Have you ever watched your own reflection and not believed it was you? That's how I feel right now. I can see my face, I can see my eyes, I can see my hair, but none of it feels right. And it's stupid, because this is hardly the first time I've been left with my heart in my hands or been shamed into hiding out in the bathroom. I've been on the receiving end of more than one black eye for hitting on the wrong bloke or being caught with someone's boyfriend. But it was different because I knew
what I was getting myself in to those times. And they were never engaged.
Just thinking of the word brings a sick feeling to my stomach. How could Benjamin just...not tell me something like that? How could I be too stupid to realize what was going on? And why won't Victoire shut the hell up outside of my bathroom door?!
I turn on the tap and splash an excessive amount of water onto my face. It's refreshing and just what I need to snap me out of the strange fog that keeps weighing at my mind. I tug on my tee-shirt and open the bathroom door. My sister still looks irate, but before she can get in another word, I step around her. I can't be here right now. I can't deal with this right now. I can't deal with her
Never mind that I'm barefoot, I walk out into the hallway and start in the general direction of the guest lodgings. It's near midnight, but there's enough light on the ship to guide me along. I have no idea where to begin looking for Benjamin but I can't let that stop me from trying. I don't even know what I'm going to say to him once I do find him.
A few guests watch me with worried eyes as I pass. Probably wondering how one of the staff boys got out of his proper environment and into theirs. They stay silent though and I'm grateful for it. As the room numbers climb higher, I begin to lose hope. They're all identical.
But then, in one glorious burst of good luck, I hear it.
“Benjamin, maman said zat you were not feeling well. I wanted to check on you before I went to bed.” The smooth French accent pours out of the painted red lips of one of the most beautiful girls I've ever laid eyes on. Hey, just because I'm gay doesn't mean I can't appreciate beauty when I see it. She has long, wavy dark hair and a petite figure. The girl holds herself with poise and style.
My knees go weak as I realize who I'm looking at. She is Benjamin's fiancée.
I hear his half muttered dismissive answer from inside the doorway and the girl turns away with a frown on her lips. She doesn't spare a single glance my direction as she passes but I wait until she rounds a distant corner before moving again. The door is still propped open slightly when I reach it. I take a deep breath and press my palm flat against the wooden surface.
“Louis?” Benjamin sounds startled but not angry. He rushes to the door and grabs my hand, pulling me inside of the large room in one fluid motion. “I'm sorry!” He kicks the door closed behind him and puts his hands against my shoulders. “Gods, blondie I never...I never meant for things to go that far, but we were having such a good time and I couldn't stop myself.”
“You're engaged.” My voice almost seems foreign. I push his hands from my shoulders and take a step back. “You should have told me.”
“I was trying. When your sister walked in, I was trying to tell you.” He takes a step forward.
“You should have told me before
we slept together.” I hold up my hand and retreat further into the bedroom. “Was that her?” He nods solemnly and I sigh. “She's beautiful.”
“Looks aren't everything.”
“I don't understand.” I fall onto the edge of his still-made bed and drop my gaze to the floor.
“Louis....” Benjamin drops to his knees in front of me and lays his hands on my legs. He meets my eyes and offers me the saddest smile. “I told you that my life was really complicated right now. And I told you that we couldn't be together.”
“I know but....”
“And I told you before anything happened, that it was for one night only. And you said that it was okay.” He squeezes my legs and moves to sit beside me on the bed.
“Well...I changed my mind.” I shift to face Benjamin and reach for his hands. Surprisingly, he tangles his fingers with mine and I can't hold back a smile. “I'm not okay with just one night. I don't wanna sit by and let you marry someone you don't care about.”
Benjamin shakes his head slightly and pulls my hands into his lap. “You don't have a choice, blondie.”
“Yes, I do. I can...I can convince you to run away with me into the sunset, just like a real fairy tale.”
“And we'll live on love and sunshine?”
“Don't be an asshole.” I jerk my hands out of Benjamin's hold and scoff at him.
He jumps to his feet and drags his fingers back through his shaggy hair. “But that's what I am
. I am an asshole. I thought that was pretty obvious already after what I've done. Look...I swear that I never meant to hurt you, but if you've got some delusion that we can actually be together, then I have got to knock some reality into you.” He grabs my arm and tugs me up off the bed. “You need to go.”
“No.” I pull away, grab the front of his tee-shirt – which is actually my shirt, thank you Victoire – and urge him close. “You don't mean that. You felt that spark between us, I know you did.”
“Louis...you need to go.”
“Benji, wait. There's a bar -”
“- Louis -”
“- in the Hotel in San Sebastián. There's a bar downstairs, I saw it on the -”
“- blondie, please -”
“- brochure. Meet me there.” My final words stop the steady progression to the door and Benjamin looks stunned into silence. So I push on. “Meet me there. We're docking tomorrow afternoon. The wedding isn't until the next morning.”
“That's a very selfish thing for you to ask. You want me to what? Pick up and ditch my whole life for you? We barely know each other. Spark or not.”
