Lifeline

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Ep1. The tree

“Trees indeed have hearts” - Henry David Thoreau

Welcome and thank you for reading Lifeline! It has a small piece of my heart on it so I look forward to all of you to enjoy it. Please bear in mind that English is NOT my first language so if you notice any kind of bad grammar or error you can always contact me so I can check it out and edit it! I really appreciate corrections!
PS, chapters will be longer at the beginning, but it is just so you can get the idea of the characters!


Jace POV

I take my pack of smokes out of my pocket, pulling one out and placing it vaguely on my lips while I roll down the window of the car. I lay down on the seat trying to spread my legs a bit to be more comfortable while I try to have a quick nap waiting for mother. This is the fifth house we are visiting today and after the second one, I couldn’t be bothered in anymore with her. All the same shit as every day of this week. It is not enough she is dragging me to this hell of a town with her but she keeps trying to make me be part of this show she has organised in her mind where there is a happy ending and we can be a family again.

Sure.

“Only a year,” I say to myself closing my eyes and laying my back against the seat “a fucking year and I’m out” I continue this time just mumbling between my lips.

Only a few minutes past and my eyes snap open. I remove the cigarette from my lips and I take a big breath, I just comb my hair back with my fingers trying to take off my mind that same image I keep having in my nightmares. I don’t manage to sleep much and when I don’t, I just simply think. And that’s all I have done lately.

I play with the ring on my lips and pull the bottom of my t-shirt thinking in the reason why I’m here, the reason I’m doing this, thinking in the plan I have laid out for my future.

Me?

I have THAT feeling again. I can feel it in my guts. That feeling that once again, this is out of my hands and I’m just a marionette in someone else’s hands. No soul. No life. Empty.

“Shit!” I hiss opening my eyes and hitting the glove compartment a few times with my black biker boots before I take a big breath once again to try to calm down. I open the door of the car and I just slide out placing back the cigarette on my lips while looking for my lighter. At least if I can’t sleep, I can have a smoke to calm down the rage that I see coming. I rest my back on the car after shutting the door and I light the cigarette taking a long drag and getting the smoke in my lungs while I roll up the sleeves of my tee before blowing a puff of smoke out.

“What I would give for you to be a joint” I spoke to my myself again shaking my head and taking my phone out to send a quick text to Tommy. He has been my best friend for a few years, and knowing he will drive up to Daytona Beach from Miami whenever I’ll need him confirms how strong our brotherhood is. I know he’s got my back.

Me: “When are u coming?”

I put the phone back inside my jeans pocket hearing a dog barking together with a vivid girly laugh. When I look up where the noise comes from, I only manage to see a big Golden Retriever running in front of the neighbour’s house after a girl. She looks young with a petite body. Her shiny red hair is up in a big messy bun, her body is wrapped in a white tank top and shorts which shows her legs. From the distance, I can’t see her face properly, apart from her smile when she laughs. Free and happy.

During a few minutes, I just focus on the picture I see in front of me meanwhile I’m smoking and playing with my lip ring. The girl playing with the dog, throwing a ball that the dog keeps catching and bringing back to the girl who keeps laughing and throwing the ball away for the dog, and somehow, I feel relax.

No problems. No rage. No bad feelings. Just me and that girl playing with her dog.

And I smile.

After a few seconds, the phone chime rings waking me up from that kind of trance I was and making me take the phone out of my pocket.

“Hey bro! What’s up?” I smile answering the phone call
“You tell me. Is that bad that you already need me after a week?” I hear Tommy’s voice with a chuckle that makes me smirk.
“You can’t imagine... This is shit” I answer putting out the cigarette and staring at the floor for a few seconds where the butt is.
“C’mon, it can’t be that bad. No pretty girls?” he asks making me lift my head and looking up the next house, where I only can see how the girl disappears into the house followed by the dog.
“So, when are you coming?” I simply answer his question with mine making him chuckle again.
“Did you find a house already?”
“No dude. My mother keeps dragging me around like a dog in a lead visiting houses and saying nothing is perfect” I drag a long sight “I swear to you if that goddamn woman doesn’t choose a place today, I will kill her”
“Ok boy, calm down...” he laughs “so I can’t go to see you until you find a place where I can stay over. And I refuse to share a hotel room with you and your mother” he marks my current situation making me hold the phone with anger “so... why you don’t go with her and help her to find that ”home sweet home" so I can come around to cuddle you and give you what you need?” he funnily says this knowing very well what he really means getting drunk and high on weed, making me chuckle with him.
“Ok, ok...” I look at the house in front of me pulling my ring a few times and I sigh “I’m gonna go in to see if this one is good”
“That’s my boy” he laughs again making me click my tongue and shaking my head at his words.
“Speak you later” I say walking to the house front.
“No until you find a house!” he shouts before I hang out.

