Cross Roads

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Chapter Twenty-Two: S'mores

Our last day working for McDonald’s . . . it is surreal moment to be perfectly and completely honest. Brandon’s been there for almost eight years – wow, seems like such a long time for a twenty-four year old dude – and I have worked there for five. A good chunk of our lives were spent at that place; devoted to it, I guess one could say, that to finally be rid of it . . . it is just unbelievable.

It’s a good feeling.

A little sad because the kids I have seen just about every day for months and years, well, I will no longer be seeing them as often. If at all. We’re all going off in our separate directions. Most are going to the malls. Some have gotten summer jobs with landscaping or Delta Sonic. I’m moving onto bigger and better things as a waitress for Denny’s – please note the sarcasm – where hopefully the tips pan out. Brandon is moving up in the world, courtesy of Anabelle who called in a favor – which I think might be our mom, but I don’t see the woman so I can’t really ask – and got him a higher paying tech job. He will now be Tech Support at the firm Dearest Mother is currently employed at. Yay for him.

But all in all things are really starting to look up.

Our last day has no mishaps. I get a gift basket to apologize for the sexism I was forced to deal with during former supervisor Nigel’s reign of dick-i-ness. Brandon even got a generous bonus check as a way of saying thank you for all his years of service. Personally I think it’s a last ditch attempt at getting him to stay, but the ship has already sailed.

At exactly five o’clock we drop our timecards for the last time. We deposit our old uniforms and keys in the office making sure the closing manager puts them away where she can remember and no one will steal. And then we make our way out of the restaurant.

No one says goodbye. No tears are shed. We’ll be seeing the vast majority of the regular crew in a few hours when they come over to Brandon’s for the farewell barbecue and bon-fire fest. We’ll be saying adios then. But until then—

“See ya later, suckers!” I yell, sticking my tongue out.

Brandon rolls his eyes and waves like the mature adult he is. How so very dull.

My farewell gets a better response, prompting the crew-kids to laugh. “Don’t forget about s’mores,” I remind them without actually stating that there will be a party later on. The closing manager is someone sent by the owner, and I have a sneaking suspicion that she is actually a mole with the sole purpose of exploiting our weaknesses and giving reasons for us to be smacked in the ass with lawsuits.

Paranoid? Perhaps. But it’s never too stupid to be careful. I wasn’t and that got me blackmailed into a deal that led to a black-eye and a crap-ton of parental issues.

“Bye guys!” Brandon calls before pushing out the door. He holds it for me to follow, and then we walk out to our respective cars, leaving one after the other and driving to Tops a couple miles away. We pick up a few things for the party – hamburger rolls and cans of Mountain Dew among other necessary things. We split the bill and go back to his place, unsurprised when my sister is already there, waiting impatiently on the porch.

I am still in awe over how awesome it turned out.

“Where have you two been?” Belle demands the second we have exited our cars. “I’ve been waiting for half an hour!”

Brandon looks nervous. “We left at five and then had to pick up some things at the store. I didn’t know you’d be here so early or else I would’ve left you a key,” he apologizes, forgoing kissing his girlfriend a greeting and simply keeping a couple feet of distance between them. He is becoming a very smart man.

I wave my hand, pushing around them to unlock the door. “Ignore her, Raisin-Bran. She’s just upset because she has to poop,” I explain, pushing the door wide and mockingly ushering my sister inside.

“SPENCER!” she screams, face going red.

“What?” I answer. “It’s true, right? You couldn’t go at your gazebo event so you’ve been holding it until you got here.”

She is still fuming, though. “You don’t just blab something like that around boys!”

“Why not?” I am confused. Very confused. “They do it. We do it. Why is that something to get all upset and embarrassed about? What, do you not want your boyfriend to realize that you do stink up the bathroom sometimes? Puh-lease. I live with the guy. He takes nasty dumps, too.”

“SPENCER!” This time, the bellow of my name is from Brandon.

