“Dude, what the hell happened to you yesterday?” Ellie asked as she dropped her keys into a bowl in the center of the table.
“Hung over,” Gray answered.
“He was with a girl,” Chris replied as he opened a beer and handed it to Gray.
Ellie looked at Gray in surprise. “Who was the lucky girl?”
“Her name’s Olivia. She hangs out at the bar.”
“And?” Ellie asked as Chris opened the sliding glass door, stepped outside, and then closed it. “Give me the full scoop? Not that half-ass bullshit you share with the boys.”
Gray smiled at Ellie. “There’s no scoop really. She hangs out at the bar and I’ve had a thing for her for a while. Last night she sat down next to me and we hung out.”
“Why haven’t you talked to her before?”
Shrugging his shoulders, Gray slowly rotated the beer bottle in his hand. “I don’t know. She just seemed untouchable.”
“So did you just strike up a conversation with her?”
“No, Lea introduced us. We both were apparently having bad days so Lea said we should toast.”
“And that’s all she wrote.”
Gray nodded. “Yeah. We sat and talked. A bunch of her friends were meeting her so I just kind of hung out with them all night. I’m not sure what happened after a certain point, but I woke up in her bed this morning.”
“Did you guys, you know?”
“No.” Taking a sip of his beer, he leaned forward onto the counter. “We both figured we just had too much too drink and passed out. I’m fine with that too. Olivia’s a really cool person and I wouldn’t want to fuck that up with a one night stand.”
“When did you see her last?”
“Yesterday afternoon after we walked back to where our cars were.”
Ellie grabbed Gray’s beer from his hand and took a drink. “Not three days from now. Don’t think it’s playing cool if you wait. It’s fucking annoying. No girl will wait three days for you to call her. If she does, you need to run. You said she’s cool right?”
“Then call her. Trust me. It’s going to make more of an impression if you call her today versus three days. If you call her three days from now, you’re long forgotten and have probably already been replaced by the next blonde haired and green-eyed handsome man she might have met. If you call her now, she knows you’re interested in her and not playing games.”
Gray just stared at Ellie. He knew she was right but he didn’t want to call because he didn’t know what to say to Olivia.
Pushing the phone towards Gray, Ellie added, “If she answers, great. Ask her out for coffee or something. If she doesn’t, leave a message and ask her to call you back. Do something besides stand there. And don’t you under any circumstance send her a text message. That is lamer than your three day waiting period.”
“And if she doesn’t call back?”
“Her loss. Do it now.”
Straightening himself as he took the phone, Gray asked, “Why now?”
“No girl wants a drunk dial.”
Pushing his beer towards Ellie, Gray smiled. “You’re right,” he said and opened his phone. “Mind if I step into the other room?”
“You stay put. I’ll go occupy Chris so he won’t be annoying.”
“That’s what big sisters are for.”
“My real sister would have just made a fool out of me.”
“We’re good at that too.”
Gray watched as Ellie took his beer and disappeared on the other side of sliding glass door. Sighing, he stared at his phone. He was perhaps more nervous than he was on the night that Olivia had chosen to sit beside him. At least then, he had liquid courage to help him maneuver through the rough spots. Standing in Chris’ kitchen, he had no courage to help him maneuver the large knot that was pulling at his stomach. Taking a deep breath, he scrolled through the phone but didn’t find Olivia’s name under “O.” Closing his eyes, he silently cursed himself. They had exchanged phones while waiting for their desserts and had put each other’s phone numbers in, but maybe she didn’t save it. Opening his eyes, he searched under the letter “M” in hopes she had stored it under her last name, but it only turned up his three friends named Mike, Michelle, and Mary. Sighing, Gray went to the beginning of his phone list and started his search for Olivia’s number. When he reached the letter “S” he found the entry Samurai Sword Wielding Diva and laughed out loud. “You’re good,” he said to the phone as he pushed the send button. Inhaling slowly, Gray tried to calm his nerves as Olivia’s ring back tone played U2’s “Beautiful Day” back to him. He noted the choice in music and let out a sigh of disappointment as her voicemail came on.
