Chapter One: Warming Up
"And may his soul rest in peace."
Even as she stood there, she felt God's ridicule. She watched with dry eyes as the coffin was nailed shut. It really shouldn't have happened – everything wasn't supposed to end this way.
Life for Terra had barely begun yet so how could it have ended?
It was an injustice. God was not being fair. Of all the things that could've been taken away, it shouldn't have been him.
Right up until the coffin descended into the ground, she could still barely believe he was really gone.
Familiar faces of their friends and family gathered around her and her mother. Condolences were offered to the new widow and her grieving daughter; some of them sniveled, some sobbed and some just offered them silent hugs.
Both Seblanksy women received the people's good intention well, each nodding and mumbling her thank-you. While they may appear to mirror each other externally – both quiet, and solemn – Terra knew that they both felt different.
She understood her mother. Her mother's heart must ached so badly that she wasn't even able to talk in coherent sentences. Underneath her oversized shades, Terra had no doubt that her mother's eyes were puffy from the tears that she'd shed silently. And at that moment in time, she was also pretty sure that her mother must've been trying hard to fight back her tears.
And that made Terra feel like shit.
While her mother grieved, Terra felt dead. Her eyes were as dry as the desert, and she could feel her heart beating steadily. She watched everyone passing by without shedding a single tear and she was, by no means, even near tears at all as she stared at the tombstone with her father's name engraved on it.
Why wasn't she crying?
In all honesty, shouldn't she be bawling right now? If tears were the means to measure her level of grief for her father, then, she should be hysterical.
But why wasn't she?
Why couldn't she?
Charles Seblanksy was in his final resting place. Everyone who knew him was in tears. Terra saw some of his closest male friends even turning their heads to cry out of sight. Yet, as his daughter whom he'd loved quite so dearly, Terra felt absolutely nothing watching the soil cover up the hole.
All she did was look.
Out of nowhere, she suddenly felt a tap on her shoulder. She was surprised, and that was the first time that day that she'd felt anything at all. She turned her head, felt the soft touch of her mother's hand on her cheek.
"Honey," Petra pleaded. "Please. Just say something."
Terra blinked at her, not knowing how to respond.
Then, Petra pulled her into her arms and allowed their heads to rest against each other's. She squeezed her daughter's arms, and sniveled. For a moment, Terra stared at her father's name on the tomb and then, for an almost undetectable second, she shuddered.
The hurt suddenly became too much to bear.
So, she turned away and embraced her mother.
"Don't ever leave," she said. "You can't, mama."
The days were getting more than unbearable.
Weeks after her father's death, she was finding it harder than ever to cope with her everyday tasks. For some time after the funeral, she found herself barely able to shut her eyes. She felt like every time she let herself sleep, she was forgetting her father. She was wracked with guilt if she ever felt the urge to smile – or eat… or even live.
She couldn't stop thinking about him, or the way he died. Even if she got to ever sleep, she'd be dreaming of him. Her memories of him would sometimes just overwhelm her thoughts. On some of the good days, these memories would become so vivid that she'd start believing that he was still there with them.
Only, every time that happened, she'd soon realize that he really wasn't there. And then, when that happened, her heart would break all over again.
Terra was convinced that her mother must've not had it easy as well. Petra might not be telling her a lot of things and sometimes, she'd put on a brave smile whenever she tried to make Terra eat, but Terra knew.
She could hear her mother crying almost every night.
At first, she thought maybe she needed a diversion. She should go to school, focus on something else for a change, hang out with her friends and live her life. But right then, even school seemed bleak for her.
She was sick of the pitiful faces that greeted her every morning. Their look of commiseration drove her mad. She was having a hard enough time trying to cope with the fact that her father had died without her friends – and even strangers – reminding her about it every time they told her that they were sorry for her.
So, she began to isolate herself. She rejected any form of help that came with sympathy, declined all offers of counselling and ran as far as she could from the people who constantly queried her well-being.
But no matter how far she ran, they just wouldn't stop chasing.