“WHAT? Fine, if it’ll make you feel better the two of you have nothin’ on me when I spend a day eating only McDonald’s food. That stuff is nasty going in, and even better coming out. Anabelle, you’ve smelled it before. I thought I’d killed you. And Brand-O. I’ve warned you dozens of times after I drop a load. What is so different about your significant other knowing that you do, indeed, fart and poop?”

“Would you like Noah to hear about your bathroom habits?” my sister tries to get me to understand things her way.

I just shrug. “I’m pretty sure I’ve farted around him before. He’s just too much of a gentleman to say anything. And so what if he does hear? It’s not as though he hasn’t had—”

“Okay!” Brandon cuts me off, appearing on the porch to push both me and my sister inside. “We get it Spencer. You have no shame. But can we please stop talking about pooping? It’s like you’re seven years old and getting a kick out of a fart.”

“Well,” I begin, “that old lady from this morning was puttering away in her hurry to get out of lobby. Smelled bad, too. I probably shouldn’t have been laughing, but it was just too funny. I’m pretty sure she was turtling on the way to her car.” I tap my chin. “I wonder if she even got home in time.”

“Eww!” my sister hisses even as she pushes past me to go upstairs. A moment later I hear the bathroom door slam closed and know, no matter her griping and moaning and complaining about my assumptions, that I was correct.

Anabelle did need to poo.

I told you!” I sing-song, following Brandon into the kitchen. “Besides, these are things that you will learn about each other when you get married, move in together, and realize that sometimes you’re just not going to be able to hide the atom bomb you’ve just mushroom-clouded into the toilet.”

Brandon shakes his head, but I can tell by the shaking of his shoulders that he is laughing. However quietly, it matters not. A laugh is still a laugh.

“So, when are you getting married?” I push, knowing I’m likely to get more of a straight answer from him than from Anabelle.

“Not any time soon,” he answers, pulling a bag of Sahlens hotdogs from the freezer to defrost a little.

“Oh,” I mumble, deflating instantly. I had been hoping that it would be within the next few months. Maybe a year at the longest. “So you didn’t ask her, then?”

He is hesitant to respond.

“So you did?” I push.

Still, he says nothing. But he does start fiddling around with whatever is in the fridge, shifting the milk to a different spot and then putting it back before moving onto the butter.

“Did she say no?”

Now he spins around, eyes wide. “NO!” he cries.

Then what?”

“. . . I told her that I wanted to marry her,” he finally admits.

“I KNEW IT!” I scream, punching a fist into the air. “I so called it! Finally!”

“Just not yet, okay?” he adds quietly, only a little amused by the happy dance that I am currently bouncing across the floor in.

I stop immediately when hearing his tone. “Why? What do you mean?”

He shrugs, folding his arms tightly. “I just . . . my parents rushed into things, did everything backwards pretty much, and look how that turned out? I just don’t want to screw things up between us. I don’t want to get married without having a decent job. I don’t want her to be the one to bring home all the money—No, Spencer, I didn’t mean it like that. I don’t care if she makes more money than me. I just don’t want our financials to rest solely on her shoulders. We’d be in this together, and I actually want it to be together. I want to be able to give her the life she deserves and, right now, I can’t. Does that make sense?”

Sadly, it does.

“You love her, don’t you?” I ask him.

“Yeah. I do.”

“Then it won’t matter what you have to offer her. Just as long as you love her things will work out for you.”

“Sometimes that’s not enough, though.”

“True,” I agree. “But for you and my sister, I know it will be. You guys seem to forget that I have a sixth sense about these sorts of things. I was the one to set you up, if you have forgotten. I know you two dated before and broke up, but now you’re back together. Now, I’m about to get a little mushy, so listen carefully to what I’m about to say because this will not be repeated: if you love someone you’re supposed to let them go, and if they come back to you then they’re yours for life. That’s what happened with you and Belle. You fell out and then back in again. Dude, you have no idea the love story you two have to tell your future kids. And you will have kids. I will make sure of it. I want to either be the awesome aunt that they adore and talk about non-stop, or the crazy one that they fear and still talk about non-stop.”

