Chapter 1 - The Reunion
Twelve years later
"Tina!" my mom hollered from the kitchen. Her voice was so loud. "What was that noise?"
"Uh, my shirt fell off the bed!"
"What? It sounded heavier than a shirt!"
"I was in it when it fell," I mumbled to myself sarcastically.
I caressed my poor tushy before standing up and staggering towards my dresser. Leave it to me to trip on my own feet because I woke up late. I could hear my mom shouting at me to hurry up from downstairs. Uhh...
"Almost finished!" I yelled from my room. I quickly tied my hair into a bun without even bothering to brush it. Glancing at my reflection on the mirror, the corner of my mouth twitched up – an attempt to smile at my own reflection. I had big, sapphire eyes that seemingly turned darker if I got mad (read: please refer to my best friend), porcelain skin – not that white though – natural pink lips and a straight nose.
As for my body, it was slim with just the right curves to show I was a girl. I never pampered myself in any way a girly-girl would. I preferred simplicity above anything else. After giving myself a critical observation on the mirror, I dashed downstairs.
"Now what kind of rice sack are you wearing this time?" Mom looked at me from head to toe, disapproval forming on her face.
My mom, Elizabeth Karlins was a real estate agent. Was. I heard that shortly after I was born, she stopped taking requests from her clients and took the role of the housewife in this house. This lovely mother of mine also loved to criticize my choice of clothes every single day.
"I think maybe normal clothes?" I replied to her customary question. I was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans, a plain dark green shirt and some comfortable sneakers. The size of my clothes concealed my body proportions and as my friends would always say, I could be easily mistaken as a guy, though I don't care. "I don't have time for this mom, I'm gonna be late for class."
I go to a private school in the city called Lockhart High. Not the most prestigious here in LA but it bears a good reputation for the education it offers. We had our official school uniforms but this week, we were allowed to wear casual clothes because of the upcoming festival.
"Kristina honey, you're wasting your cute face on... on sluggish clothes like that?" She began. "Why can't you be like the other girls? Have fun, wear pretty clothes, or... or go out with your own boyfriend!" Mom's eyes started to sparkle.
Here we go again.
My mom, ladies and gentlemen, wasn't your typical mother figure. She was practically still young at heart even though she was already pushing forty. Sometimes (read: all the time) I wonder how she's able to act like a kid despite having such a prestigious job in the past.
I, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. I'm mature for my age of seventeen and often scolded my own mother for her childish antics. Not only did our personalities differ greatly, but even our faces did.
People said we looked nothing alike except for the color of our eyes which was sapphire, but mine was much lighter compared to mom's. While she had straight, dirty blond hair and slightly tanned skin, I had a pinkish-white complexion and wavy, dark-brown hair that cascaded down to my waist. I always thought it was better to tie it up since it was too bothersome. I inherited majority of my features from my dad.
"Boyfriend. Ha. Pft. Sure." I muttered sarcastically under my breath. I cracked an egg, added a pinch of salt at the middle of the yolk and fried it on the pan.
Usually, I sucked at cooking, but frying eggs was pretty basic, even for me. "Like I have the time for that. Stuff like shopping and dating are a waste of time and a waste of money," I said mostly to myself as I gobbled up my sunny side up egg with a hint of ketchup on top. Mmm.
The sparkles in her eyes instantly dissipated. She frowned and folded her arms. Oh dear, here we go again. "Love isn't a waste of time. You know, I was like you when I was your age, but your father made me change my life. Love changes a person's life." The freakin' sparkles began appearing again; I felt the urge to roll my eyes. "There will come a day when you will fall in love with a nice guy and – "
"I won't. School comes first," I cut in. What can I say? I'm practical. She should praise me instead of scold me for that. After drinking my milk with one gulp, I grabbed my bag and ran outside. I'm sure most girls would kill for a mother with a teenage-personality like mine. "I'm leaving! See you later mom!"
"Wait! I haven't finished talking to you yet!"
"We'll talk about it later! I'm already late!"
"But - Oh why bother. Just mentally prepare yourself later! We have important guests later so come home early!"
I bet the neighbors would come and complain later because we kept yelling at the street. Hah. Good luck mom.
"Okay!" I waved at her as her figure slowly disappeared from behind. I missed my bus again damn it.
I just arrived at school yet as soon as I took a step in the hallways, a bunch of students already swarmed around me.
"Tina thank God you're finally here! What should we do about the missing kiosks?" A guy-whose-name-I-don't-remember said.
"Tina, our teacher left this paperwork for you to do," Mandy routinely gave me a stack of papers and then left in a rush.
