“I wonder how Leo would have looked if he was alive and our age, probably quite handsome,” I giggled, imagining Leander as an attractive looking teenager.
Lean, tall, charming, maybe muscular with his dimpled cheek and sandy hair. So much like...that guy I bumped into the other day.
Great, now my mood turned all sour.
No! Not this again, Gab. You promised not to think about him--them.
“For the last time, we talked about this; You.need.to.forget.about.him or you’ll never recover from that attack you had last week,” Angelique dictated each word into my thick skull and rubbed her face as if she was tired.
I smiled with amusement.
We were sitting on my bed after returning home from school and planned to have a sleepover.
My test results had shown that I needed to stay in the hospital for at least another day before I could go home, and that meant home to rest for a week just to make sure I don’t get another anxiety attack. Shit, the hell it caused brought embarrassment to my face the moment as I stepped foot into that damn building after a whole week and two days.
Everyone had asked me about my well being. Even the principal continued checking up on me to be on the safe side, and it had been annoying as fuck with the way everyone was so nosy that I stayed clear of the cafeteria for the next few days, eating my lunch on the rooftop with Angelique.
Nothing about being under surveillance was simple.
My parents specifically told the school to do it, or they’d get in trouble with them. I groaned at the reality. Of course, they threatened them behind my back. Their explanation would be because they were just watching out for me.
During that whole week at home, I had time to rest and sleep peacefully, almost like a rock. Angelique visited me daily, updating me of the shit that happened in school, and brought me my homework and notes.
No more crazy driving for me in the meantime and that meant my precious Jaguar had to be locked away in the garage.
And while at home arrest, I had to thoroughly clean out thoughts that needed to be solved until the conclusion sprung up; thinking perpetually about a deceased person wasn’t healthy and that I had to move on.
It was nearly ten years, but it was my constant nightmare ever since I was a kid.
I’d always visited his grave and did my routine when I traveled there. Special prayers for Leo was said, and I never missed that day.
In my opinion, I wasn’t that sort of person who was obsessed;
Why did he have to be taken at such a young age and in the most dreadful way?
My family had unfailingly supported me on this. I even had a Mom-Daughter talk throughout the way. Nonetheless, when my Mom was unavailable, she would always check up on me and try to knock some sense into my messed up mind.
But the problem was - I was still very much affected.
That boy just reminded me a lot of him. Sandy hair and green orbs. Those plastered into my brain and what triggered the attack.
Intimidated would be the correct word.
To make it graver, I made a total fool of myself that day, looking like I had straddled him as I felt the awkwardness seep in.
Oh, for the love of God! I don’t even know him, yet he swayed me this much.
Rumors have it that he came from an extremely wealthy family. Excellent, another rich terror to join our existing snobby network.
However, few kids came from affluent families - that included Angelique and I. Even if we were born with silver spoons, we don’t act egotistically, unlike the others. From where we came, respecting others status was more to us.
So I proceeded to a firm decision. I should stay clear of him.
I popped a cheese ball into my mouth. “I’ve succeeded for a whole week now, and I should be proud of my work. Surprisingly, my skills are better than what I imagined.”
“Yes, but avoiding the new kids doesn’t seem to help. You’ve just started all over again,” she flicked the channels of my ’65 inch TV. What? I was just very comfortable tonight snuggled up against my comforter. “Besides, you can’t go on like that for the rest of the year. He’ll start getting suspicious of your weird behavior.”
As if I haven’t deemed of that.
“Oh, who cares, man, he doesn’t even know me.” I pointed out, took a handful of cheese balls, and stuffed them into my expecting mouth. Fuck. I’m surely going to gain another pound or two if I don’t stop eating. That’s what my body is excellent at doing. Honestly, I could add that to my resume; Expert Food Eater - will eat anything!
I snorted at the thought and chewed another bunch.
Making me thin in less than a minute but getting me fatter in less than a second. It’s just how my body works; my digestion isn’t that great. That’s why I stuck to a diet created by Mom.
Also, because I have a condition called Psoriasis, and...I hate it.
It’s been with me all my life. Luckily, during the last few years back, an aunt of mine, a second cousin to Mom, had worked as a nurse under a famous dermatologist and got me in without needing to create an appointment.
And yeah, if having eczema wasn’t that bad, imagine Mom’s terrified reaction when the Doctor announced I had a skin condition that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells.
It causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin, and the extra skin cells form scales and red patches that are itchy and sometimes painful.
“Psoriasis is a chronic disease that often comes and goes” as quoted on Google, but luckily the Doc mentioned that it was well known.
He had prescribed me to mix different types of creams in which he wrote the names off into one bottle. And it worked!
After years of trying various lotions, herbs, searching for soaps to help, and going to a bunch of hospitals, trying out many diets that never worked and we finally hit the jackpot.
I was perpetually grateful to that Doctor. He saved me from my miserable life of itching every damn second and sometimes causing my skin to bleed. It couldn’t be helped, otherwise, I’d go insane.
On the other hand, I felt guilty wasting money all those years. It’s because of me they had to spend all that money. I didn’t want that to happen again to my parents, but they did it out of love, and that I didn’t need to worry because money was the least problem they had in their minds.
