“A fallen leaf is like a wave goodbye.”Unknown
Brindleton Bay Ragdoll Refurb Home to roommates Rhys Cameron and Samantha Mellencamp A lazy, sunny Saturday afternoon in Autumn
Rhys looked up, nearly choking on the sip of coffee he had been drinking when Sam came into view. Or rather, someone reminiscent of his tomboy roommate Sam.
“Hey there. You okay?” she asked, smiling.
“Yeah.” coughed Rhys, his eyes now watering from the tickle in this throat, yet he couldn’t help staring at her.
“Is this too much?” Sam gestured down on herself.
“Where are you going?” Rhys asked, unable to reply to her question. He wasn’t sure what to think of her current appearance. Looked like someone else.
“DATE!?” parroted Rhys and went straight into another, albeit milder, coughing fit.
“Are you gonna make it?” Sam’s question was partially annoyed, part concerned.
“Yeah. What date? With whom?”
“Well, ‘DAD‘ … I didn’t know I had to get my dates approved by you.” Sam’s tone was fully annoyed now.
“You don’t. It’s just … we’re roommates. And friends. At least I think we are now. You met my girlfriend many times. So, I kinda thought whenever you start dating, I would … meet him too. I figured that’s how that goes. Courtesy and such.” stuttered Rhys, followed by hot cheeks he prayed weren’t too obvious.
“Who said I started dating? This goes back to way before we became roomies, Rhys.”
“Oh! How come I never met him?! You never mentioned him even. That’s just … weird.”
“You just assume it’s a he?”
“It’s not!?” Rhys’ eyes nearly fell from their sockets.
“I hate how you’re just assuming I am into men. I don’t like it when people assume things about me. Okay, look, yes, it’s a he, but it’s complicated, and the reason why I had to move out in such a hurry. I told you my parents and I had a fight; it was about him. So, he’s … older and some other stuff. They demanded I stopped seeing him, I refused, they threatened to kick me out, I dug in my heels, they couldn’t backtrack, so they told me I had two weeks to find a new place to live … here I am.”
“Wow.” that was literally all Rhys could say. He was speechless.
“Yeah. Not everyone is as lucky as you, Rhys, with such a big happy fluffy family supporting everything you do, no matter what. My family doesn’t even speak to me anymore.”
“Excuse me? That is so not how my life goes AT ALL! My mom died when I was three. I grew up being raised by my dad and my grandparents, until my dad remarried and then suddenly, I had a stepmother and a stepsister.”
“Oh, poor baby! The ‘oh-so-mean‘ stepmom who stops by every other day to bring you groceries and leftovers and your favorite cookies. That stepmom? And the evil stepsister whom you text with almost daily, because, you know, she is a whole 20 minutes away and you two just hate each other sooo much. NOT!”
“Okay fine, maybe I am not living some soap opera drama, but my mom is still gone. And my stepmom is still a stepmom and Meaghan is still my stepsister.” pouted Rhys.
“Right. On that note, I have to leave your pity party. Don’t wait up, it’ll get late. I may stay overnight. We’ll see.”
With a grumpy expression, Rhys watched her leave, trying to ignore the burning sting in his heart.
He knew why that was. He had noticed it weeks ago, at first refusing to admit it to himself, but Rhys caught himself staring just a little too long at the way Sam crinkled her freckled nose when she laughed, how her bright green eyes sparkled when she smiled, the way her red hair reflected like pure copper in the sunlight …. he KNEW what was happening. What he didn’t know was how to keep himself from feeling that way. Which 18-year-old man in his right mind crushes on his obviously completely uninterested tomboy roommate when he has a beautiful girlfriend? URGH!
To make things worse, less than an hour later his girlfriend Sandy’s dad showed up unannounced, making Rhys very uncomfortable, knowing this wasn’t some bonding visit. Rhys had been with Sandy for almost two years now, not one single time had her father visited him, neither at his parents’ home nor here.
And sure enough, without ever even raising his voice, in his usual assertive and confident seasoned executive ways, Mr. Auditore stood there, sipping Rhys’ coffee while making him feel like the biggest fraud in history for even daring to date an Auditore daughter in the first place. At some point he referred to their relationship as ‘high school puppy love that should have ended with graduation’. ARGH!
