From the Cradle to the Grave

By NiteSkyStar

Author's Notes: Hey everyone! This chapter is actually not that different from the original one... no new scenes or anything, other than that I moved the beginning scene from Ch. 4 to the end. Just did a lot of prose editing. Ok, well, I still hope you read it (if you're an old reader). New readers... ENJOY! And PLEASE review... it means the world to me! Thank you :)

Chapter 3 – The House Guest

"Meredith, honey, it's time to get up!"

How she detested that morning wake up call. Meredith hadn't had the pleasure of hearing it for almost three long, wonderful months, and now, at that particular moment, it was the most unwelcome sound in the entire world. Opening her eyes a crack, she took a quick glance over at the clock sitting on her bedside table, shielding her sensitive eyes from the sun filtering in through the closed blinds. It was 6:10 AM. Gritting her teeth, she barely managed to suppress a scream of horror.

What on earth were schools thinking, making their poor students get up this early? Didn't they know that teenagers needed way more sleep than the average adult?

Lying there bundled up in her nice, warm comforter, Meredith would have given anything to have just snuggled back into her fluffy pillows and returned to dreamland. She let out a soft sigh, allowing her eyelids to leisurely slip shut once more, her entire body instantly going limp. Surely a few more minutes of sleep wouldn't hurt...

"Meredith Leigh Cable! Are you up yet?" her mother called through her closed door once again, her voice much more stern this time. "You don't want to be late your first day back at school!"

Letting out a long, low, tired moan, Meredith forced her heavy, drooping eyelids open once more. Finally, she sat up slowly, rubbing her eyes and yawning and stretching. "I'm getting up," she called back tiredly, stumbling out of bed, still groggy as ever. She paused to examine herself in her full-length mirror, and recoiled in disgust at her haggard reflection. There she was, dressed in a white tank top and gray sweatpants, her long blonde hair haphazardly piled up on top of her head in a messy bun, her dark brown eyes puffy from sleep and struggling to stay open.

With a sigh, she shuffled into her bathroom and turned on the shower, dragging her feet the whole way.

It was going to be a long year.


Where was she?

Tapping her foot in impatience, Meredith glanced down and checked her watch. A soft grunt of frustration escaped her lips. It was 7:25 AM, which meant school was going to start in five minutes, and here she was, still standing out on her front doorstep, waiting for her ride.

Where on earth was Paige?

Meredith sighed in annoyance, brushing a stray strand of golden hair from her eyes. This was so typical of a girl like Paige Gerard.

Paige had been Meredith's best friend since kindergarten, where they had met on a crude Four Square court drawn with colored chalk. Poor little Meredith had been crying because an older girl had stolen her red rubber ball. Paige, ever the champion of those more passive than she, had seen, confronted the older girl, and promptly punched her in the face.

Ever since then, the two had been inseparable. Paige's boldness, spontaneity, and impulsiveness complemented the more grounded, tentative Meredith perfectly. She was extremely outgoing, infectiously energetic, totally unreliable, and, obviously, never punctual. She never gave a thought to the future or the consequences of her actions; she completely lived for the moment, a trait both refreshing and mind-numbingly frustrating. In short, Paige Gerard was a small girl with a very, very big personality.

She was strikingly similar to Meredith's older sister, Victoria, in many ways, people often pointed out, but the laid back, carefree Victoria lacked Paige's intensity. An all-or-nothing type to the core in almost every aspect of her life, the girl was in turn extremely abrasive, opinionated, brash, passionate, competitive, and above all, fiercely loyal to those she cared about. The sweet-faced, petite, pretty Paige was a rough-and-tumble, no-bullshit kind of girl at heart. She was sweet as pie to those who first met her, but inside...

The two best friends were opposites in almost every regard. While Meredith was a fairly good student, Paige was a slacker. While Meredith could at times be almost painfully shy, Paige could easily strike up a conversation with just about anyone. While Meredith was on the nicer, more mild-mannered side, Paige never hesitated to speak her mind, and could be downright rude to people she didn't like. While Meredith possessed a certain almost endearing naivete that caused her to trust too easily and believe too firmly in the inherent good in human nature, the wary, skeptical, guarded Paige was the grounding force in that aspect of their relationship, always there to check the sometimes undeserved optimism her friend tended to lavish on people. Their contrariness knew no bounds.

