Chapter 1: Wounded
The wounds were deep, ones that never show on the body, yet are graver and more hurtful than anything that bleeds. She was crippled inside, crushed by the heartbreak brought upon her through tragedy. People say time heals all wounds, the deep cuts brought on by loss. She disagrees. They never leave, but are covered by scars that lessen the pain. It's the way our mind tries to protect its sanity.
It's difficult for her to smile these days. Try to make your lips curl upwards after a hard slap in the face, now keep it up twenty-four hours, seven days a week. It's nearly impossible and much harder than simply avoiding life and hiding under a rock of painful memories.
Jasmine would never deny she stopped living the day life took away the one person she had left, the guardian angel that cared for her in times of pain and loss. People often proclaimed life wasn't fair simply because they lost a game or didn't have a pool in their garden like their neighbors did. She pitied those naïve souls, the ones that had no clue what life really entailed.
Life wasn't fair, but only the ones put through rough times of loss and failure truly understood what that meant. Innocent souls were harmed and cut into pieces, shattered because of reality. Life was about so much more than partying and having fun. You should cherish every moment of happiness and love. You never know when that moment will be your last one.
Jasmine never understood just how lucky she was to have a grandmother like Theresa. She took her for granted, a mistake she would regret for the rest of her remaining days on earth. You don't know how much you can miss something or someone you love until you lose them. Life took away the one thing left living for, the only person that truly loved her, leaving Jasmine in a deep and dark hole of meaningless misery.
She was swallowed by the waves of deprivation and lost the ability to breathe in the endless sea called hurt. Jasmine would never be the same lively, joyful soul she once had been. The irreversible scars had taken their toll, leaving her to mourn and try to rebuild her life, even though she did not see the necessity of such an act. She'd rather be taken away from this miserable place herself and find peace together with her family.
Living with you grandmother, knowing you never got the chance to meet your birth parents, hurt. It was nothing compared to the loneliness she was caught up in now. She hadn't known what she was missing out on, yet now she could easily see what she lost. She could pretend all she wanted, but her grandmother was gone and would never return.
To make matters worse, she was legally found too young to stay on her own, partly because the judges feared her sanity after everything she had been through in her seventeen years of life. Since Jasmine didn't have any family members left, she was sent to the one person left to take care of her: her godmother Gabriella. She'd only seen the woman once, too long ago to remember. She was entitled as a godparent by her mother before the terrible accident happened that took Jasmine's parents away from her at the tender age of merely 5 weeks.
Jasmine didn't know a single thing about the woman she was sent to live with, besides the fact that her mother and she used to be best friends during high school. After Marissa - her precious mom - passed away, Jasmine never heard of Gabriella again. The woman and her family lived across the country in California, while Jasmine was born and raised in Florida. This was the cause of the enormous amount of miles Jasmine would have to move.
She didn't like it, not one bit. She was fine on her own, could easily survive without a guardian to take care of her. The inheritance her parents and grandmother left her was more than enough to keep her going for at least another five years. In the meantime she could search for a decent job that would help her pay the bills while she tried to get a degree online.
Jasmine had long lost the willpower to do anything more than survive, yet she was too stubborn to give up on life entirely. No matter what happened, how much pain and heartbreak they would put her through, she would not be the sad little girl that broke down. She would give no one the satisfaction of seeing her fail, especially her so called godmother. If there was one thing her grandmother taught her, it was to stay strong and keep fighting, even if the odds were against you.
To prove her strength and make her grandmother happy, she would not remove herself from the living. That didn't mean she was planning on searching for her happily ever after either. She had lived a beautiful life for seventeen years, with both ups and downs. The emptiness and dull feeling in her chest told her that this chapter of her life had ended and a new, far worse one had started.
"Jasmine Price? You're guardian has arrived," a monotone voice from behind the desk told her. She was currently sitting in the hall of the orphanage where she'd resided the past ten days waiting for Gabriella to retrieve her. The woman hadn't known what happened until the court had informed her Jasmine was in the need of a guardian. For some reason, Gabriella had agreed immediately, though it would take her several days of organization before she could travel to Florida.
