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The Blind Side of Love

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The day had dragged interminably. The minutes had frozen into hours.

She’d come back to Central Park on a whim, wishing only to escape the suffocating walls of the hotel room, wanting only to partake in something other than her own life. It was enough to sit there; concealed as she was beneath a wig and large sunglasses, and watch other lives go by in streams of fragmented conversations. It was enough just to simply blend in.

“Hey, aren’t you that chick from TV?”

Lexa looked over to find Bellamy walking toward her. “How did you find me?”

“Anya inserted that nifty tracking device into your skull, didn’t you know? How else could she keep up with you?” Bellamy looked around. “Nice day.”

“Yeah,” and Lexa nodded. “How’d you really find me?”

“First of all, it’s rather presumptuous of you to assume I was looking for you. I happened to be jogging, minding my own business, when the sight of a young woman in a hideous wig startled me. Upon closer investigation I discovered that the woman was none other than my best friend.” He sat down beside her and smiled. “So there.”

“So you’re saying that you just happened to be here?”

“Yup.”

“And that you weren’t tipped at all by say … the hotel manager I spoke to on my way out?”

“Nope.”

“You’re sure?”

“Couldn’t be surer.”

“Right.”

“Okay,” Bellamy said shrugging. “I may have heard something about you going to Central Park. I just thought it was an excellent idea.”

“Mmm, it was.” Bellamy merely nodded, and Lexa turned her attention away. They fell into amiable silence. “I was thinking,” Lexa said, her voice soft against the stillness between them, “that I might want to move here. Maybe after the show’s over.”

When Bellamy didn’t say anything, Lexa turned to look at him, only to find that his attention was fixed on a blonde woman several feet away.

“Or maybe just have threesome with some elephants from outer space,” Lexa added casually.

“What?” Bellamy turned to her in a second. “What threesome?” He gave her a lopsided grin. “Sorry. I was just … um…”

"Checking out the local white meat?" Lexa guessed.

"It's what's for dinner.”

Behind her sunglasses, Lexa rolled her eyes. "Gross."

"There's nothing gross about the union of a man and a woman," Bellamy replied. "Or even a man and two women. Or three…"

Lexa laughed. "You can barely handle yourself, what are you going do with three women?"

“Hey!” Bellamy frowned. “I’ll have you know I can handle myself just fine. Why—“

“T.M.I!” Lexa interrupted quickly. “Really.”

“You started it.”

“So what do you think?”

“About?”

“About what I said earlier?”

Bellamy ran his hand up and down the wild hair at the back of his head and looked thoughtful. “I think if you’re going to have a threesome, then you could do better than elephants. I mean, you’re not a bad looking girl, and elephants, well, they smell…”

Lexa wanted to strangle him sometimes. “About me moving to New York after the show.”

“And leave L.A.?” He frowned. “But I thought you loved it there?”

“It was just a thought.” She shrugged it away as if it wasn’t important. After a moment, she sighed. “Should we head back?”

“I guess.” Bellamy yawned and stood up. “Should we call Anya? Maybe she’d like a ride back to the hotel.”

“I’m sure she’s having a blast all on her own,” Lexa answered, somewhat distracted by the tables of artwork along the way. She glanced at him briefly and smiled. “Unless you miss her…”

“Will you quit it with that? I do not have feelings for Anya.”

“Mmhmm.” She would have argued further, but then she saw it: a charcoal sketch drawn on simple canvas paper. She halted in her steps and stared at it for a long moment, unsure why she’d even stopped, unsure why she couldn’t just keep walking.

“Uh, you okay?”

She walked a few feet, and finally turned to Bellamy and said, “Could you get that picture for me?”

Bellamy glanced back at the item in question. “What am I, your slave?”

“Bellamy,” Lexa said, her voice edging toward annoyance. “I know Clark Kent could pull it off with a simple pair of glasses, but I don’t wanna push it.”

“Fine, fine.”

Lexa watched him from several feet away. She rolled her eyes again at the sight of him flirting with the brunette behind the table. It took him far longer than necessary to get the picture and walk over to her, but once he did, she was too pleased with the purchase to mind.

“Here’s your picture, your highness.”

“Hitting on the artist were you?” Lexa asked, distracted at once by the picture he’d handed her. She stared at it and smiled. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, beautiful,” he said flatly, and they resumed their walk. “Actually, that wasn’t the artist. That was the artist’s friend. The artist’s very cute friend who just gave me her number. Although, admittedly, she did make me work for it.” He held up a business card for emphasis and flipped it over to the other side to illustrate a phone number written in green ink.

“Very impressive.”

Bellamy pocketed the card and smiled smugly. “One day you too could be this smooth.”

Lexa didn’t glance at him as they walked. “I’m not sure smoothness is the problem,” and a trace of bitterness seeped through the words before she could help herself. She looked around, eyes narrowed.

