Caroline On The Radio
--Richard Karinsky forced himself to get out of bed and ready for work. If it wasn't for Caroline Duffy, his boss, he would have quit the mundane job long ago. The job wasn't hard, and the pay was fair, but it was really beneath his talents. He had planned to keep the job only as long as absolutely necessary, but along the way that plan changed. Along the way feelings developed... feelings for Caroline. Now the thought of leaving was incomprehensible. As he got ready for work his thoughts stayed focused on Caroline. He couldn't pinpoint the exact moment he fell for her, but there were feelings from day one, which grew stronger as the weeks turned into months.
--Caroline was feeling lonely. It had been a few weeks since the breakup with Joe and she hadn't dated since then. She knew breaking up with Joe was the right decision, but it still hurt. The difference in their ages had always bothered her, and Joe's infidelity just confirmed her concerns... they were simply in different places in their lives. She sat listening to the sad love song playing on the radio, contemplating the notion that she would never find true love when Richard walked in.
"Morning Caroline." Richard said, hanging his coat on the hook and heading for the coffee maker.
"Oh... hi Richard." Caroline said, startled by his entrance.
"Are you ok?" Richard asked, noticing her demeanor was a bit off.
"Yeah, I'm fine. You just startled me is all."
"Sorry." Richard apologized as he poured himself some coffee.
"It's ok. I guess I just got lost in the song..." Caroline said as she turned the radio off.
"Why what?" Caroline asked, confused.
"Why were you so engrossed in the song?" Richard asked as he sat at his side of the drafting table.
"I don't know... I was feeling kind of sad and the song kinda fit my mood."
"Why are you sad?" Richard asked, giving Caroline his full attention.
"Just... the whole thing with Joe..."
"And listening to sad love songs... cheers you up?" Richard asked skeptically, the logic of that escaping him.
"Well, no, not exactly. I don't know... it's kinda... therapeutic. You should try it..." Caroline suggested.
"I don't think so..." Richard replied sarcastically, returning his attention to his work. Caroline just shook her head. Richard could be a very good friend at times, then there were other times Caroline wondered if he even liked her at all.
"Well, whatever... let's get to work." Caroline said as she sat across from Richard.
--Richard was deep in thought while he worked. It wasn't long ago that he had heard about Caroline's break up with Joe. She showed up at Richard's apartment 3 sheets to the wind and more depressed then he had ever seen her. She confided in Richard that she thought something was wrong with her, that she was the reason no man wanted to stay with her. He wanted to tell her right then how he felt about her, but he thought better of it. She had just broken up with Joe, and she was drunk and vulnerable. He decided to wait till another time, but then slowly lost his nerve. He could see the sadness in her expression as she worked. He wanted to console her, but he didn't trust himself. Consoling her meant he would be showing he cared, and he didn't want to risk showing her too much. He didn't want her to see how he really felt about her. He wasn't ready for her to know.
--Caroline had a hard time concentrating on her work. She wanted to talk to Richard about how she was feeling, but was apprehensive. He didn't like it when she discussed her personal problems. When she did, he was usually a good listener and often times had good advice, but then there were other times where he was sarcastic and standoffish. Since there was no way of knowing which way he'd go, she decided not to take the risk. She fought to keep her mind on her work, but it was proving to be near impossible. Just then Annie walked in...
--"Good morning." Annie said cheerfully as she headed for the coffee maker.
"Maybe for some..." Caroline replied woefully.
"Ok, either Mr. Sunshine is rubbing off on you or something is wrong..." Annie surmised.
"No, nothing's wrong... just depressed about Joe..." Caroline said sadly.
"Don't waste any more time on thoughts of him! You need to get out there and find someone new! Someone better! Someone who has 'strong, strong feelings' for you!" Annie said, catching a dirty look from Richard.
"Yeah, I know... I would love to find someone who truly cares for me. Like Richard says... sincere amore... I'm just not so sure he's out there." Caroline said, frustrated.
"Sure he is!" Annie said assuredly.
