Sammy walked into Vincent's mansion in a daze. "Neighbors? They're neightbors?" She repeated for the umpteenth time.
Jack smiled amusedly. "Sam appears to be having a problem getting over that fact."
Vincent sighed tiredly, "Yes, we're neighbors and yes, I'd as soon as rig my yard with mines to blow him up than invite him over for anything. Understand?"
"How is that even possible? How –" She was cut off at the sound of high heels clicking on the marble floors toward them. She turned and her eyes turned to the size of tennis balls. A gorgeous woman with shoulder length black hair and pale gray eyes strolled gracefully up to them. She looked so refined, so beautiful, Sammy immediately felt self-conscious even though there wasn't any reason she should be. It's not like I could even compare to her - especially in guy mode.
The woman continued to walk daintily, a warm welcoming smile on her face. Sammy was completely in awe, but for some strange reason, she had the funny feeling that the guys next to her were all edging backward ever so subtly.
The dark-haired woman reached them and with the same loving smile, slugged Vincent in the gut. Sammy leapt back in shock.
"Danielle! What the hell?" Vincent roared, rubbing his stomach.
The woman's eyes flashed and she leaned forward, jabbing her index finger into his chest and although she had to tilt up her head to talk to the boy, Sammy could have sworn the woman could tower over all of them. Danielle snapped, "What the hell is wrong with you? Not calling home and driving in this kind of weather! You worried our parents so much, they started bugging me! Me! You're seventeen now! Grow up!"
Vincent bellowed, "I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself so don't trouble yourself, YOU OLD HAG!"
Danielle went for his throat. "I'LL SHOW YOU WHO'S AN OLD HAG!"
While the beautiful woman was busy throttling Vincent, Sammy had edged close to Will. The boy smiled reassuringly at her. "Don't worry. It's how they show their love and affection."
"Meet Danielle Amelia Grenford," Will waved a hand at the woman. "Vincent's older sister."
"Hi, I'm Danielle," the woman smiled sheepishly as she handed Sammy a glass of orange juice. "I'm sorry you had to see me fighting with that idiot over there." Vincent sat glumly in the corner of the kitchen, rubbing his jaw as he threw his sister a dirty look.
Sammy smiled back. "I'm Sam Westlane. You can call me Sammy."
Danielle leaned back against the kitchen table, hands perched on its edges. "So how is school so far?"
"Great. There are a lot of friendly people there."
Will beamed and draped an arm around Sammy. "Like me."
Danielle raised an eyebrow and then raised the other when she caught sight of her brother's darkening features.
The butler, Sterns, suddenly appeared in the doorway. "Young master, miss, there's a phone call for Mr. Sam Westlane."
"Huh?" Sammy blinked in surprise. Who would be calling her?
"Excuse me." She stood up and followed the man out. Accepting the receiver, she spoke hesitantly, "Hello?"
"Tristan?" she exclaimed.
"Shhhh, don't talk so loud. Grenford would hear."
"Oh, sorry." Bewildered, she lowered her voice. "What's the matter?"
"Just wanted to invite you over," he said with this low chuckle. "You busy?"
"Um, no, I'm not busy … I think I can come over in a bit."
"Great! I want you to –"
She braced the receiver in the crook of her neck and absently turned around to find Vincent hovering behind her. Sammy stifled her shriek. With a grumpy expression, he asked, "Who's that?"
"Um, ah, Tristan?" she answered in a small tone.
His dark eyes flickered with what seemed to be irritation. He nodded curtly. "Oh, okay." Then he gently pried her fingers off the phone and slammed it down. He narrowed his eyes at her, hand still pressing down hard on the phone as if he wanted to crush it. "What did he want?"
"He wanted me to come over –"
"Yeah, right," he scoffed. "You don't have to listen to him."
"It's okay. Don't go."
"He's just –"
Like Vincent, Danielle also mastered the trick of materializing out of the blue. Slapping the back of her brother's head swiftly, the woman then threw an arm around his neck almost like a friendly embrace, if Vincent wasn't choking. "Of course you can go! This isn't a prison here. You're free to visit any of your friends." She smiled cheerfully.
Vincent snapped, "It's Tristan!"
"Oh, him! I've always liked that boy. Of course you have to go!"
Vincent's eyes narrowed into slits and he stared sullenly at his sister. Backstabbing little -
Danielle was already propelling Sammy to the door. "Have fun now! Send my regards to Tristan! Toodles!" She closed the door.
"Next time I'm talking to my friends," Vincent seethed. "Would you kindly butt out?"
"Oh, so he's your friend?"
Vincent folded his arms and stared at his sister. Sometimes, he thought she had been dropped on the head as a baby. "No, I just saw him on the streets and decided that he'll make a nice pet. Of course he's my friend!"
"Uh-huh," she nodded skeptically in that infuriating way which always made him feel that she knew something he didn't know.
"Whatever do you mean?" She cocked his head at him.
