“What do you think about combining forces?”
“Be each others rescuers from the drama that may or may not ensue?” Gray asked as he dropped himself into his desk chair.
“Exactly,” Olivia answered, smiling at the memory of him offering to come rescue her from Dean’s on their first phone conversation.
“I think it’s a great idea,” he replied as an instant message from Rosie popped on his monitor. “I hate to cut this conversation short, but there’s another call I have to take. I’ll make sure Ellie hasn’t prepared anything and then send you a message to let you know if we are in for sure.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
The two of them said their goodbyes before Gray switched lines. “So what do I owe this phone call to?” he asked his caller.
“Can’t a big sis just call and check in on her little bro?” Emma’s voice asked.
“What was it that you said the other day at lunch? I’ve got it, ‘of course a sister could, but we’re talking about you and you only call me when you’re dying to know the drama I’m in.’”
Emma laughed out loud.
Smiling, Gray added, “I took creative liberties of course.”
“So I heard. I was just calling to check in on you that’s all. See how things with you and Olivia were going or not going.”
Leaning forward onto his desk, he stared down at the keyboard in front of him. “It’s going,” he said. “I listened to your advice and then threw it completely aside and decided to go see her at her friend’s opening.”
“What good is my advice if you don’t take it?”
“Can I finish?”
Emma sighed. “You have the line.”
“Why aren’t we doing this face to face?”
“Because I’m sitting in an airport killing time before I board and you may be digging yourself an early relationship grave.”
“I’m going to continue now.”
“Please do so.”
Leaning back into his chair, Gray sighed. “Like I said, I went to the opening, but I never made it inside. I sat outside for a while just contemplating various reactions and scenarios of all the bad things that could happen, and then her friend Zane spotted me and talked to me. He gave me a nice verbal swift kick in the balls.”
“Interrupting here. What the hell does that mean?”
“In short, he told me not to be an idiot and that if I felt anything at all about Olivia, then I shouldn’t be a fool and let her get away no matter what any of my friends or her friends thought.”
“What happened when you went in?”
Switching phones to the other ear, Gray stared up at the ceiling. “I didn’t. I left. I drove around for a while and found myself unconsciously at Olivia’s. It was the second time it happened so I took it as a sign. I sat on her steps until she came home.”
“And then what happened?”
“I spilled my heart out to her. I told her everything that I was feeling at that moment and what I thought about us.” Gray heard Emma hold her breath on the other end of the line. “She asked me if I was gay because according to a friend of hers I haven’t tried to get into her pants.”
Laughing, Emma asked, “What was your response?”
“I told her it was very hard to be a gentleman around her at times.”
“You guys had sex didn’t you?”
“A gentleman never tells.”
“Congratulations on getting the girl back and hot damn for the sex. Well, I’m glad I called to check in on you. Seems that your sorry excuse for a love life isn’t as sorry as you thought it was.”
“No, it’s not,” Gray smiled. “We haven’t labeled whatever we have so whatever it is, it’s going great.”
“So how long have you and Gray known each other?” Heather asked as she and Ellie shoved bottles of beer into a cooler.
“Since college. So it’s been forever.”
“So you’re practically family.”
Closing the cooler, Ellie shook her head. “No. Not really. I mean Gray’s my best friend but I don’t even know the names of anyone in his family.”
“His sister is Emma. Her husband is Brian and their two twins are Caitlin and Dennis.”
“How do you know that?” Ellie asked, feeling a twinge of jealously enter her heart.
“Olivia told me,” she answered, breaking down the beer boxes. “You really didn’t know?”
Ellie shook her head. “Gray’s always been a private person. I don’t even think he told Chris that he and I dated once.”
“Really? Why wouldn’t he tell his other best friend? Did Chris like you?”
“No. I think it was because we only dated for maybe two weeks. We went on several dates but they were just awkward disasters and when he tried our first kiss, it was really like kissing my brother.” Sitting on the cooler, Ellie began to help Heather break down the last remaining boxes. “We immediately said friends only.”
“And that was it?”
Ellie nodded. “That was it.”
“At least you guys have your friendship,” Heather said and watched as a smile crawled across Ellie’s face. “I’m going to take these boxes to the recycle bin, will you be cool here by yourself? I don’t want you to think I’m bailing on you.”
“I’ll be fine. I need a glass of wine anyway.”
“Try the red with the parrot stopper. It is to die for.”
Watching Heather leave with the broken boxes, Ellie quickly scanned the crowd for Gray but didn’t see him so she just made her way to the wine table. Pouring herself a full glass, she took a sip and leaned against the table.
“So is that the wine with the parrot stopper?” Gray asked as he walked towards her.
“Sure is,” she answered, holding out her glass. “Did Heather tell you?”
Nodding, Gray took a sip of the wine and then handed the glass back to Ellie. “She’s right. It is to die for.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course,” Gray answered, pouring himself a glass of the same wine.
“What’s the name of your sister?”
“Emma,” he answered, turning to her. “Why?”
“Why did I have to find out from Heather? Who obviously found out from Olivia. I’ve known you since college and never knew your sister’s name until a few moments ago. You’ve known Olivia for a couple of weeks and she already knows. I’m little jealous.”
Leaning against the table with her, Gray took a drink of his wine. “It’s not like I didn’t tell you intentionally.”
“But she knows already.”
“She asked. You nor Chris has ever asked.”
Sighing, Ellie raised her glass to her lips and watched as Olivia walked towards them carrying a large box in her arms. “I didn’t know all it took was a question,” she said.
Gray didn’t know how to respond so he opted for silence with Ellie. “Do you need help?” he asked Olivia.