"Maybe you aren't looking in the right places..." Richard suggested. Annie smiled mischievously at Richard's comment...
"Yeah! You know, Richie has a point! Your 'sincere amore' could be super close by and you might not even realize it!" Annie said, seizing the opportunity to make Richard squirm.
"Well, maybe... but somehow I doubt it..." Caroline mumbled, still not convinced. Annie downed her coffee and headed for the door...
"I have rehearsal in an hour... but afterwards lets get drunk and cry... k?" Caroline chuckled at Annie's suggestion...
"Sounds good to me!"
"Let me guess... drinking is also therapeutic..." Richard said after Annie left.
"In a way... at least I'll be able to forget for a while..." Caroline replied as she got back to work.
"I guess I didn't realize your relationship with Joe was that serious." Richard stated with a casualness he didn't quite feel.
"Well, it wasn't... I guess... but it's not just about Joe..."
"Then what's it about? If it's not about Joe..."
"It's about me being defective..." Caroline replied, certain she was the reason her attempts at love had failed.
"What are you talking about?" Richard asked, confounded by Caroline's comment.
"Well, why else does every relationship I have end badly?"
"Caroline... you are not defective." Richard corrected, being careful not to let too much emotion come through.
"Then why does every man eventually leave?"
"Maybe you haven't found the right man yet." Richard suggested, his heart racing at the intimacy of the conversation.
"Yeah, well... where is the right man?" Caroline asked sadly.
"I don't know..." Richard said compassionately, letting his feelings for Caroline slip through. Caroline looked at him with an expression that made him uneasy. Could she hear the love in his voice? Could she see the affection in his stare? He quickly looked away, preventing his eyes from betraying his heart.
--Caroline was confused by Richard's uneasiness. Why did he seem so on edge? At first, she thought it must be that he didn't want to talk about her personal problems, but if that were the case he would be sarcastic and cynical, not nervous. She was watching Richard as he tried to busy himself with his work when she remembered a conversation she had with Annie and Remo...
"You know, he's got a thing for you." Annie stated with confidence.
"Richard?" Caroline asked, shocked by the idea.
"Yes, Richard!" Annie confirmed.
"Oh, please!" Caroline shot back, not believing Annie's revelation.
"Remo..." Annie said, getting Remo involved in the conversation.
"Carolina, I have to agree with Annie on this one..." was Remo's response.
--Caroline scoffed at the idea at the time, but the more she thought about it, the more it explained some of his behavior. The look on her face must have shown some of the confusion and shock she felt, because Richard reacted to her expression.
"What? What's wrong?" Richard asked, dreading the answer.
"Huh? Nothing... why?" Caroline said, not wanting to say what she had been thinking. What if she was wrong? It would be too embarrassing.
"You had this look on your face like something was wrong..." Richard said softly, avoiding eye contact.
"Oh. No, I was just thinking about something Annie said..."
"Oh, well, that explains it." Richard shot back sarcastically. Caroline smirked at his comment, grateful for the break in the tension.
--They finished the day and Richard was getting ready to leave when Annie walked in.
"Hey! What are you doing here?" Annie asked Richard in a tone that implied he was not welcome to stay.
"I ask myself that question daily..." Richard replied flatly. "I was just on my way out." he added as he got his coat off the hook and put it on.
"Yeah, well, hurry up!" Annie barked as she headed for the kitchen with several bottles of liquor.
"Oh, don't worry... it's still early yet. Still plenty of time to get inebriated. Oh... and after your 10th drink... when you are hugging the porcelain throne puking up lunch from 3 days ago... be sure to lift the lid." Richard belittled sarcastically.
"Oh, yeah, right Richard... like I'll remember ANYTHING after 10 drinks!" Annie scoffed as she set up to play bartender. Richard just rolled his eyes and shook his head...
"See you tomorrow Caroline..." he said as he headed out the door... "If you're conscious..." he added, then shut the door behind him.
