I drove to pick up Mailbert in silence. All I could think about was Lucky and how much I would miss seeing her face. “You are certifiably crazy, Zane Beaumont,” I mumbled to myself as I drove in the crazy traffic to Coral Gables. I wasn’t looking forward to my date with Mailbert: she was a beautiful, no-nonsense girl, and I knew I had to be on the top of my game. Her father was an attorney who had fled with his parents from Cuba in the 60s, and he was heavily involved in the music industry. He was an acquaintance of my dad, and I knew that if I did anything to upset Mailbert, her father and uncles would not be too happy with me. I couldn’t afford to bring down their wrath on me. In fact, I already knew it was a risk taking Mailbert to Lou’s; she would not be impressed with the diner, and would likely see it as an insult that I hadn’t taken her to a nice restaurant somewhere. I already knew I would have to take her on a walk by the beach afterwards as an excuse for taking her to the diner. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I didn’t want to miss my weekly viewing of Lucky.
“Gracias.” Mailbert waited for me to open the car door for her as we walked back to my car. I smiled as she got in and waved goodbye to her father, who was still standing at the front door, watching me, as I got into the driver’s seat.
“De nada.” I smiled at Mailbert as I got in, happy to see that she was in a better mood than I had last seen her in.
“You learned some Spanish now, Zane?” She looked surprised and I shook my head.
“No, not really. I know enough to get by.”
“To get by where? In England?” She laughed at her joke and I nodded as I pulled away.
“I know, I know. I should really learn the language.”
“I don’t know how you can live in Miami and not speak the language.” She shook her head.
“I know, I’m a idiot. Anyone that lives in Miami and doesn’t speak fluent Spanish is a first-class idiot.”
“Well, I’ll teach you.” She smoothed her dress down, and ran her fingers through her long black hair. “Especially if you want to meet my grandparents. They don’t speak any English.”
“Oh?” I laughed, and tried to change the subject. We were going to places I didn’t want to go, and I was worried that Mailbert thought that this was the beginning of some sort of lengthy relationship. I didn’t want to tell her that I had no intention of ever meeting her grandparents.
“So, where are we going? Meat market?”
“Uh, no.” I shook my head and gave her an impish smile. “I thought we would try a new place I found.”
“Oh, who owns it?”
“Who owns it?”
“Yeah, which chef?” She gave me a “duh” look. “I didn’t know a new place had opened recently. It’s not Wolfgang, is it? I just love his food.”
“Errr, I don’t think it’s Wolfgang.” I held in a laugh. “I’m not sure you’ve heard of the, um, chef. But I can attest for the food. It’s good.”
“Well, I’m sure you wouldn’t steer me in the wrong direction. What type of food? Not Spanish, I hope. Is it Thai? We need a good Thai restaurant here in Miami.”
“Um, I wouldn’t say Thai, but the good news is that it’s not Spanish.” I smiled and turned on the radio to avoid having to go into the exact details. “It’s a surprise. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.”
“I guess so.” She frowned and wrinkled her nose at the music playing through the speakers. “Can you turn it to 95.3, the pop station?”
“Oh, we’re going to the beach?”
“I thought it would be nice.”
“Romantic, I guess. I don’t normally leave Coral Gables.”
“Not even when you dated Braydon?”
“Braydon?” She frowned at me.
“Braydon Eagle?” I spoke casually, pretending to be nonchalant. “I thought I heard you dated him, and he doesn’t seem the sort to stay in the Gables.”
“I never dated Braydon Eagle.” She looked at me like I was crazy.
“No way.” She shook her head and made a face. “I have no interest in dating guys in the industry.”
“Oh, weird.” I frowned, wondering why Special Agent Waldron had told me to ask her on a date. And then it hit me: he most probably wanted to throw Braydon off of the trail. If he started to get suspicious and spy on me, he would think that Brigetta was wrong or that I didn’t know as much as I could. By taking Mailbert on a date, I was showing him and everyone else that I was dating other girls. I shook my head and laughed to myself. I had to hand it to Special Agent Waldron, he was definitely two steps ahead of me.
