She felt the hard pounding of her heart and the rush of blood to her brain, making her feel light headed. Anxiety formed knots in her stomach, and nothing, not even the soft soothing music in the background nor the cool spring breeze, could calm her.
The blonde mentally ran through her appearance for the hundredth time, all the while cursing the fact that she even cared – no; that was wrong. Of course she cared. It was an important day, one she's been anticipating (and dreading) for two weeks. She's been counting down the days Oliver casually told her they'd be going home – to his home.
She felt like she was going to be sick.
"Sienna," Oliver's voice cut through her thoughts – he sounded amused, she faintly realized, before straightening up. "Relax."
"I am," she said, though her tone was stiff so she sounded rather contradictory. "I look okay, right?" She smoothed out her white shorts. "I should have worn jeans. I hope I don't they don't think I'm indecent – these shorts aren't too short, are they?"
"I like them just fine."
Sienna hit his shoulder. "I don't care what you think – I care about what your parents think."
"Ouch," he laughed, making a turn. Sienna realized they were entering a cozy looking street in a seemingly quiet neighborhood. For a while, she watched the scenery pass by. There was an elementary school, and the sight of the children's playground relaxed her for a moment. She tried to reinvent the courage all children seemed to have – they never worried about making the right impressions. They were themselves, and they were loved for it.
Sienna tried to imitate Oliver's calm demeanor, but her look was briefly surly as she looked at him from the corner of her eye; he didn't have to worry about anything, she remembered grudgingly. She highly believed that first impressions spoke volumes, and she wanted to make a good one – an excellent one – because, well, she hoped that the two important figures in his life approved of her.
After all, she was in love with him… not that he knew yet. She chanced a peek of her boyfriend's side profile and smiled slightly. Her eyes traced the column of his neck to the line of his jaw. His brilliant grey eyes were focused on the road. Unable to help herself, she reached forward and ran a hand through the tousles of his hair. He needed a haircut, she noted.
"What is it?" he asked, glancing at her from the corner of his eye.
She merely smiled, "nothing."
"Yeah?" He laughed a little under his breath, grasping her hand in his. Sienna felt her pulse quicken, and she wondered if he knew exactly the kind of effect he had on her. It felt like her feelings for him were magnified when she realized she was, in fact, in love with Oliver Creston. She felt exhilarated, almost to the point where she almost blurted the words to him the next time she saw him.
She remembered the feeling, when she walked in the library the next day. Not only was she exhilarated at her realization, she was also apprehensive at the fear she felt. After all, they've only been dating casually for six months – they weren't even official. She knew Oliver was unconventional – perhaps another reason as to why she was afraid to tell him? – but sometimes it was just impossible to read him.
So when she saw him at their usual study table she almost turned around and bolted. She practically tasted the words; they were on the tip of her tongue. She didn't need to scare him away because of her stupidity. Sienna was actually appalled at her behaviour. When was she ever reduced into a pile of goo because of a guy?
Well, until him, that was. She frowned at this, her independent streak making itself known.
"Home sweet home."
The streak disappeared only to be replaced with a burst of nervousness, coursing through her veins like morphine.
"This isn't healthy," she said to her boyfriend, unbuckling as he killed the engine. She was a little pale as she glanced at herself in the compact mirror.
"Sienna." Oliver twisted in his seat to look at her. Swallowing, she forced herself to meet his eyes. "You're intelligent, funny and absolutely stunning. What's not to love?" His cheeky grin made her smile a little. "Besides, it's only my parents."
"Only your parents?" she gaped. "But they're… they're your parents." She said the word as if emphasizing it would make him change his feelings towards the matter. It didn't. Oliver only smirked, his expression suddenly guarded that Sienna blinked at the abrupt change.
"Yeah, only parents, which makes them only human."
"Never mind." He shook his head and opened the door. Sienna hastily followed suit.
Her eyes instantly raked in the size of the modest house and she smiled. Oliver hardly spoke of his family, and she kept away from the topic since it was clearly a closed subject. The fact that he brought her here made her feel… pleasant. He trusted her enough to let her into this private part of his life; that thought alone made her happy.
He came around the car to where she had stopped and looked up at the basketball net she was staring at.
"My dad put that up," he nodded to the net. "I was into a lot of sports in high school."
"Still are," she teased, wrapping an arm around his middle. "So this is your dad's house."
"Yeah. My mom lives 'round fifteen minutes from here, but she's out of the country right now. I'd rather you meet her first than –" He shook his head abruptly, his arm winding around her waist. She leans closer, not bothering to hide the confusion on her face.
