Gray rolled over onto his back and felt his brain move slowly with him. It throbbed in a double time beat to something it could only hear. Taking a deep breath, he hoped to satiate the queasy feeling in his stomach with fresh air but his nose instantly picked up on the faint scent of lavender. Lavender? He didn’t wear anything with lavender in it. He felt his stomach tighten not from the nausea that sat inside him but from the fear of what the hell happened the night before. Opening one eye very slowly, he saw a light yellow wall in front of him with an abstract painting in burgundy and white hanging in the center of it. Closing his eye, he took another deep breath and searched through his memory of what happened the night before. Nothing appeared on the black canvas of his eyelids. “Damn it!” his mind screamed. Opening both his eyes, he stared straight ahead and swallowed the forming lump in his throat. He turned his head slowly to his left and saw the body of what he hoped was Olivia next to him, but he didn’t know for sure if it was her. The person was facing the opposite direction and a pillow half covered her head. He really hoped it was a she next to him and not a he. “Okay, I’ve got my clothes on so nothing happened,” his mind said with a relief that coursed through his body like a flood breaking a weak dam. Gray didn’t want to move anymore than he had to. He didn’t want to wake the person next to him and he definitely didn’t want to make himself sick. “Please be Olivia,” he prayed silently to any holy person that might be listening to him. “Please.”
Gray heard something vibrating on the nightstand opposite of him and then a voice screaming a song he didn’t recognize. Not that his brain could have named it if his life depended on it. He was sure that the brain cell that contained that knowledge was drowning in a deep pool of alcohol somewhere in his body. Gray watched as an arm fumbled blindly at the nightstand, raised the phone in the air, and pressed something on the phone to silence it. “Thank God,” he thought to himself.
“This is Olivia and I’m not fucking answering the phone,” she said and threw the phone against the far wall.
“Thank you Lord!” his mind rejoiced.
Olivia fought the nauseous feeling in her stomach. She was pretty sure there were a party of Spaniards doing a Mexican hat dance somewhere in there. She knew that if she just stayed in bed for most of the day, the dried out hollow feeling in her head would go away. Closing her eyes, she buried her face further into her pillow. Exhaling, she held still as she realized that she was not alone. Turning her head slowly, she pulled her arms underneath her and slowly opened her eyes to see Gray lying beside her. He turned his slightly towards her and she smiled at him. “I didn’t wake you when I threw the phone did I?” she asked.
“No,” he answered, “but that is one obnoxious ring tone you have on there.”
“That’s not my phone,” she replied.
“That surely raises a question in my mind.”
“It’s Dean’s or Zane’s. It actually could be anybody’s from last night. They all have the same phone.”
Olivia shrugged her shoulders. Closing her eyes, she raked her memories of the night before. “You,” she said and opened her eyes. “I think I gave it to you at one point, but to be honest, I don’t remember much of last night.”
“If it makes you feel any better, neither do I.”
“Do you feel like you’re in Dante’s Fourth Circle of Hell?” Olivia asked, removing her arms from underneath her.
“Fourth? More like twentieth.”
“Would you completely hate me if I just wanted to close my eyes and lay here for a few more minutes?” Olivia asked. “I think the world might not be so nauseous to me then. Not that I’m saying you’re nauseous,” she added, reaching out and putting her hand on Gray’s bicep. “You’re not. Far from it.”
“It’s okay,” Gray replied, patting her hand with his free hand. “I would like to close my eyes and lay here for a few more minutes too.”
Olivia let out a slow breath and was relieved that the Mexican hat dancing in her stomach had subsided to a slow dance. She didn’t want to open her eyes, knowing her head was resting on Gray’s arm and that her arm was across his chest. Slowly turning, she opened her eyes and stared straight ahead now that her back was to him. She didn’t know if she should feel embarrassed or mortified that she was lying in her bed fully clothed and snuggled close with someone she barely knew or the fact that she had instantly liked Gray the moment she shook his hand. Sitting up, she gently scooted out of bed and walked to the window. She knew it wasn’t early but she also knew it wasn’t late in the day. Peeking through the plantation blinds, Olivia felt her eyes slam shut from the brightness. If she had to guess, it was a little after noon. “God it’s bright,” she said to herself as she closed the blind. Sighing, she ran her hand through her hair knowing she wasn’t presentable to anyone including her present company. Olivia turned and saw Gray sitting up. “Good morning or afternoon if you want to be technical about it.”
