Expecting Love

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Chapter 3

I don’t know what I was expecting when Dad said “Beach house”.

Maybe it was the stereotypical version with a clean, wooden porch and reclining chairs to view the sparkling ocean before us. Inside rooms full of clean beds and soft sheets. The kitchen sparkling clean with new silver wear and pots and pans steaming with food.

Clearly I had been watching Beauty and the Beast too many times.

We drove up to the rickety building well past midnight and we were all ready to crash, for those who already didn’t. Chelsea was the first to drop at 7, Evan shortly after. Mom dozed off at maybe eight thirty, and I could hear Dad trying to keep his eyes on the road, even though I caught him snoring a few times.

I wish Mom had just driven.

The house was old, least to say, There was a porch, but it was so dusty I could’ve made a clear imprint that would last till next summer! Cob webs were strung along the boards holding the porch and possibly, the door, up. Inside, the walls were no better.

There were chalk and crayon markings and drawings all over the walls which were an ugly shade of hot yellow. The paint was chipping and the sheets were dirty and dusty. The beds, I assumed, were made of stone since they were so hard! The floor was softer than that!

Dad eyed the small cabin of a beach house warily. A couple of seconds ticked by before he deflated and his shoulders slumped. He turned to the rest of us, who were shuffling anxiously behind him, and smiled wearily.

“Welcome home!” He said, trying to sound enthusiastic but failing dramatically. Mom’s jaw tightened and she glared at Dad, who was trying very hard not to look at her.

“Nicholas!” Mom growled angrily. Dad flinched and put his hands up in defense.

“I know! I know! It isn’t the best...but we’ll have to make due. At least until tomorrow when we can begin to clean up!” Mom’s jaw remained hard, but when Chelsea made a small sound from her throat, she softened and pressed her lips in a thin, pale line.

“Alright,” she finally conceded. “Everly, can you and Evan go upstairs and grab some blankets and a mattress for Chelsea?” Chelsea opened her mouth to argue, but a glare from Mom shut her up.

“Sure, anything else?” Evan asked. Mom sighed tiredly and Dad put his hands on her shoulders. She smiled quietly at him and shook her head at us.

“No, that will be enough. Thank you.” I nodded at Mom, then grabbed Evan’s hand. We crossed the spiky carpet with milk stains to the hallway between the kitchen and the steps. Evan put an arm in front of me before I could climb the first step.

“What?” I snapped irritably. Evan put a finger to his lips and stepped gently on the step. As soon as his weight from his leg was added, the step creaked and snapped into two, crashing underneath the floor to what I presumed to be the basement.

“Whoa! We can’t climb that!” I hissed. Evan hummed and tousled his buzz cut. He glanced around what I think was the living room and his blue eyes narrowed on a small, concealed door by the tarp covered couch. Slinking like a cat, Evan gestured for me by the door and began to push at the couch. I frowned, but joined him in his task, soon moving the couch by the cobblestone fireplace.

“What is this door?” I asked. I blew the dust away from my face and looked to Evan He grinned and pulled a key from under the carpet we stood. Turning to face me, he dangled the key above his eyes.

“When we were little, you didn’t like to take baths. Whenever Mom would come look for you, we would climb up these stairs and hide there-” Evan paused, then smirked “-until Mom threatened to eat all your chocolate!” I puffed my cheeks and turned away bashfully while Evan laughed.

“Yes! Then, we’d climb higher until we got to your room, which is where the door leads to. So, I’m thinking if we use this door again, it might lead us upstairs easier than using the broken steps. What do you think?” I snatched the key from Evan’s grasp and hastily unlocked our hidden door, tossing the lock to him.

“I think I’ll be sleeping till eleven tomorrow if you don’t quit talking and help me up these steps,” I said snarkily. Evan chuckled.

“That’s my sister.”

*****

“Got them!” I held the blankets up triumphantly and tossed them on the ground, heaving a sigh of relief. Evan groaned from behind me and shoved me onto the couch.

“Move!” He grunted. He tossed the flimsy mattress onto the ground and flopped onto the couch next to Chelsea. She had already fallen asleep while we were trekking upstairs and Mom moved away to fix the bed.

