Chapter 11: Introductions and New Friends

Michelle didn't have to watch Ari long. About fifteen minutes after she got home her mom came walking through the door with good news. "Sheena is coming home tomorrow." She announced.

"That's great," Michelle smiled placing Ari down in her playpen. "What did the doctor say?"

"He said she's no longer contagious so its safe for her to be around the baby but she may need to stay in bed for a little while. She's gonna be on antibiotics but other than that she should be fine."

"Are they for sure it was pneumonia? He didn't seem a hundred percent positive that was it last time we talked to him."

"He said most of her symptoms could be pneumonia but some other things he wasn't sure about."

Michelle crossed her arms. "Like what?"

Her mom ran a hand through her hair, trying to think of the best way to explain it. "I forgot to tell you that night her skin broke out, really bad. I thought she was having an allergic reaction to something she ate but she hadn't eaten anything all day."

"Well what was it?"

"He wasn't sure, he tried his best to rule out every possible reason but he could never figure it out."

"Maybe we need to get a new doctor." Michelle cringed.

"Maybe," Her mom chuckled. "So what are you doing tonight?"

Shrugging her shoulders Michelle sighed. "I think Brody is having a party, I guess to celebrate the meet last night which I missed."

"Well there's always next time. You gonna go?"

"Jake asked me if I wanted to."

"Jake? That's the boy that helped you babysit Ari right? Sheena kind of blabbed about him." She laughed looking down at her granddaughter sleeping in her playpen. "Do you like him?"

"Yes...a lot." Michelle blushed.

"Then go...and wear that black lacy blouse, it brings out your eyes." Her mom winked as she walked into the kitchen.

Later on that night Lynne decided to get ready at Taylor's house. After her dance class Taylor had texted her telling her their plans to attend the party so Lynne figured she might as well go too. As she walked up the concrete driveway her eyes couldn't help but drift over to Tristan and Nathan's house. Looking up into one of the bedroom windows she could have sworn she saw someone standing there looking back at her but it was gone as soon as she spotted it. Feeling her phone vibrate in her pocket she saw she had a new message from Eli. 'Meet you at the party at nine :)' It said. Typing out a reply she walked up the front porch into Taylor's house. "Hey Lynne, Taylor's up in her room." She heard her friend's dad say.

"Thanks," She smiled brushing her dark hair out of her eyes before heading upstairs. "Tay?!" She called walking into Taylor's bedroom.

"In here!" She heard a voice call from the bathroom. "What are you wearing?"

"Whatever I like from your closet." Lynne laughed dropping her purse onto the bed.

"Sounds good." Taylor muttered as she ran her hands through her curled hair. Opening her bathroom door she saw her friend standing at her closet rummaging through her shirts.

"Hey, you never told me how your date went last night."

"Uh...we went to that little Italian restaurant downtown...danced a little." She blushed. "Then he sort of asked me to be his girlfriend."

"Really? Well that means I owe Lucas five bucks."

Taylor raised an eyebrow. "Wait, what?"

Lynne gave her friend an innocent look. "Uh...I sort of bet Lucas that you and Nathan were gonna wait another week until you finally got together. That's one bet I lost."

"I'm glad you're placing bets on my love life."

"Oh its not just you, I have one going with Connor that Michelle and Jake are gonna get together by the end of this weekend."

"Well what about your love life? What did you and Eli do after the meet last night?"

"Uh we went for pizza..." She sighed grabbing a red V-neck sweater. "He's kinda...awkward. Like we barely talked all night."

"Maybe he was just nervous."

"Yeah, that's what I thought. He's gonna meet us at the party tonight." Lynne explained. "I'm borrowing this by the way."

"Go ahead." Taylor laughed.

Nathan was fixing the collar of his navy polo when he heard his bedroom door open. "Hey you almost ready?" Tristan asked.

"Yeah, the guys here?"

"No, but Jake said they're on their way."

"All right, Taylor and Lynne are coming over here and we can see who's riding with who." Nathan explained. "I think Lynne's friend from last night is coming to the party too."

"Great, thats great." Tristan muttered fixing his watch.

"You gonna act like that when you meet him?"

"Possibly." Tristan grumbled walking back out of the room. "Hey, the guys are here."

"Ok, I'll be down in a second." Nathan sighed grabbing his phone. Inside he just hoped his brother was wrong about Eli. If something really was up with the guy would he pull anything that night with the girls around?

Taylor slipped on a pair of black flats before checking out her outfit one more time. It was chilly outside so she decided to wear a long sleeve purple top with skinny jeans. "Lynne, you ready?" She yelled.

"Yeah, hang on," Lynne sighed fixing her hair in the mirror. With her favorite pair of jeans and boots along Taylor's sweater she was ready to party. "All right, lets go meet the boys."

