The Angel,The Devil,The Nerd

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Chapter 40 - A special day

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I was walking towards the cafeteria when I felt somebody grabbing my arm. Because of the suddenness, I yelped, especially since that someone pushed me into the janitor's closet, but I knew perfectly who it was.

"All this secrecy thing is driving me insane." Eric commented before crashing his lips on mine, arms around me in a quite possessive way. I giggled as I pulled back to breathe and raked a hand through his hair, messing it more than it was already.

"It was your idea, Rivers." He simply growled and attacked my lips once more. It's been three weeks already. Eric and I have been dating since three weeks already. Possibly the best period of my entire life actually. The idea of next week being our first ... monthiversary has my butterflies flutter in my stomach, because despite the premises, till now it's been every amazingly great. Just that.

But ... we're still laying low, so nobody knows about us, except for Kyle, Aisha, and, of course, Jamie. Jamie who's nearly burst my eardrums with her squealing when I told her two weeks ago. She wouldn't stop blabbing that she'd told me so, that she'd always known I'd pick the bad boy over the angel and so on.

With Kyle it's all normal. I mean, we are friends. For real. He's been eating with me and Aisha at lunch, even though, I normally eat quickly and then meet Eric in the gym every day, just because we need every possible moment, especially considering we cannot be seen together. He works at Sophie's on Saturdays and there we can get some more time when we both need to do things in the kitchen, or we just pretend we have to, actually.

Overall it's not bad, though. I mean, despite everything, we still go on dates. In ... places where nobody we know could see us, but we go on dates. Although, I'll admit, my favorite moments are when it's just me and him simply cuddling on my couch while watching a movie. Well, ok, kind of watching a movie as we make out. Sounds more truthful?

Since that time, mom has explicitly forbidden us to get to my room, but Eric can drop by when she's out, which, somehow, it's starting to happen more often and I'm not entirely sure it's because she works ... but she'll tell me when she feels like it.

Eric and I have been also getting to know each other better, well, we've been talking about our things and so, while he's told me about all those times he watched me from afar, blushing a little as he admitted it was a little creepy, but I simply kissed his cheek, saying it was cute. He was simply unable to take his eyes off of me, which I could understand, because with my crush I was always a little bit of stalker like. Of course, mentioning my crush had him stiffen a little, but he got over it when I reminded him that I picked him and it was him that I was falling for.

About that, when that day I heard him confess all of that to my mother, my heart melted into a puddle. I remained there, transfixed, leaning on the balustrade, completely mesmerized, trying to take in all of his words. Yes, just the night before he'd confessed he loved me, but to hear such words ... and with what determination and sincerity he spoke! I remember those words by heart, they are simply imprinted in my heart and they will be forever.

Every tear falling down her rosy cheeks will be my heart losing a drop of blood. Because I love Natalie with all my being and my existence is worth it only if she is beside me. How can I forget such things? It made me cry out of joy right then and there, so much that Eric found me on the stairs, gripping the balustrade, and at first thought I wasn't feeling well, but then I, out of the blue, jumped in his arms, thanking him wholeheartedly because I never knew being loved like that was possible and could make me feel like that.

Sure, I know what motherly love feels like. I have Paula caring for me, my uncle being a father for me, my best friend even loving me. I've always had people loving me, so I can't say I never knew what being loved feels like, but I never knew I could cause such feelings in somebody else. Such feelings as Eric has. It made me want to cry that I still wasn't able to give him back what he deserved.

Eric and Kyle have been talking more, I could see them in the hall or so. Our peers were surprised, but I was only happy. My friend and my boyfriend finally getting along, why shouldn't I be happy? Sometimes I even got to see them laughing together.

