Jacob’s words circled my brain like a toy train stuck on a track. They kept coming back to the front of my mind, forcing me to think about them, to make them stay.
I had gotten back from the cemetery where I had spilled everything to Jacob about six hours ago, and now I was returning in nice clothes with my siblings to pay our respects.
It was a tradition we had started since the year after our parents death, the first anniversary of their absence. It was the second hardest day I’d ever lived through but I was happy we had started it then.
I had three tall sunflowers clutched in my hands as we entered the yard, looking so different from last night. The dark does something to a graveyard that makes it seem haunting, the light does the opposite. It makes you want to think lightly on those who you have lost, think good of them. The sun does that too.
Parker had been in tears from the moment she woke up this morning, and Atlas was in a rough state as well. It had been hard to get out of the house but I had managed to bring them along.
I felt out of place being here right now, after last night and everything with Jacob. What he had told me, well, it made sense. When I had crawled into bed after he had dropped me at home, I thought more about what he had said, the train starting it’s never ending loop. The pain might not get better, but you will become stronger. I believed I just needed someone to tell me that I would get stronger for me to realize I already was. Usually, I would be more of a mess than both of my siblings combined, but I hadn’t yet shed a tear. Maybe it was because I was all cried out, or maybe it was because I was stronger and I knew it.
The marble gravestone shone in the morning sun, our parents names clearer in this light. My heart sank as it had this morning and I could feel the tears in my eyes, but that was okay. One thing my mother had taught me was that it was always okay to cry, even if there was no reason for it. Today, there was a reason, and it was okay.
Being the oldest, Atlas went first, knelt down on the now-dry grass to place his flowers on the left side of their grave, beneath the tombstone. Then he closed his eyes and Parker and I turned away, as he spoke to our parents like we did every year. He told them about school, about work, about us and everything they would know if they were still alive. Listening to him talk made my heart clench, because it was the only time I truly saw how he was feeling. He wasn’t as okay as he put on.
He said a prayer and stood up, before coming to give me and Parker a hug. Then it was my big sister’s turn.
She followed suit, placing her tulips on the centre of the grave and kneeling in front of it. She told them about school and her life, and she finished with “And I have this new friend who is the best person I’ve met in a while. I wish you could meet him, I know you’d both love him.” Then she said her prayer and stood up.
And it was my turn.
The flowers felt thick in my hands as I placed them on the right side of the grave and instead of kneeling at the front, I knelt by their side where I lay with Jacob the night before. I spoke in a whisper, so my siblings couldn’t hear me and told them everything they would have known.
“You would remember Jacob, Jacob Beck, my best friend when we were little. He moved to Europe somewhere but he came back this year. I didn’t really like him to start with, but I don’t really know why. We’re friends now though, and I brought him here last night.” I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, clasping my fingers together on my lap. “He made me feel like it’s okay to let go. Not of you two, but of the pain the memory of you brings. I haven’t yet and I don’t think I will be able to soon, but I know that it’s okay. One day, when my prince comes along, I’ll be able to. And yes, that sounds silly, but it was part of a story and well, you may have heard last night. If you did, I really hope you are stars now, because then I can talk to you whenever I want, instead of always having to come here. I did see the two brightest stars last night so I think maybe you are there. I hope so because I miss you both-“ my eyes welled up and I held in a sob “-so much.” I whispered, and then said my prayer and stood up.
Without any further words, we left the graveyard and went back home, each going our separate ways. Atlas to university, Parker to her room, me to the music room.
I picked out an old music book from when my father had taught me and began to play the first song, but then I got sidetracked and played the entire book. At some stage Parker had drifted in with the box of tissues and sat and listened. I wasn’t brilliant. I hadn’t practiced in years. I made mistakes. But it was the most I had enjoyed playing since my parents left.
I closed the lid and stood up, meeting my sister at the door. I pulled her into a hug and she just smiled.
“Should we go to school?”
I nodded, looking at the clock on the wall. It was almost lunch. “I think that would be wise. Let’s go.”
I was still in my nice dress but I had sunglasses on my head and a duffel bag over my shoulder, as Jacob was picking me up from school to go to Europe. It then hit me that he wouldn’t be at school at I kind of sunk a little, but then I saw the text messages on my phone and I was okay.
