Chapter 32: Determination
I’d never been a fan of bars.
The intoxicated laughter of the drunks in the corner, the obnoxious chatter of yet another bachelorette party, and especially the stupid jokes bartenders liked to make, all got on my nerves.
And yet here I was, sitting in this damn hellhole with a name as original as Murphy’s for the third night in a row. The owner declared it got its name because in bars, every single thing that could go wrong usually did go wrong.
I was convinced he just used his last name as a banner, though. Damn Irish folks.
McCoy’s would be a great name for a bar, I thought to myself. Maybe that’d be my next career step.
“You know, you really gotta stop sulking, or I’ll be out of a job soon.” The voice to my right made me glance up from the Guinness in front of me.
Idir’s blue eyes met mine, his dark skin reaching a whole different shade in the dim light. He lifted the glass of whisky and coke to his lips while raising a brow at me, waiting for a response.
“Aren’t you already out of a job?” I raised a brow at my friend.
“Well, yeah.” He sucked in a breath through his teeth, warily eyeing the drink in his hands. “But for some insane reason, I followed you out here to make sure you get back on your ugly ass feet. You might not be paying me right now, but you will when you win the championship next season. If not for you, you can at least do it for me.”
I almost laughed at his excuse of a pep talk. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, asshole.” I smirked while downing my beer, raising the empty glass at the bartender. He nodded and started the tap, so I glanced back at my performance coach.
“What?” Idir shrugged. “You were the one who promised you’d make me the world champion’s assistant, trainer, whatever the hell you wanna call it, if I quit my job. Didn’t think you’d mean world champion of drowning your sorrows in repulsive Guinness, though.”
The bartender shot Idir a weird look, obviously wondering what American would be stupid enough to sit in an Irish bar and insult their most precious beer. Or maybe it was just that Idir was black — I couldn’t tell. Either way, I grabbed my Guinness from the guy’s hand and waved him off, not wanting him to listen to whatever Idir wanted to say.
“You know, technically, you’re not even supposed to drink this.” He pointed at my beer, completely ignoring the fact that I’m not on duty right now. “But I’m a good friend and will let it slide for now. I have one condition, though.”
I raised a brow at him. “Again?”
My mind went back to the first day I’d met Idir. After that accident a decade ago, the hospital had assigned him to me, making sure my body recovered from the 40G impact that had shattered me more than I’d expected it to. I’d only needed one session with him to know I would want him as my personal coach, since I’d been on the lookout for one either way.
All it took was a whole list of conditions that made his life easier and my wallet a lot thinner, but we came to an agreement.
He’d been by my side since then. Every victory, every loss, every crash… Idir had my back, was my assistant, physiotherapist, and friend.
And as much as I despised his focus on my health, both physically and mentally, I also adored him for it. I owed my life to him in many ways.
“Yeah. Again, dickhead.” He rolled his eyes. “You can get wasted today, but you get your shit together tomorrow. I don’t like this look on you.”
I watched how Idir downed his drink, a grimace curling on his lips that made me stifle a laugh. He was a good friend, but a poor drinker. Good for him, I guess.
“The same you had back then.” His response was followed by a cough, and even though his words turned my veins to ice, I couldn’t help but chuckle at his obvious distaste for alcohol. “Only difference is, back then you were hell bent on making your career. Now you’re sitting here like a lost puppy.”
My grasp on the beer glass tightened, and I stared at my friend for a long moment, hoping it’d make him back off. It had the opposite effect, though; his blue gaze held my own, almost challenging me to start this fight with him.
“In case you didn’t notice, I don’t have a seat.” Just saying the words felt like a slap to the face. “No seat, no career,” I grumbled, avoiding my gaze to stare back at the dark liquid in front of me.
The past ten years flashed before my eyes, and I tried so damn hard to find the point at which it all went wrong, when my career started going downhill. Was it when I left Azure Racing four years after they employed me? Was it when I lost the championship by two points twice in a row? Was it when I broke my leg last year?