"Why would you want me to meet your mom first? Do you…" she hesitated, "I mean, are you not on good terms with your step-mom?" The only thing Sienna knew about Oliver's family was that his parents were divorced and both married and he had a full-blooded younger brother. His extended family on his mom's side, he told her he had one step-brother, and a step-sister he never met. On his father's side, he had a recent addition to the family, so that would make her his half-sister. He also had a step-sister.
Sienna knew there were other complicated sibling relations concerning the step sister (she had a half-brother… so did that make him related to Oliver by being his step-half-brother?), but thinking about it gave Sienna a headache. Oliver laughed the first time he tried explaining it to her; she remembered confusion being the dominant emotion. God, was it confusing… another reason why she was nervous. What if she accidentally made a mistake during a conversation concerning their family? He didn't exactly delve into his own feelings about his family… but then again, she assumed they were on good terms. His reaction just now made her rethink her assumption, but how bad could it possibly be?
What the hell was wrong with her? She was usually cool and level-headed – this was making her go crazy.
"Ready?" He squeezed her in what was supposed to be a reassuring gesture, but it didn't do anything to ease her nerves. She'd be better when the initial greetings were over, she was sure of it.
"Ready." She straightened her back, and pretended she was preparing for a game. She'd prefer the familiar feeling of her racket in her hands opposed to this clammy feeling. "Who's home?" she asked as he rang the doorbell after muttering about leaving his key behind.
"Dad, Claudia – my step mom – and Adam," he said rather distractedly. Then he chuckled a little, "Oh, and Aubree. Damn," he muttered, "has it really been four years?"
She frowned thoughtfully. Oliver didn't visit his family during the winter holidays, no matter how long and hard she tried to persuade him – it was Christmas, after all – so he met her family then. But…
"I thought you came to visit them last summer?"
"Then what did you –"
Sienna stopped talking as soon as she heard the door knob turn. She ignored Oliver's snigger and tried to reasonably distance herself from her boyfriend so she wouldn't come off as that kind of girl. His hand tightly held onto hers though, and she silently thanked him.
Sienna expected to see… well, not who she was staring at. It was a girl, looked around her age, with medium length dark brown hair. Her eyes were big, eyebrows perfectly arched, and her lips were lusciously shapely. Her cheekbones were high and subtly prominent, and Sienna noted the rosy flush on the girl's cheeks. She had a swan's neck and her body was delicate looking, but filled out appropriately. It was the combination of her appearance that Sienna started to feel the unfamiliar feeling of a complex starting to form before she banished the feeling away.
Sienna knew she was attractive, but staring into those wide, piercing eyes made her feel… self-conscious.
Suddenly, she felt Oliver tense and her grip instinctively tightening around his. Confusedly, she shot him a quick glance… and didn't know what to make of how Oliver was staring at this unknown female.
"Hi," the girl said, garnering her full attention. It took Sienna a few seconds to realize she sounded genuinely… cheery. Yes, that was the word. The girl's lips were quirked into a faint smile as she looked between her and Oliver. Sienna remembered to smile. "Hi," the girl repeated with a laugh, holding her hand out. "Nice to meet you, I'm Sydney!"
Sienna felt slightly nervous as she took her hand. "Hi, I'm Sienna. Nice to meet you, too."
Sydney smiled brilliantly. "Jace and my mom were just talking about you," she said easily. "You should hear them, they're so excited to meet you – but I beat them to the door first and – oh!" She instantly stepped to the side. "Sorry, come in," she said rather guiltily, and with a quick glance at Oliver, Sienna followed Sydney into the house.
"Thanks," Sienna said, feeling the need to fill in the descending silence.
Sydney smiled, and Sienna took a moment to watch the girl as she turned to greet Oliver. Sienna frowned a little to herself; Oliver never mentioned how… beautiful this girl was. But then she supposed that would be a little odd, to throw that fact into the open… then again, Oliver didn't have a picture of her, even though he had a family picture of his dad, step-mom and Adam…. She reminded herself to ask him about that later.
"Hi, Oliver." Her overall tone didn't change from when Sydney greeted her, but she did notice the softening of her voice.
"Rhode…" Oliver smiled slightly, almost reaching forward but not. "Hi."
There was a strange silence, but before Sienna could make anything of it, she heard the sound of footsteps from behind her. Tensing, Sienna turned and saw an older couple with wide smiles.
