WINNER TAKES ALL
Justin rolled over and stared up at the ceiling for a moment praying that he could go back to sleep. He'd been having the best dream about being with Patty again, but somehow had been woken up. Somewhere in the background noise of the room Justin heard the shower going. He took his eyes off the ceiling and shot up into a sitting position when he realized that it wasn't his mother or his stepfather or brothers in the shower. He was at Patty's. He was in Patty's bed and he didn't remember exactly how he'd ended up there.
Swearing under his breath Justin looked around and tried to find his clothes. The guys would have called him stupid for wanting to leave her bed in a rush, but at the moment he didn't know what had happened the evening before and he wasn't sure that he wanted to find out.
He vaguely remembered seeing her in the club. He'd been drunker than anything after the bartender had hooked him up with some shots and had been feeling a little woosy when they'd hit into each other. She'd been on her way out of the club for the second time. He'd caught her by the arm to stop her then in a drunken slur had hit on her. He remembered that much, but after the initial conversation he knew that they'd left the club.
He tried to think back to remember if Loni had driven them to Patty's or not. He guessed that he must have because there was no way that Justin would have been able to drive a car. Actually, as he remembered, he didn't have a car with him the night before, which meant that Loni must have driven them.
He groaned as he pushed himself off the mattress. He found his pants and pulled them on as he made his exit from the bedroom. He noticed that some of Patty's things were packed up. There were boxes in the living room and it seemed as if all her books had been taken off the shelves. He thought he saw some pictures from the walls missing, but when he heard the shower go off and the door to the bathroom open he rushed to the front door and let himself out.
He dug for his cellphone in his jacket pocket, which he'd found on the back of a chair in the living room, and dialed up Loni to see if he could get a ride. He didn't have a watch on, but he figured he'd walk down the street a ways and see if someone was awake enough to come and get him.
"Come on Loni. Come on," Justin mumbled as he slid his jacket on. He squinted at the sun and swore under his breath. He didn't have a hat and he knew that he was a completely visible target seeing that a few people actually had found out where Patty's house was and had followed him there before. He hoped no one saw him like that.
"Loni speaking," the guy answered the phone calmly.
"Loni man, come and get me."
"Yes!" he said.
"Man I thought you and Patty made up. Can't she give you a ride home?"
"We didn't make up," Justin said suddenly feeling nausious.
"What about last night?" Loni asked, "You two looked all hot and heavy for each other."
"We were, but we were drunk so it doesn't really count."
"You didn't do anything crazy did you?"
"We slept together, but I'm sure that it wasn't…"
Justin leaned over into a bush and puked. Just the thought of something like that happening between them made his stomach churn.
"Justin? You there?"
"I puked!" Justin yelled and spit a few times to get the taste out of his mouth. "Come and get me man!"
"I'm on my way."
"I'll be down the street at Oakmont park."
"Fine," Loni said, "Keep out of sight. Seeing you puking in the bushes isn't something I want to see on the cover of PEOPLE MAGAZINE."
"I'll be fine. Just come and get me."
Patty slid out of the shower, and somehow even before she went back into her bedroom she knew that he'd be gone. Whether it be that he didn't remember what had happened or that he really had something to do, she hadn't expected him to stick around and find out the truth about the night before. She didn't mind. It got her off the hook of having to talk to him about it.
Walking into the room she glanced at the bed and found that he'd disappeared like she'd expected. She walked over and grabbed up her clothes for the day. She changed into jeans and a t-shirt and began her last day of packing. She'd be leaving in the morning for her meeting and only planned to come back for a short visit before permanently moving out. She almost hoped that they might set her up in a hotel in San Francisco and make it so she could come back and get her things when she returned for the wedding. Her lease wasn't up yet with the apartment and she'd planned to keep paying rent on the place until after Leah's wedding so that she'd have a place to stay when she returned to Orlando.
The phone rang and Patty went to pick up the line while she pulled her jeans up. She prayed to God that it wasn't Justin calling her to make up some lame excuse about disappearing. Hearing nothing from him was easier than trying to stomach an excuse.
