Whatever Lola Wants…
The sun came shining through the bedroom window promising a beautiful day but she was still haunted by memories of the past. It would be hard going back now, but her father requested her presence and it was difficult to refuse the man that she loved endlessly. Still, the memories of eight years ago flooded her mind. Waves of pain filled her, turning her stomach and making her sick. Shaking back those memories, she pulled off the beige cotton sheets and climbed out of bed.
The digital clock on the nightstand flashed seven-thirty. In the bathroom, Paige looked herself over in the mirror above the sink. Her dark brown eyes still held what she thought was long forgotten. Shaking her head again, her chestnut hair fell into her eyes and over her shoulders. After securing her shoulder length hair in a low ponytail, she brushed her teeth and jumped in the shower. The warm water cascaded over her brown skin washing away the dredges of the previous night. She wished the water could also cleanse her of all the bad she'd been forced to live with.
Paige closed her eyes recounting the conversation that she'd had with her father the night before.
"Your mother is making a big deal about Thanksgiving again..." Winston Mayhew said cautiously. He knew that this was always a sensitive subject for Paige.
"She planning an extravagant feast as usual?" Paige would try to be civil when talking about her mother. The betrayal she experienced was still raw...but for her father, she would endure the conversation.
"You know how she gets around the holidays." The line was quiet for a moment before he continued.
"I miss you Lola." For the first time in her life, her father sounded defeated. She knew she hurt him by leaving all those years ago, but she couldn't face them.
"I know daddy and I miss you too...but.."
"Come home," he interrupted, "If only for just this once. I won't ask you again." Paige was close to tears. Her presence over the past eight years had been the only thing she denied him. The only other time he had seen her was when she secretly sent him an invitation to her graduation from Florida State University five years earlier. She had sent him one ticket because he was the only one that she wanted there. They celebrated together for three days; they were the best days of her life. He had told her mother that he had a conference to attend. They laughed and cried but never once discussed what had happened.
"Paige?" He wasn't sure if she was still there.
"You mean it?" He sounded as if a weight had been lifted off of his chest; his baby would be coming home.
"I'll be there daddy, but only for you. I'm not doing this for them." Paige's words couldn't be any clearer; she still hadn't forgiven them. It hurt him to know that his daughter carried such animosity in her heart but he never gave up hope that time would heal all of their wounds.
"That's alright, my baby is coming home and that is all that matters." Winston sounded as if he was going to cry.
"I'll make the arrangements tonight and call you back with the details." After saying their goodbyes, they hung up and Paige made the travel arrangements to Miami, Florida. Thanksgiving was in two days, that didn't give her much time to prepare herself. She knew that they would all be there; even him.
Opening her eyes, she finished her shower and donned a pair of gray wool slacks and a light blue cashmere turtleneck. It was November in Tallahassee and she knew it would be cold out. After slipping into a pair of black knee length suede boots, she pulled her hair loose from the band. She had hair like her mother; it fell across her shoulders in waves of soft chestnut brown. Paige brushed her hair into a neat bun but as always, her bangs never stayed in place and just lay in her eyes. She had promised herself that she would cut them but every time she set foot in a salon, something kept her from doing so. She heard clicking on the hardwood floor of her bedroom and turned to see Apollo standing behind her. He was her five year old black Labrador, her faithful friend. She would also be taking him on her trip to Miami. She didn't have the heart to leave him behind; besides, it was only a forty-five minute flight and she knew that he would behave.
Paige patted him between the ears affectionately and finished applying light makeup before heading out to the kitchen and feeding her friend. The kitchen looked out into the living room where her bags and Apollo's things waited. The condo boasted two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms; a large open kitchen that looked out onto the living room. But what sold her on the place were the big bay windows and the terrace; the large claw foot tub in the master bathroom didn't go unnoticed either. The clock in the kitchen read eight-fifteen; Paige called down to the lobby and ordered a cab and for her bags to be picked up.
Paige took the elevator and took Apollo out for a walk before their cab arrived. She knew he would have to go because it wasn't their first time traveling together. Plane rides made Apollo's bladder nervous so she had to make sure that he emptied it before the flight.
