That morning I woke to Chester lapping mercilessly at me face. I couldn't stop my smile, even though that was my no-go zone. He missed me, must've been worried. I knew he sensed these sorts of things, it was extraordinary.
"Hi buddy," I sing softly, reaching forward to pet at his head. He was on his hind legs, leaning over the side of the bed to get a glimpse of me. His big brown eyes shimmer when they land on my smile, then they rush down my face and my neck to ribs past my stomach and settling on my hips. That's where I hurt most, and now he knew.
He sighs and lowers his head to the sheets, sprinkles of white fur shimmer in the air when he huffs. I couldn't help but laugh leaning back into the feather pillows and recalling my night. The terror and confusion melted into a symphony of butterflies that erupted in my gut. I was staying, here with Emerson. I looked around the room and evidently I was alone with Chester, I sighed and started to sit up careful of injuries that never seemed to end.
I sniffled and rubbed my nose, signs that despite what I thought, my shirt sleeved pajama shirt, pants and socks were no match for the dead of winter cold. Another thing for Chance to treat me for. I must be his most demanding patient in years. I smiled at my own joke just as I kicked my legs from under the sheets, signaling Chester to wait by the night stand for support.
I smiled down at him and he rubs against my legs, lovingly. I stand up carefully, walking over to the neatly folded clothes on his carbiole. Atop the variety of clothes is a new cell phone with a post it note that reads "Happy VERY Belated Birthday! (Please don't fight me on this one)" I can't stop the excitement that rushes through me as I turn it on.
There's no pin code so I set one up and was thrilled to see that everyone's contact information was inside. Without thinking more about it I open a message with Emerson and typed a "I love it! Thank you :)"
A second doesn't pass before he responds, "I'm glad. How are you feeling?"
I told him about my restful sleep and he mentioned the news of me staying to his family. They were happy, excited by it all. Smiling I placed the phone to the side and headed straight for the bathroom. My shower was painful, a sense of hypersensitivity awakened with my now blue-black bruises. They orbit by waist as a reminder of what hell looked like, what it felt like, who he sounded like.
My heart aches at the words that have plagued my self image.
They all scream as a tornado of hate rummages in my mind. I looked up at my reflection, now breathing heavily as I try to still the image before me. My afrocentric features scream to life reminding me of a love I knew nothing about. The other- better, half to my father's chaos. I imagine that these broad hips and thick lips were hers. That may be the dips and curves of my body belonged to her as well.
I knew my curls were a representation of mixture, of how beauty could exist amidst chaos. Taking care of my hair was the closest thing to self-care that I've come to in 21 years of life. The smell of blended aloe vera and mango masks under a plastic bag on an early Saturday morning, cozy with a book. It was heaven. Yet I've abandoned it. Not anymore.
I took a deep breath and ran my fingers through the messy twists. I take the last scoop of product I had, and decided to let my hair out today, let her breath. I moisturize and soon slipped into the comfiest set of clothes from the 3 options. It was a pair of caramel sweatpants and a cream sweater. The difference in Charice's body and my own seemed to even out in the pants but tops grew in provocativity when her short torso met my unusually long one, revealing a slither of skin. It wasn't enough to cause discomfort, bruises safely hid, and the sweater was soft and comfortable. All great markers for a cute combination.
I stepped out of the bathroom to be greeted by Chester. Now the light from the sun illuminates the entire room. The depth of the silver walls seemed to come to life somehow. I see him waking here every day for however long they lived in this particular mansion-I would imagine they have more than one. Shuffling around a bit before taking a deep breath and walking over to the bathroom. My cheeks pinked at the thought of a shirtless Emerson with a jaw filled with shaving cream, music playing in the background as he hums to lyrics he never knew.
I smiled and limped over to start fixing the bed when my joints reminded me of their pain. Plus Emerson would probably get irritated. I smiled and slid into the fuzzy pink socks from last night, grabbing my phone as I headed down the stairs. Chester was close behind me supporting my left side as I held the railing. When I reached the base my legs were thumping in pain, bones and muscles singing a symphony of ache. Alright, maybe I should sit.
