The Runaway Bride

Bengerman Lobes was awakened from a deep sleep by the repeated ringing of the front doorbell. Startled awake, he glanced at the bedside clock: 2:47 a.m. The ringing had an ominous 'somebody's dead' feel to it as he stumbled from the bed and staggered to the front door, still half asleep despite his racing heart. He opened the door expecting to see a Hillsboro Police Officer. Instead he saw a familiarly attractive woman standing in the shadows although it took him a moment to place her.

"Phoebe?" He heard himself mumble.

"Bengerman." She said it as if she was announcing a spelling bee contestant.

She looked just as beautiful in person as she did on the television even without the studio makeup accenting her natural features. Her long blonde hair and fair skin sparkled even in the night shadows but she wasn't wearing her news anchor wardrobe, clad in a pair of short jean cut offs and a loose fitting shirt instead.

"What are you doing here?" Bengerman asked with amazement, staring at her like she was Marley's Ghost.

"Can I come in?" She wanted to know.

Was that a trick question? Bengerman quickly ran the options through his head and in an instant the only sane conclusion he could reach was how could he say no?

"Sure," he said stepping back.

"Oh, wait," Phoebe frowned, glancing toward her black sporty BMW coupe parked in the driveway. "Is there anywhere I can hide my car?"

"Are the cops looking for you?" Bengerman frowned.

"Not yet," she replied mysteriously

"I think it will fit in the garage," Bengerman said, peering at the vehicle. "I'll move my car and open the garage door for you."

"Thanks," Phoebe said, turning and heading for her car.

Bengerman slipped back into the house to grab the car keys and he then pranced barefooted out the front door in nothing but his gym shorts and an old Yale tee shirt, tiptoeing up the side of the driveway to his car which he climbed into and moved onto the grass. He glanced at the small garage that looked like the Leaning Tower of Pisa as he approached it and he opened the old squeaky rusty hinged single door. He hit the inside light which – rather amazing went on – and he quickly kicked aside some empty cardboard boxes and moved some other clutter so Phoebe could safely maneuver her BMW inside. There was barely enough room for her to slip out from the car door and Bengerman turned off the light and closed the rickety old door, hiding the expensive car with the New York license plate inside.

"The Batmobile is safely in the Batcave," he said as he walked Phoebe back to the house.

Bengerman wondered what Phoebe thought of his 'estate' – a rundown seventy year old doll house of a bungalow badly in need of new shingles and a replacement roof. The yard was potted with weeds and sickly looking grass. It was, in essence, a dump. The interior was in fairly better shape – he had made the effort to get rid of the gross looking old wallpaper and paint the place in bright new colors. He also modernized the kitchen and replaced the faded old carpet with new wall to wall rugs. His furniture selection went well with the shape of the rooms.

"What are you doing here, Phoebe?" Bengerman asked, gesturing for her to have a seat on the couch. "We haven't seen each other in what, ten years?"

"Has it been that long?" Phoebe asked innocently as she plopped onto the couch.

"How'd you even find me?" Bengerman asked with interest as he took a seat in one of the two arm chairs in the room.

"I had your address from the wedding invitation list," she reported. "You never RSVP'ed, by the way."

"Ah, your wedding," Bengerman recalled, nodding his head with understanding. "Wait," he realized. "Isn't that…today?"

"Now you know what I'm doing here," Phoebe remarked.

"Holy Shit," Bengerman groaned.

"If anybody calls looking for me, I'm not here, okay?" She asked desperately.

"Why would anybody think you'd come here?"

"Because it's the last place to look," she theorized.

"I guess that's true," Bengerman agreed.

"So, you weren't coming to my wedding?" Phoebe accused.

"That's not why you're here," Bengerman replied.

"No, but you weren't coming to my wedding?" She asked again.

He sighed. "No," he admitted sheepishly.

"Why not?"

"Phoebe, come on," he groaned.

"I was hurt when I realized you never responded to the invitation."

"Well, it's a mute point anyway," Bengerman told her. "Looks like there isn't going to be a wedding."

"You didn't know that until now," She pouted. "Why weren't you coming to my wedding?"

"I can think of about a million reasons," Bengerman responded.

"Name three," she demanded.

"I'm estranged from my family who are going to be there for one," Bengerman replied. "And I don't want to be around that crowd again."

"My family, you mean?" She smirked.

"And all the big cheese friends, socialites and celebrities that were undoubtedly invited," he added.

"And what's the third reason, Ben?" She asked knowingly.

"You're marrying the wrong guy," he said quietly. "But I'm guessing your presence here indicates that you figured that out too."

"Do you have any booze around?" Phoebe asked. "I could use a stiff drink."

Bengerman sprang from his chair and went to a cabinet in the corner of the room. "Whiskey?"

"Straight up," she replied.

He pulled out a shot glass and poured the whiskey into it.

"Bring the bottle," Phoebe requested when he started for the couch.

Bengerman grabbed the bottle and brought her both the drink glass and the bottle.

