Rummaging through the cabinets, I locate the small jar of peanut butter. Opening it, it’s but a few spoonfuls left inside. “Mom… we’re out of peanut butter!”
“I’ll pick some up from the store later!” She yells back from the front door. I can hear her letting Briana in, and although it’s a big house, I don’t have to strain to listen to her footsteps. “Is there something that you wanna tell me?”.
“What?” I ask, dropping the peanut butter into my bag.
“What is your infatuation with peanut butter?”
“I don’t know. I’m just craving it.”
“Are you pregnant?” She whispers, concerned.
“Who would I be pregnant by?” I state sarcastically.
“C’mon… let’s go.”
She’s standing there gaping at me, which causes me to fidget.
“Everything, you are not going outside looking like that.”
“Looking like what?”
“Your hair is a mess, and you look like you just rolled out of the bed and put your shoes on.”
Checking myself in the hallway’s mirror, I look acceptable to me. My hair is parted and hangs loosely down my back. My attire’s just a tee, leggings, a pair of hoop earrings, and a few bangles. “It’s like the 80s just threw up all over you.” She says from behind me. “What gives?”
“I don’t know… it’s like, things that I thought mattered before, don’t.”
“Like combing your hair and being the squad leader….”
“Not anymore. I quit.”
“What… we graduate in a few months, and now you decide to quit?”
“Girls, you’re going to be late!” Yells my mother from upstairs.
“Bye, Mom!” I yell back as we hurry out the door.
My neighbor, the older guy…who I’ve had a crush on for years, comes out the door at the same time. “Hi, Dominic…” Says Briana, all smiles, twirling her hair. “Hey Briana, Duchess.” He says before quickly making his way to a waiting car—Twenty-two six feet tall, scruffy beach boy look and gorgeous.
“Who’s the chick?” I ask, getting into my car.
“That blond femme fatale is Nikki.”
“Nikki, who?” I ask, confused.
“Girl, you’ve been so disconnected… you remember her—the dark-haired, anti-social, gothic chick.
“That’s Nikki?” I state, pulling out of the driveway. Briana’s straining her eyes to see through the tinted window. I have no problem seeing them both. She’s a platinum blond bimbo, although I can’t lie, she’s transformed into a beauty… although superficial.
“Yeah, and guess what? They’re getting married.” She says, applying lipstick in the mirror. Hitting the brakes causes her to make a zip zag across her mouth. “What in the hell….”
“Yeah, I Know… there goes your chances.” She says, wiping off the excess lipstick.
I want to cry. I’m so confused. In my vision, Dominic’s a part of my future, and we’re together.
“I want my freaking happily ever after!” I state, banging the wheel.
“Omg… where the heck did that come from?” Says Briana with a laugh.
Lately, the unexplainable has been happening. I’ve been able to see things before they happen intermittently, and I’ve been keeping a journal of it. I was supposed to be with Dominic, not this twit.
Gunning the engine, I drive recklessly to school, weaving in and out of lanes, honking the horn, and screaming for drivers to get out of the way. At school, Briana’s out of the car before I’ve come to a complete stop. “You know what? I think you need to see the school’s counselor.” Says Briana as I exit the car.
I’ve finally calmed down, and the realization hits me like a punch to the gut. “I think that I’m having a mid-life crisis.” I was the most popular girl at school, with tons of friends, and now I’m a social shut-in who’s taken an interest in the occult, of all things.
And then it overwhelms me, one of my visions… It’s a jolt to the senses. I see Briana and my Ex-boyfriend locked together in an intimate embrace, his kiss deepens, and then I’m back at the car.
“Hello…?” States Briana, irritatedly snapping her fingers at me. A basketball bounces off of my window. Startled, I turn and come face to face with Dax. Six-feet-two, beautiful chocolate skin tone, a small afro pulled back by a band, and Captain of the basketball team.
He used to be the love of my life and, unbeknownst to me, secretly dubbed the “cherry popper.” Apparently, he had too much time on his hands and needed more than kisses and some extreme petting. So, I had to let him go, better now than later… he was supposed to be a distraction while I waited for Dominic anyways.
“Hey.” He says after retrieving the ball.
“Hi.” I broke up with him under duress, but a few months have passed, and I’m over him… somewhat. –Those eyes… and those lips.
“My parents will be out of town this weekend, and I’m having a masquerade party. I would love it if you showed.” Just like him, to end the last year of high school with a bang.
“Who is Richie Rich flaunting his wealth to now?” His family’s from old money and owns half the town. His light chuckle’s music to my ears and that award-winning smile is fantastic.
My heart skips a beat, and I can’t help reflecting on the times before I found out about his indiscretions. He’s a genuine sweetheart, an honor roll student who excels at everything he does. But alas, we are not to be…
“I can’t make any guarantees, but I’ll see.”
