tagRomanceA Gray Area Ch. 10

A Gray Area Ch. 10


"You'll understand when you get older, baby."

C.K. felt as if she were in a dream. Or a nightmare. It was like going back to the days when her step dad made her go to church and the nuns would try and convert her. Make her see their ways. Only she wasn't at church. She was in a hospital. And it wasn't a nun trying to convince her. It was C.K.'s own mother. "You'll understand when you get older, baby." She had been saying since she woke up. Caden had asked her why she hadn't been aware of her mother's ailment and had only gotten that same response. She would understand when she got older. She had asked why her mother was trying to end her life. Candice had only replied with her same frustrating answer.

"You'll understand when you get older, baby."

"I hope not," Caden disagreed, finally sick of hearing those words coming from the older woman's mouth. They were monotonous and repetitive like the sound of the heart monitor. "I hope I am never that miserable, at 45, to want to kill myself," her words had a harsh bite too them but Candice didn't recoil. She didn't even seem to notice. She was in a vegetative state. Only she wasn't. She seemed as if she wasn't all there. And yet she spoke to her daughter perfectly. Well, almost perfectly.

"Ma, honestly," Caden whispered. She was begging now, so desperate to know the truth, that she honestly didn't care how she sounded. "Why do you want to die? Do you miss dad?" Those words seemed to catch Candice's attention and she turned her light brown eyes to her daughter, a light, almost drowsy smile playing on her lips. "He was such a good man. I loved him, Caden. I did." C.K. felt her heart grow weak. Her mother never talked about Victor. It was a sore spot for everyone, especially her. Seeing her mom like this made her want to cry. Cry for both of them.

"So you do miss him?" She asked, her voice shaking. God, please no tears. If she cried this whole situation would turn into a weekday morning soap opera.

"He was so handsome," Candice admitted. "His hair was so nicely kept. His smile..." Candice trailed off, her smile faltering. "Ma, please don't cry. If you cry I'll lose it."

"His smile was so perfect. I think it's his smile I fell for first. Then his eyes. And then he spoke and I thought I had died. He was always there. He had always cared. You know he was there when you were born? We weren't together but we were friends. Close friends. He was right there when you were born. I'll never forget the look on his face. He was so proud. Of me. Of you..." Candice took in a quick breath as if she remembered something that excited her. Her smile, which had faded halfway through her story, came back in full amplitude. "I caught him one day. In your room. He was holding your small little fingers and talking to you. I'll never forget what he said. 'I'm gonna do my best. I'm gonna take care of your mother. I'm gonna take care of you. I'm gonna make everything better. I'm gonna raise you as if you were my own daughter.' And then he said: 'you know what? Scratch that. From here on out. You are my real daughter.'" Caden hadn't noticed her mothers' tears because her own eyes were blinded by them. "I think that's when I fell in love with him," Candice admitted, her voice a broken whisper. "I think seeing that made my whole perspective on life change. He was my inspiration. But now that he's gone...so is my inspiration."

What do you say to something like that?

Caden felt as if her heart was breaking just by hearing her mother speak. She sat in silence listening to her mother's sobs. With every sharp breath, C.K. felt her own sobs about to overflow. She hadn't cried at Victor's funeral. She had been to numb. It wasn't for another month that she actually let herself go. And, God, she had cried so hard. And so long. Almost a whole night. And not once that whole night had Jon moved. He had sat there holding her. His arms a light in the darkness for her, just as they had been on nights before.

"You still have us, Ma," Caden said. "Me and De aren't going anywhere. You even have Collin and Shane. We're all here for you, Ma. We can be your inspiration if you would just let us help." Caden felt stupid using her mother's metaphor but it was the only way to get a point across. "I'm not the one that needs a new inspiration, Caden,"

That caught her off guard. "What do you mean?"

C.K. followed her mother's eyes to the sleeping man in the corner. Jon's arms were folded across his chest and his head rested on his shoulder. His dark blonde hair fell slightly to one side. He was a complete picturesque of beauty and perfection, even in the thralls of sleep, and his admirer couldn't help but smile. She was wishing she had brought her camera. She would photograph him for her personal portfolio. When she turned back to her mom the older woman had already been studying her. "I think you know the reason why all your photos have been gray."

