Author's note and review response at the bottom

Chapter 24: Interlude

Why on earth had God invented the mobile phone? That question was first and foremost on Esther's mind as her mobile rang. The second question was why did Sterre call on her on her mobile? That was outrageously expensive. But apparently Sterre was outraged too.

Something about Esther not calling to fill her in about the party. Something about not calling about how people, read Thomas, had reacted to her outfit. Something about how it must have been boring because they weren't allowed to drink. And something about Simone and Kai getting it on, giving away a free show on the middle of the dance floor of Paradiso. Something about the pair of them being a couple of sluts. It took Esther a good five minutes before she managed to get enough words in to tell Sterre that she was calling at a rather bad time. It took Esther another five minutes to convince her oldest friend that no, it wasn't a bad time because she was naked and busy with Thomas. Sterre didn't believe her.

In the end Esther told Sterre she'd get in touch later before, rather rudely, disconnecting the call and turning off her phone.

With a sigh she put her phone away and she realized four pairs of eyes were on her.

And they all looked as if they had greatly enjoyed themselves even if they hadn't understood a word of what had been said.

"So trying to convince your friends you're not spending the day in bed with Thomas?" Adrian asked with a big smirk. Esther felt her face go from red to redder to reddest and she knew she was gaping like a fish. Casting a quick glance at Thomas and the others she noticed they shared her confusion but not her embarrassment, not even Thomas.

"It sounded like at a lot of gibberish to me but I was able to make out the words no, Thomas and bed and judging by your reaction I drew the right conclusion." Adrian was feeling mightily proud of himself right now, that much was clear.

"I just wondered how Esther could pretend she was actually speaking a language. Because there is no way that actually qualifies as a language." Riley said from his spread out position on the couch, popping another handful of Doritos into his mouth.

"See, that's what I thought too." Thomas nodded his agreement with a small grin and Esther felt compelled to swat his arm. Thomas grabbed his arm and made a big show of rubbing it and feigning hurt, and Esther decided to ignore him.

"You guys do know that Dutch and English are familial languages, don't you?" she said taking the Doritos from Riley and helped herself to some. Riley smirked at her as he took the bag back.

"That must be like my mother's aunt Ellie. We all know were related to her but we all ignore it." Esther glared at him and at Alyssa who was laughing quietly. It'd be petty of her to make a big deal out of this but she couldn't deny her pride was taking a hit.

"Oh, you mean like how the English try to deny their American cousins." She said instead and she should have known it wouldn't as much as put a dent Riley's smug expression.

"And does it look like we care about that?" As always it was game-set-match for the other party. As Esther conceded she silently vowed that once she'd be able to win the banter. Whether it was with Riley, Adrian, Merin or Kai, she didn't care. Just as long as she won just once.

"Okay, let's get back to the familial issues at hand, shall we. See whether we can actually have some fun today." Adrian stated and Esther inched her way back towards Thomas.

"What?" Riley questioned, still with smugness. "War council isn't fun? Planning on how we're going to stick it to the entire football team, the basketball team, every other sports team, the cheerleading squad, and oh yes, Cowen, our neighborhood dictator, doesn't make your day?"

"Sarcasm is the lowest form of humor." Adrian retorted dryly.

"Sarcasm? No, I'm just glad my life isn't about to get boring what with a considerable workload and a very cute freshman who seems very interested in me is all."

Esther looked from Adrian to Riley to Thomas. Out of everybody present Riley clearly was the pessimist. Or perhaps the voice of reason.

"I think we're done anyways," Thomas said, straightening up. "I think a movie right now sounds like a plan. What say you?"

"I'm thinking that sounds like the best plan yet." Riley said, jumping up from his couch and walking out of his room. On the threshold he stopped and turned.

"Well, are you guys coming or what?" He asked with an exasperated air before walking out again.

With an amused smile Esther stood up to be confronted with Thomas' outstretched hand. She took it before he could withdraw it and shook it congenially.

Thomas gave a foul look before pulling her towards him and giving her a thorough kiss before following Adrian and Alyssa and walking out the room too.


All in all it had been a good day, Thomas decided as he pulled up in his driveway at eight o'clock that evening.

Esther and he had shared, Thomas felt, something truly profound. Both of them had and he hoped Esther knew that. If their make-out session just now in his car was any indication, she surely did. Because that had been fine.

