As Cole lifted the weights with his legs, the events of the past week were on his mind. Meeting Nicky and talking had been a good idea. He was very grateful to Yasmine for insisting he reach out to her. Talking to her about their failed relationship had helped him get closure too. It was almost like he had been carrying around a weight and didn’t realize it until was lifted from his shoulders.
As Cole switched to arm presses, he realized how good it felt to work up a sweat and burn his muscles. He was quickly becoming addicted to the endorphins released in his body from a strenuous workout. He planned to come home from class, work out, eat and study. In that order, then do it all again the next day. He was more than ready for classes to start again on Monday, and happy that Nicky was no longer at the forefront of his thoughts. If anyone was it was Dannie and Yasmine. Not necessarily in that order.
His ‘date’ with his not-girlfriend hadn’t changed anything with their relationship. They were still just friends. He was relieved. He wasn’t ready for more, and now he could focus on school with no distractions. He really liked Yasmine – like – a lot. But she could be intimidating, even though she could also be very sweet. She confused him.
He realized he knew very little about Yasmine other than she easily slipped into a leadership role, no matter what the circumstance. Whether it was leading a conversation among people that felt awkward with each other or helping him work through his own issues.
He remembered how she was so kind to Ami when they first met. He couldn’t see Laney doing that. She only did things with him. He and Laney had created their own little universe which imploded when she got her dream job – and then in just a few short months found someone to replace him. Was what they had even real? After seeing how Nicky and Mickey were so in tune to each other, he wondered, but it certainly felt real.
As he reached up and pulled the overhead bar to start the last of his workout, Dannie came to mind. She had asked him not to send her anymore texts after he sent her the picture of his black eye. She said she would text him when she could, that it wasn’t worth getting Ryker upset. That was the last time he had heard from her. He could understand why Ryker wouldn’t like it, he probably wouldn’t either. But still, he missed her friendly and sometimes sexy banter. He hoped, when classes started again and their schedules were settled, that she would have a day they could make work so they could talk.
He didn’t dare reach out to Nicky either. He did what she wanted and made nice with her asshole lover. Giving them space would be good. He had come to terms with their relationship, and had already interfered more than enough. She would hate him if he started bugging her. When she was ready, she would reach out. Maybe in a few weeks, they could all go see her sing.
Yasmine walked in, bringing his thoughts back to the present. “Oh, I can come back later when you are done,” she said, and turned to leave.
Cole didn’t want her to go. He was suddenly feeling lonely, and he was almost finished anyway. He slowly let the bar go to the top and released it, the weights making a soft clink as they settled against each other. “I was just finishing up,” he said and smiled at her, “In fact I am grateful for a reason to stop. I am going to be sore in the morning if I don’t, and that won’t be a good way to begin class.”
“You sure?” she asked.
“One hundred percent. Just give me a minute to shower and change clothes. You can come up if you want. I won’t be long.”
Yasmine followed Cole into his bedroom. He grabbed some clean clothes out of his drawer and went to take a quick shower.
Yasmine was looking at the picture of his family when he came back in, 5 minutes later, drying his hair with the towel. “You have a lovely family,” she said not turning around, “They are all so sweet.”
“My family?” he asked as he pulled a t-shirt over his head.
She turned to face him. “Well… Wow….Hot damn Cole. You’re looking good, I approve,” she said as she gave him an appreciative once over with her eyes.
“Oh…” he stammered, a little uncomfortable, “It helps with the stress, you know. That’s really the only reason I am …. I mean, I don’t plan on trying to pay Mickey back or anything, even though I still don’t fully trust him. But they seem to be the real deal so…” He knew he wasn’t making any sense and just stopped talking.
“I’m usually a pretty good judge of character. And on the surface, well he seems nice enough, but you’re right, there is something just underneath that smooth exterior. Too smooth if you ask me. You are also right about the two of them. I can tell by the way those two look at each other that they are knee deep into each other.”
“Please, don’t get me started on his arrogance. I promised to play nice in the sandbox. But the less I can share my sand with him, the better.”
Yasmine laughed and eyed Cole’s body again. “Well, before your new hot bod distracted me, as I was saying, you have a lovely family. Love just oozes out of that picture. You are lucky. I didn’t meet your parents, but I did meet your sister. She’s a little firecracker, but she worships you. I could tell that night we met. It was sweet. And I felt so sorry for her, but she handled herself well. She will go far.”
Cole looked fondly at the picture. “She’s a spoiled princess, is what she is,” he said and laughed, “Even so, I do miss her. We had a long talk that night. But she isn’t like me at all.”
