Chapter 1 - New Beginnings
That’s all I could do as I looked at the dreamboat known as Oliver Carey, my ex-boyfriend. His perfect locks looked like they were glowing from the sunlight on them. He looked adorable as he tried to pay attention to Mrs Darby, something I should probably be doing, but obviously he’s a better sight than the seventy ancient year old woman in question.
Why hasn’t she retired again?
The school bell sounded and everyone packed away their belongings with some enthusiastic speed, while I took my merry time. It’s not like I was excited about leaving the class for lunch. I haven’t been excited about anything for the past year. It’s only the second week of my senior year.
With my things packed, I headed for the library, but of course fate wouldn’t let me get there in peace. If anything, it looked set out to get me there in pieces as I went flying in the student filled hallway. Those around me started laughing as though this was the funniest thing they’d ever witnessed.
“Aaaaw, is little Elle upset?” my former best friend Jessie cooed, her cronies snickering behind her. She had tripped me, because you know, it’s the classy thing to do.
I simply chose to ignore her, and instead moved to pick my stuff up. I was stopped by the excruciating pain that shot through my left hand. I stared down at it, watching the blood ooze out of my hand. I can’t even compare the pain to anything.
“Damnit! I got blood on my shoe!” Jessie huffed, checking her stiletto.
The very stiletto that just pierced the back of my hand.
“It wouldn’t have happened if this freak wasn’t a part of our school!” Harper, Jessie’s sidekick chirped.
Jessie smirked. “You know what? You’re right! Elle should just do the world a favour and disappear!”
I clutched my bleeding hand, tears stinging behind my eyes. I wouldn’t let them see me cry as I bit my lip to prevent from doing so. People were dispersing, and the gods must’ve heard my pleas because Jessie and her friends left as well. Oliver followed his evil girlfriend without even sparing me a glance.
Yes, Oliver is Jessie’s boyfriend, as clichés would have it.
No one helped me up or helped me to gather my things. I had to do with one hand, before finally managing to get myself to the nurse’s office. I had become quite acquainted with this place, but never with an injury like this one. Nurse Jacqueline’s eyes widened when I walked in.
“What happened?” she asked, rushing over to me.
Unfortunately, that’s when the wooziness kicked in. I could feel myself swaying, and the room was spinning a little. I think I managed to get out a few words, but I couldn’t be sure. The last thing that met me was darkness.
“Noelle,” I heard someone call.
I opened my eyes, blinking a few times from the brightness. When my eyesight had adjusted, my aunt was looking at me worriedly. Standing next to her, was the man I assumed was my doctor. I tried to sit up and accidentally used my injured hand to push me up, resulting in me screaming out from the pain.
“I’m so sorry Miss Solano. Are you okay?” the doctor asked.
That’s a trick question, right?
Despite the stupid question, I managed to mumble, “I’m fine.”
“Noelle, what happened?” my aunt asked.
“It’s nothing,” I quickly replied. She didn’t look like she bought it.
She turned to the doctor. “Doctor Terrance, may I please have a second with my niece?”
“Sure thing Mrs Howard,” the doctor said before leaving the room.
“Noelle, I have some news for you. As to whether or not they’re good or bad is entirely up to you,” she said with an unsure look on her face.
I scowled. “What is it?”
“Patrick and I can’t take care of you anymore, so your father has agreed to take you in. You leave in two days,” she replied.
I was numb.
She was right about how I would take the news since moving away to live with my dad obviously had its pros and cons.
Pros: I could move away from this place, I could start afresh, I could attempt to salvage a somewhat distant relationship with my father and I’d be wealthier than I am at this very moment since my dad is pretty loaded.
Cons: My dad lives with his new wife and step son, we barely talk, he’s barely home because of his job, I’d be left alone with people I barely know, starting over at a new school will be tedious and there’s of course the chance that my life there may very well be the same as it is here.
But then again, life is about facing challenges head on, right?
I could do this.
With a timid nod, I accepted my fate, bringing relief to my aunt. I don’t blame her. She and Uncle Patrick had to adjust their lives greatly to accommodate me. None of us were ready to lose my mother, and we most definitely felt her absence.