It wasn't much, considering Eric still kept that dreaded bad boy mask on, even if I have no idea why at this point, but while being seen together with his nemesis without any punches flying surprised people but didn't have them talk too much about it, well, not more than due, being seen dating such an innocent girl like me, he said, would completely spoil my reputation because, he said, they know his own reputation and if they know I'm with him, they're gonna automatically assume I'm not the little virgin I pretend to be. He said this very much embarrassedly, but I just grinned, saying I didn't care about if they thought I was giving him more than just kisses and caresses, it was our business only what we did when we were together, not theirs. But still ...

"It's not because I want to hide you." Eric told me for the thousandth time, caressing my cheek, blue eyes piercing through me. It's been three weeks and since three weeks the ice in those blues has been melting, at least when he's with me and he looks so different from the bad boy that scared the living shit out of me ... "It's just that I am ..."

"It's just that you've got a very bad reputation and I'm the angel, so if people see us together, you might ruin my goody-goody reputation and blah, blah, blah ..."

He chuckled as he pecked my lips. "It's the truth."

"Yeah, I know it is. But you know what, I really don't care if people think bad of me just because I'm dating you. Unless ... you're more worried about ruining your reputation for going out with me ..."

He dropped his hands, losing his good mood, which I regretted, as he leaned his forehead on mine. "I am not ashamed of you, princess. I just want to protect you." That's the ... hundredth time he says it. I honestly don't understand it, but again, I'm trying to give him his time. When he'll feel like talking, I'll be right here to listen. Whatever it is.

"Yeah, I get it." I concluded and he pouted, cutely, as he scrutinized me.

"You're not mad at me, right?" He asked me, almost like a child worried about getting grounded.

I giggled. "Why should I be?"

He smiled, pecking my lips. "Good. We're going out tonight and I want you happy."

I grinned at that, but shook my head. "Mmh ... no ... I replied, and he frowned. I swear, he's so adorable sometimes, I feel like hugging him like a teddy bear and kissing him to no end. His hair, then, for some reason I love entangling my fingers in it, so that I ruffle it even more than he does, but he likes playing with my hair too, in fact, every time we're wrapped up to each other watching a movie, he just keeps on twirling one of my hair locks in his fingers.

Giving him a wide smile, I ruffled his hair a little as I pointed out: "Today it's a special day, isn't it?"

Eric frowned, staring at me intently for a long moment, then he grazed the back of his neck, clearly trying to remember, but poorly succeeding. "It's not some ... monthiversary, is it? I mean, it's true that with you I lose cognizance of time, but I remember clearly it's just three weeks."

I would have wanted to tease him a little, pretend to be mad at him for forgetting, but I just couldn't resist to that adorable pout, therefore I just smiled and brushed his arm. "No, don't worry. It is three weeks. Three amazing weeks." I pointed out and he smiled brightly, caressing my cheeks and pecking my lips, still holding me in his arms, which is, may I tell you, the best place I've ever been in.

I let him engulf me in one of our intense make out sessions, yelping when my back hit the wall and Eric moved his lips to my neck, his hands roaming my back and hips, but never daring to slide beneath my shirt. It's what we always do. Since that night when we went that much further, he's learnt to control his instincts a bit more and while he can't help but nibble on the sensitive spot of my neck, so much that at least once per week I get a nice hickey my mother glares at me for, while his hands do roam my body, he never gets to sensitive parts and never touches my bare skin, which I appreciate, because it means he really wants to wait.

I tilted my head to the side to give him better access as I raked my fingers through his hair, trying hard not to emit any sound, which was pretty tough, may I tell you. In these weeks I've discovered a new feeling, to be honest, one that only Eric causes me with his kisses and caresses. It's something odd.

Because when he kisses and touches me like this I always feel heat coursing through my lower part and, honestly, sometimes, when he went home after out incandescent make out sessions that never went too far but managed to leave me wheezing, I took advantage of the shower I took before going to sleep to check my panties and ... well, yes, I have found them pretty often soaked in a white liquid that, our sexual education teacher taught us last year, it's the first sign of the woman's arousal.

