For three days, he's been gone and I have not heard anything from him. It was agonizing, the constant worry if he was okay, what he was doing at the moment, and if he was thinking about me like I had been obsessively thinking about him.
His phone was off.
As if he was laughing cruelly when he switched it off, his veins pulsing with adrenaline when he thought about what I would go through when I try his number and hear it switched off.
I was about to go mad.
Screaming did help at first, but then it came to the point that I wanted to burst into tears and scream at the same time, but the person I needed to vent the emotions to was not here to see it, and if he had been, I wasn't sure I would have done it.
The duvet was wrenched off me, and my eyes suddenly met with the bright sunlight that almost blinded me if I hadn't shut my eyes quickly. A frustrated groan left my lips when the peace that I wanted was suddenly taken away from me by the only one person I knew.
I groaned for the second time, rolling around to face the other side as I pushed a pillow into my face, trying to block out her voice. "No," I replied, making sure to drag the word out while digging my feet into the sheets.
Beth was no one to back down. "I'm serious. Get up," she pushed, this time around pulling off the only thing that was helping me keep the sunlight away from my face; my pillow.
Rolling back onto my back, my eyes were already on her, wide open and hollow with bags under them, my entire face painted with misery and pain. The ache in my chest was nearly unbearable and my head was flooded with thoughts that wailed, the pages of memories turning so fast that I couldn't stop it.
Beth planted her fists on her hips with a frown that aligned with confusion. "What's wrong with you?" she asked.
"A man," I grimly replied. A man that I hadn't spoken to for three days. It should not bother me a lot, but it did. That arrogant prick was probably enjoying America and leaving me to cry about him, and it was so stupid because it was just three days. How could I miss him just after three days?
"Oh, really? I didn't know that it was a man," she chimed sarcastically, rolling her eyes over her head.
"Sarcasm doesn't suit you this early, Bethany."
"Moping doesn't suit you either."
I tried to rouse myself from my reflective mood but failed miserably, retorting briskly, "Leave me alone. I'm grieving." Turning around and clutching a pillow tight to my chest, I felt another stab of pain in my chest.
"What the hell are you grieving for?" Beth questioned on the verge of chuckling.
Forcing a jovial note in my voice, I repeated, "A man." And because I knew that would annoy Beth. What she deserved for being annoying at nine in the morning. And perhaps, I was annoyed with her for not pushing me not to marry Mason, I thought, as I stared at the wall of my old room. Or maybe, bold letters that warned me not to get comfortable or catch any unwanted feelings.
But now, now I had reached a point, I conceded, where I couldn't spend a whole day without thinking about him or wanting to talk to him...even if it was just to listen to him be rude, and that want was burning so fiercely inside me that it was unbearable.
"If you say that one more time, I'm going to drench you in ice water."
I faced Beth again to see her raise a brow when I proceeded to grace her with a wide, sweet smile. "Do it," I permitted, trying to sound lively, but I couldn't find it in myself to fake an emotion. "I can take anything right now. There's nothing that can possibly hurt me."
I knew all sorts of pain when I met Mason, and no one had inflicted stabbing pain on me more than him, whether internationally or not, whether it was for a ridiculous reason or for nothing.
"Ugh, seriously get up and face the world." She smacked me with the pillow she had taken from the bed. "Go back to your job before I call your boss and tell her you're lying about being sick."
Taking some days off to get my shit together proved to be the worst decision I have ever made since all I had done for the last two days was shower, eat and think about the husband I was missing so much. I should be out in the world, distracting myself from thinking about anything, but I didn't want to confine myself in an office where I'm constantly reminding myself about the run-ins I had with Mason at Campbell Industry.
The workplace was the birth of our relationship. Any office, any company kept reminding me of Mason Campbell.
And really, I was struggling with an emotion I could feel but not understand.
"I can't do anything." Unenthusiastically, my gaze wandered around the room, stopping abruptly when I caught sight of my black cardigan on the armrest, and I nearly moaned when the colour reminded me of Mason and how much he adored wearing black shirts at home. I used to tease him about it by saying people wear their clothes like they wear their soul. He had shot me a look that had made me chuckle.
Now, why did I have to go think about that specific memory?
