Your Definition of Love
So when did I first meet Bryce Healy? Well, it all started almost 17 years ago. You see, I was sort of born, and he was sort of there. Supposedly, Bryce and my brother Paul waited eagerly for the day of my birth, staring at my mother's belly and following her around until she got annoyed and installed a baby cage in the living room. They were apparently looking forward to having another baby around. Until, that is, I actually popped out and showed my cute, innocent face, at which the two boys rudely blew raspberries.
Our parents and Bryce's parents were close friends back then, so Paul and Bryce were best friends from practically inside the womb. As I grew up, Bryce was always around when my brother was. In fact, I had always thought that they were a package deal. They were both always there to annoy me, to protect me from bullies, and to comfort me whenever I had a nightmare.
I had one memory that always came to mind when I thought about our sibling-like relationship. When I was 6 years old, I saw a commercial for Reese's Pieces Cereal. There was this prisoner, and the people in the commercial kept saying that he did all of these horrible things. Finally, it ended with:
"But worst of all was the sin. He was guilty… of eating Reese's Pieces for breakfast!"
There had been a big, audible gasp, and everyone kept on whispering, "Reese's? For breakfast?!"
That commercial had been the scariest thing I had ever seen in my life, and I had nightmares for weeks afterwards. Somehow, that fact spread around in school when I was in kindergarten. Whenever I passed by a group of classmates, they rarely failed to cease the opportunity to make fun of me. After about a day or so of constant ridicule, I got so fed up that I ended up punching one of the kids in the nose.
It was kind of funny, even to my six-year-old self, that a girl had managed to make a boy bleed. That is, until said boy started crying loudly and obnoxiously, which of course caught the attention of the teacher. Just as the teacher looked towards us, however, Bryce came out of nowhere and threw a basketball right into the boy's face. Suddenly, Bryce was the one being dragged inside for a time-out and call to the parents.
Nobody dared to make fun of me for the commercial again.
As nice as it was, that experience was also the reason his parents made Bryce start playing basketball. Apparently, he needed to learn that basketballs were meant for hoops, not faces. He ended up loving the sport, and, of course, Paul joined him in this new endeavor the next week. The rest was history. Thankfully, I wasn't too lonely, as that was also around the time that I met Taylor Jacobs, who would eventually become my best friend.
Ever since then, I had always hated anything to do with Reese's: cereal, breakfast, and even mornings in general. Especially since the morning routine was always the same: Paul would slam open my door, roar, 'GET THE HELL UP, JAELYNN!' at the top of his lungs, and then proceed in dragging me out of bed.
Which was why, right on cue, the door suddenly slammed open, and a voice yelled, "GET THE HELL UP, JAELYNN!"
This had happened enough times that I was no longer surprised or angry. Instead, I raised the covers over my head and waved my arm around, pretending to be awake. "Get out," I mumbled sloppily, but it came out more as, "Goot."
"Mom told us to wake you up," Paul told me in a now-normal voice, "so haul your ass out of bed now. I think she wants to tell us something."
"Muphuwuh," was all I said in return. I vaguely registered the fact that someone was approaching my bed until I felt something being jerked out of my grasp.
I pulled the covers down from my head, clumsily blew a strand of my dark hair out of my face, and glared as venomously as I could at Bryce. "Give. Fred. Now." I still wasn't awake enough to speak a complete sentence, and I was too groggy and sleep-deprived to even question what Bryce was doing at my house so early.
He only laughed- laughed! At me. At-6-in-the-freaking-morning.
Bryce finally noticed my expression and raised his eyebrows. "Relax, Jaelynn. It's just a stupid bear."
Just a stupid bear? The bear was a whole heck of a lot smarter than he was.
Before I could stop myself, I lunged at his arm and attempted to rescue Fred. Bryce, on the other hand, had other plans and moved back out of reach, so I ended up falling gracefully off of the end of the bed instead.
At the last minute, I managed to latch onto Bryce, who was already off-balance from my earlier lunge. The two of us collided with the ground with a loud 'thud'. Thankfully, it was Bryce's back that took the fall and not mine. I almost snorted when I saw him flinch from the impact. Unfortunately, I also realized that we were now in a nice, big pile of arms, legs, blankets, and teddy.
