Acceptance

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Chapter Twenty-nine

[ETHAN]

I stirred on the bed, tightening my grip on Andrew. He mumbled into my chest in surprise before snuggling in. I felt the side of my lips twitch in a smile. I’ve really missed holding Andrew like this.

Andrew shivered, stirring in my arms. I let my eyes open partway to look at him. Apparently, we’d kicked the covers off ourselves in the middle of the night and had settled with cuddling to create much-needed heat. I felt Andrew shiver again making me put my thigh over his as I rubbed against his back to create warmth. Andrew relaxed into my chest, falling back into uninterrupted sleep.

I tried to go back to sleep, but my body wasn’t in agreement. I held Andrew as I looked into the darkness of our room. It was still very early in the morning.

A smile broke out on my lips as I recalled yesterday.

Andrew loves me. The reality really hadn’t hit me fully. I wasn’t sure I’ll ever get used to the reality. The idea of him loving me the same way I loved him made my heart swoon and my body heat up. I wasn’t sure if this was what people called being lovesick but it was a lovely feeling, especially when it was reciprocated.

I was awake till the sun came up, dozing off from time to time. When I was fully awake I’d idly exam Andrew’s slim form, running a hand through his hair as he slept.

I was pulled out of my half sleep when I heard clawing at the door. I looked straight at it, wanting to make sure I’d heard right. The sound of clawing came up again, only that it was followed by whining and a small bark this time.

I peeled Andrew off me gently before sitting up. Roxanne must want to be let outside. My gaze wandered to the ticking clock on the wall to find out it was about past six in the morning. I got up, pulling on a pair of joggers and wiggling myself into a loose shirt before combing my fingers through my hair and restraining it with a rubber band. I shoved my phone into my pocket after that, before heading to open the bedroom’s door.

Roxanne pushed her way into the room when I unlocked it. She sniffed my bare feet before licking my toes. I chuckled, pulling my feet away from her. I watched her stretch out before giving a dog yawn.

“Do you want to go out, girl?” I asked, watching as she walked around in a circle before barking. I took that as a yes, leading her to the front door. I slipped my feet into a pair of flip-flops before writing a hasty note stating that I was stepping out with Roxanne. I opened the front door afterward, letting her walk out first.

I took in a breath of air as Roxanne ran out towards the nearby flower bed. I looked out into the compound, taking in a breath of fresh air before heading down the stairs. The chickens were already active, moving about and clucking in their usual manner. I walked into the small shed that housed the chickens, taking the plain red dog leash from where it hung on the wall.

I met Roxanne outside by the shed’s entrance when I walked out. She jumped on me playfully before running out into the compound.

“Are you up for a walk?” I asked when she ran back towards me, probably confused at the fact that I hadn’t attempted to chase after her.

She sat down with her tongue hanging before barking in what I took as agreement. I squatted, attaching her leash to her simple collar. I got up, tugging at the rope to instruct her to follow.

We walked up my favorite path, reaching the empty summer home I used to smoke behind during my early months here.

I stopped in my tracks abruptly, making Roxanne do the same. I guided her towards the summer house as she moved as far as her leash could let her excitedly. It’s been a while since I’ve been there.

I bent down beside Roxanne to detach the leash from her collar. She rushed towards the stream afterward, barking as she watched broken twigs and dead leaves pass by on its current. I smiled at her before heading to my spot against the wall. I sat down on the worn out cement stairs, staring out into the path as Roxanne continued to amuse herself.

My mind wondered to yesterday’s events for probably the thousandth time today. I frowned realizing I’d have to make time to call my mother.

Is now too early? I asked myself as I felt the pocket of my joggers for my phone. I pulled it out, swiping the screen to unlock it. It was about past seven in the morning now. I wasn’t so sure if my mother would be awake at the moment.

I decided to try to reach her, pressing the dial button before watching it ring.

“Ethan?” A surprised voice said on the third ring. “You’ve been ignoring my calls and you’re calling me now?” the voice continued, making me bite my lip in guilt. I’d been ignoring every call and email she directed my way. They’d just made me feel depressed by reminding me that I’d have to leave Andrew eventually. But I didn’t have to do that now and that was why I had called.

