Whoa! I go MIA only to return and see this story was runner up for best drama at SKOW? You guys are awesome! Anyway, if you remember this story at all, here's the epilogue. I've made it relatively easy to understand what's going on, so don't fret if you've forgotten who the characters even are.
In the words of my roommate, "I don't need sex because McGill fucks me everyday"…which would be why I have been missing in action. This is also why the new story is going to be put on hold until at least the xmas holidays. Yay uni. Anyway, enough blabbering here's the epilogue.
I guess you could say it all started back when I was a tiny kid.
We had just moved.
"Who are they?" I had asked, gripping onto my mother's hand as my father strode beside me. We were walking through the mall. It wasn't an unusual occurrence. My father was prone to bouts of rudeness that almost always ended with him taking my mother to the mall to buy his way out of trouble.
Off in the distance, two young kids stood close together; their mother was shouting at the cashier.
They were about the same height. Undeniably siblings. They both had tufts of unkempt brown hair with matching eyes and pale skin.
And they both looked positively miserable.
"They're the type of people you likely shouldn't associate with when school starts," my father declared coldly.
What my father said went.
So that was that.
Come the first day of class at my new school – it must have been the fourth grade – I stole a glance at the brown haired girl sitting in the corner of the room. She sat hunched in her seat, eyes wide and attentive, focused on the teacher. I could tell right away she was different from everyone else. Nobody was listening to the teacher, not even me.
And in my mind, I decided that her being different meant that she was below me.
It was what my father had told me after all.
Her eyes glanced cautiously over to mine and I immediately scrunched my face up into a cold scowl, trying to mimic the one my father threw around like money.
Her face distorted in evident surprise, and then she was looking away once more.
I had made two mistakes back then.
The first was assuming my father was right about everything.
But the second mistake: the second mistake was thinking that Aaron Blare was below me.
As I was to learn, she most certainly was different from everyone else.
And it was for this reason exactly that I would fall in love with her.
Aaron's brother, as it turned out, was popular. He was the opposite of his sister in seemingly every respect. He didn't care about school, he didn't care about rules and he took nothing seriously.
It was for these reasons that I knew befriending Chris was anything but a bad idea. This was long before Aaron showed me without trying that the person I wanted to be was not my father. This was still when my father was the epitome of perfection to me.
A friendship with Chris Blare would only make me seem better. Have friends in strong places. That was something my father had once said.
The Blare boy wasn't my favorite type of person. His carefree attitude was, at times, exhausting. But he knew how to kick around a soccer ball and he knew how to make our peers envious of us all the while making it seem effortless.
Of course, my friendship with Chris terminated the closeness he had with his sister. She wouldn't fit in with us – of that I was sure. While Chris was the rebel everyone dreamed to be; his sister was the social reject and school obsessed nerd that most disregarded. It only took a few cleverly placed comments on my part before Chris all but shoved Aaron away with blinking.
Despite the fact that part of me knew this might hurt her, I felt no guilt.
I felt no guilt at all in fact, until the night Chris dared me to steal my father's car.
My parents were out of town, nobody would know. So instead of waiting for Chris to accompany me on the joyride, I decided to show him just how rebellious I could be, and planned on stealing the car, only to park it outside of Chris's house. The look on his face, I was sure, would make it entirely worth it.
The night I stole the car, I did see an earth-shattering look on the face of a Blare – only it wasn't Chris.
It was Aaron, as I only just narrowly avoided killing her with my father's car.
I drove away, numb, and as if it weren't traumatic enough for one night, Chris Blare sat on my doorstep when I returned home.
It all came out in an uncharacteristic rush, and, expecting Chris to want to murder me, I was surprised when he remained stoic.
It was perhaps in that moment that my friendship with Chris became purely business and not so much personal. I understood pushing his sister away – but feeling no alarm when informed that she had almost been killed moments earlier? Chris Blare was perhaps more stunted that I had initially perceived.
He promised to keep the secret for me, telling me that I owed him one.
Case closed. It was almost never mentioned again.
I can pinpoint when things started to snowball to many years later, when our class had a field trip to the local museum.
I had been traveling down the dangerous road of helping Chris illegally obtain drugs, thinking that it was a surefire method at credibility. Nobody would mess with the guy that had enough self-control to help someone get their fix without succumbing to temptation himself.