Bryce groaned from somewhere under me, and I shot him another glare, bitterly hoisting myself up. I didn't weigh that much.
"Don't you have your own house to cause a ruckus in?" I asked him. "'Cause you know, most people do." Paul was over to the side, laughing at us. I stalked over to him and grabbed his collar. He didn't seem to really notice. "What do you want?" I asked him slowly and angrily.
"Mom wanted to talk to both of us, and she told me to wake you up early." He held up his hands, as if in surrender. "I am one-hundred percent innocent, lady."
Resisting the urge to smack him upside the head, I yanked my arm from him, grabbed a scrunchie, lazily tied my hair up in its usual ponytail, and grudgingly made my way downstairs to the kitchen. I dropped myself down onto a stool and took an apple from the counter, laying my head down on the counter and trying to take a bite at the same time.
"Don't fall asleep!" Paul suddenly yelled into my ear, making me shriek and fall off the stool. I threw the apple at him angrily, but he merely caught it and took a huge bite.
"Hola, mi familia!" came a happy voice. Mom burst through the doors with a gigantic smile spread across her face. She was holding my brother Danny in her arms, who was just one and a half years old, and she was bouncing him in her arms so excitedly that I was worried he'd go flying from her arms any second now. She looked down at me and, not even questioning why I was on the floor, sung out, "How was your morning, honey?"
I grunted at her and then grabbed Bryce's arm, pulling myself up. He didn't really seem to care much. "Well," I began, "Paul yelled at me to wake up, I didn't listen, I got angry, I fell off of the edge of the bed, and then Paul laughed at me."
She paused for a second, looking at me skeptically before asking, "Again?"
I nodded sadly.
"Hi, Mrs. Simmons."
Mom turned around and smiled warmly. "Bryce! How are you doing?" Gag. "It's so wonderful to see you so bright and early!"
He smiled back. "You know I only come here to see you, Mrs. S." He winked jokingly.
"And charming, too!" she chirped. "You are such a dear." I rolled my eyes and made a gagging motion, but they both ignored me. "How are your parents doing?" she asked him. "I haven't seen your mother in a while."
Bryce shifted onto his other foot awkwardly. "Oh… Same as always, I guess."
"Mom," I muttered through clenched teeth, interrupting their little conversation. "You had to tell us something?" I drifted off. "Ring any bells?"
She stared confusedly for a second before realization hit. "Oh, right! You're father just got an urgent call, and they need him for a new project."
Paul stopped chomping loudly on his apple (actually, it was my apple) and frowned. "So what does that mean, exactly?"
"Well, they need him for about a week, and I've decided to accompany him. The thing is, it's in Louisiana."
The apple dropped. So did Paul's mouth. "So I'm going to have the house all to myself for a whole week?" he asked in shock.
"I live here too!" I yelled at him. "And close your mouth when you chew, you loser." Once again, I was completely ignored.
"Well, no," said my mom, replying to Paul's question. I smiled to myself. At least she remembered me. "You'll have Danny, of course," she continued.
Goodness. I was so unloved.
"Sweet!" He shot his fist in the air and high-fived Bryce.
"Just remember to drive your brother to daycare every morning and get him right after school," she said. "Take care of Danny."
"Sure, Mom," Paul replied carelessly.
"And NO wild parties under any circumstances," she added with a stern look. "Have a good day at school!"
She left the room, and I glanced nervously at the two guys. "Paul, you heard what Mom said, right?"
"Oh, sure," he said, dismissing my question.
I glanced desperately at Bryce, but he merely shrugged and plopped down onto the chair next to me.
"Why did you even bother waking me up?" I muttered.
"It's not that early," Bryce replied. He reached over and rubbed my head, messing up the perfect ponytail that I had slaved over for a whole five seconds. "Besides, doesn't seeing me make up for the lost sleep?"
I glared at him and fixed my ponytail, but as soon as I had properly tied it, he messed it up again. I fixed it again, and then he messed it up again. This process repeated several times before Paul threw what remained of his apple at me, causing me to chase my brother angrily up the stairs.
Why did they find such joy in torturing me?
I stepped into the cafeteria. It had been a long day, and so I was excited about seeing Adam Connors. Once I caught sight of the familiar black hair and puppy brown eyes, I felt my heart start to flutter lightly.