I have honestly no experience in that field. In no way. I mean, that Eric was the first boy to ever kiss me and touch me, that's obvious, but I also never ... uh ... played with myself, so I seriously have no idea how it works. Only in sexual education I've learnt and, mom in middle school gave me the speech. You know, the one about bees and flowers. Although, I was too curious and too smart to stick to the belief that children are brought by the stork, she said, therefore she gave me the full explanation. I'll admit I was horrified at first. I had never even fathomed such things, but then I better understood.

Still, I was never comfortable with the idea. Till Eric happened. He started messing with my mind, making it create scenarios of us together in a certain way and when we finally got together, his hands on me started giving me such tingles, such odd emotions ...

Now, this time wasn't any different. As Eric kept nibbling on my neck, his hands roaming my back and sides, I couldn't help but moan lowly and his grip on me tightened, which was his way of telling me not to give him such inputs because otherwise he wouldn't be able to stop. Yet I wrapped my own arms around his torso and pressed him better against me, biting my lips when I felt his muscles so clear against me. In these weeks those sensations have only been enhancing, and I think I have reached the point. That specific point.

Hence, even if grudgingly, I pulled back. Eric looked at me confused, silently asking me if he'd gone too far again, but I simply smiled, caressing his cheek as I slightly raised on my tiptoes to place a tender kiss on the edge of his nose. "I was saying, today is an important day." I resumed, trying to sound normal even with my hormones gone crazy, like they always do when Eric is this close and touches me like that.

He gave me a cute puzzled look that made me smile at how adorable he could be sometimes. Seriously, since we're together, the only strands of bad boy I have seen are at school, where he still acts all badass, but ... doesn't get involved in as many fights as before.

I remember only last week, I found myself passing by when, a small crowd already forming, he had a boy I'd never seen blocked against the lockers, his punch up and ready, but when he spotted me, Eric inhaled deeply and, grabbed the boy by his collar, pushed him away, barking against the curious crowd that was murmuring about how "soft" he was getting lately. I thought he'd react angrily only to prove he was still the same badass, but he didn't bother them, just walked off in between the parted crowd, taking advantage of the light ruckus to squeeze my hand for a tiny moment. When I asked him about it, he said he knows I don't like it when he acts like that, therefore he's trying to be a better person ... for me.

Now, leaning back on the wall, I grinned as I asked: "Isn't today March 7th?" He blinked his eyes, clearly confused, but I could see a hint of understanding. Eric just nodded, so I grinned more and lightly grabbed him by his sides, bringing him a little closer to me. "Today ... 19 years ago, a very special person was born ..." I suggested.

He cracked a small smile, but didn't give too much away, still pretending not to understand, so I brought him closer to me, so much that his hard chest was now against mine and I had to look up to meet his beautiful blue eyes. Those eyes that finally are so full of light, and Gee, they twinkle when he gazes at me, you know? When he stares at me so deeply like he was now, with that content smile on his gorgeous face, his blue eyes twinkle and my heart melts, because I know only I can cause that reaction in him.

Arms wrapped around his torso, I slightly raised on my tiptoes to peck his lips, but pulled back when he was leaning in to deepen the kiss. I smiled at his slightly disappointed look and leaned on his chest, where I could feel his heart beating, which is something I love, it's a melody that soothes me like nothing else can. Maybe only his caresses can do that.

My ... I know what this is. I know why I feel so ... overwhelmed with emotions. I know. I finally know. But now's not the time to say it. I prepared something special. Kyle told me in this day Eric disappears and nobody ever sees him, but he's here now, so I guess that something's changed. I just hope he won't take it wrong.

I mean, Kyle told me Eric doesn't like this day, but things have changed, he is different from he was, well, what he acts as. Besides, I'm not gonna throw a huge party with all the people we know. It's something just for us. Just for the two of us. And ... I think I know what else to give him.

