Gabriella Ch. 05bysoular©
Simon brushed a hand through his hair and adjusted his pants as he hurried out of Gabriella's bedroom. He prayed his hard-on wasn't visible when he got closer to the living room and found Patricia and Myra sitting on the couch.
"Hey," Patricia said. "I thought you'd be out with the guys tonight."
He shrugged. "Decided to call it an early night. How was the band?"
"Oh, they were good but it was just too crowded for my taste." She took a sip from her glass of water then stood without her usual gracefulness. "We were gonna go grab some food, but first, I have to change out of these shoes. Never again," she said with a laugh. "They were killing me."
"But you look sexy in them," Simon said, observing her satin belted vest, matching gray trousers and her black stilettos. He played it cool, but his heart was beating rapidly and his head hurt. Maybe his mind was finally going. He had to be the dumbest smart man he knew.
"Thank you. Maybe on special occasions then."
"Okay, I'll be back in a sec," she said to Myra.
Simon folded his arms and plastered on a smile. He couldn't read the expression in Myra's honey brown eyes. Eyes that seemed to narrow when he caught her watching him. She had naturally tanned skin and a curvy frame, attributable to her Spanish heritage. Minus the permanent scowl on her face, she was quite attractive. "So Myra, what's new?"
"Not much. Same shit, different day." Her gaze headed towards his crotch. Paranoia set in. He prayed his pants were fully zipped because he wasn't about to check.
"I hear you on that one."
Her light brown eyes shot back up to his face. "You look flushed. Exercising perhaps?"
Simon smiled. "Perhaps."
"You do it with Ella?"
His smile vanished, his eyes narrowed. "Excuse me?"
"Were you exercising with Ella? She has a nice body, keeps in shape. Just wondering if you two ever do it together. I've seen you with that flushed look before."
The living room sweltered as panic set in. But on the surface Simon remained calm. He couldn't stand this bitch. She had never uttered more than a few words to him before tonight. "Hmm. Didn't realize you kept up with me," he shot back.
She smiled. "How is Ella? Oh, I'm sorry, Gabriella—that's your special name for her, right?"
"It's not special, it's her name," Simon deadpanned.
"Yeah, that's right," Myra answered flatly, before Patricia returned.
"Ready?" Patricia asked.
"Yep. Um, do you think we should invite Ella?" Myra asked.
Patricia looked confused. "Is she even here?"
Simon stuck his hands in his pockets and nodded. A part of him prayed they would take her. The moment they left, there was no guarantee he wouldn't end up in her bedroom. No matter how much he was chanting stay away in his head, he hadn't been doing a good job of listening to it.
He watched Patricia's eyes as she thought about it. Please take her, please take her...
Finally, she shook her head. "She usually doesn't like stuff like this. I'm sure she's fine. She's probably going out anyway."
Simon hadn't realized he had been holding his breath until that moment.
Myra pivoted towards him. "Well, I just wanted to give her the option instead of being stuck here. You know, give Simon some peace and quiet."
Simon bit back the fuck you that waited on the tip of his tongue as anger transformed into anxiousness. How could Myra know anything?
Patricia reached for her purse and her jacket. "I think she'll be fine."
Myra nodded and went to her car. Patricia kissed him on the cheek Gabriella had struck and caressed minutes before. Simon's heart skipped a beat when she frowned. Did she notice anything? "Take it easy on the drinking," she told him before she joined Myra.
Simon considered the scotch he left on the kitchen table. His judgment was already shaky so he placed the bottle back in the cabinet.
"Simon," Gabriella's soft voice carried from the door. But he refused to look at her. Instead he chose to focus on the cabinet which held the scotch.
"What did you mean 'you can't'?" she asked.
His mind was in such a haze, it took him a moment to realize what she meant. But to answer that question would reveal too much. Why couldn't he leave her alone? How do you explain that space between more than sex but less than love? Does such a place even exist?
She moved further into the kitchen but his eyes remained glued to the cabinet holding the current answer to all his problems. Now he understood why his father drank so much.
He turned to her and his eyes quickly drank in her revealing top and tight skirt...the same skirt his hands were beneath just moments earlier.
"Where are you going?" He wasn't even sure if he cared. Normally he would have invested more interest but tonight was an exception. Simon wanted her far away.
