AN: This story plot was inspired by a college memory and I hope that you'll enjoy it. However, I am warning you that I am taking liberties with the city of NY.
A big thank you to Loki for editing this chapter and the subsequent ones!
Happy reading and please review!
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon belongs to its respective owners.
Never Too Late
The bright fluorescent lights of the terminal contrasted gracefully with the dark blue sky with a few shiny stars designed for this brisk autumn night. A young woman made her way in a hurried but efficient manner through the midnight crowd and panting, she finally reached her destination behind the sliding glass doors. She quickly hailed a cab and slumped down in the back seat while the friendly driver deposited her packed luggage in his trunk. She closed her eyes briefly, exhausted but happy that she had arrived on time in the beautiful city, vibrant with its nightlife and sophisticated colors.
"What's your destination Miss?" the middle-aged gentleman kindly asked her behind the wheel.
"The Hilton on Fifth, please."
After paying the fare, she stepped out of the typical yellow taxi and entered the elegant lobby of the grand hotel. The antique chandeliers illuminated the pale cream walls and the cherry wood furniture of the room. She walked to the counter and requested the key to her home for the next seven days. The check-in had been a quick process thanks to the scarcity of clients and the late hours of the night. Her room was located on the twentieth floor and she briefly glanced at the stunning display of city lights facing her before closing the heavy velvet drapes. Glancing at the silver watch adorning her wrist, she stifled a yawn and tiredly found her way to the king size bed. She spent a dreamless night, merely fatigued from the flight and the anticipation of the week ahead of her.
The cloudy gray skies of the next morning whispered promises of a cold day and she wrapped her belted trench coat tighter against her small frame as she braved the short walk to the building where the reunion was to take place. Once in the warmth of the extensive conference room, she discarded her coat to reveal a classic and sharp black jacket with a matching pleated skirt.
"Good morning Ms. Wendler," an older woman in her mid-forties announced as she took the leather chair next to her. "How are you enjoying New York?"
"It's a beautiful city," she answered sincerely.
"Well, don't work too hard and enjoy the sights while you're here."
"This upcoming project is very exciting though," she quickly declared, her eyes sparkling with enthusiasm as she thoughtfully glanced at the thick binder on the glass table.
The woman kindly grinned at the young blonde and affectionately nodded, "it is indeed."
As the pendulum wall clock mechanically approached nine thirty, many more suit-clad individuals were ushered into the room and the meeting started soon afterwards.
Her stomach rumbled, emitting embarrassing noises, and she flushed for the second time in a row since she left the presentation. The meeting had unexpectedly dragged on for an additional hour and she felt the repercussion of her hungry state. Her colleagues had asked her to join them for lunch but she politely and speedily refused, having no intention to wait at the expensive restaurant across town. Her cheeks covered in the particular shade of red, she finally arrived at a quiet and empty café and ordered the main dish of the day. Her hunger now satisfied, she fished through her purse for the silver object and dialed the well-known number.
"Raye, it's Serena!" she cheerfully shouted in the earpiece, as she took another bite of the turkey sandwich.
"Still sleeping," her friend grudgingly mumbled.
"Wait, don't hang up. I forgot about the time difference," she apologized before realizing the hour of the day, "but why are you still in bed?"
A moment of silence ensued and she suspiciously continued her probing. "Raye? What happened?"
"I had a long date with Chad."
Her crystalline blue eyes widening, she smirked and questioned her, "is he in bed with you?"
"No," her friend forcefully replied, "don't be ridiculous, I don't let strangers sleep over."
"I would hardly call your boyfriend of two years a stranger," she paused as if pondering the statement, "besides I remember college when…"
"All right, you've made your point," she conceded, "but it's only because I'm too tired to point out your many flaws."
"Nice. Well, I'm in New York for the rest of the week. I thought I'd let you know."
"New York? What about Los Angeles?" she asked, concerned at the sudden change of plans.
"The client wanted to meet here instead. It worked out well actually since I have a seminar to attend for the first two days."
"You know Darien still lives in the city. You should meet up."
She exhaled softly, silently remembering the handsome young man. Dismissing the strange aching in her heart, she nervously told her friend, "I'm not sure your brother would like to see me. We haven't exactly kept in touch."
"I'm sure he would. Let me know if you want to get in touch with him."
"Thank you Raye but I might be busy."
"I think this conversation has gone on long enough. I'm going back to sleep," she added laughing, before hanging up in one harsh click. The young woman in New York grinned at her friend's ruthless conclusion and decided to walk back to the hotel to revise her current work.
She was to meet the attendants of the seminar at a chic banquet in half an hour and she critically glanced at her reflection in the elaborate mirror of the bathroom. Her sunny blond locks were fashioned in an elegant French twist and a few curly strands loosely framed her delicate face. She applied the charcoal mascara swiftly across her eyelashes and lightly brushed a dark coral gloss over her lips. She looked over her image one last time, satisfied at the beautiful woman in a forest green beaded chiffon dress staring back at her.
She arrived at the reception, held on the top floor of a towering office building, with five minutes to spare thanks to a shortcut taken by the cab driver. Waiting at the entrance for the elevators, she nervously tapped her manicured fingers against her metal trim clutch.
"Serena, is that you?"
She silently chuckled at the irony of her earlier conversation. The masculine voice was unmistakably familiar and her mind was already envisioning the young man she clearly remembered. She slowly turned around, her heart pounding against her chest while she tried to regain a sense of reality.
"Hi Darien," she greeted him, her hand shaking slightly as she extended it toward him.
He gently pushed the polite gesture away and embraced her in a bear hug. Her surprised arms soon encircled him and she gasped softly, the flood of past memories washing over her in calm waves.
"It's been so long. How have you been?" he asked finally, planting his firm hands on her shoulders.