My stomach growled reminding me of how much I've neglected her. Food, right. I continue walking, past the soft couches and towards the gentle mumbles I heard in the kitchen.
"Hello sweetheart," Chelsea rushes over to me, placing her coffee mug on the table as I'm pushed in her embrace. I couldn't stop my smile.
"Mom, careful, she's still hurt remember," Charice scolds a bit behind.
"Oh dammit," Chelsea pulls away but I tell her I'm fine. She nods and guides me to sit by the island in the middle of the huge kitchen, "Pancakes?"
My stomach growled, "Yes please," She hums her way over to the stove and grabs me a plate. Three pancakes are stacked next to a pile of scrambled eggs and 4 sausage links. I can't stop the smile as I expressed my gratitude.
"How are you feeling girlie?" Charice runs over and settles to my right.
I swallow the mouthful of food before saying, "I'm better," I imagine myself completely distraught and clinging to Emerson like I was last night and my cheeks burn, "I know last night I was um...kind of...hyst...hysterical-"
"Oh no you don't," Chelsea's scold is quick anger radiates, "You must have been terrified out there all by yourself."
I smiled and took a deep breath deciding to change the topic of conversation, but not knowing where.
"Oh I can't hold it in anymore!" Charice explodes to my left, "Emerson told us you're staying and we're so so so excited!"
Chelsea laughs at her daughter's theatrics but nods in agreement, "It's a pleasure that you're staying with us darling."
"Thanks so much for being accommodating," I heard the front door open but felt the need to explain something to them, to Chelsea, "I can't imagine how worried you must've been," suddenly I remember how long Emerson endured being labeled as crazy because of my presence, "I kind of came out of nowhere and I haven't given you much of an explanation about...anything, yet you've been so kind. So, I want to thank you."
They're both stunned, the air seems to still and all I can hear is the ticking of the clock. Chelsea snaps out of it first, "Thank you for being so...generous."
My head tilts slightly right, "For not thinking we're some creepy family who trapped you in their house in the middle of the woods," Charice explains quickly.
I laughed as the glass of freshly squeezed orange juice stings my taste buds.
"And for giving us a reason to go shoopppping," Chelsea sings standing to refill her mug with coffee.
"Shopping?" I ask confused.
"Yeah, Em said you needed some more clothes and other stuff since you'll be staying here?"
"Oh, and you both want to come with me?"
"Are you kidding?! I haven't been shopping in ages!" Chelsea all but screams.
"Oh, oh," Victor walks in the room and a sense of celestiality wafts in the air. Behind him Chance and Anthony beeline tirelessly to the stove, "I'm starting to think that giving you my credit card was a mistake."
Chelsea hums shaking her head, "Oh but my darling husband, you never make mistakes."
Their banter made me smile, "You're laying it on a little thick there ma," Charice taunts with a grin on her perfect face.
"Laying what on?" Victor asks seriously, chest puffed out and chin high in the air, "I think she was merely making an observation."
Chelsea smiles up at her husband and pats his cheeks twice, "That's right honey," she raises herself to the points of her feet and plants a kiss to his lips.
"Ew," Charice complains making a barfing sound as she returns her attention to me, "So what kind of clothes are you looking for?"
"I guess," I knew nothing about fashion, "The...warm kind?"
"Sounds about right," Anthony teases settling next to Charice with a huge plate.
"Hm, maybe we should make a list?" The idea calmed my growing anxiety.
"I think that's a good idea," She pulls out her phone, which was identical to mine minus the bright pink rubber case that hugged hers.
"Alright, so definitely a couple of coats," She starts off by saying.
"A couple?" The thought of wasting Emerson's money was driving me nuts, "Maybe just one will d-"
"Nope, you need at least 4. One for blizzard weather, regular cold, spring, and fall," I had lots to learn apparently.
"How about 2?" I try to bargain, for my sanity.
Her eyes narrowed "Three," I sigh with a nod, knowing that's the best I'll get out of her, "Good. So, then we'll need about 4 boots, all for varying occasions of course. Some sneakers, flats, booties, and flip flops. Sound about right, Adria?"
