***Hi everyone! Here is the big reveal; the BONUS post! This one is one of my favourite posts I’ve ever written. I’ve got some golden lines in this post; and I literally teared up writing the last line! Part 1 and Part 2 are titled as the two titles into one of this post, respectively. Part 1 is dedicated to Lynds who emailed me to be featured in my blog (I hope you like your character Lynds!). Thank you to all who voted, I think it’s the most anyone has ever voted on one of my polls. I hope this is a fine decision, even for the people who didn’t get what they voted for. P.S. To unlock all 3 songs, comment with 1-3 songs that remind you, or you think suits, this or any 1-3 posts in the blog! Take it from me, you’ll want to read the last scene with these 3 amazing songs playing in the background! Without further ado, I hope you all enjoy this (massive) BONUS post! Soul xo***
“Daniel,” I blurted, shifting my gaze between Johnny and the unknown girl, almost wishing that we were alone. “What are you doing here?”
Daniel had his hands stuffed in his jacket pockets. His hair was well groomed, and he actually shaved from last time I saw him. Stubble was appearing quickly; he wasn’t shaving every day. I guess it’s hard trying to get back into the groove.
He seemed just as thrown off balance as I was. “We’re just…trying to cheer me up.” His eyes flickered over to Johnny. “Who’s this guy?”
Johnny scooted closer and put his arm over my shoulder. “I’m her date; we’ve been dating for a while now.”
WHAT!? Why would he say that!? This is not supposed to happen. Not like this; what if Daniel actually believed him. What if he actually thought I’d move on that quickly? Okay, so it’s been a few months since we broke up, but I didn’t want to have a faux-date post-death-in-the-family.
“Who’s this?” Johnny jut out his chin at the woman in the corner; her lips shut tight.
Why did they have to be so mean to each other, right off the bat? Do men just naturally feel compelled to hate on each other when I’m involved?
“This is Lindsay—”
“Lynds,” she corrected, a polite smile setting on her lips.
“Yeah, Lynds,” Daniel said. “She’s a friend.”
I immediately looked at Lynds to anticipate her reaction when he said ‘friend’. Had it been left of centre (who knows, maybe he was sugar coating for me) she would have felt some sort of burn. But I stared at a cool and calm gaze. She was half Asian and half something else; I didn’t know what, possibly British. She had waist length dark brown hair that looked black. Just like mine; raven. I couldn’t exactly see her body; it was dark and everyone was wearing heavy clothes to battle the cold, so I couldn’t get a good view of how tall she was or how thin she was. If she were a skinny model, I may as well jump off the wheel right now.
Lynds looked incredibly young, but there was something about her that made me think she was older than she let on. Her demeanour, the way she sat and carried herself, made me feel like she might even be older than Daniel. What’s worse was that she was beautiful. If Daniel really was dating her (although maybe not considering her laid back reaction to being called a friend), it would be one helluva shock to my ego.
“So how long have you guys been dating?” Daniel asked, masking a laugh by contorting his lips tight into his mouth.
I narrowed my eyes in thought, wondering what he thought and what that reaction was. Just when I was about to say we were just friends, Johnny jumped in.
“Oh, about, a couple of months.”
Daniel nodded. Coughing out a chuckle. “A couple of months, huh?”
Johnny narrowed his eyes. “Give or take.”
Daniel laughed, shaking his head. “Give or take,” he muttered.
Johnny shifted in his seat when we were situated at the top of the wheel. We had the most beautiful view, overlooking Coney Island; the lights glittering and swarming in a blaze of amusement and joy around us. Johnny looked down at his feet; seemingly forgetting about present company as his breathing got irregular.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m fine.”
“Are you afraid of heights?” Lynds said, grinning. They were the first few words that came out of her mouth throughout this entire conversation, and they were coated in amusement.
“No,” Johnny said through clenched teeth, hating the negative attention.
“If I knew I would have picked another ride,” I said. “Sorry.”
Johnny smiled and turned to me as if nothing happened. “It’s okay, babe.” He leaned in to kiss me, but I turned my head down and away as if I just discovered the floor, and his kiss landed on my cheek.
Johnny then grinned at Daniel. Daniel removed all traces of humour; his jaw ticking as he stared back at Johnny.
“Hey, Lynds,” I said, “do you mind if we switch? I haven’t seen Daniel since the wake and I thought I could sit and chat with him.”
Daniel’s face brightened then.
