VIII. A Fan
I swallow and bite my lower lip. “It’s hotter in New York than I thought,” I chuckle nervously, feeling his nose brushing against mine. “I need a fan.”
He smirks, “Why do you need a fan?”
“I just told you-”
“You already got the biggest fan...right-” He points two fingers at himself. “here.”
I roll my eyes and push him away, unable to hold back my laugh. “Joshua Lynn Greyson, you’re the worst comedian in the world!”
He held my wrists, rushing his thumb down my veins. “I told you never to mention my middle name.”
I stuck out my tongue.
He pretends to bite it.
Josh’s playful smiles fade.
“You’re serious again.”
He sighs, “I’m sorry for earlier.”
I tuck my lips over my teeth. “No, I should. You only care about me, and I blew a fuse.”
He tucks a strand of hair behind my ear, a cold hand on my cheek. “I care, HayBug.”
“I know...but this is how I look right now-”
Josh exhaled, “Hailey, it was never about how you look.”
“But you were sc-”
Josh ran a hand down his face. “Hailey. Let me ask you this again. Tell me again, why did you lose all this weight?”
I swallow, unable to respond. He leaped off the counter and began walking out of the room. I grab his shirt. “Jos-”
He turns around and licks his lips, placing his hands on his waist. “If you want to lose weight for yourself, I’m okay with that, but what did you say earlier? You told me you’re losing all this weight because of what others think of you.”
“There isn’t anything wrong with losing weight-”
“Losing weight for others, suffering for others. Wasting your hard earned money for others. Is it worth it? Doing all of that, for strangers’ approval?”
My hands tighten. “You don’t know how I feel, Josh!” He opens his mouth, but I quickly cut him off. “Spending day after day being called a fat pig. Having people oinking in your face!” my vision began to blur.
He took a step towards me and extended his hand, tangling it with mine. “Who’s bullying you? Tell me. I’ll take care of th-”
“What are you going to do? Throw all of my middle school classmates into prison?”
“HayBug...I didn’t know.” He swipes his thumbs across my wet cheeks. “What about your friends?”
“You’re going to think I’m a loser after you hear this story.”
“Never,” he whispers.
“They abandoned me,” I try to laugh it off, but it’s harder than I thought.
“Wh-What did they do?”
I bit my inner cheeks.
He closes the distance between us. “HayBug, tell me...please.”
Inhaling a shaky breath, my lower lip pours out involuntarily. “They tricked me into going to this party, and there was this guy.”
Josh’s hands tighten on mine. “Th-There was a guy?”
I nod, “This guy my friend was crushing on.”
He exhales, “Okay...continue.”
“He asked me to go to a room with him to check out a gift he was going to give my friend, saying how he likes her. I thought he genuinely likes her, so I went with him”
“Alone?” He asks slowly.
“No, of course not. I went with another girl.”
“Oh...then what happened?”
I swallow, then exhale. “I was the first to walk inside the darkroom, and they poured garbage on me.” The tears began streaming down once more. “E-Everyone was wearing pig masks, and they all oink at me...including my friends...or who I thought was my friends.”
After the party, I ate alone - no, I was isolated. Day after day, strangers tripped me in the hallway. They shove garbage into my lockers. They called me a fat pig in front of my face. I hated how I had to eat in the bathroom...alone. So, I could avoid other disapproving looks.
“Look, the fat pig is trying to eat more than garbage.”
“About time she looked in a mirror.”
Josh placed a warm hand on my cheek, forcing my eyes to lay solely on him.
I told myself it was okay; after all, I have everything I need.
Moreover, I don’t need fake friends.
Josh wraps his arms tightly around me as his fingers rush down my hair. “Shhh... Don’t cry, HayBug...They aren’t here to bother you anymore,” I hold onto his shirt tighter, feeling his body shake vigorously. “I promise...They won’t be bothering anyone for a very long time.”
I didn’t know how long I cried in Josh’s arms, but before I knew it, we were in bed together. I stifle a yawn, attempting to stretch my body, but he had me down on his usual lockdown. The light brewed through the curtains as I sat up, rubbing my tired eyes.
Adjusting my blurry vision, I push Josh aside, who flop over and continue snoring. Stepping out of bed, my toes wiggle against the wooden ground. The bedroom is furnished with the furniture and a few brown boxes, indicating Josh was ready to move into the dorms for a new year. From every clean white wall are smiled colored photographs of our families.
Above us is a beautiful mural, hand-painted by someone who knew what they were doing. The scene is of a starry sky that cruises down the streets in the winter festival. The colors were vibrant and energetic. On the side, an open closet reveals neatly folded clothes and multiple bins - most likely, Mrs.Greyson’s work.
My smile widens, seeing multiple guitars hung on the wall signed by famous players. My hand skim across the signatures -
Josh rushed towards me, almost tripping on his untied shoelaces. “HayBug! Guess what! I just got my first guitar!”
I clasped my hands together. “Cool!”
He smiled widely, holding the guitar in the air. “And guess what!”
“I’m going to be a famous musician one day!”
He nodded, “Yup, but you’re going to have to be my number one fan! Okay?”
I put my hands in the air and circle them. “I will be the best fan in the world!”
He blocked his face and stumbled backward, pretending to be blown away by my wind. “Ahhhh! Too much fanning!”
“Why are you laughing, weirdo?”
I drop my hand, feeling his arms around my waist as he mumbles incoherent words into my neck. “Just remembering some things.”
“Happy things?” He grumbles.
I nod, placing my hands on top of his. “Best memories of my life.”
In the next few days, Josh and I spend it together. We went around New York, sometimes with his families - mostly his younger brothers who want to tag along.
“Josh! Play with us!”
