Morning. Sun is shining. I could feel it even with the AC on full blast. Erratic weather I remember hearing it on the news yesterday, this must be what the newscaster meant. Stayed in bed not moving, wasn’t ready to face today. I set the timer in my head to ten minutes. Closed my eyes and snuggled in the sheets. Less than five minutes, I forced myself to stand as thoughts of last night kept invading me. Matt – his ruffled hair still moist from the shower, the smell of my shampoo, his eyes sad and looking straight into mine. Us standing at the wide open front door, rain showers right outside and the inviting heat of the house one step away from the door, his body an inch away from mine, his voice so faint I can barely hear him or was my heart pounding too loud that I can’t hear anything above it? That picture would be forever burned in my mind and that feeling forever in my heart.
“What are you doing?” I asked myself looking at the mirror. “You’re complicating things by not deciding. Blacks and whites, remember?” Now I’m talking to myself. Ugh. Walked towards the bathroom turned the shower to cold. Maybe the cold shower can reach my heart and shock it back to reality.
All set for work, I stepped out of my room and smelled coffee. Caught my breath, my heart started racing, “Matt’s still here?” I wondered. Stood at the stairway for a minute or two trying to compose myself. One last breath then I walked down the stairs with every inch of me wanting to run in different places if only it could. “Come on, Belle. Get a hold of yourself.” I muttered. Coffee smelled good. Just the smell of it is taking me to places I shouldn’t even be remembering at all. I stepped into the kitchen, preparing myself to say good morning but it was empty. I walked back to the living room – empty as well. I walked back to the kitchen breathed out. Relief or disappointment, I’m not sure. I grabbed a cup and took the coffee pot then I spotted a note right beside it.
“Bagels with cream cheese and bacon inside the microwave. Thank you, B. See you at the studio.” – Matt
Nothing about last night. No smileys. Relief or disappointment, I’m still debating on that.
A whole day had passed, the studio was buzzing, work was up to our necks but we we’re managing it. I barely noticed it was eight in the evening until some of the staff started waving goodbyes. I haven’t seen Matt today, I knew he had a shoot outdoors and some meetings. I wonder where he is right now.
“Hey Matt!” I answered trying to sound normal as I picked up the phone. “Was just wondering about you.”
“Belle, its Xavi.”
“Oh, hey Xavi, I’m sorry I thought…”
“Yeah, I was Matt. I’m not.”
He sounded irritated. “Sorry Xavi, I didn’t mean to.”
“So, I haven’t heard from you since yesterday. Now I know why.”
“What? No. You got it all wrong Xavi.”
“Uhu.” He just said
I was getting irritated. He was acting like a kid again. “Xavi, I work with Matt. Me, assuming it was him would be a natural. I didn’t check the screen and just answered. I’m sorry that was my fault. Can we move on?”
“Yeah, sure.” He still sounded distant.
“I’ve been caught up with work today. But I was meaning to call you. How was your day?” I asked, trying to break the ice again. With Xavi it’s a seesaw of hot and cold. I’m mostly to blame. Black and whites, I reminded myself.
“It was busy but obviously not as busy as yours.” He said, taunting me again.
I didn’t answer. Sigh. How can I want to be with someone and yet want to strangle him and feel it both at the same time?
“I was going to ask if you want to have dinner with me, but I guess you’re busy huh?” he said, stating not asking.
I breathed in trying to stop myself from getting mad. “Xavi, let it go please. It was an honest mistake. I don’t want to keep explaining myself.”
This tug-of-war game that we’ve been playing is getting tiring, I thought. “Xavi, how about dinner tomorrow at 7? I can’t get away from my desk just yet today. So?”
“How about tonight? Can’t you just put everything off for tomorrow?” he said. I could hear him sigh.
“I can’t.” I lied. I didn’t want to see him tonight. It felt like I would be walking into a war zone.
“Alright, tomorrow at 7. I’ll pick you up there at the studio.”
“No!” I said a little too harsh.
“No.”, this time softer. “At my house. I’ll clock out early from here.”
“Ok. Tomorrow. Good bye, Belle.” He said, disconnecting the call. He didn’t sound too happy about the date. He sounded more like he was defeated.
“Hmm…” I sighed.
This time I looked at the screen. It was Prue.
“Hey sweetie! You working hard again? Or you playing the field again?” she said chuckling.
“Prue!!!” I said indignantly yet laughing. Only Prue can tell things to my face without insulting me. I’ve known Prue since UNI days and we’ve been best friends ever since. “So, King, let you out of your cage, eh?” I asked trying to get even.
