Chapter 1

Leave it to Beaver

"Dodge, if you sleep with my baby sister, I swear that I'll kill you."

Those were the first words I heard out of my brother, Ben Raleigh's, mouth when I stepped into my new home. He was speaking to his roommate, who happened to be a bit of a sex fiend—he had been for a long time. Benny had been one of my best friends all my life, and he'd always been ridiculously protective. Now I was living with him, and I was pretty sure I wouldn't be getting any freedom. It wasn't planned, my coming to live with Ben and his best friend Dodger in the small college town of Kirksville, Missouri; my parents had been killed in an auto accident. It was either move in with my brother, or with my 1000-year-old grandparents.

It wasn't like he needed to tell Dodger Malone that he couldn't sleep with me. They had been best friends since I could remember, and he'd seen me go through every awkward phase… Yes, even my obsession with NSync, something he'll never let me live down.

In case your wondering where Dodger's name came from, his father was a bit of an eccentric man, and he had a huge obsession with California baseball teams. So, he named his first son Dodger, after the Los Angeles Dodgers. When he had his second child, a girl, he'd convinced his wife to allow him to name her Angel… Angel Anaheim Malone, after the Anaheim Angels. Despite being a bit strange, Dodger's parents were very nice people, and they had been good friends with my folks.

Speaking of my folks, I guess I should share a little more about them, even though thinking about the accident still broke my heart. It'd only been a week…just seven freakin' days. It felt like an eternity. I'll give you the whole story when I find a little time to myself… if I find a little time to myself.

"Annie-Bananie! Come give me a hug!" Dodger ordered, chipper as always. My name was Annabelle, and most people called me Anna. My brother and Dodger had always called me Annie. Of all my nicknames, Dodger favored the most obnoxious one: Annie-Bananie.

I hugged him lightly and he smiled down at me. "It's gonna be okay. Benny and I are gonna make it okay for you."

I nodded and went to sit on the couch, hugging my knees. I glanced over at Dodge. He'd sure changed a lot since I'd seen him last. I'd noticed a little at the funeral, but I wasn't really in the mood to check anyone out. He still had the same shaggy, rusty blond hair he'd always had, and his eyes were the same turquoise blue; but he was less scrawny, and a few inches taller. He looked like a man… a hot man. That didn't mean I wanted him or anything—I was just stating a fact.

Ben was similar to his friend in build, but resembled me in a lot of other aspects. We had the same tan skin, light blond hair, and sea-foam green eyes. They were such a strange color, our eyes. We'd gotten them from our father. Ben was about nine inches taller than me at 6'1.

He sat next to me, slinging an arm around me in a brotherly fashion.

"You want lunch, Annie?"

I shook my head. "I'm not really hungry, Ben. I kinda just wanna get settled in my room and stuff."

Dodge had given up his room for me, and was currently sleeping on the couch until we could figure something else out. I went into the bedroom and took it in. It smelled like Febreze and beer. The walls were a cheerful light blue, but the bedspread was plain black. There was nothing on the walls except for a calendar featuring the ladies from The Girls Next Door.

"We can get you a girlier bedspread if you want," Ben said from behind me. I jumped, startled.

"This is fine for now," I told him. "Tell Dodge he can take his calendar… it's nice and all, but it's just not my style."

He rolled his eyes. "I told him to take that out. Guess he thought it'd be funny. You know Dodger's sense of humor."

I nodded. "Yeah." I sat down on the bed and rested my chin in my hand.

Ben settled beside me and put a hand on my shoulder.

"Are you all right, Annie?"

I forced a smile. "I'm getting there… anyway, I think I'm gonna take a nap. You can wake me up at dinnertime, okay?"

"Sure. Have a good rest. Let me or Dodger know if you need anything."

"Thanks, Benny, but I don't wanna be a pain in the ass." I rested my head against the pillow. He got up and left, pulling the door closed behind him.

Whenever I was alone, my mind wandered and I thought of my parents. They'd been perfect, so had Ben. An honest to God Leave it to Beaver type of family. With the exception of me. The partier, the slut, the straight B student. I was nothing compared to my big brother, yet they always treated us just the same. It was my fault they were gone.

My boyfriend Max and I spent our Friday night the way we always did—at a party. By the end of the night, we were far too drunk to even remember how to drive. So I called my parents and they agreed to come pick us up, no questions asked. They were so good about that sort of thing. Only problem is, my parents never made it… because someone from the party we were at decided to drive drunk, and they killed them. Their car exploded-fucking exploded. There were no bodies left to bury, there was nothing left. Ben told me not to blame myself; that I was just trying to be responsible… but being responsible would have been refusing to drink in the first place. But no, that wasn't my style. I was Annabelle Raleigh, Central Valley High School's number one party girl… and my parents were dead because of it.