"Hello," the woman said, and Sienna saw some resemblance she had with Sydney. "My name is Claudia, and you must be Sienna." Her eyes appraised her for a moment. "You're certainly a beautiful girl."
Sienna felt a flush rise to her cheeks, but she tried not to smile like a fool. "Thank you, ma'am; it's so nice to meet you as well."
"Where'd you find this one, eh Oliver?" A man who had to be Oliver's dad – obviously, because they looked so alike it was scary – stepped forward with a jovial smile to shake her hand. "I'm Jace."
"Nice to meet you, sir."
The introductions went by like a blur to Sienna; she was so tense with nerves that when the moment was over, she felt like collapsing. They were nice people, Sienna wanted to cry and beat herself for ever thinking that the day would go by horribly. In fact, the day just got brighter – she looked forward to talking more with his parents.
"Told you not to worry," Oliver's whisper caressed her ear. Sienna felt him right behind her, so she allowed herself to sag in relief within the safety of his arms. He pulled her close.
"I know, but I couldn't help it," she laughed, suddenly delighted. They heard his parents about in the kitchen, parting with the instructions to make themselves comfortable as they prepared dinner. Sienna smiled brightly at the face of her boyfriend. "Oliver, I lo–"
A piercing sound cut her off, and Sienna felt her heart pound. Oh, God, what the hell was she about to do? Was she really going to tell him that she loved him – just because she felt relieved his parents didn't seem to hate her?
Oliver turned to his side, and Sienna was surprised to see Sydney standing there.
Hastily, she tried to get out of Oliver's hold, but he only tightened his grip.
"Is that…?" Oliver raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah." Sydney glanced at her watch. "Right on time…" she trailed off, a sort of odd look in her eyes but she brightened. "I'll be back."
Oliver led Sienna into the living room. She took a seat, but he remained standing. It was then she noticed the tightening of his jaw and the hardness in his eyes, she felt herself stand but he shook his head.
"I…" he trailed off, but laughed shortly. "Sorry, I'm being a little weird right now."
She frowned. "No worries. What's wrong? Everything went fine – or, do you think they don't like me?" Her voice considerably lowered, feeling a little self-conscious at the thought.
"No," he said almost in shock. "God, no. They love you, if you didn't notice," he said wryly. Sienna slowly relaxed, but found it hard to do so with Oliver so tense.
He didn't speak, so Sienna decided to ease him out of his deep thoughts. He almost looked… pained.
"So… I never knew your step-sister was in town," she said lightly. He seemed to straighten, and his face darkened. Oh, God, maybe that's why he hardly spoke of his family – maybe they weren't on good terms? Sienna swallowed lightly. "She's… well, she's gorgeous."
Oliver ran a hand through his hair, laughing a little under his breath. His reply was quiet, "Yeah. She is."
Sienna laughed a little. "Okay, Oliver, what's wrong? You're making me feel a little nervous here."
"It's nothing," he said. "Really. It's just… there's a reason I don't come home often."
Sienna was confused, but she didn't say anything else. She knew that when Oliver was ready, he would come to her, as he always has. It was this mysterious and secretive front that initially caught her eye; she learned that it wasn't an act to get girls like her – where people thought she was easy because she knew she was good looking – but rather he was real, and different, and… she thought he needed to be saved.
It was a silly thought, she often concluded, but the truth behind those words she never spoke out loud still rang true to her. She knew he opened up to her, but there seemed to be this… wall he still had, and no matter how much closer she was to him, those long conversations they would have, those late nights they spent together; he never let the wall down.
"You know you can tell me anything, right?" Sienna said softly, and smiled a little when he looked at her. She watched Oliver look at her, feeling her pulse quicken and her cheeks slowly heat up when the intensity didn't waver.
Finally, he smiled. "I know." Sienna stood and slowly made her way to him. She cautiously put her arms around him – and yelped when he yanked her close. "Thank you," he whispered into her ear.
Sienna blushed, and with a grin, pressed her lips against his. He inhaled sharply but she felt him tighten his hold around her waist. She loved it when he did that.
Sienna was roughly pulled back into reality when she heard a muffled cry. With a jerk, she pulled away from Oliver to whirl around; her face was red for different reasons.
Sydney was standing there, a cute, chubby little girl in her arms, eyes red. Sydney was cooing and patting her back. The little girl hiccupped, tears forming in her eyes. Behind her, Sienna saw another younger boy she had to conclude was Adam, Oliver's younger brother. They looked alike, but the differences outweighed the similarities.
