“So spill dammit, who is he?” I abruptly asked while sticking my spoon into my cup of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
“His name is Russ, if you must know.” Layla replied while pouring chocolate sauce over her strawberry ice cream.
“Russ, from the football team?” I rose my eyebrows. I never actually saw the guy before, but I heard a lot about him from around school.
“Yes! He’s taller than me, which is a plus. He has that beautiful raven colored hair and deep blue eyes that I just get lost in.” She began to look down at her plate while fidgeting with her fingers.
“Ah, raven colored hair huh? So he’s gorgeous, what else?” I asked with a smile.
“Well, he enjoys the same bands that I do. Oh, he loves the color black like I do and he has a little brother who is about seven years old. He likes skateboarding and buying Converse, which I love and he loves how competitive football is. He’s almost like the male version of me.” Layla chuckled while stirring her ice cream with her spoon.
I smiled while watching her reminisce about Russ and their date.
“At first, I didn’t think he even liked me because he kept giving me this blank stare, turns out he’s just shy! He admitted it to me and said that he doesn’t really date much since sports and music take up most of his time.” Layla shrugged.
“Well obviously he likes you, I mean he made time to go out on a date with you.” I smiled while playfully slapping her arm.
“Yeah, yeah whatever.” She rolled her eyes, but the smile never left her face.
“So, how’s Eric?” I found myself asking.
Layla’s smile deepened at me asking about her brother and I sighed, “I just want to know how the talk went with him and Larry, that’s all.” I shrugged, “Surely he’s texted you since we’ve left the house.”
“Right, well, it actually wasn’t good. It turned into a big fight and now they haven’t really spoken since. Eric texted me right as we pulled into the parking lot here.” She said as she looked down at her ice cream that was just about finished.
“Oh no, I didn’t want to ruin their relationship.” I whined, putting my head into my hands.
“It’s fine, Cecil. They’ll work it out and eventually get over it. They’re just dumb stubborn guys. Don’t worry, alright?” She said with her serious blue eyes.
“Okay, I just feel bad. Wait, why do I feel bad? I did nothing wrong!” I began raising my voice.
“Cecil...” Layla began, but I cut her off.
“I mean he’s the one who lied to me and made me think that he actually cared about my relationship with my father. Not to mention, the whole buying him off thing. He should’ve just stayed out of it! I can’t believe I didn’t see any of this coming...” Layla tried to stop me from my rant, but I just kept cutting her off.
“Cecil...” She began again, but I still didn’t let her finish.
“I mean you think you know someone, you share intimate feelings and secrets and what do they do? They just stomp right on over you and then he had the audacity to tell me not to tell Larry. Ugh!” By now my ice cream had been angrily stirred into a milkshake.
“Cecilia!” Layla yelled, causing me to instantly cease talking.
“What?” I asked sheepishly.
“Can you shut up for two seconds so I can tell you that Eric is standing right behind you and just heard everything that you said?” She smirked.
My eyes widened in fear as I slowly turned around in my seat.
“Eric, what are you doing here?” I asked, not at all proud of my explosion that just took place.
“Hello to you too.” He smiled, taking a seat next to Layla.
“Answer me.” I sighed.
“Layla told me where you were so I came.” He shrugged, pulling a menu from the side of the table.
I immediately cast a harsh glare toward my best friend, maybe former, and rose my eyebrows in question.
“I um, thought you wouldn’t mind.” She sheepishly smiled while holding her hands up in surrender.
“Hm, let’s see... would Cecilia mind if her ex boyfriend showed up to the ice cream parlor when he isn’t supposed to be here? Well, I mean maybe I shouldn’t- OF COURSE I CARE!” I glared.
Both her and Eric began to laugh uncontrollably as I sat there dazed while watching them. I almost wanted to begin laughing with them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I watched Eric’s brown eyes laugh with his smile and I wanted nothing more than to kiss his perfect pink lips. Of course, I didn’t just so we’re clear.
“So, Cecil, are you going to finish that milkshake?” Eric asked, pointing to my ice cream.
“Yes actually, I am!” I pulled the cup closer to my chest, and began stirring the ice cream again angrily while they both just watched me.
A small smile began creeping it’s way onto my lips, despite my urge to refuse it.
Eric noticed the small smile and he began smiling too.
I noticed Layla watching us and I wanted to lean across this booth and slap her, but instead I just smiled at her innocently while the thought roam around in my brain.
“Well, isn’t this fun? The three musketeers back at it again!” Layla smiled.
“For the record, nobody is back together.” I looked at Layla and Eric’s smile fell a little.
Layla rolled her eyes and sighed while em-pathetically patting Eric’s shoulder. “Sorry bro, I tried.”
