I frown and blink a couple of times. What the hell did she just say?
“If you think I’m a fool - ” I say but she cuts me off.
“I’m not kidding,” she says. “Now we are over I want you to just know. Nothing more than that.”
“You’re mental, Grace,” I say. “Really. Good bye.”
“Wait,” she says. “Do you hate me?”
I laugh dryly, “No…”
“…I loathe you,” I finish. “You and your family, you ruined my life. You parted me from my best ones and now you ask if I hate you? Of course I do, Grace. And never ever mention those feelings you are talking about again. And I warn you, keep off mom and Amelia. Pass this to Suzanne.”
“I…Brandon…” she mutters.
“Good bye,” I say. “Until…. never.”
I hang up and slip my phone in my pocket. America is watching me with wide eyes.
“What?” I ask. Grace started ringing again but I muted it.
“You were so mean,” she says.
“She’s my half-sister,” I explain. “She ruined my life. She blamed me of kissing her and other stuff. I had to move away from her, her brother and my stepmother. And now she says all of she has done was out of jealousy. She's jealous of my sister.”
I didn’t usually talk about myself to anyone but I did this time on my defense. I didn’t want her to think that I am a mean boasting bitch.
“I’m sorry,” she says.
I shake my head, “It’s all over.”
She looks around, “What do you have next?”
“I’m free,” I say. “You?”
“Me too,” she says. “I’m going to check on Miranda. She’s sick.”
“The same ginger girl?” I ask.
She nods with a smile, “Yep.”
We stay silent for a few seconds, eating quietly.
“You have one sister?” she asks.
“One sister and one brother,” I nod.
“I think you are the eldest?”
I nod, “How do you know?”
“The way you look protective of them,” she shrugs.
I smile, “And what about your family.”
Her smile disappears, “My mom has passed out when I was so young, my dad has married and I had to live with my uncle. And now I moved here.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I say.
She shakes her head, “I don’t remember mom, and dad…well…I don’t like him. I know it’s strange.”
I shake my head, “It isn’t. I don’t like my dad either.”
She smiles sadly.
“You’re an only child?” I ask.
She nods, “I wish I could’ve had an older brother who would care.”
I sigh, “We don’t get everything we wish for, though.”
She shakes her head, “No, we don’t.”
“You’ve been here since last year?” I ask.
She nods, “Yeah. And I have been in the high school adjacent to the college. I have spent my whole life here.”
“Do you know Tyler?” she asks.
“Yeah,” I say. “Not really. We share Calculus.”
“I thought he might be an old friend,” she says. “The way he defended you on Gabe.”
I shake my head, “You defended me as well and we barely know each other.”
She smiles, “I just didn’t like how he tries to humiliate you. Gabe is always like this. He gets jealous of new boys, especially the attractive ones, so he tries to embarrass them in front of everyone.”
“You think I’m attractive?” I ask.
She blushes, “I mean anyone who’s more attractive than him.”
“But he’s fine,” I say. “He’s good looking.”
She shrugs, “Gabe has been my friend since middle school. I know him very well.”
I choke on my juice, “He’s your friend?”
She nods, “He’s a nice guy. You’d think he’s a bully, he isn’t. But sometimes I have to remind him that he’s losing self-esteem.”
“You mean he thinks I am threat to him?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she says. “Something like this.”
I shake my head, “I’m not anything like this.”
She smiles and sips from her juice. Two girls pass our table and snigger.
“You finally find someone who accepts you?” one of them jeer.
“I’ve known you since ever,” sneers the other. “You were always so arrogant, is that over?”
I frown and they walk. Then one of them turn, look at me and then sneer at America.
“By the way,” she sneers. “He’s way prettier than you, loser.”
They walk away and giggle, I look at America, expecting tears or anger but she shakes her head with a tired smile.
“What’s wrong with them?” I ask.
She shrugs, “Just some haters.”
“But what were they saying?” I ask.
She sighs, “I have never had a boyfriend. They think I’m trying to make a relationship with you.”
“You never had?” I ask.
She shakes her head, “I have never wanted to. I had family issues and I had to concentrate on my lessons. I never had the time, until I moved alone.”
“When did you move?” I ask.
“Last week,” she says.
I nod and my phone beeps, announcing a message. I take it out of my pocket and smile.
Janson agreed. Cheers! I can’t wait 2 c u!!
I type back:
I’m waiting. Take care of urself, Ames.
She types back like a speedo.