Mind you, at this point Chris's venture with drugs were pale in comparison to the loaded turn they would eventually take.
I had planned on ducking out of the museum unnoticed to meet up with Chris, and didn't see how any trouble could arise.
Only she followed me.
It wasn't surprising she had developed distaste for me over the years - I had never once thrown so much as a kind look in her direction.
Occasionally we butted heads; she was able to sum up surprising force for someone with such a tiny frame. When she did get riled up, her usually dull brown eyes became brazen and alive.
Our principal, along with the entire rest of the student body knew that we didn't get along. I was cool and she wasn't. That was how it was. Our principal however, believed he could force us to get along.
At the time I had no idea how right he would be.
He partnered us up for the field trip to both of our frustrations and as I left to take off – she followed me.
She followed me. With a defiant look that said I was a nasty rule breaker.
She was meddlesome and nosy and a thorn in my side.
I let her follow me, figuring it might put her in place if she saw what Chris and I were really up to. Maybe she'd butt out if she understood this was somewhere she simply did not belong.
Only she didn't butt out and we were late to return and our god damn principal gave us hell to pay in return for it.
Everything went downhill from there.
I tried to force her to choose detentions as punishment over volunteering in order to keep my brother's whereabouts a secret – to no avail. Then I had my father step in. At the time I had found it even amusing how upset the girl was when we barged into her broken house and used everything we saw against her.
Then I found myself reluctant to admit that despite the hand she had been dealt, the girl had a backbone made of steel.
We ended up stuck together for detention and volunteering, and despite my best efforts, Tommy took an instantaneous liking to Aaron.
Then Chris took off.
But before he did, he came by my house.
He had been slipping down a dangerous slope and I didn't force him to stay. Maybe getting out of his messed up home was exactly what he needed.
He came by late, hands shoved in his pockets and eyes fatigued with dark circles underneath them. He wasn't stupid, despite his dislike for school. He knew as well as I did that I wasn't going to ache in his absence. Our friendship was out of convenience to the other.
"She doesn't know I'm leaving and it's going to hurt her," he muttered, "you'll keep an eye on her when I'm gone."
He didn't ask, he stated.
I remember my jaw had dropped open in complete defiance.
"I hate her-"
"And you owe me one," Chris had replied, cool as ever, "… you owe her one. Don't forget."
He gave me a number to call him with in case of emergency, and then he was gone.
She cried in detention after he left. I was so used to the cross expression that contorted her face as she spat insults in my direction that I felt momentarily frozen.
I didn't like her. I didn't like anyone that couldn't understand I was not to be crossed.
I had once threatened to ruin her, and as I watched her face soak in tears, I realized that when she told me I had already ruined her, she was right.
I had helped push Chris away from her, after all. He had perhaps been the only one she had left.
But the guilt was fleeting. She pretended her moment of weakness had never happened and made it a personal mission to get revenge on me for every time I had ever wronged her. This started with her determination to ruin my Halloween party.
Sick of fielding questions about Chris's disappearance that I couldn't answer, I guilt tripped her into going, knowing that a party was the last thing she wanted to attend. At least if anyone bothered me about Blare's whereabouts, I could direct them to her.
I'll be the first to admit that I had been surprised when she showed up at the party with a blonde friend that made Cam go gooey-eyed. Aaron herself had dressed up as a referee.
It was a surprisingly bold costume for the class nerd, and it was then perhaps that I noticed for the first time that Aaron Blare was hot.
The thought was so absurd to me that I dismissed it entirely and blamed it on whatever drinks I had consumed that night.
The party wore on.
But when I heard the distinct and shrill blow of a whistle coming from upstairs I knew something was wrong. Aaron had had a whistle around her neck.
What I walked in on was enough to rattle even me.
She lay in a puddle of her blood, some creep was holding a broken wine bottle, and Aaron's friend sat dazed on the bed.
The rest was a blur. I remember shouting whatever I had to so that she would keep her eyes open. I remember thinking that if she died, it would change everything. I remember the relief when the doctor told me she was fine.
And I remember being floored when she awoke and the first thing she asked me was if I could keep this a secret from her mom.
From there on proceeded a string of events in which I reluctantly helped her when I knew Chris would have wanted me to. I didn't like being associated with her. I had saved her life the night of the party, but part of me wanted to forget it.
I wasn't used to being confused. Most of the time everything was relatively simple for me. I got what I wanted, and if I didn't, that person wasn't worth my time.
