|Farewell To The Coffeelands
Author: Aurora Borealis - Polar Lights PM
When her parents decide to go on a 2 year trip to Europe without her,19 year old Natalia is forced to move to a small town,Oak Harbor. Life in Oak Harbor,though,is much better than she could have expected. Besides,she finally gets to deal with her past.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort - Chapters: 2 - Words: 11,269 - Reviews: 1 - Favs: 1 - Updated: 05-17-09 - Published: 05-15-09 - id: 2673132
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Farewell To The Coffeelands
Original version by Lady Glass
New Version by Aurora Borealis
When I saw that sign, hidden behind the bushes and trees looming overhead, I knew I had reached it – the middle of nowhere. "Welcome to Oak Harbor." I had never felt more unwelcome in my life.
"It's beautiful," Erin proclaimed proudly, stepping away from the bookcase with his hands on his hips. He looked back at Natalia and winked. "Isn't it perfect?" he asked her seriously. "Couldn't find a better bookcase."
"It's ugly," Natalia said bluntly.
Erin looked the bookcase over again and nodded thoughtfully. It was very true, the bookcase was definitely ugly. The paint was the color vomit and was barely taller than Erin himself, which wasn't saying much as Erin was only five foot four, but he didn't let it faze him. "Don't tell me it was ugly after I put all this work into getting it here," he said with a laugh.
"Sorry," Natalia said, obviously fighting not to laugh at how incredibly horrible the bookcase was. "I'll probably paint it…"
"That would be a good idea," Erin said seriously, nodding his head. "I'll get Darrell to come over later and we can all do it together." At least, he hoped Darrell would come over. He couldn't remember if Darrell had planned on staying over at Hannah's that night. Usually he came home but he'd mentioned Hannah had been interested in getting serious.
"For real?" Natalia asked, dumbfounded. Never, really never before had anyone… "Wow, thanks…"
"What are good neighbors for?" Erin said, looking at the suitcase packed full of books. "Let's get those books on the shelves. I can return Caleb's truck later."
"Oh," Natalia said, sounding slightly disappointed.
"You wanna go now?" Erin asked, confused. He turned and looked at her curiously, then realized why she wanted to go back. "You like Caleb, eh?" Erin laughed. "It's okay, every girl likes Caleb when they meet him. Then they realize how selfish he really is and they come crawling to me or Darrell." He winked at her playfully. "So why don't you just skip chasing Caleb and run into my arms."
"That's not it!" Natalia said hastily, obviously lying. "I just thought, I mean… If we're going to paint it later why would we put the books on it now when we'd just have to take them off again later?" She smiled, obviously proud of herself for coming up with an almost plausible excuse. Erin smirked but decided to let Natalia get away with it for the moment. Natalia was cute, there was no doubt about it, but in a friendly way, nothing more. Erin liked her. She was a great person, great to have fun with. Yet there had also been those moments when Natalia had seemed subdued, absent, sad… Erin wondered why. He was surprised to realize that he wanted Natalia to confide in him, to tell him of her worries, even though they had just gotten to know each other barely four or five hours ago. Erin didn't want Natalia to be sad… What was it again that she had said? "Seattle isn't all that great…" "I've never had a friend like that…"
Erin let his gaze trail over Natalia – were there really any dark secrets hiding behind those pretty eyes? He found it hard to believe – especially when Natalia was joking around with him, teasing him; then she always got this glint in her eyes, clearly showing how much fun she was having. Yet… He thought he had seen into dark pits in Natalia's eyes when they were talking about certain things – Seattle and friendship. Erin wondered… What was it that was going on deep down inside of her? Maybe he would find out one day, maybe he wouldn't. It depended on whether he earned her trust…
"So…? What do we do now?" Natalia wanted to know, her head tilted to one side, calling Erin back from his thoughts. Erin looked up into her eyes. A sly grin crept onto his face as Natalia blushed slightly under his observing glance.
"Why don't we paint the bookcase now, take back the truck while it's drying, and then put the books on there when we come back?" Erin asked, compromising well. Erin liked to think of himself as easy-going. He adapted to change well, didn't mind when plans that were apparently set in stone were suddenly and dramatically changed, and overall dealt with not getting his way well.
