The Publicist's Plight (Book I in The Harrison Inc. Series)

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Chapter 30

I wake up from a dreamless slumber.

I slowly open my eyes and stare at the ceiling with a blurred layer in front of my vision. The shadows on the wall are of small rain splatters from my window. Is it really raining outside?

I push my body up, but fall back down again. Fuck—I drank way too much last night, and I can feel it pounding in my head and drying my mouth. After trying to get up a few more times, I finally sit up and feel the blood travel down from my head to the rest of my body, making me feel even shittier. I don’t remember much about what happened last night. Either that, or I can’t figure out if it was real or just my imagination.

There’s a crack of thunder outside, followed by a groan at the end of the room. It must be the wind, if there is any, pushing itself against my windows. I rub my eyes, then hold my head down in my hands. What the hell happened last night?

The groaning continues. I turn to my right and blink a few times to see if the sight in front of me is actually real. And it is—as real as “real” gets.

Leslie is sleeping on the small couch by the window. Her body is curled together, except for her left arm, which is laid out by her side with her cell phone in her hand. When my eyes finally meet her sleeping body, the events of last night come to my mind instantly.

Holy shit. That really didn’t happen…did it?

I know why she’s here—she had come into my bathroom when I was piss drunk and high off of everything I could find in my stash pocket in my travel bag. I thought she was going to completely own me about being such an idiot. And she did, which is typical for Leslie anyway. But then I remember her sitting down next to me and listening to me speak—listening to me blabber on about the shit that deserves to be hidden.

The next thing I remember is myself crying—the worst memory I can recall. I’m usually a sad drunk, believe it or not. I’m only fun when I’m tipsy. You know, the type of drunk that’s close to being shit-faced but not there all the way yet? I try to reach tipsiness and keep it at that level for as long as I can, because there’s nothing more depressing than a sad drunk.

I guess I went too far this morning.

Then I recall her hands around my head; I cried in her arms, didn’t I? I should be embarrassed, and to be honest I am…but not as embarrassed as I should be. All I can think about is that feeling of comfort that I can’t accurately describe. I’m sure the closest I can get to describing that comfort would be describing how I felt with Gloria, but that’s a feeling I force myself to suppress.

I realize I’m staring at her when another crack of thunder sounds off outside. It makes me jump a bit and snap out of my creep fest. God, am I really watching someone sleep? When was the last time I actually did that?

Oh, that’s right—never.

Leslie shivers a bit and rubs her feet together. She’s still wearing her slippers, which gives me the impression she didn’t have intentions on staying. Why did she, though? Why did she even come to see if I was still alive in the first place? Then again, I shouldn’t even be questioning her motives. If it wasn’t for her, I’d probably wouldn’t be alive, for Christ’s sake.

And that reality hits me harder than I thought it would.

I hate to be that sappy fuck, but I think she actually…saved me. And no, not save as in that shitty love-story type of saving where the guy is beyond privileged but still needs that taste of something more to fill that hipster void in himself.

No. She saved me in deeper, darker ways that I can’t even understand. Because the moment I woke up this morning and saw her sleeping on that small couch, I knew that something was different. Different in my mind and in my body and everything in between. But so different I can’t bring myself to accept the change and the influence she bestowed upon me in my darkest hour.

So I guess a simpler way to put it is, even the dark clouds outside my window right now seem brighter than the clear sunny skies were two days ago.

God, that sounded cornier than Iowa.

She shivers again, only this time I grab one of the soft, cotton blankets folded at the foot of the bed with me when I jump down onto the floor. I walk carefully on the wood, trying not to wake her with my heavy steps. The cold of the AC vents hits my skin, too, which is odd; I get hot very easily.

I unfold the blanket and shake it out a bit. I hope she doesn’t wake up; this would be painfully awkward if she opened her eyes and saw me standing next to her, shirtless, with a blanket it my hand. But it would also be awkward since now I know the moment she opens her eyes I’ll see the events of early this morning in them, begging for answers.

First I take off her slippers and throw them under the couch. She stirs, but quickly stills and sighs into the pillow. Shit, she must be a heavy sleeper.

Then I take her phone from her gentle grasp and put it on the bedside table; she doesn’t even move. Quietly, I place the blanket on top of her until it lands on her shoulder. She moans into the pillow and sleepily pulls the blanket higher up to her chin. Now it’s quiet, minus the rain against the window.