To be completely honest, Jasmine didn't understand the woman's reason to take her in. They hadn't seen each other in years. Gabriella would be just as much of a stranger to her as any foster parent would have been. Jasmine would have rather stayed at the orphanage until the day she turned eighteen and finally could stay on her own. Her intentions were clear, she would promise to stay and live with Gabriella and her husband for a year. Afterwards she would return home to the house she grew up in.
"Good morning, Jasmine. Look at you, you've grown so much!" a black haired woman exclaimed as she came into view, her eyes widening in surprise. When she noticed the empty look and cold stare across Jasmine's face, her stance immediately changed and her eyes filled with sadness, worry and pity. The that last one especially didn't appeal to the young girl. She hated nothing more than people who felt sorry for her. The pained look across Gabriella's face only fueled Jasmine's fury.
She did not want to leave with that stranger. Damn it. Why did the world hate her so much? First they took away the person the loved most. Now they were going to take her away from the only home she had ever known as well. The woman didn't know what she was getting herself into. She probably foolishly believed she could save Jasmine's lost soul. Unfortunately it was already far too late for that.
When Gabriella realized Jasmine wouldn't answer her friendly greeting, she sighed softly and put her hands in the pockets of her ecru coat. Jasmine could feel the woman's burning gaze, her eyes locked solely on her as she tried to come up with a plan to make her talk. Jasmine wanted to tell her not to bother with the soul seeking brain twists, but she decided against opening her mouth. It would give the woman false hope that she might be able to bring back the joyful girl Jasmine used to be.
"You probably don't remember me," the woman tried, her tone gentle as if she was afraid to speak too loudly and scare away her new foster kid. Jasmine turned up her nose at the thought of being someone's daughter besides her birthparents. The mere thought made the tiny hairs on her arm stand up straight.
"I know this is a difficult situation for you, Jasmine. I'm here to help, not to make matters worse. I loved Marissa like a sister. The only reason why I didn't take you in right after her death is because your grandmother was still alive. I didn't want to take you away from her," she explained carefully, kneeling down in front of Jasmine to try and catch her eye.
"You've a funny way showing that," Jasmine muttered under her breath. How could that woman claim she cared for her, if she'd never seen her in the past 17 years? Like she would ever believe Gabriella wanted to love her like her own child the day Marissa died. She probably thanked the lord because grandmother Theresa was still alive.
"I know you don't remember me, but I have been down to this town more often than you care to think. I visited your grandmother twice a year, but always made sure you didn't see me. Theresa was afraid it might dig up bad memories for you. You were such a joyful child, she didn't want you to be reminded of your deceased parents," Gabriella clarified as she laid a hand on Jasmine's knee.
She shrunk back as if she had been burned and pushed her body against the back of the seat as far away from Gabriella as possible. The woman quickly apologized and took a step backward to give her extra space. Jasmine wasn't intentionally being rude to the one person that cared enough to take her in, but she simply wanted to be left alone.
She needed time to grief and allow those feeling of utter loneliness to take a place in her heart. Theresa had been the only person she relied on for so long, Jasmine couldn't imagine a life without her. Her grandmother had been her rock, her idol.
Carefully Jasmine looked up as she let Gabriella's words sink in. She hadn't known the woman visited her grandmother, yet she did believe her. There was something sincere and candid about Gabriella that made her feel like she could trust her. Yes, she was a stranger, but she wouldn't have come so far if she didn't have true intentions.
"I want to live on my own the day I turn eighteen," Jasmine stated fiercely. She knew she sounded ungrateful, but Gabriella needed to know how she felt about the situation. Jasmine never asked for any of this to happen.
"You don't know what the future holds, Jazzy," she smiled sadly, using Jasmine's nickname from when she was little. The woman never ceased to amaze her. How could she possibly know about that pet name? "Frank and I would love to welcome you in our home. You can stay with our family as long as you want."