Brandon smirks while shaking his head. “I have a feeling it’ll end up being both.”

“Either way they will talk about me non-stop. It’ll be as though I still live with you guys. You’ll get so sick of me that you won’t want to see me at family gatherings. It’ll be perfect. My dream come true. I’ve always wanted to annoy people even when I’m miles away without even lifting a finger. Then I could check that off my bucket list.”

“The sad thing is that I know you’re serious,” he grumbles.

“You complain aloud, but I know how you really feel. Inside you’re wondering how you could ever live without me.” I turn as Anabelle appears in the doorway. “Well, that took surprisingly less time than I thought. So either it’s really nasty and we should bring out the hazmat suits or it’s mediocre at best. Want me to check?”

“You’re disgusting, Spencer,” my sister snaps.

I am unaffected, taking my leave to go upstairs. I take a shower – the bathroom does indeed smell toxic – and change into shorts and a tank-top with the Smurfs on it. Where I got said tank I have no idea, but it’s comfy and blue so I will keep it with me until the day I die or can no longer squeeze into it. When I make my way back downstairs it is to find my siblings making out in the kitchen.

Now, normally I would take this as an opportune moment to interrupt and annoy, but I’ve already embarrassed the two of them enough today . . . for now. So I leave them alone and instead go outside to set up some chairs and logs for the barbecue. Cheese is supposed to be borrowing a friend’s grill to use for tonight, so there’s nothing I can do for that. We’re too cheap to get any decorations – besides, what would we get anyway? Plates and cups and that sort of thing will be on the picnic table that I braved the back of the garage to find, somehow withstanding the test of time and termites to actually be usable.

My energies are occupied for barely a minute, and then I’m stuck just standing there and trying to come up with something else to do.

. . . Nope. There’s nothing.

No one’s scheduled to arrive until seven, and then the rest will be making appearances throughout the night. I’ve still got an hour to kill before I will be occupied again, and a bored me is a destructive me.

This is most definitely not good.

In the end everything was saved by the unexpected arrival of my cousin Wolf. Why he is showing up and how he is showing up I will never know, but that is something I can’t be bothered with finding out. I haven’t seen or spoken with the guy since the Memorial Day Disaster, and it is dang good to finally see him.

“Faolan!” I scream when he climbs out of his beat-up old car.

He glares at me instead of giving an enthusiastic greeting. Such a gloomy dude.

“I haven’t seen you in forever!” I carry on.

“I know. Belle told me there was party and that it would have free food. How could I turn down an invite like that?” he answers, rubbing his hands together and licking his lips at the thought of food. Such a true man, always thinking with his stomach. I feel sorry for whatever girl ends up marrying him.

“Did she actually invite you or just happen to mention that she had plans tonight?” I ask skeptically. I wouldn’t put it past my sister to make her own guest list, but for her to not mention it is just odd. Makes me wonder if she’s invited anyone else . . .

“Why didn’t you invite me? Do you not love me anymore, STG?”

Using my initials instead of my name is even worse than me calling him ‘Faolan’. It should be obvious why, but if not, notice what it almost stands for? Yeah. Not a good thing for a bunch of gutter-minded teenagers to hear. Much of my high school life was spent ignoring the calls of STD in the hallways between classes.

So, anyways, I believe that my glare is justified.

“You call me that one more time I will make sure your friends and adoring fans know what your full name is, Faolan Meriweth—” I am abruptly silenced by his hands slamming over my mouth. Hello lips, how would you like to be bitten by my teeth?

“SHUT UP! You swore you would never bring that up again. I told you. My parents hate me,” he growls at me, looking around to make sure there isn’t some suspicious van parked in the street with antenna aimed in our direction, waiting to eavesdrop and record our conversation so they can blab to the world that Wolf’s middle name is Meriwether – just like the great explorer Lewis who would be lost without his Clark.

