"The past can't be rewritten, you get the life you're given
Oh, some pages turned, some bridges burned"
I gave a playful glare at Lia across the table. We were in a popular Cape Cod diner eating lunch. The hustle and bustle that was going on around us went unnoticed. It was just us two, in our own little world; as it was every time we were together. It was unexplainable, but somehow, we were perfect together. The silences weren't awkward, they were comfortable. I got lost in her eyes, just as I had the moment I met her. Her smile brightened a room and caused a smile of my own to grace my ruggedly handsome features. She laughed at my lame attempt at cracking jokes and she made me believe in love again.
Yes, love. I knew it was early August and had only been two months since Lia and I had become an official couple, but I knew that I was never going to find anything as true as what we had. We just... fit.
The only problem was finding the right time to tell her I loved her. I wanted to make it special for her. We had both been through some bad relationships and were ready to find someone worth the effort.
"I am not," I replied.
"Are too," she countered.
"Are we really bantering back and forth about tattoos and me?" I sighed. "Again?"
"Sounds like it," she smirked, leaning over the table on her elbows. "But you love it."
"Yeah, I got to admit, I do," I replied, mimicking her actions.
"Oh really?" she asked, moving her head closer to mine. "Prove it."
She wanted me to prove it, eh? Well, I knew the perfect way to prove it. I leaned my head toward hers and angled my lips against her heavenly smooth ones. I paused before our lips had a chance to meet to look into her Hershey colored eyes that I adored. Time stood still, only to be broken when I winked at her, making her laugh out loud right before I leaned in once more.
"God! Get a room!" I heard before my lips came in contact with my beautiful girlfriend's. Bonus points went to the douche bag big brother for ruining the moment.
"Landon, what the fuck are you doing here?" I growled, looking into his sea blue eyes. I sent an apologetic look to Lia when I noticed her reaction to Landon's appearance. Her eyes were as wide as saucers, her body as stiff as a board, and I swore she wasn't breathing. Landon was really going to get it for embarrassing her.
"Can't a guy spend some quality time with his only brother?"
"Not when he can clearly see that said brother is with his girlfriend."
"Ahhh. So this must be the mysterious Lia," Landon stated, although something was off in his voice as he turned to face her and outstretching his hand to her. "Nice to finally meet you."
Lia stared at the hand in front of her like it was a bomb. Abruptly she stood up, snubbing my brother, and fleeing to the bathroom on the other side of the diner.
"Well... That went smooth," Landon muttered while taking Lia's vacant seat.
"Dude, you interrupted us. I'd probably have done the same thing if I were in her shoes."
"Hmm.. Nah, I really don't thi--" he was interrupted by his phone ringing in his back pocket. His eyes bugged out slightly when he looked from he caller I.D. to me. I only caught a "Z" as I tried to peak at the screen to see who could cause my brother to act a little funny. "I, ah... I better take this. Be right back."
My eyebrows furrowed as I watched him walk over to an empty booth a couple tables down. Landon was hunched over the table, his hand repeatedly running through his wavy blonde hair. I strained my ears to try to eavesdrop on his conversation like the nosy little son of a bitch I was.
"What, Z? Wait just... Z, calm down. I can't understand you when you talk a mile a minute. No... He doesn't suspect anything," I heard him say into the phone, sparing a minute glance in my direction. Turning back around, he mumbled some more into the phone before hanging up quickly and heading back to me.
"Hey, Cal, I'm gonna bail."
"You're leaving? Just like that?"
"Yeah. Looked like your girl was a little uncomfortable with my presence, so I think it's for the best."
"Maybe," I agreed. "Just give her time to come around, will ya?"
Landon nodded, then made his way out of the diner. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something was extremely odd with my older brother. He seemed relaxed when he first showed up, but I could tell he was a little shaken when he bailed. I knew that phone call had something to do with it. I just had to figure out who "Z" was.
I wasn't able to dwell on it, because Lia returned at that moment. She plopped down in her seat, staring at the table top, but looking a little better since Landon's unexpected appearance. Although her face was a little pale, she was less tense than she had been.
