Chapter 21: Surprise
Unravel Him Playlist on Spotify.
Song; (HT Bristol- Bring me back to life) & (Sleeping at last- Atlas: Hearing)
When the sun decided to hit me straight in the face this morning, I decided, hell no and pulled my covers up over my head.
Unfortunately, that didn’t last long as I had to come up for air.
So there I was, tired, a bird nest on my hair and my limbs spectacularly useless.
None of it was as worse as the date flashing on my half-broken phone.
Today was the day.
The day my father will have committed suicide.
The day my name will have been called in the Annually.
The day my whole life turned upside down.
Today, was New Years Eve.
One of the worst days of my life.
Ironically it was others best day of their lives.
How the tides have changed.
Twisting my torso, I viewed the window and felt my face fall in disbelief.
Cold, messy, snow.
It was all over New York City.
So not only was it sunny, it was snowing.
Sunny and snowy.
You won’t be able to open a window without getting frostbite.
Rolling my eyes at how unlikely I was to see the bright side of it, I folded my covers and got up.
I hate today.
So far, I did a total of three things.
I got up.
I made hot chocolate.
I sat on the couch.
Boring, but well, I wasn’t complaining.
It was comfortable, sitting there with a bunch of throw blankets all over me and the fireplace burning away.
For the first time in what seemed like weeks, the Apartment was empty. No one was around.
Not Hailey, Veronica or the boys.
I had the Apartment all to myself.
I don’t even know if any of them remembered tonight was my Birthday. Either way, I’m glad they didn’t.
It’s one thing to celebrate my birthday and another thing to be reminded how my father brutally fell to his death.
Shaking my head, I blew the hot chocolate until it was warm enough to taste.
Instant chocolaty goodness enveloped my mouth and I inhaled, breathing in the relaxing aroma.
This, this was heaven-
“Rise and shine!” The door slams open, revealing a set of pearly whites followed by darting green eyes.
I spoke too soon.
“Va-nes-sa!” Hailey sings, strutting into the Apartment with what looked to be bags of groceries.
Cringing into my cup, I sunk deeper into the sofa and hoped the plush material could just swallow me whole.
Anything to get away from her plans.
“Hey, I see you,” She zooms forth onto the living room, the groceries discarded on the counter. “Don’t even think about hiding, Missy.”
“The person you’re reaching, is unavailable.” My voice comes out automatic and I’m too frozen to budge. “Please try again-”
“You’re red hair is practically glowing through the mass of white blankets.”
Heaving out a reluctant sigh, I poked my head out from under the pillows and glared at her halfheartedly. “Like, I said, please try again later-”
“I have both Mason and Thomas on speed dial.”
“That’s blackmail!” Throwing the plushy items off, of me, I cringed at her phone in which she was showcasing their numbers.
Since when did she have their numbers?
“Oh, before you start, both Mason and Thomas gave me their phone numbers a few months back and told me to report them of any suspicious behavior regarding you.”
“They had you spy on me?” I raised an eyebrow in disbelief.
“Well... if you put it like that...” She rolls her eyes and crosses her arms over her chest. “Hey, we’re talking about you here, not me.”
“I’m not a child,” How could they think I’m incapable of handling myself?
“Yup, I know that.” She slips her phone back in her pocket and clicks her tongue. “Which is why I haven’t been telling them anything. Say like; locking yourself up in you’re room and avoiding all human interaction.”
“Oh...” Suddenly the air is awkward, frigid almost.
My best friend has just confessed into having been coerced into spying and I’m not sure how to handle that.
Not only that, she’s been covering, for me.
“Then why did you threaten me over that?” I waved my hand at her hidden phone, not sure how to place it.
“Because,” She twists a lock of blond hair back up her ear. “I know what today is, and I know that’s why you don’t want to see them. Also, I just wanted to see you’re reaction.”
She flicks her hand and turns on her heel before catering off towards the kitchen. “I had to know what you’d do.”
“How many scenarios did you come up with?” Sitting up straighter, I tried to peer at her from my position but couldn’t do so with the wall blocking the way.
“Two,” I heard a faint pop and a faint sizzling. A moment later she appears, holding two glasses and the bottle of champagne itself.
“Fancy,” I hummed, taking the glass from her as she sits down beside me. “What’s you’re plan here? Get me so drunk, I won’t resist you’re charms?”
