A Gray Area Ch. 13byDeity©
She knew who it was before the message waiting button even went off.
She had been dreading it the whole flight, from California to New York. As she soon as it was safe for her to turn her phone back on, she did. For the first two minutes she was safe. Nothing went off, nothing beeped, nothing flashed, safe. Then as she was grabbing her bags and walking out, it flashed, vibrated, and beeped.
With unsteady hands she loaded her bags into a waiting taxi. She loaded herself in the backseat next as the driver took off, having already known where she was headed.
The drive was quiet save for a few questions here and there. Tourist questions that she should have been asking him.
'What's Cali like? How longed 'cha stay there? Is it hot there? A lot of girls?' His thick New York accent made her smile with every question. It took her mind off of what was to come. When the interrogation had ended she sat in the back seat, practically curled in a ball.
This was scary.
What was she going to have to say this time? She didn't want an apology. She wanted a rewind. A do-over; like in elementary school when she played rock-paper-scissors and lost. To herself she had said that none of this was his fault. He took a drug and he got kinda crazy, then she scoffed. There was his first mistake right there. He took a drug.
'And his friends almost raped you!' Caden looked at her driver, scared she had unconsciously said something out loud. He was watching the road, already braking for the oncoming traffic. She hadn't even noticed that they were already in the city. Her condo wasn't far now.
"So why'd you, eh, come here. To New York, I mean." Through his mirror Richard Zampanelli, he had told her his name but she hadn't been aware of retaining the information. "You a runaway bride or somethin'?" He laughed at his own joke. She did too.
"Yeah, something like that," she answered quietly.
"Oh." Richard stopped laughing. "Well, this big city is good fa' stuff like that. Take ya mind off of-eh, what's his name?"
"Jon." Her answer was quick and a bit too loud for the cab. He looked up. "Jon," she repeated quieter this time. "And we weren't going to get married. We just, um, things just happen." Richard nodded. He pulled near to the sidewalk. "Well, we're here."
Caden glanced out the window before getting out the car. They were still in the city, a nice part of it. Condos surrounded both sides of the car and people walked their dogs and rushed out their buildings.
"You're lucky; this is a nice place, here. You payin' for this on your own?" C.K. almost saw the dollar signs blind his eyes. "No," she replied. "I've got a roommate." Not that she needed one. "Oh." Richard finished unloading her bags onto the sidewalk, then brushed off his hands, on his jeans. "Well, it was nice meeting you, miss..." he fished for a name.
"Caden," she supplied.
Her smile was fake. Her heart pounded with anticipation for the message. Or maybe it was fear. She managed to embrace his hand in a firm handshake. "How much do I owe you?" she asked. Her hand reached into her back pocket back stopped at the feeling of warmth on her shoulder. Richard looked at her with sincere eyes. "You look like your having a rough day. A rough week even. Keep it. It's probably the last bit of kindness you'll see in this city."
This time Caden's smile was real and Richard returned it at the same amplitude. "Have a nice day," he said.
Caden gathered her bags and stomped through the lobby to the elevators. Just as she thought, it was empty. The lobby cast a cold, grayish-blue color on everything.
"I'll fit in perfectly," she told herself.
"Oh God, please don't tell me your Caden," A voice rang out from across the room. A tall man, semi-muscular stood, magazine in his hand.
"Well, that's one hell of a greeting. Yeah, I am Caden." She confirmed.
"Damn. It." He threw the magazine down, not caring where it landed and walked over to her.
"Did I do something wrong?" Caden scrunched her eyebrows. "Well, yeah." He said, as if it were obvious. "You were talking to yourself."
Caden waited for the punch line, which either never came or was long gone. She gave a nervous laugh.
"Is that it?"
He nodded rigorously.
"You don't talk to yourself?"
"Of course I do but this is New York. I get a whole bunch of crazies applying as a roommate. My last roommate used to stay up at night until I went to sleep then come in the room and masturbate. My one before that used to walk around at five in the morning and talk to himself about calendars. And before that—"
Caden cut him off. She saw where this was headed.
"Wait! No! I'm not crazy; I was just admiring the building." The elevator behind the man opened, stayed open, the closed. No one got off. Her roommate gave her a scrutinizing look. "Crazy people never know they are crazy. And besides, you're an artist."
