Conflicted Affection

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11

Me and Alexa are watching The Little Mermaid before we both hear a knock at the door.

My mom--being inches from the door due to her cleaning right around it--quickly opens the door.

"Ryland!" She speaks, excited and surprised.

Alexa gasps, jumping from her seat and running to the door. She jumps onto Ryland and hugs him tightly. Ryland responds with a giggle and a hug back.

"It's so nice to see you!" Mom says.

"It's nice to see you too! All of you actually." Ryland smiles big, turning to look at me.

I notice Alexa just staring at Ryland, smiling.

"Alexa, stop drooling over him." I joke.

"I'm not!" She debates, almost shouting.

"Ok, ok, no fighting." Mom says. All I do is chuckle and Alexa sticks her tongue out at me again before grabbing tight onto Ryland. It is like seeing her cuddle her white bear Mikey, snuggling him close like a dad, or maybe even like she does my mom when she was sad.

"Alexa, I think Ryland would like to come in and sit down." Mom says.

Alexa frowns, but obeys and lets Ryland put her down. She runs to the couch, pulling Ryland by the hand with her.

"Guess what we're watching!" She nearly yells.

"Hmm, I don't know. The Little... Mermaid?" Ryland says sarcastically and chuckles.

"Duh!" Alexa mocks him.

"Well I was joking. Everyone knows this movie." Ryland jokes.

In unison they say, "Duh!" Both giggling.

Mom shakes her head while smiling in amusement.

Alexa then grabs onto him and hugs him, "Give him some space, child!" Mom complains, rolling her eyes.

Ryland chuckles, "It's ok."

"Do you like this movie?" Alexa asks.

"Of course! My favorite character is Flounder. What's yours?" He asks her.

"Mine is Flounder too!" Alexa shouts, making both me and Ryland jump.

"Oh my goodness, we're twins!" Ryland jokes, earning a giggle from Alexa.

I can't help but smile at their bonding, but I still want to talk to Ryland without Alexa around either trying to hint I like Ryland or listening in on our conversations and completely interrupting us both.

Plus, I just really miss talking to him one on one. It will be awkward though since my little sister is right there, especially if I start being all weird and dreamy-eyed around him.

"How long are you staying?" I ask.

"I don't know, I haven't decided."

"Sleepover!" Alexa shouts.

Ryland chuckles, "I don't know yet. Plus, I have no clothes to sleep in and I didn't bring anything really."

"I mean, if you really want to sleep over I can let you go get your stuff. I can drive you home for a bit maybe." Mom says.

Ryland looks at me for a second, then back at my mom, "Sure!"

Alexa shouts, "Yay!" And twirls around the room, jumping.

Ryland grins brightly and walks toward the door toward my mom, who had her keys in hand.

"I'll be back!" Mom smiles, walking out with Ryland.

***

When Mom and Ryland come back, I notice Ryland with a big backpack of what I assume is clothes.

"They said he could stay over as long as he likes!" Mom says.

"I didn't know how long I wanted so I just brought clothes for maybe 3 days just in case." Ryland chuckles. I am excited to think he might stay for a long time, but probably not too long.

"Yay!" Alexa shouts.

"You can put your stuff in my room if you want." I suggest.

Ryland thanks me with a smile.

He dissapears up the stairs. All I have to know that he still walking is the sound of his heel-high doc martin boots he often wears.

I decide to go up after him soon after he leaves. I walk up the stairs and into my room.

"I'm glad you're staying over." I say, making Ryland jump a bit and turn his body toward me.

"Yeah, I thought it would be fun. I never really have anything important to do so, why not?" He chuckles.

I walk over to the bed and sit down, "What do you want to do while you're here? I have video games, snacks, and movies."

"It doesn't really matter, but I am kinda hungry.." He trails off.

"Come on," I guide him down the stairs and into the kitchen. I open the pantry and motion toward the snacks, "There ya go!"