And that, she believed, justified her act of fleeing all the way to another continent to escape their scrutiny. When her mother had asked her one day if she was willing to let go of everything and go back to the States with her – where she was originally born - Terra didn't wait a second longer to pack her bags and take the next flight.
"Ms. Seblanksy, am I right?"
She stopped toying with the pen in her hand and put it down. Breaking off from her reverie, she looked up from the table and blinked at the chubby, middle-aged blonde in front of her.
Hence, here she was. After a long flight, she was finally in this crappy piece of classroom in the middle of, basically, what she thought was a pond scum.
Her new AP English teacher had wrinkles pulling at the corners of her eyes as she smiled at her. Terra wondered briefly if she used skincare products because she didn't look old enough to have that many lines on her face. She then watched as her teacher flipped through her papers.
"Did you move here from London?"
Well, technically, she was born in San Francisco before her parents migrated with her when she was five. Her innate American accent was always considered weird back then and she was surprised that her teacher didn't take it into account that she sounded American rather than British. But whatever it was, she didn't have the necessary energy to point out her teacher's ignorance or stupidity.
And so, she nodded.
"How do you like it here?"
Nettled by her teacher's obvious lack of sensitivity to another person's display of emotion and sufficiently jet-lagged, Terra was beyond her normal manners. Her patience was already running thin but Mrs. Luther's perky little voice exacerbated her migraine.
A hand on her forehead, she answered curtly, "I've only been here for a few hours."
She could hear some people behind the class tittering, obviously finding her tone very amusing. Mrs. Luther, on the other hand, seemed like she wasn't really into the joke. Her initial perky attitude took a three-sixty turn as she looked down at her with enmity.
"Well, Ms. Seblanksy, I don't know what they teach you back wherever you came from but I hope you learn a thing or two about manners here at Pentrose. The school has low tolerance for any form of disrespect. You'd gain something by learning a thing or two about the way to speak to a teacher around here."
She was too tired to get into another drama, she acceded unconvincingly. "Yes, ma'am."
While it seemed like she was rather dissatisfied with Terra's reply, Mrs. Luther didn't bother too much with her following that. Instead, she snorted and, to Terra's delight, went back to the front of the class to start the lesson.
Frankly though, what did Mrs. Luther expect of her? Smile, wave and give out chocolates to everyone in sight as a welcome gift?
No, probably not.
Following her mother's foolish and unthoughtful instruction, she'd been sent straight to school after they'd just arrived at the airport. Her mother's friend, a woman she heard her mother called Anna, was dressed in a beige, Armani suit just like one of those things women used to wear in the 90s and waiting for them the moment they got off at the arrival hall. Terra had essentially implored her mother to let her take a break but she guessed her mother must be so absorbed in her own needs that she'd not heard or chose not to listen to Terra.
Collateral damage, that'd be what Terra would call her. On other days, she'd probably try to be more polite, but today just wasn't the day.
It was odd how she'd changed so much.
Back in London, she would've never talked back. At least, not on the first day. She was loved by her teachers, and friends. She had a perfect reputation that she fought to live up to everyday of her life.
And a father to impress.
Oh, but what the hell now. She was back to square one and she could do whatever she wanted. She was a senior with no friends, and no relations. Maybe, she should just stay this way until graduation. She didn't need to please anyone or do anything right. All she needed was to get through the rest of the year. If she got into any trouble, then so be it – she wasn't going to do any ass-kissing anytime soon.
But no, really. Could she do that?
She sighed inwardly.
Really, maybe it was just all the lethargy talking then. Or her pent-up anger towards her mother.
Her profoundly selfish mother.
Who sends their obviously jet-lagged, severely exhausted daughter to hell just so they could spend quality time with their childhood friend? Jesus.
She heard some snickers from behind and then, the voices of a few guys talking.
"Check her out," one of them said. "Out of ten?"
She scowled, irritated. Her arms were crossed in front of her chest as she reeled her anger in. Being objectified was the last thing she needed on this freaking glorious day.