She leaned against the door frame. "Nowhere, if you want me to stay." Her eyes held his before he stared back out into nothing. He did want her to stay and that was the problem. Separating want from need was like splitting a thin thread in half. Next to impossible when it came to Gabriella.
"Don't stay out late," was all he could think to say.
"Answer my question."
That was Simon's cue to leave. He hurried past her and down the hall. She scoffed. "So that's it? You're going back to ignoring me?" Her voice was laced with hurt. But he couldn't turn around. Her footsteps sounded behind him. "Simon! Why do you keep—"
He slammed his bedroom door behind him and locked it, cutting off the invisible strand that normally pulled him in the wrong direction.
"I'm not going to follow you again!" she shouted through the thick oak. "I mean it. Not unless you talk to me and tell me the truth."
Simon focused on the unmade bed, wanting to propel his body forward and pass out. He had yet to hear her footsteps retreat. She was waiting for him. In the past he would have opened the door, dragged her back into her room and satisfied both their needs.
He felt his body betray him. His fingers clung to the door knob, while his mind wrestled with the notion of right and wrong...those words becoming more muddled with each passing day.
He couldn't hear her breathing, but knew she was still on the other side. His head hurt as the scotch churned in his stomach. Please leave...
A moment later her hurried footsteps echoed down the hall before the front door opened and closed.
Simon finally released the door handle and slumped down on his bed. His knuckles ached courtesy of the grip he held on the knob and the bridge of Steven's nose. It could be fractured but he deserved an uncomfortable reminder of what a failure he had become.
"Oh my God, Patricia. Don't let me eat another cheese fry," Myra pleaded over the loud music, as she stuffed two into her mouth. "Damn this cursed no-carb diet. I just want to unload a bread truck in my mouth."
Patricia laughed. "Myra Sanchez! And you had done so well." She pulled the basket away.
Patricia glanced around the crowded restaurant. She was glad she had chosen to spend the night hanging out with Myra. Although her feet ached from standing in stilettos earlier, she was grateful for the distraction.
Myra closed her eyes. "Mmm, but it was so good. Better than sex. I swear, you find the right carbs, dark chocolate or wine, and it can be better than sex."
"Speak for yourself."
"Oh, that's right. You have a husband." She rolled her eyes. "Even when I had one, he was lousy in the sack. Okay, I take that back. That's still the bitterness talking. He was phenomenal in bed. Just lousy at everything else."
Patricia's smile faltered.
Until now only she and Simon knew of his indiscretion. Maybe letting someone else into her confusion could help. The way she felt, it definitely couldn't make it worse. "He cheated on me. I found a stash of condoms in his desk at work and when I confronted him, he admitted to it."
Myra placed her hand over Patricia's. "I'm sorry, sweetie."
"I just feel so blindsided by the whole thing." Patricia mindlessly shook her head. "Rodney? Yes, I expected it. But Simon? I still can't believe it."
Myra folded her arms over her chest. "He's a man, they all cheat."
"I don't believe that." Patricia stuffed a fry into her mouth.
"Well, the sooner you realize that, the better off you'll be." The tension in Myra's voice thickened as she spoke. "Carlos, that lying sack of shit, thought he had gotten away with cheating on me. With my best friend at the time, no less."
Myra never exposed the dirt within her own home, but Patricia suspected that her ex-husband had cheated.
"How did you find out?"
Myra sipped her soda. "What he had forgotten after eighteen years of marriage, was that I was an excellent observer. I watched his every move. Emotions, reactions. Everything. Watched her too."
Patricia sat silently and listened.
"So, I had this dinner party and invited her over. I watched how they constantly avoided eye contact or how she laughed too hard at one of his jokes. The quick glances here and there. I knew then. So the next day I confronted her and she broke down." Myra rolled her eyes. "All this sappy stuff about how she didn't mean to, it just happened. On what planet does fucking your best friend's husband 'just happen'?"
"What did you do?"
Myra smiled. "After she got done telling me her sob story, I pulled out my cell phone and said I would be calling the cops to give them a head start before I stabbed her to death." She laughed. "You should have seen her eyes! She was so scared. I'd never seen her move so fast."
Patricia tried to smile, but it faded. "Can I ask you something?"
Myra sipped her drink and nodded.
