Writing this confession listening to "Everything has changed" by Taylor Swift has really made me think back to this pivotal point in my relationship with Hugh. I cannot say the exact point that we started taking each other for granted so much that our relationship morphed into something so destructive for both parties that we ended up moving further and further apart…but what I can say is that it scared me how much I didn't know about this man and how much he and I had grown apart.
The one thing that I can say is that when we were together, after a few minutes of fumbling through the motions of awkwardness…everything turned into the usual pace of normality…but in those minutes of awkwardness it really did make me question things about our relationship…but then he would say something, or do something that made me realise how much I loved him and at that moment my insecurities faded away and I knew then and there that I was making the right decision…I DID love him and no matter how much I tried to deny it…there was still something between us that I couldn't escape…well really I didn't want to escape.
Arriving at the casino, I felt the all too familiar feeling of wanting to vomit as the bile rose in my throat. I was excited at the prospect of seeing Hugh but more importantly, I was frightened. We had not seen each other since I had found out that he and his wife were still together and if I had any hopes of finding out what this meant to me and what it meant for me then I had to get my shit together. The one thing with Hugh that I had learned was that if I wanted something, I needed to come out and say it. If I didn't then he would shut down. He hated games. He was a "get to the point" kind of guy, and whenever I did have the courage to say anything he was either spilling the facts or trying to calm me down. I never knew what I was going to get….I guess I just had to ask and wait for a response either way. In the last few months, I had noticed that Hugh had become a little possessive. Not in a bad way rather, I think he understood that I was on the verge of walking away and I think it had scared him so much that he had started to pull his head in…but was it too late?
I stood by the entrance for the Casino as I messaged Hugh and watched as large groups of people walked past me high on life and god knows what else.
I knew that Hugh was at the Casino as he had messaged me less than 20 minutes before saying that he was leaving soon. While waiting for him to respond I had a minor panic attack. I hadn't suffered from these when it came to Hugh since the beginning when he first started chasing me….It felt so irrational considering we had become so close…but I guess I was so afraid of the fact that we had also grown so far apart.
I felt the familiar burn flash upon my skin as I saw his message pop up on my phone. He was about 20 meters away from me inside the casino.
I walked up to the cream stone steps and walked across the marble floors hearing the familiar "click, click" sound of my heels as they hit the floor. My heart was pounding and my head was swirling. The closer I drew to him the more my skin began jumping with nerves. I was shaking a little as I showed the security team my ID and made my way through the club and stood in the doorway to the main floor.
As I surveyed the room, I saw dozens of tables and hundreds of patrons laughing, drinking, and pissing away money as though it grew on trees. Gambling was never my thing.
I searched the room and began dialing his number. I was standing at the back of the casino and once he answered, it was as if fate had wanted me to find him…."Where are you?" he bellowed sweetly yet desperately as the crowds parted in the middle of the aisle and there he stood scouring the room.
I straightened my dress as I the distinctively handsome, mesmerisingly so with coffee-gold coloured skin, hair dark as coal with a distinguished demeanour in his Calvin Klein business suit and jet black eyes with a golden glint that bored through my soul in that instant.
In one swift motion, he dodged a passing couple and walked towards me with surprising agility. He was more relaxed, articulate, and disarming than I had remembered…it felt like the first time we had met at the hotel. He finally hung up the phone as he reached me and with one rapid movement, he flung his arm around the small of my back and pulled me closer to him. I could feel the desperation pouring out of him like a waterfall. He held me there for a few minutes, crushing my airways as I rested my head on his shoulder, ignoring the nosey onlookers and wrapped my arms around the nape of his neck. I breathed in the familiar cologne "Obsession by Calvin Klein" and the fondest of memories came flooding back and I found myself smiling.
I finally extracted myself from his grip and he grabbed my hand and before we made our way across the main floor to his friends, he whispered…." Never let go" looking straight in my eyes with a deadly serious look before he pulled me in line with him as we walked across the main floor past the blackjack tables.
A few minutes later, after weaving in and out of the crowded floor full of happy punters, we arrived at a poker table where three people were sitting, concentrating on their hands.
