VI. Others' Approval
Josh stands there, staring at me like I’m a ghost. Steadily, I stand up, placing both hands in the air. “Ooooh...I’m a ghost,” I joke, with a forced smile on my face while my head motion left and right.
However, I would do anything right now to break the awkward tension between us.
He didn’t respond.
I continue to stand there still with two hands in the air and an overly awkward smile to accompany it. I began forcing out a laugh, attempting to break the excruciatingly uncomfortable tension lingering between us. Bystanders were passing by us, eyes gazing at me, probably wonder why I have both hands in the air.
Josh’s eyes move from my face, very slowly down my body. It takes all I had to not swallow, feeling as if he was checking me out “You look...different,” he finally said.
The heavy luggage wheels pass us, accompanies by various voices.
I place my hands to the side, scratching my neck. A short chuckle lingers in the air. “Oh...you notice?” I said in my horrendous comedian voice to prevent myself from running back into the airplane. “I can’t believe you noticed how I...cut my hair,” I said, remembering how I had a trim d two days ago. I don’t usually cut my hair that often since Josh said he likes it long.
He lifts a brow, eyes dropping from my face towards my body then back to my face. “Yeah...the haircut...That’s it,” he mumbles.
A man in a suit steps up, and I recognize it was Joel, the Greyson’s private driver. “Welcome back Miss Hailey,” he greets.
I nod, “Hello Joel.”
Initially, it was supposed to be Josh who was going to pick me up, but Josh’s mom profoundly rejects the idea and whatever Josh’s mom says - goes.
Joel turns towards Josh who’s still staring at me. “Ready to go Young Master Joshua?”
“Joel...How many times do I have to tell you? Just call me by my name.”
The tip of my toes fidgets with one another. I thought by now; Josh would greet me with a giant bear hug like he always does.
Joel smiles, “And I said I would only-”
Josh grunts, “Only when we are on private because we have to uphold an image...I know,” he grumbles.
Joel left the airport to get the car while Josh and I silently stand beside each other. Josh turned back toward me, but his eyes were avoiding me as he scratches his head. “Should we go?” he chuckles anxiously.
I nod, then turned to grab my bag. “Here I got it,” he mumbles, taking the bag from me. His eyes match mine as his brows furrows, but he continues walking out the airport.
Once we reach the exit, Josh and I stand there, staring at the passing cars in front of us. I wrap my hands around my arms, feeling my body trembles at the slight breeze. Scrunching my nose, a quick sneeze exit follows by watery mucus.
Feeling warmth wrap around me, blood flow towards my cheeks. I hold onto Josh’s sweater, knowing there was a smile on my face as he turns his body towards the direction of the wind, blocking it.
My vision cast on his shaky hands and I giggle, knowing he’s cold. I look up, seeing his face completely stoned, attempting to look strong. “If you’re cold...You can have your jacket back.”
He turns his head, then looks down. “I’m not cold.”
Another round of breeze brushes past us, causing Josh’s nose to scrunch. His eyes narrow, head lift, as his mouth widens into a loud - Ha-chew!
I burst out laughing, probably spit a little in the air, tears welling up in my eyes.
“Shut up,” he mumbles, tanned cheeks turning a light shade of pink.
I try to hold back the smile that wants to burst into my face. “No one likes a poser.”
“I am not a poser!”
I snort, “Sure you aren’t,” I respond in teasing tone.
His eyes narrow, and he places out a palm. “Give me my jacket back.”
I copy his facial changes, wrapping my arms around my body, attempting not to feel the tingliness between my thighs when his fantastic cologne rushes through my nostrils. “Nuh uh...No takesy backsies!”
“Ya huh!” his voice heightens.
“Are you mocking me?”
He smirks, “Are you mocking me?”
My hands flatten to the side, and I stomp my foot. “Stop it!”
He copies me. “Stop it!”
I point a finger at him. “Stop it or else!”
