Del Sol Valley Villa ViVa
It was Valentine’s Day, meaning the day before Aria-Grace’s 20th birthday, and it was already clear to her that it would be a disappointment no matter what. Here she was visiting from college at her parents’ Del Sol Valley home, along with her older brother Nick and his wife Adrianna, both visiting from San Myshuno.
Who hadn’t come was Rohan, Nick’s best friend, roommate and Aria-Grace’s ex. He hadn’t even called. Or texted. Let alone sent her the usual dozen red roses like he had for the past few years. Not even a card. Nothing.
Well, what did she expect? Who sends their ex cards and flowers for Valentine’s Day? But that he wouldn’t at least come to her birthday, like he had since she was 9 or 10 years old? Ouch!
Naturally, on the evening of Valentine’s Day her parents had gone out together on their annual romantic Valentine’s date, as had Nick and Adrianna, even though they had offered to stay or to take AG along, both of which she vehemently declined with an artificial smile. If there was something AG wanted even less than feel as alone and forgotten as she did on this day, it was to be the fifth wheel at another couple’s date. No way!
Instead, she stayed home alone, watching RomComs, laughing, crying, swooning along with the protagonists, while remembering her own lost romance, and with it one of the most romantic evenings of her life, exactly one year ago tonight, when Rohan had taken her out to a Valentine’s dinner, a romantic walk, then to a lake, where he proposed to her on a rowing boat, complete with blankets, since it was chilly, chocolate covered strawberries and champagne. A night she would never forget, so indescribable. Ever since she had given him back his ring, it had left a void on her finger, even though she only had worn it a few months until she had steered their relationship into a deep ditch with a bang and an all-consuming explosion. Dammit!
Mercifully Valentine’s Day passed too, AG went to bed early, long before her parents or brother and sister-in-law returned from their respective date nights. Tomorrow it would be her birthday. There was always far too much going on with a bunch of family visiting, no time to be able to sit and mope, the party would start around noon, and it would be a lot of attendees, there would be music and laughter and tons of food, just distractions encore, which was good, just what the doctor ordered for her. The waking up part of the day proved tough though.
As soon as she opened her eyes, she felt that pang of pain, felt tears burning hot under her eyelids, as her heart and mind transported her back to this day exactly two years ago now, when she woke up right here in this very bed, the sun shining in just like it did now, dipping the entire room in a preternatural golden glow, but then Rohan had been next to her, after they spent their very first night together. Her very first time. Her old teen room, her bed, felt eerily empty without Rohan, even though she had spent a lot more time without him here growing up, than during the few visits since they had become lovers.
They said you never forget your first. Maybe that’s what this was.
No, he was special to her, regardless. Even if she had been with a hundred men, or a thousand, before him, or even now after him, he’d still be the only one she’d be pining after.
Her phone rang, her heart started beating so hard, she swore it was about to come out of her chest. Had to be him! But the Caller ID showed it was Austin. With a disappointed groan, she put the phone back down.
‘No thanks. You’re cute and sweet, but you’re not Rohan, so screw you’, AG thought.
Yes, immature and unfair, she knew, but Austin wasn’t exactly trying very hard for her either. She had asked him to come home with her for Valentine’s and her birthday, but he said they were ‘too platonic’ for that, and it would be weird for everyone.
AG knew that was just his payback for her not wanting to go all the way with him yet, no matter how often he had tried to seduce her.
If she was honest with herself, she knew exactly why she hadn’t, even though Austin had a lot to offer visually. She just didn’t love him, had serious doubts he loved her, and Aria-Grace just wasn’t the type of girl to sleep with a man lightly. Plus, she wanted someone else more. Someone she was still in love with, and no amount of college student living, flirting and partying had been able to change that, even though she had tried. A shy, sweet, nerdy, but brilliant young doctor still had a firm grip of her heart, no matter how much she had tried to let go. Being in university had shown AG that boys her own age only just annoyed her, same reason she didn’t bother date much in High School. The rich ones were looking for arm candy they could show off and the not rich ones … well, same. Nobody wanted AG, they all wanted Aria-Grace Cameron, the daughter of pop icon ViVa, granddaughter of rock-legend Blaine Cameron. And they didn’t even try hard to hide that fact. Bianca came from a wealthy background too, but her father “only” owned a bunch of financial institutions, wasn’t famous per se, so she just had to watch out for golddiggers, not those and fame-seekers, like AG did. Then again, Bianca had a boyfriend now and wasn’t looking anymore anyway. Everyone had someone. Everyone but AG.
