From the Cradle to the Grave
Notes: Welp, here it is, the revised version of the first chapter. If you're confused, see the author's note in my profile! In short, after much thought, I have decided to revise and re-post the story. Like I said in the author's note, the earliest chapters will probably be the ones most changed (still won't be terribly different). I wanted to develop Chris and Meredith's initial relationship a little further. I hope you all are willing to stick with me through this... It really won't take long, I promise. Thank you so much for your support and don't forget to review! Thank you!
Chapter 1 – Shummy and Cabes
"Honey, could you get me the key for my jewelry box, please?"
Meredith's mouth twisted into a slight grimace.
Those words could only mean one thing: the pearls. Those precious, glowing snow-white orbs were only brought out for a limited spectrum of occasions: weddings, funerals, and, last, but most certainly not least, a romantic candlelit dinner for two at some classy, upscale restaurant in the city.
The little girl frowned, brow scrunching as she utilized her deductive powers to the best of her ability. Her mother wasn't attending any weddings to her knowledge, and experience had taught her that funerals generally didn't happen in the evening, so that left only one possibility: her parents were going out for a night on the town.
Of course, there had been other clues: the slinky black evening dress her mother had just slipped into, the meticulously-applied makeup, the perfectly manicured nails, the excitement dancing through her striking cerulean eyes. But the pearl necklace was the telltale sign of a romantic dinner date, and Meredith knew it.
And that meant that she was going to be left here.
At this thought, the little girl's frown deepened. Letting out a soft sigh, she hopped down from her perch on the king-size bed and trotted over to her mother's vanity table. She counted three drawers down, opened it, and after several moments of sifting through various lipstick tubes, she produced the key with a look of triumph on her angelic little face.
Finally looking away from the mirror, her mother smiled her perfect white-toothed smile and reached out expectantly for it. Like a good little pet, Meredith dropped the tiny gold key into her outstretched hand.
"Thank you, Meredith," her mother said, enclosing her polished fingers around it. Rising to her feet as she dabbed her neck with intoxicatingly sweet Chanel perfume, she walked over to the ornate jewelry box sitting on the dresser.
As her mother fiddled with the key, Meredith couldn't help but admire her loveliness. It was common knowledge that Andrea Cable was one of the most beautiful women in town. She had the body of a dancer: tall, thin, and statuesque, with a certain air of elegance and class surrounding her. With her captivating vibrant blue eyes, winning smile, and still-lush golden locks, visibly untouched by age, she had everyone under her spell. She looked just as lovely at 40 as she had at 25, and it was obvious that she knew it.
Glancing over into the crystal glass mirror, Meredith studied her own reflection. People often said that the three Cable daughters were the spit image of their mother, and Meredith was no exception. A naturally slim build, silky golden blonde hair, and huge, dazzling smiles were the traits that characterized the Cable offspring. Her father would always jokingly complain that his genes had disappeared. However, with Meredith, it was not so. While her two older sisters had their mother's lovely baby blues, Meredith had inherited her father's eyes: big, soulful, and deep, deep brown, full of innocence and wonder.
A soft click was heard as her mother opened the jewelry box with her slender fingers, snapping young Meredith out of her thoughts. She immediately clambered over to the bed and stood up to get a good view, eyes wide with excitement.
There, tucked gently and lovingly into the folds of crimson velvet, was a magnificent pearl necklace. Even though she couldn't see it, Meredith could feel her mother's happy smile. Carefully, tenderly, the woman reached in and took out the beautiful necklace, holding it up for all to admire.
"Oh, Meredith," she said quietly, let out a soft sigh, hypnotized by the glittering milky orbs. "It only gets more beautiful every time I see it." She glided over to the bed and took a seat, wrapping the necklace around her neck. "Darling, would you be so kind as to help me put it on?"
With a little bob of her blonde head, Meredith gingerly walked over to her mother, her small feet making no sound on the mattress. She reached down and gently took the clasp before fastening the necklace around her mother's long, slender neck.
