Aislinn decided that hospitals weren't as bad as everyone made them out to be. Sure, the antiseptic smell lingering in the air wasn't all that great. The pale blue walls could definitely use some décor too. All the sick people weren't very cheery. But on the plus side-
Yeah, hospitals really sucked.
The waiting room had become an alarmingly familiar place in the weeks that followed. She had even started to recognize the people there alongside her.
She knew that the room directly right to Valerie's belonged to a little boy, suffering from lung cancer, because of the boy's mother who was very nice and always offered her brownies.
Three rooms down, there was a sick pregnant woman, waiting for twins while her husband passed time reading magazines on parenthood and often talked to Aislinn about baby names.
At the end of the hall, there was a comatose old woman who hadn't opened her eyes for the past two years. A man with a Yankee's cap pulled low over his face, who she assumed was her son, sat outside her room, his shoulders hunched over in his shabby denim jacket like Atlas bearing the weight of the sky. Curiously, he never went in but there was no denying the despair in his posture despite doing a good job of hiding his face.
Waiting - that's all she and her newfound companions were capable of doing. As for her actual companions...
Nicole hadn't shown up there even once after her panic attack. Even at school, she had gotten awfully good at avoiding Aislinn.
And Blair? She had gone frighteningly silent, much like the first time they had entered the hospital. The difference was that this time, Blair wasn't seething with rage underneath. No, this time Aislinn felt something entirely different resonate from her. It echoed from Reggie too, which honestly scared her even more.
Reggie was Blair's anchor and, in turn, Nicole and Aislinn's too, since neither could handle the eldest triplet's mood swings.
"Did she stay overnight again?" Aislinn was roused out of her thoughts by Nathan's question.
Nathan was looking at Blair who was curled up in the corner, her face distorted even in sleep. Nicole's adoptive father didn't look so good himself. The blue eyes behind his glasses looked tired and there were permanent frown lines on his forehead, his receding red hairline accentuating them. Aislinn had estimated him to be in his early forties but he looked much older, withering quicker under the stress.
Answering his question, Aislinn said, "Yeah, I don't think you could get her to leave with bulldozer, in fact. I'm shocked she's still bothering with school."
He seemed surprised that she'd replied, making her realize this was the first time she was talking one-on-one to her uncle. My Uncle Nate, she thought, still unused to the idea of relatives.
"Nice to see you talking to me," he said with a wry smile, which faded instantly. "God knows Nicole isn't." He sighed. "It makes me regret not spending more quality time with her. She's too quiet now, always holed up in her room."
Aislinn's attention peaked up at that. "Is she okay?" She asked, anxious as she remembered Nicole's panic attack.
"More or less," he replied then looked at her curiously, scrutinizing her in a way that felt like being examined under a microscope. It was eerily like Nicole did. A shadow of sadness flickered over his face and his gaze averted. Clearing his throat, he signaled a nurse to attention. "Excuse me, could you please get a pillow for her?" He gestured towards Blair's uncomfortable, sleeping form.
The nurse took one look. "Of course," he said with a nod and kind smile before heading off and Aislinn mentally thanked the entire staff of nurses who, at times, were more useful than the doctors themselves.
"Aislinn?" Nathan said, the ominous tone putting her on guard. "Even though I have no right, would you be willing to do me a favor?"
"Favor?" Aislinn asked, wary.
"Keep her calm today," he replied evasively.
"Why? What's going on?" She asked, trepidation raising her voice.
He sighed. "Don't worry. It's nothing to be so alarmed about." His arm twitched as though to pat her head consolingly but changing his mind instantly. "I'm just not sure how well Bailey will take it."
"Blair," Aislinn corrected automatically, mildly assured. Catching Nathan's quizzical glance, she added, "Don't ask. I don't get it completely either but from what I've seen, Reggie's the only one who gets away with using that name."
"Reggie? The boy with... all that hair?"
Aislinn nearly laughed at his expression. "Yeah."
She wasn't laughing later that day.
