That was all that I could think about the night that Carmen and Ross spilled the news. Did he really like me? Did I really like him? I didn't know. These past two years have really been a big blur, one big hateful blur. I mean, I just couldn't make sense of it. If what they said was true, then gee, I was really one big blind idiot.

But then again, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it couldn't be true. I would know what I was really feeling, wouldn't I? Of course I would! Therefore, what they said had to be a figment of their imagination. Seriously, an attraction between Zach and me?

That's preposterous.

Okay, yes, I think he's a very attractive guy so there's that but what the hell does that matter? I think tons of guys at work are hot but I don't like them. What really mattered was personality and Zach's personality…well that's something that he most certainly could work on.

I went to work the next morning to take my mind off of things only to have more things put on it, if that makes sense. Apparently there was an emergency meeting in my department, which I was notified of the moment I got into my office and was late for. Technically, it wasn't my fault though because I was supposed to be on vacation and I was back early.

I ran as fast as I could into the meeting room(conveniently located on the other side of the building) and sat down at the big oak table next to a bunch of networking nerds. And when I say that, I mean these guys were the epitome of the word nerd. I don't mean to be mean or anything but what else could you call a bunch of skinny guys with big glasses that were totally into their work? Sometimes I think I should've gone into software or hardware because that's where all the really cute guys were. At least at Symantec.

A little flustered but relieved I wasn't too late, I leaned back into the black leather chair and sighed while looking at Marcy set up the stuff. She finally turned around and noticed me.

"Brooke, honey. You're back." She said with a grin.

I offered her a weak smile and simply nodded. I was really kind of embarrassed to drudge up the whole incident again and since Marcy wasn't the most sympathetic of people, maybe it was best not to tell her.

"How was it?" Marcy asked, stacking up papers on the desk.

"Umm…good." I lied, feeling a little uncomfortable while the networking nerds were staring at me and listening in on our conversation.

Marcy nodded, still occupied with the documents and blueprints in her hand. "Glad to hear it was fun."

Yea it was fun all right if fun constituted as a living nightmare.

After she finished sorting everything out, she sat in her chair and looked at all of us. "Guys" She began sternly. "This meeting is very important so listen up. We just got a new project and it's a little complicated. It's about…"

I wanted to listen. I seriously did but gee whiz, I couldn't for the life of me! The only thing that seemed to occupy my mind was the conversation from yesterday. I didn't really understand why I was thinking about it so much or why I took it so seriously. I mean, it was with Carmen and Ross—complete psychos. For goodness sakes, I was really losing it.

Still, as I looked as Marcy's mouth move, all I could hear was "Blah blah blah…strong….yadda yadda yadda…black…blah blah blah…important."

Knowing that what she said was probably important to my career, I tried to knock some sense into myself. What did I do? I hit myself on the forehead.

Did it work?

Sure. Well maybe only because it drew attention to me. The next thing I knew, about fourteen pairs of eyes were on me and my red forehead. Great.

Marcy looked at me with an odd expression on her face, an entanglement of confusion and amusement. "Sweetie." She said slowly, the corner of her mouth curving into a half-smile. "Are you okay?"

NO! I was mortified. I couldn't believe I just did that in front of all these people while she was talking. "Uh…" I uttered, my face flushed red with embarrassment. "Yea. I'm fine."

She narrowed her eyes and slowly nodded. "Right. Anyway, so what do you think?"

About what? I shrugged and scratched the back of my head, pretending to know what I was talking about although I really had no clue. Sometimes I really wish I wasn't such a spaz. "I—er—think it's great?" I said uncertainly with a forced smile.

"Wonderful! I'm so glad you think it's great. So Brooke, is that a yes?" She said, beaming as a smile widened on her face.

Oh crap. Yes to what? I looked around at the networking nerds to see any sign of what my answer should be. They all looked at me with hopeful eyes, well, what seemed like hopeful eyes. I couldn't really make it out through their huge glasses but then they started to subtlety nod as if they wanted me to say yes.

I began to think back on what I had heard from her speech but all that my mind registered were the words strong, black, and important. I supposed she wasn't talking about coffee, was she? No, of course not. She had to be talking something in the networking world…like routers, switches, hubs, and cables…CABLES! That was it! We just got new Cat5 cables shipped in and they were black! She must be asking me if I wanted to get the cables.


"I say yes?" I said, looking around at networking nerds, who were nodding their head and smiling at me enthusiastically. It made me break into a smile too but I still didn't understand why we were all grinning and nodding like fools over cables. "Yes. Of course I say yes."

Marcy clasped her hand together. "Fantastic, Brooke. I was beginning to think no one wanted to do it. You leave in a month or so, give or take a few weeks."

What? Leaving in a month? To go get cables? Couldn't I do that now?

"Beg your pardon?" I said, almost spluttering as a frown immediately replaced my smile. "Leaving where?"