My heart was pounding in my ears, but I nodded nonetheless, "I guess-"
"Okay great. Now to tops," Her list seemed never-ending and truth be told, I barely knew half the styles she was talking about. I trusted her intuition but worried about just how much we were going to get. A cold feeling from the depths of my mind awakens and a feeling of peace washed over me.
She's been gone for a while, but now she was back.
"Sorry for my absence, I was resting up." Her voice made me feel at ease, suddenly relaxed and aware that she had been gone for the better part of 24 hours.
My reliance on her brought so many questions to mind, but I chose not to ask right now. Instead, I explain- to this voice in my head that has to be more than 'just a voice' considering the coma she plunged me into yesterday-my worries of spending Emerson's money on clothes.
"Well for one, he's a millionaire, I'm sure a few thousand dollars won't put him and his thriving international family business in jeopardy."
'You don't have to be THAT sarcastic' I remind her taking the last bite of my fluffy pancake and refocusing on the tiny hill of eggs.
Her laugh echoes in my mind, sending shivers down my spinal cord all the way to my fingertips, "Alright, but seriously if you really think about it, we're basically starting from scratch here, so all these things are needed."
That's true. I step out of our conversation to refocus on Charice, checking to see how in-depth the list had gotten after my 30 seconds of neglect. Heavens, it was pages long.
"Wait I missed it, what's the last thing you wrote?"
She laughs to herself, before leaning closer to me and showing the screen: Lingerie.
My jaw slackens a bit as I turn to face her, our eyes meet and before you know it we've both burst out laughing. The sound excites the room, intrigues them even.
"Take that off the list," I beg her with red cheeks and a burning smile.
"Why? You not gonna need it?" She asks laughing under her breath, "I'm sure Emerson wouldn't mind it at all."
My entire face was red now, it had to be but as though fate saw an opportunity for more humiliation, Emerson walks in at that moment, "Wouldn't mind what?"
My eyes widen then fall to a glare targeted at Charice. The wench laughs hysterically, clutching her stomach as I hide my face behind my hands, admittedly holding back a laugh of my own.
"Oh relax Adira," She says with residual chuckles in her tone, "Like I said, we have to stick together, I'd never let him know that you put that on your list."
"I didn't you di-"
"The details aren't important," She teases with a wink looking back at the screen with intention to pick up where she left off.
"She says that now, but when I bought her a shirt in lavender instead of periwinkle I got yelled at," Anthony mentions loudly to Chance who smirks in our direction, an audience member of the potential argument at hand.
To both of our joy Charice tosses him a growl of irritation and opens her mouth to say something snarky when Emerson settles directly next to me, "Good morning."
I look over at him, smile ready and beaming, when images of last night flash to the forefront of my mind. The feeling of his hand against my thigh and explosion in my gut when his grip tightened all become too real. My throat goes dry at the memory of his lips melting mercilessly between my own. My palms were sweaty, itching to run through his hair again. I craved that upward fall of euphoria that cleansed my body of anything that wasn't...him.
"Um, excuse me?! What the hell did I miss?!"
I force myself to swallow the sausage I started chewing and look away from his- PERFECT- lips up to his eyes before whispering a pathetic, "Good morning."
"How do you feel?" He smiles reaching on my plate for the other sausage link.
"Fine," I shake the delirious thoughts to the corner of my mind, "How about you? Did you sleep okay?" Heavens above, I hope I didn't snore or anything.
He licked his lips before nodding happily, "You started talking in your sleep."
I almost spit out my orange juice, "I did what?" This was my personal hell.
He grins before passing me one of his irresistible smiles, "You didn't say anything too bad."
Panic floods me and I turn to face him completely, "Emerson please tell me you're joking."
He shakes his head and mine falls to his shoulder, shamefully hiding my face in horror of the self-sabotage I'd caused. EVEN IN MY SLEEP!
"What did I say?" I asked softly, embarrassment forcing me to bite on my bottom lip as though to stop any other unintentional words from slipping out.
"Nothing coherent," He shrugs and smiles down at me, taking my chin in his hold before using his thumb to tug on the skin just above it. My lip comes loose and he stares at the action for a moment, memorializing it. Soon his focus shifts back to my eyes, a rekindled flame behind his stare, "Don't worry about it."
