A/N: Thank you to those who read and review! I really appreciate them, and they were really helpful to the cause. Emgurl and Readergirl-appreciation full!!! Your words got me going, and I was able to envision a possible outcome(s) for this story. I know where I'm heading-more or less.
Once again, thank you for the reviews.
Please don't fret on leaving one either. I'm always shaky on these chapters now because we've crossed the point of no return, and it's always different/challenging when you get there.
You've got the love. You just don't know how to use it yet.
"Andrew, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he bit back a testily, "shouldn't you be somewhere?"
Andrew ignored the piercing look Adam was giving him by turning his back to him. He silently hoped that his older brother wouldn't take offense to the gesture, and he didn't. Andrew was searching for sandwich ingredients, and Adam was brooding/recovering from another of his infamous hangovers. The Armstrong men stood in the kitchen in silence; the only sounds were the hard breathing coming from Adam and the rummaging of the fridge from Andrew.
Still, he could feel Adam's unwavering gaze. Adam's drunken, bloodshot gaze was still in his direction.
"Roland and Jodi are not going to save you."
He didn't reply. He didn't even flinch. His muscles had become awkwardly accustomed to this now; he was fully becoming an Armstrong man now. He placed the lettuce, ham, cheese, and mustard on the counter and kept his back facing him.
"She's been calling Andrew." His eyes boring into his younger brother's back, "And she's been leaving messages."
"Andrew pick up the phone, please. Baby, I can make it better, trust me."
"I'm sorry for what I said Andy. Believe me, please, I really really am. But don't let that girl get between us; we have history, we have a future. What are you expecting to achieve from having her?"
"Andrew! Answer this phone or so help me-I will do something crazy! I will. I can take you down, don't you know that!? Of course you do! You're not stupid. Please, please, please Andrew answer the phone. I need to hear you."
In two weeks he had over 50 messages all coming from one person. The majority of the time he would simply turn his cell phone off during the night or ignore the rings. The other times, when he could visibly see the distress behind her mask, he would leave his cell phone on to make sure that she was still alive and breathing. He didn't like hearing her rants, raves, proclaims, and petty apologies. It was more than guilt that bound him to her; it was an unspoken duty.
"We all hear her. But it's not our problem, it's yours." Adam moved away from the sink cautiously. He took in Andrew's posture, and came to the solemn realization at how similar he and their father appeared. Lean, muscular, but the stiffening of his muscles, the abrupt coldness in his eyes-he could see his brother transforming in front his eyes, and he didn't like it.
You can be saved from this.
He wasn't feeling so hungry anymore. The growling in his stomach became further and further away until he could no longer feel the hunger cramps. The ingredients stood on the wooden slate on the counter, and his eyes became detached and lonely. Clutching the kitchen knife in his hand, Andrew glared at nothing. A rising anger, an emotion he didn't know how to control, began to bubble inside.
"It's not my fault that she's that way." He shot back, "I didn't do it to her; I didn't do this to her!"
"Yes," Andrew marveled at how attentive he sounded, "that's true, but you're the reason she's like this."
He took in the words, letting them sink through his ears into his brain. Was he the real reason for her behavior? Was he the reason that she smiled during the day and cried at night? Andrew couldn't fathom the idea; he didn't want to believe it. He shook his head, throwing the idea out of his thoughts.
"Don't deny it Andy." Andrew scoffed at the authoritative tone his older brother was giving him, as if he was talking to a three year old child. Andrew was no longer a child, and he wasn't a man. He was placed perfectly in the middle, and damn it-he wanted to be treated like it.
"She's not acting this way because of me."
"Did she call last night?"
He was sitting at the kitchen table, much smaller than the dining table, and he licked his lips. There was no smiling, no grinning, his face was grim, "And who did she call for Andy?"
He battled against his brother's gaze. The unwavering gaze that had gotten to him so many times throughout his childhood and adolescence, he was battling it. He opened his mouth and although his voice was shaky and uncontrolled he was able to throw it out, "She called for me."
A wicked gleam crossed his brother's features. The gleam, it was the all knowing gleam, and it infuriated Andrew.
Adam took notice of the foreboding atmosphere, heavy and dank, surrounding them. The edge on Andrew's shoulders was growing, and he could feel it, taste it. When he turned around and matched his crystalline blue with his oceanic orbs, the passion and uncontrolled fury in his brother's eyes made Adam feel a crash of reassurance. Even when, even when he strolled dangerously over him and grabbed the collar of his shirt, he still felt that reassurance.
The anger, the passion, the hate, the sorrow, the love, it was all mixed in, and that (in his eyesight) was a good thing.