"You're going to let me drink alone?" She protested as she emptied the contents of the shot glass down her throat.

"It's the middle of the night," he pointed out, collapsing back into his chair.

"That never stopped you before," she grinned.

"We're not kids anymore," Bengerman countered.

Phoebe refilled the shot glass three more times and emptied them all into her stomach.

"Maybe that's enough," Bengerman suggested.

"I'm going to be in so much deep shit when they find me gone in the morning," she moaned while placing her face in her hands.

"Nobody saw you leave?" Begerman asked as he leaned across the coffee table and moved the whiskey bottle out of her reach.

Phoebe shook her head no. "I made pretty good time from Westport, didn't I?" She asked, lifting her hands away from her face. "I left at midnight."

"It's a pretty straight shot," Bengerman replied.

She glanced around the room, as if she was seeing it for the first time. "You live here alone?"

"Presently," he acknowledged.

"I could go somewhere else if this is too inconvenient and weird for you," she offered.

"Like where?" He frowned.

"I don't know," Phoebe admitted. "I really didn't plan any of this out when I took off. I was half way up the interstate before I remembered you lived in Hillsboro or I probably would have kept on going until I hit Canada."

"You're a celebrity," Bengerman reminded her. "Phoebe Gilson, Global News Network. You can't go anywhere, especially to the border patrol at the Canada border."

"I suppose," she sighed.

"Hide out here until you figure out what you're going to do."

"Still the same ole Benji-man," Phoebe smiled with appreciation. "Thanks."

"You want the couch?" He asked.

She looked at him with annoyance, crossing her arms in defiance. "No way!"

"I guess I'll take it then," Bengerman deferred. "You can have the bed upstairs in the loft."

She groaned with disapproval. "What's the matter? You afraid your reputation is going to be ruined if we share a bed together?"

Bengerman shrugged. "I was just trying to respect your boundary space."

"Jesus Christ, Benger, we've known each other since we were eight."

"Okay," Bengerman replied. "Let's go upstairs."

Phoebe nodded in agreement and she followed her friend up the stairs once he turned the lights off. The upstairs consisted of one huge loft bedroom with a large bathroom off of one end. The nest-like loft was furnished with a king sized bed, a couch, three dressers, and a large work bench with several computers across the front wall with the double window overlooking the street.

"Are you still a pervert?" Phoebe teased as she dropped onto the unmade bed where Bengerman had been awakened a while ago.

"As much as you," he joked in reply, claiming his side of the bed and pulling the cover sheet over him.

"So, nothing's changed!" Phoebe laughed as she tried to find a comfortable position in the bed, still dressed in her clothes.

Bengerman leaned over and turned off the bedside lamp.

"Do you think this is weird?" Phoebe asked after a few quiet moments in the dark.

"Not for us," Bengerman answered, turning his head and peering at her. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

"No," she admitted.

"Sleep on it," he suggested. "See how you feel in the morning. You'd still have time to make it back in time for the ceremony."

"How in the hell could I possibly do that?" She moaned. "The horse is already out of the barn as they say."

Bengerman rolled over to face her. She was lying on her back staring at the ceiling. "Well then, don't second guess yourself," he advised.

"I've been second guessing myself my entire life," she grumbled, turning her head and looking at him. "You're the only one who knows how crazy I really am."

"I know how much you drove me crazy," Bengerman qualified.

"That's because you've wanted to climb into bed with me like this since we were fourteen," Phoebe told him.

"So many nights I fantasized about it," Bengerman admitted. "I wished for it to come true."

"Well, now it has," Phoebe replied. "Only you can't fuck me."

"I know," Bengerman sighed. "That's why it's going to be a long night."

She laughed as she cuddled close to him. "It's surprising how fast time flies," she sighed. "It seems like only yesterday that we were puberty-prone hormonal adolescent perverts wanting to get naked together."

"I can't believe I finally get you into my bed and it's on the eve of your wedding day," he groaned.

"I've always been in your head," Phoebe bragged.

"I know," he recalled. "But we still haven't had sex."

"Almost though," she reminded him. "I sure was horny that time you came over for dinner."

"You were always horny back then," Bengerman said.

"And you were always scared."

Bengerman didn't deny it. She was always scaring the hell out of him with her comments, her behaviors, her attitudes, and her 'don't care' mentality. On the night in question Bengerman came to her house for dinner (their parents were good friends and business associates). He ended up in Phoebe's bedroom later and for some reason, the fifteen year old Phoebe decided to strip naked and she tried to entice him into having sex but he was to chicken and she ended up beating him up in frustration and as he lay on the floor groaning, bloody and bruised she fell on him and kissed him, sucking the blood from his bloodied lip as she pressed her bare breasts against his chest but then she broke out in sobs and fell off of him, lying on her stomach on the soft carpet of her bedroom floor crying with her head buried in her arms and he sat up and looked at her lovely fanny without saying anything until she finally kicked him out of her room.

"You're not going to beat me up this time, are you?" Bengerman wondered.

"No, not this time," she said, stifling a yawn.

