Noel Harley cracked his knuckles and sipped his cappuccino with pure contentment as he read the comments underneath one of his newest written entries. He was sitting on top of the world. He had women of all ages eating out of the palm of his hand, literarily speaking. He’d never met any of his fans, nor would he want to. It was better this way, being anonymous. Having the complete freedom to write whatever fantasy he chose just to keep the city of Manhattan satisfied and his bills paid.
Writing for Indulge Magazine, he initially didn’t plan on being a resident editorialist of one of the most female-orientated magazines in the tri-state area. New York had its fair share of clowns, Noel considered himself one of the least found out jesters, by name.
The character of “Prince Charming” started as a goof by one of his chief editors and then it just took off. Call it a Disney thing, but women, especially young girls, often responded to fairytale folklore, and the name was born. People cared what Prince Charming had to say, and the women who wrote in already fawned over him, taking guesses on what he looked like.
Not much on his part. He stood over six feet, with flat mousy brown hair, and generic blue eyes that he often hid behind his trademark black hornrimmed glasses. He wasn’t exactly a ladies’ man, but he often got women by talking them into anything. He had a way with words, not only in writing but in speaking. Maybe it was the Irish accent, Americans seemed to love anyone with an accent, especially drunk girls on a Saturday night.
Noel didn’t worry about being found out, he worked from home, after all. His writing crew was discrete, they wouldn’t out his identity if they wanted to keep their jobs. The Chief Editor, Percy Witter, didn’t care for Noel all that much, but he knew Noel brought in the traffic. One of the few straight males writing for a mostly female publication was extremely needed, no matter what Percy said, Noel had a purpose.
The only time Noel showed up at work was when he signed off for his paychecks, since no one really talked to him when he was there, it was a fairly quick trip from the magazine headquarters and back home. He remained undetected, as it should be.
He’d been screening his family’s calls lately, no offense to them, but he could do without hearing that his most recent ex-girlfriend, his longest relationship, had moved on with the wealthiest man in Ireland, and they were engaged. Noel had no idea why his mom even brought that news up in conversation. As long as he sent her a text telling her he was still alive, she was satisfied.
He chuckled as he read down the comments, raising his eyebrows smugly, a lot of these women were just bored and lonely, probably needed to get laid too. Noel ate it up. As long as these women fell into his trap, he had them coming back for more fantasies. Writing fiction stories about love is a dream come true for him, and who knew it was so easy? Just tell them exactly what they want to hear.
A couple of questions from a few women were asking, more wondering, who he really is. Noel rolled his eyes, not the first, and not the last time he’d get these questions, what did any of that matter? Knowing his real thoughts on romance would be a bit more complex than he could explain. It would ruin the narrative of the column, and women needed to feel heard and seen, that was where he came in. Noel was happy to keep their fantasies alive.
His phone rang and it was one of his mates visiting from his home.
“Yeah? Alright, where? Probably meet you in about an hour? NYU? Yeah, I know it. Haha, let’s see where it goes. Alright, mate, see you.” He clicked off, packed up his belongings, left the café, and went back home to get ready for the night.
Later that night...
Noel found a table in the back of a college pub on East 14th Street, meeting his friends, he felt a little bit of a fish out of the water, he’d never been to a posh bar before, not that he was against it. He preferred the dive bars where they knew your name, not so much the crowded bars that University students frequented.
If he didn’t know any better, this was the perfect place to score a date for the night, but tonight, he wasn’t feeling it. He just wanted to hang out, maybe that could change, depending on who walked in, possibly someone fun, that he could outsmart, lure in for the night, then escape the morning after like he always had.
Noel nodded to his best mate, Patrick, looking like he just stepped off the plane from back home.
“Fuck off,” Pat said, doing the bro hug and pushing Noel’s shoulder. “What’s up? How ya been?”
Noel nodded, taking a big gulp of his Guinness. “Yeah, it’s been good. Why? Anything to report? What’s the suss?”
Pat got his drink and settled into the booth across from Noel. “No, fuck’s sake, although our Mams would tell us differently. I should be living here, the fuck am I doing still in Dublin?”
Noel grinned at his friend. “I keep asking myself that question. Sure, it’s banger being there, I miss home sometimes. Like it too much here, though, don’t plan on heading back any time soon.”
