A Gray AreabyDeity©
She was standing on the far side of the room. He had been having a conversation with some old friends when she walked in and stood near the wall next to the painting he had been drawn to look at all night. Now he wasn't looking at the painting. He was looking at her.
He had asked Collin if anyone interesting was going to be at his 'little' get together and Collin had come back with a list of names that would definitely be attending but he had failed to mention that Caden was going to be present. Perhaps he thought that if Cadens name wasn't mentioned then Jon would not think twice about attending the party.
"Hey, Jon. You still with me here?" Chubby, sweaty fingers snapped in Jon's face twice bringing his attention back to the balding man in front of him. "You heard me, right?"
"Yeah. Yeah, I did. So how are the kids, Nester?" The bald man, Nester, shook his head disapprovingly. "You weren't listening, Jon. I just said Beth and Me got a divorce. She took the kids and I haven't seen them since last year." He ran a hand through what was left of his hair and gave the dirty blonde man a pained look. "They don't even call, Jon."
Jon swallowed before answering, taking his time picking out the right words. "Nester, man, I'm so sorry. Everything will get better, I promise. Why did she divorce you anyway? You were a great husband and father." Nester smiled, soaking in the compliment. From the way he carried himself it looked as if it had been a while since he had gotten a good word from anyone. The proof of the mans constant stress was evident in every single one of Nester's features, especially his head. Last year Nester hadn't been bald. "She said I was overbearing, verbally abusive, a bunch of other shit. She paid our kids to make up some story that I hit them for no reason. God knows what else."
For a second Jon was regretting even asking. Nester was sweating just talking about the situation. Jon felt like breaking a sweat for simply standing next to him. "Nester, I can't te—"
Collins large hand slapped Jon on the back. "Hey, you! I honestly did not think you would come."
Jon looked over his shoulder at his friend. "I was just about to leave too." Collins smile dropped. "Why? Everyone is just now getting here."
Jon put his arm around his buddy's shoulder and led him away from Nester to the middle of the room, and faced him in the direction of Caden.
"Why is that whenever you have these little parties, you always fail to mention at least one person on the guest list."
Collin smiled and looked at Jon. "I have no idea what you are talking about, my friend."
Jon nudged Collin back into the direction he was supposed to face. "Don't play, Col. Why is she here? You did not say that Caden was coming."
The blond chuckled and faced his friend once again. "I don't say a lot of things, Pal. But you're a smart kid. I went to first grade with you, I know you can connect the dots." Collin knocked on Jon's head. "But you're an old man now so I'll help you out. This is a neighborhood party. If you grew up with us in the neighborhood, then, buddy, this is where you're at tonight. So tell me, why would you think your little girlfriend wouldn't be here?" When Jon said nothing, Collin patted him on the shoulder proceeded to walk away before turning around again. "Maybe you should, hm, I don't know...Maybe patch some things up with her?"
"Like what, Collin?" Jon hissed.
The blonde shrugged. "Her virginity maybe?"
At his friends harsh look Collin burst out laughing and walked away. That was just like Collin. To laugh at something that wasn't funny. Something that was far more serious than he had any idea of. He looked over at Caden again. This time she stood close to a man that didn't look familiar. His arms were rapped tightly around her waist and his face was buried in crook of her neck. He was whispering something. She was smiling. An unfamiliar feeling crept into Jon's gut. The feeling spread through his veins, into his chest and sat heavily on his heart. He wasn't used to jealousy. He never had to deal with it especially when all the girls he had ever been with had practically worshipped him but suddenly he felt as if the emotion had set up house and didn't plan on leaving for while. He wanted to hit something. To take his anger out on some unsuspecting chair or pillow.
As much as Caden hated him, the feeling wasn't mutual and as far as Jon was concerned, Caden was, to a degree, still his.
With every hand that Caden shook her headache only seemed to increase. Since she had walked through her old friend Collin's front door the same words had repeatedly been banging in her ears.
'You just had to say yes. You just couldn't say no, could you?'
She wasn't sure if she was all right with seeing all these people from her past. She had purposely moved out of California to get away from ancient history. Yet, here she was again, not just visiting, but also finding an apartment and staying. Collin was helping her pay the rent on a condo that wasn't to far from his place. Jason was helping her with...well, nothing. He was just there. He had the title of 'Caden's Great-Looking- Aspiring-Model-Richer-Than-She-Will-Ever-Dream-Of-Being-Boyfriend, and he didn't even think to help her find a place to stay.
'What a great guy,' she told herself every morning. One day she would believe it.
"Caden!" a shrill cry came from across the room along with loud shuffling. A heavyset woman rushed over to her and grabbed the hand that didn't have a drink in it. "Look at you! Sweetheart, you look fabulous! What happened?"
