Thursday, November 29, 2007

Love of Her Life

It was dark, gloomy, chilly morning in Chicago. According to meteorologist reports, the city could experience a bit of snowfall in the day. From the 33rd floor of Monterrey Heights, where his company's head offices were located, Ashton got a hawk's eye view of downtown Chicago.

However, this morning, as he stood by the massive glass panes, sipping his tea, he wasn't admiring his favorite city. His mind was pre-occupied with a several thousand things. In about 20 minutes, he was going to attend the most important meeting of the month. He was going to follow that up by a 2 hour presentation, which he had spent weeks to prepare. Then, there was going to be a business lunch with their partners from Japan; and then another 2 meetings before he would be done for the day. Ashton felt uneasy. He made sure no one was looking, and then quickly popped two pills in his mouth. "That should do it" he reassured himself, and started walking toward the conference room.

At half past seven, Ashton left Monterrey heights. Instead of making his way toward the parking structure, Ashton decided to take a walk around the block. It had been snowing for the most of the day, and the weather was in no way favorable for a stroll. But, that didn't stop Ashton. The day hadn't gone as well as he had hope, and he needed to clear his mind.As he walked, he went through the days proceedings a couple of thousand times in his head and finally decided that his performance had been overall very unsatisfactory! He was not pleased with himself at all.

Just then something in a store's display window caught his attention. It was a pretty delicate necklace. "Are those diamonds?" he wondered, as he looked at the pendant through the window. It would be perfect for Roo, he thought to himself, it's as beautiful as she is. But that thought was abruptly interrupted by his M.D.'s words, that had been ringing in his head all evening - "You're capable of so much better, Rogers!"

Ashton forgot all about the necklace and continued walking, trying hard to fight away feelings of lack of self-worth and confidence. He felt something vibrate in his pocket. It was his cell phone. He had forgotten to switch it back to the ringer mode, after he had left Monterrey Heights. "Hello, Ashton?" a sweet feminine voice asked. Her voice sounded like the tinkling of little bells. It was Emily Bucktree, or Bucktree as he called her.

Bucktree was a New Yorker, who Ashton had met during his days at the University of Chicago.They both had attended business school, and had interned together over both the summers there. Their relationship was strictly professional. But, that had not always been the case. Ashton had met Jamie during his final semester. Before that, he and Bucktree had an on-again off-again fling thing ... or so Jamie thought. What she was unaware of, was that Ashton and Emily Bucktree had something going on way before business school in Chicago. It had started back in the day, when he was working in NYC. It was then that he had first met Emily, at a friend's party. It was then, that their affair of sorts had first begun.

He had never loved Emily, and they had never officially been a couple. It was just random fooling around, according to him. Emily had never quite felt the same. Ashton was the love of her life, and even though she had temporarily accepted that they were mere colleagues (sometimes friends), she hoped that one day, the nature of their relationship would be quite different.

"Bucktree!" Ashton exclaimed, "How goes it?" He had planned to go to New york Monday morning, and spend the weekend taking care of stuff at the Chicago office. But he had worked hard last few days, and there wasn't much left to do anymore. " Looks like I'm going to get the weekend off!" he told her, in disbelief, and laughed. It felt good to laugh.

"Why don't you come here earlier then?" she said. "We can discover the city all over again!" They both laughed. Thereafter, the conversation comprised less talking, and more laughing. Ashton felt good.

"Alright, I'll see you soon then" Ashton said and hung up. "In a matter of a few hours" Emily thought and smiled.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

F.r.i.e.n.d.s. 2

Jamie had spent the entire afternoon toiling in the kitchen. She was trying to bake a cake. Not from scratch obviously, I mean who does that sort of thing now-a-days anyway?? Although Betty Crocker's cake mix was there to make things easier, she had still found the task to be quite an ordeal!

She had watched Lynne bake many a cake in the past 3 months, and had felt fairly confident about it. But this afternoon, Jamie realised that baking was a lot like driving. It's one thing to watch others do it, it's a whole another when you're the one behind the wheel; especially when there's no one else around. She finally managed to get the stuff into the oven, and thought that the worst was over when it suddenly occurred to her that she couldn't tell what a cake looked like when it was ready! Of course the box says 30 minutes, but we all know that it's never exactly 30 minutes. That specific task was usually assigned to Ree-Ree.

This calls for a quick flash back into the past, to the time when Jamie was staying with the Parsons. I've already mentioned Lynne, Ames and their daughter Nilla. There's another character here, that the reader will be introduced to: Ree-Ree. Jamie had noticed that she was always usually around . She had initially presumed that she was Nilla's best friend or something, but then wondered if she was somehow related to the Parsons.

