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  • Olivia Moore

Brighton ~ Chapter 2 ~ Web Series

Updated: Mar 2







Chapter II ~ The Annoying Guy Next Door

 

 

Ring. Ring. Ring.


Finally clean and dry, I slumped on Grandpa’s old leather couch and hung my head low in my hands. The house remained deafeningly silent. Except the landline that had been ringing off the hook since before I had even stepped back in this morning.


Ring. Ring. Ring.


“Fuck me.” I peered sideways at the phone dock, noting the number thirteen in blaring red digital numbers. My family members continued to call and harass me since we all left the legal office and found out that the were each only left with a quarter of his financial holdings, and I’d inherited his home and a chunk of whatever was left. And while everyone happened to know that he favored me long before he died, I guess it came as a surprise when me having been the only one to visit him every Summer made an impression on the man. Still, I felt guilty. I never anticipated this type of weight. I’m quite sure I thought he was going to live forever. It felt as is everyone just wanted a piece of him after he was already gone, but the thought of him not being around to talk to when I felt alone had been too much to bear when it happened. It was more so was now.


Beep


My Grandfather’s voice played over the message machine, “Hiya! You’ve reached Henry, I’m probably out fishin’ for dinner. Leave a message.” He, my mom, and her brother were the only ones from this side of the Atlantic. They had managed to keep their English accents since moving to America where my mom met my dad. I didn’t share that part of our heritage though. I followed in Dad’s footsteps when it came to accents, even if that meant talking a little too much with my hands. My dad, who was surprisingly more in and out of my life than one might hope, was still somehow more involved than my mother ever deemed necessary for herself. New York was a busy place, and my parents were busy people. Or at least that’s what I had tried to convince myself since graduating from NYU. I wouldn’t allow myself to think about it too much. I’d let Grandpa’s greeting message play over and over if it meant hearing his voice again.


“Darling, it’s Mum… I’m starting to worry. You shouldn’t be alone right now, especially not in that house. Pick up. I know you can hear me. We need to discuss the will— your Grandad did not mean to do what he did, he didn’t understand what he was doing. But you do, don’t you darling? Call Mummy back.”

Beep.


Nausea crept deep into my throat, and I bolted into the guest bathroom down the nearby hallway. I desperately clung to the toilet bowl and heaved up any remnants of my already vacant stomach. That stupid machine held many more messages just like this one. If Grandpa were not on there, I would throw the whole damn thing straight into the ocean. I flushed and managed to clean myself back up.


Pants did not appear to be an option, since anything that even remotely grazed the surface of my thigh sent my body into a fit of pain, so I opted for the only dress I had brought in my suitcase. I looked into the small oval mirror above the bathroom sink and hardly recognized the gaunt, pale looking woman who stood before me. My honey-colored eyes and the light trail of freckles across my nose were the only indication that I might be the same person I was three weeks ago. I couldn’t even bother with makeup, not now. The sundress I chose was my grandfather’s favorite. He’d always say that the small flowers reminded him of the month of August, the month I’d been born.


I brushed my teeth and threw half of my golden-brown hair up in a clip before heading out into the kitchen. I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten a full meal. Grandpa was a man of very little fuss, but there was no denying his love for cooking. His modern kitchen reflected that favor with the sun shone from above the centered island through an enormous skylight. It was the only thing in the house he had bothered to get remodeled.


The cabinets an oak-colored brown that surrounded the immaculate gas stove. There were no appliances crowding the stainless steal countertops, just an impressive set of kitchen knives, a wooden cutting board, and a two-foot rack of jarred spices. I had spent many summer afternoons helping Grandpa cook up his freshly caught rock fish and eating it straight out of the skillet. I could almost smell the sizzling butter flavored filet as I walked around the island and reached for the fridge. Opening its double doors, I was greeted with a horrendous stench of rotting vegetables and a bloated milk carton. Just like that, my beautiful memory was gone and with it, my appetite.



 

#


 

Ding dong.


The doorbell chimed as I made my way to open the front door. “Finnley,” I said, genuinely surprised. “What are you doing here?”


He grinned, showing off his blinding white teeth, and raised a paper grocery bag in either arm.


“Did you think I was bluffing about that wellness check?” he mused, peering into one of the bags. “I’ve got peroxide, aloe, sterile bandages, and ointments— all the necessities really.” He smiled, looking very proud of himself.


“What’s in the other bag?”


He gently pushed his way through the door when he winked down at me. “Necessities.”


Raising a brow, I couldn't help but close the door behind us and follow him. He had clearly been here before because he kicked off his shoes at the end of the hallway and made his way straight to Grandpa’s kitchen. I narrowed my eyes at him, hoping he couldn’t sense my relief at not having to spend the evening alone.


“I’m pretty sure I told you that I was fine.”