She hated being called that.
"I'm a photographer. You only call someone an artist when they deserve to be called that. I'm just trying to make my way." The man's face softened.
"Yeah, you must be crazy," his voice had gone down an octave. He gave a smile to let her know he was kidding. She returned it out of sincerity. "Okay, well now that that's finished-" he took her bags "- I'm Gabriel. I live in the same apartment as you, of course, and I don't like noise when I'm not invited to help make it."
Caden kept a steady pace with him, despite his long strides. When they reached the elevators, he turned to her. "Oh my God," he leaned down, close to her face, looking deeply into her eyes. "Are those real?"
"No, they're glass." She made sure to keep her face completely emotionless for a few seconds before laughing. "Of course they're real." Gabriel was laughing too. "You have gorgeous eyes. So bright. Like one of those African American movie stars that are so pretty but you never see what lab they came from. Hollywood swears they are born just like you and me." He glanced at her as they stepped on the elevator before the doors even completely opened. "Well, me, maybe not you."
Caden couldn't help but smile. This guy was adorable. Up close he looked less muscular, which was surprising. He had a slim build but not too slim. She could see the muscles from under his polo shirt but they weren't bulging. His eyes were a regular brown and his hair matched. In the front it was spiked up to a semi-Mohawk.
"By the way, because you are hot—"
"-We are going to have to set some ground rules. Where are you from?"
He mumbled to himself. "Okay, good. I won't have to worry about the 'big city life, small country girl' promiscuity faze."
The elevator doors opened. Caden hadn't even realized a button was pressed. They were on the thirteenth floor.
Gabriel exited, Caden followed. "I knew you talked to yourself," she said. He through her a crooked smile over his shoulder then continued talking.
"Ground rules. One: You're hot. Those eyes are definitely working for you and your shape is perfection and I love your style. Therefore, I wouldn't doubt if you have some midnight guests coming by. Please, please, please, just try to keep the bumping and grinding to a minimum. In volume not in quota. You look like a growing girl, I won't deprive you completely." Caden smiled and nodded as he continued down the list, speaking quickly
"Two: I'm gay." He stood there as if waiting for the firing squad. Caden stood there staring at him. She gave him a look that said, 'and?'
"Great! Now that I know you're not homophobic. I have a lot of guy friends. Mostly gay- some semi-gay- and we throw a lot of parties. Any parties that I have you are invited to and a little bird told me that you were only, what? Eighteen? That's fine. Get trashed. Just please, puke in el bano."
It was an hour before Gabriel finished laying down his ground rules. Finally Caden was alone and she took refuge on a red couch in her new room. She looked around, stalling time before taking out her phone. The room was exactly what she needed. The wall nearest the outside window was brick and lined with art. The other three walls were painted white with various markings etched and painted in. The small couch she lounged in faced the window and on the other side of the room was a tire swing dangling from the ceiling. Gabriel had explained that the room was large enough to fit one hundred and ten people, shoulder to shoulder, therefore it was large enough for her to swing should she feel the need. And, yes, he had added, it can hold up to about one hundred and seventy pounds so it won't break when she sat down on it.
Her phone beeped, reminding her that she still had a message that was yet to be read. She removed it from her back pocket and stared it. She couldn't lie-she was scared. Not scared of who the message was from but scared of what it said. She knew who sent it. She didn't even have to guess.
Deity had most likely spilled the beans about her flight out of Cali and Jon was either furious or upset. Boldly, she pressed the voicemail button on her phone. She waited a few second before putting it up to her ear.
"Please enter your password," the electronic voice commanded. C.K. didn't. She held the phone to her ear listening to the noise in the background. The slight static.
"Are you still there? Please enter your password." This time she did, taking three second breaks before pressing the next number in the sequence. "You have one unheard message." Caden took a breath, letting it out shakily. "First message."
Jon's voice came through a quick silence over the phone.
"Cay? Baby, please tell me I just imagined this and you are really over at someone's house or something. New York, Cay? Jesus, why? Damn it, I know why but Cay I'm sorry. I don't know what happened after I passed out but I'm apologizing. I asked Michael what happened but he said nothing...Jesus, I can't believe you left without telling me. God..."
There was a silence and Caden was scared that he was crying. When he came back his voice was cracked and hoarse.
