Chapter Twenty Two
My phone buzzes from an incoming text. It's Jenna.
Hey if we're still on to meet up today for that favor, I'll be at Bistro 31 around noon for lunch.
Order a coffee for me. I'll see you there. I reply.
K. You got it. Thnx again.
Mason probably wouldn't trust me around his lady right now, not after all the fuck ups he's known about, but I could never do that to him and it's not like I want to sex every woman I encounter. I'm just glad he's unaware of this or it'd be uncomfortable for both ends I'm sure. I throw my laundry in the washer and clean up my place as I wait for it to get closer to the time I need to head out. I haven't picked up in here since I went through the great depression and it's repulsive. I need a clean start in every sense of the phrase. I can't remember the last time I went for a run, maybe I'll jog to my meeting with Jenna instead of driving. I could use some exercise for more reasons than one. The time passes by and I head out earlier than planned to get there in time since I'm not on wheels.
“Did you seriously run here?” Jenna asks with a laugh as I approach where she's sitting outside of the bistro.
“The best thing about Texas is even in November we have these beautiful days.” I breathlessly respond. “I used to run five days a week. I haven't bothered since Veronica came into my life. She was enough exercise at the time, but then she left and I've become a lazy shit that needs to get off my ass for once.” I grin.
“I can't imagine what your stamina level would be if she did come back around.” She laughs.
“Why do you think I'm running instead of driving?” I smirk.
“Well you better hope you get results fast.” She bites her lip as if she has more to tell me.
“What are you saying?” I ask as I sit down in the chair across from her.
“She's here, back in town . . . she came home Adrian.”
“What? How long has she been here?” My heart races from the news.
“I'm not exactly sure when she arrived, but she called me shortly after I text you this morning and she talked about more than I could take in all at once. It was like she was panicking or something.”
“What did she say?” I take a sip of the coffee that was waiting for me on the table when I got here. The anxiety of the sudden news has a grip on me and I attempt to hide it from Jenna.
“Like I said, she did a lot of talking . . . so I can't recap everything, but I can tell you as much as I can recall from what she wanted to tell you before you left Paris, but didn't have the chance to. She said she'd tried to call you before you left the country but you didn't answer. I told her your phone was messed up at the time so the calls weren't going through due to that, not because you were ignoring her. I guess she felt badly about what happened while you were there and had to get it out somehow, so she turned to me because she felt it was too late to get through to you. I have no idea if she'd want me to relay what was said or not, but I figure at this point what can it hurt?”
“If you don't want to tell anything out of fear of breaking the confidentiality between the two of you, then by all means, don't. I'm not asking you to do anything you're not comfortable with. It means more to me that you don't harm your friendship with her than to tell me something that I can live without knowing if need be.” I briefly pause. “Just so you know.” I smile.
“I respect that. I normally wouldn't do anything to conflict with the trust I have built with anyone, but this is just ridiculous . . . it's things that shouldn't be said to me, but rather to you. It's this back and forth that you two have had going on for far too long. It's the honesty that you both need and have failed at. I'm not a middle-man and I'm not a consultant. All I can do is choose that this isn't beyond repair, you and her, and I feel that it's only fair for you to know something that may make or break whatever it is you have with her. It's not worth hiding.”
“Your decision to tell me and your reason why is as important to me as knowing what was said. Thank you for being so honest and mature about this. I wish I could say the same about Veronica and I. If it were the case, you wouldn't be put in the middle the way you have.” I take a drink of the coffee and prepare myself for what I'm about to hear.
“She slept with others. She didn't want to admit this because you obviously mean more to her than she's allowed herself to be aware of until now. She's scared of commitment for reasons she didn't fully explain, but said she's working on those reasons for herself and for the sake of ever having a relationship. When she made the choices of sleeping with other men, she was unaware of many things at the time, including her own feelings. Her eyes have opened since and she regrets those choices but has no way to turn it all around or make it right. She knows she hurt you. Since you two weren't in a commitment, and due to her leaving, it didn't seem wrong at the time. Apparently she's reconsidered that notion because she now feels awful about it.”
