Jemma's Point Of View
I hesitated momentarily as I stared at the perfectly carved white wooden door. I sucked in a breath and braced myself for what was about to happen as I hurriedly knocked on the door before I end up listening to my head and sprinted away.
The door clicked open in a short span of four seconds – as though she had positioned herself right by the door, just waiting for my arrival.
"Oh thank god you're finally here," Jenna, my twenty-six year-old sister, heaved a sigh of relief the moment she sees me standing awkwardly on the other side of the door. My gaze flickered from her hand that was still gripping onto the door knob to the other which was cradling her wailing baby, whom I had heard the moment I stepped on the pathway leading up to her house, and then up to her face. I took in the dark circles under her eyes, her dishevelled hair and her dirty clothes. I didn't even want to know what was that sickly yellow stain on her blouse was.
"Uh, it's nice to see you too?" I offered right before she handed her baby over to me. I was too surprised to protest.
I stared down at the baby as she continued to wail, uncertain of what to do. One of her arms that she was randomly waving in the air smacked me across the face and I looked back up to my sister who was pressing her fingers to her forehead with her eyes closed.
"You know what? I take that back," I muttered.
Jenna's eyes snapped open and she snorted. She took a step to the side to allow me into the house. Once I slipped in and she had closed the door, it seemed as though Claire's – the baby – voice was even louder.
Jenna made her way down the foyer and to the kitchen. I followed her, slowly cradling Claire closer to me and shushing her softly – though I doubt she could even hear me over the sound of her own piercing shriek.
Jenna busied herself by pouring me a cup of orange juice which she then placed on the table beside me. She towered before me as she struggled with her hair, trying to pull it back into a ponytail. Once she realized that there was no way her hair was going to cooperate, she let her hands fall to her sides with a sigh.
"She has been crying for over three hours. I don't know what to do," Jenna sighed.
"Well, if you didn't look like Frankenstein, maybe she'd stop crying," I retorted.
She shot me a seething look before she continued, "Well, now that you're here, I can finally take a shower and then have a nap. I haven't had proper sleep in days."
"What has Ryan been doing?" I asked her, raising an eyebrow.
She shrugged, "He's been busy with work. He's so exhausted that he doesn't even wake up at the sound of Claire crying in the middle of the night."
I'm about to ask her if she's certain that he's so tired that he couldn't wake up or if he doesn't want to wake up to deal with Claire but snapped my mouth shut before I could. She looks like she has enough to think about as it is and I don't think she'd like the idea of me doubting her husband.
Ryan and I had never been that close. Apart from those family dinners and outings we were forced to have together, we never spoke to each other. It was awkward between us and it wasn't as though either of us were particularly eager to get to know each other beyond what was the basic requirement.
"Anyway, thank you, Jem. I appreciate it," she smiled weakly as she placed a hand on my shoulder. She stood there for a while longer before she made a move to leave. A few seconds later, I could hear the creaking of the staircase as she climbed up to her bedroom.
Gingerly, I slid my hand behind Claire's back, marvelling at how she was just slightly bigger than my hand. I lifted her up and pressed her against me as I began to rub her back slowly.
Honestly, I hadn't exactly volunteered to babysit. The last time I had seen Claire, Jenna and Ryan was a month ago when Claire was born. I hadn't visited them since then. My mother, however, came over to Jenna's every Saturday to babysit Claire so that my sister could take a break. Today though, my mother had told me that she had something important to do and that she couldn't come over to babysit Claire for Jenna. She begged me to go in place of her. I was reluctant but she had blackmailed me by saying that I was being an awful sister considering I hadn't visited and I had agreed out of sheer guilt. My mother tried to sound apologetic for taking away my Saturday morning from me but she had failed to hide the relief in her eyes. When I left, she was still in the living room, getting comfortable on the couch as she flickered through the channels on the television. Now, as I listened to Claire wail endlessly, I knew that she had just used me to get away from Claire for a week. It wasn't as though I blame her though. If the girl screams like this every week, I would've pulled out all of my hair by now. I can't imagine how Jenna did it.
I didn't know how long I had sat there before Claire started to quieten down. Jenna didn't came back to the kitchen after she left – probably as relieved as mom had been to get away, even if it was for a while and even if the person in spoken of is her very own child.
I continued to rub Claire's back until she was reduced to nothing but the sound of her steady breaths. The house suddenly seemed far too silent now that she had stopped crying. As I made my way up the staircase to Jenna's bedroom where I knew Claire's cot would be, I carefully moved to cradle Claire in my arms. I wasn't surprised to find Jenna in a deep sleep when I finally made my way to her room to set Claire down. She looked much better now that she had taken a shower.
I stayed for another hour and a half in which I just stared blankly at the television set before I decided it was okay to leave. In order to get home from Jenna's, I'd have to walk past a beach and further down a couple of blocks. Usually, I would walk as fast as I could since I didn't see the point in hanging about when I didn't have anything to do but today, I took my time as I walked along the coast, breathing in deeply and trying to get rid of the unfaltering replay of Claire's blare that kept going on in my head.