I look at the house in front of me, closing my eyes and taking a big breath.

You can do this

I walk to the porch of the house and opening the door I can hear the voices of my mother and Mrs Evans, the state agent talking somewhere inside, so I walk to that direction getting a surprising look from my mother when she sees me stopping at the kitchen’s door.

“...and as I explained before, the kitchen appliances, washer and dryer are new, so the house is almost ready to move in after you bring the furniture you could need” she flashes a smile to my mother and then look at the direction where she is staring at “Oh, Jace... nice to see you joining us, would you like to visit the ho...”

“No, that’s fine” I interrupt without even looking at her, she is chewing gum with the mouth open and has that kind of squeaky voice that gives you a headache and I don’t want to listen to her more than I need “You like it?” I ask my mother directly with the hands on my pockets, getting another surprised look from her that makes her eyebrows lift.

“It’s not that bad. Pretty big bedrooms with their bathrooms, lots of natural light, a spare office room, new kitchen appliances, big garage... you should go and take a look at the house”

“I can get you and your mother another house tour if...”

“I can go on my own, thank you” I interrupt Mrs Evans again just simply walking out of the kitchen without more words needed and checking up the sitting room while I look for the stairs that guide to the upper floor and walking up quickly to check the house. I can hear the tune of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” coming up from the neighbour’s house and I smirk.

Good music taste

The house is not big but I can understand why my mother likes it. As she said there is a lot of natural light.

Far too much for my like, but hey

After checking up the whole floor I find myself exploring the room in between the small office room and the back bedroom which has two big windows. This one is a bit smaller than the other one but the bathroom looks pretty new and has one big double window on the side with a roof that must be part of the porch.

“Perfect for smoking” I mutter to myself hanging my arms in the top of the window frame and looking at the roof before I realised that the music I’m hearing comes from the window just opposite to where I am, hidden behind big tree branches, and where, for my surprise, I can see the red haired girl that was playing on the front resting at the window sill, half body hanging out and rocking her head with the end of Billy Idol’s song before Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” begins what makes the girl humming to the tune before she starts singing.

“She’s got a smile that it seems to me
Reminds me of childhood memories
Where everything was as fresh as the bright blue sky...”

Wow

“Now and then when I see her face
She takes me away to that special place
And if I stare too long, I’d probably break down and cry...”

And I just stay there, with my hands hanging in the window’s frame, listening to her voice while she sings along the song without noticing I’m staring at her, writing something on a notebook with her hair down brushing along her back with a few strands of hair on her face due to the small head dance she was doing in the previous song.


“Sweet” I simple splatter out without even thinking, getting the girl’s attention on me who immediately stops singing and looks straight away to me from her place in the window, blinking a few times looking at me with a pair of very prominent blue orbs on her freckled and free of makeup face before frowning her eyebrows with a confused look “...your voice” I continue trying not to look a stalker and pulling my ring lip a few times “I mean, you have a beautiful voice”.

I wait for her to say something. But she doesn’t, she just keeps staring at my face for a few seconds before ogling the rest of my body, making me look at myself and realising that while I’m stretching my arms on the window’s frame my lower abdomen is uncovered, showing part of one of the few tattoos I have in that area.

Is she flirting?

“Nice music taste” I say with a smile moving one of my hands from the window sill to the pocket on my jeans, making the waist of my trousers going a bit lower. Is not that I’m very body build, I’m a bit skinny for my height, but I’m fit, my arms are well form and a few abs can be seen. And she keeps ogling at me.