"The paint won't have dried after a twenty-minute trip to drop off the truck," Natalia said, obviously pleased to be off the subject of Caleb.
"Well, we can hang out at Caleb's for awhile before we go back. He's had the whole day to write, he can handle a bit of a party," Erin said, grinning. Natalia smiled back, nervously. "I'll call him right now so he'll be expecting us… oh, and Finley can come over too… and he'll bring Joan so you'll have some female companionship!"
"Oh, I don't want to…" Natalia began but Erin cut her off with a wave.
"It's fine," he assured her. "I do this to them all the time. As long as I provide beer they'll be fine with it. I'll call them all now and you can get the paint out."
Natalia sighed, obviously giving in, and went off in search of the paint. Erin quickly ran over to his and Darrell's apartment and found his cell phone buried beneath the covers of his bed, along with the phone number of some woman he couldn't remember meeting. "Cheyenne?" he muttered, confused. "When did I sleep with… Whatever, it doesn't matter." He crumpled up the paper and threw it away and began dialing Caleb's number into his cell phone. He and Darrell couldn't be bothered with landlines and found it easier to rely solely on their cells. The only problem with this was Erin had the tendency to lose his cell phone so he was often having people relay their calls to him through Darrell.
"What?" Caleb asked, his voice irritated.
"Down boy," Erin said playfully. "I'm coming over with Natalia in a few hours. We'll bring beer and Darrell and Finley and Joan and we can all get acquainted and everything. Okay?"
"Erin…" Caleb moaned unhappily.
"Don't 'Erin' me." Erin rolled his eyes. It was always the fight before he finally gave in. "So start cleaning and get your house prepared. Natalia's not used to your pig sty-ways."
"I'm sure she's seen a messy house before," Caleb said sarcastically.
"I'm calling Finley and Joan. Give us about three hours and we'll start showing up, 'kay?"
"Why so long?" Caleb asked curiously. Erin grinned. Even Caleb couldn't resist the idea of having everyone over again. Erin had lied slightly when he'd told Natalia that he demanded everyone all came over to Caleb's and partied all the time. He used to do that, yes, but it had been awhile since they'd all hung out together. Too long, in Erin's opinion, and most likely in Caleb's as well.
"I'm helping Natalia paint her bookcase and while we wait for the paint to dry so she can get the books on her bookcase we figured we'd hang at your place."
"You've mentioned Natalia three times in the past two minutes," Caleb said. Erin could practically hear him smirking on the other line. "You like her?"
"Nah," Erin said. "She's your type, not mine. She's pretty funny, though. She'll fit right in."
"She seemed pretty quiet this afternoon," Caleb observed. "Are you sure she'll be able to handle you and Darrell?"
"She was a bit shy with me at first but she's fine now. She just needs an hour or so and she's totally cool."
"Well, I'll start cleaning," Caleb said, almost sadly. "Does she smoke?"
"I don't think so," Erin said. "So no cigarettes."
"Whatever," Caleb muttered. "See ya later."
Erin hung up and called Finley and Joan next, both of whom agreed it was about time they were all together again. When he and Finley finally got off the phone, Erin wondered how long it had been since he had been with all the guys at once. At least three months, but he couldn't be positive. They had all hung out, of course, but in pairs or trios, never all four of them together. Caleb he had seen least of all. Finley was good about staying in contact and setting up times for them to go out for coffee. Darrell, of course, Erin saw every day as they were roommates, but Caleb locked himself up in his house and never came out unless someone dragged him out. The only times Erin ever talked to him was when he called to check up on Caleb and when he needed to borrow Caleb's truck. Yeah, it was definitely about time for them to all hang out again.
Erin dropped his cell phone back on his bed and found an old t-shirt to wear. If he was going to help paint a bookcase he certainly wasn't about to sacrifice his The Doors t-shirt. When he finally got back to Natalia's apartment, Natalia had already changed into a baggy, navy-blue t-shirt and pulled her curly hair back into a loose ponytail.
He grinned at her. "Ready to paint?"
"Don't be nervous," Erin said with a laugh. "You've already met Caleb and Darrell, trust me, they're the worst."
