“Most people want to be circled by safety, not by the unexpected.– Ron Hall
The unexpected can take you out.
But the unexpected can also take you over and change your life.
Put a heart in your body where a stone used to be.”
Waking up slowly, I felt the strong urge to pee, blinking my eyes open revealed a spinning environment and a monster hangover, so I groaned into my pillow, pleading with mother nature to not force me to have to get up to use the bathroom.
Something was off. I stirred a little to take care of an itch, among the world spinning more rapidly and a bout of nausea welling up, stirring my insides, I realized that what was wrong was that this was not my bedding. Way too rough. This was not 800 count Egyptian cotton with silk woven in. And I was naked. Not a fiber on my body. Since when did I sleep naked?
I forced my eyes open, moved slightly, my body ached, when my gaze fell on my hand. Since when did I wear rings?
Instantly I shot up, ignoring the vicious response of my entire body, to stare at the piece of jewelry on my hand. A ring.
THAT WAS A WEDDING BAND!
NO NO NO NO NO!
Frantically I looked around and saw a figure next to me. A girl. Woman. Also completely naked and fast asleep.
A wedding band. A strange room. A naked woman in my bed. WHAT?! I saw the pile of clothing on the floor and fished for my boxers, slipping them on.
She woke up now too, slow like I had, while I was keeping an eye on her as she was visibly fighting with her own hangover, until she turned her head more, looked up and saw me. Like I had done, she shot up, jumped out of bed then stood there, staring at me, startled and scared.
“Why are you here?!” she demanded, realizing she was completely naked, so she instantly grabbed her clothing and held it in front of herself, then fondled around it, started slipping on her underwear, dropping the rest again. The way she then stood there, pressed up against the wall, staring at me as if I were a rapist took care of my worry that she might have roofied me. No. Her shock was just as real as mine.
“Same to you. Where are we even?” I asked back.
“I … I … don’t know. Where ARE we? How did we get here? And why are we in bed? TOGETHER?! Oh my God, we didn’t, did we?”
“I guess we did. Look at your finger. Other hand.”
“Huh?!” she stared at me as if I were nuts, not comprehending why I wanted her to look at her hands, then did as told and looked at the other one, and my reaction was repeated.
She stood there, staring at the unfamiliar ring on her finger, started swaying, looked panicked, pressed her hands before her mouth then looked around the room even more frantic before rushing towards the bathroom.
Oh boy! I listened to the telltale signs of someone vomiting and couldn’t help but try and puzzle our situation together, no matter how much my head was hurting.
I knew her.
Well, no, I take that back. I didn’t know the first thing about her, aside from her name and occupation and a few things we had talked about over coffee. Long story short, Officer Heartless had dragged me off to court-mandated therapy, three times a week with a shrink. Talking through my issues did nothing for me, other than lighten my parents’ wallets, but meeting her front desk girl sure had. The only thing I looked forward to these days was Cassidy Chandler, my shrink’s receptionist, her open and honest smile and casual, fun and easy-going manner made everything better. I actually started dressing up to go see my shrink, or better, her check in girl, I was always freshly showered, shaved smooth as a baby bottom and wearing just a dab of cologne.
Well, I recalled that yesterday the shrink signed off on my freedom, a document saying that I might be a work in progress but definitely not a danger to society. Some runarounds later I had my driver license back, the ankle monitor came off and I waved Officer Heartless goodbye from my doorstep for good, barring more dumbassery from me. Overjoyed, I nearly skipped over to my car that had sat there taunting me for several months since the court verdict and drove straight to the shrink’s office to ask Cassidy out. Why, I don’t know. Some reflex whim born from my regained liberty; I suppose. My family wasn’t home anyway, all three of them on different movie sets abroad, filming, and wouldn’t be home for another few days and I didn’t feel like celebrating with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
I faintly recalled that I couldn’t remember ever having so much fun than talking with her at the cafe, until fans spotted me and wouldn’t leave us alone, so we left, but I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to her, so I suggested one of the newer hot spots in town, the famous ‘AURA Lounge’, I had heard rave reviews about it from my friends and family, but had not been able to see it firsthand due to my house arrest. We celebrated with soda at first, remember, I was redeemed and a good boy now, but then we decided to try one of their famous cocktails. Cassidy ordered one, I ordered a different one and then she suggested we try each other’s. None of my friends and I had ever shared drinks before. I would later find out that Cassidy shared everything. Food, drink, she even once offered her cardigan to me on a cool evening. But I am getting ahead of myself.
She made me feel so normal, but special at the same time, and I bathed in that feeling. And evidently not just that, but also alcohol. Plenty of it. Honestly, I couldn’t remember ordering so much, but I did remember not wanting the night to end, and every new drink kept Cassidy in her seat for at least another half hour.