I admired my parents enormously.
Not only were they there for me through those hard-bitten periods, but they accepted me for who I was - minus the attitude I gave out. I’m quite a hot-headed person. Mom said it’s because of the genes I inherited from my Dad, while Dad defended himself by claiming, “It’s because of her hair. All redheads were born stubborn and fiery. Just like her mother,”
We all cackled at his attempt to avoid the fault pointed at him.
However, I still couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream!
After a few days, all my rashes disappeared without a trace. Most were only on my lower arms and recently my neck - that’s how you can identify you have psoriasis, but they all vanished like - BOOM. They were gone.
But I knew all too well; one wrong move and it’ll come back.
It wasn’t contagious. Skin diseases like that aren’t catch-able, yet I read through the net that people who have them get bullied.
That was also a reason why I often wore long sleeves even in the middle of summer during middle school. Kids used to give me weird glances but not daring to touch me knowing my background and how things for them might not conclude that well.
I educated myself on my condition and learned how to treat it well. Angelique didn’t have any problems with that and even met people like me before.
“Some people are just shallow because they don’t know how it feels like,” she cussed out words as she went on ranting. I couldn’t forget how much we giggled after I called her an old woman for talking so much. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” she remarked, and I laughed till my stomach cramped.
Simpering after remembering those good times, I almost snorted aloud. Luckily, Angelique was busy fretting about how everything on the telly was boring tonight.
“Hey, do you want to eat pizza later?” I asked Angelique. “Mom and Dad won’t be home tonight because they have some dinner date, and Ivan wouldn’t be bothering us as he has some boys hang out with his buddies at 6 - he’s probably gone by now.”
“Yeah, pizza sounds great.” she nodded then paused. “Wait. Did you say Ivan’s got a hangout with his friends tonight?”
“You mean with those goofballs?” she pressed on her last word. I replied with a wary yes, knowing well who she was referring to. She swore loudly and started furiously calling someone on her phone; Face time.
Ivan was best friends with Angelique’s brothers, Jace and Anton. All three of them were best buddies since they could remember and went through kindergarten and now classmates in middle school.
They were inseparable and earned the nickname “The Three Diablo’s” because that’s what they are. Trouble making rascals.
“Oh shit, those idiots better stay clear of the basement, or they’re dead.”
“Why?” I curiously looked over her shoulder. “What’s in there?” Before she could answer me, the person on the other line responded.
A young face popped up of a teenage boy with tousled brown hair around the age of 15 and wore round reading glasses.
“Oh, h-hey sis!” her brother, Jace Castillo, answered cockily with a cheeky grin across his face.
“Hey, my ass. What’s your plan for tonight, little brother?” she demanded furiously.
“Urm, playing pool in the...basement?”
“WRONG! I told you to stay away from there, what point of not going anywhere near there, don’t you understand?” she exploded.
“Geez, man chill, what’s bothering you?” I asked, trying to calm her down.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t help it! We were planning to show Ivan your new car and -”
“You bought a car!?” I shrieked in shock. “And you never mentioned it to me?” I was offended and a little hurt that she hasn’t mentioned this piece of news to me.
Given that her behavior was getting odd lately, I kept observing secrets were hidden away from me. I mean, her privacy was understood, but she knew every damn thing about me; moreover, she’s acted so strangely that it’s making me worried.
I frowned at Angelique.
“Yeah, sis, why didn’t you tell Gab about it?” he smirked, knowing he was on the winning side.
“I was going to surprise her, but you and your little gang had to ruin everything! I swear to god if I see a scratch on my new Porsche I’ll-”
“Yada-yada-yada--your car will be fine, so chill. I’m Fifteen, not Five,” he scoffed, rolling his eyes.
“Hey, Gab!” another voice greeted popping up on the screen, and my face instantly lit up when I saw Anton’s face. “How are you? Feeling better?”
He was the opposite of Jace.
“Yeah, thanks for asking, Tony.” I grinned. Anton was such a sweet boy. Sometimes I held sympathy for him. He was such a charming person who hid a rather rocky history.
He was like the little brother that I wished to have. Kind, calm, and the one who’s always a gentleman and loved reading, unlike Jace, it’s obvious you can tell what his personality is.
“Hey, come on, Tony, Ivan’s probably waiting for us upstairs,” Jace spoke, his face taking over the screen. “Catch you later, girls, we have a lot of boys stuff to do.”
“You mean trouble,” snorted his sister.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Angelique.Cya!" he then ended the video call. Typical.
He always had this bad boy vibe ever since he turned Thirteen. I mean, he wasn’t always like this. Guess it’s the hormones he produces, searching for reckless things to do and looking for dangerous adventures. Just like my brother, that’s why they often fought, and Anton played peacemaker.
In the end, however, they had to apologize, or Anton would get pissed at them; it happened once before. He hadn’t spoken to both of them for a week. That’s how great their friendship is.
Angelique groaned and turned her attention back to the TV.
“Why are you laughing? You only have one, and I have to deal with two asses!”
“Come on, Anton isn’t that bad.”