"I'm not nervous," Natalia said nervously. "I just thought I should look nice. Now just tell me, should I wear the black one or the white one?" She held the shirts in front of her, biting her lip. She knew she shouldn't be nervous. Not because she believed Caleb and Darrell were the worst, but because if all the guys were so nice so far why would Finley be any different? It was also partly because of Joan, she knew. She was both excited and nervous to meet a girl. Either Joan would also be grateful to be meeting another girl to hang out with or Joan would be territorial and turn out to be a bitch. Natalia hoped it was the former.
"Black," Erin finally said. "You're hanging out with rock stars, remember?" He chuckled. "Now get dressed."
Natalia rolled her eyes at him as he walked out the door, muttering something about how irritating women could be, but she grinned to herself. She reminded herself to call and thank Grandma Flo tomorrow morning. She'd found herself a good group of people. It would be so much easier to make it in Oak Harbor having a group of good friends. She just hoped they planned on sticking with her. The last thing she needed was to find out they were just being nice to her for the time being. As so many others had done before. Natalia dropped down onto her bed. What would she do if she found out that Erin and the others were only nice to her because she was new – and dropped her as soon as she had settled in? Natalia didn't think she would be able to handle that. Her parents in Europe, herself alone in little Oak Harbor (except for Grandma Flo – or Cotton Candy as she apparently liked to call herself now), her new-found friends ditching her at the first possible moment… But Erin was so nice – it was so much fun to be around him. Natalia couldn't imagine him dropping her at the first opportunity he got. But what if… I need to stop myself thinking so much! Natalia thought, her index and middle fingers pressed against her temples. It does not do any good whatsoever! It'll only make matters worse…
Sighing, Natalia got up from her bed and went over to the big bedroom mirror her grandma had bought. She stared into her own eyes – they were dark brown, almost black. And sad. For the moment, a sad expression lingered in her eyes. There was also a good portion of fear. Yes, Natalia was afraid – she was afraid she might say or do something stupid over at Caleb's that would make everybody hate her, she was afraid she might not say or do something stupid but that the others still wouldn't like her, she was afraid they might like her (or at least act as if they did) for now and drop her like a hot potato once they lost interest in her, she was afraid she might have to make it completely on her own here in Oak Harbor. She was afraid of being alone. Once again. As always.
A single tear rolled down Natalia's cheek. Angrily, she wiped it away. What was wrong with her today? It must be the shock of moving from huge Seattle to tiny Oak Harbor. It could only be the shock. Why else would she behave like this? She hadn't had these thoughts in months… I must stop myself from thinking these things! Natalia thought, aggravated. It doesn't help. I must not fall back into these behavior patterns! It was hard enough getting rid of them – I shouldn't shoot that effort down.
At that moment, Erin knocked on the bedroom door. "Are you finished?" he called. Natalia winced.
"No, not quite!" she called back, reprimanding herself for wasting all this time. "Just one minute!" Natalia was sure she heard Erin mutter something about women always being unpunctual and having to change their clothes about a thousand times before finally leaving the house. In spite of herself, Natalia chuckled and hurried to get ready.
After she'd pulled on the new shirt she examined herself in the bedroom mirror once more. Her legs looked long and slim, just like she'd hoped they would in the faded flared jeans she had bought especially for occasions like this one – occasions for meeting new people. The black shirt revealed just enough cleavage to get certain people (namely Caleb, though Natalia refused to admit to Erin that she was interested) but it was also modest enough to make it clear that Natalia was classy, not trashy. She had to make sure her outfit was just right. Despite what Erin said about not worrying about already getting past the worst, she felt as though Joan was the real test. The only girl of the group, it seemed, or Erin would have mentioned otherwise, she was the one Natalia was most interested in impressing. If she got past Joan, she thought, then she would be in and she wouldn't have to worry about anything. She knew she was being slightly ridiculous to be worrying so much about it but she honestly couldn't help it.
Natalia took a deep breath, inspected herself once more, fixed her smudged eyeliner, and grinned. She whipped open the bedroom door and found Erin sitting on the living room couch, staring intently at the bookcase. She stared with him for a moment, then poked him on the shoulder playfully. "It's not going to do anything," she said with a giggle.