"Okay," I try not to focus on any one feature of his face for too long, but it was growing extremely hard to do that. My gaze falls to his shirt, collared button-down, "Did you go to work?"
"No, Gavin and Cody went with me to speak to one of the officials about the incident last night," My heart pounded at the thought of it all.
"And you needed to dress up for it?" I ask to deter the focus of the conversation.
"Yup," Gavin walks in similarly dressed, as dashing as the day we met, "The guy is a real stickler for image and tradition."
"Nice way of saying the old quack has a huge stick up his ass," Cody grumbles upset.
"Hey," Victor scolds behind us, "If you must know Walter and I are the same age. And we are not old."
I smiled over at him to see the glare he tossed at Cody and Gavin. It made them smile, spirits suddenly lifted.
"We have to meet with him again later on, which is why I won't be able to join you," Emerson explains to me looking over my hair with pleasure, "I like it."
My face grows red, "Thank you."
"Ou we need to add hair products to the list!" Charice suddenly remembers.
"I'm surprised she's allowing you to make a list," Emerson snatches the phone from Charice's death grip and starts scrolling through, "Only 3 coats?" His brows furrow in disapproval.
"Coats are expensive," I mumble finishing half of the sausage left on my plate.
His eyes darken in distaste, "Can you please, just for today, not worry about that?"
"But what about-"
He shakes his head, "None of that."
"I'm just saying-"
My irritation grows alongside stubbornness, "Can you listen for a-"
Instantly the world stops as he grabs the sides of my face and pulls me closer. My lips pucker in his direction and it makes him smile when paired with the anger in my gaze. His eyes though swam over my lips and a cold feeling washes over me, down my throat and settling at the pit of my gut.
"Babe, Nothing you say is going to change my mind," his voice was baritone honey, "Just take the shopping spree and we'll fight about it later huh?"
I narrow my eyes, wishing at that moment I had lasers I could shoot his way, "I'll fight about it when I want to."
A beautiful smile. "Now then?"
I mocked him and it makes him laugh, releasing my jaw just enough to plant a kiss on my cheek. I smiled against the pressure of his lips and I was about to comment on the pickle he got himself into with this relationship when his phone rang.
Duty calls. He kisses my knuckles before standing to leave the kitchen.
"How's your leg doing?" Chance asks from across the table.
"The swelling in my ankle went down but my hips are bruised pretty badly," I push out my seat to place my plate in the sink, "My ribs still hurt when I breathe in too hard."
I stand carefully and only go a step further when Victor takes my dishes. I thanked him and headed for some more orange juice.
"I can give you some crutches to bring on your trip today," he thinks softly.
I nodded not seeing the harm in it, "How rude of us," Chelsea suddenly exclaims, "Would any of you dashing young men like to join us for some shopping?"
There are huffs of neglect, expected ones, but amidst them, an "I'll go," sounds. It was from Gavin.
"Really?!" Charice was thrilled.
He shrugs, "Why not? I could spend the day carrying around bags," we all laughed and Chelsea began thinking about traveling accommodations.
"I can bring my van," Gavin says politely, "Just in case you'll need more trunk space."
"Good idea," Chelsea smiles and walks over to hug him close, "I knew you weren't just a pretty face."
I laughed and started heading back to my seat when Emerson walked in. He smiles and runs his eyes over my outfit, eyes hardening at the slither of skin revealed.
I feel him getting ready to comment and it made me smile. He thinks better of it and instead throws a gut-wrenching wink my way before focusing on his mother, "What time are you guys leaving?"
"A couple of minutes," Chelsea speaks with assurance, "As soon as your father's done cleaning out the van."
I head over to the fireplace dragging my sneakers near the sofa. Charice was close behind me already excited to finally have some free time.
"Did you and your group get through all the details?"
She sighs and reaches forward to help me with my shoes, "Yeah but then stupid-"
"Hello Mr. H."
"Hi Justine, how are you doing?"
This other conversation sparked a sense of territorialism in me, one I was unfamiliar with. Justine. Ever since our initial encounter over a week ago our interactions have been intentionally minimal. She wasn't a fan of my being here, not that I blamed her, but I knew nothing about why she was so upset. Something tells me she has a thing for Emerson, another says I interrupted the tranquility of a space she grew up around. Whatever the reason, I was not well liked. Even now she hurries past the living room muttering a bitter greeting before heading straight for the kitchen.
