I don’t know exactly what you were thinking when you decided to pick up and leave like this, Kevin. Just taking off to another state without any warning? How irresponsible could you be? Your family keeps calling me, worried sick, because Brian is having a heart attack over you and Howie. He doesn’t know what’s wrong and I don’t either. What’s gotten into you? … There was an audible sigh of frustration… I just don’t know where your head is anymore. You’re worrying me. Give me a call back soon, Kevin… I won’t wait forever…
Kevin had to release his own sigh of mixed frustrations when he removed the small cellular phone from his ear, hurriedly racing down the stairs of the cabin. He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t heard his cell phone practically screaming against his ear early that morning. But, yet, he had lain there, still dreaming of another woman while his wife left him a berating message. A woman that annoyed him to all Hell, yet filled him with a deep passion that Kristin had long forgotten about. He could only imagine how disgruntled she would be to get the phone call back as he hurried to the dock for better reception. That is, if she even picked up at all.
Standing where the path met the dock, he finally obtained enough bars to make a call. Holding the phone to his ear, he listened to the ringing, nudging an empty soda can with his foot. Scooping it up, he carried it the two steps to the trashcan, growing tenser with each ring. Finally, just as he was about to hang up and send the phone sailing into the lake, he heard a click.
"Kris--" he began, and was immediately cut off.
"Miss Willits' personal line," came the chirpy male voice.
Just fucking perfect. Her anal-retentive assistant. "This is her husband," he said carefully, his free
hand clenched into a tight fist. "Let me talk to her."
"Oh, Mr. Richardson. I'm sorry, but--"
"Now," he growled, for once not caring that she'd asked him not to get angry with her assistants. Assistants, he thought with a snort. She went through assistants like he went through underwear.
"Just a moment."
There was a distinct shuffling of the phone before Kevin was placed on hold. He could only imagine the skinny little nobody hurrying toward Kristin as if the plague were coming down upon the world again. But he honestly didn’t care. In fact, he’d rather that the assistant have the fear of God beaten into him. Where did he honestly get the right to say Miss Willits’ personal line? That title had been erased as soon as she took the binding vows on the altar and in the eyes of God. Kevin could barely maintain an outward appearance of coolness as his hand wrapped tightly around the phone, threatening to break it if she didn’t appear soon.
“Kevin, do you realize how busy I am? You just can’t--”
"What the fuck is he doing answering your phone with your maiden name?" Kevin asked heatedly.
"Is this why you had him pull me out of rehearsal? Honestly, Kevin, I don't know what to do with you anymore. I thought I told you, it was better to use my maiden name. Richardson is easily forgotten, and Willits is unique."
Easily forgotten. Did that mean he was easily forgotten as well? His hand gripped the phone tighter even as he felt his heart fall to his feet. Drawing in a deep breath of the crisp morning air, he willed himself to calm down.
"Where are you? You sound like you're in a cave, and this isn't the greatest reception. Are you calling to apologize for disappearing?"
“Of course, Kris,” Kevin sneered sarcastically, his entire posture tensing as he froze on the long dock that extended into many piers for the various campers to use for their expensive boats. “I’m calling to apologize for taking Howie away from the pressure of our jobs so he didn’t attempt to commit suicide on me.”
"Howie? What's his problem this time?" Kristin asked with a dramatic sigh. "Really, Kevin. If you paid half as much attention to me as you did Howie, I'd--"
"You'd what?" he growled, angrily kicking the nearest anchor post. "You'd stay at home? You'd support my career and give me the slightest hint that you cared?" The moment he said the words he regretted them, but it was too late. He'd said it now, and it was the truth.
Kristin snapped the piece of gum she had been chewing quite loudly within Kevin’s ear, gasping as if she had choked. “You knew my career was important to me the day--”
“I never thought you would choose your career over me, Kristin!” Kevin exploded, unable to give her the chance at turning the whole conversation around. To make her the victim when Kevin clearly held the betraying dagger in his heart.
He was so caught up in his yelling match with his wife he didn't see Austin walking down the pier, idly smoking a cigarette until she was right upon him. Barely glancing at her, he saw she was wearing a snug tank top, showing off chiseled arms. Moving aside, he glared at her, felt her bump into him as she past. "Kris--" he began angrily, and realized his phone was falling to the pier, landing with a thump at his foot.
"Damnit! Why don't you watch where you're going?" he spat, turning to give Austin an evil glare. "I happen to be in the middle of a phone call!"
"Well excuse the hell out of me," she drawled, exhaling a cloud of smoke in the general direction of his face. She eyed him coolly, and when he stooped to retrieve his phone--he could hear Kristin's shrieks of anger from where he was--he felt his blood boil when Austin's foot shot out, sending the phone off the dock. Lunging for it, he caught only air, heard the soft splash as it landed in the lake.
Kevin peered over the side of the dock with true anguish, watching his expensive phone fill with water as it slowly descended to the muddy bottom of the lake. He was void of all emotion for the longest moment, unable to even form a single word to verbalize how much he truly despised the opposite sex at that moment. But, when Austin turned to leave, he caught her ankle, causing her to spill onto the dock just as hard as he had dove for his phone. “Why do women have to be such bitches! Answer me that, huh! What the fuck did I do to you that makes you think that you have the right to trash my personal property! Huh?!”
Yanking her leg from his vice-like grip, Austin scrambled away, her coffee brown eyes showing a glimmer of fear before closing off completely. Sitting up, she shot him the most livid glance he had received in all his years. Moving away even as she stood, she walked backwards, her eyes never leaving him. Turning, she tripped over a rope, her long ponytail swinging as she corrected herself. Kevin watched her run away, a mixture of dismay and relief sweeping over at him. What, he wondered as he slowly climbed to his feet, had made the fear shine through?
