Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Love Notes and City Lights

The titles for the chapters of my Coffee Shop story are infinitely better than the ones I make for my blog posts. Sorry about that. I guess I'm more creative when it comes to other people's lives. I love helping people so if you have any issues bothering you, feel free to ask. I overanalyze everything so it might entertain you if nothing more.

Since it is my birthday I decided that readers should get a treat (possibly if you think so?) too! So here's another chapter. :) Enjoy! xx

Love Notes and City Lights
Claire was unaware that she was doodling all over her English notebook. She was usually so focused during class but today was different. During class, Eugene had slipped her a note. It had happened all so quickly. He got up to sharpen his pencil. It was a good thing that the pencil sharpener was by her desk. Eugene took a long time. The grating sound of the sharpener was drowning out Mr. Higgins’s voice. Mr. Higgins had instructed Eugene to stop but eventually started to teach class again. Once his back was turned, Eugene threw a note on her desk and promptly left. Claire opened it immediately without skipping a beat. There was his immaculate handwriting and a ticket to a …opera? In his nice handwriting, even Claire knew that this was an invitation to a night out. It was a holiday weekend but Claire had suspected it would be like any other holiday. She would be in the kitchen making another delicacy for Eugene. 
Eugene glanced over at her for a long time. She nodded her head eagerly before giving her attention back to Mr. Higgins. She wondered when exactly Eugene started to like her. Was it love at first sight?
“No homework for the weekend,” Mr. Higgins said a second before the bell rang. Everyone flooded out of the classroom. 
“Have a great holiday,” Claire said after almost everyone had left. Eugene was still stuffing his loose papers and binders into his messenger bag. 
“Hi Eugene,” Claire said nervously. “I’d love to go.” 
“Great,” Eugene said walking her to the cafeteria. “Your grades are improving a lot too.” 
“All because of you,” Claire said and watched him slowly reach for her hand. She felt butterflies thrashing themselves against her stomach.
“See you tomorrow,” he said holding her hand a little tighter. She looked down casually to see that their fingers were enlaced together. It was her first time holding someone else’s hand. She wondered what he was waiting for, he had already said goodbye. He leaned over to place a kiss on her cheek, his second one.
“Good bye Eugene!” Claire said startled. She saw Ryan pull up on his motorcycle. Claire clutched the envelope that Eugene had dropped on her desk. 
“What was that about?” Ryan growled before parking his motorcycle. Eugene actually valued her enough to showcase her in front of people like Ryan. Claire was touched. He took off his helmet and placed it on the handlebars. He approached her carefully. She was wearing the teal sandals and he glanced at them a second longer than a normal person would have. Why would he care?
“When is your project over?” 
“Oh it’s due Tuesday, after the holiday. What are you doing during the holiday?” 
“You won’t believe it! Eugene is taking me to an opera! I had the weirdest dream that you said he would never like me. And then you said something about how you fell in love with me,” Claire’s voice had digressed to a small whisper.  She shook her head suddenly. 
“I have no idea why I said that,” Claire said backtracking furiously. She looked embarrassed.  
“You wish,” Ryan said. There was something different about his tone as well. There wasn’t an abrasive cockiness to that little string of words. “Anyways, I came to thank you for your cooperation. I hope you have a good holiday.” 
“Thanks, Ryan,” Claire said beaming up at him. “I hope you have a great holiday too. Maybe you should ask Vanessa to do something.” Claire walked away. She had the irking feeling that Ryan hadn’t said what he had wanted to. She dismissed any further concerns and wondered what she could wear. Claire heard the engine of his motorcycle humming in the background. He wasn’t one to ignore any urge to speak. Ryan always said what was on his mind. Why would today have been different?
“Lola, what would you wear to an opera at the Met?” 
“That guy who comes over all the time finally asked you, huh,” Lola said proudly, almost as someone would talk about their niece winning the lottery. “I knew our little Claire was good enough for a Nichols. I just knew he’d come around sooner or later. You saw it too right? He has that look when –” Lola stopped talking once she saw how uncomfortable Claire looked. 