[ The exact relationship of Ree-Ree with the Parsons , as well as her real name, is unknown to Jamie (to the present day). So, let's leave it at that.]

Anyhoo, every time Lynne had baked a cake, it had been Ree-Ree's job to take it out when it was ready. Jamie realised that she hadn't ever paid attention to that part of the cake-making process. "Great going Jamie!" she said to herself sarcastically.

Just as she was ready to plunge into a sea of despair, she heard her cell phone ring. "Ashton!!" she exclaimed and ran to her room. Ashton had successfully completed his assignment in L.A. and was now travelling for the 2 weeks, between Chicago and NYC. Jamie hadn't heard from him in 3 days, and as she ran to her room, the prospect of hearing his voice after so long, excited her.

"Hey roobear!! Hows you doing?" asked John. It was John. Jamie wasn't disappointed. John was a dear friend she had known for many years now; and she was glad he had called. As for Ashton, well, not hearing from him forever was expected. Jamie was getting used to that.

"Johnster!! Hey!!" Jamie replied. They spoke for about 2 hours, 2 hours and 38 minutes to be precise. They had a bit of catching up to do. John had been busy with a couple of things the past week. There were the usual hospital shifts, plus Mary-Ann, John's girlfriend, had left for Montreal earlier in the day and he had spent the last week helping her shop and pack for the trip. She spent Thanksgiving every year with her folks there, and John usually accompanied her, but this year he couldn't make it, 'cause he had a lot going on in the hospital.

Jamie updated John on Peyton's love life. She had had a really long chat with her the other day. The conversation touched a veriety of topics briefly, but was mostly focussed on her 'Belgian love'. "Peyton should really just stop wasting her time. Really." John laughed. He had such a nice warm laugh, Jamie thought. Just like the kind of the guy he was- nice, warm, friendly, sweet... lovable. Her mind wandered to Faraway Land, to her high school days, to the time when her world revolved her then boyfriend - John.

"and she couldn't stop giggling after that, no matter what we did or said, trust me roo we tried everything... but she had got a classic case of the giggles!" John said. Jamie was lost. This wasn't the first time her thoughts had drifted into the distant past, while on the phone with John.

"Oh! really? wow!" Jamie said, sheepishly. She knew that John was aware of the fact that she hadn't been listening to him. He knew her really well.

"The cake!!" Jamie suddenly screamed, "It's probably ruined by now!" "It's definitely ruined by now" John joked. Jamie ended their conversation abruptly, and headed toward the kitchen. She had to take care of the situation before Aunt found out...

"Else she's going to serve me for dinner tonight!"


The clanking and clunking of spoons, dishes and stuff in the kitchen woke Jamie up. It took her a couple of minutes to realise what was happening. Uncle was finishing up breakfast and probably going to leave for work in another 10 minutes or so. It was Monday morning finally, the weekend was officially over!!

Jamie leaped out of bed in joy, and ran straight into the shower. She knew Aunt was going to be out all day today, which meant she had the house to herself, and was free to do/eat/think/be as she liked! "We need some music around here" she announced to her reflection in the mirror, "and I know just the CD to play!" Thereafter, Fabulous joined her in her daily morning activities, in the bathroom and at breakfast.

Every Monday Aunt attended a day long workshop thingy called on organic gardening. She had been trying to grow stuff in her backyard forever, but apart from cacti, nothing seemed to want to live there. "Can't blame the veggies!", Jamie had always thought. Now, Aunt was trying to go O! as she liked to call it. "You can't keep saying that Aunt" Jamie had warned her a gazillion times, "Oprah's going to sue you one of these days!"

With the house all to herself, Jamie felt peace of mind. She plonked herself on the couch in the living room and let her thought wander. It had a while since she had spoken to any of her friends, since she had moved to Broken Bow to be precise. It's not that she was living a very busy life here, it's that the Msn messenger in her computer wasn't working! She had tried to re-install the program some 7 times now, but it refused to work. Jamie had gotten super frustrated and had given up. But now she didn't have a way to reach her friends, and that really sucked.

If there was one thing that Jamie was really proud of, it was her group of best friends. She absolutely and totally trusted, cared about and loved them! She told them everything that went on in her life, everything. They had all gone to the same high school in Faraway land, some for a year, some for more. Even though that was years ago now, and almost seemed like a different lifetime altogether, they were still as close today as they had been then, maybe even closer. unfortunately for Jamie, none of them were in the United States. They were all living their lives in different parts of the world. Peyton was in Paris, John in some part of Canada, and Berry.. well, last she heard from her, Berry was discovering Central Europe.

