Are You Awake -8-

The most surreal situation in the world is sitting across from the one person in the world that can break you. I’m not sure why I feel this way about Haze, but in my eyes, he is everything. God, why am I like this? Back and forth, this war waged in my mind while the world around me enjoys life. I can’t see beyond the man across from me, though. A little whisper in the back of my head wishes that I could. Life would be easier without the presence of perfection sitting at my table. How could I crave someone so ill-mannered and discourteous as Haze? 

“Where the fuck is that girl?” Haze asked, his eyes darting from table to table. 

I stumbled for words, my hands slipping below the table to fold in my lap. Do I respond? Is he talking to me? What if he is? “What girl?” I whisper as I chewed on the corner of my mouth vigorously.

With a shake of his head, Haze looked over with no amusement in his eyes, “The server. Are you an idiot?” His attention back on the small diner, Haze didn’t stop until he had the girl in his sight. With a wave of his hand, calling her forth, she was about to find out what celebrity status demanded. 

“Sir, I’m sorry,” she said. The server reached over to the table on the right, grabbing the menus to the dismay of the other customers. Was it better to get them mad, or this man mad. She took her chances and shoved the menu into his hands. Her lips curled with a fake smile. 

My focus back on our table, I reminded myself never to come here again. Not because the food is terrible, but that could have been me right there. Reaching for the menu, Haze never even handed them to us. Instead, he tossed them in the middle of the table, his focus all on himself and what he wanted. For a moment, I wondered if this was something normal for him or was he hungry. 

“What’s good here, love?” Donovan asked, his eyes on Lola. 

“You,” Lola taunted. “No, everything is. I usually get a burger and fries,” she added. 

I looked between them both in awe of how adorable they were. Donovan is a beautiful man with those penetrating eyes and all those tattoos. I wonder if Lola knows where every one of them is, but then again, last night was their first night together. My jealousy is growing by the second because I wished this was me. 

“The salad is good,” I chimed in. As though I spit on the Queen, the entire table looked over at me with a horrified gasp. “What?” I asked, “I like salad.” What the fuck was going on? Why did that shock them all? Suddenly, I feel like the only one in the place that can’t speak a word without being placed on trial. “I’ll be back. I need to use the restroom. Just order me a salad and some fries,” whispering, I didn’t wait for any of them to respond before leaving. 

Moving through the place like a gazelle chased by a hungry lion, I never once took a breath until the door closed behind me. As I stood in the middle of the bathroom, shaking, the girl in the mirror repulsed me. She was ugly, and no one could ever love her. All of my life, that’s what my mother said. She told me from the day I could walk that I looked like my father and that she hated me. God, this is not the time or place for these demons to visit. I have kept them at bay for so long that, honestly; I thought they were dead by now. My palms placed on the fake marble counter, the water dripping from the old faucet. The bathroom wasn’t nasty. It’s just old. 

Standing there, lost in thought, I never heard the door to the stall open. God, after the last time I was in a public bathroom, my cheeks flared red from embarrassment. 

“Oh, sorry, I was lost in thought there for a minute. I’m sure you want the sink,” I said, taking a few steps back. It was then that I looked up to see the woman. She was pretty, not stunning, but pretty. Long red hair, green eyes, and that skin we would die to have—ivory with not a flaw in sight. I’m sure she gets a lot of attention. 

“I noticed you out there with your boyfriend. He looks familiar,” she said. She turned the water on.

“Oh, he’s not my boyfriend. I wish,” I laughed. “My friend works at the radio station with Haze, and we’re just all having lunch together. We’re not dating,” I added. I didn’t want it getting out that I was claiming the man. I could already tell it irritated him. Leaning against the wall, I watched the woman wash her hands. The bubbles are popping as she rubbed them together. I shook my head, the scent of flowers overwhelming.

She squished her nose up to wrinkle her forehead, eyes on the mirror. “Don’t wish for things like that. Some people are not what they seem.” The water off, she dried her hands in the air, waving them back and forth. “I guess this place doesn’t believe in towels. Pity.”

It only took a second to come back to reality again. I don’t know what she meant about Haze. Did this woman know him, or did she hear the altercation with the waitress? That wasn’t good. “Wait, do you know him?” I asked. All of this was so weird. Lately, I need to avoid public bathrooms. People either love Haze or hate him. 

“No, just him. I had a friend who dated someone like him once. It didn’t end well,” she said. “Sorry, I need to go,” she added, walking off, slamming the door on the way out. 

I stood in the bathroom for a few minutes, dumbfounded at what she meant. If she didn’t know Haze, how could she know she had a friend who dated someone like him? All of this had to stem back to the waitress. God, what an impression we must have made. Exhaling sharply, I need to get back before Lola comes to scold me. She will lose her mind if I show any disrespect to the guys. 

“Sorry, some lady kept me captive in the bathroom,” I laughed as I returned to the table. “I guess she was lonely,” I lied. There is no way I was going to tell Haze that she insulted him, but I would mention it later to Lola. Something about her rubbed me in a weird way. It is almost as though we were meant to meet in the bathroom today. Was this a warning or an omen? 

“The last time I spent time in the bathroom with someone, it was,” Haze stopped, looking down at his plate, “Deadly.”

All three of us looked over in shock. How could Haze be so callous about this woman dying? She might have been a hole for him, but for someone else, she was a wife. I am not sure why this bothers me, but it does. Maybe inside of my chest, there is a heart that beats for more than just him. 

“Will the police contact us?” I asked, a fry dipping in the ketchup as I asked. I am trying hard to make small talk here, but it is almost impossible.

Haze looked over, shaking his head, “Why? Your nobody.”

It was at that moment that my entire world stopped spinning. I am nobody. I don’t know if what I am feeling is pain or if I am in shock. Either way, I’m gutted by his words and I am sure my face shows it. 

I didn’t see it, but I heard it—the slap to the chest, the groan, and laugh. 

“What the fuck, man. Stop being a dick,” Donovan said as his hand connected to Haze’s chest. 

Haze laughed, holding his chest as he did, “I didn’t mean it like that. I only meant that she is not involved or a celebrity. Nothing else.”

I listened, but ignored the chatter. Picking up the fork, pushing the salad from one side of the plate to the other, I knew I needed to take one bite at least. The tomato fell victim to the prongs of the fork. It was a struggle to reach my mouth, but I had to eat. Lola would be pissed if I didn’t. Her pet peeve is women who can’t eat in front of a man. My stomach retching in anger, I forced the food into my mouth, swirling it on my tongue before swallowing. The salad was excellent, but I felt as though I might vomit. 

“Eat the food, Sage,” Lola whispered. 

I looked up quickly, smiling, “I am. It’s delicious.” I continued to push the salad back and forth. I took the second bite, smiling over at Lola. She was worried about me, but I know it was her being embarrassed more than anything. 

For a few moments, the world went quiet. I found myself lost in my mind as I tried to remember the bathroom conversation. Should I tell them about the woman? Even though Haze was mean to me, I still can’t hurt his feelings. Daydreaming for a minute, I jumped when my phone vibrated. 

“Stop fucking staring at him. I swear to God, you will never be allowed to come with us if you don’t stop acting like a 12-year-old with her first crush,” Lola said via a text. 

I didn’t reply—no need to make a further fool of myself. I tossed the phone on the table, looking up with a smile. My heart stopped. Every single one of them looked at me with a smile. 

“What the hell?” I asked. 

Haze leaned over the table, wiping a dribble of dressing from the corner of my mouth with his thumb. He brought his hand to his lips, tasting it. “Ranch, my favorite,” he laughed. 

That was the moment I almost died. 

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