A/N: This is the sequel to All She Had To Do Was Smile, a previous story of mine that can be found on my profile. I would highly recommend reading that first, or this story will probably make no sens.
The Thought of You
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I think that it just makes that heart grow lonelier. After a couple of days of driving, I had arrived back in good old Gilbertville in one piece... sort of. Physically, I was the way I was supposed to be, with all of my limbs and joints and organs connected and working properly just as they always had, but there was no denying that I had left my heart in Amboy, Washington in the hands of one Cameron David Dreher.
Smiling at the thought of Cam, I rolled out of bed and smacked at my alarm clock to get it to stop beeping at me. Still a little out of it, I slipped a warm sweatshirt over my head, grabbed my faded and worn swim bag, pulled my trusty running shoes onto my feet and silently tiptoed my way out of the house.
A few short minutes later I pulled my truck into the dark, familiar parking lot of the Gilbertville pool. As it was late summer, we would be practicing in the outdoor, fifty meter pool that morning, and I savored the thought of the cool water gliding against my skin, excitedly anticipating jumping in the pool that morning. Unable to help the smile on my face, I pulled the keys from the ignition and threw them in my bag as I slid off the seat and into the chilly morning air.
Just as I was about to begin my walk down the hill to the pool, I heard the rumbling of a vehicle and turned to see my best friend Nick's truck, similar to mine in every way, and waited for him to pull into the parking spot next to mine so we could walk together. I smiled as he stumbled out of his truck, Nick had never been a morning person. "Good morning sunshine!" I declared just to irk him.
Groaning, he slung his arm around my shoulder and whined, "Please don't be so chipper in the morning, I have problems functioning this early, let alone carrying out conversation."
Pretending to be offended, I huffed, "Fine, have it your way."
"Thanks babe," he said as he rested his head on my shoulder so that he could go half way back to sleep again as we made our way to the our own little chlorinated heaven. Even Nick perked up as we walked through the gate and the pool came into sight. As much as he hated early mornings, he loved to swim every bit as much as I did.
We parted to head into our respective locker rooms and put on our swimsuits. After choosing my favorite suit for the morning, a blue Nike, I helped to put in the lane lines before practice. As soon as that was done, our warm up was assigned and the work out was underway. Practice went quickly despite a minor test set and by the end my muscles were happily humming and I was in an even better mood than I had been before I had gotten in the pool. Ah, the wonders of chlorine.
By the time we were done the sun had risen and I could feel the heat of it on my back as I exited the locker room after I had changed into the tank top and running shorts I had brought with me. Seeing that Nick was still in the locker room, I pulled my phone out of my bag and dialed Cam's number. Knowing that he was in his morning practice when the two hour time difference was accounted for, I left a surprise message for him for when he got out of the pool. "Good morning handsome! Hope you slept well and that practice wasn't too killer, just wanted to say that I hope you have a good day! Talk to you later, love you!"
Hearing gagging noises, I turned to find Nick throwing his bag into the back of his truck. Doing the same, I remarked, "You're just jealous my friend."
"No, you two are just freaking disgusting, which is quite an accomplishment considering that there's half a country separating the two of you."
"Whatever, you know you'll miss me when I go back to Westlane."
"Yeah, and you know that you'll miss your good old best friend Nicky when you get the heck out of Iowa."
"Well, we can be the disgusting ones when there's half a country between us."
"Ew, God Keirs, no offense but I do not want to be that kind of disgusting with you."
Laughing, I kicked him lightly, and declared, "You know what I meant."
"Of course I did, you're not my best friend for nothing, I was just teasing you. How far do you want to go today? Four miles?"
Smiling at the thought of stretching my legs out with a nice long run, I nodded enthusiastically and relied, "Sounds good to me."
Walking back into the house just after nine o'clock that morning, I couldn't help but laugh at the fact that all three of my brothers were still in bed. I took a quick shower and then made my way back down to the kitchen, pulling out the pancake mix and ingredients when I arrived there. After a couple of minutes of stirring and mixing and cooking, my brothers entered into the kitchen one by one as I was flipping the pancakes one last time to make sure they were finished. I smiled as they finished the breakfast preparations-Alex poured the juice, Will got the plates and silverware, and James pulled out the syrup and butter, and before I knew it the four of us were sitting down to a yummy breakfast.
We chitchatted our way through the meal, each of the boys wolfing down several pancakes more than me, but considering that they tower over me it should be expected. Still cheery as the meal came to an end, I wasn't even upset when the boys made excuses to get out of washing the dishes, I just grinned and let them go about their respective days.