But now he was back home and Thomas had no doubt that Cowen was waiting for him. Deciding how things were to be dealt with in school was one thing, deciding on how to deal with Cowen at home was quite another. Thomas had figured out a strategy though. Pretty much the exact opposite of his tactics for school. Avoid and ignore, and make use of every single minute his father allowed him to be at Esther's place.

In the kitchen Erica was busy cleaning the remnants of dinner away but she stopped as soon as Thomas set one foot over the threshold. Thomas suppressed a groan at the bright smile and unashamedly inquisitive look she gave him. If it wasn't for that the fact that avoiding Erica right now would probably result in being served all of his most hated food for a week, Thomas would gladly have sneaked upstairs.

Thomas said nothing as he tossed his bag down and flopped down on one of the kitchen chairs. He was dead tired, he realized and not about to start a conversation with the evil woman. He'd answer any questions but his mind was too busy right now to actually formulate any coherent phrase on its own.

After a minute a cup of hot cocoa was pushed in front of him and Erica sat down beside him, nursing her own cup.

"So, seeing as you only made it back now, I take you had a good time?" she asked failing miserably to keep the curiosity out of her voice.

Thomas considered the question. He wasn't about to share everything that had happened at the party and today but he did want to tell her about how beautiful Esther had looked.

So Thomas began to tell Erica and just like when he had first time told her he was lost in story soon enough and a half hour had passed by in the blink of an eye. The evil woman had struck again, but as long as she'd stay far away from certain subjects Thomas guessed he could deal.

"She sounds like a fine girl. Maybe you could bring her around sometime? I know your father would love to meet her. How about you bring her around for Thanksgiving? Maybe with her family?" Erica said sweetly as she stood up to clear the away the cups.

Thomas could only gape at her retreating back, too stunned to say anything. Had the woman gone completely insane? Inviting Esther over to willingly spend evening with Cowen at the same table? Even without everything going that just didn't sound like a good plan. But maybe he could bring Esther over tea or something, that should placate the woman before him.

"Right, I'll bring her around one of these days." Thomas said and ignored the way Erica looked at him over her shoulder with narrowed eyes.

"You'd better." Erica replied stoically before shooing him out of the kitchen.

Thomas was unpleasantly proved correct when he found Cowen lounging outside his bedroom door. He had hoped, in vain, that he could start ignoring his brother already. Well, he could at least try.

Sparing his brother no more than a cursory glance he took his key from his pocket as hauled his duffel bag unto his shoulder. He wasn't really surprised when his brother laid a heavy hand on his as he grabbed the doorknob.

"What the hell do you think you're playing at?" Cowen hissed into his ear as Thomas tried to dislodge the offending hand.

Giving his brother his brother his most innocent look he looked up at him.

"What on earth are you talking about?" he asked in same tone as his facial expression.

The grip on his hand tightened, becoming painful and Thomas had to suppress a grimace.

Cowen's other hand moved to his neck and squeezed painfully disallowing Thomas keep his features straight. A small hiss escaped him.

"This is just a fraction of what I'll do to you for your little stunt. I'm warning you, this had better be the last of it, little bastard brother of mine, or you and your friends will not like the consequences," Cowen's voice was menacingly calm as he added. "And your little girlfriend does look very fine, I suspect you gave it to her good?"

At those words Thomas bucked his brother of him with a force he didn't he possessed. Turning around he saw his brother stumble a few steps backwards, clearly surprised.

Locking eyes with Cowen, Thomas spoke very clearly.

"You leave Esther out of this. This is between you and me."

And quickly unlocking his door Thomas made his way to the safety of his room.

Leaning against his door he closed his eyes wearily, ignoring Cowen's pounding and curses.

Perhaps Riley was right and Thomas making the worst decision of his life. But there was no going back now.

Author's note:

I don't what to say except that neither me nor this story are dead and I hope I still have some of my readers left. And my apologies but the muse for this story was in a coma.

Review response:

Thank you all for your reviews and wonderfully kind words:

A.Myers,, Rae-07, lunacy and literacy, darkness-is-shiny, ANGEL992210, Izzy Iccey, dawn's unforgiving darkness.

From now on I will start using the review response option on FP.