The sun rose in the East at a snail's pace, taking its own sweet time. It shone unevenly on Ashford, the right side of it buried in its rays, while the Griffin estate and some other buildings were comparatively drenched in absolute darkness.
Meanwhile, in the Griffin villa, the cook had just stormed into the kitchen to make breakfast. Jess was trying to come up with something posh and classy in a very short period of time, but eventually settled on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a glass of fresh milk for each of them. She was joined by Dallas who had woken up only this minute. She sat on the kitchen counter with her legs dangling over the edge. Jess eyed her deeply and then her legs.
Suddenly, she laughed and sat beside her. Dallas smiled at her and extended her hand, "Hi! I'm Dallas." Jess instantly took it and shook it. "I'm Jess. I work for the Griffin family. The cook."
Dallas stopped shaking her legs and asked her, "How come I didn't see you yesterday? When we were at dinner?"
"I don't eat dinner with the Griffins, I eat it right here or I take it to my place right in the estate."
"By the way, the Chicken Parmesan," Dallas licked her lips and smacked them, "delicious!"
Jess clasped her hands and hugged Dallas. She parted from her, but her hands were still on Dallas' arms. She exclaimed in a squeaky voice, "I love you so much. Nobody except Eli, Bridge, Marissa, Justice, Noah and Zed has ever complimented my cooking."
Dallas gasped. Jess had to be kidding. "Really, I'm the..." She counted using her fingers, "Seventh person to complement your cooking. Damn, that's late." They both laughed and silence crept upon them. Jess reached for a plate near her and handed it to Dallas. Two fresh peanut butter and jelly sandwiched rested on the plate. Dallas grabbed one and took a large bite out of it.
"You know, the peanut butter is actually made from Gabriel's company."
Dallas was now interested. "Really? He makes peanut butter?"
"Yeah, it's called 'Griffin's Crunchy Peanut Butter'. It's not that creative, the name, but the peanut butter tastes awesome."
Dallas licked a finger and wiped it on her pajamas ignorantly. "It is tasty," she agreed, passing the plate to Jess. Jess looked sad. "Why haven't you eaten the other one?"
"I don't feel like. I'm already full."
Jess frowned and quickly put it away. She crossed her legs and faced Dallas like the way Eli did last night. "So, how is Felix?"
That was odd, Dallas noticed, and random too. "He's fine, I guess."
"Who'd you think did it?"
This just got a little bit weirder. Dallas slowly stood up and reached for the other sandwich. She grabbed it and placed it in her mouth. "I don't know. I really don't," she said with her mouth full and muffled sound; she walked into the living room. She saw Justice and Verity buried in the couch watching a movie. Dallas walked towards them and stared at the enormous sized liquid crystal display television to guess the movie. It was 'The Vow'. Starring Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams. She loved this movie. At once, she realized the reason why Verity had her nose buried under a blanket and Justice looked like she was about to have a meltdown.
The scene froze to Channing and Rachel; Channing was having a mental breakdown. He was angry that she didn't understand how he had felt. And Rachel looked sorry, but blurred. The rest of the movie flew past like lightning. By the end of the movie, when they had decided to go to a different place instead of the usual, Dallas felt the arm of the sofa she was seated on sink.
"Hi, good morning," a soft voice chirped into her ear. Eli swiftly slid into the little space between Dallas and the sofa. He wrapped his arm around her and cuddled her. Dallas froze; she didn't know how to act when Justice and Verity were practically ogling her. Justice cleared her throat noisily and Verity punched her. "Leave them alone, Grinch," she whispered softly even though Dallas and Eli heard it.
Dallas looked at Eli and back at Justice and Verity. "Hi, Eli. Good morning to you too," she said in a monotonous tone. He glanced at Justice and Verity. Justice at once stood up and went into the kitchen. Verity switched off the television and came to a couch closer to Dallas and Eli.
"We haven't had the proper introduction. I'm Verity." She extended her hand.