She did. She always had but once again she had managed to overlook it. Jason was a hazard to her. It was so plainly written in all of the things she did. His affect on her had passed right over her head. To her, it had felt as if she was carrying on normal but to everyone else it had been obvious. Her pictures had not only changed but so had she.

"I have to go see him soon. Me and him need to have a talk," Caden repeated her words in her head. She sounded like a stern mother reproaching her child. She had to smile at herself.

"He isn't good for you, baby." Caden scoffed.

"The motherly advice is a bit over due, Ma."

Candice's smile was warm. "I know, baby. I'm sorry."

"Why does it seem like everyone is apologizing to me lately?"

"Because you deserve it." Candice sat up slightly in the bed, the springs creaked. Jon stirred, lifting his head from his shoulder. His eyes met Caden's. She felt a comforting warmness envelope her body. His hazel eyes held hers as he, seemingly, looked through her soul, trying to find where he fit.

'You fit just fine where you are...'

"Good morning, Mrs. Winter," Jon greeted, getting out of his seat, stretching. Caden's mom returned his greeting with a warm, motherly smile. An approving smile.

"Morning, C.K."

Caden found her voice buried somewhere deep down. "Morning." Jon made his way to the older woman's bed, stubbing his sneaker-clad toe on Candice's IV. "Ouch. Fuck." He stopped on the side of the bed, hovering over Candice. "Glad to see your feeling better, Candice." He said through gritted teeth, still fighting off the pain. He made himself comfortable on the side of the hospital bed. His eyes were heavy lidded, obviously from the lack of sleep he had gotten in his chair.

"No one ever said I was feeling better, Jon. I'm just alive." It hurt Caden to hear that. The words made her think, once again, that her and her sister weren't a good enough reason for their mom to want to stay alive.

"And you, C.K.? Did you sleep well?"

'No,' she wanted to say. She hadn't slept at all, which was now taking a heavy toll on her. She was considering going home to take a nap. She had an art show to go to at eight. Her art show. She couldn't go to a display of her own art looking like a train wreck. Or feeling like it either.

"No, actually I didn't sleep at all."

"She was walking around the hospital all night till she came back in here at around 5," Candice explained. "So me and her just sat down and talked."

Jon nodded, understanding. It had been a while since mother and daughter actually spoke to each other in a different way besides the phone and longer than a few minutes.

"Do you want me to take you home or something?" Jon asked, turning to Caden, his brow furrowed in concern.

"No. I actually have to stop by Jason's work and have a talk..."

Candice cleared her throat. "Well, it's already 8. He should be at work now and you have an art show tonight so go. I'll be fine." She gave her daughter a reassuring pat on the hand, which really did little to reassure the girl. Caden nodded slowly, taking her time getting up from her seat. Inside herself, she was taking her time to build up her courage.

All night she had thought about the things Jason would say to her and the things she would say to him. She would talk to him about how much he had changed in a matter of hours. How, for the last few months, he had been coming home later and later. Everything was going to be addressed.

"Have fun at your exhibition tonight, sweet heart," Candice said, as Caden made her way to and out the door. The smell outside her mother's room was different from the hospital. The hospital itself smelled of plastic and cleanliness which, although was calming to some, made Caden want to run and hide.

'Too many memories and I'm only making more the longer I stay in here.'

Jon followed her outside the room, lightly grabbing her arm as she rounded a corner. "Do you need a ride?" he asked again. "I don't mind." Caden was dieing to say yes and she almost had to bite her tongue not to. She needed some form of comfort as she made her way to what seemed like her death.

'This isn't going to end well,' she kept telling her self, a mantra that had stuck since early that morning.

"No, I think I should walk. I need some time to think."

Jon was worried. She could see that easily. He wanted to help her more than anything right now and she wanted him too. "If you need me just call." He offered. Caden could only nod, then walk away.

Walking out of the hospital was like stepping out of a bad dream. The distinct smell of clean wisped away from her as she stepped out into the already crowded streets. A tall man wearing a baseball cap bumped into her and kept walking. She was glad for the contact. She needed to make sure that she was alive and everything that had happened in the last two nights hadn't been some kind of nightmare.