"Go to sleep," he said.

"I'm supposed to be getting married."

"I know," he replied.

"We spent a year planning, organizing, and getting ready," she groaned. "We probably sunk three hundred and fifty grand into it so far. My parents' back yard looks like the Queen is coming."

"It's not as if you guys can't afford it," Bengerman said. "Maybe they'll have a party without you."

"What was I thinking?" Phoebe moaned.

"Why the second thoughts?" Bengerman wanted to know. "You've been with this guy for a long time."

"Maybe too long," she sighed.

"How so?"

"In the last year or so I've been really questioning whether or not this is the right thing to do."

"Why?"

"Because it almost feels like an arranged marriage from the start," She complained. "Our families are enmeshed in social circles and business ties. We started dating in college almost by default. Our family business connections gave us our starts at Global News Network, Toddy quickly working his way up the executive ladder and me becoming the on-air talent."

"Are you saying it's a marriage of convenience?" Bengerman asked. "A career enhancement?"

"I don't know what I'm saying," she sighed. "Toddy always says we make a great power couple but he doesn't talk that much about being a romantic couple. There are more GNN people invited to the wedding than family and friends!"

"Do you love him?"

"I'm not so sure anymore," she confessed.

"Maybe you're just not ready to be married to anybody," Bengerman theorized.

"I'd like to be swept off my feet," Phoebe countered. "I've always been a romantic at heart. But I think my family's social status and all the business ties took all the fun out of it. Toddy is all about the business of marriage and not the romance of marriage"

"Sorry," Bengerman said.

"Plus, I think we're both evolving as individuals and in our political philosophies," Phoebe theorized. "We pretty much started out in the same places – fiscal conservatives and traditional Republicans although I was always more socially liberal."

"GNN tends to lean to the right," Bengerman noted.

"But I find myself becoming more disillusioned with what we do every day," Phoebe confessed. "Our ideologies and political viewpoints tend to cloud truth and fair reporting. We play favorites. We bury or ignore facts. We make excuses. We project our own agenda."

"The new media," Bengerman noted cynically. "It's why I bailed long ago."

"Maybe I'm bailing now," Phoebe realized. "You know about the congressman who got busted for diddling his seventeen year old step daughter, right?"

"Unfortunately," Bengerman replied.

"He was a friend of GNN," she sighed. "He'd been on almost every other week for the past few years promoting family values and social conservativism and when this story broke we didn't even mention it on air."

"MSNBC and CNN beat it to death," Bengerman said.

"Here's a guy doing Fifty Shades of Gray on his third wife's teenaged daughter while preaching marriage between a man and a woman," Phoebe grumbled. "We got into a huge fight over that one because Toddy wouldn't let me talk about it on the air. We're just as big a hypocrite as that son of a bitch is and I find myself questioning my ethical soul staying in the business at this level."

"I don't blame you," Bengerman replied.

"We're supposed to report the news not hide it," she grumbled.

"Maybe your Politics are changing," Bengerman suggested.

"Maybe," she said quietly.

"Go to sleep," Bengerman told her. "It's late."

"Or early, depending on your perspective," Phoebe countered.

They both eventually fell asleep but it was a quick night. Phoebe had to piss out the whiskey (and the power drink she downed during her drive) at the crack of dawn and Bengerman awoke to the sounds of her tinkles through the open door of the bathroom. Phoebe never really got back to sleep after that tossing, turning and fretting as she thought about the chaos that was about to break out at her parents' house when it was discovered there was a runaway bride.

Phoebe realized sleep was impossible so she abandoned the bed and went downstairs, grabbing the bottle of whiskey Bengerman had left on the floor by the corner of the coffee table. She went into the kitchen and took a seat at the table, staring at the whiskey bottle while debating what her plan of action should be. Get hopelessly drunk until she forgot everything and woke up from a black out three days later? Get in the car and drive back to Westport, claiming she had been abducted by aliens? Go upstairs and fuck Bengerman's lights out so she could tell the groom she cheated on him on the morning of their wedding day to justify calling off the marriage?

A defeated and confused Phoebe buried her head in her hands and groaned with despair. She had definitely fucked up her life big time this time. Network executives were attending the wedding of their up and coming rising star anchor to their future network president. People Magazine had exclusive rights to the ceremony. Shit was definitely going to hit the fan when Phoebe failed to appear for her nuptials. How long would it take for word to get out and for TMZ to run full press with the story? How would Global News Network handle the embarrassment? Would she be fired for running out on them?

"Don't worry, there are no guns in the house."

Phoebe looked up to see Bengerman standing in the doorway looking at her with concern in her despair.

"I was thinking death by Whiskey," Phoebe replied, glancing at the booze bottle sitting on the table.

"How 'bout some vodka and orange juice instead?" Bengerman suggested.

"Okay," she agreed.

"Any calls yet?" Bengerman asked once he poured the two drinks and handed her a banana, sitting next to her at the table.

"I left my phone there," Phoebe revealed. "So they couldn't ping me."