“Where the hell is my driver? I told him to wait.”

"Lexa, you know I'm just teasing, right?" Bellamy asked, suddenly serious. "I know it's tough for you."

She didn’t answer, stared down at the drawing in her hand instead and sighed.

“You’re not going to find anyone to love if you don’t let anyone get close to you.”

“I let you get close to me.”

“Yes, but much to my dismay, I don’t seem to be your type.”

“And therein lies the rub.”

 


 

“I’m sorry I’m late,” Clarke anxiously said before Raven could open her mouth. “It’s all Shakespeare’s fault. But look, I brought you fine New York cuisine.” She handed over the two hotdogs she’d bought from a street vendor.

“How touching.” Raven accepted Clarke’s offerings and placed them down on the wooden foldout table. She was, in fact, starving. For hours she’d sat behind the carefully arranged pieces of Clarke’s artwork, inhaling car exhaust and stupidity. For hours she’d listened to the sounds of beeping horns and angry, frustrated souls battling it out in the war zone of New York City traffic. She’d listened to a thousand out-of-context conversations, answered hundreds of questions – most of them having nothing to do with the art on display – and pointed dozens of people in the wrong direction. She was exhausted. “But Shakespeare’s been dead too long to be your scapegoat, and I think I deserve better than hotdogs.”

Clarke considered Raven’s comment carefully before responding. “Fine, I’ll just double what I currently pay you.”

Raven gasped in mock surprise. “Double? Oh, no, Clarke, that’s too much. I mean, that would be like, hmm, let’s see, two times zero equals – hold on, this is tough math – oh yes, zero. No, really, that’s too generous. Just give me fifty percent.”

“I’ll also throw in sexual favors from Finn.”

“Okay, that’s just gross. I’d rather sleep with this hotdog. Sauerkraut and all.”

“And if I hadn’t been a vegetarian before, that totally unnecessary visual right there would’ve tipped me right over the edge.”

Raven shrugged; too busy chewing to comment right away. “Mmm. There’s really nothing better than phallic-shaped mystery meat cooked and served by hairy men beneath two-toned beach umbrellas.”

“Um, okay. I believe ‘anyway’ is in order. How’d we do today?”

“Rough day, but I did sell your baby.”

“What baby?”

Raven wiped at her mouth with a napkin before responding. “Your charcoal sketch, a.k.a. the love of your life. I sold it to the hottest guy ever. Even gave him my number.” She wiggled her eyebrows and took another bite.

“I wasn’t even sure I wanted to sell that one,” Clarke said, visibly disappointed. “But, I guess if he liked it enough to buy it.”

“Mmhmm,” Raven agreed between mouthfuls. “I even doubled your asking price.”

“What? Why?”

Raven shrugged. “Well, he asked for my number, and I asked how badly he wanted it. And he said, ‘How badly do you want me to want it?’ and I said, ‘Badly enough to pay double for this sketch.’”

“And?”

“He didn’t even bat an eye. I should’ve tripled it.”

Clarke laughed. “Only you can manage to do business and get a date at the same time. I really should start paying you for this.”

“When you can afford to pay me, I’ll gladly accept a salary from you. In the meantime, here.” Raven held up an envelope and stood up. “Today’s winnings. Don’t spend it all in one place.”

“Off to work?”

“There’s no rest for the wicked. Is that how the saying goes?”

“What saying?”

“About the wicked?”

“The musical?”

“Never mind.” Raven gathered her belongings. “I’ll see you tonight. Good luck.”

“Thanks.”

Clarke watched Raven until she disappeared in the crowd. Then she sat and looked around. Trying to sell her art was like getting slapped in the face repeatedly by unapologetic, uncaring hands. At the end of the day, or at least, at the end of most days, Clarke couldn’t decide what hurt most: having her work blatantly ignored, or having it completely disregarded after closer inspection. And still, she came back, time after time, because sometimes, she got lucky. Sometimes, someone cared.

Her cell phone went off, the personalized ring tone disclosing the caller’s identity instantly. She struggled with the button on her cargo shorts, before managing to flip the device open and put it to her ear. “Hey,” she greeted her mother.

“Where are you for it to be that noisy?”

“Oh, I’m at the park,” Clarke answered. “Want me to call you back later?”

“No. I just wanted to tell you to come for dinner tomorrow. Miller said he wants us to know something important.”

“What does he want to tell us?”

“If I knew do you not think I would tell you?”

“Haha. Okay, I’ll be there tomorrow, what time?”

“Six-thirty. And Miller said to bring Raven.”

“Okay.”

“Well I’ll let you go. I love you, remember.”