Pristine manners, her ass.
"Eight," another guy answered. "I like 'em rough. I'd tap that anytime."
She snapped her head around and glared at the guys. It took her all of her strength to remain seated and not let her hand actually fly across their faces. But those uncivilized little barbarians, who were probably intellectually incompetent, seemed to feed off her reaction.
One of them leaned forward and tried to touch her. "Baby," he cooed, "why don't you and I go for a tour in my car?"
She drew a sharp breath.
His leer rang clear in her head and that was quite possibly her last straw. She pushed her chair back, drawing the attention of the people around them. And then, she slowly put both her palms onto his table, bore the weight of her eyes on his, and shook her head.
"Don't," she started. "I will cut your fucking head off. So, don't."
She wasn't normally so violent but again, everything these days didn't seem normal at all. The boys had their eyes bugged out as if they'd just heard the most shocking news.
Then, she turned around. And true to her expectation, Mrs. Luther was glowering at her. "What in the devil possessed you?" she said with disgust. "I will not allow such abusive language in my class!"
Terra's face remained impassive. She then started to take steps towards the teacher's desk while Mrs. Luther scribbled on a red piece of paper that Terra believed was an issue for her detention.
Mrs. Luther looked up to find Terra standing in front of her table.
"What do you think you're doing?" she said.
"Saving you the trouble of walking towards me, ma'am."
"What?" Mrs. Luther said.
"With all due respect, ma'am, I think you should reevaluate your views on what you qualify as 'pristine manners'. Because if this –", she jerked her thumb over her shoulder, "– is your benchmark, you're going to like me just fine."
As if in horror, Mrs. Luther exclaimed, "Ms. Seblanksy!"
"Ma'am, I'm sorry. But for the sake of everyone's well-being, I don't think that I should be sitting in your class for today."
She was impassive. "Ma'am, is it in your culture that I have to ask for detention or are you just waiting for something else to happen before you hand me that slip?"
"I understand your role as an educator but I believe I'm well acquainted with my name and do not need it to be repeated so many times."
That was when she heard laughter erupting from the class. No one was hiding their amusement with the way things had unfolded – and Mrs. Luther certainly didn't seem very happy about that as she literally shoved the slip into Terra's arm.
Terra really didn't know if she was just tired or if she was really just turning into a delinquent because after her teacher gave her the red slip, she turned and walked towards the direction of the door.
"Where do you think you're going?"
She stopped short, paused and then, turned to face Mrs. Luther. "The infirmary."
Mrs. Luther narrowed her eyes at Terra. "And who gave you the permission to leave?"
She shrugged. "Ma'am, it was either the principal's office or this. But I don't think you want me to test your patience that way so I picked the latter for you."
If she thought that Mrs. Luther hated her to her bones when she'd talked back to her the first time, she was sorely mistaken.
"Go back to your seat, Ms. Seblanksy," Mrs. Luther said, gritting her teeth. Terra was surprised at her power of restraint.
Terra sighed. "Principal's office it is."
And that was how first period ended.
Terra should've been a robot at birth. At least, if she was a robot, she wouldn't need to deal with feelings because the human her certainly didn't know what to feel at the moment.
England had been a place of sorrow since her father left and so, back there, she'd been relieved at the prospect of leaving. But now that she was here, everything just didn't seem right. All of sudden, she missed home.
She knew her thoughts were contradicting but she knew for a fact that she wasn't about to turn back and go running to the people that caused her fleeing in the first place. She thought about it a little more and sighed. As chagrined as she was by the people she'd met here, at the very least, they weren't trying to force her into therapy.
What was she thinking getting into something as big as that with her teacher on her first day? She was impulsive and upset that she was forced to go to school even though all she really wanted to do was snuggle into her bed, but certainly, Mrs. Luther didn't deserve the treatment that she'd gotten.
She made a mental note to apologize to her when she was considerably more remorseful – which could maybe be a week… or a month from now.