I had liked him since the 7th grade, and I still did, now that I was in the 11th. I still remembered the day that I had first noticed him. He had just moved to my middle school, and he, being a year older than me, had become friends with Paul and Bryce's crowd.
I remembered thinking that he was incredibly cute, which he was even back then. After much deliberation, I finally decided to take a chance and go sit with them, especially since Taylor had been sick that day. Adam wound up being incredibly sweet, as well as funny. Upclose, I noticed that he wasn't perfect; his nose was slightly crooked. Somehow, that one little imperfection made me like him even more.
Ever since that moment, I had been in love with him. Once that realization hit me, I immediately turned shy around him and stopped talking to him. He then joined the football team in his 10th grade year and instantly became popular. Pretty soon, I was only one out of the many girls that lusted for Adam Connors. Every time somebody mentioned his name, the words 'hubba hubba' came to my minds of every adolescent, hormone-driven girl in hearing distance.
And now there he was, all 6 feet of him, currently sitting at his regular table of popular jocks, Paul included. Bryce, who was sitting next to him, caught my eye and grinned. I waved back, trying to keep my face from resembling a lobster. Thankfully, he didn't seem to notice exactly at whom I was staring at a few seconds ago, since he casually got up and walked over to the lunch line. Food was his one true love.
"Just go over there," Taylor finally said from behind me. I turned around quickly, scared out of my wits. Even though Taylor was my best friend, she had a tendency of sneaking up on people that I found very exhausting on my minor-heart-attack-prone heart.
"No," I gasped out.
"You're such a chicken," she commented. I glared at her. Did I look like a bird to her?
"I can't just go up and start talking to him," I protested. "He's so... so..." How could anyone describe someone so perfect?
"Tall?" she suggested for me, raising an eyebrow.
I sighed. "Forget it, Tay. The fact is that he is the perfect speciman, and I am a big, nice piece of blah."
"Jaelynn, you're stunning, smart, funny, and a good person." She pushed me towards his table. "Just go and talk to Paul. Maybe Adam will notice you this time."
"Well, I do need to ask him for a ride for this afternoon," I mumbled.
Taylor nodded and stopped walking, forcing me to stop as well. "See? Now go."
"What about you?" I asked, turning to her.
"I need to go get a soda. I'll be there in a sec."
My mouth dropped open. "What? You expect me to go there alone?" Shaking my head, I stayed put. "No way. I'll just wait here for you." I motioned for her to go towards the soda machines. "Shoo, now."
She shook her head firmly. "No way, Jaelynn. You're never like this around anyone but him. You need to learn to either get over this stupid little crush or find some courage to talk to him," she replied. "On. Your. Own." And with those harsh words, she shoved me into their direction and deserted me. I glared at her retreating back, but then sighed in defeat. She was right. I had to have some kind of courage buried deep within me, right?
I very slowly picked up my feet and headed towards Adam's table. As soon as I got close, my stomach dropped as I realized that Paul had just started making out rather… intensely with some girl in his lap.
"That is so disgusting," I muttered, mostly to myself. I sighed and kicked his chair as hard as I could. "Could you come up for some air really quickly? I need to ask you something." Paul pulled away an inch only long enough to shoot a quick glance to who was talking, and then he rolled his eyes and continued on with his little session.
I blinked. "Okay, that's cool too. I love being ignored."
Suddenly, I heard laughter behind me. I froze, realizing just whose laughter I was hearing. I turned around very slowly, and he flashed me a heart-melting smile. It was more of a knee-melting smile, considering I couldn't exactly feel them anymore.
"Hey, I know you. You're... Jaelynn, right?"
The rest of me almost melted right then and there along with my knees.
"Yeah, that's it," he continued. "You're related to Simmons here, aren't you?" he asked.
I simply stared for a long time, mostly just in shock. Finally, I realized he was looking at me expectantly. "Oh! I'm his..." Oh, God. What was that word again? I frantically searched my mind.
"Sister?" he finished for me, smiling slightly. He looked amused by my stammering.
"Hey, you," somebody said from behind me. I looked up, and there was Bryce, back from the lunch line. "What brings you to our table?"
I sighed in relief. Finally, someone I was comfortable around. "I needed to ask Paul for a ride."
