Truce

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Chapter 3

Jacob

Mornings in the Beck household were always a mess. With six people all trying to get to work, university and school at the same time, it could be expected.

That didn't make it any easier.

I got up at six thirty every morning to avoid the chaos, but I always seemed to run into someone; whether it be my older brother Luca heading out for a run or my only younger sibling Ada watching her favourite German television show.

This morning it was Milena, my oldest sister, sitting alone at the kitchen counter. Similar to all the houses in the neighbourhood, ours was similar to a mansion. It was nothing compared to our castle back home, but it was big none the less.

The kitchen was no exception, with steel modernising every part of it.

Milena had her blonde hair falling over her shoulder, slumped over her bowl of cereal. I enjoyed catching her in her moments of weakness, where she thought no one was watching so didn't try to look perfect. No flawless posture, no make-up, no straightened hair, no nothing. All natural, just as she hated.

"Guten morgen," I said, rubbing sleep out of my eye. She jumped a little, her eyes with heavy shadows beneath. "You look like you could have more sleep."

"I have my entrance exam for my masters today so I was up late studying. I should go." She started to get up but I put my hands on her shoulders, not letting her leave.

"Relax, Milena. You have plenty of time and it's just me." There was hidden meaning in my words that I knew she understood. I wasn't about to judge her for looking plain. In my opinion my sister was pretty and didn't need to fuss like she did. Not that she would believe me.

"Danke, Jacob. Would you like some breakfast?"

"I can get it myself," I told her, getting out all the ingredients for an omelette. Bacon, eggs, Greek fetta, milk, spring onions, sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms. The usual.

"How was school yesterday?" She asked, and I cracked the eggs on the counter a little harder than I should have.

"It was fine. Good to see the guys again."

"Why wasn't it great?" Her eyes narrowed.

"It's weird to go back to my old school. Everyone keeps staring at me and whispering when I'm around."

"So what?" Those two words brought a frown to my face. I didn't like being dismissed like that. I might not have been a starting child in Africa but for me and my life currently, it was a problem I had to face.

"What?"

"Calm down," she warned, holding her hands up in the universal sign of surrender. "I'm not belittling your issue, bruder. Just answer the question. What does it matter if people are staring at you?"

I opened my mouth to speak but there was nothing. I couldn't answer her question. Why did it matter that people were staring? It's not like I cared what they thought so why was I making a big deal out of it?

"Touche."

She laughed, taking a sip of her coffee as I slid all the ingredients into the frypan. "I thought so. But there is something else going on that you're not telling me."

"I don't want to talk about it," I admitted. I flipped my omelette and turned on the grill to the oven, so I could brown the top. My mother had taught me that when I was little. I was the only one of her five children that could cook.

"Vati is coming here on Thursday and leaving Friday. He has a diplomatic mission or something, I can't recall. Either way he is home for dinner on Thursday evening and needs to talk with us all. You and mutti are cooking, so don't make any plans. Ja?"

"Why don't we get Louise to cook?" She was our resident chef who looked after us and another family in the area.

"She's at her other house on Thursday."

I grabbed my omelette from the oven and slid it onto a plate. "I think the fact that he needs to talk to us concerns me." I took a seat on the stool opposite Milena and took a bite of my omelette. It was delicious.

"I know how you feel, although Mutti said I shouldn't be. It mostly considers you boys."

That could only mean one thing; Celti. I was suddenly tempted to flee the country to avoid this conversation but it was too late and the jet was on the other side of the planet.

She left me to contemplate a way out as she got ready for her entrance exam, but I followed soon after to get out of my family's way.

I ended up reading until Ada came and got me, saying she was ready to go. I groaned at the thought of leaving my book mid-chapter, or stopping at all, but I didn't need my sister late on her second day. I couldn't care less, but I cared about her.

"How was school yesterday?" I asked her, pulling onto the main road. I went to Hayden's after school and didn't get back until after tea, where she was practicing violin. If there was one thing about my sister that everyone needed to know was that you never interrupt her music practice. Whether it be violin, piano or one of the other six instruments she plays, you do not bother her.

"It was good. I made a few friends in my classes.”

She moved my rear view mirror to do her hair, which I usually would not allow except that the road was relatively clear and I didn't need to change lanes. "How was your day?"

"As I expected. Everyone was staring at me, but it was just because they were jealous of my hotness," I joked, not wanting my sister to worry as she inevitably would. She was the worrier of the family.

It made her laugh, so I felt like I had done my job. "Sure they were, bruder. Keep feeding that ego of yours." She set the mirror back and then paused. I could feel her hesitating to ask something.

"Just spit it out."

"How did you know?" She groaned.

"I just did. What is it?"

"I was wondering, actually, if you had seen Kaia yesterday?"

My eyebrows creased. "Why do you ask?"

"I saw her when I was coming out of my English class and remembered that you used to like her."

"I didn't," I corrected. "We we're just friends."

"And pigs fly," she scoffed.

I rolled my eyes, not sure whether to be proud of or irked by her quick wit.

"I did see her. She's in two of my classes but I didn't talk to her."

"Why not?"

I shrugged.

"That's not an answer."

I shrugged again.

"You should talk to her."

"Should I?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"You said so yourself, you were friends."

"Yes but why are you pushing this?" I turned into the car park, risking a quick suspicious glance at the almost-fifteen year old, tapping her fingers on her jeans.

"I like her better than Hayden." I think she would like anyone better than Hayden. As far as older guys went, he was up there with the ones you didn't want to associate with. Hell, I wouldn't even let him be alone with Ada. He was a player and wasn't scared to admit it. Not that I thought he'd try anything with either of my sister's but you always had to take precautions. Ada had been unfortunate enough to hear stories and now had developed a strong disliking for him.

