Chapter 17 ~ Friends
I didn’t want to open my eyes, I knew what I was facing, another day of complete and total emptiness. My husband had died, gone, and left me here in this horrid world, all alone and suffering excruciating agony, as prepared as we thought we were, I could not stop the horrific hurt that consumed my being. Everything burned; my bones ached, as too did the cuts from the broken glass that I had thrown in a fit of rage. I had nothing left, was nothing without him and I became wild knowing I had awoken, yearning for death to swallow me whole, take me far away from this crippling torture.
What would become of me? Once a woman high on possibilities, now, just a broken and empty shell, occupying space, desperately in need of being discarded… maybe even the trash was too good for my poisonous, contemptible, pathetic excuse of a dishonourable self. I was not fit for anyone.
My chest blazed like it was being torched from the inside out, no descriptive word I could think of would be able to sufficiently describe the hollowness, the hurt, the devastation. I felt hopeless, utterly destroyed in every way conceivable. The vultures began circling yesterday and on top of losing my beloved husband, I now felt like a prisoner, trapped inside our home, a home that was built for us as a sanctuary but is now, empty and lifeless, just like me.
My ears picked up a soft snore and my eyelids flipped open in sudden panic, I near on blinded myself with the bright light the filled the bedroom. Straining to focus, I felt a body shift beside me, not just any body, Dante’s body. When the hell did Dante arrive and how the bloody hell did he get in? I had specifically said no visitors, but as I looked over his sleeping form, my heart beat wildly and the concrete surrounding it began to crack away.
He had come for me, to comfort me in my time of need and my soul bled knowing he was there, knowing that when I needed him the most, his arms were surrounding me. I buried my head further into his chest, breathing in the lavish alluring scent of his masculine cologne. The tears, once again, leaked out without restraint and I howled in pain, “shhh, I got you, baby, I’m here,” his smoky husky voice croaked out. His right arm rubbing my back as I fell apart for the millionth time, only now I was safely nestled in his embrace. He allowed me all the time I needed to get out the crushing weight of my husband’s departure.
“Why… how?” I snivelled as his shirt soaked up my endless waterfall.
“I promised Tim, I promised I would be here no matter what. But I only promised him because I love you and I’m not letting you go.”
“What?” I gasped, “why you?”
He tilted my head towards his and forced me to focus on his remarkable hazel eyes. “He knew Quinn, he knew all along baby, he wanted to make sure you had someone to love you through everything, to worship you when he was gone.” I closed my eyes, allowing Dante’s words to sink in. My husband knew of our affair, he knew of my infidelity, I was the worst… a whore, a harlot and yet he chose to love me regardless of my scandalous ways, till the very end.
“But your girl Dante,” I pushed away from him, remembering the confronting scene from that night in the bar.
His hold tightened, not liking my sudden need to be away from him, “there is no girl, no one but you.”
“But you said…”
“I regret what ‘drunk me’ said, I never meant it, honestly, I was just so hurt. Tim asked me to back off and I tried, I really did, but I can’t, I won’t ever leave you. I love you and I need you.”
“You don’t need me, Dante, you were fine without me.”
He chuckled silently, amused by something I said, “that’s where you’re wrong baby, Tim knew I needed you just as much as you need me. I was empty without you but you gave me hope, a light in my darkness. You have wormed your way into my very soul and without you, I am nothing.”
His words had my head spinning on its axis, could he really love me after how badly we ended? “Dante…” I pulled back, sitting up in bed and wiping away the tears the continued to leak and have been for the past two days, “Tim just passed, I don’t know if I’m emotionally ready to jump into anything with you, I know I’m in love with you, I know that when you are not there my soul hurts but then I also know that I may need time, to just sort out what I’m meant to do next.”