"What are you up to girl?"
"Ugh! Don't yell girl. I have a hang-over."
"Oh well you must have left with some hottie last night because I never saw you after you chatted with Sean. He said that you came back to find us, but I guess you found someone better."
"I found someone better alright."
"That doesn't sound like excitement."
"So who's the lucky guy?"
"It was Justin, alright?" she said, "he and I got drunk and screwed around and when I woke up he was in bed with me, but when I got out of the shower he disappeared."
"Oh no," Leah said with a sigh. "What'd you do?"
"What'd I do?" she asked, "He and I were both drunker than skunks and we got on each other."
"Are you sure?"
"Am I sure about what?"
"That it was…"
"Leah, don't worry. He didn't rape me or anything. I knew what was going on most of the night and I never told him no or anything. How could I?"
"So you still love him?"
"Of course I do," Patty admitted, "But I can't be with him and you know it. So don't try to convince me."
"I'm not going to try to force you, but you know that you can be with him and be happy, it would be harder than hell, but you know that you could be."
"I know," Patty sighed and began to pull the covers off the bed. One last laundry trip and she'd be ready to hit the road in the morning.
Justin slammed the car into gear and raced passed a few cars on the freeway before sliding over two lanes so he could make the exit to the airport. He cut two people off and saw them give him the finger. He laughed wishing that he could give them one back, but he could already hear the tabloid telling of his drive to the airport and didn't want to add injury to insult.
"Hey Now! Hey!" The huge man held an arm out to brace himself against the dashboard. He took up his side of the car and more, but at the moment looked as scared as Jonathan did when Justin would drive a little too fast, which for Jonathan was around seventy. They were going about ninty. "Slow down man! I know you don't want to miss her, but DA-AM! You're gonna get us killed."
"Shut up Loni," Justin said not taking his eyes off the road. He pressed on the break as they took the turning off ramp a little too fast. He quickly switched gears and a low rumbling sound came from the engine then there was a grinding sound that made Justin's teeth chatter.
"You're gonna drop your transmission," Loni warned.
"SHUT. UP. LONI. You're not here for advice. You just keep the crazies away. Okay?" Justin's nostrils flared. If he missed her at the airport he thought that he was going to die. He'd messed up big in the past with girls, but this time he wanted to do the right thing and letting her get on that plane and fly out to California was definitely the wrong thing.
"Well someone should keep your two personalities away from each other because right now I know there is this whole Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing going on here. Your crazy ass is going to kill your curly side."
"Whatever." Justin slowed down and the car rested slightly at a stoplight. Justin rolled the car back and forth in neutral.
"What time is the flight leaving?" Loni asked.
Justin glared at him then looked at his watch. He was definitely cutting this close, but it wasn't his fault that she'd only decided to tell him that she was leaving two hours before her flight took off. He'd had to cut out of the studio early and had been caught in downtown traffic for almost a half hour. "A half hour. By the time we get a parking spot and get to the gate I think we'll miss her."
"Look," Loni said, "If you want my advice--"
"I don't so shut it!" Justin yelled then leaned out the window. "The light's green. It don't get no greener!"
Loni let out a chuckle.
"What's with the laughing?" Justin spat out at him. Loni knew that he didn't like to be made fun of, not that any sane person did, but having that reaction come from Loni really cut at his already frayed nerves.
"You're hilarious J," Loni said. "You really must love this girl."
"You think?" he said sarcastically.
"Smart ass!" Loni yelled with wide eyes then braced himself as they took a right turn.
"Don't look at me like that." Justin sneered at Loni.
"Like what?" Loni asked.
"I know that look." Justin took a hand off the steering wheel and pointed at his security guard. "You tell my mom about this Loni and you're fired!" He gripped the wheel hoping that they didn't get into an accident because he knew that if an accident didn't kill him, his mother would when she heard about his driving performance that afternoon.
