***author’s note: Hey everybody~ No you didn’t miss anything; there is a time skip of a month right off the bat. Also, we shall be encountering Drew again, who some of you may have forgotten, but I swear there’s a purpose for his existence, lol. He’ll be showing up more here and there for good reason! Okay then, that’s all from me for now. Enjoy~ ***
– ONE MONTH LATER –
12:03 p.m. | Bayville Pier
Aislyn and Daisy make their way across the pier to their designated lunch spot. After starting to work at the Sentinel, one of the great outcomes – aside from all of the stories about corruption or injustice Aislyn was able to bring to light – was her rekindled friendship with Daisy. She was incredibly kind, and aside from a slight tendency to overshare, completely harmless. Aislyn enjoyed spending time with her when she could.
“This is the probably the quietest week we’ve had since you joined.” Daisy says as they ascend the steps to the seating area. “That means we have some free time, finally.” Aislyn chimes in. She’d been working herself ragged for the past month chasing leads, conducting interviews, and writing stories. All of which required a little extra help from her ability that no one needn’t know about. “Yay, we’ve managed to beat the lunch rush.” Daisy says as she scans the empty tables. “Lucky us.” Aislyn says as she drops into a chair. “So, there’s this orchestra performing here tonight. Would you like to go?” Daisy asks. “I’d love to, Daisy, but I can’t tonight. I’ve got plans.”
“Oh, really? That’s too bad. May I ask, what? Anything special?” “Sort of, I’m meeting up with my boyfriend.” Aislyn says with a slight flush. During all the times she’d grabbed a bite with or hung out with Daisy in or out of the workplace, it wasn’t as though she intentionally refrained from mentioning Cailean, it was just that the need to discuss him or their relationship hadn’t arisen until now. “What? No way! Who? Is it Randall?” Daisy guesses enthusiastically. “No, why on Earth would you guess him?” Aislyn asks with a slight laugh at the mention of her other colleague.
“I don’t know. Of all of Silva’s team members, you spend the most time with him, so I thought he had a thing for you.”
“I’ve only been spending time with him because Minah’s been on a lot of assignments out of the city, and Axel’s been avoiding me like the plague.”
“Axel’s quite mysterious, isn’t he?” Daisy says with an understanding nod. “That’s not the first word I’d use, but I suppose that’s true.” After the first assignment with Axel that she’d tagged along for, Aislyn didn’t have a chance to speak to him one-on-one since then. He’d rush out of their weekly meetings with Mr. Silva, and stand as far away from her as possible when everyone was in there together, which after week two, Aislyn figured was not a coincidence. She’d decided to ignore the whole situation, and him, as best she could.
“Do you remember when we ran into each other at the book signing?” “Mhhmm.” Daisy says. “The guy I was with-” “The cute blond? Cailean, right?” Daisy interrupts. “Yeah.” Aislyn says, surprised she’d managed to conjure up his name so quickly. “We’re together now.” “Of course! I don’t know why I didn’t think of him first. I mean I did already mistake you two for a couple at the time.” Daisy says with an exaggerated slap to her forehead. “Well, we really weren’t dating then.” “Yeah, but it seemed pretty obvious it was only a matter of time before you did.” Daisy says matter-of-factly. “What makes you say that?” “You didn’t see the way he was looking at you.” Daisy says with a raised eyebrow.
More heat creeps into Aislyn’s face. She was aware of when she began to notice her feelings for Cailean, but never paused to think about when he’d begun to have them for her. She supposed it didn’t matter, but Daisy’s words made her curious as to whether it was possible that he was harboring something for her way back then.
“But he’s still in Oldmerrow, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, we’re long distance at the moment.”
“That must be tough.”
Aislyn nods, “It wasn’t my intention for us to go this long without meeting up face to face, but that’s kind of how it worked out. I knew I’d be free tonight though, which is why we made plans to meet up.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Not anything too special, Cailean has a lot he needs to get done over the weekend, so we’re going to meet up at that new fusion jazz club and bar on the outskirts of town, and then catch a movie or something.”
“Sounds fun. You must be looking forward to seeing him then.”
“I am.” Aislyn says. The waiter for the outdoor cafe approaches them at this time to ask for their orders, and as Daisy enthusiastically begins inquiring about some things on the menu, Aislyn lets her thoughts drift to Cailean.