He pokes my nose with his finger. “Or else whaaaat?”
My lips twist into a devious smile and I bit his finger causing him to shriek. Everyone snaps their attention to us. Suddenly, Josh drops to his knees, very dramatically. “Help! Help! She’s beating me!”
My mouth drops to the ground as people pass by us, whispering to one another while Josh continues laying on the ground, covering his eye for some unknown reason.
I duck down. “Stop it! What are you doing? Get up!”
His lips curve up playfully. “I’m sorry! I’ll pick you up on time next time! Please, stop hitting me!” he covers his face with his hands.
“I can’t believe some girls would beat their boyfriend like that!”
“How sad...He’s so handsome too!”
“Maybe we should call the police.”
My cheeks heat when a random guy takes out his phone and start recording us. I tugged Josh who groans. “Stop! Please!” I beg him. “People are looking.”
I can hear snorting sounds from behind his hands, knowing the current situation thoroughly entertains him. Unable to handle his childish manner, I stand up. “I’m going home,” I said, then quickly grab my luggage.
Feeling a heated hand on mine, I inhale a deep breath of air to calm down before turning to see Josh’s face utterly red as he tries to hold in his laughter. My shade matches his, and I decide to tug my hand away, but he refuses to budge as the audience continues gazing at us.
He looks around. “I’m lying! My girl isn’t a boyfriend beater!” he shouts, and everyone went back to their business.
I punch his arm.
“Ow!” he pouts, rubbing his arm even though we both know he isn’t hurt.
“You want an abusive girl! I’ll give you an abusive girl!” I shout, then began throwing my fists randomly at him.
He places a foot in the air, covering his face with his arms. “Ow! Ow!” he continues laughing. “You break it! You buy it!”
I continue hitting him, knowing my fists hurt more than his non-existing pains.
“Hailey!” He calls for me, but my anger only escalates.
“You! You! You asshole!” I scream.
Josh caught my wrist, and I blow the hair out of my face as I glared at him. “Watch what you say...bad words are a no-no.”
I scoff, snapping my face towards him feeling as if a neck cramp will arrive soon. I probably should’ve stretched my neck before expressing my saltiness. “Assssssssshoooole.”
He pulls me into his chest, warm minty breath skewing across my skin. “You better watch it...That mouth of yours can get you into some pretty sticky situation in the future.”
“I’m not afraid,” I reply in a sassy tone. “My mom a detective,” I felt his chest pounding against mine. “Do you know what that means?” I whisper in a devious tone.
The edge of his lip twerk, while the tip of his tongue peeks out. “What?”
Feeling his grip lighten, I twist his arm behind his back and kick the end of his knee forcing him to be on his knees. “Mami can kick ass.”
Josh chuckles, “Mami can kick ass huh?”
My smile fell flat feeling him grab my wrist once more and twist his body slamming it against my back, his breathy air, brushing on the lobe of my ear. "Papi can do more than kick ass,” he whispers.
“What are you two doing?” Joel asks.
Josh releases my lock arms, then rest an arm on my shoulders. “Just playing around,” Josh responds.
Sometimes, Josh and I played around a bit too much, forgetting that there are others around us.
Joel nods, deciding not to question our odd manners any further “Shall we go?” he asks, walking towards the car and opening the back door.
Josh takes my hand and walks us towards the car. I was about to jump inside the vehicle until Josh stops me. “Brains before beauty,” he said with a teasing grin and jump in before me.
I roll my eyes because we both know Josh is the smart one and well...let’s say I’m not the brightest lightbulb in the room....not the brightest even in the darkest room.
Once inside the car, I notice Josh’s hand is still on mine. I smile, feeling everything was back to normal, and Josh was acting weird like earlier. He tugs my arm. “Why are you sitting so far?”
I laugh and slide over placing my legs on his lap as I rest my head on his shoulder. My eyes motion towards the tinted glass, watching the tall buildings of New York.