I will, Brand. U never worry. Ur sister isn’t a child.
I smile even broader and put my phone back in my pocket and I realise that America is staring at me.
“Sorry,” I say. “I typed someone.”
She smiles and nods. She tucks her strawberry hair behind her ear and bat her long eyelashes unintentionally. Her phone rings and she answers.
“Hey,” she says. “Um…probably. No, Mira…of course. I’m at the cafeteria…why do you have to ask all those questions...no, I’m not with Gabe…. God, I’m with the guy that asked us about the History hall this morning…. Argh, Miranda…I’m not…. Of course…Just recover and everything else doesn’t matter…right now, yes…Great, I’ll come and check on you…Good bye…”
She puts her phone in her pocket and shakes her head.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I have to check on Miranda.”
I smile and nod. She stands up and takes her bag.
“See you around, Brandon,” she says sweetly.
“See you,” I reply.
She turns and walks away, her long strawberry blond hair moving along with her strides. Some guy tried to flirt but she only ignored him and walked out of the double doors. Some girl walks toward me, her highlighted hair sloshing on her shoulders and her pouted colored lips shining.
“Can I sit here?” she asks, batting her eyelashes.
“Er…yeah,” I answer.
She sits down and I take out my phone.
“I’m Jessica,” she says, flirtingly. “You can call me Jess if you’d like.”
Why do I have to call her anything?
I nod, “Brandon.”
“Oh,” she says. “Nice name!”
“Uh…Thanks,” I say not looking up.
“I haven’t seen you before,” she says.
“I’m new here,” I say. Amelia has downloaded a new post. It’s a picture of both of us in my car. She has pushed her lips and angled her head to mine. I had one corner of my mouth turned up and paused on a wink. She has written bellow the post some comment:
The love of my life. I really miss our times together. God punish those who parted us.
I press my lips, if dad sees this, he’d be angry. I text her a quick comment.
I love you, sis. And I really miss you as well.
And then I text her on private.
Ames, if dad sees the “God punish those who parted us” he’d be so angry. Delete it.
I check other posts and find mom’s new post. It’s a couple of pictures in one picture. All are my pictures, one of me in my mother’s arm, maybe five months old. The other about two years old, and another about five, and then seven and then twelve and then sixteen and then nineteen. She has written a comment below the post.
My lovely son growing. I got used to his presence, to his love and obedience and care. I took care of him for nineteen years. And now I have to shed the tears and see him walk away. Moving on with his new life. Take care of yourself Brandon, you’ll always be my little son.
I shut my eyes and take a deep breath. Jessica cleared her throat loudly.
“What?” I ask.
“You weren’t that ignorant with America,” she says pouting.
“You were watching us?” I ask.
She nods, “And you were talking and smiling. Why are you ignoring me?”
I watched her, “There are good pills you can buy from the pharmacy.”
“You are the only guy who ignores my beauty,” she puffs.
Fake beauty, I correct in my mind.
She stands up and take her tray, just as she walked a table away, a guy winks at her and she smiles, he puts his hand around her waist and they sit on a far table. Well, if that was what she expecting from me…
Great Scott, I shake my head and stand up, putting my bag on my shoulder and walk to my next class – Technology.
I knock twice and enter, handing my ID card to the teacher and walking to the back of class. I find an empty seat at the far corner and sit there, taking out my notebook and pens. Someone slip beside me but I don’t look around.
He clears his throat, my cue to turn and look at him and find that he was Gabe.
“Hi,” I say.
“Hi, yourself,” he says.
I prepare myself for the inevitable. He extends his hand.
“I’m Gabe,” he says.
I take it with surprise, “I’m Brandon…we met before.”
He chuckles, “Sure we did. I just don’t like upsetting America’s people, she’s my best friend.”
I nod, I didn’t want to say that I’m not really one of her people, so I turn to my notebook and watch the teacher start talking.
I take notes as the teacher talks quickly. Gabe isn’t even bothering to listen, doodling on the corner of his notebook. I look at his sketches and frown, I turn to my notebook and continue scribbling.
“How do you find America?” he asks.
“Ah…she’s fine,” I say, trying to concentrate on the teacher’s speech.
“Fine,” he says, weighing the word. “America is more than fine.”
“Yea, yeah,” I say in an attempt to end the conversation.
He chuckles and continues doodling.
“Lecture is over,” says the teacher when the hour is over. I take my bag and put it on one shoulder, walking out as quick as I can.
