|The Snowball Effect
Author: KeliSalazar PM
As if she didn't already have enough to worry about, Cadence's week is only further complicated by the return of her older brother and his best friends, including one she may or may not have had a relationship with behind her brother's back. And with Christmas just a week away, all Cadence wants this year is to make it through winter break with her sanity in tact.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Friendship - Chapters: 2 - Words: 7,911 - Reviews: 2 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 12-15-12 - Published: 12-12-12 - id: 3082495
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
There are very few things I don't tell Nick. We've always been close like that, I guess, and I could never relate to siblings that hated each other so deeply that they couldn't wait to get away from them. I mean, Nick and I have had our share of fights, but most of them were when we were still in the single-digit ages and didn't know any better. We're a year apart in age but basically acted like twins growing up, and this is probably why I didn't really get in touch with my girly skirt-wearing, hair-curling, clothes-buying side until I hit high school. I'm still as into comics and video games like I've always been, except boy bands, celebrities, books, and various other things Nick deemed "girly" were now added to the mix.
Anyway, what I didn't tell Nick usually had to do with this more girly side of me, and not because he was one of those guys that found it wrong. It was just hard for him to relate to any of that stuff, so why bother divulging about them? And I doubt Nick wants to hear me talk about my interest in boys, especially if one of those boys happens to be his childhood best friend that he's known since pre-school.
I dump the dishes into the sink with a little more force than necessary, and I'm surprised I didn't at least chip them.
I'm a horrible little sister.
Honestly, how could I even think about risking coming between those three? Nick, Hale and Tristan have been best friends for as long as I can remember, ever since their teachers sat them together at the same table in class and they'd found out they all shared the same birthday. Shortly after, our parents met theirs at some sort of school function and they discovered that we all lived within three blocks of each other. Since our house had the most space for little kids to run amuck and our parents—the youngest, of course—didn't mind the chaos and extra mouths to feed, Hale and Tristan were over all the time. Our three families got together constantly, going to one another's houses for dinners or birthdays or just because it felt like the time to hang out. It was like we were one big, extended family, and Hale and Tristan became pseudo-brothers to me.
Or, at least, I'd thought that's all they'd ever be to me. And Tristan still is, as he's always been the one that treated me most similarly to the way Nick does.
Hale, however, was a completely different story, and one that I still don't know the ending to.
"Did you break something in there, Cades?" Dad asks from the living room, where I can hear a football game on the TV.
"No," I call back.
I open the cabinet under the sink, pulling out a fresh pair of gloves and pulling them on. My dad—a medical assistant at a smaller office where most of his customers are sweet and elderly, and give him chocolates and cookies during holidays and on his birthday—brings home boxes of surgical gloves from work. I've grown to love wearing them while washing the dishes, since I feel like I clean better with them without drying out my hands or having to wear those rubber gloves that can get water in them and make your fingers smell weird.
Anyway, I run my hand experimentally under the water, turning it a little more until it's almost scalding before I begin.
It's relaxing to me, washing dishes. It's almost always my time alone to my thoughts because my family tries not to bother me while I'm doing any cleaning, creating my own personal bubble that even the hyperactive screams of my brothers can't seem to pop. It's usually easy to lose myself in it whenever I start organizing the dishes together in the order that I wash them (since I always try to hand wash, using the dishwasher as a dryer and only turning it on if it's a busy night and I don't have the time to spare.) Cups, bowls, and any Tupperware go on the top rack; plates and larger dishes on the bottom rack; and lastly, utensils. It's a system that I've created for myself ever since washing the dishes unofficially became my chore. It's an effective system.
Except for tonight, apparently, because I'm thoroughly distracted and end up reaching for a glass as I'm stacking the plates and nearly dropping a handful of forks down the drain because I'd forgotten to plug in the stopper.
It's been a while since I've seen Hale.
He went off to college the same week that Nick and Tristan did. How they all managed to get accepted into the same college is beyond me, let alone how they'd ended up in the same dorm room. They have another roommate because each room in their building houses four, but considering how often Nick mentions Jeff being part of their weekend and after-school plans in our weekly e-mails, I doubt it took very long for all of them to become the best of buds.