Rhys was too shocked and too angry to react, so trying to keep his cool he watched as the old Auditore pulled out his checkbook, scribbled around in it, tore off a page which he slid over in front of Rhys. The number on the check nearly knocked Rhys out of his socks, until he realized it was pay-off so he would break up with Sandy, even though her dad never spoke the words out aloud. WHAT?!
Fuming, Rhys pushed back the check in front of the older man, then asked him to leave, which Auditore did without a fight, but damage had already been done. Rhys had felt inadequate before, now it was clear Sandy’s dad agreed, the seed of doubt had been planted, which was toxic to Rhys’ bruised ego.
And what if the old Auditore was right? Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, like her many siblings, could Sandy ever REALLY be happy with some small-town boy with simple needs and a strong passion for the simple life? As a cop in small coastal Brindleton Bay Rhys would never see riches and leaving his beloved hometown for anything more than a vacation was out of the question for him.
Sandy spent most of her time on Instagram and Pinterest, the rest in boutiques and spas with her entourage, spending her dad’s money. How was that ever gonna work if they stayed together long term? Someone would really have to bend almost to their breaking point. Hmm.
The door was unlocked, and Sam entered, Rhys could tell right away that something was wrong. She confirmed it right away, with a tear-filled voice.
“We had a fight. A major one. I found some other chick’s lacy underwear in his bed, he just laughed and called me an immature little girl assuming things. So, I told him to … let’s just say I didn’t leave his apartment on good terms. That asshole!” she swallowed hard.
“What a dick! My afternoon just took a dive too. My girlfriend’s father just left; you must have JUST missed him. I kicked him out after he tried to pay me major cash to break up with Sandy. Total shit-show, plus he’ll probably convince her now to dump me anyway. Good times.”
“What an idiot!”
Both stepped closer as if on cue and hugged, Sam slightly crying into Rhys’ embrace.
Finally, Sam mumbled into Rhys’ shoulder.
“How about we get trashed tonight? I just wanna forget everything.”
“Me too. There is still a lot of alcohol left over from the housewarming.”
“Let’s turn the booze bottles into glass recycling, Rhys! You with me?”
A few hours later, it was now dark out, music was blaring, TV was on, booze bottles were littering the surfaces, along with snack packages and pizza boxes while Rhys and Sam were laughing and jumping across the couch, singing along to the music.
The next morning Rhys awoke from the sun illuminating his room at painful levels, he blinked a lot until he finally could keep his eyes open, his face and lids were swollen, his head pounding with a major hangover, and his head was at his footboard. Why did he go to bed the wrong way around? And why was he not under the damn blanket, he was frozen solid. Oh, that hangover made it impossible to think straight. His first ever. Made it all the way to 18 years of age without knowing this special kind of hurt.
A sound next to him made his head snap around, into the pain the realization set in that the form next to him wasn’t one of his pillows … it was Sam! Asleep and – naked!
He got off the bed as fast as his pounding head allowed, trying to reason with his guilty conscience that maybe it was harmless, when he realized he was naked too. Blushing and with hot waves of deeper guilt washing over him he grabbed some clothing off the floor, holding it in from of himself for reasons unbeknown to him as he rushed into the hallway, from there into the shared bathroom, where he ran cold water, splashing his face, before staring at himself in the mirror.
“What did you do, Cameron?! What have you done?!”
A serious question, as Rhys did not have any recollection of last night, let alone anything involving Sam and himself naked. Oh, what a fresh hell this now was!
He felt dirty, felt like one of those douchebags preying on girls when they were most vulnerable, so he hopped into the shower, scrubbing himself down hard until his skin ached and glowed red.
Afterwards he went downstairs to make coffee, while the scent filling the air made him breathe in deeply, the moment he turned around and saw the chaos they created the night before his head ached twice as much. If his parents saw this pig sty … and all the empty booze bottles everywhere. Oh boy!
Despite fighting nausea and the hangover, Rhys plowed through the cleanup so fast as if his life depended on it. He had just sat down with another cup of coffee when Sam came down the stairs. One look at her and he knew she was in the same state he was in.
“You didn’t have to do this alone … I would have helped.” she said, pointing at the clean downstairs.
“No worries. There’s coffee.” he mumbled, while guilt was swallowing him whole.
“Thank Gawd!” Sam walked over to the coffeemaker.
Rhys looked away, feeling ashamed, the feeling seemed mutual, while pouring her coffee, her back to him, Sam asked.
