Posts tagged “Friends

Chasing Truth: Chapter 49

Posted on 26/06/2020

Calories in a Glass of Wine

Mari was practically coming out of her seat by the time she and Reese arrived at Julia’s place. She dreaded dancing around the truth with her best friends, but she was excited to be able to bring them in at least a little. She needed their insight.

Her leg bounced restlessly while she waited for Reese to open her door. She hopped down the second he did and just barely restrained herself to keep pace with him. They were walking up the pathway when the door swung open to reveal Leilani. She didn’t come out.

“I knew it was you. I checked out the window and again out the peephole,” she rushed to say since she knew she wasn’t supposed to open the door until Reese was actually at said door.

Reese shook his head. Mari just grinned. Leilani latched onto her arm the moment she was within reach. 

“You can have the living room, Reese. We’re not going to watch TV and this way you’re between us and the door,” Leilani continued as Reese closed the door. “We’ll be in the kitchen.”

“Is anything that comes out of the kitchen going to be edible?” he called after them teasingly.

Leilani turned to stick her tongue out at him but didn’t stop herding Mari to the kitchen. Julia stood at the stove, frying fish when they entered. Leilani let go of Mari to retrieve a wine glass, which she filled generously.

“Okay, spill,” Leilani prompted and handed Mari the glass.

Mari laughed, settling onto the nearest stool and taking a sip. “Well, at least I got wine first.” Leilani’s mock glare made her laugh. “It’s nothing that extreme. Really. Things with Tyler have been…off lately. I don’t really know how to explain it. Things don’t feel the same anymore.”

“Feel the same like how?” Leilani pressed. “Like you  don’t feel the same way about him as you used to or the relationship feels different?”

“I…both? The relationship feels different, distant almost. I think that’s affecting how I feel.”

Julia cut straight to the heart of the matter. “You’re having second thoughts.”

Mari dropped her head to stare into her wine. “Yeah. Maybe it’s just me and I’m imagining things being different, but…” She hated lying to her friends, but this was the closest to the truth she could get. She lifted her gaze. “I was kinda hoping you two could pay attention when he comes back. You know, tell me if I’m just being crazy.”

“I’ve never known you to just be crazy,” Julia said as she laid fish onto a plate.

Leilani glanced toward the doorway before leaning forward. “How much of this maybe has to do with you spending all of this time with Reese?” she whispered.

“I don’t know,” Mari groaned. “That’s part of the whole problem. At first, everything seemed simple. Things with Tyler were great. They changed some even before I met Reese, but when he showed up, things got even more complicated. I wasn’t expecting to interact with him at all. And then when he stayed, I wasn’t expecting to actually enjoy talking to him or anything. I was just planning to put up with him so Blake wouldn’t hassle me.”

“But now it’s more?” It was a statement from Julia, not a question.

Mari opened her mouth to deny it, but there was no point. Julia and Leilani knew her too well. 

“You two have gotten close over the last couple of weeks,” Julia continued. “Nothing that crosses the line, but he fits. You two fit in a way Tyler never did.”

“My life is out of control,” Mari whispered as she buried her face in her hands.

“So take back some control,” Leilani suggested. “End it with Tyler.”

“I can’t just end a relationship with a guy I’ve been seeing for months just because I think another guy is attractive. Reese doesn’t even live here. This wouldn’t even be a discussion if he and I weren’t attached at the hip these last few weeks. He’ll go home and this…this will wear off.”

“You don’t believe that, do you?” Leilani chided softly. “Maybe the closeness got you here faster, but it’s not just going to go away. It’s not like you’ll never see him again. If nothing else, he’d be back whenever your dad visits and there whenever you visit him.”

Mari waved off her words. “He doesn’t even like me that way. He’s here doing a job. That’s it.”

Julia snorted while Leilani rolled her eyes. 

“Oh, please. He totally likes you.”

Julia checked the doorway before approaching the island. “There are things he does because he’s here to keep you safe, but there are things he does that don’t fall into that. He almost always brings you your food, even when we’re just in the house. When he calls you Ellie, it’s not because he’s trying to come off as a close friend. He caters to you in ways that have nothing to do with protecting you.”

“We were talking about Tyler,” Mari protested weakly.

“And now we’re talking about Reese,” Leilani returned without hesitation. “Allie really likes him. She told mom Raoul does too and that you guys had a great time camping.”

“They like him because he’s keeping me safe and they know that,” she pointed out.

“Mari, stop being deliberately blind. He would have been perfectly capable of coming here and pretending to be a friend without ever getting as close to you and people that matter to you as he has. We’ll pay attention when Tyler comes back. You know all you had to do was ask. You’re not going to be able to sort out things with Tyler if you can’t be honest with yourself about what’s happening between you and Reese though. Start there.”

Wisdom imparted, Julia turned back to the stove to finish preparing dinner. Even Leilani found nothing else to add.

Be honest about what was happening between her and Reese? Now that the girls laid it out, it was harder to ignore. It had already been hard enough to dismiss before today. 

Mari drained the rest of her glass. It was going to be a long night.


<< Chapter 48

Chasing Truth: Chapter 40

Posted on 10/04/2020

Get-Out Guide: Walk through a garden at night and see local artists

The moon illuminated the quiet path Mari and Reese strolled along. Friends talked them into watching the outdoor movie starting soon. Granted, it didn’t take much convincing. Reese was always invited to something as the islanders extended their friendship. Mari never let him turn down an offer.