"I am not the reason," he hissed darkly, "I am not the reason."
Oh! How did he remind him of their forefathers! An Armstrong indeed!
As the older brother, Adam could have easily deflected his brother. He could have grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back until he could hear it crack and break. But Big Brother found reassurance in this, so he couldn't possibly destroy the moment.
He placed his hand on top of Andrew's, not in a defensive way, the exact opposite. "Then tell me Andrew, tell me what the reason is."
When Adam uttered those words he did not know what effect it would have on Andrew. At first he believed his brother would just tell him what he thought, but Andrew was never good at telling or saying things that really mattered. Although he would have preferred his brother confiding in him, he understood that he would not be getting the truth.
Yet, Andrew did not back down. His grip did not loosen and it did not tighten; he parted his lips to speak, and he was going to-Adam could tell. "The reason is-,"
"What's going on?"
In a flash, Andrew retreated. He quickly let go the collar of his shirt, moved swiftly away from him, and returned to his spot in the kitchen. Roland entered the room without making a sound; he took two attentive glances at his sons.
"Is something wrong?"
Andrew raised his head, as he was expected to, but his eyes were scattering in various directions, "Adam and I was just discussing something."
Roland was not convinced; he turned his eyes to Adam, who seemed less than thrilled to meet with them. "Adam, is this true?"
"Why of course your majesty!" He grinned at the worried expression on Andrew's face, "Little Prince would not and is not lying!" His grin only grew when he saw the agitated, yet perfectly hidden look on Roland's face, "Really Ro' we were only talking. Boys will be boys you know," he chuckled darkly, "right Dad, boys will be boys."`
Roland's eyes narrowed at the undertone in his eldest son's statement, but said nothing more of it. Andrew could feel that he was in a line of fire, and if he didn't move away soon he would end up one of the causalities.
Yes, he was definitely in firing range.
"Is everything alright?" Arriving at the last minute of every conversation, a horrible habit of hers, Jodi entered wearing a lace night gown reaching above her knees. Her platinum blond hair was unraveled, and her eyes appeared heavy and baggy. Friday nights were usually the nights when she went out with her friends. Since the arrival of her husband, Jodi had been staying home more often. Despite of her dishelmed appearance, her radiance still spoke words for her. Her MILF appearance remained, and as for her husband, who appeared completely business like minus the suit, was primped and groomed.
"No Mom," Andrew gave her a dashing smile, "Adam and I were just talking." He gave Adam a knowing look, but Adam simply shrugged, "We were talking, if you wanna say that Jodi." The middle aged beauty stared at her son with little emotion, more of a dazed ignorance. As Adam looked deeper into her sky blue orbs, he could see that his words were pulling strings in her head. In the custom of the Armstrong family, she simply smiled her blissful smile and nodded.
She brushed his comment aside.
"Okay then," her attention drifted to Andrew, "well, honey, what are you doing?"
When he laughed, he took note at how similar his airy laugh was to his mother's, "I was fixing a sandwich, but I've lost my appetite now."
"Sweetie! I fixed some jambalaya not too long ago; you could've eaten that!"
"Don't worry Mom, I wanted a light meal." The last of the ingredients were returned to the fridge, "I'm going to my room." He crossed the other way, the longer way away from his parents and brother.
"Andrew, did you finish your French report?"
It was a sudden question, and Andrew had to think of an answer before ascending the stairs. "I've already translated half of the paper. I sent it to a friend of mine to proofread it earlier."
"I heard that it was a dual project. You have a partner don't you?"
His mouth was drying up, "Yes sir, I have a partner."
"Is she helpful to you? Are you doing all the work?"
How does he know it's a girl? "It's really individual. We're really the sources for each other's papers. Last time I heard from her she had already completed the English version."
Orange juice was poured into a glass and met with Roland's lips. The liquid slipped down hastily, and Andrew waited impatiently (although not showing it) for his father to continue the conversation. Roland was taking his time drinking and wiping his mouth clean, and Jodi had taken a sit on the stool directly across from him. Not so much intimidated by mother, but Andrew could not help but feel an overwhelming awareness that they knew something he didn't. He was the only one who didn't get the joke.
The last drop of orange juice fell into Roland's mouth. He quietly went to the sink and scrubbed the glass clean, wiping all traces of the juice away. When he returned, his eyes met with Andrew's, and Andrew knew his father could see how desperately he wanted to get away from his seeing range.
"That's good." He muttered, but then in a clearer voice, "Do not fall behind Andrew. Only your education and sense will provide a future. Personal sentiments will drag you down."