"I'm great. It's good to see you. How are you?"
"Busy as always. But I love it here."
She stared at his handsome features for a moment, relishing in the manifestation of the past. He stood in front of her a few inches taller than she initially recollected. His midnight blue eyes no longer held their sarcastic playfulness, but they were twinkling with a wise maturity. Adulthood had spread over his handsome features, but then again, she had not seen him in six years. The handsome and charming man before her replaced the aloof boy she remembered.
"Listen, I'm running late for a meeting, but maybe we can catch up later while you're in town?" he questioned her with a hidden urgency in his tone.
"Yes, I'm looking forward to it," she replied, holding the crisp white business card he had handed to her a few seconds ago.
He briefly hugged her once again, a look of surprise on her face, before disappearing as swiftly through the massive elevator doors.
Her calm eyes staring distantly at the view her hotel bedroom offered, she absently twirled a strand of golden hair in her fingers. Her thoughts lost in the blue eyes of a certain individual, she let her mind wander back to the past.
Seeing him tonight had been a pleasant surprise, but perhaps even more, an encounter filled with his electric touch and the warmth she felt every time she saw him. It never failed. He had been a permanent fixture of her thoughts in high school and he was still the same young man she had liked from afar. From the first time she saw him, he had been the epitome of prince charming with his dark, tall and handsome features. Her innocent crush had steadily grown as she became acquainted with him. Ghostly memories of the past were quickly running before her ocean blue eyes and she sighed quietly at their unexpected meeting. She suddenly wondered if her feelings for him had always been present, concealed in the shadows of her heart.
She shook her head. She had never allowed herself to be true to her feelings when he was involved. Never revealing her secret desires to her friends, most importantly to a graceful and opinioned raven haired woman, her best friend and his sister. She had imagined the intricate web of difficulties and relations it would have undeniably created and she refused to be a part of it. After all, she was content to love him from a distance. She embraced the idea from the very beginning; she could not help it. He was so wonderful and it had been enough. Always apart, never closing the gap between them. Yes, it was the way it was meant to be.
But tonight had been refreshing and startling. She recalled her conversation with Raye but she had not dared to imagine such a fateful encounter. She sighed desperately. She had forgotten about him and the emotions he consequently brought to the surface. High school was another world and she grew up, slowly leaving the past behind until the innocent love she held for him became a distant and fading memory. In the darkness of the night, she was no longer certain that she had successfully buried the image of him.
The shrill and incessant rings of the phone beckoned her attention and she slowly walked to the nightstand, waking up from her confused reverie.
"Serena? Where were you?"
Immediately recognizing the voice at the other end of the line, she comfortably sat on the bed and smiled at the intruder of her musings.
"Hey Lita. I just got back from dinner. How's everything at home?"
"It's wonderful but I wish my cold would go away. I'm sorry I've left you alone this week," she sheepishly added.
"Don't worry about it. I'm meeting with the head architect on Wednesday and I'll handle everything. Just get some rest."
"All right. I owe you."
"Next month, you're welcome to take over my projects," she teased her.
She picked up the mocking tone and laughed. "I'm not that sorry."
She continued the conversation for the next forty minutes with her associate, reporting the ideas she received at the business banquet for their next design project. She would certainly enjoy this future occupation. The firm she worked for had been contacted to design the interior of a new office building in the center of the finance district. The managing partner had confidently suggested that Lita and she headed the challenging assignment. There was no doubt that this project would require long hours and an abundance of creativity, but it would certainly prove itself to be rewarding in the end. She was definitely looking forward to stepping in the imaginary realms where inspiration and design meshed at once.
The afternoon after, she carefully stared at the glossy card, still unsure of her decision. Why was she hesitating? She pondered the absurd question yet again but could not handle the actual answer. He was simply an old acquaintance, her best friend's brother. Surely, she owed him a phone call. Courageously, she grabbed her cell phone and heard the recognizable ringing tone.
"Hi Darien, it's Serena Wendler."
"I was wondering if you'd forgotten about me," he joked.
"Of course not, I was just busy with work," she lied smoothly as he chuckled quietly.
"If you're free, would you like to have dinner tonight?"
"That sounds great," she replied sincerely with a hint of excitement.
She instructed him on the name and address of her hotel and it was decided that he would meet her in the lobby since he was the one educated on the geography of the city and its commendable eateries.
The Italian restaurant they chose was located three blocks from her temporary residence and it was a charming and rustic building with an inviting atmosphere. They sat down quietly and made small talk while waiting for their orders to arrive.
"I talked to Raye, she said you weren't going to call me," he solicited her abruptly, curiosity overtaking his civility.
She blushed faintly at the unforeseen attack and responded prudently, "Darien, we haven't really talked since high school."
"That's true and it's my fault. I've never been good at keeping in touch," he remarked with unashamed honesty.
"Besides, Raye is my friend…" she started before he interrupted her.
"Of course, but we are also friends. I've always considered Raye's friends my own, you know. Especially you. You were always around when we were young."
He reached across the table and tenderly grabbed her hand to convey the sincerity in his words. She smiled at him and nodded.
"They were good times."
They caught up with their respective lives and Serena sat back in awe at the accomplishments of her companion. After graduating with honors from Columbia University, he joined a financial and assets management firm where he quickly walked up the echelon of seniority and experience. At twenty-seven, he was recently promoted to director of the regional office. She beamed proudly at him but she was never taken aback. Since high school, he had proven himself to be a bright and intelligent young man with triumphant assurances for the future. He had been the veiled object of her admiration for a long while.
The dinner ended an hour later with promises to renew their encounter the following evening. Under the protective and heavy blankets of her bed, sleep beckoned her gradually and allowed the beautiful woman to gently fall in a world of dreams where a familiar dark haired man made an indisputable appearance.