Disclaimer: All writing on this page is purely fictional. I don't own anyone other than the original characters. The plots and situations are from my own wandering mind. I apologize if I make any mistakes regarding football, language, or anything else I may mess up on. I write these stories for my enjoyment and hopefully others may enjoy it, too.
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Note: This is a another sequel to my stories Tied Up To This Feeling and Please Don’t Go. It’s not necessary that you read them, but it is nice to have a backstory. It’s a little short (and a bit shaky), but it’s a start. Enjoy!
I slid my arm off from covering my eyes to discover daylight filling the apartment. Papers littered the coffee table along with my laptop and dirty coffee mugs I interchanged between breaks. All somehow ended up in the same spot. A series of tasteless music videos was now playing on the television, not a drastic change from the tacky reality show I’d put on for background noise while I worked and eventually fell asleep on the couch.
Stretching my body across, I touched the mousepad on my computer to shut it down, and doing so, my back felt like a hundred pound weight was on top of it. Obviously the couch wasn’t a choice location to sleep no matter what position I thought would be a good option. I should’ve just gone to bed, but there were too many last minute duties to call in, emails to send and not to mention all the other chaos floating through my head which deprived me from sleep.
A list formed the million things I had to do on that particular day. First I had to force myself to sit up. My shoulders felt like bricks and my hair a tangled bird’s nest as a result of wearing it up so often. Paying no mind to it, I gathered up all the papers into a pile as neat as I could make it before I set them to a corner and stood up on my feet.
I padded across the cream shag rug to switch off the television, which left the dull roar of city life outside the open window to my right. I walked towards it, leaning my arms against the cool glass, and listened. Pedestrians yelled. There was construction banging, clinking, beeping a few buildings away. Taxi drivers drove with one hand on the horn and the other on the wheel as they raced past intersections in time for the light to change. Yep, the beginning of another day in the city no different from the others.
A knock echoing down the hall erased my thoughts. At first it slipped my mind on who it could be so early, but then I quickly pieced the puzzle together and realized how lonely yet tranquil the apartment was. I slammed down the heated breeze from coming in before I rushed to the door.
“Nathan, I’m sorry. I completely forgot.” I yanked the door open to the small boy with glasses and a blue shirt bending his neck at an angle to look up at me. Benny was panting up at me as well, his short white tail wagging in excitement and claws tapping the floor as the boy let go of his leash for him to trot into the apartment. I must’ve been really beat if I’d given my dog to the neighbor boy and failed to remember an hour and a half later.
“It’s Nate,” he corrected once I turned back around.
“Last week it was Nathan,” I recalled, squinting my eyes at him. “Why the change?”
“I don’t know.” He meekly shrugged his shoulders, his mouth thinning into a tight smirk. It must have had something to do with the other kids teasing him again, but I didn’t want to rag him about it too much.
“Well thanks for walking Benny for me. I know it’s not so easy getting up so early on your summer break.” I tilted my head against the doorframe.
Eyes wide, his head was a series of rapid shakes and nods while he adjusted his glasses from falling down his nose. “Oh, I enjoy it, Ms. Sterling. Very much.”
“Being awake at this time or walking Benny?” I lifted a questionable eyebrow.
“Both?” he answered, unsure.
“Do you ever make time to just be a kid?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he murmured once more. His hand disappeared to his neck to mat down the several cowlicks sticking out. “Can I walk Benny again tomorrow, Ms. Sterling?”
“I’m not sure, Nathan. It depends on how today goes, but I’ll let you know, okay?” I replied.
He had dropped his hands and was staring down at his shoes scuffing against the floor. “So should I just come by in the morning?”
“Sure, why not?” I sighed, rubbing my eyes.
“Okay. Bye, Ms. Sterling. See you, Benny!” He waved into the room prior to sprinting down the hall.
“It’s Abby, by the way!” I called behind him.
“And it’s Nate!” he retorted, his volume fading since he’d already made it halfway up the stairs.
The door clicked shut, and I headed back to clean up the rest of the living area. Benny hopped up on the couch as I stood hunched over the coffee table, stacking mugs on top of each other ready to transfer them to the sink. He let out a light yap to get my attention, and I saw that his leash was still attached to his collar.