The hair that danced by her chin when they’d parted was now resting comfortably on her shoulders, a testament to just how much time had passed since they’d seen each other. They’d gone from speaking every day, to every other day, and presently, every few days. Because Aislyn was so occupied with work, as was Cailean, their lack of communication didn’t bother her, but now that she had a proper moment to think about it, she wondered how she’d managed to keep her sense of yearning at bay for so long…
4:40 p.m. | Dempsey Residence
“I’m home.” Drew says as he walks through the door. He’s greeted by silence which comes as no surprise considering his father was in the process of preparing for a big career change, and his mother was at his side, helping where she could.
Drew had decided to swing by an ice cream parlor a girl he’d developed a crush on had begun working at. He’d overheard her mentioning it in class several days ago, and figured going there would be an organic way to ‘bump’ into her and ask if she wanted to hang out sometime. Unfortunately, he chickened out, and he had nothing to show for the hour he killed there after school except for the three sundaes that were currently being digested in his stomach.
He had to confess he’d never really paid attention to Mackenzie Davis until they were paired together for an in-class assignment a few weeks back. She normally sat behind him, in the far end of the class, but their pairing had caused them to relocate beside one another temporarily. She was a very laid back girl, who was calm, cool, and quite pretty. She had these piercing violet eyes he felt could stare straight through him.
Once their assignment was over, Drew hadn’t had the chance to talk to her properly. He’d debated changing seats and moving to the back so he could sneak glances at her, but figured that would be too obvious, and borderline creepy. With a sigh, he tosses his backpack on the ground and looks for his sister. He figured her female intuition could come in handy.
Drew makes his way to the pool, where he suspects Dakota will be, feeling the emptiness of their large home as he navigates his way through it. It was lonely there with just the four of them. He wondered why his mother was reluctant to have more children. With his father’s position in politics for the last few decades, they were more than capable of affording it. He was embarrassed to admit they grew up more than comfortably, some might even say spoiled, with constant security, car services, and trips for events all of their lives. He supposes there is no use in being concerned over that now, and continues on.
Drew finds his sister splashing ungracefully in the pool and holds back his laughter as he knew that would upset her. He didn’t want to make her reluctant to give him good advice. “Hey Koda, can we talk?” He asks as he draws near. “Sure thing, big brother.” Despite only a 16 minute difference between them, Dakota never tired of sarcastically referring to him that way. She makes her way to the ladder, and it takes all Drew has to not shake with laughter at her excessively splashy movements.
“How was your after school excursion?” She asks as she exits the pool; he was regretting sharing his plan with her during lunch as Dakota would no doubt nitpick all the things he did wrong. “Terrible.” He says, “I couldn’t talk to her aside from placing my order. I sat down and ate three servings of ice cream like a weirdo.” His sister gives a hearty laugh, and Drew blushes, wondering if he has somehow managed to damage whatever small impression Mackenzie may have had of him.
“Understandable that you’d freeze. I get it, you don’t have much going for you.”
“I didn’t come to get roasted.”
“Then what did you come for?”
“You’re a girl.”
“An excellent observation.”
“I figured you’d probably have some thoughts that could be helpful for me to get past this.” Drew says, “What do you like?”
His sister’s grin slowly fades as she pauses to ponder his question. “Well, what girl doesn’t like to get some attention? Why don’t you ask her to be your plus-one to dad’s fundraiser?”
“You think she’d be interested in going to a boring grown up party?”
“Duh. There’ll be dancing, and good food. Plus, it’ll give her an excuse to be all dolled up and whatnot. Besides, it’s going to be held here at the house this year, so you guys can escape at some point and you can show her your boring book collection or something.”
“That’s actually a really good idea.” Drew says. “And my books are not boring. Grayham is a genius, I’m going to grow up and be just like him-” “Yeah, yeah.” His sister interrupts, “You could have the driver pick her up. She’d feel like a star.” “Okay then.” Drew says, his stomach already filling with butterflies at the thought. “Sounds like a plan.” “You’re welcome.” Dakota says with a smug grin. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll return to my swimming.” Having nothing to fear now that he’d managed to accomplish what he set out to do, Drew lets out the laugh he’d held back earlier, receiving an odd look from Dakota who rolls her eyes and jumps back into the crystal waters.
5:20 p.m. | Gus’s House
Just do it. What are you hesitating for? Gus thinks, his finger hovers over the call button on his phone and with a sigh, he locks it. He wasn’t sure what had him so scared to call Kim. Perhaps it was because he knew her so well, he feared coming on too strong would cause her to retreat into her shell or say something she’d regret that he’d be unable to forget. Before, he never thought too deeply about something like that happening, but now that he was painfully aware of how much she meant to him, he didn’t want to risk it. It wasn’t his style to hesitate, but that’s what it has come to between them.