He ignored my stare and started pulling things from his bag, setting them on the island. “Right— well, can you blame me for not believing you?”


Rolling my eyes, I sat on one of the bar stools opposite from where he stood across the island. He grabbed some of the laid out medical supplies and came around to sit on the stool beside me.


“Let’s see your sting,” he insisted, nodding toward the skirt of my dress. I sinched my knees tighter together in response.


“I will not be lifting my skirt up just so you can get a peak at my underwear!”


He pulled my stool closer to him and began tearing the plastic off a peroxide bottle with his teeth, accidentally dropping some cotton balls out of his palm and onto the island. He finally pulled the wrapping from the bottle and met my eyes with a hard stare.

“I’m not interested in your underthings, Lennon. Not that that matters anyway, I saw your entire ass when you untied your bottoms and nearly begged me to wee on you this morning. I need to see how bad your wound is.”


My cheeks flushed at the realization of how much he had seen in my desperate need for pain relief, it hardly felt fair. He must have noticed because the corners of his mouth curled up into a smirk, as he leaned away and grabbed the fallen cotton balls.


“Fine.” I lifted my sundress off my injured thigh to just over my hip, turning the outside of my leg toward him and leaning into the island countertop. His hands were on me in an instant, one bracing the underside of my thigh and the other dabbing my sting with a soaked cotton ball. I flinched away from the pain, but his hand held me tighter. I winced and looked at the clock on the wall, suddenly finding its’ ticking hands remarkably interesting. He started applying a generous amount of ointment with his open palm.


The silence echoed off the walls, so I said the first thing that came to mind. “When do I get to see what type of ‘necessities’ you brought in your other bag?” He sat straight and slowly tore open the packaging marked ‘sterile bandage.


“Well, there’s two things in that bag.” He looked up at me as he continued working, laying the white gauzy cloth flat against my hip. My breath hitched at the graze of his fingertips against my hipbone. He grabbed another bandage. “But whether or not you get both, all depends on one thing.” He finished his work and gently pulled my skirt back over my leg before sitting back on his stool.


“You really love to drag out suspense…” I said, adjusting myself to face him.


“How old are you?” He asked point blank.


“I’m twenty-six— Now why in God’s name do you need to know how long I’ve graced this earth?” I asked, my hands flying dramatically over my head.


Looking relieved, he smiled as he dragged the paper bag across the countertop and pulled out a container of white powdered donuts and a bottle of whiskey. He picked up the glass bottle and studied the label as he spoke, his smile quickly turning into something more serious.


“I figured it might help with the ache.” His sapphire eyes sad, as they finally met mine. I realized he wasn’t only talking about my sting.


“And these?” I pulled the donuts in front of me before casually stuffing one into my mouth. Seeming to notice my disinterest in talking about my grandpa, Finnley took the bottle and went to grab two glasses from a nearby cabinet. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was closer to Grandpa than he let on.


“For comfort. And just in case you’re a light weight.” He said while pouring us both two knuckles worth of the amber liquid. He took both glasses and headed out of the kitchen to the glass doors that led out to the deck from the living room. “Come. And bring those with you!” He ordered over his shoulder before disappearing outside.




 

                                                                        #

 




 

We leaned against the wooden railing that separated us from the drop of the deck down to the shoreline. He handed me a glass, raising his into the open air.


“To Henry Rockwell, a fisherman, a father, a grandfather, and a damn good friend.” He clinked his glass against mine before taking a small sip. His face turned upward as he took in the night sky. I took a drink, swirling the amber liquid slowly in its glass before speaking.


“Did he ever take you out here at night?” I asked him, noticing his saddened yet comfortable demeanor.


His eyes didn’t leave the sky as he spoke. “Quite a bit. Sometimes we would have a little fire and he’d roast me some marshmallows. Over the years, hot coco became beer and ghost stories became exchanges of our time spent traveling.” I stared at him, nearly choking on the harsh alcohol. He looked so familiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Had we met before? Was there a photo of him somewhere in grandpa’s house? His gaze left the sky and landed right on my mouth. Shifting on my feet, I looked out at the moonlight waves gently breaking into neat rows, one after the other.


I could still feel his eyes on me when I spoke. “Earlier today, on the beach… You said something about your photo ending up in a tabloid. Should I know you from somewhere?” I glanced at him sideways, and he took another swig from his glass.


“You really don’t recognize me, do you?”


I shrugged.


“I’m an actor. I’ve done some pretty big feature films.” He grimaced as if embarrassed by having to say it aloud. Facing him fully I decided to lighten the mood.


“Funny… I’ve never seen you in any of them,” I baited him, feeling the mischief dance behind my eyes. I drank deeply from my glass before setting it down.


He chuckled a bit before doing the same. A few silent moments passed, and we listened to the ocean.


