Then You Look At Me

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This Is Heaven

~In your eyes, I see there’s something burning inside you. In your eyes, I know it hurts to smile but you try to~ The Weeknd.

Chapter Theme Song: 'In Your Eyes' by The Weeknd.

°°

Rainey

“Rain...do you want to come home with me?”

I stare at him for a while, wondering if I just heard correctly. Ansel just asked me if I want to come home with him. I have done many things during my years of living. I’ve gone to clubs, parties, drank liquor, get piercings and alongside the friendship tattoo Riley and I got recently, I have a huge drawing of an eagle with shackled feet on my back. But I’ve never slept at a guy’s place before. The thought is nerve-wracking.

The silence stretches for a few seconds, with me just staring at him like a mute and him, looking back at me, waiting for a response.

He raises his eyes to the ceiling in thought, twisting his lips, then he chuckles a little. “Uh, that sounded weird just then. It came out so wrong, what I meant was if you’d like to stay at my place for the night.”

“I know what you meant.” I smile a little. “It's just that…”

“That what?”

I shrug, uncertainty on my face.

“It’s okay to say no.” He quickly assures me. “I just don’t want you out on the streets. I wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing you’re not safe inside.”

“Thanks, I appreciate it but…I-I wouldn’t want to- ”

“Intrude?” He finishes, a smile on his face. “You wouldn’t be intruding. My mom would be happy to have you over. She makes awesome stewed chicken, if that statement can be of any aid to your indecision.”

He titters and I can’t help the small smile that spreads my lips.

I haven’t had a homecooked meal in a while. When Ansel came over and my Mom made lasagna, it was the first in a decade and I didn’t get to eat it because of all the chaos that went down at the table. I bite down on my lower lip contemplatively.

“I’m not forcing you, it’s your decision and I will respect whatever you choose.”

I hate caving in. I don’t want to head home like a weak person when my mom told me to stay off her porch tonight, I have too much pride for that. So, I think accepting Ansel’s offer would be a lot better.

“Okay…as long as I won’t be-”

“You won’t be intruding.” He smiles, slipping his cell from his pocket. “I’ll text Alex to pick us up, yeah?”

I nod, as he begins to tap away on his cell.

Sleeping at Ansel’s place? I hope my cheeks can make it through the night without setting his house on fire.

°°

In no time, Alex pulls up to the curb. We tell Tim a farewell and step through the doors of the café, coming to a halt under the slim rooftop shed of the building.

The rain is pouring down in heavier drops now. I rub my arm as I look up to the sky. The stars and moon are hidden by pillows of black clouds and I can tell this rain might not be letting up anytime soon. There is no shelter to get to the car, so I am about to make a run for it when Ansel grabs my arm, a light chuckle leaving his lips as he gently pulls me back. “What are you doing, Rain?”

I look up at him. “Making a run for it.”

“No way, I don’t want you getting sick on me in the middle of the night. We shelter together.” He lifts the umbrella I hadn’t notice he was holding.

“Oh.” I smile, pushing my hair from my eyes as I take a glance at the sky again.

He releases it, then immediately moves in closer to me. I look up at him. Wrapping an arm around my shoulder, he brings me under the umbrella and into his embrace. My eyes unintentionally enlarge, and he notices, smiling a little as he peers down at me.

“I hope it’s okay to touch you like this.”

I blink my eyes, my usual cope mechanism. “Uh, yeah…It-it’s okay.”

It’s not, my heart is being weird in my chest and my face won’t stop heating up.

“You okay?”

“Yeah…”

“Are you sure? Your face is red, and your voice is…shaky.”

I swallow hard. I keep forgetting that Ansel sees everything. “It’s just the rain…and I am really cold...”

He smiles softly, then pulls me closer into his fold. My chest is now pressed up against his, leaving no space in between. The proximity makes me nervous, but the warmth his body offers is delightful.

“Is that better?”

I nod, “Yeah…”

I try to keep my eyes off him, so he can’t see the anxiety in them. My face has transformed into everything red at the feel of his arm delicately enclosed around my body. Mixed with his familiar scent of strawberries is a fresh masculine smell that I can’t quite make out. I feel so small and fragile against him, and his body heat is an obvious contrast to the cold atmosphere of the night. I am so basked in the glory of his body close to mine that I have no idea when we arrived at the car.

Ansel has the door to the backseat opened, smiling as he looks at me. “Won’t be getting in?”

“Oh, y-yeah.” I slide into the car and he closes the door, quickly getting around to the passenger’s seat. The air condition in the car is high, and I rub my arms, attempting to warm myself up.

“Goodnight, welcome to Alex’s uber, where can I take you lovely people tonight?” Alex jokes, grinning playfully while turning his face to look at me.

I smile.

Ansel shakes his head at his brother while strapping his umbrella. “Your jokes are so lame.”

“But it sure puts a smile on Rainey’s face, didn’t it, Rain?” He beams at me through his top mirror.

“Rainey’s spending the night with us,” Ansel tells him.