She threw her head back and laughed as though she thought I was kidding. "Oh Brooke, you're a hoot and a half. Remember? You just volunteered to check out the building across town because the architecture's all funny. We want you check if there's any major obstacles in our way like pipes and such."

I scratched the back of my head in confusion, my jaw probably dropped to the ground. I did what? "But…but you have to take a boat to get to the Port Arthur from here." I uttered absent-mindedly more to myself than anyone else.

"Thank you, Captain Obvious." Marcy said sarcastically while everyone tried to stifle their laughter.

I stilled, my heart starting to beat wildly underneath my chest at the thought of just crossing water. No one really knows this but I have a serious fear of drowning. I don't even know why or how it began because I've never been in a traumatic experience. In fact, I've never even swum in a pool, ocean, beach or deep water of any sort. It's just always been there. But I just knew that considering my luck, the boat will probably hit some random iceberg and I'll die. I shook my head at my ridiculousness. I couldn't drown because I'm wasn't going.

Once I regained my regular state of mind, I started to protest but before I could even utter a word, Mary had already dismissed the meeting and walked out. I couldn't do anything about it now. Well, maybe I could convince one of the networking nerds to trade places with me but when I turned around, all of them were all gone too.

Damn it. Maybe I was going.

Okay, so if my day and week wasn't bad enough, after I spent hours figuring out the wild card and subnet masks for the stupid routers, I came home to a bunch of messages from my parents. Yes, there were about forty or so messages from my mother mostly saying practically the same thing. She told me to call her back. And oh yes, she also said something along of the lines of how I was a horrible brat who just ran out of her own family reunion like that and how she was disrespected in front of the whole family.

I've got three words: Boo frickin' hoo.

I sighed dejectedly, flopping on the couch and laying there, thinking of ways to get out of this project. After a while, I still came up with nothing, absolutely zip. Marcy was a really stubborn lady and I knew she wasn't even going to give me a chance to explain my predicament—the fear of drowning. Well, she would and then she would laugh. I mean, I think I've had enough embarrassment to last me a while.

Suddenly I heard the phone rang and went into the kitchen to answer it. "Hello?" I said flatly, holding it between my head and my shoulder.

"Brooke. It's Blake."

My mood lifted slightly, knowing it was my brother. "Blake. Are you still at the house?"

He sighed into the phone. "Yea." He said nervously, which made me raise my eyebrows. "I…uh…well…the real reason I called was because—Damn it! Stop that! I was—"

He didn't have to tell me, I could tell by the struggling on the other end that Blake wasn't calling to check up on me. In all actuality, Blake wasn't calling me at all for he was just a decoy. That was so typical of my mom, using Blake to get to me. I should've known.

I gritted my teeth as I headed to the refrigerator door, grabbing a bottle of water. "Hello?"

"Hello, darling." My mom said in an eerily calm tone. "How are you, dear?"

I cringed at what I knew coming because this, my friends, was just the calm before the storm. I gulped, heading over to the couch and sitting down. "Peachy, mom." I said almost sardonically. "How are you?"

"Well." She said with a light breath. "I'm fine considering my daughter ran out of her own family reunion. How could you do that to me, Brooke!? Betsy would never do this!"

I placed both my feet on the coffee table and rolled my eyes. "Well, I don't know. Maybe because you were rude enough to arrange a marriage for me!"

She scoffed and continued to drawl out a speech, which god knows how long that was. I really didn't catch most of it though because I zoned out but I did happen to catch a lot of profanity and blah blah blahs.

Instead of paying attention to her, I turned on the television and started to flip channels. I occasionally would mutter a 'yes, mother' or a 'uh huh' to let on that I was listening but after a while, she wasn't buying it anymore.

"Brooke!" She cried out into the phone, forcing me to listen to her. "Are you listening to me?"

"What? Of course I am." I yelled irritably, turning off the television and half-heartedly paying attention to the conversation.

"Then what did I say?"

I wanted to groan and smother myself with the couch pillow. I hated this game. Seriously, why do people even ask that when they already know that you weren't listening to them? It was just plain mean. I didn't fret though because I knew she probably said what she said in her forty messages. I mean, the lady wasn't that hard to read.

"You said…you said I was a horrible daughter who doesn't know the meaning of the word respect if it came up and bit me in the butt." I said in a bored voice, staring up at the ceiling. Oddly enough, it was a little bit more interesting than this conversation.

"Well, uh…" She mumbled, sounding shocked that I was listening. "Right and to make things right again, you should call your aunts up and apologize for your behavior. Are you going to do that?"

I wanted to argue with her because it wasn't my fault but I decided to change tactics. Sometimes the only way to shut someone up is by agreeing with them but that doesn't always mean that you're going to do what they say.

"Okay." I said.

"And your father too! He was quite upset with you."


The silence on the other end of phone suggested that she was startled by the sudden lack of argument. "Then." She said with a hint of disappointment. "Zach, you're going to break up with him."