"What about the car? Any Onstar type tracking devices?"

She shook her head no. "Just the GPS that got me here and I turned that off."

"Should I turn on GNN?" He asked.

"God, no," Phoebe pleaded.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Bengerman wondered.

"Not really," she sighed.

"You know, the last time we were together was at my sister's Kara's wedding," Bengerman recalled. "How ironic is that?"

Phoebe laughed at the stupidity of it all. "I wanted to run away with you that day too," she admitted.

"I wish you had," he smiled.

"Ah, but then I never would have become GNN's face of the future," she said sarcastically.

"No, you would have been here running the weekly Hillsboro Observer newspaper with me instead," Bengerman said.

"You really did it," an impressed Phoebe smiled, staring at him. "You could be running any of the eleven major newspapers your family owns but here you are in nowheresville doing what you want."

"Believe me, I'm better off," Bengerman told her.

"You gave up everything."

"And gained more."

"Are you mad at me?" Phoeobe asked.

"For what?"

"For not being brave enough to do it too when you asked."

"I didn't expect you to say yes, Phoebe," Bengerman replied. "But I owed it to myself to put it out there."

"They never forgave you, you know," Phoebe remarked. "They still talk about it."

"How I betrayed the family and all the rest of it, yes I know," Bengerman sighed. "I'm the black sheep. The lost son. The forgotten one."

"But you're happy," she said with amazement.

"I'm happy," he confirmed. "Hillsboro is a nice place to live. The paper is fun to run. My only regret is….."

"Don't say it, Benger," she pleaded. "I'm already fucked up enough as it is."

"But then again here we are," he pointed out. "Together again. On somebody's wedding day."

"Yeah, mine," she moaned.

"It is kind of nostalgic to be together again though, isn't it?" Bengerman asked.

"If only it wasn't always so dramatic," she said. "That last day we were together you almost decked Toddy and you got into a big fight with your father during the reception."

"My sister Kara has yet to forgive me for that," Bengerman admitted.

"You know, my wedding wasn't going to be much different from Kara's," Phoebe remarked. "The outdoor venue. The money spent. Everybody dressed up to the nines. The live music with a thirty piece orchestra."

"I remember the dress you wore that day," Bengerman said. "You were a Goddess."

"You should have seen the dress I was going to wear today," Phoebe said sardonically.

Bengerman glanced at the clock. "You're running out of time if you're going to change your mind about any of this," he advised.

"Oh fuck me running, God," Phoebe groaned, looking at the clock too. "What in the hell am I supposed to do, Benger?" She looked at him with wide painful eyes.

"Unfortunately, only you can decide," he replied.

"Do you still love me, Benger?" She needed to know.

"I will always love you," he vowed.

"Why?" She asked. "I know it was adolescent infatuation for both of us and we were bonded because I was revolting and protesting against my status and my families and all the rest of it and you were madly in love with me but its twenty years later now."

"I've always pined over you, you know that," Bengerman told her. "You chose to disregard my love but it's no different now than it's always been."

"But can you ever trust me?" She asked in a quiet voice. "After all the times I fucked you over?"

"Probably not," he admitted openly. "But I don't suppose that matters much anyway."

She got up from her chair and made a couple more Vodka Orange juices – stronger this time on the vodka and then returned to the table, sliding one of the glasses to Bengerman. Neither said anything as they watched the second hand of the clock rotate around the face countless times.

"I'm watching my future tick away," Phoebe said after several minutes went by.

"Is it a future you really wanted?" Bengerman asked.

"Not too many women my age get a prime time show on a major international cable news network, Benger."

"I meant the marriage part."

"Post and parcel, sadly," she sighed.

"Funny how once upon a time we had our pre-destined future planned out for us," Bengerman remarked.

"You changed your destination," Phoebe said.

"And it looks like you're about to too," Bengerman observed.

"What a nightmare," she groaned.

Several more minutes ticked by, long enough for them to both finish their VOJ's and Phoebe poured a third round.

"I skipped my Yale graduation ceremony," Bengerman offered, hoping to make her feel better.

"Did anybody besides your family notice or care?" Phoebe asked.

"No," Bengerman laughed.

"The whole world is going to notice my absence today," she sighed.

"True that," Bengerman agreed.

"All hell must be busting loose right about now," Phoebe said, glancing at the clock one more time. She gave him a look. "Would you do it all over the same way if you could go back and do it again?"

"Pretty much," Bengerman confirmed. "Maybe kidnapped you, but otherwise I'd still be here doing this."

"How come you never cared?" She asked. "About the status? And the money? And the future? And what your family thought?"

"I just wanted to play baseball," Bengerman said. "That's all I ever cared about. While everybody else was tripping over their trust funds and new cars and Saturday night's party, I was thinking baseball. I would have been perfectly happy being raised by Ward and June Cleaver in Suburbia America with the one car and the public school as long as I had a bat and glove. I didn't care about the private schools unless it had a good baseball team. That's why I went to Westminister. Coach told me I'd start as a Freshman."