“How did you get these? I thought I heard the steps crash?” Dad asked. Before I could answer, Mom shot me a sly smile.

“She and Evan used the ‘secret hatch’ to climb up to Everly’s room and grab the things.” she said. I gasped tiredly.

“So you did know!” I accused. Mom shrugged.

“I’m your mother. Of course I knew,” she said. I groaned and flopped back onto the hard headboard of the couch. I lazily brought my arm up to check the time on my watch.

“What time is it Forever?” Dad asked. He had curled up on the floor by the door and rolled himself into a burrito blanket, which Mom was skeptically glaring at.

“Two,” I mumbled. Mom threw a blanket over me and tucked the top under my neck.

“Go to sleep Everly. It’s late and we have a lot of cleaning to do,” she said. I nodded sleepily, and soon, I too had dozed off...

...Only to be woken up at three a.m. in the morning!

Light was blaring from the kitchen, which I didn’t even know was freaking possible or I would’ve done it ages ago!

Blearily, I sat up on the couch and flung the heavy wool blankets off my crisp body. The window was cracked open, sending a chilling breeze throughout the room. I bit my lip and tugged my sweatshirt on. Zipping the front up, I tip-toed into the kitchen to see Chelsea up and vomiting in the sink. Her shirt was dripping with our dinner from yesterday and a fowl smell drifted around the room. I’m surprised nobody woke up yet.

“Chelsea?” I asked. Chelsea jumped and turned around guiltily, a cup of water in hand. Her face had drained from all its color and she jolted again and spit into the sink.

“Everly-” she choked “-help!” I ran over as quietly as I could and gently tugged Chelsea’s hair behind her and tied it at the base of her neck. I rubbed her back, as I had seen on TV, and once she was finished, I helped her stand and gave her my sweatshirt to wear over her tank-top.

“Why did you help me?” Chelsea croaked. I sighed sleepily and helped her back into the living room and onto the mattress again.

“Because you’re part of our family now,” I said, trying for a smile. “It’s my job.” Chelsea smiled.

“Family...” she murmured as she dozed off to sleep.

*****

“Everly? Everly? Mom!-I think Everly’s dead!”

“Shut up Evan!” I sprang awake on the couch, and flung the blankets away, lunging for the nearest shadow I could, which was Evan. I pounced and we tumbled to the ground, Evan shaking with laughter.

“She’s up Mom! Never-ah-mind!” I tickled Evan’s sides and he began to cough with laughter as I reached all his ticklish spots. He coughed and laughed and coughed but I wasn’t about to admit defeat yet.

Or, at least until he began to choke.

Soon enough, the hacking sounds spewed from Evan’s throat and I begrudgingly got off him and dusted my pajama’s, which reeked of vomit. Mom sniffed the air and wrinkled her nose, pausing in folding the blankets.

“What’s that smell?” She asked to no one in particular. Chelsea paled and turned to me for guidance, causing Evan to raise an eyebrow. I sighed.

“I woke up last night and Chelsea was...emptying her stomach, so I decided to help.” I said bluntly. I picked up my hair tie and sloppily tied my long hair back in to a bun until I could pull it into two ponytails. Mom clicked her tongue and did a quick one over on Chelsea.

“Well, we do have an appointment today,” she murmured. Chelsea flushed pink under Mom’s searching eye and I chuckled.

“After you get dressed and eat, can you go wash these clothes Forever?” Dad asked. He was in the kitchen, flipping pancakes in the now clean kitchen. I looked over the house, astonished.

“Since...Since when did this place clean up? Is there like...a clean up fairy or something?” I asked incredulously. Mom raised her eyebrow.

“Unless you count me and your father waking up at five in the morning to work on the kitchen and steps a fairy, then yes, there was a clean up fairy,” she said. I mimicked her and shrugged sheepishly when she caught me.

“Sorry.”

“Here.” Evan threw me a pair of short jeans and a white shirt. “Bathroom’s by the door we found yesterday. There’s a pile of clothes that need to be washed. Just dump them into the sea water and slap them on the rocks.” I rolled my eyes and mocked a bow.

