“Jovie, you need to stop doing stupid crap like this. You’re going to get yourself killed!”
The warning that Jovie heard quite often, yet never actually heeded, rang across the yard from where she stood on the fence. She was balancing quite well, if she did say so herself. In fact, she did say so. The response she received back was a mix of grumbling and waving her off. She made a mental note to get her friend on the old wooden bar one day.
“Oh, relax Anna-Jean,” Jovie called over to the brunette gleefully, “At least the electricity wiring isn’t on!”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Anna-Jean called, placing her hands on her hips from where she stood by the truck. Jovie was grateful she had come out to the field with her, despite her protests at first.
“Well, yeah, but I guess it had the opposite effect, huh?” The blonde girl leapt off of the wood fence, landing gracefully in the grass, a smile radiating on her face. As she made her way to Anna-Jean, she grabbed a few wildflowers on her way. The field was surprisingly large and surrounded by trees that seemed to reach the sky. It was filled with wildflowers of each color of the rainbow and then some. In the middle was a large sitting circle that some teenagers had placed a while back and there was a small bonfire pit in the center of the chairs.
It was Jovie’s favorite place.
“Have you heard from the boys?” Jovie questioned, tossing the wildflowers in her basket. She grabbed one from the bunch and slipped it into Anna-Jean’s ponytail with a grin.
Anna-Jean shook her head, her fingers touching the flower in her hair to make sure it didn’t fall out, “No, but I know Bruce is at the shop. He picked up an extra shift so he could get a present for Mama Willow’s birthday.” She shut the back of the truck bed with a thunk and walked over to the driver’s side door of her tragically-needed-a-new-coat-of-paint yellow truck. Jovie liked to call it Bud.
Jovie opened the passenger door of Bud with a creak, sliding into the familiar old seat. She popped the mirror down and glanced at her reflection, putting on a coat of chapstick while she had a moment. “I think Rikki is at practice. Kip is probably sleeping.”
“Or eating,” Anna-Jean pointed out as she started the truck and began rumbling down the dirt road. Pebbles clicked up behind them as they left the field behind.
“Or flirting with Clarissa.”
“Or any girl with a pulse, really.”
“God,” Jovie laughed, “He really is a flirt, isn’t he?” She placed her elbow outside the window, watching the birds flying around the trees.
Anna-Jean rolled her eyes, “Since birth. Legend says that he came out of the womb with a pick-up line directed at the nurses.” The pair of girls laughed as they pulled up at the edge of town. “I wonder if he knows that he doesn’t have a chance with Clarissa.”
Jovie shrugged, turning to look at Anna-Jean, a brow raised, “Do you think he cares? She’s pretty. Taken, but pretty. That’s all that boy cares about.”
“Not the only thing,” Anna-Jean hummed, flipping on her turn signal. “Want me to drop you at your house?”
Jovie’s eyes glanced at Anna-Jean quizzically (who was undoubtedly avoiding her look), and she shrugged, dropping the subject for now. “Yeah. You still coming for dinner tomorrow?”
“Wouldn’t miss it.”
Jovie opened the truck door as soon as the it stopped, gracefully hopping out and turning back to Anna-Jean with a salute. She pulled out her bag, grabbed her basket of flowers from the bed of the truck, and waved at her friend as she drove off. Jovie bounded up the front steps two at a time, throwing open the front door with a shout that she was home. A course of hello’s rang back from the kitchen and living room respectively as she hurried up the blue staircase to her room.
Jovie opened her cream colored door with a soft huff and tossed her bags on top of her green striped comforter. She flipped her light switch and stretched her arms into the air with a yawn, kicking off her shoes next to the door. Her room was filled with small plants in the window sills and decorated with shades of green, yellow, and white. In the corner was a body mannequin with fabric on it, along with a sewing machine and a desk littered with magazines, fabric, and thread. Her room looked like a tornado had gone through it, but she knew exactly where everything was.
Grabbing the wildflowers, the blonde girl padded back down the stairs, heading towards the kitchen.
She was greeted by her mom, Melina, who smiled at her from the sink, “Hey sweets, how was the clearing with Anna-Jean?” Her gaze went back down to the sink where the water was running over some fresh fruits from their garden in the backyard.