I slid my hands into the pockets of my jeans as I turned to look at the waves as it crashed into the shore. A small smile appeared on my lips just as swiftly as it disappeared when I crashed into something so hard that I staggered back three steps. I whipped my head up just in time to see the person who had crashed into me fumble to get his bearing but failing to do so as he lurched forward. Instinctively, I reached out and stopped him from falling.
He grunted right before he went completely still. Just when I thought that maybe he had passed out, he pulled away from me slightly to look at me.
"You've got to be kidding me," I muttered as I found myself face-to-face with Daniel Parker. I managed to catch a glimpse of his unfocused eyes and frown before he lurched forward again and rested his chin on my shoulder as he leaned heavily against me. I froze in shock.
What the hell did he think he was doing?
I was about to take a step backward and let him fall but stopped when something caught my attention. He smelled strongly of soap but there was a twinge of alcohol to him.
"Wait, are you having a hangover?" I asked him in bewilderment. A sound escaped from him before he staggered back, turned to the side slightly and emptied the contents of his stomach. I took a step to the side and started to walk away from him. He was not my responsibility. It was his idea to get drunk the night before and to turn up at the beach today and I wasn't going to hang about and watch him suffer because of his decisions. My Saturday was horrible as it was after having my mother and my sister use me and my niece scream at me for a full hour. The last thing that I needed was having to deal with an self-centred asshole.
My plan to just pretend as though nothing had happen and just make my exit was ruined when he almost fell into his own vomit. I grabbed his arm and pulled him back before he could and he ended up falling backward.
I snorted to stop myself from laughing. I crossed my arms across my chest and waited for him to stand up. He struggled to get up for a while before giving up. I shook my head in disbelief as he laid down on the sidewalk – his eyes closed as he pinched the bridge of his nose. An elderly couple walked past us at that moment and they shot me a look as though it was my fault that Daniel Parker was laying on the floor.
Great. Just great. This is just what I needed to complete my horrible day.
I nudged him with my foot, "Get up."
"Fuck," he shook his head and opened his eyes but immediately snapped them close again as he moved his arm to block out the sunlight.
"Come on," I hissed, as I grudgingly offered him my hand, "People are staring, you idiot."
He groaned as he snapped his eyes open and grabbed my arm. I pulled him up and had to stable him again as he started to stagger. Cursing under my breath, I slipped my arm around him and let him rest his weight against me.
"How'd you get here?" I asked, resisting the urge to just drop him off at one of the benches.
With his other arm that wasn't gripping onto me, he slipped his hand into his pocket and fished out his car keys. He passed them to me and opened his eyes slightly to get his bearing before he pointed forward, gesturing to where his car was.
The walk back to his car was arduous since he couldn't seem to take a step without stumbling. I managed to find his car easily since he was always hanging out by his car after school and it was hard not to notice him when he was always surrounded by a flock of girls. I unlocked the doors, yanked one of them open and pushed him into the backseat. I opened the front door and turned on the engine. Cool air instantly blasted throughout the car. I glanced back over at him to find that he was sprawled over the backseat, his arm over his eyes.
I could've easily left him then. He was comfortable and I had done more than enough for him. Instead, I found myself muttering to myself angrily as I crossed the street to one of the shops to get him a bottle of water and some aspirin.
When I got back to the car, his breathing had slowed and it seemed as though he was asleep but I couldn't care less as I shook him awake.
"What?" he snapped as he sat up. I could see the regret on his face for moving so quickly as he groaned and cursed.
"Here," I shoved the bottle of water and the aspirin into his hands. He glanced down at them and then back to me.
"And here," I tossed him his keys before I took a step back to slam the door close. Promptly, I spun on my heels and made my way back home.
When I got home, I reached into the pocket of my jeans for my keys but couldn't find it. I frantically hunted for it but froze when it dawned on me. When Daniel had crashed into me, my keys had probably fallen out of my pocket. Groaning, I slammed my fist against the door and waited. When there was no answer, I tried again. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and dialled my mother's number.
"Where are you?" I hissed.
"Outside," she answered somewhat defensively, "I told you I had something important to do."
I ended the call but not before I caught the sound of laughter from the other end of the line. Grumbling, I sat down on the steps and started punching in numbers onto my phone again. Liz didn't pick up and Alicia said something about having to tutor someone. I groaned.
I could always depend on Daniel Parker to screw up my day.
Alicia's Point Of View
I checked the address that was displayed on my cell with the address of the house that stood before me. Once I was certain it was the correct house, I flipped my phone shut and dropped it into my bag. I slowly made my way up the pathway to his house as I looked around at the rows of quaint houses.
I didn't know what had gotten into me when I had volunteered to tutor him. It wasn't that I didn't want to help him but I had the sense that he wanted more than anything to stay away from me. Whenever I talked to him, he would give me short replies and it was written all over his face that he wanted to just get the conversation over and done with. Maybe it was just my imagination but he seemed to put an effort into making sure he was nowhere near me whenever possible too. It was odd for him considering how he was known as one of the most friendliest person in the school from the way he was able to make a conversation with just about anybody. When it came to me though, it seemed like he was the exact opposite.
