Chapter 1: A Cup of Coffee Made Just Right
There were plenty of reasons for me to move from my spot by the door right now, but none convincing enough to have my feet follow. I hung out waiting for someone to acknowledge me watching. The candid view of my new roommates was enjoyable. It reminded me of a time I thought was long forgotten in the cloak of time passed. I was mentally willing one of the boys in front of me to provide the required permission to enter the party den.
My brain knew I should have just gone back to my room, keeping my promise to be a nice, quiet roommate. I had said all the right things to them as I moved my small amount of things into the empty spare room. My promises to them rolled off my tongue, ensuring them I was grateful to be living with them instead of home. The call had come as a surprise, but it was honestly a much-needed lifeline after what my loving mother had managed to do as her latest sick form of punishment.
I knew I should have ignored the laughing coming from the living room. The plan was not stopping for anything before going to my little corner of the world. However, the truth was I didn't want to leave the warm energy of fun because I needed the positivity oozing from the party scene a few feet away. The normality of it wrapped around me, causing the slightest smile to pull at the corners of my mouth.My life was complicated due to the cold calculating harpie that was supposed to love me. After everything that had been going on lately in my life, the comforts of my room didn't seem so comfortable, to be honest. I would just be upstairs overthinking things and people I had no chance of changing even if I had enough energy to try.
I once again found myself at the mercy of my mother's psychotic whims, without a place to stay. My mom had her reasons for being an unstable witch, but it didn't make the impact in my life by her action any less frustrating. She refused to give me access to funds set aside for my personal use. This resulted in me getting kicked out of my small apartment and my job wasn't enough. It was her apparent punishment for refusing to be with yet another, perfect guy she hand-picked for me.The fact that the last three guys she picked were American psycho material who immediately tried to pretty much rape me on our supposed dates did nothing to deter her getting me a proper suitor. I finally told her no more dates, which led to my current homeless situation. She was working to ensure my future, while I was wasting the youth I had; according to her.
That is how I ended up currently crashing at my adopted brothers' house. It honestly was not a bad place to land. Unfortunately, Their overbearing need to protect me from the danger of other young men was annoying at times but not enough to turn back to home. The funny things was I had learned the hard way what unknown men could do. The protective rules were not necessary after my last relationship. I had no problem keeping myself in line.
Despite the fumble in my love life, I wanted to be irresponsible, fun, and truly carefree for once. Living my life to the fullest was a dream I promised myself when I left my childhood home. It had been going grand until my mother happened. The room full of guys in front of me were currently living that dream. It made me burn with jealousy. They seemed like just the right people to assist me in my quest to release and let loose.
The boys I remembered growing up with were now experts at escaping the past or ignoring the uncomfortable present. They were a rowdy bunch always having way too much fun for their own good.They to my knowledge never held traditional jobs or worried about adulting in any way, but they were still somehow living the good life. I asked how they afford bills once but was told odd jobs. That clearly a lie because the salary of a temp could not support their liquor bill alone.
I had known this array of idiots before I could speak or walk, but somehow I was still surprised by how they managed to do the things they do.They entered my young life through my older blood brother Trevor. They were Trevor's best friends. All three of the guys were a strong fixture in my childhood. Even in my earliest memories, the four of them were always all together. I could remember watching them all hanging around my house as kids. They were always eating our food while piled into our living room playing various games. We had all lived on the same street together growing up our houses walking distance apart. The boys met Trevor the day we were moving into that now empty mansion of a house. They were only supposed to be coming in for some ice cream my mom offered, but instead became inseparable from my brother. My brother used to claim he just knew they were meant to be his crew. I used to joke they were the reason you shouldn't feed strays.
They had grown up with him side by side well into their teenage years. I had to constantly hear about my brother and his crew from everyone. The most annoying was the girls looking to date one of the infamous four through the little sister or princess as a few insisted on calling me. I hate that name to this day. The never ending fawning over the idiots used to annoy me to no end when I was back in my hometown. The makeshift gang of the pranksters were legendary in our town. I had thought they would be a part of my life forever. The second family that had found my wayward brother. Over the years, The legendary four had begrudgingly become my family as well. Trevor used to tell me that when you know your people, you just know. He was constantly encouraging me to find my own friends so I would leave his alone. I would always roll my eyes in response, but deep down I loved them almost as much as I loved him.They were the closet thing I had to friends, unable to trust any girls back home. I had made that mistake enough times to know to just keep to myself.
They were a natural part of my life until the worst thing happened to all of us. When I was thirteen, Trevor's sudden disappearance changed everything forever. He had gone to a party solo without the group to be with some girl he met at a previous party.It was a rare thing for them not to be with him.In a dark twist of fate; The rest of the guys were all busy with their own dates. Everyone told him not to go alone, but my brother was determined to see this girl again.
