Chapter Seven – Weighing The Worth
“Can I stay here…just for a few days?”
Several hours ago, Lei would have never thought that she’d be standing here, a duffel bag in hand, looking disheveled and undoubtedly exhausted. Her eyes screamed of pain and their red-rimmed appearance was an obvious indication of what she’d been doing as she sat in silence during the plane ride she had been adamant on getting, even going to the point of using her last name – something she absolutely despised doing – as a last resort to get what she desperately needed.
The person on the other side of the now wide open door was undoubtedly gorgeous, with her wavy blonde hair and the perfect angle of her face. It was safe to assume that this persona broke hearts and she knew how to do it wisely. Of course, it was even safer to assume that her face had been gracing billboards and magazines for quite sometime now, not to mention her constant appearance in certain famed catwalks.
“Lei?! Of course, come in…”
The beautiful blonde ushered the scruffy brunette inside a luxurious condo unit and the latter, after putting down her bag, immediately headed for the couch and sat down, hands rubbing her face.
Concern etched over the blonde’s face as she sat down beside the billionaire heiress and rubbed the brunette’s back in gentle strokes.
“Do you need anything to drink, hon? I have beer, wine, vodka –”
“Just water, please Sar.”
With a slight nod, the other girl, wearing an oversized jersey that reached her upper thighs, stood up barefooted and headed for the kitchen, taking out a bottled mineral water from the fridge. She came back to the living room and she saw the brunette still on the couch, now hunched over with a hand on her forehead.
Sarah sat once more beside the tired brunette and gave the latter her bottle of water, while absently stroking soft brown hair. Lei took a large gulp but continued looking down on the floor, a hand now massaging the area between her eyes.
“Lei, what happened?”
There was silence for a while, but after the blonde gently squeezed Lei’s shoulder, the brunette finally let out a weary sigh.
“What about Audrey?”
“We broke up.” Then a shake of her head, and Lei looked up at concerned brown eyes and gave a pained smile. “No, I broke up with her.”
Sarah’s eyes widened, not in shock but in disbelief.
“What? You catch a last-minute flight back home just so you could be with her on your birthday, and you’re here telling me that you, what, broke up with the girl you told me, and I quote, ‘you want to spend the rest of your life with’?”
A long dragged-out sigh, and Lei was now looking down, even though she was still facing the gorgeous blonde. “Happy birthday to me.”
Then the tears just came, even with Lei silently screaming inside for them not to. They kept coming and flowing and the struggle to keep them at bay became a losing battle. Or maybe she just didn’t have the strength to keep fighting any more.
No sooner than the tears fell from her eyes, Lei felt herself being engulfed in a comforting embrace and she just clung onto the human contact for support. The sobs came then, but the warm feeling of another person holding her kept her from completely breaking down.
Sarah, on the other hand, had never seen Lei in this manner before. It felt different, holding a vulnerable Leila Charles-Carlson, now crying in her arms. Lei, from the moment Sarah met the young woman, had always been strong, exuding the undeniable aura of confidence that only a Charles-Carlson could bear.
Lei was always on the top of her game. As young as she was, Lei had been confident and independent, sure of herself and her beliefs.
That was what endeared Sarah to the heiress. That was also the reason why she didn’t try to hide her irrefutable attraction towards the brunette.
She was turned down, of course. Lei had been head over heels in love with a raven-haired girl, also from a wealthy family, but not one as affluent as the Charles-Carlson’s, although definitely as controversial. Sarah may be an internationally-acclaimed model, being the face of various famous magazines and world-renown brands (including the CC empire), but she was still a self-made model of no elitist background. She was also a few years older than the brunette, but she doubted that really mattered anyhow.
Now, holding the once-thought unbreakable young woman, Sarah was reminded that Lei was still a human being, susceptible to pain. She held the brunette tightly and whispered soothingly.
“Let it out, baby. Don’t hold it back.”
And at that moment, the heiress pulled back and tear-filled eyes stared at equally blue ones.
Almost instantly, Lei’s face leaned closer to the other’s and soon, the brunette was kissing the model with as much fervor as she can muster.
Sarah had not been able to register what the brunette was doing at first, but soon enough, she felt herself being pushed back on the soft couch, Lei’s lips on her own. And immediately, something at the back of her mind screamed how wrong this whole thing was. The heiress was hurting, and everything was happening all too fast, on an impulsive whim mostly on the brunette’s part. She had to stop this before things got any more complicated.