I felt regret slowly weaving its way into my mind but I brushed it off quickly. He could have easily said no to me but he hadn't. And even if he wasmaking it a point to avoid me but was forced to agree to my suggestion just because he couldn't afford to fail Math any longer, it didn't matter.
I crossed the porch and pressed the doorbell. It was silent for a moment until I heard the sound of Matt making his way down the stairs. When the door finally flung wide open though, I was surprised to find that it wasn't Matt but a little girl instead.
Without having to ask, I instantly knew that she was related to Matt. She had the same dirty blond hair, sharp nose and jaw and olive green eyes. She gripped onto a brown teddy bear and was wearing a Minnie Mouse nightgown. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
"Who are you?" she asked as her released the door handle and gripped onto her teddy bear with both hands.
"Hello. Is Matt here? I'm a fri-"
"Didn't I tell you to stay in your room?" Matt sighed as he made his way to the door.
The little girl whipped her head around at the sound of his voice and then turned back to me just as Matt came to a stop by the doorway.
She glared at me, "Is she the reason you won't play with me today?"
Matt glanced at me and cleared his throat, "Come on, May. How about I turn on one of those princess movies you like so much?"
Her sulkiness disappeared in an instant as she broke out into a grin and turned to Matt, tugging at his pants, "I want to watch The Little Mermaid!"
He smiled down at her as she stretched both of her arms out and waited patiently for him to comply with her wants. He obliged and picked her up.
From the way they smiled at each other, it was easy to tell that they shared a close relationship despite the obvious age difference. Seeing them made me miss Andy. Andy's my nineteen year-old brother. We too shared a close relationship where he would always be there for me whenever I needed him and even though he had a tendency of sharing almost everything with me – even the things that I was better off not knowing – I loved him. He was off in another whole state for college and even though it meant that I barely see him anymore, I was happy for him knowing that he was probably having the time of his life right now studying in the art school of his dreams.
Just when I thought that Matt had completely forgotten that I was still standing uncertainly by the doorway as he made his way back into his house, he stopped, looked over his shoulder and murmured, "You don't mind waiting for a few minutes while I turn on the movie for May, do you?"
"Nope, not at all," I offered a smile to reassure him. He nodded, stared at me for a while longer before making his way back into the house. Just before he walked into another room that was out of my view from where I stood, May turned in his arms to look at me. She shot me a smug look that I couldn't help but to laugh. I could just tell that his girlfriend must have to fight with May quite a bit for his attention.
After a few moments of contemplating what I should do, I finally gingerly stepped into his house and closed the door behind me carefully. I had barely gotten to take a quick glance around when he came back. He stopped a few feet away from me and seemed awkward as he cleared his throat and reached up to rub the back of his neck.
"So, uh, would the dining room be okay?" he asked, looking at anywhere but at me.
I resisted the urge to sigh. After seeing the way he was with his sister, I thought that he wouldn't act the way he usually did around me for today. After all, we were in his house – his turf.
"It's fine," I smiled.
He grunted a reply and promptly turned and made his way to what I assume is the dining room.
For the next two hours as I tutored him, there were moments where he would zone out and I would have to repeat everything that I've said but there were also moments when he was so determined on trying to understand that he would end up frowning in that way that he always did whenever it came to Math. By the end of the lesson, I wasn't sure if he still was bothered to learn from me or if he wasn't.
And even though I've been trying really hard to avoid admitting it, after today, I couldn't deny the fact anymore. Seeing him up close, I had to agree that the girls in school were right when they described him as the cute jock. And it wasn't just his appearance but also his actions. For example, whenever I had to shake him slightly because he was so zoned out, he would jump at my touch and then blush once he realized what he'd done and the way he had sighed and feebly tried to supress a smile as May came barrelling into the room and asked for his attention again once the movie was done was adorable.
Now, as I stood by the doorway once more since May had refused to leave him alone no matter how hard he tried, I gripped onto the strap of my bag, uncertain again of what I should do or say. Finally, he spoke up.
"So, do you think you could help me again?"
"Sure. Just tell me when and where."
He nodded and for the first time, smiled at me, "Thank you. Really."
So I smiled right back, "Of course."
Matt's Point Of View
The moment she was gone, I shut the door and leaned against it as I slid down to the floor.
I sighed in relief. It had been a long two hours in which I had to put in all my effort to just focus on what she was saying and not on her. I had to remember to think my words through before I spoke up too just so that I wouldn't end up muttering something stupid that I would regret in the way I always did whenever I was around her. Still, there were moments when I would unconsciously lose my focus and she would have to get me back on track once again.
I hated the way I was doomed to act like an idiot whenever I was around her. Even though I wanted to keep myself from acting like an absolute moron, I still had to stick around her if I didn't want to fail 11th grade. I could always find another tutor but I figured that if I did that, it would make it too obvious that I was trying to stay away from her. And even though I really did want to keep a distance from her, I didn't want to hurt her feelings.
"Is she gone?" May asked as when she found me by the door.
I nodded and she instantly grinned, walked toward me and offered me her hand.
"Let's watch Cinderella," she chirped.
I groaned and banged the back of my head against the wall, "But you just watched that yesterday."
She narrowed her eyes at me, "But you fell asleep yesterday!"