"What the actual hell?!" Blair snarled. She thought they were joking but the sober looks on Lorraine and Nathan's faces said otherwise. She should've known bad news was coming her way when the two estranged siblings came, requesting to talk to her. From the corner of her eye, she saw Aislinn sit up, suspiciously not as surprised.
"It's merely a precautionary step," Nathan explained placidly.
Lorraine nodded in agreement, putting aside the differences with her brother for once. "We're next of kin, making us your legal guardians," a slight pause, "just in case something happens."
Blair's hazel eyes hardened. "What, in case Mom dies?" She said harshly.
"Blair!" Aislinn gasped, drawing her attention. "Don't talk like that. Just hear them out, okay?"
Blair was about to retort that she would talk exactly as she saw fit to but Aislinn's eyes pleaded, begging her to comply. Considering that Aislinn was hardly someone used to begging, Blair forced down the nasty words that threatened to erupt.
Lorraine shot her adoptive daughter a grateful look. "It's what Valerie wants," she said, gesturing to the documents they had shown her earlier. "All she wants is to make sure you're taken care of."
Blair wanted to tear those papers into shreds. "So I'm supposed to pick one of you to take me on as your charity case?" She ignored the look Aislinn sent her.
Nathan grimaced at her choice of words. "You're family, not a charity case."
Blair stared at him, wondering if he'd forgotten that they were strangers, blood or not.
"When did she even do this?" Aislinn spoke up, riffling through the papers, which covered an array of legal decisions, most of them coming into effect if Valerie's health took a turn for the worse. From what Blair had made out, her mother had already prepared a will. She had left her elder siblings as her medical proxy. At one point, she had even stated that in the scenario of life support being her only lifeline, Valerie wanted them to turn the plug off, refusing to be a burden.
The whole affair made Blair sick to the core.
Nathan answered Aislinn's question. "We were just as surprised as you. Dr. Henderson told us that Valerie's been an astonishingly productive patient."
"Apparently, she was teaching kids from the children's ward too," Lorraine added.
"Of course, she was." Blair said distractedly, her mind still circling around the signed documents. How dare her mother think that far when she herself couldn't think past today, feeling like her world was tethering on Armageddon. "She used to be a teacher. Once a teacher, always a teacher." Then her eyes snapped into focus, her jaws set stubbornly. "I'm not doing it," she declared, crossing her arms. "I refuse to even consider living with any of you strangers."
The two adults exchanged an exasperated look. Great - the only time they got along was to gang up on her.
"You're being very difficult." Nathan sighed, only giving rise to her determination.
"We can't possibly allow you to - to keep living with that boy," Lorraine added.
That did it. Blair's hands fell to her side, curling into fists. Behind her, Aislinn buried her face into her hands. Valerie had asked her to clear the air; Blair supposed this was the best time to.
"One, that boy has a name and it's Reggie. Two, I live in a guestroom under his parents' roof with their consent. Three, Mom loves Reggie. She's known him since we were kids because he's my childhood best friend. Lastly, I never want to hear about him in that stupid derogatory tone of yours or so help me god."
Then Nathan made a sound that suspiciously sounded like a stifled laugh, making Lorraine snap out of shock to send him a scorching glare. He looked away with a slight shrug. "You were asking for it," he muttered, earning another award-winning glare.
Lorraine cleared her throat, having the decency to look contrite. "Would you mind talking to me in private?"
Blair looked at her in distrust. "Whatever," she agreed because the woman obviously wasn't going to get off her back.
No wonder Valerie ran off to get a new family.
They stood up and Blair followed her to the canteen. She chose a sandwich, barely noticing the bland taste as she chewed, seated across her aunt on a small round table.
Lorraine waited until she was finished with one half of the sandwich. "I want you to pick me," she said, getting straight to the point.
Blair looked at her blankly. "Why?" Who on earth would want to take care of a good-for-nothing, trouble making teenager like her?
"Why?" Lorraine repeated, startled.
"Yeah. To be honest, I don't like you and I'm pretty sure you won't like me either." It was true. Though a beautiful woman for her age, Lorraine King looked like a harsher version of Valerie. Her emerald green eyes, not blue like Valerie's, were sharp and ruthless. Her titan hair was shoulder length, not a hair out of place, unlike Valerie's long and free-flowing style. She was more angular and carried herself with pride. More importantly, she looked down on Reggie and that was inexcusable in Blair's book.