Oh, screw it. She'd cross that bridge when she came to it.
Pentrose High really was comparably smaller than her previous school. It didn't take her very long to find her way around. After she left Mrs. Luther's class, she made a few wrong turns but eventually got to the infirmary. The nurse didn't look too happy seeing her but since she'd made an effort to actually talk to the principal about her condition and gotten herself an authorized note, the nurse had to entertain her. At least, he helped Terra soothe her migraine. It wasn't every day that she got to see a male nurse in school but she was grateful that he wasn't chatty and was focused on getting her to feel better.
Eventually, she got through the rest of her classes without mishaps. She stayed low under the radar and managed to restrain herself whenever she heard some comment from jackasses all over the place.
Seriously, was this school built on all these arrogant fools?
When she got to the detention room, she noticed that she was fifteen-minutes early. Nobody was even around yet, not even the teacher. But she took her seat anyways, and picked one all the way at the back, right at the corner. She didn't even bother to switch the lights on and eventually, she somehow fell asleep.
She thought she heard a man's voice. Was she so tired that she was hallucinating? Or was this just a dream?
"Really, she doesn't look that bad when she's asleep. Actually, I think she's kinda cute."
No, that was definitely not a dream.
Terra lifted her head up. Fully erect and alert, she found a guy sitting in front of her. His chair was reversed and so he had his arms resting on the top rail of the chair. He was staring at her with a pair of bright, enthusiastic puppy eyes.
"You're awake," he said.
She widened her eyes at the boy with black hair, alarm coursing through her system.
Where was she?
Terra turned. First, she tried to remember where she was and then, with much effort, recalled that she was in detention. After that, she turned to scan her surroundings before realizing that she wasn't alone anymore. In fact, she wasn't just with that one boy with black hair – she was with three boys.
Somehow, that didn't stand well with her.
"But she's cute," the blonde, who commented on her being stoned earlier, continued to agree. She glanced over at him and saw that he had a boyish grin on his face as he leaned back and propped his chair against the wall behind it.
It sometimes took her longer than usual to let all the after-sleep grogginess pass from her system and she guessed this was one of those times. But after the initial phase of shock she experienced from waking up to guys watching her sleep, she geared up and put on the cold look that she'd sported too many times today.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"Oh, and there you go," Moses said, gesturing with his hands. "She speaks – and the whole illusion is ruined, Cal. Welcome back to reality, bro."
The black-haired boy swatted his hands at his blonde friend. "Sorry," he said as he turned back to Terra. "We didn't mean to intrude."
She scoffed. "Hardly looks like it."
The blonde tsk. "Cal, get your head straight. She's going to eat you up whole and spit you back out before you know it."
She paused. Then, slowly but surely, she turned her head so that she could look at the blonde. "Hey, blondie," she drawled. "Stop talking about me as if I'm not here."
Before blondie could make another come back, his friend, Cal, immediately interjected. Like a pre-school teacher trying to get the attention of the kids, he waved his hands around so that she and blondie would look over at him. But when she finally looked over, he just laughed nervously.
"Look," he said as he scratched the back of his head, clearly struggling for words. "Ah… sorry. But you must think we're rude –"
Blondie snorted. "Rude? We're hardly –"
Cal raised his voice over blondie's and cast him a look of warning. "As I was saying," he continued, "let me just introduce ourselves."
She rolled her eyes. "I'm not –"
Before Terra could finish her sentence, Cal had started with the introductions. "I'm Calvin Filray," he said and then, gestured towards blondie, "this is Moses Alfred. And that's – well, Ocean Seymour."
Initially, she truly had no interest whatsoever in whatever it was Cal or Calvin was saying. But when she heard the name Ocean – she felt her brows tightening in the middle.
Now, what caught her attention was not his name – despite it being awfully weird – but the fact that he'd been so quiet, she'd literally forgotten that instead of two, there were three guys in the classroom.
Curious, she turned to her left.