Beth stared at me, and a look of astonishment and disbelief crossed her expressive face. "You're not going through a heartbreak, bitch. Stop acting like it's the end of the world because your husband is away for a few days."
"You say it's a few days, but it feels like a lifetime for me. Everything reminds me of him...even your voice reminds me of him."
"Are you saying that I have a man voice?"
Her quiet shriek dragged a reluctant laugh from me, and shaking my head, I explained, "No, but your voices are both annoying sometimes." A glint entered my eyes and I added, "See, you finally have something in common with him."
A sly smile graced her lips. "Besides wanting to beat the shit out of you every now and then?"
I finally sat up and planted my legs on the ground. "Harsh, babe, just harsh." When Beth sat down beside me and gave me a strange look, I asked, "What's that look for?"
"I know what your problem is. Love." She said the word 'Love' with delight and excitement that was visible on her face. With grinning face and sparkling eyes, she deemed the situation I fell in the case of love. Just like that.
And my eyes were huge as I stared at her, puzzled, and I almost bent over and laugh till I couldn't anymore, but it got stuck in my throat. "What?" I asked her breathlessly. Love? Did she really think I loved Mason? "Don't be daft. I don't love him if that's what you think this is. He's my friend." I stood up abruptly with the need to get away from her, the need for air to enter my lungs and to feel it on my face to prevent the sweat that was about to form on my face.
Beth didn't seem to like the answer or actually believed in it. "Do you feel like this about all your friends?" The tiniest hint of a smirk lingered on her lips as she waited for a reply....or what she would consider a lie because what I always did when it was about Mason was lie...a .according to her.
"Of course!" I shot back, unnerved by her question and the ones that were on the tips of her lips, ready to be unleashed and bring chaos into my head.
"So you would call in sick at work, lock yourself in your room and think about me if I went away for a few days?"
My cheeks colored, my heart hammered in my chest, but I was no one to accept defeat. Even when my voice went a bit high, I still appeared to be confident. "Well...of course. I love you and you're my best friend. I would miss you like crazy." I did that thing where I would twirl a strand of hair and avoid any eye contact, but I thought I grew out of it five years ago.
"Enough to be like this?"
"Y...yeah." I nodded, then threw her a deep glare while swinging my arms around. "Beth, stop interrogating me for God's sake. I need to go shower! Leave me alone!" I yelled, marching right into the bathroom and slamming the door shut. I leaned against the door and closed my eyes.
What the hell?
An hour later after showering, I decided to eat something before I retreat back to my room. When I walked out of the room, I could not see Beth, but I could see the plate of pancakes she had left out for me.
With a growling stomach, I approached the table and paused. Looking down at the plate, written with syrup was one word that almost caused the vein on my forehead to pop and disbelief etched on my face, combined with frustration and fear. Written boldly on the delicious pancake was the word 'Love' that made it not so delicious anymore.
Tilting my head, I grabbed a fork and went on to stab the pancakes, trying to erase the word until the table and the ground were assaulted by pieces of pancakes, but the word was still engraved on my mind.
That was the end of my hunger.
While I was laying on the couch, watching TV and barely paying any attention to it, Beth walked past me, whispering, 'Love' before she headed to her room, and I glared at her retreating back.
Coming out of the bathroom after peeing, I stopped short when I saw my clothes arranged in a weird way on the ground, and it took me less than a few minutes before I could make out what was actually in front of me that made me want to let out a scream. Beth had done it again. She had spelled 'Love' with my clothes.
I was about to wipe Beth out of existence. Written on the fridge with a marker was the word again, and once again, she was nowhere to be found. It was like she was on a mission to drive me crazy and I really could lose my mind. So, I decided to go on a walk.
Coop was hell-bent on following me, saying that he was assigned to be by my side all the time, and if he left me alone even for a second, he would lose his job. And when I jokingly said I would call the police on him if he dared follow me, he chuckled and didn't say anything else. It was very clear that the police wouldn't do anything about it.
At first, walking around, taking in every detail around me and breathing in the fresh air, I felt a bit better. Memories didn't attack me and my heart was gently beating. That was until I saw a couple strode past me, holding hands and laughing with each other, only then did the knot that held my mind together began to loosen. When I turned my head around, I would find another couple, cozied up together, and when I looked away, my eyes would land on another couple that was kissing each other.
