Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chapter 6

I groaned as I followed Harmony and the real estate agent out of yet another empty space that just wouldn’t work for the restaurant Harmony had in mind. It had been our fourth space to look at this morning and we were on our way to the fifth. I was now cursing my decision to wear heeled boots. Sometimes, okay often, I put appearance way ahead of comfort. Today, however, I should have been using my brain. I should have remembered how picky Harmony was. Personally I hadn’t seen anything wrong with the last place.

I smoothed my dress out before pulling my jacket around me a little tighter as we got out of the car at the next stop. Hopefully it would be the last. Even Harmony couldn’t take spending an entire day looking at properties, and it had already been four hours. My stomach was growling with hunger, my feet were killing me from all the walking, my head was aching from all the questions and speculation, and my body was shivering from the unexpected sudden drop in temperature today.

The door was opened to the next property and I stepped in last. Almost immediately upon entering I felt something. The restaurant wasn’t my dream and I was really just on for the ride with Harmony, but this place made me excited. It was basically bare bones and would need a lot of work to transform it into anything, but the space seemed perfect.

“This is amazing,” Harmony said glancing up at the high ceilings. Finally!

We took the rest of the tour, being shown some of the back rooms. I guess it had been a boutique of some kind previously. While Harmony began to talk with the agent about how she envisioned the restaurant and where everything would go I made my way to a window in the front. I glanced out at the street and checked out the area one more time. A smile formed on my face. This would be the perfect location.

“It is a little small though,” I heard Harmony say. My smile faded and I fought the urge to let out a scream. This could not be happening. Then I remembered something.

“The place next door is vacant as well, right?” I asked. I saw a flicker of excitement flash in Harmony’s eyes as she waited for the agent’s response.

“Uh, yes, I believe it is, but I don’t think it’s for sale,” he began as he started to search through notes.

I wasn’t waiting for confirmation. I walked out the door and over to the windows of the vacant property that shared a wall with the one I had just been in. I didn’t see any sort of ‘for sale’ or ‘for rent’ sign anywhere, but it was completely empty. I used my hands to block out any light as I peered in through the window and saw that while the interior was a little different from the one we were shown, it was in good shape and would work as well.

“How does it look?” I heard Harmony ask as she mirrored my position to peer in.

“Like it would work,” I responded. I heard her squeal in excitement.

“I want it,” she stated. I turned and saw that look on her face. When Harmony made that face, she got what she wanted. “Find out who owns that property and find out what they want for it.” Our agent seemed to want to argue with her, but decided against it and made a note.

“Are you thinking you want that instead?” he asked. Harmony and I looked at each other and I knew we were thinking the same thing.

“I want them both.”

“I’m not sure…..” he started. Harmony wasn’t having any of what he was going to say.

“I don’t care. Find a way.”

Once again, he looked like he wanted to argue, but he made the smart decision and kept his mouth shut. Once Harmony wanted something, she got it no matter what. I knew better than to argue with her when she had that tone, that look on her face. A swift death came to people who didn’t heed those warnings.

“I’ll look into it,” he said and she let out another excited squeal.

“We found it, B, we really found it!” she exclaimed as she took my hand and began to jump up and down.

“Thank God!” I shouted as I lifted a foot off the ground and over exaggerated the rubbing of my foot. She gave me a shove that nearly sent me toppling over with a laugh. Just as I was about to retaliate, my phone began to ring. “Saved by the bell.”

“Hey, Bryce,” I heard Sidney’s voice say when I’d answered. I cringed a little and began to scold myself for not checking the call ID in my excitement.

“Sid, hi!” I forced the cheerfulness into my voice despite the sudden downturn in my mood.

“What’s going on?” he asked. I glanced over at Harmony who was now in some sort of discussion with the real estate agent once again.

“Harmony and I are out looking for locations for the restaurant,” I told him.

“Oh yeah? How’s that going?”

“Good. I think we found the place. We just have to work out some things before it can be finalized.”

“Wow, that’s great. Where are you?” I told him what area we were in and then the nearest major intersection. “Hey, I’m right by there. Would you want to grab some lunch if you haven’t eaten yet?” No. No I don’t want to spend time with you.

“Lunch would be great. I’d just have to make sure I’m done here.” I’d had to force those words out. Despite knowing I was going to have to do more to execute my plan than have lunch with Sidney, it didn’t make it easier.