“Listen,” I started, holding the phone to my ear as I looked down at the dirt floor, “I need to tell you something.”

The voice at the other end remained silent for a while before my mother found her voice again. “If it’s about the schools, I want to let you know that I’ve made a list. I’ll send it to your email in a while-”

“That’s the thing,” I started, cutting her short, “I don’t want to leave here.” I finished, looking out at the stream. Roxanne was presently inspecting what looked like a dead fish. My brows wrinkled in sudden worry before remembering that Roxanne was spoilt to a certain level that she refused to eat road kill.

“What, you want to stay?” I heard my mother ask in clear confusion. I nodded before sighing when I remembered that she could not actually see me.

“Yeah,” I started, biting my bottom lip. “Yeah, I want to stay.” I just realized that I and my mother were having our first full conversation without being bitter or cussing at each other. She was actually listening to me, and I wasn’t trying to intentionally get on her nerves.

“Is there a reason? I mean apart from rebellion that is,” she said earning a low chuckle from the both of us. I couldn’t help feeling this was nice, just talking without arguing or fighting.

“Yeah,” I started wondering how I was going to tell her I was in love with Andrew. I never saw the need to introduce any of my former love interests to my mother and she’s always voiced her opinion concerning how much she hated them when she found out.

“I’m in love,” I started, pausing to see if my mother had anything to say. I was waiting for her to call me out on being corny but I continued when she didn’t utter a word. “I’m in love with your husband’s nephew.”

God. Could I sound any more like a TV drama?

The other line stayed quiet for a while before my mother spoke. “Is this reciprocated?” she asked, a tone of worry tinting her words. I smiled at that. I hadn’t quite gotten over the fact that Andrew loved me as well.

“Yeah,” I started, looking towards the stream to find Roxanne still tearing apart and I inspecting the fish. “Yeah, very much.”

“I really don’t know what to say to that. Are you sure? You can’t throw away your life just because you think you’re in love—”

“I am. This isn’t infatuation,” I said, picking at the loose strings on my joggers. I set my jaw, forcing myself not to lash out at her. The conversation was going smoothly and I didn’t want to sever that. “And if you’re worried about the school here not being great, it is. I like it here actually.”

I heard a sigh from the other side of the line. “I never actually thought this day would come, you’re so bitter I thought it would never happen.”

“I was bitter,” I said, correcting her before letting out a low laugh. “Besides, you shouldn’t be the one calling people out on being bitter You’re just as bad,” I said, smiling as Roxanne ran up to lay beside the concrete stairs.

“I agree, I’m happy you didn’t turn out the same way,” she said as silence took over.

“Mother,” I started, wondering if the question I was about to ask was a safe zone. “Did you ever love my Dad?” I finally asked, waiting for a response. I soon heard a sigh from the other end of the line.

“Of course,” she started, her voice sounding choked, “he still has my heart in his death.”

Her words made eyes cloud with unshed tears. We’ve never spoken about my father after he died and I just assumed she never cared for him when she started dating again.

“Then why did you marry so many times? Why did you marry Andrew’s Uncle? Do you love him?” I asked, pouring out the stream of questions I’ve wanted to ask for a while. I wondered if she ever loved the men she’d been with or just married them for easy money.

“I married because we needed someone to take care of us - we still need someone to take care of us. You know I’d never really worked a day in my life and marrying someone who could take care of us seemed like the easiest solution. The marriages fell apart quickly because I was not emotionally involved, I couldn’t just be,” she confessed, making me sniffle.

“What about your new husband? Do you love him?” I asked, repeating the question she hadn’t answered.

“I don’t,” she stated plainly as the line went silent. “Anyway, since you insist that you’re not transferring schools I better terminate the admissions.”

“Yeah...” I trailed not knowing what to say. It was depressing to know she was not truly happy in her marriage. I wanted to say something about it but my mother was known for being headstrong and not taking any form advice.

“Ethan,” my mother called, earning my attention.

“Hmm,” I hummed to let her know she had it.

