All rights reserved.
Chapter 10 - If
"I'm sorry. Master Philip is unavailable. May I take a message?" responded the servant.
Shawn shifted the phone to the other ear, while he passed his basketball from hand to hand. "Come on, Henderson. It'll just be for a second. I just want to check up on him, that's all."
"Unfortunately, Mr. Brady, Master Philip is feeling a bit under the weather and will not be disturbed." Henderson's tone, however, couldn't hide his growing concern for the boy.
"I kinda got that, when he didn't answer his cell. Look, Henderson, Philip needs a friend right now. Could you let me talk to him, please?"
"Master Philip's instructions were quite explicit. I'm sorry, Mr. Brady. Goodbye." And with that, the line disconnected.
Shawn sighed. He still didn't understand what the hell happened last night, but damn, it had to be bad. When his mom called from downstairs, Shawn set down the phone and left his room to yell down from the staircase. "Yeah, Mom?"
"Jason is here to see you," replied his mother.
"Come on up, Jase!"
A second later, Jason jogged up the steps to meet him.
"Hey, what's up?" his friend greeted.
"Just trying to get a hold of Phil," said Shawn, as they stepped into his room. "He ran out of the party last night, and I was trying to find out, if he was ok."
"Oh, yeah. Mimi told me about him and Chloe having some kind of run-in and running out on everyone." Jason picked up a baseball, as he plopped on a beanbag chair.
"Yeah, it was really weird. Anyways, I tried calling him a couple of times today to see what's up, but he's not answering the phone. Even told Henderson that he's not taking any calls." Shaking his head, Shawn sat down on the foot of his bed.
"Man, what the hell happened? Meems said that Brady was there but ain't talking. If you ask me, the girlfriend's," speculated Jason, referring to Chloe, "got some explaining to do. If you know what I mean."
"We weren't there, Jase, so we can't go around spreading gossip, ok?" warned Shawn. Then, he cocked a suspicious brow. "Speaking of gossip, how's Mimi?"
Jason shrugged easily and continued to toss around the baseball.
Interesting, thought Shawn. "Don't recall you ever mentioning her name twice, in one conversation before. You guys have a nice talk, when you walked her home last night?"
Completely unruffled, Jason twirled the ball in his hands. "More like she walked and I swayed. Almost smacked into a stop sign. Gotta watch it after the ninth beer, ya know?"
"Right… I thought it was kinda funny, when you belched something about not letting a lady walk home by herself. Real smooth, man."
Jason settled back unabashed on the beanbag. His hands linked behind his head, as he grinned to the ceiling. "When Phil's done sulking, maybe we can have our own little pool party at his house. You know, you, Belle, Phil, Mimi, and me?"
After her conversation with Brady, Chloe took her time walking home. He'd offered to escort her, but she declined, explaining that she needed some time alone to think. So, she gave him a final hug before leaving. Her time this afternoon on the pier was a significant turning point, thanks in part to Brady but primarily to that ultimately platonic kiss. Chloe had realized what she'd wanted all along and perhaps why had it taken her so long to realize it.
Yes, she'd lived in Salem for more than a year, becoming familiar and comfortable with the city. She'd even found places, like the pier, to where she could find solitude and elusive solace, when she needed to. Yes, she found her mother and lived with her family in a beautiful house with her very own room filled with her belongings. The easy insight of her stepfather made the tenuous relationship with Nancy potentially tolerable, if not hopeful.
Most importantly, she'd found friends, who accepted her for who she was and strove to be there for her, even if they couldn't entirely understand her. She thought of Belle, who'd welcomed her from the start with an honest smile and aerobic shopping sprees. Shawn simply shrugged at her eccentric tendencies and asked about her dreams. Even Mimi, whom Chloe had pegged as hopelessly selfish and shallow, somehow came through for her in the end.
But for all her fairy tale dreams, Philip was something she had never expected.
She quietly closed the front door behind her and crept upstairs to her room. Time to settle this, she thought, as she locked the bedroom door and shed her heavy coat. Once and for all, she would face her demons. She walked to the mirror and stared at the reflected image. She once towered over her classmates throughout elementary school and middle school. Even then, Chloe Lane stood out, when she wanted so much to fade invisibly into the background. But now vibrant, sleek colors replaced the drab, dark clothes that she'd used to disguise herself. To protect herself. Because it was Chloe against a cold, conniving world.