My brows furrowed as the screen dividing us from the front seat slide upward. Josh’s hand tighten on my mine as we come to a slow stop, probably a red light or the horrendous city traffic.
“What happened?” his voice is no longer playful.
I bit on my lower lip as my hands’ grip on the shirt. “I thought I give my hair a trim,” I respond, scratching my head knowing that’s the worst excuse in the world.
Josh places his forearm underneath my chin and lifts it, meeting his. “Hailey...What happened?” his voice is much sterner, deeper.
I began twiddling with the tip of my fingers. “I...I wanted to become...prettier.”
He releases my chin and with gravity, my face fell onto our lap and soon a deep sigh follows. Josh hung his elbow onto the glass window, with his forehead press against his palm. “Hailey...You’re pretty already,” he sounds slightly irritated.
I remove my legs. “No...I’m pretty now...I-” my words got caught inside my throat, mouth half hung open. “I was a fat pig back then,” tears began brimming inside my eyes.
“You’re not a -” he closes his eyes momentarily to catch his thoughts. “You’re not.”
“Yes, I am Josh! I was 13 years old and 180 pounds with acne all over my face! I was ugly!”
“Who says that?!”
“And they matter?”
“What about me? Doesn’t my words matter?!”
My eyes widen stun by his sudden outburst. Every time he opens his mouth the anger strikes harder. “You keep mentioning all these other people, but doesn’t what I think matter? For fuck sake Hailey, do you know how dangerous it is to lose so much weight in such a short time?”
“I lost 80 pounds in a year. That’s not unhealthy!” I swallow, feeling my stomach tightening up. At that moment, I want to run back into my bedroom and shove chocolate down my throat.
There’s a reason why you’re fat.
That single line echoed in the back of my mind. I want to say something - anything, but nothing came out.
“And your reason for losing it was because you wanted to become prettier? You want others’ approval? That’s your reason?”
No, that’s not my reason.
The silence only made it worse.
Josh had always been a calm and collected person. Right now as I look at him with a redden face as he rakes his fingers through his dark hair. My heart is beating erratically, thighs tightening as his harden eyes skew towards me. “You’re pretty in my eyes...Isn’t that enough?” he whispers, lips tilting downward into a full-fledged frown.
Before I can respond, the car came to a stop. Josh shakes his head once and opens the door, purposely slamming it shut for me to hear.
Joel clears his throat, and I remember how he is still in the driver’s seat, probably heard all of our bickerings. “We are here” he said, keeping the glass diving between us.
“Thank you, Joel,” I respond, wiping the edge of my eyes. Releasing a deep breath, I grab the handle and leap out of the car.
Taking a few blinks, the Greyson’s house came into view. The house looks like a cut out from some famous magazine. It is stunning, which I guess you could say about almost any pitch roof abode with square glass windows, but on this house, you couldn’t help but notice it. The dark roof is flat, and the white door is full as it was tall. The windows take up the entire walls with only bright steel beams to break them into more rectangles.
The house is new - very new - the Greyson’s built - yes, built - it not too long ago. From what I had heard, Josh’s siblings refused to live in their old house because there wasn’t enough room. Mrs.Greyson caved with their constant bickering and in the end - Mr.Greyson decided to hire a bunch of the world’s best professional architects and build a house.
Joel grab my luggage and pull it into the house. A smile appears on my face when the look open, showing Jada. Jada is the Greyson’s caretaker - or the Greyson’s boys would call mama.
Quickly, she rushes towards me and granted me a giant loving hug. “Bienvenido carino! Tienes hambre? Debes estar cansado!”
I smile, unable to reply. I don’t know Spanish or any other language, but I know how to do a cartwheel which is the same thing. No, it’s not.
“Hailey!” a high pitch voice echoes behind her, and I tilt my body to see Lola, Jada’s daughter. Instantly, she crashes into my body, granting me a hug as tight as her mom.
