11:42 a.m. | Highway to Bayville
“So… have you been to Bayville before?” Cailean asks. Again, not ready to share any more than she has to, Aislyn keeps her answer short, “It’s my hometown; my father still lives there.”
“That’s interesting.” Cailean says; before he can ask something else, Aislyn decides to direct the conversation towards him, “Have you?”
“Nope, this’ll be my first time, I hear it’s beautiful.”
“It is.” Aislyn says.
They go through various bouts of small talk for the rest of the hour’s drive before exiting off of the highway and entering the city.
12:45 p.m. | Bayville
As they go deeper into the town, Aislyn feels her nervousness from earlier returning, confirming it was her anxiousness at being back home that was making her feel this way. “Wow.” Cailean says as he lets out a whistle. “This is quite the impressive sight already.” He adds as he gazes at the various skyscrapers.
“You haven’t seen anything yet.” Aislyn says. “This place is ten times the size of Oldmerrow.” “I can believe that judging from how super-sized everything looks.” Cailean says. “Are you hungry?” He asks as they drive by a corner coffee shop. “We got here way earlier that I thought we would, we can kill some time grabbing a bite.”
“Sounds good to me.”
1:12 p.m. | Crispy Café
“So, the book signing isn’t until five.” Cailean says after they’ve eaten their sandwiches. “We managed to beat the heavy traffic flow which I heard could take up to three hours on a bad day, which is good. But that leaves us with a lot of extra time. I kind of overestimated how long it’d take us to get here, sorry about that.”
“Don’t apologize.” Aislyn says. “I’d actually prefer to kill some time, it’s been so long since I’ve been back. And as it’s your first time being here, I can give you a mini-tour if you want, since I’m a local after all.”
“I’d like that.”
After hopping back into the car and parking in a downtown parking garage, Aislyn and Cailean step out so she can show him around some of her favorite parts of Bayville on foot. “We won’t be needing this.” She teases as they pass by a city map on their way out of the garage; Cailean smiles. “Lead the way.” He says.
2:11 p.m. | Sunset Beach
Aislyn was surprised at how easy it was for her to recall where everything was and which roads to take. The city hadn’t changed as much as she thought it would’ve in the time she’s been away.
“Wow, that water is a beauty.” Cailean says.
“It sure is.”
Cailean extends his arm and raises a camera Aislyn hadn’t noticed he was carrying. Since they were going to be doing a bit of walking, she left her bag in the car so the books she had wouldn’t weigh her down.
“Where’d that come from?” She asks as he raises it to his face to snap a picture of the scenery.
“I’ve been carrying it since we left the car; I don’t know how you didn’t notice it.”
“I guess I was too immersed in seeing if anything has changed.” She says, honestly.
“Has it?” He asks.
“As far as I can tell, no. But we’ve barely scratched the surface. Do you normally take photos?”
“Yeah, it’s a hobby of mine. This isn’t a normal digital camera, I’ve adjusted the settings to give the photos that come out a vintage feel that I quite like, so if you don’t mind bearing with me, I shall be snapping several photos as we go around; I have a feeling I’ll get a lot of great shots today.”
“By all means, go right ahead.”
Aislyn leads Cailean along the trails and parks she used to frequent; just walking along the familiar roads makes her feel a bit of happiness she didn’t think she’d have given how much heartbreak and misery also lingered here. She tried to keep those thoughts at bay as she took in the sights around her. Thankfully Cailean didn’t ask too many questions as he was immersed in his photography.
“There are a lot of parks here.” Cailean observes as they enter their fourth one.
“Yup, with a city this large that attracts a lot of tourists, the government spent a lot of money beautifying the place.”
“I have to say, after watching you snap all these photos for the past few hours, I’m extremely curious as to how they look.” Aislyn says as she sits on a swing to rest her feet that were beginning to ache from all the walking.
“Can I see?” She asks as Cailean comes to join her. “Well… um, like I said I’ve changed the settings on them and viewing them on the screen won’t do them justice. After I print them, I’ll be sure to show you.” Cailean says as some color comes to his cheeks. Aislyn didn’t think his photos would be something to be embarrassed about.
