A Gray Area Ch. 02byDeity©
She wasn't sure whether it was the light streaming in from her blinds or the constant ringing of her cell phone that woke her up but she was awake and wasn't ready to be. She laid in a state of half asleep and half awake shock for twenty minutes gently tapping her fingers on the bed sheets to the ring her cell phone let out before rolling over and making a grabbing attempt for the device. She flipped it open.
"Speak," She ordered lazily.
"Good Lord, C.K., I thought you had died in your sleep." Collin's voice came loudly through the phone.
"No, no," she answered. "That would have been a blessing, and me and God aren't on speaking terms right now." Caden hadn't been to church in years even though she occasionally wore the crucifix her mother gave her. Since her move to New York, church just hadn't appeased her like it had when she was younger. Upon her return to California, Candice, Caden's mom, had begged her to come to one service. Jason had jumped at the offer. C.K. had shuddered in horror. The idea of stepping back into an over crowded building with people singing brought the bile up into her throat.
"Oh, So you've taken on the role as the artistic agnostic? Clever. What's next? Should I expect deep philosophical teachings with a side of yoga and meditation?"
C.K. sighed. "No, that inner peace, center of balance shit kinda scares me. How many times did you call my phone and how long did it ring for?"
"I started calling at seven thirty, it is now...eight ten. You sleep like the dead, kitten."
"So I've been told. What did you need?" She heard him shuffling around his bed, probably climbing out of it. She did the same, throwing the blankets off and swinging her feet over. "I needed a buddy to come with me for croissants and coffee, and who better to go to the café with than my favorite person in town right now?" he sounded mildly excited but the words made her smile. She stretched her arms over head, holding the phone between her shoulder and her ear. Her earlobe mashed down a button.
"Sorry," she said quickly. "Yeah, I'll go. Gimme a couple of minutes though, I'm stinky."
Collin laughed. "What did you and Mr. USA get up to last night? Late night high-endurance work out?"
Caden scoffed. "Hardly. Got to go, peace out Boy Scout. See you in twenty." She took the receiver away from her ear but not before hearing, "By the way!" She put it back in its original place between her ear and shoulder. "Yeah?"
"Bring some pictures. I wanna look at what you've been working on since you left." And before she could hang up, he did.
C.K. looked at the phone before flipping it closed and tossing it carelessly onto the bed. She stripped as she walked to the bathroom throwing her boy underwear and tank top across the room. She would hear it from Jason about that.
'Well, baby, I know your used to living in a bachelorette pad and don't have to clean anything but-'
"Blah, blah, blah, blah" She finished the thought out loud while the water ran into the tub, heating up the whole bathroom. She stared at her naked body in the mirror. Her gray eyes were a loud comparison to her milk chocolate skin and the fluorescent lights of the bathroom made her self-conscious about how dark she was. That was one thing she hated about California. Mr. Golden Sun was always shining happily down on her making her darker than she wanted to be. She flicked a hand through her bed head and smiled. If there was anything she loved about herself, it was her hair. That short brown mat of straight yet uncontrollable hair that she wore so proudly with a flower, bow or a brightly colored headband. It matched her perfectly.
She tore herself away from her reflection and stepped into the shower, letting the warm water wash away her fatigue. Last night had been a nightmare. Not just when she was at the party, but also when she got home. Jason came home late and half drunk, ready to fight or fuck, as usual. Her head didn't stop pounding until two in the morning and she didn't get to sleep until after three because she had been listening to Jason ramble on about absolutely nothing.
Standing naked in the shower, she thought of all the things she had wanted to tell people last night. She thought of how much she wanted to call Beatrice a tub of baked lard and how she was dieing to throw her wine at Calvin Ambles face for laughing at her career.
'A photographer?' He had repeated, then began laughing much like Beatrice did, head thrown back, mouth gaping open. 'How much money is that reeling in?'
"A sufficient amount." C.K. replied out loud, telling herself exactly what she had told him the night before. He hadn't believed her and she hated herself for letting her emotions get out of control. She had wanted to cry. Not just because of his comments, but because she hated being there, in that room, with all those people who knew her. Knew her past and her roots. Knew how she grew up and who her mom was (not that Candice Kristoff Winter was a bad person). She just hated the history. The 'me culture'.
