Bites Like A Bitch
I hadn't anticipated this chapter being so long but here it is. I always have reservations when I produce over 3000 words in one piece especially when I get those disappointing reviews but I know that a few of you don't mind, so here it is. Let me know what you think of :
(a) Arlington's reminiscence
(b) Dion's advice to Lucas
Lucas has always known his apartment to be a mausoleum housing all of his skeletons. It’s a quiet place but he’d been so used to being on his own, he’d never taken issue with that quietness, until now. Alaine had come into his world like tornado and transformed his appreciation for solitude only to yank him back into the lonely existence which he’d all but forgotten during his time with her.. For five long days, while he nurses his heartache, the silence has been driving him crazy.
Time trickles by slowly -- too slowly to be normal -- so he feels as if it’s been deliberately set against him and wants him to suffer. Each sunrise, since Alaine left, finds him wide awake and sleep deprived with a prayer that the day will either bring her back to him, or, at the very least, be kinder and dull the crippling ache in his chest.
No such luck.
The longer they are apart, the more severe his pain becomes. Coupled with the intense worry he feels for her safety, he’s left with no end in sight to what torments him.
Except through secondhand reports from Seth, communication between Alaine and him is nonexistent. She’s literally severed all ties with him and it hurts.
They should be celebrating her new job at AeroTech together. She hadn’t even bothered to send an email to inform him that her rescheduled interview had been a success. He’d learned through a text from Ian Gaines, her new employer, that... his girlfriend is now his new employee.
Careful, Bright, the text had said. I may take this one off your hands.
Had Ian been standing in front of him, making that statement, Lucas might have punched him right in his smug face and make him swallow his own teeth. What’s more, is how painful it is to think that, in almost a full week, he hasn’t once crossed Alaine’s mind. He rejects the idea that he can be so easily forgotten by her; that he can be so simply cast from her heart and mind when he suffers everyday from the memories haunting this quiet apartment.
Lucas refuses to give any acknowledgement to the little nagging voice -- a duet in the form of Kurt’s and his mother’s taunts -- at the back of his mind, telling him that they’d warned him that she would walk away. That it’s his fault. That he’d been undeserving of someone so good. That he’d found perfection and wasn’t man enough to hold on to her.
It’s a mental and emotional struggle threatening to rip him apart at the seams. So much so, he can barely function.
For the last five days, he has purposefully ignored the outside world; everything and everyone in it. His father, his siblings, his step-mother are all hounding him. Dion has promised to contact the police if he doesn’t show his face soon. Even Seth has expressed concern for his health. He doesn’t blame them but feels no inclination to put their worry to rest.
On day one, he’d given Jackie the week off. He doesn’t want to endure the company of others if he cannot be with the one person he actually wants to be with. It may be dramatic, but his world had ended the day she’d walked out and the dystopia left in the wake of her absence is more difficult to navigate than all the painful, lonely years of his past.
How long must he brave this insufferable quiet and the agony that seems to mature with every passing moment? The memories of her are as agonizing as a fresh wound.
Lucas groans beneath the warm spray of the shower and presses his forehead to the tiles.
There has to be something that can make this better. He considers that he could just reset the clock and go back to a time before he’d ever met her. A light bulb switches on his head. He could start with the small things.
He adjusts the temperature of the water from warm to cold. It’s just one of the littler changes he’d made in his life since meeting Alaine but it seems significant now. Though the iciness shocks him, the frigid water hitting his skin feels good and familiar -- like a strange comfort and it almost seems like he already regains the tiniest bit of his old self. It feels like the first step on the road to recovery.
The victory he feels is short lived when the A.I. controlling his apartment chimes before announcing Seth stepping into the elevator. Lucas frowns and shuts of the water.
“What time is it?” he asks of his only real companion since going into hibernation.
“It’s 10:30,” the humanoid voice replies.
The answer makes his scowl deepen, for though he’s lost track of time, he’s well aware that Seth shouldn’t be here right now.