Jacob: I hope ur okay. I wish I was at school to make sure you are but im not. but its for a good reason bc I kicked someons ass for u sooooo. Yeah ok anyway just cheking in. meet u after school
I didn’t bother to respond, but it had a small ounce of happiness brightening up the gloom.
We arrived as the lunch bell was ringing meaning we thankfully, didn’t have to go to admin. Parker and I parted ways at the main hallway and said we’d meet each other in the cafeteria with the rest of the group, so I headed to my locker where someone was standing. It made me frown a little. What was he doing?
“Hey,” I said in greeting, my voice quiet and kind of flat in a sad way.
Hayden turned around at the sound of my voice with a crease in his forehead. “It’s not every day you get a call from your best friend at four in the morning telling you to make sure his fake girlfriend is okay at school because he can’t be there because he got suspended.”
He looked genuinely worried and it made me want to laugh at how he said it all in one sentence. But then it also made me smile because Jacob had called Hayden to make sure I was okay and that was really cute.
“I honestly don’t know how to respond to that,” I said, opening my locker and throwing my bag in, getting an apple out of my bag before closing the door. We started to head towards the cafeteria through the slightly less crowded hallway, not having to push so much.
“Well I didn’t know how to respond to that damned phone call. Wait, no, that’s a lie. Guess what I said to my best friend who interrupted my beauty sleep?”
“I’m sleeping beauty and only my one true love is allowed to wake me from my sleep?” I guessed and he scowled at me, but it wasn’t a real one.
“Close,” he bitterly responded. “More like, ‘it’s 4am what the fuck’.”
“Because your girlfriend is the only one that can interrupt your sleep? Ooh, let’s talk about that.”
Hayden groaned, shaking his head but obviously not for bringing up his best friends little sister who he happened to be dating. Probably because he needed to tell said best friend which is a problem Ada had been telling me about.
We headed into the cafeteria which was almost empty, courtesy of the good weather. It was warm, but not too hot that it was insufferable and not too cold that you needed a jumper. It was rare you had days like this.
But still, sitting in the back corner were the guys, Annaliese and my sister, all making small talk. Parker was evidently still in cemetery mode and it made me feel bad, but I was distracting myself. I could feel bad about it tonight. On the plane.
“Before we do, are you okay? I’m not getting woken up that early for nothing.”
“Oh please,” I scoffed, lining up with him as he got his food. “It’s not like you’re sleeping anyway.”
“Shhhh!” He exclaimed, putting a hand over my mouth and looking around with wide eyes. He was being so dramatic, even more so than usual.
“But yes, I’m fine.”
He quickly grabbed his food and paid, then turned his attention back to me. “You know,” he said, taking a bite of his sandwich. “As immature as I can sometimes be, I am a super good listener. So if there is something going on you can talk to me about it if you want. I mean, if it’s about Jacob then I’ll probably make a ton of innuendos but what else do you expect? Actually, let’s talk about that, shall we?”
I just narrowed my eyes but was kind of taken aback by his sentiment. It was really sweet, until he mentioned Jacob and innuendos. “Hey look who it is! Your girlfriend!” I exclaimed, thanking God Ada had picked this time to show up at our table.
I was interested to see how this would go, considering all of her brothers friends were sitting at that table and her boyfriend who was her brothers best friend was about to rock up.
“Hey Ada,” I smiled warmly at the girl, before sitting down opposing my sister. Everyone greeted me but turned their attention to Ada. “What’s up?” I asked so that Hayden wouldn’t have to. I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen.
“Jacob’s obviously not here today and he told me to tell you,” she looked to Hayden who was fighting a smile, I could tell, “to give me a lift home.”
“Of course,” he half smiled and sat down as well, and then just like the amazing friend I was I decided to make things interesting.
“Do you want to join us for lunch?” I asked and Ada half smiled half smirked at me and I knew our thoughts were on the same page. Torturing Hayden.
“I’d love to,” she said and sat down in between Hayden and I, where Hayden grew stiff as a board.
“So, what are we talking about guys?” I asked and everyone resumed the conversation. They were in a mini-debate on which franchise is better; Marvel or DC Comics. I was all for Marvel but Annaliese, Zavier and Hayden were DC.
