Blake could literally feel her presence before he ever even saw her, when he looked up from his guitar play, there she was.
Beautiful as ever.
Then his smile faded when he realized she had brought him.
So she was still with him. Dammit. Blake had hoped so much she may have gotten tired of him by now. Not a day passed that she didn’t cross his mind and Blake wondered if she ever thought of him too.
He watched her talking to friends, but now she looked up and their eyes met.
Blake smiled, involuntarily but she smiled back, then said something to the others and came over.
His hands got damp, he wasn’t sure if he should stop playing, but decided against it. If he did, he’d be fighting the urge to hug her. And if he did, he’d probably never let go.
“Hi.” she said.
That voice! It ran deep into Blake’s heart, mind and soul.
“Hi Hailey.” he said, his voice unintentionally raspy making it sound rugged and masculine.
“Your music is still sounding great as always.”
Blake wanted to return a compliment, but now saw her boyfriend approaching and words just wouldn’t come to him.
“Hailey, would you like something to drink, baby?” Mark asked, smiling at Hailey, the smile faded when his eyes met Blake’s.
“Oh yeah, a beer, actually, make that two, if you do not mind. I am sure Blake is thirsty as well.” Hailey told him with a sweet smile.
“Sure. I’ll be right back.”
Blake could tell by the side glace he received from that guy that he didn’t like her request to include him one little bit and had to try hard not to smile victoriously.
His song was done now, he put away the guitar and stepped closer to Hailey. There was a light breeze and he could smell the familiar floral scent. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard.
“Hailey, I …” Blake started but in that moment her boyfriend Mark already returned with their drinks.
They made small talk until someone called for dinner.
Blake missed his chance to sit next to Hailey and Mark was as determined as he was smooth about shielding her from him after that.
All Blake was left with was to either feel like the fifth wheel or watch from a distance.
Eventually Blake stepped away from the action, to the edges of Everett Heights, sitting down by the pond, staring mindlessly into the water.
Hailey. he thought, closing his eyes.
Why did he always come to these things, knowing she would be there with him? And knowing what seeing her with her new boyfriend did to him.
Probably because that was the only way to see her at all, Blake answered his own question in his mental dialog.
He had promised himself not to give up trying to win her back, but between touring, recording studio and the various little engagement he had as a newcomer musician he had to let himself down on that promise for logistical reasons alone.
Maybe it was for the better.
She had blocked every attempt to make up, deflected every request to sit down and really talk about it all with him.
Maybe she really loved that Mark.
Wasn’t that what he should wish for her? Happiness. A future.
All the things he couldn’t give her.
But who said he couldn’t now?
“Hey there. Are you hiding from us all?” he heard someone say.
Blake winced, he had not heard Hailey approach, she now sat down beside him.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” she said quietly.
“It’s fine. Just zoned out.” he lied, his heart beating, from the scare and from the fact that she was near.
“So your dad is getting married again.” she stated.
“Are you going?”
“Are you … going with someone?” she asked carefully.
“No, just me. Why?”
“I received an invitation. Mark is out of town that day and I was wondering if you’d mind if I tag along with you. Unless you think that would be weird.”
Blake’s heart was racing. His chance?
“No, not weird at all. We are still friends, right?”
“I don’t know, Blake. Are we? Can we be?”
“I don’t see why we shouldn’t. Unless your Mr. Perfect has a problem with that.”
“Blake, Mark does not own me. And he is not a bad guy. You two just really got off on the wrong foot together.”
“What did you expect, Hailey? That I’d kiss his feet for … ”
“For what, Blake? Taking me from you? He didn’t. You’re resentful to the wrong person. If you want to blame someone for our breakup, you’ll have to blame us. You and me. Not Mark.”
“Yeah. Whatever. Do you want me to pick you up for the wedding?”
“That would be great.”
For the past 30 minutes Blake had been sitting on his bed in his small studio apartment, debating whether or not he should send Hailey the text message he had typed up. They had not texted for months now, or talked, except that time at Everett Heights.
There used to be a time when he would never have thought twice about sending her a text. They used to send hundreds each day when he lived in Del Sol Valley. Well, the last months at least.
But things had changed since.
“Screw it!” he said out aloud and sent the ‘On my way! -B.’ text anyway.
Not a minute later a reply came.
‘Ready and waiting for ya. ~H. :)’
Reading those words Blake couldn’t help getting carried away, fighting his emotions. One could read something into her words.
If you didn’t know any better, you could think they were still a couple.
It even could be read a little naughty.
If only it were … what would he give?
Or better: what wouldn’t he give?
His smile faded again. Yeah, one could read it that way, but the reality was that she was no longer interested. She had moved on.
He let out a deep sigh, then put the phone away and headed out, wondering if this was a good idea after all.
“…and with the power vested in my by the holy church and the city of Brindleton Bay, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride.”
Applause, laughter, ahh-ing and oooh-ing engulfed the very demonstrative dip kiss Ethan could not help himself giving to Grace, now his wife, putting their love, long time in the making, proudly on display.