"Sorry," she sighed, pushing her brown hair behind her right ear.
"It's fine," I replied, reaching out to cover her hand with my bigger one. "Maybe you're just not ready to meet my family yet."
She nodded distractedly. The paper napkin in her hands was being shredded to pieces as she kept glancing at the entrance.
"Hey," I said softly, grabbing her fingers and halting their assault on the defenseless napkin. "It's okay. Landon said he'd let us be. Relax, babe."
"Can we just go?"
"You sure?" She nodded in response, never looking up from the table. I got out of the booth and held my hand out for her. When she placed her slender hand into mine, I pulled her off the seat and into a hug. Like every other hug with Lia, it was like the missing piece of the puzzle that I finally found. I felt the words 'I love you' on the tip of my tongue, but I knew it wasn't the right time. I didn't want to scare her off, so I just led her out to the car.
I surprised Lia with a sunset picnic on the beach, a couple weeks after the whole diner incident with Landon. Every time I tried to bring up the topic and apologize on my idiot brother's behalf, Lia abruptly changed the subject. I figured she was still embarrassed about what happened, so I never pushed it. However, I was going to have to do it soon if I wanted her to formally meet my family. That was what a guy did with a girl he wanted to get serious about, after all. I just had to prepare for the onslaught of questions my parents and brother would no doubt bombard her with. I just had to take care of one little thing first.
I decided that the time had come to confess my feelings. I was going to tell Lia exactly how I felt about her. I couldn't handle the suspense any longer and decided I was going to utter the three little words. I just hoped she said them back.
"You okay?" came Lia's melodic voice, dragging me from my thoughts and back to the present.
I rubbed my hands down her sweatshirt – courtesy of my closet – clad arms. "Yeah. Just thinking."
"You. What else?"
"Smooth," she replied, laying back against my chest and wrapping my arms around her.
I leaned my head down and pressed my lips to her temple, simultaneously burying my nose in her hair. Peaches. God, how I loved the smell of peaches on her. The scent could put me at ease or in a daze, with one single sniff. I pulled myself from the reverie I was in and got to my feet.
"Walk with me," I told Lia, hoisting her up off the sand. She gave me a curious look, but walked beside me none the less.
We'd only been walking down the shore for about ten minutes when my phone rang, interrupting our walk. Lia attempted to stifle her laughter by pressing her face into my arm when I groaned, extracting my phone from my pocket. I grimaced when the caller ID said it was my mom. First Landon interrupted my time with my girl, then my mother. I was beginning to believe my family special senses to know when I wanted to be alone with Lia.
"What do you need, Mom?" I drawled when I answered the phone.
"Sweetheart, you will never believe who I just talked to!" she all but screamed enthusiastically. "Take a guess!"
"Nevermind, I'll tell you!" she interrupted. "Caterina! Goodness, I haven't talked to her in so long. Oh dear, let me think now..."
"Caterina? As in Caterina Emerson?"
"Yes, Cat Emerson. Who else? Anyway, she called because they're throwing a late graduation cross going away party for Azalia! It seems like just yesterday she was born. Oh, how I've missed that girl."
"Mom, why are you telling me this?" I managed to get in. I knew once she started on dear, sweet Azalia, she wouldn't stop anytime soon. "I'm on a date. Remember?"
"Ooohhh! Sorry, sweetheart, I forgot. Speaking of your date, when exactly are we going to meet this young lady? You haven't even told your father or myself her name, for Pete's sake."
"Not again, Mom," I groaned.
"Yes, again," she replied. "Oh! I know! You can bring her to Azalia's party!"
I stopped walking while my grip on Lia's hand tightened. "Are you shitting me?"
"Language," she reprimanded. "And no, I'm not. You said she was friends with her, so obviously she's invited. And then--"
"I'm not going."
"Need I remind you of the extreme dislike I have towards her? No."
"Goodbye, Mother," I said, ending the call. I pinched the bridge of my nose, already feeling a headache as a result of my mother's badgering. It didn't help the matter that Lia had to hear one side of the conversation. It probably ruined the remainder of our evening.