Hugh walked up behind one of them and patted the guy on the shoulder. The man turned around to face us and Hugh introduced us to his friend and his wife. The man shook my hand while his blonde bimbette wife gave me the once over, obviously sizing me up and not liking what she saw as she didn't even acknowledge my presence.
"Where is Nick?" Hugh asked the man still holding onto my hand in a death grip vice.
"He went back to the hotel. He said he would meet us back there. I think he was pretty wasted" The bimbette responded, still refusing to acknowledge me.
I bit my tongue as I saw her give me a filthy look. I don't know what I had done to piss her off but it was obvious that there was something she didn't like about me. At that precise moment, she noticed that Hugh was holding my hand and her jaw dropped open as the men were talking. I feigned interest in their conversation, praying that she was not going to say anything as she looked as though she was about to combust.
"When Shaun returns shall we get going?" Hugh said. He looked straight at me, squeezing my hand a little tighter as I tried to pry my hand from his grip. I really couldn't handle her eyes burning into the side of my face any longer and just wanted to leave…preferably with Hugh alone.
A few minutes later a man approached the table and without releasing my hand, he and the man shook hands and in doing so he yanked me closer to him.
"Ava, this is Shaun, Ava just came back from interstate and we haven't caught up in a while so I thought it would be nice if she joined us for drinks. Let's head back to the hotel," he announced introducing me to the man who looked as though he was east Mediterranean as well.
"Lovely to meet you Ava, Hugh. She is gorgeous!" Shaun announced as he shook my free hand. I couldn't help but blush. As Hugh pulled me towards the exit Shaun saw his hand clasped around mine and looking at me. He smiled and winked.
As we walked down the stairs behind everyone, Hugh pulled my hand behind me and placed our hands on the small of my back, steadying me as I took each step with tender care walking as fast as my heels would allow me.
We found a cab and all 5 of us began climbing in. Hugh climbed in first with his back to me and began pulling me up towards him still never letting go of my hand. The bimbette pushed past me as I began to climb in she forcefully pushed me aside jumping inside as quickly as possible, as I hit the side of the cab my hand slipped and I was forced to let go of Hugh's hand. Shaun caught me before I fell any closer to the ground, steadying me with his hands carefully placed around my hips and as I regained composure, thanking Shaun I saw the look on Hugh's face. He was panic-stricken…not only for my safety but also at the fact that I had let go of his hand and he had no idea why. I had landed in the arms of another and smiled as Shaun helped me into the cab.
Everyone else was none the wiser to what had just transpired and as I sit opposite Hugh, I watched patiently for the same warm smile to creep across his face as the rest of the group laughed and talked the entire way back to the hotel. I felt so out of place as I saw the absent look flood across Hugh's face as he looked out the window in silence with his hand perched on the window lining and his chin rested peacefully on the back of his hand. He was thinking…but what I had no idea!
I clutched onto my bag harder and tried not to let the look on his face get to me. He was blocking everything else out. He knew he was losing me. It was killing him…I knew it, I could feel it, I could feel the conflict ticking over in his head, he was at a loss as to what to do about us, he was just as confused as I was and he had made me promise earlier not to let go of his hand but how could I possibly say anything about what had happened?
The bimbette had achieved what she had obviously wanted…She was trying to separate us and she had just opened up the gulf again. I looked at her and she narrowed her eyes towards me. She had been watching me the entire drive there and before I turned my head away, I saw a sadistic smirk cross her face.
I returned my gaze to Hugh and ignored those around us. Just as we arrived I placed my hand on Hugh's knee, smiling at him. He flinched at my touch before he looked me dead in the eyes. I knew that look. He was in another place, he was so far away from me, and yet he was so close. I felt the prickle of tears growing in my eyes. Shaun called something out to him and as the driver opened the door, I almost ran out before Hugh grabbed my hand and squeezed it, rubbing his thumb across my knuckles while he was talking to Shaun.
The bimbette witnessed this exchange and I could see the fury building up behind her eyes as her face went red.