"You couldn't play baseball forever, Benger," she sighed. "Sooner or later, reality would set in."

"I didn't like the reality being offered," Bengerman countered. "That's why I'm here. Played ball at Yale, got my degree, and got out."

"Adulthood means youthful dreams go away," Phoebe theorized. "Whatever you wanted to do and whatever you wanted to be doesn't matter much. Family and societal expectations have other plans. You weren't meant to be a baseball player."

"Maybe I was meant to run the Hillsboro Observer," Bengerman shrugged while peering at her. "Were you meant to be a GNN host?"

"Only because my family wanted it," she sighed. "If I had been raised by the Cleavers in Suburbia I'd probably be a field reporter for some local television station in the sticks somewhere."

"And you'd be married to some handsome local businessman or something."

"Or maybe to you," Phoebe reasoned.

More ticks from the clock echoed through the quiet kitchen and with each movement another nail was hammered into Phoebe's coffin. But that familiar feeling between them that had never really gone away even if they did seemed to be swirling full force through the room. A warm happy familiarity that made them both feel contented even though Phoebe was watching her career go down the drain. The implied promise of their past hung the air as they looked at each other.

"Maybe I should have gone to Europe like I did after high school," Phoebe said aloud. "France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland. Nobody would have looked for me there.

"GNN would have," Bengerman said.

"I was never so free as I felt when I was in Europe that summer."

"Even if you left me behind," Bengerman complained.

"But I thought about you all the time," she smiled.

"I didn't know that then."

"Let's face it, I was stupid," Phoebe sighed. "I was always making dumb mistakes, idiotic decisions, and life altering choices, none of which included you for the most part. I'm sorry about all of that. I was always fucking the wrong guy and by the time I figured out what I really wanted it was too late. I was in the family business, dating the family future, launching my career."

"Well, we're still here," Bengerman said.

"How did you even end up here?" Phoebe wondered.

"A guy I knew at Yale went to high school at Sun Rise School for Boys up the road," Bengerman explained. "He told me about the area and when he mentioned there was an amateur baseball league here I knew this is where I wanted to be."

"You played?" Phoebe asked, raising her eyebrows.

"For five years," Bengerman bragged. "I had to quit when I screwed my back up a few years ago."

"How'd you do that?"

"Fell off the roof shoveling snow."

"Spaz!" She laughed.

"That's what I get for doing it myself, I guess," Bengerman grinned self-deprecatingly.

"Do you ever go back?" Phoebe asked.

"Funerals are mandatory," he answered. "Otherwise, I'm an unwelcomed traitor. Life goes on without me. The old man isn't going to step down any time soon. My brother Bob is poised to take over when the time comes. They brought in Kara's husband to do some of the stuff I would have been doing. I've been pretty much ostracized."

"I'm surprised they just didn't buy the Observer and put you out of business," Phoebe said. "Force you back to the fold."

"They can't be bothered with petty little publications like the Observer," Bengerman replied. "They figure I'll fail on my own."

"Even after ten years?"

"They have all the time in the world."

"Does anybody here know your story?" Phoebe asked.

"I write as Ben Lawson," Bengerman explained. "So, no, not really. They're just glad I kept the Observer going. It was on its last throws. I invested about a hundred grand to save it."

"You didn't arrive broke, I gather."

"They couldn't stop me from my trust fund by law," Bengerman explained. "As long as the Observer breaks even I'm doing okay. I got this place through a bank repo for a steal. I drive a ten year old car. I'm frugal. I also do some on line editing and writing to bring in some extra money. The family doesn't miss me."

"I suppose after today I'll be disowned too," Phoebe sighed, taking a long drink from her glass of VOJ.

"Maybe not," Bengerman offered hopefully.

"How strange," Phoebe realized.

"What?"

"That growing up I was the rebel rousing rebellious troublemaker breaking the rules and pushing the envelope sticking it to my family while you were the one towing the line and being the dutiful son," she observed.

"I wanted to play baseball," he reminded her.

"Then, as soon as we graduated from college, I'm the one who went mainstream to protect my up and coming promised career and reputation at GNN while you walked away from everything to be true to yourself," she said with admiration. "I had to give up my wicked ways like partying and sleeping around and acting like Hunter S. Thompson while you gave up a million dollar career to write for a small town weekly."

"And play baseball," he smiled.

"I admire your convictions," she said seriously.

"You can do it too, Phoebe," Benger told her with strength. "Stop worrying about what others expect, think, or want of you. Start doing what you want again. I always admired that about you even when you were a messed up head case!"

"So you think I sold out for the glory of GNN?" She sighed. "Went mainstream for the money and prestige?"

"Maybe," he admitted.

Bengerman's cell phone went off and Phoebe's eyes went wide.

"It could be paper related," Bengerman said but he had a feeling it wasn't. "Hello?" He said into the phone.

Phoebe knew from the look on his face it wasn't paper related.

