The music was just loud enough or maybe she was just drunk enough, but somehow as she slowly swayed back and forth with the beat she could almost forget that she was here alone. She brought the cool glass bottle to her lips, the last of the cold beer pouring down her throat.
“And that makes four.” She lined them up straight down the bartop, surveying the progress she’d made in the last hour. It hadn’t been the plan to come here and get drunk. In fact she’d come here to talk to Nick—to see how things were going with Christian—to seek some solidarity in the despair that was her life, but instead she’d found Nick desperate to get Christian home before the roads got any worse. He’d handed her the keys to the bar, telling her to ‘help herself to anything she wanted’ and to ‘drive safe’ when she headed home.
Phyllis sighed, reaching down under the counter and retrieving a bottle and a shot glass. She could almost forget. Almost didn’t count.
“I swear that’s why they call it mood music…” She could hear her own words slur as she stumbled over to the booth. The dulcet tones from the speaker seemed to lull her into a sort of sleepy peacefulness. If she’d been a little less drunk and a little more sensible, she surely would have noticed the sound of the wind howling outside. She would have known that soon the roads would be closing and that her decision to stay a little longer would soon become spending the night.
She might have even noticed the flash of lights that pranced across the wall of the bar as a lone set of headlights pulled into the nearly empty parking lots. Instead, she pulled her legs up into the booth and, using her purse as a pillow, settled in for a nap.
“Phyllis, are you alright?”
She opened her eyes slowly, her vision a bit blurred. The face in front of her was close and rather unsettling as just moments ago she was certain she’d been alone. Quickly she moved to sit up only to find the room seemed to be moving much more slowly than she was. Her head bobbed and she swallowed hard, a wave of nausea overtaking her.
His hand touched her face—warm hands.
A puff of breath left his lips. “Yeah. It’s me. Are you okay?”
She sat still a moment, not certain if she was ready to test the concept of movement again. Somehow he seemed to know and she felt his strong arm wrap around her as he pulled her up against the cool leather of the booth.
“Better?” His voice was soft and kind. She’d missed it. She’d missed him.
“Yeah,” she said softly. “Thanks.”
His eyes stayed on hers for a moment before he looked away.
Her mind was still fuzzy, but she was present enough to know she had one very important question. “What are you doing here?”
“I was looking for Nick,” he said simply, flashing a quick smile.
Damn that smile. She remembered that smile—the power it had over her. She wondered if he knew—if he had any idea the things one flash of that smile could make her think, could make her want, could make her do….
“He uh..” She took a shaky breath. “He left. He wanted to get Christian home before the roads got too bad to drive. He left me the keys to lock up which I should probably do. I should be getting home.” She stood, her hand almost immediately grabbing for the table as she realized her legs weren’t holding her.
“Oh no you don’t.” He reached out, catching her in his arms and then..
It was just happening.
She stood, pressed up against him, her face buried in his chest, his hands pressed tight against the small of her back. For as drunk as she was, she could have shifted, moved, leaned—done something to break the contact, but she didn’t want to. She’d missed this closeness, the way it felt to be held by him. As she stood there silently, she felt his hands softly stroke her back and she knew he was making the same choice—even if only for a moment.
His head turned, his face turning towards her cheek, his breath warm as he finally broke the silence. “I can’t let you drive like this,” he whispered his lips brushing against her cheek as he spoke.
He felt her nod into his chest and closed his eyes as he felt her take a step back. She looked up at him, her green eyes sparking. “I can call a service.”
“No service is gonna come out here in this weather. Everything is closing.” His eyes looked into hers once more. He reached out to touch her, then pulled back breathing in sharply as she felt her take his hand.
“I don’t want it to be like this.” Her eyes began to shine, a sure sign tears were soon to follow.
Billy shook his head, reaching out to cup her face in his hand. “Like what?” he whispered, hating the idea that anything he said or did would bring her to tears.
“Like you’re afraid to be alone with me..like you’re afraid to touch me.”
There was a silence for a moment as the thought seemed to hang in the air.
“I guess in a way I am.” The words poured out of him in a wave of honesty—a concept he only really experienced when he was in her presence. She was someone he could truly be himself with. She didn’t judge him or criticize him. She was the one person he knew that would accept him with all his flaws. “I don’t trust myself around you.”
“I know,” she whispered, “I don’t trust myself around you either.” It was her turn now to return the honestly. Cards were on the table. Everything was out in the open now. There was no point hiding their feelings. The entire town knew about their affair. What was the point of pretending it didn’t happen..of pretending like the feelings just disappeared?
He smiled at her again, the simple action sending a wave of heat through her. “I guess I should take you home.” His smile grew wider as he saw the familiar twinkle in her eye.
“Is that really where you’re gonna take me?” she grinned, “Home?”
She stepped in closer to him, their bodies almost as close as they’d been earlier. She watched his lips curve into a mischievous smile just before his head dropped to allow his lips to hover over her. One hand pressed into the small of her back as the other quickly found its way into her hair. Her breathing grew faster as she felt his breath heavy on…
“I was wondering whose car that was…”
Billy took a quick step back, turning towards the voice. “Yeah..Yeah, it’s me. I was looking for you actually, but Phyllis told me that you’d already left for the night. I was just trying to convince her that she’d had a little too much and that she should let me drive her home.”
Nick nodded. “That’s a good idea. Roads are pretty rough out there. That’s actually why I came back..wanted to make sure you were alright getting home. Wasn’t’ thinking about leaving you here in that cute little ride of yours…it’s not exactly made for driving in the snow.”
Phyllis nodded, barely able to get a “Thanks” out.
“So, you said you wanted to see me?” Nick looked over at Billy.
“What?” Billy sputtered, his mind on everything but Nick at the moment.
“Earlier when I came in, you said you came here looking for me.” Nick glanced back and forth between the two of them. It hadn’t been hard to see he’d interrupted a moment when he walked in, but it wasn’t his place to bring it up.
“Yeah..Victoria was looking for a place to throw a little welcome home party for Reed and she was looking at the Top of the Towers. I don’t really think that’s his scene and I was thinking about this place..thought maybe I could see how you’d feel about it..maybe get someone on my team to help change her mind.”
Nick nodded. “Yeah..I think that’s a great idea.”
Victoria. And just like that, reality hits. She looked at him, knowing she’d always want him and, in truth, knowing he’d always want her, but it wasn’t about that. It was about having all of him and she wasn’t sure she ever would.
“Nick,” she said, forcing her voice to sound strong and confident even as her heart broke, “You think you could give me a ride…I mean it’s kind of out of Billy’s way…”
Billy turned quickly, his eyes searching hers for answers.
“Sure,” Nick said quickly. “No problem.”
“Phyllis, I don’t mind..it’s no trouble, really,” Billy said, his confusion evident.
She reached out, her hand warm as she gently touched his. “I know,” she said softly. “But it’s better this way….it just makes more sense.” Her eyes were serious as she looked at him and he instantly understood the sudden shift.
“Alright,” he managed, his voice nearly breaking as he watched her eyes water slightly. “If you’re sure.”
She saw the hope in his eyes as he looked at her and she nodded. “Yes,” she said, her heart breaking slightly as she watched the light fade from his eyes.
Nick held the door as the both walked out then turned to lock up. Billy gently took her arm, pulling her away slightly.
“If this is about what I said about Victoria, I’m just trying to help her with Reed…that’s all. We aren’t together. Please don’t walk away because of what you think might be going on with…”
Phyllis smiled. “I’m not saying not ever,” she said softly. “Just not tonight.”