Strung

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Chapter 5. - Family

The second half of the concert was just as incredible as the first - except this time, when I thought I saw Lukas LaBelle looking at me, I didn’t doubt myself.

If Ginger was here, she would have said that I was showing off for him, dancing a little bigger, whipping my hair around a little more, being just a little extra to make sure I was standing out of the crowd. And she wouldn’t have been wrong… I was trying my best to catch his eye out of the twenty thousand other people surrounding me.

But at the end of the night, we gathered our things, and as promised, Shai and Arielle drove me home. I thanked them for an amazing night, and locked myself into my empty apartment, with my ears still ringing, my heart still pounding, and the goofiest smile on my face.

And as for the picture… I didn’t look at it. I didn’t have the heart to. I felt too full of joy and excitement to ruin it by coming face to face with the fact that I was just like all their other fans. Nothing special, just one girl out of twenty thousand others there tonight.


When I was still living at home, Saturday used to be our family day.

My mother, who was a famous romance novelist always had deadlines for Monday mornings, so she would spend Sundays locked up in her study, typing away on her computer. My father owned a consultation company, and would spend the last day of the weekend preparing for the clients ahead. I also had an older brother, who used to sneak away on Sundays to see one of his girlfriends - or perhaps, more than one on a busy weekend - and later on when he went off to college, he would spend that day on campus. Probably doing the same thing...

For me, Sunday used to be a day for art - where I could spend the day in my dad’s garage, and paint or build pieces to my heart’s content.

All in all, Saturday used be my day of family time. And growing up, that didn’t change.

My parents had us all over for breakfast - with my mom making pancakes, my dad manning the bacon, and my brother and I fumbling over the omelett. “Put some spinach in it!” I instructed, handing him a bowl of freshly washed baby spinach.

“London, I’m not a damn rabbit.” Fitz grumbled, but tossed it in the pan anyways.

“Stop bickering, children.” Our mom said in her soothing voice, squeezing us together in a hug. I sighed, and Fitz rolled his eyes. “And eat more vegetables, Fitzwilliam. I want to make sure you have your proper vitamin consumption up in the city.”

My brother, Fitzwilliam Edward Grey, was named after my mother’s favorite literary heroes. Fitzwilliam from Pride and Prejudice - better known as Mr. Darcy - and Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre. Yup. She was a hopeless romantic at heart.

“Malibu hardly counts as the city, mom.” My brother shot back, but put an extra handful of spinach in the omelett. “How is the new book coming along?”

Mom smiled. “It’s nearly finished! I actually only need to work on the beginning a bit more, and then I’ll send it in to my publisher. It should be out within three months, I’d say.” Then, she frowned. “It’s a bigger issue that I’m out of ideas for my next one.”

“Is it going to be another old one?” Fitz asked. Our mother was most known for her work in historical romance, mostly set - you guessed it - back in England. Adelaide Grey spent four years studying abroad in Great Britain, and has been so inspired by the culture, that was mostly what she wrote about.

Except this time, she shook her head. “I guess the publisher is tired of doing the same old thing. They want me to work on something more contemporary, just to test out the waters - something set in today’s day and age. But I haven’t got a clue what romance is like in twenty-first century America!”

Fitz rolled his eyes. “Well, I can tell you stories for days. Just grab your recorder!” He joked.

But my mother’s eyes were on me. “You’re very quiet.” She observed, as I took out the plates and silverware for everyone, and begun to set up.

I shrugged. “There’s nothing to tell, mom. You know I don’t have a love life.”

“And why is that, dear?” She asked, leaning against the counter. Her tone wasn’t accusatory or mean, just simply curious. As an author, she was fascinated with the psychology of romance, and since she understood the way people thought, her stories were that much more believable. Even if they often incorporated magical forces…

“Mom, because I’m working.” I gave her the same old answer she’s been getting since high school. “I don’t have time for relationships.”

“Callie is working.” Mom pointed out. “And God knows she still has the time.”

Yes, well, my best friend was nearly six foot tall, with legs that went on for miles, curves, and gorgeous floating blonde hair and flawless skin. And I was the epitome of awkward.

“Leave her be, mom.” Fitz cut in, always the protective big brother. Then, he added: “She’s saving herself for that guitarist. Am I right?”

I felt my cheeks heat at that comment, and I had to make sure to keep my head down so my brother couldn’t see the fact that I was blushing.

