“Eden, sweetie, come downstairs and meet our new neighbors” My mother calls from downstairs sounding nice for once but I know it’s an act.
“Coming!” I yell, checking my braces for the 10th time since I got them earlier.
Now I have something else to make me look like a total freak as if acne wasn’t enough. Staring at myself in the mirror, I try to ignore the small red dot on my forehead and chin. I stare at the Hazel eyed girl looking back at me trying to find something remotely beautiful about myself. Before heading downstairs, I brush my dark brown wavy hair once more before accepting the fact that my hair has a vendetta against me.
I usually don’t like meeting my mother’s friends because I’m shy and would rather stay in my room while some man tries to get my mother to like him straight to the bedroom, but she has already told me twice that she wants me to meet our new neighbors so I have too. She usually wouldn’t include me and if she called me down it was only to criticize me or make me feel ugly. So what’s so special about them anyways besides the fact they have money? From the brief back story, she gave me this morning, one of them is 23 and the other is 25, both are extremely rich from some type of family business. My mother has money, but it’s mostly from the divorce so she is always searching for another source to fund her lifestyle. My dad pays child support and most of the money goes to her or my schooling. If I want something, she buys it though, but only to make up for how horrid she is.
As I’m coming down, I see the backs of two men standing in front of my mom who has on her tiny tennis dress even though she doesn’t play tennis anymore. My stomach knots a little in anticipation as the presence of the two men seem strong and intimidating especially to a 15-year-old.
“Oh there you are sweet” I walk around the men and stand by her side letting her wrap her arm around my shoulders.
“Sweetie, you should have brushed your hair.” She tucks a lock of my hair behind my ear and I pull away.
“I did” I mumble, already hoping this ends quickly. I hesitate to look up, not really one for making eye awkward eye contact.
“Eden, this is Harper and Jasper King. They just moved next door. This is my daughter Eden. She is 15.”
I extend my hand “Nice to meet you.”
I look down not wanting them to see my braces. Both men are like something off of an episode of Gossip Girl. Both tall, handsome, and too damn young for my mother. Both equally make me feel like a creature coming from her cave. Harper and Jasper look almost the same, but Harper’s hair is a little long and messy, whereas Jasper’s is smoothed back. Both have green eyes, but Jasper’s seemed darker. His whole vibe screams mean and hard. I can tell he is the older brother and more uptight than Harper, whose smile has left yet.
“Hello, Eden, it’s very nice to meet you.” Harper says flashing me a model smile.
I look over at Jasper and as he shakes my hand, he doesn’t really smile. His strong domineering eyes go from my eyes down to my mouth looking at my braces. My cheeks heat up and I turn red under his intense stare. Unfortunately, my mom notices.
“Oh Eden, do you have a little crush on Jasper?” she pinches my cheeks and I push her hand away making her frown.
“Mom, stop” I roll my eyes and when her expression changes, I know I’ve crossed the line.
“Why don’t you two go into the kitchen and get a drink?” She smiles at the men. “Eden, can I talk to you for a moment?” Her sweet voice fooling everyone but me.
I don’t say anything, I just follow her. I look towards the kitchen and Jasper is looking right at me. I can’t read his expression, but I don’t break eye contact until he is out of view. My mom pulls me into her office and when she closes the door, she is the mom I know and hate.
“Eden, do you want to ruin my chances of getting a great man? Your father let us for Christ sake. Do you want me to be lonely and miserable?” Always playing the victim.
The reason she can’t get a man is that eventually, they become tired of her drunken antics.
“No, ma’am.” I look down and she grabs my jaw hard forcing me to look up at her.
“Then stop acting like a little brat!” The grip on my jaw makes inside of my lip press against my new braces and I taste a tinge of blood as they cut my mouth.
“I’m sorry.” Tears threaten to spill over, but I know it’ll only make it worse.
“You definitely are and you better not start crying, Its pathetic.” She pushes my face away “Now get into that kitchen and act right.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I nod and follow her out of the office and back into the kitchen.
When we walk in whatever the two brothers were talking about stops and Harper smiles and begins complimenting my mom on the lovely house, but again Jasper doesn’t say anything. I sit down on a bar stool next to him and he turns towards me.