“You’ve reached Olivia. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”
“Hello Samurai Sword Wielding Diva,” Gray said as a smile crossed his face. “This is Gray. I hope you’re fully recovered today. Thanks again for letting me crash and for taking care of me. Call me back when you can. It should be under Gray in your phone.”
Gray closed his phone and put it in the bowl that held Ellie’s keys. “Time to suffer the storm,” he said to himself. He went to the refrigerator, grabbed himself a beer, and then joined Ellie and Chris outside and tried to prepare for the onslaught of questions.
Olivia listened to her voicemail and silently cursed herself for playing her music so loud that she hadn’t heard Gray call. Sighing, she dialed his number from her phone’s missed call log and turned off the car’s engine. His phone rang three times and then went to voicemail. “You know, I think you should have put yourself under Point Master or something like that. Okay, never mind, that’s kind of lame now that I have said that out loud. Anyway, it’s Olivia. I’m sorry I missed your phone call. It seems we’re now playing phone tag so tag you’re it.”
Opening the door, Olivia got out of her car, tossed her phone and keys into her bag, and slung the bag over her head and across her body. Moving to the backseat’s door, she opened it, reached in and grabbed the two nylon grocery bags and the two bottles of wine. She balanced her load in between her two hands and shut the backdoor with her a sway of her hip. Sighing, she looked up and could see Dean and Heather through the huge window and smiled. She knew they had already opened a bottle of wine and was well into it or at least they should have opened one. Heather was so in love with Dean it was beginning to show. She had kept it secret for years until she let it slip to Olivia one night as she was praying to the porcelain goddess. Starting her short walk up the driveway, Olivia still didn’t have the heart to tell her that Dean was gay. In fact, no one in their circle knew. Dean was out to everyone else but the other six friends. It had oddly never come up and Dean was so busy with his work, they all had just assumed he was married to the job. Olivia knew though that Dean was in a committed relationship with a very nice and great looking man named Kyle who would be making his first appearance to the group tonight. Olivia glanced up at the bright sky and silently wished it were night so she could wish on the stars that Dean’s announcement wouldn’t shake the group to the core.
Reaching the door, she gently kicked at the kick plate.
“It’s open,” Heather’s voice said from the other side.
“I can’t open the door,” Olivia replied as the door swung open.
Dean greeted her with a smile. “Thank God you’re here,” he mouthed to her as he took half of the load she was carrying into his arms. He kissed her on the forehead and dragged her in with his free arm.
“Thanks,” Olivia replied with a wink. “Ready to start cooking?” she asked, closing the door with her free arm.
“Let’s drink first,” Heather said as she grabbed the bottle from Dean.
“You don’t have one open yet?”
“Dean didn’t like my choices,” she said, walking into the kitchen.
Olivia pulled her bag over her head and placed it on the coat rack that was near the door. “She’s going to freak the most.”
Dean shrugged his shoulders. “What can you do?”
“And Kyle was okay with the outing in front of the masses?”
“It was his decision. I would have just told one and let the rumors circulate.”
“Why haven’t we ever mentioned this before now?” Olivia asked as she shifted the load she was carrying to her other arm.
“I guess it never came up, but enough about me, what about the guy?”
“The guy?” Olivia asked knowing good and well Dean was talking about Gray.
“From the other night,” Dean answered as they walked toward the kitchen.
“What about him?”
“Did you guys hook up?” Heather asked entering the conversation with ease. She had already poured three glasses of wine in the very short time Olivia and Dean had lingered near the door.
“By hook up do you mean sex or something else?”
“Sex, something else, making out, whatever. Did you hook up?”
Setting her bag and wine on the counter with a sigh, Olivia grabbed a glass and took a drink of it. It was her way of not immediately answering the question. “No,” she answered, placing the glass back on the counter. “We did not hook up.”
“So nothing?” Heather asked with a frown.
“I’ll settle for me getting his number and trying not to vomit on him the day after a night of tequila bingeing.”
“Do you think he’ll call?” Dean asked, as he started to unload the bag he had carried into the kitchen.
Olivia shrugged her shoulders. “Who knows,” she lied. “I hope he does. You guys all seemed to like him.”