"Hi, Kara," Bengerman said. "Who died…..well, you'd only be calling if somebody died, right?...Phoebe? No, why? …You're kidding! No, really!? Wow! …Yeah, I was invited…I didn't think it would be fun…..yeah, sure…..I'll let you know….but I haven't seen her since your wedding so I doubt I'll hear from her now…..okay…yup." He ended the call and looked at Phoebe.

"Oh Fuck," Phoebe groaned. "I'm so fucked."

"Kara says it's pretty dramatic,' Bengerman admitted.

"Don't tell me," Phoebe pleaded. "I don't want to know."

"I don't think she didn't believe me," Bengerman added. "You're safe here."

Phoebe left her chair and went to the counter, grabbing the vodka bottle without worrying about any orange juice. She took a long chug from the bottle, straight up.

"What in the fuck did I do?" She cried.

"I can call Kara back," Bengerman said. "Tell her you'll be there in a few hours."

"No," Phoebe decided, sounding strong and certain. "What's done is done. I've made my choice. This is what I want."

"Even if it costs you your job?"

"I couldn't get away with thinking me and Toddy were going to be some terrific power couple," she groaned. "What kind of lonely life would that be?"

Bengerman stood and went to the counter, taking the vodka bottle away from her.

"I've saved myself from a fate worse than death, haven't I?" She asked, looking pleadingly into his eyes for reassurance.

"You shouldn't do something that's not going to make you happy, Bengerman said, wrapping her into his arms and giving her a hug.

"What do I do now?" She sighed, clinging to him for dear life.

"Stay here until you figure it out," he suggested.

""I really need to get drunk right now," Phoebe announced.

"But that could lead to a seduction from one of us," he warned.

"Probably both of us," she quipped with an appreciative smile.

Phoebe grabbed the vodka bottle and headed for the stairs. Bengerman sucked in a deep breath before following her. By the time he reached the loft bedroom, Phoebe was sitting on the unmade bed with the vodka bottle between her legs.

"Do you have a suitcase in the car?" Bengerman asked.

"Like with a negligee in it, you mean?" Phoebe asked seductively.

"No, I just realized that you didn't bring anything in with you last night," he said, unable to keep his eyes off of her as she lay prone before him in her short jean cut offs and the shirt that was dipping toward her breast line.

"I left with nothing but the clothes I was wearing and five hundred and thirty seven dollars that's out in the car," Phoebe told him. "I climbed out a second floor window and shimmied down a trestle so I wasn't thinking too much about what to take with me."

"Well, we can buy you some stuff,' Bengerman said with a shrug.

"Including a wig," she said. "I'll be like Hannah Montana only with a black wig."

"Do you want to go now?"

"No, I don't want to go now, Benger," She groaned. "Don't tell me you're still chicken shit."

Bengerman leaped onto the bed, sending her into the air with the force of his weight on the mattress. He grabbed the vodka bottle from between her legs and took a long swig. "Those days are over,' he warned.

"Good!" She giggled, taking the bottle from him and taking a long guzzle.

"I never stood a chance with you," Bengerman told her.

"Until now," she purred before springing from the bed and disappearing into the bathroom.

Bengerman wasn't quite sure what to expect but when Phoebe re-emerged from the bathroom she was naked, holding a bottle of green Scope in her hand. She lifted an eyebrow and gave him a seductive smirk. He stared at her for a long moment. Her breasts were round and firm, small but sexy. Her pubic hair was trimmed to one thin blond line that seemed to say 'look right here!' Her eyes were wide, bright and dancing, and the look on her face was one of inviting want.

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" He asked carefully.

"I want to forget everything," Benger," she said knowingly. "Let's just pretend I ran away with you at Kara's wedding."

"Come here, then," he said, trying not to sound desperate.

Bengerman knew she was the desperate one, vulnerable and confused, emotionally mixed up, stressed out and unhappy, conflicted and panicked. She had been drinking and she was certainly under the influence of both the booze and her anxiety. He would be a better man if he wrapped her in a sheet and held her close and let her pass out from her despair and stress but he had been waiting twenty years for this moment. He had no interest in Phoebe Gilson the GNN News Anchor – he didn't know that person. It was Phoebe Gilson from his past that he loved all these years, the damaged and dramatic girl of his adolescence and the acting out rebel from his later teenaged years. He loved her then and he loved her now and he didn't care about her power marriage arrangement with Toddy the Turd or her high profile job with GNN. He loved her no questions asked and he knew she could be gone tomorrow (when she came to her senses), back to her future husband of convenience and her anchor slot of prestige but for right now she was in his bedroom in Hillsboro and he wasn't going to ask any questions or try to talk her out of her escape. Twenty years was a long time to wait.

Phoebe nodded as she took a deep breath and took a swig from the Scope bottle as she floated to the bed and dropped onto it, handing him the scope bottle a she lay on her stomach staring up at him. Bengerman took a swig of the Scope to neutralize his Vodka breath and then leaned the bottle over so some of the green stuff dripped down on the top of her ass buns, trickling down the crack and disappearing inside and underneath her. Phoebe jumped slightly and laughed.