Please let me go. Please, please, please. He was itching to escape. He wanted to scurry to his bedroom, lock his door, and roll into his bed sheets. Adam and Jodi looked on at Roland. Unfortunately for Andrew, he could detect seething fury in Adam and slight resentment in Jodi. He could never catch too much, and he made sure that this case was no different.
"Marie called not too long ago," Jodi mused aloud, "she said Chelsea has been not herself lately."
"Is that so?" Roland blandly looked up at his wife, "Is she doing well?"
"Oh, well, her school work is still thriving and everything else is going as expected, but Marie told me that something was off with her-just off." She bit her finger nail, a nervous habit that had developed since her wedding, "Andy is everything alright between you two?"
They are not going to save you.
We've all heard the messages.
He really didn't get what his mother was trying to do. The innocent look in her eyes, the completely unaware gaze, almost made him blurt out that there was something wrong. In fact, everything was wrong! This whole deal was wrong, but Andrew couldn't say that-not yet. He was still learning, slowly, but he was learning.
Maybe that is why Adam looked so relieved.
"Everything is fine between us Mom," he lied with a perfected smile, "we're just going through an awkward stage."
He was lying in front of their faces. He did not back down, no matter how much he wanted to scream out, "Sorry Mommy! I'm sorry I lied!!" They revealed nothing behind their masks, and he felt more weight burying themselves on top of his shoulders. Roland equaled coldness, Jodi equaled excitement, and Adam equaled indifference.
"May I go to my room now?"
"Yes you may."
He was gone. They heard the footsteps of his running, and they heard the slamming of his door. When the door closed, the emotions opened.
"The girl's name is Ayana." Roland sighed, "Ayana."
"I thought we raised him better," Jodi whispered, "we can't afford for him to make the same mistakes you did."
Adam took a look from Roland to Jodie and repeated, "Sorry to say kids, this was bound to happen. Either it was going to be me or Andy. For obvious reasons it was not going to be me."
Jodi glared, "Why is that Adam?"
A Cheshire grin crossed his handsome features, making Roland inwardly flinch at how similar he appeared to his mother in that instant, "Why Jodi, because I'm too predictable."
Jodi left the kitchen and went to the pool room, where the bar was located. Adam snickered loudly at her retreat, and he soon departed, slamming the front door behind him. Roland sat at the table, shaking his head in frustration.
"Thank God Dad is no longer with us."
"Answer the phone Ayana."
"Answer the damn phone Ayana."
"I said no!"
Danni glare at her older sister and threw a dirty dish towel at her. Ayana dodged the rag and splashed soapy water in Danni's direction, hitting their target on contact.
"Why do you care if I answer it or not," she responded dismissively, "it's not bothering you."
"Yeah, but it's the same number. This person called you two days ago."
"And this boy is calling you again."
"You know this person is a boy how?" Her eyes were focused on the plate in her hands.
The younger girl smirked, "Because a girl isn't predictable enough to call all the time."
"Unless she's crazy."
"Unless she's crazy."
The two girls nodded in union at the agreement. The small kitchen was quiet; Deidre was sleeping in her bedroom. Their older brother was absent as always, and Daniel was down the street with his friends. This left the two females to do the chores as well as their unfinished homework. For the moment they were preoccupied of what little left they had of their chores, and as being the younger sister Danni ventured into territory she had no business venturing in.
"Really Yanie, why don't you call the boy back? I know he has a bad rep, to us, but if he's calling you that much-then I say go for it."
"You don't even know half of it."
"I know enough to make a decision."
"Because, what am I going to say?" She turned to Danni, a deep frown settled on her face. "What should I say?"
"You've been talking to him long enough haven't you," she shrugged, "you should know what to say."
Ayana hissed, "Yeah, but that was before we made out in his car!" Saying the words brought in a flutter of butterflies in her stomach. Her memory brought her back to the day, the moment, only a few weeks prior.
She remembered his taste, the touch of his hands, the way he held her in his arms. The feel of his lips lingered on her lips repeatedly, and whenever she closed her eyes she could feel pressure, his pressure, against him. The scent of his clothes and body were still in her system, in her nostrils. He was beginning to haunt her without being dead. When her thoughts wandered they wandered to him; her imagination was not limited to the kiss but to the dance, their conversations, and other happenings.
"I've been used to this." The phone continued to vibrate on the table. There was no reason for her cellphone to be on the kitchen table; she was cleaning the kitchen. "I can handle this. Besides, there's not much we have to do. I'm almost done with my paper."