“Oh, sweetie, that cage ain’t for me. That was for him!” she said proudly. “I’m 10 minutes away from La Belle.” She said La Belle with a twang that made it sound like it was some cheeky bar. “Get ready! We’re going out. And you know I don’t take no for an answer!” She was snickering through the whole sentence.
“Prue, I can’t.” trying to fend her off, although I know it wouldn’t work.
“Hell, you can’t! I didn’t get fancied up for nothing. I need you, Belle… Oh, wait, that’s what your men tell you already!” She was laughing so loud. I couldn’t help but laugh too. “I’m outside now. Get your sexy ass off your chair and let’s go.” She said.
“What! You said ten minutes!” I complained.
“Let’s just say time flew.” She said still laughing.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, sweetie, between the two of us. You’re the only one concerned about it! Let’s go!”
“Alright, alright. I’m standing. I’ll be out in 5.”
“One minute.” She said disconnecting the call.
Grabbed my bag, dumped my phone and car keys in it then rushed to the door. Took one last look at my desk, nothing important, then closed up.
“Woot-woot!” Prue whistled as I walked towards her car. “Just got me a tall glass of water!” She hollered, laughing.
“Oh, shush, Prue!” I said opening the door of her car.
“Lighten up! You know I missed yah.” She said as we exchanged hugs.
Prue had a lighter outlook in life than me. She sees the sun as always shining. I was more on the realistic, all business kind of gal during UNI. At first, I was irritated at how loud she always seem to be, how she makes fun of the obvious things. But somehow we got along. And as time passed I realized there was more to her than just jokes and constant flirting with people. She was more of an older sister kind of a friend. She was there even when you didn’t ask for help. From that very loud exterior she was more observant than other people.
“So, did King really let you go?” I asked. King, her very possessive partner who seems to just want to lock her up. Prue although noisy to those who just met her is really quite a charmer. And men do gather around her – the reason for King’s insanity.
“Ah! He’s out of town. And that means I get to go out.” She said smiling. “Of course to spend time with my bestie as well.”
“Yeah, right!” I said laughing.
“Had dinner?” Prue asked.
“Ok, dinner first then drinks later.” She said putting pressure on the gas.
“So?” Prue asked an hour after with our plates cleared and a glass of wine in hand.
“What?” I asked
“Oh don’t be such a Queen! You know what I’m asking.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh, really?” she said, pretending to be offended.
I laughed. She wouldn’t budge.
She turned her face away, as a server walks by she reached out at his arm to stop him and said, “Honey, how about you and I talk? Since someone isn’t interested in having a conversation with me.”
The server quick on his feet said, “I’ll be off in another half an hour. Maybe we can have coffee and talk about it.”
“Lovely.” Prue answered
“Oh stop it, Prue.” I snickered. Looked at the server and apologized.
“No sorry, Miss.” He replied walking away.
“So?” She asked again.
I sighed. “I don’t know.” I said defeated.
“Black and whites.” I continued.
She didn’t answer. She just looked at me and allowed me to go on.
“What do I do, Prue? I can’t get Xavi out of my head. But I still love Matt. I think I do.” I said.
I narrated the whole week, the phone calls, Phuket, the whole nine yards and last night.
“So?” I asked her after the story.
“Feeling’s aren’t black and white, sweetie. And as much as I want to tell you to go for Xavi or Matt, you need to decide for yourself.” She said.
“Who can you live without?” She asked.
“I don’t know! That’s the point. How can I love two people at the same time? Is that even possible?”
“You’re asking the wrong woman, Belle!”
By then both of us were laughing. Prue has a lot of stories when it comes to love.
“Let’s go.” She said waving her hand up calling for the bill.
“Too early! Time to get drunk and forget King, Matt and Xavi!” she said high pitched.
2 hours and a couple of drinks later, we were working it out at the dance floor. Having fun. The thing with Prue is, she brings fun along with her. Chitchats with a couple of men trying to hit on us but shedding them off a few minutes later. We were there to forget and cut loose from stress not to add issues to our little complicated lives. We were in our own bubble, just like during UNI days, whenever either one of us was going through a heartache.
Prue stumbling a little. “You drunk?” I asked.
“No, just dizzy from too much dancing. I’ll take a breather.”
“Ok, I’m coming with you.”
“Hey, Luv!” without turning around I knew it was Matt.
Pretending not to hear him from the loud music, I continued walking to the bar with Prue beside me.
“Hey!” Matt called out again. But this time he was right behind me. Catching me by the waist spinning me around.
“Oh, Hi Matt!” I said acting surprised. “Didn’t see you today.”