Sydney looked over the little girl's head and smiled slightly. "Sorry," she said. "We'll, um –"
"No!" Sienna said, flustered. "I'm sorry, it's okay. Please," she added, when Sydney stood there, hesitating.
Finally, she smiled and approached them.
Sienna didn't dare look at Oliver, and instead focused on the two additional members of this little group they formed.
"Hey, munchkin," Oliver said. "What, no greeting?"
The little boy looked at him sullenly, and Sienna felt her heart ache for Oliver. She knew they were close, and biting her lip, she wondered what exactly happened.
Sighing, Oliver lowered himself to meet his brother's gaze. "I'm sorry I haven't been around a lot," he said, and Sienna heard the true regret.
"You missed Christmas," he accused, eyes narrowing. Oliver smiled slightly.
"I did." Adam seemed to only grow more upset at his admittance. "I'm sorry, Adam, I really am. Let me make it up to you?"
Adam studied him for a moment, and Sienna noticed they both shared the same intense look of concentration. And then she felt strange, almost intrusive, witnessing this personal exchange between the two brothers. If she could, she would walk out of the room. She settled for averting her eyes, and she looked at Sydney, who was watching them with a soft smile on her face.
As if sensing her eyes, the dark haired girl looked up and smiled, before pointing over her shoulder to the hallway. Sienna nodded and followed her quietly.
Sydney was rocking the little girl in her arms, who seemed to be staring at Sienna with wide curious eyes only a child could possess. Sienna smiled at her.
"This is Aubree," Sydney said. "She's a little shy, but she's hyper when she wants to be."
"She's very cute."
"She is, isn't she?" Sydney beamed, as if she were the mom instead of the sister. "She can't say my name yet, so she's calling me 'knee'," she admitted. "It's a little weird, but she's just so adorable I can't help but forgive her." Sydney giggled then when Aubree, seeming to know they were talking about her, smiled widely and kissed Sydney's cheek.
Sienna smiled, observing the pair. How could Oliver fail to mention her? She was sweet.
"Would you like to hold her?" Sydney asked, her arms already positioned to hand the little girl over.
"Oh, no, it's fine!" Sienna said nervously. "She looks too comfortable in your arms, and I'm afraid I'll drop her," she admitted.
"It's okay, she's –"
"And who is this?" Oliver's voice was heard and both of them turned to see him there smiling brightly, an equally bright Adam standing next to his brother. "Wow, she's so big."
"And so adorable," Sydney added, handing Aubree to Oliver with ease. Sienna felt her heart warm as she watched Oliver look down at his sister with such a soft and gentle look, it almost made her stop breathing.
"Hey there, you probably don't remember me but I'm Oliver." He chuckled, rocking her a little. Sienna fell back and saw Sydney smiling down at Adam who smiled at her mischievously.
"This is Adam," Sydney said, nudging the boy. "Adam, this is Sienna."
Adam looked curious, glancing between the both of them. "Hi," he said, almost defensively. He looked back to Sydney. "Are her and Ollie friends?"
Sienna chuckled. "Yes, we are. It's nice to meet you, Adam."
"Sienna is his girlfriend," Sydney said cheerily. Adam looked up at her, and when he returned his gaze to Sienna, a sort of sullen look entered his eyes.
"Oh," he said. Sienna felt a little surprised at the distaste in his voice. "Do you like my brother?" he asked seriously, and Sienna felt rather silly at the slither of nervousness down her spine at his tone. But he was family, and she cared for all their opinions.
"I do," she said very honestly.
To her confusion, his lips thinned and he nodded. "And he likes you."
Sienna smiled, puzzled with his questions. "Yes, I'm hoping he does."
She felt Oliver look at her, but she kept her gaze on Adam. He seemed to observe her with the same concentrated look on her face he used with his brother – but in the end, he turned to Sydney who seemed to be observing the floor in a rather focused fashion.
"They like each other," Adam reported. Sienna watched, bemused, the way Sydney seemed to jump when she was addressed. Giggling, she ruffled his hair.
"Of course they do, Adam," Sydney said factually. "When a girl and boy are together, they tend to like each other." Adam made a face but his step-sister only smiled. "How about we help out at dinner, yeah?"
"Okay," he said doubtfully, following Sydney.
Dinner went by smoothly, much to Sienna's relief. His parents asked about how they met and what they thought of each other then. They asked what she was taking and where she lived. The hovering awkwardness hanging around left as she relaxed in their presence; she couldn't help but share a smile with Oliver at how well everything was just going – turns out, she was nervous for no reason!