“I love you, too. See you tomorrow.” When her mother hung up, Clarke sat back in the chair and stared at the phone in slight confusion. What would her stepbrother have to tell them?

“Could you tell me where the Guggenheim is from here?”

Clarke looked up and inwardly sighed before saying, “Yeah, just cross the street and walk straight down. It’ll be on your right.”

“Thanks.”

Maybe I should start painting maps instead. She rolled her eyes and settled back against the chair. It was going to be a long day.

 


 

Lexa sat on the pale cream carpet, her back against the edge of the bed, her features bathed in the traces of a setting sun. The conversation with Bellamy had unsettled her. You’re never going to find someone to love, he’d said, as if things were so simple. As if she could go up to someone and say, “Hey, want to go on a date sometime?” and live happily ever after.

If only she could love Bellamy.

If only she weren’t in the public eye.

If only…

She sighed and let her head fall back against the mattress. The painting she’d purchased earlier sat beside her, staring back at her expectantly whenever she glanced in its direction. She still didn’t know why she hadn’t packed it along with everything else, or why she kept staring at it.

It wasn’t like her to be drawn to art, never having been one to spend time at galleries or museums. But there was something about the picture, about the loneliness it radiated, that called to Lexa in a way she couldn’t explain. It made her feel less alone, sitting there in the silent room, watching as another pointless day faded into memory.

 


 

“I love you,” he said, turning to look at her from his place on the bed.

But Clarke kept her gaze on the computer monitor, her Shakespeare paper a blank canvas on the screen. Do you? she wanted to ask, because she’d heard him, and because despite herself, she really wanted to know.

“I love you, too,” she answered when the time for truth had passed and all that remained was the sense of expectation.

“Do you want to do something later?”

“I’m trying to write a paper,” she answered, looking at him, daring him to start a fight.

“After that.”

“I’m not sure there will be an ‘after’ this. I think it’s going to take all night.”

“How long can that possibly take?”

“Yeah, well I’m not good at papers,” she replied, an edge in her voice. “We’re not all geniuses in this room, remember?”

Finn sighed in thinly veiled exasperation. “Okay, look, I’ll just shut up and leave you to your homework.” He rolled off the bed and stood by the side of it for a moment, gazing down at Clarke thoughtfully. “Dinner tomorrow?”

“Can’t, family stuff.”

“What family stuff?”

“Miller wants to talk to us about something.”

“About what?”

“I can safely say that I have no idea.”

“Oh.”

Clarke bit her lip and looked up at him. “I’m sorry, I’d invite you—

“No, it’s okay. I guess I’m just not as part of the family as I thought.”

“Finn—“

“Sorry,” he said. “If it’s a family thing, then it’s a family thing.”

Clarke bit her lip, opting to leave out the fact that Raven had been asked to come along. “It’s more of a Miller thing.”

“And he hates me, right?”

Clarke frowned up at her boyfriend. “He doesn’t hate you. He just doesn’t know you very well.”

“Yeah, well he doesn’t seem particularly keen on remedying that situation.”

Finn looked visibly upset, and Clarke didn’t know what to say to make him feel better. It was true that her stepbrother hadn’t taken to Finn; unlike the rest of her family, who practically worshipped him. She simply had no explanation as to why. “It’s just one evening. I’ll go, hear what Miller has to say, and then maybe we can get together when I get back.”

Finn nodded after a moment of reflection. “I’ll just wait for you here. Raven’s off tomorrow, right?”

Crap. Clarke looked away, focused her gaze on the computer monitor and the awaiting paper, which seemed, at that moment, the lesser of all evils. “Um, actually, she’s coming with me.”

Finn’s silence unsettled her, and Clarke forced herself to look at him. “Why?” he asked.

“Miller wants her there.”

Finn nodded. “I see.”

“They’ve known each other forever, Finn. It makes sense—”

“Save it, Clarke. Just … call me whenever.” The slamming door punctuated his statement.

“Great,” Clarke muttered, shifting to adjust the weight of the laptop on her lap. “Just great.”

 


 

The hotel restaurant was as upscale as it was noisy. The mutter of conversation threatened to drown even the distinct sounds of clattering silverware, as the VIPs in the room chattered on in dull, monotonous voices. Lexa stifled a yawn, and stirred her drink. “This place is lame.”

“I know,” Bellamy agreed, drawing his glass of beer toward his lips and taking a sip.

“Oh I don’t know,” Anya piped in, “I kind of like it.”

“That’s because you’re lame,” Bellamy replied, and Lexa laughed softly. “We should’ve gone somewhere else for dinner. It’s our last night in New York.”

“Until next time,” Lexa answered. “Provided you’re still unemployed and bored.”

Bellamy frowned and leaned his elbows on the table. “I’m not unemployed. I’m between projects.”

“Well, if you need a quick paycheck, I’m sure I can find you something,” Lexa replied.