'And thankfully for me,' she thought while rubbing her skin with a soap covered loofa, ' the one person I dreaded seeing wasn't there.' A small pang of something unnerving echoed through her body. Disappointment? Was she really upset that Jon hadn't been there? Had she set herself up so high that when his beautiful face didn't shine through the crowd of people her mood crashed completely? 'No way. Jon was a dick.' She convinced herself. 'He blew it, and he knows he did.' She let that thought linger in her head before...
'But he was such a great guy. Always there, always nice, always cute, always encouraging, always sweet, always perfect. Not like Ja--'
"No!" She ended the thought abruptly, throwing her loofa dramatically into the tub. The last thing she wanted was to let her thoughts cloud her judgement. Especially on a catch like Jason Maldonado.
"A catch." She laughed, stepping out of the tub. The bathroom air was filled with the powerful scent of peach body wash and the bathroom mist clung to the mirror and doorknob. She used the palm of her hand to wipe the mirror clear so she could see herself. Her perky bed head had dropped from the humidity and lay flat on her forehead and neck. She blew some air upwards trying to get her bangs out of her face but they stayed. She sighed, opening her bathroom door, walking into the bedroom stark naked. The sunlight was beginning to come through the blinds in orange rays that made a picket fence on the far wall. Her bed was a mess, pillows on the ground, blanket half on half off, note under the—
C.K. walked over to the note that was forced sloppily under Jason's pillow. Her eyes flicked over the words lazily as she read out loud. "Baby-Cay," she hated it when he called her that. "I got called into work early but I should be back in no time." C.K. dropped the note, carelessly and went to her walk in closet, grabbing a remote off the dresser on her way over. She pressed a few buttons and the 5 CD changer came to life immediately. As the room filled with a smooth melodic guitar, Caden moved hangers around haphazardly looking for something comfortable. All her jeans were still packed away. She only had dresses and shirts. Caden looked out into her bedroom at the box on her far wall. In bright red words it read 'jeans' and had a long strike below it. She sighed. "Dress or Jeans?" she asked no one in particular. After a silence she asked again, as if waiting for her mind to answer out loud. "Dress or Jeans?"
The song that played through out her room ended and went into a frenzied bass and drums song. "I'm feeling kinda dressy today." And with that she grabbed a white sundress and bent to pick up her white fluffy boots. She picked out her favorite black boys shorts and slipped it on with a matching bra. Over the strapless sundress she put on a white over shirt that covered nothing but her arms and shoulders and finished it with her white wide lense sunglasses.
"Perfect," she said to her bathroom mirror. The humidity had receded from the air and her hair had gone into a wild look. She ran her hands through it a few times, flatting some out of control areas here and there and when she thought it was perfect she grabbed her white headband and set it in the middle of her head. She flattened her bangs and flipped the back a few more times making sure she was perfect then left her bathroom. She grabbed her black folder on the way out of her bedroom. She opened it, flicking through some of the photographs before closing it and heading for the door.
The California morning was welcoming with its smoggy wind gusts and coffee filled air. To most it felt like home. Just another day in the life of a native, but for Caden it felt like a new high school in a new town (high school had been a nightmare for her anyways). Even though this was her hometown, she couldn't help but feel the heavy bearings of her past always pressing on her shoulder with every familiar sight she looked at. As she walked down the street she saw cafés where she used sit and listen to her music. She passed by arcades where she would beat all her guy friends at Mortal Kombat. Caden stopped in front of a French restaurant. There was a fancy name written in cursive that, still to this day, she couldn't pronounce. There were tables sets outside under the pavilion. Men dressed up in tuxedos normally sat at the tables across from women who wore expensive jewelry. Caden remembered when she was younger she would always walk by and say to her mother, "Its just dinner, gosh."
She kept walking.
The café wasn't far but C.K. had been walking the mile down memory lane. She was ready to turn around, go back home to her warm bed and loud music. The idea was almost unbearable until her destination came into view and in the window was Collin with his shaggy blonde hair and pretty boy smile. She had always like him. The reason why they never dated rarely came up. He was always just a friend.
His best friend on the other hand had been a different story.
