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When they folded the flag and presented it to me, I almost lost it. I stood next to Levi as they lowered my father into the ground. I tried to stop the tears from coming out of my eyes. He held my hand the entire time they shot towards the air to honor my father. When I said goodbye to him at the church, he was cold. His sister practically fell over the casket. I felt bad for her because I know how close they are. My father, he's gone. And there's no getting him back. The loss of my father made me feel like I had absolutely no one. Even if I didn't visit my father, he'd leave me a message saying he loved me and will always be there. So, when we got back to my grandmothers overly large ranch, I set the folded flag on the dresser next to his picture and sighed.

Levi shared a room with me and I offered to sleep on the couch but he insisted that we share. I pulled off my heels and placed them on the floor near my bag. I strode to the bed and massaged my feet. Levi came in two seconds after I started while loosening his tie. I looked at him briefly before squeezing the arch of my foot. Ow! I hate wearing heels for a long time.

"That's attractive."

"I'm not trying to impress you."

"No one said anything about impressing people." He plopped on the bed, reaching down to take my foot.

"What are you doing?" He used his thumbs on the arch of my foot. I suppressed a moan. He's giving me a foot massage? "Is there a reason you're so generous?"

"No, I figured that... you're stressed out and when you're stressed, you become the biggest bitch."

"I'm not a bitch every day?"

"No." He pulled my other foot up and started on that one. "You're a nice person,"

"Are you feeling okay?"

"I'm perfectly fine, Sonshine." There was a short, quick knock at the door. It opened up slowly and a males head peeked between the crack. Levi looked up and furrowed his brows.

"Sophia, are you decent?"

I hesitantly smiled. "Grant...?" I got up immediately and opened the door fully. I'd recognize that voice anywhere.

"Hey…" He exclaimed with a laugh.

"Oh my God! What are you doing here?" I threw my arms around him and hugged him tight. He squeezed me back and nestled his nose in my hair.

"I was coming through town and I heard about..." He said and pulled back. "I'm sorry."

"Thanks." I gave him a small smile. I honestly didn't care about Levi at that moment. Grant is… a close friend. We grew up next door to each other and then I left to go to Cali and he left to go to Brazil to open up a dental practice. He always wanted to live there but I guess he's back. "You look so tan and buff. Those Brazilian women keeping you fit?"

"Nah, nah…" He played off with a smile. "But you…" He looked me up and down, making me blush profusely. Grant and I had a thing when we were teenagers. Nothing too serious but as his friends would say we had a lot of sexual tension. "You came a long way from being flat…" He motioned to my chest.

I rolled my eyes. "I couldn't stay a girl forever."

A smirk curved his lips. "That is… true…" A clearing of a throat and two large hands being placed on my hips made me… realize who else was in the room. "This must be your…"

"I'm Levi," The blondes hand extended and Grant lifted his to meet it. Levi's being possessive again. I moved from in front of him despite his hidden protests of trying to keep me in place. I smiled up at Grant when he dropped Levis' hand.

"I didn't know you had a boyfriend."

"He's not my boyfriend," I replied quickly. "He just came down here to support me. I… wouldn't have asked if… I would've known you would be here."

"Nah, you didn't know and it's good that you being people you know around. That means you're not by yourself in a different state." Grant nodded at Levi. I looked over at him. His jaw was clenched. "Was I interrupting something?"

"Yes." He spat.

"No..." I recovered. "We were just talking but nothing serious."

"Oh..." He never broke eye contact with Levi. What's wrong with him? "Well... I'll see you two at dinner, then. It's at six."

"Have a good evening." Levi practically forced him out the room and closed the door shut. This time, he locked it and stood in front of it. I peered up at him and smiled. His arms folded over his chest. "You're awfully flirty."

"And so what if I am? I'm entitled."

"You're walking on a very thin line. Who's Grant, anyway?"

"We grew up as neighbors."

"Just neighbors?"

"We had a... thing at one point but it was short lived."

"What kind of thing?"

"None of your business and I'm sure I didn't ask for an interrogation." I glared at him and folded my arms. "I'm going to go see if my aunt needs any help with dinner."

"You cook?" I nodded and pushed him aside, opening up the door.

She was making southern food, comfort food. The food I had missed when I had moved to California. Don't get me wrong; I'd make the food myself for myself but something about someone older making it for you tastes better. Fried chicken, collard greens, candied yams, Black-eyed peas, and ribs. Then we can't forget about the Sicilian side of my family. A lot of different varieties of pasta. I stirred more mayonnaise into the coleslaw with Grants smile in my head. I hadn't seen him in so long and I thought I wouldn't see him in a long time. I started to wonder if the feelings I had for him back then would come back.

"You look like your mom, you know?" My Aunt Pat snapped me out of my thoughts.


"Yeah, you know how she loved to cook. You look like her."

"I thought you didn't like my mom."

"I didn't. But that doesn't mean you don't look like her." Awkward silence.


"How come you never came to visit? Don't you think we were all worried sick about you when we never got a phone call?" I stopped stirring and looked at her sadly.

"I've been working an-"

"A simple card would suffice. You out there being a big shot in California; making all your money forgetting about the people that helped you get there. Your father never heard from you. He still bragged about you like you were here. But you wouldn't give him the time of day; it's like you didn't care about us little people down here."

"I know that I should've called. And visited more. It's all my fault."

"And now you got yourself a little boyfriend and you forget about us even more."

"He's not my boyfriend. I know there's no excuse into not checking in from time to time. I'm sorry..."

She placed her flour covered hands on her hips and huffed. "Mhm, I bet you are." She walked around the isle in the kitchen and opened up a cabinet that had spices in it. I stared at the coleslaw and shook away tears.