Eric caressed my scalp soothingly, like he always does, and placed a tender kiss on my hair. My heart skipped a beat when he said it, because I've heard it many times already, but I can't get tired of it: "I love you, princess." His voice was no more than a whisper, but it reached my heart and my soul before my ears, so that I grinned from ear to ear, hiding my face in his chest, like wanting to take in everything of him.

I don't know how long we remained there, I just know that I didn't have the slightest intention of moving away. It's always like this. The more he keeps me in his arms, the more I want to be. Sometimes he chuckles when, at night, he moves to go away but I grip him tightly, pleading with him to stay a bit more.

Normally he jokes about my being afraid to remain alone at home, but I know he knows it's not that, I know he knows I just want to feel him closer and closer, the most I can. And I know he is glad about it. Because, he says, even if I can't tell him some specific words just yet, at least he's happy to know he really means something to me.

At that, I can only kiss him and remind him that he means more than something to me, he means everything. He blushes and lowers his head, looking like a cute little boy that can't believe what he's been said, so I kiss him and hug him tightly, just to remind him that, just because I can't say those three words just yet, it doesn't mean that I don't feel anything for him.

In the end, we had to move, because Willy, the janitor, tried to open the door, so it was time for us to part, but, taking advantage of the man going to take his keys, Eric and I lingered in a few more ... uh ... tender but also heated moments, so much that even if I couldn't see myself, I knew my cheeks were crimson and my hair was a mess, but I didn't care. He says he likes it when he can cause such reactions in me and I like it that he likes it (pun intended).

When we were finally able to pull back, I distractedly adjusted his t-shirt as I spoke: "Be at Sophie's by three, ok?"

Eric frowned, clearly confused. "Don't you work today?" He argued and I grinned.

"I asked Sophie to give me the day off and she agreed."

"Oh ... and ... why?" Letting my hands slide down, feeling them tingly but not flinching when they brushed his buttocks, I pecked his lips once more, pulling back to escape to his will of restarting, then I explained: "It's a special day. And I want to spend it with my boyfriend, may I?"

He gave me a half smile as he caressed my cheek, tucking a hair lock behind my ear. "You don't have to do anything special, princess. Normally I don't celebrate." Eric told me softly.

I squeezed him better against me, trying hard to keep control, as, for once in my life, I knew exactly what was I doing and what I wanted. "It's exactly why I want to be with you today. May I?" I half pouted. "Kyle says you disappear this day every year. If you want to be alone, I can accept it, but ..." I made circles on his chest, slowly and tenderly as I gave him a sheepish smile. "... but I really want to celebrate this day with you."

I looked up to meet his eyes. "Because this day is really important. For me too, you know. Because someone really important for me was born on this day of 19 years ago and I want to celebrate that day."

Eric smiled sweetly at me as he bent down to kiss my lips softly and whisper, once more, but never enough: "I love you more than anything, princess. You know that. If there's one person I would ever want to celebrate with, that's you, baby."

I grinned and gripped him tightly. "Good. Then be at Sophie's by four."

"Where are we going?"

I kissed him softly. "That's a surprise."

I won't indulge in describing what happened next, just know that when I got out, I knew I had to go to the restroom and see to regain my composure ...

Eric opened the door and looked around. "There's nobody. Go." He told me, so I moved, but he grabbed my arm and pulled me back to kiss me once more. "To endure the half day." He justified. I kept giggling all the way to the restroom.



I was heading to my car, ready to go home and take a shower, relaxing before the big celebration Natalie has apparently organized for me. I wondered how she knew, considering no one does, but then I figured only my brother could have told her. I mean, in school, only he knows, apart from secretaries that have seen my file, of course.

My brother who has been doing his best to patch up our relationship, I'll admit. We've been talking much, trying not to get to know each other, because, despite everything, he's the one boy that knows me better than anyone, even without knowing some important details about my life, and I am the one boy that knows him better than anyone.