He gets out of the shower and dresses in record time. He races downstairs just as Seth exits the elevator into his living room. The look of disapproval on Seth’s face as he takes in his appearance is never a comfortable thing to see but Seth keeps his comments about it to himself and Lucas is content with that.
He opens his mouth to demand an explanation from Seth as to why he’s deviating from the plan but is cut off before getting a word out.
“She’s fine,” Seth says.
“Why are you here, then?” Lucas asks. “Why aren’t you watching her?”
“Because Tawny is,” Seth answers. “Your father is about to send a S.W.A.T team down here. I’ve kept them back for as long as I can. Just call. It won’t kill you to, I promise. Better yet, it might do you some good to breathe something other than this recycled air. It’s making you soft in the head. You’ve got people who are worried about you. Take a drive. Go see your old man,” he encourages.
Lucas sighs. He wants to ask if Alaine is one of those people who worries about him. He wants to know if she’d asked about him -- talked about him, or at the very least said his name at any point in time during their separation -- but is too afraid that the answer might be no.
“Sitting here moping for the rest of your life isn’t going to bring her back through those doors any sooner,” Seth shrugs.
“Do you know why she left?” Lucas asks.
It’s a question that’s been on his mind but hadn’t had to nerve to ask.
The sadness in his voice makes Seth sigh. He shrugs again. “The only thing I can tell you is that, this,” he says while making a gesture towards Lucas and the messy apartment. “What you’re doing to yourself, isn’t healthy. Furthermore, it’s not who you are. You’re Lucas Bright. You’ve got a business to run that’s not going to run itself.”
Knowing that Seth’s words are the truth, Lucas doesn’t bother to argue so he nods his head. If Alaine can get on with her life, get a new job and continue living even if she’s cut him out of it, then maybe he should too.
“You’re right,” he mumbles. “I do need a distraction.”,” he says thoughtfully.
Seth brings his hands together with an enthusiastic clap. “Great,” he announces. “Where to, boss?”
“Not you. You’re not coming with me,” Lucas corrects. “Your job is Alaine.”
“Sir,” Seth starts to argue. “This doesn’t mean that Angus...”
“I know what it does and doesn’t mean,” Lucas cuts him off. “You have faith in Tawny’s abilities but I have faith in yours...please,” he requests. “Keep your eyes on her.”
Reluctantly, Seth agrees.
Lucas has no idea what he can use as a distraction when he eventually pulls his favourite sports car out of the parking garage but he drives away from the safety of his building anyway. For a while, he only circles the city, trying to think of the things he would normally do before she’d entered his life. There had been the parade of women willing to spend time with him. Now that he’s had taste of exquisiteness, he can’t settle for anything less. So he doesn’t entertain the thought. Besides, Alaine may yet change her mind and come back. Their love was written in the stars, after all. Oddly, despite his sadness, the thought makes him smile.
The next possible distractor would be going in to work. One look down at the wrinkled t-shirt, shorts and rugged sandals he’s wearing and he chuckles. It would be a sight to see the look on everyone’s faces if he walked into the office dressed looking like he’d just climbed out of a laundry bag. HR would probably suggest he see a therapist.
The trip out of the house actually proves to be a healthy detour from the intolerable solitude. Sulking on seventy-first street while overlooking the liveliness of the rest of the world as it continues moving along, when his ended five days ago, had truly made his outlook more grim.
With nothing else to do, his journey towards a distraction, one that he knows will be only temporary, leads him to New Jersey. At least, seeing his old man, as Seth referred to Arlington, will give him the opportunity to say to his father, “I told you so.”
That is the deal they’d struck on the day his father had convinced him to take a chance on love -- on Alaine.
“...If it doesn’t work out, you can say I told you so and go back to your perpetual state of bachelorhood...”
That’s what his father had said to him that afternoon he’d brought her to lunch with his family at the country club.
At the time, Lucas hadn’t known that being in love meant losing his entire self. He recalls the conversation as if it’s just taking place but he doesn’t feel like gloating. He wants to do more than just say “I told you so”. What he really needs is a place to vent and someone to blame other than himself for listening to his father’s advice, for falling in love, for losing her. More importantly, he needs someone to tell him what to do and how to feel complete again now that Alaine is gone. Maybe with one divorce and a solid fifteen year second marriage under his belt, his father is qualified to offer this sage advice.