“You know, I’m not sure Sakina is going to let you go when it’s time. You might be more popular than me now.”

“That’s impossible.”

“I wasn’t the one who got invited tonight.”

He muttered something under his breath she knew he didn’t mean. It made her giggle. She couldn’t say what she expected when she learned he was staying with her. She enjoyed his company. He often made her laugh. The way he fit in with her friends made it even easier to have him around.

She was distracted from her thoughts when she saw the woman standing at a cart a few feet ahead. Her giggle morphed into a broad grin.

“Oh! Felicia is still open!”

Reese rolled his eyes. “Let me guess. You need one to watch the movie.”

“Well, duh. Hurry, go grab us slushies before she starts closing down.”

“C’mon.”

“You go ahead, I’ll be right here.” She stopped at the edge of a storefront. “I want to keep an eye out for the others.”

He hesitated. “Stay where I can see you.”

With thumbs up, she repeated, “Right here.”

He jogged to the stand.

“Cherry and grape mixed!” she called after him.

He shook his head, but he lifted a hand in acknowledgment.  Laughing to herself, she stepped back toward the side of the building and craned her neck in search of her friends. They would give her a hard time if they showed up late with slushies, but it would be worth it.

Her heart shot into her throat when an arm snagged around her waist as a hand covered her mouth. Someone dragged her back behind the cover of the building. She dug her fingernails into his wrist, clawing at the skin. He kept dragging her backward. She bit the hand at her mouth and violently jerked to break free. Her chest grew tight when his arm still didn’t loosen. She tried to drop her weight in a desperate attempt to slow him down.

Someone darted to her side, but she couldn’t get past the fear flooding her to make them out. She kept trying to rip free from the man’s grasp. He grunted. Suddenly she was thrust forward. She collided with someone before she lost her footing and sank to her knees. Quick footsteps thundered behind her. Scrambling unsteadily to her feet, she tried to run. The edge of the building was in sight when someone grabbed hold of her arm. She swung around, leading with her fist. It was caught in a firm grip.

“Mari. Mari! It’s Reese. I’ve got you. He’s gone.”

It took a moment for his voice to penetrate.  She collapsed into his arms, gasping for breath. Tremors racked her body. Reese’s hands stroked over her arms in brisk motion.

“I’m fine. I’m fine.”

She repeated the words to make them true while she fought for calm she didn’t feel. She was with Reese. Nothing happened to her. She was fine.

“Look at me.” The command in his tone couldn’t be ignored even in her panicked state. She pulled back just enough to lock onto his warm brown eyes. “I have you. He’s gone. You’re safe.”

“I’m safe. You have me.”

“That’s right. Just breathe.”

She nodded like a bobble head. Reese’s steady focus calmed her and gradually her breathing evened out.

“Good girl.”

She buried her face in his chest. His arms closed around her. Warmth enveloped her, bringing with it the feeling of safety. She was safe. He wouldn’t let anything happen to her. He just proved it.

“Mari? Reese? Is everything alright?” Felicia called.

“She’s good,” Reese called over his shoulder. He didn’t move from behind the shelter of the building. “It was just a robbery attempt,” he told Mari quietly.

She swallowed hard and nodded her understanding. They both knew it was more than that. He didn’t fight her when she pulled free to rub her hands over her face. He stayed close to her side as they walked back in sight.

“She’s okay,” Reese assured Felicia who was jogging toward them. “It looks like someone tried to rob her.”

Felicia sucked her teeth in annoyance. “That happens around here sometimes, during tourist season especially. Are you okay, Mari?”

Mari cleared her throat. “I’m fine. It shook me a bit. I know better. I should have been paying attention, but I was thinking about that slushy.”

“The one Reese dropped when he shot over here. Goodness, I’ve never seen anyone move so fast.” Felicia smiled up at Reese. “Thank you for taking care of our girl. Let me get you both slushies.”

She bustled back to her cart before Reese could say a word.

“Mari? What’s going on?” Leilani called as she and the others approached them from farther up the street.

“Someone tried to rob her,” Reese answered for her.

“I wasn’t paying attention. Reese scared him off. I’m fine.”

“What?” Leilani asked.

“Just now?” Julia added.

“Where did he go?” Keon demanded already angling away from them.

“Who was he? What did he look like?”

“It was probably that guy Leo said was hanging around his shop.”

“I didn’t get a good look.”

“Or that one near Laney’s!”

“Guys-” Mari tried to interject.

“Which way did he go?”

“Somebody call Garrett!”

Mari groaned at mention of the island’s sheriff. “Guys! Guys! Hey!” she yelled over them. “I’m fine. The only real problem was Reese dropping my slushy, but Felicia’s bringing me another one. So, again, I’m fine. And I was looking forward to seeing this movie. So, if everybody could just move along, that would be great.”

She beamed at Felicia and held out her hands eagerly when she approached with the drinks. “You’re a queen. Thank you.”

Julia rolled her eyes, but in spite of her concern for Mari, Leilani couldn’t muffle her giggle.

“See,” Mari said after a long sip. “Perfectly fine. Now let’s calm down and go enjoy the movie.”

Mari started walking. Slowly the group began moving down the sidewalk with her. Reese relaxed in step beside her. She let the conversation and Reese’s nearness blunt the edge of fear she could still taste. She was safe now and they had a movie to watch. She would deal with the rest later.

<< Chapter 39 Chapter 41 >>

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