He gave me the name of a place after I’d made sure Harmony and the real estate agent didn’t need me for anything else. Then I walked to the place, grumbling to myself the whole time. Harmony had refused to give me the car which meant I was either going to have to pay out the ass for a cab, or Sidney was going to have to drive me home. Not to mention, my feet still hurt.

As I walked I began to wonder if my plan was a good idea. If I was going to make him fall in love with me I was probably going to have to kiss him at some point. I felt sick at the thought. I know that at one time I’d found him to be the hottest guy on the planet, and that thousands upon thousands if not more girls felt the same, but now I felt differently. Oh God, what if I had to do more?

It was amazing how much one terrible incident could affect and shape a person’s feelings on people and life in general. That one night in Cole Harbour had killed any love I thought I had felt for Sidney. Maybe I should say screw it, tell Sidney what a cocksucking asshole he was and be done with it. No, I couldn’t do that. He needed to really know. He had to really know how it felt to be used and discarded as a joke.

“Bryce!” I heard him call. I glanced up and saw him walking from the opposite direction towards me.

“Hey!” I called back with a smile, pushing all of those thoughts out of my head.

Sidney held the door open for me and I walked in. The restaurant he had picked out was small and quiet. I wasn’t sure if the small amount of diners inside was due to the late hour for lunch or if it was like this all the time. Knowing Sidney, it was always like this. The hostess at the podium in front was on the phone and held a finger up to tell me she’d be with me in a moment, a smile on her face as she did so.

“Well, we don’t take official reservations but if you have a large party it helps to call ahead so we can have space open for you as close to your arrival as possible,” she was saying into the phone.

“I hope there’s something you can find on the menu to eat,” Sidney said coming in behind me. I turned to give him a strange look.

“Does this place serve strange or creepy food?” I asked.

“No, not at all,” he replied.

“Then why would I have trouble finding something on the menu?”

I hadn’t meant for my voice to hold the annoyed tone that it did, but I couldn’t help it. Who did Sidney think I was? Was that what the girls he usually spent time with were like? I was about to apologize for how that had sounded, but Sidney laughed. He apparently hadn’t noticed my tone, or it hadn’t bothered him.

“You’ve really changed since school,” he told me. I opened my mouth to respond, and found I didn’t know what to say. I struggled with being both angry at the comment and relieved that it was noticeable that I was different.

“I’m sorry for the wait. Your usual table Mr. Crosby?” the hostess asked. He nodded and we were on our way to a table in a back corner. It must suck to live life in dark corners. It was the first actual feeling of sympathy towards Sidney I had. It was the first feeling that wasn’t disgust or anger really.

I glanced over the menu and decided on a house specialty salad Sidney insisted was one of the best in the city. I spent the rest of the ordering process experiencing the jealous and questioning looks I received from the waitress who had obviously served Sidney multiple times before. I wondered how many other girls had come in here with him and experienced the same treatment. She hadn’t been rude, but I didn’t exactly want to be stared at like that while I ate lunch, thank you.

“So what are you doing for Thanksgiving?” he asked after our food had arrived.

I could immediately feel my muscles tense up. The ache I felt in the back of my neck told me that I was in a desperate need of a massage. What was with people and this stupid holiday anyway? It seemed to be all my family wanted to talk about and now Sidney. I was just glad I was living in the States and our Thanksgivings were not shared so I didn’t have to listen to more people talk about it.

“I’m flying home for a couple of days. How about you?” I returned.

“We have a game. It must be nice to get to see your family.”

Ha, yeah right. I just shrugged and didn’t elaborate any more on the trip. What was I going to say? My mother was certifiable, my aunts and uncles were always in competition, my father was becoming more and more of a recluse to avoid the previously mentioned people, and I’d left my brother long ago to deal with them all by himself.

As Sidney and I chatted over lunch I couldn’t get my mind off of my upcoming trip. It was only a few days away now and I wanted nothing more than an excuse to get out of going. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to handle being there with them. I’d escaped Cole Harbour for more reasons than just Sidney. There was a reason Kellen was the only member of my family I spoke to on a regular basis.