God, please don't let him be crying.
"I love you. I never said it and I know when people are around I never acted like it but I do. I need you like...Jesus-like I need air. This is all my fault, I know. Kitten, just come back, please. I'll fucking write it on the walls." He shouted his next three words. "I love you! And I do. Just come—"
The message ended and the electronic voice cut in. Caden deleted the message without hesitation and closed her phone.
Tears that she hadn't known formed began to fail.
'I love you!' he had shouted. Caden reached for a red pillow, pulling it under her. She let her tears fall onto it turning the fabric a dark crimson.
'I refuse to let you regret this," she told herself. 'You're better than this, Cay. It shouldn't take you leaving for him to realize how he feels.' She swiped at a tear that was bothering her temple. 'You're no better, Caden,' she reprimanded. 'The only time you told him the truth-told him you loved him, was when you were drunk.
This was exactly why she came to New York. She had come to escape her past. Her dead father, depressed mother, reckless sister were a thing of her past until she was ready to face it.
As of right, she wasn't ready to face anyone.
"Your little slut!"
Deity threw another pillow at her sister. "I refuse to believe that you, went somewhere with Jon and sat in his car with him. Just sat! And you talked but was that before or after you—" Caden laughed throwing the pillow right back at her sister, hitting her in the head, making her laugh harder.
They sat spread across the expanse of the room; Deity on her bed and Caden on the elongated window sill. "C'mon!" she cried out again. "Tell me please! What did you do?" She rolled over on her back letting her head dangle over the edge. Her curly black hair fell halfway to the floor. Caden looked at her sister and smiled. She glanced back outside.
"You know for someone who has been under house arrest and hates it so much, you're spending quite a bit of time inside." Deity threw another pillow and this time Caden was ready for it. She caught it and put it under her.
"Just answer the question. You swear to God you guys didn't have sex or touch or even kiss?" Deity had rolled back on to her stomach and was staring at her sister hard. When Caden didn't answer, Deity began laughing. "You did!" she accused.
"We didn't! Keep your fucking voice down. We have guests downstairs."
Deity rolled her black eyes. Jon, Collin, Shane, and Eliza were downstairs helping Candice with any and everything she needed. Despite Candice's protests they continued to fetch her drinks, make her food, and clean the house all day.
'I'm not crippled,' she had yelled. 'I'm just diabetic.'
Just as Candice was being served so were the Kristoff-Winter girls. Deity's house arrest had ended over a week ago and she still continued to stay in the house. On more than one occasion Shane had gone up to her and asked if she wanted to see a movie or get dinner. Her answer had been the same every time: 'Why the fuck would I want to be seen anywhere with you, asshole? You're a cop, the enemy. If anyone found out that I was with you in anyway, do you know how bad that would make me look?'
'Give him a chance,' Collin had pleaded. 'Shut up,' she had replied, going upstairs. But, to Caden's joy, Dee had agreed to come with her to her auction tonight. It wasn't long but it was definitely a black tie affair. C.K.'s. photographs were being sold with some of the best in Cali. If she wanted to get more money, she had to, for once, look like she had some. Deity had hopped on the chance at a girl's night out with her sister.
"What was up with you and Shane earlier?" Caden asked, trying to make her question seem innocent. Deity looked up from the ruffles on her pillow that she was entertaining herself with. "What do you mean?" Caden shrugged, posing the question in an even lighter, more conversational tone.
"Why don't you want to be seen with him? Shane's a nice guy. He's cute. He's sweet. He's funny; you know that."
Deity sighed. She pulled her pillow under herself forcefully, as if telling her sister her own views was an upsetting task. "C.K., he's a cop. A pig. He fucking—"
"Sorry. He arrested me. This isn't even the first time; it's like the third"
"So? The charges have been dropped, thanks to him. You're being so stubborn." Caden knew hearing those magic words would set her sister off. That was kind of the idea.
"Yeah," Dee bristled. "Well, maybe acting stubborn will do me some good. Maybe if I stay like this, you'll leave me alone about it. I don't want him. He wants a fucking romance. He wants a wife and nine kids. I don't. I want to live my life. I want to have fun. I don't even want romance. The only thing I want from a man is his dick, then I'm good and he can leave." Deity had risen off the bed. She stood in front of her sister arms open, trying to get her point across. Caden shook her head.