“You didn't seem to mind how selfish
I was being a few hours ago. I don't care how long it's been, we could have something really great. But that can't happen if you let other people set the course for your life.” I can hear the agitation raising in my voice with every word.
“Right. I should just let you
set the course?”
“At least I'm not pointing you down a course that would make you miserable.”
Benjamin considers his words very carefully before taking my hand into his. He places a soft kiss on my palm and drops his gaze to the floor. “This isn't a fairy tale. I'm not your prince charming. But you...you can go out and you'll find all that you want. But it isn't here
.” He walks me to the doorway and pulls it open. “I'm so sorry.”
“I'll be at the bar at eight o'clock. Just...consider it. You don't have to make a choice now, but I'll be there. I'll be there from eight to midnight and not a moment longer.” I back out of the door and hesitantly let my fingers fall out of Benjamin's hold.
“I'm not going to be there,” Benjamin whispers, his face looking pained.
“I will be.” And with that, I turn around and walk back down the hallway. I never hear the door click closed, so I can only imagine that he watches me walk away. By the time I get back to the room, Julian is curled up on the bottom bunk, asleep. I slip into the bathroom and have a quick shower, but sleep is the furthest thing from my mind. I lay awake as the hours tick by slowly until a tiny shard of light breaks through the porthole style window in the room.
I serve breakfast in a fog and before I know it, I'm back in my room to pack up. We'll only be on the mainland for one night, so I don't have to bring everything along. I sling a small overnight bag over my shoulder and follow Julian dutifully. I'm not sure if he knows what happened, but he's barely spoken three words to me all morning. I'm grateful for the silence.
Since the hotel has a restaurant, there's nothing for the waiters to do on the mainland until the actual wedding rolls around. Once I get my things settled into the room, I opt for a nap rather than an escapade to the beach with the others. I toss and turn on the overstuffed mattress, begging for the time to stop crawling by so slowly. I manage to drift off around noon and when it's almost four, Julian's hand on my shoulder pulls me awake.
He looks concerned. “Are you alright?” He presses the back of his hand against my forehead and I'm hit with a wave of salty scent. The smell makes me scrunch my nose and pull away. “Sorry. I was just checking to see if you had a fever.” At first, I think he's blushing, but on closer look, I realize he's gotten too much sun at the beach.
“I don't have a fever. I'm not sick. I'm just...tired I guess.”
He doesn't look convinced, but he drops the subject. “I'm going to get a shower then a big bunch of us are going to get dinner. There is a little seafood place in town and we thought it would be nice to get away from all of -” he gestures to the room “- this for a while.”
“Sounds fun.” I sit up and stretch out, throwing Julian a tight smile.
“That was my obviously too
subtle way of asking if you wanted to come with us.”
“Oh.” I chew my lip and give a half shrug. “Will I be back by eight?”
“Have a date?”
“Something like that.”
“Yes, you'll be back by eight.” Julian flashes me a big smile and disappears into the bathroom.
Don't worry. I'm not going to bore you through dinner details. There's really nothing here to tell. We go. And by we I mean myself, Julian, Conner – remember the bloke I gave the fireworks too? – and his mate Derek and a few of the staff members that I haven't mentioned by name before and won't bother doing now. Dinner is great. We talk. We laugh. You just want to get to eight o'clock.
So do I!
I push open the door to the bar and offer up a few smiles to the people I pass while making my way to the first bar stool I see. I order up a fruity mix that's light on the alcohol; I don't want to overdo it in case I'm waiting around for the entire four hours I promised to stay. And time ticks by. One drink. Two drinks. One rejected offer to “get out of here”. Three drinks. A nice chat with the bartender. Four drinks. Another rejected offer, this one not so delicately put. Five drinks. Six drinks. I try not to clock-watch, but it's so hard to keep my eyes off it.
As the little hand grows dangerously close to the twelve, the bartender offers me a coffee rather than another drink. As I lift the warmth to my lips, a flash of movement to my right catches my eye. It's thin and fluid, slipping itself onto the bar stool next to mine with the kind of delicate ease only a woman can command. I lower the mug and turn towards the figure, intending to relay a polite greeting, but my words hang painfully in my throat.
Benjamin's fiancée is sitting beside me, wearing a large, kill-him-with-kindness smile. She crosses her legs, pulls her silken white gloves from her fingertips and summons over the bartender without taking her light brown eyes off me. “A ginger ale,” she requests before tossing back her hair.
I know I must look rude, but I can't stop staring at her in shock.
“I wanted to 'ave a little somezing to take zee edge off before bed, but I do not drink. I suppose zis will 'ave to do.” She lifts her glass and tips it towards me before taking a long sip. “I do not zink I 'ave been zis nervous before.” From the way she speaks, I can tell she isn't used to having to introduce herself. “But 'oo could blame me? Would you not be nervous?”
I clear my throat and play with the handle of my coffee cup. “I probably would be. I think it's natural.”