After telling Sidney I had to catch a cab home and him subsequently offering me a ride I accepted and did my best to focus on our conversation in the car rather than on my family. I couldn’t help where my mind wandered however. I tried desperately to remember a time when we were one big happy family. That had to be the case at some point right?

I got out of Sid’s car at my apartment complex and we made tentative plans to get together once I returned from home. I gave him a wave as he drove away before I turned and used my key sensor to unlock the door to the building. I realized as I waited for the elevator to reach the ground floor that I hadn’t come up with one happy memory that included my entire family.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chapter 5

I stared in at the mess that was my bedroom before turning my gaze onto Harmony. This was her fault afterall. I hadn't pulled every article of clothing out of both of our closets and discarded them in various places in my room. She looked back at me and sighed.

"It's official. You have nothing to wear tonight," she announced, glancing back at the mess.

"Nothing? I really have nothing in this pile that would work for a hockey game?" I asked.

"Oh, you have plenty of things to wear to a hockey game. You just have nothing to wear to dinner with Sidney after," she explained

I fought the sound of disgust threatening to leave my mouth. The thought of spending time with Sidney made me sick. I'd been hurt by him and it'd be easy just to stay away from him, but I couldn't do that. I had to show him he couldn't treat people that way and get away with it. I had to fight the urge to make a face and sneer in disgust when his name came up. I was also going to have to think of a way to not do those things in his presence.

"You do realize you're talking about your clothes as well, right?" I checked. She rolled her eyes at me.

"I'm not saying the wardrobe sucks, I'm saying nothing works for the purpose of tonight."

I glanced back at the piles of clothes once again and decided that Harmony knew better than I did. Half an hour later I found myself at the mall following Harmony around as she picked up a variety of pants, shirts, leggings, and dresses to hold them up to me. In the middle of our search I felt my phone viibrate and pulled it out, grimacing at the name that popped up on the screen. I debated ignoring the call and realized that it would only get worse if I didn't answer.

"Hi, mom," I greeted. Harmony glanced over at me and made a face that echoed exactly how I felt.

"Bryce, I'm glad I caught you. How are you?" she asked.

"I'm fine. How are you?" I returned. I didn't care how she was. I just wanted to know what she wanted, and I wanted to know quickly. The quicker I could get off the phone with her, the better.

"I'm still going." She gave me her typical patented response, complete with the dramatic sigh at the end. "I was calling to see if you were planning on coming home for Thanksgiving."

There it was. There was the reason my mother was calling me. I cringed at what she said, wishing I hadn't answered the phone right now after all. The last thing I wanted to do was go home to Cole Harbour for Thanksgiving, let alone ever again. My brain immediately began to try to come up with an excuse.

"I hadn't really thought about it....." I couldn't even finish my sentence before my mother cut in.

"The whole family is coming over, and I just thought it would be nice to have you there. They haven't seen you in so long and I know your aunt and uncle would love to talk to you."

I suddenly felt guilty about consciously avoiding calling home so I wouldn't have to discuss Thanksgiving. I'd been hoping to just avoid the conversation altogether. I didn't want to go home. I didn't want to see my family. Now I felt like I had to.

"I don't know. Harmony and I are starting to look for places for the restaurant and once we find a location everything else is going to start happening quickly."

"Oh, you're still going to attempt that restaurant business?" I heard the annoyance and the dismissal in her voice. She'd disapproved of my decision to partner with Harmony on this from the start.

"Yes, Mom, Harmony and I are going through with our plans." She gave an overdramatic sigh again.

"I guess I just thought that you would come to your senses and go to medical school." I rolled my eyes.

"I was a math and economics major, not a biology or any other equivalent major."

"Then what about law school? It'd be great having two lawyers in the family," she suggested. I fought back the urge to yell at her.

"I'm not great at debating. Look, I'm busy. I'll check on flights tomorrow and let you know when I can come in. I'll only be able to do a couple days at most."

"I suppose a couple of days is better than nothing."

"Great. I'll talk to you later. Bye, Mom." I hung up before she had a chance to say anything else. Harmony popped up in front of me with a smile on her face.

"I found it," she announced, holding up an outfit.

A few hours later Harmony and I were picking up our tickets and passes at will call. We wandered around the arena searching for our seats before finding them nearly back where we had started. Feeling like fools we made our way through the crowd to them and sat down just in time for the lights to dim and the teams to skate out.