Lorraine wasn't giving up so easily. "If you try, there's a good chance we'll get along just fine."
The woman clearly didn't realize she was playing with fire. Blair's irk rose up with each word, morphing into contempt. "I refuse."
Lorraine frowned as though Blair was being an unreasonable child. "I can give you all the luxuries in the world, fulfill your every want and leave no barrier standing. Don't you want any of that?"
Blair's lips curled back in disgust. "You're deluding yourself if you think I'm anything like Aislinn. I'm not some Barbie you can dress up and put inside a dollhouse. I don't belong in your picture perfect lives."
Lorraine's sharp green eyes narrowed. "That's a very prejudiced perspective on something you know nothing about," she said tightly. "And Aislinn is not some doll to me." She let out a deep breath, regaining back her composure and her face softened surprisingly. More calmly, she went on, "Also, what makes you think you're unfit to live the best. Although your academic records are understandably rocky, you're clearly a hard worker." She counted off her fingers. "You've been employed at Ebola Green's store for years now, long hours and no holidays. In the summer, you work two jobs. Coupled with Valerie's savings, you've managed to keep the house running since the age of fourteen. I consider that an outstanding feat."
Blair's eyebrows had disappeared into her hairline. "What did you do, hire a PA on me or something?"
Lorraine gave an elegant shrug. "Something of the sort." She sipped the coffee she had bought, grimacing at the taste.
Agitated and thrown off by the compliment, Blair pressed on. "It still doesn't make sense. That can't be the only reason. So what is it? Trying to one up your brother? Or is it just obligatory, some stupid sense of duty to your sister? A way to assuage your guilt for leaving Mom when she needed you the most?" She voiced the bitter thought taunting her, her jaw tightening. "I won't let myself be used that way."
Hurt flickered in Lorraine's eyes. "Do you really think that lowly of me?"
"I don't trust you," she emancipated each word coldly. "You seem to think you know me but you don't. You see me as Mom and I'm not. Aislinn? She has Mom's spirit. Nicole, her intellect. But me? I'm not like them." She leaned forward with hard, unblinking eyes. "You're forgetting that I'm also the only one who lived with Dad."
Lorraine flinched at the mention of her father. It was the clink in her armor and Blair exploited it without remorse.
"I remind you of him, don't l?" She plowed forward, smirking at the way blood drained from Loraine's face. "What's to say you won't hate me like you hate him and throw me out? Supposing I turn out to be a bad nut?" She fell back against her chair, grotesquely pleased with the effect of her words. Looking at Lorraine's blanched face, she added flippantly, "I'd rather not take the chance and neither should you."
The woman had been silenced, her manicured hands gripping her cup tightly.
Sated, Blair got up but halted in mid-step when Lorraine spoke up suddenly.
Started, Blair turned to face the startlingly fierce emerald eyes.
"I see Val's strength in you," Lorraine said quietly before averting her gaze downwards as she polished off her coffee in one gulp, like she was wishing it was something stronger. Without looking up, she added, "You go ahead; I imagine Nathan wants a word with you too. I need more coffee."
True to her words, Nathan was waiting for Blair at the end of Valerie's corridor, his arms crossed and eyes faraway. Upon her arrival, his arms dropped to his sides, brilliant blue eyes coming to focus. He attempted a smile which she deliberately turned away from and leaned against the wall opposite to him with a long suffering sigh. "So," she said, "your sister dearest already attempted bribery, coaxing and logic."
"Of course she did," he said without a hint of surprise.
"I don't think you have anything left to offer."
"I don't," he agreed. Watching her closely with eyes so similar to her mother's yet so unsettling different, he said slowly, "I think it's best if you choose her."
Now, this was the reaction she had been expecting from Lorraine. This was what she was prepared for, not stupid compliments. "Wow, I'm just that horrible, huh?" She said with a slight smirk.
"It's not like that," Nathan said with thinly-veiled frustration. "There's nothing wrong with you; it's just that-"
"Oh oh, I know this one. 'It's not you. It's me.' Right?"