--Richard walked through the door of his squalid apartment and dropped his coat on the unmade bed. He plopped down on the mattress and stared at the ceiling. He was angry with himself because he couldn't find the courage to tell Caroline how he felt. He didn't want to risk losing her as a friend if she didn't feel the same way about him. He felt an emptiness in his heart that threatened to consume him, and he didn't know how to stop it. As he watched the street lights cast shadows on the ceiling he remembered something Caroline had said earlier. She said that listening to sad love songs can be therapeutic. He didn't exactly believe that to be true...
*But what would it hurt to turn the radio on...* he thought to himself. He got up from the bed and turned the knob on the small, decrepit stereo, searching for a station that would come in clearly. He finally found one.
"Are you in love? Then you have tuned in to the right station! Call us with your requests! Cause here at W-U-V-E, we would 'wuve' to play that special song just for you!" the radio DJ cheerfully announced, then gave the number to the station.
"Oh, please!" Richard scoffed, briefly considering the idea of changing the station, but he decided against it. He plopped back down on the bed and listened halfheartedly to the radio as his mind continued to race with thoughts of Caroline.
--Caroline and Annie listened to the radio as they drank and 'man-bashed'.
"I just don't understand why I can't keep a man!" Caroline whined as she drank her 3rd margarita.
"It's not you honey, it's them! Most men suck!" Annie said bitterly.
"Well, then... where are the men that don't suck?"
"Unfortunately, they are few and far between... but you'll find true love some day Caroline... you'll see."
"I hope you're right Annie... I'm not getting any younger you know."
"None of us are..." Annie replied jokingly, then got up and headed to the kitchen... "Gonna make strawberry this time... k?"
"Sure! Sounds good! As long as it has lots of liquor, I'm happy..." Caroline said, already pretty tipsy. Annie chuckled then turned her attention to the task at hand.
--So far listening to this radio station hadn't helped Richard feel any better. He got up to turn it off when the overly cheerful DJ said something that caught his attention.
"Ok, all those nursing a broken heart tonight... the line is open to make requests! Give me a call and request that special song that helps your healing! It's like therapy... but free!" Normally Richard would have ignored the statement and dismissed it as idiotic, but something told him to call this chipper DJ and see if she and Caroline were right. See if a song could really be therapeutic. So he called...
"We have Richard on the line with us... Hi Richard." the DJ said, directing her attention to Richard on the phone.
"Uh... hi..." Richard said reluctantly.
"So, Richard... are you nursing a broken heart tonight?" the DJ asked.
"Yeah... I guess..." Richard stammered.
"And what song can we play for you tonight?"
"Uh... I don't know... you choose..." Richard said hesitantly.
"Well, tell me what's going on."
"What's going on?" Richard asked, confused.
"Yes, tell me what happened in your relationship... why are you nursing a broken heart?"
"Well, it's not really a relationship... well, it's a professional relationship..." Richard said, not exactly sure why he was confiding in this total stranger on the radio.
"Ah! A co-worker, huh?"
"Yeah. Well... sort of."
"Sort of?" the DJ asked, trying to draw Richard out.
"She's my boss." Richard replied.
--"Oh my gosh! Annie! It's Richard!" Caroline announced as she listened to the radio. Annie just stood there for a moment in shock.
*Why would Richie call a radio station and spill his guts?* Annie thought to herself as she joined Caroline in the livingroom. "Are you sure?" Annie asked, skeptical that it was THEIR Richard.
"Yeah! I'm sure! Listen!" Caroline announced, turning up the radio.
--"Oh! She's your boss! And are you in love with her?" the DJ asked.
"Yes." Richard replied softly.
"And does she know you are in love with her?" the DJ asked.
"No." Richard said in almost a whisper.
"You haven't told her? Why?"
"I'm afraid that if she doesn't feel the same it will ruin our friendship..." Richard said sadly.
"Well, Richard... you won't know till you say something to her!" the DJ advised compassionately.
"Yeah..." Richard replied softly.