“Of course.” She waves her hand idly and leans towards me. “It is just...well I 'ave been waiting for zis day for so long. Dreaming about it. Planning every single detail to make it perfect.” A whimsical sigh escapes her lips and she lays her hand over her heart. “I do not know what I would do if anyzing was to...mess up my big day. I would be...oh what is zee word? - devastated
I'm not sure what to say so I just smile and give a little nod. I sip at my coffee, unable to shake her eyes from me. It's like she's waiting for a bloody answer or something. “I'm sure everything will go fine.”
“Oh it 'ad better.” She traces the rim of her glass with the end of one of her lengthy, silver coated nails and smiles. “You zink it will go alright, do you not?”
“I'm hardly an expert on weddings.” I hope my answer will suffice but the look on the girl's face says that it does not, so I sigh and try again. “I think your wedding will be everything you've planned it to be.” She seems satisfied enough to take her eyes off me and I look to the clock. It's 12:07 and my heart sinks. The fairy tale fantasy shatters and I'm sitting at a bar, sipping at weak coffee, next to a young woman whose fiancé I slept with only twenty-four hours ago. I don't know if it's the realization of all this or the drinks I had, but suddenly I feel sick.
I push myself off my bar stool and use the edge for balance as I fish for my wallet. I feel a set of thin, ice cold fingers move atop my hand and I look up to meet the girl's eyes once more.
“You are practically a friend now, talking to me when I was so nervous; 'elping me to feel better, consider your tab paid. Your drinks are on my fahzer tonight.” She straightens her posture and turns back to the bar.
“Thank you,” I manage to mutter before moving towards the door. I don't exactly want her paying for my drinks, but the idea of sitting there arguing about it seems infinitely worse at the moment.
“No need to zank me.” She sounds so chipper. “It is zee least I could do, considering
My body runs rigid for a minute but I refuse to take the bait. All I want is to get as far away from that...person as humanly possible. I stumble out of the bar and nearly plow right over Julian. The man catches me by the shoulders and gives me one of those oh-poor-Louis looks. I just frown.
“I was afraid this is what I would find when I came looking for you.”
“What's that supposed to mean?” I wrench myself out of his hold and crab-step away from him.
“I mean, I was afraid I would find you drowning your sorrows 'till you could not stand up anymore.” He reaches for me again, but I step out of his range. “Louis, let me help you back upstairs.”
“No.” The actual nerve of this guy. He hasn't got a damn clue what he's talking about. So I tell him that. “You haven't got a damn clue what you're talking about. I wasn't drowning
anything; I was just having some drinks and I will have you know -” I hold up a single finger and wave it at him “- I am not too drunk to stand. I had a few too many, but I can walk just fine.” I finish off my defiance with a childish glare and stomp off back towards the elevators.
I'm going to be honest, I have no idea how I make it back to the room. It's almost as if the playback on my memory gets shut off for a while and the next thing I can comprehend, it's eight-thirty in the morning and Julian is rushing around to get dressed. He's making so much bloody noise and my head feels like it's going to implode. I groan loudly and pull my pillow down over my face to block out the searing sun that is our room light. Every tiny move the man makes reverberates through my body and makes me want to roll over and hurl.
Good morning, hangover. So nice to see you again.
I swear I haven't had one of these since I was sixteen. It's horrible. It's beyond horrible. Make it go away. I whine beneath my pillow and hear a faint laughter coming out of Julian. “It isn't funny.”
“It is very funny to me.” I hear him place something on the nightstand and shuffle away. “Take that when you're ready to get up. It will make you feel better. I have to go help set everything up for the reception. You have two hours, do not be late.”
My entire body cringes and tenses when Julian closes the door and I chance a peek at what he's placed on my stand. It appears to be some kind of potion, but I roll over and ignore it. As much as I hate feeling sick, I hate taking medicine even more.
I'm stubborn. Big. Surprise.
After half an hour I drag myself out of the bed and into the shower. I'm still a little dizzy as I shuffle around the bedroom to change and dry my hair, but it's no where near as bad. I take a good hour to finish looking my best and make my way down to the kitchen. The overwhelming smell of food hits me in the face and I gag.
A grinning Julian pushes me back out the large swinging doors and points to a nearby table. “Have a seat, get yourself some breakfast. You have about twenty minutes still.”
I think about protesting just for the pride of it, but I am pretty hungry. The remnants of the guests' breakfast buffet are still hanging around and I collect a huge plate of bacon and toast to take to the table with me. After a few minutes, Julian takes a seat across from me with a plate for himself and two cups of coffee. “Thanks.” I happily take the cup he slides across to me and proceed to pour six packets of sugar into it. “Why are you being so nice to me? I haven't exactly been the most ideal roommate.”
“Well...neither have I.” He tips his coffee at me and gives me a huge smile. “Maybe we can call this a fresh start, yes?”
“Sure.” I look down at my toast and try to tune out the distant sound of wedding bells.
I bet you're wondering where my bloody fairy tale ending is, aren't you?
So am I.
But I guess not everyone
gets to live happily ever after.
...or is it?
Now Posted: A One Shot Sequel - Sink or Swim - find it on my author page.