'Suck it up, kid,' she told herself making her way down the sidewalk. Jason's agency was only two blocks from the hospital. That gave her fifteen minutes, if she walked incredulously slow, to think. The more time the better.

'So what are you going to say to him?' she questioned herself. 'Well, you can start with something simple and truthful like, 'Well just a few days ago you told me you loved me and now I call you and you act like you don't even want to see me or talk to me. My mom is in the hospital and you were making jokes. That's not cool.' Which it wasn't. 'And I think that after my art show tonight we should just go out and do something, you know. Maybe see a movie or go bowling. Something obnoxiously and disgustingly cheesy.'

Caden stopped in front of a semi tall building. She was there. Damn it all to hell. She hadn't even gotten a chance to get into what she really had wanted to say.

The windows of the Williams Modeling Agency building were more like two way mirrors. On the outside Caden could see her reflection perfectly mimicking every little action she did but on the inside, to Caden's disbelief, she could see every person that walked by. A few people, every so often, fixed their hair or tie then continued walking which brought a smile to the anxious girls face. The front desk, that normally would be a Secretaries desk, was a security guard desk and the guard on duty was noisily talking away on his phone.

"..I know. I liked it too." The guard laughed into the receiver. "No way. Not tonight, baby cakes. Oh yeah. I'm gonna eat it all tonight."

"Excuse me," Caden dramatically slammed her hand on the desk, having finally lost her patience. "I have been standing here for at least five minutes. Can you—"

The Guard put his hand over the receiver. "Miss, I am so sorry but you are going to have to wait just like every other person that comes into this building. I am having a phone conversation and that is so rude." He went back to his conversation on the phone. He reclined back into his chair, placing his legs on the desk in front of him.

'Fatty,' Caden held her words in. 'Fatty fuck face. Get the fuck off the phone.'

The guard sucked in a quick breath and let it go. Caden gagged. "Oh yeah, baby girl. I can't wait to get home to that—"

"Are you fucking serious," Caden muttered.

"Big, sexy—" he continued.

"Oh Dear God, please! I just need to know where I can find Jason Maldonado. He works here. Please just don't, DON'T finish that sentence until those elevator doors close with me behind them." The guard's eyes were angry as he flipped through a thick book. He muttered an obscenity to his phone sex partner. His pudgy finger skimmed across the M section before tapping on a name twice. "Seventh Floor."

Caden walked away giving a thank you wave. The cop didn't smile back and from the reflection of the elevator doors she could see rent-a-cop flipping her the bird.

'Good.' She said. She was glad she was able to get some of her anger out. For a second she had almost forgotten the talk she was about to have. How nervous she was. Why was she so nervous? Jason would understand. He always did.

The elevator gave a light hearted ding as it landed on the seventh floor. The doors opened, slowly. Too slow. 'Let's get this over with' she wanted to scream. Like a battle cry. An inspiration to fight. She was ready to storm up to him and say 'Look here, dude. I'm in charge.' But she wasn't. And as quickly as the overcoming feeling came was as quick as it left.

The seventh floor was busy. And it looked like it stayed that way most of the time. People walked back and forth, each step a determined thrust forward. A few people held cameras while others held lights. Obviously there was a shoot about to take place. People were yelling across the floor, barking orders, while others set their equipment down in front of a small podium. A few women walked in front of Caden as she stepped out of the elevator, abruptly cutting her off.

"Excuse you," one said. C.K. walked passed her, ignoring the comment and helping herself to a long stare. The girl looked oddly familiar. Her blond hair was pulled up in a strange Marie Antoinette style and was flamboyantly decorated with silk ribbons and butterflies. Her foundation was stark white that was in perfect contrast with the blue eye make-up that matched her almost non-existent bathing suit. The girl was tall. Actually everyone in the room was tall. For the first time in her whole life, C.K. was acutely aware of how short she really was.

Silently, Caden suppressed the need to go and stand on the miniature podium and curse out every model in the room, starting with the blond bitch that was prettier than her.

'Jealousy is a horrible thing.' Candices' voice rang true in her daughters head. "Yes it is."

'Stay on track, Cay. You came here for a reason.' She guided herself back on the right track and walked across the floor to a black curtain that took up half the space on the floor. Jason was most likely in make up or hair or whatever models called it nowadays.

