JAMIE AND KIRA
The kids were already home by the time Jack arrived back from the band writing session at Justin’s house; he could tell by the fact that Mozart was being blasted from the second floor, Jamie’s post school unwinding music. That combined with the fact that there was a badly parked Honda Accord in the garage meant that his children were currently roaming the house, avoiding starting their homework for as long as possible.
Stepping out of his unlaced black Converse by the door, he dropped his keys on the kitchen counter as he padded up the stairs and down the hall to Jamie’s wide open door to find his son lying on his stomach on top of his bed, bare feet crossed at the ankle, flipping through the latest issue of Time magazine. He’d stripped out of his school uniform in favor of black athletic shorts and a plain white t-shirt, the slacks and button up he’d been wearing all day neatly placed in the hamper in his closet, his shoes lined up beside the door.
“Hey, man,” Jack leaned against the doorway, crossing his arms over his chest and shooting his oldest a warm smile. “Good day?”
Looking up briefly, Jamie shot his father a quick smile and returned his attention to his magazine. “Hey, Dad. It was fine.”
“Cool,” Jack nodded, knowing Jamie wasn’t one to share freely. Still, he didn’t want that to be the end of the conversation, so he tossed out an idea he’d been thinking about all day. “Your mom has a work thing tomorrow night, so I was thinking you, me, and Care could go out for dinner.”
Jamie shook his head and raised his piercing blue gaze to meet his father’s again. “I can’t. I have plans.”
Pursing his lips, Jack tried to recall if Jamie had mentioned having some sort of event at school the following night. Generally speaking, Jack assumed Jamie would tell him if he needed to be somewhere because the eighteen-year-old was very on top of his busy extracurricular schedule, but as he racked his brain, he couldn’t remember anything specific. “You know it’s a school night, right?”
Jamie wasn’t one to engage in social activities in the middle of week and Jack knew he didn’t need to be reminded, but he was slightly worried.
“It’s not like that,” Jamie shrugged. “We’re studying.”
Jack felt himself relax slightly, silently slapping himself for even thinking Jamie was being irresponsible. “Anyone I know?”
He asked purely out of curiosity because it wasn’t as though he thought any of Jamie’s friends were particularly bad influences, but the way Jamie’s cheeks flushed bright red and he was suddenly extremely interested in a stray string sticking out of his navy comforter piqued Jack’s interest even further.
“It’s Kira,” Jamie mumbled, just loud enough for his father to hear.
After Kira had strolled into their history classroom just in time and wiggled her fingers at him as she passed by that morning, he’d had a particularly difficult time paying attention because he found himself glancing towards where she was sitting in the back corner every few seconds. She looked cute; a spare pencil shoved into hair to hold the messy bun atop her head in place as she chewed on the end of her pen and stared out the window.
When class was over, she caught up with him in the hallway and he’d fought back a blush when she’d grabbed his arm and asked if he wanted to study the next night for their biology exam later that week. He’d managed to stammer out a positive reply before she shot him a smile that probably could have stopped time, told him that she’d text him about details later, and waved goodbye as she bounded off to her next class.
“Oh.” Jack found himself smiling like a Cheshire cat. He’d actually wanted to talk to Jamie about Caroline’s revelation since finding out, but he was never sure how to bring it up. Jamie having a study date with Kira solved that problem, allowing him to let out the giddiness he’d been holding in all day at finally knowing something the other boys didn’t, a first in the history of the band since he was usually a few steps behind.
Jamie glared at his father. “Will you stop looking at me like that?”
“Like what?” Jack replied innocently, fully aware that he was currently being the epitome of embarrassing.
Sighing, Jamie used his elbows to push himself up to his knees before extending his legs and resting his elbows loosely on his bent knees, looking dejected. “I get it. It’s hilarious that I like Kira because it’s not like anything is going to happen there.”
Actually, the reason Jack found the situation hilarious was because he thought Kira was the farthest thing possible from Jamie’s type. And although he did think having any sort of romantic relationship with Kira Saxton would be interesting for anyone, it broke Jack’s heart to see his son, who had such an unbridled sense of perseverance, look so helpless.
Dropping his arms, Jack pushed himself into a straightened posture, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he rocked back and forth on his sock covered heels. “Do you want something to happen?”
It hadn’t really occurred to Jack that Jamie’s feelings for Kira could run deep. The attraction was understandable; Kira was beautiful and vivacious and full of life, but he figured Jamie would see her disregard for rules and authority as a tick in the negative column and chock it all up to a passing crush.