“Who said anything about charms?” She bats her eyelashes at me and it’s enough for me to laugh, earlier anger disappearing.
Hailey grins at how her attempts had worked but after a while, when my laughter died down, I looked at her quietly once more.
“Seriously Hales... what did you mean by; What I’d do?”
She sighs, pulling her leg up and crossing it so she could balance the glass on her lap with one hand pouring the champagne.
The bubbling liquid sizzled out and I gave her my glass before she repeats the gesture and the both of us now sported drinks.
“Well, scenario one was that you would be excited and scenario two was that you would be hesitant to see them.”
“Which ones did you get?” I’m only asking because I was curious.
Hailey shrugs and sips her glass, smacking her lips gently. “I got both. You’re excited and hesitant to see them which makes this confusing.”
“Well there you go,” Letting out a relieved exhale, I kicked back the drink and winced at the jolt. “All the more reason not to go anywhere today.”
I feel her glare hit the side of my face followed by an almost guilty roll of her eyes. “But I planned everything...”
“Please, tell me there’s no surprise party.” I begged.
She shakes her head and muffles her disgruntlement. “It was only going to be me and you. Just a simple dinner at a bar after a day of shopping.”
“Shopping was included too?” Bringing my hands forth, I wrung them in disbelief.
“Of course shopping would be included,” Hailey snaps, downing the rest of her drink. “What type of friend would I be if I didn’t get you anything?”
“I appreciate it, really. But today... today’s not the day alright? I know you tried and I’m sorry I can’t-”
“But Ness, I got everybody out for the day so it’d just be me and you. No Mom, no boys, no nothing. Just us girls.”
Closing my eyes, I analyzed her words with strange silence.
God, my birthday fell on one of the biggest days of the year. What the hell am I doing moping around?
“Alright, alright, fine.” Breathing deeply, I locked gazes with Hailey’s excitement ones. “Just no more surprises alright?”
She stands to her feet and holds out a hand.
I gingerly took it before she hoisted me up, a grin slathering her lips. “Maybe one more.”
After Hailey said I needed some ‘me’ things, I agreed to her solution.
Which was to go shopping in this undesirable weather.
I don’t know why my best friend comes up with the most terrible of plans in the most terrible of timings.
Nonetheless, it proved a great distraction.
“Hailey!” My shout echoed the store we were at and I’m hoping she could hear me through the pile of clothes she was dragging.
“What?” She muffled back.
What did she mean; ‘What?’
Could she not see the mountain load of clothes she was carrying?
Who was going to pay for all that?
“Ah, don’t worry about it. Working as an Intern has their kicks.” She grins mischievously. “Now come on and put this dress on.”
Despite feeling like a pinned up doll, I did as she said and put on a gorgeous nude cocktail dress with black lace.
It hugged my figure in all the right places, showcasing curves I knew I had.
It was short sleeved and after telling Hailey my worries about getting cold in this weather, she suggested I should only wear that after spring rolled around.
We bought the dress.
I never thought that despite all the negativity I’ve surrounded myself in, this morning, my whole perspective would change the minute I allowed Hailey to do what she wanted to cheer me up.
There we were, two giddy girls, carrying bags of clothes in New York City, laughing our asses off at anything we could find.
It was perfect.
It was soothing.
It was me.
After weeks of being pressured, weeks of being smothered by my own self dignity, I was free.
I know it’d be stupid to say all my problems won’t come back and haunt me but at least for now, it wasn’t my priority.
“You look like you’re enjoying yourself,” She observes, clearly amused with how I had my eyes shut as a manicurist painted my nails an ombre red and black.
Pointless but, cute.
“That’s because I am,” I tell her honestly, going to smile. “Thank you... I really needed this today.”
“I wasn’t going to leave you alone, Ness.” She gazes down at her golden holographic nails. “You may say that you don’t want to celebrate you’re birthday but deep down inside, nobody wants to spend their big day alone.”
Her words held truth.
Unfortunately I’ve been so used to closing up that it feels alien almost that I’m letting people in, letting them in for me to care.
The boys spring to mind.
Humming mindlessly, I let out an incoherent mumble. “Maybe,”
She clearly sees how I’m backing down but doesn’t question it.
By the time I’ve regained back my ability to look her in the face, we were done with our manicures and was strolling out the parlor and into the cold.
Night had already overwhelmed New York City and snow littered every sidewalk and street.