It was funny how the first thing she noticed about the boys were their hairs. Each one of them had different color hairs and this one's was dark brown. But his hair alone was not the only thing that caught her eyes; his features were remarkable. He had well-defined cheekbones and a pair of the most beautiful eyes Terra had ever seen. They were dark-blue in color and maybe it was just the light but Terra thought that they almost resembled the ocean, just like his name.
He was sitting on his chair, looking at them. But despite his eyes clearly reflecting an image of her, she felt that he wasn't really looking.
There was this thing in his eyes – this look to it as he stared at them.
He was bored.
He looked bored.
Throughout the entire day, she'd been insulted and objectified by most of the guys that'd crossed paths with her. She was like a brand new sparkling toy that they thought they could play with. Every time someone made a comment about her ass or her looks or her boobs, she tried really hard to tune them out, and that, in itself, was a hard enough thing for her to do. Even so, she managed it.
But this… his face.
God, this took her agitation to a whole new level and she didn't even understand why.
Frankly, she should pop bottles of champagne that, for once, a guy wasn't interested at her. It was good news – it meant that she was being left alone and she had wanted that since she stepped into this building.
But somehow, something inside of her felt vexed.
And because clearly she couldn't lash out on him, she found herself turning her irritation at the innocent Calvin instead.
Another collateral damage, she foresaw.
She drew a sharp breath. "Look –"
"Calvin," he said, thinking that she must've forgotten his name. But she didn't and the fact that he thought that ticked her off.
Anything they did would, really.
"I don't care," she started. "Whatever your name is, I don't care. So, why don't you and your friends just leave me alone?"
Blondie – or well – Moses did a slow-clap, and looked away but Calvin was just relentless. "You know, we can be friends. I was in your English class – the one with Mrs. Luther?"
"So you should know how I am."
Moses laughed and leaned forward. "That you hate boys? Oh, sweetheart, you couldn't have been more obvious."
Terra kept her eyes shut. She could hear her veins popping in her head.
"Come on, we can show you around. Maybe we can –"
She flicked her eyes open and before she knew it, she'd slammed her hands on the table. "For the last time, I'm not interested!"
And then, everything came to an abrupt stop.
Suddenly, it was as if no one could move. Calvin's mouth was open but no words came out from it as he looked at her. Moses had one brow raised but he, like his friend, also could not find the right words to say. For a few short seconds, it stayed that way.
Then, he spoke.
It was like God himself came down to Earth to slap her.
Very, very gradually – as if everything would fall apart if she moved too fast – she turned to her to look at him. The guy Calvin introduced as Ocean was still sitting in the same position she last saw him. He was still looking at them, still wasn't smiling or doing anything.
Except, this time, he didn't look bored.
Her heart pounded. "What?"
His eyebrow twitched a little and the tip of his mouth lifted for a split second as if he was just about to smile.
But he didn't. He didn't smile.
Even so, she could feel his amusement.
"Hearing problems?" he drawled.
This time, he turned his body so that he was facing her. Then, he propped a hand on the table as he lazily rested his cheek on his palm.
"Oh you poor baby."
Before, she'd felt vexed because he looked bored. Honestly, she didn't understand why she was feeling so frustrated over that but now, she knew.
It wasn't his boredom. It wasn't the disinterest. She was annoyed because it was condescending. He was condescending.
Every lift of his brow, every word he spoke, every way he looked at her – all of them were so patronizing that it was insufferable. He was acting as if he was superior to her, as if he owned her.
And that infuriated her.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" she hissed. "How dare you think that you can treat me this way?"
The tip of his mouth curved a little. "Treat others like how you want to be treated, right?"
"Oh," she said, and threw her head back. She laughed in disbelief. "Now, you're quoting religion? After you've outright insulted me?"
He shrugged with aplomb. "I will not and shall never lie."
Calvin's nervous laugh reverberated in the room again as he walked over to Ocean and patted him on his shoulder. "Ocean's our football capt–"
She didn't know them very well but when Calvin interjected, she knew that he must be the peacemaker amongst the boys.
