I’m back! 🙂 I missed you all SO much while I was gone! But I really feel refreshed and ready to jump back in now… This was really good for me ^_^
Just a couple of quick things before we get back to Zayne 🙂
First, I would like to extend a HUGE and sincere thank you to all of you who reached out here, on the forums, or elsewhere with love and support and encouragement. You’re all wonderful and I love you ❤
Second, during my hiatus I was nominated for some blogging awards by some lovely people ❤ I’m not big on doing those award posts myself, but I wanted to thank and give a shoutout to orangeplumbob, Nichole1011, Skcaga6, and TheoriesOfHappiness for nominating me (three nominations for A2A, one for my comedy story. But I decided to put all my thanks in one place)!
Third, just a heads-up that we have four interludes in a row coming up! Because of the lack of numbers on interlude chapters, I realize it could be easy to skip one. So be careful 😉
I am also considering numbering my interludes starting in Gen Six, as interludes have become just as frequent as journals at this point (and will continue to be quite frequent in Gen 6 — maybe even MORE frequent!), and the lack of numbers on those chapters can make it hard to keep track of your place! However I do still want to designate them as “interludes” to separate them from the journals. So my thought is that we’d start having long titles like “5.60: Interlude – Puppet”.
If anyone has an opinion on this, let me know in the comments! 🙂
And finally, there’s a screenshot warning on this chapter for a few steamy ones.
And now, onward! Thank you all again ❤
“Wow.” Hope’s eyes widened slightly as she placed her glass of wine back on the coffee table. “That’s… wow. I knew Greg was a little controlling… But what a fucking dick!” She almost laughed.
“I know.” Zayne agreed. “But what a fucking moron I was too… How the hell could I sign something without reading it first?!” He couldn’t help but laugh at his own foolishness. At first, Zayne had been so angry and frustrated at his mistake. But now, looking back on it, it just seemed funny.
Part of him wondered whether his amusement had anything to do with the three glasses of wine he’d had that evening. Hope had brought a bottle of his favorite wine with her from San Myshuno, and had stopped by his apartment after her photoshoot to share it with him.
Unlike the afternoon she’d surprised him at the restaurant, things did not feel strained or awkward between them this time around. It felt so easy being with her now — laughing together over a few episodes of their favorite show, sharing a bottle of sweet red wine, and marveling at the crazy mess with Greg and the restaurant.
Zayne smiled softly to himself. For just a few blissful moments, it almost felt like how things used to be.
“Don’t beat yourself up over it.” Hope’s voice brought him back to the present. “Everyone does stupid shit every now and then.”
He nodded. “Some of us more than others… I’ll own that.” He chuckled softly.
“Hey, you said it, not me.” Hope smiled playfully at him for a moment before letting her brow furrow in concern. “So… Do you have any idea what you’re gonna do about it? Sounds like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place right now…”
“I am.” Zayne nodded. “Or was… I actually made up my mind about a week ago. I just wanted to wait to tell you in person…” He paused for a moment, taking a slow, deep breath. Zayne couldn’t quite shake the strange feeling of déjà vu as the words finally left his lips. “I quit.”
“Yup. I’m taking the loss and walking.” He replied. It felt so strange to finally speak the words out loud – he hadn’t told anyone yet. Not even his family. “I’m sticking around for a couple of weeks to train Felix to take over in the kitchen. Then I’m gone.”
Hope’s expression was difficult to read. “Wow… I can’t believe it. That’s…”
“Crazy?” Zayne finished for her. “Believe me, I know. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. But I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to do it.”
“I know… And I wasn’t gonna say ‘crazy’, you know. I was going to say ‘brave’.” She smiled slightly as she spoke. “I’m really happy for you, Zayne. You shouldn’t be stuck doing something that isn’t making you happy.”
“Thanks.” He replied seriously. “I think this could be really good for me… eventually.”
“I’m sure it will be.” Hope agreed. “But what now? You’re kinda back at square one, huh?”