“Sorry, kiddo, what’s up?”   
“Lola, we don’t have that kind of relationship. He does not have a certain look when he talks to me. Ryan has a girlfriend and I don’t want to put anything in harm’s way. Lola, he told me the first time that he met me that he only dates . . . Huh never mind. It’s not like I’m interested in him either. I don’t even know if we’re friends. No, not Ryan, but Eugene,” Claire said quietly. Her face brightened up at the mention of Eugene. “I don’t know what to wear though.” 
“Ah the slave driver,” Lola said losing interest. It was her new nickname for him. She and Grady made new nicknames for him every week. “All I see is you willingly doing work for him.” None of the kitchen staff liked Eugene. Lola reapplied her classic red lipstick but Claire doubted that she was going anywhere special.  Lola had a gingery hair color and big brown eyes. Claire was 90% sure that the reddish tint was a hair dye. She was very pretty and Claire felt a bit sorry that she had mentioned anything about the opera. Lola had just turned thirty. Like most of the other staff that Claire considered family, Lola had run away at age sixteen. Lola was like an aunt to her whereas Grady was more of an older brother character. She had gotten her GED but hadn’t continued on to college. The main reason why Lola had left high school was promise of marriage to an upper class family, just like the Nichols. Her fiancĂ© broke it off a year later and moved away without telling her. 
“Don’t you think that Ryan Nichols would more likely leave me than Eugene? I don’t get why all you guys hate Eugene so much.” 
“Eugene doesn’t care about you, querida,” Lola said. Lola always slipped in a Spanish word or two when she was annoyed. 
“Like Ryan does,” Claire said in disbelief.  “Lola, please, do you have a dress I could borrow?” Lola and Claire were roughly about the same size. “I’ll wash the dishes for you for a whole month.” 
“Fine,” Lola said. Her stern expression broke into a sudden smile. “I have just the thing.” Lola reached under her bed and took out a crate. Anderson laughed through his nose and Grady looked very interested. They were a very misfit family.
“That’s beautiful,” Claire said breathtakingly. It was a snow white dress embroidered with lace. The dress was shorter and only came up to her knees. Claire felt oddly exposed while trying it on.  Lola smiled and patted her hair affectionately. She dug deeper in the wooden crate to produce a pair of shoes. Claire had seen similar only strapped on to Vanessa’s feet. They were four inches high and a little silver ribbon that the very foot of the shoe. Claire had never seen a sleeker shoe before.  
“Christian Louboutin?” Claire asked looking at the sole of the shoe. 
“You wouldn’t know what that is. Now don’t ruin anything,” Lola said. Her stern expression returned for a short second. “I wore it to my first opera.” Claire nodded her head. She was actually going on a date with Eugene. She was actually going on a date with Eugene. 
“Take the day off,” Anderson said from his rocking chair. It was a holiday anyway, even for the staff.
“Thank you,” she said gratefully before leaving the cafeteria. The staff wondered where she was going. She never went wandering.  Claire saw that Ryan’s motorcycle was parked by the main parking lot.  Vanessa lived there and Claire hoped that he had taken her advice. Even someone as awful as Vanessa deserved love. She saw them walking and hid behind a bush. This was wrong but there was nothing she could do now. She held her breath and hoped that she wasn’t making any rustling noises. Claire had never been out this late and she had the urge to run back to the safe cafeteria. It was a good thing that she was by Vanessa’s dormitory and not anywhere else. Vanessa had the luxury of having lampposts surrounding her pent house. Claire had never seen so many lampposts in one place. Claire wondered what time it was. Why didn’t Vanessa build a huge clock tower right by her house?  She heard Vanessa’s heels click against the pavement. Even late at night, Vanessa was never without makeup or pretty shoes. 
“Ryan, what did you want to say?” Vanessa’s voice was taut. Claire knew that Vanessa had a constant fear of being broken up with. 
“I was just wondering what you were doing this Saturday.” 