Yup. Definitely flirting

“Do you like what you see?” I ask expecting her to answer me this time, gaining her eyes back at mines. My skin is tanned, and I consider myself quite good looking. Throw that on top of my tattoos and piercings and there you go, a trap for the ladies. A perfect bad boy look.

Or maybe is not just a look

“Huh?” she just says innocently making me smile and wondering what she was thinking about.

“I said, do you like what you see?” I ask again still smiling and trying to make her blush as a reaction, but she just tilts her head to the right looking again at my body frowning her eyes for a few seconds before she shrugs her shoulders looking back at my eyes.

“Are you moving to the house?” she says at the same time she bends her knees where she places her right elbow and lays her chin on her hand, still looking at my eyes. That question confuses me and I notice my eyebrows lift.

Did she just shrug her shoulders at me indifferently after ogling me?

“I don’t know yet” I manage to say after the small confusion for the change of subject, resting the side of my body in the window “The state agent is showing us a few houses before we decide” I keep talking while I’m ogling her whole body for the first time.

As I saw before, she has a petite body that makes her look younger but she has a few nice curves on her body.

15? 16 years old? Too young dude.

Now I can see the freckles I saw initially on her face are covering all her body, from her neck and waist that her tank top leaves exposed, to her naked feet, including those legs, that in despite her not looking too tall, are long and toned.

5,5? Mhm... someone is not wearing a bra and I can see a pair of perky nipples under that top and that shorts don’t leave much for the imagination...

“Do you like what you see?” I hear her asking this time what makes me look at her face, one of her eyebrows lifted and a half of smirk on her full lips.

Those. Fucking. Lips

I tilt my head and frown my eyes for a few seconds before I shrug my shoulders, mocking her expression when I asked that very same question a few minutes before, what it makes her smile and bite her mouth.

“And... do you like the house?” she asks wetting her lips slightly with her tongue before biting her lips again.

Fuck me

“It is not bad. The best one I have seen so far...” I ogle at her lips again and I can’t help to think in everything I could do to that mouth, changing my position slightly after feeling how my dick twitches while I’m thanking myself mentally for wearing loose jeans today “Have you been living around here for long? Are the houses in this area sturdy?”

She bites the inside of her mouth for a few seconds, thinking about something before she answers.

“My best friend use to live in that house, and her grandparents before her. So yeah, the house is holding up well but...” she looks at the tree branches for an instant “... is Mrs Evans your state agent?” she asks lowering the voice.

I nod and she rolls her eyes shaking her head.

“Did she say anything bad about the house?” she asks again what makes me curious.

“No, she hasn’t” I say.

In fact, I don’t know because I wasn’t on the house tour but I bet if there is something is wrong on the house, she hasn’t said anything

“Well...” she points at the back of the house with her hand “Last Autumn a big leak appeared on the corner of the house where the toilet in the master bedroom is. My best friend’s family already moved out so they informed the state agency, who would be in charge of repairs but they badly fixed it. They thought it was sorted but it kept appearing every time is raining. You wouldn’t see inside because they paint to cover the stains but you actually can see it from the tree” she says standing on the roof of her house with agility leaving the notebook she had on her hand on the window sill and jumping on the tree branches quickly. I stare at her for a few seconds before realising she is waiting for me to jump out of the window “C’mon” she simply says shaking her head once cheering me up to move what makes me chuckle.

“Okay” I said going out through the window until I stand on the roof still by the window checking that it is strong enough to sustain my weigh.

“It won’t break” she says very confidently laying her back on the tree branches waiting for me.

Clearly, she has done this before

I move my body carefully to be sure I stand secure over the roof and jump into the closest branch easily, before getting closer to the centre of the tree where she stands ogling me again.

“You are tall...” she just says dragging her words while getting closer to me, brushing her bare shoulder against my arm pointing out at the back corner of the house “There, can you see?”

I look at her face for an instant surprised of her words.

Yeah ok, 6,2 is quite tall but, why she just pointed that out loud and in that way?