Charice rolls her eyes but stays quiet, tying my laces before smiling up at me with delight, "Let's go shopping."
We yell a farewell to those in the kitchen, pleased to see that Gavin and Chelsea had already loaded up in Gavin's van. Charice guides me to her car opening the back seat to rest the pair of crutches Chance had been so gracious to offer. I buckled in, already reaching for the radio dial when Emerson's voice sounds by the door.
"So you were just going to leave?" He pretends to be upset, hurt even, and though my gullible heart reached out to him, my brain called his bluff.
"I said goodbye," I smile after rolling down the window.
"That's it?" My grin made it hard for him to keep up his act, "Can you do me a favor and try to relax and enjoy this please? For me?"
I sighed, genuinely conflicted between the burden of financial responsibility and letting him down. The latter weighed more heavily on my chest. That's terrifying.
"Okay," My voice was soft, "I'll do my best, but I'm just not used to-"
Gavin's horn goes off three times and I turn to see Chelsea leaning over and gesturing for Emerson to leave me be. I laughed and looked up to catch him laughing in their direction. I wished I could take a snapshot at that moment. The way his body leaned forward in relaxation, shoulders no longer pulled back and tight and a genuine smile on his face. It was beautiful.
"Alright, we'll talk more about it when you get back."
"Or you can just text her," Charice reminds him quickly.
"Very true," He smiles and leans through the window to kiss me. It was quick. Regular and beautifully normal. Intimacy was becoming normal. The butterflies in my gut hummed in delight, "Have fun Dee."
Charice pulls out of the garage and down their long driveway. She started giving me the play by play on which stores we would visit and what I was expected to pick out in each one. Her excitement was not merely entertaining, it was freeing. She took all the blurriness out of shopping and I got an opportunity to relax- for the first time in a while.
My phone dings in the middle of Charice's ground rules and I look at a message from Emerson.
Emerson: I know it's hard but PLEASE buy things you want.
Me: But I'll feel obligated to pay you back.
Emerson: Oh I definitely expect repayment for every dime you spend...just not in the way you think ;)
Me: :O I'M NOT A PROSTITUTE!
Emerson: No, but your head is in the gutter -.- I was implying those brownies you're always bragging about :P
Me: No you weren't.
Emerson: How dare you?! I'd never say such things about my girlfriend.
The title sends me soaring.
Me: Yeah, yeah. I'll text you later :D
"Was that Emerson?" Charice asks knowingly as she switches lanes.
I nodded, "Was I that obvious?"
She laughs, "Don't be embarrassed you're in the beginning phases, where everything is sort of new but also kind of...perfect."
I sighed, "How long before it goes away?"
"I don't think it ever really does, not when it's right at least," I took in her words, hungry for more, "I mean look at mom and dad, even on their worst days they make each other blush."
I think back to all the silent communication they always seem to share. Their own language and it came as easily as breathing. A particular glance at a specific angle meant that Chelsea wanted a foot rub. Then a deeper, quicker inhalation signified Victor's need for something sweet. It was innate and poetic. Like a dance.
"I think you and Emerson will last a very long time," her words terrified me.
"How can you say that? We just met a little over a week ago."
"Well you might have just met him, but as someone who's grown up with him I can say with assurance, that this is the happiest I've ever seen my dumb brother, and considering he's such a grouch, that's truly saying a lot."
"What was your relationship like growing up?" I asked curiously.
"Well, we went through a phase where we were inseparable. I looked up to him and he looked out for me. Then we became teenagers and things just sort of drifted off for a while," There's a sadness that looms in the air when she remembers this, "After he came back from college and started working with dad things sort of got back on track and it's been pretty normal since then. Better since you came in the picture."
"You've noticed a difference in a week?"
"I mean before," her words still me, "From 7 months ago when he first communicated with you in a...dream? Right?"
Heavens we sounded crazy, "Uh...yeah."