I felt horrible. Lia never got angry or upset that I couldn't stand one of her close friends. And she never forced us to be in the same vicinity – unlike certain others I knew. When I filled her in on the conversation I just had with my mom, I half expected her agree with her. Deep down, I knew Lia wanted me and Emerson to get along. I couldn't deny the fact that the lack of relationship I had with Azalia took a toll on her. The slight bags under her chocolate eyes made me feel like shit even more. So when she suggested that we do something once she left the party, I was eternally grateful.
"You're amazing, you know that?" I said, just before I pressed my lips to hers.
She sighed contentedly, wrapping her arms around my waist. "I know. But a girl does like to be reminded." She craned her neck to connect our lips again.
I felt her pulling away, trying to end the kiss sooner than I liked. Just as our lips were about to part I gently grasped her face and reignited the kiss. Her left hand held onto my bicep with her right firmly rested on my abs while her body relaxed against mine. Moving our lips against each others came naturally. My tongue outlined her soft and succulent lips. She moaned softly, parting her lips so my tongue could tango with hers.
I deepened the kiss to the point I didn't know where she began and I ended. We were lost in our own little world. Threading my fingers into her hair, I kept repeating I love you, I love you, I love you in my head.
I pulled away when the need for oxygen surpassed the need to have her lips on mine. I rested my forehead against hers, our noses touching as we both allowed our lungs to inflate to their normal size. I opened my eyes and stared into her chocolate colored ones, my heartbeat speeding up once more. I knew it was time. I couldn't hold it in any longer in danger of spontaneously com busting.
"I love you."
"W-what?" she asked, leaning back to look at me.
"I. Love. You," I reiterated. "Seriously, Lia. You – at the risk of sounding incredibly cliché, you make me feel like I'm complete. Everything I do with you just feels right. I trust you. And that's a huge feat after the whole Naomi mess. I feel like a pussy whipped guy right now, but you are literally my world. I want to shout it out off of Mount Everest. I love you."
Lia diverted her eyes from mine, but not before I noticed the shining wetness in her eyes.
"I love you, too," she whispered. It was so faint I that had to ask her to repeat it. She responded by standing up on her tiptoes and softly pressed her lips to mine. Once she pulled away, she wrapped her arms around my neck, giving her the leverage she needed to whisper in my ear. "I love you, Callum. With all of my heart. No matter what happens, remember that."
"Lia!" I called, catching a glimpse of her dark brown hair. I knew she heard me, because she paused for just a split second. However, she didn't acknowledge me with a glance or word in my direction. It stung my ego a bit. But it peaked my curiosity wondering what she was up to. Was she not feeling good? Was she searching for someone? I didn't know, but I intended to find out. I didn't swallow my pride and attend Azalia's party just to be ignored by my girlfriend. I came for her.
I was just about to turn down the hall when I encountered a slight road block. A short curly haired blonde in a strapless little black dress braced herself in the doorway, legs shoulder width apart and her hands on each side of the wall. Sighing, I tried to gently move her out of my way. The tiny girl had some strength and will because I couldn't budge her more than a few millimeters.
"Chloe, let me pass."
"Why should I?" Lia's best friend demanded.
"Because I want to see my girlfriend," I retorted. All I got in return was a raise of an eyebrow from the blonde barricade in front of me. "Look, she's been getting these weird text messages from someone called 'L'. She says everything's cool and shit, but I know it's bothering her. She starts acting all weird afterward. I want to talk with her; make sure she's okay, you know?"
Something flashed through her eyes at the mention of 'L'. It was something akin to guilt, but I had no clue what for. Unless she knew who was sending the texts. Then why wouldn't she let me through?
"It's nothing," Chloe said, but it didn't sound like she believed what she was saying.
"Please, let me through?"
"No," she stated, yet again.
I was on the verge of begging (not something I was keen to do) when my savior arrived. Caterina Emerson walked up to us, searching for her pain in the ass daughter. How the hell someone as sweet as Caterina had a daughter as obnoxious as Azalia was beyond me. We exchanged quick greetings before she dragged Chloe away from the doorway. If she couldn't find her daughter, Chloe would do just fine.
