"Kole! Get up!" Josh shakes me, throttling my tired brain around in my skull.
"I'm going," I mutter, forcing my eyes open and looking straight into my brother's face. "Oh my God, get off me!"
Josh laughs, but pushes himself up off the bed and stands near the door. The morning sun is shining through my window, bathing him in soft light. I smile, knowing that this is why many girls stalk him. His blonde hair shimmers like gold, and his eyes are as blue as sapphires. It's not an amazing description, definitely cliché, but hey, I just woke up, and I can't think of poetic things all the time.
"What are you thinking about?" Josh asks, looking at me curiously.
"Just how pretty you are," I say, giving him a sickly sweet smile and then laughing. "I'm kidding. Well, technically not, but half of the girls at school worship you, so either you have to stop being so pretty-" I pretend to pinch his cheeks, "-or you have to deal with being followed like a… something."
"Like a something? Wow, amazing. And here I thought you were a poet," Josh teases me, and I stick my tongue out at him.
"I am. Just not when I wake up to an idiot," I say, smirking.
"You wound me, Kolina," he says, wiping an imaginary tear from his eye with his left hand and putting his right hand over his heart. He only says my full name when he's upset with me, or is pretending to be upset with me, like now.
"Get over it," I say, and I get up from the warm confinements of my bed. "What are we doing today?"
"Seth and Colton are coming over. Mom and Dad are at work. Same old."
I smile contently. This is a typical Saturday. "Cool. I might drive for a little bit, then come back and hang with you guys. Is that fine?"
"You really have to ask if that's fine, Kole?" Josh chuckles, and I shrug, still smiling.
"Of course. I need to know if I have permission to do shit."
"You always have permission. And wash out your mouth with soap! Jesus, Kole, such a filthy mouth!" Josh doubles over, laughing, and I roll my eyes.
"Like you're any better," I say, and I grin. "I know why you woke me up."
"Why?" he asks, looking at me with wide blue eyes. He looks like an innocent angel. If he pulled that look with all his fangirls, I swear, we'd be mobbed and he'd be kidnapped in the middle of the night. It's one of the drawbacks of being the adoptive sister of the quarterback.
"Because, as usual, you're too lazy to get your own cereal and waffle," I say, and I walk past him into the hall.
"It takes up too much energy!" he whines. "And I need energy to play football!"
"You're an ass, and you need a spanking," I say, and he bursts out laughing again. He's not an airhead, he just finds many things amusing. He doesn't fit the stereotype of a dumb jock.
"You wound me again, twice in ten minutes. God, Kole, why must you be so mean to me?" he asks, and when I turn around to laugh at him, he's on his knees, arms up, "begging" to the Lord.
"He's not gonna hear you through the clouds," I say, and I turn around again to walk into the kitchen. He follows me and sits at the table in the kitchen nook, watching me pour his cereal, and then mine. And because we're so mature, yes, we eat Lucky Charms. And we are awesome.
"Seth still makes fun of us for eating Lucky Charms, you know," Josh says, and I shake my head, smiling.
"That's 'cause he's clearly not awesome. Duh," I say, like it's obvious. Because it is, no matters how much Seth protests. I'm kidding, Seth's awesome.
"True," he says, as I slide his bowl of Lucky Charms in front of him and slip a spoon in. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," I say, and I sit down across from him. We are silent for a few minutes, him most likely contemplating what he wants to do today with his friends, and me thinking of where I want to go to write. I only just decide that I'll go to the park when I realize that Josh is waving his hand in front of my face. "Yeah?"
"You ever gonna let me read one of your poems?" he asks, and I shrug.
"I don't know. I'm not really that good, you know. I just like to do it when I have time. It's not even my first choice of what I do in my free time."
"I bet you're good. You seem like the type," he says, and I cock my head to the side, curious.
"The type to what? Write poems? Anyone can write 'em, but whether you're good or not is another thing."
"Another what?" he asks, knowing that those kinds of questions annoy me.
"Another issue. The border of being able to do something well and not well. Do we really have to go through this on a Saturday morning, Josh?"
"No, but someday, I swear that I will read your poems. I wanna know what my little sister writes about!" he says, and I smile widely. He can be very sweet, even though he's an idiot because I'm the older one, but I'm shorter so therefore I'm the "little sister."
"Don't be stupid. I'm older. Wanna see my birth certificate?"
"Nah. I already know. But you're still my little sister. My baby sister. My munchkin sister-"
I reach over across the table and punch his arm, but not so hard that it will bruise.
"And you wound me again! What the fuck, Kole?" he asks, pretending to be angry, and then turning deathly serious. "I will annihilate you."
"Oh yeah? Try," I say, standing up and smiling confidently at him. "Let's see how well Josh Peterson can tackle."
He laughs, and lunges at me. I quickly run towards the stairs, laughing and squealing as he swats at my feet, and by the time he brings me to the ground just a few feet away from the top of the stairs, I already know today will be a good day.