"Why weren't you surprised when I told you that Simon had cheated?"
"I just got that vibe from him, I guess."
And uncomfortable silence passed over their table.
Patricia rested her elbows on the table. "Myra, this is me you're talking to. You can be honest."
She exhaled. "Okay. His smile never quite reaches his eyes. It's like, I don't know. I guess he seems to go through all of the motions but the feeling behind them isn't there."
Patricia was hurt. "You've seen him do that with me?"
"Yes." Myra's face softened. "But not all the time. Just sometimes. Besides, it's not like I'm with you guys every day. This is just my own stupid observations. Doesn't mean I can analyze your marriage."
Patricia quickly wiped at the tear in the corner of her eye before she smiled. "I haven't even told you the worse."
"Oh hell, what?"
"She's a nineteen-year-old student," Patricia said, right before Myra spewed her drink out over the table and coughed. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, sorry," she wheezed and took a sip of water. "I'm sorry."
"Shocking, I know. I mean, can't men be more creative than that? When women cheat, it's with an old lover from the past where the feelings still run deep," she said, shaking her head. "But men...it's the same story. The eighteen-year-old babysitter. Or the twenty-two-year-old dental hygienist. Or the nineteen year old college girl."
"They're all dogs, sweetie. Every last one of them."
Patricia raised her arms in frustration. "I mean, what the hell could he have in common with some nineteen year old girl? What life experiences could they possibly talk about?"
"I'm guessing they don't do much talking, which is kind of the point."
She looked away, remembering Simon's hesitation when she asked him if he loved this other woman. No, they definitely talked...among other things.
Myra squeezed her hand again. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
"No, it's okay. I'm just so lost. Everything seemed perfect until it broke."
"That's life, you know."
"That's what my mom would have said," Patricia whispered to herself.
"We don't have to talk about this."
"No, it's okay. I kinda want to get it off my chest."
"Okay. Only if you want to. But I am curious, what else did he say about this college girl?"
"He won't give me much. But I guess it's for the best since I start thinking the worst. Some young gorgeous, perfect body seductress who has done everything imaginable with my—I can't even think about this anymore." Patricia placed her head in her hands.
"Okay, okay, let's not ruin tonight. And besides, my momma always told me what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger."
Patricia gave an exhausted smile. "What if it does kill you?"
Myra waved for the waiter to come over. "No matter what happens, you'll be okay, Patricia. Just remember to breathe and place one foot in front of the other."
Patricia nodded and stood. "That's what I'm trying to do." But she wasn't sure it was enough.
Ella's rear end was numb from sitting on the hard cold park bench for the past thirty minutes. But she couldn't have stayed in that house a minute longer. She pulled her jacket tighter and watched the gray veil of smoke she blew out mingle with the night above. She was done.
She had become okay with letting boys into her body but not her heart. Her mother had shown her how falling in love with the wrong man could leave you as an empty shell. Her own father had done it. Ella promised to be smarter.
And she had been. Never letting any guy too close. It wasn't so hard to keep them at a distance emotionally. Most high school and college boys only wanted one thing. They were like eager puppies humping someone's leg. Even some of the older men she had been with didn't mind at all that there was no emotional attachment. It was an even exchange. They got what they wanted and Ella cured her boredom and loneliness for a few moments. No one got hurt.
Until Simon. He was breaking all of her rules and he didn't even know it. He didn't understand the hold he had on her. Over her.
She was in love with him.
Ella shielded her eyes from the fluorescent glow of the car lights pulling up. The car door opened as she tossed her cigarette on the ground and smashed it into the cement.
"Sorry I woke you," she said when Nolan approached, his hands lodged in his pocket. He smiled though his eyes were heavy.
"Nah, don't worry about it. I'm just glad you called."
She stood and stretched. "Mind if we get out of here?"
"My chariot awaits. Where do you wanna go?"
"Doesn't matter. Anywhere but here. Your place?" she asked, sliding into his car.
Nolan smiled. "Sure."
On the ride over to Nolan's apartment, Ella kept stealing glances at his profile. He was a nice guy. Handsome even, in a soft way. His shaggy, blond hair fell across his forehead, making him look more like a man-child. No one could mistake Simon for a child. He was a man through and through. Even now, she couldn't help but make comparisons. Actually, there was no comparison. Nolan was a great guy and the healthiest choice for her. But her stomach did somersaults when Simon merely passed her in the hallway. When he brushed against her, she physically felt electric waves passing over her skin. No comparison at all.