We all walked into the hotel, this time I was walking alone. Hugh was up ahead of me with the three others and I felt as though I didn't belong in this place. Every time Hugh and I had been in this hotel before, it was with such incredible memories, the good and the bad meld together and still made me smile…but this time I was feeling so out of place, I needed to get away, I couldn't deal with Bimbette, She had already hurt me both physically and emotionally and yet she seemed to be friends with Hugh, how could I tell him that she had hurt me…I began to turn around to leave and ran into a tall, dark and handsome man. I head-butted his chin and ran into his body. He placed his hands upon my shoulders to steady me before apologising.
"Are you ok?" he said as I extracted myself from his grip still swaying from the knock to the head.
"Fine thanks, sorry I have to go" I responded trying to leave.
"What's the rush, Stay for a drink" he responded with genuine concern in his voice.
I looked up and saw his eyes for the first time since the encounter. His dark eyes seemed so warm and inviting, I could see his smile in his eyes as he began asking me if I was ok. I couldn't respond. His hands had felt like ice on my skin but his voice was so soothing and the way he looked at me was with such a warmth that I actually found myself mesmerised.
There was something really familiar about this man. I swear I had seen him before but I couldn't quite put my finger on where I wanted to escape but my curiosity got the better of me.
He stared at me for a response with a smile plastered across his face.
"I'm ok. Thank you. I really can't stay but I have to ask…do I know y…" Before I had the chance to finish I heard a familiar voice behind me.
"There you are!" Hugh called out across the foyer making his way towards this guy and I.
We both turned to look at Hugh as he reached where we were standing. Hugh placed his hand on my back and shook hands with the guy who I had run into.
"Nicky man!. Where have you been?…. Wait, do you two know each other?" Hugh responded with a perplexed look upon his face.
" I actually only just got back, the taxi driver got lost and I was waiting forever for a taxi. No, actually we haven't had the pleasure until now. We just ran into each other literally" He responded, looking at me.
I returned his look with a pleading look for him to not tell Hugh I was leaving. Hugh looked at me and I smiled.
"I actually head-butted him" I responded. Nicky had obviously got the message and didn't press on with anything. Right at that exact moment, I realised who he was!. Nicky was one of the most well-known people in our industry and was constantly being reported on for his personal and business affairs. That's where I had recognised him from. I had seen him all over the TV and in every paper in the last few years. How could I have forgotten him?
"Well, let's all go sit down; everyone is at the bar having drinks." We all walked through the foyer and into the bar, Hugh had placed his hand on my lower back and Nicky walked in toe with me. He didn't say anything but I could feel the questions pouring out of him into the silence surrounding us.
When we reached the rest of the group I sat down on the lounge next to Hugh. I kept my distance from Hugh as I felt the bimbette's eyes burning into me from across the coffee table. She and her husband were sitting opposite me in deep conversation with Shaun, who had been sitting in the spot next to mine. Nicky took the seat opposite Hugh and we all ordered drinks.
When they arrived, I sipped my white wine with care as I did not want to get drunk in front of these people. They were obviously well on the way but I just wanted to be in total control so that I did not jump across the table and punch her in the face for the constant frosty looks or her deliberate attack on me earlier.
Thirty minutes later I excused myself to go to the bathroom and ended up calling Maria when I got out. I got her voicemail and left her a quick voicemail in her native tongue. I hadn't fully mastered it yet but I was getting there and basically told her that I loved her and for her to let me know when she was free.
I hadn't noticed bimbette had walked past me to go to the bathroom and when I got back to the table she had already returned.
As soon as I sat down she fired off a question with a little ice in her tone. She was killing me with kindness in front of the others but give me a moment alone with her and I am sure she would tell me exactly what she thought of me…and I am sure it wouldn't be pretty!
"Ava, what language was that you were speaking?" she shot over the others conversations.
I responded accordingly and that was all that she said to me.
I looked at Nicky as the rest of them struck up a conversation and he looked at me and winked. I didn't know what that meant but at least he was being nice.
He looked at me intensely and asked me a question.
"So what do you do Ava?" he asked, smiling. As soon as he asked me the question, the entire table went silent and they all looked at me. Talk about putting a girl on the spot.
Calmly and confidently I responded.
"PR actually. I work in the entertainment industry." I responded keeping eye contact with Nicky.