It was the first time Aislyn saw Cailean get slightly flustered. “Where to next?” He asks before she can prod him. “There’s no way we’ll be able to see even half of what this city has to offer, but there is one more thing I’d like to show you before we head to the library.”
4:22 p.m. | Bayville Bay Park
Aislyn looks around at all the families picnicking, people reading, and friends strolling as they enter the area where part of the bay for which Bayville had gotten its name stretches.
“So this is the bay of ‘Bay’ville?” Cailean asks as they approach.
“Yup.” Aislyn says, partly there, partly not. She was slightly surprised to see so much fresh blood. There was a time in which she could name the majority of the city’s citizens and seeing so many unknown faces going on with their business made her feel foolish for staying away for so long.
She walks forward to the water’s edge and takes a moment to reacquaint herself with the place that used to be as familiar to her as the back of her hand, but now seemed like someone else’s.
Hearing the camera flash draws her back from her reverie. She turns in time to see Cailean’s hands drop to his side. “Sorry, I got lost in my thoughts.”
“No worries… we should probably start heading over to the venue now though.” Cailean says as he glances at his watch.
Cailean follows Aislyn’s instructions to the library in which the book signing was going to be held. “It says we have to display it on the dashboard.” Aislyn says as they pull up to a gate dispensing parking tickets. “We have to pay upfront, should we choose the two hour one or four hours?”
“I doubt we’ll be here for more than two, let’s just get that one.” Cailean says as he hands Aislyn his card to swipe for the ticket.
They display the printed paper on the dashboard and park behind a stretch of cars already lined up outside.
4:59 p.m. | Bay Hill Library
Aislyn’s bag is confiscated outside for safety measures and she’s given a number to retrieve it after the signing. She and Cailean walk in carrying the books they wish to have signed in hand and the place is bustling with noise as they enter. “Ready?” Cailean asks. “You have no idea.”
Despite arriving right on time for the start of the event, the line was already fairly long. About half an hour into their wait were they finally able to lay eyes on Grayham who was taking his time conversing with each fan.
“I appreciate your support.” They hear him say as he shakes an elderly woman’s hand.
As she walks by Cailean and Aislyn with her signed book in hand, Aislyn feels like the woman’s stare lingers on her for a moment too long before she walks away, but decides to think nothing of it.
“And what might your name be, young man?” Grayham asks.
“Dempsey, Drew Dempsey. Man, it’s such an honor to meet you. I’ve been a fan of yours for as long as I could read on my own.” Drew blurts out. He was glad his sister wasn’t standing next to him to laugh at how nervous he was.
After a few moments of silence, Mr. Grayham speaks again. “Well, I’m honored. Why don’t you hand me that book you’ve got there, Drew, and I’ll be sure to sign it nicely for you.”
It was only then Drew realized that he’d been staring with his mouth agape instead of handing over the book he was carrying. “Oh, right sorry…” He says, flustered as he hands the book over. “No worries Mr. Dempsey, by the way, I like the alliteration of your name.” “Thanks.” Drew says sheepishly, doubly glad his sister was not observing him.
After thanking Mr. Grayham again for the signature he rushes back to where she was waiting for him. “You know, for an old guy…” She begins, staring back at where the line was for the signing, “… he’s actually pretty hot.” His sister says. “You are unbelievable, Dakota.” Drew says. “And he’s not that old, he started writing young. I plan to do the same.”
“If you say so.” Dakota says dismissively. “Come on, mom probably already started making dinner; let’s go.” He says. There was no way he was going to let his sister dampen what was one of the best nights of his life.
When it was finally Aislyn’s time to get her book signed, and she got a close look at Grayham, the feeling was almost surreal; she was seeing someone in person whom she’d only ever seen online or on television.
“Persefoni? That’s a unique name.” Grayham says as he writes in the book. “If I’m not mistaken, it’s Greek.”
“Yeah, my father’s side of the family comes from there originally.” She says. “Well Ms. Persefoni, thank you for your support.”
“Thank you.” For providing me with something that brought me joy in times when my life was dark. Aislyn says the latter part in her head.
“Well, that was something.” Cailean says. “Thanks for carrying my book for me by the way.” He adds after Aislyn slips it into her bag.