Aaron Blare made the word confliction gain a whole new meaning. I wanted her gone, and I wanted the responsibility Chris had burdened me with to be lifted, but I couldn't abandon her. Not when it became abundantly clear to me that Chris had always looked out for his sister; whether she knew it or not.
Eventually it seemed that I could not escape her, try as I might. She turned up at the diner I usually enjoyed for the low profile. Every weekend without fail, she was in detention. At the daycare. Her piercing eyes catching mine in the hallways. She was everywhere.
And it seemed that every time I thought everything might return to normalcy, there she was, in trouble again.
Be it having to drag her to the hospital after her stitches tore open or driving her to Alyssa's after her mother kicked her out, I began to feel that she almost sought out trouble… That or it seemed to take a thrill out of following her around.
I didn't realize I had become emotionally invested in the whole ordeal until I went to the diner the second time.
It was out of habit that I came, and it was her exhausted yet somehow still angry facial expression upon seeing me that set off a sense of foreboding I couldn't ignore.
She disappeared, and it was only as I walked past the side door to get to the washroom that I heard something that sent me into a rage so dizzying I was surprised no one ended up more hurt that day.
"Get off of me," I had heard Aaron whimper.
Aaron Blare never whimpered. I had frozen the moment I heard her voice quiver.
And in response, the creep had said, "You don't like being out of control, hmm Aaron Blare?"
My hands were in fists and the door was slammed open instantaneously.
I was the only one that was allowed to berate Aaron that way.
I shoved him off of her roughly and when she couldn't open her eyes I screamed at her, hoping beyond hopes that the angry, feisty Aaron might jump out again.
It only seemed to make her whither more against the wall.
Yes, I began to notice then that there was an emotional investment. One I couldn't ignore and one I couldn't explain.
It persisted when, at the school dance, Amelia Bell took it upon herself to belittle Aaron for showing up, and I found myself snapping to her defense before I could stop to think what ideas it might give people.
I almost kissed her that night, as we fought in the abandoned hallway on the first floor. Her face came so close to mine that it took every inch of self-control within me to remember who it was standing before me that I inexplicably wanted to kiss.
And then, a further step into insanity, I offered her a job. I had forced her to quit working at the diner, though I knew full well she wasn't going to argue that one.
She began babysitting my kid brother and it was from there onward that I came to terms with the fact that I had, against all odds, found myself infatuated with Aaron Blare.
When we ventured to visit Chris, I felt that the urge to protect her wasn't out of duty to him anymore. It was something I had to do. And when it came down to it, I didn't want to see Chris. Not yet. Because he would know in a heartbeat that I had changed and that was something I was not prepared to front.
The internal agony persisted until finally, I kissed her. After we had been fighting, of course. It was a short kiss, one that took her so by surprise that she barely moved.
It was the same night Chris overdosed.
Somewhere through the drama, worrying and pain that subsequently followed his overdose, my feelings towards Aaron softened until I could deny it no longer. I had never felt real feelings for a girl before, only lust or the vague interest that accompanied a challenge.
The undeniable truth, in the words of Aaron's mother, was that before I thought her daughter was beautiful, I had treated her like she was ugly.
I didn't know what I wanted with the girl until Cameron came over and told me how it was. If I could stand the thought of someone else kissing her, then I shouldn't waste anyone's time making it something it wasn't.
If my reaction following that creep at her work trying to pull a fast one on her was anything to go by, the answer came clear.
And despite knowing that the social adjustments would be horrendous, the family clashing would be down right ugly, and the comments that would spit out of the recovering Chris's mouth would send me reeling, the confliction I had been feeling since Aaron followed me away from the museum had dissipated.
I knew what I wanted now, and there was nothing confusing to it.
I wanted Aaron Blare.
"You're asking me if you can take my sister out on a date?" Chris looked repulsed, "Valentine, and I say this is in the most unfriendly manner possible, you have finally lived up to the true value of your name."
I had expected worse and continued to send Chris a demanding glance.
"It's just because she's my sister," He continued, ignoring me still, "when the novelty wears off, you'll leave her worse off than when this all started."
It wasn't novelty, but I hardly expected Chris to understand.
"Can I take your sister out?" I huffed impatiently, "Because you know I will whether you give me your blessing or not. I'm just here out of duty to your sorry ass."