That was too much for me to handle. I escaped into a cafe and found the nearest table, plopping down on it before I propped my elbows on the table, running my fingers through my hair as I tried to calm my racing heart.
I closed my eyes, willing my mind to quiet down. Coop was sitting on the table next to me, watching me carefully like he wanted to figure out what was wrong with me. I ordered a latte, but I could not even touch it, just staring mindlessly at it like it was some puzzle I was trying to solve. But when my head snapped up immediately after a love song began to play in the cafe, it felt like fate was playing a joke on me and I bolted right out.
What the hell was happening to me?
A terrible panic erupted inside me, and I had to fight against the overwhelming urge to bang my head against a wall and give the media something to write about. I could almost see the headline: Billionaire's wife has officially gone insane. That would look good on the cover, and I was also sure that would send Mason running back here to strangle me.
A burst of chuckle released from my chest at the thought of the lion stalking close to me, his teeth bared and his eyes cold and merciless, and suddenly being invited to his arms as I wait for my punishment.
And then I closed my eyes.
I sat up in darkness when I heard the sound of a door closed. I lay back down and stared up at the ceiling, but knew I would never be able to sleep.
Slipping out of the bed, I peered out into the hallway and heard footsteps at the bottom of the stairs, then hurried out to follow it. I ventured through the hallway, down to the stairs, another hallway where I passed several closed doors before I finally saw two glass doors wide open and the air that blew into the hallway and brushing over my face like a caress.
I stuck my head out, where I found Mason near the railing, with his back to me and his hands tucked inside his sweatpants. Of all the places I expected him to be, this wasn't one of them. And I never thought he had sleepless nights.
I stood quietly in the doorway, not wanting to bother him and leave him to his thoughts for a few minutes, but before I could think about what I was going to say, or how I would approach him, he spun around with eyes so cold and deadly staring down at me.
"It's only me," I said, lifting my hands up with a small smile.
His eyes softened before he turned around, and I heard a silent invitation, to which I took as I walked up to stand next to him, enjoying the quiet of the night with only the moon and stars staring at us down.
"Want to know something?" I leaned further into him, with no reason to whisper but found myself doing it. "We are practically close now." I nudged him a little, a grin playing on my lips as his eyes descended on me. "It's night and we are standing outside, watching the stars together. That's some level up in our relationship. I'd say we jump from 3 to 8."
I waited patiently to hear his answer, but he seemed determined to take his time. At last, he bowed his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. "We are not watching the stars. I would never be that cheesy." The disgust was not hidden in his voice and it brought a wide grin to my face.
"Oh? So, what are we doing?"
He faced front. "We are enjoying each other's company. Forgive me," he said, his brows pulling together and his eyes found mine again. "were, because you're tolerable when you don't have your mouth open."
I looked away briefly. "You like me a lot, don't you?" I kept my gaze fixed ahead, but from the corner of my eye, I was aware of his eyes on my profile.
"Those words did not leave my lips."
I turned and poked his arm with a finger. "You like me." I knew that already, but I wanted him to confess it. If he didn't like me, I would not be standing here. He did not want to, but he could not help himself.
He glared at me. "Alright, stop it."
I shook my head. "Not until you admit that you like me, Mr. Campbell. You like having me around. You like it when I annoy you," I pestered, toying with the hair over my ear.
"Cut it out, Lauren."
"Mason Campbell, the insufferable man likes little ole me," I said with a mischievous grin.
"Fine." I huffed, grabbing onto the railing and lifting my right leg on the guardrail before the other one. He wasn't really looking at me, and if he had been, he would have pulled me down if he knew what I was doing. If he knew I was getting on the railing. I wasn't stupid enough to stand on top of it, because I was sure I would fall down to my death, but I had climbed on the three guardrails before he noticed.
"What are you doing?" he demanded.
I ignored him and cupped my hands around my mouth, shouting into the quiet night, "MASON CAMPBELL LIKES ME!"