"Oh! Don't think I'm judging, I totally believe in that sort of thing," She takes an exit and starts toward a fancy mall I knew nothing about, "I knew he was telling the truth from the get go."
"What did everyone else think?"
"Mom and dad took some convincing, the guys were all skeptical, pretty sure Chance did like 10 psychotherapuetic sessions over the span of a month to see if the poor chap was hallucinating," My heart yearns for the shame and frustration he must have been enduring, "But I didn't need convincing. Emerson doesn't have enough creative brain cells to tell a tale that tall."
I laughed at this, "It's sweet that you believed. I know it meant more to him than you realize."
She pulls into the parking lot and turns off her car before looking me dead in the eyes, "And thank you for staying. It means more to this family than you'll ever know." One squeeze to the shoulder and she and her beautiful soft blue-hazel eyes jump out of the car.
It's been two hours and we were almost halfway done. My body was spent, even with the support of Gavin and these crutches. My mistrust of sizes and fitting compelled me to try on each pair of pants we picked, no matter how much my hips whined. But now that we have finished the clothing portion I would be able to relax a bit more.
"I just think she was being rude," Charice asserts as we wait for our food to arrive.
"She just looked at you," Gavin laughs, sipping his drink.
"She looked at me wrong," Her assertion makes Chelsea and I giggle, "As though I didn't belong here."
I was able to feel Gavin's smile before I saw it, he leans forward and takes hold of both her hands, stroking the knuckles with a platonic admiration- they've been friends since childhood. "Want me to go teach her a lesson?"
Chelsea raises a brow, "And how would you plan on doing that?"
He passes a mischievous smirk, "I was going to give her Cody's number and let him put his natural talent of ruining women's lives to use."
This makes me almost choke on my water, laughter ripping through me at the suddenness and truth in his tone. Everyone smiles at me and just then our food arrives.
After eating we shop for miscellaneous items, and Chelsea takes the opportunity to get herself 'something shiny' from a well-known jewelry store.
"Alright I'll bring these back to the cars," Gavin's hands were filled, "Where will you guys be?"
"The spa," Charice says before I can think about it, "A mani-pedi is the perfect way to get you to take some pressure off those crutches."
I nodded and we walked into the store. We are placed in side-by-side massage chairs and allowed to pick out our colors. I went with a brown-nude and Charice picked purple. Very telling of our personalities and the splits that exist in both- also of the sameness.
"So how are you feeling?" She faced me and the immediacy dancing on her irises made me aware of how much she actually cares for my answer, "With the move and new relationship and overbearing family I mean."
I laughed, "It's...a lot," I expect her to be offended but she nodded, begging me to say more, "I mean don't get me wrong, I'm so grateful for everything that's happened so far, but I'm just not used to all this."
I look up at the crystal chandelier and the light seems to mock me, laughing.
"In what sense?"
"Everything," I sigh as my feet are lifted from the warm water, suddenly the weight of it all settles more comfortably on my shoulders, "I've worked almost every day of my life since I turned 12, I've been my own security. I got my first period when I was a cashier at a supermarket and one of my coworkers had to show me how to use a pad, then sent me back to work. I haven't had the chance to think about doing things that...aren't a necessity."
"And now that's all you're doing," She nods as a different woman takes her hand, cleaning the barely chipped pink polish, "And if anyone knows Emerson, with his stupid big heart, he's probably pushing for you to relax."
I smile thinking about all his efforts, "He's excited. I am too, I just need to get used to it."
"Maybe you can try doing something you did all the time before, something peaceful."
I suddenly remember Chelsea's question on the first night we met, 'So let's hear those hobbies, think about things that bring you peace'
"I used to journal," I feel the need to admit, "Whenever I had the time to."
"That's a great start, there's a store near here where we can get you some supplies." She thinks to herself, "What else? Remember dad's music room is available."
"Do you know of any places that would sell music books?"
"As a matter of fact I do," She reaches forward with her free hand and takes mine, "I know all this is crazy right now, but it means a lot that you're here."
"Why?" I push for more details, remembering the cloud of mystery that surrounded her statement in the car, "I mean, if I left, Emerson would probably just find another girlfriend. Wouldn't be that hard considering his...face."
