Washed Right Out, Chapter Eleven. Prompts used: biscuits and gravy, the longer you leave something the harder it is to fix.
“I'm in. I'll help you get rid of him.”
Before Riley could respond, Eren stood up. "We can text about it later. Or Skype, or whatever. Just remind me before you leave for the day."
"I might not answer right away." Riley shook his head. "Uh, I have plans this weekend. Sort of."
"Don't worry about it." He crumpled up the paper bag he’d brought his lunch in between his hands. "We can talk more about it in person on Monday, okay? Take the weekend to think on it. I still owe you breakfast, remember?"
"Of course, yeah."
"Biscuits and gravy, dude. Extra pepper. I know just the place." Eren tossed his bag away in an over-the-shoulder throw as he walked away. Riley watched it drop into the trash can. Three point shot, he thought before he realized he’d just acquired an accomplice to an act he hadn't committed to. Yet.
Somehow, Riley forced himself to not think about Eren's proposition during the rest of the work day. He had his kidnapping to look forward to; occasionally, he would walk over to the massive windows that took up one wall of the office and look for any sign of Sam or Karen skulking around incognito.
An hour before quitting time, Riley was getting a headache from staring at his computer screen for so long. The grid pattern that covered his draft pages in InDesign were threatening to overtake his vision. He poured himself a cup of lukewarm coffee from the machine in the corner and stood at the window for a five minute break.
The combination of a blue sky with a thin layer of puffy clouds and the soft chatter of the office in motion lulled Riley into a good mood. He stood and let the muscles in his body stretch out until they didn't ache from sitting. For a moment, he could handle everything. Watching the street below, with its storefronts and bustling bodies on the sidewalk and the occasional car horn, was a comforting vision.
His eyes moved over to the frozen yogurt shop directly across from his building, and his body froze. There was a man in dirty clothes and chopped hair, like he’d hacked off part of it recently, sitting at one of the outside tables. He sat in a chair directly facing Riley's office. He stared up at the window Riley was standing at, as if looking for him.
Even from the height where Riley stood, there was no mistaking the empty, hungry look in the man's eyes.
Nausea swept into Riley's throat. Before Jonathan could see him, Riley had backed away from the window, then slowly walked through the sea of desks and cubicles back to his own work station. He sat down in his swivel chair with a dull thud.
From across the room, Eren glanced over and shot him a look. Riley shook his head, which seemed to pacify the photographer's curiosity for the time being. He ducked his head back down, studying the shutter on his camera and not Riley.
Riley mindlessly checked email while the machinery of his brain clicked into gear, spinning this latest thread into the ongoing Jonathan narrative. He had no idea how long his ex-boyfriend had been sitting there, waiting for a glance of him, or if he’d still be there when Riley got off work. It wasn't like Jonathan was unaware of the other man's goings and comings; along with apartment keys, Riley and Jonathan had also shared work schedules, favorite stores and restaurants, small details that were harmless in a lover's hands but toxic weapons in a spurned ex's arsenal.
Of course, he thought, not without a hint of regret, he would be in front of the Dairy Square. Riley had taken Jonathan to the Dairy Square back when his then boyfriend was going through his lactose-free, gluten-free phase.
At the time, Dairy Square was the only fro-yo shop which catered to people with dietary restrictions. Not that Jonathan had any; he’d just thought cutting out dairy and gluten would do him good. It only lasted a month before he was back to his favorite snacks: full fat ice cream and French fries cooked in duck fat.
The memories set a dull ache in Riley's chest, but the more he thought about it, the more the ache turned into a sharp pain. It wasn't pain from a need to hold on; it was pain from the more overwhelming need to let go of all things Jonathan.
He remembered something one of his university counselors had told him several years ago: "the longer you leave something, the harder it is to fix", which at the time had been referring to his abysmal math grades but still worked in his current situation.
Riley's train of thought was interrupted by his phone buzzing with a new text message.
Riles, r u ready to rock? - Sammy
It was quickly followed by a second text.
Riley, don't leave your office. Me and Sam are on our way. - Karen
Riley truly wanted to follow Karen's thoughtful, learned advice, but there was something he had to do. He would have to talk to Jonathan, once and for all.
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