"I still remember when your father gave me this necklace," her mother said, a faraway look in her eyes, allowing herself to momentarily be taken back in time... back to a time when she didn't have three young daughters to care for. Back when it was only her and her new husband and true love taking on the world together... "It was a present from him for our one year anniversary. I remember it so well. It was a—"
"...beautiful spring day in April, and he served you breakfast in bed and gave you the necklace," Meredith finished for her, a small smile creeping across her features. "Don't bother, Mom. You've told us this story a million times."
Her mother laughed. "I'm sorry if it bores you, dear. I can't help it."
A moment of comfortable silence as they admired the beautiful necklace in the mirror.
"Meredith, someday, you won't roll your eyes at it. Someday, you'll have a man of your own to love you and to hold you and to give you beautiful jewelry," her mother said with a smile. "And then, you'll understand how special it is."
"Yeah, whatever," Meredith replied, scoffing. "Boys are gross. I'm never gonna get married."
A small smile. "You're only six years old, darling. I'm sure you'll change your mind about that someday."
"Nope, never! I..."
At that moment, all smiles and giggles, Meredith's two older sisters bounced into the room and jumped onto their mother's bed, interrupting the conversation.
"Hello, girls," their mother said pleasantly, before turning to face them, her brow furrowing as a sudden thought came to her mind. "Katrina, I'm still not particularly happy with you."
Katrina, the oldest child at sixteen and the family superstar, stared at her mother incredulously, her electric blue eyes wide. "Um, why, Mom? What are you talking about?"
Her mother gave her a look. "You knew I wanted you to stay home and watch Meredith and Victoria tonight."
The teenage beauty queen rolled her eyes, tossing her long, luxurious pale blonde hair carelessly over her shoulder in that entitled, yet infuriatingly fabulous way that only she could. "Sorry, Mom, but my social calendar awaits," she said, giving a little sniff. "I just can't miss this party. I'd been planning on going for a while now. Besides, Meredith has Victoria to watch her."
Her mother frowned. "Victoria is still too young to be watching Meredith on her own for a whole night."
"Hey!" Victoria piped up, folding her arms huffily. "I am not. Gosh, Mom, when are you gonna stop treating me like a baby?" At eleven years old and on the brink of teenager-hood, Victoria, who fit the "trouble middle child" stereotype to a tee, was going through an extended period of irritability and rebelliousness. She shot her mother a nasty look.
Her little face scrunching up in anguish, Meredith turned to her mother. "Mooommmm," she whined, staring up at her mother with her big brown eyes. "Why do I have to be left by myself? Can't I go over to Paige's house?"
"No, Meredith," her mother said firmly, letting out a quiet sigh. "I want you to stay here where we can keep in touch. And besides, you won't be alone. Victoria will be here..."
"Victoria doesn't count! She's just gonna lock herself in her room and talk on the phone." Victoria grimaced at this.
"Let me finish, dear. Since Katrina is too busy to watch her little sisters for the night—" her mother turned to give her eldest daughter a disapproving stare, "I've hired a babysitter."
"Ew, babysitters!" Meredith cried, opening her mouth and pretending to throw up as she remembered the last babysitter she had encountered: a horrid girl from across the street who had refused to play with her and insisted upon her sharing her salad for dinner. "Mom, can't I just come with you?"
"Meredith, sometimes grown-ups need some time—"
"Please?" the little girl shrieked, leaping off the bed and latching herself onto her mother's leg. "Please don't make me stay here!"
"Why, Meredith, I thought you'd be pleased!" her mother said, a tinge of exasperation evident in her silvery voice. "Christopher Shumway offered to watch you for the night. Remember him?" She smiled. "He's grown to be such a nice young man."
Upon hearing the name, Meredith's frown was immediately transformed into a hopeful smile. Chris Shumway. Of course she remembered him. How could she forget? The 15-year-old son of her parents' oldest friends. The only babysitter she could remember in recent history who really got her, who really spoke her language, who really treated her like an equal instead of like some annoying, snot-nosed brat he had the displeasure of watching for eight bucks an hour.
"Chris?" Her big eyes lit up with joy. "Yay!" she cried with a giggle, leaping up on the bed and jumping in excitement.
"Chris Shumway?" Katrina repeated, rolling the name off her tongue as if it had a foul taste. She sighed a deep, irritated sigh, running her fingers through her silky hair. "Oh, god. Thank goodness I'm getting out of the house."