Taking a shower was tough too, as she and Rohan had taken one together that day after they became a couple. Just the naughtiness of him being in there with her had been enough to give her all sorts of feels, not to mention their gentle attempts at combining cleaning each other with sensual play. Man, memories could be so cruel.
As she got downstairs, her mom greeted her with a smile and a kiss wishing her the happiest birthday, as did her dad. Nick and Addy were still asleep. Yeah, ‘asleep’. Right.
Looking over at the counter, which was empty except for the usual stuff and the usual bouquet her mom insisted on having, but no red roses this year, which was when AG lost it completely.
Every year since she was a teen Rohan had sent her red roses for her birthday, they were her favorites, just the meaning changed after they became romantic. And now, after they stopped being romantic – no more roses.
Her mom comforted her best she could, but it was clear that this birthday wouldn’t be the best one ever.
Aria-Grace managed to fake it through the rest of the day trying not to ruin her family’s mood, then functioned as expected for the party, smiled as expected, thanked everyone for their gifts as expected, laughed at her grandpa Blaine’s jokes, but was glad when it was finally dark, and she could go hide in her room. Alone.
She had been checking her phone throughout the night, praying for a message by him. Or a call. Anything. But nothing.
Twenty years old, supposedly an adult, Aria-Grace defaulted to a young teen girl’s attitude, snuck downstairs, grabbed several bottles of alcohol, anything she could find, which wasn’t really much, just half-empty bottles, mostly empty ones, hard liquor, wine and champagne, wine coolers, … snuck them all upstairs, then locked herself in her room. She downed the booze at record speed, everything mixed, ignored the room starting to spin around her, while going through old photos of her and Rohan, from happier times, until she couldn’t see much of anything anymore for sobbing.
With a clouded mind from the booze, she mumbled things about making him regret he forgot about her, making him remember, then giggling, she lifted her shirt, pulled aside her bra, snapped a pic, then tapped around on her phone until the dinged. Message sent. Tee hee hee. Did she really just send a boob pic?! Oh yes she did! Hilariously cool. Take that, Rohan, for forgetting me. Yeah, that’s right, take a good look at what you are missing out on now.
Seconds later she got a reply. Wide-eyed she stared at the sender ID. Rohan. Uh oh. Her courage abandoned her instantly and it just didn’t seem so funny anymore. His message was very brief but said it all.
This sobered her up fast. She jumped up, paced her room, then dropped down on her bed.
Oh shit! Had she seriously just sexted her ex?! Her older brother’s roommate?!! OMG. OMFG!
The phone rang.
Panicked, she grabbed the phone and clicked the call away.
It rang again.
She sent it to voicemail again.
It rang yet again.
“STOP!!!” she yelled at the phone, then tossed it away from her. It obviously didn’t listen to her, kept ringing, so she put a pillow over it.
But eventually she pulled it put and answered the umpteenth call, for fear that he would start calling Nick instead. No way was she going to explain this to her brother!
“Hello?” she said, her voice a lot shakier than she had tried for.
“AG, what is going on? Did you message me by mistake?”
“Nopping … nutting … I mean nothing .. I am … nothing. Doing it. The nothing I mean. I am doing nothing. That’s what’s going on, nothing.” she stuttered, then hiccupped, followed by a burp, making her giggle despite her humiliation.
“Are you drunk?!”
“No. Maybe. A little bit. It’s my birthday! I have the right be drunk on my birthday! Did you know it’s my birthday?”
“Of course, I know. Happy birthday. But AG …”
“No, don’t you AG me. You forgot about me! Just forgot me!” she sobbed hard, anything else she tried to say was completely incoherent.
“AG, no! That’s not true! I just thought it would be wrong to send flowers to my ex, let alone send a gift with Nick and I most certainly didn’t think I should be at your party. Plus, I thought your new boyfriend would be there, how would he feel if the ex sends you flowers or worse, shows up in person? He already wasn’t happy with me at New Year’s Eve party, and I didn’t like that feeling of being a fifth wheel much.”
“He’s NOT my BOYFRIEND!”
“Okay sorry, your … date … or whatever you want to call it.”
“I call ‘it’ Austin, and he is not here either. He forgot me too! Everyone forgot me, unless they are related to me, then they have to remember because they just have no choice! Those with a choice forgot me. YOU forgot me.”
“AG – I did NOT forget you, and I am sure nobody else has either, but I am sorry you feel that way. Look, I hate to say this, but I have to get prepped for surgery now.”
“You’re working?! Today?! On my birthday?!” AG’s mind was still too clouded to realize her birthday didn’t constitute a national holiday.