She smoothed back her hair, which fell rich, thick, and endless down her back. During childhood, she'd never stayed with one family long enough for anyone to offer to trim back her hair. Later, she didn't want to bother, as long as it stayed out her way. But now, she took the time to brush, style, and care for it. Because it was apart of her. Because it made her unique and special. Because Philip could spend hours running his fingers through it.
Her eyes lifted to meet their reflection. They blinked through her dark rimmed spectacles. She remembered that night on the pier, when Philip had come after her, after Ghoul Girl had sung in public for the first time. With little warning, he'd taken off her glasses. "Your eyes," he'd said, "They're kind of a pretty shade of blue…" The memory rushed in, swelling with emotion. She slowly slipped off her glasses to look at herself with her naked eyes. Unlike Belle's clear and naively optimistic blue, Chloe's eyes were an often world-wary, but bewitching hue. They were apart of her, as well. But in them, she saw a something so familiar but long denied. Fear.
She looked down to study her glasses. The lenses were thin, clear plastic but not meant to bring the world into sharper focus. Chloe, then, realized that she was humming. The tune was from the "Phantom of the Opera." She looked to her reflected image again, as she softly sang.
"Masquerade… Paper faces on parade… Masquerade… Hide your face, so the world will never find you."
She brought her hand to her mouth, while the truth seeped painfully into her heart. She closed her eyes against her reflection. She sang, "Too many years… fighting back tears… Why can't the past just die…? Try to forgive… teach me to live… give me the strength to try…"
She opened her eyes to reach for a slender box to place her glasses inside. A string tied into a bow held the box and its lid firmly. Today, once and for all, she would confront her fears. She deserved happiness. She had to believe that.
"No more memories… no more silent tears… no more gazing across the wasted years… help me say goodbye."
Drawing a breath, Chloe gathered her courage and reached for her coat. With one last look at the mirror, she grabbed the box and walked out of the house, headed for the Kiriakis mansion.
The security guards gave a brisk nod, when Chloe arrived at the gate to provide them her name. "Proceed up the brick walk to the circular driveway. You will be met at the front door, located behind the hedges."
Chloe smiled awkwardly in thanks and hiked up the path toward the massive stone structure dominating the highest point in Salem. She'd dated Philip for over five months, but she'd never been to the Kiriakis private estates. Philip had invited her several times, but she always had rehearsals, family functions, or simply not enough time. Now, she knew that she'd been avoiding it. She paused a moment to appreciate the perfectly landscaped scenery, vast snow-covered surrounding acres, and tennis courts and stables off to the side. The basketball rim installed above one of the dozen garage doors made her smile. This was Philip's home.
She took a deep breath against the rising anxiety. Today, she would break from those old fears that stood between her and happiness. As she set her shoulders back and raised her chin, she walked with determination to the grand oak doorway.
Her hand reached for the heavy brass knocker, when the door swung majestically open.
"Ah, Miss Chloe," greeted Henderson with a warm smile, "What a pleasant surprise to finally meet you. May I say you are even lovelier in person?"
Chloe blinked at this unexpected welcome. "T-Thank you. You must be Henderson. You take care of Philip."
His chest rose in pride. "Master Philip is feeling a bit under the weather today, but I think you are just what he needs to brighten his day," he said, as he gestured her inside.
Uneasiness and guilt crept into her belly. "Philip's sick?"
"Oh, it seems that he was caught in the rain last night and no amount of persuasion will convince him to properly treat his cold." The worried servant led her to the base of the steps.
He'd cared for Master Philip, since the lad was an infant, and had never seen him in such a melancholy. He'd suspected the reason, as he watched Chloe uncomfortably fidget with her coat. Nonetheless, Henderson had also never seen his Philip so happy, as the boy had been in the past months. If the photos beside Philip's bed and lined across his desk had been any indication, the exotic beauty standing in the Kiriakis foyer was no doubt the center of that happiness. Mr. Kiriakis and Ms. Roberts were off to Japan for business meetings, while his own efforts to comfort the boy had been unsuccessful. Indeed, Miss Chloe was just what the doctor ordered.