I had heard later on that the owner of the house was a little sketchy. He had taken a liking to the same girl as Trevor. My idiot brother saw the competition as a challenge. That night he teased me before driving off like normal. The day had seemed so normal.Nothing was amiss or out of place until the sun came up and I ran to his room to annoy him for breakfast.The air that morning was this terrifying stillness as I called out for him. The silents that answered made my heart squeeze. He was nowhere to be found. It was not like him to stay out all night. My parents were not exactly the most present, so any hook-ups he had happened in our house. My mind went into full panic like I knew what was coming even before my parents called around to confirm their fears.
He never came back to us leaving behind a mass confusion and hurt. It was like he had evaporated into thin air without a clue or a trace for us to follow. They couldn't even find his car when the search began. Police ruled him as a runaway, stating it was common, but those close to him knew better. The boys had searched high and low with my family for clues to his location, but he was just gone.I could still feel the all too familiar tears well at the corner of my eye.It stung like it was yesterday, despite the seven-year gap that had occurred since the events.I wiped it away quickly, not wanting the faucet to open fully. I had enough on my plate without cutting open old wounds to bleed.
After the whole incident, The boys had an increased need to adopt and protect me as their little sister. I became more than just their leaders little annoying sister; I transformed into their responsibility. It became a sorta promise amongst them to look out for me because Trevor couldn't. My parents pretty much fell apart because of everything. It left me on my own most of the time to raise myself. My father was constantly gone on business before but in an effort to avoid my psychotic manic mother he was never home until eventually He just moved out. He tried to take me with him but my mother blocked all efforts. She even tried to convince me to lie but I refused wanting to stay out of it.
The rest of my life with my mother was anything short of a Mommy Dearest sequel. My mother was either drinking or ranting about how she her good child. At first, I tried to help by being the perfect daughter, doing anything she asked of me without question. I eventually learned it was never enough to fill the void my brother left in her. This realization led me to stop trying to fill it for her. I knew it didn't matter what I did; she would always be lost in her grief for him. My family was never the same after Trevor was gone. They were broken and scattered, unable to stop blaming each other long enough to be a family. My dad is a ghost now. I hadn’t heard from him in years. I was pretty sure he got remarried to recreate his perfect family. My mom is something to be managed, not loved. The boys currently laughing in the den felt like the only family I had left in the world.
We had helped each other mourn him after it was accepted he wasn't coming back. We had buried an empty casket as a form of closure for what was lost. They said it was supposed to help, but to me it was just another chance for my mother to soak up all the sympathy she could and an empty waste of money. The boys had continued to come around checking on me and helping with mom when they could. I had watched each of them deal with the grief and misplaced guilt using their own method. Sometimes the method of grief was sex, alcohol, drugs, sports, fights or whatever made them feel less hurt by the whole ordeal. Feeling indebted to them for their love and support, I helped where I could at my young age. I was the unofficial little mascot of the group. They saw as adorable or annoying depending on the day. Tomas, the new unofficial leader once my brother was gone, had treated me as if I was a precious treasure. He often went overboard to protect his promise to Trevor of keeping me safe. He declared me off-limits to everyone by beating the few boys stupid enough to think I would need a horny shoulder to cry on. It made much of my high school dating life hell. I didn't get to go on dates or dances with a high school sweetheart. I was always protected from potential suitors by constantly being with one of the three. They scared off anyone who so much as smiled at me. Tomas declared any guys back home would do nothing but take advantage of my trusting nature.
I didn't get my first real boyfriend until after they left for college. His name was Ethan. He was the one who taught me why sometimes it is better to be protected from the opposite sex. I absent-mindedly rubbed my finger over the scar on my wrist when I thought of him. The phantom sting from a long healed wound brought me back to reality in front of me. I hadn't attempted to date since Ethan. I wouldn't be dating anyone here, either. The sacred little sister wasn't exactly a prime candidate to start something fun with any of the guys or their friends.I was their dead best childhood friend's little sister, who was to be protected nothing more nothing less. I was the one thing they had to keep Trevor alive within the group. They were determined to make sure I didn't disappear too. I laughed in my head, not entirely convinced they didn’t know disappearing was not hereditary.
I leaned further in the archway, wanting to be noticed. One of their friends was recounting their most unbecoming adventures. The rooms' attention was fully on his obvious exaggerated tale. It gave me a moment to really study my boys. They had all changed so much since I was ten years old, chasing after them while whining they never let me play. I smiled thinking about my memories of them kicking me out to play girl games. The clink of metal in a glass pulled me from my thoughts.
