AN: Guess who updated!!! Now, read review enjoy! ((Yeah, I changed tenses. So SUE me! (yes, I did have caffine today...) )) Actually the tense change is important. When Ben is reflecting the day's events, it's told like this. When he is telling the story as it happens, it's more like the first chapter.
Disclaimer: I was kidding there... please don't sue me.
I slowly opened my eyes. Confusion was all I felt. I didn't know where I was, yet I felt I had been here before. All I really wanted was to sink back into the abyss of my subconscious mind. I didn't even know why. Was I dead? Cancer, yes I remember cancer. Was that was had caused this? Then I saw him. He was sitting in the driver's seat of a car. My car. Though I was thankful I was not dead, I wondered why he was sitting in my car, fiddling with my radio, mumbling the random letters 'XM'. Riley must have heard me or had some kind of sixth sense, because he immediately turned around and looked at me in the back seat. He shook his head, and I could see that he was making a great effort not to smile.
"Well, well," he said. "Imagine the headlines. 'Treasure Hunter Benjamin Gates Faints in Local Starbucks! Overdose of Caffeine to Blame?' I swear, Ben, they're going to worry about a lawsuit from you for months!"
"That makes aboulutely no sense," I said dully. I groaned as I tried to sit up.
"And if it did, would you find it in our media?" he retorted. He wasn't even looking that concerned, as he always had been these days.
I wondered why he was being so… so normal. Well, maybe not normal per se, but normal for him. No hovering, still trying to find a station worth listening to. Then, suddenly, I began to remember everything. Starbucks, I had passed out at Starbucks after… The revelation made me feel dizzy and lightheaded again. "Why didn't she tell me," I asked softly, almost darkly.
"I was uh… hoping to um, avoid that subject," Riley dodged.
"Why?" I growled. Riley wisely realized it was not a question.
"See, she uh... she," A glare from me, "She didn't want you to know," He admitted. My thoughts shattered. I heard my best friend's voice from very far away. "She didn't want to upset you…"
"I have a right to know!!" I thundered.
"Why do you think I told you?" he said. It was hard to tell from his voice, but he was hurt. Again. Our friendship was slipping away, and it was all my fault.
"You're right," I sighed. "Sorry." There was so much in that small 5-letter word. Amazingly, he seemed to understand it all.
"I know," he said. He was looking at me, not with concern, not sympathy, but as if he was trying to figure something out.
"So… how long have you known?"
"Since yesterday," he said quietly. I was going to tell you, but… you uh… asked me to leave…"
"That's a polite way of putting it," I muttered. I'm not sure Abigail will ever forgive me for throwing that antique lamp at the door.
"Ben, you're stressed, I get it. It's okay." I looked up and tried to smile.
"Do you think you can drive? I don't want to leave the Ferrari here," he asked, holding out my keys.
"Yeah," I responded. I grabbed them from him but did not rise. I felt tired, no exausted was a better word. "I'm going to talk to Abi. Do you mind… not coming? We need to be alone."
"That's cool. I've got shopping to do anyway."
"Shopping? You hate shopping."
"It's Christmas next month Ben. And I'm not stupid enough to go shopping on Black Friday. No thanks." He opened the front door and got out. He opened the back door for me as well. "Rise and shine now," he ordered.
"Be careful driving," I said, shaking my head.
"Please, like I'd risk the Ferrari." This time I actually did smile. "You too," he said.
"Ben." He was staring me down (something he couldn't do had I not been sprawled in the backseat) like a mother looking at her child whose just been coloring on the wall.
"I'll be careful Riley, I promise," I said sincerely.
"Much better," he deemed, satisfied now. I regretfully heaved myself out of the backseat and slid into the driver's. As I drove away, I thought I saw Riley's concerned face in my side mirror, but I was probably imagining it. I gassed the car and drove to the house almost robotically. My mind was elsewhere, but I wasn't thinking. I felt… detached, apart from the world. It felt as if no time at all had passed when I pulled in to the driveway of the mansion. "You know, we choose this estate because in 1812 Charles Caroll…" How stupid that seemed now. The bright sunlight mocked me from above as I exited the car. Abigail rushed out to meet me. Still far away, I clutched her tightly, wondering why she was… oh, right.
"Riley called, he said you had fainted, I was so worried!" she exclaimed.
"Mmmhmm." I sighed. "Abigail?" she looked up at me, "we need to talk."
"Talk, Ben?" she asked, playing innocent.
I couldn't do this, no, it hurt too much, but I had to. "He told me, Abigail. Riley told me everything." I was trying not to break down crying in front of my wife. I don't think I had cried in at least twenty-five years.
Abigail looked at me, as though she was contemplating something. Finally, she smiled. "What do think of the name Jeanette?"