Erin laughed. "I was just… admiring my work."
"Your work?" Natalia repeated incredulously.
"Well, I mean, I did most of it," Erin said with a laugh. "Don't be jealous, I know you helped."
Natalia rolled her eyes and laughed. "How do I look?" she asked. Let Erin think he did it, she thought, I'll deal with him later. She did a quick spin for him and then posed, her hands on her hips, grinning from ear to ear.
Erin let his gaze slowly travel over Natalia, taking in her appearance. Her hair was a mass of rusty red ringlet curls that bounced against her shoulders every time she moved her head. Her small, slightly upturned nose was sprinkled with freckles that spread along her cheeks. Her lips were small, yet full. They suited her small, round face and gave her the appearance of looking slightly like a porcelain doll. Her eyes were dark brown, almost black, and gave off a sense of warmth that made Erin trust her. She was taller than him by two or three inches, putting her at about five foot six or five foot seven. The black shirt he had picked looked very well on her – elegant but not too elegant, revealing but not too revealing, tight in just the right places… And the pair of jeans… They looked faded – easy-going and lazy, tuning down the elegance and formal atmosphere of the black shirt a little. Plus they made Natalia's legs seem longer. All in all Natalia wasn't overly attractive, yet pretty enough that Erin enjoyed flirting with her as he had done the entire day, even if it only ever amounted to just flirting and never anything else – Erin knew he couldn't quite keep up with Caleb's charm and mysteriousness.
"You clean up good, kid," Erin said with a chuckle, ruffling Natalia's hair affectionately. "Let's go!" He linked arms with her and led Natalia out of her apartment for the second time that day. "Tonight, the fun begins!"
Natalia laughed again and hugged Erin against her. Yes, she agreed silently. Tonight, the fun would begin. Tonight – or never.
When the two arrived at Caleb's, Finley and Joan were already there. Erin said something about not being surprised because they were always early for everything. "They've probably been here for hours," Erin joked as he and Natalia made their way up to the front door. Natalia felt her heart beat quicken as they approached the house. She gulped – her throat felt uncomfortably dry. What if they didn't like her? What if they didn't like her? What if… Natalia took a deep breath. Everything is going to be OK! she tried to reassure herself. But she couldn't stop herself being anxious about meeting the others – even though, at the same time, she looked forward to it very much.
Before Erin and Natalia were even halfway to the front door a head poked out the open window and grinned at them. The head was slightly attractive, though not very, and had ear-length brown hair and a large mouth.
"Hey!" the man said with a huge grin when he saw Erin and Natalia. "We've been waiting for you guys!" The head disappeared back inside and as Erin and Natalia approached the front door it was whipped open by the same person who had been looking out the window. "Finley Berris, at your service!" the man said, bowing slightly at Natalia. "Nice to meet you." He took Natalia's hand in his own and kissed it lightly. "And about time, too."
"Oh, hi," Natalia said, smiling back at him. "Nice to meet you, too." Finley ran his fingers through his hair uneasily, pushing it out of his face, and grinned at her again.
"Lemme go find Joan," Finley said. "She's got my damn hat… I feel naked without it. Oh, excuse my language… shit… oh, sorry about that too. Damn, oh… fuck it. I'm sorry!" He scurried off to find Joan and Natalia laughed.
Erin lifted an eyebrow and chuckled, too. "Sorry, he's always like that when he meets someone. He swears a lot but he's trying to cut back. Especially in front of strangers, you know. But he'll get better."
Natalia looked around the living room she and Erin had been led into but there was no one else in the room. It was much cleaner than it had been when she and Erin had been there that afternoon, but some music was playing faintly from the pair of speakers in the back on a table that hadn't been there earlier. The keyboard was still set up in the back, but it was covered by something with a hand-written sign that said clearly, "DON'T TOUCH" in large block letters. The air smelled slightly stale but a window had been cracked open, revealing a brick building across the street.
Finley returned a moment later, his hair covered by a maroon plaid page-boy cap. He looked much more comfortable and at home with his arm around a slim, pretty young woman. "Natalia, this is the beautiful Joan. Joan, this is Cotton Candy's granddaughter, Natalia."