Seth and Colton arrive at one o'clock, just after Josh and I finish lunch, which I made. I feel bad for Josh's future wife. Colton knocks politely, while Seth puts his nose up to the door, leaning against it and saying he's balanced, and then nearly falls into me when I open the door.
"Smooth," Colton says to Seth, but helps his fallen friend up. "Hey, Kole."
I nod at him, smiling in amusement. Seth has always been one of the crazy ones in Josh's group.
"Wow, you're smart," Josh says, slapping Seth on the back with a grin. They pretend to kiss each other on the cheeks, alternating between left and right four times before bursting out in laughter.
"Don't bring in European traditions, otherwise it just gets awkward," I say, and they laugh even harder. I live with a bunch of idiots, but I enjoy every minute of it. And it's not that European traditions are bad, but I would not be comfortable with being kissed by strangers. Or even by Seth and Colton.
"Do what the lady says, guys," Colton says, and we wink at each other. He's usually on my side, though my side isn't opposite of Josh and Seth's side.
"You're a right gentleman, aren't ya?" Seth jokingly asks, and Colton shakes his head, smiling.
"He is. That's why he'll marry and procreate before you do. And have a wife that actually likes him, unlike you," I say, and we all laugh again. We have the laughing disease. Apparently we're from the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea, are cannibals, and have kuru. And the front door's wide open, so all the neighbors can hear us laugh. They must think we're so weird.
"We should probably close the door," Colton says. Colton, ever the sensible one compared to my brother and Seth. And compared to the rest of Josh's friends. Which is a lot. He's friends with practically everyone in the school, but Colton and Seth are his best friends. When we were young, I'd play with them too, and if we partnered up, I'd be with Colton, and Josh would be with Seth. The four of us are a unit. They're my closest friends, too. I have friends, of course, friends that are girls, but I'm infinitely closer to Seth and Colton. I'd say that if Josh is the most popular guy, I'm probably the most popular girl, unless there's a cheerleader ahead of me in popularity, but I don't really mind. I'm popular because I'm Josh's sister, and like him, I'm friends with everyone. Our parents are proud of us for being very social. I wouldn't exactly call myself social, though, just friendly. Whatever.
"Close it, but I'll be leaving in a few minutes," I say, and Seth bursts out in fake, overly dramatic tears.
"No! You can't leave me, Kole! Otherwise the world will end and I'm too awesome for the world to end on me! Please stay!" He shakes my shoulders, then hugs me, and I "comfort" him by rubbing his back before pulling away.
"Don't worry, Seth. I'll be back in an hour or two. I can't deprive you of my awesomeness for too long. It'd be cruel," I say, smiling lazily at him.
"Good. Now, remember, always keep your phone on you, in case of an emergency. I need to know that my Kolina is safe," he says, looking at me with a mock-motherly look, though I know he cares.
"Dude, you're so weird," Colton says, and Seth grins before ruffling Colton's dirty blonde hair.
"You leaving now?" Josh asks me, and I nod.
"Yeah, in a minute. I just need to get my keys, my jacket, my notebook, and un lápiz," I say, and Colton taps my shoulder with a confused look on his face. "Translation?" He nods. "Pencil en español."
"Where are you going?" Josh presses, and though I initially wasn't planning on saying where I was going, I know that he is protective and wants to know.
"Park. I'll write for a few and come back. Don't worry your pretty little head," I say, and he laughs and assures me he won't.
I leave them to go up to my room and grab a light jacket. Though it's the middle of January, it's not very cold. Global warming. It hasn't snowed much either. A few dustings are all. It's annoying, because I like snow, and I like not going to school. Then again, it's not like I do anything productive on snow days anyway. I usually just sit in the house with Josh watching movies that are either too scary or too un-violent. Josh and I are into movies with a lot of action and violence, like our dad. Our mom's used to it by now.
I take my notebook out from underneath my bed (bad hiding spot, I know), and I walk downstairs and past the living room, where Josh is sitting in the big armchair, Colton is sitting respectably on the right side of the couch, and Seth is sprawled out on the rest of the couch, his feet in Colton's lap. I know Colton is used to Seth being touchy-feely and "willy-nilly" with where his feet and hands go and what they touch, so I don't pay much attention to it anymore.
"Adios!" I shout, and Josh yells out bye in German, while Colton says something in French.
"Bye in a language I don't know how to speak but is probably mad easy because I'm so awesome that I can learn any language that I want to and be awesome at it!" That was in one breath. It's obvious why he's also on the swim team.
But I do wonder about Seth often, and his mental health.
I get into my light green Volkswagen Beetle and sit for a moment, wondering where in the park I want to go. I decide to go to the place I don't often go to, on the far end of the small lake that's there. I usually go where there are a lot of people, mostly because it's closer to my car, and because a lot of people I know from school usually hang around that area in the summer, and I talk to them for a while before I go; the next page in my notebook, the one reserved for that day, empty and wishing for even just a pinch of lead.
Personification. I am a poet.