“But did you like him?” Dean answered, staring at her with his sky blue eyes.
“I do,” Olivia answered. “It was great hanging out with him yesterday?”
“Who did you hang out with?” Simon asked as he walked into the kitchen.
“Olivia met a boy,” Heather answered, opening the refrigerator and reaching into it. “Our little girl is growing up,” she added as she handed Simon a beer.
“When? Where? What’s he like? Is this why you missed my set?”
“I missed your set because I didn’t want my brain to ooze out of my ears,” Olivia answered, emptying the bag she had brought with her.
Simon threw his hand up to his chest with a look of hurt. “That stings,” he answered sarcastically. “And the answers to my other questions?”
Sighing, Olivia leaned against the counter with her wine glass. “I meet him at the bar the night you were playing. I had bad day. Apparently he had a bad day. Lea introduced us and that’s all she wrote.”
“Was Zane there?” Simon asked.
“What does that have to do with anything?” Dean asked.
“Was Zane there?” Simon asked again.
Olivia nodded and took a sip of her wine.
“And Zane met him?”
“Yes. Zane said he should buy us all a shot, but I dug my elbow in his side so he offered to buy them instead.”
“This dude’s a keeper!” Simon said with a raise of his beer. “Cheers baby doll.”
Olivia clinked her wine glass against Simon’s beer bottle, but wasn’t sure why she was cheering him. “Can you clarify your theory of why he’s a keeper?”
“Yes,” Heather added as she poured more wine into Olivia’s glass, “please clarify your theory.”
Simon chugged half the beer and then looked at his three friends. “Seriously, you need an explanation?”
The three friends only looked at Simon and then nodded in unison.
“Zane, who has always thought of himself as your protector and knight in shining armor.”
“What?” Olivia asked, interrupting Simon. “Knight in shining armor. I mean he’s protective at times, sometimes over protective.”
The front door of Dean’s opened and Thom walked in carrying a case of wine. “I hope you guys are ready to get your wino on,” he said, closing the door with his foot.
“Where’s Susan?” Heather asked. “She said she’s riding with you.”
“Zane called, said he and Ross needed a ride since they both had a few already.”
“And she jumped at the chance to be Ross’s chariot,” Olivia added.
“Zane would do the same for you,” Simon said, peeking into the box of wine Thom had carried into the kitchen.
“He so would,” Thom replied as he started to remove the bottles from the box.
“Do you know Simon’s theory?” Olivia asked.
“Don’t need too,” Thom answered. “Zane loves you.”
“But he bought drinks the other night for the boy toy,” Simon said to Thom.
Thom stopped what he was doing and closed his eyes. “Heather was collecting cocktail swords that night right?”
“That’s the night,” she answered.
“How many did you end up with?” Thom asked, continuing his removal of wine bottles.
“Twenty plus,” she answered, grabbing the white wines and putting them in the refrigerator.
“Can you continue with the theory Simon?” Dean asked. He looked at Heather. “What do you do with all those cocktail swords at the end of the night?”
“Currently in a bowl in my house,” she answered.
“The bowl sitting on top of the refrigerator?” Thom asked.
Heather nodded. “Why?”
“You used one of them didn’t you?” Dean asked.
The kitchen quickly filled with the sounds of five adults regressing into kindergarteners and then returned to adult laughter.
“So, my theory is the boy toy is the one!” Simon bellowed. When everyone fell silent, he continued, “As we all know that Zane secretly loves Olivia, and no, I’m not sure he even knows he loves you. He hung out and bought you and boy toy drinks. Does boy toy have a name by the way?”
“Gray,” Olivia answered.
“I told you it wasn’t Gary,” Dean said to Heather.
“Gray, Gary, Greg,” Heather replied with a shrug of her shoulders. “They all start with the same letter.”
“Zane approves or at least it seems he approves of Gary.”
“Gray,” Thom corrected.
“Gray, then,” Simon said. “Zane approves and he hates everyone in your life except for us so therefore I stand by my original statement of ‘the dude’s a keeper.’”