"Fucking Jon," Caden murmured under her breath, as she took a seat in front of him. She set her black folder on the table near his coffee.
"Are you looking to court a snowman?" he asked nonchalantly. The seriousness of his face, as he looked at her up and down made her stifle a laugh that threatened to come up. Caden tilted her head to the side innocently. "I can't believe you don't like my outfit. I dressed like this for you. You love white."
"Um, not a whole closet of it. Kitten you look like..."he trailed off. , a smile coming to his face. "Well, I wont tell you what you look like but if you were aiming to stand out, then congrats. Mission accomplished." He ducked his head under the table then came back up. "White boots? And Ug boots at that. You get an 'F' for the day, and when we are finished here, your going home and changing out of that Antarctic camouflage."
Caden rolled her eyes. "I like it." She picked up a menu holding it up halfway. Now that she was in the general vicinity of food, she wasn't all that hungry anymore. The smell of the food had kind of filled her up. Instead she picked up her folder and handed it to him. He took it with an interested face and muttered a "let's see what we got here."
He flipped through the pages leisurely, his eyes scanning over every single photograph in the book. Every so often he would give a small smile or a quick nod, look up at her, then back down and flip a page. A waitress came up with a pad in hand ready to take orders.
"Collin, you want anything else?" she asked him. He didn't acknowledge. Just kept his eyes to the page he was on. The waitress nodded, mouthing the word 'okay.' Turning her attention to Caden, she asked, "Would you like to try our double mocha special?" C.K. shook her head. "I don't drink coffee but I will take a hot chocolate, extra whip cream—"
"We know how she likes that whipped cream." Collin murmured still not looking from the book. C.K. kicked him under the table and continued her order. "Hot chocolate, extra whip cream and maybe a chocolate chip muffin." The waitress nodded refolding her pad and walking away.
Collin put the folder on the table, his eyes settled intently on her. C.K. held her breath for the criticism ready to come out.
Here it was. "What's wrong with these pictures?"
Caden looked at the open folder then up at Collin. She shrugged, "I was kinda hoping you could tell me."
"You want me to tell you?"
She nodded slowly.
"There is no life in these pictures."
A pause. "There is a little girl right there, I don't take pictures of dead things, Col.," She said, pointing to a little girl with ice cream on her rain boot.
"No, Cay Cay, that's not what I meant. I mean, look at all these." He picked up the book flipping through it erratically.
"There is no color," he said finally. "All these pictures are black, white, and gray. You used to take pictures of fields of sunflowers. No one wants to see sunflowers in black and white. That's an abomination. What's wrong with you?" He put the folder down and picked up his coffee mug, sipping loudly. When he put down the cup he asked, "Are you in depression?" Despite the seriousness and truthfulness in the question, Caden couldn't help but bust out laughing. "I'm serious, I'm so serious, Cay. Are you depressed?"
"No," Caden answered still laughing.
"I think your lying."
"Oh, is that what you think?"
"Yes, and you know what else I think?"
She sat forward on the table, a huge smile pasted on her face. "What?"
"I think that Captain America you're dating, isn't making you see stars and stripes in bed."
C.K.'s mouth gapped at his response. "What is up with you? My sexual life is very personal and satisfying."
"That's all fine and dandy. But How's the romance?"
Caden opened her mouth, quick to respond, and then closed it. 'Its fine' she wanted to say but then again she wanted to say a lot of things that weren't true. That being one of them. There was no romance. It didn't exist with her and Jason. It was just...them. In the condo. With her camera, and a bed. Every so often there was a rose or chocolates or a meaningful kiss but it was turning out not being how it was in the beginning. He had changed and if Caden had then that was because he did it first.
"Exactly," she heard Collin say but she didn't look at him. He was right.
When she finally got the guts to look up at him he was sending a message on his cell phone. When he finished he flipped it closed and looked up at her. "Lets say you and me go to Benji's shop and see what he's got after this, alright?"
She nodded slowly, her mind elsewhere. She didn't even acknowledge when the waitress came back, setting her breakfast in front of her. Now she really wasn't hungry.
"Actually, lets just go now..." C.K. offered.
Collin looked up at her from his phone that had just gone off from a text message alert.
"I'm not hungry anymore."