“Come back to bed,” Tara Ramos purred huskily into my ear as my feet hit the carpet in my hotel room. We’ve been friends with benefits on and off for a couple years now and I always ended up regretting the “on” part. She was a nice girl, on the thicker side, just how I liked them. And the sex was decent enough to keep coming back. But every time we hooked up, I sensed she grew closer and closer to sprouting feelings for me and I just wasn’t into her like that. The only reason I even invited her was to keep Kiana away from me. I came clean to Carlos about the situation months ago and it didn’t make much of a difference. He claimed to have spoken to her and the flirting did stop at first. However, Kiana seemed to be on a mission. And her mission seemed to involve trapping me into her twisted games.
“Carlos is waiting. We’re supposed to set up for the barbeque by the lake,” I reminded her, as she continued to nibble at my ear, her hand reaching further and further into the bedsheet I was using to cover myself with. We’d already gone two rounds. I needed a smoke break and to refuel if we were going for more later.
“Fine. I’ll hit the shower first while you take a beat,” she suggested and I nodded in agreement, watching her hop off the bed bare, her curves making me lick my lips as she disappeared into the bathroom and closed the door. I reached for my joint and lighter and gripped the bedsheet tighter around my waist as I headed towards the balcony, which overlooked the courtyard and the perimeter of the rest of the hotel.
As soon as I took a few hits, my body relaxed, my thoughts simmered down enough for me to enjoy the scenery around me. I’d been in a shitty mood all day due to the fact that I’d had another argument with my mother before I left the city and it didn’t help that Carlos was being more of a dick than usual. Not to mention that Sophia was being...more Sophia-like than usual. I’d seen her yesterday while we checked into the hotel. She’d gone into the elevator with a guy, who I didn’t recognize, but he seemed to recognize her.
I wasn’t a petty guy. In fact, there wasn’t much that bothered me, and granted, much of that could be due to the fact that I was in a fog of numbness half the time, but it bothered me that she always kept me at arms length. I made myself available to her. Kept the lines of communication open. If it were any other person, I would've gathered my attention and focused it elsewhere. Unfortunately for me, I found her aloofness intriguing and wondered if her past had been just as scarring as it had been for me.
I was overthinking again. What Sophia did or didn't do with her life was her business. I had no business asking her to be more open when I wasn’t exactly offering to tell her all of my secrets either. Any other guy would've been desperate to know what made her smile. I simply wanted to know all the things that made her stew in the sadness she wore so beautifully.
I completely acknowledged that this girl was driving me straight to edge of the cliff, with a smirk on her face. I also knew that I was only using Tara as a distraction to cope with my current dilemmas. A poor choice on my behalf, seeing as I already knew she was going to blow up my phone as soon as we parted ways when we got back to the city. If anyone knew me, they knew I had a reputation for making foolish decisions and using even more foolish things to help me forget about it.
Once I finished smoking, I headed back into the hotel room and reached for my phone when I heard a text coming through.
Sophia. She needed me to rescue her from the golf lessons Marina signed them up for. I laughed in amusement, picturing her throwing the golf club across the field out of frustration when she couldn’t get the ball into the hole.
I shot her a reply, and let her know I had plans, but would be more than happy to stop by after and left it at that. Tara emerged from the shower in a towel, her untouched curly dark hair reminding me of the wild curls I’d seen on Sophia the night of the Christmas Eve bonfire. I bit my lip, wondering what it would feel like to run my hands through those curls while I kissed her.
That thought was quickly interrupted when I was brought back to reality by Tara heading in my direction, smelling like cheap candy apple perfume and wearing nothing but a grin.
I let her kiss me, placing my hand around her throat as I held her steady. I only kissed her harder when Sophia's face dissolved the fog I had let loose inside my head.
“We still have more shit to set up. Where are you going?” The question came from Antoine Kadish. He was one of the last members to join our close group of friends and he was also the only guy in our group who could easily beat me one-on-one in basketball.
“Why? Are you going to miss me?” I teased and watched him flip me off as I checked the time on my phone. It was close to six and Sophia’s lessons were almost over. Tara and I had gone for more rounds as I tried my best not to think about the girl in question, and that made me late to set up for this barbeque. I didn’t want to disappoint Sophia, but I didn’t want to leave my friends hanging either.
“You and Tara official yet?” he continued and I shook my head instantly, glancing over at Tara. She was doing her best to get along with my friends, and I appreciated the gesture, but there was really no point. I was planning on ending our beneficial relationship soon.
