The word stared up at her from the otherwise empty document, taunting her.
Swimming in front of her eyes.
“I’m drowning” she murmured. I can’t seem to keep my head above the water, she thought.
Gabriella stopped typing and dropped her hands to her lap to pet her cat, Mr. Fluffy. He had jumped up on the desk and managed to maneuver himself into her lap by positing himself between her and the screen. “Fluffs, what am I doing?” she paused, almost like she expected an answer. “This is insane.” she rubbed behind his ears and dropped her head on his for a moment. He responded by purring contently and rubbing his forehead on her chin.. The gnawing anger began to surge in the pit of her stomach - it seemed to stay very close to the surface lately. Gabriella jumped up and slammed her laptop closed causing Mr. Fluffy to fly off of her lap and race to his favorite hideout under the bed.
“I don’t see how writing any of this down is going to help me at all.” She flung herself onto the bed and burst into tears. She cried until she felt like there was nothing left to cry, but still the tears continued to fall. She more than just pain, she felt betrayed. She was sad and she was angry, at him and herself. How could I have been so stupid, she wondered, how could I have been married for nine years to a stranger. When did he become a stranger. I knew him better than anyone and then one day… no it wasn’t just the one day. It was the years of catching him in lies, I should have known that he wasn’t who I thought. Why didn’t I? How could he have just thrown everything away like that? The thoughts flooded her mind just a quickly as the tears were streaming down her face. Before she knew it she had drifted off to sleep, mentally exhausted and emotionally worn out.
The shrill ring of her cell phone cut through the silence a few hours later. “Hello,” she answered, a bit confused that she had been asleep and still a little out of it.
“Gabby where are you?”
“Are you still at the apartment?”
“Oh my God, Neiko! What time is it?”
“Gabs it’s 7 o’clock! You’re suppose to be here already, you’re late!”
“I’m sorry Neiko! I don’t know how I did it, but I fell asleep. I’ll be there as soon as I can!!”
Gabriella flew off of the bed and did a double take at the mirror. Her eyes were slightly puffy, nothing a new coat of foundation couldn’t hide though. She looked down at her clothes. She was still in jeans and a tee-shirt. “Oh well,” she mummered under her breath, “I told him I didn’t want to go, serves him right!” Mr. Fluffy meowed and brushed up against her leg. “Alright, fine! I’ll throw on a nice shirt!” She pulled a deep purple, quarter length, button up shirt from a hanger. “This will have to do.” she stated as Mr. Fluffy voiced his approval with a deep meow as he licked his paw clean. She threw her medium length black hair up in a quick messy ponytail then dabbed a little gloss on her lips before grabbing her purse and rushing out of her apartment.
She decided forgo a taxi and to walk the five blocks. The cool, crisp air was just what she needed to bring her out of her head. The breeze kissed her face and whisked around her ponytail. Evenings in Queens in the fall were her favorite. The days were gloriously sunny, warm and cluttered with people, but as soon as the sun went down the air seemed to lighten. The walkways were still cluttered with people, but the vibe was different, almost romantic, and there was just something so perfect about it.
She could hear the noise from the Beer Garden as soon as she rounded the corner, conversations floating on the breeze, people talking over each other. Neiko was waiting on her by the door. “Everyone else is already here,” he said matter-of-factly. “So am I…. now.” she said and looked over at him sheepishly, “Besides, when am I EVER on time?” He returned her smile, “Yeah. yeah.” He said, leaning over to hug her while impressively keeping his pointy mohawk from poking an eye out.
“So when you say everyone else is here, exactly who is everyone?”
