Frayed Page 107
’’Getting ready to close up and take Faith out for a night on the town. I might even swing for a hotel suite if she\s up for it. Walk with me.’’
I follow him outside. ’’Where are you taking her?’’
The breeze pushes his salt-and-pepper hair in front of his eyes. He swipes it away. ’’I don\ know,’’ he says.
I bend down to pick up one of the boards lying in the sand.
’’I was thinking about one of those fancy hotels in downtown LA where they have what they call the heavenly beds.’’
I glance over my shoulder toward him. ’’Yeah?’’
’’What do you think?’’ he asks, pulling the shutters closed over the windows.
I shove the board under the shack. ’’I think you should let me spring for it. Call it a late Christmas present.’’
He sits on one of the broken steps and looks up at me. ’’Anything you want to talk about?’’
I put my hands in my pockets. ’’What makes you ask that? Because I offered to do something nice for you?’’
’’No, Benny, because you look like shit and your leg is moving a hundred miles an hour. Now come sit next to me and tell me what\s going on.’’
I give him a tentative smile, but it quickly cracks. The breeze picks up again and as the metal chimes surrounding the run-down shack sing in the wind, I tell him everything everything from my first conversation with S\elle in the library to our last one in the restaurant.
He looks out toward the water once I\ve finished to where the sun gleams off the waves. ’’I\m going to be honest with you. I think you\ e scared.’’
’’Scared?’’ I feign indifference.
’’Yeah, I do. And I\m going to give it to you straight. You had one girl growing up. She was your life. When you lost her, something in you changed and that\s to be expected.’’ He pauses to look at me, but it\s without the smile he usually wears, then casts his eyes back out toward the horizon. ’’Did I ever tell you about my first love, the girl I married in Hawaii?’’
My eyes dart to his. ’’No.’’
’’Her name was Keilani. I met her when I moved to Hawaii to train. I was eighteen. I had never been in love, but I thought I was with her. I asked her to marry me right away. Needless to say, it didn\ work out. We divorced two years later. But then I met Faith. And what I felt for her was so different from what I felt for Keilani it took her telling me how I felt to realize I loved her.’’
I grin at him. ’’I could see her doing that.’’
He rests his hand on my shoulder. ’’Do you love this girl?’’
I look at him stunned for a minute. ’’Love her?’’
’’Yeah, love her. You don\ have to answer me. But you need to figure it out for yourself. I think you\ e afraid to admit your feelings for this girl because they\ e different from your feelings for Dahlia. But it\s okay if they are.’’
He stands up. ’’Think about it, Ben. And if I\m wrong, then you need to let her go because it sounds to me like she really loves you.’’
It hits me then that I\ve never really thought about it from her point of view.
He locks the door to the shop. ’’Call me and come over for dinner next week. I want to finish this conversation after you\ve had time to think.’’
I rise to my feet, my legs a little wobbly. I try to ignore what that means. I start walking toward my bike and turn around. ’’Noel, head over to the Beverly Wilshire. It\s on me.’’
He shakes his head.
’’I mean it. I\m calling now. Tell Faith I said Merry Christmas.’’
Even from a distance I can see the old man\s throat working. ’’Thank you,’’ he calls out hoarsely.
I jump on my bike, and as I drive, every single minute I\ve spent with her pops in my head. Things she\s said, things I\ve said. And f**k me if I don\ see it clear as the sun descending on the horizon all she wanted from me was to acknowledge that I have feelings for her was it really that easy? Because if it was why didn\ she just ask me? Am I really that thick that I didn\ see it? Yeah, you are, the devil that\s been sitting on my shoulder waiting for me to f**k up announces in my ear. F*k that I\ll show him. I slow down and quickly turn around to head home to change. I know exactly where I plan to spend New Year\s Eve.
Although the scenic stretch of moonlit highway between Laguna Beach and Los Angeles is forever etched in my mind, it still captures my attention every time I drive past it. The exhilaration I feel when I see the crashing surf or the transcendent vision of the jagged shoreline is something I\ll never get tired of. It\s easy to lose yourself in its beauty in fact, the sight helps to calm my racing nerves. And the panoramic ocean view off to my right lit by streetlights overhead always seems to put things in perspective for me.
When I left the house I was still trying to figure out exactly what I was going to say to S\elle when I saw her. But now looking out to the distance, I know I\ll do whatever it takes to make her understand I\m looking past tomorrow.
Sequestered behind iron gates, the SLS Hotel is perched on a secluded coastal bluff. The guard waves me forward with a pass of my ID. My car makes the mountainous climb and when I reach the top I valet it and head to the sixth floor. S\elle managed to score exclusive access not only to the rooftop pool but also the hotel\s restaurant conveniently located on the rooftop. The elevator dings and my palms start to sweat. When I exit the doors the wedding party is in full swing. Looking around, I notice right away what S\elle had been so excited about the place looks magical. The pools have been turned into usable space. With pieces of Plexiglas covering them and lights shimmering from beneath them, one pool has been turned into a dance floor and the other a stage for the band.