Chapter Song: "Counting Stars on the Ceiling" by Stars--- I LOVE this song. So give it a try. It has a very smoky, electro-pop, hipster hanging out in a bar song. And yet I still love it. Maybe it's the sentiment behind the song.
Also: Lately I've been itching to finally write that Epilogue I never got around to for "Legal Assistance Turned Love." So that may pop up in a few days, I just need an idea to work with. I just really miss those characters all of the sudden. So maybe.
Glancing over the various magazine layouts before me, I wondered how on earth I had gone from directing celebrities and politicians to half-naked hockey players in magazine articles.
"Which one do you think spins the best angle?"
Honestly, as I pretended to look pensive and engrossed in concentration, I couldn't tell the difference between the two layouts and the magazine articles themselves were exactly the same. But I guess I couldn't tell my boss that when he was obviously so concerned with choosing the right one.
"I think this one" I said pointing to the one on the left. Crosby was still shirtless and still giving off that charming, boyish grin of his. He could be mummified in toilet paper and the kid would still sell magazines.
"Okay, great" David said gathering up the materials and leaving the one I had chosen on my desk. "Just look through it again and make the necessary phone calls if you see something you don't like in there."
I nodded and waited for him to leave before sitting down again and slipping out of my shoes. He wanted me to glance over the article again but that wasn't what our jobs were as PR directors. If a player gave an interview and spoke the words then the reporter was able to take whatever he said and use it. Wasn't that what freedom of the press was all about?
Technically I was only there to direct the before and after details of my clients' life. Aka, preventing damage and doing damage control afterward. However, when you worked for the Pens, nothing was overlooked or left alone.
In essence, more and more frequently, I found myself becoming a professional micromanager of people's lives.
The only thing keeping me sane and reminding me that I too was entitled to a personal life was strangely enough, one of my clients.
Since painting my apartment together a few weeks ago, Geno and I had been spending time together when we could, neglecting to label or even talk about what we were doing together. It wasn't sneaking around per se but it sure felt like it when we made out on my couch like teenagers worrying about our parents walking through the door.
It wasn't as if we technically couldn't be together. Eliza and Vero had asked me out for drinks the previous week and even though I didn't want to talk about it with them, they loosened me up with cheap beer and their persistent questions until I couldn't take it anymore and finally spilled on the details. It hadn't originally been my idea of a fun night, especially since Geno happened to be free that night as well, but they had made it impossible to say no. And besides, the idea of having girlfriends in the same city as me again was an appealing prospect.
They thought that I should just go for it- especially after finding out that we hadn't had sex yet.
"You mean you haven't done it yet?" Vero asked saying it a little too loud for my comfort level.
"Shhh!" I hissed earning more stares from other people around us. "No, we haven't. I don't know. The timing hasn't been right."
Eliza burst out laughing almost spitting her water out on the table. "Ava, there's never not a good time to do it."
"Yeah, says the lady with a baby and another on the way" Vero cracked grinning at her friend.
Though it had been embarrassing at the time, I wondered if they were both right. Maybe I should be the first one to make a move. Afterall, we had come so close to blessing my couch with what I anticipated to be amazing sex and yet it still hadn't happened. Somehow one of us always found a way to pull back and put the brakes on or the timing just wasn't quite right. Or, maybe he was just being considerate. If I wasn't putting myself out there enough then how would he know that I wanted him to continue? Maybe it was me putting out the mixed signals.
Over the past few weeks, I had slowly started to learn that maybe not every man was like Peter or had to eventually morph into him. So far Geno had been nothing but sweet and caring and it was definitely treatment that I was growing accustomed to after my last relationship debacle. He called when he said that he would, he listened to me when I spoke and his slow, deep kisses were enough to make my brain turn into mush. That giddy infatuated feeling that I wasn't sure I had ever felt for anyone seemed to resonate in my brain most days. All because of a goofy hockey player whose english was slowly making progress and who was proving to be a rare thing in life: a dependable, good man. Emphasis on the 'man' part.
After lacking real romance in my life for so long, I appreciated his phone calls and little text messages more than most girls probably would. I wasn't that girl either. I had never been sappy or overly sentimental about relationships and feelings. I knew not to have high expectations in relationships but more and more I found myself wondering if it was really all that bad. Even if his main goal was to get in my pants, as far as I was concerned, he was doing all of the right things so far that I wouldn't have any objections when the time finally was right.
As if the universe was listening to my thoughts, my phone vibrated next to me with the arrival of a new message.
Dinner tonight? I will cook.
He wanted to cook for me? I thought about making some kind of joke about him only knowing how to make borscht or get takeout food but decided against it. I was too curious to see if he was serious or not.
You want to cook dinner? If you cook, then I buy the groceries.
I waited anxiously for his reply then realized that I was almost 24 years old and waiting around the phone like a little girl waiting for her crush to call. Which I guess I was at this point- sadly.
No, just come to my house. I worry about food.