“What?” Johnny blurted, his face riddled with lines of confusion. The corner of his mouth lifted by his twitching cheeks.
I shrugged, acting blasé. “What?”
Don’t be what-ting me! You’re the one that’s crazy acting like we’re dating here. Who does that, honestly? If there was anything that I needed to tell Daniel, then I wanted to tell him on my own terms, not someone else’s.
“We’re going to a bar after this,” Lynds said, her voice cutting through the distance and awkward silence, “did you want to come?”
“Oh, no thanks, we’re actually going—”
“Yes! Sure, right after this? Yeah, I’m down,” I beamed, interrupting Johnny.
Johnny scoffed, rolling his eyes and lifting his arm from my shoulder. “Yeah,” he said, putting his hands in his pockets, “I think I’ll join you, too.”
“Just tell me one thing, Anna,” Johnny said as we trudged along the ice-cold sidewalk, “what in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I said, lifting my hands up in the air way too animatedly. “What was all that business about us dating?”
“First of all,” he said, his index finger raised, “you’d be lucky to have me. I don’t like that tone.”
I grabbed his annoying finger and held it firmly; Johnny quickly wobbled it out of my grasp. “You are starting to get on my nerves and I don’t want to hear the second point. You have no points. None!”
Lynds and Daniel were walking just a little way ahead of us. They were deep in their own conversations, and it seemed like they weren’t listening. Although, I could never really tell with Daniel; and this new girl might have the delicate hearing of a bat!
“I’m trying to help you here,” Johnny said.
“Help me? HA!”
We all turned the corner and were just about to enter a bar when I found Johnny absent beside me. I stopped and turned back, he was standing in the middle of the sidewalk, most of his weight on one foot and his arms hanging on his sides. If I wasn’t so mad at him right now, I would have said something about that model-like pose he was inflicting on me.
“Are you coming?” Daniel asked, holding the door open for me.
I sighed. “Can you give me a minute? Please?”
“I know, I know. Just a minute,” I said, giving him a reassuring smile.
I bounced off back to Johnny, hoping to myself he wasn’t going to be a Derek-repeat.
I slowed my walk as I approached him. “I know you’re trying to help,” I sighed, my voice sounding much calmer. Less attack and more communicative. “I know. But it’s not what I wanted. I didn’t want to shock him with random news like that.”
“I’m just wondering if you’re even going to tell him at this point.”
I remained silent.
Johnny chuckled without humour. “Really? After all that?”
“Why are you even so invested in this?”
“Because I’ve been through it before. I know how this movie ends. No one comes out alive. Instead, you just come out more stupid than ever. Self-deprecating; unreasonable; a slump of voided conversations and memories. Memories are harder to make than to destroy; don’t waste your life with someone you know is a dead end.”
I stood there, shaking my head. “You just don’t know him. And you don’t know me. Why don’t you just quit it?”
“This—this whole charade you keep up to fix everyone but yourself. You think everyone wants you to butt in their lives well they don’t. You’re just making it harder for them.”
“You’re talking about Paul now, aren’t you?”
I sighed. “I just don’t think he—we, I don’t think we need a babysitter. No offence.”
“It’s not that we—well, I guess I can’t really speak for Paul so, I—it’s not that I don’t appreciate your help, it’s just that it might be unwarranted sometimes.”
Johnny stared at me, in unflinching silence, then finally inserted his hands into his pockets. “You’re right,” he paused, “you can’t speak for Paul. So don’t. And by all means, go for round three with hunk of junk over there. See if I care.”
“Johnny!” I called as he walked away.
He waved his hand over his shoulder. “Go fetch, Anna. Leave me out of it. Oh,” he turned, “and don’t expect open arms once you come crawling back to me and my unwarranted help.”
I slouched; there was just no pleasing anyone. Or was I at fault here? Johnny always had a strong sense of character about him. His sense of self was definitive, not misleading, destroyed by drugs and founded on its crumbling devastation. I can see why he was so passionate about making me see what he sees; feel what he felt; realise what he thinks I’m blind to. I understood that it was because he had wasted so much of his life, that he didn’t want the same to happen to people he loved and cared about deeply. Which kind of made me the asshole when you think about it. Behind all the control, there was experience driving the wheel; memories in fluctuation in and out of his mind; flashbacks and flash-forwards between what was and what could have been. He regrets so much, and I know with all his heart and might, he doesn’t want anyone else to live with as much regret as he has.