After I had finished with the dishes and the kitchen was put back to its usual state, I went back to my room and pulled my phone out of my swim bag. Smiling when I saw that Cam had left me a message, I listened to his voice, "Well considering that practice was killer this morning, just hearing your voice definitely made me feel better, babe. How long until you come to visit, six days? That seems like such a long time, but I hope it goes quickly. Talk to you tonight sweetie, say eight o'clock your time? Love you too."
Six days until I saw him again, and while it had been exactly fifty-four days since I had last seen him, those six days were going to stretch on as if they actually fifty-four days. Sighing, I messaged back that eight would work for me and then pulled out the book I was currently working my way through knowing that Nick wouldn't wake up from his after practice nap for at least another hour. Slipping on my sandals, I grabbed a bag and tossed my phone, wallet, keys, books and water bottle in and started off for the park. If I were going to read, I might as well do it outside in the sunshine.
The rest of the day passed lazily. I worked through a good chunk of Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite books, ate lunch with Nick and watched a movie with him at his house, and went to afternoon practice. Coach went a little harder on us in the afternoon than he had in the morning since the next day was recovery day, but nevertheless I made it through unscathed and enjoyed the warm tingling of my muscles for the second time that day. Nick, on the other hand, just complained about tiredness in his muscles and opted out of dinner at my house.
When I entered the house, I couldn't help but laugh at my brothers. Even though our parents had died nearly ten months ago, it was somewhat amazing how clueless they still were in the kitchen at times. "So... what are you trying to make exactly?"
All three of their heads shot up, apparently they hadn't heard me come in. Will was the first to speak up, "We were trying to follow mom's alfredo recipe, but we can't exactly read one portion here and then we got into a bit of a food fight when we couldn't agree on what it said and now here we are."
I laughed at them, even though the twins were a year older than me, they didn't always act like it. "Can you read this?" James asked, his hair white with flour.
Taking the recipe from his hand, I read through it and noticed the part that must have confused them. "A cup and a half of parmesan boys."
"That's what I said!" Alex exclaimed, throwing a handful of the cheese at his twin.
"Ok, well, you three are taking care of kitchen cleanup tonight... and don't even try to use the puppy dog eyes to get me to help you."
Once I had ensured that they had dinner under control once more, I left them in the kitchen while I went to take a shower to rinse the chlorine out of my hair. By the time I was done and had returned to the kitchen I was surprised to find that the table had been set nicely, the silverware had been set out correctly, each seat had it's own glass of water and napkin, and that there were four totally normal looking plates of pasta, chicken, and salad on the table. I looked at the boys, slightly shocked, and asked, "What's the occasion guys?"
Alex rolled his eyes at me and asked, "What? We can't make our baby sister a nice meal every once in awhile?'
I laughed and answered, "Yes, yes you can. I have to admit, I'm impressed boys."
After that we sat down to our second nice meal together of the day, and it passed in the same light and loving manner. As much as I missed Cam, I was happy to be home and spending time with my brothers because I had missed them terribly when I had been away at school and I would miss the twins when they went off to Northwestern and James and I returned to Westlane in the fall. By the time we were done eating I was in such a good mood, I even ended up helping them clean up their food fight mess and once the kitchen was back in order, the four of us collapsed outside on the porch to enjoy each other's company and the nice weather.
My five foot four frame was curled up between Alex and James as the three of us laughed at a joke Will had made when my phone started to ring. Groaning and making gagging noises, my brother's excused themselves, not wanting to be tortured by the 'mushiness' that was about to take place.
"Hey!" I greeted enthusiastically, smiling widely even though I knew he couldn't see me.
Cam's chuckle filled me with warmth as he replied, "Hi baby, how was your day?"
"It was good, you know how I love the way I feel after a good workout, and we had two of those today, and I managed to read almost a hundred pages of Pride and Prejudice."
"Again?" he asked. "Do you ever read anything else?"
I giggled and responded, "Well, what did you do today?"
"I met mom and dad for lunch and of course Mom didn't stop talking about you once during the whole meal and I'm starting to think she loves you more than me. Afterward, Dad and I played a couple of holes of golf before it was back to pool for me"
"Well, I'm sure Kate loves you best, but I can't blame her if I come in a close second," I answered jokingly.