“DC is amazing. I don’t know how anyone can think anything different,” Zavier shrugged, taking a bite of his muesli bar and wrapping his arm around his girlfriend, who was nodding profusely in agreement.
“Exactly!” Hayden said, taking this discussion to the next level of debate. “Marvel is just way too mainstream and anyone who is into Marvel probably hasn’t read the comic books. It’s just a fad.”
I think Parker was about to rebut this but then the fifteen year old crossed her arms over her chest and everyone went quiet. Zavier oohed and Annaliese, Parker and Landon were all looking on in anticipation.
“For starters, Marvel is mainstream because it is popular. Meaning people actually like it so it has become something that a large percentage of the population watch. Or read. Most of the people I know have read the comics as well as having seen the movies, which are so much better than anything DC has produced, just by the way. Do you want me to continue?”
This is why there were my new otp. He was so immature and she was so mature and they could argue and be okay afterwards which was something a lot of couples couldn’t do.
“You just got owned by a fifteen year old,” Landon mumbled while Annaliese and Parker literally stood up applauding her. No one else in the cafeteria noticed or if they did, they didn’t pay attention.
“You are my hero,” Zavier commented and Hayden just rolled his eyes.
“Thank you, thank you,” she chuckled, doing little bows before her eyes turned to Hayden. “Do you need some aloe vera for that burn?”
“I’d be careful if I were you,” he threatened, but it was completely teasing to the point where I was a bit worried everyone would realize there was something going on. Just from the way he was looking at her.
“Or else?” Ada asked, obviously not noticing how painfully obvious they were being. Then again, she was probably caught up in her own little world with him.
“Or else I’ll tell Jacob!”
“Tell Jacob what?” Zavier asked but he wasn’t heard.
“That’s hardly a threat, I already almost did,” Ada responded.
“What did you almost tell him?” Landon asked.
“What???” Hayden exclaimed, his eyes shooting open. “Why? You said you wouldn’t last night!”
“I felt bad.” She was staying calm but Hayden was obviously worried and was getting worked up. I don’t blame him. I was worried about how it would have turned out with Jacob if she had told him.
“What are you two talking about?? What are you telling or not telling Jacob??” Annaliese practically shouted and Hayden snapped.
“That I’m dating his little sister!”
The whole table fell silent, including Ada who’s cheeks went bright red. She looked down to the table and I wasn’t sure if it was out of embarrassment or something else. But at the same time, she had a small smile on her face. I think she might have been relieved for it to be out in the open. I know she said she was relieved when I found out because she could talk to me about it, but these were her brothers friends.
And then everyone erupted.
“What the fuck, dude? Why didn’t you tell us?”
“Awh that’s so cute! Congrats guys!”
“Jacob is going to kill you, Hayden.”
“When did this happen?”
“I hate you,” Ada mumbled and all of Hayden’s attention was on her in an instant, and then everyone went quiet again. He slid his fingers under her chin and looked around her face.
“Nah, you don’t. You love me.”
She just rolled her eyes and then the girls collectively awhed and the guys looked a bit taken aback but happy for them as well, and I was just over the moon that I could finally talk to someone about them.
For the rest of lunch everyone tried to help them think of a way to tell Jacob because it was clearly bugging both of them, and I was happy to see Parker contributing to the conversation and laughing and joking around with everyone. She usually fell apart on this day every year and didn’t bother to distract herself, but that’s exactly what she was doing today and I felt better about ditching to go to Europe. The place where I would be leaving for in only a few short hours.
I had no idea what to expect, but I was sure it’d be interesting.
I sat in my car in the school parking lot, waiting for the minutes to tick by until the final bell would ring. I’d woken up a couple of hours ago so I only had the time to pack, eat and drive here.
The song I had played for Kaia was on repeat but then the bell rang and I pulled out my phone, sliding it into my pocket and getting out of my car. I didn’t step foot on the school grounds all day so I had technically fulfilled my suspension. Besides, Mr. Lawson liked me and didn’t want to suspend me in the first place. I’d hardly get in any more trouble.
I sat on the hood of my car and watched students flow out of the building like fish swimming away from a shark. None of those little fishies I recognized until Hayden walked out with my little sister by his side.