“What, are you trying to help me?” I cooed at him while I balanced the mugs against my chest and used my free hand to unclasp the red leash from his neck. “Better?”
I let it drop to the floor so I could ruffle his fur. His paws were a visible shade of brown as well as his belly when he rolled over, so I made a mental note to give him a much needed bath later. It was a pain to keep a white dog clean in such a dirty city, but he loved being toted around, meeting people, and he had a face that could cure someone at the lowest of lows. He definitely made moving here a lot easier. The day I picked him up at the airport, it was as if, for a brief moment, nothing had changed. He brought a great amount of comfort and an unconditional love which I severely needed living in a living in a big city with no friends or cable. When I faced my first few rigorous days at a job where I now had my own office, Benny was always there to keep my spirits high.
My phone rang and vibrated itself off the edge of the coffee table. I meant to change the settings on that thing, but it was the only way to catch me off guard. Even so, I still didn’t answer right away as I saw Bianca’s name flashing on the screen from two feet away. I ignored the call and instead glimpsed at the time in the corner.
In a slight hurry, I gingerly placed the assortment of mugs by the sink in the kitchen area to deal with them later. Then I was anything but careful when I jogged back down the hall to the bedroom, crossing the all white bedroom (from the painted concrete walls to the comforter on the untouched bed) and darting into the bathroom on my right. I flicked the light switch and stripped my shorts and t-shirt while I waited for the water temperature to creep up to at least lukewarm before I stepped in.
The rest of the process was a blur. There was no time to think during a five minute shower. I almost passed out from the heat of blow drying my hair. Applying eye makeup and concealer to hide the bags under my eyes was always a hassle and not to mention pointless since I began wearing glasses for work. I filtered through my drawers and closet to put together a decent outfit for the long day ahead, settling on a pair of high waisted slacks and a fitted top with stripes and short sleeves. My hair was a lost cause, so I tied what was a mixture of dried straight hair and damp waves into a messy bun.
Benny stood frozen in place, his front paw lifted up while observing me hopping on one foot down the hallway and forcing my shoe on. My heels skidded across the hardwood as I pumped my arms in an effort to go faster. I sifted through the papers on the coffee table to discover my phone on the floor where I’d left it. Huffing a sigh, I squatted down to pick it up, and it was Benny’s cue to climb up on my knee.
“Sorry, buddy, I have to go.” I pouted stroking down his fur. He seemed like he understood by turning away to his food and water bowls sitting next to the fridge.
My hand pressed down on the rug, and I pushed to stand up straight. Phone in hand, I went to the side table, double checking my planner and my glasses were safe in their case inside my bag before I swung the tote around my shoulder. It was getting late, and there was nothing left to do but leave. I dragged myself once more down the hall that morning, dreading the idea of having to hail a cab.
It wasn’t that I was overworked or I didn’t want to go to work; it was a really stressful time for me. We’d been working on this campaign for months, and it was finally coming alive right before our very eyes. It was my first big creative project since taking the job and working useless hours being the coffee fetcher and note taker during meetings for other people. Finally, it all paid off in the end, and I had full control as creative director for this shoot. I hired the photographer, videographer, the stylists, model and the crew. I chose the location. This ad would be on billboards not just in New York but worldwide if everything went as planned. It had to work. Aside from a few extra notes written down in the cab ride over, I had every detail down to how I wanted it. If I knew how to work a camera better, I’m sure I would have shot it myself.
The elevator doors glided open to reveal the studio floor, and I swear I heard a large sigh of relief from everyone when I stepped out. I looked up and noticed the set was in panic mode with light equipment unpacked and spread out everywhere. Wires looped and curled on the floor in which I tip toed carefully around until I reached the opposite corner of the room. People said things, asked questions along the way, but I stuck my hand up, not having had my coffee yet.
“About time, Abby,” said Tad, the tall photographer with stubble on his chin, a red shirt and silky brown hair I was constantly jealous of, standing against the window as I approached.
I gave him the side glare and dug around in my bag in searched for my planner. “Where’s Bianca?”
“Getting your coffee.” He folded his toned arms over his chest. “Listen, Abby…”
“No, I can’t have dinner with you tonight,” I interrupted without hesitation.
“That’s not what I was going to say, but since we’re on the subject—”
“No,” I repeated.