But it was far from her to let this slip.
"I don't care if he's president of the United States," she growled, nostrils flaring as she stood up. "He has no rights to call me a fucking bitch!"
"Whoa," Ocean cut in smoothly as he smirked. "Easy there, pony. I'm pretty sure I didn't use the f-word. Unlike you, I kinda don't appreciate profanities."
She could hear Moses laughing from behind her and that definitely didn't make things better. "You ass."
"Mm. Warming up to me already?" he cooed. He sat up straight and cocked his head. "Baby, you know it's going to take a lot more than a dirty mouth to get some of that."
She snorted. "You're trying too hard."
He gave her a lazy stare. "Am I, really? Or are you?"
She glared icicles at him. So consumed with rage, she felt her whole body vibrating with the idea of choking him right there and then. As they leveled their gazes at each other, both refusing to be the first one to cave, none of the other boys dared to step in. For a second, Terra had the thought that this could escalate to a point so bad that her mother might have to be called into school. But then, out of nowhere, a merry-looking, round man wearing a blue checkered shirt, a pair of slacks and leather shoes as well as suspenders came between them and completely blocked off Ocean from her vision.
"Hello," the teacher said, smiling innocently. "Did I miss anything?"
Ever so eager to ease the tension amongst the party, Calvin literally jumped when he saw the man. "Mr. Ohio!" he exclaimed happily. "Boy, am I glad to see you."
There was a loud laugh and Terra's eyes shifted. The round, little man was laughing so happily, she couldn't help but look at him. It was a rarity to find teachers like this and so, as she stared, she found herself slowly easing the creases on her forehead. When he started to rub his tummy, her eyes softened considerably.
"I sure hope you boys didn't start the party without me," he said. Then, he looked at Terra and smiled. "Who're this pretty little girl here?"
For some reason, when 'pretty little girl' came out his mouth, it sounded like a compliment. Mr. Ohio looked way into his forty and he had a thing about him that made him feel like Santa Claus to her. Maybe it was his deep ho-ho-ho voice or his belly but everything about him made her feel like she wanted to hug him.
And that certainly was a feat for her considering the day she'd just had.
She smiled at him. "I'm Terra, sir. Terra Seblanksy."
From behind her, she could hear Moses' escaped gasp. Then, a brief shuffling noise after, he'd come all around so that he could see her face.
"Dear God. Is she smiling? And, was she just being polite?" he said. He looked from Mr. Ohio, to her and then, to Mr. Ohio. "Mr. O, you must be her type."
Mr. Ohio laughed merrily once more. "If so, I'm flattered. Mrs. O won't be too happy to know that I'm still in the market for young, pretty ladies like you but I'm still flattered," he said and winked at her, and somehow, that made Terra blush.
He then cleared his throat, and got a little bit more serious. "Well, let me introduce myself. I'm Mr. Ohio – yes, as in the state Ohio. Don't ask me why I have Ohio as my last name – I'd like to save that story for the next time you're here in detention – but you can just call me Mr. O."
She nodded politely. "It's nice to meet you, sir."
A hint of red hit Mr. Ohio's cheeks and she noticed that there were a few age spots on them. "Oh, no need to be so formal, Ms. Seblanksy. Like I said, just call me Mr. O. These boys do."
"This is new," Moses quipped. "Mr. O, how is it that you're able to tame girls like you do? You ought to teach me a thing or two."
She snorted. "You want a tip? Well, first off, you probably don't talk about said girls as if they're not present."
Moses laughed and raised his hands up as if to surrender. "Guilty."
Mr. Ohio guffawed but began to walk away from the group. He squeezed himself between the tables as he made his way to the front of the classroom and picked up a marker. Then, he wrote the word 'detention' on the board and then, turned to face them all.
"Okay, that's it for business. Now that we have that on the board, we can get back to knowing each other better. We'll be stuck here for the next hour but I'm sure we'll have lots of fun."