Although, I'll admit, I've kind of misjudged him, but in my defense, it was him to put up that fake angel attitude, always getting in my way, just for the sake of it. Turns out it was just jealousy. Because our father kept asking so much about me that sometimes he neglected the son that lived with him.

Anyhow, Kyle and I have been sort of stitching up our friendship, to the point that we might be even act as real brothers someday, of which I'm sure our father will be absolutely happy. For how cheesy it sounds, I'm glad about it. I mean, after a lifetime alone and lonely, now I've got more than a friend, I've got a brother.

And I even happen to be dating the girl of my dreams. I guess things can go North after so many years of South, can't they? I shouldn't be too hasty, though. I still have a little detail called Robert Dillinger to take care of. Oh, and ... his wife? Yeah, mother or not, she's going to rot into prison with her dear Bob as soon as everything's over. After everything she's done to me, even only calling her mother makes me sick.

Just as I thought this, I'd barely unlocked my car that my phone rang. As soon as I read the ID I tensed, not because I didn't want to hear from him, but because, considering it's a delicate matter, he calls me only when it's to tell me something important. Inhaling deeply, I leaned my backpack on the passenger seat and took the call, kind of praying for it to be good news: "Eric. My dear nephew." Uncle Sam greeted me as soon as the phone clicked.

I couldn't help but smile. The only person in my life who's always believed in me. The only one I've ever loved and cared for besides my Natalie. Of course, no offense for my uncle, but my princess comes first. Hell, she comes before anything and anyone. Even myself.

Saying she's on a pedestal would debase it. I practically worship the ground she walks on, my brother taunts. Well, it's true after all. These weeks have been the best of my life. And, to be honest, I'm already planning to do something big to celebrate our first month together next week.

"Hello, uncle." I responded, for once truly glad. I could feel his wide smile through the phone, which means he's got big news and for once it's good. Really good. But first, he asked me how was everything going, so I quickly resumed it in a "great, thank you", then wondering why was he so sloppy today, normally our calls are really quick because there might be people intercepting it. He told me he was calling from a secured phone, hence, only if there was an evil AI listening they could know.

It made me chuckle as I thought of the show Natalie has decided to drag me into now that I'm done with Sherlock. Said she's addicted and I will be too. Obviously making her blush, I retorted that I'm addicted to her. And I am, truly. Now that I have her, I seriously can't imagine my life without her. After so many years spent yearning for her, now I have her and like Hell I'll ever let her go. Not if I can help it.

"So, I'd like to say it was just to hear from my favorite nephew, but I called for a reason." I would have chuckled, arguing that I'm his only nephew, of course I'm his favorite, but the second part of the sentence had me shut up and already wonder about what was going wrong now.

Yet uncle Sam reassured me, saying it was big juicy and amazing news: it's over. We've finally reached the point. Last bit of info I leaked was essential and we are more than closing in ... it's already settled. Tomorrow they come. Tomorrow my personal Inferno comes to an end because, a roundup is set, tomorrow Robert Dillinger and his pals get arrested. With all the dirt we've collected, he's gonna rot in jail for the rest of his life.

And it's not even about what he did to me, because of that, there's no proof other than my own word, but it's about his other crimes. The big ones. The ones from which not even his crowd of overpaid lawyers neither his starling reputation can save him. Tomorrow, the worst demon I've ever fought is sent rotten into prison. It'll take a month before the ultimate trial, but it's been already granted that he'll spend that time in jail because he could either escape or tamper with evidence. So that's it. It's over. Well, technically almost, but it's over.

Uncle Sam cleared his throat. "Um ... as for ... uh ... Portia ..." He sighed. I guess bad news for her too. After all, the dirt I collected on her husband let know that she was involved too.

It's sad for him, I guess, after all it's still his sister, so I tried to cheer him up, but he interrupted me: "No, Eric, it's not that. She stopped being my sister since she tried to suffocate her own child years ago. If I'd been able to get a stupid judge on my side, I would have taken you into custody, acknowledged you as my son. But ..."