“I have my eye on someone else.” Someone who was also completely emotionally and physically unavailable. Which was fine. I wasn’t looking for anything serious. And neither was she considering all the guys she had on standby. I wasn't judging her. If I were upset with anyone, it was with myself. I let this girl get into my head and now she was all I thought about. If I could just crack her code, even just a little bit, I believe it would release me from the intrigue sooner rather than later.
“What are you waiting for then? Go make your move,” Antoine suggested and I smirked, dusting my hands off after handing him the last tank of propane for the grill.
The golf course was on the other side of the hotel and it took me about fifteen minutes to get there. When I finally entered through the gates, I looked around for Sophia and found her lying flat on a patch of grass, a club in her hand, her eyes closed, curls framing her around her head. Exhaustion was too little a word to describe what Sophia was suffering from at the moment. I suspected whatever it was, it was growing by the minute. I would know, because I too have often found myself laying down in the most random of places, with my eyes closed, allowing whatever was trying to defeat me that day to take whatever punches they had left towards me. Sometimes, just allowing the pain to settle into you was easier than trying to fight it.
“Sorry I’m late,” I excused myself and joined her on top of the grass. She smelled like sweat and expensive perfume and the mix was oddly intoxicating. I had the slightest of suspicions that she was too. It would explain all the guys around her hanging on to her every word. It would explain the inner turmoil she displayed so loudly with every word she spoke, every secret she tried to hide within them.
“I can’t move,” she moaned in agony and I chuckled, placing a stray curl away from her flushed cheek.
“That bad huh?”
“I...I just want to go home.” Her tone of voice led me to believe she wasn’t just talking about her bad experience with golf. She sounded...dispirited as my mother would call it. I wondered if her boyfriend, or boyfriends rather, had any clue how miserable she was. Probably not. Surely they would’ve done something about it by now.
“Marina dragged you here for a reason,” I reminded her. I can’t imagine Marina doing anything to hurt her purposely. Those two were practically sisters.
“Yeah, to distract me from--” she started to explain, but quickly stopped herself. Her eyes suddenly opened, and she exhaled deeply before she sat up to face me.
“What’s wrong?” Her question caught me off guard and I did my best to shrug it off. Sophia seemed like the type that didn’t let things go easily. At least, when it came to other people. I wasn't about to lose the opportunity to get closer to her. Telling her half the truth wouldn't hurt anyone, right?
“My mom and I got into it before I left. I don’t particularly like fighting with the only person in the world who's always had my back,” I answered. She didn’t need to know that I had brought another girl with me to help me fend off all thoughts about the one in front of me. It would only complicate things.
“Yup. Got some Holy Water thrown at me for my sins this time. Fun stuff,” I admitted, holding onto my shaking hands as my muscle spasms resurfaced. I had no idea what caused them, and I didn't trust doctors enough to let them give me answers either. Nevertheless, it was embarrassing that everyone had to witness something I tried very hard not to be self-conscious about.
“Hey, look at it this way, at least you got some hydration on your face. Have you ever heard of moisturizer?” she teased with a coy smile, holding my hands in hers to keep my hands from trembling.
“Well, excuse me for not looking as beautiful as you always do,” I complimented, putting a smile on her face as we both stood up.
“If you want to be pretty, all you have to do is say so. I have a few lipsticks that go great with your complexion,” Sophia claimed proudly, as she reached to touch my cheek and I instinctively reached for her soft hand to kiss it. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply as she pulled away from me.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have--”
“Don’t be. It’s my fault,” she declared as she began to walk away from me. I stood in front of her to stop her.
“Why do you say that?”
"Because no one deserves to be anyone’s addiction. The crash is never worth the price of the high. I had to bury mine six feet underground not too long ago. And I'd hate to see you there beside him,” she finished, her gaze holding nothing but concrete sadness before dropping her golf club to the floor, and leaving me behind to process her answer.
Sophia had lost someone again. It explained everything really. Why she had gone months without answering any texts or phone calls. Why her online presence had taken a backseat. Why she looked as if was barely breathing half the time. Someone close to her, and I'm going to take a wild guess here and say, the guy she'd gone through so much trouble trying to forget in the city, had passed away. Only losing someone that meant the world to you could cause this type of behavior. I'd lost too many people to let it affect me anymore. Maybe I was just as closed off emotionally to the world as Sophia. Maybe we were both having trouble not letting the overwhelming misery that came with existing in a world where bad things happened constantly, drag us down completely.
I had cracked one of her codes. But the floodgate of questions that followed gave me no insight on what to do next.