A little bit taken aback by his remark, I cleared my throat and stated, “I asked ‘What are you doing here?’”
“And I said ‘I think I know you’,” he answered.
“I’m serious. What are you doing here?”
“What? You think I’m not serious? I’m actually extremely serious that I’m even considering whether answering you will be worthwhile.” He pretended to look calculative, nodding lightly; of course pissing me off.
Here I snorted. “Look here, stranger. I haven’t got all day to mess around with your nonsense. Just cut that crap and tell me what the heck . . .”
“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” He kept the diary down and stood up, smirking, “Would you look at that! Hold up. We have a mongrel!!!”
Had the bouquet in my hand not been arranged by Mrs. Clayton, the flowers would have landed flat on his face.
“What brings you here, miss . . .” he looked at me expectantly and when he realized that I wasn’t going to tell him my name, he ended up addressing me as, “Mongrel.”
“That’s my mom’s stone you’re standing on. Please get down.” I said. At the same time, thinking that for someone my age, he was impressively broad and tall.
The sight of someone sitting on my mom’s stone without a bit of respect was not something I wanted to see. And definitely not on our birthday.
Nonchalantly, he looked back and read the epitaph. Apparently, he didn’t even know whose stone he had been sitting on. He smirked as he read the writings on the stone. When he looked back at me, his eyes were gleaming in the sunshine with a kind of thrill.
“Well well well, if it isn’t Alana Lancaster.” He smirked roguishly whilst jamming his hands inside his pockets.
“What? How did you . . . Who are you?”
I was just starting to feel like the worst person on earth because I thought he could’ve been a friend. But then, his next reply neutralized all that guilt.
“You’ll know me soon enough, Mongrel.” He grinned.
I rolled my eyes. “Oh, are you Brad Pitt now?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you find me that attractive.” He shook his head matter-of-factly.
I snorted. “You know what, I think I have a name for you,” I said, “How ’bout this. Ugly Narcissist, Hmm? It goes well with that look.”
I might have lied at that last part but he disrespected my mom’s stone and with that attitude, he was as ugly as a rotten tomato.
He chuckled as he looked at me. “Whatever, Mongrel, Brad Pitt or a jerk or an ugly narcissist, I’m pretty sure you’re into me.”
“You wish. Can you just move down from the stone, please?”
“Right. Sorry.” Seeming as though he’d forgotten to move, he picked up the diary from the stone and stepped down. Then he came to stand next to me.
I turned towards the stone. There were so much, millions actually, to say but that jerk was still standing beside me and watching speculatively as if he was going to grade me. He wouldn’t just leave me alone. And of course, I was not going to say anything as long as he was around. It should be between me and my mom. There was no room for a stranger.
I turned to him. “Why are you still here?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?” He shrugged innocently.
“Jerk,” I snapped back and he bit down on his lip.
I decided I would come back again when he wouldn’t be around – to say everything I wanted to – and for now just wish mom happy birthday.
I took a deep breath, laid the flowers carefully over the stone in front of my mother’s name, Caroline Lancaster, and said, “Happy birthday, mom.”
After that, without wasting another minute scowling at that sorry face, I started to stomp off to leave so that I wouldn’t end up clawing his eyes out.
He called me, “Hey, Mongrel!”
I didn’t look back. I didn’t want to take another look at the face of the jerk who spoilt which was supposed to be my quality time with mom.
“Mongrel,” he called again.
I didn’t answer. I kept on walking not looking back even once.
I was so enjoying ignoring him.
Then the next call was, “Hey, sexy!”
My footsteps conked in stupefaction. I’d never been called ‘Sexy’ in my entire life . . . Obviously because I wasn’t. And I was totally fine with it. I didn’t want to be looked on like a piece of meat to relish over. But this came in such a surprise it embarrassed me. Even more when I heard him laugh.
I gritted my teeth and looked back.
He immediately swallowed his laughter and said, “Just wanted to say that I’m not sitting here again.” The sudden solemn look on his gorgeous face took me aback yet I replied coolly.
“Great,” I said and started to walk away until he started calling me again like a maniac.
“Wait wait wait. Hold up, Mongrel!”
I swear to God.
But I kept walking away. I’d had enough.
“Mongrel! Mongrel! LANCASTER!!!”
I heard him run after me.
“What?!” I looked back and snapped.
“Whoa.” He put his hands up in defence mode as he came to stand in front of me. “Nothing serious,” he said through soft laughs. “I just wanted to ask if you’ve moved back.” His eyes sparked with curiosity.
“I have. Bye.”
He smirked and then nodded with a bright smile.
I was almost out of the cemetery gate when I heard him shout again.
“You know what,” he said, “Girls should look up to you as a role model. I’m impressed seeing how you don’t even care to do a bottom job or make use of some sponges!”
Someone please come over here and slit my throat or run a bullet right through my temple.
My cheeks burned. I’d heard enough of my cousins laughing that I have absolute flat bottoms.
God, I don’t need another one reminding me of that.