Mr. Ohio was a nice person. But to be very frank, she'd no intention whatsoever in getting to know any of the boys at this point in time. And she was pretty sure she wasn't the only one who felt like they didn't want to be in there.
Terra could feel Ocean's patronizing smirk without even having to look over at him. Once everyone was back to their seats and Mr. Ohio got into talking, he leaned over sideways so that he could whisper to her.
"Fun," he said.
She didn't bother to even turn.
"Detention?" her mother said in incredulity. "On your first day? What is going on, Terra?"
Her mother had been going on and on about her behavior since she'd gotten into the car. She was surprised Petra could still even drive on the San Franciscan road. Was her license still even legal?
"Honestly, will you just talk to me?"
Terra's eyes wanted to roll so badly. It was one detention – that was it. She managed to get herself out of the principal's office without a scratch albeit having to hear him lecture her about respect for the teachers in the school. But her mother?
Well, she was a bigger pain.
"Ma, I'm sorry. I wasn't feeling myself."
Petra was making a turn into some place with lots of trees and Terra briefly wondered where this secret house her mother's friend owned was at. "Given that," her mother said sternly, "you should've behave better."
"And you should keep your eyes on the road, ma."
Her mother sighed and shook her head. "You're in a whole lot of trouble, young lady. Don't think I'll let this slip so easily."
"Oh, I won't."
"What did you just say?"
Terra rolled her eyes and turned to face Petra. "I'm tired, ma. I'm just freaking exhausted now. So, will you just leave me alone? Please?"
Even when she was saying those words, Terra could already feel regret in her heart. It wasn't right to say it – it wasn't right to let it all out on her. Petra seemed stricken with surprise at first but then, she returned her gaze onto the road. Even so, Terra could see her mother's fists tightening their grip on the steering wheel.
"I'm sorry," Terra said.
Her mother let out a breath. "No, I'm sorry. I didn't try to understand where you're coming from. I shouldn't have asked you to go to school."
Well, she didn't exactly asked but Terra wasn't about to get into another argument with her. "It's okay, ma. Let's just put it behind us."
As if right on cue, their car arrived in front of a gated mansion. The house was glamorous. It wasn't colossal but it still big enough to fit an entire party of people. The front lawn was beautiful with a garden clearly kept well by a connoisseur. Even though it looked rich, the house had a simplicity to it that she couldn't very well explain.
Armani had taste.
They parked the car in the garage and got out into the front lawn where they were greeted by a pair of couple. The familiar woman whom she'd seen at the airport had changed into casual wear with slippers and her hair tied back in a bun. She came over to hug Petra.
"Welcome back!" she said as if they hadn't seen each other in years. Odd, considering that they must've only separated for an hour or two, tops.
"Anna," Terra's mother said bashfully as she hugged her friend. Then, she looked over to the man and her eyes glinted with familiarity. "Maxwell?"
"Max, Pet," the man corrected her. "Why do you always enjoy calling me by my full name?"
Petra laughed and went over to the man to give him a bear hug. "Since when were you home?" she said.
The man chuckled. "It seems you stole my line. It's been years since I saw you!"
"Yeah, yeah," she said. "Your boy was still a kid when Charles and I left."
Terra didn't have to wait to see that the mention of her father's name drastically changed the atmosphere. Everyone was suddenly quiet, and solemn. Their expressions and demeanors changed and brief condolences were exchanged as the person her mother called Anna went over to hug her mother again.
"Come on," Anna said. "Let's all get inside."
The exterior of the house was, admittedly, beautiful and the interior did it justice as well. Modern design with a staircase smacked right in the middle of the house the moment you enter through the front doors. There were no chandeliers or crystal lamps but there were candles by the tables and the whole house had a very 'Zen' feeling to it. It was quiet inside the house, and the temperature was just nice too.
There was something very calming about it yet the house had a very homey feel to it. There was no doubt, however, that this family was all about its wealth.
The couple led them into a room to the left – a living room. The sofas had soft cushion pillows on it and was exceedingly comfortable. So much so that Terra felt like she was going to fall asleep if nobody spoke to her.