The radio silence on Kim’s end made him wonder if she was just as bothered by the distance that had formed between them as he was. He re-opens his phone, scrolls up to the first contact on his list and hits dial. After a few moments of ringing, he hears Aislyn’s voice on the other end.
“Gus, hey!” She says excitedly. “Hey Aislyn, how are you?” “Great, it’s crazy that you’re calling, because I was thinking about you.” “Oh were you now?” Gus says with a mischievous grin. “Not like that.” Aislyn says with a laugh on the other end. “To be more specific, I was thinking about the gift you got me for Christmas.” “That’s part of the reason why I was calling, to remind you it will be expiring soon.” “Don’t worry, I’ll be sure it is put to good use.” She says, and Gus can hear the smile in her voice. “So if that was part of the reason, what’s the other part?” She asks. Gus hesitates. Was he really about to ask his ex for relationship advice? As far as he could tell, Kim had been spent a great deal of time talking to Aislyn before she’d left, and perhaps even afterwards. He wanted to know if perhaps there was something Aislyn could tell him that would give him a better reading on her.
After giving it some thought however, he decides that maybe that’s not the best course of action to take. “It’s nothing.” “You sure?” Aislyn asks, her tone seems to indicate she knows he’s holding back, but if he knows Aislyn as well as he thinks he does, Gus suspects she wont press him to elaborate. “Yes. I’m sure.” “Okay, then.” She says, just as he expected. “It was nice to hear your voice, Gus.” “I bet it was.” “Very funny.” Aislyn says sarcastically. “Well, I’ve got somewhere I need to be, so I’ll catch you later then?” “Maybe.” Gus says. “You can’t see me, but I’m rolling my eyes at you.” Gus grins, “Bye, Aislyn.” “Bye, Gus.”
Gus flops down onto his couch with an audible sigh. He missed hearing Otto’s exercise grunts coming from the basement, or Cailean’s exasperated sighs when he’d try to explain something about his favorite author that Gus would teasingly ridicule. In the past few months the house they shared had grown empty, and that never bothered Gus until now. He used to spend his evenings pursuing company that would disappear after some time; after being with Aislyn, his perspective on what a relationship could be changed. Now he was in relatively new territory with no way of navigating through it, meaning he’d have to take some kind of leap eventually.
Not that Gus has ever been rejected before, but if he was ever in such a situation where he’d express his desire to be something more with someone, and they’d decline, he supposed he’d be able to brush it off. But the person who was going to be on the receiving end of his affections now was Kimberly. Someone whose presence in his life had become irreplaceable and the thought of screwing it up somehow terrified him more than his desire to draw her in and become something more, and so, until that uncharacteristic fear dwindled, Gus would remain in this current cold loneliness.
6:03 p.m. | Club Key
Cailean enters the club shortly after they open. In his haste, he’d arrived a tad too early to he and Aislyn’s date spot. It appears as though he couldn’t seem to calculate commute times to Bayville accurately. Cailean breaks out into a smile as he thinks back to the book signing he’d brought Aislyn to which they’d arrived several hours too early for. That also happened to be the day he’d realized the extent of the feelings he had for her. Luckily this time around, he was only half an hour early, and his feelings were reciprocated. He finds an empty chair and takes a seat, prepared to wait as the musicians begin to set up their instruments and the bartender cleans glasses.
It had been a month since he’d last seen Aislyn. He’d offered to pick her up as she had yet to get her license or a car, but she insisted that they meet at the club, stating that she’d selected it as it wasn’t as far as the new Persefoni home was out of consideration for his commute. Cailean didn’t mind driving, though. He’d have made the trip even if it was six hours as opposed to the two it currently was, but he didn’t want to make Aislyn do anything she didn’t want to, so he’d agreed to meet her.
Cailean knew what being in a long distance relationship would entail, but there were times when they would go days without speaking to one another, and Cailean couldn’t help but wonder if that was as taxing on Aislyn as it was for him. Whenever they’d get the chance to speak, Aislyn’s demeanor would be exactly the same after one day as it was after a week, as were the things she’d share.
They both had a lot on their plates to keep them occupied, so surely there was something personal, perhaps something she was worried about, or someone she’d encountered that she could tell him about, only she didn’t. And that bothered him, but Cailean didn’t want to spend the limited time they had when they could talk initiating a potential fight, so he refrained from saying anything.
