Sam leisurely waltzed into Spencer’s kitchen and lowly whistled, sticking out like a sore thumb in his warn out clothes and mud-splattered boots. It didn’t matter that he’d wiped them on his way in. The things were stained beyond return though luckily, didn’t leave a trial.
“Not bad at all,” he stated, running his eyes over the marble counters. “Can I move in too?”
“Might be a little awkward,” I countered, smirking at his reaction upon noticing the expresso machine. “But you can visit whenever you want.”
“You’ll have to host games night, for sure.”
I planned to. I already knew where we would set up the games. Spencer’s dining room table was spacious enough and the lighting in there was perfect for an intense round or two of whatever game was on the agenda.
“Absolutely. Perhaps it’s time we invited Spencer, Karen and Bethany,” I suggested, gaining his full attention. “What do you think?”
“I’m not sure they’re ready for it.”
He smirked and I knew why. We were crazy when competing but if they were to be joining our family for good, it was about time they experienced us at our worst.
“I don’t think they ever will be,” I replied, supressing a laugh. “But they’ll find out about our competitive side soon enough.”
“Spencer might kick you out.”
“He might.” I looked around, smiling at my soon-to-be-kitchen. “I hope not though.”
I walked over to the kettle and filled it to the brim, allowing him free reign of the living room.
“Who’s this cute fella?” I heard him ask, followed swiftly by an “Ow, shit!”
“That would be Gatto,” I replied, popping a tea bag in each mug. “Spencer and Leila’s very friendly cat.”
“Very friendly!” he mocked, returning with his battle scars. “The damn thing nearly had my eye out.”
“Don’t take it personally. He didn’t take too kindly to me at first either.”
I finished prepping our drinks and took them towards the coffee table next door, gesturing for Sam to get comfortable on the sofa. He did so immediately and I followed suit, sipping leisurely at my tea.
“You look a bit worn out,” he stressed, sounding concerned. “You feeling okay?”
“I’m a bit knackered,” I admitted, careful not to go into detail as to why that was.
Isy had yet to call and I was anxious as hell.
“You’ll tell me if you’re not coping, won’t you?”
His protectiveness was kicking in and I could do nothing but smile, thinking he sounded similar to Spencer. My man had been reluctant to leave for work this morning when I admitted to not feeling well but in the end, I had made him go. Sam had mentioned popping in after his visit to James and Catherine’s, having gone around there in the first place to take measurement of their garden. Sam and Alex would be starting work on it in a few months, which no doubt meant their presence would be here more times than not.
“Yeah, of course. I’ve just not been sleeping well lately. The looming court case is stressing me out.”
“Any more updates on that?” he asked, raising a brow.
I sighed. “Alister is back in five weeks. We’re at court on the seventeenth.”
“You’ll be fine, Jessie. Spencer’s a good dad.
“I just hope the judge sees that,” I replied, feeling my tension headache return.
Out of nowhere, Gatto came sauntering in and positioned himself on my lap, nuzzling his soft head into my stomach on a loud purr. He shuffled around until he deemed his spot comfortable and proceeded to fall asleep, making Sam laugh.
“Fuck off!” I laughed, stroking Gatto’s head. “We have a love/ hate relationship.”
“Looks like it,” mused Sam, draining his tea.
He noticed the remote for the television resting on the arm of the sofa and took it upon himself to turn it on. A film I didn’t recognise came to life, plunging us slap bang in the middle of an old western.
“Don’t you have to be back?” I questioned, locked in place by Gatto’s sleeping form.
“Nah, I took the afternoon off when I heard you weren’t feeling well.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake!
“You’re worse than Spencer,” I accused, throwing him a serious look.
“It was his idea.” He laughed, flashing me his phone. “He’s been texting me non-stop.”
I shook my head, unsurprised to see them working together for the sake of my wellbeing. I was lucky to have people like them looking over me, even if I did think their actions were a little extreme at times.
“You can report back to him that I’m feeling fine and currently napping with my best friend, Gatto.”
Sam laughed as he tapped away to who I assumed was Spencer, smiling to himself as he went about doing do.
“Tell him we’re out of milk too.”
Now it was Sam’s turn to shake his head. “You’re loving this, aren’t you? Having a roommate that isn’t a family member.”
“I must admit, it does feel weird. In a week’s time, all my stuff will be here and I’ll be living with a boy.”