“Yeah… But hopefully things will start coming together soon.” Zayne explained with a smile. “I wanna do things right this time. I’ve already been talking to a few people I met through Greg, actually. And taking a look online at some business courses too.”
“You’re going back to school?” Hope asked, almost incredulous.
“HA! Fuck no!” Zayne laughed a little bit louder than he’d planned to. He was relieved when Hope quickly joined him. “Did you forget who you’re talking to?!”
“Oh, good!” She choked out through her giggles. “I was almost worried.”
He shook his head as his laughter finally began to die away. “Yeah, no way.” Hope knew he hated school just as much as she did. “I just meant I’ve been looking up what books they use so I can check some of them out.”
“That’s really smart.” Hope’s tone was suddenly serious once more. “It’s awesome, actually… And I hope you don’t take this the wrong way… But wow. You’ve changed so much, Zayne. In a good way, I mean.” She added quickly.
Zayne felt a warmth washing over him at her words. “I knew what you meant.” He assured her. “I’ve really been trying. I… I’ve been talking to a therapist.” Zayne felt a new warmth now, this time in his cheeks. “And it’s given me a lot to think about, I guess. Like, I’m kind of re-evaluating stuff?” It felt so awkward to talk about, yet strangely refreshing too. “I’m still working on it.” He confessed.
“Well, I think you’re doing amazing. Seriously.” Hope replied. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Thank you.” Zayne hesitated for a moment before continuing. There was so much he wanted to say to her – things he’d been holding on to, waiting to tell her in person. This was his chance, wasn’t it?
“And… I just want you to know that I still feel like shit for how I fucked everything up between us. I’ve had a long time to think about it. And I’d give anything to take it all back.” For a moment, it was a struggle to keep his voice steady. “I know I can’t. But I feel like I never really got to apologize the way I should have for how much I hurt you. I was a selfish, jealous jerk, and you deserved better.” Zayne paused for a moment. “And I’m so proud of you for everything you’ve done. You’re amazing. And I’m sorry I held you back for so long.”
He hoped she realized just how much he meant it. The seconds Hope waited to reply seemed to last for an eternity.
“I appreciate that. Thank you.” She spoke at last. “And for what it’s worth, there’s a lot I regret too… I know I made plenty of mistakes of my own when we were together. I guess I just wasn’t ready to own up to them back then.” Hope looked almost guilty. “And I’m really sorry I didn’t. It wasn’t fair to you.”
“It’s okay.” He assured her. “I’m not sure how much it would have changed things anyway, if that helps.” Zayne gave her a small smile. “Things were already so broken between us…” He paused and shook his head for a moment. Why ruin their evening together talking about things they could never change?
“But there’s no use dwelling on the past anymore. It never does any good.” His tone was suddenly much brighter than it had been a few moments before. “You’re the one who taught me that… Remember?”
Hope nodded, her lips stretching into a smile. It was still the most beautiful smile in the entire world. “I do! You always used to dwell so much on everything… It was kind of cute, actually.” She confessed with a small laugh. “I loved seeing how much you cared.”
Zayne couldn’t help but notice the slight blush of her perfect cheeks. Was it the alcohol, he wondered? Or something else?
“And while I was busy dwelling, you never looked back.” Zayne leaned closer to her as he spoke. He could smell the hint of wine on her breath, intertwined with the intoxicating scent of her perfume. “Or forward, really.” He chuckled softly to himself.
“Well, you know me…” Hope’s voice was barely above a whisper as the distance between them became smaller and smaller. “Always living in the moment…”
Zayne would have lived in every moment of that night, if he could.
Forever. On repeat. For eternity.
It all seemed even more perfect than he remembered — Her beautiful sighs, the soft warmth of her body, the sweet taste of her skin…
He’d almost forgotten just how deeply his body ached for hers. But Hope wasted no time in reminding him.
And after they stumbled, naked and giggling, into his bedroom, she reminded him again.