Dallas was stuck. She couldn't budge. Eli had his arms wrapped around her and she was wedged in the sofa. She slowly lifted her bottom and placed her knees on the sofa. Eli took his hands away and placed them on his lap. Dallas balanced herself on the sofa and reached out to shake her hand. Unluckily, she lost her balance and fell headfirst onto the carpet. She closed her eyes.
She did not fall headfirst into the carpet. A pair of fair hands held her and prevented her from falling. She gathered herself and smiled at Verity at her clumsiness. She laughed and took away her hand. "It's okay. Saved by the knight in shining armor."
Dallas giggled and crossed her legs, so that her right leg overlapped Eli's left. "So... are you a Channing Tatum fan?" She asked Verity out of boredom. To her astonishment, Eli laughed loudly, "Is that even a question?" He looked at Verity and slid over to her. He perched near Verity who was giving him an "I'll kill you" glare. Keeping his arm around her shoulder and pinching her cheeks slightly, he choked out, "You should see the number of lipstick marks on the poster she has of him in her room! You'll die, I swear!"
Dallas lit up. She crawled over to Verity and screamed, "He's the best! I love him too!"
"Hey!" Eli scowled folding his arms. Dallas looked at him; he looked like a little kid. A cute attractive little kid. His dirty blonde hair fell across his eyes and he tried to look through it. But, he couldn't. Dallas spotted this and leaned over to lift it and sweep it aside. Verity was in the way, though.
Verity noticed this and swiftly rose from her seat and ran to the bathroom nearby.
Dallas then without any support fell into his lap. Her face hit his legs tenderly and he began to rub her head. This felt good for Dallas. She felt like she was in the arms of a safe and secure person. She adjusted herself so her back didn't hurt. Straightaway, she closed her eyes and the stroking stopped. She opened them and her eyes met Eli's.
She snickered quietly. "This looks like the scene from Spiderman, where Peter Parker's upside down. Ha!" Her laugh passed away and the look in his eyes became serious. "What's - What's wrong?"
"Thank you for doing this for me and," he came closer, "and for Parker."
"You're welcome, but," she gingerly got up and leaned against the sofa, "I'm doing this for myself, too... and by the way, what about Oliver? He's supposed to come later."
"I told you I'll take care of it. Don't worry." He caressed her hands and she smiled. "That's better." He leaned in to her, placed his head on her shoulder. "You're acting really well." He laughed, "Pretending to love Channing Tatum to get closer to Verity, how come I didn't think of that?"
Dallas smirked and shook her head, "I wasn't acting. I really do love Channing Tatum. He's charming." Dallas watched Eli's smile turn into a frown and back into an unpromising grin. "Whatever, he's... ugh." He stood up seeing Veronica and Gabriel walking together, their hands interlocked within each other. "Mom, Dad, good morning."
Veronica and Gabriel walked towards them and Veronica branched out and went into the kitchen. Gabriel came towards them and Dallas quickly greeted him, "Good morning, sir." Gabriel smiled, for the first time in front of Dallas. "Good morning dear," he looked at Eli, "Eli." He sat on the sofa and motioned for them to sit down. They sat down instantaneously and Dallas looked at her hands on her lap. "So, dear, are you studying still?"
"No, sir. I have finished college and I've applied for a job as a reporter in a famous newspaper establishment."
"Is it in Olive Grove?"
"Yes, sir. I think you haven't heard of it, though. It's called The Grove."
Gabriel nodded briskly. His voice became hoarse. "Oh, yes, I know about The Grove. I have a friend who works there. His name is Mitch Nilsson, he's... um... great. He can get you a job without no interview." He winked at her and reached for a few files that were on a table. He flipped through them and pulled out a business card. He gave it to her and she shook her head.
"No, thank you, sir. I would like to attend the interview and pass it the right way."
Gabriel's expression changed; suddenly Dallas understood that she had made a clumsy mistake of speaking her mind. She reached her hand out and took the card from him. "But, I don't care and I might need this. In case." She winked at him and watched his rigid face loosen. She sighed as soft as possible and fiddled with the card.