Sighing, Olivia put her wine glass down on the counter. “You’re on grill duty,” she replied. “And you’re an idiot if that’s all the proof you have for your theory.”
“You said you wanted clarification,” Simon said as he opened the refrigerator for another beer. “You didn’t say it had to be a great clarification.”
“I reject your theory and substitute my own,” Olivia said as she crossed her arms over her chest.
“And that is?”
“Zane was just being nice because I dug an elbow into his spleen.”
Simon nodded. “It could be that too.”
“So what happened with Gray?” Thom asked.
“They exchanged numbers,” Heather answered, “and he hasn’t called yet.”
“Don’t you dare wait around for three days either,” Dean advised. “You delete his number if he hasn’t called you by tomorrow night.”
“Fine,” Olivia answered, not wanting to share that they had been playing phone tag. She just didn’t want to have seven people give her advice on something when nothing was there.
“Here,” Ellie said, dropping a phone onto Gray’s chest.
“I already called her and left a message,” he answered, pushing the hammock into motion with one foot.
“I know,” she answered. “You’re light was blinking so I checked. You apparently missed her calling you back and it looks like she might have left you a message.”
Gray looked at Ellie. “You’re getting a big kick out of this aren’t you?”
His best friend nodded. “Oh yeah,” she answered, sitting down at the patio table near him. “It’s not often my little Gray tells me he likes someone.”
“I didn’t say I liked her.”
“You didn’t say you didn’t either.”
“Why do you always have to be right?”
“Because you and Chris are rarely near target.”
“So are you going to call her?” Ellie asked.
“If I remember correctly, you said under no circumstances do I call her drunk,” Gray answered.
“You’re remembering incorrectly,” Ellie replied. “I said under no circumstances do you text her and that no girl wants a drunk dial.”
“So I don’t have to call her.”
Ellie threw her feet into the chair in front of her. “You’re not drunk. And it’s killing you to know what she said on that voice mail.”
“Fuck you,” Gray answered and added a middle finger to his comment.
Ellie smiled and flipped him the bird back. “Go ahead and listen.”
Sighing, Gray closed his eyes and tried to ignore what Ellie said. Again, he knew she was right. He just didn’t want to admit it. “Will you grab me a beer?” he asked with his eyes still closed. When he heard the sliding glass door open and close, he opened his eyes and stared at his phone. Looking at his call log, he saw he had missed a call from Olivia and smiled to himself. Taking a deep breath, he dialed his voice mail and listened as Olivia’s voice filled his ears.
“What did she say?” Ellie asked as she handed Gray his beer.
“Tag you’re it,” he answered.
“It’s now or never solider.”
“Solider? I’m no solider,” Gray answered and drank his beer.
“You’re a solider in the war on love. And love is a battlefield according to Pat Benatar.”
Gray choked on his laugh and felt beer spray out of his mouth as he and Ellie started laughing hysterically. “You are never allowed to quote song titles again,” Gray said once he had stopped laughing.
“You have to admit, it was perfect timing.”
“Go in the house so I can call her. And call Chris, he’s probably distracted in the grocery store by the first hot chick he saw.” When Ellie was safely on the other side of the glass door, Gray dialed Olivia’s number and listened to the same ring back tone as before. Just as he was sure Olivia’s voicemail would pick up, a sniffled voice said, “Hello.”
“Olivia?” Gray asked.
“Hold on,” the voice said, “she’ll be right back.”
Before Gray could answer, he heard muffled noises in the phone and the sound of someone crying. He considered hanging up the phone, but then heard a door slam somewhere in the vicinity of the phone and prayed it was Olivia.
“Here,” the crying female said. “Someone’s on the phone for you.”
Gray recognized Olivia’s voice and felt his heart rejoice.
“I don’t know. I just answered it. I wasn’t thinking okay. I just found out the man I’ve been in love with for all these years is gay. My head’s not exactly in the right place.”
Olivia jerked the phone from Heather’s hand. “Hello.”
“Yeah,” she answered, immediately recognizing Gray’s voice. “Hi Gray.”
“How did you know it was me?”
“Your voice,” she answered, walking away from Heather and her whimpering sobs.