"That won't be necessary, but thanks anyway," Jasmine replied shortly, using some of her manners for the first time that morning. She was bitter. She didn't feel like being polite, not even to someone with honest intentions.
"I'm going to sign those papers and in a few hours we will be ready to leave. Did you already pack your stuff or do you want me to help you out?" Gabriella questioned nicely, still waiting for Jasmine to make eye contact for the first time. The stubborn teenager refused and shook her head.
"Don't bother, everything has been ready since the minute I woke up," Jasmine declared as she let her head fall backward and rest against the cream wall. She slowly lifted her hands in the air and stretched her arm muscles.
"Okay then. I will be right back," Gabriella said, looking uncomfortable. Jasmine didn't bother to answer and stayed motionless in her seat. The woman let another sigh escape from her lips before she turned around and walked towards the clerk behind the desk.
Jasmine eyed her from a distance, taking in the sight of her foster mother. Most people would probably see the woman as a kind hearted and beautiful person. Gabriella had thick, straight black locks that came down to her shoulders and the clearest blue eyes Jasmine had ever seen. She wore a navy skirt and a gray blouse, with a pair of nylon stockings underneath. The clothes looked quite expensive, leaving Jasmine wondering what the woman and her husband did for a living.
After another fifteen minutes, Gabriella finally returned with a pile of papers in her arms. "If you could get your suitcases, the taxi is waiting in the parking lot," she explained as she pointed at the vehicle through the window. Jasmine nodded listlessly and stood up.
Jasmine took her pink trolley and drove it outside. "That's all?" Gabriella questioned wide-eyed as she watched Jasmine bring the small suitcase.
"Yup," Jasmine stated as she descended the stairs and walked towards the cab. She packed the basics when she moved to the orphanage: a bunch of clothes, toiletries and some personal belongings. Most of her stuff, however, stayed in her bedroom at home for the day she would finally return.
"Well then, here we go," the woman uttered under her breath as she stepped inside the vehicle. Jasmine sighed in annoyance as she handed her suitcase to the driver and followed Gabriella's example. She couldn't wait till the year was over.
"My husband Frank will come and get us from the airport. He just finished work a few minutes ago," Gabriella explained as Jasmine stepped off the plane and started strolling towards the baggage claim. She didn't give a fuck about all the needless information the woman kept throwing at her. She had been talking nonstop on the plane as if she wanted to tell her entire life story. It got kind of annoying. If Gabriella was deliberately trying to push her away, she was doing a remarkable job.
"Frank's a doctor, he works at Memorial Hospital as a Pediatrician," the black haired woman smiled, seemingly remembering something pleasant from the look across her features. "I always hoped my oldest son would follow in his footsteps, but Lucas is simply too stubborn. He's more interested in throwing his life away," she added bitterly.
Gabriella had told stories about her sons ad nauseam. This was the first time Jasmine heard the woman talk about either of her boys without the obvious love and adoration in her voice. This Lucas kid must be doing something terribly wrong to frustrate his mother like that. Gabriella didn't seem to be the kind of woman that would keep nagging about little things that happened in the past.
She had explained earlier how she had two boys that still lived with them. Their eldest, Lucas, was twenty years old and studied at a local college. He was studying accounting. Their youngest son, Nathan, was a few months older than Jasmine. He was in his senior year of high school and probably would have the same classes as Jasmine.
To be honest, she didn't really care what either of them did. She just hoped they'd leave her the hell alone, even if they resided in the same house. Jasmine wasn't a big fan of boys, certainly not after her former boyfriend dumped her because she didn't want to have sex with him. Jerk.
"Luckily Nathan seems to be interested in becoming a doctor. He has applied to several colleges, hopefully he'll get into one of them," Gabriella went on, clueless about the fact that her foster daughter didn't give a shit about her 'brothers'. Jasmine didn't really understand why it was so important to the woman and her husband that their sons would become doctors. Who gives a shit about your profession if it's not what you want to be? Everyone should choose their own career paths.