It said: "Mitch Nilsson, chief editor of The Grove, call (number), email address."
"But, he is here now. In Ashford. To report the banquet and other important commemorations being held by both Veronica and me." He slowly stood up and said before walking into the dining room, "You can talk to him if you want. He has many connections to bigger establishments that can help you climb the social ladder." He paused and continued, "Breakfast's ready, please join us."
They all finished breakfast. Dallas ate her third and fourth sandwiches and now she smelt like 'Griffins' Crunchy Peanut Butter'. She had left with the rest of the people after breakfast. Curiosity had finally overshadowed her shyness and she asked Verity to show her the poster of Channing Tatum she had in her room.
Verity took Dallas to her room. Dallas was in wonder when she saw Verity's room. It was a rather capacious room, simple yet elegant. A mahogany table just like the one in her room stood in the middle of the room, with several books and CDs. Dallas got a peek at the books and found 'Princess Diaries', 'Miranda's Big Mistake' and 'Confessions of a Shopaholic'. "You love your chick lit, don't you?" Dallas commented, placing the book back down. Verity laughed and pointed at the large poster.
The poster was the size of Dallas' door back in Olive Grove. It was a picture of Channing Tatum with a classic pouted lips and a white vest and washed out jeans. The shot was supposedly taken in a cloudy beach, since not much of the panoramic view was seen. His white vest was red, not because of blood, but because of all the red lipstick smeared on his vest. There was a little peck mark on his cheek as well. Dallas was thankful that she hadn't had the guts to spoil his face with the bright red lipstick.
Then, Dallas noticed something so tiny underneath his photo, in a corner near a few rocks in the photo. It seemed like writing. She knelt down and inspected it, squinting to see what it was. It said, "With lots of love, Eli."
Dallas smiled and ran her fingers over it. Verity sat down beside her. "He gave it to me on my eighteenth birthday." She laughed, recollecting all the memories she had with him. "Mom gave me a pair of diamond earrings, Dad gave me a car, Justice and Felix gave me my own personal laptop... but, I was truly happy when Eli gave me this poster."
"I can't thank him enough for how he's been with me."
"Yeah, he's great." Dallas blushed, her cheeks gaining a hot pink shade.
Verity leaned in and whispered to her, "I hope you know how much he likes you."
Dallas sighed and dropped her hands onto her lap. "I know."
"No, you don't," she interrupted her. She threw her hands in the air. "You don't notice the way he looks at you and when he wants to... Never mind." She used her hands as leverage and stood up. "He's never liked a girl this much before Je..." She stopped.
She plunged into the floor again. "He used to really like this girl. She was also from the Grove, but she left." She looked sad. "She got really mad after we said a few stuff that we thought were true, and she left. My brother was a mess after that." She looked at Dallas for a second. "And... And she looked a bit like you. But, with lighter hair and a smaller face."
She pointed at Dallas' back. "Not to mention, she didn't have that nasty tattoo in her backdoor."
She stood up and extended her hand for Dallas to get to her feet. Dallas grunted, "It's called a tramp stamp."
Verity smiled and looked at Dallas. She came closer and examined her face. She then pulled Dallas' hair using both hands. Dallas screamed, "Ouch! What're you doing?" Dallas smoothened her hair.
"Ha, ha! I thought you might be wearing a wig. You do look like her."
Dallas stood motionless. She turned to ice. Eli really liked her.
"Dallas, are you coming?"
"No... I mean, I need to take a bath. I'll... meet you later."
"Okay, then, bye."
He really liked her. And he liked the real her, too. Dallas closed her eyes and stepped into her room. She felt the cold tears flowing out of her eyes and she closed them again. She felt numb. They both liked each other. Finally. The words she had been waiting for since she had seen him earlier. "He really likes you."
I'm so sorry for the delay. I did not have Internet connection. Please forgive me and stay tuned.