Dallas was taken aback.
Maybe, she exaggerated about only telling Oliver about her dreams. The dreams had in fact begun when she had met Eli's parents: outrageously wealthy socialites, Gabriel and Veronica Griffin. According to the Ashford Times, they were almost too frequently categorized as trendsetters and "charitable", "benevolent", and "public-spirited" people. Dallas knew that the Griffins were everything from malicious to unsympathetic, but "public-spirited" and all those mentioned. "If they had any kind of spirit," the middle class locals would often say.
The fact that he knew the exact time of the homecoming of the nameless woman terrified her and certainly aroused a tremendous amount of curiosity from her side. Now, her guard was back on and all her expectations had fallen short.
Initially she had thought that Eli had reappeared out of the blue to patch up his mistakes and reconcile. She was even in the verge of fantasizing, but all those castles in the sky petered out before reaching zilch and turning into mere fabrications. And now, although Dallas did not want to admit this, she was disgruntled.
Eli's striking smoky voice interrupted her notions, "You weren't expecting me, were you?"
Dallas looked into his shadowy eyes and figured out the intensity of his feelings hidden in his fair brows. "How...?"
He looked down at her observing her exertion. "Jeanette, it's okay. Just breathe..."
She couldn't take it anymore. "Just breathe?" She began, her voice orotund. She stood up this time, though his toned stature soared past her incomparable height. "You are standing in front of me after four years, asking me if my dreams are back! And I dreamt about that witch of a woman only now! How the hell am I supposed to breathe?"
Dallas paused, allowing her words to sink into him. "And you're back calling me Jeanette again! You know what, I had never gotten the courage to ask you this, but tell me Eli, who is this Jeanette you keep calling me?" She took a step forward and pulled his collar, pulling him closer. "Is she another woman looking like me? Are you mistaking me for her?"
Silence was the only reply from Eli. He refused to believe her guts. He did not know if he preferred the older version of Dallas to the one standing in front of him. He had always loved her, but at the moment she was testing his patience.
His attention shifted back to Dallas who had released her grip and raised her hand.
He stopped her, holding her hand in a firm grasp to prevent her from slapping him. "Oh, you're a feisty one!" He remarked pulling her closer.
The tension began to multiply rapidly. Dallas could feel his deep breathing and it quickly became the only thing she focused on. She glanced hastily at his rose-tinted pursed lips and closed her eyes. Her heartbeat was now too fast for her to grab a hold of. But he was the first to make a move as he pulled her into an embrace.
Dallas couldn't believe it. She was in all honesty, too fatigued and weak to an extent. She wriggled to escape the squeeze, but failed tremendously. After a second of thinking which she might have called "reconsideration", she gave in and threw her arms around his neck. She clung on to it for all her dear life. She had not had this feeling for four years and all of a sudden all that hidden exhilaration seemed to erupt out of her soul.
'So this is what heaven feels like,' thought Dallas.
She had her head nestled into his rigid chest for a good three minutes and as she felt his chest loosen, she lifted her head and looked at him doubtfully. He inhaled her lavender scent deeply and answered as if on cue, "I'm sorry for all what I said about you."
Dallas slowly pulled away from Eli, but he caught her hand. He entwined his fingers with hers and placed his other hand over it. She opened her mouth to say something, but was stopped by Eli who continued; truly seeming sincere, "Guess what, all what we had said about your family was false and I really want to apologize for that." He let go of her hands and looked at her.
"Somebody really important told me that all of that was crap."
"Who?" She asked him promptly.
"That doesn't matter. What matters is that I am truly sorry and I really want you to forgive me, and." He paused. He sighed and noticed her perplexed expression. No, he couldn't give away anything about Parker, at least not yet. This would wreck years of hard work. Years were meant literally, of course. Why would he return after years instead of months then? Nope, he made up his mind.
"And I want you to come with me to Ashford."
