The Ex-Factor

In just a few hours my flight for New York was about to set off, and I was in my room in the middle of packing. The worst part of packing wasn’t having to do the labour, it was the indecisiveness. The more indecisive one was, the drearier it was to pack. Obviously New York was going to be sunny, but I always seemed to pack a coat just in case; and that coat was the least of my baggage. Will and I hadn’t really spoken since our last little meeting, and I still was unsure on whether or not I wanted to date him. I mean, he had everything down pact: good looks, charm, successful, smart, he loves jazz, (and I have to put in Kayla because even though I met her once, she was the most enjoyable person to be around at a party in a while; and that says something!). So because Will had so many good qualities, I figured that the issue lied with me. I was the one holding myself back.

At first I passed it off as an age thing, then the daughter thing, then maybe he just lost whatever spell he had over me; but then I realised, these were all excuses. My excuses. On top of that, my excuses weren’t exactly things Will could snap his fingers at and change in an instant. Not that I’m complaining, it’s just that I realised that maybe Will and I were just cut out to have a professional relationship. But then again, I still haven’t been treated to a date with him.

“I can’t believe you’re going to New York,” Chloe said as she sat on my bed, sipping a glass of wine.

Chloe seemed to drink wine more in the heat than any other season. She told us that it seemed to strengthen the taste of the wine. I think it’s a cover up for the real reason: wine mixed with the heat just makes Chloe loopy, or hazy; a state of mind she enjoys rather frequently.

“Just checking out the sites,” I said absentmindedly. I had been deciding between a bright orange jumpsuit and a natural flowing floral dress.

“Yes, but I’ve never heard of someone checking out the sites with the intentions of possibly living there. I mean, we all know what New York is like. You don’t have to hitch a ride to know what’s there. Plus, it ain’t that great of a place.”

I smiled, my back turned to Chloe, facing the closet. “You don’t think New York’s amazing?”

I heard Chloe take a sip, the sucking sound ringing in the vacant air. “I mean, if you’re into smelly streets, a high crime rate, and mean people, sure why not?”

I rolled my eyes. “There’s a certain amount of crime rates and mean people everywhere, I can’t avoid them forever.” I sighed and then sat on the bed next to Chloe. “If I do choose New York, I need you to be supportive, because I won’t be able to do the move without you guys.” Chloe’s eyes focused as I spoke. “You, Jodie and Janet are the people I need to say that I can do this,” I continued, “even if that means you don’t agree with it or don’t want me to go or whatever the case. I just need that kick in the butt from you guys.”

Chloe stilled. I could practically hear the cogs turning and the light beginning to shine in the chains of her mind. The dawn of a new kind of love began to peek at the horizon, almost resinating the same sense of love a mother has to her child when she’s proud. And then a smile slowly crept its way onto her lips. She nudged her chin in the direction of the closet. “Take both the jumpsuit and the dress.”

I grinned and then grabbed her face, pulling her towards me. I laid a rough kiss on her forehead and then hopped up. Jumpsuit and dress it is!

***

After I checked myself into the hotel, I called up Adam. We were on good terms with each other, and I couldn’t think of a better person to spend the time I had in New York. I considered ringing him up before I left so I could stay over with him instead of booking myself a hotel room, but I figured a hole burned into my purse was better than the awkwardness that would probably ensue considering the history.

Adam and I decided to meet at a coffee shop he told me about. I got in a bit early, smelling the fresh beans and listening to the clatter of other patrons. In the corner of the shop, a woman was reading a non-fiction book, in another end, someone was tapping away on their laptop. I wondered if they were both working, and if they ever switched off. That was one of my concerns if I ever got lucky enough to be selected for my dream job: if I’d ever be able to switch off.

The doorbell of the coffee shop entrance rang, taking me out of my dream-like state, and I turned my attention. I smiled widely as soon I saw it was Adam and then stood to hug him.

“You look amazing,” Adam said.

I was wearing the jumpsuit. “Thanks. Didn’t think I’d be brave for it.”

“You have to always wear something like that. Always.”

We laughed as my cheeks went bright red.

“So,” I started, “I basically dropped down in New York to check out some publishing houses. Places that I’d possibly be interested in. I’ve got the addresses, but I figured, who better a city guide than my very own best friend.”

Adam pointed at himself. “Moi?”

We laughed again. “Indeed,” I said. “Are you up for it?”

Adam nodded. “Of course, but only on one condition.”

I braced myself. “What is it?”

“We hit a bar tonight, to wind down. I have a feeling this is going to be a long day.”

I grinned. “Agreed.”

***

I wanted nothing more than to wear my fashionable wedges seeing as how it gave me height and made my legs look better. Somewhere in the middle of the day though, my feet could set a village of 1000 thread count sheets on fire, and I had to swap them for a pair of flats that completely changed how I look. I didn’t wear heels that often, but I read somewhere that if you’re going to try those Louboutins six inches out on the town, you can practise with wedges first. That gave me the impression that wedges were even more comfortable. But then I gave it time. Adam was even laughing at me once we had to take the detour to flat-ville.

I was so glad when Adam suggested the night out though, even if my feet were partially burning, because he was on point: we did need some winding down. He picked me up in a cab and then we sailed off to a destination I had no idea about. All I needed to know really, was that they were serving drinks.

“Here we are,” Adam said as we pulled up onto the curb.

Even from the outside we could tell it was bustling on the inside. People were coming and going, and I wanted my hands on some delectable liquids! As soon as we got in, I noticed first and foremost, the range of people. Mostly people in their twenties or thirties, and most were really fashionable. I couldn’t keep my eyes off how different it was from L.A. Even the night seemed darker in New York.