I play with my lip ring again staring at her eyes a few more seconds, checking at her freckled tits again before looking where she is pointing at. Being so close to her I can smell her perfume.

Cherries

“Oh, I see” I just say looking at a soft yellow stain mark on the white paint in the side of house while I keep playing with the lip ring “so it is not fixed?” I look at her again to find again those big blue eyes with a little golden twinkle staring at my lips making me smirk slightly so I decide to wet them for her.

Is she looking at my mouth because I am playing with my piercing or because she wants a taste?

“Not yet” she looks back at my eyes after taking a deep breath and shaking her head while lays her back again on the tree to recover the small distance between us, making me click my tongue as I feel she kind of answered what I was thinking about “... but by contract, the state agency should fix it before anyone moves in. If you sign the contract of the house and move in, they will say you signed the contract with the house on that conditions and will get your house insurance to do the job but it won’t be done properly or they will refuse to do it at all. And once the rain arrives, you will have the same problem again and again”

I look at her with surprise resting my back in a branch of the tree as she does, glancing her whole body from where I am and confirming that even if she is not too tall, her fit and toned legs are long.

And she is flexible

“And how do you know all that?” I smirk crossing my hands over my crotch as I feel my mind is in another place and doing another thing.

“Listen...” she bites her lips again looking at my eyes for a few seconds and I can help to bite mine when I see her doing “...my best friend’s family just want the house to be rented as soon as possible but Mrs Evans is giving them too many problems. She is just so annoying, always with that chewing gum...” she rolls her eyes.

“She is a proper pain in the ass... and her voice... God! It is so irritating” I just simply say without thinking and I shake my head before looking at her face, the one is in total shock for a couple of seconds before start laughing.

“Yeah... her voice!” she said mimicking Mrs Evans voice what makes me laugh with her. During a couple of minutes, we just stare at each other laughing until we have tears in our eyes.

“So, what do you think we should do?” I manage to ask after calming down a bit.

“If you truly like the house...” she takes a big breath before continuing “...just tell her you spoke with a neighbour about the area and gave you the owner’s contact, who told you about the leak and you want that sorted before moving in, or if you know a good builder, tell her you can get it sorted on your own but to deduct the cost from your rent” she states in a very mature way what makes me wonder again about her age.

Maybe 17 and she just looks younger?

“My dad is an architect and I’m sure he has contacts around the area. I would prefer if someone outside the state agency sorts that out to be sure is fixed properly” I reply looking at the corner of the house “if we are lucky, probably we just need to remove the damaged area, replace the insulation and build it back again” I finish looking back at her who smiles and nods her head back at me.

“If your dad is an architect, I’m sure you will get that sorted! Just tell him to check it before leaving today” she says with a big smile.

“No, no” I shake my head placing my hands in the pockets of my jeans “My parents are divorced, so it is just me and my mother moving up from Miami”

“Oh,” she lifts one of her hands to her mouth changing her face to a worried look “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...”

“Don’t worry,” I say before she finishes, bending my body towards her and reaching out one of my arms to the hand that covers her mouth, touching her warm skin slightly with my thumb to comfort her “It was a long time ago so there is nothing to be sorry about” I give her a wink and smile, receiving back a smile and nod from her head at the same time she puts down her hand looking at my eyes. Whispers of her hair tickle the side of my hand and I can’t help to get the loose hair off her face pulling the locks behind her ear and caressing her cheek on the process before pulling my hand back. Her eyes on mine all the time.

She is fucking beautiful. Wait. Beautiful? What. The. Actually. Fuck? I mean hot. HOT.

“Anything else you would like to know about the house?” she offers after a few seconds in silence. Lowering her gaze, I can see her long eyelashes caressing the top of her cheeks. She still has a soft smile although I notice something has changed on her tone.

And on her eyes too

“Why your friend moved out? Ghosts? Robberies? Dickheads around the area?” I lay back on the tree and I just joke trying to relax her.

“No, no!” she chuckles slightly “Nothing of that. Her family became bigger and her dad got a promotion at work so they moved out to a new house. They just decided it was a good investment to rent this property. It is a good area. This tree even has ladder steps and nothing ever happened, except us sneaking out...” she adds with a wink “and, if there is a problem with the house, the tenants can contact to their good and nice neighbours” she flashes a smile while pointing are herself.