"What's her name?" the DJ asked. Richard paused a moment, not sure if he should answer that...
"Caroline." he said finally.
"And if Caroline is listening tonight what would you like to say to her?" the DJ asked.
"Uh... well, if she IS listening, I'd like to say I wont be in to work tomorrow cause I'm going to be throwing myself off the Empire State Building." Richard said sarcastically.
"What?! Why would you do that?!" the DJ asked, concerned.
"I was being sarcastic... jumping off the Empire State Building is a faster way to die then dying of embarrassment ...which is what I will do if she's listening right now..." Richard replied, righting the misconception.
"Oh! I see. Well, Richard, I hope this song helps you feel better, but my advice to you would be to tell Caroline how you feel. Who knows, she may even feel the same as you do!"
"Yeah, well... you're obviously not familiar with my life. Her feeling the same for me would be a good thing... and good things don't happen to me..." Richard said with a mixture of sadness and bitterness.
--"I can't believe this! Richard is in love with me?!" Caroline said, shocked by what she was hearing.
"Yeah, Caroline... he is." Annie said, her tone of voice catching Caroline's attention.
"You knew about this?!"
"Yeah... I did."
"For how long?" Caroline asked, dumbfounded.
"How long... has he been in love with you? Or how long have I known?"
"Well, I kinda thought he had a thing for you since before Del proposed to you, but I only found out for sure a few months ago... when I found a letter he wrote to you..." Annie admitted.
"He wrote me a letter?"
"Yeah. I think he has been in love with you for a long time."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Caroline asked, hurt that her best friend kept this from her.
"I kinda promised Richie I wouldn't." Annie replied, conveniently leaving out that she had been using it to blackmail him.
"I just... I can't believe this!" Caroline said as she paced nervously.
"I'll show you the letter..." Annie said as she headed for the door.
"YOU have the letter? Why do YOU have the letter?"
"Well, when I first found it I made copies of it... to annoy Richie with it."
"Annie!" Caroline scolded.
"I know, I know... I gave him back the original, but I kept a few copies..." Annie said as she walked out the door. She was only gone for a few minutes when she returned with a piece of paper in her hand. She handed it to Caroline, then sat down on the couch. Caroline just stared at the letter for a moment, then started to read it out loud.
"Dear Caroline, I don't know what I'm really writing, so please, bear with me. I know I'm probably violating several rules of etiquette by telling you this right before your wedding, but I have feelings... strong feelings for you. I want to be with you. I want to share your laughter and wipe away your tears. If you feel the same way, and if I have any chance at all with you, come to Remo's as soon as you can. You may not recognize me, because if you walk through that door, I'll have a smile on my face previously unseen by anyone. If you're not there by seven, I'll know your answer is no." Caroline just stood there silently, not sure of exactly what to say.
"Caroline?" Annie said, trying to get her attention.
"Yeah?" Caroline asked, coming out of her trance.
"Talk to me..." Annie said, wondering what her best friend was thinking.
"I don't know what to say..." Caroline said softly.
"Well, do you think you could ever feel the same for him? Cause if you don't, you should never mention it. I think he would panic and leave again if you did..." Annie suggested.
"You know Annie, I haven't really said anything, cause... well, I just didn't... but I have felt something for Richard for a while now. I thought he only saw me as his boss, so I just didn't say anything." Caroline admitted, relieved to finally be saying it out loud.
"Really?!" Annie asked, shocked.
"Yeah... and I know he's not your favorite person in the world..." Caroline started to say, only to be interrupted...
"Hey! I kid with Richie, but I like him! I think he's a great guy and he would be good to you!" Annie confessed.
"So... what do I do now?" Caroline asked, at a loss with how to proceed.
"I have a great idea!" Annie said confidently... "Go get dressed." she added, pointing upstairs to Caroline's bedroom.
--Richard listened to the song the DJ chose for him, and several others, but didn't feel any better. He got up to turn the radio off when there was a knock at the door.
"Who is it?" Richard called out to the closed door.