Loni laughed. "Your mom would kill me if she knew I let you drive like this." He settled back a little as the traffic got thicker. "So you want to hear my advice or not?"
"Well I'm going to say it anyway." He took a breath as they raced down the street. Airport signs had begun to show up and Loni pointed out where Justin should drive. "You should jump out of the car and leave it at the curb."
"I'm not leaving the Boxster at the curb."
"Leave it with me," Loni said, "You know it's completely stupid for you to go in there alone, but if you want to catch her there isn't time to park."
The sign for the parking garage and the terminal was ahead. Justin looked at Loni with a stressed look. "You promise not to hurt her?"
"Justin you just shot the hell out of the transmission for the last twenty miles and you want me to be careful."
"Bite me!" Justin said and pulled up to the correct door. Leaving the keys in the car he ran around the side of the car as Loni got out. "It's the United flight out to SFO at five. Come in after you park."
Loni waved for Justin to go into the airport as he stepped into the sports car then settled himself in and drove off.
Justin prayed for a moment as he went through the automatic sliding glass doors of the airport that he'd gotten there on time. He could just see himself making it to the gate just as she got onto the plane. It was one of those Lifetime Network movie endings. He smiled at the thought of how Patty had forced him to watch those stupid things when it was her turn to pick the movie they watch…
"This is completely ridiculous."
"It's not stupid Justin," she'd argued when he mumbled and reached for the remote to change the channel.
"It is." He pouted. "Boy meets girl, they fight, they get back together, the end."
"That's not it at all," she said throwing her arms up in frustration with him. "True, this isn't a plot driven story." She motioned at the television screen as the staring couple kissed. "It's character based and if you'd pay attention you'd see how details make this movie worth while. I'm sorry if your Mission Impossible loving butt doesn't like romance, but you and I made a deal and it's my night to pick. You picked last time."
"Fine," he said. He'd hated to compromise, but he knew he couldn't back out now. They'd made a deal and he knew that he had to keep his word to her.
And what a deal it had been.
"Is. It is a good deal," he mumbled.
Rubbing his arm as he made his way to the terminal's schedule television he remembered how she'd cried at the end of that movie. He'd curled her into his arms and had held her close as the credits had rolled. He'd joked a crying fit of his own she'd looked at him with a stunned look. He had pretended to wipe his eyes and had exclaimed at how he was so glad that the movie was over that he was crying. She'd hit him in the arm hard and he'd had a bruise there for a day or two.
Justin's eyes scanned the screen for a moment and when he found that her flight was boarding he rushed through the whole security process. He swore under his breath a few times as he got held up a little because he'd chosen to wear steel toed boots that day, but basically he started to calm down a little as he ran down towards the gate.
"Our flight to San Francisco is now boarding at Gate 25. Please have your tickets ready to board."
As Patty swore under her breath about actually having the flight departing on time she grabbed for her backpack. She wasn't expecting anyone to see her off, but she thought that at least a late flight would give anyone who might think about coming after her a little more time to stop her.
She'd called Justin last minute and had left a message for him. She planned to stay in San Francisco and write a little before she came back for the wedding and to get the rest of her things.
Looking around she didn't see any familiar faces so she lifted the bag onto her shoulder then slid her laptop computer case onto her shoulder. The tears that had been falling all morning had long stopped and her eyes felt a little puffy as she rubbed them a little trying to wake up a little before she got on the plane. She had work to do on her flight out.
Work had officially started that morning and she was already behind. No matter how upset she was, she had a deadline to keep if this book was going to be finished. The initial draft of the first chapter of the book had been edited and sent back to her from her editor. She had to make a few corrections and begin the second chapter if she was going to have it done by their first face to face meeting two days from her arrival in California.
She turned when she thought she heard her name. She brushed a hand over her face knowing that she was imagining things. Nicole and Leah were probably at the restaurant and Justin was in the studio. No one was there to see her off and she felt, after hearing Justin's reaction to her news of leaving, that no one was going to be there to stop her.