And then she felt those lips on hers…those lips that she had been dreaming of kissing for a while now. Finally, she did the only thing she could possibly do in this circumstance.
She kissed Lei back.
The redhead didn’t bother knocking as she opened the door to her friend’s room and stepped inside with a huge smile. She saw Sven, hair now dyed a dark black with two red streaks to the front, plucking the strings of her acoustic guitar with eyes closed.
“The poster designs are on the desk,” Sven said without missing a chord as she continued making music with her instrument. It was her task to make the designs for the GSA party posters that would be shown all over campus.
“I’ll get them before I go,” Julia sat beside her friend on the bed. “How’re practices going?”
The now dark-haired girl halted her ministrations on the guitar, stood up, placed the said instrument on top of the nearby desk, and bent down to a guitar case laying a few paces away. She gently took out the bass guitar from its case and once again sat down on the bed.
Sven looked at her friend and shrugged, “I don’t know. It’s hard enough just being in my brother’s band, but now I have to do vocals too.”
“What’s so hard about being in Chris’s band?”
“You know my brother. He’s all about the band and the music. I’m just worried I won’t be up to his expectations.”
It had been a few days that they’ve all been busy preparing for the GSA party and when Julia suggested that Sven’s brother’s band should play, her friend didn’t waste a second to ask Chris immediately. As it turned out, he told them that their band’s vocalist left them hanging after a sudden decision to elope with a long-time girlfriend and according to Chris, he could be “somewhere around the globe by now, for all I care”.
With this came the sudden offer that Sven would make a good vocalist and that having a girl sing their songs, which was originally made for a guy, would be interestingly different. Sven, albeit being hesitant, couldn’t possibly say no to her brother and thus, Julia instantly decided that her friend be relieved of all GSA duties at the moment – but Sven immediately insisted that she would still do the poster designs – and focus first on practicing with her brother and the other band members so that they can still play on the night of the party.
“I’ve never been in a band before, Jules. And Chris, he’s always been a band guy. I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t obsessed with his music.”
“You’ll do great –”
“Now, I have to do vocals. I don’t do vocals,” Sven continued, ignoring her friend’s attempt at calming her down, “I play the guitar and the bass, yes, but I don’t do vocals.”
“Sven,” interrupted Julia, gently kneading the dark-haired girl’s shoulder, “you have a great voice, a good ear for music, and do you honestly think you’re brother would offer you the position if he didn’t know you’d be great in it?”
“I don’t know, maybe he was desperate?”
The redhead scoffed, “Give Chris more credit than that, will yah?”
Sven nodded, “Okay, okay, fine. I just don’t want to disappoint him.”
Julia scooted closer and ran her fingers through one of the red streaks on her friend’s hair, “Trust me, you won’t.”
The brunette was staring at the ceiling, holding the cordless phone with a tentative grip. Every now and then, she would look at what she held, contemplate for a while, and then go back to staring at the ceiling. Ever since Nanny Josie came to visit her a few days back, she found herself thinking more about home and what she left behind, and some of the memories that came with these thoughts couldn’t exactly be categorized under happy…or even tolerably so. As she lay on her bed, Lei’s thoughts flew everywhere and some of the destinations they were taking did not bode well for her.
This was what concerned Lei the most when she decided to start anew in the suburbs. She knew that going to another school would mean making new friends and having to figure out what to do with her sort-of new life. She was well aware that wherever she went, she would always carry the priceless family name, and being a Charles-Carlson has always meant complications for her. She never had the luxury of easily trusting other people because most of them never saw her for who she really was.
That was what made friendships and relationships seem like such burden for her sometimes. There was this constant paranoia that people only stuck by her because she was ‘the heiress’. Of course, that was also the reason why she became distant and closed-off.
And the air of detachment she exuded made people all the more want to get closer to her. It was ironic how she wanted to be left alone and yet, they only saw this as more of an invitation to try to get inside of her. They liked the mystery, they said. She hated the attention. She hated their unwanted attention.
But after a while, Lei learned to play the game. At a young age, she figured out that being the CC heiress didn’t have to weigh her down. On the contrary, it was supposed to be the other way around.