Without a doubt, everyone in town had wondered at least once over the course of the two girls' 12-year friendship how on earth they could stand each other, much less be best friends.

But somehow, it just worked. Meredith and Paige were complete opposites... and they loved it. Their individual strengths made up for each others' weaknesses. They were two halves of a whole.

But Meredith wasn't feeling particularly loving towards her best friend right then. Yet another frustrated sigh escaping her lips, she checked her watch yet again. Of course, she had expected Paige to be a little late... the girl had never been on time for anything in her entire life. But this was too much. First day of senior year, and they were already going to have an ugly black "TARDY" mark scrawled on their attendance record.

Scanning the street once again for signs of Paige's car, Meredith finally pulled out her cell phone, poising her finger to dial her friend's number...

And right as the phone began to ring, an only-too-familiar black Mustang convertible screeched into the large circular driveway at full speed, swerving before finally stopping abruptly as it reached the front step, taking out several neatly-trimmed rose bushes along the way.

There was Paige, sitting in the front seat, chestnut brown hair streaked blonde from the summer sun blowing in the wind, smiling her usual bright smile. "Sorry I'm late!" she called, pushing her sunglasses on top of her head, green eyes flashing. "My alarm didn't go off. Now get your ass in the car!"

Rolling her eyes, Meredith put her phone back in her bag, and ran down the steps. She finally reached the car, opened the door, and hopped into the passenger seat. Squealing with excitement, the two girls exchanged a tight hug.

"I missed you so much!" Meredith said, all of her angry feelings dissipating into thin air.

"I missed you too," Paige replied with a giggle. "How was Florida? You look tan."

"I'll tell you on the way there," Meredith replied. "Right now, we have to get to school."

"You got it," Paige replied with a grin, putting her sunglasses back down on her nose. "Buckle up, 'cause I'm gonna be breaking the speed limit by at least 20 miles per hour to get us to there on time."

Meredith laughed, putting on her seat belt. "Yes, ma'am."

"Ooo, I love this song!" Paige squealed as loud rock music began blaring on the radio. "Turn it up!"

Meredith obliged, reaching forward and turning up the dial, the rock music blasting through the speakers.

"Senior year, here we come!" Paige shouted. And with that, they zoomed off, the revving of the engine mingling with the two girls' screams of excitement.


The front courtyard of O'Connell High School was already absurdly crowded by the time Paige's convertible roared into the student parking lot. Slamming her foot onto the break, the car screeched to a halt.

"Good thing I was wearing my seatbelt," Meredith muttered under her breath as she shouldered her bag. "Jeez, Paige, I swear to god you need to re-take your driving test."

"Oh, shut up, Cable," Paige retorted, sticking out her tongue and taking off her sunglasses. "I got you here on time, didn't I? In fact..." She glanced at the radio clock. "We're here early, giving you plenty of time to socialize."

Meredith gave her a look. "Yeah... because you ran three red lights."

"Um, I'm going colorblind, ok?" Paige snapped, throwing up her hands and getting out of the car.

A small smile creeping on her lips, Meredith followed, stepping out of the car and slamming the door behind her, her long, shining blonde hair blowing in the breeze. Then, side by side with Paige, the two girls entered the courtyard, ready to start their last year of high school. Squealing in a rather juvenile fashion, she and Paige headed over to the rest of the varsity field hockey team, exchanging hugs and comparing tans and sharing stories about their crazy summers.

For Meredith, it was just like any other first day of school at O'Connell. The year was starting out perfectly normal.

But what she didn't know was that the upcoming year was going to be anything but normal; in fact, it was going to be a year that would turn her life upside down... a tumultuous, chaotic, soap-operatic year that would end up changing everything forever.


All was quiet in the Cable household.

Meredith was at field hockey practice. Her father was sitting comfortably in his favorite armchair, reading the paper after another exhausting day at the firm. His wife was absorbed in the novel she was reading for book club. The only sound was the quiet panting of their dog Princess, who appeared to be chasing a squirrel in her dream.

The phone rang, disturbing the comfortable silence.

Andrea let out a slight sigh of annoyance, putting her book down. "I'll get it," she announced, rising to her feet and walking into the kitchen. She picked up the phone and held it up to her ear.