Caden smiled but look confused, "Beatrice!" She said, faking excitement. "Wh-what do you mean?" She didn't know whether to be offended or not. Beatrice slapped Caden's hand playfully and the shorthaired beauty avoided a droplet of wine that spilled over the brim of her glass. "Well, c'mon, C.K. I mean, when you were younger-" she leaned in "you were a little porker."
Beatrice threw her head with her big red hair back and laughed.
Caden didn't. "Beatrice...I was ten pounds underweight when you knew me."
Beatrice laughed harder.
A few people in the room looked over and Caden felt like hiding her face. When she stopped she leaned in again. "Of course, you were, darling. So, how's life?"
Caden nodded, fighting off annoyance and her headache. "Life is good."
"I'm sure it is. Where did you move to again? Utah? Wyoming? Idaho?"
"New York, Beatrice. I moved to New York." She said through gritted teeth.
"Oh," B replied in mild interest. She was looking around for a different source of momentary entertainment and C.K. was thanking her stars that tonight she wasn't the center of attention.
"Who, in the name of everything that is sexy, is that?" Cadens' eyes followed B's chubby arm down to the red pointed fingernail until her grey eyes landed on Jason. She sighed, "That's Jason."
"Jason?" B continued to stare. "He is ma—"
"My boyfriend." Caden stated plainly and when the big haired woman looked at her, C.K. flashed her a genuine sarcastic smile. "Jason Horowitz. He's my boyfriend. Next month is our one year."
Beatrice flipped an invisible strand of hair out of her face.
"Him?" she pointed to Jason. "And you?" She pointed to Caden.
Then she laughed one of her loud obnoxious laughs that made the whole room turn to her.
"Good Lord, Caden, if you're going to make a joke make it believable or wait until April or something. Why would a god like him date...you?"
She continued to laugh and C.K. made that her chance to get away. She slipped passed the heavier woman making her way to her boyfriend. She tapped him on the shoulder lightly and he turned around greeting her with a warm smile.
"Having fun, babe?" He leaned in to kiss her but she moved away. "I wanna leave, Jason, now." He flashed a smile at a new friend that passed by then turned a worried gaze to her.
"C, baby, why? What happened?" His brown eyes didn't look as concerned as his voice sounded. He flashed another smile at someone behind his distraught girlfriend. She snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Can you time out with attention seeking for a second?" Jason's' eyes found hers again and he smiled gently. "Baby, why would you want to leave? These are nice people. You grew up with almost all of them."
"Yeah, Baby and that's exactly why I wanna go. There's too much, I don't know, Me Culture." Jason stopped and looked down at the shorthaired beauty in front of him. Before he met her, he had never been a sucker for personality. It was always performance, stamina and attitude in bed, but there had been something about Caden. Something he had noticed from the first time he met her. Something that made you want to see what would happen next.
"'Me Culture.'" he repeated. She nodded and he smiled then leaned in stealing a kiss on the forehead before she could dodge it. "No such word. Go Mingle." And with that he was walking away into a crowd of handsomely dressed men. The thought of following him crossed her twice in a matter of seconds but left her just as fast. She knew half those guys in the crowd and she wasn't in the mood to hear 'remember that time when we—' again for the rest of the night.
Caden looked around the room for an escape and found it in the form of a bathroom. Once inside, she locked the door and leaned her back against it, sighing tiredly. She needed a stiff drink. A few of them actually. She wanted to go back to her warm bed and loud noises in New York. Her photographs that lined every wall in her condo. Her mismatching furniture and bright colored sculptures. She missed it all. When Jason moved in he had been quick to talk about going back to California. He had said, 'Baby, if I can find a nice job in California then we can get our lives started.'
"I don't know about you but my life started nineteen years ago." She didn't need to move cities to get her excitement. She leaned against the door in silence before coming to a final conclusion. She needed to go outside and breathe. She needed air. Hot, muggy, polluted, California air. She needed something that would take her mind off the upper middle class party that was taking place in her friend's apartment. Something that would take her mind off of all the people that whispered about her as she walked by. Taking a strong breath she turned opened the door and took a brave step outside. Nobody seemed to notice her come out of the bathroom but if they did she could imagine them saying things like 'man, she had to go' or 'Jesus, I hope she prayed.'
Those thoughts helped propel her across the room to the door. Her door of freedom. She turned the golden knob and gave one last look to the party. Her eyes met with Collin's blue ones. He gave her a sad look that almost made her want to close the door and stay.
But she didn't, instead mouthing the words 'I'll come back.'
And with that, She left.