Bryce glanced at Paul, who appeared as if he was moving well past second base. "Ah." He folded his arms and leaned casually against an empty table. "Well, lucky for you, we took my car today."
"Oh, well, Taylor and I have a newspaper staff meeting after school for an hour," I explained. "So please tell me that you're still going to be at school then."
Bryce scratched his head lazily. "Paul and I do have basketball practice, but it's two hours long. So unless you want to wait for another hour..." he drifted off.
"Hey guys," Taylor suddenly cut in, taking a sip from her soda. She glanced around the table, noticing a certain brother of mine, who had abruptly pulled away from the kissing and was now standing up.
"Hey," he said breathlessly to Taylor. "Hey Jaelynn. I didn't see you there."
I rolled my eyes. Oh, please. As if he hadn't just purposely ignored me two seconds before.
The girl he had been making out with, realizing she had lost his attention, pouted and walked away. Neither of them even exchanged any goodbyes.
"What's going on?" Paul asked. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing quite as interesting as what you were doing," I mumbled.
Adam was still sitting there, watching the scene with interest. I rolled my eyes at him jokingly, making fun of Paul, and I almost melted as the corners of his mouth lifted slightly.
"I think Jake Thompson has an hour-long detention after school," Tay said to me. "Maybe we could ask him for a ride."
"No way in hell," Paul said dryly. "Thompson hits on anything that breathes and doesn't have a penis."
"Huh?" I asked, still slightly dazed. "Jake Thompson? Don't worry, he's in love with Tay."
Taylor glared at me, but I ignored it. I looked up to see Paul's jaw twitching.
"Hey, look," Adam cut in, standing up. "I can give these two a ride."
My mouth dropped in shock. Just a second ago he had been smiling at me, and now he was offering to take me home. Holy moly.
I saw Paul and Bryce share confused looks. I sent pleading glances in their direction, but neither of them noticed. After what seemed like an eternity, Paul finally shrugged. "Alright then."
I couldn't hide the smile that blossomed onto my face. Bryce was looking at me weirdly, but I ignored him.
"Just meet me in the back parking lot after your staff meeting," he told me.
"Okay," I squeaked. 'Thanks."
Suddenly feeling overwhelmed by anxiety, I waved a goodbye, grabbed Taylor's arm, and dashed out of the cafeteria. Once we were out of their sight, I let out the sigh of relief I didn't know I was holding.
"That was smooth, Jae," Taylor commented from beside me.
I groaned miserably. "I'm so spastic."
Taylor patted my back consolingly, but it didn't help much. "Hey, at least you have a chance to impress him on the ride home today," she added.
Her words made me feel a little better. "Yeah, you're right."
"Jaelynn!" I suddenly heard from behind me. It was Bryce.
"What is it?" I asked him.
He scratched his elbow distractedly. "Are you okay? You were acting really weird there."
"Gee..." I said sarcastically.
He looked at me weirdly again, but shrugged after awhile. "Alright, then. See you later." He turned around to leave, but then turned around again. "Oh, and don't forget to check your locker." With a lopsided grin, he walked back into the cafeteria.
Confused, I simply stood there. I was almost scared to look now.
"Aren't you going to check your locker?" Tay asked, nudging me in the general direction of my locker.
"He probably put a stink bomb in there or something."
"You can at least look," she protested. "I have to go, anyway. You dragged me out of the cafeteria before I could eat anything." With a wave, she walked through the cafeteria doors, leaving me to walk back to my locker. Once I reached it, I reached out to turn the lock and opened it cautiously, half-expecting something to jump out at me. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find a stuffed teddy bear in it. I also noticed a note and reached out to read it.
Well, just in case Fred the Bear needs some company, here's Humphrey.
I stared at it for a few seconds, the words not quite registering in my head. So the teddy was mine? I pulled it from my locker and stared at it. It was a pretty cute gesture. Bryce didn't really need to know that though. His head was big enough as it was, so it wasn't like he needed an ego boost or anything.
I carefully placed Humphrey back into my locker, ripped a piece of paper out from one of my notebooks, and quickly scribbled out a thank-you note before heading towards the senior hall. I jammed the note into his locker and smiled goofily to myself, probably looking stupid in the process.
Despite the fact that I had completely embarrassed myself in front of the love of my life, I was feeling okay. In fact, I was in a strangely good mood.