“Yeah was out the whole day wasn’t able to swing by the studio.”
“Look who showed up! Hey Muffin!” Prue said, walking up to Matt.
“Hey, Prue. How’s it going?”
“Hey Prue?! That’s it? Don’t I get a kiss?” She teased.
Matt stepping forward to hug Prue lifted her and twirled her around.
Prue laughing said, “I like him. If you don’t, I’ll take over. You okay with that, Muffin?”
“Always.” He replied.
“I’ll catch you at the bar lovebirds.” Prue said walking away.
“She’s a little drunk.” I said defensively
“You don’t have to explain Prue to me. You ladies alone again?”
“Yes. But we’re good.”
“Yes, no doubt you can take care of yourselves.”
“Let’s dance.” He said grabbing me by the waist and leading me back to the center of the floor.”
Overall the night was fun. No talk of drama.
“I’ll drive you ladies home.” Matt said as the three of us were heading to the door.
Prue was clearly not in a position to drive.
“But we brought her car.” I stated not really arguing as the idea of Matt driving us home was a better option than a cab or Prue insisting on driving. Prue drives a stick shift car – something I couldn’t do. Matt didn’t answer, I guess he already knew my dilemma.
“How about your car?” I asked trying to sound like I’m protesting for my pride’s sake.
“I came by cab.”
“You first then Prue. I’ll take a cab from her place.” He said
The car ride was quiet for a good half an hour.
“Hey luv, I’ve been meaning to tell you tomorrow morning but heck now is a good time anyway, right?” he said. “I’m leaving.” He continued, nonchalantly.
“Leaving?” I asked almost screaming, turning to look straight at him.
“Sweetie…” Prue moaned complaining, she was out for the night obviously.
“What do you mean leaving?” I asked not minding Prue, my voice still high pitched.
“I’ve been thinking about it for quite some time and I’ve decided to jump on a plane and take pop up on his offer about managing the company.” He said coolly glancing at me.
“What? You never wanted that! What about the studio? We have clients who specifically want you. I can’t handle La Belle on my own.” I argued almost pleading.
“Belle, you can. I’ve seen you do it. You’re not going to lose clients, you know that. They just ask for me cause we give them options. If I’m not there they would still go with you. Besides, we already have Oli, Shaz and Val to support you and I’ve short listed three people for you to interview for the position. About my share in the studio, tell me how you want to work it out, and I’ll be ok with anything you want.”
“You’ve planned it all out.” I said regretting I saw him tonight.
“Yes, luv. It’s time to explore options.”
“But you never wanted to be in a corporate world. That’s not you. You love photography, the studio…” my voice trailing off, I feel desperate. I sound desperate.
“I do. But pop is right, I need to know the ins and the outs of the company so I can take over – hopefully not that soon. Now is a good time as any. I can still do photography. Wearing a suit doesn’t mean I’m boxing my gear and forgetting all about it. In fact I’m going on an 11 day cruise before I head over to Leicester. Thought I’d stop waiting for you and get on that cruise that we both wanted to do. Before I get into the 8 hour work shift of regular employees.”
I was on the verge of tears. I didn’t expect this. But I can’t stop him that would be too selfish.
“Here you are.” He said, parking right in front of my house. He turned to open his door.
I grabbed onto his arm and said, “Let’s talk about this.”
“Tomorrow, luv.” He said smiling gently.
We sat like that for a minute or two and then I let go of his arm. He walked over to my door and helped me out.
“Babe…” I said.
“Don’t.” he replied giving me a quick squeeze from the side.
We got to the front door. He leaned over to kiss me on the cheek, said goodnight and turned to walk away.
“Matthew.” I said.
He stopped to look at me and said, “You’ll be fine, luv. You don’t need me at the studio. You can run it on your own.”
“Don’t go. I don’t want you to go.”
“I know. But I need to.”
“Is it because of me? Of Xavi?” I asked sounding desperate to my ears.
“No. It’s because of me.” He sighed.
“You always said something to me when we were together, remember? Black and white.” He said.
I didn’t answer, I just looked at him tears already threatening to flow.
“A yes is a YES & a no is a NO. No maybes – it blurs the lines. No GREYS, right?” he continued.
“You made a choice, luv. Now, it’s time I make mine. BLACK & WHITE.” He said taking a step towards me, closing the gap.
Tears already flowing from my eyes. I couldn’t help it. It felt like my world was crashing down. Matt reached up to wipe my tears away.
“It’ll be fine, Babe.” He said. I reached up, wrapped my arms around his neck pulling him down closer. He leaned in for a kiss.
Previously: IV. Of Two Minds
6 December 2015