“It’s the least I could do. I can’t thank you enough for bringing me with you. I still can’t believe I got to see him and speak with him.”
“Aislyn?” A voice calls from the top of the stairs. At first Aislyn thought she was hearing things, but when Cailean stops and turns, she does as well and notices a young woman running down the steps.
“It’s me, Daisy, from Bayville High. It is you, isn’t it?” The woman says, and though her hair was shorter and features sharper, Aislyn could recognize her.
“Your lovely hair caught my attention, but I was still doubting it was you. Looking at you now though, there’s no mistaking it; you are still as pretty as ever.”
“Thanks Daisy.” Aislyn says, oddly flustered at the compliments; she’d have had a harder time remembering Daisy if she didn’t just recount her life to J.D. “This must be your boyfriend, hello!” Daisy adds excitedly.
“We’re not dating.” Aislyn and Cailean say simultaneously.
“Oh, silly me. Well, it’s crazy to see you… you… you just disappeared into thin air during senior year. Poof! Like magic. Are you here for good or– ”
“No, I’m just visiting. I came for the book signing with my friend here, Cailean.”Aislyn says; Cailean gives a small nod at the mention of his name.
“Oh, if that’s the case, I’d love to catch up with you for a bit. How long will you be in town for?”
“Actually we were just about to head back now, it’s kind of a long drive.” Aislyn says.
“Oh.” Daisy says making no effort to hide her disappointment. Aislyn has to admit she’s surprised. She and Daisy had only ever spoken a handful of times and yet the girl was acting like she’d run into a lifelong friend. “I wouldn’t mind waiting if you guys wanted to grab a quick bite or drink to catch up.” Cailean says.
“Are you kidding? After all you’ve done for me today, there’s no way I’m going to make you sit around. We can all go together, if that’s okay with you?” Aislyn asks turning to Daisy.
“The more the merrier! I won’t take up too much of your time! There’s a great place within walking distance a few blocks down.”
7:01 p.m. | Icey Bites Cafe
Sure enough, after a brief stroll, the three of them arrive at a nearby bakery. They place their orders and sit outside.
“So you’re in Oldmerrow now?” Daisy asks after Aislyn answers her question regarding where she currently resides. “That’s not too far.”
“Funny, I never pegged you as the type to read Grayham.” Daisy says. Aislyn wasn’t sure what to say to that so she just shrugs, Daisy continues, “Man, things sucked after you and Tristan left.”
“Quinn took over the school and made life a living hell for nearly everyone. When you were Queen Bee, you were so much nicer. It made a lot of students realize they should’ve appreciated you more when you were around.”
Aislyn wanted to keep Cailean in the dark for as much as she could about her past, and here Daisy was spilling everything like a broken faucet. She obviously didn’t mean any harm, but Aislyn couldn’t help but feel a bit irritated with her. She had a feeling she was going to regret telling Cailean to come along and tightened her grip on her bag to relieve the stress building in her. On the outside she gave Daisy a polite laugh hoping she’d somehow receive her silent distress calls and stop.
“Anyways, you kind of inspired me to get into journalism believe it or not. With well… you know… what happened, it made me realize the importance of people checking sources and running facts, so here we are almost ten years later and you’re looking at a head writer for the Bayville Sentinel paper.”
“That’s great.” Aislyn says doing her best to sound polite. She could feel Cailean glancing at her occasionally but to her immense relief he remained silent. Shortly afterwards, their food came and they were able to eat with bits of small talk with Daisy that did not revolve around Aislyn’s past. When they had finished, Cailean offered to pay the bill, to which Aislyn protested, and Daisy said thank you, and they went their separate ways after Daisy handed her a business card telling her to keep in touch.
The walk back to the car felt incredibly awkward, but probably only for Aislyn as she was partially mortified at hearing Daisy talk about her like that. “For a city as large as this one, you can surprisingly see the stars amazingly well; usually pollution interferes.” Cailean says as he gazes at the sky. Whether he was trying to be kind by not asking questions or genuinely didn’t care, Aislyn didn’t know, but she was thankful either way.
