"Oh good, you're home." Mom's voice coming from the living room as I pass by makes me jump and I barely manage to hold in a scream.
"Oh my gosh, I didn't know you were there. That was terrifying." I mumble, somewhat under my breath as I try to calm my racing heart.
She actually laughs a bit. That's odd. "Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you." She gestures for me to come over and join her on the couch. I really just want to shower and then sleep, but I drop my bag by the doorway and go to sit beside her.
"How was work?"
This isn't what I was expecting at all. "Um, hot and tiring. The air conditioning broke so Don had to go buy a bunch of fans, and then we got swamped."
"Oh." She pauses, and I think she's trying to find something to say. So I wait for her to finish talking. "It sounds like you work at a very... unique... place."
"It's not usually this weird. The air conditioning just broke and the company can't send anyone to fix it until Monday."
"Oh." Again, she seems stumped for words and I wonder why she's even bothering to try to have a conversation with me. I wonder how long this conversation is going to last.
My phone buzzes in my pocket and I pull it out, opening the text. I smile when I read the words, 'Still coming discing tomorrow right?'
I text him back, 'Yeah! what time?'
"Who's that?" Mom asks, sounding oddly less upset than she usually does.
"My friend Jeremy." I say. I can't lie about him forever.
"Oh. Have I met him?"
I shake my head. "No, I met him at work about a month ago."
I must be going crazy. There is no other explanation for why she's trying to converse like this. "Yeah." I say. "Well, is there something important you wanted to talk about? I really need to shower. I feel really gross and sweaty right now."
"Oh. No, no, there's nothing important. I just wanted to catch up. You go shower, we can talk again later, maybe tomorrow."
"Okay." I say, standing up. "I'll see you later, then."
"Actually," she starts and I pause by the door.
She sighs quietly and turns so she can face me. "Your brother called last night. He'll be here in a few days with his fiancee."
"Yeah." She's quieter than normal. For a moment, I start to worry that something is really wrong.
"Are you okay?"
"I need to make things right between your brother and myself." She finally spits the words out and I can stop worrying.
"That sounds like a good idea." I say. "He thinks you hate him."
"I've never hated him. I just really wish he'd chosen a more suitable career."
I sigh. "His career choices have nothing to do with you, mom. Or dad either. It's his life and his choices. You should be proud of him for pursuing what he's good at, and what he likes. He's super-talented and he's getting paid to have fun with his life, to do what he's always wanted." I pick up my bag and sling it over my shoulder. "Just talk to him. I'm sure the two of you can work things out."
She smiles slightly. "I hope so."
"Can I go shower now?"
She nods. "Yeah, of course. I'm going to bed. Goodnight, darling."
I pull my phone out of my bag and just before I'm about to click into my contacts, I stop. If I wasn't mad at Andrew, I'd call him and talk about the weird conversation I had with her. But I am mad at Andrew. I drop my bag by my bed, kick of my shoes and then stand in the middle of my room for a second, not quite sure what to do. I've never had a problem that I couldn't bring to Andrew before. I don't know what I want to do now.
I drop my phone onto my bed. This feels weird. I step away from the bed and shake my head. It's Andrew's fault. If he hadn't kept the fact that he was moving from me, we wouldn't have this problem. It's not like he wasn't sure about it either, he knew that they were moving and he didn't feel the need to tell me.
I dig some clothes out of my drawer and head for the bathroom. Maybe things will seem clearer after a nice, long, hot shower.
They don't. Nearly an hour later and my mind is still a complete mess. I comb out my hair and braid it before sitting, cross-legged, on my bed. I pick up my phone and stare at it for a few minutes. I can't figure out who else I can talk to about this. No one else knows my mom and how weird our relationship has been since the day Chris moved out. Except for Chris himself. But I can't talk to him about this. Not yet. I should let mom, since she wants to try to work things out. If I talk to Chris I could somehow mess things up for them.
'Tyler knows'. My subconscious brings up the one name I don't want to think about. My subconscious is right though. Tyler is the only other person who knows exactly how I've felt about my mother since Chris moved away.
For a split second I consider actually calling him. Then two things register. First, I don't have his number. Second, I am not going to let myself fall back into that messed up relationship, ever, no matter what crap is going on in my life.
My phone rings and it's that same unknown number. I almost ignore it, but at the last second, I answer. "Hello?"
The voice takes my own voice away. I'm frozen. It's not just the voice. It's the tone, the way he says my name. Brooklyn. Apart from my mom, he's the only one who only called me that.
"Brooklyn? You there?"
"Yeah. Tyler. Hi." My voice is slightly shaky, and I sound breathless when I'm finally able to speak.
"I've been trying to get a hold of you since dinner last night." Was it really only last night? That awful dinner already seems so long ago. He continues. "But you haven't been answering. I was going to start texting if you didn't answer this time, I was worried about you, Brooklyn."
Worried? Worried about what? "Why have you been worried?"
"You didn't answer my calls."
That doesn't tell me why he was worried. Was he always this evasive? "I didn't answer your calls because I don't have you in as a contact. How did you get my number?"