“I am working. Look AG, breakups are never easy; for nobody, we both have our own ways of dealing with the rougher days. This is mine. I work. Aryelle has been with her grandparents, slash, mother and I have been working shifts since the day before Valentine’s Day.”
“Rougher days? You … care?”
“Of course I care, AG! You think I have no heart, no emotions? This is tough on me too. I remember last Valentine’s. The dinner, the kisses, the boat, the ring. And I remember your birthday one year before that. I remember everything. This is killing me; I have been dreading this time of year. But you made your choice and I have to live with it, I know we agreed to be just friends, but honest, we both know that isn’t working out one bit, because I cannot … hang on AG …” his voice sounded away from the phone, muffled and directed at someone else who was also responding, AG just continued to listen in, hearing Rohan’s soft voice, closing her eyes knowing he’d have to let her go soon, as he said “He’s ready? Yes, sure, I know, yes, I will be right there. AG, they need me in the operating room now. I have to go. So sorry, but this is about life and death here. I can call you back later.”
“Please do. I really need to hear your voice.”
“Okay. I lov… ahem … I will talk to you then.”
Aria-Grace cried uncontrollably after they hung up. Not because he had to work, not even because he wasn’t here or because they were broken up, not this time, but because he almost accidentally said the words she would give her life to hear him say to her. He almost told her he loved her. Almost. But almost didn’t count. Right?
Her phone buzzing in her hand before crack of dawn woke her. She must have just fallen asleep at some point, she couldn’t remember much at all.
Drowsy and reluctant at first, then remembering who that might be, she pulled it up to her face, then answered.
“Rohan!?” she nearly screamed at the phone for relief.
“Whoa … did I wake you?”
“No. Yes. It doesn’t matter. Thank you for calling. Are you home?”
“Not yet, still at the hospital, I just changed. It was odd, I was being watched.”
“Changed? Watched? By whom?”
“Some skinny white chick is in here with me, not really sure why, never seen her in the men’s changing rooms before. Wanna facetime, so you can see her?”
“WHAT!? Yes! Is she pretty? What the hell is her problem?”
“Hard to say, but there is not a thread of clothing on her
“Who is she!? A nurse? Another doctor?! Is that even allowed? What the …?!” AG felt a terrible pang of jealousy.
She accepted the incoming video chat, saw Rohan’s tired, but smiling face for a moment, before the image panned across a room filled with lockers and benches, until it rested on one of those medical skeletons carelessly parked in some corner, instantly relief washed over AG as she heard him chuckling.
“You think you are just hella funny, don’t you?! Joke’s on you though, how do you even know it’s a chick?” she giggled, when his face came back into view.
“Oh, it’s a female, I can tell by the hip bones, fingers, skull and … never mind. For an overtired doctor, this is as humorous as it gets. Get it, humorous, as in the humerus bone? No? Tough crowd.”
“Man, you ARE tired if this is the best you got.” AG giggled. It was cute, she knew he was trying to make her laugh by being goofy, so she wouldn’t be so sad. Sweet Rohan. And look at those big, dark doe eyes, so kind and soft. Oh, if she could only touch him now …
“I really am exhausted. That’s why I called now, instead of waiting till I got home. I was afraid I’d keel over and sleep on the floor as soon as I unlocked the front door. Just got done with surgery.”
“YOU OPERATED ALL NIGHT!?”
“Yup. It was a tough one, lots of complications, but I saved him. He should be okay, preliminary prognosis is positive. Any surgery when the patient doesn’t stay on the table is a great day. Or night. I lost perception for that too.”
“Oh Rohan … now I feel bad. You do such an amazing job. You are such an amazing doctor. An amazing person. You even saved my dad. I will never forget that. You’ll always be my hero for that.”
“Don’t feel bad, and I am definitely no hero. I signed up for this. At least something I am good at.”
“You’re good at a lot of things. Actually, nothing you’re bad at comes to mind.”
“Well, how about being a boyfriend. Or fiancé. Rumor has it I sucked at that. And I would have to agree, sadly, even though not for lack of effort.”
“No, that was me. All me. I fucked up, Rohan. I realized that now. And now it’s too late.”
“No, AG, odds just weren’t in our favor. We didn’t know what we were doing, both inexperienced, me stressed from work, you overwhelmed with school, the long-distance thing, me trying to figure out how to raise a child. We both bit off more than we could chew, and it came back to bite us. If you blame yourself, then am to blame too. I really did not always put you first, where you belong, I know I own my share in this mess. I should have tried harder.”