“I think we should find someplace to eat? Grab a bite before heading to see the fireworks?” I suggested.
She nods. “Great idea, I know a place. It’s a few blocks from here,”
“Lead the way.”
We carried our bags throughout the journey and ended up in a small bar in the corner street.
It wasn’t as crowded as most bars but still felt homey enough for us to settle down and order some food.
Who knew a day of shopping would make someone so hungry, they’d browse through the entire selection menu?
That’s my best friend by the way.
She’s on her third course and still going.
At this point, I could hardly care why I was so upset this morning.
I could hardly care that today was my birthday.
I could hardly care that all the things that bothered me would still bother me when this was all over.
Sitting in that lonely booth, a beer in hand and a couple of fries stuck in my mouth was enough to make me the happiest person on earth.
Soon, time flew by and our plans to go see the fireworks changed.
Neither of us wanted to leave, much to enjoying ourselves to bother caring.
So when the bar owner switched on the TV, we waited as the countdown started.
The crowd in the bar was getting rowdier with people donning big hats and large sparkling sunglasses.
It was going to be a New Year in 10 seconds.
“You ready, Vanessa?” Hailey informs me as the crowd chanted.
“10, 9, 8, 7-”
“I’m not going to change Hales,” I shout back. “Nothing’s ever going to change who I am.”
“6, 5, 4-”
“You’ll always have me Ness,” She reaches for my hand and I grip it tightly, feeling her reassurance that she would never let me down. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“3, 2, 1-”
“Then, neither am I.”
“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”
The crowd exploded. From the TV, billowing fireworks erupted as bass-like songs started playing.
“Happy Birthday,” Hailey smiles at me from across the booth.
For some reason, when I smile back, it’s sad. Like despite feeling so full of hope, another part of me is drowning deeper.
She stares at me, green eyes filling with both pity and understanding.
I don’t feel any different then who I was a year ago.
Sure, maybe the way I thought or how I would react to things have changed but other then that, nothing.
I was still Vanessa Vail.
I guess the only thing that has changed was my perspective.
“Well,” Lifting my beer, I clinked it with Hailey’s. “Here's to a new year.”
“It’s not going to be all bad, you know that right, Ness?” She jokes.
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” Look what happened last year.
We drank our drinks and as soon as I had polished it off, I smacked my lips and ran a hand down my hair.
“Hailey Williams, I congratulate you for planning today, it was a wonderful surprise,” Our gazes lingered near the doorway where stacks of bags awaited our return.
“I think you’re bank account may have a dent in it.”
“Wasn’t all my money anyway,” She shrugs openly, the edges of her lips turning into a sly smile.
Something about that sentence makes my brain click.
I frowned. “What did you do?”
“Nothing I wasn’t supposed too.” Again, that smile of hers was throwing me off guard.
“Earlier on, when you told me how you enjoyed today and that it was a wonderful surprise...” She puts her beer down and crosses her arms over her chest in a relaxed way. ”Well, I was hoping one more won’t hurt.”
“Sorry we’re late,” Someone slips into the spot beside me, one hand wrapped on my shoulder.
Evan showcases his full pearly grin that makes me blink.
“You’re ass is in my face, Jared.”
“Victor, move your butt.”
Elios, Matthew, Jared, Victor, Zanthus-
Soon the booth is filled with each and every one of the boys all of them squeezing to get in.
Hell, even Kale.
His gaze drifted over to me and he grins. “Happy birthday Vanessa,”
Zanthus acknowledges me with a nod, one hand wrapped around Kale’s as they squeeze in tighter to the booth.
“I’m glad to see our money was spent well,” Elios hinted, going to point at the bags.
“It’s not my fault all of you gave more then what was needed.” Hailey rolled her eyes but it didn’t quite seem serious because she was still smiling.
“Wait, so the money-” I cut myself off and view the people in the booth with a gaping mouth. “You did not.”
“We so did,” Evan sang, stealing a glass off, of our table and drinking it down.
“This is ridiculous.”
“Ridiculous?” Hailey pulled her purse away from Jared who was sitting on it. “Hey, if I hadn’t stopped them, they would’ve each gotten you a house.”
“I would’ve gotten her a car,” Matthew speaks out but was instantly shut down by Jared who slaps the back of his head.
“What she gonna do? Sleep in the car?”
