Chapter Thirty: The Finale

It all started with a woman on the street

It had been a year in the making, but the day was finally here.  Cameron was finally having the grand opening of his new restaurant: Bourbon Street BBQ.  He saw the large crowd outside and knew that he had his event planning team to thank.  Rachel Anthony from Anthony & Associates created quite a buzz for the new restaurant.  Cameron had been featured on food blogs, the local news, and even did a radio commercial.  He was overwhelmed with emotions and couldn’t wait to open the doors for business.  He went back into his kitchen to check on his staff.  He went around to each station to make sure everything was just right.  Then he called everyone out into the dining area to give a speech.

“As you all know, this has been a long time coming. This started as a joke between my friends but really became my dream.  And I want to thank each and every one of you for making my dream a reality.  Now…let’s go feed these people out here!”

The doors opened and Cameron was there to greet each and every person who walked through his door.  He looked down the way and saw Patrick and Candace.  He was ecstatic because he hadn’t seen either of them since they left for Paris.  He waved for them and the two friends exchanged daps.  Candace went in for a hug.

“Congratulations, Cameron!” Candace exclaimed.

“Yeah, man.  You did it!  How you feeling?” Patrick smiled.

“It’s a lot to take in…but this feeling is overwhelming.” Only one thing would’ve made this night perfect.

“Well you deserve this moment, man.  You worked hard for it.” Patrick patted his friend on the back

“So how was Europe?” Cameron was more concerned with his friend.

“Well….” Candace tapped her lips with her left hand.  Cameron noticed the ring.

“Uh….you two get in here right now so we can get this celebration started!”

Cameron sat Patrick and Candace in his VIP lounge area and ordered that champagne be served immediately.  He went back into the kitchen, happy for his friend but finding his mind wander.  He was thinking about Sugar.  He never stopped thinking about Sugar.  He hated the way they ended things but always thought that they had something worth fighting for.

“Chef? Somebody ordered the ‘Oh Sugar’ but I didn’t learn the recipe.”

This person must be special. “Don’t worry, I’ll make it myself but pay attention, because you need to know how to make this.”

“Yes, Chef.”

Cameron prepared the dessert and went out to deliver it to the table.

“Someone ordered the ‘Oh Sugar’?”

“Yes.  It looked like the most delicious thing on the menu. I mean…I’ve already tried everything else…”

Cameron began to smile. He knew that voice.

“I’m sure you’ll enjoy this, Sug.”

Cameron placed the slice of cake in front of Sugar.  Cameron sat down and watched Sugar devour the slice of cake.

“This was really good!”

“Well, it is its namesake. And thank you for everything.  I know the pre-opening was all you. Signature Sugar.”

Sugar smiled.  “You deserved it after what I put you through.”

“That’s water under the bridge now.”

“No, but I never really told you why.  When I met you, I was getting over a broken heart.”

“Sug…you don’t have to explain.”

“I do.  I owe this to you after all this time.  After that night, Ryan asked me to marry him and I had been waiting to hear that from him for so long.  It was all I ever wanted.”

Cameron started to feel angry. “Well…good for you.”

“When he asked me, all I could think about was how I wished it was you. Cameron, I want you and I have spent a year working on me so that I can be the woman you need.  Because you are all the man I need.”

Cameron got up from the table.

“I’m glad you enjoyed the cake.  Stay for a drink?”

Sugar nodded. “Sure.”

“It was good seeing you again, Sug.  Thank you…..again.” Cameron went back to the kitchen.  Smiling.

“Are you okay, Chef?”

“I’m better than okay.  I’m perfect.”

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Questions

It’s only right to return to the scene of the crime.

Sugar had taken a seat at the booth of a restaurant that not too long ago, Ryan delivered the news that he was engaged.  She had called him and invited him here, to finally settle things for good.

“What do I want from him?  What do I want for myself?” Sugar thought while the waiter brought her the drink of her choice; a Cosmopolitan.  She sipped and thought about all the things she wanted to say to him.  All the questions she wanted answered and there was just one that kept coming to mind.

Why?

Ryan walked in and Sugar waved for him.  He walked over and they exchanged pleasantries.  “You look nice tonight.” Ryan said as he positioned himself to sit next to Sugar.

“Thanks.” Sugar positioned her body at the end of the booth.  Ryan took the hint and moved to the other side of the booth; facing her.