I didn't say anything in return. True, I had fallen asleep but I was pretty sure I was barely out for five minutes before she punched her fist against my arm and even though she was only five, her punches were pretty hard. I could just imagine her punching a kid senseless for getting on her nerves.
"Fine," I muttered as I followed her grudgingly as she skipped back into the TV room.
Eliza's Point Of View
The door clicked open barely five seconds after I had pressed the doorbell.
"Liz! You're here! It's so good to see you," Glen said the moment he saw me standing on the other side of the door. If his words didn't bring about suspicion, the way he smiled at me definitely did. He was grinning at me in that mischievous way of his that usually meant that the only reason he was glad to see me was because it means I was about to suffer along with him.
I narrowed my eyes, "What's up?"
He ignored my question as he grabbed my arm and yanked me into the house. Kicking the door closed with his foot, he pushed me all the way into the kitchen.
"Liz's here," he chirped gleefully.
I froze at the doorway as my gaze flickering from Jenny who was standing in front of the counter, her attention focused on something that was on the table, to James who sighed and shook his head when he met my gaze as he leaned against the stove with his arms crossed across his chest and finally to Glen as he slid past me and made his way to one of the cupboards and instantly began ransacking through it.
"Uh, is anybody going to tell me what's going on?" I asked slowly, feeling somewhat terrified.
"Jen insists on making lunch," James told me as he pointedly glanced to the bags of groceries I hadn't noticed that was on the counter by the fridge.
Glen turned away from the cupboard then and focused his attention on Jenny, "Honestly, honey. You don't have to do this. We could always go out for lunch."
"No," Jenny said determinedly as she thumped her fist against the counter as if to emphasise her point. She finally looked up from the table to glance around the kitchen, as though to get her bearings, "I'm going to make at least one decent meal by this week. It's embarrassing having to have my younger brother cook for me since I can't seem to do anything without burning something or having it end up tasting utterly disgusting."
I bit my lower lip to stop myself from smiling as I watched the way both James and Glen shuddered. I was certain they were thinking of all the other times Jenny had desperately tried to make a 'decent meal' but failed.
"But instead of being over-ambitious by trying to do it all on my own again," Jenny continued, "You're going to help me this time round."
She looked from Glen to James and finally to me. I nodded slowly as I walked into the kitchen and placed my bag on one of the chairs by the counter, "So, what do you want us to do?"
"Well," she glanced over at the bags of groceries, "I got all the ingredients ready and I have the recipe right here," she shifted her gaze downward to the countertop and then back to me, "So I guess all that's left is to get to work. You'll just help me though. I want to do most of it."
I nodded again and this time, she smiled.
"Let's get to work then."
Eliza's Point Of ViewWhen Jenny finally told us that she planned to make a full course meal for lunch today, I chewed on my lower lip uncertainly while Glen rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.
"I thought you weren't going to be over-ambitious," James muttered.
Jenny ignored him as she continued to unpack all the groceries she had bought onto the table. James turned to shoot Glen a look, telling him to do something but Glen simply shook his head and walked over to Jenny to help her unpack. We all knew that Jenny wasn't going to give up once she put her mind to it.
James pushed himself away from the stove and over to the counter where Jenny had been to check the recipe. His eyes widened as his eyes flickered from recipe to recipe and finally to his sister, "You're planning to make all of this? Now?"
Jenny simply nodded, unfazed by James clear disbelief.
Glen and I curiously edged our way over to him to peek at the recipe too. My jaw dropped when I realized she planned on making clam chowder for the appetizer, grilled mushroom risotto for the main course and an apple pie for dessert.
James opened his mouth to protest but stopped short when Glen shot him a look that told him to shut up.
"So," Jenny placed the last of the ingredients she had bought onto the table and turned to smile at the three of us, "What are you standing around for? Come help me!"
When we finally sat down to eat later in the day, Jenny had leaned over the table in anticipation as she glanced from James, Glen and me, waiting for us to taste it first and to tell her how it all went. James glanced at me skeptically while Glen gingerly picked up his spoon and dipped it into the chowder. Right before he slid the spoon into his mouth though, he glared at both James and I, demanding us to try it at the same time as he did. After all, it was better for all of us to react at the same time to soften the blow. So we tried it at the same time as Jenny began asking how it tastes like as she looked from person to person. And it was surprisingly good. Jenny had frowned, asked us if we were just trying to make her feel better but when she finally tasted it for herself and realized we weren't lying, she couldn't help but to grin for the rest of the day. I figured it was best not to mention that we hadn't actually followed her instructions fully and had made improvements on our own – James had added more salt and pepper to the chowder, Glen had added more flour to the pie and I had reduced the amount of stock when she wasn't looking. It didn't matter as long as she was happy.
Jenny's Point Of View
"How's the chowder?" I asked as I glanced over at James.
He seemed amused as he looked over at me, "You just asked me that, Jen."
"Yes," he laughed as he peered into the pot as he continued to stir it, "And it's still fine."
I nodded and turned to look over at Liz who was helping me to chop the onions and slice the mushrooms for the risotto by the counter. She didn't notice me looking as she carefully diced the onions. I turned back to the stove and stared down at the pot of rice and stock that I was stirring.