“Of course Your Majesty,” I said. Evan smirked and watched me as I trudged back into the living room. I noticed the couch was still in the same place it was yesterday. I guess we forgot to push it back. I slipped into the rusty bathroom by the door and hastily cleaned my teeth. I changed into my clothes and grabbed a pancake, shoving it down my throat while hefting the laundry basket in my hands as I made my way to the front door. Dad stared at me, shocked.

“Wow Everly! That was...quick.” He said. I grinned.

“I pride myself on quick service,” I said.

“Make some friends while you’re outside!” Mom called, presumably from the kitchen. I made a face, glad she couldn’t see.

“Yeah! Sure!” I called, though I really had no intention to. I slipped my flip-flops on and dragged my way outside to a small, clear cove by the house. I remembered how much Evan and I loved to play here as kids, and my heart panged uncomfortably. Would things change after the baby was born?

I shook my thoughts away as quickly as they had came. No. That wasn’t true. Evan loved me. I was his sister. I slipped my shirt off and rolled my shorts up as much as I could. Then, I waded into the water and grabbed a shirt. I dunked it in the murky yet clear pond and swished it around gently. I was so absorbed in the movement of the water that I didn’t hear someone approach me.

“Need a hand?” A rough, deep voice asked, sending a cold chill through my body. I turned around slowly.

A boy, perhaps a year or two older than me, was standing with a surfboard tucked under his arm. He had beachy, sandy blonde hair that was tied in a ponytail and ocean blue eyes, a stereotypical hot movie boy. He was shirtless, water dripping gracefully down his muscled chest. His swimming shorts dipped underneath his hips and I found myself taking a good look at him before answering.

“Uh...who are you?” Was the dumbest thing that came out of my mouth at the moment. The boy’s eyes widened for a moment, then he threw his head back and let out the most beautiful laugh I had ever heard. Call me cliche but I could feel the butterflies stirring in my stomach, though I tried very hard to stamp them down.

Remember what happened to Chelsea I told myself. The boy wiped his eyes and I glared at him.

“What’s so funny about that?” I asked, trying very hard for my voice to not crack. The boy brushed his bangs and knelt down on the grass next to me.

“I mean, it’s kind ironic, since I also don’t know who you are.” He grinned roguishly and my stomach fluttered. “Who are you?”

“I’m...Everly. You?” I asked. I squeezed the water from the shirt and began to beat it on the rock. Mom said in India, it was called a dhobee. The boy eyed my movements and for a split second it looked like his eyes had darkened before he blinked.

“Damen.” He said. I wiped my bangs.

“Huh?”

“Damen. My name is Damen.” He repeated. setting the board down. I smiled.

“Nice to meet you Damen.” I eyed the board. “You like to surf?” Damen flushed.

“I-Yeah. Helps me think, y’know.”

“I...guess?” I gave him a crooked smile and continued to slap the clothes.

“So...you new here?” Damen asked. I shrugged.

“Kind of. We-uh-moved here after a dispute in my old town.” I said. He may be nice now, but I wasn’t ready to tell him everything. Despite the thought that I knew Damen could tell I was lying, he still nodded his head and reached for a shirt.

“May I?” He asked. I raised my eyebrow.

“Why?” I asked. Damen shrugged nonchalantly.

“Because I want to help.” He said. I narrowed my eyes.

“You have nothing better to do?” I asked. Again, he shrugged and dipped the shirt into the water with me.

“Better than helping a gorgeous girl on the beach? Nah, nothing too important.” Damen said cheekily. He winked at me and I felt my cheeks flare. I turned my head away to take a few deep breaths and turned back to him, giving him a weak smile.

“I’d like that.” I said, repeating my warning to beware of Damen in my mind over and over again. I couldn’t let Mom or Dad or Evan find out about Damen yet though. Mom no doubt would be over the moon but Dad and Evan would interrogate him ruthlessly, though deep down I think I knew Damen could handle it.

“How old are you Everly?” Damen asked.

“Seventeen,” I answered shortly. I tried to feign disinterest, but Damen pursued me relentlessly.

“Favorite color?”

“Purple.”

“Singer?”

“None.”

“Dancer?”

“None.”

“Siblings?”

“One. An older twin brother.”

“Kids?”