Yeah, that was probably it, considering that’s the last time I sat in a damn Formula 1 car.
“You don’t have a seat because you ran away like a fucking coward and hid in Ireland, of all places. Who the hell would even come here?” He turned and glanced out of the window, where Killarney’s streets were emptying. The silence of a town with fifteen thousand inhabitants finally settled in.
I didn’t bother responding. There was no use telling him I passed this place on my way to visit Mom, and that I was sold the second I saw them riding actual damn carriages through the town. Oddly enough, the lack of cars was what drew me in, and more importantly, what made me stay.
“Either way,” Idir’s voice made me focus back on his presence, the sight of him starting to blur from the four Guinness I’d had already. “I’m getting you out of here. With or without your consent.” The alcohol in my veins made me smirk at his misplaced determination. I’d take it, though. The way he spoke to me resonated with a part within myself I’d almost forgotten about.
“Good luck trying,” I snickered, downing the rest of my Guinness, waving for another. Idir shot the bartender a stern look, but my Irish companion just shrugged in response, tapping another beer.
My empty glass was replaced by a full one, and I stared at the brown liquid for a long moment, suddenly contemplating if coming here had actually been a good idea.
“I talked to Michael.”
My friend’s admission made me sober up instantly.
Idir stared at me for a moment, watching how I tried my hardest to sit still. Maybe I hadn’t sobered up, after all.
“I talked to Michael,” he repeated. “There’s a chance for you, Phoenix. Don’t ask how, I didn’t quite understand it either, but he reached out. He wants you there.”
His statement rushed through my intoxicated mind, trying to sort the things he said so they’d make sense to me. But no matter how I arranged his words, I couldn’t find a way for them to click. I was solving a puzzle that didn’t want to be solved.
“Why the fuck would he do that?” I asked, more to myself than Idir.
After that accident last year, I’d fired my whole management firm. Well, I’d fired everyone who had anything to do with my career, apart from Idir. There was no use firing him, considering he was still doing his job by getting me back on my feet. Literally.
“No idea, but he does,” he said, his hand finding my wrist and making me look up at him. The conviction in his irises was admirable, yet I couldn’t help but ask myself if it was misplaced. “He does, Phoenix, and physically, you’re ready to take on this championship.” I could almost feel his mental support when he squeezed my arm, stopping me from raising the glass to my lips again. The urgency in his voice made me swallow, and his stare cemented me in place. “Question is, do you want to fight for it?”
“Of course I do,” I responded without hesitation.
Idir nodded, slowly releasing his grasp. I pushed away the glass in front of me, suddenly despising the image of me drowning my sorrows in alcohol, of all things.
What the actual fuck was I doing here?
“You know what you have to do, then.”
Stepping out of the rental car, I squinted my eyes at the sun beaming down on us. After my year in Ireland, I’d forgotten all about Los Angeles’s high temperatures in March.
Fucking March, and I was sweating my ass off.
I ran a hand through my five-o’clock shadow, scratching the skin I hadn’t touched in a while.
“You could’ve at least shaved, you know?” Idir quipped, glancing over as we got out and approached the shiny glass building. Red and blue window panes blatantly showed off who exactly this headquarter belonged to, not that the gigantic aluminium letters gracing the front hadn’t been obvious enough already.
“For who? Michael?” I raised a brow while pushing open the heavy glass door, a sudden memory flooding my mind.
Last time I was here, it wasn’t exactly of my own accord.
Last time I was here, I met someone who’d ended up changing my life drastically.
If only I’d known…
Shaking my head to rid of the memory, I glanced back ahead of the familiar white hallway, my sneakers squeaking on the marble floor.
“No, I mean just—”
A deep bark vibrating through the hallway interrupted him, followed by the slam of a door. “Woof!” The dog voiced its thoughts again.