“You know, I had braces at your age.” his expression still blank and hard but I guess that’s just his personality.
“They suck. I look like a freak.” I frown and suddenly my mom is in front of me smiling sweetly.
“Here honey, here are some ice chips for your mouth. I know those braces are uncomfortable.”
I take the cup and slip some ice into my mouth. This is my mom’s routine, she hurts me then heals me. Ever since my dad left her years ago she has taken out her frustrations on me. Jasper gives Harper a look causing Harper to look at me, smiling. Only this is, it doesn’t reach his eyes. I see a glimpse of sorrow in them for some reason.
As I suck on the ice, Jasper just sits next to me. I peek over at him a view times taking in his features over and over.
“Don’t you want to go out by the pool with your brother and my mom?” I ask as he drinks his bottle of water instead of the alcohol my mom offered.
“No, I’m not really interested in your mother if you don’t mind me saying. I’m just here to be polite.”
Finally, someone who can see through her facade.
“Oh, Well I guess that’s okay. Your brother seems smitten by her though.”
Jasper smirks. “What 15-year-old says smitten?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I just have a vivid vocabulary. I like to read.”
“What’s your favorite book right now?” Jasper turns in his chair to face me.
“Well, in class we are reading Tuesdays with Morrie. Well, I’ve read all of it already. It’s good.” I slip another piece of ice in my mouth frowning at my sore gums.
“I hope we didn’t get you into trouble” His words make my stomach knot and I don’t know what to say.
“Um no. What makes you think that?”
“No reason. I just notice that your jaw is really red. Sort of like someone grabbed it a little too hard. Might have caused your gums to rub against your braces” My heartbeat becomes audible in my ears as I panic. Who the heck is this guy, CSI?
“No one grabbed me. I’m fine.” I force a smile and he nods.
I wanted so badly to scream out the truth, but I knew it wouldn’t help me. It would just make things worse. Jasper is about to say something my mom and Harper walk back in. My mom’s eyes fall on me sensing the tension.
“Oh, Jasper you didn’t have to sit in here with boring old Eden.”
“I’m fine. Eden suggested that I join you, but I decided to stay in.” I see the flicker in my mom’s expression and I know when they leave I’m going to get it.
“Oh okay then. Eden, you can go back to your room now. I know you don’t want to be down here with the grown-ups.”
I nod and walk off but not before Jasper stops me. “It was nice to meet you, Eden.”
I smile softly and walk off.
I sit in my room for an hour waiting to hear the front door close and when it does, I just sit on my bed and wait. I look over at the window. It’s facing Harper and Jasper’s house. I focus my attention on the palm tree by an upstairs window as I hear my mother’s footsteps come up the marble stairs. I know by now she is drunk so I know it’s going to be bad. She comes and slams my bedroom door behind her. Her hand immediately flies back before coming at my face hard. The sting of the back of her hand burns as tears flare up in my eyes.
“Dammit Eden, why couldn’t you act right! Why would Jasper King want to sit with you. You are an ugly disgrace!” I hold my face crying as the smell of alcohol oozes off of her.
I hold my face as she steps up and smooths my hair back. “No man will ever want you, Eden.”
And with that, she walks out. I get up closing my bedroom door. As I’m walking to my bathroom I swear I see someone move across the window next door. I look over at the upstairs window and no one is there. Slowly, I close the blinds before lying down.
The next morning when I leave the house to get to the bus stop, Jasper is on the porch. I wave lightly and he nods once. Harper comes out of the house and sees me.
“Good morning, Eden.”
“Morning” I say picking at my uniform skirt.
Thank my mother for sending me to a Catholic school even though we’re not even Catholic. We don’t even go to church. She just wants to impress people with her false interpretation of religion. Don’t get me wrong, we have a bible, but she only uses it as a coaster for her glass of Jack Daniels. Amen to that I guess. Harper comes off his porch and over to me.
“Eden, it was very nice meeting you yesterday.”
“Yeah, it was nice meeting you too” I nod. “Um, are you going to date my mom?”
I can’t help but want to know.