[ There are some others who comprise Jamie's inner circle people; the reader will get acquainted with them in due course of time.]

Jamie decided to send a private message on Facebook. She wanted to enquire about Peyton's Belgian boyfriend, so she knew posting on her wall was not an option. He would definitely see it, and that would not be too good.

Jamie and Peyton, fascinatingly, lived very similar lives; albeit in different continents. If you took a look at them, as individuals, and at their lives, you would see that they had a lot going for them. However, they somehow constantly failed to see that, and lived their lives believing in their hearts that they were sore losers! This sorta self image, predictably, has never done good for nobody. So, Jamie and Peyton went from one jerk to another, from one heartbreak to another and never really did much with their careers. Peyton couldn't ever get a job, not 'cause she was incapable of, but 'cause she never really tried to... and as for Jamie, well, her story is a little bit more complicated, so let's save that for later.

" Peyton, I'm going to get a Europe phone card tonight and I will give you a call tomorrow, 7p.m your time. I'm really sorry for doing the disappearing act on you, the msn here has gone to Hawaii... as in, is on holiday.. I mean it's not working. Okay, alright, too lame i agree! ;) lol. Tty soon, tc! luv ya, muaxx! "

Just as Jamie sent the message, she saw that John had uploaded new pictures of him and Mary Ann (his girlfriend of 4 years).. "Awesome!" she thought, "I love pictures!". She started browsing through John's photos, but not before she scribbled on a post-it note next to the computer:-

' call pey tom, 7p.m. Parisian time"

Monday, November 26, 2007

Not OK!

It had been 5 days since Jamie got to Oklohoma, and she hadn't had one night of good sleep! Uncle and Aunt slept next door to her room, and Aunt snored a helluva lot. Jamie knew that, she had experienced the same problem the last time she had stayed with the couple. She had resorted to sleeping in the living room then, but she wasn't going to do that this time. The couch was very uncomfortable and she had woken up every morning in the summer with a bad back. So, this time, she had decided to sleep in the guest room.. with ear-plugs!

Unfortunately for Jamie, they weren't doing the job, and she woke up on an average of 3 times every night. So, she found it really hard to wake up in the mornings, and hadn't gotten out of bed before 1p.m. all week.

"What is wrong with you, Jamie?" asked Aunt, almost concerned as Jamie got out of the shower. It was 2:30 p.m. "Nothing!" Jamie exclaimed. "You forget I'm still functioning on Pacific Time. I woke up at 1p.m. today which means I actually woke up at 11a.m. and that's only 'cause I didn't really get proper sleep last night. So, add an extra hour because of that. Had i gotten enough sleep in the night, I'd have woken up at 10a.m which is noon here, and that's perfectly normal. I woke up around 10a.m. every morning in California. I can afford to sleep in, Aunt, I don't have nothing to do."

That long explanation annoyed Jamie, she didn't feel like she had to explain herself to anyone. "I bet lunch is yucky" she thought, "must be some kind of beans!" She decided to get herself a bowl of cereal instead. "So u mean you're jet lagged??" Aunt mocked. "I thought that was reserved for travellers from Europe or Far East Asia. Never heard of anyone being jet lagged from travelling from one part of the country to another... really now Jamie, I may not be all that bright, but I ain't darned stoopid!". "What you need is a job, missy" Aunt added and started doing the dishes. She had had her lunch.

"What you need is a map of the United States!" Jamie mumbled softly.

Later that evening:

Uncle was in the kitchen making himself a cup of tea. He had just got back from work, and seemed like he was in no mood to talk to anyone. Aunt was sitting at the kitchen table reading O magazine. Jamie was standing around, not knowing what to do or say, and wishing she could be back in her room, at the computer. But she figured she couldn't do that just yet.

"So are you single now?" Aunt suddenly asked. She was still reading her magazine. "Tell me you're not with that guy anymore" she said. "Umm, well... umm, he's really busy now-a-days" Jamie said, "I hardly ever get to talk to him much". "So, you're pretty much done then, i presume? Well, that's good." said Aunt, "I've never liked MBAs. Best to keep them at a distance, i say".

Jamie didn't say anything. She was used to listening to Aunt's absolutely ridiculous comments that were devoid of any kind of logic or sense. She had learnt to ignore. "So guess he won't be calling here for you then?" Uncle asked.

"Nopes, guess he won't", Jamie said and left the kitchen. She had had enough.

L.A.: Lover. Achiever.