Her coming out of the hotel bathroom looking worse for the wear pulled me back into the current moment, when I saw the spooked look on her face.
“We’re in Las Vegas! It’s on the soap wrapper. Oh my God, we really did get hitched … drunk … in Vegas! Reed …” she looked horrified, and my name sounded like a cry for help, as I saw her pull the ring off her finger and slip in in the pocket of her pants on the floor. I didn’t blame her; I had taken mine off as well. If any paparazzi caught me wearing that, I was TOAST! My parents would kill me, our lead lawyers Kai, Dylan and Liam would kill me, … grandparents would …
“I am sure it can be annulled or something. My family has a whole team of attorneys on retainer. Don’t worry, we can fix this. I think what we need first now, is coffee, lots of it, and strong. Maybe some breakfast … so our hangovers go away, and our stomachs calm down, or we will never be able to get back home.”
A gurgling sound escaped her, and she disappeared in the bathroom again for more hurling, I felt bad for talking about food. Once she was done, I could finally answer nature’s call myself, we both showered – SEPARATELY – then got dressed and left the room together.
After we found a small drugstore, we both loaded up on several bottles of water and medicine, found a small diner and downed countless cups of coffee, eventually managed to have breakfast. We had found my car while searching for a drugstore or pharmacy, I still wasn’t sure I was sober enough to drive yet, looking at my rare exotic ride Cassidy instantly shook her head and told me there was NO WAY she would dare getting into the driver seat of that, so we decided to take it slow. I had texted my parents already, some BS excuse about staying over at a friend’s home, leaving out the Las Vegas part. And the part about being here with a girl. Not to mention our drunk nuptials.
As the day went on, the shock wore off, as did our hangovers, our mood went back to where it had been the day before, and despite the rough start in the day, I felt better than I could ever remember feeling. We went for a walk, something my family just never did, and it calmed me more, then we decided to rest up for a bit on some bench. This was nice. All things considered.
Sitting next to her, both of us enjoying the soft caress of the sunrays, not too hot, since it was winter, everything felt just right. I looked down at my hand, at where the cheap ring had been earlier and felt melancholic.
What would happen to us, Cassidy and me, once Kai or Dylan or Liam had buried all this in the usual legal smoke and mirrors after undoing all I shouldn’t have done, like they had with all my other screw-ups, making sure nobody would ever find out about it while also assuring that I didn’t just marry a golddigger? Would I ever see her again?
I looked over at her and somehow just knew she just was too wholesome to be one. No, she wasn’t like that at all. I had met my fair share of golddiggers and she was everything but.
I looked back at my hand, cleared my throat and said something I never thought I would ever hear myself say. Hearing the words out loud I even shocked myself a little.
“Cassidy … what if we were to roll with this?”
“Roll with what?” she wondered.
“This.” I raised up my hand and pointed to my bare ring finger.
I shook my head, then tried to explain.
“You said you’re single. I am single. Well, or we were before last night. Obviously we have chemistry or it would have never come to this. Obviously we probably had unprotected sex, who knows where that is going to leave us. And maybe it does work, with us married, I mean, and maybe you like being Mrs. Cameron and maybe I like having a wife. Now given, we’re pretty young to be married, but my parents married young too and they are still going strong. So it is possible.” I shrugged, while she looked at me as if I had grown another head or two.
“Are you serious right now? Don’t even joke about that, Reed! And for your information, I am most definitely on very reliable birth control, so unless you are talking about venereal diseases, we have nothing to worry about in that department, aside the shame itself. But wait, so you wanna stay married? We don’t even know each other! And I am still gonna be MISS and CHANDLER, thank you very much! I am no PR stunt, Reed! Who gets drunk-married in Vegas anymore anyway? Is that a celebrity thing? Like that singer … some years ago … who was that again?”
“Yeah! Did we seriously pull that? Oh my God. My parents are going to freak out! I leave for work on Friday – having been single for so long that my mom has tried to set me up on dates with every unmarried young man around my age that she could think of, even though I kept telling her no – yet instead I come back home the next day with a celebrity husband. Oh, boy!”
“You think mine are just going to congratulate me? Think again! But it’s OUR life, right? And somehow, this doesn’t feel as wrong as it should. Feels kind of … right.” I tried to explain the inexplicable.
“I don’t know how this feels, Reed, I am not even sure how I feel at the moment. You know what your family and everyone is gonna think, right? About me, the nobody, blitz-marrying a celebrity like you? Oh my God, we are literally every teen chick flick out there. We’re are a total cliche. Oh jeeze!”
“Well, we just have to prove them wrong. They ARE wrong, right?”