"MASON CAMPBELL LIKES LAUREN HART! MASON CAMPBELL–"
"Okay!" he exclaimed in a rush, and I could see him staring at my legs as if he thought I would slip and fall forward, subtly raising his hands as if he was ready to hold me if I did. "Get down and I'd tell you what you want to hear." He managed to sound annoyed and concerned all at once.
Sighing, I finally got him out of his misery and climbed down. I raised my eyebrows, waiting for him to say what I wanted to hear.
"I like you." He half smiled at me with a warmth he reserved just for me. But a glare soon followed after. "Sometimes, but definitely not right now. You're insufferable."
I could not stop the heat from flowing through me as I turned and leaned my back against the railing, giving myself a better view of him. "What are you doing out here anyway?"
"Couldn't sleep. You?"
"You have an annoying rat roaming around the house, opening and closing doors."
His eyes locked intimately with mine and my breath caught in my throat at his words. "I didn't mean to wake you up." With widened eyes, I stared at him, unable to move until he looked away. He admitted to being in my room. I thought he would deny it.
But what was he doing there?
"Well, you did and I'm out here watching stars with you." I muttered a quick apology, adding, "Oh, my bad, we are enjoying each other's company." There was a small silence before I inquired, "Can I ask you a question?"
"Well, normally, you just ask."
"I have always wondered if I chose a different path, where would I be right now? Have you ever thought about that? Where you would be if you weren't billionaire Mason Campbell?"
"I would still be a billionaire," he answered sincerely, causing me to laugh again.
"Okay, billionaire, imagine a world where you're not that." Amusement danced in my eyes at his bemused expression. "What path would you have chosen?"
"I would have been a tattoo artist," he remarked.
I heard the amused note in his voice and went silent with shock before I started to laugh.
"Well, I'm sorry. I never would have imagined you as a tattoo artist. Would you have enjoyed doing that?"
He shrugged, murmuring, "Well, I would enjoy putting a needle in their skin."
Again, I laughed. "Sadistic."
"What about you?" he shot back, seeming very interested in the answer I would provide for him. I would say this was the first time today he gave all his attention to me.
"Well, I'm not exactly a billionaire, but I would have liked to be in a girl band. I can't really sing, but I would have been a drummer or a guitarist. The idea of touring from city to city, country to country excites me."
An enigmatic expression on his face, Mason replied, "If all you want is a world tour, I can borrow you my private plane. You can go wherever you want to go."
Heart beating fast, I continued to gaze, mesmerized by him. This was the nicest thing he had ever offered, and something in his voice made my heart keep beating alarmingly. Ignoring the quaking pit of my stomach, I said, "No one has ever offered to borrow me their private plane."
"That's because you don't know any other rich man besides me."
"Ma'am, are you alright?"
A gentle touch on my shoulder brought me back from the world of memories, looking at Coop's concerned gaze and glancing around to realize that I had been daydreaming in the middle of the street. I almost kicked myself for falling deep into a memory that I was absent from reality.
Memories of Mason kept invading my mind no matter how hard I fought against them. Just remembering how it felt to be touched by him, to talk to him and to see him smile at me would cause me to react wildly, and in mere seconds I would feel like combusting.
Why do I keep thinking about him?
Why do specific memories keep flashing through my mind like they were some coded messages only I would be able to crack?
I tried desperately not to dwell on all those good moments I had with him, where I felt comfort and safe with him, but in spite of all my good resolutions, the memories refused to go away. If anything, it became more powerful and more insistent, until I was almost in the state of losing my mind, burning with questions I didn't have the answers to.
My night was spent in restless tossing on the bed, until I couldn't take it anymore and left the room, sneaking into Beth's and finding her fast asleep on the bed. I crawled into her bed and faced the wall, willing myself to fall asleep.
Soft arms wrapped around my body and pulled me into a chest. I held onto Beth's hand that was secured around me.
"It's not the end of the world," I heard her mutter quietly.
I wanted to turn around and ask her what she meant by that statement, but I decided to leave it alone, clutching her arm and breathing out through my nose.
And when I managed to fall asleep, I didn't quite hear Beth speak again, the words that were uttered softly and confidently that if I was awake, I would have been paralyzed.
"You love him."