“No!” Jamie’s eyes widened as he realized he was digging himself a hole. “I mean, yes. I mean…I don’t know.”
He knew he wanted to kiss her until both their heads were spinning but he wasn’t sure what that meant.
Jack understood, despite the vagueness of the answer, because at eighteen, he had no idea what he was doing when it came to girls either. Nodding, he stretched his lips into a comforting smile. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Give it time.”
“Thanks, Dad,” Jamie said quietly, grateful that the conversation seemed to be ending.
Nodding once, Jack glanced down the hall to where Caroline’s bedroom door was closed. “Your sister in her room?”
Jamie blinked once and then his eyes widened in horror as he realized that in his elation of having made plans with Kira, he’d completely forgotten to wait for Caroline’s soccer practice to finish, leaving the younger Brewer stranded at school.
BRODY AND CAROLINE
Knowing he was running late, Nathan didn’t bother checking his parking job as he pulled up to the curb outside the school and picked up his phone to text Brody that he had arrived. His wife already come to take Piper to her piano lesson, but Brody had requested to be picked up later because he needed to work on something in the art studio. As he waited for his son to indicate he’d received the message, he looked up and noticed Caroline Brewer standing to the side, rolling a soccer ball between her feet, dressed in her practice uniform, her ponytail loose and sweat dampened from running around on the field.
His eyebrows shot up in surprise as he was under the impression her brother generally drove her home from school after practice, their busy extracurricular schedules making it convenient to go home together since they both generally had things to do after school. He made to open the window and call out to her, but stopped short when he noticed something very strange happen.
Caroline glanced to the side, presumably seeing someone she recognized walking out of the school and her cheeks, already flushed from exercise, turned even redder and she blinked rapidly as the corners of her lips turned upwards and she bit back a smile and looked at the person shyly from beneath her thick eyelashes.
“Well, that’s interesting,” Nathan muttered to himself, thinking it was amazing that in the span of three seconds, he’d seen Caroline go from absolutely focused to completely giddy and wondering how Jack, always protective of his only daughter and making jokes that weren’t really jokes about how she was never going to be allowed to date, would feel knowing that his baby girl was crushing on someone. What surprised him even more was when he looked to see who had caused that change and found that it was none other than his fifteen-year-old son.
Brody Peters smiled shyly at Caroline as he passed her, raising his hand in a small friendly wave to the girl he’d known forever, his perpetually red cheeks turning slightly pinker around the pretty girl as he made his way to his father’s car, the rolled up sleeves of his shirt stained with ink as usual.
Utterly confused at how he’d missed the fact that Jack’s daughter was harboring feelings for his son, but still the epitome of the kind uncle, Nathan rolled down his car window and leaned across the center console to greet Caroline as Brody climbed into the car and dropped his backpack on the floor between his feet, pushing up the black rimmed glasses that were sliding down his nose.
“Hey, Care Bear,” Nathan shot her a friendly smile, knowing only he and the boys were allowed to use that nickname. “What are you still doing here? Doesn’t Jamie usually take you home?”
She gulped and nodded, her cheeks heated as she avoided looking at Brody and hoped her Uncle Nate hadn’t just noticed her becoming giggly over his son. The fact of the matter was that she happened to think Brody Peters was rather adorable and sweet and probably the kindest person she knew, but she didn’t know how to articulate that. Besides, saying anything could quite possibly make things uncomfortable, as Brody was particularly shy, and if he didn’t reciprocate her feelings, she’d never be able to show her face at another extended family gathering.
“Yeah,” she said breathily, readjusting the thin cloth headband she used to keep her flyaway curls from falling in her face as she played. “I guess he just forgot or something.”
“Do you need a lift home?” Nathan asked as Brody shut his door and reached back for the seatbelt. He would have offered anyway, but now he wanted her to say yes because watching the interaction between her and Brody with his new suspicions that she had some sort of romantic feelings for the younger Peters twin would be interesting.
To be honest, he wasn’t entirely sure what to feel about it. He and Brody had never really discussed girls, mostly because Brody kept to himself to the point where he didn’t really interact with many people. But he had grown up with Caroline, so he was a little more open with her, so the possibility that he could feel something back was very real.
Much to Nathan’s disappointment, Caroline shook her head. “He just texted and said he was coming. Thanks anyway, Uncle Nate.”