“That’s why I didn’t hear of his passing, though. I was out of the country.”

I pondered over what he was telling me for a few moments. “Regardless, thank you… for everything today.”


Nodding slightly, he turned to me. His mouth twisted to one side as he studied my face for a moment. “You share some of his features, you know.”


I sighed and looked down at my hands, picking at the skin around my nail.


“I didn’t mean anything by that— you’re not ugly or anything. You don’t look like a man. You just share some of his—


The look of worry on his face had me wondering what exactly might be showing on mine, but his stumbling told me enough. I smiled at him with false confidence.


“You seem nervous, Mr. Finnley.”


He let out a tense huff of laughter, “Please… call me Finn.”


I cocked my head to one side, my long hair falling into loose curls over my shoulder.


“How old are you, Finn?” I mused, grabbing my glass once more.


The tension in his body seemed to fade as he thought about his answer. He took another small sip, turning toward the ocean again, and leaned his forearms back on the railing.


“You should probably eat some of those donuts.”


I rolled my eyes but snatched another one anyway.


“Well?” I followed up my question with a very donut filled mouth.


He eyed me from the side as he answered. “I’m thirty-four.”


The wind picked up around us enough to make my skin bristle, even though my insides were anything but cold. Hard liquor had its way of doing that to me, I barely even noticed I was shivering until Finn reached out and touched my arm with the back of his hand.


“Jesus! You’re an ice cube. Let’s get you back inside.”


I wanted to protest, but he picked up our glasses and ushered me back into the house before I could speak. I stumbled slightly over the rim of the glass door, giggling to myself before plopping down very unsteadily on the leather couch. He slid the doors closed behind him and stared down at me with a surprised look across his face.


“You know I was only joking when I brought the donuts, but you really might need them after all.” He ran a large tan hand down his face and looked around. “When was the last time you ate something Lennon?”


I shrugged, leaning my head back on the couch. The warmth in my belly, a comfort to the nausea I’d felt all day. I reached out across the coffee table to snatch my drink from his hand, and he gently pulled it further away. I frowned.


“Do donuts count as a meal?” I asked only partially joking.


“Let's go into town and grab some dinner, I know a good place. I’ll call a cab.” He said, disappearing back into the kitchen. He returned with a cup of water and a phone to his ear. I didn’t dare protest as he handed me his coat and put the cup in my hand.





#



 

                                                           

 

The restaurant was pleasantly busy, with laughing, chatter, and a distant sound of clinking dishes. Music from a street performer playing the saxophone filtered sweetly through the stained-glass window. The warmth of a fireplace somewhere inside kissed my face as I took in the room of people enjoying themselves. Finn ushered me inward with a gentle hand at the small of my back before he smiled, greeting a group of people at a close by table. People around us began to gawk at him but seemed to continue their own conversations.


His companions took me in as we approached their table and I shrunk away from his touch. He bent to hug a man he called Marco, who looked around the same age. Marco beamed brightly at Finn, showing off the deep crinkles around his eyes that gave the impression he may have spent many leisurely days lounging on a sailboat somewhere warm. He wore a collared shirt with its top buttons noticeably undone, showing off the thick golden chain that lay across his olive-toned chest. He wasn’t quite as handsome as Finn, but the way he held himself radiated confidence, wealth, and luxury.


“Finny boy, I thought you were still out there in Japan shooting. Didn’t expect to see you turn up here on a Saturday night!” he said, clapping Finn on the back before shifting his attention to me. “Ahhh, looks like you’ve been holding out on us. Who’s this pretty little thing?”


My back went rigid at the attention, but Finn wrapped his arm around my shoulders and patted my arm lightly. “We wrapped a few days ago and I was eager to get back to the summer condo. And this—


“I’m Lennon Bartolini.” I said, interrupting Finn before he brought up something I’d rather not speak about in front of strangers. “We’re newly acquainted.”


Finn smiled tightly as he looked down at me.


“Ciao, Ms. Bartolini” He grabbed my hand before christening it with a kiss. “Marco Ventura. But please, Lennon. You may call me Marco,” he said winking at me from where he still held my hand. I tried not to grimace as I pulled it away and stuffed it behind my back.

The rest of the table nodded and said their hellos, one woman looking particularly distracted by Finn’s arm on me. She introduced herself as Keira.


“Why not join our table? We were just about to order another round of drinks. We’d love to hear more about you, Lennon.” Keira said, gesturing to the three other people sitting at the table. Her wine-stained lips stretched into a predatory smile.


Marco chimed in. “Si! We could use another Italian at the table, these folks lack ‘la passione’,” he said, throwing an aggressively pinched hand into the empty air. A couple members of the group clicked their tongues as they shook their heads in response. I laughed, which seemed to make him smile. He stood and pulled out the empty chair in front of him and gestured for me to sit. Before Finn could protest, I sat in the open seat and waited for him to plop down in the chair beside me.