“I’m really glad you called me.  Have you ordered yet?”

“No, I was waiting for you.”  Sugar took another sip.

“So…what’s going on with you miss?  Are you and ol’ boy…..”

Sugar looked annoyed.  “Don’t go there, Ryan.”

Ryan laughed nervously. “You’re right, and I apologize.  I guess I’m just jealous….”

“Jealous.  Of what?  You’re the one that’s getting married.  I think you have one up on me.”

Ryan shifted in his seat. “Not anymore.  We…..called off the engagement.”

Sugar was shocked. “Oh Ryan, I’m sorry to hear that.  What happened?”

“I think we both knew that my heart was somewhere else…..”

Sugar felt a lump in her throat.  “Really?”

Ryan reached out to grab Sugar’s hands.  ‘Sug…when I saw you with that guy, I realized that I still feel something for you.  But I know you belong to someone else.’

Sugar’s hands began to sweat. What is he saying to me right now? 

‘I want to respect that Sug, but I can’t.  You’ve always showed me that I should go after what you want…..so I’m going to do just that.  I let you go once, I’m not letting you go again.’

Ryan reached in his pocket and pulled out a small velvet black box and slid it across the table. One woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure.  Your loss, Veronica.

Sugar couldn’t think straight as she grabbed the box and opened it up.  She took in the size and the cut of the ring. Beautiful.  Simply beautiful.

“Sugar Monroe…..will you marry me?”

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Between Lovers

“I hope you like Thai food.”

Candace stopped by Patrick’s work studio for a quick lunch. He walked over to Candace and gave her a hug and kiss before taking the bag. Candace had never been to his studio and was instantly fell in love with the equipment and lighting. She always wanted a studio where she could do photo shoots of children.

“Are you going to come over here and eat some of this food you bought? I don’t want to eat by myself.” Patrick called out. Candace walked over to Patrick and sat down on his lap. They fed each other playfully. Patrick loved these moments with her. I just don’t want this to end.

“Can I play something for you?” Patrick lifted Candace up off his lap and went over to his stereo. He turned on “With You” by Amel Larrieux. Patrick held out his hand as Candace walked over to him as the began to slow dance. She laid her head on his chest and felt completely safe. His hands caressed her back as she clenched his back harder.

“I love you.” Patrick whispered out. Candace felt her heart almost jump out her mouth.

“I love you too.”

“I don’t want to lose you.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Babe, I’m here.”

Patrick stepped back and caressed Candace’s face. He walked over to his work bench and picked up an envelope and handed it to Candace. She looked puzzled as she opened it and read it. Patrick was being commissioned to do photography work in Paris and Morocco for 10 months. Candace heart dropped. He’s leaving?!

“Baby! This is great news!”

“It’s a great opportunity….but I don’t want to leave you. At all.”

Candace saw the conflict in his eyes. It broke her heart.

“Patrick, I love you. I really do. I love you enough to let you go. I don’t want to keep you from this opportunity. This is a once in a lifetime job and you have to take it.”

“So what happens to us?”

“We make it work the best way we know how to. We make everyday count. You leave in a few weeks, so let’s make it beautiful.”

“But 10 months is a long time to be apart.”

“It really is.” Candace felt tears forming. She wanted to be supportive but a part of her wanted to be selfish. Is this really the end for us? Without thinking, Candace walked over to Patrick’s computer and pulled up her e-mail. She began typing at a fast pace. Patrick seemed nervous. What is she doing?

“Baby, what are you doing?”

She kept clicking on the computer; completely zoned out. Patrick walked over to her and looked at his computer screen and couldn’t believe what he saw. “Are you….”

Candace made her final click and turned around to face him. She smiled.

“Yes. I’m coming with you.”

“But what about….”

“None of it matters if you’re not with me. I got you and you got me.”

Patrick grabbed Candace and began to kiss her passionately, loving her even more. Candace returned the favor.

“I can’t wait to do this with you in Paris.”

Chapter Twenty-Seven: The Conversation

Cameron brought in the last tray of food to be wrapped up.  The dinner was a success and those in attendance was really excited for the grand opening of his restaurant, but it was the conversation with Ryan that really had his mind spinning.  Sugar came downstairs and took her shoes off.  She went into the kitchen to help Cameron with the food.

“The party went really well, don’t you think?”

“Yeah, it did.” he said half-hearted. 

“And Rachel really loved how I set everything up!  She offered me a job!” 

