“Well, since you’re all settled, I figured I’d just stay in the guest room.” Xavier sighed after he’d made sure I’d eaten and taken my medicine.
“We don’t have a guest room.”
“Don’t be silly, of course you do. The bedroom just down the hall.”
I sat bolt upright. “Please tell me you haven’t been in there.”
“Juliet, what’s the problem?”
I jumped out of bed and opened the door to her room. There was Xavier’s suitcase and it looked like he had started unpacking. I felt the tears spilling over before I knew what was going on.
“Juliet?” Xavier asked softly from behind me.
“This is my mom’s room.”
Xavier pulled me against him and held me while I cried. “Hush now, I’ll just take the couch. I’ll take everything out. I didn’t know, I’m sorry.”
I shook my head. “It’s, it’s…”
Xavier was rubbing small circles. “This isn’t good for you.” He murmured against my head. “Come on, back to bed.” Xavier picked me up and carried me back to my bed. “You need sleep.” He tucked me in and went to leave, but I grabbed his arm. I didn’t want to be alone.
“Are you sure? You need your rest.”
“Please stay with me. Just for a little while?”
Xavier smiled and nodded. “If that’s what you really want.” I was curled up under the blankets and Xavier laid on top of them next to me. He refused to get under with me, but let me cuddle up against him. He ran his fingers through my hair until I fell asleep.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“It’s aright. How long was I out?”
“A few hours.”
“Did you say Amanda was staying at her parents’ house?”
“Want to watch a movie?”
Xavier smiled. “If you want to. What would you like to watch?”
“Ever seen Casablanca?”
Xavier shook his head.
“What?” I sat up. “Oh we are so watching it. I think this is my favorite movie of all time.”
We sat and watched it. God how I loved this movie.”
“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” I smiled as I quoted the movie. I love Humphrey Bogart movies. I love Humphrey Bogart to be honest. He’s one of the favorite actors of all time. Xavier chuckled and I looked over. He was not watching the movie, instead he was watching me. “Can I help you?”
Xavier shook his head and tried not to broaden his smile. “No, I’m quite alright.”
“Then I think I should tell you, the movie is that way, dude. You’re missing it.”
“No, it’s definitely not alright. It’s Casablanca. Missing it is not alright. Watch the movie, mister.”
Xavier let out a small laugh, but turned back to the movie. “It’s cute how into this you are.”
“Shut up and watch.”
Xavier continued to tease me throughout the movie. We were at the part where Rick is telling Ilsa to get on the plane or else she’d regret it when Xavier burst out laughing. I was gaping at him as Rick gave him famous speech before Ilsa leaves with Victor.
“How are you laughing?”
“Because it’s ridiculous.” Xavier laughed.
“You are ridiculous. Casablanca is pure cinematic gold.”
“You need your rest. You are delirious.” Xavier smiled as he crawled out of bed. Xavier kissed my forehead. “Good night, Juliet, sweet dreams.”
“Get back here an enjoy Casablanca!” I shouted as he closed the door.
Eventually I got comfortable and snuggled up with Loki and managed to fall asleep. I was awoken to a fit of laughter and Xavier growling at someone to, “Get off that bed this instant.” As soon as I heard Amanda’s mom tone I knew when was jumping on my bed.
“Auntie Juliet! Wake up! We should play!” I looked up into an adorable pair of hazel eyes and fuzzy hair that was currently cut into a mohawk.
“Good morning, Maverick.” I smiled up at him.
“Maverick, I said to get over here this instant.” Amanda warned. Maverick pouted and Amanda’s eyes narrowed. “Mommy said now.”
Maverick burst into tears. “I just missed Aunt Juliet! I just wanted to play!” he cried as he ran over to Amanda and cried into her jeans. She sighed and gave me a look I knew all too well.
“That’s sweet and all, but when Mommy says something, you have to listen.” Amanda soothed as she knelt down. “Look at me.” Maverick did. “Right now, Aunt Juliet has a few booboos and we need to be careful with her. She has a few owies and we don’t want to make them worse, do we?” Maverick shook his head. “I didn’t think so. Now, if she’s feeling up to it, you can play in a little while. Until then, I think we should make her breakfast.” Maverick’s face lit up like a Christmas tree.
“Aunt Juliet, do you want chocolate chip pancakes or French toast?”
“Whatever your little heart desires.” I grinned at him.
“YES! CHOCOLATE CHIP PANCAKES!” Maverick practically sang. “Come on, Mommy!” Maverick grabbed her hand and dragged Amanda out of the room. I couldn’t help the smile across my face.
“How are you feeling today?” Xavier asked. “He didn’t hurt you when he jumped on you, did he?”
“No, Maverick is fine. He just hasn’t really gotten to see me much since I’ve been back.”
“I just don’t want to see you hurt.”
“Xavier, I’m not made of glass.”
Xavier let out and exasperated sigh. “Juliet, you will never understand, will you? Forget it.” He huffed and left the room. I was staring at the closed door for a few moments before Amanda knocked and came in.
“Hello gorgeous.” She smiled and plopped herself on my bed. “I’ve missed you. How are your ribs?”
“Well enough.” I smiled back and pulled her into a hug. “God I’ve fucking missed you.”