About two and a half hours later Harmony and I were joining the mass exodus leaving the arena after a Penguins victory. We paused at the top of our section and pulled out the passes that had been left with the tickets. They didn't come with any directions, and we just stared at them stupidly like they would magically tell us what to do.

"Do you need help?" an accented female voice asked.

Harmony and I glanced up to see a very pretty brunette looking between the two of us. I'd never seen her in particular before, but I knew who she was. She was a hockey wife, or at least a girlfriend. You could tell by the way she was dressed and in the way she carried herself. The girls that dated the players had always been easy to spot for me, mostly because I'd looked nothing like them. They'd avoided me like the plague back then, like my chubby and ugly would rub off on them.

"You wouldn't happen to know where these get us, would you?" Harmony asked. A blonde, walked up behind the brunette and glanced down at the passes in our hands before checking us out suspiciously.

"Yeah, we can show you," she offered. We thanked her and followed the two of them to an elevator where we had to show our passes to get on.

"I''m Veronique and this is Heather," the brunette said, offering her hand. Harmony and I took turns shaking their hands.

"I'm Bryce and this is Harmony."

"So who gave you the passes?" Heather asked. Harmony and I exchanged glances, obviously feeling the same way. Were we really being interrogated right now?

"The golden.....Sidney," Harmony corrected herself as I shot an elbow into her ribs. Veronique and Heather raised their eyebrows at the exchange.

"Sid?" Veronique questioned, like she hadn't heard us. I nodded and she dared another look at Heather. "I'm sorry, he just never has anyone here except for his family. I assumed you were with Max." I didn't understand, but the snort Harmony gave made me wonder what that had actually meant. I figured Max meant Maxime Talbot, but I had no idea why that was funny.

"We're not pucks. Bryce grew up down the street from the gol.....Sidney," Harmony explained.

I suddenly understood and I could feel my cheeks turning red. Had I gone overboard on the outfit tonight? I glanced down at my brown slouchy cowboy inspired boots, dark skinny jeans, and off the shoulder t-shirt. I didn't think I looked that slutty. I glanced over at Harmony who, reading my mind, gave me a small shake of her head.

Thankfully the elevator doors opened just then and halted any further conversation. Harmony and I followed the two girls to the doorway of a room that already had other people in it. We both hesitated at the door before deciding to just wait in the hallway. We leaned against the wall and talked quietly to each other, doing our best not to draw attention to ourselves.

I saw a few guys begin to walk towards the room a little while later and figured they must be Sidney's teammates. Each one glanced over the two of us, trying to figure out if they knew us or not. While I looked calm, cool, and collected on the outside on the inside I wanted nothing more than for Sidney to get there so we could leave and I could get this night over with.

Finally after watching couple after couple walk out of the arena, I spotted Sidney coming around a corner. He was looking over his shoulder as he walked, talking to someone behind him, and I took the opportunity to point him out to Harmony. She narrowed her eyes at him, like she was studying him. When he turned to face us there was already a smile on his face.

"Hey, Bryce, I'm glad you could come," he greeted me when he reached us. "You must be Harmony." She gave him a small, skeptical smile before taking his hand in hers, her eyes still narrowed at him. She was playing the part perfectly.

"It's nice to meet you," she told him, no hint of sincerity in her voice. Sidney didn't seem to notice.

"So what were you thinking for food?" he asked, looking between the two of us.

"I think we're both up for anything," I replied.

"I know the perfect place. I'll drive and then just bring you back to your car after, if you'd like," he offered. I nodded and we followed him outside.

Once we were seated at the tiny hole in the wall, well hidden Italian restaurant, Harmony continued her act. She played the protective and skeptical best friend perfectly, grilling Sidney on everything from his childhood to his personal life in the last few years to his intentions in "rekindling" a relationship of any kind with me. Honestly, it was hard not to crack up multiple times. Sidney, however, took it all in stride.

"Harm, please. We're just neighbors catching up," I told her, putting a stop to the questioning after a while.

"I'm sorry, you know me. I'm protective of my friends," she apologized.

"How'd I do?" Sidney asked, one eyebrow raised curiously. Harmony gave him a once over before giving him a big smile.

"You passed.....for now."