Good, so he was giving her a lift home.
I pushed off my car and headed for them, smiling when they saw me.
“How was your day of suspension?” Hayden asked, stopping to walk in the middle of the path. Ada just smiled at me in greeting, looking even more tired than I would have been if I’d gotten up this morning for school. I knew she had trouble sleeping and for the past week it had been good, up until yesterday.
“Slept til two hours ago, packed and came here. Not too bad. How was the wonderful world of education?”
“Just super!” Hayden exclaimed sarcastically but then rolled his eyes. “I’ve got to get home. My grandparents are here.”
“Shit.” That was not good.
“You still okay to drop Ada home?”
“It’s not a problem. Have fun back home,” he said, holding his hand out for out secret handshake which wasn’t so secret anymore.
I then hugged my sister and they both left, and I caught sight of Kaia, looking sad but not as sad as I expected. She was all alone, and had a shadow of a smile on her lips when she saw me.
“Europe, hey?” She asked, standing a few feet in front of me. I would have kept it that way for her comfort if freaking Audrey West wasn’t standing against the building watching like a hawk. So I put on my biggest smile and pulled Kaia into a hug, placing a kiss to her hair.
“Audrey’s watching,” I murmered, enjoying the closeness before I snapped out of it. I couldn’t be thinking like that.
So instead I pulled away and linked my fingers through hers and led her to my car. Much safer. Less temptations.
“And yes,” I said, opening the car door for her. “Europe. You ready?”
“Ask me in twelve hours,” she sighed and despite all of me wanting to let her stay in the country, I didn’t have a choice.
So we drove to the airport, got in the plane and were in the air within the hour.
“I feel like you could use a drink,” I admitted, stretching my legs out in front of me with all the room that I had. There were ten chairs in this entire jet and they were massive, comfortable, and had heaps of leg room, useful for a family of over six foot tall men.
Kaia, still in a nice dress from what she had explained as breakfast with the parents, was cross legged on the chair in front of me, hair tied up messily on top of her head with a crease in her forehead stuck there for so long I thought it might become permanent.
“I could use ten,” she mumbled, her eyes still gazing out the window. But then she turned to me with the crease slightly smoothed out and nodded. “That would be great.”
“No drinks make you violently ill, do they?” It was important to check because last time Hayden was on here, it hadn’t ended well. Let’s just say he can’t have an insane amount of vodka.
She looked at me like I was an alien who just asked if she was team Edward or Jacob. “No…”
“Just a precaution,” I grinned, feeling like the Cheshire cat before moving to where all the drinks were stashed. I wasn’t the one to raid this cupboard much, but Luca was always dragging me along when we were younger, trying to steal what we could. Even though he was only a year older, his mind was always on adult things.
Currently, there was a fork in the road in terms of choosing drinks. The wimp road or the right road. I wasn’t a wimp and Kaia always chose the right thing to do, so I pulled out the sealed bottle of vodka, two shot glasses and Gatorade, carrying them back to the table in between our seats without dropping anything.
I managed to get them on the table and set two glasses; one in front of her, one in front of me.
I enjoyed the way her eyes widened first like she was scared of it, second like she was excited. It showcased her perfectly. Goody two shoes first, daredevil later. A touch of the angel and a lot of the devil.
“I don’t get badly hungover but I don’t want any trace of a hangover by the time we land. How long have we got?”
I’d already thought about that. My nanny when we were growing up was picking us up at the airport and would be able to tell if I was the slightest bit hungover. She’d report it to Vati, something I didn’t want or need.
“Well I do get badly hungover so we’ve got about an hour to get smashed, another two to have fun being drunk and then we eat, drink a ton of water and coffee to dilute it and sleep it off the rest of the flight.”
She beamed, leaning forward for her glass I’d just filled. She lifted it in cheers and downed it in one, not batting an eyelid at the taste as it rolled straight down her throat.
That was one of the hottest things I’d seen.
“What? Don’t want to get shown up at a man’s game?” She teased, eyeing my still full shot glass. I followed her move and downed it in one, but couldn’t help the cringe as it burned down my throat.
I refilled and downed mine without a second thought, winking as I set it back on the table.
“We’re just getting started, love, and this is a game I’ll win.”