“Hey!” I shoved a wave of water in Damen’s direction. He laughed, making no move to dodge the wave. “Just who do you think I am?” Damen’s eyes flashed and he stiffened, and for a split second I wondered if I had done something wrong, but in a flash he was in front of me, a finger tipping my chin up to his eye level. It didn’t help that he was already taller than me, even kneeling. My breath caught in my throat as our chests pressed against each other and a searing heat roared inside me.

“Da-men?” I asked. Damen bent down to eye level with me and brushed his thumb over my bottom lip. I froze, my back stiffening.

“Who do I think you are?” Damen repeated softly. “Would you like to find out who I think you are Everly?” His face was dangerously close to mine and his lips just a breath away when I regained the ability to think, surprised I even had that ability when it came to him. I pressed my palms flat on his sculpted chest and pushed him away slightly. A flash of hurt sparked through Damen’s ocean blue eyes but I bit my lip to keep from regretting my decision.

“Damen...I-I don’t think-” I tried to form a sentence, but with what just happened, I guess my brain was still in processing mode. Damen was quiet for a few moments, but soon, a devilish grin appeared on his face and he pressed my hands against his chest, holding me steady on my knees.

“Do you want to play a game?” He asked. I frowned.

“A game?” I asked. Damen nodded, stroking a thumb on my chin. It was both affectionate and irritating to me.

“There are four months left in the school year for Beverly High, which is where I assume you are going.” He looked at me and I nodded reluctantly. “Give me those four months to woo you. If I win by June, then you become my girlfriend. If I lose, I back off and we remain friends. Deal?” I narrowed my eyes.

“So...you just need a new play thing? Right?” I asked. Damen’s eyes widened and he shook his head vehemently. “Because that’s totally how you sound right now.”

“No! I-I didn’t mean for it to come off like that!” He sighed. “Look, I may have a bad popular boy reputation at school, which you’ll probably find out soon, but I am tired. I’m tired of Amanda and Stacy coming up to me in their crop tops and skinny skirts. When I saw you, working hard and looking good at the same time-I don’t know! Love at first sight? You fit my every description of a perfect girl! I’m only asking for a chance to prove that I can be your perfect guy!” I clenched my jaw as I thought. Damen held my hands pleadingly, and while he didn’t really look vulnerable, I could still sense that he was being genuine. Call me stupid, but...I agreed.

“Okay.” I said, and Damen’s eyes lit up. “You have the rest of the school year to woo me. If you win-I mean, we’ll be in love anyway, so I’d probably agree to be your girlfriend. If you lose, then we are only friends. Deal?” I asked smugly. Damen’s eyes narrowed and he smirked...and I could already tell I’d be losing.

“Deal.” He took my hand, and as I guessed, he flipped it over and kissed the back. Even though I knew he was going to do that, it still made me blush when he did. He grinned and stood up, brushing his wet, dangerously loose hanging swimming shorts. My eyes trailed his movement, and when he coughed I knew I had been caught.

“My eyes are up here.” He sang. I scoffed and stood up as well, throwing the wet shirt into the laundry basket.

“I can see that.” I snapped. Damen scooped his surfboard up and began trotting down the beach, but not before he turned back and winked at me, sending another pleasured wave that I disliked immensely through my stomach.

“Let the games begin.”

*****

“What took you so long at the beach? You had only one job Everly!” Evan scolded lightly, ruffling my damp hair. I grunted, my mind still on Damen. Why couldn’t my brain just leave him be? Why is it I always through about him? Why?

“Are you okay Everly?” Punk clothes forgotten on the couch, Chelsea toddled into the room in one of my old dresses that apparently fit her. I nodded my head and gazed at her and my brother. All because of one night, their lives had changed, and in an unintended way. Gazing at them, I realized how alike Damen and Evan were. Both were playboys, popular, (Though I don’t think Damen smoked). Both had girls flocking to them. I began to doubt Damen’s intentions towards me. Looking at Chelsea’s protruding stomach, I came to a cold realization. One that settled uncomfortably in my stomach so much that I excused myself to drain a cup of water.

What if Damen...got me pregnant?

I remembered with cold sweat how angry Mom and Dad had been. How still and quiet they were when Evan and Chelsea told them. I didn’t want to be a disappointment to them too. Or worse, what if Damen left me to raise the baby alone after? I felt it becoming harder to breath and I squeezed my hand on the cup.