“Just a few buddies of mine. Look Gabs, I just want you out of the apartment. You’ve been stuck in bed and on that damn computer for days. It’s time to breathe some fresh,” he coughed when she punched him in the side, “okay, it’s New York, so maybe the air isn’t so fresh, but you get the point. I’m not technically trying to set you up with anyone…. but there’s this guy.” She cut him off,
“No Neiko, I already told you.” He threw up his hand and pulled down his black studded leather jacket, “Uh-huh. Like I was saying, an old friend of mine from down south is up visiting. I just want you to meet him. He’s not even in the scene anymore!” there was a slight pause, “You know I’ve only been teasing you about setting you up…. Well, kinda just teasing….” She was constantly giving Neiko a hard time about all the leather he loved to wear, but in all seriousness, even though she wasn’t into the punk scene, she had to admit that some guys wore it well. Neiko was one of them if he would just lose that freaking mohawk! F
“Is Jake here tonight?” “No… we’re off right now.” Gabriella rolled her eyes. Jake and Neiko were worse than a soap opera, but she really liked him and knew he was good for her friend. “Well, get back on would you! If you would just commit..” “Neiko pipped in, “Could we not turn this around on me? Come on, let’s get in there. We’re causing a traffic jam out here in the doorway.”
They stopped at the bar and ordered a beer then walked through the building into the “garden” area. She loved coming here, the atmosphere was always lively and the lights gave it an almost romantic glow. She caught a few mohawks out of the corner of her eye and instantly knew which picnic table they were going to. She was met with a chorus of greetings. Suddenly someone ran up and threw their arms around her, “What th… Jake!! Neiko said you weren’t here!” She threw Neiko a quick look, “I lied.” He said, laughing. Out of all the guys Neiko had ever dated, Jake was her favorite. He was as tall as Neiko, pushing 6’5” and he had long white-blonde hair that spiraled and haloed his dark olive face. He and Neiko could grace the cover of a magazine. They were such a contrasting couple and so beautiful together, Neiko with his long soot black hair and porcelain white skin and Jake who was gorgeously mixed, his mother was Norwegian and his father Haitian. They’re personalities were just as different, night and day. While Neiko was a sarcastic smart alec, Jake was a happy go lucky hippy. They had an amazing balance to them.
Jake gave her another squeeze, “We almost gave up on you Gabs!”, he joked. “Right, and I believe that.” She retorted back. “You know me too well. Five more minutes and I would have been there to drag you out myself.” He teased, his deep huckleberry eyes dancing. “Hey, did Neiko tell you about his friend that’s visiting from down south?”
“Oh my God! Yes, yes he did! So where is this guy in all his infamy Jacob Bjarne?”
“Hey! What’s with the middle name? Am I in trouble!?!” He laughed loudly. “He’s over at the bar getting a beer. Believe it or not, he was late too.” Jake pointed out a medium height guy in the distance. She had started to say that he reminded her of a bull dog, the way his shoulders were wide and his arms muscular, but just as she opened her mouth to speak he turned towards them. Her eyes met the most gorgeous eyes she had ever seen. Deep golden eyes with such warmth behind them; a warmth she could feel from several yards away. Their gazes met across the distance and she looked away, her cheeks flushing red. What is wrong with me? She dropped her eyes and shuffled her feet. “He didn’t tell me that he looked like that!” she half whispered to Jake. “I expected him to look like all the other guys.” she said, gesturing to Neiko and his punk enthusiastic friends, all lanky, tall and sporting mohawks with the exception of one.
“Yeah, he wasn’t what I expected either, but you know how Neiko is with details. Plus, he said this guy’s been out of the scene for years. Apparently he’s a contractor.” That would explain the build, she thought. “So what’s he doing here? Vacation?”
“Neiko didn’t say, shocker, right? Why don’t you ask him, he’s about to be over here.”
She wished the ground would swallow her up. She shot Neiko a glare and saw that he was staring at her intently. What do you think you’re doing, she mouthed, get over here! He strolled over to where she and Jake were still standing. “You okay, Gabs? You look a little red…” Then he saw the panic in her eyes. “Hey, okay no more teasing. Calm down!” She kicked him in the shin a little harder than she intended. “OUCH! What did you do that for?”
“You know exactly what I did it for!” She heard her heartbeat thundering in her ears as she saw Neiko’s friend stop in front of her, closing in their little circle. She swallowed hard, mustered up a big smile and greeted him, “Hi there!” she said, a little too loudly since he was close now. She extended her hand to him, “I’m Gabriella, but you can call me Gabby.”
“Hey Gabby, nice to meet you. I’m Dean.”
