Hold on, baby, you're losing it
The water's high, you're jumping into it
And letting go... and no one knows
That you cry, but you don't tell anyone
That you might not be the golden one
And you're tied together with a smile
But you're coming undone
I guess it's true that love was all you wanted
Cause you're giving it away like it's extra change
Hoping it will end up in his pocket
But he leaves you out like a penny in the rain
Oh, cause it's not his price to pay
Not his price to pay...

Tied Together With A Smile – Taylor Swift

I paced around in the upstairs hallway waiting for the conversation to be over. Grandpa had decided to have a word with Evan so now they were in Mom's home office, and I was freaking out because Evan was freaking out. He understands that my grandfather is really nice but he can't get over the army part. I wonder what they were talking about. I hope not me. Why couldn't he talk to Jonathan first? Does he think Evan is a horrible person? I haven't exactly made a secret of my dislike towards him. Oh god, please don't let grandpa scare away my first boyfriend. Where was Jake when you needed him? He could have stopped grandpa from interrogating Evan. I walked towards the end of the hallway and knocked on the bathroom door again.

"Charlotte, stop knocking," Jake yelled from the inside. I couldn't believe it, he'd been in there for 45 minutes and the water was still running. How long does it take him to shower?

"Jake, come out already," I whined. I sat down on the floor across from the bathroom.

"I have to get this airport smell off of me," Jake shouted. Stupid airport smell, guys could be so pathetic sometimes. He wasn't going on a date; he didn't need to spend an hour in the shower.

"You're the only one I can talk to, so come out already or I'm coming in," I said. I wasn't actually going to barge in on him but the threat worked. The water stopped running and a minute later the opened revealing Jake standing in the doorway, in a towel.

"Oh, my eyes, I'm blind," I said covering my eyes.

"You wanted to talk, now talk," Jake said.

"Go put something on first," I said. I uncovered my eyes and looked up at him.

"I can't," Jake said. He leaned against the door and crossed his arms.

"Why not?" I asked. Was he planning on getting through the day wrapped in a towel? Knowing Jake it was something he could do and had done when he was 10.

"My bag is in the living room," Jake said. I rolled my eyes at his idiocy. He began to slide against the wall.

"Don't you dare sit down," I warned. He shook his head but stood still.

"So, I thought you were dating the guy across the street," Jake said.

"Nope, I'm dating the boy next door," I said. Jake nodded.

"So, what was that whole argument about?" Jake asked. I looked away. I didn't want to tell Jake about the conversation with Dean, especially since I'd have to tell him everything that happened before. Oh, what the hell? I should just tell him because he'll understand or try to at least.

"Dean thinks I should just give my dad another chance after everything he's done and he's like Evan doesn't care about any of it. His mom thinks my mom is a bad influence on me. Can you believe that?" I said. Jake didn't say anything, so I started wondering what was up with him. I raised my eyebrows and waited for him to say something.

"Oh wait; do you want me to say something? I thought I was the guy you were venting to," Jake said. Oh, he knew me so well.

"No, I don't want you to say anything," I said and pouted. We didn't say anything for a while and my mind wandered towards Evan again. They've been in there for an hour now. What could they possibly be talking about? What was so important that couldn't wait until later? I looked towards the door anticipating for it to open.

"So, Charlotte's got a boyfriend," Jake sang. I turned to look at him and stuck my tongue out, causing him to laugh out loud.

"How did that happened? I mean, c'mon we were a team," Jake said.

"Relax, we're still a team, I don't believe in love any more than I did before I started dating Evan," I said.

"I bet grandma is proud of you," Jake said.

"Oh, she's over the moon," I said. I had never seen my grandmother this happy. She was ecstatic; her granddaughter was finally in a relationship with someone other than herself. My grandmother absolutely loved Evan, even more than my mother did. Honestly, it's like I'm the only one who ever thought there was something wrong with Evan, well me and Jake.

"When is everyone else going to get here? It's a family reunion, it'd be pretty lame without the family," I said. My aunt and uncle and the rest of my cousins should have been here hours ago. It was almost lunch time and they still weren't here. Mom had said we'll eat when they get here so I'm starving and nobody even knows where they are.