Taking deep breaths to calm myself down, I realized the only option I had to win...was ignore Damen.

That’s a lot harder than it sounds.

*****

“Well,” the doctor smiled gently, cleaning the gel from Chelsea’s large stomach. “You’re going along just fine now sweetheart. A couple more months and this baby is as good as gold.” Chelsea nodded and slipped off the bed with Mom’s help. I stared at the ceiling, my phone discarded in my pocket. I didn’t want to tag along with Chelsea or Mom on their trip to the doctor, yet here I was, dying of boredom in the ultrasound room.

“How many months is she, Doctor?” Mom asked. The doctor clicked her tongue and checked her clipboard, humming a jaunty tune.

“Mm...a good four to five months. I’m surprised you didn’t check in with us sooner,” the doctor said. Chelsea flushed, slipping her shirt back on.

“I-I wasn’t sure. I only recently found out.” She said. The doctor nodded.

“That’s alright. A least you came to us now. You can schedule your next appointment at the front desk and if anything happens with the test results we’ll call you in for a follow-up right away, alright?” Mom nodded and took my arm, pulling me up to stand. I groaned and she glared at me.

“Are you okay Everly? You’ve been quiet this whole time. Usually you’re never this quiet.” Mom asked. I nodded, licking my dry lips.

“Y-Yeah. Just thinking,” I said. We walked out of the ultrasound room and I stayed wit Mom at the desk while Chelsea went to sit in the waiting room.

“About what? School?” She asked. I hastily nodded.

“Y-Yeah. School. Beverly High and all,” I said. Mom nodded.

“If you’re sure...” She murmured.

“I’m sure.”

“Alright then. Don’t be nervous though. You’ll be fine. Make new friends...maybe even a special friend?” It didn’t go unnoticed to me how Mom emphasized on ‘special friend’ and I groaned.

“Ma!” I scolded. Mom laughed and handed the receptionist some money.

“I’m just teased Everly. But technically you are old enough for that. And after Liam...,”

“Mom.” I said sternly. “I’m over Liam. What happened, happened. I was stupid, okay. I was too young. I learned my lesson and I’d rather wait.” Mom pursed her lips at how stern I sounded, and though she didn’t know I was thinking of Damen the whole time, she still nodded and sighed.

“Okay young lady. But if there is a boy, I want to be the first to know.”

“Mom!”

“Maybe after Evan though. You tell each other everything, after all...”

“Mom!”

*****

The next day, Mom woke me up at a bright and early 6 a.m. in the morning to get myself fresh and ready to start my day at my new school, Beverly High.

Freaking. Six. A. M.

School began at eight...

I am already done with life.

Turns out, she wanted me to help Chelsea get dressed too. It was harder than it looks helping a pregnant woman get dressed.

First, I had to help her get out of bed. Lift her back up then help her swing her legs off the bed. Then, while she showered, I had to wait outside to make sure she didn’t fall, all the while brushing my teeth.

Once she finished showering, I had to help her slip into her shirt (Thankfully not her bra. That would’ve been embarrassing). Then, I had to help her with her pants by holding her while she struggled to slide them on.

Chelsea was able to brush her teeth on her own, but I still had to watch her in case something happened. Like, what could happen while she was brushing her teeth? The toothbrush would get caught in her throat?

If you’re wondering, Evan was sleeping the whole time this was happening. Mom apparently didn’t trust him to help his own girlfriend! By the time Chelsea was done and ready for breakfast, it was already seven!

I rushed to get ready for school. Luckily, Beverly High had no dress code, so I managed a pair of jeans and a white cat shirt my aunt Jessie got me for my fifteenth birthday. I brushed my hair, and instead of splitting it into my signature two ponytails, I decided to leave it loose, hoping that Damen wouldn’t notice me that way.

Hopefully.

Mom had gone back to bed while I was changing, so it was up to me to prepare breakfast for Chelsea and I. Luckily, Mom made lunch, so I didn’t have to worry about that.

As I fried the eggs, my thoughts kept traveling back to Damen. Back to that sandy, blonde hair and piercing yet soft blue eyes. Back to his soft, calloused voice and hard palms. Back to his promise to make me his. Most girls hate that phrase, but to me, it was like a benediction. Like he wanted no other girl but me.