"Duh," Joan said, rolling her eyes and pushing Finley's arm off her. "Hi Natalia." She grinned at her. "The boys act like they know you so much better just because they've known Cotton Candy a whole week longer than me." She rolled her eyes again. "It's great to finally meet you!" She didn't shake Natalia's hand or do anything to signal that she wanted to, yet Natalia felt that there was no need. Like Finley, Joan had brown hair, though she wore hers in a short, boyish cut. Her features were strong, particularly her nose, which was slightly large yet had character. Her grin was friendly, revealing straight, white teeth, her eyes gentle, yet her stare piercing. Natalia liked her immediately.
"Is Darrell here yet?" Erin asked, detaching himself from Natalia and disappearing into the kitchen.
"No," Finley followed Erin and continued talking indistinctly.
Joan led Natalia over to one of the sunken couches and sat down. "So how do you like Oak Harbor so far?" she asked with a grin. "It's pretty boring, huh?"
"No, it's nice," Natalia said meaningfully. "I mean, I can see that it could be a bit… slow here, but Erin's been really helpful and it's so beautiful."
"Oh yeah, you got that great view, didn't you?" Joan chuckled. "That's pretty cool. I'm glad Erin's been helping you out. He likes meeting new people. He's pretty sociable. If it weren't for him I never would have met Finley."
"Really?" Natalia leaned in curiously.
"Yup." Joan straightened her posture proudly. "Erin and I have been good friends for years now and when he met Finley he thought we'd hit it off pretty great and we did."
Before they could say much of anything else, there was a loud pounding at the door. Like a bolt of lightning, Caleb suddenly appeared in the living room and dashed across the room to answer the front door. Natalia's eyes widened at the large, formidable figure standing in the doorway. The figure laughed, the laugh loud and booming, and a pair of large, thick arms wrapped around Caleb and pulled him against the tall body in a bear hug. The figure stepped into the light and Natalia realized with a laugh that it was Darrell.
"Natalia!" Darrell boomed when he saw her. "I didn't know you were coming!" He released Caleb, who fell against the wall with a soft thump, massaging the back of his neck gently and shooting Darrell a look of slight annoyance, and lumbered toward Natalia. He pulled her off the couch and squeezed her against him. "Good to see you again!" He dropped her on the couch and she bounced a bit with a giggle.
"Good to see you, too," she said as she settled back against the cushions. Joan laughed.
"Do you have to break everyone's backs when you walk into the room?" Joan asked Darrell teasingly.
"You want one too?" Darrell said, opening his arms to her with a grin, his cheeks bright red as he laughed again.
"Thanks, but no," Joan said, rolling her eyes as she sent Natalia a pointed grin.
"Darrell!" came a voice from the kitchen and Finley appeared in a flash with Erin at his side. Darrell laughed again and hugged Finley and Erin at the same time.
"Where's Caleb?" he asked in his loud, booming voice. Caleb appeared at their sides and was wrapped into the hug. The four men laughed and started talking loudly over each other at the same time.
Joan looked at Natalia and laughed. "It's their first reunion in months!" she said with a laugh.
"Really?" Natalia asked, genuinely surprised. "Erin said you guys do this all the time!"
"Yeah, but it's the first time we've all been together at the same time," Joan said with a shrug. "There's always been one missing whenever we all got together," she added with a thoughtful nod. "Usually Caleb. He's always locked up in here and we never have time to all get together. We need some sort of special occasion to all hang out together. Like you!" Joan patted Natalia's back affectionately. "If it weren't for you this wouldn't have happened! Thank goodness you're here!"
Natalia smiled. "You're welcome."
There was laughter in the background and Natalia looked at the group of boys as they let go of each other, all laughing and grinning. Erin lifted up a camera Natalia didn't even know he'd brought and took a picture of them which just made the boys erupt into laughter again, all demanding Erin put the camera away. They made their way over to the couch and Natalia found herself squished between Caleb and Finley, Erin and Darrell flopping onto the other couch across from the one she was on. Finley wrapped Joan into a tight hug and Caleb muttered an apology to Natalia for crushing her. Natalia muttered back that it was okay but she wasn't even sure if he had heard her as Erin and Darrell loudly demanded an arm wrestling match.
