I woke up late the next morning, not wanting to pull my mind away from my wonderful dreams. I didn't do much, just hung around the house in my pajamas all day. Ari and I were even civil towards each other. Cue applause for my self control. He didn't pester me about whom I was with, and where I was last night, even though I could tell it was killing him inside to do so - or not to do so, I guess.
I could tell he took our conversation together last night to heart, and was trying hard to give me my space. I have to admit, it really meant a lot to me that he was trying. I knew all too well that he would never be able to fully quit meddling in my personal affairs, but the fact that he was trying made me forgive him.
It was like everything had gone back to normal. I spent the day just hanging out with my siblings, enjoying their company. We messed around with Angel, playing house for three consecutive hours, before ordering takeout and sitting down together, watching various movies on Netflix. Ari made popcorn like he'd do for us when we were younger, and Angel helped me out in the kitchen making root beer floats. She said she wanted to help - I think that she was suspicious that I would manage to burn the place down somewhere during the ice-cream scooping and drink-pouring.
Who knows, it could happen.
We sat down on the couch and ate our sweets while watching the Harry Potter movies, starting from one and ending at 6.5 (number 7, part 1). Ari sat on the far end of the couch with his feet propped up, while I was snuggled in close next to him, curled up to his side like I did as a child, with my head resting on his left shoulder, my legs stretched out beside me. Angel was situated in my lap, curling herself into me, her head on my chest. Her eyes were droopy, drowsiness threatening to take over, but she fought to stay awake.
"Ange, you wanna hit the sack, baby?" I suggested gently somewhere during the fourth movie.
"Nooo," she protested. "I wanna see... if he wins..."
But, alas, she lost the battle against her fatigue not thirty minutes later as she slowly drifted into a deep sleep.
I smiled down at her sleeping figure as I tucked her in closer to me, wrapping my arms around her to keep her warm. I yawned loudly, tiredness suddenly taking over me as well, and curled up closer into Ari's side, drifting into a sweet dreamland.
BREAK… DANCE lol… Yeah, Kenzi, LET'S DANCE FOR THE GODDAMN PAGE BREAK! DANCE, MINIONS, DANCE!
I woke up the next morning with my head buried into a soft pillow and my limbs tangled in my sheets and comforter. I jumped slightly, not knowing where I was at first. God help me - I better not've been drinking last night.
But then I looked around at my surroundings and noticed I was in my room, with my clothes on. The night before suddenly came rushing back, and I was relieved that there was no alcohol involved; in fact, I couldn't help but smile as I thought of Angel and her non-Satanic face as she drifted off. But then I realized that this was not where I had fallen asleep. Ari must've carried me to my room, I guessed. I smiled again at his kind gesture, and if it wasn't so damn early - and also a godforsaken school day - I think I would've been way more appreciative. But since it was five in the morning and I had to start getting ready to go that hellhole we call 'higher education', I decided to be my normal bratty self and just nod my thanks or something.
'Cause that's how I roll...
I got dressed quickly, before throwing a pair of gym shorts and a cutoff t-shirt into my bag for our after-school practice. I threw my hair into a loose ponytail and slipped on a pair of Nikes, giving myself a once over in the mirror, determining that this was as good as it was gonna get. Sighing, I grabbed my bag and headed down stairs to grab a quick breakfast - being the most important meal of the day and all - and to help Angel gather her things for school.
I passed Ari tying his shoes and gave him a smile. He returned the gesture and I knew we were going to be alright. I looked back at him one more time before dashing off to find Angel and get her ready.
After spending fifteen minutes deciding which bow she wanted to wear, I finally got her to pick one and I pulled her hair into neat pigtails with the selected (and disgustingly pink) bow clipped in. I gathered her essentials for kindergarten - a notebook, pencils, and a 64 pack of crayons - and placed them into her Power Puff Girls backpack as she slipped on her shoes and velcroed (I thought it was a word..Apparently not.. Of course it's not a word, Kenzi! Duh! How could you not know that! Haha, kidding. It should be a word, though. And I have now added it to the dictionary, thus meaning that, according to my computer, it is a word. IT IS!) them tight. I had her ready with two minutes to spare before we needed to head off. I picked her up and placed her on my hip, her backpack slung on one of my shoulders and mine on the other, as I carried her downstairs and grabbed her a strawberry Poptart on the way out, Ari trailing not far behind.