Harper smile and shakes his head “No, she is a lovely woman, but not quite my type.”
“Okay.” I turn and the sunlight hits my cheek revealing the light bruise on my jaw.
“Eden, who did this to you?” he runs his finger across my jaw. His touch awakens something in me that not every 15 year old would normally feel. I shake my head nervously
“No one.” I push his hand away.
Behind him, I see Jasper stand up on the porch and I assume he didn’t share his concerns with his brother yesterday.
“Harper, your phone is ringing.” Jasper yells freeing me from almost being interrogated.
Harper turns to say something and I take the chance to walk away. He calls my name but I ignore him only looking back once.
I can’t tell anyone. I won’t.
When I get home from school, I am greeted by my mother.
“Hi, Eden, how was school and practice?”
“It was okay.” I sit my book bag and Lacrosse stuff by the staircase pulling my phone from my pocket.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at yoga?” I mumble.
She comes from the kitchen, smiling. “Yes, but Harper called and said he wanted to have dinner with us so I’m going to cook.”
She bounces around the kitchen, pulling out different plates. I am content with this side of my mom. When she is so consumed by a man, she is actually okay. She cooks and bakes like a normal mom until they break up with her. Then it’s back to beating on Eden because apparently having a daughter is too much for any man that comes through here. She blames me for being single and sometimes she even suggests that I go live with my dad in Spain. I don’t want to live with him and he’s made it very clear that he doesn’t want me to live with him.
“Cool.” I mumble wondering why he would lie about wanting I date my mom.
If he didn’t want to, why would he want to come over. I go upstairs and shower, throwing on a pair of shorts and a school spirit shirt pulling my damp hair into a bun. When I get downstairs, I hear talking and I already know who it is.
I go into the kitchen. “Mom, I think I’m going to skip dinner. I have a lot of homework.”
She smiles. “You sure honey?”
I nod, grabbing an apple from the fridge. I know she is secretly happy that I won’t be around to interrupt her from throwing herself at Harper. I roll my eyes and instead of going back upstairs, I slip out the front door with my headphone and lay down on the porch swing. I look up at the stars as the music plays in my ear. I begin to doze off and I feel someone in my presence. I sit up and Jasper is standing there. I take off my headphone.
“Hi, Jasper. Um, your brother is in the house with my mom.”
“I know. I came to talk to you.” I know I’m not old enough to even be attracted to anyone but Jasper is seriously hot. He takes a seat next to me and I feel my whole body heat up.
“Uh O...Okay. What do you want to talk to me about?”
“I know that your mother hit you yesterday” His deep voice both intimidating and soothing.
“I saw it from the hall window.”
I look up at him in surprise. I knew someone was watching.
“Oh. Um, it’s nothing. I’m fine. I just made her angry. It was my-” Jasper takes my hand in his silencing me.
“It wasn’t your fault so don’t say it.”
“Y...you can’t tell.” I whisper as I begin to cry and he nods.
“I won’t. Just promise me you’ll come to talk to me or Harper if you need to no matter what time of the day.” With his thumb, he wipes away a tear flowing my cheek sending the same electric feeling through me as Harper did this morning when he touched my jaw.
I nod “Okay”
“Promise?” he looks down at me and his expression is very serious.
From then on, Jasper becomes my favorite. When my mom is drunk or passed out after rampaging around, I slip out of the house and go next door so that she doesn’t come in my room and hit me. Harper and Jasper help me with my homework and play hours of board games until I feel like it’s okay to go home. Harper still comes over to see my mom which makes me angry or maybe jealous, but he always leaves before she suggests he stay the night. I am used to him being around my house since he keeps her happy though.
Jasper, however, usually keeps to himself and If I want to talk to him, I have to go to his office, sit down quietly, and wait for him to finish phone calls. We don’t talk about much, but sometimes I don’t feel like talking anyway. He understands what I go through with my mother since he says his own father was an alcoholic. I confine in both Harper and Jasper with my secrets and they even let me talk about boys I like at school.
I see both of them as the big brothers I never had. Always there for me but if my mom ever found out that I’m spending time at their house like this, I’d be dead or worse, shipped to Spain to a dad who doesn’t even want me.