“Do you want us to wait until he gets here?” It was a sad attempt to find an excuse to stay, because it wasn’t as though it would be unsafe for her to be at school by herself, but he threw it out anyway, earning him a confused eyebrow raise from his son.
“I’m all good,” Caroline smiled sweetly, desperate for a way out of the situation because Nathan was the most observant of her uncles and she was certain that if she spent too long with him, her easily flushed cheeks would give her away. “I promise.”
“Alright,” Nathan sighed, having no other option but to say goodbye. “We’ll see you later, then.”
He waved goodbye, rolling up his window as he pulled away from the curb and glanced to the side to engage Brody in their usual post school conversation only to find his son giving him an odd look.
“What?” Nathan asked innocently.
Brody wanted to tell his father that he was acting strange, but he wouldn’t be able to put his finger on why, so he just shook his head and turned it to look out the window, sinking into a daydream about Caroline Brewer and the way she scrunched her eyes closed when she laughed.
If he was being honest, it happened kind of out of the blue. He’d always thought Caroline was nice and admired how hard she worked for the things she wanted, but the feelings happened suddenly. He was watching her practice one day, sitting on the cold metal bleachers after school and sketching a scene of the team playing in his notebook and he looked up to see her charging for the ball, a fierceness in her eyes. It was beautiful and breathtaking and he dreamt about it that night.
He started paying more attention to Caroline after that, observing her from afar and watching her carefully when they spoke and he began to notice that for all of her easy charm, she always became flustered around him. He found it flattering beyond belief and it made him giddy as well, so he vowed that one day, he’d tell her that she wasn’t the only feeling those butterflies in the pit of her stomach.
KIRA AND JAMIE
He was sitting at the kitchen table, eating the best sandwich he’d ever made in his life when Kira wandered in, on a mission to find the perfect after school snack. She and Lucy had returned about thirty minutes before, the younger Saxton girl kissing her father on the cheek before running upstairs to change out of her school uniform. The older girl did the same, but came back down after changing into her lounging outfit of yoga pants and an oversized t-shirt.
“Hey, honey,” Ethan spoke, his voice muffled due to the savory goodness in his mouth. “You’re home early.”
Generally, Kira came home much later than Lucy. Sometimes it was because she had detention and sometimes it was because she went to the skate park after school, but seeing as she’d actually gone to all of her classes today in an effort to turn over a new leaf, she found herself completely free after school. So she’d called Lucy and told her that there was no need for her to catch her usual ride with a friend because her big sister was going to walk her home.
Kira opened the fridge and surveyed the options inside, her eyes quickly scanning the shelves as she replied. “Yeah, I didn’t have any plans after school, so I figured I’d bring Luce back.”
She wasn’t involved in any extracurricular activities either, mostly because she didn’t find the idea of staying at school when it wasn’t necessary to be particularly appealing.
Nodding, he swallowed as he watched as she pulled a carton of orange juice from the fridge, set it on the granite countertop, and closed the door before turning towards the cupboard to find a glass, the messy bun atop her head bouncing due to her quick actions. “That’s nice of you. Thanks, Kiki.”
Shrugging, she twisted off the cap of the juice carton once she’d selected her glass and proceeded to dispense the orange liquid. The truth was that she was trying to make her parents see that she was capable of being a responsible, contributing member of the family. Despite the fact that she was technically an adult and it was her last year in school, she didn’t want the two of you to think she didn’t appreciate everything you’d done for her.
She took a sip of the sweet beverage before returning the carton to the fridge and coming to slip into the chair on Ethan’s right, tapping the chipping purple manicure she’d gotten with Jessamine Copeland a few weeks prior against the side of the glass. “Hey, Dad…I just wanted to let you know that I’m gonna be out tomorrow night.”
Ethan’s eyebrows raised and he placed his half eaten sandwich back on his plate before raising a hand to wipe the spare crumbs from his lips. He wasn’t used to her telling him when she wasn’t going to be around. He knew she was skating around most days after school, but weekday nights were reserved for the school work that she half assed doing. The fact that she was hardly ever questioned about her weekend plans made up for the rules about being home during the week. “What’s going on?”
“I’m studying with Jamie, so I’m gonna take the car,” she said casually, though her stomach was slightly knotted as she took another sip of juice.
Ethan blinked a few times, his brow furrowing in confusion. “Jamie? Jamie Brewer?”