Chris rolled his eyes and shot me a sour look that was anything but playful. "Get out."
Tonight was going to be our first date.
Only Aaron didn't know it yet.
She leaned against the car when I came back.
"Why did I have to wait out here?" She asked, just as she had before I had left. Part of me was thankful she hadn't changed so much as to lose the stubborn quality about her that I was almost certain was the only thing able to break through my previously impenetrable wall of aloofness, "and why are we visiting Chris so close to dinner time? I thought this was a day thing?"
"You ask too many questions," I replied simply. She was too smart for her own damn good. I both loved and loathed that Aaron Blare kept me constantly on my toes. But it would take more than that to get me off my game tonight. "Now, drive."
Aaron's face immediately contorted into a partially miserable partially nervous expression she rarely wore. It was admittedly adorable, and I took a certain pleasure out of seeing the usually so lively girl shrink down in confidence.
"You need to learn how to drive," I persisted.
She reached out and let her hand hold mine.
"Don't you give me that 'I'm cute so let me get away with anything' look," I growled, wrapping my arms around her waist and pulling her flush to me. Her figure was like a blanket of soft velvet, melding so perfectly against mine that it made every other hug I had ever experienced feel blocky and stiff.
She exhaled, "Fine." I felt my lips tug into a smirk, and even though her head was resting against my chest so that she could not see my face, she murmured, "stop smirking."
As we got into the car, I immediately noticed Aaron tense up. Something about getting behind the wheel of a car made her inherently uncomfortable.
Part of me was guilty knowing it might be due to the fact that she had almost been killed by a car I had been driving.
"Matt, you look almost more concerned than I do," she trilled, hands tensing around the wheel.
She had long since learned about who was driving the night I almost hit her and evidently didn't hold it against me, though years of guilt didn't dissipate instantly following forgiveness.
"Drive, Aare." I spoke shortly.
She rolled her eyes, "Only you could use a pet name and make it sound stark." Nevertheless, she put the car out of park and we left the lot without incident.
I hadn't meant for the instruction to come out rudely. I was still working on being more 'human' as Aaron had not so lightly put it. She knew as well as I did that I struggled with letting people in and letting them know how I was really feeling.
Tonight in particular, my mind was elsewhere, scrutinizing the details of how this night would unfold.
I shifted in my seat, "I'm sor-"
I scowled when I realized she was laughing at me. Then she shot me an apologetic look with soft eyes, and one step further, let her hand rest on my knee. I felt the scowl relax into a smile.
We were cruising comfortably on the highway now, so I laced our fingers together and leaned back in my seat.
I knew full well that Aaron would be happy with a date that consisted of me buying her a slice of pizza and calling it a night. There was no pressure.
But the fact that Aaron had learned to settle for a two-dollar slice of pizza made me want to show her that she was worth far more than that. She had had nothing and she deserved everything, and it was my duty to make her understand this, no matter if it took days or months or years.
Because when it came down to it, Aaron wasn't the uptight cynical freak I had once sincerely believed her to be. She wasn't the stubborn girl that refused to hear reason.
She was someone that had been dealt all the wrong cards and managed to make it out in one piece. She was someone that had always been on her own, and had learned that if she wanted to be somebody, the only person she could rely on was herself.
I wanted to be someone she could rely on.
She was my equal after all. Arrogance aside, I could admit it. Aaron Blare had put me in my place, and it had never been done before.
And perhaps this was why, as her delicate fingers traced patterns in my palm, I didn't push away the feeling that everything was not within my control.
She had put it best, of course: "You make me forget that I'm supposed to hate you." It was what she had told me the first time I kissed her, and meant it.
I itched with nervousness in my seat. Aaron's driving wasn't the problem. She had been improving phenomenally. I feared that she might think tonight was too much. What if she really did just want two-dollar pizza?
"Am I really driving that badly?" Her voice leaked with concern, breaking me out of my reverie. I looked over sharply at her eyes, which were focused on mine, and unsurprisingly, not the road.
I squeezed her hand, "Eyes on the road, you're doing great."
She tore her gaze away from mine and I reluctantly relinquished my grip on her hand. She brought the second hand back up to the steering wheel.
"What do you want to do tonight?" She asked it nonchalantly, smiling a little to herself.
"I was thinking," I drew out slowly, "we could go on that date."