"You changed it since we were together." He notes this like I don't know it already.
"You didn't think to give me your new number?"
"We broke up, Tyler. I didn't think you needed my new number." He's starting to creep me out just a bit. "Oh, mom's calling for me. I have to go. Goodbye." I hang up quickly and drop my phone onto the bed. My heart is pounding, my hands are shaking slightly. I feel like I'm going to throw up. How did he get my number?
Andrew. I can almost feel the bile rising in my throat. Andrew gave him my number. He must have, after I stormed out at dinner. Why didn't he tell me? My mind is racing. He tried to, didn't he? At the end of our fight when I slammed his door and he told me had something to tell me? Something important. My stomach is churning.
My phone dings loudly and I jump. I'm shaking as I reach for my phone and unlock it. I open the text, from the unknown number that I now know is Tyler. 'I wasn't done talking.' It says.
I close my eyes tightly, shaking my head. "You're fine." I whisper to myself. "It's okay. You're safe. It's not like dreams of this have haunted you through this past year." I need to stop being so sarcastic, to myself especially.
I delete the text and then check to make sure my windows are locked. Not that I really think he'd try anything. He was never really physically abusive. "You can't be too cautious." I tell myself. I put on some music and tidy up my room, trying everything to put him and the text and the call from my mind. My phone dings again, I jump again and spin towards my phone.
My mouth feels dry and even with old memories whirling around in my head, I wonder if I'm being ridiculous about all of this. I step towards my phone, afraid to read the text, to see if its another one from Tyler. I wasn't texting anyone else. Just before I get to my phone, I turn around and tell myself I don't need to read the text now.
I sit down at my desk and pull out my algebra book. I might as well study up for that final. At least I can try to focus on the formulas. I immerse myself in quadratics and graphs and numbers that I have no hope at understanding tonight, but when my phone starts ringing, I'm pulled right back into my state of panic. I try to ignore it, but each loud ring makes me cringe.
I grab my phone to switch it to silent, but the name flashing across my screen, isn't the one I'm expecting. It's Jeremy.
I answer it quickly, catching it on the last ring. "Hello?"
"Hey, Brookie, it's Jeremy."
"Hey, what's up?" I grimace when I realize how shaky and timid my voice still seems.
"Um, hey are you okay?"
I cover my phone and clear my throat. "Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"
"You sound off. What's going on?"
"Nothing." I said that too quickly. I mentally facepalm myself.
"Where are you?" He asks. Does he sound worried?
"At home." I say.
He's quiet for a minute. "Is someone there?"
"No, well, mom and dad are, but I think they're sleeping."
"Are you okay?"
I try to tell him that I'm fine, but it doesn't come out. Instead of the words I meant to say, a pathetic half-sob comes out.
"What happened? What's wrong?"
Something breaks inside of me, whatever has been holding back the scared tears that have been threatening to pour since I saw Tyler at the restaurant seems to snap, and the tears come pouring. "I- It's nothing. It's stupid. I'm sorry." I say, in between hiccuped sobs.
"It can't be stupid. Not if you're this upset over it." There's a small moment of silence, only broken by my crying. I'm trying to stop. I can't cry in front of him again. I just can't. But I can't stop either. The tears are relentless. "Do you want me to come over?" He sounds hesitant.
I'd love for him to come over. But mom would kill me. I manage to stem my hiccups long enough to tell him exactly that.
He's silent for a few minutes. "Can you tell me what's going on?" His voice is soothing. He's speaking slowly, calmly.
I hiccup again and try to find the words. "I'm just scared." I finally say. I don't know how else to explain it.
I can't tell him. I shake my head and hold my free hand up to my eyes. "Nothing." I say. "Never mind. It doesn't matter. I'll be fine."
"No, tell me." His voice is still soothing, but he sounds worried.
"I don't want to talk about it." I say, hoping that will fix things.
I hear him sigh into the phone. "Brookie, do you think you could come over here for the night?"
The question catches me off guard. "Um, maybe. I'll have to check with my mom."
"Hang on. I'll go ask." I say.
"Okay, I'll wait." His voice is slow and steady, and my tears slowly begin to settle as I listen to him talk. I wipe my face off and take a few steadying breaths.
I walk over to my parent's room and push the door open a bit further than it is. Mom's still awake, sitting up on her side of the bed, with her bedside table lamp on, a book in her hand. She looks up when she hears the door. "Brooklyn, is everything alright?"
I use my go-to excuse. "Anna and Andrew might be breaking up. Anna's not okay right now. Can I go over and spend the night with her? Andrew went to his parents for the night, he stormed off, Anna's bawling right now. I can't help her over the phone."
For once, she doesn't look skeptical as she answers me, which makes me feel guilty. "Of course. It's dark out though, promise you'll drive safely?"
"Yeah. Of course. I love you, mom." I say.
A surprised look crosses her face. "I love you too." She says, the trace of a smile on her lips.
I head back to my room and hold my phone back up to my ear. "I can come over." I say.
"Are you going to stay over?" He asks.
"Is that okay with you?"
"Of course." He says.
"Okay. I'm in my room, so just come in when you get here, alright?"