"Oh!" She said. "That feels weird."

Bengerman leaned in and licked the sticky line of Scope from her buns and she wiggled with accepted pleasure before she rolled over onto her back and looked up at him. He leaned in and kissed her, feeling freed and uninhibited for the first time ever with her naked before him. Her eyes widened before she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him in return with passion, need and want.

"There's no looking back now, Phoebe," Bengerman told her through their kisses.

"I know," she said breathlessly, sticking her tongue down his throat.

And there it was – the fire that lay dormant for so many years exploding from each of them as he too wrapped his arms tightly about her while deepening the kiss before sweeping his tongue along the rim of her lips but her mouth was opened and their tongues now mated as one as she moaned into his mouth. Bengerman lightly explored her naked body with his hands, feeling her spine, her buns, her breasts, her stomach, her neck, her folds between her legs, her thighs, her face, all the while bringing her closer to a higher plane of excitement and arousal.

Phoebe's hands slowly slid up his chest underneath his shirt and inside his shorts to feel his cheeks before maneuvering around to his front to feel his hard penis that was jabbing her. She pulled his shorts down his legs to finally expose him after so many years of wonder and wait and he helped her dispose of his shirt so now they were both naked on the bed as they had both fantasized for so many years but were prevented from doing so for a myriad of reasons. Until now. Now, on her supposed wedding day, she was naked with him in his bed and he had never been happier.

"Turns out this is the best day of my life after all," Phoebe whispered before they both started kissing each other with more want and completeness.

Their bodies were burning from desire and need, the passion overwhelming them as they became lost in ecstasy of their long awaited intimacy that drove both to suspend all the rules of righteousness and appropriateness. She rolled him over onto his back and with a happy smirk she climbed on top of him. He smiled in return with complete resignation and surrender and she kissed him tenderly before breaking from his mouth and she began moving down his body – licking and kissing his chin and throat nipping, tucking and licking on his chest and nipples as she he worked her way down his stomach, her warm moist lips not missing a single pore. When she reached his groin, she couldn't help but look up and smile at him.

"Phoebe," he whispered, reaching his arms out and slipping them under her armpits, pulling her up his body and maneuvering her onto the bed in a sitting position.

Bengerman sat up to, facing her as if they were suddenly in some yoga meditation position, staring into each other's eyes with wonderment and amusement knowing they had finally broken all the barriers and restrictions between each other.

Phoebe reached her arms out and explored his body, feeling his face, his neck, his chest, his thighs, and finally his penis while Bengerman did the same with her, his hands sensitively and gently traveling up and down her body, spending extra time on her breasts and toying with her nipples while Phoebe quietly moaned and purred.

Bengerman wrapped his arms around the back of her waist and pulled her closer to him, lining up his stiffened dick with her vagina as if he was an Apollo space capsule and she was the lunar module. Phoebe maneuvered herself so her legs were draped behind him and she was almost sitting on his thighs. She wrapped her arms around his neck and she allowed Bengerman to slowly enter her slit. He was now 'docked' inside of her and he slowly began to move himself in and out and she gladly rocked her hips in unison.

"Phoebe," he whispered again. "Finally. We are one."

"You're finally fucking me," Phoebe said with approval.

Bengerman continued to play wither her nipples while palming her breasts as they almost surreally made love in a sitting position on the bed, linked together in a calmly close way. After a while, an increasingly gasping Phoebe finally cried out with pleasure as Bengerman brought her to her first orgasm with him.

"Benger! Benger! Benger!" Phoebe wailed happily and she shuddered just as he exploded inside her and he kept thrusting until there was nothing left to give and when Phoebe lost all sensation as she fell off of him and crumbled onto the mattress on her stomach.

Bengerman rolled over on top of her and he gently kissed her neck and shoulders and the side of her face while she lay spread eagled panting from their long awaited and much denied sexual experience, happy to have Bengerman on top of her, his stomach patting her ass as he moved ever so slightly to place his still stiff penis between her legs and against the folds of her spread vagina.

"I waited so long for that," Phoebe said softly.

"I waited for so long for you," Bengerman told her.

"I know," she smiled happily

"Why are you here?" He asked.

"You know why," she whispered.

"I didn't think you would actually seduce me," he confessed.

He was resting his chin on the back of her shoulder and her head was turned so her face was only an inch from his. She stared into his eyes.

"I needed you," she said, her eyes watering with tears. "I've always needed you."

It was dusk when Bengerman opened his eyes. The nude Phoebe was wrapped around his naked body, her leg draped over his thighs, her head on his chest, her arm resting on his stomach as he lay on his back. The now empty vodka bottle had fallen to the floor but it hadn't broken. He studied her face while she slept. Her lips were slightly apart and her hair was billowed out on his chest, tickling him slightly.

"You are so beautiful," he whispered knowingly, using his fingertip to gently trace the side of her face with complete adoration. He had finally made love to her after all this time and now – after an afternoon of love making – he lost count how many times she reached an orgasm and he was able to climax too – she lay against him asleep so she wouldn't' have to think about the disorder she had caused by becoming The Runaway Bride.