"First beer!" Erin added as Darrell got up and dragged a table over. As Erin scurried away to find beer (which only reminded Natalia that she and Erin had forgotten to stop by the store to buy beer first) Darrell started asking if anyone was brave enough to face him. He had taken off his leather jacket and rolled his long, black sleeves up to his shoulders, revealing large, intimidating biceps.
"You!" he growled, pointing to Finley with an evil grin. His head was angled down, the one light in the living room shining from above him, giving his eyes an eerie look as his long, frizzy blond hair fell across his forehead.
"Okay!" Finley said with a laugh, rolling up his own sleeves. His arms were slim and nowhere near as muscular as Darrell's but he seemed pretty confident despite the fact Natalia was pretty sure he was going to lose. "For luck?" Finley pursed his lips at Joan. His girlfriend laughed and gave him a quick peck on the lips. "That's all?" he exclaimed. "I'm going to lose!"
"You've got more of a chance than me!" Darrell declared. "I don't even get a kiss for luck!"
There was laughter, and then Erin was back, carrying an entire ice cooler of beer. He handed one to everyone. Natalia didn't take one until she saw Joan take one first. Natalia raised her drink to her lips and took a sip as Darrell and Finley's elbows hit the table.
"Ready?" Darrell asked, staring intensely at Finley. He tightened his grip on Finley's hand and Finley nodded. Immediately the veins in both of the men's wrists were visible as they strained. Cries of "Go Finley!" and "Go Darrell!" mixed together, with Joan obviously rooting for Darrell. When Finley's fist finally hit the table, Darrell smacked his fist on the table and started laughing. "Next!"
"What was that?" Finley asked, turning to Joan. "You were supposed to be cheering for me!" He laughed and kissed her anyway but Joan turned away, giving Natalia a wink.
"I'm not supposed to do anything," she said stubbornly. "I make up my own mind about who I want to win!" She stuck her nose up in the air and smiled slyly as Finley pouted and sat back against the back of the couch, slouching like a child.
Natalia laughed and turned back to the arm-wrestlers. Erin had rolled up his own sleeve now and holding his own against Darrell. He didn't last long, however, and within two minutes Darrell was looking for a new competitor. He looked pointedly at Caleb but Caleb just laughed.
"You think my stick arms will last against you?" he asked incredulously. "Go against Joan or Natalia!"
"You ain't man enough, Caleb?" Darrell asked teasingly.
"Nope," Caleb said stubbornly, crossing his arms.
"Whatever," Darrell said rolling his eyes. "Joan, Natalia? What about you guys? Are you man enough?"
"I don't need brute strength to prove anything to you," Joan said, rolling her eyes and leaning back in her seat.
"Natalia?" Darrell asked pathetically.
Natalia rolled her eyes. "Sure," she relented as Darrell started pouting at her. She set her elbow on the table and felt Darrell's large hand cover hers. He gave her hand a squeeze.
"I'll go easy against you," he assured her with a wink.
Natalia rolled her eyes again. "I'm so sure," she said sarcastically.
"Go," Erin said enthusiastically and immediately Natalia felt her arm lock. Darrell pushed harder but Natalia held her own, feeling her biceps strain to keep her arm locked in place. She tried pushing back but the moment she unlocked her arm Darrell started winning and she locked her shoulder again, feeling a moment of panic. She glared at Darrell, narrowing her eyes and settled herself in a more comfortable position, prepared to hold her arm as such for a long time. Darrell grinned, sensing Natalia's determination, and leaned forward slightly. Natalia took advantage of the moment and pounced, pushing his arm forward. Darrell froze and his arm stopped inches from the table.
"Go Natalia!" Joan said with an amused chuckle.
Natalia grinned back at Joan, then focused her attention back on Darrell before he could sense that she had loosened her grip on his hand. It was too late, however. Darrell leaned forward and pressed hard against her grip. Natalia didn't even have a chance to fight back. Her hand hit the table hard.
"Ow!" she cried and quickly kissed her knuckles. "You didn't have to make it hurt!"
"Sorry!" Darrell exclaimed. "It wasn't supposed to hurt!"
"Noo!" Erin yelled. "I was betting on you, Natalia!" He handed Finley a five dollar bill and Natalia frowned.