After everyone was situated and buckled in, we headed off to drop Angel off at school, and then we were on our way to another exciting day at Pacific Coast Academy.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~Break~~~~~~~DANCE! DANCE I TELL YOU! DAANCE!~~~~~~~~
While walking to my first period class with Coach, I had to admit to myself, I was a bit anxious to see Fang. We hadn't really talked about what happened between us Saturday night, and to be honest, it was killing me. I had no idea what to think. Were we just friends? Boyfriend and girlfriend? Friends with benefits? Was it just a one time thing? And, oh God, what would Ari do to him if he found out?
All of those questions were eating away at me inside, just begging to be answered. I knew I really liked Fang - to be perfectly honest, I had liked him from the start. He didn't try hard to be something he wasn't, and he just wasn't the douche you'd expect someone so - this is me being completely honest - freaking hot to be. He was sweet and I could tell he really cared - about what, I didn't know; just that he cared about what deserved caring for. He was someone I felt I could tell my deepest secrets to, and just talk about anything.
But, on the other hand, I didn't really know that to think. Before I started attending PCA, I had heard some pretty... um, raunchy things about Fang and his attitude towards women, although he had never acted that way towards me - he'd always been respectful, and, as I said before, sweet.
I smiled as I thought of all the times I'd spent with Fang since I had met him. Memories of the first time we met flooded my mind, him smirking at me while made a fool of myself lying on the floor books scattered around me. Fang helping me up, helping me pick up my books and showing me around immediately becoming a friend of mine. I remembered how at first he didn't accept the fact I thought I could play with the rest of them in basketball, but then he defended me to not only coach but also that douche, Kyle or whatever.
For some reason or another, he always seemed a bit worried about me, and seemed to always be checking to make sure I was okay. I held in a laugh as I thought about Fang throwing me over his shoulder and setting me down in his car as if I were a little kid or something, when Ari was going through his Hormone Fest, and had left me stranded at school. Then my memory flashed to one of my favorite times with Fang; the night on the beach after I stormed out on Ari. That night was just so simple - he was there for me, comforting me, when we hadn't even known each other for more than a few days.
And yet he was still there for me.
I remembered the words we exchanged with each other that night clearly, and I doubt I'd ever forget them.
"We've barely known each other for a week, but I swear we've been friends - best friends - for forever."
"I know, I feel the same way. I trust you, yet I barely know you."
I smiled even more brightly than I had been before; Fang and I had become even closer since then. For some reason or another, I needed him in my life, whether it was just as friends, or something more. I still needed him.
I strolled into class just as I had come out of my epiphany. I strutted - because, you know, that's how all badasses walk - over to my seat, and as I sauntered along, bold print words scrawled on the board caught my eye.
"Group Projects," was etched on the board in Coach's chicken scratch handwriting. My eyes drifted to the stacks of plays neatly placed on his desk. As I read through the titles, I had an odd feeling that I knew which play my group would be assigned.
~~ AND I DON'T FEEL LIKE DANCING, NO SIR NO DANCIN' TODAY...~~
I had gone to school early so I could shoot some hoops to clear my mind. All weekend I had lost sleep over Max. Max. Her hair, her smile, her laugh, her beauty, and that goddamn magical kiss we shared. I couldn't stop thinking about it, no matter how hard I tried. And believe me, I tried.
I had spent every waking moment thinking about it. I nearly made myself sick wondering through all the possibilities. Even if she did want to be with me, which had still yet to be determined - another thing on my mind - I still had to think of a way we could be together. I knew Max was good at getting what she wanted, but Ari was one tough kid. I am sure he could come up with thirty ways off the top of his head to murder me and dispose of the body without anyone knowing. Ari was seriously not one to mess with; the kid had his connections.
