Sweet oblivion (sweet se.., p.13
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       Sweet Oblivion (Sweet Series #1), p.13

           Bailey Ardisone

  I jerked at the sound of my Pop-Tarts jumping out of the toaster. I had been thoroughly engrossed in what was on the television. That little blue penguin was so darn cute. Okay, I was seventeen and still watched Saturday morning cartoons, I couldn’t help it. It was the only time I actually got to watch TV. I never got to watch cartoons when I was a kid if Ray was home. Now was my chance.

  I was extremely blessed to have Saturdays to myself, since Ray worked six days a week. I think he chose to, just so he didn’t have to be around me, which was more than fine by me. Plus, last I heard he was trying to save up for a new car.

  I grabbed my strawberry Pop-Tarts and sat on the couch to finish my cartoons, wrapping up snugly in my über soft navy blue and turquoise blanket. I loved moments like this.

  Later, I decided to go back to my bedroom and resumed working on my sculpture. It was starting to look great, and I couldn’t wait to see it finished. Mr. Isaacson taught us a trick that would help and already it was looking great.

  After about an hour of sculpting, my stomach grumbled. I sent a text to Rydan to see if he wanted to do lunch at his favorite diner and added 'my treat.' A few seconds later, he replied with a one eyed raised emoticon and a 'k' - that was Rydan for you. I grabbed my jacket and headed out the door. I stepped outside and stretched as far as I could. The sunny day with a slight chill in the air felt great after being inside all morning.

  I sat in our usual spot—the booth in the far back corner that faced the jukebox and waited for Rydan. He was completely into anything musical, so he loved to sit near it and play the oldies. I had many wonderful memories of us sitting in this booth—Rydan putting in his money, playing Frank Sinatra.

  I walked over and put money in, choosing That’s Life.

  “Great song,” I heard Rydan’s deep timbered voice behind me. I turned around and smiled as he slid into the booth, sitting in his usual spot. He ran his fingers through his dark black hair as his eyes found mine and gave me a perplexed look.

  “You’re smiling,” he said as he picked up the menu, even though he didn’t need to look at it; he ordered the same thing every time.

  “I guess I’m in a good mood,” I said, my big smile forcing to stay in place.

  He slanted his eyes like he was trying to figure out a great mystery and said, “Something happen today, or is it just the pleasure of my company that has you in a fine mood?”

  I ignored his jab. “I made friends at school. They’re really great. We actually ate here together yesterday and everything,” I explained, barely able to believe that it could be true myself. I still held my smile as I looked up into his dark silver eyes.

  “Does this mean your eternal misery has been cut short?” he asked dramatically, feigning shock.

  “Oh no, I mean, I’m still miserable without you of course,” I expressed nonchalantly, not wanting him to think for one second I didn’t need him anymore. “But now instead of eternal misery, it’s more like tolerable misery. If that’s even possible.” It sounded more like an oxymoron. I looked up to see his silver eyes looking intently into mine.

  “If that means you’re happy, I am happy, Nari.” He looked slightly confused.

  Feeling satisfied, I pulled out my sketchbook and began drawing. I usually found a napkin or a receipt or anything paper and doodled some random object. I couldn’t help it – it just came out. It was like a song that got stuck in your head. The picture would just play over and over again in my mind until I got it out.

  The waitress came to our table, and Rydan ordered, “The roasted vegetable sandwich with a side of French fries,” we both said at the same time. I knew this because it was what he got every single time we came here. I smiled and asked for a turkey club with no tomato and French fries.

  “You do know they cook other food here besides vegetable sandwiches. In fact, there’s a whole menu full of food choices,” I joked without looking up from my sketch.

  “Why look at anything else when you know what you want,” he said plainly while getting up to put more money in the jukebox.

  I shook my head and had to wonder about Rydan sometimes. I wish I could just get into that thick head of his and get a glimpse of what he was thinking. He had such a hard exterior; I thought I would have broken in by now after seven years of friendship. Even though he had shared a few things with me, I knew he kept things hidden deep within. I still didn’t know much about his past, but I knew it haunted him. Every once in a while, he would let his guard down and I got a sense of what he was feeling by the expressions on his face. But it was like he realized he gave me this small glimpse and immediately closed himself again, like he didn’t want me to see his insecurities. Didn’t he know we all had them? I would have understood if he would just talk to me about it.

  Although I did remember having the same feelings before I told him about Ray. It took me a while to tell him about my situation at home and my foster parent, especially about what happened to my mom.

  I didn’t want to talk about it. It was too painful. I was looking for an escape. I had finally found it with Rydan and our spot under the Weeping Willow. I didn’t want to darken it with thoughts or feelings of him and what happened.