"Katrina!" their mother scolded gently. "We've been friends with the Shumways since before you were born, and I really do wish you'd be nicer to Christopher." A sly smile. "He's had the hugest crush on you since you were both tiny, you know."
"Um, I know," Katrina retorted, crossing her arms and flushing scarlet. "Could he be any more obvious about it? That's the thing, Mom. If I'm really nice to him, he just doesn't get the picture and keeps following me around. He just won't get it through his little head that I'm not interested. Ugh. He's..." She paused, her face screwing up in distaste. "...so not cute. At all. And besides, he's a whole year younger."
"What do you mean 'not cute'? He's hideous," Victoria, never one to sugar-coat things, chimed in, making a face. "The acne. And the glasses! Ugh. He's such a scrawny little nerd."
Her mother, a southern belle at heart who had been born and raised in Georgia and valued decorum and manners above all things, let out a little gasp of horror, her mouth dropping open in shock. "Victoria Anne Cable! What an awful thing to say."
"She's just telling it like it is, Mom," Katrina replied with a haughty sigh, shaking her head in a self-satisfied way as if she were providing an invaluable service by educating her ignorant mother. "Chris Shumway and I will never happen. End of story. He's such a loser at school."
Her mother sighed. "Of course, Queen Katrina. I forgot you only date prom kings and football quarterbacks."
Katrina gave a sort of proud, snobby smile. "What's so wrong with that? Sorry that I have standards."
Clearly resigned to the fact that her ice queen oldest daughter would never budge, their mother rose to her feet and did one last mirror check before slipping on her black high heels and grabbing her clutch from the top of the dresser. "Whatever you say, darling."
"I like Chris!" Meredith immediately came to his defense, glaring at her older sisters, looking scandalized. "Chris is the only boy I like. He's my friend. He's the best babysitter ever."
"Mere, if you like him so much, then why don't you be his girlfriend?" Katrina retorted, throwing her hands up in frustration. "It would be doing me a big favor."
Meredith's cheeks turned about 15 different shades of red. "I..."
Their bickering was cut short by the sound of the doorbell resonating through the house.
"Andrea! Chris is here!" they heard their father shout from the foyer.
"Ah, Christopher's here," their mother exclaimed, striding out the room and down the stairs, her high heels clicking on the hard wood floor. She turned and gave her two eldest daughters a calmly threatening stare. "You two had better mind your manners around him, or I'll be extremely disappointed."
"Ugh," Katrina grumbled. She rolled her eyes and stood up from the bed, patting her dress. "I'll be leaving for that party as soon as humanely possible."
"And I'll be leaving for my room," Victoria added, before turning to face her youngest sister, flashing her a threatening glare. "Don't come in without knocking, or I'll kill you." The girl rose from her seat and walked down the hall to her room, slamming and locking the door.
"Chris!" Meredith squealed in excitement, her smile lighting up her little face. Jumping for joy, the girl raced out of the room and bounded down the stairs, taking two, even three steps at a time. She tumbled head over heels right into the arms of a boy. "Chris!" she cried again, hugging his legs tightly, her shrieks muffled by his coat. "Yay! You're here!"
Laughter from above. "Well, well, well," a familiar, comforting voice chuckled. "If it isn't my favorite girl! How are you, Cabes?"
"I'm super, Shummy!" Meredith replied, finally releasing him from her iron grip. She looked up at him, smiling from ear-to-ear, and found herself staring into the face of Chris Shumway.
Meredith examined him carefully, wanting to do her own re-assessment of his physical appearance given the previous conversation, the words of her sisters echoing through her mind.
The boy was fully engaged in the awkward throes of puberty, all right. He was tall for his age—already around six feet, to be sure—and very gangly, his t-shirt and jeans draping loosely off his skinny frame, his girth clearly having not caught up to his height. Unlike his body, however, his face was actually quite proportional and surprisingly handsome, if you looked hard enough; he was blessed with sculpted bone structure, a perfectly straight nose, full lips, and a strong, square jaw line.
