FACT: It wasn’t the first time I had seen a string of police cars in the driveway of my parents’ house.
In the morning I woke up confident that the previous night had been a dream. My hair was fanned on the pillow like I had been laid to rest in front of an audience, like a museum artifact preserved in all of my drunken glory shame. The achy feeling of a hangover crept into my consciousness before I eve opened my eyes. My stomach retched as a warm arm slinked around my waist. The face that nuzzled into my shoulder was still soft with sleep. I held my breath, tensing every muscle in my body to avoid waking him. His breath steadied, washing warm moist air against my cheek. In one smooth motion I slipped from his grasp replacing my frame with a firm pillow. He shifted again before fading into an even deeper sleep.
The light beside the bed had been left on. I refused to accept that alcohol had diluted my morals, but my dress hanging by its strap from the bathroom doorknob told a different story. The bits and pieces of the night faded in and out. I stepped into the dress in a corner of the room where I couldn’t be seen. I collected my shoes and my purse but paused with my hand on the light switch. His exposed torso was soft and inviting, he didn’t look anything like he other man I had found myself in bed beside, but then again Ethan was as close to a human Ken doll as you could get. That sort of chiseled jaw was replaced with the scruff that tickled when he kissed me. I shut off the light and closed the door silently behind me as I left. I closed my eyes tightly trying to forget those kisses.
While poetic strings of regretful words itched to find their way from my fingertips to a keyboard the elevator lowered itself to the building’s first floor. I walked barefoot across the hotel lobby’s floor because my stiletto heels had yet to find their way back onto my feet. Instead, they hung from the crooks of my fingers, swinging back and forth with the slight motion of my arm.
The moment I crossed from the sympathetic atmosphere of hospitality into the heat of the Vegas morning my cell phone rang unforgivingly. I released my tension in a heavy breath when “REGGIE” flashed across the screen.
“Honey, where are you? I’ve been calling all night.” Echoed across the line just after my meek “Hello.”
“I must have accidentally shut off my phone.” I lied knowing I had purposefully shifted I to silent on the walk to the hotel.
“Are you okay? I mean… you seem considerably hung over.” Her giggle didn’t seem to match the words she spoke.
“And you seem oddly chipper considering last night’s heavy alcohol consumption.” I sighed squinting in attempt to relieve the building headache, “Are you ready to go back?”
“Yeah, definitely, it’s probably time we get the check anyway.”
The deepness of a male voice spoke in the background, “Pretty girls don’t pay for breakfast.” He said and Regina giggled.
A shudder shook my shoulders at the very thought of eating. Even though alcohol had temporarily numbed the reason I had run away, I regretting even attempting to drink away my sorrows. Now I was stuck with the thought of Ethan and Sabrina leaving for their honeymoon in just a few hours and the face of a man, I knew only as Jon, imprinted in my memory.
“I’ll meet you at the car,” Regina said sweetly before disconnecting the call.
Steadying myself on the street in front of the hotel I used the snippets of last night’s memories to find my way back to the parking lot. While finding my father’s silver Lexus in the crowd that streamed from the club at closing time was impossible it stood out proudly now. It sat just under the lamppost where we had left it nearly in the back row. Only two other cars had kept in company until morning.
As I approached I was surprised to see two figures leaning against the driver’s side door. Regina wore long black shorts and a blue t-shirt, both of which were too big for her small frame. The dress she had worn to the wedding hung from the hand of the man who stood beside her. I assured him to be the man who hadn’t allowed her to pay for breakfast.
I was hesitant to approach as I watched the man lean over to whisper in Regina’s ear. She kissed her cheek. He grinned. She giggled. He pulled her in close and kissed her lips. I used the car key to slip into the passenger’s seat virtually unnoticed as they continued in this fashion.
When Regina climbed into the driver’s seat she wore the kind of smile that almost made me forget why I had been beating myself up all morning. “His name is Brendon,” She beamed, “He just turned 21, and he’s in a band.”
“Just your type!” I nudged her hoping if I could keep her talking about him I’d get far enough from the previous night to find it funny, but every mile seemed to make me hate myself a little more. I should have never gotten so drunk. I should have never suggested something as foolish as going to Vegas. I should have never agreed to stand up in my sister’s wedding. I should have never let Ethan go. I should have never fallen in love with him to begin with.
