Chapter 14 - Her Death Anniversary
Taylor rubbed her swollen eyes trying to rub off the weariness away from her face. She had cried the whole way back to her home. She dreaded this day more than anything she could think of. July 15th - the dreaded day when her beloved sister had breathed her last breath in and had left her forever wounded. Joanna, her mother was softly stroking at her long blonde hair, Taylor was sure she was silently weeping as well.
Jasmine was what one could call the light of their family. She always found a way to bring smiles to everyone's face without even trying even though trying was what she did the best. And exactly after three years the smile that Jasmine's presence always brought to their faces was still missing. Joanna couldn't remember the last time she had smiled and felt it. It had been three years today that she had been smiling just for the sake of it, so that the people she loved wouldn't worry about her because it was her job to worry about them not the other way round. Taylor, on the other hand didn't find any need to comfort the people around her, when all they did was remind her that without her sister by her side the society she lived in was just plain awkward.
"So tell me honey... how's college? It feels like it has been ages since we last talked. Have you made any new friends?" Joanna asked with her voice trembling.
Taylor cringed as she once again felt the flood of wail taking over her. She hated hearing her mother cry and she hated more the fact that she wasn't the one who had inherited the comforting skills from her father, Adam. In fact she was the only one who hadn't inherited the gift; even her younger brother Noah had the gift. He was a real charmer, gifted with words like Adam was, thus he was like their sister Jasmine a popular kid in high school. Girls blushed at the way he smiled and revealed his inch deep dimple. Noah's eyes had the notorious shine in them even when he was sad, making Taylor want to nudge his bronze hair every time he was around. So when Noah entered her room, Taylor pulled him to her side and distracted her mother before she could cry her heart out.
"Yeah and that's because you've been too busy with dad, mom. I've been talking to this little man ever since I left. He's turned into a real ladies man huh?" Taylor laughed trying to convince her family even though she couldn't convince herself. They laughed in return lifting the heaviness of the environment a little.
"He is his sister's brother after all." Joanna said and the curtain of sadness fell back into their lives because they knew Taylor wasn't the sister she was talking about.
"Every time we go out, it feels like we're walking out with a celebrity Tails. I'm not lying, kid, girls follow him everywhere. It's a complete catastrophe out there." Adam's voice broke what would've been a long silence.
Noah grunted and shifted in Taylor's lap as the light of the dawn finally found its way to her old room. Taylor had driven for hours even though the Carodian College was only an hour away from her parents' house, taking the longest ways possible. And in the silence of the night she had decided to stop, finally giving in to the weariness slowly creeping up to her body. She had entered the house she had grown up at 3 am in the morning, waking everyone but she wasn't worried about it, she knew the disturbance was welcome in her family because no one could get peaceful sleep, not on the night of July 14th or the morning of July 15th.
Adam had opened the door for Taylor even before she had pulled her fingers away from the bell with a sad smile. Adam's eyes mirrored hers. He had been crying as well. Joanna and Noah had slowly descended from the stairs; there was no sleep in their eyes. No one offered Taylor the opportunity to rest, they had simply followed her as she made her way into her room which was still the same way she had left it, two beds, one lamp, one closet and pictures of their once complete family everywhere.
"I don't doubt it for a second. My kid brother deserves every single drop of attention from those girls unlike that Ian during my high school days!" Taylor said with a proud sister tone that made Noah smile and he pulled his head out from her lap, so that his beautiful brown eyes were staring at her in that adorable way that only her brother's could.
"Oh c'mon Ian isn't that bad." He said with such admirable change about him that Taylor's face showed suspicion.
"And how would you know? As if you've ever met the guy..."
"Oh honey... we all know Ian." Adam said with the same tone that Noah had just used.
"Yeah of course you guys know him, we used to carpool in elementary school, but there's no way Noah remembers him." Taylor said not noticing the epiphany running across her parents face.
"The little Ian! He was the one who pushed you when you said you loved him! Oh that little soccer star!"
"It's football mom and if you didn't remember him from then..."
"Tails, he and his friend Sam visits us every time they're in the town. I don't doubt it they'll be there in the church today as well."
Taylor's jaw dropped as her family started talking about the two guys as if they were family too. Taylor wasn't sure if they knew about the kiss thing and were avoiding the topic or they genuinely liked the douche bags. Taylor found no words good enough to make them stop. Noah listened as their parents went into their world-famous conversations. The way his ears stood out as if they belonged to a cat startled to be hearing a sudden noise, Taylor was sure this hadn't happened in a long time. Taylor missed the day when her morning started with their loud voices trying to make their point and nights ended with her, trying to decide who was more correct since there was no way in hell one of her parents could be wrong. Taylor apparently dozed off smiling and listening to her parents ramble about some football event that Taylor and Ian were part of. She woke up to the buzzing sound of engine at the driveway.
