I’m laying next to Sydney in bed, it’s three in the morning and I’m not able to pry my eyes off her peaceful, sleeping figure. She looks so small on this King-sized bed, the duvet pulled up to her neck, she has a tendency to wrap herself in blankets like a caterpillar wraps itself in its cocoon. She had gone to see Dane today, and after she told me everything that had been said between them, I’m feeling truly hopeful that things will be better for her in that tormented mind of hers. All those nights I would wake to her screams of terror. I’d pull her shaking body into my arms and tell her she was safe. I knew Dane was in prison and couldn’t hurt us anymore, but the nightmare of that night still had us trapped. I hope more than anything that we are finally free.
Tired, but unable to sleep, I sit up and reach for my phone. Maybe some mindless internet dribble will bore me enough so I can fall asleep. As I scroll, the annoying tightness and ache in my hand makes itself known. I put down the phone and flex my fingers to try and loosen them up, sighing in frustration for what feels like the millionth time. Frustration at the ache, frustration at the reason for the ache, and frustration at myself for feeling sorry for myself. I should be happy that this is all that happened that day. I could be dead right now, but I’m not. I’m here, in this big comfortable bed with the love of my life. It’s just that usually, when I’m frustrated, or going through something- I turn to my guitar for some relief, and not being able to do what I love is what is causing me to hold in all this tension. I just want to feel like myself again and I want Sydney to feel like herself again. I look around the dark room, and think that maybe we just need a change of pace. Maybe we just need to get away from this place, away from all our stresses for a little while. I get out of bed, knowing I’ll never get to sleep now while I have this idea in my head. I need to get on my laptop and start working out the details as soon as possible.
When I wake up the next day, or later that same morning I suppose, I find myself on the couch. I don’t even remember passing out. I search around for my phone so I can check the time, and find that it’s almost eleven. I sit up and look around for Sydney but don’t see her. I stand and walk into the bedroom and don’t find her there either, but I spot a note on the foot of the bed.
Went to the gym, Be back around 12:30 - I’ll grab some lunch for us on my way back.
Love you xoxo
I take the opportunity to make a few important phone calls I need to make to put my plan in full gear.
Sydney arrives at precisely Twelve thirty, a take out bag from our favorite deli in her hand. She places the bag on the table then skips over to where I’m sitting on the couch, having just finished up with my last phone call. I smile at her in her workout gear, her hair up in a messy ponytail, and her cheeks still rosy from exertion. She’s absolutely beautiful. She leans down and kisses me.
“Good afternoon sleepyhead,” she greets me.
“And a good afternoon to you too,” I reply.
“Why’d you sleep on the couch last night?” she asks with a slight tilt of her head, “was I hogging the bed or something?”
“No, I was just having trouble sleeping, so I got up so I wouldn’t disturb you. I didn’t actually mean to fall asleep out here. How was the gym?”
“You wouldn’t have disturbed me, I swear I slept like a log last night. The gym was good, felt good to get back at it. Anyway, come eat. I grabbed us some soup and sandwiches.”
She turns and heads back toward the table, and I get up and follow her. I watch in amusement as she hums to herself as she gingerly pulls the items out of the bag and places them on the table, my eyes wander down to her ass, which looks completely sinful in the tight black yoga pants she has on. I sidle up behind her and let my hands wander, I give her derriere a firm squeeze and she lets out a surprised giggle.
“Ack! Conrad,” she turns and gives me a playful smack on the chest.
“Sorry love, I literally couldn’t help myself. These pants…They’re so tight…”
“Hey, don’t blame the pants for your animalistic behavior,” she teases.
“Animalistic?” I repeat with mock horror, “why Miss Chase, do I offend you so?”
Sydney laughs out loud and shakes her head.
“As a matter of fact, Mr. Riley, I actually liked it. You haven’t pawed at me like that for a while.”
“Pawed at you? you like when I paw at you? I didn’t realize I was slacking in that department.”
“It’s been a rough few months so I understand. I’m just hoping things will finally start turning around for us,” she says with a hopeful smile.
“Well, I was actually thinking the same thing, and I thought that we could use a little time getting back to us. So, how about you and I take a little trip,” I reveal.
Sydney nods in agreement and starts opening a styrofoam container of what looks like tomato bisque, “yeah, that would be nice. We should plan something.”