Adam had invited Janine, a publicist that apparently always wore her brunette hair in a ponytail and glasses; and Tom, a handsome young salesman with jet black hair that sharply contrasted with his creamy white skin. Both as high-flying as Adam seemed to be, so we spot them taking up a seat at one of the tables. We sat down after Adam introduced me.

“This place is packed!” Tom said.

“I know,” Adam replied. “I can barely hear myself think.”

“This is why you carry ear plugs,” Janine joked. “Just in case.”

Tom turned to me and Adam. “What do you guys want to drink?”

All I was in the mood for was cold water with some ice. After the strange looks I received from both Janine and Tom, Tom left. I guess I had it coming, especially after I was fishing for drinks all day and at the end arrived in a bar ordering water instead. I didn’t consider the crowd, and suddenly I was hotter than usual and I needed ice!

When Tom came back, the conversation started picking up between the three of them. I knew Adam had a life here, but I didn’t realise how much of a life he had. I don’t mean to sound condescending but, it was like discovering an exotic creature and watching it prosper, make a name for itself. The three of them leaned into each other, throwing their heads back whenever they laughed loudly, and gesturing animatedly whenever they were recounting an anecdote.

I had been treading the waters of daydreaming when I started to hear a familiar voice behind me that I couldn’t quite place. At first I thought it was just no one, my mind playing tricks on me, or maybe just someone that sounded like someone I knew that wasn’t present at the moment. But as the voice continued on, I became increasingly curious. I thumbed through the pages of my memories until it seemed all too impossible to me. But then…I didn’t blink once when I realised who it was. My heart was racing, my skin crawling. It felt like the heat was surging through the blood of my veins more viciously than before. Adam’s voice, along with Janine’s and Tom’s, began fading as I turned my head slowly. And there he was. Looking fine than ever before in his suit. Groomed to perfection, and with those heart-melting swoon-inducing dimples of his. It was Daniel.

He caught a glimpse of me staring at him, and just when I turned away and then back again. He was staring more intently. His smile froze, and then lost in the realisation that I was there too. Reflexively, I stood, sliding my chair far out; just as I had done so, though, I knocked into a waitress carrying a tray of drinks, most of them beer. Some of the glasses sounding like they were already broken as they fell. And guess where it all went.

The room silenced as I gasped sharply, now covered in the stench of beer and humiliation. Above all, my back, near the shoulder blade, was stinging.

“Oh my god,” the waitress said as she got to her feet, “I—I’m so, so sorry.”

“It’s fine,” I whispered with the little breath I had.

“I’ll get a towel for y—you,” she stammered. “You can go to the bathroom and dry yourself off there and I’ll be right with you. Oh my God, you’re bleeding.”

Now I get the stinging. “It’s fine.”

I managed a smile. This girl was so sweet that I did as she suggested. When I looked behind me before I disappeared into the bathroom, Daniel had moved away from his group and closer towards me.

I turned to see my back in the mirror to find a couple scratches. The crimson was dripping down, mingling with the beer. Thirty seconds after staring in shock-horror, the waitress flew in, holding a wet cloth and a dry one.

“I’m so sorry,” she said again.

I tried smiling politely, only to calm this girl down. I understand her position because if it were me, I’d be apologising as much as she was. But I knew how sorry this girl was and I really didn’t want her to think it was the worst thing (even though my back was burning!). At least Daniel being there was distracting me.

She dabbed me with the wet cloth first, and then placed the dry one, holding it in place. I winced at the pressure, but I didn’t know if she was doing the right thing so I didn’t stop her.

“You definitely need to go to the hospital,” she said, looking at me in the reflection of the mirror where I noticed her eyebrows were raised and lines were collecting on her forehead.

I nodded. “I think so too. You’ve been very helpful, thank you.”

“If you like, I can escort you there.”

I considered her offer for a moment, but then remembered Adam. “That’s alright. I’ve got someone.”

My heart rate was beginning to slow, the sweat on my skin was beginning to dry, and the sting was beginning to subdue. Every sensation was calming down, and once I took a breath in and then out, I felt that I could finally step out. The waitress, holding up the dry cloth on my back, insisted that it be kept there as she followed me.

“Oh,” I gasped when I was about to run into both Adam and Daniel.

They were waiting outside for me, beside each other, where the only exit out of this small hallway was.

“Are you okay?” they both asked at the same time. They looked at each other dubiously, and then turned back to me.

“I’m fine,” I said, unable to keep my eyes off Daniel.

“She needs to go to the hospital,” the waitress said.

“I’ll take you,” they both said again.

Each of them sighed, frustrated.

“I’ll call a cab,” Adam said.

“I got a driver,” Daniel followed after.

I stared at the two while the waitress waited patiently, keeping her stance. The men’s lips tight. I was stuck in the middle, between the Californian Soul, the Ex-Factor and a hard place.

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14 thoughts on “The Ex-Factor

  1. Yes, this visit to New York sounds interesting! I am not surprised she ended up seeing both the boys. Yes, I think she should go w Adam to the hospital. Daniel just doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy. After the phone conversation Anna had with Daniel’s mom, I just don’t think too highly of Daniel. Maybe she can find a nice looking single surgeon to stitch up her arm!
    Thanks though for spicing it up a bit!

  2. OMG! I thought the Ex- Factor was probably the song you were going for. I seemed to make sense. 🙂 talk about a cliff hanger! I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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