What he had said struck her like a projectile. The repercussions were simply a shock wave of trauma and distress and a classic kick in the teeth. "What?"
Eli swallowed a mouthful of air and repeated, "I want you to come with-"
"I heard what you said, I just don't believe it."
"I know it's tough for you to grasp what I'm saying, but I thought about this for a long time."
Dallas chuckled, "So you just expect me to ditch my family and come with you to Ashford, just like the last time," she paused, "which let me remind you, ended with everybody backbiting about my real parents and accusing them of stuff they didn't even do."
Eli looked away; he loathed the idea that she was right. How could he expect her to trust him like this?
Dallas picked up her phone and stuffed it into her pocket. "Listen Eli. Forget about it. I'm not moving from Olive Grove."
She began walking toward the same arch.
Eli looked at his boots. 'Ugh,' he huffed; Parker would never let him in on the plan then. Parker needed Dallas and so did he.
"I can help you."
This caught Dallas off-guard. Again.
She stopped in her tracks and turned back at the sound of clanking boots. "I can help you clear your parents' names."
She folded her arms, trying to stay strong. Her heart wanted to linger around Eli, but her mind warned her not to. She looked at him, trying to avoid contact with his eyes. "I don't need your help for that."
"Oh, I didn't know you were trying."
"How are you supposed to know if I were? You weren't here for four years?" She exploded.
"If you'd just listen to me... I can help you."
"I don't need your help!" She threw her hands in the air and stomped her feet on the grass adamantly.
Eli grabbed her hands and stopped her from losing control and going berserk. "I saw your real parents, there." Dallas stopped her screaming and released his clutches. "What?"
"The guy who told me that it was all bullshit, he was the one who told me that he saw your parents."
Eli observed Dallas' face. She had changed: she looked, sounded and acted more independent now. But she looked as beautiful as he had seen her four years ago. Her eyes were a gorgeous hazel, though sometimes they looked an unfathomable darkish brown that would blend in with her straight chocolate hair. And her hair... seemed to fall in the right places to make her seem mind-bogglingly attractive.
It was no mystery that Eli had a crush on her ever since they had met in the second grade. The strong sense of vulnerability and innocence that she had always carried turned him on. But now that she was twenty and so was he, he worried that, that might be dwindling away little by little. He had more things to worry about though: the fact that he would always love her even if she was not vulnerable eased him.
"Then why did your parents say they had died?"
Eli gritted his teeth. How was he going to get out of this one? "I told you that was bullshit, right? Remember?"
Dallas nodded, but then shook her head disagreeing. "I can't just leave Susan and Jared like that."
"You did it before; you can do it now," he reminded her.
Dallas glanced at his sniggering face and motioned him to come with her. She buried her hands in the pockets of her hoodie and walked with Eli. "I'll tell her I have to spend some time with Uncle Hendrix in Ashford and they'll have to let me go."
They stepped out of the arch and walked toward her house. It was a quick journey when Eli began to jog in the middle. And Dallas had no choice but to take even longer steps to catch up to the always athletic Eli.
In a few minutes they reached her house.
Dallas stopped in the front and grunted at the sight of Jared's red sedan parked across the inlet of the cul-de-sac. "You better wait here, or in your van." She suggested, pointing toward the minivan a few meters away.
He smiled telling her that they have to leave now, and retreated to the van.
Seeing him vanish, Dallas straightened herself holding the book tightly and tied her brown hair into a loose bun. She took a deep breath and opened the door. She went inside slowly and closed the door behind her.
A voice called out to her. "Dallas! Where have you been?" It was Susan and she was furious in the living room. A miserable-looking Oliver came down the stairs and skimmed Dallas.
'What was up with him?' She thought to herself and walked to the living room. "Mom, I'm so sorry. I just had to-" She began to stammer. Dallas knew better than not to lie, because if she did, she would ruin it trying to cover up.
"She was in the library finishing her book." Oliver walked up to Dallas and stood beside her.