When she heard her name again she turned and found Justin running towards her. For a moment she really thought that she was seeing things, but when he came to a stop in front of her she knew that this was real and this was the moment that was going to determine her whole future.
"Where are you going?" he asked putting out a hand, he held onto her arm. She wasn't sure if it was because the crowd was moving forward towards the gate jostling them around, or if he wanted to make sure that she didn't run away from him.
"I told you on the phone. I'm going to San Francisco," she said lowering her eyes from his stare.
"I know that," he panted a little. "Why?"
"Because I have to." She looked around and saw that a few people were looking at them. She wasn't sure if it was because they recognized him or if it was just because of the scene that they were causing.
He put his hands on his hips and stared at her hard. "Why?"
"What? Are you a three year old now?" she asked shooting a look at him that would cause her more pain than the pain she saw in his eyes staring back at her. He took a few breaths as if he'd been hit in the stomach by her words. She tipped her head and looked at him. Maybe he was trying to curb his anger. She noticed him drop his hands to his sides. He squeezed his hand into a fist a few times as he breathed. She could almost hear a calming mantra echoing in his head.
She knew that the whole age thing was his weak point. He never got over the fact that they had a huge age difference between them. She'd gotten used to the idea, but he'd made a point of reminding her of the five year gap at every chance. Usually she shot back at him with a good come back, but there this time there was no comeback. She'd started it and it seemed as if she was going to finish it.
"I got a job," she said simply.
"In San Francisco?" he asked, "Why would you want to move out there?"
The flight attendant announced her row making her heart rate shoot through the roof. She was almost out of time.
"I got an offer I couldn't refuse and I had to relocate." You wouldn’t' understand, she said over and over again to herself. You just wouldn't.
"An offer? Relocate?" he asked, "You didn't even tell me you were looking for a new job."
She frowned and looked away to avoid the stare that she knew he was giving her. "There's a lot I don't tell you Justin."
"What?" he said with a shocked tone that couldn't at all be hidden.
"Don't make this into a movie of the week thing," she said firmly and tried to brush past him.
"Wait a minute." He took a step sideways to cut her off and she slammed into his chest.
She lifted a hand to his chest and held it there against his heart for a moment, pausing only to look into his eyes for an instant, before she removed her hand and stuck it into her pocket. "Don't do this Justin," she said and pushed away from him. "If you really love me, you won't ask me to stay."
"This is crazy."
She turned back and looked at him with sad eyes. "Justin, there's a saying. If you let something go and it comes back it's meant to be."
"Don't quote stupid things at me!" he pouted.
"Just leave it alone J," she said.
"But Cli," he whined.
She gave him a look of warning.
"So I've lost," he said.
"You haven't lost Curly. This was never meant to be a competition."
"Yes it was."
"Well if it was, it was because you made it into one."
She stepped back in front of him and put her arms around him. He was still breathing hard. She wasn't sure if it was from his trip to the gate or if it was because he was trying not to cry. She'd seen him like this before, when he was with Jonathan and Bubba before he left town. "Curly. I'd never stop you from doing something that you needed to do. You have to return that favor."
She watched his eyes tear up and felt her own getting a little misty again. She blinked a few times and hoped that she wouldn't cry. She put a hand against his cheek and looking into his eyes. "I love you Curly, I do, but I have to do this." She pressed closer to him and kissed him square on the mouth. "I'll call you in a few weeks."
She broke away from him and went to get on the plane chanting in her head to not turn around. If she was going to do this she was definitely not going to be able to handle the look on his face as she left. When she handed her ticket to the attendant she turned and saw that he was still in the place that she'd left him. He looked crushed and she knew that she was going to crumble herself the next time she was alone. It would be too much to break down and cry in front of the other passengers on the plane, so she mentally penciled in a crying appointment for when she got to San Francisco.
For someone who was about to start a whole new life, something that she'd looked forward to doing for most of her life, she sure didn't feel that lucky. Maybe Justin had been right and they'd both lost whatever game they'd been playing with each other. Maybe the ride for them was now over.
THE END...read the next story!
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