Hale, though, had always been the quieter one—quieter instead of quietest because they're all fairly social, especially if the three of them are together. In fact, those three were compulsive dare-devils, wanting to try out any and every physical activity known to mankind in almost every possible variation. They're the reason why I've jumped between rooftops and played a tag across the entire neighborhood on rollerblades and learned to drive a motorcycle (Tristan's) before I'd ever sat behind the wheel of a car. But on top of this, Hale had a sort of quality to him that Nick and Tristan didn't. I wouldn't say he was shy, per se. He was just more reserved. He was always the responsible one, the voice of reason that kept any of Nick and Tristan's already outlandish ideas from being too potentially life-threatening.
Maybe it was this part of him that made me feel like it was okay to blur the lines between brother figure and potential crush. Or maybe it was just inevitable because, when I would get dragged to hang out with them (though I secretly loved tagging along), somehow Hale and I wound up on the sidelines, just talking. This was usually because Nick and Tristan were taking whatever we were doing to an extreme Hale and I didn't want to risk trying.
"Is the kitchen open?"
I jump a little, looking over my shoulder as Tristan's walking up to me. For a second I'm relieved that it's not Hale, and then that relief is replaced by guilt for even thinking that of someone I've known my whole life. And then that guilt is replaced by slight irritation that it isn't Hale.
"Of course," I say with a smile, ignoring my inner conflict, "but I'm busy right now, so you're going to have to get it yourself."
"You wouldn't have gotten anything for me even if your hands were free."
He rolls his eyes and yanks open the fridge.
He's gotten a bit tanner since the last time I've seen him, though this can be said about all three of them since their campus is in the middle of this suburban area that's a walk away from the beach. It's also a five-minute car ride in any direction from four different shopping centers, which probably explains the changes in their wardrobes. Tristan's dressed in the kind of lighter colors people wear when they always have sun to look forward to, and even The Stripe (what we've nicknamed the thick chunk of his bangs that he dyes a different color whenever he feels like it) is bleached blonde instead of the dark green it was before the summer ended. His hair, though, is still worn how he's always had it, which is also how Nick's had been for a while—long enough in the front to get into his eyes and in the back to touch the tops of his collars.
"So, Cades," Tristan says, pulling out the pitcher and kicking the fridge door closed with his foot, "What's new?"
"Nothing much," I admit.
He arches an eyebrow at me. "I highly doubt that," he laughs, pouring lemonade in his glass until it's nearly touching the rim. "You've been Miss Busy Bee ever since you got into high school."
"No I haven't."
"Please," he says all dramatically. "You haven't had the time to hang out with us ever since your freshman year."
"I've hung out with you guys since then," I protest.
"Because we happen to be in the same house at the same time," he counters. "But sitting around the living room and eating doesn't count—not really, anyway." He opens the fridge again and puts the lemonade back in. "You haven't gone out with us in a long time."
I sigh, already feeling guilty. "Sorry," I mutter.
He shrugs his shoulders. "Hey, you've got stuff to do. It's not a bad thing," he says, as if that could excuse everything. It makes me smile, though. "Let's just make up for it now."
"What do you mean?"
He flashes me an Up to No Good smile, which has become something of a trademark for those three. "We're going," he begins, pausing in a dramatic way that makes me roll my eyes before he continues with, "swimming!"
"We're going swimming at the Lake," he says, gesturing vaguely in what's supposed to be the direction of where the Lake sits at the bottom of the mountains a few miles outside of town.
"It's the middle of December."
He just stares at me.
"It'll be freezing cold in the Lake," I explain, though I know it's no use, just like every other thing I've tried to talk them out of. If they have their hearts set on something, they're going to go for it no matter what I say. I've accepted the fact that I'm unable to sway their adventurous tendencies, but I try to argue against it or else I'll feel guilty for not caring about their well-being.
I wonder if that's how Hale feels at times.
…And I should stop thinking about Hale separately from Nick and Tristan. It always feels wrong.
"So, you're in?" Tristan asks. "You're in."
"What's she going in?"