"Look at her," the man said. "She's all grown-up now."
Terra's eyes shifted to the man. She didn't notice when she first saw him but for his age, he was good-looking. She could just imagine what killer looks he must've had when he was younger.
Somehow, he looked rather familiar.
"Well, it has been over ten years," his wife said. "You've grown up to be so pretty and look at all the –"
Everyone's attention quickly shifted to the little boy with dark-brown hair who had skidded into the room. He looked about five years old with cheeks round and rosy as a baby's. He was wearing a Paddington bear shirt and a black pants. Terra looked at him with a smile as he screeched to a halt when he saw her and her mother.
"Mommy?" his voice was small – almost as if he was afraid.
The boy's father laughed. He scooped his son up onto his lap and then kissed his cheek. "This is our little boy, Matthew. He's loud, and sometimes, he whines too much. But other than that, he's fine."
Terra couldn't help but smile at the kid. She'd seen lots of children, but this cute little kid just had something about him that she couldn't resist.
"Who's twat, daddy?" he said, meaning it to be a whisper.
Anna laughed. "Honey, these are the two people that we spoke about. I told you that they're going to be staying with us for a while."
Matthew's eyes brightened up as he whipped his head to face his mother. "You mean the pwetty girls?"
Terra and her mother laughed.
The little boy, finding more courage after seeing the both of them laughed, climbed down his father's lap and walked over to them. He extended his hand to Terra.
"I'm Matty," he said.
She took his hand. "Hi, Matty. I'm Terra."
"Tewa?" he said. "You're pwetty."
The way he turned all of the 'r's into 'w's made her smile. Matthew might just be one of the best things that'd happened to her the entire day. Well, it really wasn't so bad – she could get used to living with this family.
"My big bwother will like you."
It was as if someone had popped her bubble with a pin.
As if sensing Terra's reaction towards Matthew's statement, Anna was quick to add, "I know you'll like Matthew. My worry was never him."
Terra looked up to her mother's friend.
"Where's that boy?" she said as she arched her neck. "He should be home from school now, shouldn't he?"
Maxwell shrugged. "I saw his car. I think he's home."
"He shouldn't be this rude," Anna said chidingly. "He should be down here to say hello."
Petra held her hands up and shook her head. "It's not necessary, Anna. He must be worn out from school today. I know my daughter is. So, just let him rest."
"Nonsense!" Anna exclaimed, sounding not too pleased. "He will be down here –", she paused, looked over at Terra and seeing her confused face, she said, "My eldest son goes to the same school as you. He's about your age too. Do you think maybe you would've met him?"
She shook her head. "I don't believe I recall."
She'd met many people today or seen many of them. She just didn't remember them. And perhaps she may have met or seen this 'eldest' but she really didn't know who he was.
She didn't even know this family's last name.
Terra suddenly sat up straighter.
Wait. That name.
She literally jerked forward. It couldn't be.
"Ocean Edmund Seymour!"
Her heart stopped.
She waited. Everyone did. Their eyes all focused on that one spot where the entrance to the room was. Nobody spoke or move in anticipation of him, and the first thing that Terra saw was a pair of slippers that hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs.
She lifted her head.
No. Fucking. Way.
"I heard you the first time, mom."
All eyes were on the dark-blue eyed boy who was now smiling politely and nodding at Terra's mother. Terra took in his appearance – he wore a ragged t-shirt and a pair of loose pants. He looked rather disheveled, clearly showing that he'd just come out of his bed. He wore different clothes, didn't look as clean and crisp as he did back in school…
But it was unmistakable.
"What?" she said almost breathlessly.
His head turned. Then, there it was again – that bored look. There was no surprise, no shock. He was just standing there with a sideway smile as he looked at her.
"You? You're their son?"
A brow raised, he propped himself against the wall as he crossed his arms.
"What a coincidence."
A/N: Note that I'm the in the process of editing :D There were parts that I have changed in this story to be better.