Idir instantly jumped away, his irrational fear of canines coming to the surface as he looked around the floor with wide eyes, trying to find the culprit. We didn’t hear it again, though. Instead, we made out something scratching on the ground, accompanied by the quick taps of paws on marble.
I chuckled when Idir basically hid behind me as we continued down the hallway, approaching the sound of the monster he was so afraid of.
Just as we reached the corner, I heard a door open again, and I almost stumbled over the black French bulldog coming from my right as it ran down the hall, two wheels strapped to its grey hind legs.
Idir screamed and planted himself against the corner, palms flat on the wall as he tried to make himself as invisible as he could. A laugh fled my lips when I looked to my left, where the dog was now chasing down the hall, only using its front legs to move.
“Impressive,” I mumbled, unable to hide the smirk from that comedic sight.
“You fucking idiot!” The familiar voice coming from my right made me stop dead in my tracks. “Why would you open the damn door?” Her words were followed by the clacking of boots on the ground, increasing in pace as she called out, “Rimmy! Stop!”
The dog didn’t seem to care, though. It just ran off, taking the next corner while almost bumping into the wall. Seemed like it was still getting used to the wheels.
“Rimmy!” she yelled again, rushing past me without casting a glance in my direction. She was too fast for me to snap out of it, but I didn’t need to see her face to know who just crossed my path.
Her dark hair shook as she ran down the hall, leather jacket and black jeans hugging her even more perfectly than before, and I couldn’t help but just stare at the scene in front of me.
My heart hammered so violently in my chest, I was afraid it’d jump right out of it when she turned around. She looked in the wrong direction, though, glancing left and right to figure out where the dog went.
“He went right!” Idir called out from behind me, and it felt like my soul was leaving my body from the sole prospect of her spotting me now.
Luckily — or not, I couldn’t quite tell yet — she didn’t.
“Thanks!” she responded with a swift wave, not wasting any time before she sped down the hall and out of my sight.
I had no idea how long I stood there, just watching the spot she just occupied while her footsteps echoed through the building. They came to a stop at one point, and I thought I heard her voice from a distance, either yelling at the dog or someone else who helped it escape.
The familiar scent of cinnamon and gasoline lingered in the atmosphere, or maybe I was just imagining it, but I caught myself not wanting to move, just to bathe in this moment for a while.
She was here.
Florence Nyx was actually in this damn building with me.
Was this deja vu, or what?
“Yeah,” I answered Idir’s unspoken question, still staring at the corner she just disappeared from.
“Well, damn…” he muttered, pushing himself off the wall to stand next to me. His gaze followed my own, and we both just stared at the white walls for a while, letting our minds wander.
What the hell was she doing here?
When did she start working in the industry again?
Had she been here the whole time?
Was I fucking blind?
Determination invaded every inch of me, my gaze still directed at the damn wall she just disappeared behind. All it needed was a single glimpse of her to be reminded what the hell I was even doing here, to realize just how many promises I’d already broken.
It had to stop. Now.
“You know what that means, Idir,” I said, my mind absent but fully aware at the same time.
“What?” he asked, the smile audible in his voice.
I stared down the hallway once more, inhaling deeply before I turned to look at him. His smile broadened as he scanned my face, excitement washing over him and transferring right into me.
“It means I’ll get the damn seat… Hell, I’ll get the fucking championship while I’m at it.”
Idir grinned, his hand finding my shoulder as he gave it a tight squeeze. “That’s my boy.” He patted my back, nodding toward the room at the end of the hallway to our right. “Let’s get that damn seat.”
Well, guess who’s back? Heh!
And would you look at that, this is even a normal length chapter! Who knew miracles could happen with my wordy ass.
I hope you’re all doing well! I’ve had an exhausting but entertaining start of the week and am hyped to continue this story. I really enjoy these two lol.
Also, what do we think of Idir? Like or not like?
Lots of love and stay safe!