“Not at all,” she said, lowering the box onto the table. “I am more than use to carrying cases of wine to this table.”
“More wine?” Ellie asked.
Nodding, Olivia opened the top of the box. “We have more wine than we’ll be able to drink,” she said, “but we always like to be prepared here.”
Shaking her head, Ellie smiled. She did like Olivia and knew she was good for Gray so she let the fact that she knew his sister’s name slip from her mind. She didn’t want it to sour her friendship with Olivia. “Is that Chris?” she heard herself ask.
Looking up and past Olivia, Gray put his glass of wine on the table. “Who invited him?”
“I did,” Olivia answered, closing the box. “He’s the other half of your best friend duo.” Moving across the back yard to meet him half way, she hugged him. “I’m so glad you could make it.”
“Thanks for inviting me,” Chris replied, watching Gray lower his head. “I brought extra beer just in case.”
“You’re welcome and thanks,” she said looking at him. “Can I say something before you got talk to Gray and Ellie?”
“Thank you,” she said.
“For what?” Chris asked puzzled.
“For bringing me and Gray closer together.”
Nodding Chris smiled. “You’re welcome. Want to walk with me?”
“Of course,” Olivia said, hooking her arms into Chris’.
“She’s good,” Ellie said as she and Gray watched Olivia and Chris. “I mean she’s real good. I didn’t even expect that she would invite him.”
“Me neither,” Gray said as they walked towards him.
“Hey guys,” Chris said as they reached them.
“I’m going to go get you that beer you wanted,” Olivia said to Chris. “You guys introduce Chris to everyone. Especially Heather.”
“I can grab my own beer Olivia.”
“Yeah, he can grab his own beer,” Gray added.
“Nonsense. What kind of host doesn’t get the first drink?” Before another word could be said, Olivia spun on her heels and left the three of them.
“Who’s that?” Heather asked as she walked towards her.
“Chris and come with me,” she said, grabbing Heather’s arm.
“Just come with me and give them a moment.”
“So Olivia called you?” Ellie asked.
“Yeah,” Chris answered, shoving his hands into the pockets of the hoodie he was wearing. “Rosie patched her through. I thought it was a mistake but she said it wasn’t.”
“What did you guys talk about out there?” Gray asked, pointing his chin towards the center of the back yard.
“I thanked her for inviting me and told her I brought extra beer even though she told me not to bring anything. She also thanked me for bringing you guys closer. I said you’re welcome and we walked over here.”
“She said thank you?” Gray asked, swirling the wine in his glass.
Chris nodded. “I don’t know what she meant by it. She just said thank you.”
Looking up at Chris, Gray nodded. “She’s right. Thank you for bringing us closer,” he said and patted him on the arm.
“What are you two staring at?” Zane asked, peering over Olivia and Heather’s shoulder.
“No idea,” Heather answered, turning her back to the window and leaning against the counter.
“Gray and Chris,” Olivia answered. “Um, they’ve been sort of fighting.” Hope filled her heart when she saw Gray speak to Chris. “I invited Chris but didn’t tell Gray.”
“Be prepared for two options,” Zane said as he watched the men. “One, Gray will be mad at you for inviting him and not telling him or two, Gray will be mad at you for inviting him.”
“Did I fuck up some bro code?” Olivia asked, looking at Zane.
“Nah, guys are way more level headed than women. You women will immediately start that quiet little cat fight that turns into a big cat fight and guys will make awkward small talk but be civil towards each other.”
“Come on Heather,” Olivia said straightening herself. “I’m going to have to salvage what I can.”
“Why does that involve me?”
“I want you to meet Chris. I told him when I met him the first night, that I thought you guys would get along.”
Blushing, Heather felt herself smile. “Really?”
“What about me?” Zane asked, putting his arm around her.
“I’m sure Ellie would eat you up and then spit you out,” she said, putting her arm around his waist.
“Sweet,” he replied with a fist pump. “Let’s go so you can introduce us to potential heartache.”
Taking a deep breath, she smiled. “I take no blame if it is disastrous in the end.”
Heather and Zane looked at each other and then at Olivia. “We’re cool with that,” they said in unison and then followed her outside.
Sitting down next Gray, Olivia put her head on his shoulder. “I think I might be a little drunk,” she said, watching as Dean, Zane, Heather, Ellie, and Chris played a sloppy game of tag football.
“I think we all are,” he replied, slipping his arm around her.
“Are you upset that I invited Chris without telling you?” she asked, resting her glass of water on his leg.
“No. Not now.”
“But you were?”
Watching the same game she was watching, Gray laughed as Ellie fumbled the ball. “I can’t believe she’s playing,” he said first. “She hates all things that require physical exertion, and I wasn’t really mad at you. Then I remembered that you suggested that I thank him so I did. It didn’t make feel any less angry at him for whatever he said to you, but it made me feel better about him being here.”
“I didn’t mean to meddle. That really wasn’t my intention. I just know how dear your friends are to you and how dear my friends are to me. It just didn’t seem right that they would meet without them all being here.”
Gray kissed Olivia on top of the head. “I have to agree with Ellie when she said you were real good. Neither one of us expected you to reach out or to even think about Chris.”
Looking up at him, she quickly kissed him. “I had to thank him for bringing us closer together,” she smiled.
“Hey love birds,” Thom yelled. “Get a room or get in the game.”
Standing and pulling Olivia to her feet, Gray said, “As much as I’d rather get a room with you right now, I’m sure if we didn’t get in the game, they’d kick our ass.”
This page copyright © 2009 Shelia Taylor
All rights reserved | This is a rough draft and not the final version