Blake had sat stiff and motionless through the entire last part of the ceremony. Like several other guests of the purposely small wedding, the ambiance, seeing his dad and Grace both beaming and the melancholic words of the minister got the best of him and he was fighting his emotions, mixed in with the memories of his own happiness with the young woman sitting next to him, imagining them up at that altar instead.
The idea of marriage still didn’t resound too well with Blake, yet he couldn’t help but wonder if it would have been so bad had he proposed to her like she had hoped he would, knowing that was what she had wanted? And he had known that for a long time, but always hoped she’d let go of that dream and move on. Well, now she had moved on, unfortunately she had let go of him in the process.
Now she was so very close, yet so far out of reach.
Hailey got emotional too, and when she noticed him fighting back tears, she wordlessly took his hand and held it for the remainder of the minister’s monotonous speech, as she slid closer to him on the church pew, so that he almost naturally put his arm around her, which she allowed.
Blake barely dared to move or breathe, afraid if he did she’d let go of his hand or slide out of his embrace.
The bridal couple now left and everybody rose from their seats, clapping, including Hailey and Blake felt lost of a sudden.
The reception was held at Nick and Esmée’s sprawling home.
It wasn’t a big wedding, purposely very low key actually, but the people, the happiness, the laughter, the confrontation with the fact that Hailey was still unattainable, all that was too much for Blake.
He felt he needed liquid courage.
Lots of it.
As much as it would take to drown out all those thoughts and feelings. He pilfered a few bottles with the highest percentages and went to a quiet corner outside.
Through fuzzy clouds of complete inebriation he recalled foggy memories of some people looking at him, worried, talking to him, talking at him, someone pulling him up onto his feet, steadying him, digging around in the pockets of his dress pants, he briefly focused on his own car keys being handed to Hailey. Beautiful Hailey. Blake stood there grinning idiotically at her, missing the annoyed eyerolls of his grandfather along with his lecture.
Hailey! Blake thought excitedly, and smiled bigger yet, closing his eyes to fully immerse himself into the sensation when she gently rubbed his cheek with the back of her hand.
Smiling still, and like a toddler with no will of his own, Blake followed her stumbling a few times when she took him by the hand, at some point he felt his grandfather KC heave him into the passenger seat of his Jeep and seat-belt him in, which only made Blake giggle.
Vaguely he heard Hailey’s voice tell his grandpa
“No, really, I got it from here. I can handle him. Promise. You just worry about nobody else noticing us gone or why. I got this.”
He heard KC’s deep baritone respond, it sounded displeased, but Blake couldn’t process the words, just kept staring at Hailey, smiling.
Blake’s mind was too clouded to realize where she was taking him and he didn’t truly care too much, but remembered stumbling many times until she put his arm over her shoulder to steady him.
“Oh – home!” he slurred when he recognized the sign outside the gate of Hailey’s house.
“Yes, my home. I wanted to take you to your apartment, but that’s a lot of hard concrete and stairs. I am not that strong, and you are not made of rubber. So, this will have to do. Not like you register too much anyway. And I think it’s better if someone is with you whenever you wake up with that hangover you’re gonna have. You are going to be a huge mess. Lucky for you I found you and nobody but your grandpa knows about this. Getting wasted beyond belief on your dad’s wedding day. Man, Blake, you are just such a problem child. What the heck were you thinking?!”
“I want a child … and wedding.” Blake blurted out.
“What? My goodness you are beyond drunk. Delirious.” Hailey grinned.
“I want you .. and your baby … with me .. and a wedding with me .. and babies running through the house – all over – and I mean you … you with me … and a baby … and married …” Blake made no sense, but was dead serious, which only made this more comical.
“Losing count how many babies you are putting your request in for … sounds like a litter of sort … and definitely not human ones, as they don’t usually run through houses, Blakey.” Hailey chuckled. Blake was not a vicious drunk. Just very needy and silly and it cracked Hailey up.
“I am sorry ..” Blake suddenly started crying.
“Oh no, no, no Blake, it’s all good. No need for that. Everything is fine. Let’s get you to bed. You need to sleep this off. And get horizontal. Upright is too dangerous for you right now.” Hailey tried to comfort him, while at the same time carefully steering him towards her bedroom.
Blake kept mumbling incoherently as he tried to help Hailey take his dress shirt off, but only ended up making it harder. When she finally had managed and went to her closet to hang it up to avoid more wrinkling, she turned around and there Blake stood, swaying, in all his glory.
“Holy crap! No no no … not like that… uh .. well, let’s just get you into bed. I am not even gonna worry about putting your drawers back on you.” Hailey overcame her shock and couldn’t help but giggle as she watched the very drunk Blake trying to keep upright, still swaying, holding on to her bedframe while trying to look down the front of himself to identify her problem with his nakedness.
His confusion was genuine and Hailey couldn’t help but laugh.
“Goodness I almost forgot how adorable you can be. Even this drunk.” she smiled.
Blake looked up and their eyes met, his were glazed over but she could see the recognition of something that used to be there … and maybe still was.
Hailey stepped towards Blake – and kissed him.
He answered the kiss but it took his balance away and they landed on the bed, where Hailey tore off her clothing …
-to be continued-