I wrench myself out of his reach, making sure to slobber his palms. “And I made you swear to never call me that!” I snap. “So now we’re even, you jerk. And you’re talking to the wrong person about parents hating you. I’ve got you beat. Mine kicked me out,” I huff, staring him down until he has to look away.

With a grossed out expression on his face he wipes his hands on his jeans. “Belle happened to mention that you quit McDonald’s,” Wolf says after a pause. “Congrats. It’s about time you left that place. It did nothing for you aside from filling up your savings account.”

“Thanks. Did you get me a quitting present?”

He nods, which is surprising.

“Really? What?”

“ME!” he exclaims, throwing his arms wide.

I try to pretend that I am not amused, but I really am, so my angry face lasts all of a second before I’m bursting into laughter. “I hope you kept the receipt because I want to return it.”

“You wound me, little cousin,” he pouts.

“Toughen up. Be a man,” I reply.

“If you’re going to treat me this way then I’m just gonna go and take all my tables with me,” he says to me, turning to go stomping away. I pull him back, still laughing, and between the two of us manage to unload and set up the four folding tables he has brought upon Anabelle’s request – thank God for sisters with actual foresight.

Not long after the crew-kids start showing up. Cheese arrives with the grill, and he, Brandon and Wolf spend the next half hour or so trying to figure out how to start it. They get nowhere and my sister has to take over, hipping all three of them out of the way so she can start grilling the burgers and hotdogs.

I take a count of who wants what, get confused by my tallies and just have Anabelle grill everything we’ve got. She does, and while she is doing that Wolf and I start up a football game that is nowhere near as riveting as the one we played on Memorial Day. This time around the players are more conscientious of injury, and it ends up being only two-hand touch. Wolf and I are the only ones who will tackle, so we end up hitting each other. I win some, he wins others, and by the time the food is ready we are both sharing bruises.

My battle scars will have wonderful tales by morning.

When it gets dark I light the bonfire, scaring everyone because I’d doused the pile of wood and dry grass clippings in gasoline and then tossed a match on it, lighting the whole thing up in the blink of an eye. Brandon was concerned that I had just set his entire property on fire and Cheese was racing to call the fire department because he thought I didn’t know what I was doing.

Newsflash! I do.

I am a closet arsonist. Fire is my friend.

Marshmallows are roasted once the fire dies down enough for people to get close enough without igniting. S’mores are constructed and passed around. Someone calls for campfire songs so I start singing 99 Bottles of Mountain Dew on the Wall. It doesn’t catch like I had been hoping. Belle shoves me into the house to grab up my guitar, which I do with only a little grumbling. I am a performer at heart, so playing in front of a crowd of kids that I have fallen on my ass in front of will not faze me.

After I start strumming a few chords and people realize that I don’t suck, a list of requests is thrown out and I begin playing through ones that I know. It is a good thing that my sister gave me my beautiful Olga earlier or else I would be embarrassing myself with how rusty I am. As it is I only hit a few wrong notes that are easily ignored.

The night progresses pleasantly with crew-kids arriving and leaving intermittently.

It is when I am just finishing up a beautiful rendition of AC/DC’s Highway to Hell which has a number of my audience singing along, that Belle nudges my arm. I look over at her and she nods past my shoulder. When I turn I am surprised to see a newcomer to the party.

With hardly a “here you go” to Wolf I pass over my guitar and jump up from my tree stump, sprinting across the lawn to slide to a stop beside Noah’s jeep.

“Heya, Dog-Tags,” I say, beaming up at him.

He drops down from his seat, giving me a hug. “Hi, Rebel,” he returns.

“I didn’t think you were coming.”

“I didn’t think I was either. My sister was the annoying one to have her grad party the day of graduation, so I thought I was going to be there all night. Instead I literally got kicked out by my own mother who told me I should stop by for at least a couple hours,” he explains as we slowly – emphasis on the slowly – make our way back towards the bonfire and the group surrounding it. “I hope that’s okay?”