"Miss President, Shara is absent again!" Another one yelled from the crowd.
This was the usual day for me, actually. I'm the president of the student council therefore all responsibilities were pushed down to me. I didn't mind though, because I worked hard for this position. Because of that, I earned the trust of my teachers and peers. Did I happen to mention that I was the first junior to ever run and win the chair of president in Lockhart High?
"Place everything at my desk and prepare the class for a meeting before the teacher arrives," I said with a straight face.
"Okay!" they all agreed like the obedient followers they were.
At the classroom, I discussed about tomorrow's event and assigned each student with different jobs to do for the festival. This is me. Organizing events and taking control of every lazy bum in our classroom was my high school life. Some students were obedient and agreed to the jobs assigned to them without complaint – but of course, there were still stubborn boys in my class.
"Whaaat?" He yawned disrespectfully as he stretched his arms over his head. "There's so much work to do."
Sean Bennett. Now this guy's a big pain in the butt. Not only is he noisy in class, but he's also one of the many students who take frequent visits to the principal's office because of stupidity – I mean, bad behavior. I think Ella mentioned that he used to be quite the good boy back when they were in middle-school.
"Well if you don't want to participate, there's no one stopping you. You can just sleep there on your desk all day while we enjoy ourselves at the festival," I said and put my right hand on my waist. Then I narrowed my eyes at the students all staring at me. "I'm not doing this for my sake you guys. If you all just do what you're told, we'll finish this earlier and get to enjoy the festival better."
"Well said Tina!" Francella Maxwell or Ella, my best friend, clapped. To be honest, this girl's noisier than Sean – wait why the heck am I even comparing her to that toad? Ella's a really nice girl. She plays cupid at our school and is famous for bridging most of the couples here. Have any love problems, turn to Ella, she knows what to do.
Yet it's still a mystery why she doesn't have a boyfriend even though she's so pretty.
Ella has the most flawless face I've ever seen. In fact, she has the face closest to an angel with her big brown eyes, pouty red lips and girly sense of fashion. She's also energetic and cheerful and throw in all the positive words you know, that's Ella.
Really, I don't remember how we became friends and how we're still friends. We're polar opposites but still, I love hanging around with her even when she gets annoying at times. Did I also mention that she and my mom are best friends? Yeah.
"So the festival will take place at the school gym tomorrow night. I expect you all to be here at exactly four o'clock." I finished. My schoolmates nodded in agreement and Sean just rolled his eyes.
Whatever. I can't please everybody.
"Dan," my dad patted my back. "Aren't you excited to see Kristina again? You haven't seen each other for..." he paused for a moment to calculate the time in his head. "For twelve years now."
We were currently on our way back to their house. We left our business at London on hold for now because dad said he really missed this place. Twelve years huh? So I haven't been home for twelve years long.
I placed my elbow on my seat's armrest and stared at the view outside the car window, my face showing no change in expression as usual. Not like I can force myself to look enthusiastic or something. "Not really."
My dad on the other hand sounded surprised. "Why? You two played a lot when you were young and don't think that I didn't know you had a cute little crush on her before," he grinned.
Well sure, alright, whatever you say dad.
"You know, back at the old days, I was always troubled with your quietness and lack of emotion – a lot of people said you were like a living dummy. But after I started dropping you off at your Uncle Jacob and Aunt Lizzy's house, you got to make friends with Kristina."
I silently sighed. I know. He says this whenever we enter that topic. Is he even aware that he repeats stories like this all the time? "I don't remember much of my childhood," I mumbled.
Dad wasn't listening, he just went on talking. "After that, you began to talk more, laugh more and were able to show your emotions more often. Every time I picked you up after a fun day at their house, you would never stop smiling."
Why does he look so excited talking about this? It's getting annoying. The topic is annoying.
I don't know why I even find it annoying.
"And when we moved to London because of my job, the problem with you began again. It took you a little while to adjust to everything around you, and when you did talk, which was a rare at that time, all you talked about was your playmate, Kristina."
I stayed quiet. I know he's not expecting me to reply anyway. Is he recapping the old times because we're going home? I'm pretty sure that's it.
"Now that you grew older and more mature, you still spoke less, but you won the favor of many people through your looks, your brain and your athletic abilities-- without even trying! That's remarkable son, I still don't believe you're my son," he laughed proudly. "I'm sure Kristina will be surprised to see you again! I heard from Lizzy she became quite the lady. Seems like you're gonna have some real competition this time Danny!"
Seriously my Dad... I sighed and blinked my eyes slowly. What should I say to satisfy him? I have a vague memory of that little girl he was talking about. It's been twelve years already. "Well, I am a bit curious on what she looks like now. That Poopy."
