Chapter Two… Old Ties and New Beginnings
Phoenix, Arizona. Present Day.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The alarm is so loud it wakes me from a dead sleep. I force my self the rest of the way back to consciousness, fighting out of the nightmare I was having…again.
I can still hear the alarm going crazy on the nightstand on the other side of the bed. I vaguely wonder why Cassie hasn't turned it off, but when I roll over I realize she's already up. I stretch across the bed and reach up to hit the snooze button. Then I lie back down and press my face into the thousand thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.
They smelled like Cassie; vanilla and strawberries. I hear the faint sound of bare feet on my wood panelled living room floor and look up to see Cassie standing in the doorway. She's still wearing just her knickers and singlet so she hadn't bothered to get dressed yet. I purveyed her body from feet to head; her longer than long legs and hips that lead up to her ample chest and gorgeous face. I note the way her arms are crossed over her torso but disregard it. Then my eyes linger on her long golden tresses that shiver when she moves. My eyes move over her face and come to rest on her eyes. Usually warm and soft with their deep endless pool of brown, now they were careful, watching and framed by worry lines.
"Hey babe, what's wrong?" I ask.
She looks at me with worried eyes for a moment before answering "I couldn't sleep while you were dreaming. Nearly got kicked outta the bed."
I take in her expression and realize that she's more worried than annoyed, which is always worse.
"I'm sorry baby; you should have tried to wake me" I said.
"I did," she replied "several times".
I revel for a minute, I've never really been a heavy sleeper. I must have been sleeping more soundly than I thought.
The look in her eyes gets more severe as she makes her way over to the bed. When she sits down she takes my face between her hands and stares me straight in the eye. The severity really worries me and I wonder what had happened.
"I think you need to go and see Dr. Freedman."
I let out a soft sigh, relief something more serious wasn't wrong, then hold my self together so that I don't roll my eyes at her.
"There's nothing he can tell me I don't already know; 'The dream is the event of an unfulfilled need along with the fear of facing the anniversary of my mother's death'." I say, quoting my shrink.
"It's getting worse Lakeland and you know it. Today's only Thursday."
I was lost. "What does that mean?"
"That's the fourth dream this week!"
Fourth? Was I really having this dream every night? I didn't think it was that bad. I would have gone and seen the Doc but there isn't anything new he can tell me and I know I would hate myself for spending the $250 an hour to have him tell me nothing.
I looked back at Cassie and her serious expression. She got the cutest little frown line next to her top lip when she worried. Her deep brown eyes were carefully watching my expression. I reached up and took her hands off my face, and placed them around my neck and then wrapped my arms tightly around her waist.
"There's nothing new he can tell me Cass, It'll get better, I know it will. I just have to get Saturday out of the way; once Xander and I have a chance to see each other and talk things out, it'll be fine".
"Well if you think seeing your brother for the anniversary is the answer, then I trust you".
She seemed genuine so I pulled her face to mine and gave her our ritualistic good morning kiss, knowing that she would get frustrated if I forgot.
After she'd gone to the kitchen to make a coffee, I crawled out of bed and went to the bathroom. When I caught myself in the mirror it gave me a shock. I understood why Cassie had been so worried. Despite the fact that I slept like the dead, it didn't seem to be doing me any good. My bright blue eyes were framed with huge bags that looked like I hadn't slept in days and there were traces of faint purple rings hidden just beneath them. My short curly blonde hair looked flat and lifeless, causing my face to take on the look of someone in the last stages of some horrible disease. The two days' growth didn't help, I looked like a wreck. I tore my eyes away from the mirror and started getting ready for work. Once I'd showered, shaved and tried as hard as I could to get rid of the bags, I went into the kitchen where Cassie had made me eggs and bacon. They were arranged on my plate to look like a smiley face; eggs for eyes and bacon for a mouth. I couldn't help laughing my head off, which seemed to ease Cassie's mood.
I arrived at work 15 minutes early due to the light traffic which was very unusual for a Thursday morning in Phoenix. I took advantage of the extra time to check my face in the bathroom mirror before going to my desk. My bags had decreased marginally and the purple rings were fainter than before. The shave had definitely improved the bottom half of my face so I returned to my desk slightly satisfied. A couple of other co-workers were starting to file in so I turned on the news for the morning update. The reporter was just starting with the traffic news.
"…When two cars collided causing a three lane blockage southbound".
Well I guess that explained the light traffic, most of the morning workers came into the city on the expressway from the North. I guessed that that was also the reason for the skeleton staff at the moment; normally everyone was in before clock in. The boss was a stickler for rules. As it appeared he wasn't in yet, I turned my attention back to the traffic report.
"Police have set up one safe lane for people still travelling south this morning but with this amount of traffic, I wouldn't expect to get to work on time!"
The other news anchor cut in with questions, which was unusual for a traffic report, I guess it was more severe than I thought.
"So Bill, What seems to be the cause of the accident?"
"At the moment were not one hundred percent sure Larry, but it looks like something in the first car actually caught fire, and distracted the driver who then lost control and veered into the other lane"
"Do you know if anyone's seriously hurt Bill?"
"Currently it looks like both drivers are alive and the fire has been put out. The fire department is working hard to remove the people from their cars without disturbing what ever caught fire. We'll keep an eye on this for you folks and let you know as developments occur"
"Well thank you for that Bill. Now over to…"
I turned my attention back to my work and realized that I was so enthralled in the news that it was ten past nine and I hadn't actually started yet. I managed to get into work early for a change and I still started late. Damn car accident. It didn't even affect me; I don't know why I was so concerned. But there was something about that first car that had me interested in the story, so I left the television on but put the volume right down so I could concentrate. It was barely an hour later when my phone rang, I picked it up without checking the caller ID and was surprised to hear my brothers voice.