“What type of car?” I raised an eyebrow, daringly curious.
Matthew grins, despite of it. “Koenigsegg Regera,”
I whistled, imagine the picture. “All red, twin turbo V-8 engine?”
“The full specs baby,”
Suddenly we were all laughing, some of us even doubling over that this was even a conversation.
“Come on Matthew, buy me a drink before you buy me a car,” I shake my head, baffled at the boys term of presents.
“You heard the lady,” Zanthus stands up and buttons his lower suit. “We’re getting the drinks.”
Unfortunately as Kale was in front of Zanthus, there was no way the older male could get out in between the booths, in fact, he was stuck.
“Um, Evan you mind?” He gestures to the male beside me.
“On it,” Getting up, he saunters over to the bar and I don’t miss how most of the female population in the bar was now staring at our table.
I admit, with the suits and ties, all of them looked like they just recently got out of a meeting.
A meeting with a photo shoot, of course, is what I meant.
Because no way anyone can look that good.
“Took you long enough to find us,” Hailey voices out to the table, interesting the lot of them. “Was starting to think you’d bail.”
“Trust me, we weren’t going too,” Elios rolls his eyes and takes my beer. “Do you know how difficult it was to navigate through the crowded streets?”
"We had to pull over, before someone," Victor snorts. "Got so impatient they decided to threaten the NYPD and put them out of business if they didn't help us clear the jam."
Hailey frowns, concerned. "Please don't tell me you guys didn't actually put the police out of business."
"The other person bought it back."
“I think Evan needs help,” Kale interrupts as he peeks his head up and squints.
I followed his gaze and rolled my eyes at the sight of several girls grinding up against him while he balance a tray of drinks.
He didn’t seem to mind but I didn’t want any of those girls touching the drinks we’d be consuming tonight.
“Times like this, I wish you guys were nobody’s in suits.” I sighed, getting up.
With the way most eyes were on us, no way these people didn’t know who the boys around me were.
“Alright I’ll go get him, hopefully none of them has touched anything yet.” I winced at the term and heard the table explode in laughter.
Strolling over to the younger twin, I tapped his shoulder making him weave around.
“You looked like you needed help,” I looked at the girls and felt their eyes narrow at me.
“Oh,” Evan looks at the tray before shaking his head, dazed. “Right, I should get going girls!”
He leaves the crowd and the little circle he drew to attention began to follow on his heels, their sight dead set on our table.
I mean there’s a buffet of handsome men just sitting there who wouldn’t want a taste?
Clicking my teeth, I gracefully cut through the little wall from their walk and flipped so I stopped them in their tracks.
“Hey girls, heading anywhere interesting today?”
The first girl wavered. She was beautiful with olive skin and dark eyes. “You can say I’d like to park my car somewhere tonight,”
She flashes a smile that completely alienates her beautiful features.
“Hmm, good story.” Flicking my gaze over to the other remaining girls, I noticed most of them aren’t even actually friends.
They just went along in a group to seal the deal.
“You should move along, because you’re car? It’s not getting parked anywhere at all, tonight.”
“Are you threatening me?” She steps forward, her height tall. “There’s a litter of them there, take you’re pick, let us have some too.”
“First off, men are not objects.” I snapped, the edges of my vision turning blurry from rage. “Same goes for guys saying things like that about girls.”
“Seriously?” The bitch was whining. She was actually, whining. “Who’s you’re guy? I promise we won’t go after him.”
This time, I flash a smile. A dark, dangerous one.
Even if she gave me her word, it would fly out the window the minute she knew who exactly my guy was.
“Sweetheart, you can try,” Stepping closer, I felt my fists clenched against my sides. “But if you know who my guy was, you’d never want to let him go, so back up, before I make you wish you were never born.”
I felt heat settle behind my neck and fire crawl up my chest. It was burning away, sparking something so deeply through that I felt as though any moment I would com bust to flames.
Something in my expression must have scared her because she backed off immediately and was quickly followed by the remaining girls.
I swear I saw fear in her dark eyes.
The roaring in my ears intensified and I bent forward, placing my hands on my knees.
Jesus Christ, what was that?
The edges of my vision eventually cleared out and I straightened myself, feeling absolutely confused for acting this way.
It was haunting to not know what it meant.
The bubbling anger and rage I felt.
Like some hidden emotion I have yet to describe.