“No plans are made yet,” Vanessa said. “You know how I usually go boating every holiday. Last Christmas it was the Caribbean but it wasn’t like you were planning anything special.” Her voice was shrill and all her words were getting twisted together. For once she didn’t sound whiny. She was laying out facts and he seemed a bit taken aback by the harshness of her words. Claire guessed that Vanessa had never had a talk with Ryan about anything. She wondered why Vanessa didn’t just get another boyfriend of same status. 
“I have an extra ticket to Wicked, you know the musical, and a little birdy told me that I should go with you.” Claire couldn’t help but peek up. She ducked down seconds after but she knew that Vanessa had seen her. 
“Did that birdy say no to you? Is that why you’re asking me?” Vanessa crossed her arms now and she was about ready to leave. 
“Nessa, sorry, about everything,” Ryan said holding the ticket out to her. It was the easiest way for a guy like him to apologize. She smiled and took it and faced the bush where Claire was hiding. 
“Tell that little birdy I say thanks,” Vanessa said loudly. 
“Sure,” Ryan said confused. 
He rode off after giving Vanessa a hug. Vanessa held the ticket firmly in her hand before waving at him. 
Vanessa turned her attention to the bush. Claire wasn’t after Ryan; she was returning him to his rightful girlfriend. That didn’t change much about how Vanessa felt and what she had to do, especially since Ryan was giving limited edition D&G bags to Claire. 
“I know you’re there,” Vanessa said hoping she didn’t scare Claire off. 
“Sorry,” Claire said getting out of the bush. She dusted herself and flicked the leaves out of her clothes. 
“Why don’t you come in?” Claire followed Vanessa into her dormitory. It could barely even be called a dormitory. Vanessa lived in a hotel far, far away from reality. There were about seven rooms on her floor all spacious with wide windows making up the walls of the living room. No one else lived here and Claire wished she could live in this paradise too.
“Here’s some tea,” Vanessa said plopping it down on the living room table. 
“Thanks Vanessa,” Claire said taking her porcelain china tea cup. She had never drunk out of something so delicate and expensive. The tea tasted slightly bitter and Claire did not want to continue drinking it. 
“You’re welcome, Ku-h-l-a-re,” Vanessa said in a patronizing tone. Claire felt frightened all of a second. “Would you mind leaving this school?” 
“You heard me, please leave,” Vanessa said holding her tea. “I’m saying this nicely.”  
“I can’t, Vanessa, I consider this place my home too.” 
“Will this convince you?” Vanessa put her tea back on the table and slid some sort of envelope towards Claire. Claire opened the bulky envelope to see wads of money. She scrutinized Vanessa. 
“No, it doesn’t, it won’t,” Claire cried out. 
“You’ve just made an enemy. You should’ve said yes while I was being nice. Get out of my house,” Vanessa yelled and poured her hot tea over Claire’s head. Claire started to cry and Vanessa crossed her arms with a smug look. She wondered if Vanessa was bipolar. 
“Sorry doll,” Vanessa said before pointing to the door. “The money is still on the table.” Claire shook her head in disgust and left Vanessa’s paradise. She walked home a sopping mess and took a quick shower in the small bathroom facility. Claire used some of Lola’s special shampoo and tried to cheer herself up. Vanessa was an evil witch for sure.
Vanessa watched Claire walk out and placed the money back in her cabinet. That was her monthly allowance. She didn’t know exactly how to go from here. Usually they accepted the money and fled. There was still tomorrow to execute. Vanessa opened a premade facial from her fridge and started to apply it to her face. What did Ryan like about that cry baby? 
She didn’t have much time to fuss over Claire. Tomorrow was her big night. She hadn’t gone out with Ryan for a date since . . .  forever. Vanessa dug through her drawers for the perfect pair of underwear that she had tucked in. She felt a small bubble of excitement as she held it in her hands. She hadn’t needed it ever since Ryan had always pushed her away, but not tomorrow. No one would think that he would be the type to refuse her, but oddly he was. Tomorrow, Vanessa would finally sleep with him. She would join the ranks of Jessie and Mara. 
