My heart skips in my chest and my first thought is to say 'yes'. But when I open my mouth, something else comes out. "I shouldn’t." What am I saying? "I have a ton of homework to go over." I want to slap myself.
"Oh," he pauses and the nods his head slightly. "Right, yeah." Does he sound a bit sad?
"And I have a curfew. My mom would be so pissed if I didn’t go home, again." I definitely want to slap myself right now.
He laughs. "A curfew? How old are you again?"
I roll my eyes but laugh along. "Too old for a curfew, that’s for sure. But you know how parents are. Their house, their rules."
"Maybe you should move out."
"Trust me, I’m working on it." He laughs and I smile. "You know, the homework can probably wait."
He raises an eyebrow, almost looking hopeful, or is that my imagination? "You're sure? What about your curfew?" He says the word teasingly and I roll my eyes.
"I’ll come up with something."
"Lying to your mother now, are you?"
I laugh. "You must be a bad influence."
He stops chuckling and just stares at me for a second. "I probably am." He says finally. "A bad influence, I mean."
My own laughter dies out and I stare back at him. "I don’t agree with you. You haven’t influenced me in any way." I tell him, hoping he’ll believe me. He doesn’t say anything.
For a few seconds silence settles over the car, and then, abruptly, Jeremy turns to me, looking into my eyes. "I wanted to kiss you." He says quietly.
"What?" I’m not quite sure if I’ve heard him right, or I’m imagining things now.
"Last night. I wanted to kiss you."
"Then why didn’t you?"
He doesn’t answer right off, and I wish I could see what he’s thinking. "You were drunk. Maybe not completely," he holds off my objection with a small smile, "But drunk enough to not be one hundred percent in control of your actions. I wasn’t going to kiss you, and find out later you regretted it happening." A strange look crosses his eyes and I suddenly know that something like this has happened to him before. I decide not to ask about it.
"I guess I was just a bit..." I try to find a word, but settle with another. "Drunk." As I finish my sentence he nods, knowingly.
"I thought so."
"I wanted you to kiss me." I say, and I’m embarrassed with myself for being so open.
The tiniest of smiles hints at his mouth and I’m incredibly relieved when my phone goes off before he can say anything. I glance down and frown when I realize it’s my mother. It’s 11: 40. "Chill out. Even if I were going home, I’d still have twenty minutes." I mumble, as I decide not to answer the call. "She’s going to kill me."
He laughs slightly, sounding uncertain. "Should I let you go home, then?"
I shake my head. "No, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it."
He still looks hesitant. "Are you sure?"
"Do you want me to go home?" I ask, starting to panic inwardly. What if he doesn’t actually want me to go in with him? But why would he ask in the first place?
"No!" He says it so quickly that he starts to blush a bit and I smile.
"Then I won’t."
There’s no party going on tonight, his brothers are just lounging around, watching cartoons, and the house is fairly empty. I drop down onto the couch beside Jeremy. The door swings open and Marlie walks in. She flops onto the couch beside Jack, leans her head back and closes her eyes. "I’m so tired." She mutters.
Jack glances up from the beer in his hands and looks at me for a minute. "I’ve seen you before."
I laugh. "Yeah, I’ve been to a few parties here, with Cam and Jeremy."
He nods slowly. "Oh okay, that explains it."
"What happened to your face?" Jeremy asks. Jack has a large bruise on his left cheek and his lip looks swollen and cut up.
"Got in a fight with some of the Iron Horsemen in Portland last night."
Jeremy looks shocked, and leans forward slightly. "What? Why?"
Marlie’s eyes open up and she turns her head so she’s facing Jack. "What are the Iron Horsemen?"
Jack shrugs. "Just a gang in Portland."
"Who got caught drug smuggling last year!" Tyler points out.
Jack rolls his eyes. "That’s not important."
"You got in a fight with drug smugglers? And you don’t think that’s important?" Marlie scoffs.
"We weren’t fighting about drugs, so no, I don’t think that part is important." Jack picks up his beer and gulps down most of it.
"A drug smuggling gang sounds a lot more dangerous than just a regular Portland gang." Marlie mumbles.
Jack shrugs again. "It wasn’t a big deal."
Derek laughs. "I’m sure you’ve done worse."
"Like the time you got drunk and threw a tire into the fire at that pit party and it exploded and we had to take off before the cops got there?" Tyler grins, and Jack rolls his eyes, again.
"It wasn’t that bad." Jack says.