“It was good,” Jovie replied with a grin, “I got mom some flowers for her birthday.” Melina turned to look, her eyes lighting up and a warm smile exposing her laugh lines around her eyes.
“She’s going to love them, bug.” Melina said softly, tapping Jovie’s nose gently before taking them and grabbing a spare vase from the cabinet. “Oh, they are so vibrant. So many beautiful colors this year. You did well!” She placed her hand on the island.
Jovie grinned brightly, “Duh.” She stuck out her tongue as her Melina threw a raised brow her way, ducking under her arm and heading to the fridge. “I invited Anna-Jean to dinner tomorrow, is that cool? Oh, and I invited Rikki. And Kip, and maybe Bruce if he can get off work—”
Melina cut her off with a chuckle, tucking the flowers in the vase that was now filled with water and set the bouquet on the counter. The woman had graying hair, which Kip claimed was from Jovie and all of her stunts. Jovie didn’t exactly disagree, but she didn’t like the idea that Kip was probably correct. Paired with her curly locks was kind and wise soft blue eyes that matched Jovie’s. Melina’s hands were calloused from hardwork and filled with stories of the lives she saved and the memories she made in her life. To say Jovie’s hero was her mom was an understatement and probably not too far off base. “Of course it’s alright. They’re family.”
“I knew you liked them,” Jovie joked, sending her a wink, shutting the fridge and uncapping a water bottle. “Where are the twins?”
“They are over at the Richard’s house,” Melina said from where her head was in the cabinet. She rose up from her squatting position with a purple pan in her hand, “They’re playing with Esther.”
Jovie nodded slowly, backing away in what she hopped with a sneaky way, “Oh… Well, I may just go and check on them, you know, because that Esther is such a terrible influence--”
“Tell Kip I said hi,” Melina said without looking at her daughter. Her tone sounded amused. “Oh, and ask Adeline if I can borrow some sugar for the cookies tomorrow.”
Jovie was already out the back door and across the yard, opening the clasp on the fence gate that conjoined the two family’s yards. She frowned at the wetness at the bottom of her feet and started hopping on one foot as she took off her now dirty socks. After tossing them on the deck not a minute later, she knocked on the back door before entering with a wide spread of her hands, “No need for anymore boredom, Richards family!” She sang out loudly, shutting the door behind her with a click. “You’re reprieve has arrived!”
Adeline was sitting at the island with her laptop, an amused look on her face, “Oh, thank you my dear,” She hummed, getting off of the stool to wrap her arms around her. “I would never have to wonder what I would have done without you here.”
Jovie hugged the woman back with a laugh. “You are so welcome. The pleasure is mine, I assure you.”
Adeline Richards was the matriarch of a family of seven. She was of average height with reddish-brown hair that framed her face beautifully. Her eyes were a chestnut brown. Jovie thought she was one of the most beautiful people she knew. She also wasn’t sure how she kept her figure after five kids- well six, if you count her husband. “Kip’s in his room playing some video game and your brothers are in the playroom downstairs with Esther and Nora.”
Jovie nodded, turning towards the stairs to head up before she stopped and turned back around, “Oh, before I forget, mama wants to know if she can borrow some sugar for mom’s sugar cookies tomorrow.”
Adeline nodded, opening a white cabinet and pulling out a tin tabled ‘sugar’ in white chalk, “I’ll take some over now.” Jovie grinned and scurried up the stairs.
She swung around the bar at the top and headed down the hallway, stepping over the toys that were littered around. On her way, she grabbed a couple and tossed them over into the toy bin. Jovie loved this house and how hectic it was. It was definitely filled with love and you could tell from the toys that were spread everywhere as well as the pictures framed of the family on the wall.
Jovie stopped by her favorite one and glanced over it. It was taken right after the Richards family’s youngest was born. Esther had been a beautiful, and surprising, addition. Mr and Mrs Richards had elected to undergo a procedure after that to make sure that there wouldn’t be any more surprises. The photo was from in the backyard, underneath the beautiful gazebo. The colorful flowers coiled up and around the white painted wood and were blooming beautifully. Sitting on the bench was William and Adeline with a sleeping Esther on his lap, Nora on hers. Nora was missing her front tooth in that picture.