Pat drank to that, diving into his chips and salsa. “So you know she got engaged, yeah?”
Noel groaned softly, downed the rest of his drink, the barmaid removed it and he nodded for another glass, at least Pat didn’t mention her by name. “Yeah, already know. Mam told me yesterday. That’s why I keep my distance. Good for her.”
“Sorry mate, know you don’t care. Still fucked up. Never really liked her for ya anyway. Sorry for bringing it up, could tell it still gets to ya.”
Noel shrugged, his broad shoulders bouncing up abruptly. “Fuck if I care, like you said. Can’t live in the past. She’s happy, so am I.”
The barmaid returned with Noel’s drink and he gulped more than half of it like he was at a fraternity. Pat gave an amused smile. “Right, you look happy.”
Noel brooded, he suddenly wasn’t too hungry, more thirsty than anything. Maybe for a warm body to get under. Time to put his brain to work.
He scanned the room, noticing a group of girls laughing in the corner of the restaurant, there was a girl who laughed the loudest, very unique, she stood out from the rest. She had a smile that easily pulled him like a magnet, almost killer in its power. Her striking blue eyes shown from this angle, hiding behind thin glasses that rested atop her small, fine nose. Her gentle brown hair flowed down her shoulders in big waves. She had her chin over her petite hand, biting her lip at something her friends said, a smirk appeared that made her look adorable and young, no older than in her early twenties.
Noel wanted to go over and work his magic, but he felt his friends’ eyes on him, he scoffed and played it smoothly. If he was going to go over there, now was his chance. He slapped down some money, fixed the collar of his coat, and stood up to see the brunette he had eyes for, walking out of his eyesight.
He frowned slightly, watching her friends all pile out of the booth one by one. That one was quick, rarely did it happen to him, usually, the girls tended to stick around. Did they all have something to do at the same time? Possibly. The bar suddenly didn’t give him good vibes. It was too lousy for him, more like a library than a place to hook up with people.
“Noel, ya headed out?” Pat asked him, munching on his meal.
Noel refined his collar, pretending he wasn’t just rejected before he even tried. “Yeah, just gonna order in and figure it out. See you around, bye all.” He announced, waving to his friends who barely looked up from their phones.
He shuffled outside, the bitter wind bit at his cheeks. No matter how often he grew up around this kind of weather, it still made his lean body feel stiff as a board.
He made a quick decision to run home, change into his active gear, and head over to The Grind, a gym located four blocks away from his street to let off some steam. He shouldn’t ground his teeth but he did. He made sure to take his mouth guard to keep it under control. Boxing his woes always relieved the tension from his life. Hopefully, it won’t fail him this time.
He placed on his gloves and did a few practice sparing, trying to warm up until he could punch through the bulky red bag.
He stared at it and all he saw was his ex-girlfriend’s face, which made Noel drill his fist into the bag harder, holding nothing back. He knew it was wrong, he shouldn’t feel this way, but he couldn’t help it. His fist pounded rapidly until he saw the punching bag swinging brashly against the wall, the chains holding the bag began creaking.
His breathing sped up along with his heart rate, his entire body began to vibrate as the rest of him started to catch fire. Sweat beads poured down his face, his hair dampened, mouth parted to grasp more air than he could suck into his lungs.
He stopped only when his arms felt like jelly, the sponge of his stamina had rung out, he took several deep breaths, holding onto the bag to catch his balance, softly losing his grip with reality.
If there was one thing Noel couldn’t stand, it’s rejection, it happening twice in one night was more than he could take. He’d been doing well up until this point, ignoring everything from his past, but it didn’t work, those memories were still fresh and he needed someone to help him get over it.
Love is dead, it died before he came to Manhattan. He peeled his body off the bag, aggressively pulled off the gloves, threw them in the bag, and marched to the showers.
Even a cleansing shower didn’t help, too hot made his blood boil, and too cold reminded him of the chilling reality that was his life.
He came out, finished, and dressed, pulling out his mobile to check Facebook, thoughts of curiosity floating around, he just couldn’t stop himself. He checked her profile, seeing her smile, even brighter than the one she’d ever shown when they were together.
Noel punched the locker, barely feeling his knuckles bruise, and rubbed his face as he shut off his device, dropping his stalking obsession for good. He thought he was over her, and by tonight, God willing, he was going to be.