From what I had heard, Mrs.Greyson stumble upon Jada and Lola threw out of their house. Jada’s ex-husband wasn’t the nicest husband or dad. She helps them get out of their troublesome situation, but Lola’s large brown eyes sucked her right in. From what I had heard, Lola reminded her of someone.
Lola throws up a lollipop. “Look! Look! Mrs.Greyson gave me a lollipop,” she smiles showing off her two missing front teeth, “And she told me she would bake a cake with me. We will put in gummy worms, ice creams, sprinkles, and chocolate! Lots and lots of chocolate!” she began doing her scary evil laugh, then stop and held my hands. “Bake it together with us?”
Jada tug against her ear. “Comportarse. Hailey esta cansada.”
“But, mama! I miss Hailey!”
Josh stepped up and smiles, messing up Lola’s hair causing her to pout. “Listen to mama,” he turns towards Jada. “Mama donde esta mom and dad?” the words roll off of his tongue perfectly.
“Mr.Greyson esta de camino a casa y Mrs.Greyson se esta tambaleando por las escaleras. El estomago de tu mama es tan grande. Creo que esta a punto de estallar!” She throw both arms in the air and made an explosive sound.
She glances at me and smiles “Hailey esta bien? Ella se ve tan flaca.” She smacked the backside of Josh’s head. “Te dije que te ocuparas de ella!”
Josh rub his head. “Mama! No se que paso, pero desearia que me lo contara,” he mumbles.
Jada sighs, “Voy a cocinar mucha comida con tu madre esta noche. Asegurate de que ella se lo coma. La nina necesita carne.”
Josh smiles, “Gracias mama,” he responds, and she pinches his cheek.
Jada looks at me and kisses my cheeks. “Welcome Hailey,” she said and walk back inside.
“What did she said?” I ask.
Lola leaps onto Josh’s arms, and he holds her while she kicks her feet in the air. “That you need to eat all the food she cooks tonight,” he responds.
“Hailey!” My eyes snap back towards the large front door to see Mrs.Greyson...pregnant...again.
Why does it feel like she is always pregnant when I see her?
She places a hand behind her arching back and began wobbling towards us with her usual gleaming smile. Once she reaches us, she spread her arms granting me a huge hug. It’s quite tricky considering the bump between us. Placing her hands on my shoulders, she looks up and down. “Wow...Your mom is right...You...Did you cut your hair?” she giggles.
My cheeks redden, and I twirl my finger around my hair, peeking at Josh who’s baby talking with Lola. “Who’s the cutest girl in the world?”
“Me!” she squeals, wrapping her arms around Josh’s neck.
“Y-Yes I did Mrs.Greyson.”
She brushes my hair behind my ear. “I told you, call me Nina,” she pats my shoulder once. “Come inside! I baked cookies!” she said, and Lola squeals.
Lola leaps off of Josh and rushes towards Mrs.Greyson. “Cookies! Cookies! Cookies!” she sang.
We follow them into the house. “Your mom is pregnant...again” I whisper.
Josh sigh, “Yeah...twins.”
My eyes widen, “Twins?”
His smile tightens, “Twin boys.”
“Hailey!” I hear a bunch of voices shout simultaneously. Instantly, I whip around to see five boys. Before I can react, they leap on top of me resulting in a back slam against the carpet. I groan, feeling the aching sensation.
“Hailey! You’re not fluffy anymore,” Calvin said.
“F-Fluffy?” I repeat the five years old words.
He nods, “Fluffy and squis-”
Josh grab him by the collar and pull him up. “That’s enough boys,” his big brother mood activates.
Josh is the oldest in the family of six boys. Next, is Caleb, Theodore, Mike, Calvin, Miles - I look at Mrs.Greyson’s stomach - and two unknown little twins.
Yup, all boys.
Mike hold my hand and tug on it. “Hailey! Let’s play!” He smiled widely showing off his sing missing front tooth.