Luckily for me, I didn’t even need to see that horrid institution again. My aunt let me stay home for the two days so that I could pack. I wouldn’t miss a single thing about this place. If anything, moving away was sounding more and more exciting by the day.
By the time my father’s SUV pulled up to my aunt’s house, dread filled my stomach. I hadn’t truly spoken to the man since my mother’s funeral except for the few phone calls every once in a while, so my anxiety was understandable, at least in my books. I waited to hear him knock, before heading over to get the door. My aunt and uncle were in the kitchen talking.
I opened the door and was met by my intimidating father. I know that deep down, he’s a teddy bear, but his appearance suggests otherwise. He’s a big and built man, whose height gene I unfortunately didn’t inherit. The only thing I actually got from him is my eye colour.
Everything else I got from my mother.
“Hey dad,” I said lowly, as he continued to stare at me in disbelief.
He slowly shook his head.“I might have to get you homeschooled.”
“Dad!” I said with a giggle.
“What? It’s not my fault I left you looking like my little girl and I come back to a young woman. When did you kick into, well, all of this?” he asked, seriously might I add.
I rolled my eyes. “Can you just hug me you dramatic man?”
He chuckled before opening his arms. “Come here pumpkin!”
I stepped into the hug and was immediately engulfed by his caffeinated scent. While he sprays on a Hugo Boss cologne, he drinks so much coffee that the two scents always seem to fuse into one, making his own personal scent.
“Are you ready to go?” he asked.
“Uh, yeah! My stuff is all there,” I replied, pointing to the boxes and bags.
“Alright! Let me greet your aunt and uncle and we can head out,” he said.
“Ok,” I nodded. I didn’t expect him to hug me again.
“I’m glad you’re coming to live with me pumpkin. It’s about time,” he murmured into my hair.
Tears came to my eyes as I took in his words. I hadn’t been able to live with him because of my mother and aunt. My mother had taken him to court when I was twelve for sole custody of me and she got it. When she died a year ago, my aunt was reluctant to let me go to him because my mother had her convinced that he was some terrible man.
I guess it took being a financial burden for me to finally be allowed to go to my dad.
“I’m glad I get to live with you too,” I whispered.
After a kiss to the forehead, he headed towards the kitchen to greet my aunt and uncle. The greeting was very brief as I knew that none of them wanted to be in each other’s presence, so the quicker the greeting, the better for everyone.
My dad came back and helped me get my stuff into the car. I hugged my aunt and uncle goodbye before leaving with my dad. We were both avoiding having to talk. I think we both weren’t ready for that, so we settled for listening to a UB40 album.
Red, red, wine is our father daughter bonding song.
It took four hours to get there, two of which I was awake for. My dad nudged me awake when we arrived. We were parked outside a huge light gray house. The anxiety returned since I hadn’t met his wife and step son. I had spoken to them over the phone a couple of times, but I hadn’t actually met them.
“Relax pumpkin. They’re both very excited to finally meet you. Nick hasn’t shut up about it for a week now,” my dad informed me.
“A week?” I asked in surprise.
He laughed. “Yep! Let’s head in before he comes to drag you out himself.”
I did as advised and stepped out of the car. I looked back to see the gate just a few feet away. The garden out front looked perfectly maintained, with the mini fountain springing water out of what I assume are angels’ mouths.
“Vi, Nick, we’re home,” my dad announced as we walked into the house.
Two excited people practically ran into the foyer and they both came up to hug me. The woman stepped away and I instantly fell in love with her. I know that’s weird, but she was just so welcoming without having even said a word.
I am making no sense, am I?
“Oh my God, hi! As you know, I’m Viola, and this is my son Nicholas. We’ve been so excited to finally meet you as I’m sure you can tell,” she rambled. Nick was still holding onto me.
“Uh, Nick?” I giggled. I’m much shorter than him, so my head was resting comfortably on his chest.
“Hmm?” he replied.
“You can let go now,” I said.
He pulled away, ears tinged. “Right! Hi, I’m Nick.”
I smiled at the both of them. “Noelle.”
It was wonderful to meet them in person, especially since they’re always so pleasant to me on the phone.
“Are you hungry?” Viola asked me suddenly.
I nodded. “Yeah.”