Eric glared at her and then looked back at me with a smirk.
“What?” I simply asked.
“You look hot when you’re mad.” He smiled wide.
My eyes widened at his comment and from then on I finished my ice cream while talking to Layla, pretending Eric wasn’t sitting at our booth, despite the constant redness sitting against my cheeks.
For the next hour, he would just sit at our booth, casting me small glances and winks to which I tried like hell to ignore.
This boy is going to be the death of me, I just know it.
After lunch, I drove Layla home and then ventured on to my house. Eric had his car so he drove home alone, which I was grateful for. It gave me real time with Layla to scold her for inviting him.
Walking in the front door of my house, I instantly noticed that the place was quiet.
“Hello?” I hollered. No answer.
I walked into the living room and both Brody and my mother were sitting on the couch, crying.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, instantly bringing my thoughts to Michael.
“Like you don’t know.” Brody spat in my direction, his words filled with venom.
Oh no... did Michael? Did he really put all of this on me?
“I don’t know. What happened?” I urged.
“Cecilia, I think you should just leave the room.” My mom spoke sternly through her sobs.
“No, not until you tell me what happened!”
“We know what you did.” My mom scoffed, “I can’t believe you’re playing stupid.”
“I seriously don’t know what’s going on!” I shouted, finally feeling fed up.
“Michael told us everything. How you ran into him at the grocery store and begged him to be a part of our lives. How you got Eric to pay him to stay. How you arranged to pay his sister’s medical bills in exchange to form a relationship with us. How it was all just one big lie!” Brody shouted while standing up and moving closer to me with each word that he spoke.
“I didn’t do that Brody! Please, you have to believe me! Michael created that plan with Eric! That’s why we broke up! Michael got Eric to pay him off in exchange for coming back into our lives and pretending to want to be with us. He tricked us all! I was trying to protect both of you!”
I turned to face my mom, “Mom, I told you all of this the other day and you completely shut me down. I told you this was going to happen!” I screamed.
“I honestly don’t even know what to think anymore. I’m over this.” My mom said, standing up to step beside Brody.
Brody looked at me with pure disgust and hatred. I felt so small under his hard gaze. I could feel the water beginning to form around my dull eyes. I needed to make them believe me.
“You’re really going to believe his story over mine? This, the same guy who left before and didn’t even write us letters or pick up a phone to call us?” I didn’t realize how loud my voice had grown.
“Besides, if I created this whole entire plan of paying him off to stay, why was I so unsure at the beginning? Who was the one who didn’t want you all to get attached in the first place? God, just listen to yourselves. His story doesn’t add up like mine does!” I was livid by this point.
“Cecilia, I think you need to go stay at Layla’s house for a while.” My mother simply stated.
“What...” I spoke softly, almost a whisper.
“I just can’t look at you right now.” She frowned.
Brody nodded his head in agreement, and I couldn’t hold my tears back anymore. I let them fall as I pushed past them and darted for my bedroom.
I quickly began placing random clothes into a duffel bag, as well as my phone charger and medication bottle.
I grabbed my phone with shaky fingers and dialed Layla’s number. It rang a few times and then went to voicemail. I huffed and grabbed my earbuds, before slinging the duffel bag onto one shoulder, and my school backpack on the other.
I closed my bedroom door after me with a slam, and made my way to the front door.
“Make sure you take your med-“, I angrily cut my mother off, “I have everything. Don’t pretend to care now.”
I threw my house key at her after pulling it off my key ring, and slammed the door shut behind me.
I threw my bags into my car and sped off into the mid-day air.
My mom just kicked me out. How did this happen? Why don’t they believe me?
So many questions ran through my mind, and before I knew it, I was at the quickie mart near the tracks. I parked my car and grabbed my earbuds. I locked my car doors and threw my earbuds on, slinging my hoodie over my head and walking towards the tracks.
Small tears were streaming down my swollen cheeks as I turned on my Pandora app. I reached my normal hangout spot and saw someone already sitting down.
I angrily rolled my eyes.
“What are you doing here?” I finally questioned once I thought I had my crying under control.
“Well, I know why you’re here. Want to talk about it?” He casually asked, probably thinking I wasn’t mad at him anymore after our interaction at lunch earlier today.
“No.” I simply responded.
“So sit down then. We can not talk together.”
I did as he suggested, but kept my distance.
“I can’t believe you did this to me.” I finally blurted out into the dry, chilly air.
“Did what?” He asked, as if he didn’t destroy my family.