I enjoy driving. Sometimes, if I feel I really am bone-dry of ideas and there's no possible way for me to write something of value (as if what I write when I do have inspiration is valuable), I just drive, with my notebook laying on the passenger's seat. Sometimes, if Josh doesn't have friends over, my notebook lounges in the backseat. The only reason he wouldn't bring Colton and Seth on one of our drives is because we tend to get serious, and while Colton can be serious, Seth can't, and Colton is against leaving anyone out. Once, he volunteered to sit out for the whole football game so the water-boy could play, and it was the last game of the season. I know the water-boy, and he was so happy that someone tried to get him into the game that he didn't mind that he didn't end up playing anyway.
But that's not the point. Josh and I sometimes talk about the future, who we'll be, who we are now, and sometimes, on very rare occasions, who I could've been, had I not been adopted by the Petersons. I honestly can't imagine a life without Josh and my adoptive parents. I'd rather not live than live without them. They've given so much to me, a girl who they didn't need to take responsibility for, but they did. And they still do. I'm very grateful, though Josh and I sometimes wonder about who I could've been, and who I am but don't know the finer details. Like maybe I'm part German, but don't know it. Maybe I'm Italian, or Bulgarian, or Hungarian, or French, or Spanish, British, Danish, or Russian. But I don't know. My name isn't very revealing. Kolina is a Slavic name, but a lot of people have names that aren't necessarily of their origin. I could be from Indonesia, for all I know, and still have my name. My last name, Graves, isn't much help either.
It doesn't matter, though. I'm happy to be who I am, and I would never want to change who I am in order to be who I could've been, or should've been.
I park underneath a large maple tree, which provides much shade in the summer, but now, the sunlight dances around the branches and hits me softly in the face. It's mostly cloudy, but it looks like the sun is fighting for its time to shine.
Nobody else is in the park, as far as I can see. There are no other cars in the parking lot, but a lot of people can walk here, so it doesn't mean much. I hold my notebook with my left hand, and I block the sun with my right, holding it over my eyes like I've been frozen in a salute.
Some ice covers the small lake, but it couldn't even hold a paperweight. Towards the middle, the ice has broken up and has made stepping stones on the dark water, or continents floating on cooling magma. I'm good at coming up with metaphors when I'm not writing them down. Great.
The ground is slightly soggy, and the grass covers lumps of dirt on the ground, making it seem like I'm walking on a bumpy quilt of earth. It's warm enough that I can leave my sweater open, and can hear the quiet sound of melting and dripping all around.
Finally, I make it to the bench. I manage to wipe off most of the water with my gloveless hands before I decide that I can deal with a wet butt. It's not like anyone's here to see me anyway.
I open my notebook and take out the short pencil I have in my jean pocket. The white of the paper looks like vanilla cream compared to the small patches of hospital white on the ground. I write down all the metaphors that I've thought of on the walk to the bench before I lean back into the cold, hard bench and sigh. Inspiration always hits when I can't remember it. I've found my muse in trigonometry numerous times, which isn't convenient when it's my worst subject, and I really have to focus for it to get above a 90. History has always interested me. After all, when in life do I have to use cosine in order to find out things like how much money I get in one year? Never. Because there are people to find out how much money I get in one year. And maybe they can deal with cosine sometime if they ever have to work with triangular dollars. But besides that, there's no need to learn trig.
I close my notebook and leave it on my lap, and I stare at my car, which only looks like a green dot from here. If it still had that red bow that it had when I first got it, I'd be thinking of Christmas.
I'm lost in my thoughts of Christmas 2012 when I hear footsteps from behind me. I turn around and see someone who couldn't have been more than sixteen, with dark brown hair and glasses. I get up immediately, clutching my notebook. I start to smile, thinking that maybe I know this person, and I just need to think of all the people I know (which is a lot) who look like this and remember their name, when the boy turns from me and quickly walks back the other way. And by quickly walks, I mean, borderline running. Maybe I don't know him.
I sit back down, heart still racing slightly from the strange event, and I open my notebook again, just for the sake of doing something to get my mind off what just happened. I stare at the blank page for a moment before I write for the first time in weeks, the words flowing from my mind to my pencil like they were always there, and I just needed a stimulator.
She was there. Sitting there, at my bench. She heard me walking, despite the fact that everyone claims I'm so skinny that my feet don't make a noise, and that I'm like a cat. An alley cat, made of bones and a thin layer of skin. Then she turned around, and started to smile at me. She hasn't smiled at me since the last time...
I walk through the woods to my house, which is only a thirty-second drive away from the park, but before I go inside, I look back and run my hands through my hair, glasses sliding down my nose and lips curving upward into a small, hopeful smile. I know I am too cowardly to talk to her, but if she remembers me at school on Monday, I know she'll talk to me. She's the type.
Kolina Graves always remembers. If not right away, then sooner or later.
Just a warning, Quillan will seem a bit... uh, not manly enough, despite his age. He doesn't have much character (for lack of a better way to phrase it), and I know from the letters it seems like he's lovesick and girly, but Kole makes him a stronger person, and he helps her, too.