The light of the day was slowly making its way to Noah who also had fallen asleep on her lap. Pulling out a pillow to rest his head on, Taylor noiselessly made her way out, not wanting to disturb her parents who had decided to sleep on Jasmine's bed. Even before the unwelcome guest got a chance to push the bell, Taylor opened the door on a very tired yet startled Ian's and Sameer's face.
"Taylor? What are you..." Both the guys asked with their jaws about to sweep the ground below.
"Doing here? What am I doing here? This is my home. It is my sister's death anniversary. What are you guys doing here?" Taylor asked with her tone denoting anything but welcome.
Ian was about to explain, about to answer but Sameer's finger beat him to it. Sameer pushed at the doorbell before Taylor could throw them out though they were never in. Taylor's eyes narrowed into a tiny line as she heard the effect of the loud bell. There were footstep above, people stirred from their sleep and Noah was the first one to reach the stairs. He exclaimed, excited at the guests standing at the door. Noah hopped down the stairs, ignoring the death glares that Taylor had thrown at him, pulled them inside toward the living room. Taylor hated it. It couldn't have been happening. Ian was welcome in her home. Ian was the one who brought the smiles to her family with just his presence while Taylor stood there doing nothing. Their presence was like a slap at her face and she couldn't take it.
Taylor walked out without a word and found herself walking towards the church that was about to hold a ceremony in Jasmine's honor. The ceremony would begin in half an hour or so and few people were already present there. Jasmine wasn't a local hero, but somehow she was special. Her life wouldn't be mentioned in history books, but during the short life that she lived, she had touched hearts of many people. She wasn't popular in high school because of her obvious beauty and charm, but because she was a pure soul that loved everyone despite their flaws. She helped everyone. She would befriend anyone. She would share her dreams to her fellow mate and make them feel a part of it. She would always wear her smile even on a tough day and on those rare days when she was sad. There was always someone who couldn't help but find her lost smile. Taylor sat on the stairs of the church and recited the words she had uttered on the same day three years ago, barely audible between her sobs and barely heard among her crying audience.
"Taylor?" A small soft hand held her shoulder and forced her to turn despite her desire to hide her face because she was crying.
"I'm Garcia," a small old woman with a kind face, sad eyes and sad smile said.
"I'm sorry. I don't..."
"Oh I am a nurse at the Grace hospital. I was your sister's nurse. We've met a few times almost three years ago but obviously you don't remember. It was so long ago, but it seems like yesterday."
Taylor wiped her tears, but couldn't reply.
"I was the one who saw her last. I declared her... you know."
Taylor smiled at that for she was glad that the kind face she was looking at then was the last face Jasmine saw. She deserved the kindness and the humbleness that the lady's face oozed just at a glance. Sister Garcia stayed with Taylor a while. They slowly started talking and stories about Jasmine started flowing. As the ceremony was about to start Taylor was laughing and crying at the same time.
"You know I have seen a hundred or more patients in my life, but Jasmine was the one who touched me the most. Jasmine was the one who lived the most. She was so young, but still she had that wisdom about her. I come here every year to thank the Lord that she died with her life-like smile on her face."
"What? That... I mean she was worried. I..." Taylor couldn't reply properly.
"Worried? Not at all... I remember that day as clear as the day. When I entered her room to give her medications, she was laughing like a little girl. That sight of a cancer patient who had just undergone chemo laughing was so unlikely, so weird, yet so blissful. It was obvious that it was painful, but it was also obvious that she couldn't control it for she was that happy. As soon as I enter the room and she yelled, "Garcia! Now there is nothing I have to worry about. My angry sister finally got her first kiss. She has an admirer! Someone has finally seen through her thick hostile mask." Every day after you left, she would talk about how her cancer was taking a toll on her little sister. How it wasn't fair that you had to go through her ugly cancer while you were so young."
"Taylor!" Her mother's voice pulled her eyelids to a close.
Twice... thrice she blinked, but she couldn't believe that it was actually happening. The scene in front of her eyes remained the same and it took more than an hour of the ceremony, for Taylor to believe the words that were uttered from the nurse's mouth were true. Was she telling the truth? Why would she lie? Did Ian bribe her? But she didn't mention him. Taylor was so busy with her thoughts that her memory of the service going on was a haze. She remembered her mother crying and her father walking away to a corner, but other than that she was lost in her own debate. Her eyes seemed to have only two destinations: Garcia and Ian. She kept on looking, kept on staring trying to decipher the cryptic bomb she had stumbled upon. But when the service ended and people started moving out, her eyes seemed glued to Ian who held Joanna's hand and talked to her, made her smile and slowly without a glance thrown at her walked away with the crowd.
Taylor's head stretched until she could no longer see her family's silhouette. She felt like an outcast. Ian was more helpful, more understanding and it seemed more welcome in her family than she was. It was cruel the way she felt. She wanted to thrash him, kill him somehow hurt him but as she walked into the sunny day, she saw that Joanna was hugging both the guys with a pretty smile as Noah and Adam stared on. What was going on? How long had this been going on? She questioned as she stood there watching the scene unfold. Do they even remember me?