He sat up too, “I understand that Quinn, and I don’t expect you to just jump in bed with me and us to begin a full-blown relationship. Tritium was a special man, clearly to everyone who met him, but I am not willing to let you suffer through the death of your husband on your own. How we met, yes, it wasn’t idealistic but I don’t regret it. We began with lust, that much is obvious, let’s just spend some time getting through this tough time in your life, develop our friendship over again and see where it goes from there? I’m not asking you to jump from one bed to another, just the opportunity to spend time with you, for you to allow me in. Can we do that? No expectations, just a fresh start? You are always going to love Tim, he was your husband and your first love, hell, he even took your virginity and I don’t want you to forget him, but I do expect to be there for you, through those good days and bad, to love you through all the challenges that face you in the future.”
I paused for a moment, looking around at the mess that covered the floor, the fact that I was still wearing Tim’s college T-shirt and it still carried the stain from the night Tritium and I spilt the red wine in the heat of passion. I extended my right hand, “Hi, my name is Quinn, I’m a little broken and don’t currently have a job, my husband has just passed away and I have no direction in life but as you can clearly see, I am awesome at creating mess.”
Dante chuckled at my antics, “DJ, nice to meet you, Quinn, I have never been in a serious relationship, I work for LMPT as the CFO or chief financial officer, I’m possessive and at times narcissistic, I can see all your faults and choose to love you regardless and from the moment I met you I have never been more enamoured by someone. Now, have you written your eulogy for your husband’s funeral?”
I smiled, I guess sometimes a little ‘messed up’ and ‘neurotic’ in our lives is needed. “I haven’t, no.”
“Well, why don’t we start there… when is the funeral?”
“Wednesday, Angelique and Bryce have been given the task of organising everything.”
“Well, why don’t we start by you telling me about what he was like?” Dante pulled out his mobile phone from the discarded jacket on the floor, tapping his e-mail app and opening it.
Talking about Tim felt great, we had hidden so much of our life together because of the media and with no girlfriends left, it was wonderful to re-count the tale of the greatest moments of my life. Dante listened intently, choosing specific memories to add, laughing at others but allowing me the support I needed to express every emotion that arose.
Tim had made me swear to choose someone to love immediately after his passing but my heart just wasn’t ready. That night, as we ate pizza in bed and binge-watched crappy action comedy movies, I thanked my lucky stars that he was there with me, that I no longer had to endure the darkness alone and when the following day arrived, I felt just a tiny bit better.
“Fuck, I think I’m starting to expire.”
I laughed as he smelt his armpits, “you could shower here.”
“I think I need to go home,” a ripple of panic and fear raced through me, he was going to leave me. I knew it was irrational and I knew I shouldn’t have been relying on him emotionally but right now, I was weak, I needed him but he was going home. I nodded glumly, unable to force back the tears once again, he didn’t look at me though, he picked up his phone and dialled. I was trying desperately to hide my overwhelming fear of being separated but as he gathered the clothes from around the floor, the items of clothing I had thrown in despair, what he did next surprised me.
“Hey, Vi… I need a favour, I’m going to text you Quinn’s address… yes, Viola, she is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstance…” he looked up at me, seeing me in pain and dropped everything in his hand to come sit next to me. “Hang on Vi…” he covered the receiver with his hand, “What?” he questioned.
I shook my head and sunk lower under the covers. He furrowed his brow as I pretended not to notice him in my peripheral vision, “change of plans Vi… I’m going to text a list of stuff you need to get from my house, then bring them to Quinn’s place, the media is still camping out so I’ll let the security team know you’re coming. Call one of the boys to escort you, I don’t want you battling the chaos alone… thanks, sis, see you soon.”
He hung up and flopped down onto the bed, throwing his arms around me in a massive bear hug, peppering kisses all over my face as I squirmed below his onslaught. “I was always coming back baby, I wouldn’t just promise you the world and then leave you alone.”
He pulled back and variously typed away on his phone, my heart leapt for joy with the knowledge of him not actually going anywhere. The sad thing was, is that he was the only thing keeping me from slipping into depression and doing something stupid. After some much-needed tidying, we had been lying there for just over an hour when the intercom beeped and the familiar voice of Tim’s guard spoke. “Mrs Xeal, Mr McCarlock’s visitors are here.”