An hour and a half later, Paige was on board the plane awaiting take-off. Her mind wandered a bit; she wondered what they're reaction would be when they saw her. Her father had already called her to see if she was still coming but she didn't pick up the phone. She figured that she would just surprise them all. Settling into her seat, she drifted off for the remainder of the flight.
It was a cool sixty-five degrees when she stepped onto the sidewalk outside of Miami International Airport. Apollo stretched out for the fifth time. Paige could tell that he was happy to be off of the plane. Shaking her head at her friend she hailed a cab and was on her way. Her heart rate kicked up a little after giving the driver the address to her parents' Bal Harbor home. She debated whether or not she was stay in a hotel but decided that she would wait until she got there. Maybe time had healed her wounds and she just didn't know it yet. She smiled when Apollo nestled his head in her lap and went to sleep. No matter where they were, he could always sleep easily when he was near her.
As the cab turned onto the street of her old home, her heart started to race. Apollo sensed the change in her and perked up. She rubbed is head reassuringly and paid the cab driver when he stopped in front of the two-story house. The driver put her bags on the side walk and wished her a Happy Thanksgiving before taking off.
"Well, it's now or never." She said to Apollo and they made their way down the pathway and up the front steps. Taking a deep breath, she rang the doorbell. Paige had a key and knew that it would turn the lock but she had decided against using it. She and Apollo stood patiently as the door opened after what seemed like forever. A tall distinguished older man stood in the door way. Paul MacComb, her father's best friend and her Godfather, stood in disbelief. He couldn't believe he was seeing a younger replica of Janice Mayhew standing in front of him. Apollo silently moved to stand between them; he wasn't sure of the situation but his job was to make sure that his friend didn't get hurt.
"My feet hurt." Was all Paige said.
Paul laughed and replied, "Well, we're both a little too old for you to be carried." Paige laughed with him this time. He moved to hug her but then realize the seventy-six pound black Labrador that stood between them.
"It's okay Apollo, he's family." Apollo looked at her once more before standing down. His friend trusted this man, so he would trust him too, for now. Paul hugged Paige in an almost crushing embrace.
"Still as strong as I remember, no one could ever tell that you were sixty-two and not twenty-six."
"And you are still as skinny as I remember; no one could ever tell that you were twenty-six and not twelve." They laughed together again. She had forgotten how easy going he had been. His strong features made him look like he would never crack a smile but their easy banter proved otherwise.
He helped her grab her bags and led her and her companion inside the house. It had all looked the same since the day she had left. Nothing looked out of place; it was as if she had gone back in time. "So I see you travel with your own security system." Paul nudged her shoulder a bit before bending down in front of Apollo to introduce himself. When the dog didn't respond Paige gave him a cross look; Apollo didn't like it when she was mad at him so he obliged the man in front of him and greeted him. "He knows you well."
"He is well aware of who feeds him and gives him shelter." Before she could say anything else a petite woman in her sixties came into view of the foyer.
"Paul, what is taking you so long? Everyone...." She stopped mid-sentence. Karina MacComb didn't look a day out of her fifties. "Oh my Lord!" Her hand paused over her chest. Karina was also her parents' best friend and her Godmother. The tears welled up in her black eyes before she rushed towards Paige and enveloped her in a tight hug.
"I missed you too Auntie."
"How are you? When did you get here? Do they...."
"Karina will you let the girl breathe. Besides, I'm sure she wants to see her family." Paul interrupted his wife.
"Well it seems this is a cause for a double celebration." Karina said cryptically as she led Paige into the sitting room. She thought her heart would stop when she walked through the door. Two nearly identical women sat next to each other on a small sofa; one younger and one older. They both dropped their glasses and Karina and Paul went to help them.
"Whatever you're drinking must not be that good." Paige said before Apollo came in and stood beside her. He could sense the tension in the air so he looked up at Paige for guidance. She shook her head slightly and patted him between the ears signaling that it was okay. He sat down and waited to see what would happen.