Nathan looked so aggravated at her response that if still had it in her, she would have laughed. "I'm leaving - I'm mean, we're leaving. Isabella, Nicole and I," he blurted out.
Blair suddenly didn't feel like laughing anymore.
"If... If things don't work out," he went on plaintively, "I don't think I'll be able to stand living here. Izzy agreed and we'll inevitably go back to Chicago. I'd ask you to come along if I wasn't absolutely certain you'd refuse. I know you have... attachments here and the last thing I want is to make things even worst for you."
He was right. A change of scenery might have worked for somebody else but this city was her home. It was where she'd lived her whole life, where she'd gone to elementary school, where she'd gone on those rare beach trips with her parents and where Mrs. Green had her store. It was where Reggie and his parents lived. Just the thought of leaving made her sick.
At the same time, she didn't exactly like Nathan's plan. "Does Nicky know?" She finally asked. She hated herself instantly for it, not wanting to even think about her stupid little sister. The idiot who'd scared the hell out of her the last time she talked to her. The one who still hadn't come back.
Don't go there, Blair reprimanded herself sharply.
"Not yet," Nathan answered warily.
She arched an eyebrow. "You do realize she's going to throw a mega hissy fit?"
"I believe she'll understand," he lied, straight faced. Damn lawyers.
"Right," Blair said sardonically, pushing herself off the wall. "I hope that works out for you then." With that, she went back to the waiting room.
Aislinn was sitting in her seat, anxious. She glanced up when Blair dropped into a chair opposite to her. "What happened?" Aislinn asked cautiously.
"Nothing except that we might actually get a chance to live together like real sisters. How sweet," Blair said sardonically.
Aislinn glared. "Why do you always have to be like that?" She snapped.
Strangely, Blair didn't snap back at her. "I don't know," she answered honestly, her tone softening, suddenly too tired to fight. "I guess I'm just a bitch when I'm in a bad mood."
"But you're always in a bad mood," Aislinn pointed out.
A wary smile crossed Blair's face. "Then you'll just have to leave or get used to it, won't you?"
Aislinn lifted her chin, obstinate as ever. "I'll get used to it."
It was amazing, Blair couldn't help but think. No matter what she threw at her, this pink-obsessed heiress took it all, still standing strong. It almost made Blair doubt her ability of pissing people off.
It's only a matter of time, she reminded herself. "We'll see about that," she told her.
Surprisingly, a gamely smile flickered across Aislinn's face. She forgot that Aislinn never backed down from a challenge. "Fine," Aislinn agreed, "but for the time being, how about a ceasefire?"
Blair raised an eyebrow. "What for?"
Aislinn fiddled with her charm bracelet, contemplating her words. "Reggie's birthday is coming up soon, right?" She finally said, more of a reminder than question.
"Yeah," Blair said, void of emotion.
"Then... for him?" Aislinn asked, voice tingling with hope.
For a moment, she thought Blair was going to refuse but after a long pause, there was a short nod. Knowing that was as much as she was going to get, Aislinn couldn't help but smile a little.
Then for a microsecond, she could've sworn that Blair smiled back.
"Oh, God," Daniel said with a groan, noticing the bouquet in Alex's hand for the first time. "Flowers. Why didn't I think of that?!"
Alex rolled his eyes, shoving him forward. "Get over it."
"No, I have to get chocolates or something!"
Giving him an exasperated look, Alex said, "You're being ridiculous. You already took half an hour deciding what to wear. We had to go back because you forgot your keys. Now you want to take a detour when we're already here. You're the one who brought me along so are you trying to stall?"
Daniel scowled at him. "I just don't like hospitals," he grumbled, dragging himself forward.
Edgy much, Alex thought, a smirk tugging on his lips. Honestly, Daniel muddled him. He seemed like the most typical guy you could meet - the cocky, funny and outgoing one you would like for company but never for serious and heartfelt conversations. Then out of the blue, he'd surprise you with somber blue eyes and say something that made you wonder if he was the same person. Like earlier that day.