The funny thing was that Ben truly didn't blame me. He wasn't just pretending, because Ben never pretended. He was always who he was, and it'd made him popular in high school. He wasn't popular the way I was—no—he was popular in the smart, well-rounded, perfect guy sort of way. How could he not be mad at me?

He was so much like them, and I was the black sheep. The black sheep who made all the stupid mistakes, and who never learned. Well, I'd learned this time. I was over the party scene… for good. I impatiently wiped the tears from my eyes and tried to relax. All I could do now was be a good sister to Ben, because Mom and Dad weren't coming back, no matter how sorry I was.

It seemed like I'd just fallen asleep when Ben shook me awake.

"Dinner. We ordered pizza. We'll save some if you wanna sleep a while longer."

I yawned and shook my head. "I'm good."

"The bed all right?"

"Ben, don't worry. Me living here isn't a big deal. It's just like us living at home."

"Except our parents are dead and you're suffering a huge mental breakdown."

"Yeah… except for that."

"Have you decided when you'd like to start school yet? I was thinking maybe Wednesday."

"I'd like to start school… never; but since I have to, Wednesday would be okay."

"You'll like it. Girls here aren't as snotty as they are back home."

"They'll hate me," I said with certainty.

"Don't be negative, Annie. You'll be fine. "

I sighed, running a hand through my mess of blond hair, wincing as my fingers got caught in tangles.

"What kind of pizza?"

"The only kind you'll eat. Pepperoni."

I smiled. "Sweet."

Dodger was already at the table, chowing down when we entered the kitchen. He had a beer in front of him and a grin on his face. Dodge had always loved food. The boys were only 20, but they always had beer in the fridge. I'd spent a week at their house last summer, and there was only a full supply. Ben didn't drink much. Dodger, on the other hand, enjoyed nothing more than a few beers after a long day.

"Nice hair," he said to me.

I flipped him the bird, grabbing a soda out of the fridge.

"Guys, I know you two are going to argue constantly, but can you not start tonight?" Ben begged.

"Who says we're going to argue?" Dodger asked.

"You always have. Even since Annie was only six. You guys are ridiculous."

I sat at the table. "Well, I'm not going to start any arguments. I'm gonna stay out of the way as much as possible."

"You never stay out of the way."

"Dodger, you think you could take it easy on her, man? I mean, seriously, she's fragile enough as it is."

"I'm not fragile, Ben. Don't talk about me like I'm a head case."

"I'm sorry," Dodger said to me.

I rolled my eyes, shutting them both out. This was already turning into a nightmare. It wasn't that Dodger and I didn't like each other, we were good friends. The thing was, we'd grown up like siblings, and we had a bit of a rivalry going. It was way worse than the one between Ben and I, which was pretty much nonexistent. I finished my food and shut myself in my room. I knew Ben would want to lecture Dodger in private about being nice to me because I'd been through a trauma blah, blah, blah. I really didn't want to use it as an excuse. I was a little messed up, but I wasn't crazy.

After about ten minutes of staring at the ceiling, I was jolted back to reality by a knock at the door.

"Come in!" I called.

Dodger poked his head in. "Bananie, can we talk?"

"Yeah. Sure."

He came into the room and sat on the edge of my bed. "I guess I didn't really think about… being nice 'cause… well, you know I never really think…"

That was the truth. Ben and Dodger balanced each other out. My brother was the logical one, and Dodge… not so much. It wasn't that he was stupid; he just didn't use his head a whole lot.

"It's fine. We're cool, Dodger. I don't expect us to miraculously stop fighting just because my parents are dead."

He was quiet for a long time. "Do you want to talk about it, Annabelle?"

"The last thing I wanna do is talk about it. We can talk about something else, though. How's Angel doing? I haven't seen her in a while."

"She's okay. Anything but angelic, of course. Dad caught her with pot again. She's not gonna stop, least not anytime soon. 'Specially not now that she knows how bad is pisses Dad off. She wants to be a rebel."

An awkward silence stretched between us. I was an awful conversationalist.

"You gonna get some unpacking done tonight?"


"Want help?"

"Dodger, seriously, you don't have to be creepy-nice. I'm fine with the way we are. Who else is gonna fight with me? Ben's too laidback for petty arguments. I gotta find away to get my emotions out somehow."

A wide smile stretched across his face. "So we're just gonna stay the way we are?"'

"Wouldn't want it any other way, Dodger Malone."

So, I know this is kind of short, but I want to know what everyone thinks. I'm feeling like this could be really cute... but I'm interested in your opinions. I hope to see a lot of my Sleeping Around on Sam reviewers, and some new people too!

Anyway, I know this plot is sort of a cliche (as are all of my stories, no surprises here) but I plan on giving it my own little twist!

Hope you all enjoyed! Lots of love.