Sawyer was playing quarters at the table with people I didn't recognize. The house was always packed with new faces. I just thought the guys must be popular. It was like living in a frat house without the Greek letters on the wall. There was always a get-together of some type. It mostly was an all guy affair, with the occasional full-blown parties featuring the usual pick me girls. I was expected to stay away from the fun unless other girls were present, which was the worst because they were either jealous or using me for information. It was one of Tomas's annoying rules for me staying in the house.He at this point had a million of them.
My attention was turned back to Sawyer when he yelled in victory. I turned just in time to witness a quarter sinking to the bottom of the glass. I remembered Sawyer as a fat butterball, who used to always steal my candy because according to him back then he needed it more than me. The Sawyer that was at the table was practically a different person. He was a fitness coach now and all the butter was replaced by muscle. He looked as if he could bench press four of me with no problem. His blonde hair was a mess of unkempt curls on his head. His skin was sun-kissed giving it a bronze color that made his honey eyes glow wherever he looked. From butterball to surfer in a flash; I had to admit the look suited him. He looked intimidating if you didn't know any better. His personality resembled a big lovable golden retriever. Those built up muscles couldn't hurt a fly. My butterball was still all fluff on the inside.
Next, I turned my attention to Ian. I felt my smile grow just a little every time I saw Ian. I had been looking forward to seeing him consistently the most out of the boys. We had kept in touch over the years talking or texting here and there. He had been the one who got me out of my Ethan situation. I had been under the impression last time he came home that he was doing well. He was his old flirtatious self even going so far as too tell about some girl he had a crush on. I had asked him numerous question about it but he would always joke that a secret admirer never comes true if told to someone. I playfully constantly reminded him that was birthday wishes. "Maybe she is my birthday wish every year since I met her" He would whisper in my ear before changing the subject.
I brought my thoughts back to present day Ian. The sight in front of me was a major clue that he was not doing as well as he led me to believe. He was asleep face down on the floor with an empty bottle in his hand. My heart reacted to the sight of him passed out drunk with a troubled look on his face. I thought he told me the nightmares had stopped last time we spoke.The drinking was less in his last visit. Ian had developed a new habit of lying to me to protect me. I hated it because the thought of him dealing alone was terrifying in a sense. I had seen him dealing with emotions on his own before I got close. Our friendship used to be his safe space, but now I was just another person for him to pretend around.
Ian was the one who took Trevor's disappearance the hardest, or more accurately, he dealt with it the worst. Years after Trevor was gone, he'd occasionally show up on our porch piss drunk calling Trevor to come out to talk. I used to hear him begging for Trevor to not go to the party outside my bedroom window. Despite being a kid at the time, I somehow knew to walk outside with a cup of coffee and a blanket for him. The first few times he was confused why it was me and not Trevor, but after a while it became a routine he expected. Without a word, I would walk up to him before wrapping the usual blanket around him. I would force him to drink the cup of coffee sitting on the porch swing. All I had was a shoulder for him to cry on as he apologized for not saving my brother. I would stroke his soft hair as I waited for the crying to die down. Whispering it wasn't anybody's fault to every apology that left his lips. Once he calmed down fully, We would stay out all night just talking about nothing and everything at the same time. There was always laughter by the end.This ritual continued happening twice, sometimes three times a month until my seventeenth birthday.
He just never came back after that last night together on the porch. At the time, It left me confused and hurt for a long while. What felt like a chance at a real best friend just stopped with no explanation. I never brought it up or told anyone because I had promised not to say anything. Ian had me promise the first night our porch visits would be our secret before thanking me. I never would have said out loud back then the real reason the visits stopping hurt so bad. In a strange way his visits helped me more than it did him. It made me feel like I was doing something or in control of something. Ian helped lessen the great ball of emotions brewing in my head constantly replacing them with warmth. His laugh and stories made me feel connected to something other than pain or loneliness. I thought we really had something worth keeping a secret. His sudden disappearance made it clear everything was all in my head.
The sight of him passed out drunk did little to ease my worries for him. Regardless of the one-sided connection, I was still connected to Ian and his well-being in a way that others would not understand. I looked closer at him for any further indication of the severity of his unease, but there were no real signs. He looked like his old self except appeared a little more filled out like Sawyer got a hold of him. His dark black hair gleamed in the moonlight coming through the window.I knew for a fact his hair held no product and was just annoyingly perfect looking. His looks solidified his place in the group early on. Ian was always the ladies man using his abs and good genes bestowed on him from birth to break many hearts. All the girls in our town knew that a night with him was nothing more than a night but they still lined up to be a notch on his extra long belt. I was informed that he had changed his playboy ways while his charm and looks had not. He had stopped chasing skirts for pure fun to do something else, apparently. I finally had somewhat confirmation of it being true by the fact he was passed out alone most nights since I moved in.