Ryan decided not to take his motorcycle just for this one occasion. Melanie seemed curious when he was standing out in the garage for a long time. They had a lot of cars and a lot of car dealers near them. He decided that he would take the Bugatti. It was his dad’s birthday present a while back but none of his family members ever drove it. He left around five and didn’t know why he agreed to this. Ryan was wearing Armani, something generic. He pressed the pedal slowly and sighed. Why did he bring the Bugatti? Sports cars were only noticeable when they were speeding at a hundred miles per hour. Ryan parked his car in the main parking lot and saw that Vanessa was already walking towards him. She was wearing a skin tight dress that only came up to her upper-thigh. Vanessa waved at him while breaking into a run. Her hair was deftly done into a side bun. 
“You look nice,” Ryan said. He was leaning against the car and had his hands tucked in his pocket. 
“Thanks,” Vanessa said and looked casually at her diamond encrusted wrist watch. 
“Where do you want to eat dinner?”
“You didn’t make reservations?” He shrugged. What? Did she actually think he was treating her? 
“I’m sure an Atkins can get a table anywhere,” Ryan said sarcastically. “Let’s go.” 
“Wait, I want Claire to know we’re together.”
“I’m not interested in her,” Ryan sighed and got in the car. He honked and saw Vanessa flinch. Ryan was ready to leave until he saw Eugene walking up with Claire’s head resting on his shoulder. Was there only one parking lot at this huge school? Why did she walk like that? Except today, she didn’t look like Claire. She wasn’t wearing Old Navy jeans or the school uniform. Claire was wearing something that looked like it was from the Valentino spring collection. Her hair was in a sophisticated chignon. Ryan had the urge to whistle. 
“She cleans up nicely,” Ryan said. He had never noticed that she had a close to perfect figure. “Where does she get that figure? Does she work out a lot?” Vanessa was annoyed. He was unaware that he was leaning against the steering wheel.
“She works here, Ryan. She’s always frantically delivering stuff to people. It’s natural exercise for poor people. Ryan, we’re going to be late.” 
“Eugene sure is lucky,” Ryan said laughing. Vanessa was slightly scared by his sudden eruption of laughter. He started up the engine and pressed the gas pedal. “That bastard doesn’t deserve her.” Ryan started to drive faster and faster until they reached the heart of New York. 
“Where do you want to eat for dinner?” Ryan repeated. 
“Where we normally go,” Vanessa said hoping that she didn’t have to choose. 
“Fine, let’s go to The Grape Vine,” Ryan said swerving the car. Vanessa just nodded. He was doing everything that he could to make this an unromantic evening. “Are they following us?” Vanessa looked in the rearview mirror and saw Eugene’s car, a Camaro from Chevy.
“Is he a scholarship kid?” Ryan asked adjusting the front view mirror. 
“No,” Vanessa said not wanting to sell Eugene short. “He likes classic cars.” 
“Of course he does,” Ryan said letting out a pfft noise. 
Eugene was impressed at Claire. She was almost good enough to be his date. He didn’t even try to impress her. Eugene was wearing normal polo pants and a nice sweater vest. He had decided against wearing sneakers though. The waiter led them to a small table at the corner of the restaurant, The Grape Vine. Vanessa had texted him the address since she wanted Ryan to get full exposure of his togetherness with Claire. The waiter handed them menus and Claire looked excited about everything. 
“I’ve been here a ton,” Eugene said not even bothering to open his menu. 
“Thanks so much for helping me again, Eugene,” Claire said. Her mouth was already watering just by reading the descriptions. 
“I know I’m smart. I’ve won at least ten merit awards. I won my first at eight,” Eugene said. He rubbed his temples. “Why am I so smart?” Claire nodded before calling over the waiter. 
“Would you like anything to drink? Your bread is coming out shortly.” 
“Vodka,” Eugene said pulling out a twenty dollar bill. Claire was horror stricken. 
“Just water for me,” she chirped out. “You drink? You’re underage though. That guy didn’t even ask for an ID!” She remembered her unpleasant meeting with Ryan when he had too much alcohol in his system. 
“Vodka is a wonderful thing Claire. Are you sure you don’t want some?”
“No,” Claire said nervously.