The next morning, Jamie slept in. She had been sleeping in all of this year, and she didn’t think it was possible anymore for her to wake up before 10a.m. even if she wanted to. “I miss Ashton!” were her first thoughts. She reached out for her cell phone and began dialing his number. She was hoping she could catch him before he got to work. Voicemail. “Crap!” she said, and went back under the sheets. She slept for another hour.

Ashton and Jamie had met in Chicago, around a year ago. Jamie was attending her cousin’s graduation at the University of Chicago. They had gone for every single party held at the campus, and at one of these parties Jamie had met Ashton. She saw him standing randomly in the middle of the room, looking somewhat lost. She smiled at him and said “Hi”. That’s how they got talking. Jamie was absolutely floored by Ashton. He came across as a very sensible, humble, grounded and extremely sweet guy. He was a bit shy then, and Jamie found that extremely adorable. The conversation ended after 3 long hours! Ashton had asked her for her number and Jamie was more than delighted to give it to him. But that was a year ago. A lot had changed since then. Ashton had changed since then, or so Jamie felt. However, Ashton felt otherwise. He argued that he was the same guy, just with different priorities. Jamie didn’t like his new priorities at all. She missed the ‘old Ashton’, the one who had time for her.

She called that his “Lover’ phase, when they spent hours together – talking, laughing, getting to know each other, going to coffee shops, dinners, lunches, long drives, bars/lounges, night clubs- they did it all, they did it all together. She had never felt so much love from a single person ever! She could hardly believe it half the time, and absolutely adored Ashton! But ever since, he had graduated from business school, Ashton was a changed man. Initially, Jamie had been unable to deal with the change and that had lead to many many arguments between the two of them. “Why do you constantly fail to understand that I can’t give you that kind of time anymore??” he has said to her on many an occasion. “It’s not that I don’t want to, I just can’t do it! I absolutely CANNOT!!!”

It’s not that Jamie didn’t get it, she didn’t want to. She wanted to be with her Ashton all the time, she hated that she couldn’t. He was in “Achiever” mode, and Jamie feared that he would probably be in it forever. He wanted to climb the corporate ladder, make lots of money, buy a swanky apartment in Manhattan, own at least 5 Audis… and none of that could be attained while in Lover mode for sure!

She also feared that he might be losing respect for her. Ashton liked intelligent women, and he believed Jamie was one. (She didn’t consider herself to be stupid, but she wasn’t quite sure ho intelligent she was either..). Over the past year though, Ashton had done a lot for himself, while she was pretty much sailing in the same boat. She often wondered if he still looked at her with the same eyes as he had in the past. She had her doubts.

Warm UN-Welcoming!

As the airplane landed in Broken Bow, Jamie’s heart filled with dread. “It might be so bad”, she tried to reassure herself. She tried hard to be optimistic, but gave up the very next second. “Who am I kiddin’??” she said as she got off the plane. “Excuse me?” asked the stewardess. She probably thought Jamie had said something to her. “Oh, umm…” Jamie hesitated; she didn’t realize that she had thought aloud. “I said g’bye!” she said and smiled, or rather tried to smile.

Jamie was not feeling one bit cheerful. She was NOT looking forward to seeing Aunt and Uncle. She had spent the summer with them, and had been miserable throughout. They were financially as well off as the Parsons, but their lifestyle had absolutely nothing in common with them. Jamie believed there was no love between Uncle and Aunt, and wondered if there ever was. They didn’t live happy lives, and she was constantly appalled by their narrow minded thinking and stingy ways. She wished she had someplace else to go, but there wasn’t any. This was her closest bet to a ‘home’, and she felt grateful that she had atleast them to turn to, even if she hated being with them.

Aunt didn’t seem particularly joyous when they met in the arrivals lounge. Soon they were headed home, where Uncle was waiting for them. Jamie hoped he would be at work, so she could go to her room and avoid seeing him tonight. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen. Uncle wasn’t a man of many words, and she always felt weird around him. Their conversations were few and punctuated with many awkward silences. She never knew what to say to him. This time, she was almost afraid of seeing him. She knew he wasn’t happy that she going to be at their place again. “I really wish I had someplace else I could go”, she thought to herself. She missed Ashton.

“I’m not going to be weird”< she told herself. “I am grateful that I can stay with them, and they should know that”. Uncle was waiting at the door. “What took you so long?” he inquired. Jamie felt as if he had looked right past her and directed the question at Aunt; thereafter the conversation took place between them. Jamie felt instantly sucky! She didn’t acknowledge me at all, she thought. What’s his problem, anyway?! She wished she could go right back to the airport and fly back to California, to the Parsons. “How was your flight?” asked Uncle. “Okay…” she said. Uncle mumbled something to that, but Jamie wasn’t paying attention. She wanted to speak to Ashton, and had decided that she’d go to her room and call him. She looked at the time and suddenly realized that he was probably in the middle of his daily teleconferencing session. “Perfect!” she said.