She squeezed me back and the pain didn’t even phase me. I missed this girl. She may as well have been my sister. “Me too! It’s been crazy without you!” Amanda held me at an arm’s length and gave my arm a gentle slap. “And a phone call doesn’t hurt every now and then. I never did get the chance to yell at you like I should have for the way you left.”
My grin widened. “Too true, I’m pretty sure I’m due for a punch from the pacific right about you.”
Amanda sighed. “Lucky for you I’m a Buddhist now.” She smiled. We caught up and chatted and laughed. I loved that it felt like only an hour had passed since I’d last hung out with Amanda. I found out she almost had her master’s degree in anthropology and was working as a nurse for now. Amanda was a gypsy at heart and we both knew it. Everything seemed normal again until Amanda went quiet for a moment.
“What is it?”
“There something you should know. Chase made bail today.”
“Yeah, he showed up at my parents’ house.”
“Are you guys-”
“We’re all fine, but I’m worried. He’s still not well, there’s something wrong with him. His father agreed to bail him out so long as he goes through rehab, but still…I mean, he’s Chase.”
I nodded. I knew exactly what she meant. “What all did he say?”
“He really wants you back. Apparently, since you ended things with him, he’s been in a downward spiral.”
I nodded. It broke my heart to hear it, but didn’t really surprise me either. Chase had been my first love, hell he’d been a lot of firsts for me. The Chase he used to be would always have a special place in my heart. That wasn’t eh Chase he still was today.
“I don’t care how guilty you feel, if you ever go back to that sorry sack of shit, I will personally kick your ass, Buddhist or not.” Amanda teased with that serious undertone. “I just thought you had a right to know. Mr. Stuffy McI’mBetterThanYouPants doesn’t want you to know. He doesn’t want you upset, but I know you better than he does. You’d be pissed if I kept this from you, so I’m telling you.
I nodded and hummed in agreement as I tried to process all of this. She was right, if she’d kept this from me, I would have been pissed. In fact, I was a little upset that Xavier wanted to keep this from me.
“Hey, I’m pretty sure he has the best of intentions.” Amanda assured me as she broke me from my thoughts. “But they pave the road to hell with those. How are you feeling about all this?”
I shrugged. “Chase is Chase. He’s definitely not the guy I used to love. I think he stopped being that person about sophomore year to be honest. I’m worried about him, sure, but I can’t have people like him in my life anymore.”
Amanda nodded. “Sounds like you’re thinking clearly.”
“AUNTIE JULIET!” Maverick slammed the door open and he had a plate in his hands. It was a chocolate chip pancake with sunny side up eggs and bacon in the shape of a smiley face. “I HAVE BREAKFAST FOR YOU!” He sang proudly. “And I made it myself!” He beamed as he helped the plate out to me.
I grinned down at him and laughed as Xavier trailed in and cleared his throat.
“Well, he helped a little.” Maverick added with a roll of his eye.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Well, you little monster, where’s Mommy’s?” Amanda asked, her hands on her hips and a smile on her face.
“In the kitchen. Your legs aren’t broken.” Maverick teased, as he stuck his tongue out. “Only Auntie Juliet can eat in her room. We have to eat at the table like civilized people. Nana always says we weren’t raised in a barn.”
“Oh? We’re quoting Nana now? How about what Nana says about tv?”
“Nana’s not always right.” Maverick dismissed with a shrug.
“What did Nana say about tv?” Xavier asked an amused look across his face.
“That television will rot my brain so I shouldn’t watch it.” Maverick retorted in a very matter of fact tone. “But that’s okay, Nana’s old.”
“Well, I’ll be sure to tell her you said that.” Amanda laughed.
“I always tell Nana she’s old.” Maverick shot back
Amanda laughed even harder. “Well, come show Mommy what you made me.”
“I made it for Aunt Juliet, Mommy, not for you.”
We all burst out laughing.
“Great, Jules, my kid will cook for you but not for Mommy.” Amanda chortled. “Well, I’ll give you two a little bit of time. Let’s go have breakfast, Maverick.” Amanda picked Maverick up and closed the door behind them.
“So did you or Maverick made this?”
“I made it.”
“Alright.” I took a bite and it was fantastic. “You seem thrilled to be dealing with a toddler.”
Xavier seemed tense. “Yes, children are something else.” He muttered.
Xavier looked at me over his glasses, lips pursed. “They’re lovely, so long as I’m not the one caring for them.”
“Aww, you don’t want to babysit Maverick?”
“No, I’m quite alright, thank you very much.”
“Aww that’s so cute.” I noticed a tinge of pink of Xavier’s cheeks. “Aww, you’re blushing.”
“I most certainly am not.” Xavier snapped, his cheeks flushing a shade deeper.
“Aww, you’re adorable when you’re embarrassed.”
“Juliet, I, your nurse is here to check up on you.” Xavier stammered and hurried out.
My nurse drew blood, checked my vitals and told me everything looked good. I spent the day watching movies, playing games like Monopoly and Sorry with everyone, Maverick and teamed up and won them both, and just relaxed. This was the home I remembered. This was how home was supposed to feel. Finally, I was home.