She pauses to take a drink. “I don't know the details of what happened while you were over there, not even Mason let me in on it. I really never asked to know. It's between you and her, and that's fine. What I do know is that, from what I can gather out of what was told to me, she does have love for you. She's fighting with whatever it is that's attacking her either mentally or emotionally but she's not against you, no matter how it looks. So the sleeping with other men thing, it hurt her to know it hurt you, let that be enough to show you what type of heart she really has.”
Before I get a word out, Jenna's phone rings.
“It's Veronica.” She says before she answers.
I can only hear her end of the conversation so I wait until they're finished talking to find out what's up. Within a few seconds, she hangs up.
“That was short.” I say.
“Um, yeah . . . it was odd as well. She just called to ask what I was doing and if I could meet her right now, said she needed help carrying something. I told her I was busy with Mason at the moment but could help her later if she could hold out. Then she hung up on me.”
At the same time Jenna stops talking, my phone rings. I don't recognize the number but answer anyway.
“You may not want to hear from me but I need to talk to you. I'm not sure if you've been told, I'm back in Dallas. Can we get together so we can talk in person?” Veronica says on the other end.
“I do want to talk . . . but is there a way we can meet up later?”
“Well I was hoping that we could now if possible. Are you busy? I could kind of use a little help moving something too, if you wouldn't mind.”
“My boss isn't going to let me leave until this delivery is finished. I can give you a call as soon as it's done if that's cool . . . hello? Veronica?”
I look at Jenna with a crooked face and tell her what she said. “Then she hung up on me too.”
“What the hell?” Jenna's face is as crooked as mine from the confusion the phone calls caused.
“Whatever that was all about. She couldn't even say bye before hanging up?”
We shake it off and finish up at the bistro so we can search for a gift for Mason. My mind draws a blank at first because I want to think of something that would be appropriate from Jenna to him, as well as something for such a good man that has everything he needs in life. I find this impossible. I'm not sure a gift like this even exists on this planet. We go into a few stores and see nothing that catches the eye. Then we try out a newer shop that's on the downtown strip to see if they may have something in the range of what we're on the hunt for.
“Maybe something like this?” She holds up a picture frame that can be personalized.
“That would be nice if you have a picture that means something to him to put in it.”
“I don't even know what I would have engraved on it.” She shakes her head and places it back up on the shelf she took it down from.
“I'm thinking along the lines of a chest.”
“Yeah, you know, one he can keep things in that mean a lot to him. Like for safe keeping. I don't know, it's different. This is a man that has all he wants and needs in life, a man that's satisfied with all he has. We want unique, not the typical gifts people get men. So it's what I could think of and there's plenty to choose from right over there.” I point out the lineup of various sized and shaped chests.
“What would he put in it, though?” She asks as she walks over to check them out.
“Anything he wants. Over the years, he'll most likely put his most cherished keepsakes in it. Maybe even one day something he can hand down should he have children.”
“I see. Well that does seem like something to get someone who has it all. Plus I'm growing tired of looking, especially when it's all the same things he already owns or just doesn't have use for.”
“Good. Let's pick one out that you like or think he'll like the best and ring it up. I think they'll even wrap a bow and deliver if you'd want them to.”
Jenna looks back and forth between a couple of the dozen sitting in a line, then finally chooses the black and gray one that has silver details carved all around it. I think it's very fitting and he's going to like the thought put into it without question. We bring it up to the register and check out.
“Thanks so much for doing this with me today. I don't think I would've ever found anything if it weren't for your ideas. He more than likely would've ended up with cologne.” She chuckles.
“It's no problem for real, plus I owed you so I was obligated.” I laugh as we walk to her car for her to get in. “Hey, that chest is going to make a nice hiding spot for his porn stash, he'll really appreciate it.”
“Kidding!” I duck a little and laugh as she threatens to throw her wallet at me. “Don't hurt me!”
“Ass.” She laughs. “Hey, you want a ride home?”
“Nah. Think I'm gonna make the run back. Now that I know Veronica's back in town, I need the exercise more than ever.”
We both laugh it out and say our goodbye's and I watch as she pulls away before I start my jog back home. The thought of Veronica keeps me at a steady pace the entire way. I'm hoping that she'll still want to talk with me by the time I try to call her after I shower. I'm also hoping that there's a chance at making all of this right for once. My speed picks up at the thought of it all and I get to the house out of breath. Damn I'm in need of some stamina . . . badly.
