We ended up at the nearest mall. It was a tourist destination, and therefore packed with people. Everywhere I looked, there was a person walking around with a camera - it almost made me feel like a local, due to the fact that I didn't have one.
"Do you want to get something to eat?" Jayden asked me, once I had finished gaping. He had already been to this place many times on his previous trips with Ashton.
"Umm...I'm more thirsty than hungry," I told him, pointing at an ice cream vendor hopefully.
He grinned at my childish expression. "Ice cream will just make you thirsty," he told me, leading me towards the stall anyway.
"Then you can buy me a REAL drink later," I told him with a laugh.
After he had grabbed sundaes for both of us, we managed to find a booth at the edge of the food court.
"You know something," I said, after shoving a feel spoonfuls of ice cream in my mouth, "I don't know anything about your family."
He stuck his spoon in his own ice cream and leaned forward on his elbows. "Not much to tell," he said casually.
I mimicked his movement. "Well then...tell me the little there IS to tell."
"My mom killed herself after I was born," he said, wiping the smile off my face. "No," he added, when I opened mouth, "don't tell me you're sorry." I clamped my mouth shut. "She was married to my dad by that time, and was a waitress at the local diner. She was raped one night on her way home from work." I felt a stab of pity for the woman, but continued to listen in silence. "My dad isn't a bad guy - he knew it wasn't her fault, and things almost went back to how they were before...until they found out she was pregnant. With me." He sighed and shoved a hand through his hair. "There was a 50-50 chance I was the product of my mom's rape; I had been conceived around that time. My dad had mood swings, and finally couldn't take the pressure. He left my mom, telling her he didn't want to raise another man's child."
I leaned over and touched his elbow in a show of support.
Jayden smiled and then continued. "And then I was born, and I was the exact replica of my dad - my mom's husband, not the bastard who raped her. It broke my mom's heart, and she committed suicide. Social services tracked down my dad and handed me over to him, but he slipped into depression induced by guilt, and was unable to take care of me." He sighed. "That's when my great-uncle stepped in. He was my paternal grandfather's youngest brother, and had no children. The man was filthy rich, and decided to take me on as his heir. My dad had no objections, and gave me up."
"Was he good to you?" I asked, finally breaking my silence.
"As kind as he could be," Jayden said. "He was a traditional man - one with very strong morals and very little tolerance. He taught me patience and the benefits of hard work. Uncle Nelson was a great man."
Jayden nodded. "He passed away a little over a year ago. Since I was still under 18, I had to go back to living with my dad." He grinned. "But the day I hit majority, I moved right back into the big house I shared with my uncle."
I frowned. "You live alone?"
"If you exclude the servants...yes." He reached over and squeezed my hand. "Don't feel sorry for me, Asha. I'm more satisfied with my life than most people."
"Asha!" Ashley slid into the booth beside me. "Hi Jay-Jay!"
"Hello Lee-Lee. Who brought you here?"
"I did," Ashton said, sliding in beside Jayden. He dangled a set of eyes. "I stole the keys to dad's car and got out of there. The language in that house was definitely not rated G." He indicated Ashley with a subtle jerk of his chin. "What was that all about?"
"He said I looked like his mom," I said, trying to pass it off as nothing. "It creeped me out."
Ashton pursed his lips. "It must be the hair," he mused. "Dad's always complaining about how Ashley could be a mini-grandma if it wasn't for the hair she inherited from mom." He shrugged. "Dad was very attached to his mom, but she died about 10 years back. He wasn't the same for months."
This time I pursed my lips, scanning the area around the food court. Spotting the store I had in mind, I tugged gently on Ashley's hair. "Do you want to take a walk around?" I asked her.
"Are you going to buy me anything?" she asked me eagerly.
I laughed at that. "Maybe...if you're good."
"Okay! Let's go!"
Telling Jayden and Ashton we'd meet them in the food court in an hour, I dragged Ashley to the store I had decided on earlier.
"Looking for us?" I asked, sneaking up on Jayden and Ashton.
"You're late," Ashton snapped as they turned around. His eyes widened when he took in my appearance. "Shit, dad's going to KILL you!"
I shrugged. "What do you think?" I asked Jayden, who was watching me with steady eyes.
"It looks great, but...don't you think you just jumped into it?" he asked quietly.
I shrugged again. "Ashley likes it, don't you Ashley?"
My hyper little sister nodded in agreement. "I think it looks beautiful," she said, clutching her new Patrick stuffed animal to her chest. "It's so sparkly!"
With a grin on my face, I turned to the nearest pillar, which happened to have a mirror on it. My reflection showed that my new hair colour did indeed look sparkly. I had gotten the stylist to colour my hair a darker blonde, and then streak it with different shades of light brown and pale blonde. The effect made my hair look naturally sun-streaked. Also, my previously waist-length hair now fell in layers to just below my shoulder.