"You bet against me?" she asked Finley, pretending to sound hurt.
"Well, you lost didn't you? Looks like I chose right!" He grinned and cringed as Joan slapped him lightly against the back of his head.
"Now will you wrestle me?" Darrell asked Caleb, still looking sorry for accidentally hurting Natalia.
"No way," Caleb said with a chuckle. "If she could hold her own against you that long it'd be just embarrassing to see how long I lasted!" Everyone laughed and Natalia was surprised to hear an agreement rippling throughout the group.
"Then I'm going to find food," Darrell said, getting up. "Thank you, thank you… the show is over. Ladies, I'll be back soon, try not to miss me too much." He winked at Natalia and Joan, then disappeared into the kitchen, followed closely by Erin who had been trailing not far behind Darrell since he'd arrived. Finley and Joan wrapped themselves up together and started murmuring to each other. Natalia turned to Caleb, still holding her knuckles to her lips like a wounded animal licking her wounds.
"Good job against Darrell," Caleb said, smiling at her for the first time all evening.
"Thanks," Natalia said, suppressing the urge to pout at the fact her knuckles still hurt from the force they had hit the table.
"He's too strong for me." Caleb looked at his own arms and rolled his eyes. "I'm just a wimp with a keyboard."
"I bet you're pretty strong," Natalia said, more for Caleb's ego than anything. There was no denying that when he wore that wife-beater, revealing Caleb's long, slim arms, he did sort of look like a wimp, but Natalia wasn't about to point that out.
"Nah," Caleb said with a laugh. "I know my muscular physique may scream otherwise, but 'tis the sad truth that I can't lift anything more than thirty pounds…"
"Thirty pounds?" Natalia repeated doubtfully.
Caleb nodded seriously. "Yup," he said, suppressing a grin.
"What are you two talking about?" Darrell asked, letting himself fall onto the couch beside them, forcing Natalia to sit even closer to Caleb – not that she was complaining.
"Weightlifters," Caleb answered seriously.
"Oh," Darrell rolled his eyes and leaned in to whisper to Natalia, "He's lying…" Natalia laughed and shook her head. "What do you think of our lovely little Natalia?" Darrell asked Caleb, hugging Natalia against him like a child hugging his teddy bear. "She's a sweetie, ain't she?"
"She's not a toy, Darrell!" Joan said, untangling herself from Finley so she could punch Darrell on the arm.
Darrell let go of Natalia after giving her hair an affectionate ruffle and leaned back against the arm of the couch, forcing Natalia to lay back against his chest.
Erin came back into the living room and looked from Darrell to Natalia. "How come you'll cuddle with him but you won't cuddle with me?" he asked Natalia, sounding as though his heart had been broken.
Natalia laughed. "Come here," she said, opening her arms to him. Erin grinned and settled in front of the couch as Natalia put her arms around his head, petting his blond hair.
"You're okay, kid," Darrell said, curling one of Natalia's ringlets around his finger.
Natalia smiled, feeling a cheesy, cliché warmth in her heart. For awhile they were just silent, the only sound coming from the speakers as Jim Morrison's voice filled the room and all Natalia felt was the rise and fall of Darrell's chest, his fingers in her hair, and Erin's soft, blond hair in her hands as she stroked his head affectionately. Caleb rolled over and rested his head on Natalia's legs. Behind the couch were the soft giggles of Joan and deep chuckle of Finley.
This was how Natalia fell asleep, in the arms of Darrell, surrounded by Caleb, Erin, Joan, and Finley… to the sound of The Doors.
Author's Note: I actually intended for this chapter to be completely different. I meant to rewrite huge parts of this chapter and turn it very much different from what it is like in Lady Glass's original. But somehow, it came out this way - which is much better, in my opinion, than what I had had in mind. This brings out my idea of what Natalia is like much better - it gives the reader's perception of Natalia a push in the right direction.
Well, whether or not you thought this was any good, please send me a review and give me a piece of useful advice because no one's perfect and everyone needs a push in the right direction!
Btw - whoever can tell the overall differences between my version and LG's version of Farewell to the Coffeelands gets a cookie from me. ;)