"It's me... Caroline..." Caroline called out nervously. Richard's heart jumped when he heard her voice.
*Did she hear me on the radio?* he asked himself, panic washing over him. He fought to regain his composure, turned off the radio, then opened the door. "Hi." Richard said softly.
"Hi." Caroline replied.
"What are you doing here?" Richard asked, doing his best to hide his nervousness.
"Oh, I was just in the neighborhood..."
"In the mood to go running for your life?" Richard asked sarcastically.
"No, actually, I was hoping you would come with me to get a cup of coffee..." Caroline suggested, amused by Richard's sarcastic remark.
"Oh. Ok... sure. What happened to Annie? Thought you two were going to get drunk..."
"Yeah, we did. Now I need coffee..." Caroline replied, trying not to sound nervous. Richard looked at Caroline skeptically. "Don't give me that 'Richard face'! I was just hoping we could go get a cup of coffee... and maybe talk..." Caroline reiterated, slight exasperation in her tone.
"Ok, ok..." Richard said as he got his coat from off the bed... "Where do you want to go?" he asked, shutting the door behind him and locking it.
"Starbucks?" Caroline suggested.
"Starbucks it is." Richard agreed.
--Richard and Caroline got their coffee and sat at an out of the way table.
"So, what did you want to talk about?" Richard asked.
"Well... I thought we could talk about sincere amore..." Caroline said softly, trying not to let the anxiety she felt come through.
"Why?" Richard asked apprehensively.
"Well, cause I want to know how to spot it..."
"When it happens, you will know." Richard answered soberly.
"How? How will I know?"
"You just will... you will feel it in your heart."
"But, what if I feel it, and he doesn't..." Caroline inquired.
"Then it's not sincere amore. Both have to feel it. Both have to have a love for the other that they do not question." Richard responded with certainty.
"Ok, well, what if you feel this way about someone, but you aren't sure if they feel the same... but if you say something it could ruin an existing friendship? How would you know what the other was feeling... WITHOUT saying something?" Caroline questioned. Richard just sat silently for a moment, not sure of how to answer. Did she know? Did she know he was in love with her? Did she hear him on the radio? Did Annie say something? He wanted to ask, but if she didn't know anything, it would raise too many questions.
"Why?" Richard asked hesitantly.
"Why?" Caroline repeated.
"Do you think you have found your sincere amore?" Richard asked, struggling to hide his emotions.
"I think I might have..." Caroline replied, noticing Richard's nervousness.
"So, you are feeling a love you don't at all question, but you aren't sure how he feels? Why don't you ask him?"
"Because... if I ask him, it might ruin our friendship..." Caroline said softly.
"Well, if you're not sure about how he feels, then I don't know how you would figure it out without asking him. If he cared at all about you, there would probably be signs..."
"Well, there are signs... but..." Caroline said, struggling to find the words that wouldn't scare him away.
"But?" Richard asked, encouraging her to continue.
"But... I think if I ask him, he might run away..." Caroline said timidly. Richard's heart was racing. She had to be talking about him... he was almost certain of it. But if she wasn't, that meant she found true love somewhere else. That was too much to bear. But if she was talking about him... that thought was just as frightening. Richard felt like he couldn't breathe. He jumped up from his seat, the abruptness startling Caroline.
"I gotta go..." Richard said, bolting for the door.
"Richard! Wait!" Caroline called out to him, but he didn't stop. She quickly gathered her stuff together and tried to chase after him, but he disappeared too quickly.
--As Caroline unlocked the door to her apartment, Annie emerged from her apartment across the hall.
"Hey! How'd it go?" Annie asked, approaching Caroline.
"He ran..." Caroline said, tears streaming down her face.
"He ran?! Get out!" Annie said, shocked.
"I just don't get it! If he loves me, then why does he keep running?" Caroline asked sadly.
"Honey, I don't know... but I know how he feels about you. Maybe he's afraid of rejection..." Annie suggested, just then a voice came from the stairwell down the hall...