“So where are we going?”
“We’re going to Lou’s Burger Joint.” I pulled up to a parking spot and jumped out of the car lightheartedly. It didn’t matter if Mailbert was disappointed now. I didn’t need anything from her. She had no information, and I sure wasn’t going to bother wasting my time taking her for a walk on the beach afterwards. “You’ll love it. The food is great and the waitresses are even better.”
“A burger joint.” She looked down her nose at me. “Are you joking?”
“Do I look like I’m joking? Let’s go.” I grabbed her arm and pulled her along with me to the diner on the corner. I was excited to see Lucky. I was excited to give her the small present, and I was anxious to see how she would react when I gave it to her. Would she think it was too much? I hoped she didn’t ask me why I was giving her a gift. I stifled a groan. Maybe she would think I was a creeper?
“What about creeping?”
“You just mumbled something about creeping or something?”
“No, no I didn’t.” I opened the door quickly. I was definitely losing it if I was talking to myself out loud.
“Hey Zane, welcome back to Lou’s.” Maria winked at me as I walked in. “Grab a booth, I’ll let Lucky know you’re here.”
“You come here a lot?” Mailbert frowned as we walked into the diner and looked around with a scornful look.
“A few Fridays here and there.” I walked to my regular booth in the corner, and looked around for Lucky. My breath caught as I saw her laughing with someone at the counter. My heart pained as our eyes met and she gave me a little wave before turning back to the customer in front of her. How was I going to leave Miami and Lucky behind?
“It seems like more than a few Fridays.”
“What?” I looked at Mailbert briefly and then back to the counter. Lucky was no longer laughing, and if anything she looked a little worried, scared even.
“I said I think that you’ve…”
“Excuse me, I’ll be right back.” I jumped up and walked to the counter without stopping to think what I was doing. “Hey, is everything okay?” I looked at Lucky questioningly, and she looked surprised to see me.
“I’m fine, why?”
“You looked like you were upset.” Good one, Zane. You sure don’t look like a creeper or a stalker now. I tried not to roll my eyes at myself.
“Oh, I was just talking to Nate intensely.” She nodded towards the guy at the counter, and my insides churned with jealousy. “I’m okay.”
“Oh, okay,” I responded, glaring at Nate. He looked back at me with a slight air of anger and I knew that he didn’t appreciate me interrupting their conversation. I wanted to ask her what they had been talking about so intensely, but knew that it was none of my business. “If you can bring a menu soon, I’d appreciate it. My date and I are hungry and we have plans for after we eat.”
“I’ll be right with you.” She looked hurt at my curt tone, and I turned around abruptly, upset that she was sharing private information with Nate and not with me. I walked slowly and kept my ears tuned to their conversation to see if I could hear anything.
“So, I can give you a ride to work if you don’t think your car is going to make it.” Nate’s voice sounded as smarmy as his face looked, and I prayed that Lucky would tell him where to get off.
“That’s okay. Thanks. I should have enough to get my car fixed soon. I should be fine.”
“My uncle owns a used car dealership if you need to buy a new car. He does his own financing as well, so if your credit sucks, he can hook you up.”
“Thanks, but I should be okay.” Lucky’s voice trailed off. “I think my car has some life in her yet.”
“Well, here’s my number in case you ever need a ride.”
“Thanks.” Lucky’s voice sounded happy and I wanted so badly to turn around to see if she had pocketed the number or not. I also wished I was able to give her the money to fix her car. There was no way in hell I wanted her calling Nate if anything happened. He sounded like a sleazeball. And I didn’t trust what he would do if he got the chance to be alone with her outside of the diner. Yeah, I didn’t know him. But something about him gave me the creeps. Yeah, the fact that he’s a guy who likes her. That’s the only thing you really have against him, Zane. I ignored the voice in my head that was trying to be rational. I didn’t want to be rational. Not when it came to her.
“I hope you enjoyed your meal.” Lucky looked like she was far away as she left collected our plates. “I’ll bring the receipt by in a moment.” And then she walked away from the table quickly.
