Try as I might I couldn't get her out of my head. I didn't want to think of her that way. To dwell on every laugh, every moment I had her near me but I couldn't help myself. It was as if my heart had turned traitor and was bound and determined not to listen to what I wanted. No matter how hard I fought it I found myself making my way to her place with some excuse or another.
Peach and Pear weren't helping the situation. They had no idea how I felt about Patina and they were determined not to see me alone in the city.
"We're going out." Pear declared it as if it was something that was not to be argued with under any circumstances. That coupled with her hands on her hips made her look like a petulant two year old that was about ready to have a tantrum
Trying hard not to smile I replied in my most casual of tones. "That's nice." I barely looked up from the keyboard and that seemed to irritate them.
"Come ooooon Bondi." The slight whine in her voice made the image even stronger and I could no longer stop a smile from lifting the corners of my mouth.
"Oh don't hold back on my account. By all means go and have a good time." I knew I was just winding her up but she was so predictable in her reactions that I couldn't help myself.
Peach, always the more subtle of two, tried a different tactic. "Suit yourself. If you change your mind you can find us at Aquarius. Since it's one of Jaffa's places we're hoping to meet up with Citrine there."
My heart and mind warred with each other for a minute. If Citrine would be there then…. "I'll just grab my coat."
I'd never been to any of Jaffa's other clubs preferring to frequent Eugi's more and more often on open mic night and didn't know what to expect.
It was the type of place that had a bouncer out front looking for all the world like the immovable object and daring you to make her day. A group of people that was growing larger by the minute was standing around out front trying to convince her that they really did belong inside but she was turning a deaf ear to all of them.
Peach and Pear must have been there before with Citrine because they just sailed to the door paying no heed to the jealous glances as we were waved in with a smile from Ms. Muscles.
It wasn't what I expected when we got through the door. More like a rooftop pool party than a club and I started to think that maybe I could have a good time here after all
I tried to be cool and relaxed as I scanned the club looking for a hint of her stunningly unique hair. Alert as I was for any hint of her I didn't jump for once as I felt someone squeezing next to me at the bar.
"Hey you," It was Citrine. Disappointed but not distracted I continued to scan the crowd.
"Hey Citrine. Peach and Pear said they were hoping to meet up with you. I think their over there." I gestured vaguely at the other end of the bar not bothering to look and see if they actually were down there.
"Oh I'm sure I'll run into them later but for now you and I are going to have a dance." She grabbed my hand and started pulling me to the dance floor. I tried to protest but she cut me off. "Now now for once I am going to have you all to myself."
I realised that me looking for her wasn't going to make Patina appear any faster so I let myself be dragged onto the dance floor. It was a good song and Citrine was a good dancer. Once I started to get into it I began to relax and have a good time.
"Hey you made it!" She had placed the lightest of touches on my arm to get my attention over the booming music. It was so slight that it was barely noticeable but it sent an electric jolt through me. Thinking she had startled me again she smile a little half smile and I couldn't help grinning like a fool back at her. "I'm gonna get something to drink," she half shouted pointing at the bar. "You want anything?"
"I'll go with you." I near bounced off the dance floor after her. I did a quick scan around the place and couldn't see the one person I didn't want to see. Not seeing him I bit my lip and then asked the question half fearing the answer. "So is Clay not with you tonight?"
"Nah, he's out of town on business so I came with Citrine. It's much more fun that it's a girls night out anyway."
Great I was 'one of the girls'. Just what I always wanted. But Clay wasn't there and I had a night out with Patina so I didn't let that thought bother me. The night passed in laughter, drink and dancing. Patina moved with a fluid grace that drew stares from all around the room and I was in heaven being so close to her.
The next day started late. Having got home with the sun I could barely face the world again until midday. Collapsing on the sofa with a very strong cup of coffee I was preparing myself for a day of complete uselessness when my phone buzzed.
I sat there as if in trance staring at the text for the longest time. It was the first time she had ever directly asked me to come over. Filled with an energy that I didn't possess even 5 minutes ago I leapt from the sofa and dashed around getting ready.
I don't know what I was expecting to find when I got there but whatever I might have thought it wasn't this.
She stood at the door tears streaming down her face looking as if she was about to collapse at any moment. "Patina." I cried. "What's happened?"