“No need to be technical,” Gray answered, rolling his head between his shoulders. Holding up his wrist, he stared at his watch but he was so disoriented he couldn’t make out the dials on it. “Do you feel better?” he asked, dropping his wrist into his lap.
Olivia nodded and shrugged her shoulders at the same time. “Yes and no,” she added. “What about you?”
“The same as you.”
The two of them fell silent. It was the awkward and dreaded seven seconds of silence that everyone hated and it was painfully fueled by a hangover and the brain trying to wrap itself around the fact that it was slightly destroyed by several shots too many of tequila.
“I’m kind of hungry,” Olivia said, breaking the silence between them. “Do you feel like getting something to eat? Maybe something greasy that goes with a fountain drink?”
The thought of food made Gray’s stomach tighten, but despite that feeling he said, “Yes, I’m starving as well.”
“I’ll be moving in slow motion, but if you don’t mind, I’m going to take a quick shower. I smell like a cigarette.”
“You don’t smoke do you?”
Olivia shook her head slowly to ease the throbbing in her head. “Do you?”
“Neither do I,” he answered. “I’ll just wait for you in the living room. I’m assuming it’s not that hard to find and that you don’t live in a maze.”
Smiling, Olivia moved slowly across the room. “No maze. But the guest bathroom down the hall probably has a brand new toothbrush in the medicine cabinet if you want to use it. Feel free to open it and make yourself at home. Towels are in the closet in the bathroom if you want to shower as well.”
“You’ve done this before I see,” Gray said and then immediately regretted the words that had escaped from his mouth.
“I don’t normally wake up next to people I just met the night before,” she said with a smile. She had seen the look of regret cross his face and she felt a need to explain why there was an extra toothbrush in her guest bathroom. “When you have a crew like mine, you always need essentials on back up and readily available,” she added. “Everyone actually has a set of clothes and stuff at each others place just in case.”
“Safe than sorry.”
“More like drunkards who don’t know when to say when.”
Gray nodded and slid off of Olivia’s bed. “Take your time. I’ll be in the living room when you’re ready.”
Standing in front of the mirror, Gray studied himself. His eyes said he was still drunk. They were glassy with a tinge of red. Opening the medicine cabinet, he saw a stack of unopened tooth brushes, various facial cleansers, two tubes of toothpaste, deodorant sprays, cologne, and every other item one might need for their morning or nightly ritual. Pulling the pale blue shower curtain aside, the tub had its own various products. Sniffing his arm, Gray smelled the cigarette smoke embedded in his skin and clothes. Swallowing hard to keep the bile from rising, he dropped his arm and quickly shed his clothes. He guessed if the smell of smoke made him gag, it would definitely offend Olivia. He took the quickest and hottest shower he could muster and as he redressed himself in his smoke filled clothes, he noticed he felt about seventy percent better than he did than before. Gray made himself at home like Olivia had suggested and decided to use a toothbrush as well. He opened the cabinet again and found open toothbrush boxes with names on them. There was brush for Dean, Zane, Ross, Heather, Thom, Susan, and the infamous bad singer Simon. There were also random names he didn’t recognize that were scribbled on boxes as well. He tried not to dwell on who they were or if they were regular visitors in Olivia’s life. He knew if he did, he’d make himself sick with assumptions. Taking out a fresh toothbrush box, he pulled the cellophane off it with a sigh. A black marker lay near the opened boxes of toothbrushes so he grabbed it and quickly scribbled his name on the box in his hand. “Why not?” he asked himself. Sliding the toothbrush out, Gray grabbed a tube of toothpaste and then started to brush his teeth.