I tried for the rest of the day to call Veronica and got nothing. She didn't answer and hasn't bothered to call back. I slump into my couch and turn on the TV, trying anything to keep my mind from going to negative thoughts. I get up to cook some dinner and my phone starts to ring so I sit back down to answer it when I see it's Jenna.
“So apparently she seen us meeting earlier today.” Jenna says. “She thinks that we've been seeing one another all this time and doesn't want to speak to either of us.”
“What?! Where did she get that concept?”
“I don't know, but she was watching us when she called our phones and knows we lied to her about what we were up to. She said that gives her reason to believe we've been going behind her and Mason's backs with each other.”
“I told you she's crazy. I can't believe she would even come up with something so ridiculous. To think of all the lies and secrets I've dealt with on her end, she has a lot of balls to pull some shit like this. Did you tell her what we were meeting for?”
“She wouldn't calm down enough for me to get a word in. She just kept bringing up that there must be something we're hiding if we felt we had to lie to her. She told me that she was hurt that her best friend and the man who claims he loves her would do such a thing. I tried to tell her, she wouldn't listen. I don't know what to do now.”
“I don't know if she's out to play games or if she's that afraid that she thought she had to go this far, but I can't play this shit any longer. I'm going to track her ass down and make her listen. I've had enough.”
“Good luck. I tried to swing by her house as soon as she hung up on me, because I thought she would hear me out more in person, but she wasn't there. I wasn't sure where else to check so I called you.”
“I have a few places in mind but I can't say whether she'll actually be at any of them or not. It's worth a shot, this has got to be figured out. Tonight.”
“Well give me a call if you get a chance because I'm worried as hell. The last thing I need is to lose my man if she tells him this shit and to lose my best friend over something not even true.”
“I got you. Don't worry, this will all be worked out before it comes to that. I promise.”
We hang up and I rush out the door. Veronica, I hope you're ready for a reality check.
The first place I stop by is the gallery. I assume this is where she'd be if anywhere since her studio is in the back and I know painting helps her vent. When I pull up I don't see her car but I check the building anyway in case she had walked or used another form of transportation. There's no sign of her anywhere around or in the building that I can tell, no lights are on as far as I can see. I don't believe she's here. I get back in the car and go to the next place I have in mind, the Alophus Hotel. I know she told me before that she visits frequently to be inspired, and since she's been gone so long, I thought she may have wanted to get away to one of her favorite spots in the city. I get inside the hotel and approach the front desk.
“Is there any possible way I can find out if a friend of mine has checked in here? She's pretty well known around this place and checks in often. Her name is Veronica Thorne.”
The hostess seems to be new and looks afraid to answer. “I'm sorry sir, there's no way I could give out such information. I'm sure my supervisor would tell you the same, but if you'd like me to go get them . . .”
“No that's all right. I understand. Just do me a favor if you will, if for some reason she is checked in here, please let her know that Adrian came looking for her and to call me right away. It's very important.” I turn to walk away with frustration built up in me.
“I'll be sure to relay the message should she be available to tell.”
“Thank you.” I say and hurry out the door.
Well whether she's there or not, I don't know, but something tells me that she's not. Even if she is or does end up there at some point tonight, I doubt the young girl at the front desk will remember or bother to tell her. Then it'd be up to Veronica to call, which is on my list of doubtful scenarios. I leave it as a lost cause and continue my search elsewhere. There's really only one other place in mind . . . if she's not there then I can't think of anywhere else in this big city she'd be at that I'd know of. I end up at the final spot and realize how late it is and that they're closed, the bistro downtown. I'm at a standstill. Maybe I should drop by her house and check again, it's been awhile since Jenna checked there, she could be home by now.
I get about half way to her place and my phone rings.
“Have you found her?”
“Not yet Jen, I've been by a few places and haven't seen any sign of her. I'm headed to her house now. Don't worry, she couldn't have gone too far.” I try to calm her.
“How do we know that? I don't even know where she was when she called me earlier. I've got a bad feeling . . . what if she decides to leave again, this time for good?” The panic in Jenna's voice brings fear over me.
Please don't be the case. Please don't leave.