“You like lima beans??” asked a quite surprised Aunt. They had been talking about dinner, and presumed Jamie was listening. Little did they know that she had drifted off into her own thoughts, “Yeah, sure”, Jamie said. “I have to stop thinking aloud!” she thought, “Maybe I can fall asleep before she serves dinner, that way I can escape the gastric torture”. She hated beans.

Jamie took her bags and went into the guest room, which was her room in their house. She pulled out a can of diet coke, and sat in front of the computer. She maintained an online diary and tried to write in it as often as she could. She put on some music, on very low volume, popped the soda, and started typing her heart out.

Soon enough, there was a knock on her door. “Hey, I can’t work with the music”, Uncle said. She could tell he was trying to be nice. “I’m sorry, I’ll lower the volume”, she said. “How about if you just turn it off?” he asked. There was a pause. “Alright”, she said and he was gone.

Jamie stared blankly at the computer screen.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Moving to OK...

There is not a whole lot that can be seen through the window of an airplane. A bit of the terminal, perhaps, and some of the activity on the tarmac:the airline' s ground staff running around looking extremely important and talking into their walkie-talkies, people loading the luggage into the aircraft, making last minute checks and signalling to the pilot.

Jamie was oblivious to everything around her, her mind was blank. She didn't really know what she was feeling. She knew she didn't want to leave California, and was trying hard not to think of her destination, Broken Bow, OK. Over the last couple months this year, her life had been one of a vagabond... going from one place to another aimlessly or rather in search for something. This search had brought her to California three months ago, to the bay area, to the Parsons.

Her dad and Mr Parson had randomly bumped into each other in a supermarket in Faraway Land, some 20 odd years ago. They befriended each other then, and had remained quiet close over the past 2 decades. Since Jamie had nothing to do, and nowhere to go, she decided to visit California. The Parsons invited her to say with them. She didn't know them at that time, and wondered how staying with them would be...

She was very pleasantly surprised to find that they were an amazing family whose lives and hearts were full of love, kindness, generosity and happiness! She had enjoyed every single day that she had spent with them, and had been immensely moved by their sweetness. She had grown super close to Lynne, Ames and their daughter Nilla. "They're family now", she thought to herself as the Capt. announced that they were ready for take-off.

The flight was quite empty, and no one was sitting in the seat next to Jamie. She felt a wave of sorrow envelope her as she saw California grow smaller and smaller in size, through the window. Her mind was full of memories, and she secretly wished she could stay with the Parsons forever! that wasn't ever going to be possible. Her dad hadn't been happy about her staying with them for so long to begin with. But she had nowhere to go, and Broken Bow held little appeal for Jamie. Also, she longed for the kind of love that she had experienced with the Parsons and didn't feel that there was any need to leave as long as she was welcome there. and welcome she definitely was! Lynne absolutely loved Jamie's company, and she became like a mom to Jamie, the mom that she never had. "You can't stay with them!" her dad had yelled on the phone, "they're not family. Go to your uncle and aunt in Oklahoma, stay there as long as you want, but leave you get me?? You absolutely CANNOT stay there!". She had stayed anyway, despite what her dad had told her, and now her dad had gotten so mad that he had quit calling her for the last month or so. "It's been longer than a month, I'm pretty sure" she thought. the stewardess gave her a glass of diet coke on her request.

The parsons were not quite the reason she had stayed in California for all of the 3 months though. she would have left for OK sooner, had her boyfriend not gotten a work assignment in L.A. Ashton was 3 years older than Jamie. they had been dating for a year now. He had just graduated from the business school at the university of Chicago, and was doing very well for himself in the corporate world. He had been working for a major sports firm since he was 22. they had recruited him straight out of college, and he had done so well for them, that they had sent him to one of the top business schools int he country to do an MBA. Now, he spent all his time jet-setting across the nation on various assignments for them. Of course that meant that he had almost no time for Jamie, even less than what he had while he was studying in Chicago, which wasn't very much to begin with! even still, she was very happy that he was in California too, and for the last month, she had spent every weekend with him in L.A. Jamie sometimes felt that Ashton was born to work for this firm, 'cause like the company's logo (a tick mark) Ashton was always right.

Not to say that he was a pompous guy, who never listened to anyone else's opinions. The fact was that he was right bout pretty much everything, pretty much all the time! Jamie knew that, although she didn't like to admit it most of the time. "i wonder when I'll see him next", she thought, "probably not until next year now.."