Yasmine laughed again, “You don’t say? Cole you two are day and night different! And it’s funny because you have the same parents.”
“Well, sort of. My real mother died from complications due to childbirth.”
“Oh Cole, I’m so sorry.”
“Nah. It’s okay. I was a week old. It’s hard for my dad sometimes though, because my birthday is a huge reminder of that time,” Cole pointed to the picture on his dresser. “That’s her. I used to look at her picture a lot when I was little and try to imagine her.”
Yasmine walked over to the dresser and looked at the picture. Then she looked at Cole’s reflection in the mirror. “Oh, you look so much like her,” she said softly, “that must be hard.”
Cole smiled. “It used to bother me. But I always thought of my adoptive mother as my real mother. She and Dad got married when I was four, so she was sorta always there. I don’t really remember her not being around.”
“They love each other very much don’t they,” said Yasmine and something in the way she spoke, made her sound sad.
“Yes,” he said rolling his eyes, “They do. You remember the Tiramisu…I need to ask them how that came to be, but I’m too embarrassed. I just remember figuring it out when I was around 15 and I was mortified to realize that my parents had sex – a lot.”
Yasmine burst out laughing. “That’s sweet. My family isn’t so affectionate. In fact, I have no brothers or sisters. Just my folks. I was raised by my nanny until I was 12. Some might say I’m a spoiled princess too. But I think Ami and I were spoiled much differently.”
“Well, it’s probably better than having a little sister always wanting to tag along or parents that totally embarrass you.”
“I guess,” she said and shrugged, “I had lots of ‘fake friends’ though. Everyone wanted to be my friend because my house was the ‘fun’ house. We aren’t super wealthy, but we did well. My parents own a successful car dealership in Windenburg and made a fair amount of money in spite of themselves. They still run the day-to-day operations themselves. I think that is why they didn’t have any more kids. The business is their baby.
“I’m pretty sure I was an oopsie baby, probably conceived in the back seat of one of the cars on the lot. They took care of me, but their priority was always the business. I think they could do so much better if they would learn how to market it. You know. Get advertising and… well you don’t care about all of that. I’m rambling.”
“I do care. It’s interesting,” said Cole.
“Well, I hope after I graduate, to get a job with an advertising agency, to create marketing for companies. I like to think I could do really well, at least it would be fun.”
“I’n sure you will do well. It’s good to have a vision. Although, I guess mine seems pretty boring in comparison. I will probably go back to Willow Creek and, hopefully, work in the clinic with Doc Lewis. After Laney, I never thought of going anywhere else. I mean, it’s home.”
“That’s nice. At least you have somewhere that feels like home. I wouldn’t mind living anywhere really. Not sure I want to go back to Windenburg ever. There really is nothing for me there. Just my folks and they don’t care if I’m there or not. And my fake friends are scattered. Maybe a big city like San Myshuno or even all the way to Bridgeport would be exciting.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Have you ever been in love?” The words were impulsive and he immediately wished he could swallow them back.
A look of genuine surprise crossed her face. “Wow. That’s a deep question. Where did that come from?” she asked.
“Never mind,” he said, now very uncomfortable, “I was just curious. Trying to understand you. You give so much of yourself, but seem to keep parts locked away. I’m not as good as you at figuring people out. You don’t have to answer. Just forget it.”
“True confessions huh?” she asked as she sat down on the bed and considered his question. She looked up at him. “I guess, since you poured out your heart to me, turnabout is fair play.”
She paused as a look of sadness fluttered across her face. “Yes,” she said finally and somewhat flippantly, “At least I thought I was. I was just 17 and he hung the moon for me. It was … well … let’s just say, it ended a thousand times worse than you and Laney.”
“I’m so sorry Yasmine,” said Cole feeling really bad about asking.
“It’s okay really,” she said sweetly, “I learned from it. Not happening again. No love. Just fun. That way nobody gets hurt. Right?”
“Maybe you are right…I just don’t know,” said Cole, considering her words. Maybe one day she would share more, but perhaps she had a point. Loving Laney had hurt.
Suddenly she smiled, apparently shaking off the past memories. “I forgot! Look outside! That’s why I came to find you. It’s snowing! Let’s go build a snowwoman. I bet Blandon has already finished theirs. We have to go make a better one!”
“Did you say snowwoman,” asked Cole.
“Yes! Equal opportunity snow creatures.”
Cole flexed his biceps. “I am NOT building a snowwoman. Nope. No way. Not with these guns! It will definitely be a big ass snowMAN,” he said.