“I see...” I smile back at her looking at her eyes finding feisty of what she said about sneaking out the house through the tree ladder steps. If I want to go out, I will positively use the front door because I utterly don’t think my mother would care what I do and I don’t care what my mother thinks, but somehow I can picture her doing it and I nod at her while another rock tune from the ’80s can be heard from her room “You indeed are selling me the house much better than Mrs Evans... is there anything bad?”

“Well...” she signs away with her hand to the back of the houses and for a second I focus on the amazing view of the sunset from there “our back yards are together. Our parents never bother to build a fence in between because they were friends since forever, so, unless you bother my dog wandering around that area...”

“I like dogs. My dad has a beautiful Akita Shiba Inu I helped to train” I said without letting slip I saw her with her dog.

“Nice!” she clasps her hands together “Mine is a Golden Retriever called Echo,” she said and just after that I can hear a bark at the window followed with the view of a big golden flurry head on the window sill. I laugh with at image and she laughs with me “and that’s why he has that name! He always answers back! Right Echo?” she said and just after that, the dog barks again making us laugh.

Even her laugh sounds like a melody

“Jace!” I look at the bedroom as my mother’s voice can be heard inside the house “Are you done?! We still need to visit another two houses and is getting dark!” she keeps shouting from downstairs what makes me shake my head looking back at the girl.

“Sorry” I smile moving my body back to the roof while she stays on the tree branch “I forgot for a second that...”

“Don’t worry” she pauses “It has been a pleasure... Jace” she says with a big smile showing her pearlescent teeth before her tongue darts out of her mouth to wet her lips again.

No. She hasn’t done that after saying my name.

I just lift my eyebrows and smirk shaking my head while moving to the window, throwing a leg inside the bedroom.

“The pleasure has been mine...?” I wait for her answer looking at her from there. She looks at me for a few seconds before shaking her head and jumping back to her roof.

“Don’t you know that you shouldn’t give information about yourself to strangers?” she answers back tilting her head slightly over her shoulder with a smirk on her lips.

“Are you really not telling me your name?” I ask very surprise of the turndown after all the flirting she has been doing.

“Jace Ryan!” I hear my mother’s voice again “I need your ass downstairs right now!”

“Coming!” I shout at the house looking at her again lifting an eyebrow waiting for her answer.

“Sorry, Mr Jace Ryan from Miami who just moved to Daytona Beach with his mum, and whose dad is an architect. It is enough you know where I live” she simply states sitting back on her window sill with her smile still on her face grabbing her notebook again “And the name of my dog”.

“Ok, you just said you don’t give your name to strangers but you just stated almost all my life in a sentence” I chuckle “shouldn’t that be enough for you?”

She looks away for a few seconds while she bites her lips again thinking.

“You’ll find out if you’ll become my neighbour” she says looking back at me with a wink.

“Argh!” I just say throwing my hands up in exasperation faking a little tantrum “Fair enough Miss!” I shake my head at her “I guess at the moment I should call you babe then?” I wink and mock salute her while she just waves her hand at me before looking back at her notebook smiling.

I give a couple of steps into the room but I trace back on my steps to look out the window again “Can I ask you something?” I call out gaining back her shining blue eyes on me while I place both of my hands on the window sill with half of my body out.

“Sure...” she points with her index finger at me “Unless if it is my name or mobile number” she chuckles making me chuckle with her.

Still flirting, huh?

“Why did you help me out with the house? You looked very sincere with the whole house conversation and I wonder why you would help a stranger as you just said” I ask very curious about it winning a smile back from her.

“Easy. You said I have a beautiful voice and that I have a good taste of music” she looks away for a second before looking back at my eyes “It is good to know I could have a neighbour who wouldn’t complain about me singing or playing loud music”

I frown my eyes at her words for a couple of seconds and I nod.

She listened to me

“And I thought you would say it is because I’m good looking” I just half joke at her.

“Mmm... I wouldn’t say good looking. Just... not bad” she replies with a big smile for my surprise.