“Wow, if we are being this honest, I’ll admit my expectations were pretty unreasonable at times. I never paid attention before, but after we split, at every family event I noticed how intense taking care of kids is for couples. And they are always two of them, at least. It’s a lot. I thought I wanted to be free, enjoy life as a college student, turned out, that sucks a big one and is lame as balls! All I ever do anyway is compare everyone to you and nobody even comes close, so I hate everything and everyone – most of all myself – and just miss you, all the damn time. I don’t want it to be over, Rohan. I don’t know how to be without you. Because of Nick you just always have been a part of my life. Everything just sucks now. Literally everything. I thought we could be friends, but that just doesn’t work, and now I barely see you anymore. It’s just all awkward and miserable.”
“No need to tell me how much all of this sucks. I am well aware that I dated well out of my league with you. You are so special in so many ways, AG. There won’t ever be a girl who could even come close to how amazing you are. And I have nothing to offer to even try to win you back.”
“You do have everything to offer. Everything I want. Rohan, why … why don’t we try again? Knowing all we know now, avoiding the old pitfalls?”
“You know, I have spent the past weeks, months even, dreaming you’d say this.”
“But … what?”
“You were gonna say ‘but’ …”
“No. I wasn’t.”
“So .. wait. You would be willing to try again?”
“I am willing, but only after a very frank discussion about the right expectations. I mean, AG, all the things that upset you so, which you hated about me, what ultimately broke us up, all that is still there. Maybe not all, I did finish my residency and am a ‘real’ doctor now. They hired me on, pretty decent paycheck, and better hours and more control over my shifts now. But the rest is still the same. I am still a single dad playing a game of juggling responsibilities, which I lose more often than I win.”
“Yeah, I see those better hours. You just worked for three days straight.”
“No, AG, that’s all on me. I did that on purpose. I was on-call for some of the shifts, I rather slept here at the hospital in the on-call staff rooms than go home to stare at walls missing you, drowning in memories. I wanted to busy my mind, especially with Nick and Addy gone too.”
“No argument there. When are you going back to uni?”
“I fly back out tomorrow morning, plane lands at noon.”
“You think you’d be up for visitors? Platonic, of course, we’re not that kind of morons, but maybe we can somehow build up from there, slowly, baby steps and see if you can deal with me and my life better now, while I figure out how to prioritize better than before? I have one more day without Aryelle.”
“Really? You would really come?”
“Unless you tell me no …”
“No no no. I mean yes! Come!”
“AG, you did hear the platonic part, right? I know I will hate myself for this once I actually see you before me, but we really need to remember to not just rush in. Einstein defined insanity that way, by doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results. Let’s not be insane.”
“Yeah yeah, I heard it, and I know you are right. Look, I missed you, I admit that, but I am not THAT desperate that I’d just tear off my clothes the moment you arrive, if that’s what you’re afraid of, thank you very much.”
“Well, I received a photo last night that suggests otherwise.” the way he laughed made clear he was only teasing.
“Oh my God, you have to delete that! Please delete that! Oh, gawd, I cannot believe I did that. I was so friggin drunk. I really am sorry about that. And please don’t tell Nick. Can you even maybe try to forget that I did that?!”
“AG, chill, it’s me. Already deleted it, especially since Aryelle started nicking my phone whenever I don’t pay attention. But you should make sure you delete it too and maybe check you didn’t sent it to others.”
“Oh, right. I will delete it. But I know it went just to you. Rohan, I have to ask though, I know what you will say, but I just need to hear you say it: this is really us taking things slow, right? There really is hope, right? You are not just stringing me along to drop me as payback for what I did to you, right? I know I hurt you, but I hurt both of us, if that makes it better. I have been so miserable since.”
“Aria-Grace … really? I mean, REALLY?! And no, knowing you are hurting doesn’t make anything better for me, on the contrary. I know why you broke up with me, and I know you had a few valid points. I know I have lots of room for improvement.” the way he said that made her realize why she was so much in love with him.
He really cared about her. Especially being in college, meeting a lot of new people, she had realized that was pretty rare. A lot of people said a lot of things, none of it honest. And most knew exactly who she was related to, even if they didn’t admit it, and wanted to be her friend because of it.
They hung up soon after, AG pulled up the photo she had taken of her naked chest last night, but before hitting the delete button she studied it. It was grainy and a bit unfocused but not bad.
She smiled. Maybe this pic did help Rohan remember certain other things after all and made him more willing to agree to give them another shot.
She’d definitely wear something low cut tomorrow, just in case the platonic part was negotiable. While she agreed why that was a good idea, she had missed Rohan too much to not at least try to see if he’d be interested in at least kissing and some closeness.