Half an hour into his visit, I learned that my mother wasn’t staying and that the luggage all belonged to Lenard. Dad had supposedly bought their tickets. They were meant to come on my birthday, but something had caused them to delay their visit. Lenard was the only one that was supposed to come, but my mother demanded that she also got a trip over to California. That was possibly why they were delayed a few days, getting an ok from Evelyn.
Evelyn wasn’t home. She announced her pregnancy to us all earlier this month and the family has been overjoyed by the good news. I heard her drive off this morning, knowing ahead that she was getting a check-up.
“I originally wanted to come on Thanksgiving. I got discharged about two weeks before the holiday.” Lenard said, relaxing back on the recliner, holding a can of soda in one hand. His fingers tapped against the metal as his eyes swept around the vicinity, quite impressed at what he saw. He raised his brow at appropriate times and didn’t dare ask the price of anything in the room.
“I’m happy you were able to make it. That’s all that matters to me.” I beamed and went for another hug. I was getting greedy with the affection. He was so numb the last time I saw him. There was a different rhythm in the way he walked. Even the way the light behind his eyes after he smiled seemed to look significantly different all together. As much as I wanted to believe he was the old Lenard I grew up with, I knew that he wasn’t. Not after everything that happened. He appeared to seem healthier than before though. That was what I cared about, not if he was the same Lenard.
“I’ve heard a bit about what’s been going on around here,” Lenard said, taking a slug of his drink. “If you ask me, it sounds a lot more interesting than what I’ve been through.”
I shook my head. He didn’t need to be weighed down by my dumb drama. I wanted his mood to not be ruined by my own issues. “No, it’s been pretty boring around here.”
He took a long sip. “Dad told me about Dakota.”
I shot a look at my father. “Really? You had to?”
After the last day of school, Hunter and Pierson had brought me home. It took my father one guess to figure out what happened. With me bawling my eyes out and cursing out Dakota’s name, it really wasn’t hard to know what occurred. It was the first time in a long time where I saw my father show more interest in my life than in his work.
Dad shrugged, not showing any shame. “What? I had to. It’s frowned upon if a 40-something year old beats up a teenager. I figured Lenard would be a fair opponent against your ex.”
Mom snorted a laugh. “What did this Dakota guy do? I hope you didn’t piss off any more older men like you did in Maine, Silvia. I don’t want to have to ship you off to another school before you’ve even finished high school.”
My face fell. I had worked so hard to erase what I did in Maine but with my mom here, I knew she wouldn’t let me escape it. “I’m not getting into any trouble here mom. It wasn’t my fault. What happened between Dakota and I has been resolved,” I lie, “and there won’t be any problems now.”
She scoffed. “You say that now. But don’t come crying to me again once photos of you blow up online again like they did before.”
“Hey. He did that without her knowledge. That wasn’t Silvia’s fault.” Lenard chimed in.
Mom rolled her eyes. “Well if she would’ve kept her legs together than maybe that whole incident wouldn’t have happened. Silvia’s not a victim.”
Lenard’s gaze darkened. “You said you wouldn’t do this.”
“Not do what? Be honest?” She raised a thick brow. “God, I’m not her therapist. I’m not here to coddle her. I’m her mother.”
“You would coddle a bottle of Valium faster than you’d coddle your own daughter. Don’t you see how fucking pathetic that is?”
“Don’t use that tone with me.” She growled, crossing her arms over her chest. “You can’t speak to me like that. I’m your mother.”
“Then act like one,” Lenard countered.
I covered my face with my hands and sighed into them, wishing that I could close my eyes, count to fifteen, and then have her disappear when I opened them again. Lenard was twenty. I didn’t understand why he couldn’t get to California on his own... or at least with someone other than my mother. The fact that she insisted on coming to see me was shocking, to say the least. With the way she put on extra makeup and wore her high heels and nice black dress, I had a feeling that she had come here to see my father. Not me.
“I didn’t come here just so I could be screamed at.” She twirled around her heels, peering at the both of us on the couch. Dad was leaning on the wall beside the TV. “If you want me to leave, just say it. I can tell I’m unwanted here.”
“You don’t need to be so dramatic.” My dad spoke up. “No one said that you needed to leave, Jasmine.”
I want her to leave though.
I shoved my hands into my pockets and balled them into fists, clenching the fabric as I counted. But it was no use. She was still there every time I opened my eyes. Just like a nightmare that had come to life. Unfortunately, this nightmare had given birth to me so there was no way I could dream her out of my life.
After all of these years, I had pinned up so much hate inside of myself, finding different ways to release my anger. I divided my time between bad decisions and bad relationships. None of it was necessarily the best way to deal with pain, but I had foolishly believed that it was helping me, or at least helping me better than what my mother or brother did. I let wicked games of deception trick me into thinking that I was okay, that I was fine. But in reality, I was dying inside, withering away along with my willpower to live.