He gravitates toward the chips ahoy cookies and opens the tab, grabbing about six cookies. He looks to me, looking embarrassed, "I just really like cookies." He says, trying to cover up the bit of cookie he already has in his mouth.

I chuckle, "No, trust me I understand. Except I would grab ten of those."

Ryland smiles and continues eating his cookies more confidently.

We walk back to my room and neither of us notice that Alexa was quietly following behind until Ryland sits down on the bed.

"Hey!" He greets kindly.

"Hi!" Alexa giggles.

"Alexa, you can't just sneak up on us! Ryland needs some room, ok?" I say.

"But," She stops, "Dillan?"

"Yeah, sweetheart?"

"Can I tell you a secret without Ryland here?"

"Of course!" I say, following her out the room and into hers. She closes the door and starts.

"Are you gonna love him more than me?" She asks with a frown.

"No! Where did you get that from?" I furrow my brows.

"You're always talking to him instead of me and barely pay attention to me when he is around."

"What?! If I did that, I had no idea."

"Really? But you have always been talking to him lately and not me."

"I'm sorry, honey." I grab her into a hug.

"Just like Dad, you'll pay attention to Ryland more than me because you'll fall in love just like Dad did with Holly!" She shouts and begins crying.

"Alexa, I don't-"

"No! You think you don't know but I know! Everyone does! You like him and he likes you and you'll both forget me!" She cries louder.

I try hugging her but she pushes me away. It hurts seeing her this way. I remember her crying because she thought she lost Dad to his girlfriend. I was the one who was there to love her when he didn't. Imagine having even that taken away, all your safe havens.

"Do you want to hang out with us?" I ask.

"Will you ignore me?" She asks, tears still streaming down her face.

"I'll try my best not to, I promise. I love you and I never want to hurt you. You mean so much to me, and you always will." I say sincerely.

"Okay." She says quietly. I walk out of the room and ask Ryland to come with me and I take him into Alexa's room.

Ryland saw her face and his tiny smile fades, "Is she-" He asks me, and I cut him off before he could say anything about her being sad. I don't want to admit it.

"Yeah." I say quickly and quietly.

Alexa just stays quiet, as do we. She grabs Mikey and holds him close.

"May I ask if anything is wrong?" Ryland asks Alexa.

"No." Alexa snaps.

"I'm sorry." Ryland says with a honeyed tone.

Alexa looks up at him, her angry expression softening, she soon breaks down in tears.

"Did I say anything?" Ryland asks.

"No, I promise. It's my fault, it's ok." I say.

Alexa jumps up and hugs Ryland, "Don't let him ignore me!"

"What?" Ryland asks.

"He's gonna love you more than me! Don't let him!" She sobs.

Ryland looks at me oddly, "He adores you!"

"But he won't! He's gonna love you and not me."

"What do you mean? You're like his best friend." Ryland looks at me oddly again. I can't do anything except just stand there.

"My Dad did this too! He fell in love and didn't care about me anymore!"

"Woah, what? No! Me and Dillan aren't in love, we just hang out together. I'm not trying to steal your brother. If he ever forgets you I will smack his head!" Ryland jokes.

"Really?" Alexa calms down.

"Of course! It most likely won't happen because you are his little sister and he is an amazing big brother. I just know it!" Ryland says, guiding her to her toys, "Lets play some games!"

I slowly walk toward them, sitting beside Alexa. They begin to play dolls together and giggle. I just force a smile. I can barely speak, I am shocked and broken. I hurt Alexa, and Ryland is probably mad at me too.

Alexa tugs on my sleeve, "I love you."

I smile big and let a few tears drop before I hug her close, "I love you too, sweetheart." I kiss her forehead.

Out of the corner of my eye I see Ryland smiling, and Alexa looks at him, "I love you too." Alexa giggles shyly.

"I love you as well." Ryland chuckles.

"Group hug!" Alexa shouts, bringing Ryland into our hug. We all giggle and I can tell we all feel happier.

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