Shaking my head, I forced myself to forget it and made my way back to the table.
Nobody noticed what went down and I silently thanked anyone out there that was listening.
“We had to pick up two items.” Matthew chewed on a fry, answering Hailey’s questions. “One of them had a hard time sneaking out.”
“Sneaking out?” I sat back down in the booth and regained the attention of many of them. “What are you-”
“For the record, I hope you meant the other guy and not me.”
Someone slid over in my peripheral vision and I turned, confused.
It’s been weeks since I last saw him.
His light brown hair is loose and his attire screamed messy with it un-tucked and unbuttoned.
For some reason, my chest painfully heaved at seeing his familiar figure.
“Well aren’t you going to hug me?” He jokes.
Narrowing my eyes, I approach Mason with careful steps before reaching out and hitting him in the arm, just enough to cause pain.
“What, did you hit your head and die? What took you so long?” I grumbled, annoyed.
He rolls his eyes heaven forth. “Alright I see how it is, come here.”
Mason reaches for me and pulls me into a hug.
I melted into his embrace, remembering the familiarity all at once.
It was impossible to ignore.
“If I knew you’d miss me so much,” He chuckles, rubbing circles at my back. “I would have been gone sooner.”
“Oh, fuck off.” I didn’t care if people stared.
It was good to have him back.
Good to have them all back.
Here, in one piece.
Hailey was right when she told me nobody wanted to spend their big day alone.
“Um, Mase-” Elios voices out, his tone elevated. “You might want to-”
“I see I’ve been forgotten.”
A drawl from behind me makes me whirl around which was difficult considering I was still hugging Mason.
Thomas blue green orbs stared down at out conjoined bodies and his gaze slid over the length of mine in a way only he could do.
He raises a perfect eyebrow. “Anything I should know?”
The top of his white collared shirt is unbutton and the sleeves had been pulled up to his elbows, revealing fine lines of veins.
“Yeah, we’re married now. We’re naming the kids Martha and Stewart.” Mason smiles, clearly mocking the heir of Graymoore.
“Is that so?” Thomas unbuttons more buttons, it’s getting dangerously lower to his chest. “I always thought you were more of a no-kids guy,”
“You know what they say, finding the perfect girl would change that.”
What is this, a pissing contest?
I’m so stunned with seeing both of them that I could hardly care if they had an unknown battle waging in their minds.
Releasing Mason, I strode over to Thomas, taking my sweet time.
He stares at me as I come closer, not once showcasing what was really beneath that hard expression.
I hit him in the chest, hard enough for him to stumble.
“What the fuck-”
“You’re a jerk.” Shaking my head at his attitude, I crossed the space between us and settled my head on his shoulder, forcing him to embrace me.
He returns the favor after several long seconds, obviously confused.
I hear the others laugh but I didn’t care.
I’m smiling so hard, it feels like my face was about to break in half.
“You’re holding me a bit tight here, Ginger.” He grumbles by my ear.
“I don’t care,”
He sighs in response, long arms going to position himself so instead of awkwardly hugging, he had one arm around my waist and the other by my back.
It was nice.
More then nice, it was perfect.
I could feel the steady pounding of his heart through the cotton long sleeve shirt he wore.
His slacks slid over my legs, the material soft and foreboding.
I missed him.
Everything about him.
Everything about us.
“They weren’t kidding,” Thomas says, after a couple of moments.
His amusement was back.
The lighter, kinder side of Thomas I saw in the hospital.
The muscles on his arms relaxed and I could feel my surroundings drift away as I’m in his arms.
My light in the dark.
“About what?” I raise my head so I can view his face.
He rolls his eyes in response, one finger intertwining with a lock of my hair. “That I would miss you so much I won’t be able to breath.”
“Is it?” He spreads his hand on my hair and gently tugs.
I feel shivers run down my spine and heat up my blood.
“Because I’m having a hard time breathing here.”
I burst out laughing, hands lightly pushing his chest away so I could regain some distance. “Well serves you right.”
“Just wait,” He warns. “You’ll be the one unable to breathe later.”
“Is that my present?” I raised an eyebrow, challenging him.
“You’d be surprised what I can do with a pair of ribbons.”
There it was.
That signature boyish grin.
The same grin that made my heart flutter.
“Alright love birds!” Evan calls out, hands raised, everybody looks at him in interest. “Let’s get this party on the road!”