Taylor sent a quick text to Nathan as they made their way downstairs. "Bye mom! Bye dad!" She yelled as they walked outside.

Walking next door they noticed the boys already sitting out on the front porch waiting for them. "Hey girls," Lucas smiled.

"Hey, y'all ready to go, Michelle is gonna meet us there." Lynne said, avoiding eye contact with Tristan.

"Yeah, lets head out." Nathan sighed taking Taylor's hand leading her to his car.

Lynne followed but soon realized she's gonna be with Tristan in the back seat but before she had the chance to head to Lucas' car they were already pulling out of the driveway. "Oh God...please don't be awkward." She muttered climbing in the back of the SUV.

The ride to the party was quiet to say the least. Nathan glanced back in the review mirror to see Lynne and Tristan not even looking at each other. Both appeared to be trying to look anywhere than each other. Finally he couldn't take the silence anymore. "So how do you think our teammate's party is gonna go?"

"Hopefully his attitude is better than whenever we're at practice." Tristan muttered.

"Where does this guy even live?"

Taylor sighed. "Trust me, you can't miss his house. Just keep going straight."

Nathan listened to his girlfriend's instructions staying straight on the road until his eyes caught a huge white house, looked more like a mansion. "I'm guessing that's it." He mumbled.

"That would be it." Lynne announced as Nathan pulled the car up the gravel driveway where cars were already gathered around making it hard to find a place to park.

After finally finding a spot they followed a crowd of people into the house. Music thumped against the windows, teenagers were everywhere, and the smell of alcohol was almost overpowering. Lynne immediately searched the crowd for Eli but saw no sign of him. "I'm gonna go get a drink." She told Taylor before disappearing.

Nathan wrapped his arm around Taylor's waist as they tried to navigate through the mass of people. "Hey guys!" They heard a voice exclaim. Turning around they found Brody, noticeably intoxicated. "Glad you could make it, my teammates."

"Got started a little early there didn't you, man?" Connor laughed patting him on the shoulder.

"Nah...maybe, whatever." Brody slurred before stumbling into the living room.

Jake shook his head. "Hey have y'all seen Michelle anywhere?"

"No, have you talked to her?" Taylor asked.

"Talked to who?" They heard someone say.

Jake's eyes lit up seeing Michelle standing there with a confused look on her face. "I was wondering where you were."

"It took me forever to find a place to park." She explained giving him a hug. "I think I might have blocked a few people in but from the looks of some people here I think that's a good thing."

Lynne found herself by the pool, trying to get away from the madness coming from within the house. Taking a sip of her water she sat down on a lounge chair and wondered if Eli would actually show up. As she stared into the water she couldn't help but think of her dream, how realistic it felt. She wished she remembered more of it, she could have sworn something happened before she ended up in the pool but it was all a big blank. "Lynne!" Snapping her head up she saw Eli making his way up the yard but the image from her dream stuck in her mind.

"Eli, hey," She muttered.

"You all right? You look a little pale." He said brushing some hair off her cheek.

"Uh yeah, I'm fine, just tired." She sighed noticing her friends standing on the other side of the pool. "Um, come on, I want to introduce you to some people."

Grabbing his hand she dragged him over to her friends. Tristan narrowed his eyes slightly seeing them walking their way but he quickly shook it off. "Guys, this is Eli." Lynne smiled still holding his hand in hers. "Eli this is Tristan, Connor, Lucas, Jake, Michelle, Nathan, and you met Taylor last night."

"Hey everyone." Eli smirked waving his hand.

"Hey."

"How's it going?"

Lynne grinned hearing everyone start talking to him. Everyone but Tristan that is, he was just off to the side being completely quiet. Taking a deep breath she took a few steps over to him. "Hey can we talk?"

He almost looked to be in shock before he finally stuttered. "Y-yeah, sure."

In the middle of the huge yard was a giant oak tree with a wooden swing hanging from one of the branches. Taking a seat on the swing Lynne sighed. "Look...why is it so awkward between us?"

"What do you mean?"

"Don't act like you don't know." She scoffed. "You barely look at me or talk to me and when you do you act like this cocky asshole."

"Well its not like you really want to be around me. I called you today about working on the pictures and you never got back to me."

Lynne's mouth suddenly shut. "Crap...I knew there was something I meant to do." She whispered. "Look, I like to do things myself and I'm stubborn and I don't like asking for help."

"Yeah," Tristan laughed. "I kind of picked up on that."

For the first time Lynne felt herself smile. "Right...but we do have to work on the pictures together and I'm willing to try and be a better partner if you are."

Sighing Tristan held out his hand. "Deal."