“If you’re content staring at the floor, I’d be more than happy to return later.” He recognizes Aislyn’s voice and raises his gaze to see her standing before him. “Hey there, Stranger.” She says. Cailean rises and is at her side in an instant; Aislyn steps into his embrace with a smile that instantly dissipates all of the thoughts and worries from his mind, and tilts her head up to meet his lips. The warmth Cailean feels in his face when their lips make contact, instantly travels down his body. After a few seconds, or perhaps minutes, the sound of a security guard yelling at some poor soul outside breaks the silence between them and they pull away from one another with a laugh.
“I’ve missed you.” He says. “I’ve missed you, too.” Aislyn echoes with a slight blush in her cheeks that makes Cailean want to pull her in all over again. He turns his eyes away from her face and notices the present he’d gotten her for Christmas dangling on her wrist, the sight makes him smile. “What is it?” Aislyn asks, noticing his grin. “Nothing much.” He says, opting to keep that particular pleasantry to himself to enjoy. “Come on, let’s grab something to eat.” He says.
“Nothing out of the ordinary, then?” Cailean asks between bites as Aislyn fills him in on her week. “Well, my coworker Axel actually speed walked away while I attempted to talk to him this week, but given the way he’s been acting all this time, I guess that isn’t out of the ordinary.” “It should be.” “I suppose him being distant is better than him being grabby, so it’s the lesser of two evils.” Cailean looks at Aislyn questioningly. “Grabby?” “Yeah, on the first day I met him he was… uncomfortably close and kept on clinging to me thinking I was someone else.”
“This was on your first day of work?” Cailean inquires. It was the first time Aislyn had mentioned this occurrence. “It technically wasn’t a work day, as I hadn’t finalized the paperwork yet. Minah was just showing me around shortly after I’d passed the interview.” Aislyn says dismissively. Cailean couldn’t tell if she wanted to change subjects because the topic had veered onto her for a prolonged period of time, or if she genuinely thought this wasn’t worth mentioning. “Anyway, it wasn’t a big deal. If he wasn’t doing his best to avoid me, I’d have forgotten all about it.” Aislyn says, returning to her meal. “Right.” Cailean says. Those very feelings from earlier that had disappeared with Aislyn’s embrace had returned with a fury due to the turn of their conversation.
Musicians on various instruments rotate in and out of the stage, ensuring there’s a constant melody playing in the background, setting the ambience of the club. People lazily chat nearby, or sway with one another to the mellow tunes. After a solid hour ticks on by, and they’ve completed their dinner, along with some coffee and dessert, it’s time to head to the nearby cinema for the film they’d planned to see together. Aislyn couldn’t place her finger on it, but something about Cailean seemed to change throughout the progression of their dinner. For instance, she notices he’s oddly quiet as they begin to head out, with his gaze seemingly fixed on something far away.
As they wait for the elevator, Aislyn takes a moment to look at him closely to see if she can somehow piece together what’s going on in his mind. She wonders if it was something she’d said. Did she not convey the atmosphere between her and Axel accurately? Was Cailean concerned? They’d been together a little over a month and she was no better at reading him. All she knew was that something was off. The elevator opens and the girl exiting it makes no attempt to hide the way she scans Cailean.
Aislyn instinctively takes a step closer to him and slips her hand into his. The girl reluctantly looks at her dissatisfied, and Aislyn tilts her head as if to say: keep it moving. Her movement causes Cailean to return from wherever he ventured to, he gives her a smile that makes her heart leap as he closes his hand around hers. As they step into the now vacant elevator, Aislyn wonders if she’s over analyzed his mood. For all she knows, it could very well be a case he was building that had him distressed.
As they make their way out, Cailean pulls an umbrella he’d left in the stand by the building’s main entrance. He draws her close as they step out into the light Bayville rain, and the naturalness of his gesture fills her with warmth. Aislyn had insisted Cailean meet her at the bar as opposed to picking her up for several reasons, the first of which being so that he wouldn’t need to drive the extra forty-five minutes through Bayville to get to their new residence, the second was so that he wouldn’t notice the new car in their driveway: hers.