My eyebrows shot up in response to his invite. He always came to my apartment and half of the time I forgot that he even had his own place to stay at. My gut instinct told me that this was a good sign and I couldn't deny that the idea of him wanting to cook for me and actually doing it was kind of sexy. Plus, this way I would get to see him interacting within his territory.
Before I could answer him again, he shot me another text with his address and told me to be there around 7. How on earth was I supposed to concentrate for the rest of the day when what I would actually be doing is wondering about the night ahead?
Since my concentration was officially shot, I tried to distract myself with more work until 5 when I really couldn't take it anymore and left to head back and get ready at my apartment for awhile. If we were just going to be at his apartment for awhile then I didn't want to be too dressy but I still wanted to look nice. Especially if tonight would be the night when we finally stepped over the pre-established boundaries together.
After all of this hype, I was pretty much dying to get my hands on him again. I opted for casual but sexy and slipped into jeans and a black sweater with one of my sexiest bras on underneath just in case I needed an extra confidence booster.
Since my hair refused to lay flat for me, I threw my normally straight, dark locks up into rollers. If he didn't eventually appreciate how much effort I was putting into this, then I was officially going to give up men.
I was just about to put the second coat of pink nailpolish on my toes when I remembered that I had completely forgotten to pick up my mail for the day. After pulling the rollers out of my hair, I slid into some flip flops and grabbed my keys heading out into the hallway to the elevator in my building. The lobby was quiet and I greeted the old guard keeping watch at his desk. Most of my mail was bills and I was reminded for about the thousandth time how much being an adult really sucked.
I was about to pass through and head back upstairs to my apartment when I thought I heard someone say my name. I looked back and saw an extremely thin woman standing at the guard's desk, long, ice blonde hair preventing me from seeing her entire face.
As if she knew that I was there, she turned and met my eyes, slowly scrutinizing my appearance from the tips of my hair roots to the tips of my toes. I had never seen her before in my life but then again I wasn't sure if I really wanted to meet her either. She looked about as icy as the blonde color of her hair and twice as shrewd. I wouldn't miss the intelligence in her eyes but I wouldn't find warmth there either.
After another long moment she turned without saying a word to me and walked through the revolving doors of the lobby.
"Did you know her?" the guard asked looking between me and the doors again.
She certainly seemed to know me but I sure as hell didn't know her from anywhere. Since she looked skinny, I knew that I probably didn't have to worry about her trying to jump me in an alley in Pittsburgh.
"I don't know" I replied deciding that there were more important things to worry about than a random skinny, ass bitch staring at me in the lobby of my apartment building. Knowing my luck, she was probably another one of Peter's throw away dolls looking to stir up trouble. There had been a few times in the past when random crazy girls that Peter had met in clubs followed me and tried to get a rise out of me so that I would leave him. Now in retrospect, I wasn't sure what I was more angry about- the fact that Peter was going out to clubs and meeting all of these girls without me, or the fact that they actually thought that he was some kind of catch.
Leaving the crazy behind me, I quickly finished getting ready and slipped into my shoes and coat preparing myself to leave for the night I had been so excited about. His directions were simple and surprisingly the neighboring suburb he directed me to was within easy access to downtown Pittsburgh. His street was secluded and I almost missed the turn off because it was so heavily shaded by large trees.
After finally driving down the long road that was actually his driveway, I pulled up in front of a large, gothic style brick home with lights decorating the path that lead to the front door. There was evidence that petunias had once lined the sidewalk also but were now only sad remains thanks to the cold, Pittsburgh winter.
Before I could officially knock on the door, it opened revealing Geno dressed in sweats and a t-shirt with a somewhat wet and dirty kitchen towel draped around his neck.
"Hey" he greeted pulling me inside by the hand and shutting the door behind us. Before I could see past him into the rest of the house, his lips covered mine in another one of those slow, deep kisses that I had been daydreaming about all day at work.
"That was a nice welcome" I told him when he finally let me up for air. His chocolatey brown eyes smiled down at me in response and taking my hand, he led me through the foyer pointing out different rooms on the first floor.
His house was pretty and warm with an obvious woman's touch in the decorating. I assumed it was his mother and the idea of him pouring over paints and fabric swatches made me smile.
"So what did you make?" I asked taking in the sight of his extremely messy kitchen. He smelled like tomato sauce and there was a pot of boiling water on the stove.
Instead of answering me, he trapped me against the countertop with his arms and pushed my heavy curls off of my shoulder exposing part of my neck. He mumbled something foreign against my skin before letting his lips trail up to the soft patch of skin beneath my ear. If he kept this up, then I wasn't going to be hungry for just food anymore.
I stopped him ignoring his groan of displeasure and internally promising him that that was the last time I would say "no" to anything for the rest of the night. I helped him finish making up dinner by cutting up vegetables for salad while he finished up with the noodles and sauce. Together we watched TV and sat comfortably on the couch fighting over the remote and slurping up noodles from each other's plates. He had the annoying habit of always eating his food quickly and then transferring his fork over to my plate often stealing bites when I wasn't looking.