Unfortunately, his more comely features were immediately overshadowed by numerous other decidedly less appealing characteristics. His head of straight, naturally messy dark brown hair was cut in an outdated, unflattering bowl shape, his hairdo bearing a striking resemblance to a helmet. His would-be attractive face was dominated by several large red, blotchy patches of acne, as well as by a myriad of "geeky" corrective contraptions; his pretty turquoise eyes were hidden behind thick, over-sized glasses, and when he smiled down at her, he exposed a mouth full of gleaming metal braces.
Adolescence clearly had not been kind to him.
But still... he wasn't ugly, Meredith thought to herself, satisfied with her own conclusion. She didn't care what Katrina and Victoria thought. Nerdy? Yes. Scrawny? Check. But "hideous", as Victoria had so kindly described him earlier? Certainly not.
Chris knelt down on one knee so he was her height, grinning at her. "Gosh, Mere, you've grown a lot! Heck, last time I saw you, you were tiny."
"Yeah, right!" Meredith said with a smile. "I just saw you a month ago!"
"Was it really only a month?" Chris laughed that carefree laugh of his. He hugged her again, affectionately ruffling her head of wispy blonde hair. "You're so on top of things. Good thing I have you to keep me in line."
"Christopher, thank you so much for coming on such short notice to babysit Meredith," her mother addressed him fondly, reaching out and gratefully touching his arm. "You're so great with her. She just adores you, you know."
Grinning, he reached down and fondly pinched Meredith's cheek. "The feeling is mutual." He looked back up and smiled warmly at her. "And it's no problem at all, Mrs. Cable."
Her mother laughed. "Sometimes I think you're too well-mannered. How many times do I have to tell you? Please, call me Andrea."
"Not a problem Mrs. Cab—I mean, Andrea," he said, grinning sheepishly.
"Yes, my boy, a million thanks for this. I really wanted to take my wife out for a nice dinner," Meredith's father said, reaching out and shaking the boy's hand.
"Once again, it was no problem, Mr. Cable," Chris replied politely. "You both deserve some time away."
Her parents exchanged glances of both awe and approval at the boy's maturity and good manners. That was a rare thing these days.
"Hey, Mom, Dad, I think my ride to the party is here."
They all glanced up to see none other than Katrina gracefully making her way down the sweeping spiral staircase as though she were some kind of pageant queen, looking quite radiant in her white party dress with her long blonde hair cascading down her back, curled and styled to perfection.
Meredith snuck a quick glance at Chris. He was staring at her oldest sister, slack-jawed, a goofy, lovesick look in his pale blue eyes. Katrina finally reached the bottom of the stairs and grabbed her purse off the table, before walking over to the group. She took an uneasy look at Chris, and her shell pink lips parted to give a rather forced smile. "Um... hey Chris."
Chris looked shocked that she had even acknowledged his presence. After years of being openly scorned and ignored by this older beauty queen, it certainly must have come as a surprise. He awkwardly raised his hand and gave a little wave, his eyes wide. "Oh, h-hi, Katrina..." he stammered, stumbling over his words, flashing a slightly dopey smile.
Katrina managed to mask her disgust with yet another fake grin, before she turned and kissed both of her parents on the cheek. "Bye, Mom. Bye, Dad. Have a good time. I'll be home by curfew."
"You'd better be," their father responded, his voice stern.
"I will, I promise. Bye everyone. Bye Mere," she added, winking at her youngest sister. With that, the girl opened the door and stepped out into the cool air of the impending evening, before shutting it quietly behind her.
Meredith watched Chris's eyes follow Katrina as she walked down to the snazzy red Corvette waiting in the driveway, no doubt belonging to her latest lovesick suitor. She sighed quietly.
Katrina had always had that sort of effect on the male gender. With her long, lithe, model-esque figure, delicate, classically beautiful features, and the air of superiority and confidence that had surrounded her since the day she was born, Katrina was the undisputed sweetheart of their town. The fact that she was a straight-A student, homecoming queen, Miss Silver Springs, student government president, cheer captain, debate team captain, and president of just about every other club you could possibly think of certainly didn't hurt her cause, either. A flip of her blonde mane and one striking look from her stunning baby blues was all it took for the boys to fall all over themselves for her, and clearly, Chris was no exception.
"All right, well, we're going to be heading off now," her mother said as she slipped on her coat, interrupting young Meredith's thoughts. "Christopher, the emergency numbers are on the fridge, so call us if there's a problem. Let's see... we ordered a pizza, so feel free to help yourself, and we rented a couple of movies. I guess that's it!"