"Sweetheart, you don't understand. It took her an entire week to decide if you should have your own room, or if she should just add an extra closet to my room. She finally settled on the extra closet, but then she felt the need to go and fill it with every type of clothing imaginable in the event that you ever forgot to pack a bag when you come to visit."
The thought of a closet full of petite girl's clothing in Cam's room caused me to laugh out loud, and I could only imagine the ribbing that Cam had to take from Jake over it every time he came over. "As funny as that is to picture, she really shouldn't have. I have enough of my own clothes and as of yet I have never forgotten to pack before going on a trip."
"Well, I suppose there's a first time for everything," Cam responded. "You'll be happy to know that I stashed some of my sweats in there for you so you'll at least have something you like."
Ignoring the remark about my preference for his clothing over my own (I had to admit that it did look a little a ridiculous on me considering that he was six foot five and I was only five foot four), I asked, "So how's Jake? He hasn't emailed in eons! Is he still dating what's her face?"
"By what's her face, I assume that you mean Marissa, and I think that he broke up with her last weekend, something about her being too needy."
I groaned, "How could he know if she were too needy when he only dated her for a week!"
"Eh, he's just being Jake. When he meets a girl that he keeps around for longer than a week or two he'll probably end up marrying her, but for the moment he just keeps insisting that we're going to have to share you.
"I'm not sure if I could handle the both of you, you're difficult enough on your own, you know," I answered glibly.
"Oh, so the truth comes out, does it? Well maybe Jake can have you all to himself. If you think I'm difficult, just wait until you have to deal with all of his antics!"
Groaning at the thought, I relented, "I guess I can keep you around."
He laughed loudly at that, "I hope I'm not too much of a burden for you."
Smiling to myself, I responded, "You know you're not. Are you getting excited to start training at Stanford soon?"
"Yeah, except when I have a hard practice here it's rough, I can't even begin to imagine what a tough day might be like there."
"I know you'll be fine, you're tough."
"We'll see about that."
"Have a little faith my friend."
"Yeah, yeah. What about you, are you excited to start training at Westlane again?"
"Uh-huh, but I'm going to miss swimming with Nick."
"Yeah, I can't imagine being without Jake, it'd just be weird to go to school without him."
"It kind of sucks because no matter where I am, I'm missing someone I love."
"I'm sorry sweetheart, I know that it must be hard for you."
"Well, I made it through one year, I can make it through another. I'm so glad James is coming with me this year or I would have been truly miserable."
"I don't know what I'm going to do without you Kei," Cam whispered. Sighing, I had to admit that I knew exactly how he was feeling. It had been hard enough to be apart for the summer, but the entire school year too? That was just going to be torture.
"We're going to make it right?" I asked quietly. "No matter what it takes, we'll make it, won't we?"
"Of course we will baby. I'm not saying it will be easy, because it won't be, but we'll talk on the phone and I'll visit you when I can, and we can go home for breaks, and God only knows how much I love you baby."
I smiled a little at his reassuring words but I doubt anything could relieve dread I felt at the coming year. "I love you too."
Apparently he wasn't convinced that he had convinced me that the two of us would make it through because he continued, "Honestly Keira, I'm not ever going to let you go."
"We're teenagers though, Cam, how can you know that you won't fall for another girl when you get to Stanford? How can you know that there isn't someone you'll love more than me someday?"
"Kei, baby, just trust me. I know it's crazy for us to be so sure about each other, but we are, and what's wrong with that?"
"I just don't want to hold you back, Cam, and I know how your grandparents feel about me."
"Quite frankly, I don't give a damn about what they think when it comes to you. We may be young, but I know you're the one for me. And holding me back, Keira? You're more important to me than anything or anyone."
"I just want you to be able to really enjoy college, and to be able to do everything you ever dreamed of," I replied.
"Baby, if there were ever something that I wanted to do or that you wanted to do, I have faith that we'd be able to work around whatever needed to be worked around. We're strong people, Kei, and we're even stronger together. No matter what our dreams may end up being, we're going to go for them and we're going to support each other. Come on now, what brought all this on?"
"I don't know, it's just so hard to imagine being separated. I don't want you to feel tied down to your silly high school girlfriend. You're going to be meeting so many talented, intelligent, pretty girls at Stanford, and I know I'm nothing special compared to them. I mean, I'm just a-"
"Stop right there. Keira! You are just as if not more talented and intelligent and beautiful than any woman I have ever met, and there will never be anyone more special to me than you. I don't know how to make you understand this, but I love you! I get that we're young, only teenagers, but I can't imagine getting married and having kids and growing old with anyone but you. I want to kiss you good morning and good night every day for the rest of my life, I want to hold you when you're hurting, and I want to see your gorgeous smile when you're happy. You're the girl for me, Keirs, and you always will be."