She scoffs and shakes her head, "Oh my dear Adira, you have so much to learn. Emerson is what we call a work-aholic. Meaning he puts relationships second to everything in his life. You're a blessing from the heavens above. Saving him from a life of misery."
I laughed and refocused on the gentle hum of the massage chair behind me, "He's saving me too."
I nodded thinking back to the closet-space of a bedroom I grew up in, the cold winters and heat wave summers. The lack of comfort and affection that led me into deeply toxic relationships. One's where I misconstrued abuse for an inability to properly express love. Where passion was shown through acts that left me feeling uncomfortable and empty afterwards. Where I was guided by fear over all other feelings. I soon realized that's not love, ever.
I could never mention these things to Charice, though her eyes begged me to.
"He's teaching me a lot about myself," I go with simply, "Like that I'm really not used to being taken care of- financially, or otherwise. But now, it's going to change."
She hums and nodded, "I get that. When Anthony and I started going out I didn't realize just how much I use anger to communicate. Then one night we're having this massive fight and he walks over-at the peak of my argument mind you- and just gives me a hug," I laughed and listened on, "then he said that I didn't have to fight for his attention, that I had it and he was listening to me. At that moment I didn't understand him, but later it came to me. Growing up being the only girl around, I guess I constantly felt overlooked, I felt like I needed to prove myself, and would be angry when I was ignored."
Nodding I turn to face her, now cautious of my painted toes drying under the UV lights, "What was it like when you started dating? Because like you said, you basically grew up together."
She huffs and looks at the work being done on her hands, "It was a roller-coaster, the first couple months were kind of long distance, then intimacy was...hard, no pun intended," I chuckled at the insinuation, "But eventually it got easier to stop worrying and just fall into it...then it became normal. And now it's been 2 years and I don't know how the hell that happened."
I laughed as I thought about it, about Emerson. Just fall into it.
"But I have to admit, as much as I love my boyfriend, and my family, I love, love, love that I finally have another girl here to share this burden with."
I smiled and considered my next words, "Well you have Justine, so it couldn't have been that bad."
I hope my desperation wasn't obvious.
"Well," She sings a guilty tone, "Justine came in the picture when the guys started high school, by then the damage had been done. Not to mention that we don't get along that much."
"Oh? Why's that?"
She sighed and thought about how much to reveal. I understood because that's exactly what I did.
"Justine's always had a thing for Emerson," She says bluntly, "Since the day she laid eyes on him in his stupid rock t-shirt and ripped jeans. I thought it was a phase, but it slowly turned into an obsession and when I called her out on it she started to see me as an obstacle. So, that was that."
"Oh, I'm sorry that happened," my words held a weight of betrayal that stemmed from Stephanie. But we wouldn't need to bring her up, not now, nor ever.
"Who's Stephanie? I don't remember her from your memories"
What does that even mean?! From my memories? Nevertheless, I chose to answer her, 'Because I've buried her. We don't need to remember her.'
"Woah, okay. "
"It is what it is," She shrugs and smiles at her dried toenails, "But now I have you, and you have me. The friend I've always needed."
"No pressure," I laugh nervously, "You should probably get to know me a little more before tethering yourself to all my mess."
"Hey," She takes my hand, suddenly serious, "We all have mess, don't define yourself by it goddess."
I was about to respond, overwhelmed by the weight of love in her tone, when suddenly Chelsea's voice erupts from the entrance, "How dare you not tell me about mani-pedis!"
QUESTION Share your answers in the comment section!): What do you think about Adira's worries and the struggles she'll have to face entering this new relationship? What about Charice and Adira's budding friendship? And Stephanie...?
Butterfly: Lol I'm really happy that you think they're cute! Any thoughts here?
Lis E: I'll definitely be reading your work! I'm really excited to. Thank you for always leaving such thoughtful responses, they really keep me going. And you're right in saying that Emerson will have some explaining to do...very soon! Also, thank you for the information on bolding the words from the....voice in Adira's head ;)
Anonymous: Thank you :) Any ideas on this chapter?
Anonymous: I like that you enjoyed the last chapter and that you're happy about where the story is headed. What do you think about this chapter?