I heard Sawyer drunkenly slur my name finally noticing me watching them. I looked around for Tomas knowing I woud be sent away. He was MIA at the moment. Sawyer called me into the room yelling my name to no one in particular giving me permission to join the party. I smiled, quickly picking up a beer out of the cooler. I decided to settle into the Lazyboy next to the fireplace due to the fact it was apart of the party but not so close to the guest to cause trouble. I was so close to taking my first sip of beer before the bottle was snatched from my lips by a phantom hand. A groan escaped my lips before acknowledging the person already knowing who it was over me. Tomas gray eyes full of disapproval looked down at me. His usually full lips held an exaggerated frown, making the lips a hard thin line. He hovered over me finishing my beer bottle in a long chug giving a shigh of satisfaction at the end. I sent daggers as he gulped the last drop with a self-satisfied smile. He settled on the arm rest fluffing my hair like a poodle. I fixed it annoyed but secretly smiled. I missed having it fluffed by him.
"Last time I checked little sister, you aren't quite old enough to drink" His voice was full of amusement, which only made me more determined to drink. I watched him push back his dirty blonde hair off of his forehead leaning further into my chair. I noticed a hickey behind his ear, reminding me of the drunken girl who hung out last night telling me all the ways Tomas wasn't right for me. I kept telling her that would be correct considering there was no attraction, but she continued to ramble.
"Neither was that girl you brought home last night, but she heavily enjoyed your liquor cabinet." I laid the snark thick in my voice, but knew I was only proving his point with my counterargument. Tomas laughed to himself, reliving his conquest from last night in his head. His grey eyes glinted with excitement, as if being there all over again. I watched him disgustingly lick his lips.
"Exactly my point, my dear precious sister. I will not have anyone doing the depraved, nasty things I did last night with her to you because of being early influenced by alcohol. You're lucky we love you enough to care about your safety. Now, I hope I need not remind you of our agreement for you staying here. What was that agreement again?" He knew what I had promised before ending up on his doorstep to take the extra room. I looked at my clock happy to see it was time for me to leave for my shift at work in order to avoid being late. I gave Tomas a peck on the cheek before getting up to rush off. I felt his hand on my wrist and fought the urge to jerk away not liking being grabbed.
"Is that Kevin guy still bothering you at the café?" Tomas' voice was serious as he asked his question. I shook my head no wanting to avoid any solutions my protectors would try to execute in order to deal with Kevin. He responded with good before commenting on the way I wore the Café uniform. I gave a defiant smile hiking the skirt shorter and pulling the cleavage line lower. The adjustments earned a wolf whistle from Sawyer's friend at the drinking table. I turned to find all eyes on me and my newly exposed skin. His other friend went to say something I assumed would be perverted by the look in his eye but Sawyer stopped him warning him to take it easy. Tomas announced next guy to make a comment was out of the house for the rest of the year.
I rolled my eyes at the threat reminding him I was 20 and could handle myself. I gave Tomas and the others quick pecks on the cheeks before jokingly calling the lot mom. I went to rush out the door under the guise of being late before any more lectures could take place. Tomas offered to drive me but I was out the door before the question was fully asked. Tomas just wanted to scan for Kevin when he dropped me off. I knew better than to let him within a hundred feet of my job if I wanted to avoid causing a scene. Besides, I needed a walk plus the weather was so nice. I yelled another quick goodbye over my shoulder before making my escape out the door.
I had only made it five minutes down the sidewalk when Ian popped up beside me. He just walked quietly by my side at first. I was suddenly nervous realizing this would be the first time I and Ian would be alone since his last porch visit. We had interacted over the phone but in person there was always something in the way. I kept stealing side peeks at him unsure what would be the best ice breaker.
"I needed to walk off some of my buzz before bed." He said nonchalantly with a half sleep lazy smirk. I laughed at the idea that Tomas felt it was better to send a drunk half-sleep Ian than let me walk alone. I shook my head to myself and sighed. Ian must have known exactly what I was thinking and decided to come clean.The confirmation was no surprised but was appreciated for some reason
“It was either Tomas or me. I made a tactical decision considering Kevin is still trying to screw you and will probably be there tonight. Besides, It’s been a while since I had a good cup of coffee. I could use some and you are the only one who makes it right .” Ian looked at me with a smile before walking ahead of me leaving me to wrestle with my un-asked questions. I ran up to catch him ready to ask but like always ian knew me better than that.