"But she's my mother, there was no proof she was out of her mind or mistreated me and so on ... yeah, I know. Don't worry, I understand, uncle."

He cracked a half smile. "I'm sorry I put you through all of this, son. I regret it every day. I should have fought harder."

"No, there was nothing you could do. But it's ok. It's over now, isn't it? Well, almost."

His smile widened and confirmed: "Yeah, it is. Finally. They're gonna lose everything. I'm only sorry because I couldn't save her as granny asked me to, before dying."

They grew up without parents, you know. Both drug addicts. They died of overdose when they were children. Their grandmother took them in. My so called mother met dad at a frat party. She wasn't in college, she just infiltrated with a couple of her friends. Both drug addicts just like her, of course. You see, while her brother picked the justice side, entering FBI, she picked the wrong one. So cliché, huh?

So, she met dad at this party and ... I have no idea how it all happened, he only recounted me snippets of it when we've seen each other in these past weeks, but they ended up getting married in Las Vegas. Lucky thing his family was pretty wealthy and he was able to finish college while she got pregnant with me. Then he entered the family business and everything seemed fine, till he met Christine, his current wife. They clicked immediately, even if she worked for him.

Portia was the wreck she's always been, she wasn't making any progress for as much as he tried to help her ... till she bankrupted him. Turns out she was leaking funds out of his company's account, somehow, and I have the fair idea some Robert was behind it, so dad ended up almost broke.

He could still provide to us, even quite easily, but he couldn't give her the richness she'd obviously sought in him since the very beginning, hence, she turned to her lover ... yeah, because, apparently, she'd been seeing Robert behind my father's back since a couple of years ( I was three when she started, mind you), and when it seemed clear that dad couldn't give her what she wanted anymore, she quite simply moved on.

Dad said he doesn't exactly know how it came that Robert married her, because theirs was never a romantic relationship, he just used her body, she just wanted his money, but I know he only wanted a trophy wife to show off in this town that apparently worships him. So they made a deal.

She had to get cleaned up, he couldn't be seen with a druggie wife, but, there was a week per month when she could go to her old friends and have all the fun she wanted, on his part, he got to screw all the whores he wanted without her making a fuss, on condition that he took them home only when she wasn't there. In a word, theirs has always been a contract more than a real marriage.

Although at first she didn't quite adjusted to the situation and he would not rarely beat her up. Stupidly, I always intervened, since I was ten. Till we came to the very simple deal: he wouldn't touch her if I agreed to let him take it out on me without whining or being a telltale.

I accepted, only because I thought it was the only way I had to protect my mother. She was a horrible mother, yes, but back then, I thought she was also the only one I had and my only family, considering uncle Sam was far. Besides, my father had abandoned me, I didn't want my mother to do the same.

Only years later I saw reason. Since then, she stopped being my mother. She was just a worthless bitch that had made of my life a living hell because of her greed.

Before I could say something sympathetic, uncle Sam continued: "She'll get what she deserves, Eric. I'm sorry for her, but I don't regret it." He half smiled. "The only thing I am thankful to her for, is having given me my favorite nephew."

He paused. "You're a brilliant boy, Eric. You didn't deserve all of that happened to you. And I will never apologize enough. I just hope that now that it's everything almost over your life will turn on a new bright lead."

I smiled, unable to retain myself, as I thought of Natalie. My sweet princess. I'm for the never say never, but when all of this mess is really over, I will shout to the whole world that I am in love with her and will never leave her for anything in the world.

Hell, I can already tell you I will marry her if she takes me. Not just yet, we're too young, but I will marry her. Yeah, I know she doesn't love me just yet, but her words make me hope ... she's falling, she says. And if I dared believe it, I'd dare say she's only delaying, because in her eyes there is a bright light that means only one thing. Well, at least that's what my brother says.