“No, thank you.” Bellamy reached for his beer again. “I want nothing to do with your seedy Hollywood money.”

“Oh, good, then I guess you’re paying for dinner.” Lexa picked up the menu. “Mmm, good thing I’m starved.”

Bellamy smiled. “I’m here merely as a favor to you, Smarty Pants, and you know it.”

“And I appreciate it.” Lexa turned serious for a moment. “I don’t know what I’d do without you sometimes.”

“Oh, gag,” Anya said. “It’s no wonder people keep asking me when you two are tying the knot. You’re nauseating.”

“I love you so much Bellamy.”

“And I love you, Lexa. My heart beats–”

“I beg you to stop. For the sake of my appetite.”

Lexa smiled to herself. “So, Bellamy, are you going to call her?”

“And the cryptic use of pronouns was lost on him,” Bellamy said, by way of an answer.

Anya leaned forward. “Call who?”

“Bellamy got a girl’s number today,” Lexa revealed. She so enjoyed watching Bellamy squirm.

“He seems to have a thing for brunettes.”

Bellamy’s eyes widened in horror, and he glanced nervously at Anya, who tucked a strand of brown hair behind her ear. I’m so going to pay for that, Lexa mused, but she didn’t care. It was entirely too entertaining. “So,” she said, casually, “are you going to call her?”

“I wasn’t planning to,” he said, while his eyes tossed daggers in her direction.

Lexa shook her head. “I’ll never understand you. Why bother getting her number if you have no intention of calling it?”

“What’s the point of calling her when I’m leaving tomorrow?”

“To say, ‘Hey, I’m just calling so you don’t think I’m an asshole.’”

“Oh yeah, that’s charming.” Bellamy shook his head.

Lexa shrugged. “I’m just saying if it were me, I’d want you to call. Anya, wouldn’t you want him to call?”

Anya stared.

“See, she’d want you to call.”

Bellamy rolled his eyes and reached into his back pocket. A second later, he produced the card with the number in question. He placed it in front of Lexa. “If you care so much, you call her.”

“Now that I’d like to see,” Anya stated.

Lexa glanced at the card, then up at Bellamy and Anya. They were both watching her expectantly.

After a moment of consideration, she reached for her cell phone.

 


 

“… and then he slammed the door,” Clarke concluded. She licked the ice cream off the spoon and shook her head. “He’s so infuriating sometimes.”

Raven nodded, reaching across the table to dip her own spoon into the tub of Cherry Garcia. “Well, I, for one, am glad he’s not going with us tomorrow. There’s only so much of Finn I can take before wanting to poke my eyes out with a rusty fork.”

“That paints a lovely image, thanks.”

“Speaking of painting--”

“No, I didn’t,” Clarke answered before the full question was finished. “I haven’t painted a thing in two weeks.”

“I maintain it’s sexual frustration.”

“Noted.”

“So, how’s the paper coming? Did you finish?”

“I’m sitting here eating ice cream and whining about my boyfriend. Of course I haven’t finished. I got as far as--” The telephone interrupted the rest of her statement. “Ugh, I’ll get it. I’m sure it’s Finn, calling to yell some more.” She reached for the receiver, while simultaneously licking ice cream from the side of her mouth and standing. If she was going to get into another fight, she needed space to move around. “If you’re calling to continue the fight, Finn, don’t bother,” she began, and Raven instantly gave her the thumbs up.

“And before you say anything,” she continued, spurred on by Raven’s support, “I think it’s really shitty of you to get mad at me because my stepbrother chose not to include you in his personal affairs. Sometimes, you really are a spoiled little brat, you know? And I’m getting tired of being your little lapdog. I’m sorry, if Miller isn’t as in love with you as the rest of my family is, but I can’t do anything about it. And if you think I’m just going to sit here and feel guilty because my family doesn’t include you in every little event, then you’re sadly mistaken. So, the next words out of your mouth better be, ‘I’m sorry.’”

Silence greeted her, save for a lot of background noise.

“Finn?” Clarke pressed.

“Uh, I’m sorry,” said the female voice. “Wrong number.”

Clarke lowered the receiver from her ear and closed her eyes.

“What’s wrong?” Raven asked. “Clarke?”

“It, uh, wasn’t Finn,” she answered after a second.

Raven dissolved into uncontrollable laughter.

 


 

Lexa placed the cell phone back on the table and regarded her companions. “Sorry, Bellamy, looks like she’s already cheating on you.”

“But you didn’t say anything,” Anya stated.

“Believe me, I didn’t have to.” Lexa smiled. “Think she was expecting someone else. A male someone.”

Bellamy crossed his arms. “Guess she moves on fast. And here I thought I was the player.”

“All the world’s a stage…” Lexa replied.