"So, dinner was good?" he asked looking up at me from where he was loading the dishes into the dishwasher.
"Yes," I smiled. "Very good."
Everything was so simple and perfect that I knew that the timing was officially perfect between us. We were alone and secluded in his house, it was a Friday night where I didn't have work in the morning and he didn't have a game until Sunday. Suddenly there was nothing stopping us from giving in to the feelings I knew that we both had for each other.
I was so ready to forget my past mockery of a relationship and start something fresh and new with someone else that I shooed him off to go wait in the living room while I finished up in the kitchen. He had made me dinner so the least I could do was the dishes. Then spend the rest of the night thanking him in other ways.
Once I heard that he had settled in the TV room, I snuck off into the bathroom off from the kitchen to freshen up and strip down into my bra and underwear. I wasn't normally this forward but wasn't it time in my life to let go a little bit and place my trust in someone else's hands? Besides, I was pretty sure that he would appreciate the surprise and the fact that I had just made the issue of clothing a lot easier for both of us.
Tip-toeing back out into the kitchen, I only made it as far as the kitchen island when I froze after hearing a voice that was definitely not Geno's. I almost believed that it had been a fluke and that I was going insane when I heard the voice again, slightly raised now with Geno's low voice responding.
As I snuck closer, I realized that it was a woman's voice and that they were speaking in Russian. The woman raised her voice and I knew that I had just walked in on some sort of argument even though I couldn't understand what they were arguing about. So many questions were buzzing in my mind that I didn't have enough time to react before the unmistakable slap of heels pounded into the kitchen before I could duck away and escape in my underwear clad shame.
I couldn't speak. I was so shocked to see the same blonde woman from my apartment lobby staring at me in obvious disgust and disapproval. She shouted something back at Geno who walked into the kitchen looking at my barely clad body in confusion. He didn't know that I had been about to surprise him when apparently she showed up.
He moved to step in front of me and I wanted to die I was so embarrassed that something was happening that I didn't understand and that I was mostly naked for all of it.
"What's going on?" I asked him. "Why were you in my apartment building?" I asked the blonde woman. Alarm bells were going off in my head even though I couldn't figure out why they were going off.
"Who's this bitch?" The woman spit out staring at me like I was some kind of prostitute. "Are you just another one of his fucks?"
"What?" I asked, my hand itching to slap her pointed cheekbones. "Who the hell is this Geno?"
He looked as miserable as I felt and opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something.
"I'm his girlfriend you slut" blondie replied. I felt my heart stop and hover as if it was suspended in the air waiting for it's next cue to continue beating.
"Girlfriend?" She couldn't be. I had known him for months, spent so much time with him. There was no way that he had a girlfriend that I didn't know about. Damn it, I knew him. He wouldn't do this.
"Tell me that this isn't your girlfriend" I turned willing him to face me- tell me that she was insane and crazy and a stalker from Russia that he didn't actually know.
"Who do you think I am? I'm on the internet with him all of the time, idiot" she barked again crossing her arms over her chest.
"Oksana," Geno stepped in finally saying something. "Stop."
I felt my heart crack even more at the sound of her name. I had heard that name before and had never thought anything of it. It was just a name afterall. Well hearing the name and meeting the person were turning out to be two very different experiences.
"Tell me that she's lying" I told him again. If he didn't say something I was going to fall apart in front of both of them. With every passing second, I felt myself losing more and more faith in him and in part- losing little bits of myself that I had struggled to put back in their rightful places.
"Oh god, you are so stupid" Oksana said again turning on her heels and heading back into the living room.
"Tell me." I demanded staring at him straight in the eye. I was past dignity at this point.
"It's not what you think" he began reaching out to hold me in place. My arms burned from his touch but not out of desire.
"Don't touch me" I growled pulling myself away from him. "Are you still dating her and seeing me on the side?"
He didn't answer and that was everything that I needed to know. I stormed past him struggling to break away from his arms trying to pull me back without letting the tears fall freely down my face.
"Damn it, I said don't touch me!" He wouldn't let me go and kept opening and closing his mouth trying to will words out of his mouth. As far as I was concerned, if he had anything to say, he could have said it by now. I knew better than anyone that contrary to popular belief, he did have a firm grip on the English language.
Without saying another word, I grabbed my clothes making sure to lock the door in the bathroom so that I could slip them on and get out of there.
"Ava" he repeated standing outside of the door. "Please listen, I explain." He wasn't even talking in full sentences and somehow his accent had thickened even more.
Without second guessing my actions, I muscled past him and through the house to the front door. Stepping out into the cold air felt like a slap to my body. He didn't try to stop me beyond that point and I slammed the car into gear reversing and driving away as quickly as possible.
When I looked down, I realized that in my rush I had only put on my pants and shoes, leaving my entire top half exposed. That was the trigger to let all of my emotions loose. Not only had I just been completely played by him for the past couple of months but now I would have to walk back into my apartment building looking like this.
I was such a fool. Such a fucking, idiot fool.