“Ok! Let me get something going while Nick helps you settle in. Is that ok?” she asked.
“That sounds great thanks,” I replied. She beamed before hugging me again.
“I’m truly so happy that you’re here. It’s nice to finally have another girl in the house,” she giggled before heading for what I assumed was the kitchen.
“Well, I’ll leave you two to it. I need to check on some cases,” my dad said before kissing my forehead and walking out of the room.
“It’s so nice to finally have and be with my little sister,” Nick commented as we got my stuff out of the SUV. He’s older than me by a year, but I got to skip a grade, so we’re seniors together.
“Most elder brothers wouldn’t agree with you. I hear being an older brother can be tedious,” I responded.
“If you’re not prepared, it can be,” he corrected.
I raised an eyebrow. “Oh? And you are? I thought you’re an only child?”
“That may be true, but with my physique, most boys would think twice about even coming towards you,” he argued.
I stood and looked him over then. He’s right in that his physique is intimidating. By the looks of things, he’s about 6’2. He’s got broad shoulders, a defined jaw line and dark hair. His chocolate brown eyes are deceitfully beautiful since they also look intimidating at the same time.
How does that even work?
“So, do you believe me?” he asked, snapping me out of my analyzing.
“I believe I am one protected little sister,” I said amusedly, knowing my statement would please him. I was right since he beamed.
He helped me carry my stuff upstairs. I learnt that this house has seven bedrooms with four of them being en-suite, six bathrooms, two kitchens, a dining room, a lounge, an entertainment room (Nick’s favourite room), a laundry room and two studies. According to Nick, the one study is my dad’s and Viola’s, while the other one is ours.
What do we need a study for, you ask? Well, it turns out my new brother is as much of an A+ student as I am, but he cannot study in his room, so he does his schoolwork in the study, and then it’s freedom outside of that room. It’s actually genius.
We reached the room that was designated to me, and I was surprised by it. I didn’t expect it to already be decorated, especially the way it is. It is painted with different shades of pink and lavender, and the ceiling was decorated with butterflies. The bathroom keeps to the same theme, while the closet is as big as my room back at my aunt’s house. The room wasn’t childish, but more on the grown side with feminine colors.
Yeah, I’ve got a bit of a girly side to me.
“As you probably know, dad sucks at such things, so mom and I decorated it for you. Do you like it?” Nick asked me.
I was taken aback to find that I didn’t have a problem with him saying ‘dad’.
“I love it, but how did you guys know?” I asked him.
“Dad mentioned that you like the colours pink and purple, and that your favourite animal is a butterfly, though there was an argument as to whether or not a butterfly counts as an animal since it’s an insect, but yeah,” he replied, breathless after the last word.
“Nick, slow down. I’m not going anywhere you know? You don’t have to squeeze everything you want to say to me in one breath,” I teased.
Again, his cheeks tinged. “I know. I just can’t believe you’re here. I’m pretty sure you know how much it sucks to grow up as an only child, so this is exciting for me, especially since we’ve clicked so much over the phone.”
I couldn’t help but hug him. “I know exactly what you mean Nick, but I’m not going anywhere.”
“Promise?” he asked, looking down at me.
I nodded. “I promise.”
“Fantastic! Well, mom’s going to take a while, so let’s get you settled in, and then I can catch you up on everything you need to know, especially about school,” he said with a bright smile.
I beamed. “We’re going to the same school?”
He sent me a dry look. “I just got you. Did you really think I would let you go to another school?”
It was my turn to blush. “Right, I knew that.”
“Sure you did,” he chuckled.
“Shut up,” I mumbled, only making him laugh harder. When he finally calmed down, we started getting my room right.
“Ok, so I’m not going to dictate to you about who you can be friends with, but I will warn you against the cheerleaders. You just don’t look like the kind of person who hangs with that crowd. Everyone else is pretty much ok,” he started off. I was packing my clothes, while he was putting up my photos and such.
“What about the badass group? Every school has one right?” I asked from the closet.
“Well, the most popular guy in school and his group are what’s considered the bad group, but all I’ve ever heard is rumours about them. I’ve never actually seen them do anything they’ve been accused of doing, except the occasional smoking and drinking,” he replied.
