Chapter 3 - Girl-ness
"River these are the best cookies you've ever made."
My brother said as he shoved another one in his mouth.
"You say that every time I make them."
I rolled my eyes.
"And I mean it every time."
He gave me a goofy smile and I couldn't help but smile back.
It was so nice to be in a house with another human being who actually acknowledged my presence and also happened to be related to me. I couldn't remember the last time that was the case.
"Beau if you eat one more cookie, I'm kicking you out."
Beau reached one long arm across the table and stuffed his mouth with yet another cookie and I wondered where he put it all. He was a big guy but he seemed lean, like someone who would turn their nose up at anything sweet and reach for bland chicken and veggies instead.
"You live here?"
I asked Beau but Jackson was quick to answer for him.
"Not technically but he's always here."
Beau cleared his throat before taking over for my brother.
"I share an apartment in town with a few of the other guys."
I noticed that he never looked up when he spoke. He looked at me when I talked to him, but the second he opened his mouth his eyes were on anything else except mine. I decided that it was now a personal mission to get Beau to make eye contact.
"He pays rent there but that's about it."
"Why don't you just stay here?"
I narrowed my eyes and tried to will his gaze toward mine with no luck.
"Jackson didn't have a room open when I first reported so I more or less got stuck at the apartment I'm at. And now that his roommates have transferred.."
I finished for him and he nodded.
"Hey let's have a party tonight."
The new guy said from the couch where he immediately made himself comfortable after he barged in. I learned his name was James shortly after my brother almost kicked him out for cursing in front of me.
"James, did your mother drop you on your head frequently when you were a baby, or do you just not pay any attention?"
Jackson was the only person I knew who could speak to someone that way and somehow lace it with kindness.
"His sister just got here... No party tonight."
Beau chimed in.
They all looked at me and I shrugged my shoulders.
"Tomorrow it is."
James said before shoving the last cookie in his mouth which earned him another glare from Beau.
"Come on Riv, I'll show you your room."
Jackson said as he got up from the table.
We walked to the end of the hall and when my brother opened the door I was taken aback.
"Wasn't this your room?"
It used to be boring, only muted grays and blacks here and there. Now it was mostly white with different shades of pink scattered across the room with a few gold accents.
He did this for me
"Yeah but it's the only room that has a bathroom attached. I figured you'd need it, you know... for your girl-ness."
I put my hand over my mouth to stop my laugh.
"Jackson, you didn't have to give up your room for me. I'm already living in your house..."
I started but he interrupted me.
"This is our house River. It was always meant to be ours, that's why I bought it and dealt with roommates until it was time for you to come here and live with me."
My sweet brother.
"And you decorated it for me?"
I poked him in the side knowing good and well he did no such thing.
"Nah, one of my buddy's wives came over and helped. Do you like it? If not she said she would take you shopping."
He rubbed the back of his neck, genuinely worried that I might not like it.
I crashed into him and held on for dear life. I wasn't much of a hugger so my brother knew to soak it up while he could. He lifted me off of my feet with ease and squeezed.
"Can't breathe, Jack."
I squeaked out.
He said as he placed me back on the floor.
"So no roommates now?"
I asked as I ran my fingers through a fluffy pillow on the bed.
"No, but we do have a lot of get-togethers and people sometimes stay over. And Beau stays a lot."
I guess I already knew that.
"Hey I've gotta go back to work for a bit will you be okay here by yourself?"
By myself was my natural state, brother.
"Of course, Jackson, I'm not ten anymore. I'm almost seventeen."
"I know... Don't remind me."
He said as he drug his hands over his face.
"Beau can stay with you."
I saw how this was going to go. If Jackson wasn't here, Beau would be.
"I don't need him to stay here."
I shook my head.
"River, sometimes some of the guys just barge in here. Not that anything would happen but I want you to comfortable here."
"Just lock the doors. You don't have to worry."
He cocked his head to the side and sighed. Always a worrier.
"I'll be back before ten tonight."
Victory. I had only been here a few hours and I already craved being alone. Being here with Jackson was nice, it was more than nice actually. But I wasn't sure how this helicopter bother role was going to work out.
"I'm tired so I'll probably just shower and go to bed."
He bent down pulled me into another hug. He was lucky I loved him.
"I'm so glad you're here, Riv."
He said before kissing me on top of my head.
"Me too and if you bring donuts home for me to eat in the morning, I won't be mad."
"You got it. See you in the morning."
Jackson pulled my door closed and I fell backward onto my bed. Of all the things I expected to happen when I finally moved here, this wasn't one of them and I didn't know how to feel.
Take it for what it's worth or over analyze everything and everyone's intentions?
Take it for what's it's worth, River. What have you got to lose?
Not one thing.
After my shower, my stomach decided to make it's annoyance with that one cookie I had earlier perfectly clear. I walked out of my room and down the hall.
I jumped back as soon I turned the corner into the kitchen only to find Beau sitting at the table drinking a beer.
Oh my God.
"Don't curse? Well, don't scare me. What are you a ninja? You're too freaking quiet. I thought you left earlier."
He said before tilting the bottle up.
Thank you, captain obvious. This whole time I've thought I was here alone and he'd been sitting in the same spot that I left him in hours ago.
Thank God I didn't do anything embarrassing.
Wait did I?
I shook my head and tried and remember why I ventured out of my room in the first place and my stomach growled right on cue.
Beau surprised me by asking.
"Yeah, just coming to get some food."
I walked over to the pantry and took out the jar of peanut butter.
"That's hardly a meal."
Gosh, he was judgy.
I opened three drawers before I found one that had spoons. After I had what I came for I started to head back down the hallway and into my room but I was stopped short by the doorbell. Beau brushed passed me and opened the door as he reached into his back pocket for his wallet. Seconds later he was back in the kitchen with two pizza boxes.
"I wasn't sure what you liked."
He said while scratching his head.
I opened the boxes to find one cheese pizza and another one that looked like it had every topping under the sun on it.
"Cheese is perfect."
I smiled despite myself. Couldn't he just make up his mind? Be nice or keep his distance.
"How old are you?"
He asked once he was four slices deep. He grabbed another one from the box and I decided that I had never seen anyone who can eat like Beau.
"Almost seventeen..." I cleared my throat before continuing, "I'll be seventeen next month."
I don't know why I said it like that. But for some reason seventeen sounded so much older in my head than sixteen did.
"What about you?"
Same age as my brother.
Same job as my brother.
Seemed to be just as protective as my brother.
Yet infinitely harder to figure out.