Cameron didn’t respond.  Sugar took notice.

“Cam, is everything okay?  Look, don’t worry about your restaurant opening.  You’re good. You’re a good chef.  Everybody loved the food. You’ll be just fine.” she walked up behind him and gave him a hug.  Cameron sighed.

“Sugar?  I’m going to ask you something and I want you to be completely honest with me.”

Sugar looked perplexed.  “Okay?”

“Sug….who’s Ryan and why is he talking about a ‘kiss’ to me?”

Sugar’s facial expression changed.  “Ryan is……someone I used to date when I was in college….”

“So he’s your ex-boyfriend?”

“Yes.”

“Did you kiss him?”

“Well….”

“Did you….” Cameron lowered his voice. “kiss him?”

“Cam, it wasn’t like that. He kissed me after apologizing for treating me bad……”

“So when were you going to tell me that you two kissed?”

“I wanted to tell you earlier….but….”

“And then you invited your ex to my dinner?!  Do you still love him?” 

Sugar didn’t answer.  She didn’t know how to answer.  “Cam, I really do like you and I have a good time with you, but…..”

Cameron was crushed.  He was getting the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech.  He knew how it sounded and didn’t care to hear it, so he decided to finish her sentence. “I came at the wrong time.”

He could see the tears beginning to form in her eyes.  “Look, I really like you.  Always have since the first time I saw you.  I’m looking for someone who’s all in with me.  I thought that person was you, but I’m not about to compete with another man.  If you still have feelings for him….then maybe you should figure them out with him.”  Cameron went to open the front door.

“Cameron, I’m sorry.” Sugar put her shoes back on as she walked to the door.  She went in to hug Cameron, but his body never moved.

“Yeah….me too Sugar.”

He closed the door on a woman who helped him take the next step in his life.  He slumped down on the couch, feeling for the first time in a long time, alone. 

 

Chapter Twenty-Five & Six: The Dinner Party

“You’re not dressed yet?”

Cameron was still putting the touches on his dinner.  He had been busy with getting everything together for his restaurant that he wanted to take the time to really thank his friends and supporters with a dinner.  

“Not yet.  Just want to finish this BBQ sauce.  I think it needs more….”

Just then, Sugar reached around him and dipped a spoon in the pot and tasted.  “It doesn’t need more anything.  This is good, sweetie!”  

Cameron dipped his own spoon in and gave it a quick taste.  She was right.  She always is. He turned the burner off and turned around to give Sugar a kiss when he saw the dress she was wearing.  A strapless black polka-dot dress that stopped right at her knees.  Her hair was slicked up into a high ponytail and her skin was the perfect brown sugar color.  Cameron immediately felt all the blood rush from his head.  He grabbed her by her waist and pulled her in.  ” So…what were you saying?”

Sugar chuckled. “You need to get dressed.  Your guest are going to be here any minute.” She moved in closer to him.  Their lips grazed each other.

“Can you help me?” Cameron starts to unzip Sugar’s dress

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Exactly what it seems like.” as Sugar’s dress falls to the floor.  They began to kiss and walk back into his room.  Just then, Skylar began to bark.  

“No, no no no….not now!” Cameron cursed. Then there was a knock on the door.  

“See….I told you the guest was going to start showing up.” she hit him on his chest.  “My dress is out there!”

“Calm down.  I’ll bring you your dress, okay?” 

“Before or after you answer that door?”

“After….so we can finish….”

“Boy!  Go get that dress and answer that door.”

So Cameron brought Sugar’s dress to her as he went to see who had interrupted them.  It was Patrick.

“Perfect timing, man.” Cameron said sarcastically.  Patrick didn’t catch it. 

“We thought we’d come over to help out if you needed it.” Candace looked around in the kitchen. “And…we were excited to meet this special girl of yours.” she grinned.  Candace heard the heels click on the floor and saw Sugar, smoothing her hair.  

“Sugar.  I want you to meet my good friend Patrick and his girlfriend…..”

“Candace?!?!”  Sugar was shocked as the two friends embraced.  

The men looked confused as the women took their conversation out to the rooftop.  The two friends shared a beer before the rest of the guest arrived.  “Sugar really did handle all of the set-up, so there isn’t anything else to do but bring the food upstairs.”

“Man, Cam…you really did it.  You’re finally opening your own restaurant.”  Patrick said proudly.