He turns into his father’s pristine estate but there are memories of Alaine here too. He groans at his inability to keep her out of his mind for more than five seconds.
Lucas pulls up to the front of the house and gets out the car. He uses his key to get through the front door and strides through the house like he hadn’t ignored his family for almost a full week.
The first place he checks is in his father’s office.
Shanice sees him first and gasps her surprise before her face splits into a smile.
“Knock, knock,” he says to get his father’s attention.
“Lucas,” his father greets.
Immediately, Arlington rises from behind his desk and comes around to pull Lucas into a hug.
“You’ve had us worried, boy,” he scolds. “This is a pleasant surprise. It’s good to see you.”
Arlington steps back and gives his son a once over.
Seeing the genuine concern on his father’s face clogs Lucas’s throat. Silently, he berates himself for getting on like some hormonal female who has no check on her emotions but he nods his head.
“With that stalker of yours, I was starting to doubt Seth’s account of your whereabouts,” he explains.
“I’m fine, dad,” Lucas assures him.
Arlington regards his son’s condition -- his dressing and disheveled hair -- with skepticism.
“Well, it’s good to see you, son,” he says.
As he returns to his seat behind his computer he asks, “how’s that pretty, little lady of yours treating you? Is that why you have no time for your family?”
Lucas might as well have been sucker punched. The question knocks the wind out of him.
He looks between Shanice and his father -- Arlington who is busy with his computer once more but his stepmother regards him closer.
“Lucas?” she frowns at him and it takes everything in him not to break down completely. From Seth and now through Shanice, he’s learned that when it comes to Alaine, he wears his heart on his sleeve.
“I told you so, dad.” he forces the answer to his father’s last question around the lump in his throat.
Arlington lifts his gaze with a look of question in his eyes directed at Lucas.
“She left,” Lucas clarifies.
The blank look on his father watches him with morphs to shock then regret. Lucas tries to be flippant about it but fails miserably. He’s hurting terribly and it shows.
“What happened?” Arlington asks. “Not two weeks ago, you two were like newly weds.
Lucas leans against the wall and stuffs both hands in his pockets. He stares vacantly at the slab of wooden floor between his feet and shrugs his shoulders. Alaine never did give him a reason why. She’d left while his back had been turned and he hasn’t spoken to her since. He cannot imagine that the few words they’d exchanged during their squabble, as tactless as they had been, are sufficient to end a relationship. Or maybe they are and because of his lack of experience, he just doesn’t know. In that moment, he realizes that he wants an explanation. He needs one. Alaine at least owes him that.
Finally he says, “I honestly have no idea. Maybe she finally figured out she deserves someone better.”
“I’m sorry, Luc,” his father offers.
“Nonsense,” Shanice interrupts before her husband can say anything else. “You have a lot to offer a woman. She is lucky to have you.”
“Money, maybe,” Lucas mumbles.
Acknowledging that makes his gut twist.
“Something must have happened,” Shanice probes. “The girl I met did not seem like the type of person who would break your heart on a whim.”
Her observation makes Lucas hopeful.
“Where is she?” his father interjects.
“Today?” Lucas says with a sigh. “I don’t know. But tomorrow, she begins her new job at AeroTech.”
“Lucas,” Shanice calls to him in a gentle tone.
Finally he raises his eyes from the floor to look at her.
“Could it have something to do with the man who attacked her?” his stepmother reasons. “They haven’t caught him as yet.”
Lucas presses both hands to his eyes and lets out a frustrated breath.
“I know,” he answers. “I’m still trying to keep an eye on her, but...”
Seth’s reports aren’t enough. Not being with her is torture. Since he disabled the live feed from her apartment on his phone, he’s been slowly going insane.
“Seth is with her,” he explains.
“So who’s with you?” his father questions.
“I don’t need anyone,” Lucas says. “He is after Alaine not me. I want her safe.”