A deep, rich baritone voice was heard on the other end. "Hello... is this the Cable residence?"

Andrea narrowed her eyes in puzzlement. The voice sounded like that of a younger man... it was probably just another boy calling for Meredith. "Yes, it is," she replied tentatively.

A slight pause. "May I speak to Mrs. Cable, please?"

Her eyes widened in surprise. "Speaking," she said slowly, her curiosity whetted. "Can I help you?"

"Oh, hi Mrs. Cable. This is Chris Shumway. How are you? It's been a really long time."

Andrea almost dropped the phone for her surprise. This was Christopher Shumway? Christopher Shumway, the tall, scrawny, clumsy teenager with huge glasses? It certainly didn't sound like him...

No. It couldn't be.

Could it?

"I don't know if you remember me. I used to babysit for your two youngest daughters when I was a teenager," Chris continued.

"Yes, yes, Christopher, of course. Don't be silly. How could I forget you?" she cut him off, still reeling from surprise.

A soft, pleasant chuckle on the other end of the line. "Just wanted to be sure."

A moment of silence. Andrea kept struggling to find something to say, but was drawing a complete blank, overcome with shock. She tried to picture the skinny teenager she had known all those years ago, all bones and too-long limbs and over-sized hands and feet. Could it be true what the women at the country club had been saying? That he had blossomed into a handsome, charming, debonair young man? It seemed impossible, but the deep, self-assured, decidedly manly voice on the other end of the phone seemed to suggest otherwise...

"So how have you been?" Chris asked finally, breaking the pause.

"I've been wonderful, thank you," Andrea replied, still steadying herself. "And you?"

"I've been great, thanks," Chris answered. "But needless to say, a lot's changed since I last saw you." He chuckled. In spite of herself, Andrea felt a thrill course down her spine. It was deep and throaty and pleasant. She liked it.

Andrea giggled. "Yes, I'm sure," she said. "I haven't seen you or your family in ages! It's been much too long."


A slightly awkward pause.

"So, how's everything with the rest of the family?" Chris asked pleasantly after a moment.

"Everyone is great, thank you."

"How are the girls?"

"The girls are wonderful. Katrina's in her last year at Harvard Medical School, Victoria's studying theater at Florida State, and Meredith's just beginning her senior year of high school." Rattling off the current activities of each of her three children was becoming automatic; the question was asked so frequently by old friends and distant relatives she didn't even have to think about it anymore. "And how are your parents doing? I've heard your father's been temporarily transferred to Paris on business."

"They're doing great. And you heard correctly," Chris replied. "They're having an amazing time... I think they want to stay forever." He chuckled quietly. "But they both send their best. Frankly, part of the reason I called is because my mom wants me to be her emissary... she misses you and has been pestering me for days to get updates."

Andrea laughed. "Well, please send them my love. And tell your mom I miss her too. It really has been way too long."

Another moment of silence, slightly more comfortable this time.

"Look, I'm so sorry for calling randomly out of the blue like this, and I know it's been years since we've talked," Chris said apologetically, "but I also wanted to ask you something."

"Yes?" Andrea asked, more curious than ever at that point.

"Well, I don't know if you've heard already, but I'm move—"

"Moving back here to New York on business," Andrea finished for him with a grin. "Yes. I've already heard. News travels fast in this town, if you remember correctly. You know how much everyone loves to gossip."

He laughed heartily. "Very true. But anyway... I'm going to be arriving in New York tomorrow evening. The old owners of my new apartment haven't completely finished moving out yet, so it turns out I'm going to be staying in a hotel for a few days. I was just calling to see if you wouldn't mind me just dropping by for a visit. I haven't seen you all in ages and I would love to catch up."

"Oh, Christopher!" Andrea cried, jumping at the opportunity. "Don't be silly! No need to stay in a hotel. Please, come and stay with us! We have an extra guest bedroom you could stay in. Oh, it will be lovely. We can all have some time to catch up."

"Mrs. Cable, that's an incredibly generous offer," he said, sounding slightly taken aback. "But I don't think I can accept. It's such short notice and I don't think it's fair that…"

"No, Christopher, I insist," Andrea, ever the proponent of Southern hospitality, said firmly. "You are coming to stay with us for as long as you need. And that's final."