"He's not looking for marriage, just a night out with you. And I know that's not what you want. That's what Ray wanted from you. A good fuck. A great time with no string attached, but he didn't get that. You wanted romance, and there is nothing wrong with that, but he didn't. So he told you he loved you so you would get into bed with him. It's okay though, Dee, he's gone," Caden felt like crying but she didn't.
Her eyes stayed dry and firmly planted on her sister's face. Deity slouched down next to her, sobs racking her shoulders. Caden didn't touch her. "Someone told me, not to long ago, that people like us...we need to learn the difference between people who love us and people who will say that to get in our bed. There's nothing wrong with us. We just love. And we do it too well."
Deity looked up at her sister. Defiance mixed with tears contorted her features. "No, you're wrong. I don't love," Dee whispered. "I don't and you know I don't. Look where 'love' has gotten you. Jason's gone-" she looked around for emphasis "-I don't see him anywhere. So what do you have? Jon used you. He fucked your brains out and the denied it all. That's where love gets people."
Caden heard the door open across the room but didn't look back.
"Are you two alright?" Jon asked, quietly. "I heard yelling. Do I need to be a referee for something?" There was a smile in his voice but none of the girls could see him. They glared at each other hard; Deity's eyes stained and red with tears while Caden's gray eyes stayed clear. "Do you think he cares about you? Honestly?" Deity asked, pointing to the man that had entered the room. "Huh? So what? You're single. Time to move to the next, huh, big sis? How are you going to try and reprimand me about my love life when you can't even keep yours steady?"
Jon took a step forward but Deity turned her glare on him. "Don't," she warned. "Don't say anything. You don't have to." She grabbed a jacket from of the ground next to her. "I'm leaving." She stomped out of the room leaving a tense silence behind her.
"Cay, what happened?" Jon asked. She felt his warmth near her leg as he kneeled down next to her. He put a hand under her chin in an attempt to meet her gaze but she turned away. "How did this happen?" He asked. He tried to lift her chin again only to have his hand slapped away.
"Leave me alone." She said. Her voice was heavy with monotony. Jon stayed where he was. Caden turned to him. Her gray eyes seemed empty and hurt and Jon wouldn't be surprised if she felt both of those. Deity was a piston with her words. She could say things that would make even the pope consider suicide.
"I'm serious," she practically mouthed. Jon didn't budge. Caden did, however. With swift arms she pushed him out the way and walked over him, exiting the room.
The downstairs section of the house was alive with laughter and talking. Caden walked briskly through the hallways, following the sounds of joy that echoed. "Has anyone seen, Deity?" Caden asked.
Her walk into the kitchen had been silent and Eliza proved so when she jumped, startled. Shane rose form his seat at the kitchen table. Caden calmed him with a quick shake of her head. "We were talking and she stormed out." Jon walked into the kitchen, leisurely. "More like arguing." He hid his head behind the door of the freezer that he opened quickly. Caden looked back at Shane. He seemed apprehensive.
"Not, over me," he mouthed. Caden nodded. He let out a deep sigh, sinking back down into his chair. He was thinking the same thing she was.
They weren't going to find her. Not unless they—
The sudden understanding dawned on both Shane and Caden at the same time, and they ran for the door, both hands on the doorknob, swinging it open. Deity stood outside, arms folded, as a black jeep pulled up. She didn't look when Deity and Shane came crunching out on the gravel even though Caden was sure she heard their approach.
"Where are you going?" Caden asked. She didn't make it obvious that she was more concerned than she let on. Deity shifted her weight on her feet. "Who is that, you're leaving with?" This time her voice had more of an edge to it. The jeep stopped directly in front of the three. Deity didn't move. The door popped open and Caden wasn't the least bit surprised at who walked over.
"Ray," she acknowledged, quietly. He stopped directly in front of her. His dark eyes glowered at her with hatred. He had gotten taller since the last time Caden had seen him. Like everyone else he towered over her but instead of being skinny was built of pure muscle. His black hair was a perfect match to his tan Native American skin. He kept his hair long, almost half way done to his shoulders, and it looked great on him. If C.K. ever had to, she would admit that he was a good looking guy, but never to his face. "You came out here to stop me from taking your sister?" He asked, disrespect weighing heavily in his words.