Bengerman had no illusions that she was going to stay here forever, content on helping him run a hole in the wall small weekly when she was Phoebe Gilson, the future face of GNN with a multi-million dollar contract. She wouldn't really walk away from all that even if she didn't marry Toddy the Turd. But for this moment, in this place, at this time, she was his and that made him feel fulfilled and satisfied.

He drifted off to sleep again and when he opened his eyes the room was bathed in total blackness. He awoke with a start because he didn't feel Phoebe lying against him and he didn't hear her gentle breathing. Bengerman sat up with a start and he realized the bedroom was empty, the sheets next to him cool to the touch indicating that Phoebe had been gone for a while. He stood from the bed and gazed at the empty mattress as images of their time together flashed through his mind. He went to the window and stood naked in the moonlight, staring at the opened door of the garage. She was really gone. Phoebe had left him once again, sneaking away without a goodbye or an explanation but he knew the reason. She was Phoebe Gilson the future face of GNN.

Sighing, he turned and stared at the bed, the smell and scent of her and their sex still hanging in the still night air. He climbed back onto the bed and pulled the sheet over him, hoping to fall back to sleep without thinking about her too much.

SOME MONTHS LATER...

Bengerman sat in the living room of the half million dollar house along the Blue River in Greenville. He was watching 'Phoebe Gilson Reports' in the prime time 9:00 p.m. slot on CNN. Because it was Friday night, Phoebe would be home for the weekend sometime around one a.m. The weekends only relationship seemed to be working well. Bengerman was able to keep the Hillsboro Observer Weekly going while Phoebe had fulfilled her dream job without having to sell out her morals or principals. There were a lot of negotiations with GNN to let her out of her contract and she had to take six months off before she could start her new job but that gave her plenty of time to get the work done on their house by the river.

Bengerman was happy to move in with Phoebe once the house was ready. He maintained the property during her weekly absences when she stayed at her New York City apartment to do her nightly show. Toddy was dating some well-known New York actress with her own sitcom and most of the family had forgiven Phoebe for becoming The Runaway Bride. Unlike Bengerman's unforgiving family, Phoebe's parents were willing to let her work for a rival if it meant keeping her in their personal family lives. They were happy to accept Bengerman as well although the holidays could be awkward when the Lopes and Gilson families socialized. Phoebe was able to ride out the 'scandal' of her called off wedding – it was fodder in the tabloids for a few months but the media eventually moved on and all was forgotten by the time she started her CNN show.

People in Blue County were respectful of the news anchor's privacy. They said hello when they saw her at the Saturday morning farmer's market or out to dinner with Bengerman but they didn't hound her and she paid back the favor by appearing on local radio shows and showing up for high school assemblies and other events.

Bengerman honestly didn't expect to ever see Phoebe again when she left that night of her busted wedding – but she was back a week later, knocking on his door once again late at night only this time with four suitcases and a briefcase full of legal documents.

"What are you doing here?" Bengerman asked, surprised at how resentful and bitter he was when he should have been relieved and happy to see that she was back.

"I'm here to fuck your lights out again," she replied confidently. "You going to help me carry my stuff in or what?"

He saw her luggage and the smile on her face and he immediately melted, swooping her into his arms and kissing her as if they had never kissed before.

Later, naked in bed again after some amazing lovemaking (but this time with an expensive bottle of champagne she had brought with her), Phoebe explained how she asked out of her GNN contract due to her philosophical conflicts with the network's ideology. The suits originally balked but when Phoebe's shareholder father intervened she was let go and CNN was more than happy to sign the popular and feisty thirty-four year old news anchor to their team.

Initially, Phoebe had no thoughts about making Greenville her second home but she spent most of her six month hiatus in Hillsboro with Bengerman (wearing her long dark wig and sun glasses in most cases), hanging out at the Hillsboro Observer but also getting to know the area during drives and other outings. She and The Benger happened to be driving along Greenville's River Road by the Blue River when they saw the modern half-million dollar house for sale and it was Phoebe's idea to buy the place and use Blue County as her escape hatch as a reprieve from her New York life. Bengerman wasn't about to argue!

"I guess I'm sort of like Hannah Montana in more ways than one," Phoebe remarked one night when she made love to Bengerman wearing her long dark wig just to mix it up a little.

"How so?" Bengerman wondered as he slid himself in and out of her.

"It seems I have the best of both worlds," Phoebe smiled as she dug her fingernails into Bengerman's back as they made love. "Multi-million dollar nationally known news-anchor during the week, Bengerman's girlfriend on the weekend," she laughed.

"I get a fantasy dream come true," Bengerman replied. "Owner-Editor of the Hillsboro Observer and Phoebe Gilson's lover all at the same time."

"We came full circle," Phoebe smiled. "No pun intended," she added as she began to climax in a way only Bengerman could bring her to fulfillment.

"I'm just glad you ran away to me," Bengerman said as he kissed her passionately in their lovemaking.