When I awoke the next morning, Ella sat at the bar eating pancakes while wearing one of my mother’s old shirts. She smiled at me but didn’t say anything regarding last night. I didn’t push it, knowing she was probably embarrassed. My mom put a plate of eggs and bacon down on the bar for me. The toaster finished cooking the bread, and she placed the slices onto our plates.
“The police broke up the party last night,” my mother began. “I’m glad you two were safely away before that happened.” She looked at me with meaning. “You can’t afford to have a police record.”
I munched my food. She was trying to be harsh, but it sounded more instructive than hurtful. She had never been one for discipline and used moments like these for teaching instead.
“I have to run some errands. Is there anything you need me to get?” she asked me.
I thought about any extra stuff I needed before I shook my head no.
“Alright, if you need anything call me.” She glanced at Ella. “Same goes for you.”
I caught an unspoken conversation pass between them. Their body language was that of understanding and compassion. I didn’t ask what happened last night that caused this new revelation between them, for somehow, I knew that mom had talked with Ella about the activities of the night. I hadn’t spoken a word to her about it when she took over watching her. She was good at guessing what the real problem was anyway, which was why I avoided returning home before the game, after I received my first set of shiners.
After breakfast, I disappeared into the bathroom for a shower. I stared at my face in the mirror; the bruises were completely healed. My lip looked like I had never been punched in the face. My eye looked normal as well; the scratches were completely gone. I didn’t usually heal this fast. The steak must’ve worked some weird magic.
“What do you want Kyle?” Ella asked from behind me suddenly.
I whirled around, thinking she had come into the bathroom while I was in the shower. But she wasn’t there; the door was shut. I pulled on my pants and raced out of the room. Maybe she was in the hallway, but when I got there, she wasn’t anywhere to be seen.
“I heard about what happened last night and I came over to check on you,” Kyle stated from the front door. I knew he was standing there for Ella appeared in my sight suddenly. She held the door open, but not all the way.
“What do you care?” she responded to him.
“Ella, I’m so sorry for everything. I heard what happened with Jacelyn at the party. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me, but I…”
“Oh, stop it!” She interjected, shouting at him. “Stop lying!”
“Ella, I’m not…” he tried butting in.
I jumped in front of Ella, covering the distance in two long strides. “Kyle,” I warned him. “Don’t lie. We both saw you leave the party with Jacelyn.”
Ella stared down at the floor. She was trying her best not to cry in front of him, but the tears swelled in her eyes.
Kyle looked grief stricken. “Ella, please listen to me,” he begged.
“Go home, Kyle.” I demanded. I shut the front door firmly, but he knocked on it, clearly not leaving the premises. I opened it and stepped onto the porch, closing the door behind me, and leaving Ella in the hall. “What do you want?”
“Ella and I need to talk. This is none of your business.”
I crossed my arms, looking like a bouncer at the entrance to a club. “No, you don’t need to talk to her. You chose Jacelyn over her, again and again. You lied to her about being with Jacelyn, and everyone knows what happened at the party before you two left it!”
He flustered. “But we still need to talk…”
“Why? Because you keep hurting her by showing up and telling her that you love her and then running off with Jacelyn. Can’t you see that? You’re the one making things worse by being here.”
“You don’t understand, Garrett,” he spoke lowly.
“What don’t I understand?” I asked him.
“I love her…” he began anew but stopped before he said anything more.
“No, you don’t,” I retorted.
“But I do. I’ve always loved her.”
I sighed. “Kyle, you don’t sleep with other girls when you love someone else. You don’t lie to the ones you love, you don’t stab them in the back, you don’t sleep with their best friend, and you don’t publicly humiliate them like you did with Ella.”
His eyes flashed at me, angry by my speech. “How would you know? You’ve never loved anyone like I love Ella.”
“You’re right. I’ve never been in love. But Ella’s my friend, and I would never treat her like that. Are you sure you’re not in love with being in love?”
Kyle didn’t answer me.
“Or is this lust?”