"Are you sure? You might change your mind, you know."
"Keira, I've never been more sure of anything in my entire life."
"Have a little more faith in us baby, we're going to have to take it day by day, but you just need to have a little confidence."
"So… you thought about our future?"
"I'm not a girl, I haven't planned out every detail, but the thought has crossed my mind."
That made me blush. "You know what?"
"What?" he asked.
"You're my guy."
"That's what I want to hear. Keep that up and the year will fly by," Cam encouraged.
"I don't know about flying by."
"You know what I mean."
There was a quiet moment, each of us just listening to the other's breathing. I took comfort in the sound recalling the night before we'd left for state and that had been what had finally lulled me to sleep. "I'm excited to see you," I murmured.
He laughed, "I think we already said that."
"Well, I'm just saying that it's still true."
"Thanks for letting me know."
"And you love it."
He laughed loudly, "You got me there."
I giggled for a moment, and then we were both quiet again. I could have stayed like this forever, the night air was warm and peaceful and just knowing that Cam was on the other end of the line made me feel content. Snuggling back into the couch, I couldn't stop the yawn that escaped my lips.
"Baby, if you're tired, you should go to bed. You have to get up for practice in the morning."
"Tomorrow's recovery day, I won't need any energy, I want to talk to you."
"It doesn't matter how easy practice is going to be, you're still going to have to be awake enough to get out of bed and drive to the pool in the morning. We'll talk tomorrow, I promise, and it's not that much longer until we see each other again."
Unable to suppress a second yawn, I knew I wasn't going to win this argument. "Alright, I guess we can call it a night."
"Sweet dreams, I love you."
"I love you too, Cam. Good night," I replied.
"Good night baby."
Slowly but surely each day came and passed and with a little bit of work my belongings were packed into bags and suitcases as were James' and by the time I'd gotten home from practice and showered on Saturday morning, all of our stuff was packed into the back of my truck and ready to go. Will trailed me as I walked through the house one last time looking for anything that I had forgotten to pack. "Do you have your phone charger?"
"Your swimming stuff?"
"And you have snacks with you? You need to eat."
"I am aware of my biological need for food intake."
"So that's a yes?"
Throwing my hands up in exasperation, I turned to face him. "Will, I know you love me, but I'm a big girl, ok? I can pack all by myself."
"I know Keira, I'm just going to miss you and I'm trying not to think about it," he admitted reluctantly.
"You know I'm always going to be your baby sister, don't you? And just so you know, I'm going to miss you too," I answered as he pulled me into a bear hug.
Just then Alex barged into the room declaring, "If you don't get your butt on the road, you're going to be driving all night."
Smiling at the second twin, I pulled away from Will and asked, "Where's James? I can't leave without him."
"He's outside with Nick getting a last lesson on how to take care of you."
"Oi vei!" I exclaimed. "You know that one day I'm not going to live with any of you three. What are you going to do then?"
"That's where our boy Cam comes in."
"Impossible, you guys are impossible," I muttered in response.
"Aw, Kei. You know it's our job as big brothers to be like this."
"Whatever, let's go, I still have to say goodbye to Nick."
I slowly made my way through the living room and the kitchen and then out the door trying to memorize every detail of the house, unsure whether or not I'd see it again before Christmas break. As soon as I walked onto the porch Nick swept me into my second giant bear hug for the day. Spinning me around in circles, he asked, "Have you been losing weight again? You better have some snacks packed, you need to eat."
"Oh my God, if I weren't about to leave for the next five months, I would kill you guys!"
"Okay, I see that's a sore subject," Nick remarked. Pulling some CD's out from behind his back, he continued, "I did make you a goodbye present, though."
"I'm not really angry at you, you know I can never be mad at you. Thanks for the music, I'm sure it's going to come in handy."
"Well, it's time for you to get going, babe. Call me when you get there? I love you," Nick replied.
"I'll miss you," I answered, hugging my best friend tightly one last time.
"I'll miss you too," he responded as he pulled away and ruffled my hair.
Smiling at him, I moved on to the twins. It appeared as though they had just finished lecturing James, but I let that slide. "Alright boys, it's time to say goodbye."
