"Hey, sis." Owen's voice scares me and I wheel around, the cookie tin I am holding stumbles to the floor with a loud crash.
"Are you crazy?" I scream at him, catching my breath while leaning back against the counter.
"Sorry." he mumbles back at me, looking nearly as shocked as I feel.
"How did you even get in here?" I have calmed down and wonder how he got into my kitchen.
"I used the spare key I took on friday, you remember?" he dangles the key on his index-finger in front of my face.
"Sure." I exhale in relief as I recall telling him to lock the door with the spare key after he finished raiding my bookshelves. I feared I had left the door open earlier for a second.
"But why didn't you knock?" I can't help the accusatory tone in my voice.
"I did, but the fact that your stereo in the living room is blasting the windows out you probably didn't hear it and after the 5th knock I decided to let myself in. Sorry if I scared you." he glances down, shrugging apologetically.
"You're right." I mimic his gesture and smile at my brother before I pass him to silence the music in the next room.
"So, to what do I owe your visit?" I enter the kitchen again and pick up the tin from the floor.
"Well, I wanted to return the key and hear about your weekend with Dad." he puts the key on the counter.
"So, how was it?"
"Aren't you forgetting a small detail, Owen?" I can see in his face that he knows what I am talking about as he avoids looking at me and focuses his gaze on the tin I still hold in my hands.
"Are you baking cookies?" I see right through his attempt on changing the subject and start to giggle. No matter what, I just can't hold a grudge against my brother for long.
"No, but I will never tell you anything again if you can't keep your mouth shut, Owen. You telling Will my flight number caused a pretty awkward scene at the airport." I put the tin back on the countertop and give him a stern look.
"Sorry, sis. But you know how he can be when he wants something." I can see the regret in his features as he tries to smile at me.
"What awkward scene? Don't tell me Peter was there to pick you up?" he asks me a slight hint of surprise in his voice. I just nod and see his eyes widen in shock.
"Oh my god. I am so sorry, sis. I had no idea. If I had I would've never told him. You know that, right?"
I nod again as I know he'd never do anything to hurt me on purpose.
"It's ok, Owen." I smile reassuringly at him and hope he realizes I am not mad at him.
"So what happened?" the curiosity has clearly won over his regret and he watches me inquiring.
I chuckle and turn to get on with my task that Owen interrupted earlier while I start to fill him in on the details of the previous night.
"And you left with Will? Why?" he asks as soon as I finished telling him what went on at the airport.
"To get it over with. He wanted to talk, so I let him talk." I retrieve the box with washing powder from the floor cabinet and look at my brother.
"And? Did you like what he told you?" I see the concern in his eyes.
"I haven't decided yet." I use a measuring cup to cover the tin's bottom with a layer of the washing powder.
"Could you elaborate or am I not allowed to know?" he states in a huffy voice.
"He wants me back, he has made up his mind about kids, he'll come to live here. All I have to do is go back to him." I sigh as I recall Will's words. Part of me wants to believe him while another voice in my head warns me to be suspicious that things might get back to where we were before I left him.
"Are you going to?"
"I don't know." I turn back to the counter, reaching for the rose I took from Peters apartment in the morning and remove it from the vase I had put it in. I twirl the stem between two fingers and smell its scent a last time before I cut the bloom from the stem. I have no idea why I left this morning without saying good bye to him. I know that he might think that I ran from talking to him and in some way he is right. I was prepared to talk to him last night but I was also glad I didn't need to. I realize I am acting like a coward here and I need to make a decision but I still have no idea on what I should base it. I know I have feelings for both of them but I have a past with Will, memories I cling to and the faint hope my dream I thought I had given up might still come true.
"What are you doing, Alicia?" Owens voice brings me back from my thoughts.
"I told you I don't know!" I snap at him.
"Not with Will or Peter, but right now!" he points towards the tin and to the rose in my hand.
"Oh, that." I chuckle lightly. "I'm drying this rose."
"With washing powder?" Owen exclaims in disbelief.
"Sure. You keep the flower covered with it in a dark and warm place for 2-3 days and afterwards it's perfectly dried. You didn't know this?" I tease him.
"And why are you doing this? Whose rose is it anyway?" he doesn't bother answering but confronts me with counter-questions.
"You don't need to tell me. Your smile gives you away, sis. Peter." I snort at the fact he can read me too well again.
"Yeah, it's from Peter." I smirk at him and place the rose into the tin and cover it with more washing powder before I put the lid on it.
"But how? Didn't you tell me earlier you left him at the airport? Did you take the flower with you?" he is in interrogation mode now and I know I have no chance to stop him so I retrieve two glasses and a wine bottle from the cupboard and walk into the living room.
"I went to see Peter after Will left. I brought it with me when I left this morning." I bite my tongue but the words are already out there.
"This morning?" a mischievous grin spreads on Owen's face as he sits down next to me.
"So you spent the night there!" he grabs the bottle and opens it, pouring the dark red liquid in the glasses I placed on the table.
"I want details!" he hands me a glass, still grinning.
