Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.
Hailey turned her head in a reflex when she heard her name called, regretting it instantly.
She knew who it was, even without having to turn around, she would recognize the voice out of a million others.
She hadn’t seen him in months now. The break up was definitely easier to handle when he wasn’t around.
Her face reflected the inner turmoil.
Blake caught up with her, by the looks of it he had been out on a run, was probably visiting some of his family who still lived here, usually he would stay overnight. Newcrest, where his apartment was, was not that far, but she knew he had always had an issue with being alone too much. Now, with music gigs and tours, he definitely needed his family and friends.
Smiling tentatively he now spoke, softly. His voice went straight into her heart.
“Hailz. Hey. How have you been?” his eyes unmistakably begging her to stay, and her resentful expression softened. ‘Nope, still not over him.’ she thought.
“Fine. Thanks. You?” she replied mechanically, an attempt to keep her distance while realizing she still cared a lot about him.
“Okay. Just got back from a tour .. umm .. never mind. I know that is a sore subject for us. Are you shopping? Wanna grab a coffee?” Blake seemed nervous.
“I am on my lunch break. And I have errands to run. Good catching up. See you around.” Hailey tried to make a quick getaway.
“Hailey, please don’t go.” his voice almost a whimper, with an obvious effect on her.
“What do you want?” she asked, affected by the entire situation. This wasn’t easy on either of them.
“Just talk.” Blake said quietly.
“I am busy. I need to get some food, only have an hour for lunch.” Hailey deflected. Not ready to talk. Too risky. Too emotional, still.
“You work?” he asked.
“Of course I work. I don’t grow money trees.” she rolled her eyes. Of course they would run into each other. Brindleton Bay was too small to avoid one another long term. And if you went to Brindleton Bay, you would inadvertently run into a Cameron family member eventually. She knew that when she accepted the job here.
“Right, sorry. You work at the grocery store? Oh, the flower shop, right?!” he smiled when he thought he solved the riddle with the most obvious answer.
“Wrong. The real estate office, Blake. And time is ticking away. I am about to pass out for hunger. Sorry. I am sure we’ll run into …”
“Let me take you to lunch!” he offered quickly when he realized she was still trying to leave.
“Please, Hailz! Pretty please with sugar on top … ” Blake smiled and gave her that look that always had managed to melt her heart. Damn, why did he have to be so dang cute?!
“Fine. But just lunch. And I am not rehashing anything, clear?”
“Okay.” he beamed.
They ended up at a small fast food restaurant, after Hailey declined everything fancier. Blake couldn’t help but staring at Hailey, fighting the urge to touch her, kiss her. He knew he had to tread lightly if he wanted this to go anywhere but hell.
Sitting at the table with their food, his lips trembled, wanting to say something, then stopping himself. Everything he wanted to say seemed wrong and nothing else came to mind.
Finally he labored up some small talk.
“So, real estate, huh? That is … unexpected.”
“Yeah? Why?” he tone was testy.
“I don’t know. Most real estate agents I have met were kind of pushy and dominant. You are too … umm …”
“…much of a pushover?” Hailey helped, slightly upset.
“I was going to say ‘sweet’. You are not a pushover, Hailz.”
“Used to be. But you are right, not anymore. Or ever again. But for your information, I am just the receptionist. Part of my job description is basically to be polite and ‘sweet’, as you call it.” she told him.
“Can we maybe meet one day after work? Or the weekend. I could pick you up and you can pick the place. Any place.” Blake offered.
“To talk. I really want to talk with you Hailey. Really talk. About everything.”
“I have nothing left to say to you Blake. Besides, you should probably know that I am seeing someone new. That means me meeting with the ex does not exactly look right.”
“Someone new?! Already?!” Blake seemed truly affected by that piece of news.
“You were gone for three months. Not that quick, all things considered. And I didn’t say I was getting married tomorrow. Just dating, as single people do. Did you expect me to sit in my lonely chamber crying all that time?”
“No. But … Hailey … I … we … I feel like we need to talk. One real talk. Just us. Please. I could come over or you could come to my apartment and …”
“Forget it, Blake. I know what you are trying to do. I won’t fall for the puppy eyes and your charm again. I spoke my peace and frankly, do not really care about all your excuses. There will always be more, new ones. If you care about me, you will respect that and my decision.”
“Hailey, my life means nothing without you in it. I’ll marry you, right here, right now if that is what you want, what you need. We’ll have a child. Or two even. Anything, just please, don’t leave me. Whatever it is that you want, I’ll give it to you, as long as you take me back. I have changed, just need a chance to show you.” Blake pleaded.