“Hi!” she repeated, shaking his hand. Dean. Supernatural. Easy to remember. Not that she thought she would be forgetting anything about him any time soon. “So, what brings you to New york?” She asked, feeling uncomfortable. Just keep eye contact, she told herself, don’t look at his shoulders, his chest… eyes! EYES! She gave him a smile, but something in his expression made her think that he was amused …. with her.
“A company in the city is looking or a contractor. I’ve debated moving out of the south so thought I’d come check it out. Using the time to get in a small vacation too. How long have you lived here?”
“Oh no, I don’t live here. Well, not technically. I’m staying with Neiko right now until I can figure out where I want to be.” Or who I want to be. She felt she needed to explain more for some unknown reason, “I’m going through a divorce.. Or rather, well, umm, I just got divorced.” He raised an eyebrow. Oh god, she thought, could that have been any worse. Just turn and run, turn and run! She started to back away then realized that he was still holding her hand from their hand shake. She took her hand from his and looked back down at her feet. Neiko piped in, “I’m trying to get her to stay here. I need a roommate, my rent is killing me..”
“Do you like it here?” Dean asked her.
“Oh yeah, it’s pretty great. I mean, it’s a bit dirty, but the atmosphere is different from anywhere else in the world! It’s loud and busy and oh so beautiful. Have you been to Central Park yet?”
“Not yet. I plan on checking it out tomorrow.”
“Oh, you have too! When you’re there make sure you go to the sheep meadow! I love going there and just laying down. Seeing the sky and all the buildings around you, it’s surreal. Being right in the middle of the city, but in the park at the same time! How long will you be here for? There’s so many other places you should check out!” She became aware that Neiko and Jake were having their own conversation and while talking she had gotten closer to Dean, so close in fact that her hand was on his arm. She practically jumped away. A smile had spread on his face, but as she apologized and moved her hand it faded.
“I’m here for five more days, just got in yesterday. I know this may be forward, but since Neiko works all week I don’t have anyone to show me around. Would you want to show me around some?”
“ME?” she squeaked. Neiko, having heard, turned back to her. “Sure, Gabs, why don’t you show him around? I can hang for a few hours tomorrow then we can go into the city together and you can show him the park.” “Ummm…” she faltered… no, no, no. I don’t even know him! Stranger danger, Gabs, stranger danger. “Well, I could hang out with you guys for a bit, but then I have some errands to run.” Dean nodded, “Sounds like a plan to me.”
The night was spent sharing stories and laughing. She found herself caught into conversations with Dean over and over. She learned that he and Neiko had met through one of Neiko’s old bandmates. They had both been in punk bands and played a bunch of gis together. She shared with him how she and Neiko had met in junior high and been friends ever since. The night flew by and before she knew it they were parting ways.
“Well?” Neiko asked on the walk home.
“How did you like him?”
“Just nice? “
She stopped walking for a moment and looked over at him. “Neiko, it’s too soon.”
He threw his arm around her and they walked in silence for a while.
“I know the divorce was just final, but you were unhappy for so long.”
“I know I was, but..” she sighed, “I didn’t know it at the time Nee,” she wiped a few tears from her eyes. “I thought it was something we would get through. I thought I could change. I thought he could change. I didn’t see the hole I was in until then end hit me.” She felt gutted. Neiko started to speak again and she raised her hand, “I can look back now and see how miserable I was, Nee, but I loved him with everything I had. I don’t know if I have anything left anymore.”
Neiko leaned over and kissed her forehead, “You do Gabs, you do.” He gave her a quick squeeze and they walked the rest of the way without talking.
As I've mentioned before I'm in the middle of writing another book. This will be my third. The first book I wrote in high school, the second in my early twenties. I never did anything with them and now, after all of my moves over the years, I'd be lucky to find all of the chapters. However, this one will be different - or so I say... my plan is to have this one published!
While I've had a few people proof read the first few chapters for me, I've gotten a crazy idea -- what if I shared the first chapter here on the blog!?! Let me know your thoughts on this!
Hello! I’m Hilarie!
I am a wife, mother, an assistant, and now a blogger! I am so exciting to relaunch Jacksonville Housewives in the city.
I love the beach, coffee, marketing and meeting new friends. I cannot wait to meet y’all!