“Well we can ride the taxi home. There’s nothing to worry about with a little vodka.” Claire didn’t say anything else. The waiter brought out a bottle of vodka and Eugene was pleased that it was well aged. Claire was disgusted that someone would bring vodka to a minor just because he paid more.
“Did you know that I’m superb at tennis?” 
“You didn’t say,” Claire meekly responded. She watched him pour himself a glass. 
“Are you sure you don’t want a glass? The waiter left an extra glass,” Eugene said. He was still holding the neck of the bottle and Claire pulled her glass away from him. 
“I really can’t,” she simply said and stared further at the menu. 
“Spaghetti for both,” Eugene said when the waiter came back. Claire nodded in agreement and reluctantly gave up her menu. There were so many things she had wanted to taste. “It’s all I can afford.” Claire uneasily glanced at the bottle of vodka in front of him. “The opera starts in two hours.” 
“I can’t wait for that. How did you get tickets to Wicked?” 
“I have connections, Claire. Did I tell you that I’ve met the President?”
“No, no you didn’t,” Claire said with a sharp sigh. She ate her spaghetti without a word and made sure to keep her back straight against the chair. Claire made sure not to put a used fork back on the table, just like Lola taught her. Eugene didn’t share her enthusiasm for etiquette.
“Do you drink often?” Claire asked as she saw the bottle halfway empty. She tapped her fingers along the table. 
“No, almost never,” Eugene said. He wore splatters of spaghetti and when the check came, he waited for Claire to reach for her wallet.  Claire didn’t get paid to work at the kitchen. The money that she was owed went directly to her tuition. Eugene knew that she had no money to pay for dinner. 
“You’re such a gentleman,” Claire said after he put his credit card inside the credit card holder. 
“I know,” Eugene said. He was tipsy and everything was getting blurry. “Let’s go.” The Met was right near the restaurant just one brief walk away.
“It’s a bit cold here,” Claire said. “It’s my first time in the city.” Eugene looked at his blazer. Claire was wearing a dress with thin straps. She hadn’t brought a jacket either. 
“You don’t have to be as smart as me to know to bring a jacket, at night, Claire,” Eugene said walking a couple steps in front of her. They went inside the opera hall and Claire was relieved that it was warm inside. 
Eugene could see that she had enjoyed her two hours viewing Wicked. His head was hurting but he had that thrill from being drunk. The colors had all blurred together and he couldn’t stop himself from spinning his head around the huge theatre. 
“Eugene, let’s go,” Claire said standing up after the show. She had been clapping for at least five minutes. Claire was shivering once they exited the theatre. The car was a ways away and she started to walk with her posture all scrunched up. 
“Claire—Come here,” Eugene said standing in the dark alley two blocks from where his car was parked. Most of the people had crossed the street and there wasn’t much foot traffic on that specific sidewalk. 
“What’s the matter? Did you call the taxi?” 
“You know, you really aren’t that pretty,” he said walking closer to her. 
“Excuse me? Eugene, snap out of it. I need to go home. Lola is probably worried sick about her clothes.” 
“Claire,” he said effectively cornering her against a wall. He walked closer and even in her heels, she was still about three inches shorter than him. 
“Eugene, stop it, let’s go,” Claire said wondering which pocket his phone was in. He was standing so close to her that she could he breath on her neck. His clumsy hands were pulling her straps down and Claire started to scream. He put her hand over her mouth and muffled her voice. She bit his hand but he simply laughed and squeezed her wrist. He kissed her after and she tasted the vodka. 
“Isn’t this what all girls want?” Claire tried to scream. Her wrist started to hurt. He had managed to pull her dress down and was undoing the clasps on her bra. 
“Damn it, why do girls have to wear things like this?” He had her pinned and Claire couldn’t move. She started to scream once his other hand was occupied with unclasping her bra. Goosebumps had prickled all over her skin. The city was still bright at night but no one noticed them in the dark alley. 
“Eugene,” Claire started to cry. Her makeup was smudging and she black bits of mascara were staining her cheeks. She wondered if her wrist was broken. 
“Son of a bitch!” That was the last thing that Claire heard until she woke up in a diner. 

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