It all happened very quickly.
Aaron flushed a bright red, growing rather flustered, the car in front of us swerved out of no where and-
…We found ourselves in a ditch.
Aaron was at a very rare loss for words.
Perhaps some progress was still needed in the driving department.
I rubbed my forehead, "I'll call Cam, and he can come get-"
I didn't finish my sentence, because Aaron unbuckled her seatbelt and scrambled across the car into my lap.
I raised an eyebrow.
I wasn't exactly going to complain if a hot girl was sitting in my lap, car stuck in a ditch or not.
My thoughts must have leaked into my facial expression because Aaron's sharp voice brought me right back, "No you idiot, you've got a gash on your forehead."
Her fingers were gentle as she brushed my hair back to get a closer look. "I'm never driving again," she declared adamantly, "statistically speaking it is almost impossible that I haven't killed you yet."
I took hold of her free wrist, which seemed to ground her in her frazzled state. "Oh no, no," I told her, locking her eyes to mine, "we're not done until I say we are."
She shot me a sour look not unfamiliar from the one Chris had given me earlier. "Your mom once told me she had you put a first aid kit in the trunk, I'll just go get it so we can clean up this cut," she said, but not before letting her fingers linger on my jaw line and pressing her lips to mine.
I closed my eyes and leaned back as she scrambled out of the car, leaving her scent behind. She didn't smell like fake perfume or expensive soap, it was one of many things that made her anything but ordinary.
She reappeared a moment later, no first aid kit in hand. She was holding something else.
And, the gears slowly turning in my mind...
"You weren't supposed to see that!"
He looked as horrified as if I had discovered a dead body in the trunk.
"Now it's ruined," he muttered, looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable.
I shook my head, climbing across the front seat for the second time that day to sit in his lap. My entire body still burned with the embarrassment of allowing the car to veer off road, but I didn't hesitate as I let my hands rest on his chest.
It hadn't been the flowers I saw in the trunk that made my heart leap into my throat. Nor was it the elegant dress that I would have been hard pressed to find one I preferred.
It was the modest container of brownies that were just lumpy enough for me to know were homemade, saran wrapped and with a post it note on top.
You were right, it read in his recognizable scrawl, homemade brownies are a thousand times better than boxed ones.
He made me brownies.
"This is the best date I've ever been on," I said, listening to the thump of his heart against his chest. Warm arms loosened and wrapped around me.
"Aare," he said, the comfort of simply sitting in his embrace never leaving me, "you are absolutely right."
Six months later
He had given up on trying to convince Matt and me to stop visiting him.
"The both of you must live insufferably boring existences if you're willing to drive an hour to Gentle Springs every second day," he grumbled, spitting every ounce of venom he could muster into the name of his home for the past six months.
I didn't even bother pointing out that our constant visits were to show support, as I could guarantee the comment would simply cause me to be on the receiving end of another grimace, or perhaps an exaggerated eye roll.
Chris's progress, as expected, had been slow. Two months earlier his counselor had granted him biweekly rights to leave the facility unsupervised, but after three failures to return on time, this privilege was taken away. The only sure signs of his progress were that the uncomfortable twitch in his arm and the beads of sweat usually lining his forehead had vanished. Before his slip up, for the briefest of moments, it sometimes seemed like he might smile.
After his slip up however, his permanent frown returned; snide comments increased in severity ten fold and his unhappiness was apparent immediately upon entering his room. His counselor was beginning to fear that despite the fact that Chris had conquered his addiction, there were other issues that would take much longer to be dealt with.
Matt, who had been leaning in Chris's doorway with his hands shoved in his pockets, strode over towards the closed curtains and with an effortless sweep, drew them open.
Chris scowled and then averted his gaze to his feet, which were covered in the wooly blanket we had brought from home a week earlier for him.
While Chris's gaze was elsewhere, I felt Matt's reach mine. He gave me a reassuring smile. Despite keeping my cool on the outside, he knew these visits would never be comfortable for me. My hands were wrangled tightly around the tray of muffins I had brought for Chris.
To give him credit, Matt handled the situation in a manner vastly superior to mine. I wasn't the only one in an uncomfortable situation. Matt had lost his best friend.
"You know," hissed Chris, squinting in Matt's direction, "I liked you a lot better when you weren't macking on my sister."
Matt remained expressionless. We had heard this exact line one time per visit, minimum.
