tray, carrying a water jug and two glasses. Turning to face his assistant, he asked, ‘Can you take messages for anyone that calls. I don’t want to be disturbed.’
‘Very good,’ Caitlyn smiled, nodding softly and leaving the office.
‘She seems nice,’ Olivia said, turning to face where Caitlyn had just left. Turning back, she reached forward and grabbed the glass of water that Barry had poured for her. ‘Thank you.’
‘What do you mean?’
Olivia smiled and mimicked Caitlyn’s gestures to amused Barry.
‘She is unique,’ Barry replied, nodding towards where Caitlyn had left. ‘We met just after I developed the network. She was looking for admin work and was great with all the work I was throwing her way. Being close in age helped to – she’s only a few years younger than us so we get along great. Sometimes we have to remember to act professional in front of others.’
‘So you two?’
‘Oh no,’ he smiled, as he moved off the table and walked over to his chair. ‘She’s like a sister.’ Noticing as Olivia began diving through her bag, he turned to stare out the glass window wall surrounding his office. The area was empty, save for Caitlyn typing away on her keyboard. Turning back to face Olivia, he smiled as she sat waiting for him.
‘Shall we begin?’ Olivia asked with a smile.
Barry nodded softly. For the next few moments, Olivia began to fire away questions, many he knew she already knew. For a few moments, he felt like his teenage self once more – in love, at peace, happy. It was like no time had passed, the two falling right back in place. Her interview felt more of a catch up between old friends than anything professional.
‘And your family?’
‘I’m sorry?’ Barry replied, Olivia’s question snapping him out of his thoughts.
‘Your family Barry,’ she asked, staring at him hard. ‘How do they feel?’
Before he could reply, a small knock at the door drew their attention. Turning their gaze to the door, Caitlyn popped her head in.
‘I am so sorry to interrupt but– ’
‘Caitlyn, I asked not to be interrupted,’ Barry frowned, silently pleased her appearance had distracted Olivia from her question.
‘I didn’t mean to. It’s just you got a call – ’
‘Caitlyn, take a message.’
‘Message Caitlyn,’ Barry frowned impatiently. Turning to face Olivia, he apologised, ‘I’m sorry Olivia. This isn’t like Caitlyn at all.’
‘I’m right here,’ Caitlyn protested, holding up her hands. Turning to face her, Barry was ready to tell her off when he finally noticed her face. Her warmth and friendliness had faded. She now only had concern and sadness on her face as she stared hard at Barry, ignoring Olivia in front of her.
‘What is it?’ Barry asked, afraid to find out what was wrong. ‘What’s happened?’
‘Sam called Barry,’ she replied softly. ‘It’s your mother. She died.’
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