  For a while, I had acted as if nothing was wrong. If Rydan asked why I didn’t want to go home, I would just say because I liked it at our spot. He would try to get me to talk about it, but I wouldn’t. Not at my special place with my new friend.

  The years I had gotten to know Rydan, I noticed he was very quiet, laidback, yet very intellectual. Actually, he was more than that. He was extremely intelligent and good at almost anything he did. He could play just about any musical instrument known to man and play it beautifully like he had been playing for years.

  It was the passion that he put into it. It came from the very deepest part of his soul. He could make you feel that with every note he played. It was magical. I had never met anyone like him before.

  One night about five years ago, we were beside the pond. I was lying beside the Weeping Willow tree playing with the swaying branches. Rydan had been strumming his guitar that he had just bought that morning. He spent forever tuning the strings so that they were just right. He started to play Name by the Goo Goo Dolls and it was such a beautiful song, but it always made me sad. He had been getting to the chorus where it said:

  “And now we’re grown up orphans

  That never knew their names

  We don’t belong to no one, that’s a shame.

  You could hide beside me, maybe for awhile.

  And I won’t tell no one your name”

  The sad melody continued, but the next part of the song was where he got me…

  “Scars are souvenirs you never lose,” he barely whispered. “The past is never far.”

  The thought of the past made me wince, and I shut my eyes as a tear strolled down my cheek. Suddenly, he stopped playing, and as I opened my eyes, his met mine.

  “What is it, Nari? I can’t take this anymore. Something is wrong. Please just tell me. I can see that you’re hurting. You’re safe with me, and I’ll protect you,” he pleaded.

  I started to cry and felt ashamed for letting him see me this way. What he did next totally shocked me. He put down his guitar, came and knelt down before me, and as he pulled me up to meet him, he wrapped his arms around me, giving me a gentle hug.

  I almost forgot what a hug felt like. I was still stunned by his gesture when he grabbed my arms and put them around his warm body. I let go of my fear and fiercely hugged him back. It felt good to be in his arms, and there we were in the middle of the day, sitting under the Weeping Willow tree, basking in each other’s embrace.

  It seemed like hours went by, but after what must have only been a few seconds, he slightly pulled away to look in my eyes as he said, “I’m here for you, Nariella, you can trust me.” The sincerity of his words struck me deep.

  I sat there looking into his eyes, his dark silver eyes that were intently staring me down, willing me to tell hi
m everything, willing me to trust him. I was scared to let anybody in.

  But Rydan was my best friend. A sudden realization hit me like a ton of bricks. If I wanted him to trust me, I had to trust him. That was what friends were for. I was scared, but I was even more terrified of being alone. I didn’t want to be alone anymore.

  His eyes never left mine as I contemplated telling him the truth. Then he let me see his concern and the trust in his eyes, and I suddenly knew that he wouldn’t leave me. I nodded my head and slowly started to tell him everything I had ever wanted to tell him, as much as I could handle emotionally without breaking.

  The sound of the waitress putting our food on the table pulled me out of my reverie as I continued to aimlessly draw.

  “Penny for your thoughts,” Rydan inquired softly. He was shaking way too much salt onto his fries. He gave me a discerning look, like he knew I had been reliving the past. He had told me once before he could always tell because it showed on my face. I didn’t know what look I had that gave me away, but I smiled back at him.

  “Sadness,” he suddenly said.

  “What?” I asked back.

  “It’s a look of sadness on your face that I see when you’re thinking of the past. I see the look often; believe me, it’s ingrained in my brain,” he murmured while widening his eyes.

  “How did you know that’s what I was thinking?”

  “Again, your expression always gives you away.”

  “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I was thinking back on the day I first told you about Ray and Elizabeth,” I explained with a half smile.

  “Ah,” was the only response I got at first. He suddenly got an awkward look on his face. “I remember,” he said. “So that’s why you drew my acoustic guitar just now then.”

  I looked up at him and then back to my drawing. He was right…I didn’t even realize I was drawing his guitar.

  “Thank you for trusting me, by the way,” he whispered.

  I smiled at him and caught his gaze. “Well, it’s been five years and you’re still here, so I guess you were right.”

  He grabbed his sandwich and took a bite.

  “I’ve never regretted it, you know,” I said to him, watching him eat.

  He raised his eyebrow in question and took another bite.

  “Trusting you,” I replied seriously. “That first day we met, the first time I told you about Ray and what happened, and over the years I’ve always been able to trust you, Rydan. You’re my best friend. I don’t know what I’d do without you.” I smiled and picked up my turkey club and put it in my mouth before any more feelings started to come out. I didn’t know where that came from, it just felt right to say it to him out loud.

  He mumbled something about girls and their feelings and shoved half his plate of fries in his mouth.