“No, Reed. I totally planned this for months in great detail. You got me. I bribed the officer who arrested you and the judge to mandate you to see my boss, then secretly mind-controlled you into marrying me, of course me being on birth control was a lie, I am pregnant now, octuplets, congratulations daddy, and while you were in the bathroom earlier, I transferred large sums of your money from your account into various offshore accounts I somehow own. MUAHAHAHAHA .. that’s my evil villain laugh.”
“Sorry, I realized that was a dumb thing to say the moment I said it out loud, cut me some slack, Cassidy, I just … I am confused too.” I told her, slightly embarrassed.
“Yeah, I know. I mean, is this even legal? The marriage?” she wondered out loud.
“I guess so. People get married in Vegas all the time. Less drunk than we were, presumably. But I don’t think that automatically voids it, as long as we were able to somehow sign our names, I bet it’s waterproof.”
“Where did we get a marriage license? Don’t you need that to get hitched? Do we even have one?” she theorized.
I shrugged. She made a lot of sense, so we headed back to the hotel to get to the bottom of it. Sure enough, in a frilly paper bag, along with brochures and info material pimping various wedding options, there was a signed and executed marriage license with our legal names on it, all official, along with a bill listing in great detail what items and services the all-inclusive wedding package contained, even two witnesses were provided if needed, a receipt listing my credit card number and bearing a squiggly version of my signature stapled to it. Whaddaya know? Vegas, baby. At least we didn’t have some Elvis impersonator officiate. That was something, right?
“Your middle name is Rae?” I chuckled, before she ripped the document from my hands and stuffed it back in the Pepto-Bismol pink gift bag.
“You don’t even have one!”
“Well, not many names flow well with Reed Cameron. Especially not something so country bumpkin sounding as Rae.” I chuckled, she nudged me, while trying to hide her smile, which made me laugh. An honest laugh. I felt great. Strangely.
“Nothing country about me. I am your typical suburbs girl. Sorry, try again.”
“Where are you from?”
“Del Sol Valley. Born and raised, in the ‘burbs though, not the fancy, expensive, touristy area.”
“Oh wow, surprised our paths never crossed before, then again Del Sol Valley is huge, and occasionally we lived in Sulani, we have a second home there …” I felt idiotic telling something so banal to a girl I had literally married last night.
“Yeah, I know. My best friend is a big fan of ‘Cooper Cairne’ and she would tell me every single detail about the character and the actor. I swear I even knew your shoe size at some point.” she giggled nervously, her cheeks slightly flushed.
Cooper Cairne had been the name of a very popular teen TV series, where some years ago I had played the protagonist, after which the show was named, for about a dozen or so seasons until I kinda aged out of playing a young teen boy hobby detective heartthrob, when I started looking more like a man and less than a boy.
“A fangirl, huh?” I asked, getting lost in her blue eyes I just couldn’t help absent-mindedly gently brushing back a strand of her soft blond hair without even really realizing I was doing it. Just felt right.
“Not me! My friend! I mean, of course I watched some episodes with her … and had to listen to nothing but you and the show from her for hours on end … but she was the fan, not me! I just watched you because of her. I mean, not you, but Cooper!” talking faster and faster, she blushed hard now, her cheeks looked like they literally emitted heat as she squirmed, and I swear, I never seen anything cuter in my life. On a whim, I leaned forward and kissed her.
It felt good.
It felt right.
The way she looked up at me, blushing anew, smiling shyly, letting out the slightest giggle, I couldn’t help it. I grabbed her and kissed her again, more intense this time. The way she melted into my kiss made me weak in the knees, and even more so when she started kissing me back, pulling me closer. These were probably not our first kisses, but the first we both could remember. And I wanted her, and I also wanted her to know I did, so I pulled her hips up against my throbbing groin, which she acquitted by the sweetest little moan, the most endearing sound to me.
We both just assumed we had sex last night, both had been too drunk to remember to know for sure, but why else would we both have woken up naked. But I wanted her now, I wanted to feel what that was like with a girl like her. And I wanted her to feel that there was more to me than either the larger-than-life celebrity always in character one way or another and the goofy derpy loser who couldn’t keep his business straight to save his life, whom she had known me as so far. And I showed her. Nervous at first, she eventually let loose, and we had a repeat of what probably happened in our wedding night, but this time we could both remember every little detail of it. And it was something I would never forget. It was nothing extraordinary per se, nothing freaky or with unheard of moves to sell tens of thousands of copies to sexually frustrated readers like Fifty Shades of Gray or something like it, but it was pure and real passion, unapologetic, and sure felt like nothing I had ever experienced to me and unless she was a natural at convincing acting, same was true for her. I didn’t feel like I had to impress her, nor bend to her every wish, while trying not to mess up the perfectly styled hair and makeup, like with all the other girls. She felt honest feelings, wasn’t afraid to get ‘dirty’ in a proverbial sense, and she made me feel it all too.