"So," Claudia – his step mom – dropped the bomb Sienna really should have expected, "how's your relationship?"
Sienna froze, unsure of how to take her question. She looked innocent enough, almost teasing and curious. They were on their dessert (chocolate cheesecake) and Sienna watched Oliver choke on his bite before downing his glass of water.
Sienna didn't want to toss the word 'love' around when she hasn't even told Oliver, so she smiled and joked weakly, "Well, we haven't killed each other yet."
Jace rolled his eyes good naturedly. "They're together, aren't they, Claud'? Do you think they'd be here right now if their relationship was doomed? Oliver hasn't brought a girl home since –" he stopped abruptly, and Sienna noticed the way his eyes flickered. "Well – since Kylie!"
Sienna looked at Oliver curiously. They never really spoke of their past relationships – at least, not their names, only the lessons they gained out of it.
"Who is Kylie?" Sienna asked when Oliver didn't say anything. He seemed too tense, and she frowned a little. Was he okay? Sienna tried not to feel the flare of jealousy but it was futile. She wasn't the type to share. "Did you two part… hatefully?" she tried.
Claudia looked surprised. "You didn't mention Kylie?"
"What's there to mention? She's in the past."
There was a cold silence, Sienna realized, as she slowly looked away from the parents staring at Oliver – to someone safe to look at. Her eyes landed on Sydney, who smiled weakly and shrugged as if to say 'what can we do?'
"Son, you… loved her."
Sienna felt her heart jump, and she forced herself to relax. Oh, God, maybe… maybe Oliver still wasn't over this Kylie girl. Maybe she was the reason as to why he was so guarded and – unwilling to let her in. Maybe she still held a piece of his heart.
Sienna looked away from him. Maybe she still had all of it.
"You don't care." It took her a moment to realize the cold voice came from Oliver. "Don't act like you do."
Oliver stared hard at Jace, who suddenly looked tired and… ashamed. Claudia bit her lip, her eyes flickering to Sydney. Sienna was certainly missing something.
Pushing away the fear, she probed tentatively. "She's… still… alive, right?" Sienna winced a little, hoping she was right. To her relief (and embarrassment), Sydney laughed lightly, clearly, from across the table.
"Yes, she is," she said, her voice carefree, contrastingly painfully against the atmosphere that descended on the dinner table. Her grin seemed out of place with people who weren't as cheerful as she was. "Kylie was Oliver's ex-girlfriend, of course. They did love each other."
"Rhode," Oliver growled.
Sydney dismissed him with a tiny wave of her hand. Sienna listened intently, already feeling some sort of competition for this girl she's never met. "They ended… sort of mutually," Sydney mused. "I suppose you could say."
Sienna frowned. "Sort of mutually… what do you mean?"
"Well, Kylie still loved him, but she… well, she knew they weren't meant to be together… as cliché as that sounds."
Sienna was relieved, and she inwardly kicked herself. It's been almost four years since they graduated from high school; it was silly to be jealous of a memory. But still… she couldn't help it. "Oh, I see. I suppose long distance doesn't always work." She nodded, but slowly stopped when Sydney sort of grimaced. "What is it?"
"I, um, it's nothing. I suppose you could call it –" she cut herself off with a slight laugh, and Sienna noticed a pained look in her eyes. The girl blinked, and it was suddenly gone. "I should quit while I'm ahead," she sighed.
"Yeah," Oliver said shortly. "You should."
Sienna frowned at the tone, but when she looked at him, he seemed to mirror the pained expression Sydney had moment's ago.
"Okay!" Claudia seemed to shrill as she stood up. She began to gather the plates on the table. "Perhaps we should start cleaning this up –"
"Oh, I'll help," Sienna stood, ignoring Claudia's protests. She carried the plates to the kitchen behind Claudia, glancing back curiously. Oliver was walking away; Jace seemed to be hurrying after him. Sydney was the only one in her seat, looking down at the table.
Claudia seemed to stop in front of the sink, and Sienna hesitated behind her, unsure. The older woman's head was bent down, her hand gripping the counter's edge.
"Mrs Cres – Claudia?" Sienna said softly, gently. She seemed to snap out of her reverie with a jolt.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," she said, stepping aside. Sienna smiled, placing the dirty dishes in the sink. "I… I'm sorry you had to see that."
"It's okay," she said slowly. Sienna watched her run a hand over her tired face, and she felt a tug in her heart. "Um… if you don't mind me asking, are you okay?"