Which meant my path was clear of all and any obstructions.
As I neared the end of the hall, I heard voices come from the room Mr. Emerson used as an office. Whoever was in there was arguing about something. I was about to ignore them and focus on where Lia could be when I recognized one of the voices as my brother's. Pausing next to the door to – I wouldn't call it eavesdropping, per say – but rather satisfying my curiosity. Hell, I knew for a fact he would do the same if our situations were reversed.
"Z, you've done your job," I heard Landon claim. "You've earned this."
"At what cost, Landon?" the other voice sounded strangely like Lia's. But why was Landon calling her 'Z'? "I can't do this anymore."
"It doesn't matter. No one suspects anything, so you're good. Just take the money."
"I didn't think I'd feel this guilty. This check feels like a burning ticket to Hell in my hands."
"Yeah, well, we did what we had to do," Landon replied, almost somber. "It's going to help him in the long run.... I hope."
What the hell were they talking about? Him? Who's him?
"Cal's going to hate me if he finds out."
Hold. The. Phone. What the devil was going on? Something was up between Landon and Lia. And it concerned me. I had the overwhelming feeling to barge into the room and confront them and demand they clue me in on what was happening. I made to place my hand on the doorknob when I heard Lia's voice again.
"I think we should return to the party. My mother's probably trying to hunt me down as we speak," she said. The sound of shuffling feet inside the room meant they were about to come out. Perfect. I could get some answers as to what was going on then. "Remember, this conversation never -" she paused when she opened the door and revealed me standing on the other side. "– happened."
"What are you – oh, shit," Landon added, halting behind Lia in the doorway; eyes resembling a deer in headlights.
"Anybody want to tell me what's going on?" I stated, shoving my hands into my front pockets.
"Really, Land? Because last I remember you two couldn't be in the same area as each other."
I looked over at Lia, who was staring at her – what I assumed to be fake snake skin – shoes. I had gotten used to her having at least some part of her outfit to incorporate an animal print, but she never wore anything real. A girl that loved animal skins and prints, but refused to touch anything that was made with real fur or skin. She was weird, but I loved it about her. I knew she sensed my staring when her hands started fidgeting with the hemline of her black dress. She had a habit of wearing dresses with short hemlines. I couldn't blame her for showing off her gorgeous legs, but I tended to get a little territorial when other guys' eyes admired them. At least the dress she had on was a bit more on the conservative side; a neckline that showed some boobage, but not enough to where I'd make her change. It was dressy yet simple enough for Azalia's party.
Her hair was in loose curls and my fingers itched to run through the silky tendrils. I just wanted to figure out what they were keeping from me so I could go find a room and have a little fun with my girlfriend. Was that seriously too much to ask?
"Just drop it, Cal. Don't worry about it," my brother said.
"No, I won't," I replied coldly. I was getting irritated, and my temper would start showing soon if no one gave me a straight answer.
Landon sighed, his left hand running through his blonde hair. A nervous gesture of his. Any other time it would have been his right. It was only when he was nervous or trying to avoid a confrontation of some sorts that he'd use his left. "Seriously, bro. How many times do I -"
"Tell him," Lia interrupted.
"What?" Landon asked in disbelief while my question was laced with curiosity
"I told you I couldn't do this anymore, Landon," she looked up and stared Landon right in the eyes. "The jig's up. Either you tell him... Or I will."
"Landon's been paying me to date you this summer," Lia admitted. I could see the tears form in her eyes as she looked my way in shame. I heard Landon mutter four letter words under his breath.
"W-what?" I felt like a semi-truck hit me at full speed.
"You heard me."
"I know. I just don't think I understand." That was a lie. I knew I didn't understand.
"I'm sorry. You have no idea how many times I wanted to tell --" I turned around and headed back out the door, not waiting for her to finish speaking. I heard her calling my name, but I didn't stop.