"You nearly started a forest fire." Jeremy adds in.
"That was you guys?" I turn to look at Jeremy.
He laughs and nods. "Yeah!"
"My dad wouldn’t shut up about ‘teenagers these days’. It was over a month before he found something else to grouch about!" I can't believe it was actually these boys that my dad ranted about for what felt like forever. If only he knew I was hanging out with them.
Jeremy laughs again, and I decide that his laughter is my new favorite sound.
"I think when he beat up the guy who took brass knuckles to your face beats the story of the tire fire." Derek says, speaking directly to Jeremy.
Jeremy stops laughing and stays quiet.
"Who did what to you?" Marlie asks, clearly not hearing the story before, like the others.
Jeremy glances at her, and just shrugs. "It wasn’t that big deal."
"It was a big deal." Jack says. "Some loser and his friends were beating the crap out of him." He faces Marlie and she looks furious.
"Please tell me you hospitalized him?"
Derek chuckles. "The kid didn’t know what hit him." Marlie looks slightly relieved as Derek finishes the story. "It happened right outside work, too. Jack looked out the window, at the right time, and saw the kids over Jeremy and he took off outside, barreled right into them and let the kid have it."
Marlie leans back, shaking her head slightly. "Wow. Were you okay, Jer?"
He sighs, sounding frustrated as he says, "Of course, I wasn’t okay, Marlie. What don’t you get about ‘brass knuckles to my face’?" He stands up and heads for the back door, letting the door slam behind him.
"Oops." Derek says quietly.
"Why’s he so touchy about it?" Marlie asks. "That’s not the first time he’s been beat up."
"We’re not quite sure." Jack tells her, speaking so quietly that I have to strain to hear him. "He healed alright, hardly left any scars, but that was when he dropped out of school."
Marlie’s face softens as she glances towards the back door. "That’s why?"
Jack nods. "We think so. He went to school the day after his face felt better and he came home halfway through the day and refused to go back."
I’m starting to realize that you don’t mess with this family unless you don’t care what happens to you. No wonder these boys are so notorious. They don’t mess around.
A horn honking startles Marlie and she nearly falls off the couch. "That’s probably for me. Molly wants me to spend the night. Tell Jer I love him, okay?" The boys nod and she heads for the door. "I love you guys too!" She adds with a smile.
All three brothers say they love her and she leaves, shutting the door behind her. "Where’s Alyssa?" I ask, after a few minutes of awkward silence.
Jack shrugs, Tyler sips at his beer and Derek finally answers. "At a friends for the night."
"Oh." I say. They turn back to the cartoons on the tv and I fidget awkwardly for a few minutes before deciding to check on Jeremy.
I open the door as quietly as I can, and shut it just as gently behind me. He’s sitting on the cement step, his chin is propped up on his elbows, that are set on his knees, and he’s staring out at the dark yard. I’m glad I’d left my jacket on when we first entered the house, because it’s chilly outside, even though the snow has been slowly melting. "Hey." I say, softly.
I can’t tell if he hears me, because he doesn’t move at all. I step down and sit beside him and he still doesn’t move. "So..." I don’t know what to say. I don’t know if he’d rather not talk, or if he just needs the right person to talk too. I can only hope, if it is the latter, that I can be the right person.
"So, what?" He asks, his voice rough.
"I don’t know," I say, honestly. "Are you okay?"
"I don’t believe you."
He finally moves, and he looks at me. His eyes look slightly bloodshot and his cheeks look a bit wet. "Why?"
"Why don’t I believe you?" The words come about a bit incredulously and he nods his head, waiting for me to explain myself I guess. "Because... if you were ‘fine’ you wouldn’t be out here." I air quote the word ‘fine’ and hope he doesn’t get mad at me for this. "I think you’re not fine, not at all. I think that for some reason you just don’t want anyone to know that you’re not. But that’s stupid. Your family clearly cares about you, you should let them know how you really feel about all this."
He laughs, and it’s not the beautiful laugh that I’m starting to love. This laugh is a scorning, scoffing sound. "My family cares about me. That’s hilarious."
"What do you mean?"
"My mom kicked me out."
The news shocks me. Before now I hadn’t given a single thought about his parents, or why he lived with his brothers. It, for some reason, just seemed normal. I realize now how little I know about him.
"Why did she do that?" I try to speak quietly, trying not to startle him into silence again.
"Because her husband made her."
"Her..." I pause for a second, trying to make sense of his sentence. "Her husband? Your dad?"