"You think you're okay to drive?"
I sniff a bit, the last of my tears, and almost nod, but I remember that he can't see me. "Yeah. I think so." I say.
"Okay. I'll see you in a bit then."
I pack up a few things and then head out. As hot as it was earlier, it's cooled off a lot and I'm wishing I'd thought to grab a sweater once I get outside. The loose, long-sleeved tee-shirt and yoga pants I'd thrown on after my shower aren't doing much for warmth. I crank the heat in my car as I drive, carefully like I'd promised mom.
When I pull in to Jeremy's house, I'm surprised to find that there are only a few cars there. Considering it's a Saturday I'd assumed there would be a party going on. I grab my small duffel bag and walk inside the blue house. Courage barks at me, loudly, but then as she sniffs my legs, growling as she does so, she seems to recognize me and she backs off. The boys in the living room see me and Jack does a head-nod-wave thing. "Hey. Jeremy's in his room." He says.
"Thanks." I don't see the point in telling him that I know that already. I just go upstairs.
I knock on the wall beside Jeremy's curtain-door. "Come in." He calls.
I push the curtain aside and walk in. Jeremy's room has been rearranged a bit. He's got a bed frame now. It's nice, but I almost liked his on-the-floor-mattress more. It somehow made the room feel homey. He also has a small tv hooked up to an xbox now. He pauses the game he's playing and gets up off the bed, meeting me in the middle of his room. I'm not quite sure what I'm expecting, but I'm definitely not expecting the hug he gives me when he reaches me. He pulls me incredibly close and my arms move automatically around him. The hand holding my duffel bag lets my bag drop with a soft thump to the ground as my arms move, seemingly on their own.
Just when I think he's going to step back, he pulls me even tighter and his face presses into the crook of my neck and shoulder. "You had me really worried." He mumbles.
"I'm sorry." I whisper.
"No." He pulls back now, but before I can step away, his hands are cupping my cheeks. "Don't be sorry for being scared. I wasn't blaming you. I was just telling you that I was worried. It's not your fault. Whatever it is that has you scared so badly is not your fault. Don't let anyone ever tell you differently." He's staring into my eyes and his words are said with enough force to make me know how much he means to them, but enough softness to keep him from sounding angry.
With his eyes locked into mine, I'm feeling self-conscious. I'm not wearing makeup, and I must look awful from having cried so much earlier, but he's staring at me and suddenly my self-consciousness fades. His eyes, so incredibly blue tonight, seem so much different than usual and I can't quiet place it until it hits me. He's not high, or intoxicated in any way right now. Have I ever seen him like this? I know he gets high before he comes to work, most days anyway. He says it helps him 'focus'.
I'm vaguely aware of his hands moving across my skin. One slides down from my cheek, brushing against my neck, my arm, until it reaches my waist. The other moves from my other cheek to somewhere between my elbow and shoulder, resting for a minute before sliding down my arm. His hand brushes against my hand and then his fingers interlace with mine.
My breath seems to hitch in my throat as I realize how close we're standing. His face is only inches from mine. "I know I was drunk when I said it the other night, Brookie, but I do really, really like you."
To say I'm surprised is a huge understatement. I didn't think he even remembered saying that. He said he didn't remember much at all from that night. "I like you, too." I say, quietly. My voice is, embarrassingly, quite raspy. Probably from all my crying
He smiles. A real smile and it's so contagious that I'm smiling back and he starts to lean in closer. Jeremy brings our laced hands up as he pulls me almost impossibly closer. His lips are less than an inch from mine.
There's a knock, on the wall, by the door, and the moment is shattered. Jeremy pulls back, but leaves our hands together, his other hand moves from my waist to run through his short hair. "Yeah?" He calls out.
Jack sticks his head in, and I notice his eyes glance to our intertwined hands. He doesn't say anything though. "What time are we discing?"
Jeremy shrugs. "I have the whole day off, so it doesn't have to be early if we don't want it to be."
"So, like two then?"
"Is that okay with you?" It takes me a minute to realize that Jeremy is asking me.
"Oh, yeah, that's fine." I say, he chuckles slightly.
Jack grins. "Great. Two it is. Goodnight you guys." And then he leaves, letting the curtain flutter to a close behind him.
Miha - Thank you soo much! I hope you like this chapter too! I do always try to add some little surprise in one way or another!
Bookluver 78 - You're welcome! Sorry for taking so long! Sometimes I just find it hard to write a certain chapter and it can take me a few days longer to be able to get it finished so I can update! I appreciate you sticking around to read! You always make my day with your comments!
Chrystina J - Thanks! Sorry for keeping you waiting! I hope you like this chapter!
Emma- Sorry for worrying you! Some chapters just need extra time and love! Haha I'm glad to be posting again! Thank you soo much for going to check up on me! I appreciate it so much! You're the best! I hope you like this chapter!!
Question of the Chapter
Where are you guys all from? I'm super-curious to get to know you all! Especially you lovely commenters!
Scars And A Daisy - Chapter TwentyJeremy asks Brookie to come over
By Em Bishop