"I'm done with the pie," Glen announced a few minutes later and I snapped my attention to him, "Want to do the honor of putting it into the oven?"
I shook my head and watched as he immediately made a beeline for the oven. I watch him study the buttons on the oven with a frown and I couldn't help but to smile. I was just about to help him when James turned off the stove, told me the chowder was done and walked over to Glen. James opened the oven and gestured for Glen to put in the pie to which he obliged. Glen watched in fascination as James punched the buttons required before turning to shoot Glen a look. That was what you get out of a guy who had a sister-in-law and mother to cook for him.
I turned back to peer into the pot of rice and stock, sighing when I noted how the rice was still hard even though I had been stirring at it for quite some time.
"Let me do that," Glen said as he came to stand by my side, instantly taking the spoon from me. He shot me a smile before he fixed his attention on the soon-to-be risotto.
I moved past him to get to the chowder. Once I was certain it was creamy enough, I turned and was about to ask Liz if she was done but stopped short as I watched my brother made a move to stand behind her as she continued to work on the mushrooms, having completed with the onions. She looked up to shoot him a questioning look but he ignored her as he wrapped his arms around her and leaned down to kiss her cheek. I watch in amusement as Liz tried to shake him off but he only tightened his hold on her. Liz would always try to keep their level of intimacy to a minimum whenever they were around Glen or I but my brother couldn't be bothered and he always end up winning despite her discomfort.
Even though they had been together for so long, I still couldn't get over just how happy she made him. I had never seen him smile that much before – not even when he was a kid and he didn't really understand what was going on in our family just yet. And the way he looked at her always made me forget that he wasn't the kind of person who believed in relationships and the existence of love.
As though he could feel my gaze on him, he looked over his shoulder at me and smiled. He turned back to whisper something in her ear which made her shake her head and laugh before he slid away from her and over to me.
"Thank you for yesterday," I murmured to him as he stood next to me, leaning back against the counter for support.
"For what?" he asked, looking away from Liz just long enough to raise an eyebrow at me.
"Mom and dad would have given me an even longer lecture if you hadn't told them about Liz."
I had decided to tell my parents about Glen yesterday during our family lunch since it was one of those rare times that we were all gathered together and I figured it was better to tell them both at once instead of having to hear the same lecture twice from the both of them separately. It would have been comical – the way they both suddenly were on agreement about how I had better things to focus on such as securing a 'proper' job instead of being involved in a guy who, in their words, was 'obviously not practical since he is willing to move all the way here just because of a relationship'- if it wasn't exhausting and slightly irritating considering I had listened to the lecture for countless of times before. I was just about to snap when James placed his hand on my shoulder and made me look at him. He shot me a look that clearly translated to 'I told you so' since I had told him that the lunch wouldn't be as bad as he thought it would be even though I secretly knew it would be just horrible and awkward, which, not surprisingly, it turned out to be. He had turned back to them and abruptly announced that he had a girlfriend. He got a lecture much worse than mine considering how he has always been slightly defiant to them and because he was younger than me. I expected him to snap like I wanted to at some point but instead, he just sat there and nodded, seemingly unaffected. Mom and dad had ended their lecture only because they realized he wasn't really listening anyway.
He shrugged, "Mom knew about her since a long time ago anyway."
"About that," I turned my body to face him, "How does she already know?"
He cleared his throat awkwardly, "She, uh, walked in on us."
"But… ever since you and Liz started going out, I've always been around. I don't remember her coming home when Liz was around."
"It was before we were going out," he told me and my gaze flickered to Liz momentarily before I quirked an eyebrow. I've known her long enough to know that she wouldn't have done anything worth my mother's suspicion with James before they started seeing each other.
He coughed, "We were rehearsing for the play. I got carried away."
I nodded slowly, absorbing what he had just said to me. That made sense. The one play that James had acted in along with Liz had a few kissing scenes in them.
"Have you told her that mom and dad knows about you two?"
He laughed and shook his head as he met my gaze pointedly, "In case you haven't realized, I haven't really had a chance to even talk to her ever since she got here thanks to you. And I don't plan to anyway."
I was about to ask him why but he just shook his head again, "She knows what mom and dad are like. It'll just make her feel horrible because she'd know how much trouble I got into. It's better if she doesn't know."
I didn't know what to say to that so instead, I turned back to look at Liz. That change in my brother of becoming so protective over her was something I knew I would take a long time to get used to.
"I'm done," Liz announced suddenly as she placed the knife down and turned to face us.
"So am I," Glen added with a wave of the spoon he was using.
I glanced at my brother one more time before I walked away from him to take the chopped onions and sliced mushrooms that Liz was holding out.
It would take me a long time to get used to my new and improved brother but it didn't matter. All that mattered was that he was finally done pretending and even though he never failed to surprise me now, I already knew that I'd grow to love the new him.
Eliza's Point Of View
After lunch, while we were all cleaning up in the kitchen, Glen suddenly turned to James.
"Hey, how about playing a game of football with me? Or soccer, as you call it."
James looked up from the dishes he was washing, "You play?"
Glen nodded, grinning broadly.
"How come I'm only hearing about this too?" Jenny asked, narrowing her eyes on him.