Sometimes in the morning before anyone is even up, I go for a run around some of the acreage. The only difference with this morning, though, is I have to push through my unsteady emotions and raging headache to remotely motivate myself to put a shirt on instead of climbing back into bed. But there’s something else that makes it hard for me to move or form thoughts of action. I don’t know how to properly say this for it to make any sort of logical sense, but when I look at Leslie sleeping on the couch I feel…immobile. Like I don’t want to move anywhere; standing here in the dead silence watching her is so gently euphoric.

Instead of getting dressed like I had told myself, I crouch down by the side of the bed across from her until I’m sitting down on the wood flooring. I think I can vouch for most of the people who know her when I say that she’s definitely a hard-ass. A little crazy, too, but definitely a hard-ass. And spending an entire day in the forest accompanied by her panicked nagging strengthened my case by miles. But in mere hours I saw someone a little different. I look down at my bandage, and even though I re-bandaged it several times throughout the week I remember her aid towards me—she was much more understanding then—like she wanted to help. Even at the bar, she was the reason I didn’t die from a puncture wound or suffocation from that asshole biker’s hands.

I study her sleeping profile; there’s a beauty in her face when she sleeps. Out loud that isn’t the most normal thing to say, but when you’re used to a person with a stone hard demeanor and a strong will that never leaves their conscious aura finally relax and release that pent up strictness and seriousness in their mind, it’s incredible to watch. So I guess the beauty I mentioned comes from the gentle, fragile nature of herself—the real nature of herself.

The clouds break a little outside, creating this sort of white glow that I really like. Not the type of angelic glow that happens when the storm stops and the clouds move away, but the white glow from the clouds and the sun fighting against each other in the morning when it rains. Maybe I’m the only one who really notices that soft white glow from the sun and the dark clouds that happens through windows, but whatever the reason, that same glow enters my room and makes me feel a lot less angry and confused. It reminds me of my childhood a little bit, when I used to sit in my room when it rained and Gloria and I would read stories together, and that white glow would appear and make the rain even more peaceful—like it wasn’t even real. Probably why those memories don’t seem real anymore to me—they were too peaceful.

I look at my phone and realize I’ve been watching Leslie sleep for about five minutes. Holy shit, when did I start becoming this creep who watches women sleep? I rub my eyes and stand up. I don’t think I’ll go running today, even though running in the rain is a great way to release the congested thoughts that are crying to come out of me. Instead I opt for a long shower, knowing the minute I step out I have to face the reality of the people around me, including Leslie. I just dread the thought of being so open with her. But the serene glow that hovers around her slumbering body and the almost weightless look her face has when she sleeps convinces me that it won’t be as bad as I think it is to let her be curious.

Before walking away, I approach her and move a stray curl away from her face. She’s very youthful in front of me, especially with the freckles traveling along her nose and her cheeks that she tries to hide. Sometimes I wonder why she tries so hard to hide them—they add a uniqueness to her face. But I don’t blame her, though; there are many things we all hide from the world and its judgment.

Shit, why am I so philosophical about her this morning? I’ve only known her for two weeks and somehow it feels like I’ve known her for years. I don’t know whether or not to accept that as a blessing waiting to better me or a curse threatening to cripple me?

When I finally walk into the bathroom I force myself not to look in the mirror, because I know I look like shit. Why? Because I feel like shit. I’m starving but I know I won’t be able to keep anything down, and my head hurts so badly I’m dizzy. I turn on the shower as cold as my hand can take it, but before I take off my joggers my eyes reach the sink and allow one last memory to flood my annoyingly emotional head this morning: her heartbeat, pounding against my ears when I wanted mine to stop completely.

Again, there’s no way to explain this without sounding like a fucking cornball, but it’s been years since I’ve felt that internal sign of universal support, whether it be the connection of minds or hearts or even the connective touch that you share with a person. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve touched my fair share of women throughout my life, but it’s a blank touch that is carried on without a second thought. The connective touch I’m talking about is when you and a person can speak with wordless contact. That’s the internal sign of support I felt with her as I cried like a drunken idiot in her arms. And to be honest, without holding back anything, I loved that feeling. I loved that support entering my life when I’ve missed it for years.

And I loved hearing the beat of her heart against my ear, letting me know that there is another life to live for besides my own again.

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