“Lucas,” his father begins to caution. “I get that you love the girl but...”
“Dad, if anything happens to her,” Lucas interrupts then takes a pause. “She left me and I feel like I’m dying,” he confesses. “If anything happens to her...” he starts to say but trails off.
His father nods in understanding. The day Lucas’s mother had walked out on him, he’d worn that same dejected look that his son is wearing on his face now. Aside from Claudia’s infidelity, which he’d forgiven, he can’t remember her reason. It’s been twenty years since they’d split but whatever flimsy, selfish excuse she’d given him had tipped his world off it’s axis. He’d suffered and wept and pleaded. And that kind of pain and suffering is not what he wants for Lucas; for any of his children.
He loves them all equally ; including his stepson. What father doesn’t want long life and happiness for their kids? But Lucas, his first born, holds a special place in his heart. He’s tried to convince himself that it’s not because Lucas is his only child with the first woman he’d loved and lost his virginity to at the ripe age of twenty-four.
Claudia had enthralled him with her beauty and worldliness. A super model. How lucky he’d thought he was back then to have caught her beautiful eyes. He’d been smitten immediately. Then Lucas was conceived not three years later. The pregnancy hadn’t been planned but the silly, naïve, love-sick, twenty-seven year old in him had imagined marriage would fix the sudden sour turn in their relationship. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Claudia had partied and drank and cheated and done whatever the hell she’d wanted without a care for how he felt. Each time, she’d come back contrite and he would forgive each slight over and over again.
Alaine and Claudia are polar opposites. At least it had seemed so when he’d met her. He’d studied her, those few times, gauging her worthiness to be with his son. She has a guileless charm about her; a straightforwardness he appreciates and none of Claudia’s coy wiles.
Then why did she do it? Why would Alaine break his son’s heart?
Having no answer to those questions, he says to Lucas, “it gets easier son. With time, it gets easier.”
“Can we talk about something else, please?” Lucas requests.
“I actually wanted to run something by you,” his father says dropping the topic right away.
They bury themselves in discussions about business and markets, finance and the general direction of both their companies -- anything and everything that has nothing to do with love and relationships. For the better part of an hour, Lucas pours himself over figures and only occasionally does Alaine steal into his subconscious. Whenever she does, it’s never without the force of a freight train obliterating his concentration and his heart all over again. Still, he will concede that Seth had been right. Coming here had been a good idea.
The door to his father’s office opens again. Both Lucas and Arlington lift their heads as Dion saunters in.
“I heard that girl finally came to her senses,” he jokes.
One look at the bleakness in Lucas’s eyes wipes the rest of the taunt from Dion’s mind.
“Damn,” he mutterss with surprise and sympathy.
Lucas scoffs. “Does no one in this house hold a job anymore,” he complains. Then he encourages, “go ahead. I’ve survived worse,” although, he’s not certain that that’s a true statement.
Nothing is worse than this.
His words cause Arlington to raise a curious eyebrow at him.
“What does that mean?” he questions.
“It doesn’t matter,” Lucas replies. “I don’t want to think any more depressing thoughts if that’s alright with both of you,” he grumbles.
“It’s your first heart break, Lucas,” Dion says and comes to lean against the desk beside them. “It bites like a bitch. But, it’s all part of the life experience. You’ll get over it,” he adds with a shrug.
“When?” Lucas snaps.
He wants to yell that he hadn’t even wanted this. Not initially. He’d done what he could to fight it. But now that he’s had her, he doesn’t want anything else.
“So what happened?” Dion asks.
His voice disrupts Lucas’ mini mental tirade.
“You guys were so hot and heavy, like two weeks ago.”
Ready to be done with the conversation, Lucas asks, “does it even matter? All that matters is that it did happen.”
“Probably not,” Dion agrees. “But I can tell you, trying to ignore it isn’t going to work. Talking about it will help.”
Lucas glances up at Dion and chuckles. “You would know. You are the expert of heart break,” he quips and every one in the room joins in for a laugh.