She could feel herself relaxing as they walked on. “They are pretty good at conservation efforts and reducing emissions here… Ummm. Cailean?”
“Hmm?” He says, turning his eyes away from the sky and back to her. “Where’s your car?” Aislyn asks as she lays eyes on an empty parking spot.
“What?” He asks staring at place where the car should’ve been. “Oh, no.” He pulls back his sleeve and looks at his watch.“8:01; it’s been over three hours. Who would’ve thought they’d actually check if we’d stay as long as our paper indicated?”
“They towed your car? What should we do?”
“Do you know where the nearest tow station would be?”
“I don’t drive, so no.” Aislyn says.
“Hang on, I see an open store across the street over there, let me see if I can figure out where they took it, that’ll be a good place to start.”
8:21 p.m. | Lemon St. Bus Stop
Cailean insisted Aislyn sit down at the stop outside as it was probably going to take a while to locate his car. The more time went by, however, it was clear they probably wouldn’t be able to make it back tonight, so with a sigh Aislyn pulls out her cellphone and calls her father…
Time had dragged on for longer than Cailean had thought it would when he steps back out. He knew Aislyn’s feet were hurting from all the walking they did earlier so he told her to sit outside while he tracked his car. After calling around three towing stations he’d finally located the one that had his car, but as it was nearing closing time they told him he’d be able to pick it up first thing in the morning. Meaning they’d probably have to spend the night here…
There was clearly more to Aislyn’s story about her life here, and while he couldn’t deny that he was curious, Cailean thought it better not to ask.
When he gets back to the bus stop he notices Aislyn has fallen asleep with her neck unsupported and head on the glass.
She must be exhausted… He thinks; he felt guilty for waking her up. “Aislyn?” He says gently as he sits beside her. She jolts awake. “Huh?” She says with a yawn. “Sorry; how’d it go?” She asks. “Well, the good news is I found it, bad news is, I won’t be able to pick it up ’till tomorrow.”
“No worries, when you didn’t come back after twenty minutes I took a precaution and called my dad to let him know we’d probably be coming to spend the night. But since he lives on the other side of Bayville it’ll take him some time to get here… is that okay?”
“No, that’s perfect, I just feel bad I got us into this. Don’t you have to work tomorrow?” He asks.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.”
“For now we wait.” Aislyn says. “Right.” Cailean chimes in.
As Cailean let’s his eyes roam the street, gazing at the passing cars, he feels Aislyn gently slump onto his shoulder. He had to press his fingers into his arm to keep from reaching out to her.
While today initially started out as a simple invitation to a friend with a common interest, it grew into a confirmation of one of his fears; Chad was right. He did feel something for Aislyn and he felt terrible for it. Gus is his best friend and if this was like any other time where Gus was just shamelessly flirting with a girl and moving on, it’d be different… But for the first time he was serious. And considering the kind of person Gus was as a circumstance of his upbringing, that meant something.
Despite denying it initially, Cailean was drawn to Aislyn and the time they spent together today only brought that fact out into the light the more he got to see qualities of hers that made her more attractive in his eyes. There were things he wanted to ask her and mysteries about her he wanted to uncover but he knows now that he won’t be able to… because this has to end.
He can’t delude himself into thinking that he’ll be able to keep things platonic the more they hang out together. If today was any indication, his feelings were bound to grow. In time, he could see himself getting over her and being friends, but that would involve putting some distance between them… But now, in this moment, with her weight on him so lightly, he decides to give into his selfish desires for a moment without crossing any lines because he cares about Gus too much to do anything he’d regret.
Doing his best to keep his arm pinned to his side, he leans back and lowers his shoulder until Aislyn’s head falls onto it. He then rests his head atop hers and closes his eyes, to savor in what he swears will be his only stolen moment.
Thanks for reading! Oy vey, another wordy chapter XD I hope you liked it though 🙂 I introduced and reintroduced a few more characters this chapter, feel free to share any thoughts on them and where you think the story is headed or what you’d like to see~ Happy almost New Year! I know I have several resolutions I’d like to make and stick to and I’m curious to know yours as well, so I’m thinking of doing a New Years Day special post inquiring and sharing those things while also sharing something else… hehe~
Thanks for reading and take care!