I shake my head lightly taking a sip from my wine. Owen chuckles while he watches me closely.
"Seriously now, Alicia. What are you going to do?" the smirk leaves his face and his voice sounds severe.
"Dad was disappointed you weren't there over the weekend." I see no point in telling Owen again that I haven't made up my mind on what to do and I don't want to discuss my options with him. So I change the topic to something that stresses him.
"Not fair, sis, not fair." he takes a big gulp from his wine and reaches for the bottle to refill his glass as my phone rings.
I grab the handset from the table and check the caller ID.
"Right on cue!" I chuckle and grin at my brother before I answer. "Hi, Dad!"
I see Owen's face fall in shock and I guess his wild gestures should tell me that under no circumstances I can reveal to our father that he's with me.
"Yes, the flight was good, Dad."
"That's great, pumpkin. Did you hear from your brother? I tried to reach him earlier."
"Owen? No, I haven't talked to him since I am back, but I'll tell him to call you." I can't help the big grin that forms on my face while I watch my brother getting smaller and smaller on the couch next to me.
"So, did you talk with Will?" the smile fades at the next question from my Dad and I stand from my seat and walk towards my bedroom, taking this conversation away from the prying ears of my brother.
"Yes." I answer after the door is closed behind me and walk to my bed to sit down.
"And? Did it help you see things clearer?"
"No." I exhale deeply before I tell him what happened since I've been back.
"I don't know what to do, Daddy." I suddenly have to fight back the tears that I had no idea I was holding in.
"I know. But do you remember what I told you about your mother, Alicia?"
"Yes." I swallow hard as I realize what he's telling me. And I know he is right.
"Thanks for calling, Dad. It was good to hear your voice." I hang up before he can say good bye. I stay where I am and watch the phone in my hand. I won't become like my mother. I used to say that back then after she left my Dad and I couldn't understand why. Do I now? I have no idea. I just know that I thought she was choosing the easy way out. I never knew the specifics of the break up and I never asked her. Maybe I should've. Would we get along better now? Would knowing help me in my situation now? My head is filled with even more questions now, but am I nearer to an answer? All I know suddenly is that this is no longer a decision of my heart but my mind.
"Alicia?!" Owen's call from the living room rips me from my thoughts. I slowly get up from the bed. I stop at the mirror to check if it's visible I've been nearly crying before I walk out to my brother again.
"Dad says Hello." I say as casually as possible sitting down on the couch again. I take my glass and drain the remains in one gulp.
"I forgot to tell you something. I found this on your doorstep earlier." he hands me a plain envelope. I reach for it feeling confused. I open it slowly and as I take the single sheet of paper out I recognize Will's handwriting at once. I swallow hard before I start reading.
"What does it say?" Owen interrupts me as I read the letter a second time.
"He wants to sell his firm in Baltimore and stay here for good." I let myself fall backwards and close my eyes. I feel dizzy and have trouble breathing.
"I can't believe he really means this, Owen. All he told me. I wanted to believe him but I still was in doubt. But if he really wants to sell his firm, the dream he worked so long for. How can I not believe him?" I look up and search for an answer in Owen's face.
"To answer that I'd need to know exactly what he told you."
"I know. Can you get another bottle from the kitchen?" I gesture towards the empty wine bottle and manage a half-smile.
"Wine or do you have something stronger?" Owen gets up and walks towards the kitchen.
"I think I have a bottle of Tequila somewhere." I call after him.
When I wake the next morning I have the worst headache I can imagine. At first the memory of the last night is fuzzy but soon I realize I am at Alicia's and the next thing I recall is the Tequila. I groan as I sit up and see that Alicia is already in the kitchen and I hope she's making coffee. I manage to sit upright though the sledgehammer in my brain is killing me. I close my eyes for second and try to remember why I drank that much when it was Alicia's problems we were discussing.
"Here." I open my eyes and see Alicia handing me a coffee mug and a glass of water and two painkillers on the table.
"Thanks." I try smiling at her but it hurts.
"I need to go, Owen. I am already late for work. Thanks for listening last night."
"My pleasure, if it helped, sis." I finally manage a half-smile and take a sip from my coffee.
"I think it did." she smiles but I see that it's not reaching her eyes.
"Can you do me one more favor, Owen?"
I nod and she goes back into the kitchen to return seconds later with the cookie tin she placed Peter's rose in to dry yesterday.
"Could you throw that away for me?"
I gasp in shock at her words and look at her not quite sure what to say.
"Please, Owen. I can't do it myself but I can't keep it either." she pleads with me.
"Does this mean you are going back to Will?"
She nods her head lightly and places the tin on the table.
"Are you sure, sis? You were so happy with Peter." I try to reason with her as I think it's a big mistake to go back to Will. I don't trust him and I never have.
"I am, Owen. I can't give up my dream now that it is within my grasp again. And I still love him." she smiles again but it still looks fake in my eyes.
"I need to go! Thank you!" her gaze goes from me to the tin before she turns and leaves the apartment. I reach for it and am sure I won't throw it away. Something tells me she'll thank me for it one day.