Nolan pulled up to a lavish apartment complex. A marble fountain and statues rested in the center of a huge circular stone driveway that lead to the entrance of the building.
"Wow, this is nice," Ella announced as they walked inside his place. It wasn't the tidiest apartment she had ever been in, but it was spacious. In true college guy fashion, he had a throng of Playboy and Maxim magazines strewn across his coffee table and the latest in HD technology with a hoard of DVD's lined up. "Why didn't you want to live on campus? I thought you kinda had to live in the athletic dorms."
"Nah. My dad is good friends with the athletic director, so even though I'm a sophomore, I didn't have to live on campus."
"Hmm, how did that go over with the rest of the team?"
Nolan chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck. "Um, not to well at first. Freshman year I got my share of practical jokes. But they realized I was a tough son-of-a-bitch on the field, so the upperclassman excused my father's meddling. He just didn't want me to have any distractions."
Ella smiled and inspected the sparsely furnished living room before she turned back to him. "Am I a distraction?"
He gave her a slow examination. "I think he would qualify you as one."
"Where's your room?"
Nolan grinned and took a few steps backwards before he turned around and led her down the hall.
Sports memorabilia littered his walls. A MAC laptop sat on top of a desk. If Nolan's father had pull with the football program, paying for this apartment and all the expensive things scattered about, then his family definitely had money. Ella never suspected it because Nolan never dropped names and carried himself like a regular guy.
Ella sat on his navy comforter. "You want to play professionally?"
He sat beside her. "I'm sure it would be nice. But I don't want to be one of those forty-five year old guys who can barely lift his kids."
"You want kids?"
His face lit up. "Oh, yeah! Absolutely. A bunch of them."
"Yep. How about you? You want any?"
Ella picked at the thread on her sleeve. "I don't think I would be a good mother."
"Sure you would."
"Yeah. I bet you'll surprise yourself."
Motherhood wasn't something that the women in her family specialized in. She knew nothing of her grandmother other than that her mother didn't have a relationship with her. And Ella's relationship with Patricia lacked the foundation of a normal mother/daughter relationship.
But it wasn't all on her mom. She could have made more of an effort over the years, but the more she craved a connection, the angrier she became when she realized they would never be close. The anger had died and her mother became a shadow in their apartment. Eventually, Ella stopped caring and came to rely on doors opening and closing and the occasional answering of the phone as the only evidence her mother still lived at home.
"What are you thinking about?" Nolan asked.
"Nothing. Actually, I'm pretty tired. Mind if I lie down for a few minutes?"
"Of course." He pulled the cover back from his bed. Ella half-expected to see rocket ships on the sheets. "Um, my sheets are clean. I promise."
"I don't want to impose. I can take the couch."
"No, you're the guest. I'll take the couch. ."
"Okay. Thank you." Ella slipped off her shoes. Nolan stood like a statue by the door.
"So, just yell if you need anything."
She did need something. She wasn't ready to be alone. Falling asleep alone was the worst part of her day. "Wanna lie beside me?"
His eyes widened. "Yeah! I mean, you sure?"
Nolan pulled off his shirt and walked toward her.
The fire continued to burn while Ella screamed, but no sound came out. Her voice was gone. Muted while her hands were bound. She watched in horror as her mother and Simon waved from the window in the house that was burning to the ground. Smiles remained plastered on their faces as the beams in the house collapsed. She closed her eyes. When she opened them, the sweltering heat rushed up her backside. She was standing in the house as flames engulfed the room. She turned to the window to see her mother and Simon in the yard looking at her trapped in the blazing fire, still waving with the same plastic smiles.
She screamed for help, but again, nothing came out. The bands that were crushing her wrist felt softer. She looked behind her to find a young girl holding her wrist. Her eyes were hollow as she gripped Ella tighter, refusing to let her leave.
The house burned down around them as Ella stared at the younger version of herself, dying with her.
"Are you okay?" she heard someone ask. "Ella!"
Ella gasped and sat upright. Everything was dark as she pulled away from the arms that were grabbing at her. Suddenly the room was flooded with light.