As we crossed into LA I feared that I had only begun to face the repercussions of my decisions. The two police cars in the driveway told me I was right. Regina’s eyebrows rose as she eased onto the breaks just behind one of the squads. The concern that washed over her face told me she remembered the last time two police cars had been parked in my parents’ driveway. It was nearly two years ago, just after we had returned from studying French in Paris all summer. Ethan’s casual drug habit had turned into a full-blown addiction while I was away. It wasn’t until the fourth night of withdrawals that he got violent. At the mention of my little sister he threw a crystal vase. He had fallen in love with Sabrina that summer he had spent in a cocaine haze. The night Ethan went to rehab Sabrina got engaged and I got seven stitches across my forehead.
“Do you want me to come in?” Regina offered.
I shook my head, “You probably shouldn’t.”
“Good luck sweetie.” She smiled giving me a quick hug before retreating to her own car. It was parked in its usual spot at the end of the driveway as we had all left in a limo for the wedding.
I took a deep breath and let the front door open slowly in front of me. When the entire family wasn’t gathered in front of it waiting for me I sighed in relief. I probably should have called though. I probably should have let them know I was safe. I probably should have let them know they taught me better than to run away like I did.
“Mom? Dad?” I called after carefully removing my shoes and placing them on the mat in the foyer. A herd of footsteps hurried from the kitchen to greet me in the hallway. The four police officers that accompanied my parents seemed unnecessary to solve any domestic dispute Ethan could have caused. But then again, I’m fairly positive my father signal handedly funded the new fleet of police cars that had been patrolling our neighborhood. His every whim must have become a department priority.
“Cassia Meyer?” The closest officer asked looking down at the photo in his hand. I could see it over his shoulder; it had been taken on our family ski trip in the Alps over New Years.
“Yes.” I replied unsure what else to say.
“I would have to say you are no longer missing.” He joked handing the photograph back to my mother. I found him slightly too attractive to be a police officer, especially in this town, there had to be someone out there eager to take his picture for a magazine or put him in a movie. The light smirk that played at his lips told me that he didn’t find me as utterly repulsive as I felt at the moment.
“I was just out with a friend,” I explained watching as my mother’s expression softened and my father’s stiffened simultaneously.
“It’s always nice to see a pretty girl come home safely.” The same officer spoke. It wasn’t until he did that I noticed the three others had already trickled out of the front door.
“Let me walk you out,” I offered.
“Cassia.” My father bellowed.
“I’ll explain everything in a second, Daddy.” I batted my eyelashes a few times, looking up at him with the apologetic pout that had gotten me out of punishments my entire childhood.
“What do you really need to explain?” Sabrina shrieked as she stampeded down from her bedroom. I was really only surprised she hadn’t made her grand entrance when their was more of an audience. “You know she was just jealous because yesterday was MY day. You know she just needed to ruin it for ME!” She cried hanging onto our father’s arm. I could see Ethan lurking at the top of the staircase. The folded clothes in his arms told me he had been trying to get Sabrina to consolidate her belongings into possibly only three bags before they left on their honeymoon. He knew he’d have to carry them anyway.
“You know how CASSIA can’t deal when she’s not the center of attention…”
As she continued I nodded toward the officer and led him to the door. Even though her shrieking could still be heard as my parents gravitated back into the kitchen I said, “I’m sorry to have wasted your time officer. Although I’m fairly positive 48 hours should have elapsed before a search party was formed.”
He laughed, “I guess you can say it was a special interest case.” He paused awkwardly before adding, “What would you say to dinner, Friday night?”
“I’d say that I’m not sure I’m the kind of girl you think I am.” I replied unsure of how else to describe my disinterest of dating anyone at the moment.
“You show up after running out on your sister’s wedding. You were last seen leaving the coatroom just second before the drunken groom, who you almost married yourself. If it were me, I would have been so wasted last night I probably still wouldn’t know my own name at this point.”
“I thought we established that already, my name is Cassia Meyer.” I nodded politely and closed the door. Sabrina was still screaming from the kitchen. Ethan was struggling to get her bags down the stairs.
“Still think you made a mistake?” I joked hoping only to catch a glimpse of his bright blue eyes before he turned away again.
Instantly he froze, one piece of luggage draped over his shoulder and another in mid-air. He squinted to see past the sunlight peaking through the front window but instead saw past all of the walls I had been building since waking up in the bed of a man I didn’t really know.
Did you?” He asked with all the omniscience of my conscious. Before I could muster a reply my heart began to drown in the two puddles of icy blue.
“I left him struggling with Sabrina’s luggage on the atairs without ever giving him my answer. Did I think I made a mistake?
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