"Did you already figure out what you want to study next year? Maybe become an attorney like your father. He really was a wonderful man," Gabriella stated as she watched Jasmine intently. She shook her head, ignoring the statement about her dad. She wasn't interested in following in either of her parents' footsteps.
Before her grandmother passed away, Jasmine had been prepared to apply to a few colleges. She didn't exactly figure out what she wanted to study, but she didn't want to be uneducated either. When Theresa died, so did Jasmine's zest for life. She threw away her good intentions and decided to find a job instead of going to college after she graduated high school.
"You're not much of a talker are you?" Gabriella laughed humorlessly as an uncomfortable silence set between them. It was a wonder the woman only realized now just how eerily quiet Jasmine had been. Would she finally realize Jasmine didn't want to talk to her?
"I appreciate what you are trying to do, Gabriella, but I do not want to be a charity case. Just go on with your life and ignore my existence. I'll try to keep my appearances to a minimum during my stay," Jasmine replied as she kept walking at a fast pace, trying to ignore the tapping of Gabriella's heels against the floor. It was such an annoying sound. She wondered why women always felt the need to wear those awfully uncomfortable shoes.
"Jazzy, you're not a charity case to me. I'm happy to welcome you into my home. Frank and I have always wanted to have a daughter," the woman stated affronted. Jasmine wanted to scream she was no one's daughter since the day her parents passed away, but she refrained herself. She'd insulted her foster mother more than enough already. The woman probably was starting to regret her decision of welcoming Jasmine into her home.
The rest of their walk passed in silence. Before Jasmine knew what was happening, she was standing outside of the airport and a man in his mid-forties was making his way towards them. "Honey," he smiled as he pulled Gabriella into his arms and kissed her lips lovingly. Jasmine's mouth opened on its own account at the gesture and she quickly closed it before starting to drool. Wow. They still seemed very much in love.
"You must be Jasmine, it's a pleasure to meet you, darling," the man smiled politely as he outstretched his hand. Jasmine carefully laid her hand in his and shook it, surprised by the friendly welcome. He gently ruffled her hair like a father would with his daughter and winked at his wife.
"How was your flight?" he asked, the question directed at the both of them. Jasmine stayed silent as she let Gabriella inform her husband about their trip. She didn't say a word about Jasmine's impolite behavior.
The drive towards what would be her new home for the next year took about half an hour. Jasmine kept quiet as she gazed outside and watched the scenery fly by. It was warm outside, a sunny California day. Gabriella had suggested to change into a pair of shorts when they arrived home. Jasmine tried not to wince at the mention of 'home'. This wasn't her home, but merely a place to stay until she could be on her own.
When they drove up the lane of what she assumed to be her new residence, Jasmine's eyes almost bulged out of their sockets. It wasn't just any house, it was a mansion. There was a large fountain located in the middle of the driveway and the building was surrounded with a garden larger than life.
She was still absorbing the surroundings when the car came to a halt and parked next to an onyx black Lamborghini. "That's Lucas' car, you better stay away from it. He doesn't like people touching his stuff, quite the snob if you ask me," Frank warned and joked at the same time as she stepped outside the vehicle.
Jasmine nodded and watched in awe as she viewed the mansion. It looked like it could fit ten families instead of five people. "Harold, our butler, will bring your suitcase to your room," Frank explained as she stepped towards the trunk. They had a butler? She was still trying to comprehend she was going to live in such a ritzy house and now they had staff as well? Holly shit.
"Lucas, Nathan, we're home," Gabriella called out as soon as they set foot in the house. Jasmine heard some grumbling before a brown-haired boy came into view at the end of the stairs. He looked no older than sixteen and she guessed he'd be Nathan, the youngest one. He was a good-looking boy, emphasizing the boy part. She could hardly believe he was in the same grade as her.
"Where's Lucas?" Frank questioned, his voice less polite than earlier. The thick tension in the air was palpable and Jasmine noted it only got worse once Nathan shrugged.