I tossed a ball up carelessly from the free-throw line and missed by a long shot, just as my phone beeped, alerting me I had a new message.
I fished in my pocket for my phone and slid it open, reading my text.
From: The Ruler of the Universe
Yo, man. Where r u?
Damn boy. I'm never letting him near my phone again.
To: The Ruler of the Universe
Gym. Playing b-ball. Need to clear my head.
I pressed 'send' before sliding my phone closed and shoving it back in my pocket, picking up the nearest ball and throwing it in the air, returning to my thoughts.
A few minutes later, Iggy came jogging into the gym, looking slightly concerned. He knew me all too well, I guess. Iggy knew I only came to play basketball early in the morning if I needed time to think, or there was something important on my mind. I practically lived here after it happened, and Iggy came to keep me company quite often. He really was a great friend.
Once he reached me, he grabbed a ball lying on the ground nearby before dribbling it carelessly beside me, silent, as I shot another air-ball, missing yet again. I sighed, frustrated.
"Man, what's up? How'd Saturday go?" he asked, winking suggestively, trying to get me to loosen up.
I sighed, a small smile on my lips as I thought about Saturday. "Iggy, I think I'm in love."
I wasn't looking at him as I said it, but I heard the ball thud to the floor and bounce away. I turned to Iggy and saw shock evident on his pale face.
"Ha-ha, Fang. See, this is why I love you. You're so funny."
"But..." Iggy trailed off. "You're Fang. And in love? Shit, the apocalypse is coming! Everyone, pray for your souuullss! But Fang in love? Oh my bombs, this is crazy... I never thought I'd see the day. I just can't believe it. You're growing up! With who? Who, who, who?"
"With Max," I sighed. "Ig, it's freaking crazy. I've never felt this way before about anyone, ever. She just makes me feel so... so weird. Like, alive, and all warm and tingly and stuff. She just... she's amazing. God, I don't know how to explain it. It's freaking crazy."
"Oh, great," Iggy huffed sarcastically. "Of all people, Max? The one girl to break you out of your shell, the one girl that makes you happy, and you can't have her! Why do you always have to be so... ugh... Why, Fang, why did you have to pick the forbidden fruit? Damn, with all the easy ass you could get around here, I'd think you could find someone who could make you happy, who wasn't, like, off limits. But no, you have to be difficult, don't you?"
I sighed, rubbing my temples as I looked at my best friend. "Iggy... I'm actually happy with her, and it makes me feel so guilty, because I don't deserve to be. At all. Not after-"
Iggy cut me off right there, giving me a knowing look. "Fang, it's been over a year since you lost her. You have to stop beating yourself up, man," he said, looking at me sympathetically, putting a hand on my shoulder.
"It's my fault, Iggy! I don't deserve happiness!" My voice dropped, threatening to crack. Memories of her flooded my mind, haunting me. I tried to shrug off Iggy's hand, but his grip did nothing but tighten, showing me that he meant business.
"Fang, stop it. You have to forgive yourself. You couldn't control what happened! It was a horrible thing, yeah, but you couldn't control it. Emily wouldn't want to see you this way! You know she wouldn't! She'd want you to be happy, and she'd want you to live your life. You. Know. That."
I turned to face him, grimacing slightly. "But how can I be happy, living life, when her life is over? She died, Iggy. She's not coming back. Her life was just beginning! Why her, why not me?" I swallowed. "I was the eldest. It should have been me."
His grip loosened on my shoulder and he spoke softly to me. "Fang, you have to let it go. You can't let all these 'what ifs' get to you. You can't change the past, okay? There was nothing you could do."
I turned away from Iggy, so he couldn't see the tear slipping off my cheek onto my collar. He sighed, half-disappointed, half-tired, before turning to leave.
Before he had gotten to the doors, I whispered, my voice echoing through the gym, "But I was her big brother. I was supposed to protect her."