“Rhys … ? I don’t know how to ask this, but … I woke up in your bed. Naked. So … did what I think happened REALLY happen?”
“I don’t know … wondering myself. Total blackout. But if I had to guess, it looks like it.” he mumbled honestly, unsure where to look. Anywhere but at Sam, while he blushed deeply.
“Oh crap. I have NEVER been this drunk. I hate to admit it, but I literally remember nothing after the pizza arrived.”
“Same. All I know was I was .. ahem .. not dressed when I woke up … and you were next to me. Also without a thread on you, don’t worry, I didn’t look once I realized … you know. Anything beyond that is me guessing.” Rhys blushed deeply.
“Yeah, same here … Wow. I swear I am not normally like this. Oh man. I feel like shit, and not just from drinking.”
“Ditto. I can’t keep straight what all I am hating myself for anymore. Poor Sandy. I never thought I’d be the type. Wow. Kill me now.”
“Well, you can blame me, if it makes you feel better. Maybe I initiated it, you know like … seduced you out of frustration or something … and you were too drunk to say no.”
“Yeah, right. Even if that were what happened, how does that make anything better? I’m still a cheater unless you are trying to say you raped me, which, no offense, but even drunk I like to think I’d be stronger than you.”
“Well, we don’t know for sure that we did it. Things aren’t always what they seem. Maybe this was totally harmless, and we are making a mountain out of a molehill here. Maybe we were too trashed to figure out where our rooms were, stumbled into yours and passed out next to each other. Plausible, right?”
“Naked? I don’t know about you, Sam, but I am not THAT confident in my appearance that I just always want to hang all of myself out there for all to see. I just can’t be drunk enough for that. I KNOW I am not GQ Magazine cover material. So, unless I am dating someone or at the doctor’s, I prefer being covered up.”
“Well, maybe we were hot? From partying? The alcohol? I don’t know …”
“Hot? Sam, this is Brindleton Bay, not the Bahamas. It’s fall, so the average night temp is an unbalmy few degrees over freezing, and this place never really gets that toasty because the insulation here is crap. I am not that hot-blooded so I can only see one reason why we both would not mind being naked. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, Sam, I am pretty sure it’s a duck. In other words, I have my money on we are guilty as charged.”
“Okay. So, since we still don’t know for sure, let’s just move on. Okay? For what it’s worth, I AM really sorry, Rhys. I really hope we can move past this without everything just becoming super-awkward between us.”
“Well, something will have to change now. I just can’t be that guy. Looks like Auditore Senior is gonna get his wish, I’ll have to break up with Sandy now. Dammit! I wasn’t the guy she deserved to begin with, but I most certainly am not now. It’s either that or tell her what we did and I don’t know that I can bear her looking at me that way.”
Sam looked at him with a mix of guilt and concern written all over her face but said nothing. There was nothing to be said, and Rhys looked absolutely miserable.
Some hours later that same day Rhys was meeting Sandy at a park, the beautiful Autumn day made a mockery of the sad intention, adding even more to the gigantic mountain of guilt Rhys was already carrying heavy on his shoulders.
When Sandy arrived, as usual in a fancy outfit, looking as if she stepped straight out of an advertisement for the fashion city of Milan, Italy, it made Rhys feel more inadequate and unworthy of her than ever.
While he was searching for the right and least hurtful words to tell her what he needed to say, Sandy took his hand.
“Rhys, I know my dad came to see you … I am so sorry about that; he can be a little … ahem … extra. He’s overprotective of his kids, I swear it comes from a place of fatherly love, there are just so many golddiggers out there. He likes you; I swear it and I am sure deep down he knows you are not after my money. But no worries, I told him what I thought about what he did, as did my mom, he really got a verbal spanking by both of us, and he knows he overstepped.”
“Okay … ahem …. Sandy …” Rhys stuttered, quickly losing what little courage he had.
“No, wait, let me finish, please. I am sure papa made you feel a certain way, and I feel responsible because I know how he gets about his daughters, and I should have told him to behave. Since papa did what he did, I feel it’s only fair that I prove my love for you. Ti amo, Rhys, I love you, so incredibly much. So, mio caro … I know this is super-unusual and maybe a bit weird because we are both so young, but …”
Sandy fidgeted, digging in her pocket, then knelt down before Rhys holding out a ring to him.
“Will you marry me, Rhys Cameron?”