He pressed the buzzer, “thank you, Mr Striker, please send them up.”
We waited tensely, Dante held me the whole time, reassuring me that I looked beautiful and didn’t need to shower, it was only his sister, I huffed loudly but remained in my catatonic state, after all, he was just collecting items he needed.
The heavy knock at the door signalled Viola’s arrival. The door burst open and Viola came hurtling into the room, jumping on me and wrapping her slender arms around as much of my body as she could, “I’m so sorry Quinn,” her sympathy had my eyes glazing over again and I opened the flood once more, she squeezed tighter.
“Jesus Christ… smells like a brewery and ass in here,” I tilted my head to the side, blinking back the tears and paled as other men waltzed in, embracing Dante in a fond man hug.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” I knew at least one, Blade, but the others I did not recognise.
“Are you fucken kidding me? You honestly think we were going to let you take care of the woman you love without our help?” A tanned looking man with a slight Australian twang spoke before driving his knuckles into Dante’s shoulder playfully.
“How did you…” A shorter man that was practically all muscle halted his question.
“C’mon DJ, you think we wouldn’t notice? You are not the type to bend over backwards chasing tail unless she meant something.” I glanced at Viola watching the display of affection as scrupulously as I was. She felt my eyes and looked over, sending me a jovial wink of amusement.
“I’m sorry guys, I didn’t even know what was happening until it was too late.”
“We know, Blade informed us,” a very young man looking suspiciously like Pierre and his wife Amber stepped forward, making himself comfortable at the end of my bed. “So this is her, huh?”
I sat up, my eyes flicking between them all, suddenly realising all these men I didn’t know had all made themselves at home, and yet somehow, I didn’t mind that. Viola squeezed my hand and my head slowly moved to face her. “They are harmless; really, god knows some of them have no balls at all.” As she spat her strange Jab her eyes quickly flashed in Blades direction, this was not the first time I had noticed odd behaviour between the two of them.
“Well, we all know she ain’t talking about me.” The short man quipped as the group laughed, I wondered what that was about.
“Ah, shit, Quinn… maybe I should make some introductions. Blade you know,” he tilted his head to the side and smiled, “the one that looks like Pierre is his son Asher,” he waved and gave me a dashing grin. “This hunk of a man is Kason,” he wrapped his arm around the tanned, Australian twang man’s shoulders.
“And beautiful, I’m really the only one you need to know…” the short bulky man stepped forward, “my name is Vinnie, and I can make all your desires come true.” My eyes widened hearing what just flowed from his silver tongue, Viola reached across me and grabbed a pillow before tossing it directly at him.
“Fuck off Vinnie, no one wants what you’re offering, keep your anaconda under control.” Dante’s hand goes up and slaps the back of Vinnie’s head.
“Mrs Xeal?” a tear-filled Angelique popped her head in the doorway, “should… I bring up… some refreshments?” My gaze immediately flicked to Dante and I nodded, he understood immediately, after all, so far, he had been the only one I would speak too.
“Thank you, Angelique, would you like a hand?”
“No thank you… Mr McCarlock… I can manage.” Her sobs worsened the more she tried to hold in.
As if Dante knew exactly what I was thinking, he ended with, “and after that, perhaps you should take the afternoon…” he looked at me as if asking permission, I nodded okay, “…and tomorrow off, you have been so strong during this time, far stronger than anyone could have imagined, you need time to grieve too.” This opened a blubbering floodgate as she left the doorway, I think she wanted comfort from me, but I was unable to give it at this moment, I knew it was selfish, she had been with Tritium far longer than I and she took care of him as though he were her son.
I slowly blinked, looking up in awe of this amazing man, who had literally just swept in and taken the reins, allowing me to fall apart. Did Angelique have that? I knew she had a husband and adult children, but internally I struggled with realising I didn’t really know a lot about her. Shit, Tim would be so disappointed in me.