He laughed and reached for her, "It was just a hobby. I didn't think it was worth mentioning and it never came up anyway," he turned back to look at James, "So, are you game?"
James shrugged, "Sure. Why not?"
So, after cleaning up the kitchen, we headed to the backyard where there was a field along with a small pool. As both of the guys warmed up, Jenny beckoned for me to sit next to her on the chairs that were available.
"You don't have to go easy on me," Glen said as he stretched, "You need to practice anyway, right? Your season is coming up in a few months, right?"
James nodded, a grin slowly forming on his lips, "Just remember that you're the one who told me not to cut you some slack. When I kick your ass later, you can't hold a grudge against me, alright?"
Glen snorted and rolled his eyes, "We'll see about that."
Glen was surprisingly good for someone who claimed to only play the sport as a hobby. During the first few minutes, Jenny had cringed in her seat, afraid of what her brother might do to her boyfriend's ego. Glen had a hard time catching up during that few minutes but once he had warmed up and gotten use to the game, he was just as good as the boys on our school's varsity team. When he had first swiftly snatched the ball from James unexpectedly, James had paused, glancing over his shoulder at Glen and then back forward again before he got over his shock. Jenny, on the other hand, had jumped to her feet and began cheering.
In the end, James still managed to win the game through his trademark of scoring a goal just as the game is about to end. But nevertheless, Glen had put up a tough fight, having scored an impressive total of three goals against James's four.
As they made their way over to Jenny and I, I watched as Glen move toward James to walk by his side. Glen slapped James on the back and murmured something to him. James smiled as he said something in return.
"I need a shower," Glen muttered just as he reached Jenny and I. He grabbed one of the two bottled water Jenny was holding out while James snagged the other. James took huge gulps while Glen poured it over his face as he glanced over at James, "When I told you not to go easy on me, I thought that you'd just at least be nice enough to just play at a relaxed pace."
James laughed, "I'm sorry?"
"Are you okay?" Jenny asked, frowning as her eyes assessed Glen, looking for a sign of injury.
"No," Glen said as he shot glared at James.
He downed what was left of his water and began to make his way back into the house. Just before he disappeared from view, he groaned, "My muscles are killing me."
Jenny, who had watched Glen as he retreated back into the safety of the shade, turned back to look at her brother, and then me.
"I'll go check up on him," she said right before she stood up and made her way to the house.
If I didn't know any better, I would've thought that Jenny, Glen and James were a family from the way they were so comfortable around one another today. There was just something about the way they looked at one another and laughed together as they made lunch and played sports together that made them seem so close. I felt like an intruder being there but at the same time, I was glad that I was able to see all of them so happy. As I caught a glimpse of James chuckle and shake his head as he watched his sister run after Glen, I realized then that James had already gotten the family that he had always needed.
James's Point Of View
I reached up and ran my fingers through my hair as I focused on breathing steadily. It wasn't the first game that I've played ever since school started but I was still warming up, still not having gotten the hang of the game just yet.
Looking at Glen, I knew that he would be good but I had underestimated him slightly. He had pulled off tricks on me that I never would've expected. His skills made me doubt whether he really just played soccer as a hobby. If there was one thing that I learnt from today, it was that there was so much more to Glen that I've never bothered to really learn. I guess I was so used to people leaving that I didn't see the point in getting to really know someone anymore. However, as I glanced up to see Liz laughing as she spoke to my sister, I knew that it was about time to change that – especially since Jenny really liked him. The next time Liz decides to interrogate Glen, I'd pay more attention.
I turned and started to make my way to Jenny and Liz, feeling that irritatingly familiar trickle of sweat as it made its way down my back. I reached down to take off my shirt but stopped when Glen hit me on the back.
"That was a good game," he smiled as I glanced over at him, "Instead of training alone at home, maybe you can ask me to train with you the next time."
I nodded, "Yeah. That'd be great."
His smile grew and he nodded before he quickened his pace to take the bottle of water Jenny was holding out towards him.
"I need a shower," he announced just as I took the other bottled water Jenny was holding out. I glanced over at Liz as I uncapped the bottle and brought it up to my mouth. She was looking at Glen, an amused smile on her lips.
"When I told you not to go easy on me," Glen started and I, too, turned to look at him, "I thought that you'd just at least be nice enough to just play at a relaxed pace."
I couldn't help but to laugh.
I told him I'd kick his ass. And he's the one who told me not to go easy on him.
Jenny turned to Glen as I took another gulp from the bottle, "Are you okay?"
Glen shot me a look again as he said no. I resisted the urge to laugh again.
I watched from the corner of my eye as he crushed the now empty bottle in his hands as he headed to the house.
"My muscles are killing me," he hissed just as he slipped into the house. Jenny followed after him soon after mumbling an excuse. I watched her as she jogged after him, concern etched on her features.
I shook my head, grinning as I remembered how Jenny had once told me when we were younger that I would be the only man in her life since, according to her, "guys are just a waste of time and energy". It looks as though I've been replaced.
I glanced over at Liz just in time to find her watching me. I screwed back on the cap of the bottle as I walked closer to her.