After we were done, once we calmed down again, we were lying next to each other on the bed.
“Cassie, let’s try it. Let’s give it a real shot. If it doesn’t work, we can still pull the plug.”
“Can I tell you a secret, Reed?”
“Maybe I fibbed a little bit. Maybe I did have a slight teen crush on you too, but I would have never admitted it to my friend or anyone else. But maybe she didn’t really have to force me too much to watch the show with her and maybe I secretly watched it even without her. Oh, she is going to hate me forever for this, you and me and Vegas, I mean. She will never forgive me for stealing you from her, even though I really didn’t.” she giggled.
Silence fell between us, we just laid there for a while, until she sighed.
When I looked at her, she explained.
“I need a shower. And we should probably head back and face the music. I still don’t know what to tell my parents. Oh man, this won’t be good.”
“Same. But we’re adults, right?”
“Right. How old are you even, Reed?”
“18. 19 in June.”
“In June? No way, me too. I’ll be 19 on the 30th.” she giggled.
“Seriously? I am like one week older than you then, 23rd for me.”
“That’s crazy! Almost birthday-twins. Hey wanna join me in the shower, Cooperrrrrrrrr Cairrrrrrne…” she mocked the intro of the TV Show, where my character’s name had always been spoken in a very theatric fashion, while she was pointing at the bathroom.
“Don’t mind if I do …” I said, my voice strangely low with another bout of never known before passion as I chased her into the bathroom, then dragged her into the shower stall with me … feeling born again as we entered paradise together once more.
Being with Cassidy was different on so many levels, and it turned out to be life changing. I had been so hung up on Caroline, despite of everything she had put me through, and even before her I had only ever dated complicated, demanding and posh girls who were also from the upper class, the type that demanded expensive gifts and to be everyone’s center of attention, that I never knew how fun, how real, how deep, how liberating being with a simple girl could be, in a relationship where both partners were equals. I felt like I was meeting myself for the first time in my life by meeting her, while discovering who that girl was, who was now my wife. And boy, I was bound and determined to make her WANT to remain my wife. I didn’t know the first thing about marriage, but I was dead set on being her a good husband, whatever that meant.
By the time I dropped her off near her home, mind you, not in front of her house but about half a block away, as we had agreed to keep our Vegas nuptials a secret for now and to instead get to know each other better first, then decide what we wanted to do.
But she pointed to the quaint little home where she lived, and in my mind, I could imagine her there in the front yard on a swing in a cotton dress waiting for me to pick her up again. Wait, what?! Was I drunk again? When had my brain become a country music song? No, I was shockingly sober. I was dreaming of a future with her, rosy-red and kitschy. Before she left me standing there with a peck on the cheek, we traded phone numbers, which turned out to be the beginning of an endless stream of text messages exchanged, all day, every day, anywhere from here on out.
Soon enough, I knew better what she liked, what she didn’t, what she thought than she did and vice versa.
We started going on dates, actual dates, secretly though, but dates like regular people would go on, which was practically all new to me. In my circles, people were always either trying to not be seen at all, or went somewhere to be seen, to pose, to show off. I had never been on a walk before we went that one time, now we did it often. We had ice cream from some cart together while sitting in the grass at some park.
We went to a small-town movie theater and shared a bag of popcorn. Not only that, but she insisted on buying every other time, be it coffee, ice cream, dinner, food from a stall, even the movie theater tickets. I don’t think any female I wasn’t related to had ever paid for anything during a date.
Nobody knew about us, and we were very careful to keep it that way, even though I began to dislike that more and more. I was so happy, I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. I kept falling deeper and deeper in love with her. The way her face lit up when she spotted me waiting for her at our secret meeting spots, the way she crinkled her little nose when she giggled while teasing me about something, all that was everything to me. The way the smallest gestures, lightest touches could just make my day without her even trying.
And then came the day I knew I wanted to be with her forever. We had snuck off to a hotel for a whole weekend, nothing fancy like I was accustomed to, some no-tell motel type, somewhere off the beaten path where nobody would recognize me, to spend uninterrupted time together. Each of us had told our parents we went with some friend of ours.
The calmness of it all was rejuvenating, as was waking up in the morning to find her making us breakfast.
The whole room smelled incredibly delicious, of fresh coffee and freshly baked muffins and the eggs and bacon sizzling in the pan she was stirring in. Nobody other than our housekeeper and sometimes my dad had ever made me breakfast. I wasn’t even sure if my mother knew how to cook at all, I knew my twin sister didn’t! Nor had any girl I had ever dated.
Something about that small gesture changed my entire world, my outlook on it. The way she looked up from stirring in the pan, to smile at me and wish me a good morning … I knew that was what I wanted to wake up to for the rest of my life … I felt different.
A new season of my life had begun.
A season named Cassidy.