"Are you sure?" he asked slowly, sounding hesitant. "Because if it's too much trouble..."

"We would absolutely love to have you," Andrea cut him off. "End of discussion. Now, when are you going to get here?"

"My flight lands around three, I think. So... hopefully six or seven? I wanted to swing by the office and the new apartment to take care of some things first, if that's OK."

"That sounds perfect," she replied. "Well, we'll have your bedroom made up for you by then. Don't eat dinner before you come... you're not getting out of sitting down to eat with us! I want to hear all about your exciting adventures in Los Angeles."

"Well, not sure you could quite call my life in L.A. 'exciting', but I wouldn't dream of missing dinner, of course. Thank you so much, Mrs. Cable," he replied gratefully. "I really appreciate it. I can't wait to see you all again."

"Christopher, for the ten thousandth time, call me Andrea!" Andrea insisted. "I've been telling you since you were a teenager, and it still hasn't gotten through your head."

He laughed sheepishly. "Sorry, Andrea," he said, purposefully putting the emphasis on her name. "My apologies. Old habits die hard."

"Much better," Andrea said with a chuckle.

"Well, Andrea, I'd love to chat more, but I've got a late meeting," Chris said finally. "I'll see you tomorrow evening and thank you so much again for your hospitality."

"Of course, Christopher. We'll have plenty of time to chat during your stay. I can't wait to see you tomorrow. I'm very much looking forward to it," Andrea chirped.

"Same here," he replied, genuine warmth in his voice. "Bye, Andrea. It was great talking to you again."


Andrea replaced the phone back on its cradle, an excited, yet tentative smile lighting up her lovely features.

So Christopher Shumway was coming to stay with them for a couple of days.


Though the voice on the other end of the line had been decidedly different from the one she remembered, his mannerisms had appeared to stay the same; warm, friendly, engaging, incredibly polite and respectful.

So now the question was:

How exactly had he changed after all these years?

Of course, all of the gossiping women at the country club had eagerly informed her that Christopher Shumway was now apparently a handsome, successful, charming ladies' man. But you could never really be sure with that bunch; information passed along by word of mouth tended to end up being so twisted that it was impossible to separate the truth from their gossip. So who knew? She was eager to see this new, older, hopefully improved Chris Shumway for herself. Just the thought of it made her giggle with anticipation.

"Wes, you'll never guess who just called," she began, turning to her husband.

He looked up from his paper, staring at her expectantly over his glasses. "Who?"

And right as she opened her mouth to speak, Meredith stumbled through the door from the garage, fresh from field hockey practice and still dressed in her sport bra and loose mesh shorts. "I'm home!" she called, tossing her athletic bag carelessly to the side and kicking off her cleats in the mud room.

Both of them turned to look at her. "Hi, Meredith," they greeted her simultaneously.

Meredith, her toned, tan body still glistening with sweat, looked up at them and smiled tiredly as she slowly made her way into the living room. "Hey, Mom. Hey, Dad."

"How was your first day of senior year?"

"Good," Meredith said, flicking her blonde ponytail out of her flushed, rosy face and taking a long swig from her water bottle. She finished, licked her lips, and wiped her mouth off with the back of her hand. "It was nice seeing everyone after summer and getting a chance to catch up."

Both parents beamed at her, clearly happy to hear that her first day had gone well. "How was field hockey?" her father asked, his interest peaked. "Did Coach Davis tell you when the scouts are coming yet?"

"Practice was good," Meredith replied rather vaguely. "Good, but tiring. And no, he didn't." Raising her delicate hand up in the air, she tilted her head to take a whiff of her armpit. She wrinkled her nose in disgust, sticking her tongue out. "Ew, I'm so stinky!" she exclaimed. "I need to take a shower."

And before her parents could get another word in, she was walking purposefully down the hall in the direction of the stairs.

Her mother sighed. It was always impossible to corner that girl to have a conversation. "Wait, Meredith? Can you come back in here for a minute, please?"

After a moment, Meredith popped her head back into the living room. "Yeah, Mom?"

"It's about tomorrow. Do you remember—?"