Leaving Jake next to the truck, the twins squished me between them, making the first Keira sandwich since I had been in elementary school. "Promise you'll try to stay out of trouble?" Alex asked.
"Of course," I replied.
"And you'll take care of yourself?"
"I'll do my best."
"Call us when you get to the hotel?"
"Love you, Kei."
"And I love both of you, I couldn't ask for better big brothers."
"Can we get that on tape?"
I smacked their arms playfully as they each pressed a kiss to my cheek and released me.
"Not a chance," I declared as I climbed into the driver's seat of my truck. Slipping my sunglasses on, I tied back my hair and turned the key in the ignition. Smiling at James who was in the passenger seat, I rolled down the windows and waved to my big brothers and best friend. Sliding Nick's CD into the player, I called out, "I love you guys!" as I backed out of the driveway. Smiling widely, I realized it was time for another year of adventures.
After three days of James and me taking turns driving, I finally directed him through the Westlane campus until he pulled up in front of our new home sweet home. Waving at a couple of guys I had met last year, I hopped out of the truck and started grabbing bags. James pocketed the keys, took the heavy bags from me and then followed me up to the dorm. Smiling as I arrived in front of the familiar door to room 74, I unlocked it and stepped into the room that had been my home last year and would be for the next year as well.
James whistled softly and declared, "You weren't kidding when you said these were nice rooms, were you?"
I shook my head distractedly as I took in the same couch and chairs, the same TV and entertainment stand, the same beloved window seat, and the same mini kitchen (and thank God, the cafeteria food here was surprisingly awful!). As much as Gilbertville was my home, so too was California after last year, and I was glad to be back even though it was a bitter-sweet return.
"So, which room is yours?" James asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.
"Oh, the one closest to the windows. There's a bathroom that connects the two rooms, just so you know."
"Gotcha," he replied, hauling the bags to the rooms where they belonged. Patiently, I waited for him before we made our way back down stairs for trip number two.
After a good three hours everything had gone by we had gotten everything carried up from the truck and were basically unpacked. Crashing onto the couch next to James, who was already stretched out and watching Sports Center, I asked, "So, Jay, are you ready for dinner?"
His stomach growled before he could vocalize a reply, and we both laughed. "What are you up for? Pizza or Chinese? A word to the wise, by the way, the food in the cafeteria sucks, so it's good to avoid it as much as possible."
"Pizza sounds good to me," he replied
At that moment, my phone began to ring. Ignoring James' eye roll, I picked it up from the table and answered, "Hello."
"Hey Kei, its Devon," he greeted.
"Hey Dev! What's up? How was your summer?"
"Oh, it was good, busy, but good. Are you back at school already?"
"Oh, yeah, just for tonight though. I'm going up to stay with Cam for a week before classes and practice get started."
"Well, got any plans for tonight then? I figured we could ditch the poisons of the cafeteria together and run over pre-season workout plans."
"Sure, that works. I was just about to take my little brother James out for Pete's if you want to join us."
"Oh yeah, I forgot that your brother was going to be here this year, but if you don't mind me intruding on family time, that sounds like a plan."
"Please, James and I have had nothing but family time for the last almost four days, you'd be doing us a favor by joining us."
"Well, I'll do anything to help a girl out. I'll see you in, say, fifteen minutes?" he asked.
"Sounds good, see you there."
"Who's Dev?" James questioned as he stretched after getting off the couch.
Sliding my flip flops on, I answered, "My co-captain for the year. Come one, this place is really good, you're going to like it."
Shrugging, James followed me out the door. Hopping in the truck, I drove the two of us to Pete's, looking forward to a delicious meal. Devon pulled into the parking lot right behind us, so the three of grabbed a booth together as soon as we walked in and placed our order a few moments after that. After introducing James and Devon to each other, Devon and I quickly devised a plan for captains' practices that would be held for the next two weeks before the official swim season began. Once the business portion of the meal was complete, the three of us moved on to casual conversation, and I was happy to see that James and Dev got along well and had a lot in common to the point where they even planned to hang out and play video games together later in the week.
Once we had finished our pizza, James and I parted with Devon and I let him drive us back to school. We were slowly meandering our way through the campus back to our dorm when I saw a familiar flash of blonde in our dorm's parking lot. Shaking my head, I told myself that there was no way I had seen correctly, it was impossible. Squinting in the dark to see a little bit better, I realized that I had seen correctly. Standing outside of my dorm, pulling bags out of her car was none other than Christy Parker.
Lord help me.