Gabe walks to me in the corridor.
“There’s a party tomorrow,” he says. “Wanna go?”
“Thanks but no,” I say.
“You don’t want to go?” he asks. “Why?”
“I have some stuff to do,” I lie. “I’m busy.”
He shakes his head, “Shame, you’d miss all the chicks.”
“Yeah,” I say. “Whatever.” And I walk away.
I find Jim – my roommate – walking down the corridor.
“Hey,” he says. Jim has a good built body. His milk chocolate eyes matched his skin.
“Hi.” is all I say.
I was about to walk away when he talks again.
“They cut the hot water,” he says.
I groan, “Why?”
He shrugs, “If you have any friend who doesn’t live in here you can be his guest until they fix the boilers.”
Great. Note the sarcasm.
“How much does it usually take them to fix it?” I ask. “I might stay without shower until then.”
“When I’d come back to the room I’d find you stank,” he chuckles. “They usually take a week or something.”
I groan again, “Yeah. I’d probably stink.”
He grins and I walk away. Where the hell am I going to stay?
I go to the cafeteria and get some cold drink and bump into Tyler.
“Hey, man,” he says, his blue eyes full of playfulness. He ran his fingers through his brown hair and smiled.
“Hey,” I reply.
“Did you hear the bad news?” he asks.
“Boilers?” I say. “Or can this day get any worse?”
He chuckles, “Yes, the boilers. Where are you going to stay?”
“Are all the people in Dorm are going away or what?” I ask.
He shrugs, “No one would want to shower with cold water. Someone said that there has been a time where the water has been cut for a month.”
I roll my eyes, “Great.”
He chuckles, “You can stay at mine. I’d never mind.”
“You’d probably have lots of your friends,” I say.
He shakes his head, “I have lots of friends, yeah. But my close friends are only two. Both of them have their own apartments.”
I stay silent. How can I stay with him when I don’t even know him?
“I’ll meet you at four,” he says. “My car is a blue SUV at the back parking area. See you.”
And he walks away. Do I have any other option than staying and showering with cold water? No.
I sigh and drink my OJ. America and her friend walks toward me.
“Hi, Brandon,” smiles America.
“Hi,” I smile.
“Hello,” says her friend extending her hand. “I’m Miranda.”
“Brandon,” I say.
She smiles, “I know.”
She stays staring at me – drooling. I look at America instead.
America rolls her eyes at her friend and looks at me.
“Did you hear about the boilers?” she asks.
“Are you going to anyone’s?” she asks.
“Yeah,” I say. “I’m going to Tyler’s.”
She nods looking a little disgusted.
“What?” I ask.
She shrugs, “We just don’t like each other. I don’t like him, and so he doesn’t.”
“Why?” I ask.
She shrugs, “God knows why.”
I change the subject, “Where are you staying?”
“With Miranda,” she says.
I look at Miranda but she’s too busy staring at me to notice that we have been talking about her.
America shrugs awkwardly and nudges her friend. She snapped her out of her thoughts.
“What?” she says glaring at America.
“You have been away of this world,” America explains.
Miranda smiles sheepishly, “Um…you know me, I always get like this sometimes.”
America nods and rolls her eyes.
“Do you go to parties?” she asks me.
“Uh…not very,” I say.
She smiles, “There’s a party this weekend. One of the frat houses.”
“You’re going?” I ask.
“A very handsome guy invited her,” pipes Miranda.
For some reason, America glared at her and looked at me sheepishly. “Not a date or something, just a casual invitation.”
Miranda rolls her eyes and looks at me, “His brother invited me. It looks like they are planning on a double date.”
I shrug, “Maybe.”
America crossed her arms, “Whatever. Are you going, Brandon?”
“No,” I say. “I’m new here, I don’t know anyone.”
“You know me, Tyler and Miranda,” she says. “And you know Gabe, he told me you two are sharing Tech.”
I stay silent.
“Come on,” she presses. “It’ll be amazing.”
“My cousin and sister are coming this weekend,” I say. “I don’t think – ”
“They’d probably be happy to go,” says America.
Janson would surely go with Tyler and Amelia would be so happy.
“OK,” I say. “I’ll think about it.”
“Score,” says Miranda.
I walk to the parking and look for a blue SUV. The problem is that they are three blue SUVs so I wait in the entrance. When Tyler comes in, I don’t notice that the girl with full make-up and a knee dress is coming with him.