That was when the flings came. The meaningless make-out sessions, the countless rendezvous, the fake smiles, the flirtations. At the same time, she was also starting to figure out her preferences.
And when she finally accepted that she didn’t like kissing boys as much as she enjoyed making out with girls, more attention came. Guys wanted to make her change her mind, and girls…well, it seemed like the girls were always around.
But then, she met her…and everything changed.
Lei shook her head. She didn’t like where these thoughts were heading and she definitely had to do something before her thoughts started wandering again.
She looked at the cordless phone for a while, moved to take out a folded paper from the desk drawer close to her bed, and then dialed the numbers that were imprinted on the paper. After mere seconds, she heard the ring and then a feminine voice answering the phone.
“Hi, is this Kristen?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“Lei?” There was a slight pause, “Hi. Why’d you call?”
“Well, I’ve just finished calling the guys that would help us with the sound system and I’ve also talked to the DJ that we’ll be hiring for the party. So far, we’re almost done with the preparations, and come Friday, we’ll be on a roll.”
Lei nodded with a smile, “Yeah. Everything’s all set and to tell you honestly, I have nothing to do now. It’s just…” she looked at the clock hanging on the wall, “6:18, way too early for sleep, and I don’t really feel like surfing the net or watching re-runs. Do you have plans for tonight?”
“Well, if you like, we can go out to watch a movie and then maybe grab something to eat?”
Kristen blinked. “Are…are you asking me out on a date?”
The blonde’s eyes widened as she heard the unwavering response from the other line, “W-what?”
Lei laughed out loud. “I swear you are way too easy, Krissy!”
Kristen blushed as she clutched the phone harder, all the while listening to the laughter coming from her brunette friend. “You’re mean; don’t you know that, Lei?”
The laughter subsided but the grin never left the brunette’s face, “Seriously though. You want to watch a movie with me? I’ve read rave reviews on Superman Returns. “ Lei shook her head as the smile widened, “And no, I am not asking you out on a date, Krissy. To tell you honestly, I’m not in the right frame of mind to date anyone anytime soon. Besides, I don’t date straight girls.”
“And you just assumed I’m straight because…?”
“Well, aren’t you?”
“I am straight –“
“See? So, I’m not assuming because you are straight. And I’m also not asking you out on a date because I don’t date straight girls. So what do you say? You can ogle Superman while I ogle Lois Lane and then we can eat dinner and catch up on things. How about that?”
She’s irritating in a really not so irritating kind of way. Kristen sighed. “Fine.”
“Great! So, I’ll pick you up in half an hour?”
“Aren’t you concerned that some people might trash Lei’s house on the party?” Sven looked at the redhead as they now both lay on the bed.
“I don’t think anyone would dare. This is Leila Charles-Carlson we’re talking about here. No one would be stupid enough to be on her bad side.”
The dark-haired girl nodded slightly and closed her eyes. Julia looked at her friend’s slightly serene face.
Sven opened her eyes and looked at Julia with question being expressed in her chocolate brown eyes.
“How’re things with Jamie? I mean, is it weird? Your being in the band and all?”
“Not really,” Sven shrugged, “What we had was a one-shot thing and we both knew it, so the past has nothing to do with me being in the band now. She still flirts with me but everybody knows Jamie’s an insufferable flirt so, it’s really nothing.”
“Chris knows something happened between you two last year, right?”
The dark-haired girl nodded, “He doesn’t have an issue with it. As long as Jamie sticks to her guitar and I do well on the vocals, then he doesn’t care whether we screw each other’s brains out. Not that we’re going to do that…again…ever.”
The silence that permeated the room for a few moments was shattered by Julia’s soft voice, “Don’t you ever wonder what it would be like to actually be in a relationship, Sven? No goofing around, no one-time deals…”
“Of course I do. And I don’t like it. No attachment, no one gets hurt. That’s the way I want it to go.”
The redhead’s eyes narrowed in thought and Sven saw this.
“And no, Jules,” Julia turned to look at her friend, “I have a pretty good idea of what you’re thinking and I still say no. You are just too special and you don’t deserve meaningless one-night stands with people you hardly know.”
“Sven, how sure are you that what you’re doing isn’t what I also want?” asked the redhead defiantly.
