Watered Down

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Chapter Twenty Six

I woke up to the bed shaking.

“Serena!” Tally was cheering while she hopped up and down on the bed. “Serena, you’re here!”

I sat up slowly, stretching my achy arms over my head. “I sure am.” I said sleepily.

Tally ran to flip on the lights and I looked over at the clock on the little table. I was pretty surprised I had slept this long. It was already seven at night. I sighed to myself when I started worrying about the time again. “Come eat with me!” Tally said, pulling my hand to make me get out of bed and follow her to the living room.

Theon had changed clothes. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a nicer red pullover. They’d already laid out all of the food and there were two little candles lit in the center of the coffee table. “What’s the special occasion?” I asked, raising my eyebrows.

Theon shrugged, waving me over to sit by him and Tally. “Your recent accomplishments.” He said, raising his glass of apple juice.

I couldn’t stop smiling as I came to sit with them to eat the spaghetti that Theon had made. It wasn’t anything special, most likely a canned sauce and no meat, but it was just as good as if it had come from Casabella’s from down on sixth and 10th Street.

Conversation went easily, and it felt so nice to be a part of something normal again. I loved being around Tally and Theon. Even though he’d had to step up and be the father figure for her, they still joked and cut up with each other like you’d expect from siblings. The closeness they shared was heartwarming.

When we finished dinner, Theon helped Tally with a bath while I mindlessly flipped through the channels on TV. Not much had changed in a few months as far as the whole world was concerned, and I was glad to see that I hadn’t actually been left behind by everyone.

Theon and I tucked Tally into bed together, and every time I’d glance up we would keep getting caught in an intense moment of eye contact, so much between us not being said but being felt between those few stolen glances.

When Tally was out, Theon took me by the hand and led me back out to the living room. “I got you some stuff.” He said as I curled up on one end of the couch while he went into the kitchen, reemerging with a couple of bags. “When Tally got home you were still out cold, and I didn’t want her to bother you so she and I went to get you a few clothes and things we thought you might need until you leave.”

I took the bags graciously, peeking in for just a minute before setting them aside when I saw the look on Theon’s face as he sat down beside me, another small bag in his hand. “What’s that?” I asked, already having my suspicions by the size of the box inside the bag.

“You’ve got to call your family.” He said softly, passing me the bag.

I pulled out the box and slid the phone out, hitting the power button. It wasn’t nearly as nice as my IPhone 7+ back home, but it was a phone. A line to my past. “Thank you.” I said so low it was hardly even a whisper. The thought of actually being able to call people, and tell them I am alive made my hands shake.

Theon laid his hand gently on my knee. “I know it’ll be hard, but you really need to call and let your family know you’re alright, and you need to set up how you’re going to get home.” He looked really sad as the last word left his mouth.

I nodded my head stoically and slowly typed in my father’s number. When it started to ring I grabbed a hold of Theon’s hand, needing him for this. “Hello?” My father’s deep voice filled my ears, and the tears filled my eyes.

I pursed my lips. “Daddy?” I called out with a crack in my voice.

There was a moment of silence on the other end, then my father cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, who is this?” He asked, sounding a little shaken for him.

“Daddy, it’s me.” I said. “It’s Serena.”

“Is this some sort of sick joke?”

I wanted to cry harder. “No, daddy, it is really me.” I told him. “I’m alive.”

“Serena?” He whimpered my name and it broke my heart into a billion pieces. I never thought my parents would have been so affected by my death.

“Yes, daddy!” I cried. “I’m alright, I’m…” I stopped, turning to look at Theon. “Where am I?” I whispered to him.

“Tinunglo Island.” He whispered back.

“Daddy, I’m on Tinunglo Island.” I said into the phone.

“Jackie!” I heard my father calling to my mother. “Jackie come here!”

I could hear commotion on the other end. “What’s the matter Ralph?” I heard my mother’s high pitched voice.

“Serena is alive, she’s on the phone.” He told her.

“Ralph, don’t be ridiculous.”

“Jackie just take the damn phone.”

“Hello?” She said into it. “Who is this?”