“I’ve been on the receiving end a time or two,” Dion agrees accepting the role as a good sport. “Seriously man, did you cheat on her? If you did you’re an idiot.”
“I didn’t cheat on her,” Lucas growls. “I could never cheat on her.”
“Did you hit her?”
Lucas’ head snaps toward Dion with a warning glare in his eyes.
“That’s the second time you’ve alluded to that,” he cautions. “I have never, nor would I ever hurt a woman. Least of all the one I...I would never hurt her.”
Lucas swallows the pain mingled with bitterness rising in his throat.
To lighten the mood, Dion says, “except for the occasional spanking,” and wiggle his eyebrows suggestively.
Lucas chuckles. There had been a few times when he’d swatted Alaine’s behind playfully in passing or when she’d teased him or during their fun loving.
“I do not wish to know anything about my son’s sexual escapades,” Arlington grumbles.
His gravely voice swipes at Lucas’ little reverie. Both Dion and he glance and their parents to read the distaste in their expressions.
Dion clears his throat, hoping to clear the awkwardness away as well.
“Did she cheat?” he asks of Alaine, though he wouldn’t believe it possible.
Lucas shakes his head. “Nobody cheats on me,” he states
To that, Dion scoffs. “Then what the hell, man?” he asks. “What happened? Do you love her?”
All of Dion’s questions seem to fuel the ache and his father’s hand on his shoulder that should be comfort in this ridiculous therapy session, only serves to irritate. Yet, he answers with a reply, barely audible to the rest of the room.
"More than anything," he answers.
“Does she love you?”
“Is there a point to this?” Lucas snaps. “What’s with the twenty questions?” he seethes “She left me okay? I didn’t do a damn thing and she left. She said she loved me and I believed her. Then she left.”
“Answer the damn question. Do you believe she loves you?” Dion reiterates.
Lucas pauses. He travels through the length of his relationship with Alaine, trying to find the signs of doubt.
“Yes, she loves me,” he answers and wonders how he could have ever been unsure of it when he’s seen in her eyes and heard it in her voice and felt in her touch.
He wants that back. God, how he wants her back.
“Then you’re not broken up, you jackass." Dion chortles.
Lucas head perks up with his announcement a spark of curiosity in his eyes.
“Explain,” he demands.
“It’s your first real disagreement,” Dion explains. “You’re in a fight and as long as there haven’t been lies and disappointment and cheating, those are easy to fix."
“A fight?” Lucas repeats. He scowls pensively.
“What have you done to try to get her back?” Dion continues to interrogate.
Lucas’ scowl deepens. “Nothing,” he answers. “She left...I figured...”
His father’s snort of laughter interrupts him.
Speaking slowly, Dion says, “I see I need to break this down for you. Make up for whatever idiotic thing you did or said. Go to her, text her, call her, buy her flowers, a nice gift, beg, grovel. Do something that will demonstrate your love. Then offer to take her to dinner. Kiss her at the end of the night. No sex,” he warns. “Even if she wants it, don’t give in, brother,” he cautions. “She needs to know that you’re in it for the long haul. That you’re not just there for a quick tap. Most importantly, you let her know that you love her. You convince her that no other man is going to do what you do for her.”
“How are you still single?” his mother questions.
“You sound like a professional,” Arlington teases.
While they joke, Lucas contemplates his stepbrother’s words.
“The point I’m making is,” Dion says, his voice serious once again.
He snaps his finger to get Lucas’ attention. “If you want her back, you have to do the work. Let her know you’re here, no matter what.”
Still pensive, Lucas rises from his seat. He pats Dion on the shoulder and says, “I knew you would come in handy at some point in my life.” Then he whirls to face his father. “Can we pick this up another time?”
“Sure,” Arlington answers.
When Lucas gets to the door, his father calls, “hey, get your bodyguard back.”
Lucas doesn’t wait to give a response as he hustles out of the room. He knows exactly what to do to, if not win Alaine back, at least get back in her good graces. He just needs to visit with his lawyer first.
“You’re welcome, dipshit,” Dion’s voice travel down the hall behind him.