"Uh…No." I said quickly, twirling a strand of my hand around my finger. I had my boundaries, you know and hell if I was going to let her think she could control me.

"Well." She said, the edge back in her tone. "I guess I'll have to see in you a couple of weeks then. Goodbye."

"Al—wait! What? No, you can't come here." I panicked with my heart starting to palpitate again at the horrifying thought. Coming to visit them was one thing but them coming to visit me was another. They'd find out the truth! "You…you just can't!"

"Brooke, you promised that you would spend a week with us. It's only fair we hold you to that promise. If you can't come to us, we'll come to you."

"Now mom, let's not be hasty and make rash decisions." I said, finding it suddenly hard to breathe. Inhale. Exhale. "You know, my friend Carmen says that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Maybe in the next three years, I'll miss and appreciate you more."

Bloody unlikely though.

She made a sneering noise. "The way I see it, it's out of sight, out of mind."

Yea, that was true too. By this point, I was desperate, willing to say anything to stop her from coming. "I'll break up with Zach!" I said before I could stop myself.

"That's lovely dear." She replied. I could just imagine her smirk right about now. "I'll still see you in a couple of weeks."

Damn it.

"Mom, that's…that's" For the first time in a while, I was speechless and out of ideas. Seriously, was I not tortured enough already? "But…but…"

"Okay, bye honey!"

"NO but—"

Click. She hung up on me! I stared at the phone in disbelief, unable to comprehend how she turned the tables on me so quick. One minute I thought I was off the hook, and the next, she was coming to visit me. That's it, I was convinced. I was cursed.

I stretched lazily on the couch with a frown and was about to turn back on the television when Ross and Carmen came in laughing with about six shopping bags in tow.

"Hi guys" I grumbled as they plopped down, each one both sides of me. I couldn't help but notice at how weird it was that all our conversations ended up on this couch.

"Hi honey." Ross said, grabbing my water bottle and taking a sip. "What's with the face?"

"It's horrible. My parents are coming and I have to go over to Port Arthur next month for business."

"Oh no." Carmen said with a frown. "How long are you going to be gone?"

"It should be no longer than a couple of weeks, hopefully. It's supposedly a complicated building." I answered.

Ross gasped, his eyes widening. "Oh my god! We must have a going away party."

"Oh, that's a good idea!" Carmen yelled, getting all excited. She clasped her hands together in giddiness. "I get to pick the restaurant!"

"And I'll do the decorations!" Ross added ecstatically, which didn't surprise me. He loved doing this kind of thing. Carmen says that he secretly wants to be an interior designer.

I rolled my eyes and glared. "Guys, I'm only gone for a couple of weeks. That's not necessary. I don't want it."

They both stared at me as if they didn't comprehend or if I was completely nuts. "So?" Ross said firmly. "I think you should have it and Carmen thinks you should have it so sorry but majority rules. Honey, you get a going away party."

"But there are only two of you." I argued.

"And there's one of you." Carmen said, her head tilted. "Where are you getting at?"

I sighed. Realizing that they were never going to drop this subject unless I said okay, I just changed it instead. I looked down at my watch and saw that it was only a little past eight. "Do you guys want to go to movies?"

Ross and Carmen both narrowed their eyes suspiciously but nodded their heads in agreement soon enough. "Oh!" Ross yelled as his eyes widened once more. "There's this new romantic comedy out. It's about these twins, boy and girl, who have this totally hot best friend who lives next door to them. The girl likes him but you see, he's a secret spy hired by the Germans to kidnap her because she's the president's niece. And in the midst of the chaos and shooting and stuff, they fall in love." He sighed dreamily.

"Wow." Carmen replied in awe while I looked up at the ceiling. "That's so romantic. What's it called?"

"Shit?" I asked.

Ross narrowed his eyes and smiled sarcastically. "Ha ha. Its really called Fading Glory. So what do you guys think?"

"I like it!" Carmen said with enthusiasm.

"It wouldn't matter what I thought. Majority rules, remember?" I mumbled bitterly, folding my arms across my chest.

"Oh honey." Ross said with a grin as he patted my back. "Glad you see it that way."


A/N: Well, I just came back from Florida (totally sunny, thank god). I didn't think I would but I thought I'd give you a chapter or two before I leave next week. I'm dying to finish this story because I want to write a certain scene at the end but this story is far from done—25 chapters max. I refuse to go above that unless it's absolutely necessary, most likely not. I also want to start my next story (the summary is in my profile.) Check it out and tell me what you think. By the way, has anybody finished Harry Potter yet? Wonderful, isn't it?!

Thanks with a peach on top to my reviewers: Nessa03, Lightning Storms, Isabelle8888, WildHorses, Sun Dried Blanket, queen-lala, Kira, Gnat10886, Antiadaephobiac, MiLeggie, rachel, FairyOfDeath, and ThatReallyCoolGir(x2).

I appreciate it!