“Ok, got it. What are academics like?” I asked.
“You have all your classes with me,” he said excitedly.
Someone is going to explode like the Fourth of July pretty soon.
I already knew a lot about Nick since we’d been talking on our social media platforms and over the phone. However, I learnt more from him, like how he’s a jock since he plays football, which didn’t surprise me. He hangs with some of the jocks, and he said he’d introduce me at a party I was being dragged to the following day.
By the time Viola called us down for dinner, we had been even more acquainted, but I had killed Nick’s mood. I hadn’t meant to. I just trusted him enough to tell him everything about my past, and it’s safe to say that my older brother is pissed off about the kind of life I lived before coming here.
“Nick honey, are you ok?” Viola asked her son.
“I’ll be fine,” he said lowly. Both Viola and my dad looked to me in question.
“I, uh, told him some upsetting things about my past before coming here,” I said nervously. Understanding and worry flashed in both their eyes.
My dad held my hand. “You’re safe here pumpkin. I hope you know that.”
“I know dad,” I smiled at him, tears in my eyes.
“I’m here whenever you need anything Noelle. I’ll never push you into anything, but I’m here for you any time of the day ok?” Viola said fervently.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
The rest of the dinner went by with me learning more about Viola, since I already knew so much about Nick. I also got to learn more about my dad and his new life. By the time dinner was over, Nick and I said we would do the dishes. Viola and my dad headed up to bed after saying goodnight.
“Nick, you need to calm down,” I sighed as he was borderline smashing the plates.
“It’s not fair Ellie. Why did you have to live that kind of life? I should’ve lived that kind of life. At least I would’ve been able to defend myself,” he argued.
“I know Nicky, but it’s over and done with now. I’m here and that’s all that matters,” I pointed out. He stopped and turned to look at me.
“You’re right. I promise to take full care of you ok?” he said, sounding so sad. For the third time since I met him, I hugged him.
“And I know you’ll do a fine job at it,” I said.
“Damn straight!” he replied, making me laugh.
After a kiss to the forehead (those are happening a lot), we got the dishes done. We were packing them in the machine since my hand wasn’t exactly functioning as yet. The doctor said it would take a month to heal, and that it would leave a scar. I’m lucky that the heel only fractured two of the bones it passed between. It was mostly torn muscles that were affected.
When we were done, he let me head up to my room; I was exhausted. He told me that we were going shopping the next day because my wardrobe is ‘atrocious and outdated’.
Some brother he is!
I woke up hours later, fully rested. My new bed is definitely one of my many favourite things about this room. It was mid morning, and something told me that being stubborn would get me nowhere with Nick, so I just decided to get ready for the mall.
I showered and got dressed in a simple pair of jeans, a plain t-shirt and a pair of flats. I tied my hair up in a ponytail before heading downstairs. I could smell bacon all the way from upstairs, and my stomach was pleased to find it sizzling on a plate.
“Good morning guys!” I said happily, skipping over to the bacon. They all replied.
“I see you’re still addicted to bacon,” my dad said amusedly.
“Bacon is life!” I defended dramatically.
“I’m just glad that you got ready without me having to drag you out of bed. We seriously need to fix this situation,” Nick commented before looking at his phone.
“Nicholas!” Viola scolded.
“What? Look at her mom! This is wasted potential. She’s too beautiful for what she’s wearing. She deserves to be adorably beautiful,” he argued.
Whatever on earth that means!
To be honest, I’ve always wanted to have a girly wardrobe, but I could never afford one. When I could, my money would end up being taken away from me for one thing or the other. I just gave up and settled into the whole frumpy, ‘atrocious’ look.
I sent Viola a small smile. “It’s ok Viola. He’s got a bit of a point. My wardrobe could do with a little boost.”
“And you’re letting him take you shopping?” she asked in disbelief.
“Uh, you can come along?” I said doubtfully.
Nick and Viola replied at the same time, with Nick saying the former.
My dad chuckled as Viola went upstairs to get ready. “You’ve started something bad.”
“What? I didn’t know!” I defended.
Nick groaned. “Why? Why would you do that?”
“She’s probably not that bad guys,” I commented.
Never have I been so wrong about anything in my life!