"I have no idea, but I'm starving," Jake said.

"I know me too. I'm going to go raid the kitchen and you just stay here, not going to have you walking around the house in a towel," I said. I stood up and started walking towards the stairs.

"Wait, can you get me my bag?" Jake asked.

"Nope, that's what you get for scaring me," I said. The door to mom's home office opened when I stepped on the first stair and Grandpa and Evan came out. Evan looked relaxed now, like he didn't have anything to worry about.

"Princess, I assure you that this here is a fine young man," Grandpa said. I beamed at Evan. Yay, now my grandfather also liked Evan.

"See I told you, you had nothing to worry about," I said to both my grandfather and Evan.

"Great, now can I please get something to wear here?" Jake said.

"Jake, what are you doing in a towel?" Grandpa asked.

"My bag is downstairs and Charlotte won't get it for me. Grandpa, would you ask her to get it for me?" Jake said.

"I'm sorry; you have to fight your own battles. You scared her and now it's payback time, take it like a man," Grandpa said. I laughed at that; that and the expression on Evan's face. He looked like he'd stepped onto a movie set and nothing he was seeing was real.

"Can I take it like a man who has clothes to wear?" Jake asked.

"I'm sorry, I have already said more than I intended to say on the matter," Grandpa said. Jake went back in the bathroom and Grandpa went back in mom's home office. I turned to look at Evan.

"Your family's weird," Evan said. I laughed and took his hand.

"You've only met three people, I have eight more cousins and my uncle and aunt are coming," I said. We started going downstairs and when we reached the bottom step, I turned towards the kitchen.

"Are all your cousins like Jake?" Evan asked.

"Let me find something to eat and then I'll give you a breakdown of my cousins. Do you want something?" I said. Evan shook his head and I started searching for something to eat. There wasn't a lot but I found microwave pizza in the fridge and I put that in to bake. Hopefully I'd still have room for the delicious lunch that grandma will be preparing. I turned to Evan to give him a breakdown of my cousins.

"You've met Jake, he's the funny one, he also doesn't believe in love, which is awesome for me. Then there's Sean, you've met him too, he's the one who belongs in a rock band, he's the kind of guy who lives his life all laid back, no regrets and no questions asked; he doesn't blame other people for his failures and mistakes. Then there's Finn, he's the artistic, shy one and he's super awesome. Then there's Jesse, he's the flirty one, he thinks he can get away with anything because of his charm, Finn and Jesse are fraternal twins. Then there are the identical twins, Mason and Michael, Mason is the sweet one, he doesn't complain about anything and Michael is not an angel, I think that's enough description for him. Then there's Andrew, he's the jock. Then Caleb, whom I like to call JJ, which stands for Jesse junior because they're exactly alike and the youngest is Brad and he's also the cutest. He's only 5 but already you can see that he's no different than his brothers," I said. I looked at Evan who stood by the counter looking shocked. My cousins had the ability to do that. Mom came into the kitchen before Evan could say anything.

"Charlotte, they're here," Mom said and walked back out.

"Now you get to meet my cousins," I said. I motioned for Evan to follow me and walked out the kitchen and toward the front door. Grandpa was downstairs now and Jake was still locked in the bathroom waiting for clothes. Mom opened the front door and Aunt Willow walked into the house. She looked just like mom but with shorter hair and grey eyes, like Grandpa's.

"Happy birthday, Phoebe," Aunt Willow said hugging mom.

"What took you guys so long? We've been waiting for hours," Mom said hugging my aunt back. Through the open door I could see my cousins taking their things out of the car. Wow, they sure did pack a lot for the weekend. I have no idea why everyone thought girls packed a lot for vacation. I only ever had two suitcases; a big one and a small one no matter where I'm going and for however long.

"Charlotte, you look absolutely magnificent, that color suits you a lot," Aunt Willow said and hugged me.

"Thank you; where's Uncle Jared?" I asked.

"He's helping the boys take everything out of the cars," Aunt Willow said. She turned to grandma and grandpa and I walked out of the house.