I needed air. Too many thoughts were clouding my brain and my ability to think. The answer to one question just brought to light so many more. Lia definitely didn't look like a hooker (not that I knew what hookers looked like), so that just confused me even more. How long had it been going on? Before I met her? After? When I finally admitted to finding a girl worth my time after Naomi? How much were my feelings worth? I was in love with Lia. And she said she loved me back. Unless, of course, she was paid to tell me that.
The main question though, was why.
Why me? Why did Landon pay her? And why the hell was he calling her Z and Zales? It didn't make any sense. The only person he called Zales was a certain pain in the ass, by the name of –
"Azalia!" my mother cried out in joy. I spun around at the sound and my stomach dropped.
My mother walked up to a brown haired girl with Hershey colored eyes in a short black dress and snake skin heels. Her arms wrapped around her in delight. Of course she would be delighted seeing the girl she wished was her daughter after countless years. Shock rooted me to the spot. I couldn't believe I missed all the signs that were right in front of my face. Every single clue that said she was Azalia.
The night at the club when we played twenty questions; how she was so downcast when I said I hated Azalia – her. Why she hadn't been to Cape Cod in years. I vaguely remembered my parents mentioning how they hoped the Emersons would make it through their differences; and how Azalia made other summer plans than returning to the beach house the summer after. I knew she played tennis since she'd have me drag her to the courts to practice now and then. I realized her tattoo was an Azalea flower – her mother's favorite. The translation of her name in Italian; part of her heritage (her maternal grandmother was from Italy).
Hell, I should have even recognized the meaning of her name! "God has spared" was something her mother said; Azalia was born three months premature and had a slim chance of living, but she did. And her nicknames. How I didn't notice one of the biggest signals ever was unbelievable. Lia was the last part of her fucking name; Ace was for her tennis serve and her initials – Azalia Cicily Emerson.
Dammit, looking closer at her physical features, she had the same features she had when she was younger, albeit more matured. Everything about her screamed Azalia, now that my eyes were clear. I felt like a fucking idiot for not catching on sooner or later.
"You've grown up to be such a beautiful young lady. Now if only you and Callum could get past your differences, you two would make such an attractive couple," my mother's voice rang out. If she only knew.
Lia – no, Azalia – caught my eye as she stepped out of the embrace. I gave her the coldest look I could muster before I turned around and walked out onto the deck. I couldn't stay there. After all the betrayal and lies – the one thing I hated more than Azalia Emerson – I couldn't stick around and see my mother's beaming face. Especially when it was because of someone that didn't deserve it. I was done with her. The whole relationship was based on lies and I wasn't going to waste my time being duped into thinking she felt anything any longer.
"Callum, wait!" I continued down the stairs to the beach, ignoring the pleas being called. "I told you that the Azalia you knew had changed!" She yelled to my retreating back. I wasn't going to satisfy her with a glance. "I have! Just give me the chance to explain! CALLUM!"
I caved and turned around and glared at Azalia. She was barefoot in the sand with her shoes in her hand at her side. "That's where you're wrong," I growled. "You haven't changed. If you truly had, you would have been honest from the very beginning."
"No. I swea-" she stopped when I held up my hand to stop her.
"Thanks for ruining another one of my fucking summers, Azalia."
No excuses for why it's been forever since I updated something. I am the queen of procrastination. Send the ever wonderful beta of mine, All Over You, some love for badgering me to write! And a big congrats to her SkoW sweep!
No excuses for why it's been forever since I updated something. I am the queen of procrastination. Send the ever wonderful beta of mine, All Over You, some love for badgering me to write! And a big congrats to her SkoW sweep!
Thanks for all the alerts/favorites! And special review thanks go out to: nichloe, u wouldjustbe AWESO without ME, FreekyDisaster18, Kyllex,and flowingypsy. Much love to you all!
I'm ecstatic to inform you all I have been nominated in a few different categories on Love With a Twist of Fate Awards! The first round of voting has begun so go VOTE!
The Wallflower Noms is up in the air. The poll didn't work properly and I don't know if I will be up for that award. There are other great stories on there, so if voting is reissued on there, please go vote for your faves!
Be on the lookout for upcoming updates! I owe AOY a few different updates!