"Yeah... but there's more to it then that..." Richard said, walking slowly towards Caroline.
"I'll talk to you later..." Annie said, then headed back into her apartment.
"Richard..." Caroline whispered, shocked to see him.
"I'm sorry I ran off... I needed to be alone... to think..." Richard said softly, his hands in his pockets.
"Come in... please..." Caroline said, inviting Richard to come in as she opened the door to her loft.
--Richard went to his seat at the drafting table, mostly out of habit, Caroline stopped near the couch. Richard didn't know where to begin, there was so much to say. Eventually, he found the words...
"Every relationship I have ever had... I have managed to destroy. I don't know why... but... I didn't want to risk ruining what we had, I didn't want to risk hearing that you could never feel the same for me... so I kept my feelings to myself..." he said softly.
"Well, not exactly..." Caroline corrected. Richard looked up at Caroline, his shock obvious. "You tried to tell me about your feelings..." Caroline said, producing a piece of paper from her pocket. Richard just stared at it for a minute, recognizing it immediately as one of the many copies Annie had made of his letter to Caroline.
"Where did you get that?" Richard asked, already knowing the answer, but at a loss for something else to say.
"Annie..." Caroline admitted. Richard closed his eyes and turned away towards the window. "Why did I never get this letter?" Caroline asked as she took a few steps towards him.
"I left it for you on top of the box of thank-you notes. When you showed up at Remo's I thought you had gotten the letter. When you said you hadn't, I came back here to get it. While looking for it, you and Del came in... so I went out onto the ledge. I actually fell off the ledge, but not before seeing you with Del. That's why I left for Paris..." Richard struggled.
"Because of me and Del?" Caroline asked remorsefully.
"Yeah. I couldn't bear the thought of seeing you every day, knowing you were with Del... knowing WE would never be... so I left. I thought I could get over you, but I couldn't... I didn't..."
"Richard... I am so sorry..." Caroline said tearfully.
"Don't be... you didn't know." Richard said, turning to look at her. There was a long silence between them, neither knowing exactly what to do or say next.
"Ummm... how did Annie get the letter?" Caroline asked, breaking the silence.
"When I was helping you deliver Vicki's baby... I found the box of thank-you notes and I threw them out the window. Annie found it on the street below."
"Do you still feel this way?" Caroline asked as she held up the letter, knowing the answer, but needing to hear him say it.
"Yes." Richard replied softly.
"When did you start feeling this way?" Caroline pressed.
"I... I don't know... but... when Del proposed..." Richard said, struggling to find the right words.
"I have wondered about you and me... as in 'us' for a while now, but I didn't say anything cause I thought you only saw me as your boss..."
"You are much more to me then just my boss..." Richard admitted.
"Then how come you act like spending time with me would kill you? Or you charge me overtime!"
"I didn't want to risk getting too close... I do enjoy spending time with you..."
"So, you enjoyed the birthday party I threw for Salty?" Caroline asked humorously.
"Well, I wouldn't say that..." Richard replied sarcastically. Caroline chuckled...
"Then, what would you say?" she asked, her smile indicating the conversation was becoming less intense. Richard had a slight smile on his face and he walked towards Caroline.
"I would say..." he said as he wrapped his arms around her... "I love you Caroline." he added seriously.
"I love you too Richard." Caroline admitted as she ran her hands through his sandy blonde hair. Richard leaned in and kissed her tenderly, his evident desire catching Caroline by surprise. Richard noticed Caroline's reaction and smiled at the realization that he made her blush.
"You ok?" Richard asked lovingly.
"Yeah. I'm better then ok..."
"What happens now?" Richard asked nervously.
"Well, we could try dating... if you want to..." Caroline suggested timidly.
"Yeah, I would like that very much." Richard replied, a very un-Richard-like smile on his face.
"That smile is very becoming on you. You should smile more often." Caroline said flirtatiously.
"I think maybe now that I have something to smile about... I will..." Richard said, leaning in for another kiss.