“I know.  It’s crazy that I didn’t see this for myself, you know?  But Sug…..man.”

“Yeah, she seems like a good woman.”

“She is.  And I see Candace has your walk a little different too.  You really settled down.”

Patrick took a sip of his drink. “When I’m with her, there really is no place I’d rather be.  She’s intelligent, successful, beautiful, supportive…she’s the whole package.”

“Cheers to ‘the whole package’!”

Candace came downstairs.  “The guest are starting to come outside. You want to start bringing up the food now?”

Cameron nodded and they all grabbed a tray of food and brought it upstairs.  Cameron was taken back by the decor outside.  There were paper lanterns streamed up everywhere.  There was a long table decorated with colorful flowers and a linen tablecloth.  There was jazz music playing from the speakers.  He looked at his guests until his eyes fell on Sugar, talking to a woman who had become a regular in the restaurant he used to work in.  Sugar caught his gaze, excused herself from the woman and went over to him.  He hugged her and gave her a kiss.

“Baby, this looks great!  How did you do all of this?”

Sugar smiled.  “I just did.  I wanted to make my baby look good for all these people.  You likey?”

“You know I do!”

“And that lady over there?  Rachel?  She loves it too!  We were talking about me possibly working for her.  She’s an event planner!  Did you know that?”

“No, I had no clue.  Well go ‘head baby and do that networking thang!”  He kissed her a couple more times before she went back to join the conversation.  Cameron watched her walk over and grinned. That’s all me right there!  

Cameron went back to set up the food on the buffet table when a guy walked up to him.  

“I just wanted to come over an introduce myself.  I’m Ryan.  Sugar’s…..friend.”

“Hey, how you doing?  Glad you came out tonight.”

“Thanks for having me man.  And don’t worry about me and Sugar.”

Cameron had no idea what he was talking about and didn’t care to know either. “What do you mean?”

“You know how it is when you have a past with a woman.  Sometimes it can be uncomfortable.  But don’t worry, that kiss yesterday meant nothing.” Cameron looked shocked.

Ryan walked away, feeling pretty sure of himself.  If Veronica doesn’t want me, I know someone who does.  

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Three & Four: Awkward

“You two are so sickening!”

Sugar finally got a chance to catch up with Candace, who she hadn’t seen since she dropped her off at her apartment that night Ryan was in town. Sugar has done a good job of not replaying that night in her mind, and a lot of that goes to Cameron. Since they met, the two have become inseparable. She even became his guinea pig for recipes he’s trying out for his restaurant. If course she loves it because she loves food, and Cameron was the best cook she knows. He, in turn, helped her move all of her furniture into storage. He offered his place to her until she got back on her feet, but she felt it was too soon.

“Uh, we’re cute together!” Candace gushed. Sugar was looking at pictures of Candace and her boyfriend, Patrick at a beach. She swiped through more to see more of them: drawing hearts in the sand, poses in the ocean, and one of them kissing as the sun sets.

“When did you take these?”

“Last weekend. It was a spontaneous road trip to Delaware.” Sugar wasn’t used to seeing this side of her friend. “What? I mentioned it would be nice to be near the water and he said ‘So, let’s go.’ and we went.”

“Look at you! This man done loosened you up!”

“And thank God he did!” Candace sipped her lemonade.

The two friends high-fives each other in agreement. “I’m happy for you, Candi!”

Candace looked Sugar in her eyes. “Sug. I can’t remember the last time I was this happy. I’m so happy that it scares me to death. I just……sometimes I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

“Don’t do this, Candi. Things are good. You two are good. Don’t mess that up. Live in the moment.”

Candace shifted in her chair; absorbing her friend’s words. “You’re right. So enough about me. How have you been? What have you been up to?”

Just then her phone rings. It’s Cameron. Candace motions for her to answer it, after she saw how Sugar’s face lit up. Oh, and you’re telling me who he is after you get off the phone, heffah!

“Hey. I’m out with Candace…what’s up?” they talked for a while. “Sure, I’ll pick that up for you. Are you making that tonight? Yay! Alright baby. Bye.”

“Baby?!” Candace was curious.

Sugar grinned. “Yes….’Baby’. What? You the only one that can have somebody?” Sugar laughed as she got up from the table. “I got to run to the store. He’s making roasted duck tomorrow for a dinner party at his place. If you’re not busy…”

Candace already knew about it. “Just text me later and let me know.” Candace had already been invited by Patrick earlier. She just thought it would be better to tease her. She’s the Chef’s new boo!