“Definitely,” I say firmly. “It’s gonna suck when you leave,” I add.

Noah nods in agreement. “Yeah.”

“Where’s Benji?”

“At home. I’ll be dropping him off tomorrow before I have to leave for the airport. I wanted my sisters to spend as much time with him before he moved in with you,” he teases, a wicked glint in his eye.

“Is he terrorizing little seniors?” I wonder.

“Benji? Nah. He’s just teaching them about sharing,” Dog-Tags explains with a grin.

I’m laughing long and loud before I can stop myself, drawing attention towards us, but not enough that Wolf is interrupted during a mock production of Barbie Girl. “Are you hungry?” I ask, nodding towards the picnic table with a dozen hotdogs and hamburgers still warm where they are wrapped in foil.

He thinks about it for a second and then nods. “Yeah. Sure. I hate catered food anyways.” Noah gets a hotdog, some cheesy potatoes that Anabelle contributed, and nachos, and then I lead him over to a log that is big enough for two. Halfway through his plate I ask him about a drink, leaving and then coming back with two cans of Mountain Dew. “Oh, remind me!” he says, popping the tab and taking a gulp. “I have something for you. A going away present, even though I’m the one who’s going away.”

“Aww, you shouldn’t have,” I say, shoving him. “I didn’t get you anything, but if you want I can take a picture of myself with your phone so if you ever need to scare someone you can just pull it up and say ‘BAM’! It’ll work so much better than any explosive,” I joke.

He smiles and keeps eating, finishing and tossing the empty plate into the fire.

We make s’mores, smearing chocolate and marshmallows on each other’s cheeks. Wolf gives me back my guitar and I start back up playing, going through a number of Disney songs that I learned way back when. Anabelle and the girls sing along with me, most getting the words wrong which cuts me off as I start laughing too hard to continue.

After a while I stop playing and stories are shared of ridiculous moments spent at McDonald’s. From catching customers smearing poo on the bathroom walls to food fights that happened in the back. And then Wolf and I regale the younger kids with tales of our many escapades at family gatherings where we pulled pranks on unsuspecting relatives. My sister is shocked by the number of pranks we have pulled. Brandon gets worried because Wolf is trying to act all chummy with him – mostly to just mess with the guy, but maybe to find a couch to crash on when his mother becomes a bit too overbearing.

I enjoy myself so immensely that I almost don’t take notice of the familiar car that crawls down the driveway.

Wolf is sharing the time that I scared our battle-hardened grandpa with a salamander that I’d found by the road, so no one takes notice as I drag Belle away from the fire to demand answers.

“What are they doing here?” I growl, pointing to the car where our parents are standing. “Did you invite them?”

“No,” she says. “I mentioned that you were quitting and that I was going to be out late tonight with the party. They never said anything about wanting to come, but maybe it’s a good thing. You should try talking to them.”

I shake my head. “No thanks. You can have them all to yourself.” I march back to my seat beside Noah, sitting a little bit closer than before. There’s nothing romantic about it. How could there be when I am glaring into the fire like it will give me laser vision if I stare long enough? It’s merely about the proximity. I can’t go to Brandon because he is joining my sister in speaking with Mummy and Daddy, and Wolf is too busy acting out the scream and dance that our grandpa did when I revealed my salamander friend – not that he and I have a close cousin relationship where we hug and have deep conversations; we’re just partners in crime.

Noah is the only option and the most logical choice.

He says nothing when he takes notice of my parents. Instead he stretches his arms out along the log, giving me the chance to inch just a tad closer.

“Thanks,” I tell him quietly, risking side-glances towards Belle and Brandon and the Controlling Couple.

“You wanna go say hi?” he asks me.


“‘kay,” he responds, letting the matter drop.

Wolf finishes his story. I take back up my guitar. The entire time I avoid making eye contact with my parents. I choose to focus on the people that really matter; the ones who never threw me under the bus or ridiculed me in anyway.