“She’s not saving herself, don’t be ridiculous!” Mom chimed in, because, she knew I wasn’t really saving myself - saving myself- thanks to a few moments of weakness and a bottle of wine, where I told my own mother about losing my virginity. It wasn’t my finest moment, sure, but Adelaide Grey was also very good about getting under people’s skin. “Do you find it difficult to find a suitable man in today’s society?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know, mom. I guess.”

“Or do you think it has to do with the high standards you set in your head, based on an imaginary man you’ve made up?” She went on.

“Lukas LaBelle is very real.” I pointed out.

Mom nodded. “Of course he is, darling. But you’ve never met him.”

I swallowed, but kept my head down, as she went on.

“For all you know he could be this awful person, who treats everyone around him poorly. He could secretly have very bad hygiene - you know like many celebrities are said to do.” I had to bite down on my lip to keep from pointing out that he, in fact, smells incredible. “Or-” Mom continued. “-he could just be cocky and rude, and use women as toys.”

Now that I couldn’t contradict. There were many stories about Lukas breaking hearts, and dating a horde of girls. There were pictures of him with groupies, who later sold their one-night-stands to gossip sites. He was known to be a ladies man - just like the rest of the band. Except, of course, for Brian, who was married.

And based on the few interactions I’ve had with him, he didn’t seem particularly shy either.

“And let’s be realistic here for a moment.” My mother went on, twisting the knife. “The chances of you ever meeting this boy in real life, are insignificant. But yet you’ve compared every suitor that ever showed interest in you, to your celebrity crush.”

“Adele, stop torturing her.” My father, Richard Grey, chose that moment to enter the kitchen.

“No, Rich, she needs to hear this.” Mom stood up now, coming to stand in front of me. I could no longer avoid looking at her now as she spoke. “Your little obsession was cute and even understandable as a teenager, but as an adult…” She trailed off. “You need to be more realistic.”

I sighed. “It’s not like that, mom.” I started, although, it was kind of like that. “It’s not like I’m staying away from boys just so I could one day marry Lukas, or anything. I just haven’t found any guys who are more interesting to me than my art. And Hazmat… Well, I just like the band, that’s all.”

“So you are saying, that if this Lukas character were to walk through the door right now, you wouldn’t be opposed to marrying him?”

I huffed. “Not until he learned my name.” I murmured, then followed my family into the dining room.

I could see that my mother was still full of questions and ideas, but my dad put a stop to it by saying: “Enough about that boy. Let’s enjoy a nice breakfast, shall we?”

And with the subject finally turned away from me and my non-existent love life, I did enjoy the family breakfast.


We were walking out of my parents’ house when Fitz stepped closer, and leaned down to whisper to me, so my mother - who was still by the door, waiting - couldn’t overhear. “Not to sound like mom, but you could’ve told her about actually meeting him, you know. I would’ve loved to see the shock on her face!”

I froze, and glanced up at my brother. “How do you know?”

But Fitz just laughed and rolled his eyes. “I know everything, little sister. Or haven’t you learned that already?!”

I had to focus on my breathing to get my heartrate under control. If he told mom… I would never hear the end of it! Plus, I’d have to come clean about the fact that although Lukas Labelle was beautiful, he was also kind of cocky, and just not as incredible and romantic as I imagined.

And he couldn’t remember my name!

“Also, I follow you on social media, you know.” Fitz added, laughing.

Of course he did… “Well, I went to a concert. Nothing really happened.” I admitted.

“You know, I also follow your friend Arielle…” Fitz went on. “And she posted a picture of you posing with the band. Backstage.”

I felt his gaze on me, staring, waiting for my reaction. Slowly, I turned to him, and smiled - to the best of my ability. “Like I said. Nothing really happened.”

As if in slow motion, Fitz nodded. “Riiight.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “So this band you’ve been pining over longer than I remember, invited you backstage, and it was so insignificant that you didn’t think to mention it over family breakfast while our mother grilled you over the very same band.”

“I guess it wasn’t all that interesting.”

Fitz huffed. “You’re such a little liar, Londie.” Then, just when I thought I was finally going to get rid of him, he said. “Thankfully, after knowing you your whole life, I can tell when you’re bullshitting.” He opened my door for me, and I slid in behind the wheel. “And so can mom.”

And with that, my door closed, and he was off doing whatever it was that my brother did for the rest of his weekend.

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