The two friends hugged and went their separate ways. Sugar arrived at the market to find a duck. I guess I should find the butcher, right? She walked through the store when a familiar voice called out to her.

“Sugar?”

Sugar turned around. It was Ryan. She looked at him and did the first thing that came to mind. She pretended to not see him and continued walking rapidly, dodging through aisles trying to lose him. She didn’t as he caught up to her.

“Sug! Hey!” he reached out to hug her, but she wasn’t in the mood. However, she decided to be nice and gave him a side hug.

“Ryan! What are you doing in DC? You got a meeting here or something?” Sugar felt her nerves begin to unravel; fighting the urge to break down.

“No. Uh….actually…..I, um…I live down here now.”

What?!?!?! Why the hell would you move here, you bastard!!

“That’s great! So getting groceries for you and the misses?”

“Yep.” Ryan felt bad about lying. “But I don’t know what to get.”

“You never did.” Sugar chuckled. “Well, if you’re not busy, I’m co-hosting a dinner party tomorrow. You and your fiancée are welcome to come.”

Sugar knew it was a mistake when the words flew out of her mouth. She was trying to save face. Stupid! Why did you say that? Inviting him knowing she’s coming too? What about Cam? Oh no…I screwed up.

“Well…” Ryan fumbled. “I’ll check with her and I’ll get back to you. Your number is still the same, right?” The number you let other guys answer.

“Yes, my cell number is still the same. Just….text me when you find out. But not too late, I need an official head count by three.”

“Okay. And Sugar?”

“Yes, Ryan?”

“It was really good seeing you again. I really thought after the last time, that I had lost you and your friendship. I’m sorry for not telling you about her earlier. I….never meant to hurt you.”

Ryan leaned in to hug Sugar. Sugar returned his hug and then he kissed her. Sugar was shocked.

“You….shouldn’t have done that! Why did you do that?!” Sugar felt the tears beginning to come out her eyes. She didn’t want to give Ryan the benefit of seeing her cry.

“Sug….”

Then Sugar walked away, feeling extra guilty.

Chapter Twenty-One & Two: A Long Walk

Candace felt that she was in a dream.  Ever since she met Patrick, it had been one pleasant surprise after another and she couldn’t wait for the moments when they were together.  When they were together, she felt like she was in high school again.  They couldn’t keep their hands off each other.  They made the most out of their time together.  She sat up in bed and looked at her window.  It looked like a beautiful morning.  She looked over to her left and watched him.  Her man.  She watched how his chest rose and fell.  Studied his face.  Watched when he reached over in his sleep to pull her closer, then waking up realizing she wasn’t laying down.

“Morning, beautiful.” Patrick said with a groggy voice and a smile on his face.  “How long have you been up?”

Candace gave him a quick kiss. “Not long, sweetie.  I didn’t want to wake you up.”  Patrick scooted up.  “I needed to get up anyway.”  He gave her a kiss on her shoulder. “What’s your schedule like for today?” Candace thought about all the meetings she may have to sit in and the clients that would be calling her every five minutes.  She thought about her assistant, who spent most of her day on Facebook than taking good messages and scheduling her meetings.  Candace felt drained. 

“You know what?  I think today I’m going to call out. I could use a little break.”  

“You sure about that? I remember a time when I couldn’t tear you away from your desk.” Candace had been thinking about that lately.  Yes, she loved her job but her job was her life.  She was looking to change that.

“They can do without me for one day.  What did you have in mind?”  Patrick grinned.  “Just trust me.”

There was that phrase again.  He was always asking her to trust him, but strangely, each day it got easier.  “Why don’t you get dressed and I’ll come back and pick you up in an hour, ok?”