When he finished, he cleaned up after himself and put everything back where he had gotten it. He folded his used towel and left it on the toilet seat when he couldn’t find a hamper to toss it in. Opening the bathroom door, he stared into the bedroom near him and saw it had been converted into a library of sorts. Books were stacked on the bookshelves from top to bottom. Some of the shelves were overstuffed with books and magazines. A black leather chair sat in one corner of the room with a remote resting on the arm of it. He assumed it was for a television or stereo. The room was dark burgundy with white trim and looked cozy and warm. Stepping into the hallway, he pulled the bathroom door closed behind and walked easily down the hallway. When he passed Olivia’s bedroom, he hesitated to peer in but did so anyway. He listened for a moment and heard sounds coming from her bathroom. Stepping into the room, he quickly made the bed and then continued down the hall, passing a closed door that he thought about opening but didn’t and walked into the kitchen. He found his wallet resting on the bar that separated the kitchen and living room. The bar itself was attached to the sink and dishwasher and sat a few feet away from the stove and refrigerator. He liked how open the kitchen and living room was. It looked larger than it probably was but just as cozy as the library at the end of the hall. Opening his wallet, he looked through it to make sure everything was where it should be. Not that he didn’t trust Olivia’s friends, but since he didn’t remember what had happened the previous night, he didn’t trust himself to have collected everything he needed, but to his surprise everything was inside where it should be. Even the cash he had started out with was still there. Closing the wallet, he put it in his back pocket and wondered if anyone had paid his tab or if he would stumble upon a receipt in his pockets. Patting his chest, Gray didn’t feel a receipt in either pocket of his black button up shirt. He patted the pockets of his dark denim jeans and felt nothing as well. Sighing, he glanced at the coffee table in the center of the room and saw several cell phones on it and two sets of keys. His shoes squeaked as he crossed the hardwood floor to the couch. Sitting down in front of the coffee table, he found his keys and his cell phone. Leaving the keys on the table, he slipped his phone into the opposite pocket of his wallet. He counted four cell phones in all. Three were the same model and there was the one that didn’t belong. Did Olivia somehow become the collector of cell phones or was it himself that had become the collector? He wasn’t sure if the memory would bubble up in his mind or if it would just stay buried at the bottom of his brain. Leaning back into the comfort of the couch, Gray closed his eyes and let out a small sigh as he tried to piece together what happened the night before.
Olivia ran a brush through her shoulder length hair and decided not to put it into a ponytail. Her head still ached from a hangover that she knew would not go away soon. Now that she was getting older, her hangovers didn’t go away as quickly as they did when she was younger. She was okay with that. They stood as reminder that she wasn’t a fresh faced twenty-one year old hell bent on drinking everyone under the table. She could still drink everyone under the table and though she didn’t take a lot of pride in it, though it sometimes made her giggle as if she was still a fresh faced kid.
Opening the door to the bathroom, Olivia saw the bed had been made. “Wow,” she said to herself. “Impressive,” she added. Closing the door, she made her way across the room and picked up the cell phone she had chunked at the wall. It was definitely not hers. She slid it into her back pocket with a sigh. Though she was showered and cleaned, she didn’t find a bounce in her step. All she really wanted was to eat, crawl back into bed, and sleep for another eight or twelve hours. She knew at that point her hangover would be gone or at least hoped her hangover would be gone.
Olivia walked into the kitchen and found Gray on the couch with his eyes closed. She watched him for a moment before she spoke. “Are you asleep?” she asked.
“Just sitting here with my eyes closed,” he answered as he sat up. He turned and looked at her with a smile. “Do you feel better?”
“A little,” she answered. “Did you shower or anything?”
Gray nodded. “I didn’t see a hamper so I left the towel I used on the toilet seat.”
“That’s fine. I’ll grab it when I do laundry. Thanks for making the bed. Not a lot of guys make their own and they don’t usually make someone else’s.”
“The least I could do for letting me crash,” Gray said.
Before the seven seconds of silent could fill between them, Olivia said, “I’m not the world’s best cook so we have two options.”
“I’m listening,” Gray said as she moved towards him.
“I could cook for us though it may not be very good or we could walk and grab a bite to eat somewhere. I am assuming my car is not here and I’m guessing that your car is definitely not here either. If you don’t want to walk, we could take a cab.”
“Would it be easier to walk?” Gray asked as she leaned her legs against the couch.