“You know what I’m talking about, Eric!” My tone was instantly louder, “You paid Michael and now he’s gone. He told Brody and my mom that I was behind all of it and that I was the one paying him off. He crushed them and put the entire blame on me. Now, he’s gone and my mom all but kicked me out of the house!”
I was breathing heavy now, so I immediately stood up to get my breathing under control.
Eric seemed concerned, so he stood up after I did, and tried to help. “Cecilia, it’s going to be okay. Just breathe.”
Eric tried to place a hand on my shoulder, but I instantly pulled away from his grasp.
“Don’t touch me, I’m fine.” I grabbed my medication bottle that I stuffed inside of my pocket before locking my car doors, and I dry swallowed a dose.
After a few minutes of silence, and after I was finally calm, he spoke again.
“I can’t believe she kicked you out. Where are you going to go?” He asked.
“I don’t know. I tried calling Layla, but she didn’t answer. Besides, it might be too weird to crash at your place with you there.” I looked away, trying not to give away my true feelings.
“It wouldn’t be weird.” He softly replied.
“Trust me, it would for me.”
“Cecilia, please, you have to say that you forgive me. I don’t know how much longer I can take you being mad at me. I know what I did was awful, and I know that I ruined everything but please, I need you.” Eric begged, causing my heart to squeeze at his plea.
“I thought I would be okay when you told me it was over. I thought I would be okay when you told me that you couldn’t forgive me. I thought I would be okay when I heard that you instantly forgave Layla, but didn’t even try to forgive me. The truth is, I’m not okay Cecilia and I never will be. As long as you hate me, I will never be okay.” His voice was strong, like he had been practicing his speech in front of the mirror at home before seeing me.
I blinked away the tears threatening to spill as I took in his words. “Eric...” I began.
“I know you aren’t going to forgive me overnight, Cecil. I just need to hear you say that maybe someday you will be able to.” He looked down at his feet.
I let out a long sigh, “Ugh, how did we end up like this? Everything was perfect a few weeks ago. Now... I don’t even recognized my own life.” I stared off into the distance.
“I feel the same way.” Eric muttered, still waiting for me to tell him something good.
“Maybe one day Eric, I can forgive you. Just not today.” I finally said after a few moments of silence. That was all Eric needed to hear, after that, he smiled.
“So, I um, know where your father is.” Eric said after a few moments of silence.
“You what?” I yelled, “Where?”
“He’s at some hotel a few miles outside of town. He told me to deliver the check there the other day and he would just mail what his sister needed to her from home. I didn’t get a chance to deliver the check, because once you found out, I told him I wasn’t going to give it to him. Instead, he went straight to my dad and I guess he went to see him at his office yesterday. He told my dad that he’s leaving in the morning to head back home.”
“I’m going.” I stated.
“Well I’m coming with.” He demanded.
“Cecilia, it’s not safe alone. Just let me come with you, please?” He begged.
“Fine. Let’s go. It’s getting late and I don’t want him to decide to leave before we get there.” I motioned him to follow me as I started running towards my car.
“So, what are you going to say to him?” Eric asked as we drove down the highway.
“I’m going to chew his head off for messing with my family and then I’m going to demand that he call my mom and tell her that he lied and that I had nothing to do with it. Then, we can leave and stop for more ice cream.” I casually stated as if this were an everyday occurrence.
“Well, at least you have a plan.” Eric muttered from the driver’s seat. We thought it was best to let him drive since he knew exactly where he was going and I had no clue.
“It’s more than a plan. It’s a certainty.” I replied while looking out of the window.
A few moments of silence passed before Eric spoke again, “Do you miss me at least?”
“What?” I asked, startled by his sudden question.
“Me, do you at least miss me?” He asked again.
“I um... maybe.” I softly mumbled.
I quickly shot a glance at Eric and noticed the happiness beginning to form on his features. I felt bad about giving in to my emotions, but I wasn’t going to lie to him just to make myself feel better. He needed to hear the truth, even if I didn’t want to admit it.
“Listen, I’m sorry for exploding on you. I just need more time to process everything and then we can talk more about us. Alright?” I asked while he kept his eyes on the road.
“I guess I saw the explosion coming. I expected us to be completely over, I just wished we weren’t. I know I messed up Cecilia, but I promise I’ll make it up to you no matter what it takes. You’ll trust me again, and we’ll become friends again. Who knows, maybe even more if everything plays out accordingly.”
“I think I would really love that.” I smiled genuinely over at him as he passed me a quick glance, before putting his eyes back over to the road.
“I hoped you’d say that.” He smiled again while still watching the never-ending road ahead.
After an hour of driving, we finally pulled into the hotel parking lot. It didn’t look like a five-star hotel, that’s for sure.