Finned eyed me, his hands neatly stuffed into his pockets, as he took the seat beside me.


“As long as we can get something to eat first,” he looked up to speak to his friends, but rested his leg against mine under the table. No one else seemed to notice. I cleared my throat, laughing sheepishly, as I whipped the menu up to hide the blush, I felt growing upon my cheeks.


“Yes. I’m starved.” I dropped the menu to take a quick peek around the table. “What’s good on the menu?”




 

#





 

My full belly did nothing to soak up the alcohol they’d plied me with. Self-consciousness loomed over me, wondering if I had made a fool of myself as we all walked out the restaurant doors together and grouped once again on the sidewalk. Sensing my nerves, Finn came up behind me and rubbed some heat into my arms.


“I think they might like you even more than they do me.” He said quietly, his breath hot on my neck. I chuckled, watching a puff of cold air leave my mouth and turned to peer up at him. His eyes seemed to twinkle as they took me in. Something about the way he was gazing at me made me turn away from him. I knew what I was feeling somewhere deep in my gut, but it felt traitorous to be allowing myself those feelings right now. Grandpa had just passed, and there were a million more things I needed to sort out before I started allowing myself any type of true joy. I took a step back, nearly bumping into Marco, who took delight in chatting with me all evening.


“Scusami, bella ragazza…” he nearly purred as he linked his arm with mine. I could almost feel Finnley bristle behind us. Keira left the group we were now facing and went to him. It took more effort than I’d like to admit, keeping myself from eavesdropping on their conversation, as Marco began telling the group something that I wasn’t quite paying attention to. The alcohol, a welcoming pool of heat in my belly, kept me in a hazy drunken state. The world around me muted slightly as I took in the red taillights moving past in a bit of a blur. Marco turned his attention to me fully, probably sensing my disengagement.


“How ‘bout it, Ms. Lennon?”


“Hmm?” I snapped back into my own body, fully taking in how close he held his face to mine.


“I was just saying how I bet you’re a beautiful dancer. There is such a music in the way you walk— our night mustn’t end here. Come dancing with me.” The rich confidence radiated off him as one corner of his mouth curled upwards, though his breath reeked of hard liquor. My eyes instantly darted to Finn, who was still in what seemed to be an unpleasant exchange. He ran a hand roughly through his hair in frustration before looking in my direction. I returned my attention back to Marco, whose own hand had somehow found its way to my waist.


Before I even had a chance to kindly ask him to remove it, I felt Finn on my shoulder. He frowned at the sight of Marco touching me and when his eyes met mine, I could have sworn I saw anger swirling around in them.


“You ready to go? Cab is here.”


Marco ignored him, his hand sliding down my hip. I winced but he was too intoxicated to notice. Finn quickly put a hand on Marco’s chest and pushed him back.


“Watch yourself, Marco— she’s injured.” His face hardened as he stared Marco into submission.


“Finn— I’m fine.” I slurred, stumbling back slightly.


“C’mon… Let’s get you home.” He grabbed my arm firmly and pulled me to the open door of the cab.


“You okay, bella?” Marco called from behind us as Finn gestured for me to get inside. Waving goodbye to the group, I obeyed, still unsure why he was suddenly so aggravated. He slammed the door shut as he slid in the backseat beside me.


“Marco asked me to go dancing with him…”


“You don’t want to go anywhere with that guy, trust me.” He said before telling the cab driver where to drop us off. A sudden bout of anger flashed over me.


“How do you know what I do and don’t want? He seemed nice enough to me!”


Finn’s sudden rage seemed to meet mine as he turned to me. “He just wants to bloody fuck you, Lennon! Is that what you want? You want to let him fuck you?”


Tears welled up in my eyes as he stared me down, “Don’t you fucking yell at me, you prick! You hardly even know me. Maybe I should have gone with him.”


“You want to go spend your night with Marco? Fine.” He faced the driver, who I had completely forgotten was there. “Please pull over, my companion has—


“Fucking stop it, Finnley.” I whispered to him urgently, smacking his bicep. He turned to me with a satisfied smirk.


“Change your mind, Lenny?” He sat back, telling the driver to ignore his previous request. I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms as he studied me.


“So, what then? You just going to ‘Big Brother’ me all night?”


His face turned to something unreadable as he reached for me and pulled me gently into his side, wrapping his huge warm arms around me. I wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol taking over, but I suddenly didn’t care that we had just gotten into an argument. He was so warm and smelled like a cross of amber and sandalwood. I leaned into him further, resting my head on his muscular chest. It was only a few moments before I fell fast asleep in his arms.


#


 

Tune in Next Sunday to find out what happens next in Chapter 3!!!

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