"The coleslaw is finished. Should I put it in the fridge?"

"Yeah, and then go set the table."

I did as I was told and then went into the massive dining room. I took plates and glasses out of the china cabinet and slowly decorated the table the way I remembered it. A hand came over mine and took a plate away from me.

"Don't let her get to you. She's just... grieving." There's trusty old Grant again.

"She doesn't have to take her grief out on me." I shrugged and watched him help put down plates. "I thought you were going home..."

"She asked me to help around her around the house. The last minute cleaning and stuff."

"Oh." I went back to the china cabinet and grabbed a handful of forks from the draw. "So, how's life been?"

"I can't complain. Brazil's was fun but I don't want to live there anymore."

"Why not?"

"Because I don't know anybody. Believe me the women great," I laughed. "But I needed something familiar. What about you? How was life?"

"Um, it's as good as it gets."

"Why do you sound so sad about it?"

"Because I'm not where I want to be relationship wise. I at least thought that… I would be in a secure relationship with somebody I really liked. I don't know..."

"You don't like Levi?"

"Nah, not like that..." But I do. I like him a lot. "He doesn't really like me either."

"So what exactly are you to each other?"

I inhaled, "I don't know."

"Want me go and talk to him?"

"No, thanks..." I placed each fork next to a plate and moved around the table. "Remember when we lived next to each other and you used to pick on me?"

"I was like eight, Sophia." The way he says my name gives me chills.

"Still. I used to go home and cry because you feel so bad..."

He snickered. "I know. One time your mom came over to my house and told my mom. She made me give you flowers from the garden. Remember that?"

"Yeah," I giggled. "Too bad I had allergies. You almost killed me."

"It's not my fault." A big smile flashed his face. "You were a nerd..."

"So what?" I exclaimed.

"I liked that nerd." I don't think I was meant to hear that but my cheeks burned.

The doorbell rang and people started showing up. Funerals were always sad but the aftermath was sort of like a celebration that a loved one went to heaven. It was still sad but more of a rejoice. I went upstairs to freshen up but stopped when I heard Levi on the phone. I wanted to ease drop... but it was just a business call so it didn't sound that important. I went inside the room and put back on my earring and bracelet. Levi hung up the phone and put it in his pocket.

"We have a meeting when we get back."

"Mhm..." I shrugged. "Dinners ready."

"I don't want to sit and have dinner with you hillbilly family..."

"My hillbilly family?" I narrowed my eyes. "Fuck you. You're not allowed to talk about family. You could talk about me but say anything bad about my family and I'll punch you in your face." His eyebrows rose, "I'll see you downstairs."

Dinner. One of my cousins, I think she was my age, was infatuated with Levi. She was asking him questions and sitting as close to him as possible. It was entertaining but if she only knew how he really was, she'd hate him. He sure knows how to put on a show, though. It was the first time I've heard him laugh along with others. The first time he's went in on jokes. It was the first time I've seen him open up and not be so reserved. It's like he was trying to make friends with my family. Like he was trying to be on their good side. But I don't need my family thinking that he's my boyfriend or something else because he's not. I don't want to give them the wrong impression.

While others were talking, he leaned over to my ear and whispered, "I'm going to get you back for that threat you made..."

"The one where I punch you in the face? That can go for any time..."

"Don't make me embarrass you in front of your family," I rolled my eyes and caught Grant looking at us.

"Levi, just eat your food."

"Can I eat you later?" I choked. I started coughing really hard and drew attention from everyone at the table. Levi patted my back with an impassive face but I could see the satisfaction in his eyes. I took a gulp out of my wine and cleared my throat. "Sophia, are you okay?" He smiled.

"I'm fine." I assured him and everyone else. Levi leaned back in his seat and draped his arm around my chair. That smile transferred over to Grant who was stabbing a yam. Levi's doing this on purpose.

"So, you thought it was okay to eye fuck each other all night?" I shimmied out of my dress and scoffed.

"What're you talking about?"

"You and that kid- Grant."

"It's none of your business."

"Your love life is my business."

"No, it's not."

"You're really rude today."

I mumbled under my breath. "What're you gonna do- spank me?"

"Don't tempt me." He walked up behind me as I was neatly placing my clothes on a hanger. "But I don't like it. What did I say about defiance?"

"I never agreed to not defy you. You act like your my owner and I should obey you, Levi." I spun around and looked at him.

"Bitches shouldn't be disobedient." He placed his hands on my ass. "You're not naked."

"And I'm not going to be. No sex. No fucking. No touching. No kissing. No means no."

"You can't say no to me. That doesn't apply to me. And who are you..." He stood up with me in his arms and walked over to the dresser. "To tell me what I can and cannot do, hm?"

I placed my hands on his shoulder and pushed him away when he tried to kiss me. "No..."


"No... It's two in the morning; I'm going to take a shower..." I pushed him back and smiled.

"With me..."

"No." I grabbed a towel my aunt gave me and wrapped it around my body. I swiftly left the room and walked down the hallway. I went to open the bathroom and coincidentally, Grant came out of it with a toothbrush in his hand and no shirt. "Stalking now, are you?"

"You're stalking now, not me." He glanced down at my towel and bit down on his lip.

"Right... when did you get a tattoo?"

"The same time you left."

"Oh..." I moved the the side to left him by but he pulled me into the bathroom with him and locked the door. "What the hell?"

"What is Levi to you?" He pointed his toothbrush at me.

"Nothing... I told you that..."

"Good…" He unlocked the door and opened it up. I watched him walk out before grabbing his arm to stop him.

"Why're you even here?"

"I needed a place to stay..." Grant grinned. "You'll be seeing a lot of me anyway…" I shook my head.

"Why is that?"

"I'm moving to California..."


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