“Hold on,” I jumped out of the booth and grabbed her arm. She looked at me in surprise and I took her to the corner of the restaurant so I could give her the little gift.
“Can I help you, Zane?” She took a step back from me, and I shook my head. This wasn’t the right time. I couldn’t give it to her now. She’d think I was crazy.
“No, no. Sorry.” I walked back to the table and sat back down in silence. I could see Noah’s face in my mind. He’d be laughing loudly if he could see me now. How the mighty had fallen!
“Here’s your receipt, but don’t feel pressured to pay right away. Unless of course, you have somewhere else to be.”
“Thanks.” I turned away from her before I spoke the words I was thinking out loud. I don’t want to be anywhere but with you. I wanted to slap myself for being such a sap inside. I had no idea who had gotten into my body, but the thoughts I was thinking were not Zane Beaumont thoughts at all.
I couldn't stop thinking about Lucky and the smiley face on the receipt. She had also written a little message next to it: “On rainy days, think of the clouds.” I wasn't sure if she was just very profound or fond of writing messages that didn't make sense. It didn't really matter which it was, I was still ecstatically happy that she had written anything at all. It was weird how attached I had become to this chocolate-eyed girl; she filled my every waking hour that wasn't consumed by Noah or Braydon.
I smiled to myself as the words to my favorite Lord Byron poem floated through my head. It had been a while since I had thought of poetry. It hadn't seemed right to rejoice in the lyrical sensations of words while my heart felt empty and sad. However, the deep pangs of painful memories were erased when I thought of Lucky. I had come to think of her as my Lucky, even though I barely knew her. It was insane. I felt like a part of me was being driven insane by feelings and desires I didn't understand. It was more than want and lust, and it was deeper than mere attraction. I could close my eyes and just listen to her voice and be happy.
I paused to grab my pen, and started scribbling notes on my pad. Images of Lucky became words in my mind. Fleeting, floating, graceful swan, chocolate eyes that are second to none. Feel my heart inside me beat, feel the wind beneath my feet. Gazing, staring, laughing, smiling, I want to be the one you’re.... I stopped writing furiously before I wrote the next words. I froze as I thought about what I had been about to write. I didn't even want to think about it, I couldn't acknowledge it. I wasn't this guy. I didn't want to become that guy. I couldn't afford to fall for her. No matter what lies my heart told my brain, I was Zane Beaumont. I didn't do relationships. I didn't fall in love, and I didn't get close to people. Not before, not now, and not ever. I was about to continue trying to convince myself that I had no interest in Lucky when the phone rang.
"Yo Beaumont, it's Evan."
"How can I help you, Evan?" I tried not to sigh into the phone. Evan was the last guy I wanted to be talking to. He was a wannabe of the highest order, and I knew he only tried to contact me because he thought I would introduce him to my dad and get him some starring role in a new movie. I didn't bother setting him straight. I wasn't close to my dad, and even if I was, Evan was the last person I would try and get a role.
"Bro, what you up to tomorrow night?" he drawled, oblivious to the obvious dislike in my voice.
"Oh." He paused, obviously confused about my snarky remark. "Do you want to come to a party tomorrow?"
"Not really." I was about to hang up when he interrupted me quickly.
“There will be lots of hot girls, you should come, get out there a bit, maybe hook up.”
“I’m not interested in hooking….” I paused as I thought about his words. Maybe this was the solution to my problems. Maybe hooking up with someone else was the answer to getting Lucky out of my brain, and preferably someone that wasn’t connected to Noah’s case. Maybe that was the problem. All of the women I had been hanging out with recently were off-limits in my mind because I was using them to get certain information. It wasn’t as if I could have meaningless sex with them and expect to get answers. Not unless I wanted to pretend that I was interested in more than just the sex, which I wasn’t. I didn’t want to find myself in a fake relationship just to get answers. That wasn’t who I was. I wasn’t going to deliberately hurt someone’s feelings and make them think that I was looking for a relationship when I wasn’t. But I also didn’t want my every waking hour to be consumed by thoughts of Lucky anymore. “Sure, what time?” I spoke quickly, before I could change my mind.