We both laughed, amused by my description of things. I’d never lived with a man who wasn’t my dad or Sam and sometimes, the thought of doing so scared the shit out of me. Even at university, I opted out of shared accommodation. I liked my own space and sense of independency. Then again, Spencer wasn’t needy and seemed to respect my boundaries. He always made me feel comfortable and went out of his way to ensure my happiness. Why wouldn’t I want to live with that?
“Dad’s happy. He used to worry about you. We both did.”
I frowned. “Because I was a loner?”
I attempted to throw a cushion at his head but was blocked by Gatto peacefully resting against my stomach.
“I’ll throw you out of my house,” I warned, running my fingers though Gatto’s fur.
“You don’t officially live here yet.” He smirked. “Besides, do you really want to piss off the person who is helping you move.”
He had me there.
I settled further into my seat and gestured towards the TV, silently telling him to choose something better to watch. He flicked through a few channels before stopping on a classic, knowing full well I was a fan. We would watch this endlessly as kids whenever one of us wasn’t feeling well. It never failed to cheer us up and always put a positive spin on the rest of the day. What wasn’t to love about five kids off on an adventure to find hidden pirate treasure? I often wished I was joining them but instead, had to settle for my far less dramatic childhood. Not that I was complaining. With Sam around, my days were far from boring. He was great at always including me and never once disputed the fact that just because I was a girl, I wouldn’t be interested in gruesome things such as eating worms and making mud pies. If anything, growing up with Sam made me more resilient to life. We both dealt with Mum’s condition in different ways but were there for each other no matter what. It was evident that whoever we ended up with would have to get on with us and it was just our luck that Bethany and Spencer were so welcoming. Not only was she one of my closest friends, she respected and treated Sam’s love with care and I trusted her with that responsibility. Sam and Dad would remain a huge presence in my life and knowing they liked Spencer was a huge relief.
“This reminds me of being a kid,” he suddenly shared, taking my exact thoughts and vocalising them.
“Same. Do you remember that time we went on a treasure hunt in the woods and you dug up a an old shoe?”
“YES! And I legit thought it was an old pirate’s boot.”
I laughed. “Until Mum saw the ‘made in china’ tag.”
“Damn woman ruined my greatest victory.”
I offered him silence in response, sensing his need to look back on the memory with a fondness I, too, felt.
“I’ve been opening up about my childhood a lot more lately,” he shared, turning the volume down on the film.
“Yeah, with Helen. She’s someone I see on a Sunday.”
“That’s good. Do you find it helps?” I asked, genuinely intrigued.
Sam had mentioned seeking help for his struggles following Mum’s death and I was beyond happy that he finally reached out.
“It really does. It’s making me look back and remember Mum in a good way. Before her condition took over.”
That made sense. “We often focus on the negatives, don’t we?”
“That’s what Helen says,” he agreed. “Talking to her about things is definitely helping.”
I shuffled in an attempt to get comfortable. “Glad to hear it, Sammy.”
From my lap, Gatto stirred and kicked up a fuss in the form of unsatisfied purrs. His back went stiff in an instant and only once I offered him chin tickles did he relax again. Huge, blue eyes stared up at me and eventually closed, signalling the return of his sleep. Once again, he set up camp against my stomach, meaning my ability to reach for tea was long gone.
“How you feeling?” asked Sam, amused by my trapped state.
“Tired,” I admitted, hiding a yawn.
He frowned. “Go to sleep. I’ll wake you up in an hour or so.”
I shook my head. “I’d hardly be a good host if I fell asleep on your first visit here.”
“Nonsense, you’re not feeling well. Besides, I have The Goonies to keep me entertained.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, already succumbing to the heaviness of my eyelids.
“If you don’t, I’ll tell Spencer on you.”
That settled it. I shut my eyes in an instant and smiled, amused by my brother’s mild threats. I had no doubt he would document my every move to Spencer and for that reason, I gave into the thought of having a quick nap. After all, I was feeling a little under the weather and knew a small rest would no doubt make me feel ten times better. Stress could take its toll on anyone and, if ignored, had the potential to turn into something more sinister. For the sake of my health, I would not let that happen. I had to believe that Isy would reach out soon enough. Perhaps she had yet to read the note or maybe Leila forgot to pass the massage on? There were a number of reasons as to why she may not have got in touch but I couldn’t give up hope. Not just yet.