"And after your paper?"
"After my paper," she sat at the table, her body was beginning to feel heavy, "we'll go back to where we were before. That's all to it." Danni opened her mouth to warn Ayana that if she kept holding her cellphone too tightly she was going to break it, but she made no comment. Ayana stared at the tiny device with a distant expression. Under her thumb was the green button that would have connected her to the incoming call and under her index finger was the button that would disconnect her.
"Ayana?" It was the first time she had heard his voice this way, completely aware and not panicky, "Ayana are you there?"
"Yes I'm here," she sounded professional, "Andrew why are you calling?"
In his room he could see where this was going. He didn't like it, but he was the one calling her. He was going by her rules, "We need to talk Ayana."
"About what?" Danni glared at her sister.
"Ayana," he stressed, "you know about what-we need to talk."
"I know." Her eyes widened at what she had just said, "Yeah, but do we really have to?"
The straightforwardness of his comment threw her back a little. She moved the phone away from her ear and glared at the phone. Conflicting feelings were swelling inside her, and she could feel that she may not be able to hold them off for long.
Pressing the phone back to her ear, she breathed in deeply, trying to get her nerves straight, "Andy, why are we doing this. The paper will be turned in soon and after that…" Her voice became smaller and she shrugged off an uncomfortable feeling starting to rise in her stomach.
"I don't want it to end like that."
He could hear the warning in her voice. "Andrew, I'm not ready for that kind of-"
"Then why are you doing this!" Her temper was flaring, and she caught herself before she could wake Deidre. Danni watched her carefully; she kept her focus on the dishes but she made sure she caught every word. Ayana didn't care about Danni, not now; Andrew's sudden change in character had her completely flustered and tongue tied. "Why are you doing this if you know it's what I want!?"
He really shouldn't have said what he had said. He knew that. But he couldn't dismiss the question; hearing her angry and confused voice on the other line was making nervous. Whenever he became nervous he didn't think, and that had not changed. The moment he said those words, he immediately regretted it.
"Because Ayana, I know it's not what you want."
"What?" Her raging voice turned into a whisper, "What did you just say?"
He was in the deep and he knew it. Swallowing hard, there was no way out, "You wouldn't have kissed back if you didn't want it. I'm getting used to being honest with myself, but I'm still a long way from it. You're just doing what I always do."
The line had gone silent, and Andrew knew without a doubt that he had crossed the line.
"That's not fair Andrew."
"No!" She shot back heatedly, "That was not part of the project. That is not part of the grade. You should not, you cannot, you just-don't!"
"Ayana," he responded apologetically, "I'm not trying to do anything wrong." Then it came to him, no, he wasn't going to go that way again, "Ayana, Ayana I'm just doing what's right. Ayana, are you there?"
Ayana had gone silent, but he could still hear in the background. A faucet was running, another voice-younger sounding called out to her, and her heavy breathing. This did not help the ominous feeling in the pit of his stomach; he was pacing his room in quiet panic.
"Ayana? Ayana, are you there?"
It hadn't been five minutes yet when she abruptly returned to the phone, but Andrew knew it was the last five minutes on the phone he would have with her for a long time.
"You're wrong Andrew."
Then Andrew heard the click of the phone and knew that Ayana had ended the discussion.
Her voice had sounded so authoritative, as if she actually believed the words she had said. These past months had given Andrew a perspective, a perspective that had been buried in him for some time, it had finally been released. Sighing deeply, he dropped his cell phone to his bed and stalked to his window. Adam was driving to who knew where; the engine roared to life before it sped down the street, a giant ball of smoke following.
He looked off into the distance with a sober expression.
"I know I'm right," he murmured softly, "I just don't know how to prove it."
A/N: Some may say Andrew and the Armstrongs are acting a bit oc. I say, this has to come. A few weeks have passed since the kiss, and where Andrew is coming into acceptance with the moment and his turbulent feelings, Ayana's rejecting hers. Truth is, throughout this story I haven't really given a deep look into the Armstrong family. Roland was an enigma for the most part and Jodi was just there; the only one who had character was Adam. Now, you know a little about the Armstrongs.
This chapter was completely redone: A whole different scenario with more time with Danni, Ayana's sister. She was going to be in the first half of the chapter and Ayana would make her appearance in the second half. Then, most of you said you wanted more Ayana and Andrew (I did too!) So, I redid it.
Now! I know where I'm heading with this story-more or less. Thank you for your brilliant reviews! They really did help me out!!
P.S.: Don't you love Adam's brotherly concern for Andrew? I couldn't help but add it in, gah, I love him!!