The Eiffel Tower
The phone's precariously balanced between my my ear and my shoulder as I fold up the bag that my mom packed my suit in. Or rather, attempt to fold it up. Every time that I think I've got it folded into damn perfect quarters, I move it like half an inch, and the middle slides out, and I'm stuck sitting here, cursing the bag. It's not a good time, that's for damn sure.
"Fuck, this is hard," I say aloud.
"Well, that was random," Seba comments. "One minute we're talking about how we have to find an apartment, or actually start looking for one, rather, and the next, you're saying how hard it is to think about that."
"Not that," I explain. "I'm multi-tasking."
"I see. What are you multi-tasking at?"
"Packing. I fucking hate packing."
"Which you will have to do again when we move. If we ever find a place, that is," he says pointedly.
"I won't have to pack then."
"Okay. How do you plan to get your stuff out of your house then?"
"You're going to pack up all my shit, that's how."
Seba laughs. "Sure I will. Keep dreaming."
"But Seba! That way you can make sure I'm bringing only my sexiest underwear with me."
"You know what's sexier than underwear?"
"What's underneath them."
I ponder this. "Are you suggesting I go commando?"
"No!" Seba exclaims, laughing. "So much for that innuendo."
"You suck at sexy talking," I tell him.
I hear someone clear their throat, and look up to see Hero standing over me. "Uh, can I call you back?"
My eyes don't leave Hero's as I talk. "Later. Bye." I click off before he can protest. Nothing screams AWKWARD more like your sister catching you talking to your boyfriend about sexy talk. Oh, wait, something does scream awkward more. If your sister has also dated said boyfriend. Well, damn.
"Hey, Hero, 'sup?" I say, trying to be nonchalant as I put the phone on my bed. She sits on my bed, careful not to sit on the phone.
She shrugs, not looking all that awkward at all. Well, maybe a bit, but I suppose this situation isn't as awkward as walking in on your brother and ex-boyfriend, so everything should be taken relatively.
"I think we should talk. Before you go to the wedding and all," she says, glancing at my suitcase.
"Talk about what?" I ask suspiciously. Hell, her talking to me at all is suspicious in itself without even getting to the subject of the conversation.
"Um, well, I talked to Seb the other day. You wouldn't know about it," she adds hastily, cutting off my next question. So I wouldn't know about my own boyfriend talking to my own sister. That does not bode well.
"He asked me if I still hated you," she continues. "I told him that I never hated you. He said I should tell you that, because you're convinced that I hate you."
I sit there quietly. Well, fuck me, I'm either speechless or . . . Fuck. I'm speechless. This is new.
"I don't hate you," she states plainly. "It's just, it's a lot to take in, you know? And Seb, he's one of those people that you know has a good reason for everything. I don't think his reasoning was good for me for this one, but he does think things through. You always just charge forward, and I thought you had done the same here, just went right ahead without any regard for me. That's why I was more mad with you, Paris. I thought you just completely forgot about me, like I wasn't even important. I know that's not true, I've talked to Seb quite a bit, actually, more than I thought I would under these circumstances anyway, and I know it's not just some random hook-up. I can't be too mad at you if you've found, you know, love."
"I thought you didn't want to talk to me," is my only response to her speech. "For fuck's sake, I was wrong."
Hero looks surprised for a second, and then breaks out in laughter. "Yeah, I guess so," she agrees once her laughter calms down. "I guess I had a lot to say."
"There's a shitload you're not saying, isn't there?"
Hero shakes her head, then pauses. "Well, maybe," she admits. "I might still hold a little bit of a grudge. It's hard to get over, you know. Having someone hook up with your brother and all." And cheat on you, I add silently. Hero still doesn't know that little gem. And she's not going to. That would definitely push her over the edge. Fuck, if it didn't push her over the edge, that would be scarier than if it did.
"Are you mad at Seba?" I ask flat-out. Everyone knows that subtlety's never been my strong suit. That suit would be my birthday suit. Ba-dum-dum-CHING!
She looks thoughtful for a second. "Not really. I mean, I'm trying to be, because I should be, right? But I'm just not. I don't know why, but that's a good thing, isn't it?"