Cheyanne yawned softly as she felt a powerful force quaking her entire body from beneath the covers of her oasis, dragging her away from the sweet darkness of her nap. But, she didn’t respond to the harassment, simply turning onto her opposite side as if that would do the trick. She hadn’t been feeling too well after the trip to town yesterday, mainly sleeping periodically throughout the day as Austin went out to explore. Of course, Cheyanne realized Austin was no longer exploring when an overwhelming force yanked away the warm covers of her bed. Only to feel another person slide onto the inflated mattress and cover both of their bodies with the excess blankets and sleeping bags. The girls had found out from previous camping trips that it was far better to sleep on a queen sized mattress together than fair the rocky ground in flimsy sleeping bags. So, reaching upward to rub her tired eyes, she yawned again with a soft yipping sound. “What’s wrong, Austi?”
Heaving a great sigh, Austin rested her head against Cheyanne's back, still smarting from her encounter with the green-eyed monster. She knew she shouldn't have knocked the phone out of his hand, but the temptation had been too great to resist. Chewing on her bottom lip, she nearly winced when she remembered the pure rage on his face as she'd kicked his phone into the lake. That, truly, she should not have done. Groaning, she snuggled closer to Cheyanne, needing her friend's reassurance that, despite what the raven-haired asshole said, all women weren't bitches.
Oh, that had really hurt, being sent sprawling to the dock, only to have to bear his words. She hadn't seen a man so angry in a long time. Not since... She had turned away to get away from those intense emerald eyes that frequented her thoughts and her dreams, had been about to apologize when he'd grabbed her.
"I think we should stay away from the city boys," she told Cheyanne softly.
Cheyanne blinked her eyes rapidly to clear away the sleepiness and focus on Austin’s simple decision. She could already feel the heaviness of Austin’s heart, immediately shifting on the mattress to face her best friend. They were about two years apart in age and Austin was her protector, but Cheyanne was the soother. She held an optimistic nature that made even the worst of days seem like a passing phase. So, exhaling softly, she wrapped her arms around Austin, who instantly curled tightly into her embrace, resting her head on Cheyanne’s chest. There was the faint lub-dub of Cheyanne’s heart beat that started to soothe Austin along with Cheyanne’s fingers playing with her dark locks. “You’ve been telling me that from the beginning, Austi.”
"I mean it, though. They're nothing but trouble. Hell, all men are nothing but trouble," Austin said, closing her eyes tightly. "They cause nothing but pain and misery."
"You can't judge all men by Steven," Cheyanne murmured.
"Why not? I'll save myself a lot of heartache if I do." Austin willed herself not to cry. He wasn't worth it. None of them were. Especially the tall, dark one who had, much to her chagrin, entered her dreams the night before, making her believe, if only for a split second, that perhaps there was such a thing as love.
“Because not all men are like Steven, Austi,” Cheyanne countered softly, feeling Austin cling to her even tighter than before. Austin’s now ex-boyfriend had been a sore subject for several months during their year at UNC Charlotte. Because, unfortunately, Steven had never been taught to respect women nor to never raise a hand at one. And, since Austin was so passionate about life, it wasn’t long before she received a sharp backhand from the man she thought had loved her. Cheyanne could still remember Austin staggering home, covered in blood, begging for death to just consume her. She had worked so hard to get Austin away from Steven. So damn hard. And, something during their last months of school had willed Austin to listen. She broke it clean and this vacation was a celebration of that.
"What if they are, though? Chey, I'm so scared. Even--even if I found a decent guy, how could I ever learn to trust again?" Austin choked on trust, and felt all her frustration and pain well up in her eyes, the tears burning the backs of her lids as she struggled to keep them in.
"It's okay, hon," Cheyanne whispered, idly twisting a lock of hair around her finger. "When the time is right, you will. And believe me, the guy you open up to will be more than decent. He'll worship the ground you walk on."
Austin choked back a giggle. "Worship, huh?" she muttered, her tears flowing freely now.
"He damn well better. If he doesn't, he'll have me to deal with," she promised.
“I still can’t believe you laid Steven flat at the hospital,” Austin snorted, reaching to hug Cheyanne tightly as she affectionately kissed the younger woman’s cheeks. Cheyanne accepted the kisses as well, reached to help dry her best friend’s face, though the tears continued to fall nonetheless.
“He deserved it,” Cheyanne answered softly.
“If only you would have had enough sense to do that with Noah.”
Cheyanne stiffened slightly at the mention of her own ex-boyfriend, but refused to startle her friend. Instead, she pulled Austin closer to rest her chin on the top of her head, closing her own eyes to prevent any tears from gathering. That piece of history would be a permanent reminder in her life, no matter what happened. “Noah is a good guy, Austi…”
"Good guy," Austin muttered, sighing wearily. "Is there such a thing?"
“Howie isn’t so bad…”
“You know his name?”
“He told me, is that so bad?”
“Chey… Your heart is pure gold. I tell you that all the time, but that comes with a price. You’re so--”
“Na´ve,” Cheyanne sighed as Austin broke their embrace, allowing her to immediately sit up. Austin offered an apologetic smile and Cheyanne nodded, mumbling something about needing some fresh air as Austin mumbled something about taking a nap. They left it at that, too, because Cheyanne had heard that lecture far too many times already. Like when she had decided to date a fraternity brother named Noah. That’s one thing that Austin would never let her live down, though, Cheyanne knew it wasn’t just Austin that would refuse to let her live down that notion. Especially as she slipped out of the tent and braced a hand against her flat stomach, holding the secret child that was already starting to bloom.