"May I take your coat, Miss Chloe?" he said, as he dutifully offered a hand.
First taking out the slender box, she slipped out of her heavy coat and gave it to Henderson. He smiled encouragingly. "Master Philip's room is upstairs, four doors to the left. Please." His hand gestured for her to proceed upstairs on her own.
She returned a shy appreciative smile, before she ascended the curved oak staircase. The wood was solid beneath her feet without even a miniscule squeak from wear. Small oil paintings hung flawlessly along the wall. She reached the upper level and surveyed even more lavish interiors. The walls were stained in aristocratic mahogany, while gorgeous crystal chandeliers hung delicately from the high ceilings. More paintings, greater in scale and detail, and white marble sculptures lined the hallway. This wasn't a house, thought an awestruck Chloe. This was a museum.
Her eyes wide with amazement, she trod with care on the thick Oriental carpet. She came to the fourth door to the right and stood with her stomach in knots. Closing her eyes, her heart sang softly, "Try to forgive… teach me to live… give me the strength to try…"
Here goes, she thought, and knocked softly against the door.
When no answer came, she knocked again, louder this time.
"Philip? It's me. Chloe," she gulped, when she was met with silence. "Could I talk to you for a minute? Please?"
"Philip… I know you don't want to talk to me right now," she began, speaking to the door, "W-What I did to you… was completely wrong. I'm so sorry. I know I've been acting really strange this past week, but still you were there for me, even when I tried to push you away."
She sighed. Please, God, she pleaded, let him believe in her again. "I-I've been so scared, Philip." She rolled a tearful eye at her pathetic self. "I didn't even know why. I called you that night, remember? I was so scared, because I'd had a nightmare." She let out a bitter laugh in self-scorn. "I dreamt that you were kissing me and then you changed into this… scary thing that hurt me. I couldn't tell you, because I thought I was so s-stupid, and you were so sweet and made me feel safe. Like you always do. But the dreams kept getting worse and every time you got close, I'd be so scared, because… because I'd wait for you to hurt me. Like everyone else before." She let out a breath, as the truth finally came out.
"I was always Chloe the freak, like Ghoul Girl and Vampira. So, I wore all black and dark glasses, so that I'd beat people to the punch… I'd reject people, before they could reject me, because I was so used to people hurting me in the end. But then…" she let her tears fall, "There you were.
"Philip Kiriakis, crown prince of Salem High. Every girl's crush and dream guy. Handsome, athletic, popular. Somehow, Philip Kiriakis thought I was beautiful. Me, the freak. You chose me. Then, I got to know you and how wonderful you were. How w-wonderful you made me feel about myself. It was like a dream… No one had ever made me feel the way you did. Then, I found out I was a bet, and I was hurt all over again. But then, you sang to me that night. You were so nervous and cute. And I knew then that you really cared about me. So, I tried to tell myself that what happened before didn't matter.
"Since then, it's been like this amazing dream. I was myself, when I was around you, and, God, it felt so good to not hide anymore. For the first time in my life, I-I wanted to give someone my heart… And that's what scared me. Because every time I hoped, I'd end up hurt. And I wanted to hope so much with you, s-so I pushed you away, because you'd gotten too close.
"That's what happened… at the party last night… I-I wasn't thinking. There were all these people and I felt like Ghoul Girl again, because I wanted so bad to go to you but was scared to. So, when Brady kissed me, I didn't stop him, not because I liked him, but because… because I wanted to beat you to the punch," sniffed Chloe, "I wanted to hurt you, before you hurt me any more." She closed her eyes to the shame. "But then I saw your face… and I knew I'd done something more horrible than anyone could've done to me, because I knew what it was like for people to betray my trust." The tears came freely now. "And I never wanted to hurt anyone like that, especially you, because… because…"
She slid down weakly to the floor to lean against the doorframe. "Because no one has ever meant as much to me, as you have. And hurting you hurt me… because no matter how hard I tried to push you away, you already had my heart." When there was yet more silence, she sadly fingered the closed oak door and softly sang, "I need you, like water, like breath, like rain… I need you." She closed her eyes, as she choked on the last note. "Please, forgive me, Philip."