"It's good not to be mad, yeah. You should be. You should be fucking pissed at him! You should never talk to him or I ever again, that's what you should be doing, Hero."
She stares at me as if I'm crazy. "Yeah, well, that's not how it is," she finally says, choosing her words deliberately. "I'm not that mad. Maybe I didn't love him as much as I thought I did."
I hold my hands. I'm not sure I want to venture into the Hero-and-Seba-in-love territory. That's just . . . incestuous.
"Oh, don't give me that look," Hero snaps at me. "We haven't talked about this once, and I'm totally allowed to bring it up at least once. So shut up."
"I'm not saying nothing!" I protest.
"Actions speak louder than words."
"I swear, sometimes you and Seba say exactly what the other would say. I could totally see him saying that to me, all prissy-toned and shit. Not like you're prissy-tone, sister dear."
"Shut up," she says again, a good-natured tone to her voice this time.
"You were talking about a subject that made me uncomfortable. So, continue," I say, waving my hand at her.
"I will," she replies, sticking her tongue out at me.
Hero sighs, breaking the silence. "I was saying that maybe I didn't love Seb as much as I thought I did. Like, when we broke up, I was sad, but it wasn't nearly the devastation it should have been, thinking back on it. And when I walked in on you two, I felt more betrayed by you, not him. I mean, Seb and I had broken up. He was allowed to see other people. Of course, I didn't expect that other people would include you, I expected, like, Erika or somebody."
There's that name again. Erika. Who will probably keep hitting on Seba till he fucking dies. Or she does. There's a pleasant thought.
"Didn't we all," I mutter.
"And then, okay, I know he's your best friend, but you're my brother, and part of me just expected you to be on my side for the break-up. I know, there shouldn't be sides, especially when it's between your sister and your best friend, but there you have it. That's what I thought you'd do. So, can you see why I was more mad at you? It's stupid, but that's it."
"Hero," I say, sighing. I move up next to her on my bed. Shit. Sat on the cell phone.
I put an arm around her, and pull her into my body. She doesn't pull away. Fuck, I'm actually growing up. This is a grown-up conversation between me and my sister. We're getting like old siblings, like my cousins. Except, you know, better-looking. Because some of my cousins are fat. Not like there's anything wrong with that, but I'm just . . . not fat. And I'm pretty fucking hot. I'm not saying the two things are related but . . . I'm a fucking catch.
"That's not stupid. You could be mad at either one of us, for any reason. We gave you enough of a reason to be. Now, I didn't want to bring this up, but you caught us making out. As much as I hate it, you can be as mad as you want to be. Hopefully that won't always be the case, but you know what? Until we get to that point of time where it's not a case of you being mad anymore, I'll be okay with it. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. I have to be okay with it."
Hero looks up at me, and I see that her eyes are rimmed with red. She sniffles. "I think we're at that point," she says.
"That point where I'm not mad at you anymore. I think I might be okay with everything now. And I really mean okay." She smiles at me after she says this, and I smile back.
I don't want to say anything to ruin this, make her change her mind. This is exactly what I want to hear and while Seba may be able to come up with some eloquent reply, I'm not Seba, so I settle for silence. For once, admittedly, for once.
"Paris?" she asks me, cocking her head quizzically. "What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking it's good, Hero, it's good." And I wrap my arms around my little sister, pulling her close and resting my chin on her head. It's good.
"Dude! Check this out. It's like a mini meal thingy," I say, pulling the lid off of my steaming hot plane meal. "With a mini fork and a mini knife that probably doesn't cut shit." A woman across the aisle shoots me a dirty look, followed by a glance at the toddler seated next to her, coloring outside the lines of a coloring book. Well, fuck me. The kid's going to hear cusses sometime, I'm just preparing him for life. I'm doing him a goddamn favor, that's what I'm doing!
Seba's looking at me with a bemused expression. "It actually cuts okay. Probably because the food is not quite at the same level as normal food that you'd need a regular knife for. But I actually kinda like airline food. Sometimes."
"Oh, shut up, Mr. I've-Flown-To-France-And-Shit-So-I'm-So-International. Let me have my moments."