“What if I already have planned something?” I say, taking a seat at the table, and Sydney places a white paper bag in front of me before sitting down next to me.
“What did you do, Conrad?” she asks with a knowing smile.
“I thought we could revisit St. Barts, I just figured since we had such a good time there last time, we’d just go back there.”
“At the same place?” she asks, wide eyed.
“No, I booked us something a little different this time. Anyway, we leave the day after tomorrow.”
“Wow…Thursday? I wasn’t expecting it to be so soon,” she breathes, unable to suppress her smile.
“The sooner, the better. We need this Syd, and I’m sick of sitting around this apartment feeling down on myself. We need someplace new and refreshing, where we can leave all the shit that we’ve gone through behind.”
“I couldn’t agree more, Conrad. I’m so excited to just…” she breathes in a deep breath and exhales slowly, waving her hands out to her sides.
“Exactly. Now, how about we eat this food that’s calling my name. I’m starving.”
I pull the turkey club out of the paper bag and take a big, impolite bite and mentally pat myself on the shoulder for coming up with this plan. She has no clue what’s coming to her.
Conrad gently coaxes me awake at six thirty am. We both hop in the shower to help wake us up a little, then we share a bagel before grabbing our bags and heading downstairs to the lobby and out to the curb where there’s a black town car waiting. Conrad nods at the driver who rushes over to us and takes our bags from us.
“Nice ride,” I comment, with a yawn.
“We’re doing this in luxury, baby. No smelly cabs for us today,” he chuckles. I just smile and get into the backseat, Conrad slides in behind me. The driver pulls away from the curb and we’re on our way.
I recognize when we’re close to the airport, however we don’t turn into the regular departures, instead we make a few detours until we’re at a large chainlink fence. We’re granted entry and drive into what looks like a private hanger.
“What’s going on?” I ask Conrad, who is grinning from ear to ear.
“Like I said, we’re doing this in luxury today. You see, I have all this spare cash lying around, so I thought I’d really take advantage of it for a change,” he boasts, something he never does. I shake my head at him and smile, and then look out the window again. That’s when I spot it, a private jet sits, awaiting with it’s doors open and ready for us.
“I think a regular plane would have sufficed,” I breath.
“This was easier,” he says, but before I can ask what he means, he’s out of the car and walking over to someone waiting nearby with a clipboard. I get out after him and wait as the driver unloads our bags.
“The rest of your party hasn’t arrived yet,” I hear the man with the clipboard, say. My ears perk up in curiosity. But I don’t say anything. Anticipation grows in my belly. Conrad has gone all out, but just how far did he go?
“Great…oh that must be them,” I hear him say.
I look over to see three more black town cars pull through the gate and stop next to where we’re parked. Conrad is back by my side in a flash.
“Surprise,” he murmurs as the doors start opening.
Out of the first car, my parents and sister. The second car, Desiree and Ivan. The third car, Harrison, Jake and Kevin.
“What…What?” I gasp, feeling happy tears welling up.
“I thought this would be fun, having those closest to us join us for a the first week or so,” he tells me then leans in closer to my ear, “but don’t worry, we’re staying for several weeks so we’ll have plenty of alone time.”
Before I can respond, my family is in front of me, wrapping their arms around me tightly.
“Hi baby,” my mom croons, “This is so wonderful. I can’t remember the last time your father and I took a vacation, and he had all this unused vacation time we’ve been meaning to use…” she goes on, then my dad cuts her off by wrapping his arm tightly around her shoulder and reaching out to shake Conrad’s hand.
“Thank you Conrad, this is definitely an unexpected treat for us, but you really didn’t have to,” my Dad says to him.
“Yes I did, Mr. Chase. This is something we could all use I think, and I have the means to make it happen.”
“I’ll take it,” My sister, Hailey, cuts in. She gives me a tight hug, “Like I can afford a last minute trip to St. Barts on my meager pay,” she laughs.
Then Desiree, and everyone else crowds around us. We all make our greetings before we are herded towards the jet. My parents take the seats facing Conrad and I and my dad immediately dives into a conversation with Conrad about the specs of the jet we’re on, blah, blah. Luckily, Conrad is all too happy to listen to him. My mom orders a Chardonnay to relax as flying makes her slightly nervous.