"I like it too," I declared. "It's a nice change." I guess I could thank my father for that. "Shall we go home now?"
Needless to say, my father was not pleased with the change in my appearance. The minute he saw me, he froze like a deer in headlights. I almost thought that he was going to break into tears but, instead, his eyes flickered accusingly to Jayden.
"You!" he hissed. "After all these years, you just turn your back on everything we've done for you and corrupt my daughter. I know how your family functions - your men never stay with their women." Jayden flinched at that. "Now you think you can just do the same to my girl?"
I stepped in front of Jayden, refusing to budge even when he tried to push me to the side. "Oh, we're talking about monogamy now?" I asked my father sweetly. "Funny, I didn't think you knew the definition."
His face went red with anger. "Don't you dare-"
"-talk like that to me, young lady!" I finished for him. "Yeah, yeah...blah blah blah...let's just fast forward to the end of this conversation, shall we?" I pinned him with a glare. "You cheated on your pregnant wife with my mom, who had no idea you were married. And then you left my pregnant mom - after trying unsuccessfully to convince her to abort the child - and went back to your wife. Now you want me - the child you wanted to abort - to welcome you into my life with open arms?" I let out a snort. "Think again."
Ashton and Ashley chose that time to enter the house. They had driven back in the car Ashton had taken from his father.
"Ashley, your mom is upstairs packing," I told her gently. "Why don't you go help out?"
Once she was out of hearing range, I turned back to the monster that had fathered me. "And finally, you have no right to question any relationship I have - least of all one I choose to have with Jayden. I've given Ashton that right because he's trying to be a proper brother to me, but you've never been a proper man - never mind a father - in your life. At least try to be one for Ashley."
"Come on." I grabbed Jayden's hand and dragged him towards the stairs. "Pack your things," I told him. "We're no longer welcome here."
He let out a shaky sigh once we were on the second floor landing. "You shouldn't have done that," he said to me, clenching his fingers around mine. "It's just going to create more problems in your family."
"I don't care," I told him. "You're more important to me than that guy downstairs."
"I hope you don't mean me," Ashton drawled, joining us. "Because I thought we had the brotherly-sisterly love thing down pat."
"Eww," I simply said, heading for the room I shared with Ashley. The boys followed me in and watched me as I packed. "Aren't you going to go pack?" I asked Jayden.
"I didn't unpack," he responded. "It just wastes time when it comes to repacking." Boys. Argh!
"You know...the two of you should take off somewhere," Ashton said conversationally.
I raised an eyebrow at him as I folded my clothes. "What?"
"Somewhere like...oh, I don't know....India maybe? Or China! Maybe even Russia..."
Jayden shrugged when I aimed a questioning look at him.
"What are you rambling about?" I demanded at Ashton. "Why would we go to those places?"
He grinned. "Well they're all big or populated places...dad won't be able to find you guys there."
"Are you telling me to take your sister and elope?" Jayden asked, sounding amused.
Ashton shrugged. "Anything to keep the two of you together, happy, and alive."
I paused in my folding and looked back and forth between the two of them. "What are you TALKING about?"
Jayden strode over to me and took my hands in his. "Ashton just gave us indirect permission to be with each other," he said, smiling down at me. "What do you say?"
My eyes narrowed in confusion as I looked beyond him at Ashton. "Huh? Is this true?"
He flushed. "Yeah...well...what you said to dad struck a nerve with me...I mean...ah...you actually trust me and try to listen to me whereas you...umm...told dad to get lost..." he stuttered.
"So you're saying that because I gave you the right to force Jayden out of my life, you're letting him stay in it instead?" I clarified.
"What, is this reverse psychology or something?" I demanded. "When I told you to go mind your own business, you shoved into every aspect of my life...and now you're all Mr. Nice-Guy?"
He looked flustered and a little scared. "Umm...something like that..."
Again: Boys. Argh.
I whirled around to face Jayden. "I love you," I declared. Ashton groaned from behind me and I turned back. "What is your PROBLEM?" I screeched at him. "You can't just-"
My words were cut off as Jayden pulled me back against him. "Forget him, Asha, and repeat what you just said."
I grinned up at him. "I love you."
His eyes pierced mine intensely and then he looked up at my brother. "Ashton, do yourself a favour and get lost."
"Why?" Ashton demanded. "It's my house!"
"Fine," Jayden retorted. "You can stand around and watch while I kiss your sister senseless."
The next sound we heard was the door slamming shut.
I was still laughing as Jayden's lips claimed mine.
A/N: So here ends Complications.
I don't know how anybody you feel about Asha not clearing things with her father, but I'll just take this opportunity to say that I hate cheaters and that I find them to be the lowest form of scum. No siree, no forgiveness from me!
Hope you enjoyed...thanks for any and all reviews!
(Oh, and let me know aye/nay/meh about epilogue.)