The younger woman walked up to Paige and stood silently in front of her for a moment before her right hand connected with the right side of Paige's face. "Don't you think that was my line?"
"Don't you dare! You storm out of here in the middle of the night with no word to anyone and you think that you can just waltz back in here after eight years and think that everything is okay?" Chloe went off on her. Chloe Mayhew was also a young version of their mother. She was poised and elegant, everything Paige wished she would grow up to be. But that was eight years ago; Chloe was older than her by two years but at that moment, they were teenagers again. "You came back. Why? How dare you show your face here? Who told you that you could come and bring us more grief?" Chloe was yelling now and Apollo didn't like the sound of it; the hairs on the back of his neck began to rise. He stood up and let out a low growl to make everyone aware of his presence. Chloe lifted her hand to slap Paige again but a stronger hand shot out from behind Paige and stopped the offending limb.
"This is my house and I say who gets to be here." Came the commanding voice of Winston Mayhew. He was furious to see that his eldest daughter had stricken Paige and was ready to do it again.
"But daddy, she has no right to be here after what she has done to this family." Chloe protested.
"If I say she has a right to be here, then she does. You are in no position to make any judgments against your sister." Winston's tone meant that what he said was final "Am I understood?"
"Yes, father." Chloe conceded and he let her arm go. Paige turned and hugged her father fiercely. Of all the people, she had missed him the most. Apollo was equally excited to see him. It was Winston who gave Apollo to her five years earlier as a graduation gift.
After Paige and her father separated, Apollo jumped up to greet his old friend. Winston laughed genuinely and rubbed the animal between his ears. "I see you remember me." After settling the animal down, he looked up at his wife who still looked like she had seen a ghost. Her daughter was home.
"I spoke to Paige and asked her to be here. Please don't be upset Janice." Winston said to his wife who was still standing with the help of Karina. Janice walked toward her youngest daughter and just stared at her before holding her close. She felt her face and her shoulders, as if making sure that Paige wasn't some sort of apparition.
"My baby," was all her mother could manage through all of the tears. Paige stood there and said nothing; she would stand there and be civil because she knew it would hurt her father to act otherwise.
Janice and Winston led Paige to the large couch and embraced her; Apollo sat at their feet.
The sitting room door swung open again and there stood the one man that had caused her mother and sister to betray her. The man that took everything away from her that night eight years ago. Nicolas MacComb stood in the doorway as arrogant and as devastatingly handsome as ever.
"Did I miss something?"
Nicolas had clearly missed something. It was as if everyone was holding their breaths waiting to hear the needle hit the floor. Nicolas looked from his mother to his father, then his eyes shifted to the elder Mayhews. Something was off. He looked from Janice to the young woman sitting beside her and his eyes went wide. He looked to his left and saw Chloe standing near the large oak bookcase with a tight look on her face. Turning back to the young woman flanked by Winston and Janice; there was a very unfamiliar sensation of instant attraction. There was something about her that was familiar but so different at the same time; he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
Nicolas continued to stare at her until he felt a sharp pain in his ribs. Out of the right corner of his eyes, he caught a glimpse of his father's retreating elbow. The pain in his ribs was nothing compared to the pain in the nether regions of his body.
"Boy, I know we taught you better than to just stand there and stare at people." His father declared. Snapping out of it Nicolas still couldn't shake the feeling that something still wasn't quite right. He began to extend his hand toward her but froze again when he picked up on the distinct sound of a dog's growl. Apollo had uncurled himself from his comfortable place and inserted himself protectively between Nicolas and the woman. The hairs on the Labrador's neck began to rise and he bared his teeth only slightly before his master placed a hand on his back to let him know it was okay. Though he had stopped growling, he still hadn't moved.
"I know eight years is a long time, but I know I am not that much of a stranger to you, am I Nicky?" Her voice was like hot candle wax, it made his skin sizzle. Then reality suddenly sunk in. Only one person had ever gotten away with calling him Nicky.
"Paige?" he spit out in total disbelief. She nodded and the air seemed to be pulled out of his lungs once again. This time it was his mother's elbow. "I believe your father told you to stop staring at the poor child."