He scoffs loudly this time, and shakes his head. "No. That fat," he curses slightly under his breath, before talking to me again. "That... man, if you can call him that, isn’t my dad. My dad wasn’t a dick."
"So... your step-dad, then?"
He nods. "I guess so. Don’t let Marlie or Alyssa hear you say that though. They both refuse to associate him with the word ‘dad’ in any sense, step or not."
"So, what happened, why do you all hate him?"
"She cheated on our dad. For him. And after she and my dad divorced, she married the loser. He kicked Derek out first, but at least they had a slightly good reason. Derek was a bit of an alcoholic, and mom didn’t want the girls to see that."
"The girls?" I don’t want to interrupt, but I want to understand.
"Marlie and Alyssa?"
He nods. "And the others."
"How many sisters do you have?"
"Six in all. Well, I have an older half-sister, too, but we didn’t grow up with her in our lives. I guess that’s a different story."
"Six? And a half... wow. That’s a lot."
He nods again. "Yeah."
"So," I take the small silence to turn the conversation back to the story. "They kicked Derek out."
He takes a few moments before answering. "Yeah. And then they kicked me out." He spits the last bit out and shakes his head bitterly. "That’s not the worst of it." He adds quietly. "They tried to kick Marlie out too. I was lucky, Jack took me in. But Marlie couldn't have stayed here. Not with us. Not back then. She was still good..." He pauses and I realize he's holding back tears.
I can’t help but wonder what kind of mother would do that. "How old were you guys?" I ask, wondering if I really want to know the answer.
He coughs a bit, clearing his throat. "I was fifteen, Marlie was sixteen."
"Wow." I feel less guilty now, for hating his mom. Who would kick out their teenage children? "What was her reason?"
"For me, it was just that her new husband didn’t like me."
"For Marlie, I’m guessing it was the same, but they hid behind the excuse that Marlie was too mouthy." His jaw tightens and I wonder what he’s thinking about. "Marlie wasn’t, isn’t, a mouthy kind of person usually. She’s bolder when she drinks, but she’s a quiet girl. It’s why she was homeschooled, why she never made many friends." A small smile crosses his face as he adds, "I remember the first party we brought her to. It was actually that pit party with the tire fire thing. She had a curfew though, so Derek brought her home before that happened. That was when we found out how high her alcohol tolerance really is. She drank so much, with her size and the amount of beer she had, we thought mom would know instantly, but we walked home with Derek and talked to mom for a while before going to bed and mom didn’t have a clue that she’d been drinking at all."
I smile at the story, but I’m wondering what kind of life Jeremy has had, was his childhood better than his teenage-life? As if he’s reading my thoughts, he says, "My life wasn’t always that messed up. Mom was crazy, strict when we were growing up, but we had fun. Everything was fine, until she met that thing."
I hate to bring it back up, but for some reason my curiosity won’t let me drop it. "Why did you drop out, after that fight?"
The smile is gone now, and I hate myself for being the reason it left his face. "I don’t want to talk about that."
"I’m sorry." I say quickly, regretting bringing it up.
He looks at me, and a sad smile crosses his face. "It’s not your fault." He says. He slings his arm over my shoulders and I lean my head on his shoulder, following his gaze back out to the dark yard. This was definitely not the way I'd pictured my night ending, but I don't mind. It somehow feels right. I realize that there's something different about this boy. Something special. Whether he thinks he's a bad influence or not, there's something good in him, and I know I want to know him better than I do.
Zelia - You aren't horrible! Haha, did you have a good time at the resort? (I emailed you!) I'm so glad you loved the chapter! I had fun writing it! And this one was a pain in the butt to write, I couldn't figure out how I wanted it to go, but then as I worked on it super late at night, it started to piece itself together! I hope you liked this one too! Thank you soooo much!
Bookluver78 - Yay! I'm so glad you were happy for Brookie! What did you think about this chapter? Did it go the way you thought it might? (Did you have any thoughts about how this chapter would have gone?) I'm a bit scared, myself, to find out how Brookie's mom is going to take this all if she finds out, she's such a snob! (Gah, is it weird that I talk about my characters like they're real? lol, I seriously feel like my book writes itself sometimes!) I'm so glad you liked the chapter!! I absolutely love your extreme cheesiness! You're hilarious, and amazing!! Thank you soo much!! (I'm still having trouble finding character pictures for the brothers - is there anyone you have in mind?)