It took me about an hour to finally fall asleep. The fact that Augustine was sleeping just beyond my wall kept me up. My crush on him was growing by the second and I could hardly keep my thoughts away from him. Despite knowing that I was not in any position for a relationship, I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought of me the whole time. The look in his eyes when he met my eyes spoke things that I knew would completely floor me and melt my heart to a puddle while his actions proved none. He just behaved like a nice human being. No more no less.
I woke up the next morning around seven. When I stepped out of my room to drink water, I heard Romeo in the kitchen making breakfast and singing his Radha on the dance floor song.
“Morning, Miss Decent!” He smiled when he saw me.
I smiled back. “Morning, King. What’s that song you’re always singing?”
“An interesting number from an Indian movie.” He explained grandly and began bobbing his bushy head again as he poured coffee into a mug. “Radha on the dance floor. Radha likes to party. Radha likes to move that sexy Radha body. I only know those lines.” He looked up to me with a cheeky smile as he set the coffee pot back on the counter and pushed the coffee mug toward me.
We sat down together at the counter to have breakfast.
“These are amazing pancakes,” I said as I munched on it.
“My specialty.” He flashed a smiled in return with a mouthful. “Do you have any idea at what time August returned last night?”
“Just before 1 o’clock.”
His eyebrows pulled together. “That was pretty late.”
“When does he usually return?”
“Eleven. Eleven thirty. I fell asleep pretty early last night. He probably fought more than one match again.” Romeo huffed disapprovingly as he scowled toward his brother’s room. “He never listens. Did you see him at night?”
“How bad did he look?”
“He had a few bruises on his face and we pressed icepack on his shoulder. He seems to look okay though.”
Without another word, Romeo drank his coffee. “Hmm.”
August emerged from his room a few minutes later wearing only his pajama, eyes groggy and his hair disheveled. Running a hand through the back of his head, he yawned and turned his body left and right to loosen up. Breathing deeply, he came and sat on a stool right next to me.
“Morning, everyone. Romeo, pour me a glass of water.”
Romeo did and when he handed it to Augustine, he asked. “How many matches did you fight last night?”
“Not much,” Augustine replied and gulped down its contents.
“Doesn’t look like not much to me.”
“Four,” Augustine said and the look on Romeo’s face morphed in a way like he had tasted bile.
“Wha. . . I . . .” He spluttered incoherently for a moment there. It was clear that he wanted to snap at his brother yet, he couldn’t quite do it. “August, I keep telling you that once is enough. Four?!”
“The first one was a knockout and I finished it pretty quick so, let’s just call it warm up. The second match went as normal. The last two were open challenges and you know your brother never run.” Augustine smiled at him easily and Romeo only frowned back.
“Still. I don’t want you to. . .” Romeo broke off, turning his face to the floor, guilt in his eyes. “You don’t even let me work. Like, I’m not a kid anymore.”
“Yeah, you are. Your job is to study, keep your room clean, do your laundry, mow the lawn, go out with your friends and come back home in time. That’s more than enough. If I find that you’re working somewhere, I’ll cut the Wi-Fi.” Augustine threatened in a groggy, morning voice.
“Yeah, right.” Romeo sighed and rolled his eyes. Apparently, his brother’s words were the law in the house.
“Come and make yourself useful by giving me a back massage.” Augustine grinned at him and stifling a smile, Romeo came forward.
Arizona woke up a few minutes later. We heard her call for Romeo from the stairs so I went to get her. She sat on the counter and in all excitement, joined Romeo in massaging Augustine’s arms and shoulders.
“Ari, grab at the roots of my hair and pull hard,” Augustine instructed.
Ari dug her fingers into his grabbed his hair, clutched it and pulled with all her might. “Like this?”
“Yeah. Like that.” He laughed in return. “Pull again.”
“Like this?” Ari gritted her teeth and yanked his hair over and over again, causing the rest of us to laugh.
He turned his face to face me. The happiness was crystal clear in his gleaming green eyes.
With a sleepy, amused smile, he asked me. “What about you, gorgeous? Did you sleep well?”
I felt my face instantly glow up to a wide smile. “Yeah. I did.”
“Do you have anything important to do today?”
“We usually go out at the beach on Sundays. Care to join us?”
Even the kitchen counter would be confident enough to swear that I love spending time with this family as I found myself smiling again. “Yeah. Sure. But, can I call a friend?”
“Sure. Marlon’s coming too.”
I called Jessica. I was sure that even she hadn’t been to the beach before. She agreed to come with me without hesitation. In fact, she was excited. So far, I had made more friends than she did because I volunteered for the circle in the first place and the seniors kept introducing me to new people. Jessica was yet to find more friends. I told her to bring along a pair of bikinis for me too, telling her that I had kept them in my drawer along with my undergarments.