“I think it’s best you do leave.”
My voice was soft, too weak for them to hear me. Lenard heard me though. He was close enough to catch it. When mom asked me to repeat myself, Lenard nudged me. “I’ll get her to leave.”
I mouthed a thank-you as he got out of his seat and walked my mom to the front door. A sigh of relief left my body as the front door closed shut. My world was brought back into focus and the weight of the world was lifted off of my shoulders.
Dad excused himself from the room and went back to his office upstairs. During the first few days of the breakup, I was the top priority. Now, I was back to being his irrelevant daughter that had too much baggage to carry.
Lenard reemerged at the doorway of the living room. He didn’t waste a minute when he crashed back on the seat beside me. “So should I beat up Dakota now or should I wait until he’s eighteen first?”
I knocked my shoulder with his. “You’re not beating anyone up.”
“No, I am. I’m your older brother. It’s practically in my job description to kick his ass for making you cry.” Lenard grabbed the TV remote and flipped it on. “Dad told me all about how there was a video in front of the whole school and how it was of your boyfriend with another girl. I don’t care if you approve me paying him a visit or not.”
“No, Lenard. I’m not letting you.”
He laughed and patted my head. ”Letting me? Aww, you think you have a say in this.”
He chuckled more, but I knew he didn’t find this situation humorous. Back when we used to go to school together, he constantly would repel boys away from me. He would have his friends make sure I wasn’t spotted with guy, and if I was, he’d grill me on every detail and scare the guy away before I could get beyond a first name bases.
“Oh c’mon Silvia. I’ve waited eighteen years for this exact moment. You will not take this away from me.” He declared. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many times I’ve thought of torturing your first boyfriend. I even put more thought when it came to your first ex-boyfriend.”
“Please don’t do anything.”
“Hey, I’m not going to kill the guy.” He assured me. “I’m just saying I really hope he has health insurance.”
“There’s a lot of other people who want to beat him up. You’re going to have to take a number and wait in line. It’s a long wait.” I rolled my eyes. The debate on if he would beat up Dakota or not was left alone and we went on to discuss more important things. He told me about his trip over and how he couldn’t wait to spend some time with me so we could catch-up. He asked me how the twins were and I didn’t beat around the bush. Lenard asked me about my friends and I told him about the few that I cared to mention, Ronnie being the main one.
I was just about to tell Lenard about Evelyn’s pregnancy when I heard a knock on the door.
Lenard crossed his fingers. “Oh, God let it please be Dakota. I’ll go grab my running shoes and Vaseline from my suitcase.”
I threw him a look over my shoulder before going for the door. “You’re not hitting anyone.”
Reaching the front of the house, I twisted the door knob and yanked it open. Ronnie stood on our doorstep.
“What are you doing here so early?” I asked, opening the door wider for her so she could step inside.
“I wanted to check up on you.” Ronnie told me and gaited inside.
Lenard poked his head in. A hint of disappoint overcame his features. He was really hoping to run into Dakota. Lenard walked up to us and stretched out his hand to Ronnie. “Hello.”
“Uh.” Ronnie gaped shamelessly while going for a handshake. Her hand went limp in his grasp. “Uh, hi...Hello...um. Hi.”
He beamed, flashing her a brighter smile. “You already said hi.”
She stared blankly up at him, speechless. “Uhhhh.”
“Speak.” I said. “With actual words. C’mon, Ronnie. I know you can do it.”
“You’re Ronnie? Silvia was just telling me about you.”
“All lies, I hope.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder and fluttered her lashes. I had only seen this move once. It was her go-to flirting move. “And who are you?”
“Lenard?” she echoed and snuck a look in my direction. “He’s your brother? He is your ...brother?”
“Yes, he’s my brother. I’ve show you a photo of him before,” I stated. “It was a photo of us when we were younger.”
Lenard shrugged. “I’ve grown up.”
She raked her eyes up and down on Lenard. “Puberty treated you well. Very well.”
That was my cue to get her out of there. I linked my arm with hers. “If you could please excuse us, we have to talk...talk about bingo,” I lied.
“What about bingo?” Ronnie arched her brows at me. “I don’t like bingo. I’d much rather stay here and--”
"C’mon.” I yanked her even harder.
I nearly had to drag Ronnie up the stairs. It took a lot more strength than I thought I needed. She kept sneaking looks over her shoulder and making this weird giggling sound that I never heard her make before.
Slamming my bedroom door behind me, I narrowed my eyes on her.
“What?” She yelped.
“Don’t what me! You were practically drooling all over my brother.”