I still received no answer.
“Tell me, is it really Ella you love or is it the love you’re getting from her?”
Finally, he frowned at me and dropped his gaze. I knew I hit the mark.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. Until Ella decides to talk to you I think you should leave her alone.” I entered my home once more. “Go home, Kyle.”
I left him standing on the porch, but eventually I heard his car start and drive away from the house.
Ella lingered in the hallway. “You didn’t have to do that,” she mumbled.
I stared at her. “I think I did.”
Her cheeks flushed a dark red. “I…”
I waited for her to finish what she wished to say, but she finally understood there weren’t any words left. I had known Ella since we were little, before she dated Kyle, and long before she became friends with Jacelyn. She was one of the few friends I retained from my childhood, even if her behavior lately wasn’t quite what I was used to.
We both ended up watching the television from the couch. There were about six hours left before we needed to dress for Homecoming. We spent at least a third of the time watching sappy romance movies. It was depressing, not only from my end of the couch, but from Ella’s as well. Though Ella cried openly due to the loss of a boyfriend into the clutches of her former friend, I was heartbroken over the choices she made in watching these ridiculous movies. The women in them made horrible decisions regarding the men in their lives. Chivalry died the moment filmmakers stepped in. But I didn’t have control of the remote, Ella did.
She flipped from one channel to the next, swapping out one romance story for the next, never lingering on the same movie for longer than thirty minutes. In the times she wasn’t channel surfing she texted on her phone. Slowly her small stretched out figure curled in until she stayed in a fetal position. She looked like a ball of clothes with straw colored hair, though her arms were wrapped around her legs, as if she fought to keep her emotions inside of her and not running around loose and wild.
At one point I stole a look at her and noticed her phone had been shoved to the middle of the couch, more towards me than her. It vibrated quietly, causing the whole couch to move slightly. A minute went by and she didn’t answer it. It vibrated again, sending another short pulse through the sofa.
“Who is it?” Ella moaned from against the arm rest of the couch. I thought she might’ve been asleep.
I picked it up and swiped the screen awakening the device. Upon seeing who the sender was, I paused and fought against an impulse to call the person back and yell at them.
“I’ll judge by your silence that it’s Kyle.” Ella wasn’t a fool, but she had been sending him angry texts in response to his questions; the time stamps told me so. In the end she told him to leave her alone, and he did for about ten minutes.
The kid seriously didn’t understand words with negative connotations; like most boys my age that I knew, and one frustratingly malicious girl. “You might have to change your number to get him to understand,” I suggested, hoping that the comment would make her feel better.
There wasn’t much of a change on her side of the couch. “If he keeps stalking me I’ll get mom to press charges.”
My smirk widened into a grin. That would make for an interesting conversation between the two of them, but it would also alleviate the stress on Ella. Her mom was a partner in a huge Law firm on the West coast. She flew out of town on the weekends for work and flew back in to help Ella during the week. Ella’s father usually stayed in the area for work, although it wasn’t unheard of for him to be called away on business as well. Her parent’s wanted Ella to be raised away from the big city, which is why they lived here.
Thinking of her parents sparked a question in my mind. Where were they? Surely her father would’ve come and got her this morning. “Ella? Is there something wrong at home?”
“No. Why?” she asked.
“Um, where are your parents?” My mother must’ve known something was up, though she probably thought I knew about it. It was odd for Ella to be here and not at home, around her father, even with the strange circumstances. In fact, it was odd for her not to want to go home, like last night, but at the time I thought it was because of her behavior that made her wish to be around me and my mom rather than explain her actions to her father.
Her hand withdrew the remote from some unseen crevice, and she flipped the channel again. “They’re out of town. Mom was called away on business in the middle of the week and dad went with her.”