Taking his larger hand in hers she grinned. "Great...so partner...why were you giving Eli the death glare earlier?"

"Uh...I didn't realize I was." He whispered.

"Well it looks like everyone else is getting along with him." She pointed out looking across the yard to see her friends and Eli laughing at something that was said.

"Yeah..." Tristan murmured.

"Just try to get to know him, you never know maybe you guys will be best friends." She giggled as she started walking back towards the group.

"Doubt it." He sighed just low enough so she wouldn't hear.

The party kept raging on with more and more people arriving, most of whom the girls had no idea who they were. "How does Brody even know all these people?" Connor yelled over the music.

"You'd be surprised." Taylor cringed as someone bumped into her back, spilling their beer on her.

"Hey get out of here." Nathan snapped pushing the drunk aside before turning to his girlfriend. "You ok?"

"Yeah, I smell like stale beer but I'm fine." She chuckled pulling her hair up into a messy ponytail.

"Ease up there bodyguard." Lucas muttered making Nathan's jaw clench.

"You all right?" He heard Taylor say to him making him smile slightly.

"Yeah, I'm fine," He sighed. "I never really liked these kind of parties."

"Why didn't you say something before? We could have done something else." She smiled resting her hand on his arm.

"Its fine, I think this will be the only time Brody's gonna be nice to me," He laughed remembering how Brody had hung onto his shoulder telling him what an awesome swimmer he was.

"Yeah, I saw that, at least he wasn't complimenting you on your physique in a Speedo." Connor chortled.

Nathan scowled at his friend as he heard everyone else laugh. "I don't hear anyone commenting on you in that department."

"Hey now," Connor warned.

Michelle sipped on her water, casually looking at the people around her. A guy was dancing by himself to the music, a few girls were talking in a corner, and then she saw a couple making out on a loveseat. Seeing that was just a cruel reminder that she didn't know what she and Jake were. Sure, he was flirty and she liked him, a lot, but they hadn't said the B or G words. "Hey, there you are, I lost you in the madness." She heard that familiar deep voice from beside her.

"Hi," She muttered.

"What are you..." He started to ask but his gaze followed where she was watching. "Whoa, wrap it before you tap it my friend."

Michelle laughed. "They've been like that for ten minutes."

"Damn...think they're gonna come up for air anytime soon?"

"They haven't yet."

She felt him wrap his arm around her making her feel secure and safe. Feeling a little bold she leaned over until her lips connected with his. Almost pulling back because she didn't feel him kiss her back but suddenly he got the picture. Running her hands through his silky hair she knew what movies and songs meant by fireworks, she was sure it was like the Fourth of July when she kissed him. "Hey Jake...whoa!" They heard a voice exclaim.

Breaking apart they saw Lucas and Tristan standing in front of them. "What?" Jake snapped.

"We were just getting ready to leave you coming...I mean unless you're busy." Lucas laughed holding his arms up.

"No, no, come on." Michelle blushed. "Lets get out of here."

"Sounds good to me." Jake sighed taking her hand. Sending a glare his friends way he lead her out of the house but he didn't fail to hear them making kissing noises at the couple.

Lynne stood with Eli at his car as her friends filed out of the house. "So...call me when you get home?" He asked holding her hand in his.

"Will do, unless I fall asleep." She sighed.

"You haven't been sleeping?"

"Not really, I just keep..." Just as she was about to tell him about her nightmare she thought against it. "I just keep worrying about the yearbook I guess."

"Well just relax, school year's just started."

"I know, I know." She murmured.

"Lynne! Come on!" She heard Taylor's voice call from across the yard.

"Coming!" She yelled. "I gotta go. I'll call you."

Just as Eli was about to lean in Lynne walked backwards. Waving at him she turned to head to Nathan's car. In her head she was wondering if he was gonna kiss her or was all that just in her head. Then she thought if she really wanted to kiss him or not. As all these thoughts ran through her mind she lost her footing and almost fell to the ground until a pair of strong arms caught her. Looking up she saw a pair of emerald eyes gazing down at her. "You ok?" Tristan asked.

"Uh yeah...I'm just clumsy, something you gotta know about me." She stammered.

Coughing he set her on her feet before releasing her. "Come on, Nath and Taylor are waiting on us."

"Right...lets go." She blushed hurrying over to the car.

Taylor noticed how red Lynne's face was as she climbed into the back seat. "Lynne, you ok?" She asked.

"Yes, I'm fine."

"You sure? You look a little..."

"I'm fine! Just drive!" Lynne exclaimed covering her face.

Nathan glanced over at his girlfriend who was just trying not to laugh. As the car went down the driveway three figures stood off in the distance, watching them as they drove off. Once the car was out of sight they disappeared without a trace.