Seven hours later, my entire closet was filled with every kind of clothing I’d ever dreamt of owning, and I couldn’t feel my feet. I had bought more shoes in one day than I’ve owned my entire life. I had handbags, jewellery and perfume stocked in their rightful places.
And Nick was still dragging me to a party.
“Come on Nicky! I’m tired,” I whined.
“I warned you Ellie, but you let the monster come with us. Now you have to just put your big girl panties on and get a move on it!” he replied, crossing his arms.
I pouted. “Why do you hate me so much?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. We’re leaving in an hour,” he said before walking out of my room.
Once more, I figured that there was no arguing with him, so I just talked myself into getting up and getting ready. Since this was my first party, I wanted to make sure that I looked cute enough to be noticed, but not to stand out as well.
I went with a simple white skirt that ended just beneath mid thigh, a light pink crop top and peach flats. I accessorized with matching jewellery, and by the time Nick came back to my room, I was finishing up with my hair.
He walked into my room, a satisfied smile on his face.“Now I can proudly say that I have my work cut out for me. You look beautiful sis.”
“You don’t look too bad yourself lady killer,” I replied, referring to his all black attire.
He smirked, crossing his arms. “I wish, but I don’t swing that way,”
My eyes widened. “You don’t?”
“Nope! What sane straight guy do you know who could survive seven hours of shopping, and give the kind of advice I gave you today?” he asked.
I can’t believe I missed it!
“But you’re so...” I trailed off.
He chuckled. “Not gay? There’s no such thing sis. Not all gay guys go around flashing their femininity in people’s faces as most would believe, and not all gay guys are skinny, small guys who can’t defend themselves from bullies. Stereotypes are a terrible thing.”
I was dumbstruck.
“Are you out of the closet?” I blurted.
“If you’re asking if everyone knows, then yes, they do. Most people don’t have a problem with it,” he said with a shrug.
“I don’t either, despite my reaction. I just didn’t expect it,” I quickly defended.
“Calm down Ellie! I know,” he said with a wink.
“Good! Because you’re my brother and I love you whichever way you swing,” I smiled.
He mock sniffed before bringing out the baby voice, “You wove me?”
“Of course I do, you big teddy bear!” I teased.
“I thought dad was the big teddy bear!” he huffed.
“You thought wrong! You’re both big teddy bears,” Viola said from the door.
“Exactly!” I giggled, earning myself a glare from Nick.
“You look beautiful mija,” Viola said to me. She’d asked me if I was ok with her calling me that, and I am.
She’s Spanish just like my dad.
I blushed. “Thank you.”
“Well, let’s go before mom decides to hog you all to herself,” Nick teased.
Viola glared at him. “I brought you into this world Nicholas; I could easily take you out.”
He smirked in return. “Your husband is in the FBI. I’d like to see you try.”
Such terrible rhyming.
“He would never lock his loving wife up. If anything, he’d agree that it was good riddance,” Viola countered with a shrug. Nick gasped while I burst out laughing.
“You are no mother of mine!” he declared.
“That’s fine with me. I have a daughter now, so you can disown me all you want,” Viola replied.
Nick turned to me. “This is the time you pick sides. Just know that if you don’t pick my side, you’re walking to the party.”
“And if you pick mine, you get to stay and rest,” Viola added with a devious smirk.
“Hmm, decisions, decisions,” I teased, tapping my chin.
“You’re taking too long,” Nick whined.
Viola laughed. “You’re just afraid she’ll pick my side.”
“She’s smarter than that mom. Why do you think we’re on our way now?” Nick asked.
“What are you talking ab-”
I was in the process of asking, when my lovely brother decided that I’m a sack of potatoes as he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. Viola could only laugh as I was manhandled all the way downstairs.
“Nicholas, why are you carrying your sister in that way?” my dad asked, stopping to look up at us from his laptop.
“She was about to make a grave mistake. I’m being a good brother by saving her from that. We’ll be back later,” Nick replied.
My dad chuckled. “Be safe, and enjoy yourselves.”
“Really? You’re not going to demand that he put me down?” I asked dubiously.
My dad shrugged. “What can I say? He’s being a good brother.”
Kill me now!