For the past week, Aislinn hadn't been herself. Her friends - the real ones - were concerned but it was hard to talk to her since she was so persistent on pretending everything was okay. When she met up at their table for lunch, Alex was the first to see her - inexplicably, his senses always went into overdrive when it came to Aislinn King - and he was witness to the moment she put up a smile, straightened her shoulders, head held up, and sauntered up to them, issuing a cheerful greeting.
It looked painful.
"We should do something." Daniel's voice had startled him, so low that T.J., who was sitting next to them, couldn't hear him.
Turning to him, Alex had been surprised to see the blond boy focused on Aislinn with an uncharacteristically solemn expression, tapping his foot in a twitchy manner. "Like what," he'd asked, slightly uncertain they were both thinking about the same thing.
Hence, he found himself walking down a pale blue corridor, the stench of disinfectant in the air with aforementioned blond boy by his side and a bouquet in his hand.
At their arrival, Blair and Aislinn were both surprised, halting in mid-conversation.
Alex laughed and Daniel scowled at Blair. "I told you to stop calling me that," he grumbled.
"Sorry," Blair said in the most beautifully unapologetic apology Alex had ever heard, "I've just had this image of a dog I've always wanted and he has the same name."
Daniel sniffled melodramatically. "I try to do something good and she calls me a dog."
Blair's lips twitched up into something that looked suspiciously like a smile. "Sit down, Blondie," she said, kicking the chair next to her towards him.
Daniel rolled his eyes but complied. "Well, since you asked so nicely."
"Is she always this... nice?" Alex asked Aislinn as they sat across the other two.
"God, I wish." Aislinn snorted. "It's your lucky day; she and I just agreed on a ceasefire." She smiled faintly at Daniel and Blair, who were bantering playfully, if not a little crassly. "Also, despite how Blair's never going to admit it, she actually likes Danny. That's amazing all on its own." She turned to him with a grateful smile, adding softy, "Thanks for coming."
It was the sweet smile that made him blurt out, "No biggie; it was Danny's idea anyway." Then as if his brain had lost all senses, his hands automatically thrust the flowers forward. "These are for your mom." Suddenly, the gesture seemed too excessive and he felt heat crawling up his neck.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. He should've just let Daniel have them.
She blinked in surprise, taking them. "They're so pretty," she remarked, breathing in the delicate scent. "What are they?"
"They're hummingbird flowers. Bouvardia longiflora, to be exact. They represent enthusiasm, gratitude, zeal for life and... and some other shit." Her hazel eyes had gone so wide that he lost track of what he was saying.
If it wasn't for that last part, Aislinn would've been completely dumbstruck. "You're into flowers?"
"No," he denied outright. "My Mom loves gardening. She has this thing where she sprouts random facts about them, even if nobody really cares." He rubbed at the back of his neck. "I haven't met your mother but from what I heard, the Bouvardias seemed fitting."
Aislinn never realized when she'd started smiling but she was aware of the warmth that swept over her. "Cool," she said then teasingly, "or some shit."
Alex rolled his eyes but relaxed at the teasing since it was familiar ground. "Whatever." He leaned back in his seat then, with considerably cautious, he finally asked, "How are you guys doing?"
The word fine was at the tip of her tongue but he was looking at her so intently in a way she knew she'd get caught lying. "Not so good," she admitted with difficulty and sighed. "It's nerve-wrenching to just wait when she could be dying. It's the worst for Blair and sometimes, I wish we could fast forward it to the verdict already. If it's good news, I know it'll be the happiest moment of my life. But... if it's not..." She swallowed. "I don't, what I'll do."
Her eyes drifted to her sister and the emotion in them could only be described as fear and worry. "That scary, huh?" He asked gently, following her gaze.
Aislinn shrugged unconvincingly, putting up a smile as she said brightly, "Anyway, enough about me. I heard the news, you know."
She was putting up her barriers again which was something Alex had already predicted. In the past, her happy-go-lucky attitude had frankly annoyed him and he was sure it stirred up envy everywhere. Who wouldn't want to have Aislinn King's glamorous life? He'd found it unnatural but it was only these last few weeks that he finally understood how deeply so.