Candace got dressed and met Patrick outside of her building. He had the top down on his car.  She got in as they drove to the unknown destination.  He grabbed her hand as she looked over and smiled.  She felt an ease that he hasn’t steered her wrong in the past so there was nothing to worry about.  “We’re here!” he said as they pulled up to a public park. Candace was officially confused. Did I really take off work to be at a park? Patrick reached into his backseat and pulled out two cameras.  He handed one to her. “Come on.” he said as they walked together through the park.  “Now I want you to take a picture of anything you want.  Just find what moves you, and snap away!”  Candace found a bench and just sat for a minute while Patrick took pictures of a group of people letting their dogs play with each other.  She looked around and saw what people actually did during the day.  She felt out of place at the park and immediately felt bad for taking the day off.  She felt she could’ve been productive.  She could be helping out her team.  Then her hearing zoomed in on a bird. The bird chirped as if he was telling Candace to snap out of it. She turned around to see where it was and then she saw them.  A young couple who had to be no older than 21.  The girl had black hair with green tips.   She was sitting on the ground while her boyfriend was laid across her lap; pulling her in for a kiss.  She playfully moved her head from out of his reach and laughed.  Candace was immediately intrigued by them.  She began to snap photos of the couple; several of their playful banter, then more when they actually kissed.  She zoomed in when the boy caressed her face and the warm smile came across her face. She snapped some more.

“They are interesting, aren’t they?”  Patrick came up behind Candace.

“Yeah.  They’re so young but….”

“But?”

“They seem so sure of themselves.  They just know that they’re meant to be together for the rest of their lives.”  Candace felt a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach.  Patrick noticed the change in her.

“Are you alright, Candace?”

Candace didn’t respond.  She just got up and grabbed Patrick’s hand. “Let’s just walk around.” She needed the space to think.  Just seeing the young couple and how free they felt to fully express their love made her envious.  Is it possible that I could be that….to him? What if he hurts you?  What if we realize that we’re moving too fast?  Maybe we should slow down a little.  But you don’t want to lose him, Candace.  What if he’s “The One”? There’s no such thing as “The One”.  That’s some fantasy Sugar tried to convince you existed. 

“Candace…..”

“Yes?”

“Are you ready to tell me what you’re thinking about?”

The couple kept walking with no destination in sight.  Candace thought it was a beautiful irony for their relationship.  It had only been a month and she’s been fighting it since the beginning, but something else was making her soften up.  The spur-of-the-moment dates, the late-night conversations, and now the random taking off a day of work to walk through a park and take pictures of strangers.  Still, she’s never felt so alive in all of her life.  Her month with Patrick was more fulfilling and adventurous than her five years with Derrick. She couldn’t keep trying to suppress what she knew to be true.

“I think I’m falling in love with you.” 

 

 

Chapter Twenty: Flying High

What should’ve been a time of celebration for Ryan turned into nothing more than constant arguments with Veronica. Their usual morning routine of morning sex had disappeared, Veronica picked up more shifts at the hospital so she came home when Ryan was getting up to get ready for work. When he would try to hold her, she retreated; saying she was “too tired” and just wanted to go to bed. On top of that, he hadn’t heard from Sugar. Granted she seemed upset when hearing the news of his engagement, but she was still a friend. She couldn’t have thought that……me……and her…… He instantly connected the dots.

Ryan came home from work to do the last bit of packing before he moved. He had packed up the majority of his belongings and wanted to get down to DC a week earlier so that he could look at his new apartment, which was a perk of his job. He walked in and was shocked. The place he shared with Veronica was completely empty of her belongings.

“Veronica! Baby…” He began to frantically search their home and found a stick-it note on the screen of his computer. Press play. He sat down at the computer to watch the message.

I can’t do this anymore. I thought when we got engaged, that we would make decisions together as a couple. Maybe this job is a great opportunity for you, but I don’t feel the same way. Ever since you came back you’ve been different and I……*sniffles*…..feel we’re going in two different directions.

Ryan noticed the gleam of the engagement ring. He pulled out his cell phone.

I accepted an offer to work with the relief efforts in Haiti. It was last minute….another doctor couldn’t go and I think this is the space that we need to figure out what we want. Don’t try to call me. I won’t answer for you. Goodbye.

Ryan let the video loop while he packed for DC. He stared at his phone and decided to call his friend, Sugar. Her cell phone was off, so he tried her home phone. He chuckled; thinking it was cute that she still had a land line.

“Hello?” a man answered the phone.

That can’t be right. “Oh, sorry. Wrong number.”

He hung up and dialed the number slowly. “Hello? Hello?” It was Sugar. Ryan froze; what was he going to say? Should he tell her he’s coming in town tomorrow and would like to talk to her about the last time? That he never meant to lead her on and that he does still love and appreciate her friendship?

“Hey babe? You still on the phone?” That’s the same guy from before! Babe?

Not any…..” Click.

Ryan prepared to go to DC, alone.

