Hood

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20

My body jolted at the sound of Phillip’s yelling. He threw the trash aside, littering my kitchen floor. “Phillip, what the hell?” I pointed to the trash.

He sighed. “I’m sorry. I can’t find the source of your allergy attack.”

“We’ll find it. We know who caused it. Come sit and relax. You’ll work better if you’re not stressed. I’m alive. Jason was there to save me and it’s all good now.” I smiled at him.

He sighed and nodded, taking a seat next to me. “I just... Remember when I told you I loved a girl who didn’t feel the same way?”

I nodded.

“I’m sure you had your suspicions that it was about you but I’m confirming it. I’m in love with you. I really am. That’s why it hurt so much when you told me about my friends. I didn’t want the woman I love to be telling me something like that. I wanted your support. I realize now that you were supporting me.”

I put my head on his shoulder. “Phillip, I know it’s been a rough ride but I was telling you because I care about you. I love you. I never thought I’d fall in love but you did it. I’ve fallen in love with everything you are. I love that you’re a nerd and you want to teach math. I love that you work hard for your money to pay off your debt. I love that you’re so respectful towards women. I love that you have never judged me for what the town thinks about me. I mean, you did once but you understand your mistake.”

He kissed my head and laid his on mine. “I love that you’re strong. You’re not a quitter. You don’t give up when someone is attacking you as a person. If if you’re weaker, you fight back until you aren’t. I love that you’re different and not afraid to be. You still walk the streets of this town despite how scary it may be. You’re opinionated. You’re not afraid to show it. I love that. You’re beautiful for who you are.”

“We’re going to find the source. Don’t you worry. We will. We are going to be happy together.” I smiled.

“How would you know?”

I grabbed his hand and locked our fingers together. “I just know. I know that we are meant to be together and we will get the ending we deserve. Isn’t that always the case? Don’t answer that.”

“I was going to say...” He chuckled.

I yawned and looked at my skin, pressing my lips together. “Phillip, how did you get so white?”

He shifted a bit. “I’m not sure what you mean. I was born this way.”

“You’re a wolf, no? You spend a lot of time in the sun, right?”

“Just because I’m a wolf, doesn’t mean I get outside often. Wolves don’t tan. I’m outside more often as a wolf than a human. As a human, I spend more time inside working or hanging out with Travis. Besides, not all white people tan, just like not all tan people sunburn.”

“Hm, really?”

“Really. Some people burn but don’t tan. Redheads are a great example. Some people don’t burn but they tan. That’s just based upon individual people, their ancestry, and melanin.” He shrugged, moving my head up with his shoulder before bringing both back down.

“That sucks. Do you tan?”

He looked at his skin and nodded a bit. “I do. But a lot of people don’t. You’d be surprised. Do you burn?”

I laughed. “Burn? No. I’ve never had a sunburn.”

“Must be nice to go enjoy life without the worries of sunscreen,” he joked.

I laughed and nodded. “It is.”

“I love you, Shani. I don’t know your last name.”

“Roth. Shani Roth.”

“I’ve never heard such a name. What does it mean?” He looked at me.

I smiled. “Red. It’s a Jewish last name.”

“I’m sensing you’re Jewish?”

I nodded. “Jason and I are of Jewish descent, yes. We just never been anywhere but America. Mom and dad died when we were young. Jason has managed to take care of us.”

“What do you know about your culture? Or about your heritage?”

I yawned once again and cuddled with him. “Not much. It turns out that growing up without parents means you don’t really learn about your ancestry or your own heritage. I wasn’t heavily influenced by them. I had to grow up on my own, learning with the environment I was raised in. I was raised in small homes, following my brother. I didn’t get to learn much about morals.”

Phillip looked at me. “Morals? You have morals.”

“Oh come on, I’ve had sex with a few different men.” I looked at him.

“I know it’s not the usual but Jewish people still have sex like that sometimes. It’s definitely great to learn about your culture and let it influence you but it doesn’t make you a bad person because you didn’t grow up that way. You didn’t know.” He shrugged.

“You don’t think I’m a bad person?”

He shook his head. “Of course not. You have morals. You’ve only killed once out of defense and even then you were really upset about it. Most people don’t think that way. Not even me. You are strong. You’re amazing. There are different people in all races. Judging a race isn’t applicable since humans are individuals ultimately influenced by their environment and not their racial ancestry.”

I nodded. “I guess I’ve never really thought about learning more about my ancestry. I wouldn’t know where to start. I’d love to know. I want to learn more about the culture I should have stemmed from.”

“Start with your family. Your parents.”

“That would help.” I laughed and sat up. “Mom was Jewish. Before we lost her and dad, she would sometimes talk about how we were going to go to Israel and see where we came from. That’s where she met dad when dad was on a trip. She came to America to start a family with dad and love couldn’t tear them apart.”

“That’s so sweet. You can start with them and work from there.”

I itched my eye and laid my head in his lap. “I will. I’ll ask Jason to help.”

“Any reason why he has the name Jason instead of something more Jewish?” Phillip began stroking my hair, sending chills down my spine.