"Oh, yeah, speaking of tomorrow," Meredith interrupted, reaching up and absent-mindedly playing with the strands of her scruffy ponytail. "Can I go over to Paige's house to study after practice? We've got a test in English on our summer reading."

"Meredith, let me finish," her mother said, sounding slightly agitated. "That's exactly what I wanted to talk to you about. I'm sorry, but no, you can't do anything after practice tomorrow because we have a guest coming over around 6 or 7."

"A guest?" Meredith cried. "Who?"

"Do you remember Chris Shumway?" Andrea asked.

Meredith stared at her dumbly, a totally blank look in her big brown eyes. "Chris Shumway?" she repeated after a moment. The name sounded strangely familiar, but for some reason, she was having trouble placing it at the moment. She heaved a deep sigh, too exhausted and worn-out from her long day to even begin to rack her brain for the answer. "No, sorry."

"Oh, come on, Meredith, yes, you do," her mother replied. "You know, James and Elizabeth's son. He's a year younger than Katrina. He used to babysit you when you were younger, until he went off to college, that is..."

The name was resonating clearer and clearer in her mind as the seconds wore on, but for some reason, Meredith still couldn't remember a thing about this Chris Shumway character. She narrowed her eyes in thought, trying desperately to conjure up memories of her childhood. Babysitters... how was she supposed to remember a specific one out of the hundreds she had been forced to put up with her for tortuous hours on end over the years?

"Um..." She thought harder, straining her tired brain. Chris Shumway... it was going to bother her all night if she didn't remember who he was now. "Um... sorry, Mom, I'm just so out of it right now. My brain isn't working."

Damn her mental incompetence. She had always had the absolute worst memory. The girl couldn't remember what she'd had for breakfast that day, much less some ex-babysitter she knew when she was six.

"Meredith, I can't believe you don't remember him!" Andrea sounded scandalized. "You simply adored Christopher! He was very tall and skinny… he had big glasses and short brown hair and blue eyes... kind of a geeky boy..."

And suddenly, it clicked.

Of course.

She remembered Chris Shumway. How could she have forgotten? The kind, sweet, funny, if slightly awkward boy who had watched her so many nights all those years ago. Age-old memories of his acne-covered, bespectacled face smiling down at her much younger self suddenly came rushing back, images of them playing hopscotch, shooting hoops, and watching movies together flooding her brain. In spite of herself, a fond, slightly nostalgic smile began to spread across her face.

"Oh, yeah!" she exclaimed, giving her mother a triumphant look. "Chris Shumway. I remember him. I totally loved him back then. He was always so nice to me."

Her mother looked quite pleased at this response. "That's good. Well, you two will have plenty of time to catch up. He's going to be staying with us for a couple of days!"

"Oh... that's nice," Meredith replied pleasantly.

"He's moving back to New York from across the country for work. Apparently, the people who are selling him his apartment aren't done moving out yet, so he was going to stay in a hotel. And so, of course, naturally, I invited him to stay with us for a few days," her mother continued with a smile. "We're all going to sit down to dinner tomorrow. Isn't that just wonderful? It will be so great to see him again."

Meredith stared at her blankly, feeling the apathy begin to well up inside of her as it always did. Sure, Chris Shumway had been a wonderful babysitter and playmate to her when she was younger, if she remembered correctly... but she was 17 now; not exactly that same little girl anymore. It had been years and years and years since she had even heard his name uttered... and her mother still somehow expected her to be thrilled? And besides, her and Paige had other, more important plans for the following evening.

"Um, yeah, that's... great," she said, forcing a smile. "But I can still go over to Paige's tomorrow right? Chris and I can catch up another night."

"Meredith, have you been listening to a word I've been saying?" Andrea demanded calmly, raising a disapproving eyebrow at her youngest child. "No, you can't. And I don't know why you'd want to anyway. You have Christopher! He can probably help you study! He's very smart."

Meredith stared at her mother for a moment, looking surprised at her rejection. "Mom, why not?" she asked. "I really need to study and Paige does too!"

"You see Paige every day of your life," her mother insisted. "You haven't seen Christopher in years! You can't go out on the night our guest arrives."

"But Mom," Meredith whined, throwing up her hands. "That's the only way I'm gonna get a good grade on this thing! Paige takes such good notes!"

"You and Paige can study separately, Meredith," her mother retorted.