"There she is, Princess Charlotte, gracing us with her presence. Quick, someone take a picture before she leaves," Finn said. Oh right, forgot to tell Evan that Finn was really sarcastic. I gave a fake laugh and walked over to where he was standing by the car and punched him on the arm.

"You think you're so smart and funny," I said.

"No, I just think I'm self-destructive and the sarcasm just comes with that," Finn said.

"Oh, cry me a river, a self-destructive artist, what are we going to do?" I said. Finn handed me a bag closed the trunk.

"How about you let me drown in the river?" Finn asked.

"How about I just kill you instead of drowning you?" I threw back.

"How about you give me one of those birthday cakes and I get there myself?" Finn retorted. And that's the end of that. How was it that we couldn't have one conversation without it going there? Jesse came out of nowhere and smacked him on the head.

"Dude, you know how she gets when you talk about that," he said.

"Char, you know I didn't mean it like that," Finn said. He hugged me and I heard Mason shout 'group hug' and the next thing I knew I was being crushed to death by my eight cousins. I held onto to Finn tightly. Finn was diagnosed with diabetes when he was five and ever since then it's been like a knife hanging over our heads. We're not allowed to talk about it and don't even think about it because if something happens to him then our lives would change forever and not in a good way.

"Okay, I can't breathe now, you guys have to let go of me," I said. I struggled to get their hands off me and finally they pulled away. As Michael was pulling his arm away I caught a glimpse of something and it was not good for my gag reflex.

"Oh god, what is that?" I asked pointing towards his arm. He lifted it up and averted my eyes. On his right arm he had a tattoo of a snake wrapped around his arm from the elbow to the wrist. I don't have anything against tattoos but I don't like needles touching skin.

"You owe us all ten bucks, we told you, Charlotte is going to want to throw up when she sees that," Sean said from behind me.

"Nice to know you're using my fear of needles for something good guys," I said.

"Can we go inside now, the heat is brutal?" Andrew asked. I turned to look at my cousin. Mhm, I remember the last time I saw him he had brown hair and now he was a blonde and he was about the same height as me, I guess being a jock does that to you.

"Alright, let's go inside," I said. I grabbed the black bag Finn had handed me and walked towards the house.

"Why is this bag so heavy?" I asked. It was like there were bricks in it or something. I had to use both my hands to carry it.

"I'm guessing that's the one with the allergy medication and what not," Caleb said. I stared at my little cousin. How much allergy medication did they need? I knew Finn needed his medication but he carried that separately in his own bag.

"Here they are mom, all your nephews," I said entering the house. Everyone started hugging again and I tried not to get squished. I'd completely forgotten about Evan in the midst of my cousins and now I couldn't see him anywhere.

"Your special friend is in the backyard with your grandfather, uncle, Jonathan and his father," Aunt Willow said.

"Really, Aunt Willow, 'special friend'? I expected more from you," I said smiling. Special friend sounded so dirty like what we were doing wasn't legal or the society will frown upon us if they found out. The phone started ringing then and I tried to get to it through the mayhem. I picked it up and walked towards the kitchen where there were less people.

"Hello," I said.

"Hey, how's family reunion going?" I heard Stacey's chirpy voice on the other side.

"It just started, my aunt just got here. What are you doing? Aren't you supposed to be helping the prom committee?" I asked. The sweetheart that Stacey is, she'd offered to help the prom committee set up in the gym. I'd declined to help because I hate prom and every other cliché that goes along with it.

"I was until we got there and got the shock of our lives," Stacey said. Oh, that sounded interesting.

"Really, what happened?" I asked. I pulled out the pizza I'd put in and thank god it hadn't burned so I could still eat it. Mom, Aunt Willow and grandma came into the kitchen then, no doubt to prepare lunch or linner, since it's too late for lunch.

"Who is it?" Mom asked.

"It's Stacey," I said.

"Is that your mom? Tell her happy birthday," Stacey said.

"Stacey says happy birthday," I said to mom.

"Tell her thank you and that we miss her here," Mom said.

"You heard what she said, now can we get to the shock of our lives part?" I asked. I was curious, what could have happened to delay prom set up? I mean, aren't people supposed to be going completely crazy for prom?