I closed my eyes, beginning to drift off. “Probably because dad wasn’t Jewish and my mom and dad had to come together on a compromise of their heritage. Dad chose Jason’s name. Mom chose mine.”

He continued this comforting gesture of running his fingers through my hair. “Your mom knew how to pick names. Shani Roth. What a lovely name.”

“That was something that my parents agreed on. I got mom’s last name to keep our family name going somehow. Tell me, what’s your last name?”

“Richards.”

I choked on a laugh. “Phillip Richards? I think the last name Richards sounds ridiculous.”

“Hey...”

“I’m sorry. I just think it is.” I grabbed his free hand, intertwining our fingers once again.

He said, “Our love can be ridiculous, too.”

“Really?”

In a whisper, he said, “Of course. And to think all of our love began with your sandwich order.”

The darkness lured me in with sweet dreams and it kept me in its embrace for hours to come.

“Phillip Richards, are you going to let me sleep or are you going to continue to blast that volume on your phone?” I opened one eye, turning to him.

He looked at me and turned red in the face. “I’m so sorry. I swear.”

“I may be human but I’m not a deep sleeper. Sounds wake me up.” I rubbed my side. “I’m already awake.” I sat up, stretched my arms and legs. “I love stretching. I enjoy it. It makes me feel so good.”

“Stretching?”

I gave him a look. “Yes, is there a problem?”

“Nothing at all, you just don’t really seem like the person who would like stretching.”

I crossed my arms. “Why, because I’m Jewish?”

He widened his eyes and put his hands up. “No, I swear that’s not why. It’s because you’re just a very reserved and strong woman.”

I began laughing, leaning back against the couch arm. “I’m kidding, Philly. You should’ve seen your face. You actually thought I was serious.”

He dropped his jaw, watching me in shock. “Yeah, because you acted seriously! I never know how my words come off as and if it’s offensive, what do I say?”

“Offensive? Oh, poor boy.” I patted his cheek. “It’s alright. I’m not that easily offended. Unless you claim I don’t care about you and I’m living up to my rumors.”

Phillip’s face straightened and he nodded his head and lowered it. “I’m really sorry about that. I understand the seriousness. I wish I could take it all back.”

I leaned forward and cupped his cheeks. “Hey, don’t worry about it. We’ve moved past that now. You’re especially my hero with the way you’ve handled turning yourself in and risking your life just for my forgiveness. I forgive you. I love you.”

Phillip nodded in the slightest, his eyes quickly glancing at my lips.

I chuckled a bit, looking into his eyes. “I see where you want this to go.” Without wasting another second, I leaned towards his lips, both of us waiting for the moment we would connect in a new way.

“Whoa there, keep it PG,” Jason commented as he stepped out of his room.

I sighed against Phillip’s lips and pulled back, looking at my dumbass twin. “Ruining a perfectly good romance, aren’t you? You seem to be good at that. Do we not deserve to kiss?”

Jason leaned down and shrugged. “You do but I don’t want to see it.”

I wanted to argue that he kissed Jessie but I couldn’t recall a time when they kissed in front of us. I was so ready to argue on this and yet I came up empty.

I let go of Phillip’s cheeks and stood up. “Come, let’s go on a date.”

“Where to?” he asked, letting me pull him out of my house.

I smirked. “To my work, of course.”

We arrived at the diner after twenty minutes and I took a seat at a booth in the corner by the window. I looked at the menu. “I’m not sure what I want to try. Do you know?”

“I want the double cheeseburger,” Phillip put down his menu.

I looked at him. “You’re so predictable.”

Maggie came over and lifted an eyebrow, smiling at us both. “What’s this?”

I looked at her and shrugged. “I believe people call it a date. Is that what kids say these days? I’m not sure. I’ve never been on a real date. The past dates failed. Those guys were boring.”

Phillip furrowed his brows and laid his arms on the table. “And you slept with them?”

“Well, yeah. They were attractive and I wanted a good time. I might as well have gotten something good from wasting nights with them.” I looked through the menu some more. “Oh, okay. I want a cheeseburger. Also, can I get some fries? I’d like the breakfast sampler as well. Oh, throw in some pancakes.” I gave Maggie my menu.

Phillip looked at me. “You can eat all of that?”

“You don’t know what I can eat.” I grew a big smile and sat back. “I want to try it all tonight. I am starving.”

“Hey, if you’re Jewish, aren’t you supposed to not eat...pork? Or shellfish? Or red meat?”

“Red meat is just a vegan or vegetarian thing. Or a human thing. Pork? Shellfish?” I shrugged. “I probably shouldn’t but I do anyway. I told you I never learned much because my parents died too young. They died when I was probably five. At that point, I forgot most of the memories and I’ve just grown up to follow what I want. It’s how I’ve survived this long.” I sighed, resting my jaw on my hand. “I wish it was that simple but it’s not. Living without parents is tough.”

Phillip reached over, putting his hand on top of my empty one. “I get it. I miss my dad all the time.”

I smiled a bit. Phillip looked at Maggie. “I’ll have the double cheeseburger. Water for both of us. Thank you.”

She nudged me and winked. “He’s a keeper.”

I shook my head, laughing to myself. “I know. Trust me, I know.”

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