“Yeah, please try.” He says with a wink before making his way back to his friends.
In history class, it’s an effort to appear alert and attentive. Our projects were to research our family history as far back as possible, going back at least two hundred years. The lights are dimmed as we watch a projection screen. The student shows us pictures of family members as he lists names, dates of birth, and deaths. He gives a detailed story of the lives where the person lived and a brief history of their personal life.
“And that’s the history of the Jenson family, as far back as seventy years.” He says. A few scattered slow claps, followed by an enthusiastic, fast one, come from a guy up front. “We have time for one more if it’s brief… anyone?” Asks the teacher as the lights come on.
“No? All right, teachers choice then.” His eyes scroll down the list as he decides on a selection. “Miss. Winslow?”
“Um… I’m not finished with mine.”
“Okay, Miss. Mitchell?”
“Yeah, I’m not done either.”
“Aren’t you here on a scholarship, Mrs. Mitchell?”
“Yes.” She responds quietly.
“So, it would behoove you to keep your grades at a satisfactory level by actually doing your work. This used to be a prestigious academy. They’ll let anyone in now… The bar has plummeted….”
A few chuckles follow, and I can’t help scoffing at his aggravated huff, the audacity. Bored and feeling wicked, I try my hand at controlling the bottled water on the teacher’s desk. Discreetly trying to move it, it flies across the room.
A few surprised yells echo across the room as it hits the wall, exploding upon impact. “Calm down. It was just the wind!” Says the teacher, rattled but trying to keep the students calm. I hadn’t meant to do all that, but on a roll, I want to pay him back for being rude and downright mean. I try for something bigger.
The podium starts to rattle, and as everyone’s attention is drawn to it, I focus even harder. Pandemonium ensues as it topples over and slides across the room. Everyone scrambles for the exit, with the teacher leading the way, and I have a self-satisfied smirk plastered on my face when I feel someone’s eyes upon me.
Dark-haired, with brown eyes, and clothed in a sweater, tweed jacket, and jeans, he’s a hipster, cute. His gaze never wavers from mine, and feeling that I’d been caught red-handed, I gather my things and head for the exit.
I’m writing in my dream journal inside the gym while Briana practices with the squad. The vision of Briana kissing Dax returns. The pen starts to slow, and the writing continues in slow motion before it comes to a complete stop.
As I stare at the page, the words start to blur, and I’m pulled into a vision. This time it’s me running through the woods, and something is chasing me. Looking back, I trip and fall on a tree limb. A pair of boots come into view. Breathing hard from the run, I’m too afraid to look up.
Squatting in front of me, my chin’s lifted as my eyes close. He waits as I inhale deeply to control my emotions. Finally, I find the courage to face my stalker. My eyes open, and the sight is breathtaking. Hazel eyes, long dark hair flowing past his shoulders, all-black attire, with a dark overcoat. Standing, he pulls me to my feet. “I’ve been waiting a long time for you.” He says with an amazingly sexy accent.
I want to stay in this dream, but sensing the danger in him, I try to force myself out of it. He’s latched onto my arm. His nails digging into my skin draws blood to the surface, and he backs away from me as if stung. Confused by his peculiar behavior, I advance a few steps as he moves backward a few.
“You’re afraid of blood?” I ask as he’s watching my wounded arm intently. His penetrating gaze makes me uncomfortable, and with a wave of his hand, I’m out of the dream. Back in the gym, my eyes fall to the journal. I’d written a name. “Andrei Petrescu…” I say aloud. Gathering my things, I quickly leave. I have some research to do.
“Will you snap out of it?” Briana’s fingers clicking together in my face again brings me from my musings. “What’s going on with you?” She whispers. I hate that I agreed to go on this double date with Dax and his friend, who she’s been obsessed with recently.
More like stalking… and like Dax, he’s a descendant of one of the twelve families that founded Crestview Summit. His family’s rolling in the dough also, and she’ll be damned if she doesn’t bag her one of the sons of the twelve “founding fathers.”
“Dax has found it in his heart to give you another chance. The reason why you broke up with him in the first place is ridiculous.” She bears the name of one of the oldest families in Crestview, but one with no money. Squandered by a five-time great-grandfather, her family has their name to fall back on. But that can only get one but so far…
Dressed to the nines for some swanky fundraiser gala, I’m still hungry after the microscopic servings we ate. I’m irritated, tired, and in need of a colossal fudge sundae with all the trimmings.
“You should be grateful, but instead, you’re unresponsive, inattentive ….”
“Look, Miss. Snooty Booty…” I’ve had it with her and her “Money hungry man-hunting ways,” which seem to have escalated now that we’re about to graduate.
“What did we miss?” Asks Brent.
Him and Dax rejoining us save her from a verbal lashing.