Before entering, Caden stood outside the curtain taking a few deep breaths. 'This could end in one of two ways. One, and this is the least likely of the two, he completely understands and decides that he is going to everything he can to make me happy and he will come home early just to be with me. The perfect Cinderella bullshit romance story. Or two: He flies off the hook and tells me to leave because I am annoying him with stupid girl emotions or something.'

She entered.

The curtain room was crowded. In the small black confines people hobbled back and forth avoiding other people. Three or four people sat in chairs while four other people took to separate parts of their heads, grooming them all to the appropriate look. No one took even a remote interest in the girl who just passed through the curtains, but Caden wanted to scream from the awkwardness of her inappropriate dress. While everyone walked around in up to date fashion, Caden sported a white tank top, her favorite black Dickies and a pair of ancient Converses.

On the opposite side of the curtain Caden met eyes with Jason. If her heart hadn't been beating fast before then it was now. She couldn't breathe. She felt a heavy weight press upon her chest. The weight became almost unbearable as Jason, sporting his impatience and possible annoyance as a second skin, trudged over to her, grabbed her by the arm and hauled her out of the curtain.

"What are you doing?" He asked, obviously irritated. 'Now's your chance, Caden-girl. Get it out.'

"My mom is gonna be okay," C.K. said. "I just thought you would want to know. They are letting her out either tomorrow or tonight."

Jason looked at her in disbelief then ran a hand through his black hair. "Is that all? You came all the way over here just to tell me that?"

"I figured you would want to know. And I need to talk to you ab—"

"About something that I'm sure can wait. Hooray your moms alive but I got things to do, Caden. I can't believe you came all the way down here just to tell me something like that,"

"I figured it was important to you." In her mind, she wasn't sure why she kept pushing the issue. She knew it was important to him. Every so often Jason would look around to see if any one was eavesdropping on their conversation. "Am I embarrassing you by being here?" She couldn't help but ask. Jason sighed. "Caden, don't do that. Don't ask me things like that," he pleaded.

"Well it's not all that hard. You just have to tell the truth."

Jason paused for a second. He was considering the words to tell her. "Look at how you're dressed, Cay. Those pants are a least three years old and it shows. Your tank top is dirty. You hair—dear God, Cay, your hair."

C.K. wasn't surprised that her hair looked a mess. She hadn't looked in the mirror for at least a day. Jason reached up to fix her hair, glanced behind her, then put his hand back down, focusing his attention back on his girlfriend. Caden couldn't help herself. She turned, searching for what made Jason think twice about his actions.

Sitting on a stool, getting her make-up redone was the bitch who had been rude to her a few minutes ago. And it was then that Caden remembered who she was.

"Chasidy got your tongue?" Caden asked, turning back to Jason. He ignored her comment. "You need to leave," Jason stated plainly. "I have to get this shoot done, I'm gonna be late again tonight." Caden nodded. She felt her anger sizzle in her stomach. "Is she going to be late home too?" Caden pointed behind her.

"Oh Jesus, Cay." Jason said exasperated.

"No, Not Jesus, Jason. Her. Is she going to be late going home too? Or what? Do you need to give her a ride home? In the car, I mean. Not on your dick." The anger that flashed into Jason's eyes made C.K. wish she hadn't been born, and when Jason grabbed her arm roughly and pulled her into a corner, she thoroughly reprimanded herself for not thinking before she spoke.

"Don't you ever, ever, talk to me like that. Do you understand?" Caden didn't say a word. She raised her chin a bit only to have Jason's grip tighten on her arm. He bit out his words slowly. "Do you understand?"

She nodded. That was the only thing she could do. He released her with a sharp thrust. "I don't know what the hell has gotten into you lately but I have work, okay? I am working very hard to make it. What do you do all day, Caden? Sit around, look out the window, eat, type, sleep, and take a picture here and there. And by doing that disgusting combination, you still are managing to make more money than me."

"Jealous?" Caden muttered. Jason was about to say something smart when Chasidy strolled up. Boldly, she intertwined her with Jason's. Caden didn't give a reaction despite Chasidy's obvious hopes. Instead she coulnt help herself but think of how much better they were for each other. They dressed alike, acted alike.

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