  I shook my head. Girls and their feelings? Ha! Guys and their lack of feelings, I wanted to say back, but I kept filling my mouth with food so that no words would slip out. I was not surprised at his dismissal of my words. I rolled my eyes at him, and we continued eating our lunch in silence.

  “You better finish that. The animal didn’t die just so you could waste it and get thrown in the trash,” he scolded me when we were done eating.

  “Ry! You make me wanna be a vegetarian when you say stuff like that!”

  He just looked at me from the corner of his eye. I stuffed my last bite in my mouth, feeling guilty. Rydan had always been a vegetarian as far as I knew, but sometimes I got this feeling that it was more than that. Of course he’d never told me why, but I could tell he was very passionate about it.

  Rydan didn’t let me pay in the end, even though I tried to argue with him. He was way too good to me. I didn’t have much money left in my savings, which resembled a tiny piggy bank more than an actual savings account, so his gesture meant more to me than he probably even realized. Or, maybe he did realize.

  As he headed outside toward where he parked his motorcycle, I started to follow him, knowing he would give me a ride home. I opened my mouth to say something when he suddenly turned around, locking his silver eyes with mine. His intensity stopped me in my tracks, like his eyes were reaching for my soul.

  “I trust you too, Nari. With my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without you. You’re very special to me; I thought you should know that,” he confessed seriously.

  We stood there staring at each other for another few seconds, and before I could think of anything to say, he had already turned around.

  “Come on, I’ll give you a ride home,” he stated plainly. I had the urge to say “duh” but stopped myself, savoring the rare intimate moment.

  Five minutes later, we were pulling into my driveway. I hopped off the back of his bike and handed him the helmet he always brought with for me when he knew he was going to see me. He never wore one himself though.

  “Meet you at the Willow later?” I asked him. He gave me a crooked smile.

  “As always,” he replied as he pulled away.

  I walked in the house and went straight to working on my sculpture again. I didn’t have much time left before it was due, and I wanted it to be perfect.

  Time flew by fast, and suddenly I realized Ray would be home in twenty minutes. Ugh…I didn’t want to be home when he got here. If I was gone before he got home, then fine—he couldn’t do anything about it. But if I was still here when he walked in, then he always found some excuse for me to stay, refusing to let me leave. No way was I staying for that.

  I quickly washed up, grabbed my sweatshirt, and headed to my favorite place in the whole world.

  As I walked to our usual spot under the giant Weeping Willow tree, I couldn’t help but think back on what Rydan said to me earlier as we left the diner. He must have known I needed to hear those words. I knew what we had was special and that he knew it too, but it still felt good to hear it coming from his mouth. It wasn’t love that bound us together. We weren’t in love. Those feelings never crossed my mind. But we had a deep attachment to each other. It was a beautiful thing, our friendship. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

  I reached the hill and my feet abruptly stopped upon hearing a beautiful but slightly melancholy sound. It was so transfixing, as if singing to my very soul. As my emotions began to stir within me with each note, I ran down the hill to where I knew without a doubt the melody was coming from. This was Rydan playing music.

  As I got closer and closer to our Weeping Willow tree, I saw standing at the edge of the pond with long branches almost seeming to sway in time with the melody was Rydan playing a violin.

  Seeing him there, standing beside the Weeping Willow, he looked totally different from when I saw him earlier in the day. He was wearing his usual black jeans that hung loosely around his waist and a dark t-shirt under a grey sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up exposing his lean but muscular forearms. His black hair that reflected red when the sun touched it was tousled, as if he had just jumped out of bed and came straight here and started playing, not even caring to look in the mirror before leaving.

  On his right wrist lay loosely his braided black and metallic bracelet and his one silver band around his left middle finger. Around his neck was a silver chain, its contents tucked under his shirt, but I knew what it was. I had never seen Rydan without any of those items on him. He was beautiful—like a dark angel.

  I slowly walked up to him, not wanting to disturb his reverie, but he regarded me through slit eyelids, just barely his silver irises peeking out to let me know he noticed I was there. He then lightly shut them again, never skipping a beat.

  I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt over my head as I sat down at his feet. Taking in each and every note, it was as if words were being awoken inside of me just bubbling to get out. I began to sing, matching lyrics to his emotions that were spilling out through his music.

  When the song ended, he slowly opened his eyes, his intense gaze locked onto mine while lowering down his arms holding the violin and its bow. In that moment, a smal
l smile played at the corner of his lips and his eyes were wide, like liquid mercury, burning with wild passion from the melody. He blinked, and just as suddenly, as if coming out of a trance, his eyes crept back to their usual guarded state, but he couldn’t seem to keep his slight smile from fading away.

  Chapter Eight

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