“Nothing, girl-talk,” I respond, taking a deep breath to calm myself. Briana’s narrowed-eyed gaze warns me that I’d better not mess this up for her.
“Would you do me the honor of another dance Briana?”
“Yes, thank you.” She replies, quickly accepting his offered hand with a smile.
With a roll of my eyes, I take a large gulp of the fizzy drink. Dax is watching me, and I offer a small smile.
“I know that you did this for Brie, but have you thought about us?”
“There is no us.”
“We were great together, and I miss you.”
“We had our time, and it was nice, but we have to move past that.”
“Well, you’re going to have to try.”
“I think about you all of the time, now even more than when we were together.”
“It’s nothing more than an infatuation Dax, you had it, and now that it’s gone, you want it even more.”
“It’s not that. It’s like I was okay with you breaking up with me. I mean, it’s not what I wanted, but if that’s what you wanted, then so be it. Then … I don’t know, you’re all that I can think about. It’s gotten worse as the days go by. I want you back, and this time it’s for forever.”
I care about him. I mean, we were together for three years, but I’m good. My heart belongs to Dominic, no matter who I’m with.
“This is way too much and too soon. We’ve been broken up for how long?”
“About two months, which isn’t long. We just took some time off.”
“Dax, how much have you had to drink?”
“You’re going to play that card?”
Sitting across from me, he’s stone-cold sober, and his sexy dark-eyed scrutiny speeds up my heart rate.
“I’m serious. Just think about it.”
With his hand on mine, he gently strokes my fingers. It doesn’t take much for me to give in. I don’t object to his fingers entwining with mine. It wouldn’t hurt to keep my options open.
“Miss. Van der berg?”
“It’s not finished,” I say automatically, which causes a few outbursts of laughter.
“You can present what you have then.”
Taking my folder up to the projector, the lights dim. Clearing my throat, I place a photo of my father on the projector. “
This is Richard Van der Berg, my father. I have no clue as to where he’s from originally. He moved here when he was eighteen and passed four years ago. He was a financial advisor and a loving father.”
Removing the image, I replace it with a picture of my mother.
“And this is my mother, Claudia Van der Berg. She met my father on a bus on the way to Crestview Summit. On that bus ride, he charmed her into moving here with him.”
“A bus?” Interjects a student.
“So, she just met a stranger on a bus and followed him to wherever he was going?” Asked, a male student.
“Yeah, or so I was told.”
“I think it’s uber-romantic.” States a female student, and a few other females clap in agreeance.
“Yeah, if you’re poor….” A female student jokes.
A few chuckles follow that comment, and I continue.
“She’s a domestic worker, chef, teacher, counselor, best friend, and an awesome mother… and that’s it.” I finish.
“That’s it? Asks the teacher as the lights come on.
“I told you that I wasn’t finished.”
“You guys have had two months to complete this.”
“Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve been working on mine,” I state defensively.
“And in two months, this is all that you have?”
“It’s kind of hard to locate my relatives. My parents never talked about their families.
“No cousins, aunts, grandmother?” Asks Mr. Sparks.
“I’ve never met them.”
“So… who wants to help Miss. Van der Berg, locate her long-lost relatives for extra credit?” Everyone’s quiet. No one wants to do the project, let alone help someone else.
“Don’t all volunteer at once….” One student at the front slowly raises his hand, the hipster.
“Mr. Rivers and Miss. Van der Berg, please come back on Monday with at least four more relatives. The bell rings, and students quickly make a beeline for the door. Collecting my books, the hipster intercepts me.
“Hi, I’m Julien.” Accepting his offered hand, an electric shock shoots up my wrist.
“Sorry.” He states as I quickly release his hand.
“It’s no problem. I’m Duchess.”
The memory of him watching me practice my magic on the bottle and podium makes me uncomfortable, but a sense of familiarity puts me at ease.
“When did you want to get started?”
“Sunday evening is fine,” I answer.
“I don’t like to wait until the last minute.”
“Okay fine, tomorrow at four, my place?”
His uncertainty makes me nervous, and I start to fidget with my books. “What?” I inquire about his scrutiny.
“You’re beautiful. You shouldn’t just let random guys come to your home. It’s not safe.”
“I’m sure that I can take you if you try anything,” I state, amused.
His smile lights up his face and accentuates his features. “Oh?”
“My dad taught self-defense classes on the weekends, and I’ve had one on one training twice a week since I was seven.”
“Well, it’s good to know that you can kick my ass if I go all psycho on you.”
I can’t help the laugh that bubbles forth.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” I reply, blushing.
He’s almost out the door when I remember. “Hey, I forgot to give you my address.”
“I know where you live.” A raised eyebrow is my response as I try to remember if I’d met him before. “You had a party a year back, and a friend invited me.”
“Oh,” I state, slightly embarrassed.
“See you tomorrow.” He says with a small smile.