“Can we stay like this? I mean our relationship. Can it be fight free? I’ve rarely enjoyed a normal mother and son relationship with you,” my mother said, making me look down at the floor in guilt. I’ve done nothing to try and fix the relationship.

“Of course,” I muttered in reply.

“Goodbye then,” my mother said earning a similar reply from me before she cut the line.

I tucked my phone into my pocket before reaching down to pat Roxanne’s head. She stuck out her tongue, closing her eyes as I ran my hand through her fur. Her fur was wet, evidence that she’d been in the water.

I attached the leash back to Roxanne’s collar before getting up and leaving her behind me. We got to the cabin in a while, pausing once in a while when Roxanne found something interesting to sniff at.

I undid the leash from Roxanne’s collar letting her free before I headed into the cabin. Devein was up already, watching TV in her Pajamas.

“Has Andrew seen you?” I asked, knowing that Andrew didn’t like Devien waking up and heading to watch TV first.

“No,” Devien said, looking up at him. “Don’t tell him, please!”

I laughed walking up to to the sofa she was sitting on to ruffle her blonde hair. “I won’t, just promise to be up and going in thirty minutes.”

“I will,” Devien said before beaming up at me. I returned the smile before heading into the hallway. I walked into Andrew and I’s room to find Andrew sitting up on the bed with the covers wrapped around him. He had his tablet in his good hand and seemed to be talking to someone.

“Ethan,” he said with a smile as he looked up at me. I returned it but raised my brow at him when he dropped his tablet on his laps to tap the space beside him.

“My mother wants to talk to you,” he said in explanation. I uttered a small ‘Oh’ before heading over to sit beside him. I was soon met with the smiling face of Andrew’s mother on the tablet’s screen. I smiled down at her, muttering a greeting.

“It’s nice to see you too Ethan,” she said, turning her full attention to me. “I can’t believe I’m officially being introduced to Andrew’s boyfriend.”

My face colored at her words. So, Andrew told his mum.

I heard a low chuckle that brought me out of my daze. Andrew’s mother seemed to find my embarrassment amusing.

“I didn’t write you off as shy when I first met you,” Andrew’s mum said in a teasing voice. I could feel my face heat up all over again, making her victim to another set of chuckles. I looked down at my laps not knowing what to do as Andrew’s mum had her laugh.

“Don’t worry,” I heard Andrew say as he placed his head on my shoulder, “my mum thinks it’s her mission to tease everyone.”

“Don’t flirt in front of me,” Andrew’s mum said making Andrew roll his eyes. We spoke to his mum for a while. Indulging in conversation about mundane things from how Andrew was doing to my school work.

“Call me soon, okay?” Andrew’s mum directed at him before looking towards me with a smile. “It was nice talking to you. Please take care of Andrew for me, he forgets to do it himself sometimes.”

Andrew snorted at the comment, making me laugh.

“Goodbye mother,” Andrew said, ending the video call before his mum could protest. He sighed dramatically afterward, going on a rant about how clingy his mother was.

“I don’t know. I really like her,” I confessed as I put a hand on his shoulder to hug him to myself.

“Well that’s a good thing because I don’t think she’d like you if you shared my views about her,” Andrew said earning a chuckle from me. Silence followed suit and we sat there comfortable in it as we held on to each other.

“I’ve talked to my mother,” I started as I ran my hand down Andrew’s shoulder. “We didn’t fight surprisingly.”

“So, she’s okay with it?” he asked, raising his head from my shoulder. I smiled at him, nodding in reply as I watched a huge smile brake across his lips.

“So we’re officially together?” he asked, the question making my heartstrings thug.

“Yes...” I trailed in a shaky voice. I don’t know why we were being so traditional and seeking our parents’ approval and the like, but the fact that they had our backs was satisfying. There was a special kind of joy that came with receiving any form of acceptance.

“Good,” Andrew said, leaning in to peck my cheek. “Sorry I can’t kiss you properly, I haven’t gotten around to brushing my teeth.”

I chuckled, returning the gesture by pecking his cheek. I could always get a proper kiss later.

Besides. I thought with a smile. We’re officially partners.

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