This had less to do with Aislinn's supposedly perfect life and more to do with her inability to accept the nitty-gritty parts of life. She could neither bear sadness nor let anyone else bear it. As long as she could keep smiling and laughing, she could get through anything, most likely deluding herself in the process.
Laughing even you're choking, he couldn't help but think.
"What news?" He asked blankly.
"Dude," she exclaimed, hitting his arm lightly. "I heard you got scouted after last night's match!"
Alex blinked. "Oh, that?" He scratched at the worn fabric of his jeans. "How'd you know?"
"I do keep up with everything obviously," she said, gesturing to her cell phone. "Bree said it was an amazing last minute score - a three pointer at that. I think Caroline already posted the video too." She grinned. "We won the state championship because of you."
Alex smiled faintly at the phantom thrill of the heart-stopping moment the ball whooshed through the basket. "It happened so fast I didn't even believe that guy was me," he recalled. "Hell, before they offered the full scholarship, I'd already decided I didn't even want to go to college. The scholarship was the last thing on my mind." Watching the flicker in her expression, he asked, "Does that surprise you?"
"Actually," Aislinn mused, "not really." It was no secret that Alexander Mason wasn't the academic type. He wasn't necessarily stupid - far from that - but his interests definitely didn't lie inside the four walls of a classroom. "You're not rejecting it though, are you?"
"I'd be the biggest fool if I did," he pointed out. "I also know how much the other guys have been working their butts off for it."
Aislinn knew that well enough; her nearly two-year-old ex-boyfriend had been one of them. In fact, Jake could've easily been the one to get the offer if it wasn't for his clash with Daniel, which had ultimately prompted Coach Miller to choose Alex for captain instead of the two hotheads. Though Jake Gibson was no longer her business, she couldn't help but wonder how crushed he must've been, regretting her success at her dodging him.
"You're okay?" Alex's voice brought her out of her thoughts.
Looking into his intense dark brown eyes, she knew he was going to keep probing at her until he broke through all her defenses. She'd already broken down before him once and she wasn't about to allow herself to do it again. Desperately trying to keep her mind clear, she said with sudden urgency, "Distract me."
Alex looked at her, bewildered.
She struggled to explain. "I just... I can't... Tell me a story, anything. Please."
He hesitated momentarily, sensing how much she needed it. "Alright." He cleared his throat, betraying the fact that story telling wasn't his forte. "Uh, I think I've got one. Remember my scooter?"
Frowning at his choice of topic, she answered the rhetorical question. "It's hard to forget that moldy sorry excuse of a vehicle when you're stuck on it in traffic."
He crossed his arms, giving her a pointed look.
"I mean, uh, vintage rocks! Old is gold and, and... yeah, that's all I've got."
"You're not very good at listening, are you?"
"Sorry," she said sheepishly. "But I'll be quiet now, promise."
"Sure," he said sardonically before continuing. "Anyway, you know how old people are always grouchy and boring?"
Aislinn nodded even though she had no experience with grandparents. There was bad blood between Marcus and his parents so she'd never met them. Valerie and Lorraine's parents had died even before she had been born, one from childbirth and the other from heartbreak. Her biological father's father had apparently been a drug lord and someone had yet to mention the mother. Both could be dead now for all she knew. "But what does that have to do with-" She immediately shut up on her own at Alex's look of exasperated amusement.
"My grandpa was nothing like that," Alex resumed his tale. "Gramps was, to be honest, completely batshit crazy. And it was awesome. For me, at least. He loved pranks and even at the age where teeth fall out, he was always playing tricks on everybody. Like this one time, he pretended to be dead and everyone freaked out while I was just trying really hard not to laugh."
Aislinn couldn't hold back. "So, basically, that twisted humor of yours is genetic?"
"Pretty much." He said, almost proudly. "Though Dad wasn't laughing, to say the least. The funny gene skipped a generation, I suppose. Man, I can't even count the number of times Gramps used to scare the shit out of people with just his dentures, always putting this hilarious crap on everybody."
She noted the past tense. "Used to?"