It was the only Jamie he could think of off the top of his head and his answer was confirmed when Kira rolled her eyes and nodded. “Yes, Jamie Brewer. Do you know any other Jamies?”
He ignored the unnecessary sarcasm because he was too bewildered by the situation to find it offensive. Despite Jamie and Kira being the same age, as far as he knew, they hadn’t willingly spent time together since they were kids. Jamie was always busy with something or the other at school and Kira would rather be anywhere else, so it didn’t seem like their social paths ever crossed. “Since when do you hang out with Jamie?”
“We’re not hanging out,” Kira corrected. “We’re studying. We have a biology exam on Friday.”
She didn’t want her father to get the wrong impression, though if she was being honest, she wasn’t sure what was happening either. Keeping her promise to her parents, she hadn’t skipped history that day, but she hadn’t really paid attention either, too busy trying not to stare at the back of Jamie’s head.
He intrigued her, to say the least, because she often wondered if the clever prankster still level beneath that good boy exterior. She’d caught up to him in the hallway after class, reaching out to grab his arm despite the fact that it wasn’t necessary because she’d spent way too much time fantasizing about them, lean and toned because he was constantly helping people carry things around, do gooder that he was. Outwardly, she really was trying to be better about school, but the fact that studying with Jamie would give her a chance to peel back his layers was just an extra bonus.
“Fine,” Ethan sighed, running a hand through his thinning hair. “Since when do you study with Jamie?”
“We have the same teacher,” she replied. “It makes sense for us to study together.”
Ethan wasn’t questioning the logic behind the studying, but he could tell by the way Kira was tracing the pad of her finger repeatedly around the rim of her glass that there was something wasn’t telling him, which was very unlike her. It was one thing for her to be vague about her plans – though even when asked, she always told the truth because she was horrible at lying to her parents – but Kira had never been one to be emotionally closed off. Whether she was angry or happy or excited or sad, people knew, because she wasn’t the kind to suffer in silence.
“Kira…” Ethan said slowly as a strange thought came to mind. “Do you…do you like Jamie?”
He felt strange questioning Kira about her love life because he knew she was perfectly capable of handling herself when it came to boys. She’d had boyfriends in the past, not being shy about bringing them home for family dinners, and Ethan had been completely prepared to be the threatening the father if they broke his baby girl’s heart, but it proved to be unnecessary because the first time she told him that things had ended between her and a boy, she’d simply shrugged and said that the guy was an asshole and she deserved better. Still, he couldn’t think of another reason why she would be acting so strange about spending time with Jamie, someone she’d known her entire life.
“Dad!” her eyes widened in horror, partly because discussing boys with her father was just plain weird and partly because there was a small possibility that he was spot on.
“What?” Ethan said defensively.
Rolling her eyes, she pushed herself out of the chair, draining the last of her orange juice before making her way to the sink to rinse out the glass. “I’m not talking about that kind of stuff with you.”
It was fair enough, because it wasn’t as though he and Kira normally had emotional heart to hearts about her love life, but he was concerned about the damage his spitfire of a daughter could potentially cause to Jack’s straight laced son. The last thing he needed was for Jack to be sending him death glares because Kira had dragged Jamie into some sort of reckless behavior, though he imagined Jack even knowing that Kira was remotely interested in his son would give the lead singer a heart attack.
“Hey, Keeks,” Ethan called out to her before she could head back up to her room. She turned and lifted her chin in response. “Go easy on him. Unless he messes with you; then give him hell.”
Despite the fact that she rolled her eyes again, her lips were pressed together to keep from smiling as sashayed out of the kitchen.
JUSTIN AND THE BOYS
Something was up.
Generally, when the four of them were together, the energy in the room was enough to power a small city. They would be talking over each other, shouting and arguing and laughing as music blared in the background. Jack would be laughing hysterically as Ethan showed off some ridiculously embarrassing dance move and Nathan would be filming it all, because despite being proper adults with families, nothing much had changed since they were teenagers.
So the fact that it was so quiet was alarming.
Nathan was humming to himself, leaning forward from the couch to tap his drumsticks on the coffee table and every so often, sending Jack a sideways glance. Jack couldn’t stop smiling to himself, as though he’d just been told he was to be given a lifetime supply of Cheerios, his gaze shifting between the drummer and Ethan as he mindlessly strummed his acoustic guitar. And Ethan sat on a large leather chair, his feet stretched out on the coffee table and his own acoustic in his lap, alternating between smirking and looking at Jack.