Obviously, there had to be some catch. Damen, as he said so himself, was a bad boy, and he was popular. I didn’t even learn his age! He could be twenty-seven for all I knew (Though I highly doubted it). Maybe he just needed someone to shoo away the other girls? I definitely wasn’t that type of girl. I was quiet and if not a bit timid.

The only good trait I found in Damen is that he didn’t smoke. If he did, he would’ve reeked of cigarette smell, but instead he had to smell like the fresh waves and sand of the ocean. Dad was still trying to get Evan to give up smoking, though I wasn’t sure it was going to work.

“Everly? The eggs are burning!”

“Huh?” Jumping, I tossed the almost burnt eggs onto a plate and dropped the pan with a thud. Chelsea regarded me wit pity as I handed her a plate.

“Sorry,” I said sheepishly. “I was spaced out.”

“Is it about the boy out on the beach with you yesterday?” Chelsea questioned nonchalantly. My blood ran cold and I faced her slowly.

“What?” She asked. “It was kinda obvious from where I was sitting.” I watched with disgust as she spread what looked like butter and pickles on her eggs. What is it with pregnant women and pickles?

“Did anyone else see?” I asked, hushing my voice. Chelsea shrugged.

“If they did, nobody said anything. It was a cute moment.”

“Damn it.” I cursed. Chelsea hummed.

“What’s wrong with that? I thought it was cute.” She repeated. I licked my lips.

“We...made a bet-kinda. He and I are going to the same school, and he said if he could woo me in the next four months of school, then I’d be his girlfriend. If he couldn’t, then we’d just remain friends and-” I sighed “-and I think he might win.” Chelsea hummed again.

“And what’s wrong if he wins?”

“I...don’t know.” I whispered. “I...Don’t take this the wrong way, Chelsea, but what if I get pregnant?”

“So?”

“What if he leaves me? I won’t be able to go to school anymore! I won’t be able to become a doctor and help kids all over the world in poverty!” I hyperventilated. Chelsea sighed.

“I can’t do much to ease your worries Everly,” she said sadly “Because I am a living piece of proof of your worries. But maybe he does have good intentions with you. Just let fate play her part, alright? Who knows, maybe you can change him.”

“You think?”

“Sure. Look at Evan. Because of this baby, he has to learn to shape up and become a man, right?”

“And he’s doing wonderfully at that.” I mumbled sarcastically. Chelsea didn’t say anything.

“Just...give it a try. I remember when Evan came to me, furious about your...breakup with Liam.” She said weakly. I nodded and swallowed the lump in my throat.

“Maybe Damen is the person you need. Besides-,” she grinned at me “-every good girl likes a bad boy.”

*****

I had to walk to school. Mom said she had to help Chelsea and Evan by mentally preparing them for the life of parenthood and Dad had to go to work, so I was reduced to walking all on my own and was charged with picking up groceries after school. Not only that, I had a hard time going to sleep last night-I was up with Chelsea, after all. My head ached and my back was sore, but I kept my mouth shut.

I hoped I wouldn’t see Damen on my walk to school, and luckily, luck was on my side today. My phone beeped tirelessly from texts from Mom, but I shut it off. I just needed some space to breath. To not worry about Damen, or Chelsea, or my deteriorating family life. Just me, myself, and I.

My footsteps clicked against the pavement and I lifted my foot to ease the aching sound My backpack was packed with notebooks for all my six classes and my gym clothes. I was not ready for this. I didn’t have any friends there, apart from Damen, if he even counted as a friend. He mentioned two other girls, Stacy and Amanda, but based on the negative connotation he put on their names, I guessed they wouldn’t be very nice girls to hang out with. Hopefully somebody apart from Damen would talk to me, if he remembered me.

As I neared the school, my heart leapt in my throat and I gasped. The large, towering brick building towered over the playground and parking lot. It was quite narrow though, and all the buildings were connected, unlike my old school, where we had to walk from one building to another. I gazed up at the imposing school, eager to stare at it for longer, until a sharp ring rang throughout the school grounds and the teenagers began to file in through the doors.

School had begun.

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