"Sorry," Seba says, grinning as he goes back to sawing at his tomato sauce-drenched chicken. "My bad."
"That's right," I agree, sipping the apple juice. Which is apple juice, and Seba assures me they can't screw that up on a plane so I should be safe. "Now if only you'd be bad in the bathrooms located at the back of this plane."
Seba makes a face. "Well, I think you'll say I'm bad if I refuse you, so that route? Is the one that I'll take."
"Aw, you're no fucking fun," I complain. I then wiggle my eyebrows. "Literally."
Seba groans, and elbows me lightly. "Know what would be fun? Not talking about this on a plane. I'm serious," he say, glaring at me as I open my mouth.
"Fine," I mutter sullenly. "So what can we talk about? How about if you're going to tell your dad or not. Can we talk about that?"
He shrugs, obviously not too happy with this subject either. But screw it, chances are, he won't be happy with any subject I pick. "Sure," he says.
"Well, are you going to tell him?" I ask bluntly.
"Um, yeah, no shit, about us," I reply, rolling my eyes. "What else would you be telling him about? How you're a fucking half-wit? He obviously knows that already; he has spoken to you in this lifetime."
Seba ignores that, and continues as if I had confirmed that yes, I was asking if he was going to tell his father about him and I being together. I had not said anything else after that, in Seba's mind, or so it seemed.
"I'm not going to tell him," he begins.
"What a surprise," I say sarcastically.
He glares at me. "You know what? Why don't you let me finish talking," he says. "Because maybe if you actually listened to what I have to say, you wouldn't end up sounding like an ass."
I sit there in silence, properly chastised by the little fucker. With one last glare at me, he continues.
"As I was saying, I'm not going to tell him this weekend. I would like to tell him, of course, mainly because I think my father would accept it more so than my mom, but also because if he didn't, it wouldn't have nearly as big of an impact on me as it would if my mom didn't accept it. I mean, with my dad, it'd be like so what, we go back to not talking to one another, just like we haven't for a good part of my life. Not a big deal, right?"
I nod. "Right. So why aren't you going to tell him then?"
"This is his wedding, Paris. It should be his weekend, and he shouldn't have to be worrying about his less-than-straight son who brought his boyfriend along with him. I'd prefer if my dad just enjoy his wedding, you know? So I don't really want to take away from that. Does that make sense?"
I nod slowly. "Yeah," I say. "Perfect sense." I lean my head against his shoulder, closing my eyes as I relax. I feel Seba, however, inhale deeply.
"But I did tell somebody else," he says abruptly.
"Oh. Who?" I ask, still relaxing against the familiarity of Seba's broad shoulders.
"Erika," he says slowly.
I jerk up, and look him in the eyes. "Erika?" I repeat tersely.
"Yeah," he says. "But she already knew, Paris, I didn't really have to tell her anything," he adds quickly.
"How the fuck did she already know?" I demand. "If you didn't tell her, and I sure as hell didn't, then how did she know, Sebastian? How?"
"She guessed! She actually said to me, 'You and Paris are together, right?' or something along those lines."
"Well, you didn't have to tell her the truth."
"Weren't we just saying how we shouldn't be afraid to tell people?"
"No, we were just saying that you shouldn't be a little shit who doesn't tell his family but then tells Erika instead. Erika, Sebastian! I hate that girl."
"What was I supposed to do?"
"Okay, well, theoretically, everyone will know at some point, right?"
"Maybe, but that doesn't mean that Erika has to now."
"She's my friend, I'm not going to lie to her. Why do you care so much that she knows?"
"Probably because I don't fucking trust her, and I'd bet you that half the population of our city knows by now."
"I do trust her though, that's the thing. She said she wouldn't tell anybody, and you know what? I believe her."
I don't say anything to this, and look away. Seba grabs my hands, and pulls me so that I'm facing him.
"Paris," he says gently. "You don't have to trust her. Just trust me, okay? Do you trust me?"
"Well, then, it'll be fine with Erika. Trust me on this one," Seba says, and I can hear the confidence in his voice, telling me that he really believes this, he's not just saying it to get me off of his case.