Alex’s eyes slightly widen then his lips stretch in a smile, his signature cheeky expression on his face. “Oh…” he looks back at me, then to Ansel whose strapping himself up. “You two are surely moving fast…”

My cheeks crimson.

“It’s not like that,” Ansel states, causing his brother to waggle his eyebrows while shifting in his seat.

“Sure.” Alex adjusts the hand break with a grin. “It sure isn’t.”

“By the way, why are you still driving Alaric’s car?”

“Well, if I wasn’t such a disobedient thief, who’d pick you up tonight Ansel?”

He doesn’t reply, he just stares at his brother with a straight face. Alex smiles, taking his silence as a response. “That’s what I thought. Hold on tight Rainey, I just got some weed in my system, so I am high as hell. I won’t be modest today.”

I am confused at his statement until he steps on the gas and the car goes speeding off. I almost go flying through the windshield as I reflexively grip onto Ansel’s headrest for safety.

“Jeezus, Alex, can’t you drive better?” Ansel scolds his brother, who chuckles like a madman but doesn’t decrease his speed; instead, reaching down to turn the radio up. ‘Star Boy’ by The Weeknd blasts through the car while he puts in more gas.

“You okay Rain?” Ansel asks, quickly turning his head to glance at me.

“Yeah, I’m cool.”

“Rain, why didn’t you bring along Riley? I would gladly have her sleep in my room.” Alex smirks, making a hard turn that I almost fall over to the other side of the car. My liver almost comes up my throat as I struggle to keep my bottom on the seat.

“She’s miles away from here. Plus, what makes you think I’d trust letting my best friend sleep in a room with you?” I smile, lifting a brow.

“Ah, come on. I wouldn’t bite. The person you should fear is Ansel. He bites…very snakingly.”

“Mom?”

I realize Ansel’s now speaking on the phone, using a finger to press into his ear in efforts of hearing more clearly. “Alex turn that down, I can’t hear her.”

“Oh, sorry.” He leans over and turns the volume down, just a little, reaching for a pack of skittles off the dashboard in the process. He raises it to me through his top mirror, offering me some and I shake my head with a smile.

“Yeah, I am taking home a friend. Yeah, okay. Sure.” He gets off the phone and Alex just couldn’t wait to turn his radio back up, earning a deadpan expression from Ansel before he glances back at me.

“My Mom says she’d be happy to have you over, Rain.”

I smile. “Oh, okay.”

“Yeah, awesome, tonight will be an interesting night.” Alex comments, smirking in his seat.

Ansel slaps his brother playfully in the head. “Stop your smut for once, Al.”

He laughs. “It’s not smuts, it’s facts!”

“Focus on the road, the street’s slippery.”

“Yes, yes I’m on it.”

°°

The rain has now lessened to slight drizzles, with a sky promising more showers later.

Alex makes a turn into a neighborhood and I come to the edge of my seat to take in my surroundings. A sign is at the entrance: Welcome to Crossview Close; Scheme Two.

Scheme Two of Crossview is so much different than Scheme One. The houses are middle-class, simple and modest flat and two-story buildings that are a lot humbler than the ones where I reside. Doors of houses are wide open, people actively moving in and out, whereas, I can bet any money that Scheme One is already asleep by now. A few guys are on porches, smoking, talking and just chilling and I can hear kids playing in their yards despite the light rain.

This is the neighborhood I always dream about. I’d trade mine for this one any day.

“Wow,” I mutter. “This is heaven.”

Alex glances at me as if I have grown an extra head while Ansel smiles softly.

“What’s heaven, Rain?” Alex questions, genuine confusion hemming his voice.

“This,” I state, winding my window down and sticking my head through the space, the light rain kisses my face and the cool night air transporting the scent of home-cooked meals beautifully greets me. “This neighborhood…it’s heaven.”

Ansel’s smile is unchanging, but Alex has a confused look on his face, while he swings into a yard to park the car. “You mean this annoying place?”

“You have no idea what you have…” I mumble, more to myself than to him.

“We’re here,” Alex announces, ruffling his hair as he kills his engine. I look up at the building in front of me. Ansel’s house is unfussy, a modest two-story house with white walls. It looks like a home. I’m not sure I can explain what I mean by that, but I love the feeling it gives me.

I follow behind Ansel and Alex up the small steps to the house, my eyes taking in every detail of the yard. There are beautifully planted flowers on both sides of the pathway, and I spot an old car in the tiny garage on our left. Laundries are hung on the lines at the back and a barbecue grill sits at the corner of the yard. These small but noticeable details make his home seems ‘real’ and not just a perfect place with little to no sign of human life around. At my home, there is nothing like this. My mom gets a maid to do the laundry and she designs the yard with fake potted flowers, claiming the real ones might make her sneeze. She’s too lazy to grill herself, so she rather purchasing jerk food at high priced restaurants.

I wish my life was like this.

Ansel opens the door and steps into the house. I take notice of the ‘welcome mat’ at the entrance, on which the two boys stomp their feet to get rid of the mud beneath. I do the same after them, the new ritual sparking my interest. Whenever I get home I would walk straight inside, mainly because spending time at the door to clean my shoes means possible interaction between my mom and Jeff.