A few weeks ago, Aislyn had managed to finally – with her father’s help – get her license and purchase a car. She hadn’t told Cailean yet as she was planning on surprising him the following weekend in Oldmerrow for his birthday and Valentine’s day which were only a day apart. Aislyn was thinking of returning home and making dinner. Cailean’s silence as they continue to the garage begins to worry her, and she suspects that it may actually be her fault. Before they reach his parked car, Aislyn turns on her heels and places her arms on the sides of his face so he looks at her. “What did I do?” She asks. “What are you-” “Cailean.” Aislyn interrupts. “I can’t right a wrong, if I’m in the dark as to what the wrong is.” She says.
“I didn’t want to spend the little time we had nitpicking your-” Cailean stops. And Aislyn’s stomach sinks at the confirmation that she did in fact upset Cailean somehow. A part of her was hoping he’d insist it was something else. “My what?” She asks. “Your tendencies.” Cailean says after a moment Aislyn suspects he takes to deliberate whether or not to answer. “My tendencies?” Aislyn echoes, noting the plural. “Like what?” Cailean clenches his jaw. Aislyn places her arms around his head and draws him closer, maintaining eye contact as she does so. “Like what?” She repeats softly. She wasn’t upset, angry, or even embarrassed and was hoping that came across in the tone she was using. She genuinely wanted to know.
“Well, I did mention on our first date that I’d noticed you don’t particularly like talking about yourself for prolonged periods of time. It’s been a month and that hasn’t changed, even slightly.” Cailean begins. “And I’d get it if it were your friends or your coworkers you were talking to, but it’s me. I tell you everything I have going on. I told you about Mr. Polański’s offer and I don’t even have to really think about it until further down the line, but you didn’t even mention your job interview until well after you started working.” Some heat rises into Aislyn cheeks as she recalls her decision to refrain from telling Cailean about her interview the morning of to spare herself potential embarrassment if she failed. She wasn’t ready to be that honest however, and opts for a partial truth. “Things were happening so fast, I didn’t have time to fill you in.”
“That’s fair, but even afterwards when you did have time, you didn’t mention that weird encounter with your co-worker, or that he was handsy.” “That wasn’t a big deal.” “It doesn’t matter.” Cailean counters, “It’s worth mentioning.” “I didn’t want to make you needlessly worry.” “Isn’t it up to me to decide whether I choose to worry about something or not? And irregardless of that, you’re my girlfriend Aislyn, I care about you. Isn’t it a given I worry about you? You can’t expect me not to, even if you decide to withhold things from me.” Cailean’s words cut through her; it was true that he had been extremely forthcoming about everything going on for him, and Aislyn never stopped to consider how her failure to reciprocate would make him feel.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t talkative, Aislyn tended to fill their time chatting about her father, Nicole, or something inconsequential like the film they were planning to see. It was true she had a habit of leaving others in the dark, the product of her years of having to fend for herself alone. Ironically, it was around the same time into her relationship with Gus that they’d had their first argument. Almost for the exact same reason: communication. Granted the situation was slightly different then, but the essence of what Gus was upset with her for was essentially the same as Cailean. Aislyn couldn’t use her relationship inexperience as an excuse this time around. She was a changed person in every aspect of her life now compared to then. Everything Cailean was saying was fair. “You’re right.” Aislyn says, “I’m sorry.” “I don’t want you to apologize, Aislyn. I want you to open up to me.” “I promise, I will.”
Thanks for reading! Eek, I cut out a whole scene and it still ended up so long. Forgive me~ I told you I was going to be flash forwarding here and there for the sake of the plot, honestly with the way things are progressing, I’m going to have to speed it up a bit to get to where I want to be within the frame I’ve made for myself. Again, there was more relationship stuff going on, but I’ve sprinkled in some important things here and there for later on. I’d feel odd stepping into the heavier stuff that will be going on a little bit later on without inserting these little tidbits and hurdles for our couple here first. I mean this story does have a romance tag, so even though there was a little argument, I put a moment of bliss in there 😆 That counts right? Ah yes, speaking of romance, our new will they won’t they couple is GusxKim. I’m hoping they won’t annoy you the way Caislyn did. If you remember this far back (almost 11 months ago to the day, lol) and were wondering what Gus got Aislyn for Christmas, it shall actually be playing a bit of a roll like two chapters down. Look at me trying to tie things together lmao. I’m still working on my glacially slow catchup reading, so bear with me! This also may or may not be late because I was tweaking some stuff on my site 😅 Sorry for this long ending note in addition to a long chapter, but I appreciate you for making it through if you did. ❤️ Here’s a bonus umbrella shot I didn’t like enough to keep in, but still felt like sharing, hehe~
Hope you all have a pleasant weekend and upcoming week!