"I've no idea. He left on his Harley about two hours ago and I haven't seen him since. I think he said something about visiting the redhead he met at a club last night," Nathan explained as he looked his father in the eye. Frank cursed under his breath, seeming to be having difficulties keeping his temper at bay.
"I wonder if that boy will ever learn," he uttered, forcing the words out. Gabriella touched her husband's arm and caressed his skin softly.
"Don't get all worked up about that son of ours, one day he'll be met with a rebuff and realize he's chosen the wrong path," she reassured her husband, cajoling herself against his side.
"That boy should know his place. I ask him one thing, one small favor and he can't even follow through. All he had to do was be here the moment we arrived back home," Frank exclaimed, shaking his head in obvious disappointment.
Jasmine watched the scene unfold before her eyes, feeling like an intruder. It was clear not even a loving family like this could stay out of trouble. Gabriella and Frank seemed like the perfect parents, but even they had their issues. This was why she had no desire to chase a happily ever after. It didn't exist.
"I'm sorry for the drama, don't mind them," the boy suddenly stated, appearing in front of her. "Hi, my name is Nathan," he added as he outstretched his arm. He looked better up close, his skin tan and his eyes a pure color of green like his father's. He could be called hot if you were looking for a boy, though masculine tall guys were the type to catch Jasmine's attention.
"Jasmine," she replied monotone. She wasn't interested in befriending anyone in California. Her old friends might have dumped her ass after they found out she was moving, but that didn't mean she was ready to make new ones.
"This must be difficult for you," the boy said, a look of pity filling his eyes. Her stomach convulsed at the pitiful stare and she quickly adverted her gaze. She didn't want to be seen as the broken little girl.
"I'll show you to your room," Gabriella interrupted and for once Jasmine was happy to have the woman around. She didn't want to listen to how sorry Nathan felt for her, she couldn't stand the sound. Was it so difficult for people to understand that their false apologies wouldn't bring Theresa back? I'm sorry for your loss. She couldn't even count how many people had stated the same words over and over again.
"Your room is located on the top floor, the second door on your right, across from Lucas' room. Don't worry, he won't bother you. He likes to be on his own. He's not very sociable so don't mind his rude behavior. I'm afraid I can't say he'll be nice to you," the woman explained on the way upstairs.
"Something went terribly wrong with that boy and I can't seem to get through to him anymore. He used to be such a loving son. I know, once you meet him, it'll be hard to imagine he wasn't such a jackass back in the day – pardon my French," Gabriella smiled sadly as she led the way and opened a door.
"Welcome to your new place, I hope you'll like the room," she said as she opened the door widely and pushed Jasmine inside. Her eyes bulged as she took in the sight, once again surprised by the largeness of the house. The room was painted in a faint purple and decorated with girly accessories. There was a queen-sized white bed in the middle and a bureau at the end of the room.
"The first door on your left leads to your walk-in-closet and the second to your bathroom. Frank and I decided to spoil you a little and fill your closet with some shoes and clothes, but if you don't like them you don't have to wear them," Gabriella explained, smiling proudly.
Jasmine looked at the woman as if she'd grown a second head and quickly made her way towards the closet to take a look at her new stuff. Her eyes grew wide when she realized the 'some' Gabriella was talking about, actually meant a large heap of new clothes.
There, in front of her, stood approximately 30 pair of different shoes, from flats to high heels. Two piles of new shirts and blouses, ten pair of new jeans, skirts, dresses and even underwear. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. Damn, the people knew how to go overboard.
"Oh," she breathed as she let her eyes wander around the room. She quickly turned around when she heard Gabriella stepping into the room and met her gaze. "This is too much. I can't accept any of this," she said, shaking her head.
"You can and you will. Living with the Wood family means being a part of the family and I think you could use a welcome present. It's rude not to accept a gift, Jazzy," the woman smiled as she patted her on the back. Jasmine gritted her teeth and tried to stay still as a statue. She didn't want to come off as a rude person yet again, but she didn't like to be touched by strangers. No matter what their intentions were. These people seemed to keep pushing her boundaries. It was going to be a long year.