"Ava and I have actually done a lot of work together" Hugh responded, smiling at me. I was feeling like something was coming and I couldn't help but feel like Hugh was oblivious to it all. These people were his longtime friends and I felt like they were all sizing me up….except for Nicky. The longer I thought about it. I knew that Nicky and Hugh were incredible friends that had known each other for such a long time. Nicky was probably one of his oldest and most trusted friends.
I didn't know where Hugh and I stood at the moment so distance was probably best to be maintained until we both know and I was feeling a little ganged up on…but that was NOTHING compared to what was coming.
Nicky kept trying to include me in conversations as I kept my silence for the entire night. We discussed who my clients were and Nicky and Shaun were engrossed as I rattled them off. They loved one of them in particular and as the conversations changed from ones Nicky had started with me to ones bimbette had started, he smiled and winked at me.
I knew he was trying to include me and could obviously tell that I was being frosted out by her. I was so thankful for that.
Hugh got up to go to the bathroom and once he was safely out of earshot the bimbette addressed me.
"So Ava, You and Hugh fucking?" she spoke blatantly out of tongue.
I was speechless. Who the hell asks things like that nowadays when there was no pretext for it. It wasn't as though we were all over each other. This is exactly what I was hoping to avoid. I knew she had it in for me and I knew she was going to do something as crude as this. I was pissed but I really didn't know how to answer this question.
Nicky looked at me and as much as he looked sorry for me, I saw a flicker of curiosity cross his eyes. Now I truly felt ganged up on. I didn't know Bimbette and I knew she had an angle, so I decided on the safest route.
"We are just friends, we have been for ages, I have worked with him for the last few years" I responded carefully.
"Oh give it up Ava, Don't bullshit us. It is so obvious that you are screwing each other" She responded. Everyone was on the edge of their chairs waiting for me to respond, except Nicky. He had lost interest in the conversation.
I looked around unsure of what to say, what to do and I prayed that Hugh was going to return any minute.
"No, really we are friends" I responded, sipping my wine and searching for the nearest exit. Before Bimbette could continue, Hugh returned and Nicky announced he was going to bed. Everything was in slow motion. I needed to get away but I didn't know how to explain it to Hugh. He would be crushed if I left, Bimbette would have won and I still wouldn't have any answers.
Nicky left and a few minutes later when I excused myself to the bathroom.
As I headed towards the bathroom, I felt someone behind me and realised it was Nicky. I had seen him at the elevators; however, he must have decided to go to the bathroom.
When we turned the corner he called out to me before entering the mens room.
"Ava, Are you really not seeing Hugh?" he responded with a nicer tone as he stood at the entrance to the men's toilets.
I turned around and responded.
"We are just friends Nicky." I said wearily.
"I'm sorry to ask after what you just had to handle. I am about to head up and have a nightcap. Would you join me?" he said, taking a step closer to me.
He placed his hand on the small of my back and drew me a little closer to him.
"I'm actually going to head home actually, but next time for sure" I responded. I had hesitated for a moment of weakness, contemplating taking him up on his offer but I knew where my heart was and it wasn't with this gorgeous celebrity.
"Not even one drink?" He responded, smiling. I can't say that I wasn't tempted but I was not in a place of mind that I could make clear decisions and I really did love Hugh…warts and all.
"Sorry I have an early meeting but next time you are in town, let's catch up!" I responded before removing myself from the situation.
"Have a good night Ava, It was lovely to meet you" he responded before kissing me lightly on the cheek.
I turned around and entered the bathroom. Placing my bag on the counter I felt the effects of the glass of wine I had downed quickly in the last 10 minutes of the interrogation. I wiped my face and walked out moments later.
I had been in the bathroom for less than 3 minutes and realised that Nicky hadn't even gone to the bathroom. He had only come to talk to me because I never saw him leave when I returned to where the rest of the party were sitting.
I sat in silence for a while as I reviewed the night's events…and then it hit me!. I remembered the news reports, Nicky was married with kids!…. I don't know if I have something tattooed on my head that attracted married men but I didn't have the energy to deal with another married man!. I loved Hugh and that was the biggest difference.
The rest of the night was something that I will never forget as things went from bad to worse in a matter of a few hours!
I had thought things were bad enough….but I hadn't even been through the worst of it!