“Mom! We are here.” Ansel announces as they lead the way into what seems like the living room. It is compact with just a few furniture, but something about it feels a lot cozier than my home. I take notice of two boys sitting on the couch playing video games, both wearing hoodies, with their back turned to us.

“I’ll go get my Mom, Rain,” Ansel tells me, and I nod before he scurries away around the corner.

“We are here, bitches!” Alex announces, but the two boys are so consumed in their PS4 game that they didn’t hear a word he said. A mischievous smile spreads Alex’s lips at this, and he grabs a pillow from the single couch across from them. He folds it into a ball then throws it at one of the boys’ heads from behind. A throaty cackle erupts from him at the sight of the guy’s head plunging forward from the impact.

Furious, the guy grabs a pillow from behind him and shifts his head around to throw it back at Alex, “You little fuckface, you play too damn-!” he trails off, his hand freezing mid-air when his eyes land on me. Admiration crinkles in them, while he stares me over as if he has seen an angel or something. “Woah…”

“Yeah! I win this round, eat that Aiden!” The other guy laughs, darting his head around to see what his game partner is staring so intently at. As soon as he spots the unfamiliar face, he freezes just the same, and his cheeks run visibly crimson. “Oh, hi.”

I stare at the two boys in amazement, not only because they are identical twins but because they are a replica of both Ansel and Alex in one. The black hair, the nomad-blue eyes, and the flawless skin. I am so mesmerized that I am frozen like a statue while I take in the astonishing sight of them.

The one, referred to as Aiden, gets up from the couch quickly, almost falling over his own feet as he turns to face me. “Hi, please excuse my indecency. I am not usually that vulgar, it’s just that my brother is not sane... he's kind of coo-coo.” He shoots Alex a look before looking back to me, his lips forming a charming smile.

Brother? So, they are all brothers? Wow.

The other guy bolts up, throwing his arm around his twin brother’s neck, a little too roughly, earning a dirty look from him. “They are both coo-coo. I am the sane one actually, I am Arden, and you are?” he smiles sweetly.

Aiden rolls his eyes at Arden, tightly gripping his brother’s hand and yanking it off his shoulders. Alex shakes his head pitifully at the two boys.

“Quit trying to impress her, you imbeciles,” he warns, grabbing a joint from his pocket. “She belongs to Ansel.”

My eyes go wide as I dart my gaze to him. He winks at me, pressing his finger to his lips as if to shush me. He throws his arm around my neck and turns me away from the two boys, who are hastily raking their hands through their hair and straightening their hoodies.

“Just act like you're Ansel’s girl. They won’t leave you alone if you don’t,” he whispers.

“Alex, get your sweaty arm from around the child’s neck.”

He quickly stuffs the unlit joint in his back pocket while I look to see a middle-aged lady making her way over to us. Her facial features make it obvious that she’s Ansel’s mom. She’s wearing a red apron over a summer dress and she’s short in stature. Her hair is black and wavy, but unlike the boys, she has amber eyes.

“Ma’, I was just teaching her the ropes of dealing with the ‘King’ boys, you know the drill.” He raises his eyebrows playfully at his mother, who just frowns at him. “Go help Ansel set the table.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” He salutes her and hurries off.

“Hi, dear. I’m Melissa.” She smiles at me. I haven’t had a mother smile at me like this in a while. It feels strange and foreign.

I smile. “Hi, I’m Rainey, thanks for allowing me to-”

She pulls me into a hug, catching me off-guard. I stiffen at the sudden contact but when her palms come up to gently pat my back, I feel my body slowly relax against her. Her hug is comforting, almost as if she knows something about me. “Happy to have you over, dear.”

I didn’t realize how much I missed being hugged by a parent until now. She moves away and I secretly wish it didn’t end so soon.

How pathetic, Rainey.

“You’re quite pretty. Do you like stewed chicken?”

I giggle, recalling when Ansel told me that that’s her specialty. “Yeah, I haven’t had that in a while.”

“Great, because I have plenty to offer.” She chuckles.

“Woah, who is this pretty girl?”

I bring my eyes to a middle-aged man, wearing a black V-neck and jeans as he descends the small wooden stairs. He must be Ansel’s Dad. He looks so much like the boys and now I see who they inherited most of their physical attributes from. His eyes are a deeper blue and he possesses the same flawless skin. He’s an older version, but I can tell he probably had girls going crazy in his prime. His eyes crinkle while he smiles, and he has a very muscular built. I spot black earrings in both his ears. I see where the boys got their love for jewelry from.

“Hi, I am Austin King, Ansel’s Dad, nice to meet you.” He takes my hand in his and gives it a shake. “We are happy to have you over, stay as long as you like.”

“Yes, you can even stay forever if you want.” Melissa laughs.

She has no idea how thrilling the thought is.

I smile. “Thanks.”

“Okay, time for food, this way sweetheart.” She leads the way to the kitchen, and I follow closely behind.

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