It's because I hear that underlying in his voice that I allow him to pull me back against him, allow my head to fall against his shoulder once again. I feel his lips come closer, brushing some of my curls.
"I love you," he says.
My only response is to nuzzle closer into his shoulder, and sigh, closing my eyes once again to wait for landing.
I lightly squeeze Seba's thigh, my hand barely moving, nobody noticing. He looks gorgeously, painfully hot, and really, it's a fucking miracle that all I'm doing is squeezing his leg. He glances over at me, and smiles, then turns those bright green eyes of his back to the altar, where his dad is repeating his vows back to Brooke. Brooke has a white dress, Seba's dad has a tux. I'm more concerned with what Seba is wearing.
He has a crisp black suit on, a white dress shirt underneath it. He, unlike me, is not wearing a tie, and it looks smoking hot without one. I'm wearing a bright blue tie with my charcoal grey suit. It does not look nearly as smoking as Seba's ensemble, but that's what I get for letting my mom pick out a suit for me. I don't need clothes to look smoking hot though. Seba doesn't either, come to think of it. Actually, he looks even more smoking hot without clothes, but that is not the point, and it will do me no good - no good! - to think of that when wearing erection-obvious pants. So, not thinking about that.
Caryn stands directly to her mom's right, clad in a sapphire blue dress, great with her reddish hair. Shit, do I ever sound gay even in my thoughts. Still, I feel the compulsive need to confirm that yes, the girls I have slept with are indeed hot. Or at least, they would be, if I, you know, still slept with girls, and was therefore still concerned with their appearances. Tangent!
Seba claps me on the shoulder as he stands up, clapping his hands. We're in the second row because Seba didn't want to be in the first row. He also didn't want to be a groomsman, saying that he didn't know his dad that well, and it wasn't fair for him to take the position of somebody who did know his dad that well just because he was the son of Baptiste Étaîn. So, we're in the second row, and Baptiste Étaîn himself, along with his new wife Brooke Étaîn, are passing us, grinning widely as they clutch at each other, and make their way down the aisle out of the back of the church.
"So," I say, turning to Seba while we both continue clapping. "Can we go make use of that hotel room again?"
"Paris," Seba says, grinning as he shakes his head. "There's still the reception to deal with."
"Damn it!" I swear. "Well, do we have to go to that?"
"Yep," Seba replies cheerfully, stepping into the aisle. "Come on. Let's head 'er. It's at the hotel that we're staying at, hence why we were put up there."
I sigh. "Fine. If we must."
"We must," Seba tells me as we file out of the church. We eventually make our way to Seba's dad's car, which he lent us so that we could get to and from the ceremony. We join the line of cars heading towards the same destination presumably, which is, thankfully, a short distance from the church.
The first person who greets us is Casey, Seba's new little step-brother. He runs up to Seba, and punches him in the stomach. I can't help but laugh at that. That has got to be the best greeting I've ever seen. Like, in my lifetime. Punching someone in the stomach. Oh, good times.
"Oomph," Seba says, clutching his stomach. "Hi, Casey, that's an . . . interesting way to say hello."
"We're brothers now," Casey proclaims, ignoring this jab at his greeting. We had supper at the family house the first night we were in town, Thursday, and then rehearsal dinner last night, so Casey has become reacquainted with us, well enough so that he can punch Seba in the stomach. Sweet, sweet memories of two seconds ago.
"Step-brothers," Seba corrects, ruffling Casey's hair. "But yeah, how you feel about that, kiddo?"
"Good!" Casey exclaims, nodding enthusiastically. "I wanted a brother," he says. "Caryn is boring. Know why?"
"Why?" I ask, grinning at Seba, who smiles as he shakes his head, adding in a little eye roll for good measure.
"Because she's a girl!"
"Casey," a voice says, and of course it's Caryn, standing to our left, hands on her hips, smiling slightly at her younger brother. "That's not why I'm boring. I'm boring because I don't care about X-Box games."
"X-Box 360!" Casey nearly screams.
"Yeah, Caryn, geez, it's X-Box 360. How could you get that wrong?" I add, grinning at Caryn.