I sighed. “Mom, it really is me.”

She sighed back louder. “I don’t know who you think you are, but I will sue you for every penny you’re worth for this crass harassment. What kind of person does this? We just buried our daughter months ago, and you have the audacity to call here with your insensitive pranks!”

Mother, it is Serena!” I her said her name like I always used to. “I really am alive, it’s really truly me.”

I could hear her breathing get raspy and I wasn’t sure if it was out of anger or if she was crying now. “Serena?”

“Yes, mom, I’m alright.” I sighed. “I’m so sorry for worrying you all, I can only imagine…Anyway, I’m on an island, um, Tinunglo Isle.”

There was more commotion on the other end. “Ralph, call Lenny and have him get the jet in the air immediately.” She ordered my father. “Serena, just stay put, I’m sending the plane for you.”

My pulse quickened. “No, mom, there is a storm coming through.” I explained. “It’s supposed to get pretty rough for a few days.”

“That’s just all the more reason for me to make sure I get you home.” She cried. “Oh, Serena, baby.” She sniffled. “We really thought we’d lost you.”

I couldn’t hold back my own tears. “I know, I am so sorry for all that you guys have had to go through.”

“I can’t wait to have you home, sweetheart.”

“I love you.” I cried, and Theon pulled me over to hold me against his chest.

My father whispered some things to my mother that I couldn’t understand, but then she was back. “Serena darling, the plane will be there first thing in the morning.” She informed me. “Can you get to the air strip from where you are?”

“Um, yeah, I think so.” I nodded.

“Do you need money?” My father’s voice came onto the phone. “I can wire you money, are you alright there baby girl?”

My father hadn’t called me that since I was at least six years old. “No, I’m fine.” I assured him. “I don’t need anything, and you don’t have to send the plane right away, I am fine with waiting until after the storms pass.”

“I’ll hear nothing else about that.” He said firmly. “I am getting you out of there.”

I knew there was no point in arguing.

My mother and father took turns passing the phone back and forth for the next hour, before finally we said our goodbyes. Even long after I’d hung up the phone I stayed huddled up against Theon’s chest, stray tears finding their way out every now and then. “So,” He said softly. “I take it you’re leaving sooner than expected.”

I leaned back to look at him. “Was that your plan?” I demanded. “Have me call them because you knew they’d come get me sooner?”

Theon looked offended. “Of course not, Serena.” He defended himself. “I just thought you should call them, I had no idea they’d even be able to get you any sooner than after the storms.”

“Yeah, well, they will be here first thing in the morning with the jet.” I sighed.

“Your family has their own jet?” He asked, furrowing his brows. I narrowed my eyes at him, silently warning him not to make a princess joke right now, but he smiled and shook his head. “See, now how was I supposed to know your parents would send a damn jet for you?”

“You promise you weren’t trying to get rid of me sooner?”

He hugged my head back down to his chest. “Of course not.” He sighed, patting my hair. “I was kind of looking forward to having you here for the next few days, but I’m happy for you that you’ll be getting to go home.”

I nodded against him. “I’m not even sure what home means anymore.” I confessed. “The whole idea of it freaks me out.”

Theon rubbed my back with his hand and rested his head on top of mine. “At least you can go somewhere, and you have a family that clearly loves you.” He said gently.

“I’m sure your parents loved you too, Theon.” I told him, leaning up to look at him.

His eyes seemed distant as he nodded his head solemnly. “Yeah,” He muttered. “They did.” A harsh expression pulled on his handsome features. “That was the problem.” I furrowed my brows at him but he just shook his head and ran a hand through his long brown hair. “I’m going to take a quick shower, then we can watch a movie or whatever you want to do on your last night here.”

I smiled at him as he stood up, thinking to myself that I know what I want to do with him, and then laughing at myself for even thinking it.

I heard the shower start running and I looked down at the little phone in my hand. I toyed with it for a second before finally giving in and dialing another number.