"Ok, sounds great. Don't worry about us. We'll be fine," Chris assured the adults, wrapping an arm affectionately around Meredith's shoulders.
"Yeah! We'll be great!" Meredith chimed in enthusiastically.
Her parents smiled down at her, and after kissing their little girl goodbye, they were out the door and speeding off into the rapidly fading daylight of dusk.
There was a slight pause. The only sound was the ticking of the grandfather clock by the stairs.
"So," Chris said, breaking the silence. "What do you want to do?"
"Well..." The little girl clasped her hands shyly behind her back, shifting her weight from foot to foot, before looking up and giving him a coy smile. "I've been practicing my hula hooping since last time..."
Chris's eyes widened. He laughed, before raising a questioning eyebrow at her. "Is that your way of challenging me to an obstacle course rematch?"
Meredith let out a shrill giggle. "Maybe!"
He shook his head at her, grinning mischievously. "You sure you want to do that? We all know I'm just going to beat you again."
The little girl stuck her tongue out at him defiantly. "No way! I'm gonna win this time!"
Chris chuckled. "We'll see about that. Last one to the driveway is a rotten egg!"
And with that, the two of them broke into a sprint, headed for the garage door, Meredith's high-pitched shrieks and giggles echoing through the house.
"You ready, Cabes?"
"I'm gonna beat you, you know."
"No, you're not!"
Mere minutes later, the two of them were standing at the head of the driveway, the now-infamous obstacle course they had invented one boring gray summer day several months prior sprawled out before them on the concrete.
The course was a brutal one: contestants had to jump rope for 15 seconds straight, shoot a three-pointer into the miniature basketball hoop, limbo under a makeshift pole made of sticks and traffic cones, and hopscotch their way to the finish line... before the final trying task of hula-hooping for another 15 consecutive seconds. You couldn't move on to the next task without successfully completing the previous one. It was an exercise in both mental and physical toughness.
Meredith frowned as she stared at the hula hoops laying at the end of their crude chalk hopscotch squares, starkly neon pink against the dark background of the asphalt. That was where she had met her downfall last time.
But she had been practicing. And this time... this time she was going to win. Gritting her teeth in determination, the little girl poised herself on the starting line, ready to race to victory.
"Ok, Mere," Chris said, as he finished stretching his quads. "Ready... set... go!"
And with that, the two of them were off.
Running as fast as her little legs would carry her, Meredith sprinted over and scooped up her purple jump rope, beginning to skip so fast the rope became nothing but a blur. She grinned to herself as she started counting to 15 in her head; jump rope was her strong suit. Chris, on the other hand, was terrible at it... his long legs and lack of coordination didn't exactly make him well-suited to such an activity.
As she finished counting to 15, she glanced over and smirked in triumph. Chris had already gotten himself tangled in the jump rope, and had to start over. Giggling maniacally, Meredith ran over and grabbed one of the basketballs, frantically beginning to take shots.
But Chris had already caught up to her at that point. His height was advantageous in this activity; the basketball hoop was so low he merely had to toss it at eye-level. It went in easily.
"Ha!" he cried, sticking his tongue out at Meredith, before running to the limbo pole.
Letting out a cry of frustration, the little blonde girl's basketball finally made it into the hoop. She sprinted over to the limbo pole, noting smugly how Chris's height had gone from beneficial to harmful in a matter of seconds; even though they had previously stipulated he could get on his knees to limbo under the short pole, he was still struggling.
Giggling as she arched her back in preparation, the tiny six-year-old easily made it under the pole. Her left foot poised flamingo-like against her knee, she hopped her way through the hopscotch squares before finally arriving at the final destination: the hula hoop station.
Gulping, she threw on the hula hoop, and started spinning it around her waist, rocking back and forth steadily as she began to count to 15. Come on, Meredith! Just like you practiced!
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Chris, having finally made it under the limbo pole, successfully hopscotch down the driveway and pick up the hula hoop next to her. Brow furrowing in determination, she did her best to focus as she continued to count up in her head...
Nine, ten, eleven...