“God. They’re annoying,” he mumbles under his breath, shoving my luggage inside the car.
I playfully punch his arm. “You know you like it,” I said, then look at his younger brothers who were playing knights and thieves in front of the house. “They worship the grounds you walk on, Josh.”
He rolled his eyes, but I didn’t miss the smile on his face. Miles wobbles towards Josh with a cardboard sword. “Die! Die! Die!” he continuously stabs Josh’s leg.
Josh smiles and dramatically falls to the ground. “Aaaahhh! My leg!” he held onto his leg, then all the boys rushed towards him and stabbed him while he laid on the grass.
Suddenly, Josh erupts into an evil laugh. “I will destroy all knights!” he screams. Everyone yelled and scattered all over the yard. He hauls Theodore and Mike over his shoulders then spun them around.
I laugh, causing Josh to turn towards me. He smirks, “Attack the dragon!”
All the boys rushed towards me and stabbed me with their swords. “Ahhhhhh! I’m melting!”
“Wrong game!” Caleb shouts while stabbing my arm.
“Enough, boys!” Mrs.Greyson scream, and they all stop stabbing me.
Josh places Theodore and Mike down, then helps me stand up. I pat the dirt off my black jeans, feeling a third hand on it. I look at Josh, who smiles. “Trying to help,” he said, slapping my butt one more time. “All clean.”
I gasp and smack his ass causing him to gasp louder. He covers his ass with his hands while backing away. “Miss Vaughn! How dare you tarnish my reputation? No one will want to wed me in the future!”
“You did it to me!”
“Because I’m committed to marrying you! Where’s your commitment, huh?”
“I’m committed to making your life miserable.”
He smiles, “Feels like we’re married already.”
“Ewwww,” the boys said, scrunching up their faces.
Mrs.Greyson smiles and giggles lightly. “Enough, everyone. You all know Josh and Hailey have to catch a flight soon.”
“But we want to play with them longer, mommy,” Calvin grumbled.
Mrs.Greyson frowned. “I know, baby, but you got all your other brothers! All five others,” she giggles unnervingly. “You know, I should’ve stopped at six boys, but for some unknown reason, I’m pregnant again! With twin boys!” she sighs. “When will I accept that I’m not going to get a girl? When will I stop falling for that line - Don’t worry short stack, what are the chances of you getting pregnant again," her smile drops, and she glares at Mr.Greyson who pretends not to hear her.
“Is mommy PMS-ing ag-” Mr.Greyson quickly covers Theodore’s mouth.
Mike rolls his eyes. “Mom can’t PMS! She is pregnant! Stupid!”
“You’re a dum-dum,” Theodore mumbles.
“What is PMS?” Calvin asks.
“Pretty Mean She.”
Calvin twists his lips. “Pretty Mean She?”
“We’ll talk about it later,” Mr.Greyson whispers.
Mrs.Greyson rubs her huge stomach looking as if she will pop any second as she glares at Mr.Greyson, who said: “Enough, mommy is always nice. She doesn’t PMS.”
All the boys avoid her eyes and nod, grumbling words of agreement, causing her eyes to roll.
Lola wraps her arms around Mrs.Greyson’s legs. “You got me Mrs.Greyson,” she said in an overly sweet voice, batting her large eyes. Jada stands on the sideline and shakes her head at Lola, who was ignoring her.
Mrs.Greyson smiled, “Yes, I do.” She picks Lola up and kisses her cheek.
“Kiss up,” Caleb said and fake a cough.
Lola snuggles closer to Mrs.Greyson’s enormous breasts while smirking at Caleb, who’s glaring at her.
“Umm, sweetheart. Maybe you should put Lola down since you’re preg-” Mr.Greyson stops talking when Mrs.Greyson glares at him.
He takes a step back. “I-I’ll stand over here.”
“Yes, you do that,” her tone sounds slightly bitter.
“What’s wrong with your legs Mrs.Greyson?” I ask, realizing she was walking funny earlier.
“Oh ew,” Josh whispers under his breath and closes his eyes momentarily, turning his body towards the other direction.
“I....twisted my ankle earlier,” she laughs, while Mr.Greyson snorts. He quickly lifted a fist over his lip and began coughing, turning his body to the other side. Mrs.Greyson slaps his arm, and he smiles. They are too cute.
She releases a deep breath and smiles at us. “You two have fun at school, okay?” she turns towards Josh. “Take care of Hailey, baby.”
He nods, “I will, mom.”
Mr.Greyson throws an arm over Josh’s shoulder and takes him to the other side. I tilt my head, trying to listen to their conversation, but everyone else is too loud.
After some moments, Josh came back, running his hands down his face as he blew out a breath of air.
“Oh, and don’t forget to take care of your cousin too!” Mrs.Greyson said.
Josh groans, “She can protect herself.”
“Wait...Cousin? Crystal is going to school with us?” I ask.
Crystal is Mrs.Greyson’s younger sister’s daughter. She lived down the street from my house in MistVille until her mom got remarried and moved to New York.
He nods, “Unfortunately.”
“Where is she?” I ask, realizing I haven’t seen her since I visited New York.
“The Bahamas with her family. Auntie Piper thinks it’s a good way for all of them to bond with Uncle Jackson,” he explains.
I nod in understanding, knowing Crystal doesn’t like her step-father. We hugged everyone goodbye and got into the car. Josh held my hand with a smile on his face. “I hate to admit it, but I’m glad Crystal is there.”
“Now, you got two friends at your awesome new school,” he wiggled two fingers in front of my face.
I tangle our fingers, resting my head on his shoulder. “One friend and an amazing childhood-” my eyes met his, and the raging beats drum inside my chest escalated, “friend.”