XIX. Dethrone the Queen
“Daddy! Daddy! Where are we going?” I asked, licking my strawberry ice cream as I kicked my legs against the baby seat.
There was a long silence.
“We are going to visit daddy’s friend,” mom responded. “A friend, mommy really wants to meet because apparently, this friend was really close to daddy. So close, that-”
Dad pinched mom’s thigh, causing her to yelp. “Sweetheart,” his voice deepens.
Mom cleared her throat as dad stopped the car. “We’re here,” she flung the door open and walked towards me.
Dad sighed and went after her.
I pinched my lips and pushed the button beside the door, lowering the window.
Dad cupped her cheeks, “Sweetheart.”
“We’re seriously going to see your ex?”
“Look, she is just a friend now.”
Mom tilted her head and pushed dad away. “Kev, I’m not stupid. I know she is the one who got away and after all this time. You still care about her. Is she that important?” she said. She looks really sad.
I tap the glass with my finger. “Mommy? Daddy?”
Mom turns her back and mumbles something while dad sighs. She looked at me and smiled, then opened the door. “Come on, baby,” she said. She took off the uncomfortable but safe seatbelt.
Mom grabbed me, held me against her waist, and walked past dad. Taking a few blinks, a cute house appeared. It was so big! I smiled. “Mommy! Look! Swing!” I squealed and bit the last piece of my ice cream cone.
“That’s nice, baby,” she said, taking a step in front of the house. With a single deep breath, she rang the door with dad standing behind us.
I rested my head against mom’s chest, listening to her loud heartbeat. The door opened, revealing a strange tall, handsome man. I dug my face farther into her chest, feeling my cheeks heating up.
“Hi...Kevin,” he said.
“Hey...Matt,” dad responded, then cleared his throat. “Matt, this is Stephanie, my beautiful, kind, understanding, sweet down to earth wife and mother of my cute little daughter, whom I love and cherish.”
Mom’s face scrunched up as her cheeks turned really red.
Is she sick?
“Nice to meet you.” Matt and mom shook hands.
“You can call me Steph.”
“Steph, my beautiful, kind, understanding, sweet, down-to-earth wife and mother of my cute little daughter whom I love and cherish,” he inhaled a deep breath. “This is Matt...Matt is Nina’s-” he scrunched his fist and narrowed his eyes, looking like he needs to use the toilet.
“Daddy!” a voice shouted.
I tilted my head and saw a boy wearing a red cape. The cape covered his white shirt and part of his black jeans. Not too far down, he wore a red pair of socks. His cute smile disappeared when his ocean blue eyes met mine causing my chest to feel owie.
Matt picked up the handsome boy while I hid further into mom’s chest, taking a peek at him once in a while.
“Matt is Nina’s sons’ father!” dad said proudly, then clapped his hands together. “Yup, that’s it”
The boy glared at me.
“Joshua, say hi,” Matt said.
Joshua continued glaring at me. I match his glare.
Mom smiled brightly. “Oh, so you’re Matt. Nina’s sons’ father, who happens to be here, living together with her?”
Matt smiled, “Not exactly. I live in New York.”
“But, he comes here every weekend, every single weekend. On holidays, he stays exceptionally long. Plus, they just had another kid together. Where is that other kid?” dad said quickly, then peeked behind Matt.
“Matt! Is that-” a woman appeared with a pink apron wrapped around her body. “Kevin!” she said, reaching out her arms for a hug.
“Nina!” Dad replied and hugged her back.
Matt and mom stood there.
Nina smiled, then looked at me. “Oh! You must be Hailey and Stephanie. I heard so much about you from Kevin. I’m so glad you guys decided to move here. Welcome!” she said, then hugged us. “Come in!” she squealed. She held mom’s hand and dragged us inside the house.
My eyes met Joshua once more, and I watched as it narrowed. His nostrils flare while his red cheeks puff.
Mom put me down in the living room. “Josh! Play with Hailey!” Nina said, and Matt put him down next to me.” Awww... Aren’t you two cute together,” she smiled.
Mom smiles too. “They sure are.”
I turned my head to see Joshua glaring at me with folded arms.
“Stephanie, want to go tour the house? The food is still warming up, so we got some spare time,” Nina said.
Mom glanced at dad, then shrugged. “Sure.”
They left the room.
Matt and dad looked at each other. “Want a beer?” Matt asks.
Dad grunted. “Please,” They stood up. “Just don’t put anything shady in it this time.”
Matt stopped walking. “I thought we were over this,” he mumbled.
Dad smirked. “Yeah, but I like reminding myself you’re as imperfect as me.”
He rolled his eyes and tilted his head to the side. “Come on.”
They left the room too.
Joshua was still glaring at me with his ugly face, and I ignored it.
Yes, he’s ugly now.
When I see a red airplane, I smile and crawl towards it. Before I could pick it up, Joshua grabbed it from the floor. “Mine,” he said.
I wobbled towards a blue train set.
Joshua grabbed it. “Mine.”
I frowned and walked towards the toy cars. Joshua squatted down and pushed everything behind him. “Mine.”
I puffed my cheeks and pushed him to the ground causing all the toys to drop onto the floor. Josh stood up and pushed me down. “I don’t like you!”
I glared murderously at him and stood up, then leaped on top of him. “You meanie!” I punched his chest.
He rolled back on top of me and pulled my hair. “No girls allowed here! Girls are icky!”
We continued screaming and hitting each other. I bit him when he kicked my knee.
“Mommy! Daddy!” we shouted at the same time.
Heavy footsteps stormed throughout the house. “Hailey! Josh!” They tore us apart.
“Mommy! She pushed me down!”
“Only because you don’t share!” I screamed.
Joshua and I were sent to a corner until lunch.