"Why the hell are you giving me that look?"
Her eyes widened innocently, "Look? What look?"
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Sister. Related by blood. Supposed to love her and all that crap. And also, you don't want to go to jail for killing her.
She smiled at him again. He rolled his eyes and started to turn away. "Why didn't you tell me you were gay?" she called after him.
He whirled back around. His eyes darted to the doorway to make sure Jack and Will couldn't overhear and then closed the space between him and his sister in two steps. "I'm. Not. GAY!" He gritted his teeth.
"Huh. Could've fooled me."
"If this is another one of your sadistic jokes, it's not funny! He's my roommate! He's a he!"
"With the way you're acting around Sammy . . ." she sighed amusedly, as if she hadn't heard him. "It's kinda obvious you're head over heels, dear Vinnie."
"Head over heels?" He snorted, hissing furiously in a low whisper. "I'm going to throw you head over heels out that window."
Danielle laughed and his blood boiled. "You're so cute when you get mad, Vinnie." She stood on tiptoes to ruffle his hair and he jerked away.
He retorted insolently, "Stop treating me like a kid. You're only two years older than me, Dani."
She folded her arms and grinned broadly. "Two years makes all the difference. Besides, even though you're not a kid in body, you still are in mind."
He resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at her. "Shut up."
Sammy bounced on her heels nervously, not quite sure what to expect. She turned around as the large intricately carved oak door swung open. A girl with long light blonde hair and dark blue eyes stared at her.
Sammy smiled tentatively. "Hi, I'm Sam. Um, Tristan asked me to come over?"
The girl continued to stare at her. Sammy shifted uneasily, glancing up at the doorway. I didn't get the wrong house, did I?
"What are you doing?"
The girl turned around and Tristan appeared behind her. He was dressed in a loose sweatshirt and a pair of black jeans. He looked up and a bright smile lit up his face. "Sam! You're here! Have you met my sister? This is Carrie."
Sammy smiled. Carrie blushed and fidgeted, her fingers fumbling along the edge of her white turtleneck. The girl ducked her head low and rushed off. "Is she okay?"
Tristan shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. "Carrie's always been a little shy. It also doesn't help that our mother died when she was so young and we rarely see each other."
Sammy nodded as she stepped in. They started for the stairs. "How old is she?"
"Two years younger. She goes to an all girls' school. Here we are! Prepare to be amazed by my very own sanctuary." They headed through the spacious hallways, lit up by small lily-shaped light fixtures, and he swung the door open to a cozy room with high ceilings and a roaring fire crackling away in the fireplace. A bed was all the way to the right and what appeared to be a study area, with a bookshelf and a table strewn with books, papers, and a laptop, was directly adjacent to the fireplace.
She smiled. "Your room?"
"Yup. Hungry? I could ask Rosie to make something."
"She's great. My father was never at home because of work so she took care of us ever since we were babies. She loves Carrie like her own daughter, but Carrie never seems to bring home any other close friends. She worries that my sister's a tad anti-social." He frowned, crossing his arms. He sighed and turned to her with a small smile. "How about I go get some drinks and snacks, huh? Make yourself comfortable, okay?"
Tristan was out the door before she could nod. Sammy drifted toward the bookshelves. She smiled at the picture of a toothless blonde baby sitting in a crib and then giggled at another picture of what seemed to be a five years old Tristan holding a bawling three years old Carrie glumly. He had curls when he was little. That's so cute!
Then she stopped in front of a photo of a woman with blonde curls, dressed in a beautiful silvery blue gown. The lady smiled gently, waving a gloved hand at the camera. This must be his mother. She looks so nice. Sammy moved on to another picture and her heart throbbed. It was a black and white photo of Tristan's mother - only this time, the vivacity in the woman's eyes was completely gone. She stared blankly at the camera. The lack of color only accentuated the limpness in her hair and the absolute emptiness of expression.
A sound behind her made her jump and she spun around to see that Carrie had come into the room. The girl's eyes slid away from her toward the photo. They stood in awkward silence for a minute and then to Sammy's surprise, Carrie said softly, almost as if she was thinking out loud, "Sometimes I wonder, if she had been a little stronger, if she had held on for a little longer, maybe she would have survived."
Carrie glanced back at Sam, eyes oddly dull. "It's not that I blame her … well, maybe I do ... a small part of me inside. Do you think that maybe if I wasn't such a kid and if I had pushed her, supported her more, she would have ... wanted to live?"
Sammy didn't know what to say. The girl sounded like a lost child. She took a step closer and the girl stumbled away, startled. Hesitating, Sammy reached out and touched Carrie's arm gently. "You can't think like this, Carrie. Is there ever any use in asking what if? You'd never be able to have a future if you keep focusing on the past. Believe me, I know."