I paused. It was odd that they were both gone, but now that I thought about it they weren’t at home yesterday either. I figured her mother had gone to the store or was in her private study while her father was at work. Her mother’s car was in the garage when Ella and I pulled into the driveway, so I didn’t think anything of it. I glanced down at the phone in my hands. There was only one reason that Ella didn’t want to be home alone, and it wasn’t because she couldn’t handle the pain of the breakup alone, it was because she wanted to get away from someone who would only make the situation of her breakup worse.
I needed to know if what I suspected was true. “Does Kyle know that they’re gone?”
She didn’t respond right away. “He does. They left late Tuesday night for the coast. I took the car on Thursday and Friday because it was cloudy, and I didn’t want to walk in the rain. But I’ve been walking to school instead of driving the car as much as possible. I don’t know when they’ll be back. They both left with a suitcase a piece in addition to their laptops.”
I frowned. That was nearly unheard of and a first in her home for both of her parents to be gone at the same time. Ella’s father was an IT consultant working out of their home office. He took calls in the house for problems and only went away on business during the week, when his wife was at home. When one of them took a suitcase, it was a signal to her that they were going to be gone for a while. Now that they both had traveled away, probably leaving the details vague to Ella, it was clear that they wouldn’t return at least for another week.
I glanced over at her small figure. She was still curled into a ball. “Does Jacelyn know that they’re gone?”
“Of course. Who do you think suggested that I…I…” she sighed and sniffled. “Never mind. It’s nothing.”
She needed someone to vent with, terribly. That someone wasn’t going to be me or any other guy. It wasn’t going to be Jacelyn either, even if she would’ve traded me for the girl last week before the whole Kyle-cheating thing. I looked down at my phone smashed between my leg and the cushion. There wasn’t a single person’s name on my contact list that Ella would talk to openly about her relationship with Kyle. Most of our friends knew or had dated him in the past, plus I got the feeling that she didn’t want to talk to someone that knew him personally. She changed the channel to yet another movie, one that I recognized as being alright in terms of chivalry and honorability, instead of that mushy feminine trash.
I picked up Ella’s phone and skimmed her list of contacts. None of her friends’ names jumped out at me as the typical down-to-earth people that Ella desperately needed to speak with, well none until my eyes fell upon Lynna’s name. There was only one message from Ella to Lynna, naming her number for confirmation. I had no idea if Lynna would respond or talk with Ella about this situation, but there wasn’t anyone else to call. I took a chance and texted Lynna from Ella’s phone.
Hey, it’s Garrett, from school. I need some help. It’s about Ella. I sent the message to her.
I didn’t have to wait long for a response.
What’s wrong? Lynna texted back.
Um, well Ella is going through a rough breakup. She really needs a gal pal to talk to.
This time there was a pause. And she won’t talk to you?
I frowned wondering what thoughts went through her head for her to ask that. It wasn’t a typical answer. I’m not a girl. I sent back.
This time, she was quick in her response. And you think I could help?
I stared at the message. Was she serious? Yeah. All girls know how to fix this situation or alleviate it. It’s that feminine intuition thing that I don’t have.
Oh. There was another long pause. Do I need to call her?
I stared over at Ella. She was still wrapped up in a ball. No, I think it would be best for you to come over and talk with her in person.
She didn’t respond after that one. I waited a minute or two, but still nothing came back.
Or we could meet you somewhere. I tried again.
This time I got a response. Wherever I go, my siblings must come as well.
I grimaced, not knowing if I wanted them here. Lynna I didn’t mind, but there was something off about her adopted brother and sister, though Ella’s health was more important at this point than me worrying over the extreme oddities of the two kids. Mom still hadn’t returned from running errands and I believed that she would be gone all afternoon, giving us both space from the night’s events. Plus, she wouldn’t mind some more of my friends dropping by, if it would help Ella’s condition.
That’s fine. I responded and sent my address with the message.
We’ll be there soon. She sent back.
I put the phone down and stood up. Ella never asked who I was texting, though it was clear I was talking to someone during the movie. Her phone vibrated with every received message. I boiled some water on the stove and made a pot of tea.
“Do you want something to drink?” I offered her.
“Some of that clear liquid from last night will do,” she cried out softly.