The rest of the night went well, conversation flowing. Harmony quit playing her part and started acting more like herself. By the time we were back in Sidney's car and he was driving us back to ours, we were all laughing together like we were old friends. Before driving away, Sidney told me he'd call me later and I gave him a wave as he pulled out of the parking lot.

"I'd say your plan is well on it's way," Harmony told me with a laugh as we got into the car.

"You think?" I asked.

"Oh, yeah."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Chapter 4

I knew from the second that Sidney and I had started walking to the coffee shop that he was in shock over my appearance. I’d also known from the second we started walking that he was checking me out. I may have been on my phone texting Harmony, but I wasn’t an idiot. I could feel his eyes on my ass the entire time.

I’m the first person to admit that going to college and meeting Harmony had done wonders for me both in my personality and in how I looked. Harmony had looked past what everyone else saw and taught me that attitude and confidence go a long way. The more I hung out with her, the more outgoing I’d become. And with that new attitude came an all new look.

I’d been too afraid to go to the dining hall when I first got to school. I was too shy to make friends quickly and I was too embarrassed to go by myself. Instead I stayed in my room when I wasn’t in class. It hadn’t really occurred to me until after my personality started to transform that I’d lost weight. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it. I started sucking it up and going to the gym despite hating it and gave up food that was terrible for me, choosing healthier options instead.

I also learned as I got out more with Harmony that college was very different from high school. There was no social hierarchy, just groups of people with interests in common. I also learned that navigating from one group to another wasn’t a problem at all. The jocks didn’t just hang with the jocks, and the math geeks didn’t just hang with the math geeks. At a college like Stanford, the jocks were the math geeks.

Armed with a new personality, a new body, and a new confidence, I’d ask Harmony to teach me everything else. She took me shopping, gave me fashion advice, and taught me how to do my makeup. She led me into a salon where I walked out with a completely new head of hair in a completely new color. Three guys hit on me that day as I walked around campus. They were the first guys to ever hit on me. I never looked back.

Four years later, I was completely aware of the effect I had on guys, and I used it. I used my looks to get things I wanted and I didn’t feel the least bit bad about it. It wasn’t like I was sleeping with professors for good grades or anything. I could achieve the straight A’s on my own. It was more a social thing. I didn’t spend Friday or Saturday nights alone anymore. In fact, I hardly spent any nights alone at what I liked to call my reawakening. There was always someone.

Now there was Sidney. The moment I’d felt him checking me out I’d known what I had to do. I was going to use my looks to get what I wanted from him. The more I sat there across from him at the table talking to him, the more I knew it was a great idea. I’d used trick after trick as I sat there, flirting with him, to get him to want to see me again. It had worked.

The next day Harmony came home in the afternoon and immediately began questioning me about the day before. I told her about what happened with Sidney at the furniture store, and then about coffee. She sat there, quiet for the first time in her life, as she listened to me tell her about my time with the guy who had been the love of my life growing up.

“You’re going to see him again then?” she asked when I had finished. I grinned over at her.

“I’m going to do better than that. I’m going to make him fall in love with me,” I told her. She laughed when I said it, but stopped when she realized I was serious.

“Look, Bryce, I know you were in love with him forever, but things don’t always work the way you plan them,” she cautioned.

“Oh, I’m not looking to marry him and carry his children. I’m looking for revenge.” She was quiet for the second time today, looking at me with a wary eye, trying to figure out what I was saying.

“You know, when I told you that if you ran into him when you moved here that you could do to him what he did to you, I didn’t mean it literally,” she said, the smile gone from her lips. I lifted an eyebrow at her, surprised that she wasn’t 100% backing me on this.

“He deserves everything I’m going to do to him,” I told her firmly.

“Because he ruined your prom night?” she questioned.

“No. Because he’s the reason I lived through hell for a year and a half.”

“Oh, Bryce…..” she started. Her voice trailed off as she tried to think of an argument. I hadn’t anticipated having to fight her on this, but my emotions took over.

“It was his fault. If he hadn’t done what he did, that never would have happened,” I argued.

“You can’t blame him for that. It’s not like he was there pushing all the buttons,” she argued right back. It didn’t matter. My mind was set. I was caught now in my mind in a place I’d never be able to get completely out of.

“I can and I will. Compared to what happened to me, he’ll get off easy when I’m done with him.”

“I just don’t think this is a good idea,” Harmony warned.