“Shock!” I put my hands on my chest “She just broke my heart!” I reply in a dramatic way making her laugh.

“I’m sure you can always ask Mrs Evans to borrow her chewing gum to stick the pieces together!” she continues laughing.

“Ugh! Gross!” I say shaking my head trying to remove that image from my head before I nod my head at her “I really hope to see you soon... babe” I say again with a smile.

“Yeah... me too, Jace" she nods at me again with a smile and saying my name slowly “and now go! They are waiting for you and you need to close a deal if you want to find out my name!” she waves her hand indicating me to move and I just shake my head back taking a last look at her before running out of the bedroom and walking downstairs way to the kitchen finding out my mother ready to move on to the next house together with Mrs Evans. “Where are we going?” I ask resting my lower back on the kitchen counter getting a look from her.

“To the next house?” she stares at me sceptic “I hope you have not been smoking upstairs...” she shakes her head.

“I thought you said you like this house” I ignore her question about smoking as I know it doesn’t matter what I say, in her head I’m always wrong and she is always right about everything “I like it”

And with that, her face is in amaze. And Mrs Evans’.

“Did you just say you like this house?” my mother asks very slowly as if she was scared of me joking at her face.

“I do,” I say looking at her before looking at Mrs Evans “but I have a question for you about the leak in the master bedroom toilet” she looks at me blinking her eyes a few times after changing her surprised expression to a neutral one.

“What leak?” she asks without stopping chewing the damn gum.

“You know what leak. My dad is an architect and I learned from him a few things about houses...” I state quickly raising my eyebrows waiting for her to say something but she simply opens and closes her mouth a few times just mumbling some nonsense words while my mother looks at my face first and then to hers like she was expecting someone to explain ourselves “... and the neighbour I met gave me the owner’s number in case I have any question, I just can contact him to ask him directly if you prefer” I take my phone out of my pocket and I look at my contact list.

“Oh! That leak!” Mrs Evans waves her hand over my phone “Yes... we can fix it for you if you sign the renting papers today”

“No,” I say shifting my shoulders back and standing tall before her, not wanting to scare but stating that I’m serious with what I say “we’ll sign the papers when you write down a clause stating you will pay us back the cost of that job. I’m sure my dad knows people who can do a proper job back there and it won’t cost that much. You and the owner will benefit from it eventually”

She just stares at me with crossing arms for a few seconds and after that, she looks back at my mother.

“If we do that, the contract needs to be minimum for a year” she replies and keeps chewing.

“Done,” I say and look at my mother who is simply in an utter state of shock “just get all the paperwork done but don’t sign anything until our lawyers confirm everything is in order”

“But...” she mumbles seeing me walking to the door “Jace, are you sure?” I stop just at the frame still giving my back to both of the women after listen to her call.

“Didn’t you want a house for us?” I say without even look at her “You got it. Now if you excuse me, I need a smoke” I leave the house through the front door and walk to the car getting my lighter and the packet of cigarettes from my pocket before lighting one laying my back on the passenger’s door. I quickly take a long drag of it before I pull out my phone again to call Tommy.

“Told you not to call me until you got a house” Tommy’s ironic voice can be heard on the other side of the line after a few rings.

“I did” I say looking at the front of the whole house from where I am. The light of the day is almost gone and it is a pleasant view.

“That quick?”

“Yes. I guess I was lucky” I smirk “The house my mother was visiting wasn’t that bad”

“And what made you choose it?” he asks out of curiosity what make me chuckle looking at the side of the house, where I can see big the tree standing between both of the houses.

“A tree” I simply state with a smile he can’t see but I’m sure he can notice at the other side of the line.

“A tree?” he laughs “Yeah, all right”

“Well... that and a neighbour with good music taste” I can’t help to drag my eyes to that window sill, where I still can see that red haired girl and her body half hanging out, just illuminated by the light of the remained sunset light while I can listen to a Depeche Mode’s song that I can’t manage to place a name for.

“That good?” he simply asks.

“Yeah bro” I play with the ring in my lip “That good” I say before I can hear him chuckle again.

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