"He passed away when I was eleven. Heart condition." He said, nonchalant despite the flicker of grief in his eyes. "Gramps hated being treated like an invalid because of his health and that's probably why he did that dead trick. At first, that day, everyone thought he was just acting again. Everyone except me, that is. I knew Gramps would never fool around without telling me beforehand." He cleared his throat. "Anyway, I inherited his scooter; he loved that heap of metal. I was too young to drive at the time but that was kinda convenient when I realized it was completely booby trapped. It took forever just to figure out how to sit on it without getting zapped or something. I loved every moment of it though. It felt like having Gramps with me again."
"So that's why you love that scooter so much," Aislinn said, feeling guilty about all the jokes she'd made about it.
Alex nodded. "It's practically the only thing I have left of him."
Aislinn was silent for a few moments, then: "Considering that we're in a place filled with people on their deathbeds, you're a horrible storyteller."
"I know," he admitted. "I'm just getting started too. Wanna know what Gramps did for a living?"
"Comedian?" She guessed.
He shook his head. "Undertaker," he deadpanned.
The most inappropriate series of laughter escaped Aislinn's mouth. "Oh, my god," she gasped. "You're absolutely terrible!"
"But it worked," Alex said, his shoulder brushing against hers in a playful bump. "Got you to laugh."
He was right. It had been awhile since she'd truly laughed or even smiled, just because she felt like it and not because she was trying to make others smile. It was liberating, easing the persistent heaviness in her chest. Now that she thought about it, just Alex's mere presence made her feel better, always managing to consume her. At this rate, he was going to end up consuming her whole.
After an hour of impatiently shifting around, Blair glanced at the clock and decided it was time. Pulling out her cell, she dialed the number.
Reggie picked up at the third ring. "Bails," he groaned, his voice thick with sleep. "It's the middle of the night; why aren't you asleep?"
Blair had expected as much. Reggie couldn't function without at least seven hours of sleep. In his state of incoherence, he probably hadn't seen all the birthday greetings sent at midnight. "Sorry," she said, sincere. "I know it's late but I couldn't really sleep." Technically, that was true.
"No wonder," he said, sounding more awake. "Those chair look like torture to sleep on." She heard him move around. "I'm probably gonna regret this in the morning but I can talk about adverse effects of not sleeping proper hours on a real bed and eventually bore you to sleep."
She let out a silent laugh, more mirth than she had expressed all month, and glanced at the clock hanging on the wall. "Thanks." It was almost 2:32, the exact time Reggie had been born. "Hey, could you do something else too before that?"
"I left my locket at your house and I think I dropped it under the bed. Could you check? I don't wanna lose it and I think that's why I can't sleep." Smiling slightly, she fingered the locket underneath her top.
There was ruffling on the other side, accompanied by grumbling. "Just a moment." There was a pause as he left his room and ducked into the guestroom. "Under the bed, right? I think I got-" He stopped mid-sentence.
Blair smiled. "Happy birthday." It was exactly 2:32.
"Oh. My. God." The astonishment rose up in his voice. "Is this what I think it is?"
"If you're thinking it's the original Amazing Fantasy 15 in mint condition or whatever you geeks call it with the creator's signature then yes. Yes, it is." She said proudly.
"How did you get this?" He asked in awe, definitely fully awake now.
"Long story short, it involves many, and not to mention traumatic, visits to Secret Headquarters - you geeks can be really rude to people who don't know it's Stan Lee instead of Stanley, by the way - a crazed, greedy and super horny twelve-year-old and every single persuasive technique I possess." Just the memory of the famous comic store gave her shivers. Why Reggie was so obsessed with the place eluded her.
"Oh, my God. Bailey - wow." He paused as something occurred to him. "Shit. This must've cost a buttload! You shouldn't have!"
Blair rolled her eyes at his guilt-ridden tone. "I've been saving." Sensing his typical stupidity kicking in to refuse her gift, she turned to offense. "And drop it, you big fat hypocrite. You didn't tell me that the stone on my locket is opal and the chain is friggin' silver." In a way, the comic was payback for the locket, which she was still kind of pissed about.
"I've been saving," he threw back her own words, probably grinning.