Taylor walked up to them and stood there as her family discussed the beautiful service she had missed. Taylor faked smile and as all of them was walking to go home, she pulled Ian to a silent corner and stared at him until she was sure no one was around.
"What are you doing?" Both of them asked.
"Exactly what are you doing Ian? Are you stalking me? Why are you here?"
"I..." Ian was about to give a long whining explanation and it was clear in his expression but he stopped. His lips lingered on his unuttered words as his expression changed from desperateness to oozing strength.
"I am here Taylor because you aren't. I am not stalking you, though me being everywhere you may seem like that. I am here to look after Joanna and Adam. They've gone through a lot."
"And you think I don't know that? You think I wasn't there when they lost their favorite daughter? You think I wasn't there when they buried her. You think they've gone through a lot but I haven't. Which point are you trying to prove? That I am not a good daughter, that you do a better job as a family than I do. What is it?"
"I'm here Taylor because you've been lost for three years. On July 15th they lost both their daughters. I came to that house three years ago to pay my respects, but I ended up finding a family that invited me in, that needed me as much as I needed them while you locked yourself up in a room. Don't get me wrong, I know how close you were with your sister, but she wasn't the only one in your family. Do you even know Joanna waited the whole night that night for you to open up that door? She wanted to cry with you but you never opened up. Yeah, she told me that. Can you believe that? She told me, a stranger, her misery even though her other daughter is still alive. Wake up Taylor, let go of that angst before you lose everything you have." Ian had walked up on her, held her by her arms and was literally shaking her. Every word felt like a knife through her frail body. She stood there depending on his arms not to let her go. Ian waited a few minutes, making sure that she could breathe; she could stand up and then walked away slowly uttering a small apology.
How Taylor managed to reach home was beyond her. After Ian's lecture Taylor had the memory of standing in front of her home. She slowly made her way inside with guilt dripping on her every move because she knew what Ian had said was nothing but the truth. Was that possible? Was Ian really the good guy? Did I really spend all my high school life having the wrong idea about the guy? Asked Taylor herself as lunch was being prepared.
"Oh honey, you made it just in time. I prepared a lunch for us all. Come sit..."
Taylor sat at her usual spot and silently watched her family, sadness so evident in their eyes and yet they were smiling, trying to move on. It was evident that Ian and Sam had been in the same situation before. They were at home while she felt like an outsider. It was ironic the way Ian and Sam joked with her little brother while Taylor couldn't even relate to the joke. So when the time of departure finally arrived, Taylor felt a rush of relief. Finally an end to the weirdest setting she had to live through. It was surreal enough that Ian and Sam, the most popular guys in her high school befriended her family while they didn't even know Taylor, it would just be insane if they had decided to stay the night as Adam and Noah were suggesting.
"So, Taylor I guess you'll be going to Carodian... it's on our way if you want company." Sam said with his knowing black eyes shining with humor. Could Ian had possibly told him about their previous interactions?
"That is very generous of you Kher. But I'll be staying for a few days."
"Really? What about your classes?" Noah asked delighted and almost jumping.
"Nothing important this week." Taylor lied.
"Oh, that's great. I'll be going then."
"Wait, what about him?" Taylor asked almost pushing Ian to him.
"He'll be staying here for a few days as well. Joanna if you need anything, he'll be at the hotel across the church." Sameer with his lips curling to a notorious smile didn't move his gaze from Taylor's eyes. He was mocking her. Taylor was sure if there weren't any spectator, his tongue would be hanging loose from his mouth in a teasing charade as a five-year old. And just like that Taylor was sure Ian had already explicated every detail of their encounter to that guy.
"Oh that's just nonsense. There's an empty guest room perfect for Ian right in this house. Why in the world would he stay in that non-hospitable hotel? You're staying right here Ian. Bring your luggage in!" Joanna commanded.
Ian watched and heard Sameer's words effect unfold with a gaping jaw. Taylor could read it in his shocked expressions that it was all his best friend's infamous interfering plans. But somewhere along the way Ian had already decided to go along with it because he smiled and went out to Sameer's car to grab his luggage. As Ian was made comfortable in the guest room of her house, Taylor regretted lying about her unimportant class right then.
I know this took a long time to post, but to compensate for the delay this is twice the length of the chapter I usually post! So hope you guys think it was worth your wait!
John Farson: I know I'm so sorry about that! But hope you like this one! This one's the longest chapter I've ever written! And I swear I won't take as long next time! Hope you think this one's great as well! Do keep reading!
Gloria: Well, I'm working on that scene. But before that I need a budding romance, don't you think so? Hope you like this one as well!
FJ: I feel the same when I get lovely comments on those chapters, like the ones you gave! I'm so glad you love the story! Hope you like this one!