"Right, well, at first we didn't notice it but when we were standing in front of the school, we realized that the school property had been vandalized. The front of the school was spray painted," Stacey said and paused for dramatic effect.

"Oh my god, that's horrible," I said. I saw the three women in the kitchen look at me with intrigue but Stacey was still talking.

"I know right, we went inside the school to tell one of the supervising teachers and they said that they'll call the principal and tell him. So, the prom committee and I walked towards the gym and when we got there we noticed there was no gym," Stacey said and paused again. Oh my god, this was getting better and better.

"What do you mean by that?" I asked.

"The entire gym had burned to ashes and no one even knew a thing about it," Stacey said.

"No!" I said. I'm pretty sure my eyes popped out of my skull. Wow, that's bigger than the senior prank. Who was this psychopath who'd burned down the gym and so close to graduation? If it was a senior, didn't he/she know they could risk their acceptance into the colleges?

"No one knew a thing?" I asked.

"No, it was done last night and the fire alarms didn't go off and the actual school building wasn't damaged by the fire, just the gym but the inside of the school was spray painted as well and the main office was and principals office were vandalized as well," Stacey said.

"So what happened?" I asked.

"The teachers called the principal and in less than half an hour, the police was there and so were the entire school board and the PTA. They convinced the school board to cancel school for a week because the students won't be able to get their minds off the tragedy for long enough to study for the finals. Everything is going to happened as planned, prom is still going to be next Saturday but now they're booking a ball room and the exams will be held as scheduled but there will be no classes for a week," Stacey said. Huh, well that worked out well I guess. At least we get some time off school.

"What's their plan of action?" I asked.

"At first the school board was like no one from the graduating class will write their exams but the PTA was all like, that's not fair because students who didn't know about any of it will also be held back and that's not acceptable. Then the PTA came up with a solution, so the police are going to keep searching for whoever committed this heinous crime and if that person or group is found before the graduation ceremony, there will be severe actions taken. If they're not than all the students will get a letter sent to their employers or colleges explaining what happened," Stacey said.

"But that's just as bad," I said.

"Don't complain to me, I hate the PTA just as much as you do," Stacey said. That's true, she did hate the PTA. They were these super uptight women who hate Stacey's guts and her super cool hair.

"I have to help Mrs. Simpson clean out the garage, I'll call you later," Stacey said.

"Alright, have fun," I said. I hung up the phone and mom pounced on me to know what happened. I told her everything Stacey had told me and she was more horrified than I was if that was possible. What was worse, after seeing Sean and talking to Stacey, I realized that I hadn't actually wanted to go to Yale. My plan was to take a year off and do an internship at the publishing house and I still wanted to do that. I'd applied because I wanted to know whether or not I'd get in and in case I changed my mind about the internship. Now, not only I had to disappoint my mother on her birthday, I'd also have to tell my grandfather that I wasn't going to Yale just yet.

"I don't know what to say, it's just horrible," Mom said. I hate to think this, but I had a feeling and I'm still having a feeling. I walked out to the living room and stopped when I saw Jake.

"Who gave Jake clothes?" I asked crossing my arms and pouting.

"No one did, my idiot brothers left their suitcases in the hallway and I borrowed something, well borrowed it back because this shirt is mine," Jake said.

"Actually, dude that shirt's mine," Sean said coming out of the living room.

"No, it's mine, you borrowed it and then forgot to give it back," Jesse said. Wow, my cousins are really crazy. They couldn't even remember who's shirt Jake was wearing but I could. I remember who bought that shirt.

"Actually, that's Finn's shirt. He bought it last year when we all went to hang out at that mall," I said. They still didn't believe me so they went to ask Finn and I walked back into the kitchen. Aunt Willow was alone in the kitchen now; mom and grandma were nowhere to be seen.

"Is something wrong? You've been down in the dumps since we got here," Aunt Willow said when she noticed me standing there.

"Aunt Willow, have you ever had the feeling like a good day will go bad and there's nothing you can do to stop it?" I asked.

"Yes," Aunt Willow said.

"What do you do?" I asked. I could always ask Aunt Willow for advice. She was the awesomest and she didn't ask questions that I knew my mom would ask. I love my mom more than anything but sometimes a girl just needs her aunt.