“Yeah, I meant the other one, his opposite. The spawn of Lucifer,” she added darkly, flicking through channels faster. “You have no idea how much I panicked when you fainted and fell like you were lifeless. You almost gave me a heart attack,” she said out of nowhere.
Suddenly the mood altered as she walked into another subject like a sharp twist.
“Whoa, what’s with the sudden change of topic.”
“I’m just declaring that it was one of the worst experiences I had in my life, and I had freaked out of my mind. It struck me too, Gab! I genuinely thought I was going to lose my best friend in my arms. I almost cried for lord’s sake.”
“Then why didn’t you,” I teased, trying to get on her nerve. Honestly, the mood was just going great, and she had to turnabout the atmosphere.
I turned my attention back towards the TV, which was now on Nickelodeon. I couldn’t care less. Watching Sponge Bob was a favorite past time.
“Lucky, we were out on the bleachers that day, or I would’ve legit died carrying you down the stairs if we happened to be on the rooftop,” she heaved in what looked like a relieved face.
I stayed quiet for a while, understanding where she came from and answered calmly. Guess she was in the mood for this.
“Yup, true that,” I agreed, popping the “p”. After that incident, I never failed to show my thanks to Angelique, she was a real savior to me, and I hope I’d pay her back.
Although there was still one thing that was making me feel edgy.
I had asked her the day I woke up from the hospital bed after Mom and Dad excused themselves because of their work, and Ivan tagged along because he wanted to go home and finish up some homework.
Yet, she had seemed kind of reluctant to answer at first, though she finally did after asking her for the nth time what was wrong with knowing. I was determined to thank the guys who helped me, but she didn’t seem willing to continue.
“Come on, Angel, just tell me their names, what’s the harm in that?”
But she shook her head firmly.
“I told you they were some fellows from our class. I already thanked them on your behalf, so no need to bother them now,” she disagreed, not looking in my direction. “Besides stop straining yourself about that, it won’t help your situation if you knew the answer.” I looked at her weirdly, and she just shrugged. Until I saw her twisting her fingers.
She was hiding something from me. Either she wasn’t bothered or was keeping it for good.
I let her go at that time because I wasn’t allowed to stress out and eventually fell asleep after conversing with her for an hour. I knew I’d get my answers eventually when she’s ready to explain her motives. She didn’t seem comfortable talking about it.
“Let’s just watch Netflix, bro,” I keened, bored as I looked at the screen.
“Alright, what do you wanna watch?” she asked, avoiding a fight between us, which happens frequently.
“After,” I replied. “I haven’t watched that yet.”
“Are you joking?” she gasped at me with wide eyes. I gave her the “Yes” face and nudged her to hurry up.
“And shut that mouth of yours before a fly finds its way in.”
She glared at me, causing her mouth to open wider. I rolled around howling, and soon she joined in too. “I said close your mouth!”
“Ok, ok! Geez. But I already watched it remember? You can go ahead without me,” she mumbled, changing the screen again.
“What are you going to do then?”
“Read.” Of course, I anticipated that. It was the most likely answer I’d get from her.
The movie began, and 5 minutes into the movie I realized something bugged me.
“Turn off the lights, Lily,” I commanded teasingly, forcing her lazy ass to get up from her already snug position. She shot me an evil glare.
She hates it when I called her Lily, her middle name. That was legit the only name I could call her of when we first met, since her name sounded incredibly long, and Angel had a very cliche setoff, although I tend to use it off guard.
So for the second time that night, I laughed my ass out. “Come on, dude, I really can’t enjoy watching with the lights on.”
“Why?” she cried out, frustrated at the heavens. But eventually got up when I quipped about tickling her. She hates it when I do that. I can get a little extreme if I start. “Aww, thanks, boo.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever, bitch,” she grumbled, waddled back to my bed, phone in hand, eyes never leaving the screen.
**After the movie**
“Did you...somehow tell my parents about the actual reason why I passed out?” I asked.
Fortunately, she didn’t hang back and keep another secret; I was worried she would tell me another “next time” thing.
“Nope, of course, not¹hermana, I explained a different reason to them that was somewhat near the truth,” she chuckled. “What are best friends for if we don’t know when we should keep some information off-limits? Haha, don’t worry man, you know I don’t tell people things between us. Pinky promised and sealed off.”
I beamed brightly and gave her my biggest hugs yet. “Thank you, Angel, I’ll be forever grateful,”
“Oh, yes, you do bitch because you owe me a lot,” she sassed, dragging the “lot” part in an African-American hue. Heh, that’s so like Angelique; always going to hold the title as the most “Sassiest Queen of New York City”.
“Pfft, yeah, right,” I smiled smugly when I recalled something. “Hey, Angel, you never explained why you kept your new car a secret from me,” I openly accused with an evident pissed-off expression.
She looked up from her phone and turned red. “Oh shit,” she cursed, slapping her forehead. “Damn you, Jace!”
Remarkable, she now owes me a hell lot of explanation. Till then, she’s off pizza until she gives me a valid one.
“Damn shit, indeed, bitch.”
¹Hermana - Sister