Each ring seemed to drone out longer and longer as they went by, but he didn’t answer, instead the call ended early with a message saying the number had been disconnected. I sighed, tossing the phone over onto the couch, willing my hands to stop shaking. It was probably for the better that we didn’t talk first. A phone call feels so impersonal for us, and it would probably be better just to meet him face to face.

That thought made my mind race again, and I felt a little dizzy. Tomorrow I will be face to face with probably all sorts of people. My parents, my friends, probably everyone from my freaking neighborhood is going to show up to my house. I didn’t used to be nervous of things like that, but now it feels weird. Like if anyone looks at me too closely they might see what I’ve done.

I’ll see Asher most likely tomorrow too. If I were to tell anyone the truth, it would be him, but I probably should see where our relationship even stands at this point before I start making plans to spill my guts to him. I know out of everyone, though, he’d be the one to understand and support me. It was just the kind of person he was.

The shower cut off, and within a couple of minutes, Theon walked back into the room with wet hair, no shirt and a pair of basketball shorts on. He stopped when he saw me standing awkwardly in the middle of the living room. “You alright?” He asked, using the towel in his hand to dry out his long hair some more.

I pursed my lips, eyes dipping momentarily to his abs before coming back up to his face. “Yep.” I mumbled.

He narrowed his eyes at me, but then he smiled. “Whatever, princess.” He winked and I wanted to throw something at his smug face.

“You’re so annoying.” I rolled my eyes at him instead.

He shrugged his tan shoulders, not denying it. “You want to watch a movie or what?”

I nodded. “We can do that, but can we watch it in the bedroom?”

He had a goofy grin cross his face again. “Is that because you’re going to try to take advantage of me?”

This time I did dash over to the couch and pull off one of the cushions, chunking it at him, but he caught it easily. “I hate you.” I laughed, and he shook his head.

“No you don’t.” He smiled softly at me.

I walked over to him, taking him by the hand. “You’re right, I don’t.”

He leaned over me and kissed the top of my head. “You go pick a movie, and I’ll get us some popcorn.”

My stomach growled at the sound of it. “Oh, god, I have missed popcorn.” I sighed, extracting one of his rare deep belly laughs.

I hopped into bed, flipping through the channels and stopping when I found a movie that looked interesting. A few minutes later, Theon climbed into bed beside me and I cuddled up to him while we watched the movie and ate popcorn. There was something so intimate about it, even though we’d never been intimate.

While I laid with my head nuzzled into his chest, it was easy to imagine this being my life. Living here with him and Tally, getting a job, helping around the house. It was a life I could see myself loving, like I love…

I looked up at him, noticing his eyes were getting heavy. I reached up and trailed my fingers across the scar that cut through his eyebrow, and he titled his head to look down at me. “Do you mind me asking?” I asked.

Theon shrugged a little. “I was in a pretty rough car accident when I was fifteen.”

I raised my brows at him. “Fifteen?”

Theon rubbed his chin with his free hand. “Yeah,” He mumbled. “I wasn’t a great kid.”

I sat up on my elbow to look down at him. “I cannot imagine you being a bad kid.” I admitted.

“Well, I was.” He assured me. “I snuck out, stole my parent’s car, got drunk and wrecked it.”

“Wow.” I said. “I bet they were pissed.”

He shook his head. “They should have been.”

“They weren’t?” I asked surprised.

“Not in the slightest.” He replied quickly.

I laid back down on him. “You had some cool parents.” I told him. “Mine would have flipped.”

“Good parents would have.” He said simply, and I was picking up in the tone of his voice that it was a sore subject, so I dropped it.

Instead, I inched up closer to him, resting one of my legs over the top of his and he held me tightly. “I’m going to miss this.” I admitted.

“Me too.” He said quickly.

“Can I call you?” I asked shyly.

I could feel that he smiled. “Are you asking to get my number?” He chuckled.

“I guess I am, but not just for you of course.” I told him. “I want to be able to call Tally too.”

“She’d love that.”

“Me too.”

Theon surprised me by leaning down and planting a firm kiss right on my cheek. “I’m going to really miss you.” He whispered to me.

“More than you know.” I whispered back.

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