I asked how comes he thinks he's such a love expert, and he said, bitterly, that he has been in love. He happened to be in love, years ago, with that girl I stole from him. I explained and apologized and everything was settled soon, but I never knew that simply being the means with which his girlfriend cheated on him hurt him this much. He explained that it was one more reason why he hated me so fervently. Because his father seemed to prefer me to him, his only love preferred me to him ... he felt abandoned because I was in the way.

In these weeks we've talked much about all the bad things we've told and done to each other, you know, and we've come to the conclusion that it's all forgotten. We are friends and, step by step, we'll be brothers.

"Eric, I know you may not be interested anymore, because ... Charles is finally moving closer to you now, but ... well, son, if you want, there's always a place for you in my family." Uncle Sam cleared his throat. "I mean, I can no more adopt you or anything, because you're a major, but ... if you happened to pick New York for your college, just know that you have a family here. Your aunt keeps saying she wants you to live with us and your cousins are looking forward to meeting you, so ... you know, here we are if you want us."

I smiled, actually touched. Uncle Sam has always thrown there the idea, that despite everything I do have a family, because I'm like a son to him, just as his wife considers me, and my cousins have always asked about me. They're just children, I mean, the twins, they're five, while Anne is eight.

Unfortunately, I've never had contacts with them, because of my peculiar situation, but uncle Sam said he and his wife both have told them much about me and the twins have often suggested the idea I go live with them because "it'd be cool to have a brother", little Brandon says, complaining about his being the only man apart from his father in that family. So they all would want me in their family, and I am touched and happy, seriously, but ...

"I'm not sure I can afford or even enter a college, uncle. But thanks, I'll think it over." As I said that, he laughed wholeheartedly.

"Boy ... you think I'd take you in my family without providing to you? Eric, son, there's already a fund specifically destined to your college fees. You just have to pick." I chuckled. Opposite to me, he's pretty open with his emotions and feelings and thoughts. I thanked him, seriously touched for the first time in my life. Because for once, it seems to be all perfect. So much that I fear it'll all crumble down soon.

In the end, I said I'd talk about it with my girlfriend. If she wants to pick New York, then I'll join her, just like I'll join her everywhere she wants to go. Be it even the moon.

Just as I hung up, the smile still lingering on my lips because finally my life seems to have picked up on the right trail, I heard someone calling me and, turning around, I couldn't help but grin at the sight of my brother running to me, all anxious to get me before I left.

Once close, Kyle leaned over, his hands on his knees, to catch his breath, and I couldn't help but mock him: "How comes, you're this soccer champion and you're this exhausted for a few yards of running?"

He gave me a dirty look as he stood up straight and justified: "For your information, I've run from the third floor to come get you." He scowled. "You were too busy sweet-talking to your girlfriend to hear me from the window, so I had to run."

"Uh-uh ... couldn't you tell me this morning?"

He gave me a dirty look. "No, considering you disappear. Natalie skipped lunch and in class she was all flustered, so I guess she was with you and she told me she'd be seeing you by three. Hence, when I saw you leaving, I thought you were going to her already. So I rushed."

"Yeah, ok, so what is it?"

He rolled his eyes, but reached for something in his backpack. "First of all, Happy Birthday, brother." Kyle wished, handing me a small pink package I scrutinized for a moment, so he rolled his eyes. "It's not a bomb, don't worry." He said as he urged the thing in my hands. I took it and opened it, finding a quite delicious strawberry cheesecake.

I looked up at Kyle, quite confused, and he grinned. "Don't ask me why, but when dad told mom what day it was today, she insisted on making this for you. Says you're part of the family after all, even if she's never met you." He chuckled. "Lucky thing Becky let me keep it in the fridge in her office. Or it'd be a puddle by now."

I smiled, opening my mouth to say thank you but he held up a hand and prevented me, saying it wasn't his idea, it was his mother's, so I had to thank her, not him. I argued that I don't see how I could, considering I don't even know her, so he might just tell her. He shook his head, though, grinning like a little school boy, which confused me, I'll admit, because, yes, he's normally a cheerful guy, but not around me. Although we have had our good moments lately.