I recognized Michael’s Red Toyota Camry in the parking lot and smiled to myself, happy that he was still here.
We walked up to the hotel door and I took in a deep breath as Eric slowly put his hand inside of my own. Despite the awkwardness, I held on as tight as I could.
“Ready?” He asked.
“Definitely.” I replied before lifted my trembling hand and knocked on the door.
Eric and I waited for a few seconds, and then finally the door swung open.
“About time you’re here with my room service. I ordered dinner over an hour ago.” Michael mumbled before finally bringing his eyes to meet ours. He looked honestly confused as he stared at Eric and I.
“Aren’t you going to invite us in?” I coldly asked, all before pushing right past him and stomping into his small hotel room.
“What are you doing here Cecil?” Michael sighed, closing the hotel room door, after Eric stepped inside.
“I need to speak with you. If you don’t mind.” I glared.
“What about?” He rose his eyebrows, pretending to be clueless as to what it is I wanted to discuss.
“Why did you lie to my mom and Brody? You’ve ruined everything. They kicked me out of the damn house because of you. I knew you were just a fake, lying coward.” I stated, causing his eyes to widen slightly.
“I can’t believe I ever once called you dad.” I spat, crossing my arms firmly over my chest.
“Listen, I know you don’t understand, but I needed the extra money.” He began.
“What do you mean, extra money?” I rose my eyebrows, casting Eric a pointed look to which he only shrugged, not having a clue of what Michael was saying either.
“Shit.” He cursed to himself, “Listen, you both really need to go.” He urged.
“No, not until you explain yourself. You at least owe me that much.” I stood my ground, not faltering in the slightest.
“I’m telling you, you need to leave, now!” He yelled, beginning to grow impatient.
“No!” I screamed back, taking a threatening step towards him.
Suddenly, a car screeched into the parking lot as it made an abrupt stop. We all listened as the car doors opened and slammed shut.
“Shit.” Michael muttered under his breath, “Quick, get into the bathroom, and don’t say a fucking word!” He whispered-yelled, ushering Eric and I into the small, smelly bathroom.
“What’s going on?” I asked, only to be shushed by Michael who shut the bathroom door in my face.
Eric and I tried our best to listen at the door. After a few moments, we heard the hotel room door open and soon after, a couple of deep voices followed.
“You got the money?” One of the men asked.
“Of course.” We heard Michael reply.
After some rummaging through a bag, we heard the men begin counting what we assumed to be the money.
“You sure it’s all here? Feels a little light.” A higher pitched voice said, causing me to wonder what these mysterious men looked like.
“Of course it’s all there. I counted everything out myself.” Michael stated, his voice sounding a little bit strained.
“Mark, count it again.” One of the men said, “I don’t care how long this takes.”
We heard some more shuffling of the money, and suddenly I felt a sneeze coming on.
Perfect freaking timing.
My eyes widened, and Eric immediately placed his hand over my mouth in an attempt to stop the sneeze from releasing itself, but unfortunately, it still came out. It was muffled, so I had hoped that none of the men on the other side of this door could hear it.
“What was that? Who’s in here? Are you working with the cops?” One of the men yelled. His deep voice boomed throughout the hotel room, and before we could even blink, the bathroom door swung open to reveal a scary looking, six foot tall man in a black suit.
“Out.” He said, instructing Eric and I to exit the bathroom.
“Who are they?” The scary man asked, looking over to Michael with an evilness to his eyes.
“That’s um... that’s my...” Michael couldn’t form a coherent reply, so I used whatever small ounce of confidence I had left in me, to answer for him.
“I was his daughter.” I stated.
“Was huh?” The tall man smirked, “I guess you won’t mind if I take her then, right?”
My eyes widened in fear as I took a small step backward. Eric immediately stepped in front of me and blocked my body from view.
“You aren’t taking her anywhere.” Eric confidently stated.
“You sure about that kid?” The man took a daring step toward Eric, and laughed as Eric tried to stand taller in an attempt to show that he wasn’t scared, though I could see right through his bad-boy facade.
“Mark, are you finished yet or should I have brought a damn calculator?” The tall man sighed, looking back towards who I now know to be Mark.
Mark is a lot shorter than the man standing in front of Eric and I. He was bald with a dirty brown suit on. His shirt and tie was wrinkled and I could see that he did nothing to try to look presentable for whatever occasion this currently was.
“Almost done boss.” He smiled, though the bigger man saw no humor in anything.
The scarier looking man turned back towards us, and looked right around Eric to cast me a uneasy glance, “What’s your name darlin’?” He asked.
I didn’t answer, and that made his smirk grow even wider.
“Guess you want to do this the hard way."