“Sounds like I called at a bad time. Do you want me to call you back?”
“It is a bad time, but I actually could use a distraction right now,” she answered as she walked to the far end of Dean’s backyard. Sitting down in one of the patio chairs, she looked at Heather and shook her head. “Sorry I missed your call.”
“It’s okay. I’m glad you called back.”
“So do you want to talk about the bad time you’re having?”
“Heather is just being over dramatic as usual.”
“Heather,” Gray replied, racking his brain for her image.
“Ah, I remember her now. So from what I heard her say, she found out the man she’s been in love with is gay?”
“Yeah. Of course she’s devastated, but in all the years she’s known him, she’s never once said anything to him. I mean it was starting to become obvious, but seriously. She’s such a drama queen.” Olivia sighed. “She’s been in relationships all this time and of course is like ‘why now when I’m single?”
Gray nodded and realized Olivia couldn’t see him or hear him nod. “She didn’t have a clue before hand?”
“None of them.”
“The crew,” Olivia answered.
“Yeah, plus Simon.”
“The bad singer.”
“That’s the one. Dean’s been in a committed relationship for what seems like forever. Everyone except Heather is cool.”
“But you knew before they did?”
Stretching her legs out, Olivia answered, “Yeah, Dean’s my best friend. I’ve know it for a long time.”
“I thought Zane was your best friend?” Gray asked, not sure if he wanted to hear any response to the question.
“No. Don’t get me wrong. We’re great friends, but do I tell him my deepest darkest secrets? God, no. They’d be splashed across the tabloids in seconds. He’s an overprotective friend.”
Gray wanted to agree, but opted not to. “I kind of got that when I first met him.”
“Did he make you uncomfortable?” Olivia asked, sitting up in the chair.
“A little,” Gray answered. “He had this looming presence that he’d probably crack my skull if I said one wrong word to you.”
“Then it’s true,” Olivia said, pulling her legs into the chair and tucking them under her body.
“What’s true?” Gray asked, sitting up in the hammock.
Olivia didn’t answer with Simon’s theory on Gray being a keeper, but said, “Simon said Zane had a crush on me.”
“Definitely,” Gray replied. He hit his head with his hand and held his breath.
“You think so too?”
Exhaling, he answered, “From an outside perspective only. I can see Simon’s point.”
“We’ve just always been big brother and little sister to each other. I’ve never thought any more than that.”
Inside Gray’s body, his heart jumped up and gave itself a high-five when it heard Olivia’s thoughts on Zane.
“I guess I’m going to have to talk to him.”
“That’s just going to embarrass him,” Gray said as he stood. He started pacing back and forth from the patio table to the hammock. “Did everyone know Heather liked Dean?”
“Just me. She let it slip one night when she was drunk.”
“And does everyone know Zane likes you?”
“He’ll be devastated. Worse than Heather.”
“Really?” Olivia asked.
“Yeah. Trust me. Outsider prospective and fellow male species.”
“Okay, I’ll take your advice. So anything exciting happening on your side of the world?”
Sitting down in a patio chair, Gray answered, “Afraid not. Just three friends grilling and hanging out.”
“That’s what was suppose to happen here, but with more people.”
“I’d offer to come rescue you,” Gray said, “but I’ve had a couple of beers.”
Olivia felt herself blush at Gray’s gracious response. “I’d leave myself but I’ve had a couple glasses of wine.”
“One day, we’ll have to converge the two groups. That way if all hell breaks loose at a party, we can help each other escape.”
Smiling, Olivia said, “I like that idea a lot.”
Gray felt her smiling through the phone. “I don’t want to keep you from Heather, so I better let you go.”
“I probably should go back to her,” Olivia said, hiding her sigh.
“Can I call you tomorrow?”
Olivia felt her face light up. “You sure can.”
“Tomorrow it is then.”
“Tomorrow it is.”
They both said goodbye and reluctantly hung up their phones. They were both impressed that the other actually said goodbye instead of instantly hanging up the phone, and though they were both excited by the shared phone call, they decided to keep it from their friends.
This page copyright © 2009 Shelia Taylor
All rights reserved | This is a rough draft and not the final version