I don't even remember how and why I started calling her that. It sounded like a kid version of Shitty.
"Eh, still acting cool as usual? That's my boy! No wonder you made so many girls cry back at London. I heard from Anne you ignored all of those cuties. There's only Kristina for you right? Right?" He chuckled. Man he's so talkative today.
It made me suspicious somehow.
"Yeah. Whatever," I mumbled.
"Mom! I'm back!" I yelled as I ran upstairs. I'm so tired! I just want to take a bath and relax. I still have a lot of things to do since tomorrow's the big event.
"Kristina!" mom called. "Fix yourself up honey! The guests will arrive soon! I already prepared your clothes and don't even bother complaining this time and just wear it!"
"Alright, alright!" I replied, internally groaning. Mom's so busy and excited – I've never seen her this way before. Just who are these 'important' guests she's talking about? Her old colleagues, perhaps? Well whatever. Guess I'll find out later. I quickly stripped off my clothes and hit the shower.
Aah. This feels amazing.
I let the cool water run on my skin and I drenched my hair before I applied shampoo. I don't know why, but I was in such a great mood today. Not only did I sing while I was taking a nice bath, I also performed. Swaying my hips, I grabbed the bottle of shampoo and washed my hair.
Not a moment later, I heard my mom yell again. "Tina hurry! They're here!"
Here already? I better hurry up then.
"Oh my! Johnny! It's been such a long time! How are you?" I gladly opened the door to welcome my old friend, Jonathan Curtis. My, he's gotten older! I noticed his hair getting quite grayish, and there were a few lines on his face too. It's probably because of overwork but nonetheless, his cheerful smile is still the same.
"I'm good Lizzy, where's Jacob?" He replied while giving me a warm hug. I missed this baboon. He, Jacob, Nathalie and I were best friends since high school. Nathalie, Johnny's wife, died during labor. Not a day goes by where I don't miss her. I smiled at him and helped him take off his coat.
"My husband's still at work. And um... Who might this be?" I noticed somebody standing behind him. My word. What a good-looking boy.
"Why Lizzy? You don't recognize him at all? This is my son! Daniel!" Johnny laughed.
"Hi auntie," he smiled. It took me less than a minute to process everything in my head.
I had to stop myself from shoving Johnny aside just so I can see the boy better.
"What?! THIS is Daniel?! Why are you so handsome?! Oh my, oh my! You're so tall!" I cried out. I critically observed him – his hair was darkish brown, close to black, and his eyes clear blue like crystals.
I see, good, good.
He was also tall and sturdy. I also noticed that his hair was quite messy. Maybe it was because of the long car ride. His choice of clothes was good too. Dark blue V-neck shirt, pants and a pair of Vans sneakers.
Tina's gonna have some trouble with this one. Hehe.
"I know right?! My cute little boy turned into a man," Jonathan proudly said. I laughed cheerfully. I can't wait until Tina comes down! I want to take a picture of her and Daniel's reactions when they see each other again! This is so exciting!
I led my guests to the living room. I had to keep them company while Jacob and Tina aren't here yet. "So tell me, how was London?"
Dad and Aunt Lizzy seemed too busy chatting about stuff that they didn't even notice me leave the room. It'd been ten minutes now. Where is that girl? I sighed and slowly shook my head.
I slid my hands inside my pockets and went upstairs. Aunt Lizzy probably won't mind me explore the house a bit. Upstairs, there was a small hallway which led to different doors and rooms. Huh. Didn't change at all. I saw the door nearest to me and if I could still remember, this led to the bathroom.
I slowly turned the knob and entered the room. When I was inside, I noticed how different it looked. They probably expanded it because it was more spacious now compared to before. Hearing a small noise behind me, I turned around and literally felt my jaw drop at the sight.
There was... a naked girl before me, dripping wet from hair to foot.
She looked just as surprised as I was. Petrified, to be more precise. I couldn't help it. I looked at her familiar face, then at her body, and when I realized my actions, my face heated up. Why the heck?! It seemed like she just realized what was going on as well, because she quickly hid behind the shower curtain.
"AAAH!!!" she finally reacted. "A pervert!!!"
Did she just call me a pervert?! I quickly ran outside and slammed the door close. What the hell! That girl couldn't be her, right? Her current image flashed into my mind once more...
Hitting my head with my fist, I ran.
"Kristina?! What happened?!" I heard Aunt Lizzy cry out. "I'm coming!!!" She quickly ran upstairs, clumsily stumbling on a few steps along the way.
"I'm home!" a man, which I guessed was Uncle Jacob, finally entered the living room.