“Why not, Abby?” He whined a little, his eyes wide to show how blue they were, almost like sapphires. No doubt he was gorgeous, but his reputation was less than attractive.
“You’ve slept with all of your stylists.” I pointed out.
“So?” He had a smug smirk on his lips.
“I refuse to be just another American girl for you to go home and brag about to your English buddies.” I smiled in remorse, keeping my shoulders tensed when his arm wrapped around them.
“We could have something special, babe.” He nudged his side against mine. It wasn’t threatening in the least in my eyes. In fact, it had become a routine between us to sort of break the ice a little since we’d be barking orders left and right at each other later on.
“Not interested.” I swatted his wrist away. “Just friends?”
“Fine.” He slouched his shoulders in defeat towards the window.
“Now what were you going to tell me?” I asked.
Scratching the corner of his lip, the look in his eyes wasn’t as calm as before. “Well, there’s been a change of plan. Jamie dropped out at the last second.”
Jamie was our male model we’d spent hours trying to cast. Head shots of male models from different agencies filled every surface in my office until Tad and me came to an agreement. You’d think I was crazy with how much effort I put into this whole ordeal.
“Nobody cared to tell me me this.” I swallowed hard.
“We’re telling you now,” he stated cooly, but I was far from where his mindset was. I was livid and nauseous. Clearly my history of panic attacks had yet to let up anytime soon because every aspect of this job caused me to feel on the brink of so many emotions at certain times.
“What are we going to do?” I was clenching my notebook so tight in my hand, snapping the elastic band attached to it as some sort of calming method.
He winced at the question, then braved it through a long exhale. “Actually, a name came up, and they had to jump at it regardless of whether you authorized it or not.”
“Who?” I stopped fidgeting with my notebook to hear the name, but our conversation was cut off by Bianca gracing us with her presence, which meant butting in between us while she lifted her messenger bag over her head.
“What’s up guys?” Her short curls bounced as she exchanged excited glances at us. “It’s a madhouse downstairs. You’d think we were shooting Leonardo DiCaprio or something up here. He’s still hot right?”
Bianca was an intern, namely my assistant when we got this project underway. She wore vintage cat eye frames and rode a mint green moped around the city. Believe it or not, she was quirky but a saint in getting things done rather than lollygagging around like I assumed she would when I first met her. Being a few years younger than me, she was professional when she needed to be, but her bubbly personality tended to flare up in the most nerve-racking situations, like this one.
“I just told Abby the news,” Tad explained, a cringing expression in his features.
“Oh damn, Abby. Look how pale you are.” She worriedly chewed her bottom lip.
I waved my arms for everyone to stop. “No—I’m fine. I just need my coffee.”
“That I can provide!” Her face lit up as she held up the iced latte she’d been hiding the whole time, ice clunking against the plastic lidded cup. I may have snatched it a little too fast. Her cheerfulness was a little much to handle in addition to everything else going on. I managed to gulp down a healthy portion of bitter and sweet, so my brain was numb enough to handle confronting Tad again.
“Okay, who is our replacement now?” I braced myself for his response.
“He’s right behind you,” he gestured past me with the upward bump of his chin, followed by a peculiar squinting in his eyes, “and he’s staring, oddly enough.”
Bianca peeked over her shoulder and gasped. “Oh, he is looking over here!”
“He’s on the prowl, I bet,” Tad scoffed. Any guy on set who wasn’t gay he went into possessive mode, like it was a contest or something.
“Not my type.” Bianca frowned back at me, followed by Tad promptly humming in disagreement.
“Not at you, babe. Abby.”
A slurping sound erupted as I stopped sucking on the straw to my drink, allowing the liquid to go back down. Tad winked at me, and all I could think was they were playing a game of ‘made you look’. Feeling replenished enough from the few sips of caffeine, I decided to humor them anyway only to witness a scene all too familiar.
Cristiano, donning a black suit but no tie and a large grin on his lips, towered over a flock of stylists who were batting their lashes up at him. My jaw almost fell to the floor as I felt completely unprepared for this moment in time. For the first time in a year, we found ourselves in the same room together. Was this coincidence or pre-planned? Did everyone know something I didn’t?
One thing was for sure: he wouldn’t focus on anyone else but me, and frankly, I couldn’t stop looking at him.