The Gentiles

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Callie

“Oh, thank god,” Harry murmured after a beat against my hair as he pulled me into him.

For a moment, I melted into his embrace but the faint scent of sweet bubblegum on his shirt had my body stiffen. A slight reaction that he took notice by the way he pulled back with a pained look on his face that made me feel awkward.

He knew that I knew and it was more embarrassing than it was heartbreaking.

After all, I have no rights to be feeling the way I do.
Our grandma appeared behind him and my attention went to her. God bless her for saving me the trouble of having to face her favorite grandchild.

She always says that Harry was her favorite grandson and that I was her favorite granddaughter. She often shows it but I have always known deep down that she and Harry have a stronger bond than her and I.

Anyway, like I was a daddy’s girl, I have always been a grandpa’s girl.

Which was unfortunate when he passed away early last year. The reason why going to his and nana’s house felt all the more special and crucial.

Every time we spend weekends here, whether it was overnight or just for a day, I would recall fond memories of baba in every corner of the house, relaxing comfortably on his recliner with a dusty old copy of Captains Courageous. I was very close to my grandparents. They only have three children who bore them four grandchildren.

It was a tight knit family who never forgot daily phone calls. Everyone knows what’s going on with everybody and any form of achievement, big or small, will call for a celebration.

Harry’s mother Louise was the oldest and she only had him. She’s a single mother who works really hard to support her and Harry, the reason why she travels a lot for work and even more so when she was promoted just a few months ago.

Harry loved her very much and he understands their situation. The two of them have the rest of us but technically, it was just the two of them. It was heartwarming to see how Harry was sweet towards her. She was seldom home but those times that she was, it was like they were never apart.

Our uncle Ken was the middle child who had the twins Ane and Abe, born with the help of IVF since uncle Ken’s wife had difficulty getting pregnant after having a miscarriage before.

The twins were almost the same age as Harry, only a few months younger than him. Evenso, the three of them never made me feel out of place whenever we were together.

Well, at least Harry and Ane don't. Abe was just as keen on teasing me as Harry does but I always suspect that it was with malice. He enjoys irritating me too much that sometimes it felt like a personal dig and not funny anymore. Over time, his taunts became more sinister to the point of harassment.

When that happens, Harry was quick to diffuse the situation. Then again, he wasn’t always there when Abe would catch me alone and get on my nerves just for the heck of it. I don’t know if he couldn’t see the way Abe was tormenting me or if he just chose to ignore it.

Always the troublemaker, Abe grew up from a boisterous boy to an unbearable teenager. He was brooding, the complete opposite of his sunny twin sister.

During our family weekends together, he had to be coaxed into joining the rest of us gathered in the living room or even eating meals together. The only people who got his attitude were Harry and baba.

To be honest, I don’t know how they do it.

Harry pretty much shares the same personality as me and Ane. He was approachable and friendly, the life of the party. He wasn’t voted last year’s homecoming king for nothing.

And baba, well, baba was soft spoken and gentle.

I often detest when he had to talk to Abe and the stupid boy would just have this frown on his face as he listened to him before walking out. My heart hurt for baba even though he still had a smile on his face after such conversation.

Come to think of it, I don’t even think he got his sulky attitude from his parents. They were constantly chastising him for not being more like Ane because their difference was absolutely noticeable.

Ane was an angel to his devil and as hard as I don’t want to think the worst of him, time and time again he’d prove me wrong. I gave up on trying to understand him when that horrific summer incident happened.

He was lucky uncle Ken and aunt Denise were so understanding. I could see a great deal of my parents in them.

My mother was the youngest of three children, making me the youngest among my cousins. I have been begging her and my dad for a baby brother ever since I could remember and I still do, although I do not bug them about it as much as I did when I was younger. It may have been because of Harry.

Since he started living with us, we have become closer than we were before, especially when he started to go to the same school as I was. His presence around the house made it feel like I had my long-awaited brother which makes the forbidden feelings I have of him all the more disturbing.

I feel disgusted with myself.

When I stepped into the living room to give Nana a hug, I carefully scanned the area, anticipating the arrival of another person, but nobody else appeared. I held on to my breath as Nana led us deeper into the house and only released a breath of relief when I was certain that it was only the three of us here.

Like chasing a memory, a day that has long since passed, I’d walk around through the dining room, the kitchen, then out the fenced backyard where barbecues were held. The old swing set baba had put up when I was a toddler which infant seats were replaced as I outgrew them still stood under the old oak tree where I secretly carved my and Harry’s initial inconspicuously when I was seven.

I had the same nostalgic feeling as I followed nana into the kitchen.

Pouring water into a mint green kettle, she told us how she’s going to prepare something hot for us to drink. Neither of us told her what our preferences were, she already knew what we liked.

I sat automatically at my place at the dinner table, blowing on my hands and rubbing them together, already feeling a lot warmer here inside.

Only a few minutes ago, I thought I was gonna die. Such an over exaggeration but it felt very real and plausible at the moment.

Now, here I face my cousin, whom I have a secret childish crush on and whom I just caught having sex with his girlfriend, sitting in our grandma’s kitchen, listening to the clinking sounds of china and glass she prepared our drinks.
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