We turn to see Nick and (oh gosh) Hale walking into the kitchen. Hale smiles his crooked, dimpled smile at me, and I realize that this is the first time I've really allowed myself to look at him since all of the boys came up from the den. I've been avoiding his general direction all night, but now it's pretty inevitable. His hair, lighter than Nick's but darker than Tristan's, is just a little longer than I remember it, spiked in several directions in a way that gives it a perfectly disheveled look. He looks a little taller, a little more muscular and yet a little leaner, his green eyes somehow more mesmerizing—the same dazzling color of a gemstone. I have no idea how it's physically possible for someone to look like the perfect balance of the Boy Next Door and Hollywood Heartthrob, but Hale manages to pull it off. If I hadn't met him through Nick, I have a feeling I never would've stood a chance. But at the same time, if I hadn't met him through Nick, I wouldn't have to feel guilty about liking him as strongly as I do.
It's irony at its finest.
"I'm not getting in anything," I say at the same time Tristan declares, "Cades is going to jump the Lake with us."
"She is?" Nick asks, grinning at me. "Go Cades."
"Why?" Hale asks.
I hesitate as Hale gives me his signature Puppy Dog Face, but Tristan jumps in to save me—or not save me, depending on how you look at it. "Oh, she's going," he declares.
"Guys," I sigh. "I can't. I—"
"You're too busy for us, huh?" Nick guesses, and I can tell from his tone that he's half-teasing, half-serious.
I give him a look. "Of course I'm not. But I've got finals and the Winter Festival this week, and Christmas is next week, and I'm working at The Card Stock every day in between." I rinse the last fork and switch off the faucet, dropping the fork into its place before shutting the dishwasher. "There's just no time."
"We'll make time," Nick tells me.
"I can't abandon any of my established plans for this," I warn.
"We'll work around your schedule," Tristan promises.
"Please?" Hale interrupts me, tilting his head a little. I nearly glare at him because he's making it so impossible to say no and he knows it, too. Then he adds, "For old time's sake?"
And I cave.
"Fine," I huff, trying to sound more annoyed than I actually am. "I want at least a twenty-four-hour notice in advance."
Tristan rolls his eyes. Hale grins.
"Deal," Nick agrees. Then something seems to cross his mind, and he looks at Tristan. "Do you think Katie would come along, too?"
"Kaitlin," I correct automatically.
The three of them stare at me, and I blush a little.
"She kind of prefers to be called 'Kaitlin' now," I explain, and in the back of my mind, I remember the very first time she'd ever corrected me—she being Kaitlin, Tristan's younger sister. She's younger than him by three years and me by two, and we became best friends when she was old enough to hang out with us without any parents around. We'd drifted apart in the year that I was a freshman and she was in eighth grade, and when I saw her over the summer before my sophomore year, I hardly recognized her.
"Oh," Tristan says softly, "Right."
He has this sort of distant look on his face, which makes me a little uncomfortable. It's not that he's incapable of taking things seriously, but it just feels wrong to not see him smiling.
Nick frowns, declaring somewhat stubbornly, "Well, she'll always be Katie to us."
I bite my lower lip and don't respond, instead glancing at Hale. I'm slightly surprised to see him looking back at me, a muted look of worry on his face that reflects exactly how I feel right now. Nick has never been particularly good at dealing with change, and as I'm staring back at Hale, I have a strong feeling that we're thinking the same things—anticipating, dreading, how Nick would react if he ever learned that something had happened between his only sister and one of his best friends—happened, not is happening, because it's been months since I've last spoken with Hale and I have no idea where we stand with each other. Thinking of this only makes me anxious, even a little upset, and then I realize that it hasn't even been an entire day since Nick, Tristan and Hale have been home.
This is going to be the longest winter break ever.
… … …
Sienna and Hayley have been my best friends since freshman year, which doesn't seem like that long, but it feels like I've known them forever. We'd all come from different schools (because both Hayley and Sienna moved into my neighborhood from different cities), and to this day, I still don't know what either of them saw in me that made them interested enough to become my friend. Sienna and Hayley hate whenever I say this, but there are times when I feel that our friendship was just pure luck; like if I hadn't had been in their group at orientation, we wouldn't have become as close as we are now.
And I only feel this way because Sienna and Hayley seem totally out of my league. They're both gorgeous—Sienna in an exotic, tropical islander sort of way; and Hayley like an Asian celebrity. They're both really smart, too—ranking second and third of our entire class—and really athletic—Sienna's been swimming since she was eight and Hayley's played tennis since she was seven. They do practically everything, too: work part-time jobs, are on student body council, do weekly volunteer work. It's insane. Sienna and Hayley like to point out that I'm like them, which I suppose is true to an extent. But I wasn't like that to begin with. My freshman year was ridiculously easy, free of honors and AP courses and any real obligations or commitments outside of school hours, and it took being with them to make me want to do all of those things, too.