Yet it’s for that same exact reason that I couldn’t turn away from the bar. I couldn’t turn away from Daniel. I didn’t want to regret as much as Johnny did; and for whatever reason he couldn’t see it, I knew I needed to at least speak to Daniel. I needed to be in his presence. To remember good times; throwback every day; to a time when I smelled breakfast brewing when I passed out on his bed; when a simple wink sent shivers down my spine; in the sweet swimming into seasons of spring and summer, under the Venice Beach moonlights and lullabies. Basking in memories of him trusting me so; where I trusted him so.
My mother had once told me to always trust a man with your life, but never with your secrets. I have come to realise, with all the men in my life coming, going and staying, Daniel was the only one I could ever trust with both my life and secrets.
But I could never forgive myself for holding him back; for holding him down. It takes two to break up, but for most of the time, I feel almost entirely responsible. Which is why I had to let him go once and for all; even if that meant I had to hurt him, to lie to him, to make him realise that he’d be much happier without me.
“Hey,” I said to Lynds, sitting at the bar, “where’s Daniel?”
“He went off to the bathroom.”
“Where’s—umm, the other guy. Sorry I forgot his name.”
“Oh, he had something to do.”
“Was it an emergency?”
“No,” I shook my head, smiling politely, “no, nothing like that.”
“Well, because if it was for an emergency,” Lynds said, “then I can understand why he didn’t say goodbye to us.”
I hadn’t pegged this girl as fresh hatred; but her challenging Johnny’s actions and my explanations wasn’t giving me any relief. She stared at me, waiting expectantly for an answer. I stared back with nothing coming to mind. I had no words; no thoughts; nothing. It was blank up there. And I didn’t know if it was a good thing that I couldn’t talk and dig myself a deeper hole; or that it was just involuntary testimony to a lie that I sucked at telling.
“You know, I don’t really know why he had to leave,” I said, shrugging. “He never explained it to me. I can get back to you though if you like.”
Lynds laughed, throwing me off. Somehow I retained my bitch face sarcasm on. I sighed, wondering if I had to make another enemy or not. She didn’t come off as a bad person; but she didn’t come off as warm reception either. I think it was a protective thing; everyone was just protective of each other’s friend tonight. Johnny with me; and now Lynds with Daniel. Here’s hoping it wasn’t overly vicious protective.
I know Daniel has gone through some changes; some voluntary, others imposed on him unexpectedly. There’s a good chance he may not be the Daniel I once knew; but there’s also a good chance that that may not necessarily be a bad thing. I don’t know what happened in Egypt; I don’t know how office dynamics shifted after he turned the job down and remained in New York; ultimately, I don’t know how Jade’s death changed him. What he said at the wake, to me, was that I was his only family, that he never gives up on family, and ever since then I had been repeating those sweet luscious words in my mind over and over and over again.
“So who was that guy?” Daniel came up from behind me, startling me. He chuckled. “Sorry.”
“Johnny is like the first guy I met in New York. I think. Or one of.”
“How long have you been dating?” Lynds asked, trying to make a point.
They both waited for an answer, but I couldn’t give one. I didn’t want to keep up the charade.
“How have you been?” Daniel quickly interceded, changing the subject and inevitably saving me from an awkward exchange.
I swivelled around in my chair to face him. My back was turned on Lynds and I felt like the biggest bitch, but I just wanted to see and talk to Daniel.
I sighed. “How have you been?”
“I’ll live,” Daniel nodded. Then stopped short, his brows angling downwards. “That is a weird expression to use about what we’re talking about.”
I chuckled with him. “I’m fine, too. I’ve actually been meaning to talk to you.”
Daniel shifted his weight, his eyes brightening. “Oh really?” I nodded. He grabbed my hand, making me jump off the stool as he led me outside the bar. “Where do you want to go?”
“Hey,” Lynds came out of the bar, panting a little, “where are we going?”
Daniel and I looked between each other and her. Then Daniel turned and hailed a cab. “We’re calling it a night, Lynds. Let’s go.”
“Where are we going?” I finally asked, just as confused as Lynds was at this point.
“Lynds’ place is on the way to my apartment,” Daniel explained. “We can drop her off first, and then head out ourselves.” He turned to Lynds. “If that’s okay with you.”
I thought Daniel and I were done for when he gave Lynds the option to say it wasn’t okay. She could have said anything, she could have said that she didn’t want to be ditched, and her reasons would have been legitimate. Momentarily, she contemplated while her attention shifted between Daniel and I. She landed on me in the end, a hint of smile buckling the corner of her lips, and said it was fine.