"I don't think dating for six months really constitutes macking," Matt responded smartly.
Chris kicked his blankets away rather suddenly and furiously, crossing his arms. He reminded me rather suddenly of his youthful form. Missing only a defiant pout, I might as well have been standing next to him in a park, explaining I had just caught him cheating at hide and seek.
There was a hesitant knock in Chris's doorway. A young nurse with short blonde hair stood there, an urgent look on her face. Chris stiffened rather suddenly, his scowl vanishing.
Matt shot me a pointed look with his dark green eyes. He had been telling me for weeks that he suspected Chris fancied the nurse, and I was reminded once again that Matt was significantly more perceptive than he let on.
"I'm sorry," she gushed, shooting Chris a look that found me smirking contently. She turned to Matt and me. "It's just, both of your cell phones have been ringing incessantly."
I grinned despite myself. Even though Matt and I had agreed that celebrating a six-month anniversary was completely unnecessary and corny, he had bought me a cell phone.
"Don't consider it a present for an anniversary," he had told me in a velvet tone, "simply consider it a way for me to call you without having to hear your mother tell you that 'the boy' is calling."
It was hard to put up a fight when he had put it that way, and certainly not when he had forced his perfect eyes upon my own.
Still, it was peculiar getting used to having a cell phone after so many years without one.
"I'll go see who was calling," I began, but the nurse waved her hands before I could even take a step towards the door.
"Well – er – see." She trailed off.
If Chris hadn't been staring at her with an adoring gaze no one else was ever privileged enough to see, I would have expected him to say, or rather grunt, "well, spit it out!"
He said nothing.
The nurse looked as distressed as someone who had ordered an extra large drink and found themselves several hours later unable to locate a bathroom.
"Well, you see, ah, I felt that interrupting your visitation hours with Chris – I mean, Christopher – I- I mean Mr. Blare," she blushed furiously, "might be rude and so, so I- I-" she exhaled, so red she rather resembled a tomato, "I sort of answered the phone."
Matt rolled his shoulders and ran a hand through his mess of dark hair. "Who called?" he asked simply.
"Well, um, this boy," she sputtered, "his name, Carl or Collin or something – he said that Alice was giving birth or some – something?"
I dropped the muffins rather suddenly. The metal tray hit the ground with a resounding crack and I watched, my jaw slack, as the nurse flinched from the sound.
Matt strode over to me, ignoring the muffins. "We need to go," his voice was resolute, his hand reaching for mine.
I glanced over at Chris. He seemed more miserable than I had seen him before. He didn't know Alyssa in the slightest, but the look on his face made it seem as though he truly felt he was missing out being stuck at Gentle Springs, while Matt and I rushed to watch Alyssa's life change forever.
The nurse seemed to notice this and found her voice, speaking with unexpected confidence. "He can go," she said, "if he's back before my shift ends. Nobody will notice."
Chris looked like he might kiss her. I was staring, my jaw slack.
Matt was already moving.
"Well, we haven't any time to waste," he said, and I felt my stomach somersault with happiness that he was so determined to be there for Alyssa, despite his less than perfect relationship with her. Perhaps he was doing this because he knew she was my best friend. Perhaps he was doing this because Cameron was his best friend, and because Cameron was hopelessly in love with Alyssa.
Or perhaps he was doing this because Alyssa had grown on him.
After all, I believed that if he could wind up romantically involved with me, someone whom he had once used every fiber of his being to ruin, he could get used to Alyssa. Alyssa, whose smile was infectious and charm undeniable.
We rushed into the parking lot, Chris's eyes darting around with paranoia. This jailbreak the nurse was helping with was possibly the most exciting moment for him in the past six months. My own heart racing, I rushed to the passenger side, only to find the door locked.
"Matt!" Despite the urgency in my voice, I made sure not to sound too exasperated.
Amused green eyes met my own. I felt my stomach wavering, and it wasn't only because I was nervous about Alyssa giving birth.
"You drive," he stated simply.
I stared at him like he was suddenly insane. I could tell without looking at Chris that he felt the same way.
"Do you not remember," Chris sputtered, "the two of you arriving talking about how her driving got you stuck in a ditch!"
"So you do listen when we talk!" I declared triumphantly.
"Circumstantial," Matt assured Chris, "she's driving."
"No," Chris and I chorused.