“Do you not get it Blake? Were you not listening? There is no more ‘we’, hasn’t been for months now. And the very last thing I’d ever want would be a marriage out of pity, let alone some sort of anchor children, no, nothing like that. Listen to you. Doesn’t sound like you changed at all. Sounds more like a child promising the blue off the skies trying to get a toy back someone took from him. I really do not know how someone who has gone through all you have gone through can possibly be so naive and detached from reality as you are. Still.”
Hailey fumbled for her wallet, shooting down Blake’s invitation to pay.
“I have told you many times, I pay my own way.”
“I bet your new dude likes that. His girl paying for him. Some gentleman you found there. But I am the immature one, huh?” Blake snapped when the jealousy got the best of him.
“Yes, you are! Just listen to yourself. And for your information, I am not ‘his’ girl, I am my own person. And yes, I have invited him to meals, and he has invited me. It’s called a relationship between adults, not something you would understand.”
Few days after that day, out at Hailey’s home.
“You again? Lucky for you my dad and Lyle aren’t here.” Hailey shook her head and crossed her arms.
“If it gets me shot, so be it. I have to talk to you, Hailz. Please.”
“Fine, talk. Make it quick, on my way out.” she informed him.
“You look very pretty. But then again, you always do.” Blake smiled with that faraway look in his eyes.
“Don’t. I am going out. With someone. In fact, he should be here soon to pick me up. Probably better if you left.”
“Hailey, please, just meet with me somewhere, anywhere. We can go to the cabin in the woods. Or camping. Remember how much fun we had? Say you will … ”
“Ahem … oh, hi, there you are!” Hailey waved at someone behind Blake, walking around him to greet the new arrival.
Blake turned and for the first time saw the man trying to take the love of his life away from him.
What he saw was his nightmare.
Tall, oozing masculinity, athletic, tan, rugged … everything he was not. Blake couldn’t help but instantly hate that man.
And now he was watching him touch Hailey, his Hailey, kissing her cheek. Blake’s blood was boiling, his heart was stinging badly. He was seeing red.
The man now looked at him, one eyebrow raised posing an unasked question.
“Oh, that is Blake. He was just leaving.” Hailey explained vaguely.
“No, I wasn’t. I was waiting for Hailey to agree to meet with me so we can talk. Alone.” Blake said defiantly.
“Oh?” the other guy said.
“Blake, not now. I will see you around.” Hailey’s tone and the look she gave warned Blake to not take this further.
“No. I want you to not blow me off right now, Hailey. Pick a date and a time. I’ll be there.”
“Buddy, she is not interested.” the other man now interfered, which angered Blake beyond recognition, and he snapped at him angrily, his eyes shooting sparks.
“I am not your buddy! Piss off and keep your hands off my girl!” Blake snarled angrily.
“You need to leave now, or you will regret it!” the other man warned.
“Blake, Mark stop it! Blake, please leave. Go! Now!” Hailey called out into the impending fight, hoping to avert disaster.
“No! Send that clown away, not me! You can do better than that!” Blake argued, his eyes never leaving the other man’s, both of them still measuring each other up.
“She is doing better, brother, looking at you, already a definite upgrade!” the new guy’s tone was calm, composed and mocking.
Blake just swung and landed a punch, then both ended up brawling on the ground.
“Dad – I am really sorry.” Blake said, trying to match Ethan’s fast pace, which was harder than usual as he was now limping, the left side of his face swollen, lip busted and dried blood around his nose.
Ethan shook his head, leading the way quietly out of the police station to his car.
“Dad, I just lost my shit … that guy …. and my Hailey … you understand that, right? You would have done the same … right? And I will pay you back. Tonight even. Soon as I get home.” Blake pleaded.
Finally Ethan stopped, father and son facing each other across Ethan’s car.
“Can you not manage to keep out of trouble, Blake? Hailey is not ‘your Hailey’ anymore. She is very upset. Her father even called me, complaining about you. I told him you are a grown man now, which made him laugh, hard. Have to say I agree. Blake you are 24 years old, acting like 14. Worse, your brother is much more mature and he actually is 14!”
This would not remain the only incident. From KC over Esmée all the way to Ally, everyone eventually ended up having to bail Blake out of some sort of trouble, always relating in some way to Hailey and the guy she was dating. Sometimes it was the police, sometimes he was held by security at a club or a store, but no matter the circumstance or locale, the reason was always the same.
-to be continued-