We didn’t keep liquor in the house. I grabbed the teapot and carted it into the room, pouring her a cup. I set the tray on the round wooden coffee table in the center of the living room.
The doorbell chimed; I knew it was Lynna. I opened the door to her unemotional expressionless eyes that stared straight at me while her two siblings pointed at the brick façade of my house in the background. I was used to this odd behavior, not just from them, but from others that visited the house for the first time.
My mother and I lived in a custom-built edition on the outskirts of the town. Our house was uniquely designed from the rest of the modern houses in our village. This house featured a cylindrical spiral staircase, leading to the roof and attic, a column tiered walkway, entire glass panels that lined the roof and walls of the living, dining and kitchen rooms, a two story library complete with a circular stained glass dome, a spacious outdoor garden that served the outdoor and indoor corner of the kitchen, and an outdoor bathing area in the master suite – though that was not normally a part of the tour because it was a private area for my parents. Tall hedges and a wooden gate with a lock, served to enclose the outdoor bathing area. A large pink willow tree grew near the side of the house with the library and kitchen, shrouding it in shade. Ivy and flower laden vines hugged the stony façade, making our home look more like an ancient monastery rather than a humble abode.
Lynna didn’t say much of anything in response to her sibling’s behavior. I widened the doorway and allowed her entry into my home. Lynna walked in, observing the décor quietly. The two children followed suit, only after the youngest nudged the other.
I led Lynna into the living room, which was a short trip and could be seen from the entryway. “Ella, Lynna’s here to talk to you,” I announced, hoping that she wouldn’t kill me. She was still curled up in a ball and didn’t move much after my announcement. I noticed she had changed the channel once more.
Lynna walked over to the other end of the couch, where I had been sitting, and stared at the TV screen. “What are you watching?” she asked her.
“Hope Floats,” Ella murmured.
She sat down on the end and didn’t let her back touch the cushions. There weren’t many girls I’d seen who sat upright like this, which was odd because in school she slouched in her chair and didn’t sit with perfect posture. “Do you need to talk?”
I caught Lynna’s face as she questioned mine wondering why I asked her over here if Ella wasn’t going to talk. But before I could respond to her, Ella straightened herself upright suddenly, drawing both of our attentions towards her.
“Are boys only interested in one thing? Like they go to extreme measures just to get a booty call?” she quizzed Lynna suddenly.
It took a minute before Lynna responded. “I don’t know,” she stammered out.
“Well, except for Garrett,” she added. “Haven’t you had a boyfriend before?” she quizzed her.
“No,” Lynna answered truthfully.
Ella looked surprised. “Well, you’ve had a boy like you right?”
Lynna relaxed back in thought. “I guess so.”
“Okay, so that crush ends up asking you out, and you both go on several dates, then you both fall in love,” she explained in a rush. “Well, not right away. It took a couple of months of dating between Kyle and me.”
I took this as my cue to leave the room. I didn’t want to hear any more and Ella was venting finally, so I succeeded in my plan. When I turned around I noticed the kids were nowhere in sight leaving me to wonder where they ran off to. I peeked into my room and then into my mom’s hoping they weren’t in our personal space. But they weren’t in that part of the house. I finally spotted them in the kitchen looking at the mini garden in the right corner. They were pointing at the fish in the pond that fed both the inside and outside flora.
I opened the door that led to the library and walked inside. My computer was always on, but usually untouched throughout the week. I sat down and checked my email. University scouts were already sending me scholarship opportunities. Other scouts sent me recruitment paperwork for various hockey teams across the nation. Already mid-term grades were posted. I deleted a couple of spam emails that got through the filter, including one Jacelyn sent me regarding a cat falling off a box. I never found those types of emails hilarious.
Turning off the screen, I got up and laid down upon the antique fainting couch that sat in the middle of the room. I could keep my eyes on the kids from here. I gazed up at the glass windows and watched the sunlight bounce around the different murals. It wasn’t long before I was sound asleep.