"Listen," said Matt, directing this mostly to Chris, "if Aaron manages to get us there without killing us, she will never feel uncomfortable behind the wheel of a car again, I promise you that. Besides, we're not leaving until she's behind the wheel."
"If Aaron manages to get us there without killing us!" Chris bellowed, seeming to have forgotten he wasn't allowed to leave Gentle Springs.
The security guard by the door suddenly glanced over, trying to get a better look at us. Chris's eyes widened.
"Okay, fine, drive!" he said, snatching the keys out of Matt's hands and stuffing them in my own.
I looked at the keys, my eyes equally wide. Then I looked at Matt.
"Well," he said, that damn smirk of his spreading across his handsome face, "you do want to be there for Alyssa, don't you?"
"Oh shut up, you!" I expressed in a fluster, running around the front of the car and climbing into the driver's seat.
"If Ellie gets into trouble for this, my life is over!" Chris wailed overdramatically.
"If I miss Alyssa giving birth to this baby, I will never drive again!" I told Matt, equally with an unnecessary amount of drama pouring into my every word.
"You Blares aren't as different as you'd like to think," Matt told us smugly, buckling his seat belt as I released the parking break, and gunned it out of the parking lot.
I didn't miss Chris's terrified expression as I glanced in the rear view mirror.
The tires screeched to a halt in the underground parking, and the three of us all but ran out of the car.
"If she's driving, I'm taking the taxi back and I don't care if they keep me in Gentle Springs for the rest of my life!" Chris shouted, looking rather green, "If they ever give you a real license Aaron, I will personally renounce my American citizenship!"
Matt somehow had managed to keep his cool despite the copious amounts of swerving, swearing and yelling on the way over to the hospital. "We're here in one piece, aren't we?" He drawled, smirking again.
I didn't dignify him with a response and grabbed his stupid arrogant hand, dragging him towards the birthing centre.
We didn't find Alyssa immediately – rather, we heard her.
"CAMERON PHILLIPS," Alyssa was screeching, "I don't care how nervous you are – until you have a baby coming out of your hoo-ha you will shut your damn mouth and hold my damn hand!"
Chris was looking greener that he had moments earlier in the car. The three of us rushed towards the room, but a nurse intercepted us, frowning.
"Teen parents," the decrepit old woman all but croaked, "always think they can have a party of all their little friends while they're giving birth. Father and family only. Are you her family?"
I shook my head in defeat.
The old woman raised her nose at us. I felt like sticking out and my tongue and proving to her that I was the immature brat she so certainly thought I was.
"Father and family only. You can wait over there."
"Ellie would have let us in," Chris grumbled. "Some nurses aren't vile old bags."
It was nice to hear Chris's negative attitude directed at someone else besides Matt or myself for once. Though it certainly wasn't enough to make me feel better about having to wait outside while Alyssa gave birth.
Chris stalked off to find a snack after several minutes, leaving Matt and I alone for the first time since the morning.
"Scared?" he asked.
I shook my head. "Not anymore."
It wasn't long before Chris returned with a handful of chips and sweets – he was on a strict and boring diet of food he liked to call 'cardboard crap'.
And about an hour later, Cameron came over to us, looking dazed and yet deliriously happy.
"Time to meet Alyssa's baby girl," he spoke woozily.
Matt clapped him hard on the back. "She's as much your kid as Alyssa's."
Chris wandered over to the room behind Cameron with a curious expression on his face. The first cries of a little girl could be heard from down the hallway. Matt waited until they went inside and then turned to look at me.
He smiled, and then he held out his hand.
I looked at his tall form and the gentle smile that I would never grow tired of, and smiled back as I took his rough hand and walked towards the room where I could now hear Alyssa laughing.
We walked inside together, to see her sweaty face and wet cheeks. She was smiling as she held a tiny baby.
"I'm a mother," she laughed, as though it were the most hilarious thing in the world, "I'm a mother and I have a beautiful baby girl. Fancy that."
Chris, Cameron, Matt and I joined in on the laughter. The little girl stopped crying, her wide blue eyes taking in all the strange people in the room watching her.
I glanced over to see Chris smiling for the first time in quite a long while, and rather suddenly, I realized that everything was better.
Matt squeezed my hand.
Yes, all of us had come a long way.
It had been a bumpy ride.
But I'd be damned if I wouldn't redo it exactly the same.