"You wait for it go away, but sweetie, sometimes there's nothing you can do and you just have to let whatever happens, happen," Aunt Willow said. I guess that's the best advice I was getting but I can't let whatever happens happen. I just kept thinking about the worse that was waiting to happen. What could happen? My grandparent's found out about my boyfriend, Dean was a complete jerk, I don't want to go to Yale and now the school was vandalized. Was there something left? I mean, I know every bad has a worse but c'mon already, I'm tired. I don't want this day to get worse.

"Did you see the dresses I got for you?" Aunt Willow asked. I looked at her confused and then shook my head. She bought me dresses? Why? Maybe because I only have two.

"Did mom tell you to do that?" I asked.

"Of course not, why can't I buy something for my niece? Do you know what it feels like to go shopping and always ending in the men's department? I wanted to shop for a girl and you're a girl, so I bought you dresses, you look really good in them," Aunt Willow said. Poor Aunt Willow, she loved her sons but she craved for a woman's company. Evan came into the kitchen then and both of us turned to look at him.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I thought you were alone, never mind we can talk later," Evan said turning around to go back out.

"Oh no, stay, I have to go check up on my son's, if you leave them alone for too long they create chaos, no matter how old they are," Aunt Willow said. She walked out of the kitchen and I turned to look at Evan.

"I'm not going to Yale anymore," Evan said. Here we go; the day's getting worse already.

"What? Is this because of your grandfather? You can't listen to him, you have to do what you want to do," I said.

"No, I am doing what I want to do," Evan said.

"Then why aren't you going to Yale?" I asked.

"I'm doing an internship at your Mom's publishing house," Evan said. I blinked at him. What did he just say? Did he just say that he's doing the same thing I'm doing next year? And why was I upset if he was doing it because he didn't know what I was planning on doing. Maybe, he'd planned it like I had and we would have worked together and I would have hated it but now I don't have to. So, this is not the worst part of the day.

"That's what I'm doing too," I said. Now Evan blinked at me.

"But your grandfather said you were going to Yale," Evan said.

"I was but now I'm not and I still have to tell him that so don't you tell him that," I said.

"You and I are going to spend our whole summer in an office together," Evan said.

"Yeah, it's great because you can help me act like my mother doesn't own the company and someday I'm not going to inherit it. I'm pretty sure I'm going to act that way so you have to help me and the first thing I want to do is hire my mom a new assistant because I hate the one she has now," I said. Evan didn't say anything but kissed me instead. Even though I was making out with him on his bed just this morning, I felt like I haven't kissed him in a long time. It was easy to forget my bad day while he was kissing me, but I couldn't spend the entire day kissing him.

"I have to go look at the dresses Aunt Willow got for me," I said pulling away from him.

"Okay, I have to go back outside," Evan said. He rested his head against my shoulder.

"Oh, you can meet my cousins, because you have to meet them and that way you won't have to listen to whatever it is you were listening to," I said. Evan looked at me.

"I guess that'll work," Evan said. Of course it will, it was my plan but I didn't say that. We walked out of the kitchen hand in hand and entered the living. I stopped when I saw the amount of garment bags, shopping bags and shoes boxes that covered the living room.

"Wow, Aunt Willow, did you buy the entire store?" I asked.

"No, the store was huge, but I guess I got a little carried away," Aunt Willow said. A little was an understatement.

"You did know you were shopping for me, right? I try on a t-shirt 10 times before I buy it and sometimes I move onto something else and then circle back to the t-shirt, it's a long process," I said.

"Yes, I am aware of you and your shopping habits," Aunt Willow said. Just as long as we were on the same page. Andrew cleared his throat and I gave him a 'what's up' look. He pointedly looked beside me and I realized that he was talking about Evan. How is it my fault that I keep forgetting my boyfriend? I didn't have one a week ago so it's going to take a little getting used.

"Right, everybody, this is Evan, Evan this is everybody and yes he is my boyfriend, so I would really appreciate it if you guys didn't scare him off. If you do than you're not only going to endure my wrath, but also the wrath of your mother, my mother and our grandmother," I said.