I look over to Desiree and Ivan, who whisper to each other, and Desiree catches me watching them and smiles at me. My sister takes a seat across from them. Harrison, Jake and Kevin scatter themselves out around the rest of the empty seats.
Shortly, the plane takes off.
“Yeah, let’s get this party in the air,” Kevin chortles loudly, making everyone laugh. My mom looks at him, slightly wide-eyed, then back at me in question. She’s seen Conrad’s band play before at my request, but has never met them in person.
“Wait til my book club girls hear about this,” she whispers conspiratorially at me, “little ol’ me, on a private jet with a famous rock band,” she giggles a giggle that I don’t think I’ve heard before.
“This is probably the most interesting thing to happen to us in a long time,” My father agrees as he takes the scotch he ordered from the attendant. He then leans in and whispers something in my moms ear that caused her cheeks to flush. He chuckles softly and takes a sip of his drink. They look so happy in this moment. I reach for Conrad’s hand and squeeze it.
“Thank you for this,” I say to him.
“My pleasure,” He replies, lifting my hand to his mouth and kissing it.
“How did you manage to put this together so quick?”
“I called them all on Tuesday while you were at the gym. This is what I was organizing when I couldn’t sleep the other night. Everyone was all too happy to help make this happen, it really didn’t take a lot of convincing,” he explains.
“Yeah," Hailey, cuts in yet again, obviously eavesdropping, “I get this call while I’m at my shitty waitressing job asking me if I can go on this fabulous vacation. I was in my bosses office so quick, told them I had a family emergency and didn’t know how many days I’d be gone. I’ll probably be fired, but at this point, I don’t really care.”
I realize that I haven’t spoken to my sister enough lately. She’s in her third year of college, twenty one years old, and just scraping by like most college kids do. Unlike me, she didn’t have her school, paid for, by her boyfriends wealthy father. I instantly feel a pang of regret for not helping her out, knowing I still have quite a bit of savings left from John Riley’s generous gift. Maybe that’s something I could do for her. I don’t want her starting out her life with a pile of debt.
“What was it you were studying again, Hailey?” Conrad, coincidentally asks her out of the blue.
“Well, I started out studying phycology, but then I switched to nursing in my second year,” she tells him, “I want to eventually get into physical therapy with an emphasis on Sports therapy.”
Conrad nods in interest, and I see him peek down at his hand and give his fingers a flex.
“How is your hand doing anyway?” Hailey asks him, taking notice.
“Not one hundred percent quite yet, but I’m working on it.”
“If you want, I’ve learned a few exercises that you could try,” she offers, “Sydney, switch seats with me for a bit,” she practically orders, getting out of her seat and ushering me out of mine, “go sit with the love birds over there,” she gestures to Desiree, and Ivan. I laugh, but do as she says.
The hours seem to go quickly as everyone is having such a good time, which is a good sign being this is only the beginning. Everyone is paired off in different seats than what we started with. My mom, who is quite tipsy now, is sitting with Kevin and Harrison, basking in their sweet attention to her, making her day or year I’m sure. My dad is in deep conversation with Conrad and Ivan, about what I don’t know. Jake and my sister are chatting quietly, looking quite friendly, and I’m not exactly sure what to make of it but I’ll ask her later. Then there is me and Desiree, quietly playing a game of cards while we partake in a nice bottle of wine. I feel light and without worry, something I haven’t felt in a long time it seems. I look to Conrad who meets my gaze and smiles at me, I blow him a kiss.
“Yo, pay attention or I’m going to beat you, yet again,” Desiree laughs.
“That’s okay, I feel like I’ve already won.”
“You think this is good? Just you wait,” she says with a snicker.
“Wait for what?” I question her, “How much better could it get?”
“Um…never mind. I’ve already said too much,” she whispers, “seriously, forget what I said. Conrad will kill me if he thinks I ruined the surprise.”
“Surprise? Like this isn’t surprise enough? Come on Des, you gotta tell me now,” I coax.
“Nope, no way,” she shakes her head emphatically.
“That’s okay. I don’t need to know. I’m sure whatever it is, I’ll love it, it doesn’t even matter. I’m just so happy you are all here with us. It’s going to be an amazing week.”
“It’s going to be the best,” she agrees, “Like, the very best.”