Olivia nodded. “Guess my cooking scares you?”
“I’m sure you’re a fine cook, but you’ve already been very hospitable so this is my turn to be hospitable in return and buy you a greasy meal and a fountain drink to ease your stomach ailments.”
Olivia smiled. She felt the hook sink into her heart as it took the bait. “Done deal,” she said. Noticing the cell phones, she studied them for a moment. “Any of those yours?”
“Got it already,” Gray said as he stood. “Are any of those yours?”
“The one that doesn’t belong,” she answered, pulling the cell phone out of her back pocket.
Gray took the cell phone from her hand and replaced it with the one that belonged to her. “Did you start collecting phones last night?”
“It looks like I was once again cell phone police.”
“Cell phone police?” Gray asked with a raised brow.
Olivia nodded. “I really hate it when my friends spend half the night texting people they would rather be with than enjoy the company of the ones they were presently with and it is even more annoying to me when they spent the other half of the night on the phone talking to someone who could give a rats ass about where they were or who they were with.” Sighing, she half shrugged. “That is the explanation of the cell phone police. You’re not a texter or a phoner are you?”
“I don’t think so,” he answered, “but let me check.” Gray pulled his phone out his back pocket and turned it on. He then checked his phone for any text messages sent or calls dialed out. Turning the phone towards Olivia, he smiled. “I’m good. I didn’t dial or text anyone once I got to the bar.”
“Nice,” Olivia said as she watched him turn his phone back off and then slide it into his back pocket. “Point for you,” she said as she straightened herself from leaning on the couch.
“Point?” Gray asked as she walked across the living room to coat rack that stood near the door.
“You turned your cell phone off. No one ever does that,” she said as she pulled on a fashionable hat and glanced at her reflection in the mirror near the coat rack. She was sure it looked stupid on her as all hats did to her, but she liked this hat despite her insecurity to wear fashionable items.
“And if I had silenced it instead?”
“I’d still would have given you a point,” she said, pulling a small handbag off the hook and tossing it over her head. Olivia adjusted the bag across her body and then dropped her cell phone into the bag. Turning, she looked at Gray. “I think you have like three points now. If you have more than that, I don’t remember.”
“We’ll go with three and if there is more and they come back to our memory, we’ll adjust the point total.”
“Ready?” she asked.
“Ready,” Gray answered, reaching down and grabbing her keys and his keys. “Catch. You might need these,” he said, tossing her keys to her and pocketing his own.
“It’s kind of bright outside, do you want a pair of sunglasses?”
“I’ll be fine,” Gray replied as he met up with Olivia at the door.
“Just in case,” she said and held out a pair of sunglasses that she had pulled from her purse.
“What about you?”
“I’ve got another pair in here,” she answered with a pat on the bag.
“Are you always this prepared?” he asked as she opened the door.
“I try but I always forget something.”
Gray was very thankful for the sunglasses Olivia had given him five minutes into their walk. Though he thought he could man up and be one with the sunlight, it made the sweet spot between his eyebrows feel like a jackhammer was trying to burrow into his brain. “You get a point for the just in case sunglasses,” he said as he slipped them on. “In fact, I think we’re pretty much tied.”
“How so?” Olivia asked as they came to a stop at a crosswalk.
“Point for letting me crash. Regardless if you allowed it or your friends just left me. You could have immediately thrown me out this morning, and I am very grateful you didn’t because I’m sure I was still drunk at that time. I may have to give you a bonus point for that.”
“No bonus point,” Olivia said as they crossed the street with the light’s permission.
“Second point for letting me use a toothbrush and shower. Which leads me to the question I was going to ask you while we were still at your place. Aren’t those the clothes you were wearing when you got out of bed?”
Olivia nodded. “I figured if you couldn’t have fresh clothes, then I shouldn’t. We hung out at the same place so I’m guessing you thought you smelled like a smoke stack too.”
“I did. In fact, my clothes still do.”
“Not that you would be self conscious, but I didn’t think it would be fair for me to be smelling all nice and fresh if you felt you were smelling like an ashtray.”
“Now, you’re definitely ahead of me in points,” Gray said as he watched Olivia smile from the corner of his sunglasses.