"You can tell her in person. She wants, well, we want ... to have a dinner party with you tonight. I didn't get the chance to tell Natalie, but I'm texting her later, so she'll be coming. I didn't tell anyone else, 'cause I know you don't like celebrating, but when dad told mom, she insisted, saying she wants to meet you and it's exactly because you never celebrate that we should give a dinner party for you. Don't worry, I convinced her to make it simple." I stared at him, completely thunderstruck.

I mean, let aside that I am not at all used to people wanting to do nice things for me, this woman doesn't even know me and she not only bakes a cheesecake for me but also wants to have a dinner party for my birthday? My birthday? I? The living proof that her husband has other strings attached? Wow.

Kyle grinned. "Don't worry, it's gonna be just the four of us, I mean, mom, dad, you and I. Oh, and of course, Natalie. I told mom she's your girlfriend so you'll want to celebrate with her. I didn't tell those minions that hang around you because I don't think you guys are really friends. If you wanna invite someone else, mom says you can. No problem. It's your dinner party after all."

I remained silent, transfixed by his words for a while. Well, my brother is one to talk much, so I didn't really get everything he said, but the key lines, I got them. It might sound pathetic, but this would be the first party for my birthday. I mean, uncle Sam used to take me to the aquarium back to when we both lived in Washington, but that didn't happen always because he was busy with his job and in any case it ended when I moved here. So, you see, already Natalie saying she wants to celebrate with me took me off guard, now my father's wife being all willing to throw a dinner party for me ...

Blinking my eyes to regain my composure, I argued that I can't, because Natalie has already, apparently, organized something for me, just for the two of us. Kyle was a little disappointed, but in the end he shrugged and grinned as he spoke: "Ok, then. But you've got the weekend free, haven't you?"

I frowned. "I ... guess so ... why?" I want to be right there when they handcuff that son of a bitch that ruined my life, but after that, I only wanna relax, so I thought I'd take Natalie somewhere, just to have a nice, quiet and relaxing weekend with her, without any worries for once.

Kyle's grin widened. "Ok. You can't say no to this." He warned me and I furrowed my eyebrows together, confused. "It's a tradition dad and I have. Every year we go fishing on his birthday, because he's always loved fishing and so, and he taught me. This year, he suggested we ... anticipate the day. I mean, his birthday is in April. He said that since you and him met and started building up a relationship, he's wanted to take you with us that day, but he couldn't wait, so I just suggested we do it on your birthday, as a manner of celebration. Hence, you can't refuse, this weekend you, dad and I are going fishing. Just the three of us. Mom said it was a thing between us men, so she won't come. What do you think? Just the three of us and only nature."

I blinked my eyes, confused, as soon as I made it through the maze of words Kyle blurted out altogether. "It's ... uh ... why?"

He shrugged. "To reinforce the family bond, or something like that." Kyle placed a hand on my shoulder as he fixed his eyes on mine while speaking: "Eric, I know I've screwed it all up in the past, but now I see ... you're my brother, and I want a real bond between us. Dad too, he wants to be the father he couldn't be for you. So we're doing this to reinforce our bond. As a family."

You, author that are directing my life, if you screw up now, I swear, I'm gonna blow your head off. This is too good to be true. The love of my life finally with me. My demons finally getting what they deserve. My uncle and his family wanting me with them. My father and my brother wanting to have a family bond with me as well.

Jeez. This is all so much all at once that I fear it's gonna all blow up in my face soon. It's ... Murphy's law, right? If everything goes well, something bad is gonna happen soon. Something like that.

Well, if it has too, then I better just enjoy this moments, right? So I smiled to my brother and agreed, telling him to thank his mother for the cheesecake and I'd see him and dad tomorrow, but tonight, tonight was just for my princess and I.

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