She laughed a little. "Yes, sweetheart, I'm –" She stopped, looking over Sienna's shoulder. Unable to help herself, she also twisted to look. Sydney was standing up, collecting the rest of the plates in a rather lethargic fashion. Adam was next to her, expression clearly distressed. Sydney was clearly trying to reassure him, but even from where Sienna was standing, she knew the smile was false.
Something happened, but Sienna didn't know what. She didn't even think it was her place to ask.
"Has Oliver ever mentioned his family?" Claudia asked suddenly.
"Um, yes, of course he has." She smoothed her shorts down nervously. She hoped she didn't ask anymo –
"Anything concerning how he felt about his family, perhaps?" She smiled slightly, and Sienna felt a sick feeling in her stomach. Sienna opened her mouth, but nothing came out.
"Oliver's always kept to himself about his family," Sienna felt the need to say, to defend her boyfriend, to defend his step-mom, because the older woman just looked so sad. "I didn't want to pry, so I'm waiting until he's ready to talk…" she trailed off, because it was true, and because it just made Mrs Creston's face fall.
"Yes, he will talk when he's ready," she finally said.
Sienna took a deep breath. "Is he… is he still in love with Kylie? I mean, as far as you know," she said awkwardly, cursing herself for being so nosy and jealous; but at the same time, Sienna couldn't help herself, and she found herself holding her breath as she waited for the answer.
Claudia glanced at her, a slight smile on her lips. "I don't know how to answer that," she said, sounding very honest.
She felt her heart fall. What?
"Be brutal," Sienna said, straightening. "I can take it." She hoped like hell she could at least.
But Claudia only smiled. "He'll tell you when he's ready."
Sienna opened her mouth to argue, but in the end she nodded resignedly. She wasn't going to pester his step-mom, no matter how much she wanted to know. Besides, it's been years – if Sienna could get over her past boyfriends, then of course Oliver could as well.
Sienna finished helping in the kitchen, and walked out with the intent to find Oliver. She saw from the window in the kitchen that it was well into the evening, the sun properly set so she saw the darkness of the sky. Oliver hadn't returned to the house – at least, where she was – and she felt more worried than put off. Sienna wasn't needy, but the fact that she hasn't heard from Oliver yet was worrisome.
She had so many questions to ask him, to talk to him about – she felt like she found a lot more about him, but at the same time, grew farther away from him.
Sienna went to the living room, to the basement, and hesitantly up the stairs when Jace supposed he retired to his former room; but he wasn't there. She was about to return to Claudia to ask when she heard voices, passing by the door, held slightly ajar by a wooden board, she assumed lead to the garage.
"Why is it, every time I see you, you're painfully off-limits?" The words had an amused lilt, but the undertone was serious. Sienna found herself still, listening, to the voice that could only belong to Oliver.
There was a light, clear laugh. "It's because you have horrible timing."
There was silence for a few moments, and Sienna found herself leaning against the wall, out of sight to the both of them, but within hearing range.
"Sienna's helping in the kitchen," Sydney said. "Mom and Jace really like her, Oliver."
There was a slight pause. "I noticed."
Sydney giggled a little. "I like her too. She's nice."
Oliver chuckled, but he sounded humorless. "You thought Kylie was nice too." Sienna felt her heart jump to her throat – this was wrong, she realized, but she didn't stop eavesdropping. Besides, what could it hurt?
"Because Kylie was nice," Sydney said defensively. "Sienna's nice, too."
"How have you been?" Sienna almost didn't recognize Oliver; his tone was so gentle and… tender. Sienna thought it was sweet he cared so much for his step-sister. If possible, her love grew for the man a few feet away who unknowingly held her heart.
"Fine," she said, almost wistfully. "As always." There were sounds of light footsteps. "Thought you'd always come back for it."
"A car is more convenient."
"I kind of missed this," Sydney said, her voice slightly sad and wistful. "When… you were gone that year, I always found myself down here, trying to find the courage to ride it."
"Sydney Ella Rhode," Oliver's furious voice reached Sienna's ears. "What the hell?"
"I know, I know," Sydney yelped, but she was laughing. "Don't worry, I didn't do anything!"
"You better have not," Oliver growled. "What would I do if anything happened to you?"
There was a pause, and Sienna felt something off click in her brain. The atmosphere shifted – she could practically feel it – and with a sense of foreboding, she realized that there was much more to the conversation than she assumed.
"Don't worry about it, Rhode."
Sienna could practically imagine Sydney fidgeting; it seemed to suit her… bubbly persona, seemingly always cheery and upbeat. An inkling of resentment began to fill Sienna for this innocently beautiful girl.