Carrie stared at her and Sammy offered a faint smile. "My parents died in a car accident. My brother's in a coma. I'd always asked myself, why wasn't I with them that day? What if I had gone with them? What if I had died with them?" She bit her lip. "But then ... then I realized, would that have changed things? Would the pain have been lessened? Carrie, things happen for a reason. It's our job to move on, not to wallow around. Your mother would have wanted that."
Carrie only blinked at her, but then a tear slipped, trailing down her cheek, and it was followed by another. And another. Pretty soon, the girl was crying freely – silent tears that wrenched her face in a grimace - and Sammy panicked. Great job. Make her cry. "I'm sorry, Carrie. Do you want a tissue or –"
The smaller girl staggered toward her, hugging her. " – or a hug. There, there," she squeaked awkwardly, patting Carrie's back in what she hoped was a reassuring way.
Tristan walked in then and stopped short. "Uh –"
Sammy froze. I'm not taking advantage of your sister. Please don't punch me.
But Tristan's expression seemed to visibly soften as he gathered in the scene and after dragging his attention from his sobbing sister, his pale blue eyes settled Sammy with a soft intensity.
She wasn't sure what his look meant, but it didn't seem like he wanted to rearrange her face. Uneasily, Sammy waved him over and Tristan, with that same faint smile on his face, took his sister from her arms. "Shhh. I'm here," Tristan murmured as he enveloped Carrie in his arms, but his eyes stayed on Sammy.
Sammy looked down, self-conscious, and made a gesture at the pictures of his mother, hoping he'd understand. She lifted her eyes back to his and he tilted his head with such a fond smile, her heart turned. "I'm gonna go now," she mouthed and the blonde haired boy nodded, pressing his cheek against his sister's hair as Sammy let herself out as quietly as possible.
"So what were you crying about?" Tristan asked as his sister wiped tears off her face. Carrie sat on the ground on his room, arms curled around her legs.
"Just realized some things," she murmured. "About Mom and stuff."
" Good?" she asked, surprised.
"Yeah, I mean, it's not everyday you walk into your room and find a boy hugging your sobbing sister. I was afraid I was going to have to do my brotherly duty and beat up Sam," he drawled.
She frowned. "Sam isn't like that. He was being kind and he actually listened to me."
"I listen to you. Why haven't you ever talked to me about Mom?"
Carrie played with the ends of her hair, looking down. "You wouldn't understand. You always seem to know what to do, even when Mom died."
"And Sam's different?"
"He's – I don't know." She furrowed her brows. "I don't feel as nervous around him as most people for some reason. He seems to understand."
He arched an eyebrow. "You've taken a liking to him."
She reddened, "He's ... different from any boy I've ever met. I think ... he's a good friend to have."
His lips quirked in a smile. "He's certainly different from anyone I've ever met."
Sammy rang the doorbell to Vincent's mansion and the door swung open a second later. Vincent loomed before her, a hulking shadow in the doorway, and she backed away, uneasy. "Wh – what's up? Were you waiting for me?"
He twitched and scoffed, "No. I – I was just making sure the door was well oiled when you rang the bell." He tested the hinges and nodded solemnly. "Hmm, good."
Danielle stood by the staircase, leaning against the railing. She smiled sweetly, "Great, Vinnie, why don't you go run off and check the other, oh, I don't know, forty doors in the house?"
He ignored his sister. "Listen, Sam, next time –"
"Sammy, let's go!" Danielle shoved her brother to one side and latched on the redhead's wrist, yanking Sammy up the stairs.
"I want to show you your room. You look tired, poor dear. Vinnie, stop standing there like an idiot."
They were halfway down the hallway upstairs when the deafening slam of the front door reverberated throughout the house and Sammy could have sworn Danielle had laughed.
I wasn't planning on adding author's notes after these chapters since this story is basically a reposting, but I wanted to thank the new readers for your reviews and messages! Your support means a lot to me and yes, please look after me in case future incidents of plagiarism comes up again (knock on wood) – you guys are all the best.
Sel: Thank you for pointing out a major mistake. I could say that it was a high tech thermal fountain that runs all year, but I'll just be BSing you. I love reviews that point out specific issues for me that I haven't noticed before so you are awesome. Thanks for all of your reviews!
Ruby Sue: Again, as noted in the note at the beginning of Chapter Two, this is a rough draft that blows all rough drafts out of the water. I am aware of the many problems with the current story as it is and I agree with your critique. Thank you for your review and I hope you can move onto other stories you'll enjoy more.
I also wanted to especially give thanks to SKoW for inducting me into the Author Hall of Fame last night – the designer, Cheryl, made absolutely gorgeous avatars and banners for all the inductees. I think Jenina and rest of the SKoW staff and of course, all you readers who take time to read, review, and vote are all pretty amazing and prosperity shall fall into your laps with the upcoming year.
I'm a Chinese fortune cookie. Happy New Year, everyone!
© Copyright 2003 Maeven (FictionPress ID:349779). Reposted 12/30/2008. All rights reserved. Distribution of any kind is prohibited without the written consent of Maeven.