"I don't know," said a slightly congested Philip, as he watched Chloe's eyes pop open, "At this rate, I think I still got a better shot at the Grammy."
Chloe scrambled to standing, while Philip in an old t-shirt and shorts casually leaned against his doorframe. He'd been standing there, listening intently, when Chloe began talking to his little nephew's door. Luckily, Will was playing hide-n-seek with his father in the downstairs library. Philip patiently stood across the hall, taking her in.
She looked at Will's door and then at Philip with some confusion.
Philip gave an easy shrug, "You just can't beat a Kiriakis with a guitar under your window."
She looked down first before meeting his eyes and softly replied, "I don't think anyone could have sung the way you did that night, because… that's when I fell in love with you."
Philip's easy stance froze, perilously still.
"Please, Philip. You've always been who I wanted. I didn't mean to hurt you that way. Please, forgive me."
His eyes fluttered, while his hand held his slightly feverish forehead. "Run that by me again?"
"No, before that."
"I never meant to hurt you," she said, beginning to nervously chew her lip.
"No. What you said before that."
"You're who I want?" Her agitation grew. If he was doing this to make fun of her…
"No, repeat what you said right before that," he insisted.
"Philip, I'm practically genuflecting here and you want a transcript of this whole conversation?" Frustrated, she crossed her arms over her chest, desperately close to pouting.
Philip walked to her and gently took her shoulders. "Believe me, I don't think I'll forget a single detail of tonight. I just want to make sure about, you know, the you-falling-in-love-with-me part," he said, as his long absent dimples winked.
With overwhelming glee, Chloe jumped into his arms and held him tight. "I do love you, Philip Kiriakis, and I think it really scares me."
His arms tightened around her and he closed his sleep-deprived eyes with joy. How spectacular the sunlight after a dark storm. "Well," he began, when he pulled back to look into her eyes, "Think of it like swimming. If you let yourself get used to the water, like with practice, let's say," he said, before he placed a gentle kiss on her lips, "It won't be so scary anymore. I love you, too, in case you haven't guessed."
She hugged him again. She thought about those dreams and about taking chances by having faith. When he hauled her by the waist and began a slow back-peddle toward his room, Chloe raised a suspicious brow. "Uh, Philip, what are you doing?"
"Don't worry. I'll be good. Besides, I've got a… baseball card collection you just gotta see…"
Pushing back against his shoulders, she chastised, "Philip Kiriakis, I do not fall for shopworn lines."
He grinned and took another long denied kiss. "Now, you're going to tell me what 'genu-fetting' means, right?"
She gave him a playful slap on his shoulder and laughed, as he pulled her into his room.
Henderson, who'd observed from the stairwell, smiled.
A month later…
Chloe hummed, as she gave her hair another brush. She'd snuck away from the party downstairs back up to her room, as midnight neared. Her parents were throwing an event that they stubbornly insisted she attend. Meanwhile, the Kiriakis clan was also throwing a grand party at their estate, which Philip was expected to attend. But teenagers were resourceful, if anything.
She looked up at her new "Rent" poster, which Philip had bought for her, after they'd seen the traveling show in Chicago. It was a musical and it had rock. Both Philip and Chloe agreed that it was nice compromise, which they both enjoyed. Of course, Philip being Philip, he had to go all out with a limo and box seats.
Since her emotional first visit to his home, they'd spent endless hours, getting to know each other again, and had grown closer. That night, she'd given him that slender box. He opened it to find her glasses with some confusion. She simply said, "No more masks. No more pretenses." She'd never worn her glasses since, and Chloe had never felt so free.
Her smile widened, when a telltale pebble struck her window. Unconsciously giving her hair one last fluff, she walked over to open her window. She smiled down at a dashing Philip in a long wool coat and tux.
"Happy New Year, beautiful!" he said, as he clumsily climbed up her tree in his designer shoes.
She leaned out to meet his kiss. They smiled into each other's eyes.
Who knows? Maybe tonight he'll make it passed the windowsill.
No day but today.
Stories by Shade
All rights reserved.