Sitting on the table, Joshua stabbed his steak while glaring at me. Mom was cutting my steak while talking with Nina.
“So, you and Matt have two children, but you guys just got back together?” Mom asked.
Josh lifted his fork and bit the piece of steak.
Nina smiled and nodded, “Sounds about right,” she replied.
I grabbed my fork and stabbed it on my piece. Slowly, I lifted it and shoved the part inside my mouth.
“So, umm, what happened between you two...if you don’t mind me being noisy,” mom asked.
Josh grabbed another piece, shoving it inside his mouth. His mom wiped his mouth.
“Not at all, we decided to...separate due to certain circumstances, but we talked it through-” she placed a hand on top of Matt, and he smiled. “and decided to try things again.”
Mom wiped my mouth while I glared against him.
“But...you two had a second child together, so doesn’t that mean you both-” she placed her hands in the air and clapped it multiple times. “You know.”
I smiled and copied her, causing the whole room to burst out laughing.
“That’s enough, sweetheart... Let’s not be too noisy,” dad said, wiping the tears from the edge of his eye. “Where is Caleb?”
“He’s upstairs, taking a nap.”
“Mommy, I’m done,” Joshua said, holding out his arms.
I narrowed my eyes then smirked, “Miss, I need to go pee pee.”
Nina stopped reaching for Joshua. “Matt, can you help Josh,” she said and walked towards my side. “I’m going to show Hailey the bathroom.” Nina picked me up.
Joshua ran his finger across his neck, then pointed it at me.
I stuck out my tongue.
After I finished, our parents put us in the same living room. We sat there, still glaring at each other.
“Aww, they finally like each other,” Nina said, placing a hand over her chest.
“They are so cute,” mom said, shoving her phone into our faces.
Nina gasped. “What if they get married in the future!”
Dad spat out the soda he was drinking while Matt’s face scrunched. “No,” they said slowly at the same time.
“She is icky!” Josh screamed, “I don’t want to marry an icky girl!”
I pouted and stood up. “I’m not icky! You’re icky!” I pretended to throw up.
“Well, you’re ugly!”
The water in my eyes welled up, and I reached for his neck. Before I could lay my little fingers on his neck, he formed a fist and punched me across the face.
I inhaled a sharp breath and sat up. The sweats rolled down my skin. A groan mix with a yawn exits my throat, and I slam back onto the bed. Tilting my head, I saw a space beside me.
After we bickered yesterday, Josh and I quietly walked back to the dorm. There were roughly three feet between us; each refused to look at one another. The night was rough, agonizingly quiet.
I release another yawn and turn towards the nightstand. Reaching out a single hand, I pat the space. Releasing a hazy breath, I settle on my back. “Maybe I should apologize?”
After some time, I slap myself on the cheeks. “No! Be strong, Hailey!” I threw two fists in the air.
My arms slump down. “But, he only told your parents because he cares.”
I slap my hands over my face. “It’s not his place, though.”
After some more time, I began rolling in circles on the bed, wrapping myself in the blanket. “Apologize...Not apologize...Apologize...Not Ap- aahhhhhhh!” I sat up and ran my hands all over my hair.
Before I knew it, I fell onto the floor. “Ow,” I groan, feeling the pain rushing up my spine.
Standing up, I clench my fists together. “Good intentions, bad methods. He should be the one who apologizes.” I nod to myself before heading towards the bathroom.
I grabbed my toothbrush, but I couldn’t help but frown when I saw Josh’s brush. “Don’t think about him.” I spread the paste onto the brush and vigorously cleaned my teeth.
Throwing the water onto my face, I look in the mirror and brush my fingers against the small pimples besides my neck. “Why are you here?” I groan, rushing my locks down to cover it.
Changing into the school uniform, I strap on the backpack and head out the door. Once I reached the lobby, Austin came into view. He smiles when his eyes reach mine. “Good morning, little lady.” He tilts his invisible cowboy hat.
I copy his actions. “Good morning, young stallion,” I deepened my voice, attempting to match his, causing Austin to burst out laughing.
After some time, his laughter died down. “You okay?”
“Of course, I’m okay. Why would-” I exhale. “You saw what happened yesterday?”
“The whole school is talking about it.”
I nod slowly. “About how I had a nervous breakdown...Great.” I smack my lips together.
He rests his chin on top of his palm. “A little bit of that, but also-”
Heels clicking caught my attention, and I turned around to see Madison walking out of the elevator with a few other people behind her - one who was her brother - Mason. She wore the same outfit as everyone else except gold and diamonds complement nearly every skin surface from her ears to her ankles. Her eyes met mine, and the edge of her pink lips curled up into a smirk as she passed by me.
“Rumors say you’re here to dethrone the queen.”
My eyes widened. “I’m not dethroning anyone!”
Austin burst out laughing. “I know that, but it seems like the whole student body thinks that.”
“Why would they say something like that?”
“Because you’re Joshua’s woman, so it’s only fitting if you’re our new Queen,” he pretends to bow down at me.
I hit his arm, “Stop it.”
Austin rubs it and grins, “Don’t forget the little people when you’re up there.”
I huff a breath, “I’m not talking to you anymore.”
Austin’s smile fades as he stares at me. “Be careful, Hailey,” he spoke in a severe tone. “It doesn’t look like it but past the fancy cars and expensive pretty brand name products. The students at this school can be pretty cutthroat.”
A single corner of my lips struggles to lift, “Don’t worry. I got my fair share of being...pick on.”
He tapped a single finger on the marble counter as his chair spins left and right. “I’m not talking about physical activities. Here, they believe the best way to get to you is-” he places a finger on top of his temple, “here.”
“Like break you down mentally?”
Austin nodded, “If you’re not strong, you won’t stand on top.”
“I don’t want to stand on top.”
“From what I can see, you have no choice.”