"Hey Lake, how are you?"
"Xander? Is everything ok? How come you're calling?" My brother was not exactly known for his phone calls; it was one a year at Christmas and one on my birthday if I was lucky and he remembered, but it's only March and my birthday isn't for another three months.
"No Lake, don't stress; everything's fine. Can't a guy call his big brother without something being wrong?"
"Not generally." I couldn't keep the acid out of my voice, but Xander and I haven't exactly been what you would call close brothers. We were only meeting up this Saturday because it was the twenty third anniversary of mum's death, and we hadn't been out to see her in several of those years. This Saturday wasn't going to be fun, but I felt like I had to do it, I always regretted not being a family with my only sibling; we were all each of us had.
"If everything's fine then how come you're calling Xander? I've got a lot of work to do and if it's not that important we can talk about it on Saturday." Then something clicked, "We are still on for Saturday right Xander?"
"Well actually that's what I wanted to talk to you about."
I knew what was coming; three years ago we had organized to meet up, the same as this year, for the twentieth anniversary of mum's death. That year he had called several days before to let me know he was going to be in Mexico at some surfing contest that he absolutely couldn't get out of. I expected the same sort of thing this year; it had just taken longer than I thought. My brother wasn't really the dependable type.
"I'll take a stab in the dark, you can't make it? You know I don't know why we keep mak-"
He cut me off with a stern tone that I hadn't heard him use in a long time, in fact the last I remember it, I was using his 'Turtles' Action Van and I almost broke one of the wheels, he got angry and wouldn't let me use it again.
"No Lake, I'm not cancelling. But I have a job interview on Saturday so I was wondering if you would be available for drinks tonight instead?"
I gawked at the phone for several seconds, thankful that he couldn't see my surprised expression, and then gathered myself again. But tonight, hmm, it's October 12th, did he remember? No, he wouldn't.
"Umm, Yeah I can do that, I should be finished here around six thirty. Meet me at Logan's; it's a pub on west Adams Street."
"Ok Lake sounds good. You know, it'll be really god to see you again Lake, it's been a long time."
"Yeah I now Xander, I'll see you tonight, Bye"
I hung up the phone and my head was still reeling from the news. In the past five years my brother had had a total of 3 jobs, but none of them had lasted more than four months. He started out at Wal-Mart as a check out operator, but couldn't hack the Christmas rush, then after six months of searching he got a job at a diner, but he kept dropping plates and food on customers. His last job had really hurt him though; When Xander moved out here from Maine, a couple of years after I did, he went to college and studied art, he's always wanted to be an artist and found Phoenix as the perfect stepping stone to get started. He hadn't been working in a couple of years and he started to consider moving, he had lost his interest in Phoenix and didn't think it offered him anything. Then one day he heard from one of his friends from College who was having an art show and wanted him there to lend a hand. Xander was so excited; he figured this could be his big break into the industry. When he showed up to help, it turns out his friend needed people to set up his art in place for the show, and then tell people about him and mingle during the party. I tried to tell Xander that this didn't mean anything; he could still be a great artist. He went along to the party anyway and while he was there he started talking to this woman, Sarah Crewe, who was an art dealer and had organized several shows for up and coming artists in the area.
She said she would look at some of his work and see what she could do. Naturally Xander took a liking to her. In the three and half years he had only had two jobs, he had also had seven girlfriends. It didn't turn out so well. His current work had been on Sculpture; he had several pieces done and just needed them to be shown. So amid their turbulent relationship, Sarah set up a show for Xander and organized the whole party. He was ready and wanted to add a few extra pieces to his show before they set up so he ran the idea by Sarah. His other works of art had been photographed and put in the paper and on fliers about the show so Sarah thought it would be good to be able to unveil one unseen piece. The night of the show, Xander showed up with his 'unseen piece' and set it up under a sheet at the back of the studio. Come seven thirty when the show was supposed to start, he was still waiting for people to arrive. By eight thirty there were six people in the studio and no one seemed particularly interested in the actual art, they were all talking to each other. So Sarah called the show closed early and they all left. Xander was so angry that he got into an argument with her right there, he blamed her for not promoting and under advertising, but she told him his art just wasn't any good, except it was at least better than he was in bed. Needless to say their relationship ended there but Xander never sculpted again. He became a hermit, never coming out to see anyone and not even answering his phone. The last I had heard form him was Christmas before last. This sudden shock of him, not only coming out, but changing our get together for another night instead of cancelling, and having a job interview, was surprising.
I finished up at work early, eager to find out what had been going on with Xander to spark this change in behavior. I got the pub at a quarter past six and Xander was already there, drink in hand. I walked in and sat opposite him in the booth. He smiled at me and took a swig of his beer.
"You look good Lake, life treatin' you well?"
"I can't complain."
"Well take a seat, order a drink." He motioned for the waitress and I ordered the same as him, then there was a small awkward silence before Xander sighed heavy and put his beer gently down on the table.
"Look, I know we've never really been close and I'm quite positive that my behavior is part of that, but I've decided I want to start things over Lake, clean slate."
"I'm sorry about that; I know I should have been more supportive, as your older brother. But seeing you so destroyed after Sarah, I couldn't sit around and watch you ruin your life."
"I know, and I understand that, but now it's different. I'm different. I'm gong to change."
"Wow Xander, I'm impressed, what spurred on this sudden epiphany?"
He picked up his beer and took a long drink before placing it methodically back on the table in front of him, and then raised his eyes to look at me.
"Mavrin came back."