Chapter Nineteen: Serendipity

I can’t believe this is really happening.

Cameron saw first hand what it means to go after what really mattered.  After helping Patrick win over his woman, he couldn’t help but to think that if Patrick can be determined to win Candace over, then he too can be more aggressive in his life.  The opportunity to do just that came when his boss caught wind of what he did during the lunch rush and fired him on the spot.  So he spent the next few weeks finishing up his business proposal and working on a pitch to give to the bank….and they loved it!  The approved the loan for him to open his own restaurant.  Cameron wanted to celebrate but couldn’t get in touch with Patrick. “Probably out with Candace” he thought as he looked towards his dog, Skylar.  

“Why don’t we go for a walk.  Go check out my new Bar & Grill!” 

Cameron walked for blocks until he came in front of his brand new job.  His restaurant.  He stood and peeked inside. I can’t wait to get the keys.  Really look at everything. “Now the hard work begins, Sky…” he looked down at his dog, but she was gone.  He had made her collar too loose again.  He ran frantically in the streets; yelling for man’s best friend.  He searched for what seemed like hours until he came into this neighborhood and there Skylar was.  Cameron was relieved. 

“Hey…I’m sorry about my dog…” he went to put Skylar’s collar back on.

“That’s okay.  She was really friendly to me.” the woman said.  She sounded familiar to Cameron, so he looked up.  It’s her! Okay, this time at least find out her name. 

“You must be special because Skylar doesn’t just run up to anybody without barking.” 

“I’ll take that as a compliment then.” she smiled at Skylar, petting her once again.

“You should.  By the way, my name is Cameron.”

“I’m Sugar.”

“Oh, so you ARE special!  That’s a real unique name.”

Sugar smiled. “Yeah, my parents were kinda hippies back in their day.”

“So….how is your knee?”

Sugar looked confused for a while, then remembered.  “Oh!  It’s fine.” she nervously chuckled.  “I should’ve taken you up on your offer that day.  I could’ve used the help that day.”

Cameron perked up.  “See?  You should always accept help.  We can’t do it all by ourselves.”

“You know….you’re right!  I’ll remember next time.  Look, I’d better get back home.”

Cameron figured now was a better time than any to once again, go after what he wanted.  He was given a second chance and he wasn’t letting it get away.  What’s the worse that could happen? Cameron just went for it.

“You think that maybe I could call you sometime?”

Sugar gave it some thought.  A lot of thought.

“Sure.  I’d like that.” 

 

 

Chapter Seventeen & Eighteen: The Game Changer

Cameron had enough. “Tonight is the last night I meet any woman online.” he said after being roped into listening to a woman complain about her man making a better life for them. He was done being timid. Letting opportunities, like the sexy stranger, pass him by. Cameron stared at his computer and opened up a file he had abandoned years ago. It was simply titled: “The Game Plan”. It was a business proposal to open up his own restaurant. It’s time I become my own boss. Believe in myself for a change he said to himself. Skylar ran to the door before the person had a chance to knock. It was his best friend, Patrick.

“What’s up, Pat?”

“Shit….you got something to drink in here?” he immediately went to the fridge and pulled out two Blue Moons; handing one to Cameron.

Cameron, now being forced to drink, sat back down at the computers and faced Patrick, who had plopped down on the sofa. “I met this woman the other day….” he began, “Beautiful. Banging ass body…so we’re talking then she invites me back to her place.”

Cameron sat up in his chair. “And….”

Patrick gave him the look. No words needed to be explained. He knew. “Okay…so what’s the problem?”

“The problem is I haven’t heard from her since.”

“Pat. You ever think that maybe this time, you finally met a woman that only wants YOU for sex? Probably why this is bothering you so much..” Cameron took a swig of his beer.

Patrick sat up. “I thought that too, but there’s something different about her, man. I can’t call it, but I find myself thinking about her and that connection all the time, bruh. I can’t shake Candace.”

Cameron knew exactly what his friend was saying. So he told his friend what he only told himself. “Then call her. Show her that she’s more than just one night.”

Patrick got up, dapped Cameron, then left; with his cellphone next to his ear. Cameron locked his door then went back to his business proposal. He stared at it some more and took another swig of beer. Skylar came over and Cameron gave her a pat, then searched for property spaces for rent until he found the perfect place on 14th Street. He sat back, feeling confident that his life was beginning to turn around.