"But Mom, you said he's staying for a few days, right? I can just see him later..."

"No, Meredith, absolutely not! End of discussion!" Andrea snapped, her calm voice raised just a slight bit above its normal volume level. "You will stay here tomorrow night for dinner, and that's final. Do you understand?"

Meredith threw her mother a rather livid glare, feeling the anger and disappointment rapidly begin to rise inside of her. She knew she was being a brat... but at that moment, she couldn't help it. "OK, if you want me to fail! Go ahead!" she cried, throwing up her hands in frustration. Giving one last huffy sigh, she stalked down the hall and clumped noisily up the stairs, slamming her bedroom door behind her.

Her mother and father exchanged exasperated looks.

"Teenagers," her father grumbled, rolling his eyes. "So dramatic!"


"So I can't go! We're having a guest over tomorrow night and my mom wants me to stay and hang out with them," Meredith said frustratedly, holding the cordless phone skillfully between her shoulder and ear as she carefully painted her toenails a rather shocking shade of magenta. She had just gotten out of the shower several minutes prior, and was sitting on the toilet in her lime green bathroom, wrapped up in a fluffy white bath towel, blonde hair still soaking wet, skin still shining with moisture.

"Man, that sucks," Paige replied on the other end of the line. "Do you think they said 'no' 'cause you're having guest, or because she suspected we weren't gonna be doing anything even close to studying?" She giggled slightly.

The corners of Meredith's lips couldn't help but turn up at that one. "Oh, they definitely had no idea. My parents are so amazingly clueless. I mean, we've snuck out like a million times without them noticing." She sighed loudly, wrinkling her nose. "God, I'm so bummed! I was dying to go to that concert."

"Yeah, it's a shame," Paige said sadly. "But not to worry, there will be other opportunities."

A moment of comfortable silence. The golden-haired girl paused to examine her fuchsia nails and grinned at the blinding shade.

"So, fill me in on your guest," Paige requested, breaking the silence. "Who is it?"

"This guy named Chris Shumway. His parents and my parents have been friends forever. He used to babysit me when I was little," she replied, screwing up her face as she strained to remembered all of the details her mother had so eagerly told her. "Um... apparently he's moving back to the city for work and my mom offered to let him stay with us for a few days before he moves into his new apartment."

"Do you even remember him?"

"I mean, sure," she replied after a moment, shrugging. "Bits and pieces, anyway. He was my favorite babysitter as a kid. But it's been years, you know? He hasn't even so much as crossed my mind in ages."

"Yeah, I know what you mean," Paige said. A slight pause, before the inevitable question came. "So... is he hot?"

Meredith laughed knowingly, working her slim fingers through the tangles of her damp tresses. "How did I know you were going to ask that?" she said with a giggle. "I know you way too well."

"Just answer the question," Paige insisted. "Tell me. Is he? 'Cause if he is..."

"Is that all you ever care about? Why are you asking me?" Meredith said defensively, cutting her off. "I have no clue! I told you, I haven't seen him since I was in like third grade or something."

"I thought that maybe you'd seen pictures."

"Nope," Meredith answered, shaking her head. "Hate to break it to you, but back in the day, he was kind of a nerd. Really, really sweet and such a great guy, but definitely pretty geeky. He was really tall and skinny and kind of awkward, from what I remember. No clue what he's like now, though. Like I said, it was a really long time ago. Why do you care, anyway?"

"Damn it," Paige muttered. "Once a nerd always a nerd, I say. I mean, we all have that secret hope that one day all the super nice, but kind of geeky guys we know will suddenly have a massive growth spurt and magically become gorgeous, but that's incredibly rare. So that's too bad."

Meredith shrugged. "Yeah, I mean, who knows? But somehow, I doubt it. I remember he always had the biggest crush on Katrina... but of course, in typical Katrina fashion, she never gave him a second look. So yeah, I wouldn't get your hopes up, Paige. Besides, it's not like it matters... he's way older than us anyway." She chuckled slightly for a moment as she remembered something. "Actually, I think I had a bit of a crush on him back then. But only because he was older and he was so nice to me, you know? Just one of those stupid crushes you have when you're, like, eight and you don't really know any better."