"My grandpa…" she trailed off voice choked by tears. I opened my arms and she fell into them. I held her awkwardly wanting so bad to squeeze her tight to me but at the same time almost terrified at having her so close, so vulnerable. We stood there for a few minutes while she gained control. At last she took a deep breath and, reluctantly, I let her go.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to break down like that. It's just Citrine is out and I got the news…." She took a deep breath. "I don't want to be alone right now. Would you…I mean if it's not asking too much…would you stay for awhile?"
"As long as you need." It was in that moment seeing this beautiful, strong and independent woman so fragile that I knew I was in trouble. The thing I feared the most had happened. I was in love.
We spent the rest of the day curled up on the sofa watching movies and eating ice cream. She didn't talk about it mostly just sitting there in a numb state zoning out to the movie marathon. When Citrine finally came home I stayed just long enough to make sure they didn't need anything before I left. I ran out of the house as if I was being chased by all the dark beings in the world. The realisation of how I felt for Patina was almost more than I could bear. Sitting so close to her for so many hours, my head and my heart now beating as one, was a bitter sweet agony.
I stayed away for nearly a week hardly leaving my guitar as I wrote song after song. I heard from Peach and Pear that they had the funeral for Patina's grandfather but I tired my best not to think of her. I had to get my head straight and figure out what I was going to do. I didn't know if I could go back to just being her friend now that I had finally admitted to myself how I felt about her.
When open mic night came and this time I was ready for it. After months of working on a song and weeks of sitting through open mic night building up the courage it was time to get up there myself.
I got to the club early wanting to give myself plenty of time to calm down before I went on. The club was still fairly empty but judging from the other open mic nights I'd been to recently it would fill up quickly. I made my way through the room and over to the spot I normally claimed. As I got close I stopped dead in my tracks.
I hadn't expected to see Patina and certainly not alone. I stood frozen on the spot not sure what to do. Before I could make up my mind she glanced in my direction. With a smile and a wave she called me over and while my mind still struggled with the details my feet took me to her on their own.
"Bondi! I'm so glad you came." She as clearly very relieved which confused me somewhat. "I came with Citrine but she took off with some drummer she seemed to know. I didn't want to stay on my own but I didn't want to go home either so I've been sat here hoping you might turn up and that creepy guy over there has been staring at me and..." She paused to take a breath as she looked at me. "Sorry for all that rambling I was just so relieved to see someone I knew I.... Hang on you brought your guitar. Are you thinking of playing tonight?"
I cleared my throat trying to find my voice. "I was planning to."
She practically squealed her response. "Oh Bondi that' so exciting! I've been hoping you would play for open mic night."
"Uh yeah, don't get your hopes up it's my first time in public so it might be a bit rough."
"Don't be silly you will do amazing. Now come sit down so I don't have to stare up at you." She smiled as she patted the seat next to her. She talked at me for a while but I couldn't make out what she was saying. The nerves were getting to me big time. It was hardly noticeable when I got here, just a slight odd feeling in my stomach. Now I felt as if I had been thrown into a sauna while at the same time feeling like my mouth had been dried in the desert. My hands were shaking and my stomach felt like it was trying to claw it's way up my throat.
Halfway though the acts I couldn't take it any more. Heart hammering in my ears I dashed for the door with an "I'll be right back" thrown over my shoulder at Patina. The cold air of the night hit me with a near physical force. Gasping air and steadying myself against the lamp post I tried to calm down. What was it about this moment that I was dreading so very much. Was it the act of performing in public? Or was it just that Patina was there to watch me?
I wasn't sure how long I had been standing there but slowly to world started to come back into focus. The first thing I noticed was that the cold had turned my fingers to ice. Realising I'd better get inside and warm up if I was going to have any chance of performing I pushed myself upright.
The next thing I noticed stopped my in my tracks.
"Oh Berry but you look hot tonight."
The familiar but unwelcome voice of Clay caught my attention. When did he get back into town? It didn't matter, from the tone in his voice I didn't want to stick around and here the rest of that exchange. I turned and started to walk to the door when I heard the giggle. That giggle was not the one I was expecting. Curious now and not listening to that little part of me that screamed for me to just walk away I peaked around the corner.
This was not good.