Veronica wasn't at her house when I stopped there last night. I drove around downtown until my eyelids were falling from the lack of sleep. I've probably only slept two hours, but I need to get back on the search for her. I'm really worried and hoping she's all right at this point. I called Jenna last night before coming home to let her know that I had no luck. We've both been calling Veronica's phone and still no answer from her. I've even left voicemails in hopes she'll listen. I don't know where to begin on the search today, I'm so lost right now. Why would she think of something so outrageous then leave us hanging this way? I can't believe she isn't being considerate enough to hear us out. Something has to give.
For the short couple of hours that I did sleep, I had a dream about finding her. The dream was far from reality but definitely a nice escape. She was at her gallery and when I walked in I found her watching porn on the couch in her studio. I could hear the moaning as I approached her. She looked up at me and smiled with a look of lust in her eyes. I knelt on the floor beside her and caressed her exposed legs. She had on a short, red dress that reminded me of the one I picked out for her the first time we went out. Her feet displayed the same rose and thorn stilettos she wore that night as well. I could smell the sweet scent of her perfume as I leaned in closer to her. She reached up and grabbed a handful of my hair to pull me in for a passionate kiss. Her lips tasted like fresh fruit on a spring day and made my senses awaken. The kiss led to us undressing one another and fucking on the small couch the way we did once before. Only this time, the porn she was watching on her phone when I came in was still playing in the background. The sounds of orgasms filled the quiet room and our climaxes hit at the same time, making us come together as one.
A knock at my door drags me out of the recap playing in my mind, and I realize that I need to get ready to go out to look for her before it's too late. I open the door to find a note sitting on the black mat. Looking around to check if there's someone in sight that left it, I see no one. I pick up the note and open it from the envelope it's sealed in. The plain paper has a short invitation to meet someone at the park this afternoon. The printed text gives me no clue to who it's from since it's not in anyone's handwriting that I can recognize. My hopes are that it's from Veronica but my gut feeling is unsure. I throw the note in the trash on my way to the shower and prepare myself for the day.
After driving around for hours and checking the same spots I did last night, I look at the time and notice it's almost one. The mystery meet up requested my presence at one this afternoon, so I drive to the park and wait for whoever this person is. The next fifteen minutes feel more like an hour. I stare at the tree that's in front of me and wonder what it's like to be something other than a human with a beating heart. What it would be like to not have thoughts or to worry. How it would be to not know what it feels like to have your heart broken, to never experience the dark side of love. After my thoughts clear, I look over at the bench near the tree and see someone sitting there as if they're waiting on something. I get out of my car and approach them. I can't see their face since they're back is to me and a hat is covering their head. As soon as I get in front of this mysterious person, I regret the choice to ever come here.
“George?” The shock stuns my throat and it's hard to swallow.
“Son.” He says in an emotional choke and stands up to hug me.
I step back, away from his attempt at an embrace. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you.”
“What makes you think I'd want you to come to see me? I seen enough of you when you were drunk, beating the shit out of the entire family. You think I really want to see your face?” The anger from my past builds up inside of me and nearly explodes in a rush of pain that I'd like to inflict on this sorry bastard.
Growing up, I didn't have the loving home that children should have. I had a broken one and was moved around between extended family members before being sent to a foster home at a young age. My mother, God rest her soul, went through hell with this poor excuse for a man for years before he attempted to kill her. She was beat on daily and tried her best to protect us when he would come after my sisters and me. He may not have used his own hands to cause my mother's death, but the suffering she went through for years ended up taking her life for him. He was nothing but a drunk and a dead-beat. The last thing I need right now is more fucked up shit to add to my problems.
“You need to leave and go back to wherever it is you came from. I don't know what made you think you were welcome around here, but you're not. I'd love to give you a taste of your own medicine, but I have more important things to handle and going to jail isn't going to solve shit for me.” I turn my back and walk away. There's nothing he can say to make it right, there's no reason for me to stick around to hear any of it.
I get in my car and squeal off, leaving nothing but a cloud of dust and smoke behind. My heart's racing like I just did an insane amount of speed and there's a crushing pain that shoots through my skull. I'm guessing the sudden added stress and pure adrenaline flow is causing a headache from the depths of hell. I pull over on the side of the road to gain my composure before driving any further. Damn, him showing up out of nowhere was the worst timing . . . him showing up at all isn't ideal, but now, while I'm already on the verge of a complete meltdown from the shit I'm dealing with? Talk about fucked up timing! I hit the steering wheel and let out a deep yell to try to release as much as I can before I seriously hurt somebody or myself.