I got up from my seat and began to pace back and forth through the room. If I was going to do this, I needed Harmony’s help. I needed her to be on my side. I had to figure out how to get her there. Then I went somewhere I probably shouldn’t have. I went for guilt. I manipulated her to make her feel guilty so she would help me.

“Harm, this is for those nights you had to stay up all night with me because I was too scared to close my eyes. It’s for the times you had to bribe that EMT to keep his mouth shut when you called him to our apartment. It’s for that month when everyone turned their backs on me except for you, and they then turned their backs on you as well.” Real tears had formed in my eyes when I said those words to her, partially because of my memories, but also partially because of what I was now putting her through.

I knew exactly how Harmony felt about that time in our lives. I knew she blamed herself for allowing things to go on the way they were as long as they did. I knew she felt guilty for not helping me when I desperately needed it. I never blamed her, and I certainly didn’t think there was anything she could have done until I was ready for her help, but I knew she felt that way. And like a real asshole of a friend, I was using it.

“Okay. Okay,” she whispered. I smiled at her, and sat down next to her, taking her hands in mine.

“Thank you.”

“So what’s the plan?” she asked, seemingly bouncing back to her normal self.

My smile grew as I told her. By the end I saw that she wasn’t as wary about the plan as she had been before. It’s not like we were planning to do any bodily harm to the guy. I was just getting him back for a prank he’d played in high school that had almost ruined my life. Maybe it was bitchy. Maybe it was an adjective that was even worse than bitchy, but I didn’t care. This was for all the kids who were bullied and picked on in school. I wanted to prove that sometimes the math geek wins.

I smiled down at my phone the next afternoon when I spotted Sidney’s number on my caller ID. I guess I hadn’t been too overconfident when I thought he’d call. I held up the phone to Harmony to show her and we both giggled. Just before voicemail would have picked up, I answered.

“Hello?” I forced my voice to sound like I had no idea who was calling.

“Bryce? It’s Sidney,” he said to me from the other end.

“Oh, Sid, hey! What’s up?” I greeted. I noticed Harmony watching me, obviously trying to track how the conversation was going.

“Not much. Just got home from practice. How about you?” he returned.

“I’ve just been spending the afternoon decorating the place before our furniture gets here in a couple days.”

“Ugh, decorating. I bought my house in the spring and I still only have furniture in three rooms with bare walls. I’m just so busy. I need to get on hiring someone to do it for me.”

“Aw, where’s the fun in that? You should do it yourself, little by little every time you find some free time.”

“My idea of interior design is putting a leather couch with built in cup holders in front of a big screen TV.” I laughed along with him, figuring he was telling me the complete truth. “Look, I was actually calling to see if you wanted to come to a game.”

“Yeah, that would be fun. I’ve actually wanted to go, but tickets are hard to come by. It seems like your team is an institution in this city.” I was lying, not ever having looking for tickets, but that was part of the game.

“Oh, don’t worry about tickets. I can get those for you. Just let me know when you want to come and they’ll be waiting at will call for you.”

“Really? Are you sure you don’t mind? I can pay you for them.”

“That’s not necessary. Each guy on the team gets a few free tickets to every game. Mine go unused unless my family is in town. It’s not a big deal,” he explained. I grinned over at Harmony who lifted her eyebrows up questioningly.

“Well, when is the next available game?” I asked.

“Tomorrow night, actually. If you don’t have plans I could leave a ticket for that one. We could go grab something to eat after,” Sidney suggested.

“Tomorrow would work, but just one question. Is it possible for me to bring my friend Harmony? I’d feel awkward sitting at the game by myself.” That was another lie, and bringing Harmony into it kept Sidney from thinking he had me too easily. I wanted to make him work for me.

“Yeah, that’s no problem. There’ll be two tickets for you guys at will call under your name along with passes that will get you downstairs after.”

“That sounds great! Thanks so much, Sid. That's really sweet of you.”

“No problem. I’ll see you tomorrow.” I hung up the phone and grinned across the room at Harmony, who had been hanging on every word.

“We are going to a Penguins game tomorrow and getting something to eat with Sidney after,” I told her.

“I’ll finally get to meet the golden prince?” she asked. I laughed at the nickname she’d decided to use for him instead of his name.

“Yes you will.”