Susan exchanged a hesitant look with Jared who had emerged from behind her. "Dallas, we were here thirty minutes ago, and your brother was surprised to see us. Did you tell him that we were going to be here after two hours?"
"I forgot," Dallas replied bluntly.
"It doesn't look like you did," Susan retorted, her voice dead serious. The look on her face didn't make Dallas feel any better as well.
Jared leaned over to Susan and whispered something to her. Susan shook her head and said softly, "We'll have to. It's... okay."
Their attention went back to the now confused Dallas, who kept peeking out the open window. Jared was the first to speak. "Dallas, your Uncle Hendrix had just given us a call. He told us that he wants you to go to Ashford and be there with him until further notice."
Dallas gasped. Was this a coincidence or what? Even though the twist of fate seemed to excite her, it scared her too. But why? Maybe it was just her imagination going wild.
"So, is it okay with you?" Susan asked her, doubtfully.
"Yes. It's fine with me." She ran upstairs and into her room. She had to hide her excitement. She was going to finally meet her real parents. She began packing a duffel bag full of clothes and other items. When she was folding a pair of trousers, Oliver came into the room. "You didn't look too surprised to hear the news, huh?"
Dallas shoved it into her bag and opened her closet. "I'm not. It's only Uncle Hendrix, not One Direction."
Oliver laughed, "You be careful, now." He warned her.
"Is it a coincidence that the last time your Uncle had called, your dreams were back as well?"
Dallas understood what he was saying. He was trying to creep her out or that was what she made herself believe. "I didn't know that."
Oliver handed her a few clothes folded over her table and said, "Well, now you do. So, you can be careful."
Dallas smiled at him. He was a great fake brother. "I will and you don't have to worry about me." She watched Oliver walk out of the room and she began to change her clothes. She felt like a wet sock; she washed her face and put on a blue crop top with a pair of jeans. She looked into the mirror and saw her midriff and bellybutton flashing. Ugh.
She pulled her crop top down, but it sprung back up. So she tried pulling her jeans higher, but they were unfortunately low-rise jeans. She ignored the top finally and grabbed her duffel bag and a khaki messenger bag.
She began to head downstairs. Now, how was she going to tell them about her transport?
But when Susan began telling her, Dallas simply beamed. "Your Uncle is in a gray minivan."
She hugged Susan and Jared and said her goodbyes. She walked toward the door and saw that Oliver was following her. She turned around and said, "I told you, ignorance was bliss."
Oliver tousled her hair and took a quick peek at her flashing midriff. "You better cover that belly of yours," he commented and laughed as she quickly pulled it down. "Have a nice time kiddo."
The phone began to ring.
Eli picked it up from the seat and flipped it open. "Why didn't you tell me you were going to plan it?"
A voice at the end of the line guffawed, "I told you I'll take care of it."
"How did you know she would agree?"
"Uh, call it my instinct." He paused and a crackle was heard. "How did you manage to make her to agree?"
Eli sighed. "I lied."
A silence was heard. "What did you say?"
"I told her that her parents are alive, and that she can see them."
"What? How can you lie to her? You do understand that we need her for the plan to work!" A grumble was heard.
Eli hung his head. "I'll somehow tell her. It'll be okay Parker."
Parker crushed a cigarette he was smoking and replied, "You better."
"I will-" Parker had hung up. "Parker?"
He heard the sound of approaching footsteps and tossed his phone under his seat. It was Dallas.
She stepped into the car and looked clean and brand new. She had a smile on her face. He slipped the key into the ignition and got the van moving. She looked at Eli and said, "I'm very happy you are back." She looked back at the road. "I can finally see my parents."
I am personally excited to write the next chapters. I promise it will get better and better as everybody's secrets begin to unveil. I want to specifically thank Ananya Garg, who was the first to comment on my work. I was sad when there weren't any comments, but so many views. She gave me the courage to keep writing. Thank you.