"I missed you," Oliver said, his voice quiet but factual. No one could miss the raw emotion in his voice. "Didn't realize exactly how much until I saw you, though. Makes me wonder why I hoped like hell you wouldn't be here today, too." He laughed a short laugh.
"I…" Sydney laughed a little. "Of course I always miss you."
"Because I'm your step-brother or –" Silence.
"I thought avoidance was my specialty?" Sydney said, amused, but Sienna heard the strain. In fact, she felt like her whole body was tense, listening to the conversation, but she was frozen. She was riveted in a stunned awe kind of way. Sienna heard her inhale shakily. "I wouldn't have come, you know, if I knew you'd be here."
"But – but I'm glad I did! I really am happy to see you and to meet Sienna – and I'm sorry you had to miss Christmas because… of me."
Sienna couldn't see her face, but she felt like smacking her; for stuttering, for sounding so genuine, so regretful and thankful, and – God, why did Oliver –
"Christmas was my choice," Oliver said sharply, but seemed to realize what he said. "Not like that – I… Christ," he muttered, weary and frustrated. "Sydney, stop it. Stop. You can fool everyone in the world, but you know you can't fool me."
The girl sounded defensive. "Oliver, just because –" She stopped, and then sighed. With a little laugh, she said, "That transparent, hmm?"
"I've had my share of practice reading you."
Her voice was wistful. "Seems so long ago."
"It was a long time ago."
Pause. "Yes," she laughed lightly. "It has. Adam's grown, Bree is so big…" she trailed off. "I suppose I should go now."
There were distinct sounds of shuffling. And then –
"Were you right?" Oliver said suddenly, and Sienna heard Sydney's steps stop.
Sydney sounded confused. "About what?" she asked, almost tentatively.
"About letting go; about listening to our parent's bullshit when they said we weren't meant to be; about moving on." The words had an edge Sienna's never heard before, and her heart plummeted at his words. Oh, God. "Were you right?"
"It doesn't matter," Sydney finally said, her voice sounding even strange to Sienna who only knew her for a few hours. "You have Sienna."
She heard the smile in Sydney's voice. "She loves you, you know. The way she looks at you… like she can't believe it's real. It's beautiful."
Oliver laughed. "Trust me, Rhode." His voice was heated, tense and angry almost. But at the same time, he sounded like he was aching. "I know the feeling."
"Forget it, Rhode." He chuckled mirthlessly. "Never happened?"
Sydney laughed a tearful laugh that had Sienna's aching heart pound with fury and pain. "Never happened," she agreed, her footsteps resounding once again. Then she stopped for one moment. "Off the record, Oliver," she said quietly, so quietly Sienna had to strain her ears, even when she just wanted it all to end, "I still love you – we know that doesn't change anything… I just… wanted you to know – in case you think I deliberately hurt you back then."
"I know you didn't."
Sydney giggled quietly, "good."
Sienna realized Sydney was heading towards the door, so with blood pumping hard in her veins, she flung herself in the direction of the front door which was down the hallway – towards outside, so she could hide underneath the safety of the dark – to gather her thoughts, to hear herself think…
Gritting her teeth, she ignored the fact she didn't bother with shoes as she quietly closed the door. Her throat was tight, her chest was tight, her eyes felt full. Clenching her hands, she walked down the driveway, onto the sidewalk and away from the house, just at the corner of the street.
She was glad it was night; no one was on this street. She inhaled sharply, only to find herself choking on a sob. She wrapped her arms tightly around her middle, shutting her eyes tightly, trying to forget what she heard. It wasn't Kylie; it had always been Sydney.
And suddenly it made sense, why Oliver never spoke about his family; why there was hardness in his voice whenever he even mentioned his parents – because they never approved. They tore them apart, and with a sick feeling, she was glad they did… but at the same time, completely miserable because she realized that wall he had was never going to come down – not where she was concerned.
She should've noticed it, the way he looked at Sydney, talked to her – the way his voice and eyes just changed; Sienna wanted to die. Oliver needed to be saved – and with a sinking feeling, she knew only Sydney Rhode could be his heroine.
She gathered her bearings quickly, wiping her eyes, trying to make herself look presentable. Her chest ached as she thought about facing Oliver, knowing what she knew now.
Said girl looked up as she shut the door quietly behind her. Oliver was walking towards her, his eyebrows furrowed in concern, and she felt her heart drop. "Hi."
"Where were you?"