There’s my crew-kids who I have laughed and yelled with and bonded over the fact that we work in a crappy environment where there’s always gonna be that one person who complains. They were the ones who made all the curses and put downs and Nigel worth it; worth my five years of service. I’m gonna miss them, but we can’t stay at McDonald’s forever. It was a starting point, but now it’s time to move on.

Then there’s Wolf. My favorite cousin. No matter how much whining and complaining we do with, around and about each other, he’s still the one I am closest to. He taught me how to blow up a car. I showed him how to sneak in and out of his house. We’re each other’s evil half; the Tazmanian Devils of our family. And even though I forgot to invite him, I’m glad he’s here.

Brandon and Anabelle . . . What can I say about them? My two siblings. One day they will get married and give me the most adorable nieces and nephews in the world. I will spoil and torture the little demons, if only to get on their nerves like the Goode little sister that I am. Notice my pun. Please, notice the pun. If you don’t then . . . everything has been for nothing. NOTHING!

And last but not least there is Noah.

It was a lucky chance that I met him, the fateful morning when I was running towards a horrible opening shift. While at the time I was scared out of my mind, now, all these weeks later, I’m glad Benji chased me up that lamppost. If he hadn’t I never would have made the friend that I did.

Honestly, I don’t know what he and I are.

I like him. A lot. What’s not to like with the height and those abs and biceps? And don’t get me started on the dimples.

He gets my humor. He is sweet and quite possibly the nicest person I have ever met. I’m going to miss him when he leaves, and I’m glad Benji is coming to stay with me because that means I will see him again.

But he’s leaving too soon for us to be anything more than friends.

Not that I’m complaining. I’ll take what I can get.

It would just be nice if we had more time. To figure things out.

But for now, friends is enough. Maybe that’s all we’ll ever be. Maybe that’s all we can be. Which I would be okay with. Next to Brandon he is the best friend I could ever have.

And it’s just so sad that he is leaving.

I take a long look around at the people that actually matter. And then I look over towards my parents who are sitting off to the side, appearing so out of place, but lingering regardless. They see me looking. My mom smiles and waves. My dad . . . he just looks awkward; like he doesn’t know what he should do. If he should smile or just continue to wear that deadpan expression.

And maybe, just maybe, somewhere down the line my parents will be in the group that matter.

It’s a nice thought.

The party draws on for another hour or so, kids leaving until the fire is a slow burning pile of hot coals. By that time it is after one in the morning. The only ones who still remain are me, Brandon, Belle, Wolf, Cheese, Noah and my parents.

Cheese is the first to take his leave after the grill is loaded into the back of his pickup. Wolf follows after him when he checks his phone to see a hundred texts from his mother wondering where he is because she misses him and is worried about him and will be staying up until he comes home so she can tuck him in.

No lie. Wolf is definitely a momma’s boy, but it’s not by his choice.

Afterwards Noah says that he should get going. I walk him to his jeep, fully aware of the two pairs of eyes that are watching us from the porch.

“Almost forgot again,” he says as he pulls open his door. He reaches inside and withdraws a poorly wrapped package. “Sorry about the wrapping. I . . . kinda suck at it.”

“It’s fine. So do I.” I tear into it with the enthusiasm of a toddler, tossing aside paper and giggling at what I find inside. “You got me a sarcastic T-shirt!”

“Yeah. My sister helped me pick it out.”

I tug it on over my tank-top, grinning widely at what I read upside down. LIFE IS SHORT. SMILE WHILE YOU STILL HAVE TEETH. “I love it!” I throw myself at him in the biggest hug he has probably ever gotten in his life. Not only do my arms squeeze the life out of him, but so do my thighs as I spider-monkey myself to his chest.

He laughs a little nervously, hugging me back. “I figured I’d help you start your Awesome Sarcastic Shirt collection.”

“Best present ever. Now I feel bad that I didn’t get you anything.”