“I’m sorry.” She snarled with little to no sincerity. “It’s not my fault that he’s got chiseled cheeks I’ve only ever seen on sculptors of Greek gods.” She fell backwards on my bed and bit her fist. “The second I saw his dimples I wanted to lick his face, and his stomach, and—”
“I don’t want to know what else you wanted to lick!” I yelled. “Please, just stop. Stop the torture. You’re starting to sound like Beth. You don’t know him, Ronnie.”
She sat up right on my bed. Despite the pain she was causing me, she went on. “Ohmigod, and did you see his hands? They were really big. You know what they say about guys with big hands. They have big—”
“I’m not hearing this! Lalalalala! I’m not listening!” I plugged my ears and starting yelling, hoping that it blocked out the noise. Once she had shut-up, I grabbed one of my pillows and threw it at her. “Please don’t do that again. I think I might collapse at the thought of you with my br...” I made a fake gagging sound before I could even finish words.
She took the same pillow I had flung at her and hit me with it. “If you want me to stop, I won’t do anything with him.”
“Thank you.” I exhaled. “What happened with Heath? I thought you guys were together.”
The day Dakota broke it off with me, I had caught Heath at Ronnie’s apartment on Thanksgiving. It was a bit of a shocker, but I was happy for the both of them. They seemed to go well together. With their carefree attitude and love for crude jokes, they were almost a perfect match.
Ronnie groaned. “Do you really have to ask why?”
“I don’t get it. You like him.”
"Did?” I repeated her words. “What did he do? I’ve got a car now. If he did something, I’ll do exactly what you said you would do for me when Dakota broke it off. I’ll happily run Heath over with my car if you give me the green light. I’ve even got the perfect monologue to give the police. It’ll look just like an accident.”
She grinned. “No, he didn’t do anything. It was me. After what happened with Finn, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go jump to a new relationship. We were together for two years. I need some more time to figure out what I want before I start something new.”
I nodded. “That’s great that you were able to see that before things got too serious with Heath.” I walked over to my closet, but just as I did, my laptop chimed, signaling a new text message. “Can you tell me who that was?”
There was silence on her end for a moment. “Why the hell is Pierson texting you? I thought you weren’t speaking to him?”
“I’m not letting him back into my life,” I assured her. “He started texting me last night and then he tried FaceTiming, but I didn’t accept the call.”
She sprang off of the bed and darted to me. “He texted you? And you replied?” When I nodded, she let out a groan in disgust. “C’mon, Silvia. You say you’re not letting him back into your life but all I can see is him sliming his way into your heart again. This is just the first step.”
“Why are you suddenly so against Pierson?”
“It’s not all so sudden. I’ve never been on Pierson’s side to begin with. Any guy with better eyebrows than me is one to feel suspicious of.”
I laughed. “Yeah, he does have great brows.” I shook my head, looking through my clothes and moving hangers aside. “Pierson’s pretty hot. You’d agree, right?”
She coughed on her spit. “Ohmigod, I think I can taste my breakfast coming back up.”
“You called Pierson hot.”
“He’s not ugly.”
“But he is evil,” she noted. “That’s one step closer to fucking him.”
“Oh, hush. No, it’s not.”
“Listen, Silvia. If you’re cutting Dakota out you have to cut off him, too. Both are untrustworthy. Both are toxic for you.”
She had a point. Because of my sadness with Dakota, my defense against Pierson had weakened. I shouldn’t go blind to what he did to me.
Grabbing both of my shoulders, she guided me to the bed and sat me down. She forced me to look at her and put both of her hands in mine. “You know I care about you and that you are my best friend, right?”
“I know that.” I nodded. “You’re my best friend, too.”
“And that everything I say is coming from a good place?”
“I know that, Ronnie. What are you trying to say?”
“In simpler terms, I’m saying: why don’t you go for Gabriel?”
I wrinkled my nose. “He’s nice and all, but he’s not really my type.”
“Your type has gotten you in trouble for the past four months. I think you need to go for a guy who is completely the opposite of Dakota. This can help you move on.”
“I have moved on.”
She pinched the fabric of the sweater I was wearing. “Who’s sweater is this you’re wearing? It looks like a male’s sweater.”
I inched away from her. Subconsciously, I had grabbed the sweater last night when I had gotten cold. I didn’t know it was Dakota’s old sweater I never gave back until this morning.
“Gabriel is the farthest thing from him.” Ronnie went on to say. “He’s sweet, he’s reliable, he’s not afraid of commitment, he’s never been arrested, and he doesn’t hate your family.”
I lowered my brows. “He doesn’t have tattoos, he doesn’t drive a mustang, he doesn’t play the guitar.”
“Why does that last one matter? Are you worried he won’t be able to finger your strings right?”
I slapped her arm and we laughed.
“Trust me, Silvia. Gabriel is a good choice.” She pulled out her phone. “All I’m saying is give him one date. One chance.”
She texted me his number and I stared at it. “I’ll think about it.”