"Want to play a game with me?" I asked, jerking my head toward the field behind me.
She blinked up at me and I could tell she was wondering if I was kidding.
"I'm serious," I grinned as I placed the bottle on the table beside her.
"You do realize that I have no idea how to play soccer, right?" she asked, quirking an eyebrow, "You never taught me how to."
I reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her up to her feet.
"I'll teach you while we play then," I told her as I let go of her hands and walked back onto the field to pick up the ball. When I looked over my shoulder, she was still standing where I had left her, a slight frown on her face as she contemplated whether to say yes to me or not.
She looked at me then and sighed before she made her way to me, "Fine. But I won't be much of an opponent. You can go easy on me and I'd still be horrible."
"You'll never know," I told her as she took the ball from me. She looked down at it as though it might just reach out and devour her whole.
She took a deep breath then looked up at me, "Okay then. Here goes nothing."
Eliza's Point Of View
Playing against him not only made me feel like a klutz but it also made me feel as though I was horribly out of shape. It was even worse knowing that he was going easy on me. I wasn't certain as to what I was doing and after a long time of keeping my distance from him because I was afraid I'd break some sort of rule, I finally gave up and attempted to take the ball from him. Somehow though, I ended up kicking him instead of the ball and he lurched forward. Instinctively, I reached out to steady him but it was useless. I went down with him.
"Did you just trip me?" he chuckled, his body shaking against mine as he laughed.
"I'm sorry!" I squeaked, "I was trying to get the ball!"
"It's fine," he smiled.
I groaned, "I told you I'd be horrible."
"You weren't that bad," he murmured as he reached up to tuck a strand of my hair behind my ear, "With practice, you'd be good to go."
I narrowed my eyes, "Did you not just see me play? Besides, I'll probably end up tripping you again."
He shook his head and laugh, not even bothering to try and convince me since he knew me well enough to know that whatever he said won't change my mind.
I clambered off of him carefully and held out my hand. He took it and pushed himself up to his feet.
"Let's go in then," he gestured toward the house with his head, "I need a shower too."
I nodded and followed him as he made his way back into the house. Just as we reached the second floor, Jenny called out to me.
"Could you help me for a bit?" she asked as she stood at the top of the staircase on the third floor, "I have an important meeting tomorrow and I don't know what to wear."
I nodded, "Sure."
"I'll catch up with you later," James murmured as he pulled off his shirt and slipped into his room.
"Come on," Jenny smiled down at me, beckoning me to her with a wave of her hand.
James's Point Of View
I pulled on my black T-shirt as I walked over to my bedside table to grab my car keys, wallet and phone. I glanced around my room to make sure I hadn't left anything important behind before I headed out of the door, pulling it close behind me.
I climbed up the steps to the third floor and turned to my right the moment I reached the landing. I realized the door to my sister's room was slightly ajar as I walked over. I pushed the door open slightly and peered in to find Liz sitting on my sister's bed, her attention focused on my sister who stood directly in front of her. Jenny held up various clothes against her body as she asked Liz for her opinion. I pushed the door open even more and it creaked, announcing my arrival.
"Good," my sister said as she dropped the shirt she was holding onto the chair next to her and turned to grab a dress from her closet, "What do you think about this?"
She held up a blue sleeveless knee-length dress against herself. I glanced from the dress to her to find her watching me, waiting for me to reply her.
"You're really going to ask me for my opinion?" I raised my eyebrow, "Why don't you ask Glen instead?"
"He's in the kitchen making a sandwich. He said playing with you made him hungry," she rolled her eyes, "And besides, he'd just tell me everything looks beautiful on me."
I snorted while Liz bit her lower lip to stop herself from laughing.
"Of course he does," I muttered under my breath before raising my breath loud enough for her to hear me, "Are you almost done?"
She glanced down at the dress she was holding up, to the chair with clothes strewn all over it and to her opened closet, "What do you think?"
I walked into the room and over to where Liz was seated, "Can I have my girlfriend back, nevertheless?"
"Would it make a difference if I answered?" she laughed.
"Nope," I grinned at her as I wrapped my hand around Liz's wrist and pulled her up.
Jenny shook her head and rolled her eyes, "Have fun."
Ten minutes later and we were in my car, making our way away from her neighbourhood, mine and anything that we're familiar with. Liz had been staring out the window silently the whole time and I could tell she was trying to figure out where we were going. After a while though, she gave up attempting to figure it out on her own.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked as she turned to face me.
I laughed, "It's a surprise."
Her eyes narrowed slightly, "Can't you give me a hint then?"
"Scared, Lizzy?" I asked, grinning, as I looked away from the road long enough to find her staring intently at me.
"Yes, actually," she replied, "You can be very scary when you want to be. Now tell me."
"Not a chance."
She huffed and turned back to look out the window. She ignored me for the rest of the ride up until we made our way into the business district.
She turned to me again, raising an eyebrow, "Do I even want to know?"
"You'll find out soon enough," I told her as I maneuvered the car into a parking lot before cutting off the engine.
When I got out of the car, she hesitantly followed as she glanced around confusedly. I walked over to her, grabbed her hand and led her over to the building I had in mind.