“Your smile is good enough,” he answers, blushing after he realizes what has just come out of his mouth.

I think I blush too because that is actually the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

“I’m gonna miss you,” he continues.

“I’m gonna miss you, too,” I agree. “Can I write you?”

He grins, wide and reaching his eyes. “I would like that.”

“Good. Although you’ll have to write me first so I can get the return address. And we can’t text or email because, one, I don’t have a phone, and two, Brandon’s got no internet.”

“Writing the old fashioned way is fine by me.”

“Me too.”

We stand awkwardly for a moment, scuffing the toes of our boots into the dirt.

“Well, I guess this is goodbye,” he says after a little bit.

I shake my head. “Nope. It’s a see ya later.”

Noah thinks it over, nodding his head. “I can get behind that.”

“See ya later, Noah,” I tell him, hugging him one last time.

“See ya later, Spencer,” he repeats, leaning down and kissing my cheek. And then he climbs up behind the wheel, waving before he backs down the driveway. I watch him go until his tail-lights disappear down the street. It is only when he is well and truly gone that I turn around and take a deep breath, working up the balls the face the ‘rents.

It would seem that they are doing the same.

“I’m proud of you, Spencer,” my mom says after we stand facing each other in uncomfortable silence.

While that is shocking – never before have my parents said those words to me – I manage to keep my face neutral.

“I know we haven’t always been there for you, but I want you to know that I’m proud of you,” she continues. “And I’m sorry.”

I nod because there’s really nothing I can say to that.

“I was . . . I was hoping that maybe, if you want to, we could meet up during the week for lunch or something?” she suggests.

“Maybe,” is all I can reply with. Not yet, but perhaps in a little bit I’ll be ready to move past the kicking out of my own home.

She smiles, knowing that is as good as it’s going to get. She hugs me, but I don’t hug back, not ready for such a thing just now. My mom seems to understand, pulling away and starting for the car, leaving me alone with my dad who, up to this point, hasn’t said a word to me.

“Your wife is ready to go,” I tell him when nothing happens.

He nods.

I spin around and start towards the porch, thinking that my relationship with my dad is a lost cause.

And then it happens.

The last thing I ever expected.

“I love you, Spencer,” he calls to me, so quiet that it could almost be considered a whisper.

I stop walking, taking that in. My dad, a man who never talks about his feelings, has just told me that he loved me. It’s a first. The only one he says it to on a semi yearly basis is my mom.

If only I could say it back without lying.

“Okay,” I say.

“And I’m sorry, too,” he adds.


“You need anything, Spencer, don’t hesitate to ask.”

It’s a little late for that. But I don’t voice it. The man is trying, so I’ll give him a point for that. Just one, though.

“Okay,” I say one last time before going inside. “Aww, that’s disgusting!”

I might be an adult of almost twenty-one, but seeing my older siblings making out and being all lovey-dovey is not something I want to see. I’ll be having nightmares for weeks! My eyes are scarred! I need bleach. Bleach I tell you! BLEACH!

“Learn to knock,” Belle says, rolling her eyes.

“Why would I knock when I live here?” I retort.

“Manners?” she offers, shrugging out of the hoodie that Brandon had lent her, only for him to push it back. “You’re letting me have it?”

“You wear it more than I do,” he explains with a shrug.

“Thanks, babe.” Anabelle leans up and kisses him. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow,” he agrees, pulling her back when she makes to leave. He kisses her two more times before letting her go.

My sister tells me goodnight, and then the two of them are out the door, Brandon walking her to her car. I don’t bother spying on them through the window, too tired to stay awake any longer. I go upstairs, brush my teeth, change into my pajama shorts but keep my new shirt on. I love it and I will make sure it bears the marks of my devotion when Noah comes back to see it well worn.

I especially love how the SMILE is underlined; made more noticeable than the rest of the words. I know it was an extra touch from Noah. A reminder.


Things will hopefully get better from here.
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Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.