Anything else want to haunt me at this very moment? Why don't we bring up more of my past and throw in some other shit that's not in my favor at the present time while we're at it? Not that I give two fucks about the reason, but why would that asshole show up after all of this time? I can't help but think about it some more and assume he was looking for a hand out of some sort. As though he'd forgotten all about the harm he caused my family, physically and mentally. Like I would help someone like him. He's out of his damn mind, he's had to have lost it after all these years of being a sloppy abusive drunk. I still can't wrap my mind around why mom stuck it out with him for so long, but I know she feared the threats he made and always said she couldn't leave if she wanted to.
I hadn't shared any of this with Veronica. It's not something I'm comfortable talking about to others. I'd rather just leave it in the past where it belongs. This is what I don't understand about it all . . . Veronica was brought up in a loving family, a household that was normal and caring as it should be. I, on the other hand, lived through a polar opposite world while growing up. Yet, her and I are the complete opposite of what was instilled in us. Her not being in touch with her emotions and putting up a wall against love. Me begging to be loved and never a thought of hurting the ones I love the way I've been hurt. We're literally two messed up individuals when put into perspective.
I can remember one time when George had come home on a cold night after being out drinking, and mom had made sure there was a hot meal waiting for him. He got angry when he took the first bite of his food and burned his mouth like a dumb ass all because he didn't test the temperature before digging in. Instead of understanding his own idiotic mistake, he took it out on her. I was supposed to be in the bedroom watching TV, but I'd always be close by when I knew he was home because I was afraid of what he might do to my mother. It's like I thought I could protect her if he did something to her that hurt her, but I could barely defend myself against him much less anyone else. I screamed at him when I seen him throw the plate of hot food at my mom's face, causing her mild but painful burns and stitches in her forehead where the plate had busted when it hit her. My screams did nothing to help, they only made it worse.
I made a promise to myself to never be hateful to a woman that way and never to be abusive. That's why it was initially difficult for me to perform some of the demands Veronica would make during sex. I was scared that I'd hurt her, and bringing pain to someone I care about doesn't really do it for me. I had to teach myself how to do what she wanted me to do to her without thinking. I would erase my thoughts and focus on pleasing her the way she liked it. It was always about making her happy, never about getting off on causing her pain. I've since wondered if she enjoys it for reasons that are unexplained, but I'm not one to question what makes a person have an orgasm. I'm aware that most people have their odd fetishes of some kind that brings them ultimate pleasure. Mine is just to see her pleased, whatever it may take to get her there.
I drive to the bistro and sit at an outside table to keep a lookout for her while I eat lunch. About ten minutes into my meal, the devil doctor walks up to me and sits in the empty chair across from me.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me right now.” I say as he makes himself comfortable.
“After the week I've had, I don't suggest that you be here right now Clayton.” I tell him before he can speak a word.
“I see. Not that your threats worry me, but I think you may want to hear me out on this one. You can stop chasing after Veronica. If she wanted to be found by a pathetic little boy, then I'm sure she wouldn't be running as far away from you as she can.” He smirks and I feel an overwhelming pang of disgust that ruins my appetite.
“What exactly are you insinuating?”
“I know about you and her best friend, she told me when we met up shortly after she found out . . .”
“First of all, there is no me and her best friend. Secondly, I don't see how any of this is your business.” I ball my fist, ready to lunge at him any given second.
“Seems she made it my concern when she confided in me.” He shoos away the waiter that stops to check if we need anything. “Besides, it doesn't matter now.”
I glare at him and give him a huge 'FUCK OFF' without saying anything.
He finishes what he came here to tell me. “She's gone Adrian. She left back to Paris a few hours after figuring out you are nothing but a waste of time. I suggest it's time you move on too.” He gets up and swiftly walks away from the table.
I yell out, “It's pitiful that you've tricked yourself into believing that she would give you the time of day – you're nothing but a joke!”
I sit back and take in what just happened. Confused. This can't be it. What am I going to do? I can't just let her go this easily. My mind's made up, I'm going to get what hasn't been finished, I'm making my way back to Paris . . . tonight.