When Daniel turned away, I mouthed a ‘thank you’. She nodded once, and then we all hopped into the cab.
“You’re paying though,” Lynds half-joked, smacking Daniel on his shoulder.
Daniel laughed. “Gladly.”
Immediately after we entered Daniel’s apartment, Daniel headed straight for his iPod dock playing three songs set on repeat. His apartment was warm, and much more than I could afford to pay on my own. I wonder how he managed. I’m not saying it was penthouse material, but it wasn’t exactly a shack every start-up New Yorker typically has. Although, he has been around here a lot longer than me. And he was offered a promotion in Chicago; maybe there had been an alternative for him here in New York.
We took our jackets off, placing them on the coat rack. “Did you want something to eat or drink?” Daniel asked from the kitchen.
I hadn’t thought about the fact that I hadn’t eaten at all today, that I didn’t even realise I had an appetite. But I didn’t want it to be romantic. Scallops and wine; chocolate mousse and sunsets; I had to steer clear from that.
“I don’t mind any leftovers if you’ve got any,” I offered.
Daniel grabbed a bottle of wine and two glasses. Then brie cheese, crackers, slices of apples and grapes; putting the assortment on a board and placing it over the kitchen counter. “Do you still eat at the kitchen?”
I smiled, nodding. Daniel and I had done this often; eating at the kitchen. I don’t know why I like eating standing up so much, or sitting on the kitchen stool, but it always created some sort of strange ambience. It made eating the food more enjoyable; conversations more creative and fun; in-depth and connecting. I later turned Daniel on to standing up at the kitchen, and became our weird thing. Once. A long time ago.
“Do you normally sit down on a stool or stand?”
“Umm,” I thought, “I think I’ll sit down at the stool for now.”
Daniel smiled. “I’ll stand then.”
“Look at you, taking me to France with this,” I pointed at the board and wine.
Daniel laughed. “I know how much you like brie cheese.”
“I wasn’t just talking about the cheese,” I said, my heart thudding at my obvious suggestion of romance.
Daniel looked at me and I had to turn away from his gaze, biting my lip, forcing myself to come up with something else to say.
“So how come that Johnny character was pretending you guys were dating?” Daniel popped an apple and cheese into his mouth.
I followed suit; relaxing more and attacking the cheese first. He knew me too well. ”How did you know he was lying?”
Daniel shrugged. “What can I say, it’s a gift.”
“No really. How?”
Daniel smiled. “I just know you wouldn’t do that to me. Move on so quickly.”
I tore me attention away from him and attacked the wine. My lips trembled slightly, giving way for a slight stream of wine onto my white V-neck shirt.
“Ah, shit,” I said, hopping off the stool. “Ah, crap.”
Daniel laughed through his nose. “Come to the sink.”
I did as he said and waited as he fished out baking soda from the pantry. I grinned. “Well, now, I didn’t realise I went home with Mary Poppins.”
This time Daniel laughed out loud with me. “Shut up; baking soda fixes everything.”
While Daniel was making a baking soda paste, I ran hot water from the tap, stretching out my shirt so that the water could reach the stain. I rubbed the fabric in with itself, wondering if that was the best thing to do at this point.
“Okay, let me see if this works,” Daniel said.
“You’re experimenting on me?”
Daniel grinned. “Maybe. I kind of forgot how this goes. So umm,” he paused, hesitantly; a slight change in the mood, “I’m going to put my hand underneath your shirt, just to apply the paste easily. Is that okay?”
His lashes were long, eyes brown and sweet, staring at me. I nodded. We were facing each other when Daniel ran a hand underneath, careful not to stroke my skin and I secretly wishing he did. Then he scrunched up a handful of my shirt, pulling me closer into him until there was barely any room to move between us.
“Is this okay still?” Daniel asked again, in a quiet voice.
I nodded, clearing my throat. “It’s fine.”
Daniel dipped the toothbrush into the paste and then began brushing my shirt. “So what did you want to talk to me about?”
I could have slept on his shoulder right now. “Huh?”
“Before at the bar, you said you wanted to talk to me?”
“Oh yeah, right,” I breathed. “It was stupid.”
“Okay,” I said, “I was going to tell you that I didn’t love you.”
Daniel smiled, but then quickly erased it from his lips. “Why would you want to do that?”
“To make you happy.”