Behind them stood the beautiful oldest child Laurie, who had married Anna-Jean’s older brother and lived away from Starlight. Her soft brown hair cascaded in curls and her eyes shone bright in the picture. Next to her was the second oldest, Beckett, who was in the middle of his ‘Troy Bolton’ phase - shaggy, dark brown hair with piercing blue eyes. His smile was crooked and it’s what caused Jovie to have a crush on his since they were kids. Beside him was Kip, her best friend and childhood partner in crime. His caramel colored curls were in his eyes, his brown eyes filled with humor, and his baseball cap poking through his hand that was placed next to his mom on the back of the bench. His smile was wide and bright.
Jovie smiled slightly to herself before padding down the hall to Kip’s door. It was the very last one on the right. She didn’t knock on the white door, but instead turned the brass handle and flung open the door. The waft of pizza filled her nose and she gasped. Kip was sitting in his gaming chair, his headset on his head and her hands fiddling with the buttons. He didn’t appear to have heard her indignation since he continued on like nothing had happened.
Jovie skipped over his dirty laundry pile at the foot of his bed and came up quietly behind him, slowly leaning next to his ear. When he didn’t notice her still, she smirked slightly and said, “Man, you really suck at this game.”
Kip jumped out of his chair, dropping his controller as his game made the sound of a dying character in the background, and spun to look at her. His eyes were filled with surprise, but slowly relaxed when he saw it was her. “Jesus Jo, you scared the crap out of me.” He bent down to pick up his gaming controller.
“Is that new information?” Jovie questioned with a grin as she jumped up to sit on his bed. It was on a platform with storage underneath and was made of dark oak with a black and blue comforter on top. It was well worn and comfortable, and smelled like Kip- a mix of pine and cinnamon.
“No,” Kip decided after a moment of consideration, running a hand through his mop of light brown hair. He slipped his hat on backwards and plopped in his desk chair across from Jovie. “It’s fairly old actually. It’s so old that I shouldn’t be surprised.”
“But you always are,” Jovie laughed, crossing her legs underneath her as she grinned at him. “How, I’m not sure. Anyway, are you coming to mom’s birthday party tomorrow?”
Kip nodded, leaning back in his old desk chair, which creaked like it would snap at any moment, and grabbed a small, wrapped package in green paper and a purple bow, “Yeah, I got her present. It’s that essential oil thing. Mom picked it out for her. It’s from me and Beck. Laurie said she sent her something in the mail.”
Jovie grabbed a dark blue pillow from his bed and set it in her lap, “She’s going to love it. Laurie sent some essential oils that she was missing. We facetimed the other day, she’s glowing!”
Kip nodded, agreeing, a slight grin on his face. “She was this close to convincing Peyton to find out what they’re having, but he remained stubborn.”
“Sounds like Anna-Jean.”
“Well, they are siblings,” Kip noted, grabbing the black TV remote and turning off the screen. “What are you doing tonight?”
Jovie shrugged, leaning back until she was laying on his bed. He came to join her, laying back. His feet touched the floor because he was so tall. Jovie’s, however, dangled. She turned her face to look at him and sighed, “Rikki and I were supposed to go to the garden, but then he had mandatory weight training.”
“On a Friday?” Kip questioned, crossing his freckled arms over his chest, raising a bushy eyebrow.
Jovie nodded, “Coach Buttheld has them running drills so they don’t lose their ‘beef’ over the summer.” She put air quotations around the word beef.
Kip laughed, “I can’t believe his last name is Buttheld and not pronounced butt held.”
Jovie laughed with him. She agreed that it was ridiculous that it was pronounced ‘buh-theld’, “Gosh, what were his ancestors thinking? But, back to the point. Rikki cancelled and I don’t know when he’s going to be free. So… I was hoping…” She looked at him with pleading blue eyes, her bottom lip popping out in a pout. Using that against Kip was mean, she knew, as he always agreed to whatever she wanted when she made this face.
Kip groaned, “You want vegetarian ice cream, don’t you?” Jovie’s grin was all he needed for an answer. “Fine, go tell my mom that you're the reason my homework isn’t going to get done.”
“It’s summer, Kip.”
Jovie rolled her eyes and jumped up, heading to his bedroom door, “You’re the best Kip Richards!” She blew him a kiss as she disappeared around the doorframe.
“You’re paying for my icecream,” He called after her as she raced out of his bedroom door and down the steps. It was totally worth it.
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