During the time, we waited for our friends, we packed up sandwiches, sodas and some other snacks to eat there at the beach. I braided Ari’s hair forming a crown on her head, decorated it with red and yellow flowers clips at one side and left tiny strands of hair falling over her face. She looked like the prettiest angel and when I led her to the mirror attached to her closet after changing her into a floral, red bikini top and a matching mini skirt, she liked what she saw and was so pleased with it that she could hardly breathe a word.
“I love my hair!” She gasped adorably, cupping her face in her own small hands in awe. “It’s like. . . It’s like a hair-tiara!”
“Yeah!” I smiled back at her into the mirror. “You’re the prettiest girl on this whole universe.”
She turned to me and wrapped her little arms around me into a warm, tender hug. “I love you, Sophia. I wish you could stay with us forever. Then, I can go to school with this hair.”
“Aww. I love you too, Ari. And one day, maybe I’ll come around early and make this hair for you before school.”
She pulled back and looking up to me with her warm green eyes, sparkling like stars in pure delight, she nodded vigorously, “Yeah.”
I took her hand and we went downstairs to show off her outfit and hair to Augustine and Romeo. On the way, I dabbed a bit of my lip gloss on her cute, plumpy lips, calling it the miss world make-up, and it immediately skyrocketed her excitement. She couldn’t wait even a fraction of a second to showcase her appearance to her brothers as she skipped beside me down the stairs.
Marlon had also arrived when we went downstairs and all the three boys whistled, clapped and hooted when I presented Miss World Arizona Urban to them.
“Whoa whoa whoaaaa!!!” Marlon squealed and acted like he was tumbling down from the couch he was sitting on. “Who is this beautiful lady?!”
Arizona beamed bashfully and she twirled when I signaled her to with my forefinger.
“Lemme go get the camera. Stay there, Princess.” Augustine said and ran into his room.
One minute later, he appeared with a camera in hand and got down on his needs in front of Ari to capture the moment. Ari stood there with the widest, giddiest smile ever, a tinge of pink brushed across her cheeks. Augustine clicked some and when he prompted her to pull her poses, she fully blushed and came running to me, wrapping her arms around my knees and hiding her face against my legs.
My heart fluttered within me at her adorableness and I picked her up in my arms.
“The two of you sit down on the couch,” Augustine instructed, ready to take some more pictures.
I settled down on the single couch, Ari on my lap. She eventually smiled into the camera like she had done it all her life and the time came for me to start blushing instead. I couldn’t do it. To watch him staring right into my eyes and taking our picture. Getting nervous, my eyes dropped to the floor and my teeth sunk into my bottom lip.
“This way, Gorgeous.” I heard Augustine’s calm voice prompt me and my eyes darted up to look at him in response.
His lips curled ever so slightly to a breezy smile as he met my eyes and my face simply broke up to a wide smile. I laughed and he chuckled too at how nervous I was being. I don’t know what it is about him but, he could get me to smile so easily for literally no reason.
“Can Sophia stay with us forever?” Ari asked Augustine from my lap.
Stumped at the question, I lost my smile.
Without missing a beat, Augustine answered while still taking our picture. “Well, that’s up to Sophia. She can stay as long as she wants.”
“Can you stay? Please?” Ari turned to me and peered into my eyes with the gentlest eyes ever.
“Uhh. . . About that.” I opened my mouth and frowned, hunting for an answer.
Augustine chuckled at my reaction and answered for me. “Sophia still has to go to college, Princess. But, she’ll be here every Saturday.”
“But, I want her to stay all the time.”
“She’ll see you every day after school.” He stood up from the floor.
“No. I want to go to school with this hair.” Ari persisted. “I like it when Sophia tells me stories and make my hair and dress me up and. . . I want a mommy like Sophia.” She dropped and suddenly my lungs seemed to crash within me.
My jaw dropped and I gaped at Augustine. Even he, Marlon, Romeo, every one of us pretty much looked the same. Speechless. Dumbfounded. Even sorry. Coming from a girl who had never had someone to call her mom.
“Well. . .. that’s a nice way to put it.” Augustine managed with a tinge of sadness in his voice, an ashen look on his face, then walked inside his room again.
Looking at one another, Marlon, Romeo and I exchanged quick, nervous smiles to one another. Just around that time, we heard a car park outside the house. Sure that it would be Jessica, I went to open the door. We welcomed her in. Besides my bikini, she had brought me a pair of shorts and a tank top too. I went inside my room to change and no sooner after that, we loaded the food, some more things like a mat to sit or lie down on, folded chairs and with two of Sonya’s kids, Camilla (seven) and Leon (ten), we left the house.
Ari definitely loved her hair-stylist too much now, she wanted me with her in Augustine’s car. So, I sat with her in the backseat. We left Jessica’s car at the house and she accompanied Marlon with Camilla and Leon at the back seat. And together, we headed for the beach.