“Hey,” says Tyler. “This is Victoria.”
Victoria pushes her lips slightly and shakes my hand.
“Victoria,” says Tyler. “This is Brandon.”
I sit in the passenger seat while she sits at the back seat and I can’t help stop thinking who she is.
After a few minutes he stops. I was about to open the door when Victoria speaks.
“Thank you for the ride, Tyler,” she says opening the door. “See you tomorrow.”
“See you,” he replies.
She climbs out of the car and we drive off. After about four or five minutes, he pulls to a stop again and park his car in front of his apartment. I take my bag and follow him inside.
“Where’s your living?” I ask.
He points at the end of the hall, “But I have a guest room.”
He shows me his guest room and goes to get a shower. I set my bag on the floor and check myself on the mirror. My green eyes are red from lack of sleep. I yawn deeply and full on my bed, back first.
“Hey, Brad,” calls Tyler.
“Hmm?” I say, rolling on my back to face him.
“Want to grab something for dinner?” he asks.
“Dinner?” I ask. “What time is it?”
I sit up quickly, “Seriously?”
He nods, “You took a long nap.”
“Nap?” I snort. “It was a coma more than a nap.”
“So grab something or what?” he asks.
I shake my head, “I’m fine.”
I stand up and pull out my towel, “I’m going to take a shower.”
He shrugs, “I’d be here in an hour.”
I nod and walk to the bathroom.
I take a long hot shower and comb my hair. My hair needs cutting. I wear my jersey and trousers. My phone rings somewhere in the bag and I start rummaging to find it until the caller stops calling. When I find my phone I find that it was Amelia calling so I call back.
“Hello, honeybunch,” I greet.
“Hi, Brad,” she says.
Something was off and I know it.
“Ames?” I say. “Are you fine?”
“Y-yes,” she says, her voice rattling.
“Amelia, honey,” I say. “What’s wrong?”
“Brandon,” she says. “Mom is staying out with business colleagues and Ethan has moved.”
“What?” I exclaim. “Ethan moved?”
“He moved to his college,” she says. “Mom is staying out for this weekend…they left me…Oswald has his friends here…and…he wants me to hang out with them. Gambling and drinking…I said no and he – he hit me – ”
“He what?” I say angrily.
And then she breaks off and start sobbing, “Brandon I’m so scared. I locked myself but one of his friends keep knocking and saying dirty things…I… I…mom and Ethan left me with them alone. Bran – don can – can you get me?”
I grit my teeth angrily, “Hold on, Ames. Don’t open the door no matter what, I’ll be there.”
“You – you are coming?” she asks.
“Of course,” I say. “It’ll be two hours.”
“Brandon,” she says. “I’m stupid. Don’t come, I’ll – I’ll be f-fine.”
I shut my eyes, “No, Amelia. I’m coming.”
She takes a shaky breath, “I love you.”
I press my lips into a hard line and feel my eyes glossing, “Just hold on, and I’ll get you.”
I quickly grab my wallet license and passport just in case and leave. I stand in the main streets and wait for a taxi. One taxi drives and stops for me. I quickly sit in the passenger seat and look at the driver.
“To Manchester,” I say. “As quick as possible.”
He nods and drives away. I dial Amelia.
“Amelia,” I say. “I’m in my way.”
She sighs, “They are sitting in the garden.”
“Dad is home?” I ask.
“No,” she says. “Nor is Suzanne.”
“Okay,” I say. “Pack everything essential.”
“But – but Brandon,” she says. “I can’t stay with you in the Dorm.”
“I know,′ I say. “But I know someone who will let us stay with him until I sort it out.”
She stays silent, “Dad won’t – ”
“Amelia,” I say. “Just do what I told you. Leave everything else to me.”
“OK,” she breath and I hang up.
“How long does it take us to be there?” I ask the driver.
“Two hours in traffic and day,” he says. “An hour and a half if the there are no traffics.”
I nod, “Do your best to be there as quick as you can.”
“What do you have there in night?” he asks
“My family lives there,” I say. “I’m taking my sister.”
He looks at me waiting for more but I don’t share anything else. I take out my phone and dial Janson.
“Hi, Brand – ”
I cut him off, “Janson can you go to ours and stay with Amelia until I arrive there.”
“What’s happening?” he asks.
“Mom is away and Ethan has moved to his college,” I explain. “She’s alone with Oswald and his bad chums.”
Janson whistles, “I’ll be there in five minutes, don’t worry about her.”