“You’re a complete Jerk!” I shouted without looking back and strode off pretty pissed.
I reached home in the same mood.
Dad raised his eyebrows at me when he met me in the living room. “What’s with the mood?”
“Nothing,” I sighed and went up to my room.
I had started arranging my boxes and knickknacks in my old room when I heard David yell my name outside.
From the door, he peeped in with a worried look and said, “I can’t find my car! You know, the one we bought in the carnival. Did we leave it behind?” His face crumpled at the thought of it.
“No. We didn’t. Don’t cry.” That was his favorite.
“But I can’t find it. There’s so many boxes.” He came over and pulled my arm. “Come on. Help me find it!”
“Okay. Okay.” I followed him out the door and down the stairs.
We’d almost reached the last step when the front door, which was only two meters away from the stairs, opened and in came dad followed by Jake, Jacob Garfield. They were holding a huge box each and talking to each other. My heart instantly skipped a beat when I saw Jake’s familiar face and I stumbled slightly on my footsteps.
“Whoa! Whoa! Careful there!” Jacob exclaimed.
I quickly grabbed the railing and caught myself. He was right. I should be careful so as not to trip like the thing in some drama where the girl trips and the Prince Charming catches her. Because if I ever did, there would be no drama for me. I was sure to land flat, face-front, right next to his feet. Yes. I should be careful. Him being my childhood crush was no exception.
“Be careful, Alana,” dad sighed with a deep, worried frown and walked into the living room.
Yes. I should be careful but it wasn’t that easy to be when change had done so well to Jacob Garfield. The boyish look that I once knew had transformed into a rugged teen over time. He was so much taller and more handsome now. But despite the changes, I would know him anywhere, anytime.
“Dad! Dad! Have you seen my car?!” David dropped my hand and ran after dad.
Jake dropped his box aside and came to me.
No, no, no, not now.
I prayed in my head but dear, I could feel my cheeks starting to heat up as if a full heated iron had ran over it.
“Hey, Alana,” he smiled at me with a splendid glow on his face that put the moon, the stars and Edison’s electric bulb to shame.
“Hey.” I smiled back but my voice came out a bit embarrassingly breathless.
Towards me, his role was that of the older brother I didn’t have and I, as a little girl, always had a slight crush on him. I remember blushing hard whenever he would wrap me in his arms, in a brotherly bear hug. And that same feeling of infatuation resurfaced when I saw him again. Not too much, though. But you always have something for your first crush, right?
The moment I was within his reach, to my surprise, he grabbed me by my ribs with his strong arms and swung me round. I clung onto him with both my arms around his neck and squeaked with a laugh, obviously delighted.
“Little girl’s a lady now!” he exclaimed as he set me down and looked at my face with his signature smile that flooded his entire face, not sparing his deep blue eyes.
“Jacob please . . . You’re just a years and a half older than me.”
He shrugged. “Still older.”
I made a face and said, “You better stop that before I really start calling you gramps.”
He let a low laugh and picked up the box. “You missed me? I bet you did.”
I shrugged, faking nonchalance. “Not really.”
He stood still, narrowed his eyes and then smiled smugly. I was glad he got the humor. I honestly didn’t want him to feel that he mean nothing to me. He’d always been with me for the greater part of my childhood. He was there, always there whenever I needed him, when I lost mom and needed his comfort. Of course I did miss him. I missed Jake.
“But I missed you.” He pouted cutely, his blue eyes sparkling like a flame that perfectly did send a flutter to my stomach.
“I missed you so much that it hurt. Few years after you left, I was already over with you but then I heard you were coming back and it made me miss you so much more,” he was speaking so matter-of-factly like I was an old flame of his and it was impossible to hide my grin, “I couldn’t wait for you to turn up. I couldn’t wait for me to surprise you at your door and here I hear you say you don’t miss me,” his face dropped.
I fought back a laugh. He was still the same; adorable and funny as ever.
How is it that he always makes me feel so happy around him?
Then all at once he began singing, “Alaaaana, you’re breaking my heart. You’re shaking my confidence daily.”
“Shut up!” I laughed out loud and shoved him against the wall.
“So which school?” he asked as we walked into the living room.
“I’ll pick you up at seven tomorrow,” he said as he placed the box down on the floor with all the other boxes from which dad and David was digging for the lost treasure.
“You go there too?” my excitement was skyrocketing until he answered . . .
“Nope. I go to Spencer’s High.”
I spotted David’s box with the scribble ‘carnival car’ in black marker and reached down for it.
“I’d like to drop you on the first day at least.”
“Oh. But that’s okay. Dad’s driving me before I get a new car.” I picked up the box and handed it to David. “Here.”
“Thanks! Dad, it’s here!!” he literally screamed.
Ouch. Dad’s right in front of you.
“Dr. Lancaster, can I drop Alana to school tomorrow?”
Picking up one of David’s box, he said, “Thanks.”
It was because Dad didn’t want to drive me, but that Jacob was as trustworthy as a big brother when it came to me.