She heard the clatter of Chris's hoop falling to the ground, and grinned in triumph. She was so close to victory she could practically taste it... bragging rights for the rest of the year, at least. That is, until they came up with some kind of new competition...
Thirteen, fourteen... fifteen!
"I win!" she howled in triumph, letting her hula hoop fall to the ground as she began jumping up and down ecstatically, throwing her arms in the air. "I win, I win, I win!"
"Oh, no!" Chris cried melodramatically. "I lost!"
"Ha!" Meredith said, sticking out her tongue at him. "See, I told you!"
But, of course, Chris didn't seem particularly upset about it. He grinned at her, a certain fondness in his eye. "And... we have a winner!" he yelled in his best sports broadcaster voice, scooping her up, placing the giggling girl on top of his shoulders and beginning to run around the driveway amidst her shrieks of laughter. "Snatches the title right from under reigning champion Chris Shumway's nose! Meredith Cable takes the gold! It's all over, folks!"
All Meredith could do was hang on tight, laughing hysterically, basking in the glow of her victory, feeling nothing but complete and utter adoration for her favorite babysitter and playmate.
The clock struck nine, and the chimes rang through the spacious house.
The sound reverberating through the room interrupted their hysterical laughter. It had been quite a fun-filled night: following Meredith's obstacle course victory, they had watched a movie, put on a puppet show, played Monopoly (Meredith had won, of course), and now they were drawing pictures, having gotten out Meredith's crate overflowing with markers and crayons.
"Oh, Cabes, look at the time," Chris said, looking up from his drawing of a robot to the clock. "It's already nine. I hate to say it, but it's time to go to bed."
"No, no, wait! Hold on! I'm almost done with my picture," Meredith protested as she scribbled even more furiously with her crayon.
"All right, fine. But only a couple of more seconds. Then it's off to bed for you."
Several moments of furious scribbling later, Meredith was panting. "There. I'm done!" She held it up for him to admire.
The drawing depicted two crude smiling crayon stick figures standing in front of a house holding hands. The taller stick figures was wearing big glasses, the smaller one had on a red dress. Both were smiling radiantly. The golden yellow sun was shining overhead, the clouds happy and laughing. And above the quaint little scene were the words scribbled in a child's messy handwriting: Shummy and Cabes. Friends 4ever.
"I drew it for you!" Meredith said proudly, beaming. "Do you like it?"
"Oh, Mere! For me?" Chris grinned, taking the picture as he continued to admire it. "Wow, this is so good! I love it! Thanks so much, kiddo."
"You're welcome!" Meredith replied.
"I'm going to frame this and put it up in my bedroom," Chris said, beaming down at her. "But as much as I love this picture, it's not going to make me let you stay up longer."
The little girl pouted. "Awww..."
"Sorry, kid. Nice try, though. Here, let's go brush your teeth and get your PJ's on."
Growling in fake ferocity, he scooped up a shrieking Meredith and carried her down the hall and up the stairs, her laughter echoing through the house.
"I'm not tired!" Meredith cried in protest. "I don't want to go to sleep."
Chris smiled down at her as he tenderly tucked the little girl into her cozy bed. "Mere, you're gonna be really tired tomorrow if you don't get to bed on time," he explained, patting her on the head.
"But I'm not tired!" Meredith repeated, her voice a little less convincing this time. "I'm not... I'm... not..."
Chris grinned as he watched her eyes droop.
"Goodnight, Cabes," he said, before rising to his feet and turning off the light. He was just about to go check on Victoria, when Meredith spoke up again.
He turned around to face her. "Yes, Mere?"
"Will we be friends forever?"
A moment of silence as Chris smiled to himself. "Of course, hon."
She stared at him, wide-eyed, as if afraid of the answer. "Do you promise?"
"Yes, Mere. I promise."
"Good. Because you're my favorite-est babysitter ever." Meredith sighed, seemingly satisfied for the time being. She stifled a yawn.
"Go to sleep now," Chris said soothingly. "Goodnight, Cabes."
And with that, the little girl rolled over, and before she knew it, her eyes had slipped shut, and she was off in dreamland.
Author's Notes: Well, there you have it. What'd you think? See, I told you it wouldn't be that different! Hope you liked it and please review! :)