"Well, I guess there's no need for the torture equipment we got just for your boyfriend now," Finn said.

"Like you guys need torture equipment," I said.

"Before this turns into a heated argument, I'm ending it. Now, boys go find another room to hang out in," Aunt Willow said.

"Why should we leave? There are ten of us and two of you, technically you should find another room," Michael said.

"Technically, I gave birth to the nine of you, so I have the upper hand here, now please find another room," Aunt Willow said. The guys groaned but left the room and took Evan with them. I turned to the all the dresses Aunt Willow had got me. I started opening the garment bags and looking inside to see which ones I wanted to keep.

"Oh, there's this beautiful peacock blue prom dress that we got for you, you have to try it," Aunt Willow said. All I was heard was prom dress and we. Who were we?

"What do you mean 'we'?" I asked.

"Your mother and I, I thought she told you we went shopping and she bought you the prom dress," Aunt Willow said. No, she hadn't told me any of this. In fact I'd told my mother I didn't want to go to prom. So what was she doing buying me a prom dress? My own mother had betrayed me.

"When was this?" I asked.

"I think Thursday, but Charlotte, you should really try on the dress, it's beautiful," Aunt Willow said. I was sure that it would be, I trusted my mom and aunt to not buy me anything frilly and girly but I don't like prom. It's a cliché not a rite of passage. A rite of passage is graduating from high school, your first job, you know, things that matter. I know that I was just being cynical but prom sucked.

"I'll try it on but I'm not going to prom," I said.

"Oh, your mom will be so happy," Aunt Willow said.

"What's going to make me so happy?" Mom asked coming down the stairs. Apparently, she and grandma had been talking upstairs but when had they gone upstairs, I had no idea.

"I'm going to try on the prom dress you got me, you know behind my back," I said.

"Oh sweetie, when I saw that dress all I could think about was seeing you in it and I bought it on impulse," Mom said. She looked guilty so I had to forgive her.

"Alright, I forgive you," I said. I looked down at the dress in my lap. It was a pale blue sundress and despite my dislike for dresses I wanted to try it on. I guess I was growing up or whatever. I was about to tell them that I was going to try the dress on when I saw Aunt Willow and mom exchange a look.

"What was that?" I asked.

"What was what?" Mom asked.

"That look you two just exchanged. What are you hiding?" I asked.

"The dress, your mom didn't buy it, it was made by a designer I know," Aunt Willow said.

"Mom!" I said. This was worse than buying the dress; she had it specially made for me.

"Charlotte, it is a dress your mother bought for you and you will try it on," Grandma said speaking up for the first time.

"No, I'm not trying it on, ever, and you can't force me to," I said. I got up and ran upstairs to my room. I was not going to let my mom do to me what my grandmother did to her. I'd seen my Mom's prom dress, it was a big pink frilly mess and there was no way I was ever wearing that blue dress no matter how beautiful. I jumped on the bed and hugged a pillow to my chest. Ugh, I wanted this day to be over already. I didn't know about my mom, but for me this her worst birthday ever and now I felt bad about fighting with her on her birthday. Maybe, it wouldn't kill me to try on the dress, it's not like I have to go to prom. I got up and walked to the dresser. Fixing my hair so they weren't falling in my eyes anymore I left the room. When I was in the hallway, I heard the doorbell ring. I wasn't aware that someone else was coming. The doorbell rang again and my heart started beating really fast. I wondered why no one was opening the door. My breathing sped up and I tried to calm myself. What was happening? Was I having a heart attack? Was it that I had a feeling it was more bad news on the door. I leaned against the wall and tried to catch my breath. Someone must have opened the door because whoever it was didn't ring the doorbell again. After catching my breath I started going down the stairs. I tried to catch a glimpse of whoever it was at the door but mom was blocking the view. I climbed down all the way and turned towards the door and froze mid-step when I saw the person on the doorstep.

"Dad," I said. My mom turned to look at me but I was still staring at the father who'd been missing from my life for eight years and was now standing at my door, holding my mom's favourite flowers.

AN: So, review and tell me what you think about Charlotte's dad showing up. XOXO.