She makes a face at me, and steps around me to lightly hug Seba. "So that's it, I guess, huh?" she asks.
"Yep," he agrees. "We're officially related."
"Ew," Caryn jokes.
"I'm going to find Robbie," Casey announces, marching away.
"That's one of our cousins. I was surprised not to see any of your cousins here today, Seb," Caryn says. Seba told her long ago that it was cool if she called him Seb, not always Sebastian.
Seba shrugs. "My cousins on my dad's side live in France. I talk to maybe two or three of them on MSN and whatnot, but I wouldn't be surprised if my dad doesn't keep in touch too great with all his family over there. He's not much for keeping in touch," Seba says, and he manages not to sound too bitter or accusatory about this comment. And that is why he is more mature than me. Well, that, and the fact that his birthday's in the summer, whereas I am a November baby.
"Yeah, well, that's a fair plane ride too, so it could be that," Caryn states in what is officially the most boring conversation in the world. Mainly because I'm not involved in the slightest.
"Hey! Caryn!" someone calls.
Caryn turns, her auburn curls whipping through the air. Her face breaks out in a grin as two guys and a girl approach. "Hey! I was wondering when I'd find you!" She hugs them both, and then turns back to us, her arm hanging off of one of the boys' shoulders.
"This is my new step-brother, Sebastian, and his friend, Paris. Seb and Paris, these are my friends, Kim and Jeff, and my boyfriend, Markus." The guy she has her hands on, a tall, black-haired boy, smiles and nods at us.
"Hey," he grunts.
"Hey," Seba says in return, jamming his hands into his pockets.
Just then, before it can get too terribly awkward, which it was undoubtedly going to, someone comes over the microphone asking us to please take our seats, it is time for dinner.
We all obediently move off, and I immediately see that hey, this will still be awkward! We're seated at a table with Markus, Kim, and Jeff, probably because we are the same age, and that is obviously enough reason to seat us together. It'll be good times all around, that's pretty obvious as well.
To my surprise, the conversation actually works out. That's what you get when you put a bunch of people who are either almost finished high school or just finished high school, when you put them all together. They talk about high school. Seba, honors student that he is, is right in the midst of it all. I'm calm even as he starts a conversation about the after-grad committee with, "My friend Erika." That's how calm I am.
As the conversation pauses for a laughter break, I lean over to Seba. "Hey," I say.
"Hey," he says back, his tone gentle, teasing, his smile soft.
"This is right."
"Being here. With you."
"At my dad's wedding reception?" he asks.
I shrug. "Sure. If it feels right here, of all the weird places we could be, it's going to feel right anywhere."
"Like university," I repeat, agreeing. "We're right, Seba, we're right."
He regards me oddly. "You've been contemplative almost since we got here. Is something up?"
I glance down, then up again with a sly grin, which Seba greets with a roll of his eyes.
"Well that, that I can see is obviously not up," he states.
"In that case, nothing is up. I've just been thinking a bit about forever things," I say to him, my voice low lest anyone else hears me. "Being that we're, you know, at a wedding and shit. And I can see you and me being one of those forever things." I realize that I've been thinking about this only as I voice it, and it's true, completely one-hundred percent true.
"Yeah?" he says, his green eyes absolutely glittering, and in that moment, seeing all the happiness I know is there, I am so sure of this, so sure of this all. I am more sure of this than anything else in my life, and I can't believe how sure I am, but this is it. I am.
I push away my now-empty plate, void of any traces of cake. Leaning back, I regard the boy sitting next me. I am sure.
Well, that's it. Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope you enjoyed it all. Thank you so, so much for reading, and reviewing, and all the feedback and support you've all given me. I'm not going to thank individual names, but just everybody, every single person that has reviewed or even just read it. So, thanks.
Responses to reviews will be posted tomorrow or Tuesday, October 11th, at –starry-eyed dot greatestjournal dot com, so you can check there for that in a few days.
The sequel will most likely be called Coliseum, and will be out probably in early January. If you'd rather not play the odds of just checking back around that time, you can add me to your Author Alerts or leave a review with your e-mail address, and let me know if you want me to notify you when that gets posted. Thanks again, everyone!