"Oooo," Paige cooed. "Little Meredith was in love with her babysitter? That's scandalous." She laughed. "Who knows, maybe you two can rekindle the flame."

"Oh, right," Meredith scoffed, sarcasm dripping off of every word. "Definitely."

...not, she thought to herself.

She was in for a huge surprise.


The night came and went, the vast expanse of inky darkness settling over the small town, before being pushed out by the stubbornly resilient golden light of the morning sun.

And while Meredith lay in bed fast asleep, not yet having been so rudely awoken by her dreaded alarm clock, all the way across the country, the city of Los Angeles was wide awake and bustling.

On that particular crisp September morning, a certain young man who appeared to be in his mid-20's was sitting in one of the black leather seats in the Los Angeles International Airport doing exactly what every other person in the place was doing: waiting.

In his case, for a nonstop flight to John F. Kennedy International in New York, New York.

His home town.

But his homecoming was the last thing on his mind right at that particular moment. There was no time for relaxation and daydreaming; he had work to do. He'd been sitting there for almost an hour, making numerous business calls on his Blackberry as he whisked his fingers nimbly over the keys of his laptop. He had completely tuned out everyone and everything else around him, and was lost in his own little world where nothing existed but work, work, work. Anything that would have otherwise served as a distraction was off his radar; he was a pro at multi-tasking.

He looked slightly frazzled; his dress shirt was wrinkled, his tie hung loosely askew around his neck, and there were dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep. However, it most certainly didn't seem to hinder his work ethic... he continued yammering away on his cell phone like there was no tomorrow, work papers strewn haphazardly around him in disorganized piles.

"No. No, Tom, we can't do that. I'm sorry, but it would be impossible. No... I don't even have the authority to make that decision. Look, take it to the CEO or something... it's his problem, not ours... I don't know, but do something about it! Look, sorry, but I don't have time to deal with this now... I'll call you when I get to New York... I'm getting another call. Yeah, bye. Hello? Oh, hey Mom, or should I say 'bonjour'." A deep, throaty chuckle. "Yeah, I know that was corny... nah, my flight's delayed. How's everything across the pond in Paris? Great... I'm fine... agh, I'm getting another call... yes, I'll call you when I get to the Cables'. Bye Mom... Hello? Tom, didn't I tell you we'd talk about this later...?"

A monotone female voice came on over the intercom then, interrupting his phone conversation.

"Flight 923 for American Airlines will now begin boarding at this time."

"Oh, I have to go... my flight's finally boarding... yeah, I'll call you when I get to New York... later." A relieved grin spreading over his handsome face, he eagerly slammed his laptop shut and scrambled to gather up all of his papers. Lugging his carry-on bag behind him, he strode up to the attractive blonde flight attendant in front of the gate and thrust his ticket at her. He smiled that easygoing, adorable crooked smile of his.

"Good morning."

At the sound of his deep, rich, sexy voice, the blonde couldn't help but feel a pleasant tingle shoot down her spine. "Good morning, sir." She gave him the good old head-to-toe appraisal with admiring wide eyes, an internal commentary on his noteworthy qualities playing in her head as she looked him up and down. Tall and broad-shouldered and built. Tanned from the harsh rays of the California summer sun. Short dark brown hair perfectly disheveled in an oh-so-sexy way. Eyes so brilliantly blue she felt like she could almost dive right into them for a refreshing swim. The corners of her lips turned up, forming a rather flirtatious smile.

"Thank you for choosing American Airlines," she said, tearing off part of his ticket before handing it back to him, unable to take her eyes off of him. "Have a nice flight."

He smirked. "Thank you. I'm sure I will."

She felt her heart jump into her throat as he fixed her with his intense azure gaze. It was only too easy to get lost in those two deep, glittering pools of turquoise.

"H-Have a nice day," she finally managed to stammer, inwardly kicking herself for how idiotic she sounded.

But he paid no heed. Instead, he gave her a friendly nod of acknowledgment. "Thanks. You too." And, flashing her one last little half-smile, he disappeared down the hallway and onto the plane.

The flight attendant watched him go with a wistful sigh.

With him gone, Los Angeles had just become a little bit uglier.

Notes: Hmmm, well, gee, wonder who that could be? ;) Thanks everyone and PLEASE REVIEW! Thank you :)