Yet, somehow between everything else we've got going on in our lives, we manage to make time to spend with each other; mostly through study dates, which always takes place at Sienna's house, especially if it's a weekday. Because Sienna, the one that worries the most out of three of us, always feels guilty if we take time off. At least if we're at her house, she feels a little more comfortable because everything she could possibly need is easily accessed at a moment's notice.
As associated student body president, that's a rare luxury.
Plus, Sienna's mom makes the best cookies.
"I can't believe you're going to jump into the Lake in December."
Hayley swivels Sienna's desk chair to face me where I'm sitting cross-legged on the bed, giving me a pointed look. Though, it's kind of hard to take her seriously while she's munching on a snicker doodle from the plate in her lap almost every three seconds. I turn to look at Sienna, who's sitting on her carpet. While Hayley and I are technically doing our homework (meaning: our stuff is out, there's a pen in my hand, but we've made little to no progress from when we started), Sienna is actually being productive and folding her laundry while we talk.
"You know, you don't have to do it just because Hale asked you to," Sienna tells me in a way that manages to be serious and teasing at the same time.
"It wasn't just Hale," I point out.
"I doubt you're doing it for Nick," Hayley says.
"She could be," Sienna reminds.
Hayley makes a face. "Oh, that's right. I always forget that you like spending time with your brother." She shakes her head dubiously, as if the idea is totally lost on her. Which I suppose is understandable considering that Hayley and her brother argue over everything. If it weren't for the blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments where they're actually nice to each other, I'd be entirely convinced that they didn't even want the other to even exist.
"But it's still a pretty insane idea," Sienna adds, looking at me. "Are you really going to jump in?"
"I don't know," I admit. "They asked me to."
"And if they asked you to jump off of a cliff, would you?"
"I already have." I say, and Hayley's jaw actually drops like the way they describe in books. "Our families go on vacation with each other a lot. Honestly, it was just a small one. It was barely over three stories tall," I add, because it's obvious that both of them need the reassurance.
"I wish I grew up with your brother," Sienna laughs. "It's like all of those stunts scared the fear right out of you."
"I beg to differ."
Not that I think I really am fearless, but it's just fun to contradict Hayley. We're always teasing one another and challenging each other in the classroom and on the court, with Sienna being the happy medium that keeps us from becoming too competitive. It makes the day more interesting, having someone to butt heads with.
"Of course," Hayley declares. "After all, she's afraid to admit that she has it bad for Hale."
Sienna coughs loudly and Hayley's eyes widen as she slaps her hand over her mouth, as if just realizing what she's said.
"It's fine," I say dismissively, suddenly interested in the untouched Calculus worksheet in my lap. "But I'm not in love with Hale."
Hayley bites her lip. She looks like she really wants to say something, but then my phone vibrates from where I'd tossed it onto the bed and pretty much forgot about it.
Hale's name lights up the screen beside his contact picture, one of me and him from a New Year's party that seemed a lot longer ago that it actually was. I think Tristan or Nick had taken it when they had my phone (because my outfit didn't have any pockets while theirs had ones that zipped). We're covered in silly string and confetti and soaking wet from the water balloon fight, facing each other and totally unaware that anyone was even taking a picture. We're both laughing hysterically and my arms are thrust out as I'm about to shove him for tripping me. We'd crashed on the floor of Tristan's living room when I found this picture on my phone, which I'd been messing with because I couldn't fall asleep.
"That's a good one," Hale had muttered beside me from his sleeping bag.
I'd nearly dropped the phone on my face in surprise, earning a lazy chuckle from him. He gave me a sleepy smile in the dark.
"Go to sleep," I told him.
"You too," he yawned, and then added, "Wait," as he reached over and took my phone from my hand. I watched him set the picture as his contact photo and then send it to himself, pick up his own phone and set that same picture as my contact photo.
I haven't changed Hale's picture since then, and as I'm staring at it on my screen, I wonder if he hasn't, either.
Okay, maybe Hayley's right.
Maybe I do have it bad.