Subject to change. No release date in mind.
The soothing spray of hot water blasted against my skin, helping to relieve some of the tension in my neck and shoulders. I’d come home and immediately popped a few tablets of guaranteed sleep and then climbed into bed and closed my eyes. Ten hours later, it was just after midnight, and I was aching from the apparently awkward position I’d passed out in. After my shower, I pulled on a tee-shirt, grabbed a pint of strawberry cheesecake gelato, and got right back into my bed.
I flipped the TV on, and then picked up my phone, which was blissfully free of the hundreds of social media notifications that had plagued me the night before. Chloe, PR guru and best friend, had made me disconnect all of the accounts, and she and her team were managing them for now. There was only one notification on the phone that I actually cared about – a message from Wick.
NoRestForTheWicked: Hope today was better for you.
I smiled, even though it definitely hadn’t.
SleeplessInSanDiego: No such luck.
NoRestForTheWicked: Sorry. You need to talk?
I stared at those words for a few moments before I responded.
The… friendship, I guess, between me and Wick had started innocently enough, on an online support forum for people who suffered from insomnia. Five years of late night ramblings had eventually turned us into something like platonic friends. And now here we were. I didn’t “really” know him, and he didn’t “really” know me. But he knew me better than almost anybody else.
When the phone chimed to let me know he was initiating a call, I pressed the button to answer and then put the phone to my ear.
“Who I gotta fuck up today?” Wick asked, and I laughed a little as I shook my head.
“While I appreciate the sentiment, that’s not necessary. I got myself into this particular mess. And now… I guess I have to pay the price. I chose him.”
“Ah. That motherfucker again. Your husband.”
I grunted. “Well, I prefer not to call him that, even though everyone else does. He has a new title now anyway – baby’s father.”
There was silence on the line for a second, and then, “Wow. You’re pregnant?”
Silence again. “Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Fuck him. I should be past the point where he can even still hurt me anyway, but… whatever. Soon enough, something is going to have to give. I… I can’t live like this anymore.”
“Are you okay?”
“I…” my breath hitched in my throat as I tried with everything I had to make my mouth form the word yes.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to be.”
I couldn’t hold back. One sob broke free from my throat, and then they all came pouring out until I was snot-nosed and red-eyed, and raw.
“Talk to me, Sandy,” Wick said after a while, and I sniffled as I tried to calm myself down.
“Give me a second.”
I climbed out of bed to get a cool towel for my face, cringing at my red-rimmed eyes in the mirror. I looked exactly how I felt – a fucking wreck. I took a few seconds to clean my face and calm down before I went back to the phone, hoping Wick hadn’t hung up.
“Yeah, I’m here,” he rumbled in response, and a contented sigh escaped between my lips.
“Sorry about that.”
“No need to be sorry. Go get on your computer, so I can see you. See for myself that you’re fine.”
I scoffed. “I don’t see how an orgasm would make me feel any better.”
“Did I say anything about that? Come on. Don’t even change, just show me you’re alive and well… not hurting yourself. Nothing like that.”
Inaudibly, I sucked in a breath.
A glance at the side of the bed told me my bag from work was still there, so instead of trekking down to my office, where I usually went, I got up and retrieved my laptop. It took me a second, since that specific computer was one I used for work, and had never connected to my home network before. But after a few minutes, I was on-screen from the chin down, looking at a similar view of Wick.
“Hey,” he chuckled. “Blakewood is my alma mater. Not telling what year though, you already tease me about being old.”
Even though he couldn’t see me, I grinned at the screen, about to retort that I’d graduated from there over a decade ago too, but my screenname in the corner halted my tongue.
SleeplessInSanDiego had been created in the wee hours of the morning, after a particularly grueling thirty-two hours without sleep. I was, indeed, in San Diego at the time, on a trip, but I certainly didn’t live there.
That was the impression Wick had though.
An impression that I let stand, in the same way I let him call me Sandy, and I called him Wick. Those weren’t our names, and San Diego wasn’t my city. We were friends, but we’d never seen each other’s faces. He didn’t know the name of my company or what I did, only that I was an entrepreneur. I’d never even mentioned Kellen’s name either, as much as I’d revealed otherwise about that situation. It was all an effort to maintain anonymity – something that honestly helped me value him even more as a friend.
He knew the real me, without knowing the real me.
It was refreshing.
“No, I’m not doing any teasing today. I might drink a whole bottle of bourbon though,” I said, deflecting the possibility he might want to dig further about my Blakewood shirt. It was a popular enough HBCU that tons of people, not just alumni, wore them.
Wick chuckled. “Whew. Trust me, you’re not going to find what you’re looking for at the bottom of a bottle of brown liquor. Wick did that so you wouldn’t have to go through that.”
“Okay, cause I was going to say, that sounds like experience talking.”
“Too much experience,” he confirmed. “Ten years sober.”
My eyes went wide. “Wow. You’ve never told me that before.”
“Never had cause. But, if you’re thinking about hard liquor to self-medicate, beyond a couple of glasses… please allow me to steer you in a different direction. I started drinking to forget what I’d lost, and almost ended up losing the things I had left. That’s not what you want. You’re smart, successful, funny, beautiful. Don’t let him make you lose sight of that.”
I smiled again. “There you go with that again, calling me beautiful like you’re so sure.”
“Because I am,” he insisted, swiping his chin. “I told a while ago, a voice like that…”
“Oh whatever. You’re just saying it… because it’s true.”
“Finally, she confirms it,” Wick laughed, and I couldn’t help joining in, before a bittersweet feeling settled in my chest. In another world, another place, another time… I could’ve married a man like this. Someone who made me laugh, and feel good about myself. Someone who was still the man that Kellen used to be.