He started chuckling, and when my words registered as I said them out loud, I joined him. “What a strange paradox,” he said, finishing the paste but still holding out my shirt.
“I was undecided.”
He brushed a strand away from my face. “About what?”
“On whether to tell you the truth or not.”
“And was that the truth? That you don’t love me anymore?”
I shook my head. “You know I’m the worst liar, even to myself.”
He laughed a breathy laugh. “I do.”
“You’re enjoying this.”
He grinned. “I am.” I smiled, resting my head on the side of his neck, closing my eyes. “So what do you want to do now?” he asked.
I opened my eyes and pulled back. “Wash my shirt out.”
Daniel smiled and gave way for the sink. I began scrubbing and scrubbing, but the stain wouldn’t come out. Although, it’s fair to say I didn’t put my back into it and put any effort into my scrubbing.
I began feeling Daniel’s body pressing up against me from behind. And then his hands on my waist, holding me there. The water continued to run, but I had stopped scrubbing. Then Daniel switched the tap off. He intertwined my hands with his as they rested on top of the counter; kissing me up my neck, my hair swiped all to the other side.
“You suck as Mary Poppins,” I whispered, smiling.
Daniel laughed into my ear, slightly biting it. “I’ll buy you a new shirt.”
I squeezed his hands tightly while he lay trickles of tingles upon my skin. His hands unravelled from mine and then moved onto my waist, and up.
“Daniel,” I whispered, “Daniel, wait. Wait.” I turned around, and he stared at me. “What if it doesn’t work out? I know everyone says third time’s the charm, but what if it isn’t? What if the first two were enough to make us realise that we don’t belong?”
Daniel started laughing. “It’s not possible.”
“How can you be so sure?”
Daniel paused, leaned in to plant a kiss in the hollow at the base of my neck and then stood back up. “Have you ever heard of ‘Plato’s Symposium’?” I shook my head. “Well, long story short, as far as I can recall, Plato got a group of about seven men—great philosophers—for a dinner or drinks, and to discuss love, recording the conversations and speeches that arose. They ascertained that living in love was the closest you can be to living in immortality. And they weren’t talking about living forever, they mean living without limitations. Now, I’ve never felt like that when I was with Tanya. I had been in love with her, yes; at one sad little puppy dog point in my life. But no one—no one—has ever made me feel like I can do anything like you have. You make me live without limits; you bring me to life with your presence alone. If it were for the fact that you didn’t love me, then I’d let us go; but I know you love me as much as I love you. Who gives a fuck if it’s the third time or the hundredth?” I giggled with him while he stroked an escaped tear. “My desires, wants, needs; they all come back full circle to you because I love you.”
He kissed me softly. “I love you,” he kissed me again, “I love you…”
I wrapped my hands around his neck and kissed him back. “I love you, too.”
My words seemed to have unlocked something inside of him and he lifted me up. My legs wrapping tightly around his waist as he walked to his bedroom. We undressed each other at a pace that wasn’t too fast or too slow, as if this was an exact speed a cosmic fate had intended.
“I love you, Daniel,” I said again.
Daniel smiled, reflecting my own. “I love you, too, Anna.”
He kissed every spot his fingers traced and I wriggled underneath his touch. It was almost as if we were picking up we where we left off; no time had passed. Yet we still had things to talk about; to sort out. All the talking can be done later though. No rush.
Daniel positioned himself between my legs, stroking me before he filled me up. I gasped at just how much I missed this. His thrusts moved slow at first, and then picked up. We kissed each other; he licked my nipples; I squeezed his ass, moving him into me. Then he stood up, onto his knees, staring at the spot where we connected with the look of pure joy and satisfaction on his face. He began using his thumb to stroke me, keeping up his thrusts. He watched me as I writhed underneath him; his eyes eager to please; the simple lick of his lips bringing me to a ruin.
My body started to tighten and I clutched the pillow. Daniel lowered himself back down and kissed and bit my neck as I came. My body shaking and my gasps and moans all too loud. Daniel came soon after; saying it was my loud gasps and moans when I climaxed that turned him on and brought him over the edge.
Daniel held me from behind as we slept, our hands holding one another. Afraid to let go and have this all turn into a puff of smoke and mirrors.
I woke up the next morning, hearing and smelling breakfast brewing; the iPod playing, possibly his own breakfast theme song. I giggled at the thought and then turned on my side to find, hanging over a chair, a new white shirt.
For the first time in New York, I felt at home.