Meanwhile, Justin sat leaned back beside Nathan on the couch in his basement studio, wondering what the hell was going on with his friends. They’d been like this for about fifteen minutes and the silence was freaking him out, so he decided he needed to remedy the situation.
Sitting up straight, he placed his phone down on the table and laced his fingers together between his parted knees and fixed the lot of them with a glare. “What the hell is happening?”
Nathan furrowed his brow in confusion as he looked at the bassist. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the fact that you all look like you’re keeping some sort of secret,” Justin replied pointedly, not bothering to beat around the bush. He didn’t like not being in the loop. “So what is it? Spill.”
The other three shifted uncomfortably in their seats, Jack and Ethan pulling their guitars a little closer as Nathan leaned back against the couch and twirled his drumsticks around his fingers. There was silence for another minute, all of them deciding that their loyalty towards their children was most important, despite the intensity of Justin’s glare.
It was strange that none of them wanted to talk. The boys had never kept secrets from each other; in their industry it was difficult enough to know who they could trust without adding the band to the mix. But Justin was determined and he hated the tension in the room, so he shifted his gaze slowly between each of his friends before finally settling his sight on Ethan, knowing that if he tickled the guitarist enough, there was a good possibility that he would spill his secrets out of desperation.
Justin raised one eyebrow, silently giving Ethan the option to come clean or be tickled, and the guitarist knew better than to assume he could remain silent through the laughter, so he sighed and laid his guitar down flat on his outstretched legs before speaking slowly, his gaze shifting to Jack. “I think…there might be a possibility…that Kira has a thing for Jamie.”
Holding in a laugh, Justin also looked at Jack, not expecting that to be the secret Ethan was keeping. Everyone was wary of Jack’s response, wondering how he would react to finding out that Ethan’s rebellious daughter was interested in his son. Laughter was the last thing anyone was expecting.
Jack squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed his fingers against his eyelids, his response coming out breathy because of the chuckling. “Jamie likes her too.”
“Oh.” Ethan replied, his lips stretching into a slow smile, not at all perturbed by the revelation.
Figuring that they might as well put everything on the table, Jack looked at Nathan, inhaling deeply to get his breathing back to normal before he spoke. “And Caroline likes Brody.”
“You knew?” Nathan’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“You knew?” Jack repeated, confused by the drummer’s response.
They stared at each other for a moment before they both burst out laughing. Ethan joined in and Justin let out a sigh of relief because it seemed like things were going back to normal.
“Alright,” Justin grinned, clapping his hands together. “Now that everything’s out in the open, are you guys gonna stop being so weird?”
“Yeah,” Nathan nodded, laughing as he adjusted his beanie before beginning to twirl his drumsticks around his fingers once more.
“Do you feel left out, Justin?” Ethan teased, bringing his guitar to his chest and beginning to strum.
“Actually,” Justin replied, picking up his phone from the table and turning it on to scroll through his Twitter. “I’m wondering how it took you guys so long to figure it out.”
He’d done about three swipes of the screen before he realized that the room was once again silent. Looking up, he found his band mates staring at him with parted lips and confused expressions.
“You knew?” Jack asked, repeating his question to Nathan from earlier.
“I didn’t know about Kira’s feelings,” Justin admitted, shrugging as he fixed his gaze on Jack. “But it’s not like your kids are exactly subtle with the staring.”
The truth was that Justin noticed everything. Like how no matter who Jamie was talking to when everyone was together, his gaze always somehow managed to drift to Kira and how Caroline, who could hold a conversation with pretty much anyone, turned into a shy, flushing mess around Brody. It was astounding to him that Jack was completely oblivious to his kids’ feelings. Though perhaps he shouldn’t have been surprised, because Jack was generally out of the loop regarding all things.
“Oh,” Jack said quietly as the reality of the fact that he wasn’t nearly as in the know as he believed came crashing down. “Is it weird? The fact that our kids are like…into each other?”
Nathan shrugged. “They’re teenagers. They have crushes. For all we know, in a few weeks, they’ll be crushing on someone else.”
That was easy to say because nothing had actually happened between any of their kids, but all of them were silently wondering how the dynamic of their extended family would be affected if the crushes were to turn into something more. Justin was now the one holding back a smirk, quietly glad his kids weren’t currently involved in any sort of relationship drama. He knew it would happen eventually, but for now, he was fine if that day was somewhere in the very distant future.