That moment, Sydney skidded into the hallway, her eyes wide, before a relieved grin stretched her lips. Sienna wanted to slap the look off of her face. How dare she smile at her when she was in love with her boyfriend?
"We were looking for you!" she exclaimed. "I hope our family didn't scare you away?" she joked, crossing her arms over her chest. "We tend to be a little intense."
Sienna laughed, but even to her it sounded off. "No, no… I just went for a walk, you know, to clear my head." She turned to Oliver, grabbing his hands. If anyone thought she was stepping away from Oliver, then they had another thing coming. "Ready?"
Oliver looked over her head. "Yeah…"
They said goodbye to his parents, and Sienna forced a smile, thanking them for everything. To Sienna's dismay, it was Sydney who walked them out to their car. Sienna was hyper aware of everything, much to her heartache, because she couldn't deny the way they looked at each other; not now, not when she was watching.
"Well, thanks for everything Sydney," Sienna said lightly. "It was… nice meeting you."
Sydney didn't notice her tone. "Likewise," she said. "I hope to see you again soon." Then her voice softened. "Take care of Oliver, will you? He can get reckless at times."
"I know." She smiled a close lipped smile, her eyes watering but she blinked quickly.
"Drive safely, Oliver," she heard Sydney say softly to her boyfriend. Oliver chuckled lightly.
"Will do, Rhode… you better take care of yourself since I'm not there," he joked, but there was a definite undertone of seriousness in his words. Sydney only grinned brightly.
They sort of hesitated, but Oliver reached forward in the end to put his arms around her. Sienna looked away, but she still saw the surprised wonder on Sydney's face before she broke into a quiet smile – she saw the way Oliver's jaw clenched, eyes closing, as if it was truly the last time he'd ever get to hold her like that again.
They stepped away from each other.
"Bye," Sydney said, quietly this time.
Oliver said nothing as he got into the car. Sienna followed his lead quickly, almost desperately, wanting to leave her presence.
Oliver put the car on reverse, and Sienna instinctively looked to up – but Sydney was gone, and the front door had just closed.
The car was silent for a while; Oliver seemed to be lost in thought, and Sienna was trying desperately to keep herself from sobbing or sniffling, or anything that would give away that she heard them talking. She eventually settled herself, watching the passing scenery, hands folded on her lap. She almost felt at peace with herself, unlike the girl she had been earlier who was beyond nervous.
"Wasn't so bad, was it?" Oliver said.
Sienna smiled faintly. "It wasn't." It was.
Oliver had a half smile on his face. "Sometimes I forget how much I miss them."
I'll bet, Sienna thought bitterly, but then she looked at her boyfriend. His lips were turn downwards, and he looked tense. He almost looked… miserable. Her heart began to ache for him, for her – for Sydney, because they were obviously still in love, and Sienna knew that she was going to do everything she could to get Oliver to fall in love with her, to forget about the heart ache he and Sydney had lived through.
He would, she knew. She reached forward and clasped his free hand in hers. She could be his hero.
But of course… we all know how it really ends.)
A thanks to LittleLostShoe for going over my work and fixing what I'm too lazy to look for :P
Well… that's it, I'm done! I look back and… see all my grammatical errors, and unnecessary scenes and paragraphs, and… HAHA! Okay, so I'm not done, one day I'm going to come back and just edit all the chapters but not a lot is going to change (like, you know, Brown Eyes, haha!). It's so hard to believe – I swear it was just yesterday I was on my ancient computer telling myself I needed to get this idea out and it'll only be a maximum of 15-16 chapters. PFT. Okay there… but it's been two years and I want to thank the readers who've been with me from the very beginning, the ones that joined us later on, and future new ones :P
No but seriously, thank you so much for the support. It means a lot to me, you guys have no idea.
I had different versions for the epilogue, but I settled with this one, even though it's unconventional but I feel like it fits. Hopefully you all liked it too. So now it's time to wave bye-bye to Oliver and Sydney (both characters who will be sorely missed… at least I'll miss them – I grow strangely attached to my characters) and hello to new ones… when I introduce them, of courseee.
I don't think I'll ever say it enough or grow tired of it – THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! Until next time, my loves ;)
EDIT (may 28 2011): Due to the overwhelming confusion, I'm just going to clear it up now: SYDNEY AND OLIVER DO END UP TOGETHER. Please note the title of the epilogue and the ages of the characters, especially note the previous chapter where they're out of school and already working. This epilogue was a chapter plucked out of their life when Syd and Oli were NOT together. That is all, thank you again for reading.