“That just gives me three points, so we’re tied.”
“The sunglasses is four and that puts you in the lead.”
“What do we win if we get the most points?” Olivia asked as they came to another crosswalk. She wasn’t paying attention and had one foot in the street when she felt Gray’s arm swing out in front of her and stop her as a car whizzed by her. “Saving my life, we’re now tied again,” she said, looking up at him. “Thank you.”
They both looked for traffic and when it was safe, they quickly darted across the road. When Olivia started walking on the sidewalk closest to the street, Gray gently maneuvered around her to put her on the sidewalk farthest from the street.
“Why did you switch sides?” Olivia asked as she fell instep with Gray.
“It’s the gentleman thing to do,” he answered. “If a car bumps the curb or anything, you have a better chance of escaping injury.”
“That’s very chivalrous of you and also puts you in the lead in points.” Olivia felt her heart beat faster and took a deep breath to calm it down. Closing her eyes briefly, she registered Gray’s action in her mind. She wanted to remember his kindness if he turned out to be a jerk in the end. “So Gray whose last name I don’t know, what is your last name.”
“Plan old boring Smith,” he answered. “Yours?”
“Madison,” she answered and then said, “Gray is an unusual name. Were you named after someone?”
“It was my great grandfather’s last name.”
“Mom or dad’s side?”
“Mom’s. He never had a son to carry on the family name and when I, the first male on my mom’s side, was born, they honored him by giving me his last name.”
“That was nice of your parents and the least they could do for the first born male.”
“What about you?”
“Named after my grandmother on my dad’s side. She had died long before I was born though. I think she died when my dad was about sixteen or so in a car accident.”
“Are you parents still alive?”
Olivia nodded. “Yours?”
“Just my mom. My dad died when I was in my twenties from a heart attack.”
“Saying I’m sorry to hear that just doesn’t quite cut it, so let’s just change the subject,” Olivia said.
“Thank you for the thought though,” Gray said as they reached another crosswalk. This time they both stopped and looked both ways. “Still going straight?”
“For about another block or so. What kind of food are you in the mood for?”
“What are my options?”
“Near the bar we were at last night is a great little café that has homemade everything. A few blocks past it is a Chinese restaurant in one direction and in another is Mexican, Italian, or Indian.”
“Let’s go with the homemade everything place,” Gray said as his stomach turned at the thought of eating any of the latter dishes.
“I was hoping you’d choose that.”
“I don’t think you really had to worry. I’m not sure I could stomach the other options if my life depended on it.”
Gray pulled out Olivia’s chair for her before taking his own across the small wrought iron table on the outdoor patio. They had found a table perfectly hidden underneath a tree with pink flowers blossoming on it. It completely blocked the sun they both had grown to despise. They shared their mutual distaste for the sun due to their hangovers, debated on going inside, but felt they both might offend neighboring tables with their smoke filled clothes.
Removing her hat and pushing her sunglasses on top of her head, Olivia let her eyes adjust to the brightness. “Would a little hair of the dog be totally inappropriate?” she asked as she studied the menu.
“You can think of alcohol right now?” Gray asked, lowering his menu and staring over it. “Seriously?”
Looking up, Olivia shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not going to be all dainty and feminine about this, but I feel like shit and I want it to go away. It’s either hair of the dog, me forcing myself to vomit, eating a greasy plate of something that will make me feel good for only about an hour, or stepping into oncoming traffic.”
Gray laughed out loud. He found Olivia’s straight forwardness and brutal honesty very refreshing. In his mind he was already picking out wedding rings, baby names, and paint for walls for a future he could only wish for. “No stepping into oncoming traffic. You tried that once already today. I thought you wanted a fountain beverage anyway.”
“I do,” Olivia sighed, “but I want his hangover to go away even more. I’m tired of it kicking me in the butt.”
“Bloody Mary’s then?”
Olivia wavered on a decision and then slowly nodded her head. “Can’t hurt. Might not help, but definitely can’t hurt.”
This page copyright © 2009 Shelia Taylor
All rights reserved | This is a rough draft and not the final version
Categories: The Dumbing Down of Love