Chapter 7 - Off-limits
“So, how was school this week?”
Jackson asked Friday afternoon when he got home from work. He asked the same question every day. And every day my answer was the same.
“It was fine.”
I told him.
Little did Jackson know that anytime a girl said the word “fine” you could insert just about any negative word in its place and it would be accurate.
It was terrible.
It was horrendous.
It was absolute shit.
Okay, that was two words but whatever. He wouldn’t know the difference.
I left him in that bubble for a reason.
I could tell Beau if he asked, although I hadn’t seen him all week. I assumed that something about the last time we spoke made him mad, but I had no idea what. I told him the truth just like he asked. How could I control how he responded to it?
But my brother was off-limits.
He didn’t need to know that those girls were still being catty teenagers. Making up more lies to attach to my name. I would just deal with it myself. And my principal was cool, I trusted him.
“Are you okay with us having a little get together tonight?”
Jackson asked me as if he needed my permission.
I wanted to tell him that it was crazy for him to ask me if he could have people come over to his own house. But I didn’t want to have the “this is our house” conversation again.
I went to my bedroom and changed out of my tye-dyed pajama bottoms and tank top. I slipped into a pair of ripped jeans and a Bob Marley T-shirt that Jackson got me for Christmas last year.
I walked back into the living room and Jackson was already there, taking his keys off the keyring by the door.
“I’ve gotta run to the store to pick up a few things for tonight, wanna join?”
I slipped my knock off Birkenstocks onto my feet and followed Jackson out of the front door.
The drive to the store was short. I looked around, sort of mesmerized by the military base. It was like its own little town that basically no one could get into unless you had a specific ID. I felt like since I had one myself, that I was included in some club somehow. And as juvenile as that sounded it made feel good... Secure.
“I’ll get a cart, you can go ahead and go inside.”
My brother said as he parked his truck.
It wasn’t much different than any other grocery store yet I was still somehow intrigued by it, probably because I had to show my ID when I walked through the door. I stopped in the produce section to wait for Jackson when I heard my name.
A familiar voice came from behind me and I turned around to Taylor Thomas walking toward me.
I would never forget when I first met him on the second day of school.
“Hi, I’m Taylor Thomas. Hope you like first names as last names.”
It was an odd thing to say but funny all the same.
“Is the name Jonathon squeezed in there anywhere?”
I asked and we both laughed.
I said when he made it to me.
“What are you doing here?”
I looked around before responding.
“Um, buying groceries?”
I scrunched my nose.
“Oh, duh. Ignore that.”
Just then Jackson came barreling toward us with probably the noisiest shopping cart he could find and I was sure he did it just to annoy me.
“Hey, Riv, whose this?”
He asked, grinning as he looked between Taylor and me.
Oh, dear God.
He said and he shook my brother’s hand.
“And how do you know my baby sister, Taylor?”
Why? Why? Why?
“We have second and third period together.”
Taylor said, looking a lot less confident than he did a few seconds ago.
I had to help him out.
“Okay, Jackson. Let’s get what you need before your friends show up to an empty house.”
I tried to push my brother down the produce aisle but he didn’t budge.
“Wait a second River, it’s only polite to invite your friend to our party.”
He was enjoying this a little too much. I needed him to morph into super protective mode and put me in some kind of boy repealing bubble because this purposefully annoying stunt he was pulling needed to stop.
“Yep, come over whenever. River will text you the address.”
He laughed as he let me pull him down the aisle and I waved goodbye to Taylor.
“What the heck was that?”
“What? I was just being nice to your friend. Is that was he is your friend? Or is he your boy-”
“Stop. He’s not my boyfriend. I barely know him.”
I whisper shouted at him as an older couple walked by us.
He held his palms up to me and pulled his list from his back pocket.
An hour later we were back home and I was in the kitchen, making cookies because Jackson acted like a three-year-old begging for candy when we made it to the baking aisle.
I sent Taylor a text when we made it home. I made it clear that he didn’t have to come, but he insisted on it. He was out in the backyard setting up chairs when Beau walked in the door.
I said when we walked through the kitchen.
“How’s your lip?
Skipping the hellos today I see.
He raised a brow.
“It’s not much better.”
I whispered because I didn’t know if my brother had walked back inside.
“Did you get into another fight?”
I laughed before continuing,
“It’s just those two girls, they love messing with me.”
“I’ll talk to your principal again.”
“No, I don’t want you to do that. I just wanted to tell you but you can’t tell my brother, I don’t want him to worry over something like this. Please, Beau.”
He took a deep breath and stared at me for a few seconds before answering.
Well, I could check getting Beau to make eye contact off of my to-do list.
“I won’t say anything unless it gets out of hand.”
He shoved his hands in his pockets.
I nodded just as Taylor and Jackson walked back inside laughing.
“River, I like this kid he’s funny.”
Jackson slapped Taylor on his back.
“Okay, there are too many boys in the kitchen. Bye.”
I shooed them away but Taylor and Beau hesitated.
Beau just stood there, staring between me and Taylor the way I expected Jackson to do earlier.
“Beau, help me pull the grill out of the garage.”
My brother yelled from the living room and Beau sighed, walking away.
“Can I help?”
Taylor asked and it made me jump, I forgot he was still standing there.
I realized that was what having Beau around did. If he was in the room, I had a hard time paying attention to anyone else. I hoped no one else noticed.
I cleared my throat.
“Sure, I’m trying out a new recipe, but I have to warn you, I think it might get messy.”
“It’s okay. I don’t mind messy.”
He grinned at me. An impossibly cute, crooked grin.
Was he flirting with me?
No one had ever done it before. I didn’t think so at least.
But I liked it.
Hey friends! I’m hoping to change to daily updates from here on out.
I have two babies and two other books in progress sooooo...
Wish me luck lol
Also, I ate three strawberry crinkle cookies while writing this. Sorry, not sorry.