“I may not be you, and I may not exactly know what you’re thinking and how you feel, but I’m still your best friend, Julia. I care about you a lot and I know that you deserve more than what I’ve got right now. You deserve the hand-holding and the PDA and the anniversaries, and the Valentine’s Day dinners. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to be with someone who will love you back and not leave you in the morning after.”
“And you don’t?”
Sven shook her head with a ghost of a smile, “I’m not you Julia. There are a lot of things in life I don’t deserve.” Your friendship, included.
They were both sitting comfortably on a park bench with their ice cream, looking at nothing in particular. After watching a movie, they ate pizza for dinner and Lei’s pouting eventually led them both to an ice cream parlor.
Which was why they were now both in the park, Lei’s convertible parked a few blocks away, enjoying the comfort of silence and each other’s presence.
“This is nice,” Lei looked at her blonde friend with a genuine smile. After biting a small piece off her cone, she looked back at the blonde who was also looking at her. “I’m enjoying every moment of this, you know?”
Lei’s sigh was long and heavy. “Everything in my life has been a wreck for a while now. This, being here with you… it’s a nice change.”
“When we were talking on the phone,” Kristen spoke up after another silence between them, “you said that you’re not in the right frame of mind to date right now.” Upon hearing this, Lei looked at the blonde with a blank expression on her face. “Why? I mean, if it’s not too personal..?”
The brunette looked down and sighed. Kristen saw this and frowned, placing her hand on the other girl’s shoulder and squeezed tenderly. “You don’t have to answer that. Just forget I asked anything.”
Lei shook her head, still facing downward. “I’m really a mess, you know? If you saw me a few months ago, what I’m feeling right now would be the exact opposite.”
Another brief silence as Lei braced herself to talk about the things that she hated even thinking about.
“Just weeks ago… I… I broke up with someone that I was really, really in love with. Actually, I still am.”
Kristen just looked at the other girl with her hand now placed on Lei’s back, making soothing circles and eights. The blonde didn’t dare say anything and just waited for the heiress to open up on her own pace.
“I was in Paris for a week, doing a favor for a friend. And then my birthday was coming up and I didn’t want to spend my birthday without the most important girl in my life,” there was a hollow laugh, the kind that made Kristen’s insides turn cold. The pain inside Lei was undeniable. “Funny how I rushed back home on a last-minute plane ride just to find my… ex-girlfriend… in bed, naked, with my best friend, who’s a guy, by the way.”
The blonde didn’t know what to say. And Lei didn’t give her a chance to say anything at all as the words kept on flowing out.
“I mean, it was my birthday. It was supposed to be a happy day, and I wanted to spend it with the one person I thought I could be with forever, you know?” She looked at Kristen. “And I was thinking forever. Not months or years. I’m stupid like that…”
“No, Lei –”
“I knew there was a party. Audrey told me that she was going to have a party, and then when I come back, we’re going to spend my birthday together. And my stupid love-sick self can’t wait to spend the day with her so I went straight to her house and I had no idea what was going on, and I just… I just…”
Lei’s eyes were shut tightly, and Kristen knew the brunette was struggling to hold back the tears. Now, the blonde understood. Lei wouldn’t have transferred without a reason and now, Kristen knew that that reason was to escape. It was obvious that this was something the brunette could not handle, and she just had to go away.
Lei allowed herself to be pulled into the blonde’s calming embrace, successfully fighting off the tears from flowing. She felt safe and cared for, and the feeling of being in Kristen’s arms gave her tranquility. The brunette never thought she would be able to open up to a person this easily, and especially one that she technically had not known for quite some time.
But this, with Kristen, was bliss…one that she had not felt for a while.
End of Chapter Seven.
Coming soon on Of Tears and Broken Hearts:
The blonde looked at her friend incredulously. “I do date!”
“Yeah? Well, when was the last time you had a boyfriend, huh?”
Diane smiled. “My point exactly.”
The cheerleader sighed as she swept her gaze over the people who have already decided to graze the dance floor with their presence.
“I know… I mean, I don’t know why I’m acting like this.” And with that, Diane’s eyes were drawn towards something at the bands’ area, but she caught herself and just as quickly averted her gaze.
It was undeniable.
Those were raven locks she’d been trying to forget but kept seeing, especially as she closed her eyes before sleeping at night.
She wanted to run away.
Her feet were rooted to the ground.