"You moron, I've been wearing it everywhere!" She probably wouldn't even have found out how costly it was if Aislinn hadn't told her, having complimented it a few weeks back. She'd been planning this for months but the locket revelation had only strengthened her resolve. "What were you thinking?!"
"That black diamond and platinum would cost me a few organs so I decided to go minimalist," he replied cheekily, a refreshing change from the gloomy tone that had persisted through the past month. It didn't last long though and a somber tone seeped in. "Thank you," he said, quiet but powerful, "I wasn't expecting this at all."
"What, did you think I would forget something like your eighteenth birthday?"
"Well," he said sheepishly, "you're staying at the hospital and I just thought you had more important stuff on your plate."
"You're officially an adult now. You can vote, go to actual prison and oh, get into a totally scandalous but legal relationship with an older woman. That's pretty important too."
He laughed, a warm, throaty sound that still managed to warm her despite the distance between them. "Just what I've always wanted." Then amused, he added, "So... you went to Secret Headquarters, huh? And how horny of a twelve year old are we talking about? Like what kind of persuasive techniques exactly-"
"Good night, Reggie." Blair deadpanned.
Another low laugh. "G'night, Bails."
Happy New Year, guys!
Okay, so this chapter was meant to be much long but when it started to go above 7000, I decided to break it into two shorter one. That sucks because now this is three part chapter when it wasn't meant to be. I have this thing where I want one chapter to be about one thing and a turning point of the story should be a two part thing, like the night the sisters met and all the events leading up to it.
I know I haven't been very active but I have only one resolution this year. Keeping in mind that I don't really believe in resolutions, I only made this one because its completely doable if I can push myself to it. So this year, 'Triple Drama' is gonna be completed.
I'm in my last few months of college so I'll finally be done with intermediate by May then before I get swamped with university stuff, I get a breather of about four months at least which should be just long enough to complete this story since we're halfway between the ending and the middle of the plot. YAY!
Jasmine Charms: The triplets have red hair and hazel eyes. It's VALERIE, their mother who has red hair and blue eyes. Daniel was only surprised that their whole family has red hair (the rarest natural hair color since it is technically a mutation) and even more interested in the combination of Valerie's red hair and blue eyes which is the rarest combination in the world. I hope this cleared up your confusion.
Lol: Um, you're going to have to welcome me back again. Man, it must suck to be a reader waiting for chapter instead of getting the whole package. Believe me, I've been on both sides of it. I've learned my lesson though so my next novel is already being written (a side project when I'm stuck in this one) so I can post that regularly. And you're absolutely amazing if you're still here. Seriously, give yourself a cookie.
K: Thank you so much! I never really realized how hard it was to write until I started this book. It took me a long time to hone myself up to this level so it really means a lot when you guys leave these awesome comments.
1. The character that gave me the hardest time was Alex. For the longest time I thought about who Alexander Mason was. He was dangerous close to have Danny's personality so I left him alone. And that's why you don't see much for him in the first half of the story. Now that I've got his character sorted, I regret not having more of him. To those people who pointed out his absence in the earlier chapters, I promise he's going to play a way bigger role in the coming chapters.
2. The earliest idea for this story was very different from the current one. I was about 12 when I thought of three orphan sisters. They weren't triplets, had different looks that reflected their personalities and lived with their horrible uncle and aunt. The idea was to have their guardians get rid of them by sending them to boarding school because I'm a sucker for boarding school stories.
I dropped the idea because it was too generic and, I don't know, too Harry Potter-y except without the cool stuff. Two years after that, I was obsessed with identical twins when a pair of them became my classmates. They were almost impossible to differentiate and eventually, later that year I changed the original plot into what it is now, deciding on identical triplets.
The funny thing is that the following year, I ended up being close friends with one of the twins and gradually, the other one, became my friend too. Then in our last year together in school, I discovered that they were in fact FRATERNAL twins, not identical. Thanks a lot for that guys; everything I knew is a lie.
If I ever end up publishing this novel (editing those horrendous first couple of chapters that still give me nightmares), those two will definitely be getting a lot of credit for it since they already made me promise that anyway xp.