The moment we entered, the man at the information counter looked up. His eyes made its way to Liz before it rested on me. He frowned momentarily before he broke into a grin.
"James Dawson. I haven't seen you in a really long time," he said as we approached him. Liz glanced over at me questioningly but I ignored her.
"I haven't seen you in a while too, Mr. Bradley. How have you been?"
"Well, you know," he shrugged, "What are you doing here today? Your dad's-"
"Not in," I finished for him, "I know. Don't tell him I was here, alright?"
He nodded, already accustomed to me telling him that to even bother asking why, "Sure."
"Thanks. I'll catch up with you another time then."
As I pulled Liz along with me over to the elevator, Mr. Bradley smiled at her and she smiled in return before turning to look at me again. I knew she had to have questions to ask me but it could wait.
James's Point Of View
I shoved the door open and moved to the side to let her through first. The moment she stepped out onto the roof, she gasped. She took a few steps forward, her eyes glued to the view before she made a complete turn before looking at me.
"This is amazing," she breathed.
I nodded and couldn't help but to smile at the look of awe on her face.
The sun was just beginning to set and the sky slowly darkened to violet. I walked over to her and took her hand in mine again, leading her to the edge of the building. I led her up onto the parapet before gesturing for her to sit down. I sat down next to her and we were both silent for a while as we studied the view. From where we sat, we could see buildings after buildings and the road that we had just driven on. The housing district beyond that was a blur of what looked like dots of multicolours.
"Is this what you wanted to show me?" she asked, her eyes flickering to me.
I nodded, "I always came here when I was younger when I missed my dad. Of course, I'd never get to see him anyway. But I'd here before he sent his assistant up to tell me he was busy."
I turned to look at her, "I wanted you to see this," I gestured to our surroundings, "I figured that if I'm going to start building real relationships with people, I should first face up to my past. I've wanted to come here with someone else – to share it. So, when I decided that this place was too special to just let go, I made up my mind to come back. And the first person I thought of sharing this place with was you," I glanced at her to find her smiling at me softly, "Of course, I could always share it with my sister but-"
"You're ruining the moment," she laughed, rolling her eyes. I smiled back at her.
She grew silent then and just kept staring at me. Just as her gaze was beginning to unnerve me, I opened my mouth to ask her why she was looking at me in that way. I didn't get to ask her though since she leaned over and kissed me. She smiled at me when she pulled back, moving closer to me to rest her head on my shoulder. I wound my arm around her waist and we sat there till the sky grew dark.
"How was your lunch with your parents?" she asked suddenly. Her voice was so quiet that I barely heard her.
When I didn't answer, she pulled back to look at me but I just continued to stare ahead, watching at the darkened sky being slowly illuminated by lights from the skyscrapers.
"There's nothing much to tell," I told her, shrugging but I knew instantly that she wouldn't buy it. She continued to look at me, patiently waiting for me to continue.
"They were different towards me. I guess it was mostly scorn since they feel like they have failed at parenting since they've, in their opinion, raised up a son who's sensitive to his surroundings which is obviously a bad thing to them," I snorted.
I jumped up to my feet abruptly, knowing that she would probably have nothing to say to that and not wanting her to bother trying to make the situation seem better since I couldn't believe her even if I tried.
I grinned and offered her my hand, "Come on. It's prettier up here. You can see beyond the skyscrapers."
I watched as she gingerly glanced over the edge. She sucked in a sharp breath before looking up at me, "You do know that I have a fear of heights, right?"
"Okay then," I murmured, moving over to sit behind her so that her back was to me. I wrapped my arms around her waist and rested my head on her shoulder.
She laughed but took one of my hands, intertwining our fingers together. She sighed and leaned back against me as we continued to appreciate the view.
James's Point Of View
"Thank you," she murmured, "For bringing me to that rooftop."
We were standing by my car which was parked across the street from her house. I was leaning against the side door and she stood in front of me. I kept my gaze glued on the road beneath my shoes, wanting to drag this out for as long as I could. I wouldn't see her for days after today and considering how we've been around each other almost every day for the past five months, it wasn't going to be easy – especially for me. She had a way of making me feel relaxed and with her, I didn't think so much of my parents.
Grudgingly, I looked up, "So, I guess I'll see you in school."
She nodded as she clasped her hand together, fiddling with her fingers.
"Are you sure you don't need me to pick you up tomorrow?"
She smiled and shook her head while I nodded slowly.
For the second time today, she surprised me by closing the gap between us and tiptoeing to brush her lips against mine. Instinctively, I wrapped my arms around her. For the first time in a long time, she didn't protest and let me pull her even closer.
A few minutes later, the porch light of her house flicked off – her father's signal that it was time for her to make her way back in.
She pulled back and smiled, "Well, that's my cue."
I leaned in and kissed her for the last time for the day.
"Goodnight, James," she said softly, hugging me tightly before she pulled back and crossed the street and made her way back home.
This chapter took me a few days to write – mostly because I had so many scenarios in mind that I couldn't decide which one to choose.
Now that I have time, I'm going to go back to replying reviews. I'm sorry to all of those people who reviewed before but I didn't reply! Will you forgive me if I gave you a virtual hug? Hahahaha.