I parked the car and we got out, closing the doors behind us.

"Hey look," I said to my sister, pointing to the sky. "It's a flying pig." I didn’t like Kaia before and that was the end of it.

"Not talking about me, are you? I don't enjoy being compared to a fat pink animal. Although I must admit, their tails are adorable." Hayden sauntered towards us, doing the handshake with me and then turned to Ada with a smirk.

"Nope," I said, putting a hand on his chest to push him away. "See you later, Ada," I called over my shoulder, and pushed Hayden all the way to the building.

"After all this time you still don't trust me with your sister?"

"Why should I? It's not as if you're a good guy when it comes to girls."
"Hey that's not fair," Hayden argued, seeming hurt by this. "I'm nice to them. I treat them with respect."
"But how many have there been?"
"A few, but that's irrelevant. I'm not going to touch your sister."
"Good."
"Unless she wants me to."
I scrunched up my face. "And that's never going to happen. She's pushing me into talking to Kaia because she likes her over you." I pushed through the double doors and turned left at admin.
"Fuck, I forgot about you two! When was the last time you spoke to her?"
I bit my lip. "Six years ago."
Hayden looked like he didn't know whether he should laugh or frown. He laughed. "Why has it been so long?"
"I didn't get her number before I left," I admitted. It was stupid of me to leave without it, but I guess there were other things to think about.
"Dumbass." He clipped me on the ear and continued to talk, despite my protests of pain. "Do you reckon she's mad?"
"I don't know. She looked it yesterday."
"Definitely talk to her then. Chicks like it when you apologise."
"Who says I'm apologising?"
He shot me a dubious look.
"Yeah okay. I'll talk to her if the opportunity presents itself."
"Good. Have fun in class," he smirked and loped away. I opened my locker and chucked my bag in, getting books for the first two periods.
Psychology was first up but we were still watching One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, so I didn't get the chance. That, and she raced out of class as soon as the bell rang. Probably to go see Marcus.

Again, not that I cared.
I saw her again in third period. I had the whole hour to try but I chickened out. What do you say after disappearing for so many years without a single word? Sorry I didn't track down your phone number, I was too busy finding out I was prince of a small country. What a great conversation starter.
By then I figured that I’d missed my chance and would have to try again tomorrow.
Fourth period brought physics, the class which I had no fucking idea why I was in there. I sucked at anything relating to maths or science yet here I was, in the purest science class there was.

At least my teacher was laid back and didn’t care that I was talking with Landon the whole time. Or that Landon was talking to me the whole time explaining what the hell was going on. I felt bad about it but he reassured me that it helped him learn.

The bell didn’t come soon enough but when it did, Landon rushed off to get to the library. He had to finish his high level maths homework before class so he’d be in there the rest of lunch, I was guessing.

I dumped my books in my locker and attempted to get to the cafeteria, but the halls were bustling with students, everyone shoulder to shoulder trying not to rudely push through. And then there were those people who were rudely pushing through that got glares from everyone else. I was starting to feel a little claustrophobic so I located a door to outside to my left and stepped through it. I could get to the cafeteria this way anyway.
I felt like I could breathe with all this space, the sun shining down on me like a comforting blanket of warmth.
I turned to walk across the grass but stopped in my tracks. A dark haired girl was leaning against the bricks with a lazy stance, ankles crossed. Her eyes were peacefully closed as if she were soaking in the sun, a light smile resting on her lips.
Here was my chance.
I took another step towards her, tucking my hands into my pockets.
"Hey Kaia."
Kaia
I was let out of class early and had decided to head outside to soak up the sunlight for a few minutes. It was peaceful, with everyone else trapped up inside the brick walls, until a voice broke the silence.
"Hey Kaia." The voice was one I’d recognize from anywhere, with that deep tone and slight European accent.
"You scared the bejesus out of me," I confessed, taking a deep calming breath. I could hardly believe I was face to face with Jacob. His t-shirt sleeves were rolled up once in a hipster way that I could only expect from him, and his hands were hidden in his short pockets.
He chuckled lightly, the sound much deeper than it ever had been. "Sorry about that."
I shrugged as if to say what can you do? "So…” I trailed, rocking on my heels. “You're back."
"It's been a while," he nodded. It was awkward, far worse than I had anticipated. I could have pretended I wasn't mad at him but I didn't want to. I was in the mood to direct my anger at someone so I let it take me over.
"They didn't have phones where you were? Or Internet?"
He gulped, looking guilty.
"That's what I thought."
"I was busy, okay?" He tried to defend himself, his voice even.
"You seemed to have stayed in contact with your other friends. You had time for them. I guess they were more important though, yes?"
His expression changed to match mine and he took a step forward.
"Piss off. You had no idea what I had to deal with."
"And you had no idea what I had to go through," I fired back, crossing my arms.
"What could you have possibly gone through that you needed me for?"
I flinched. He had no idea and no right to say that to me.
"Maybe it's a good thing we didn't keep in contact. It seems you've changed for the worse,” was all I could say, not wanting to respond to his question.
"I could say the same to you. Everyone has you up on this pedestal as the sweetest, kindest girl in our year, but you certainly don’t deserve it.”

“Or maybe you just bring out the worst in me.”

“Sure. Blame all your problems on me,” he drawled, kicking up tufts of grass with the toe of his shoe.

“Fine, maybe I will.”

“Good.”

“Great.”

“Perfect.”

“Ugh,” I groaned, throwing my hands up. “How did I ever stand to be around you?”

“That is a great question,” he seethed.

“Dickhead,” I grumbled, turning on my heel and storming off. I had no idea where he went but it must have been bad for his ego, and for his personality in general. He was annoying, rude, and a complete and utter ass. How were we ever friends? I didn’t know, but at least I could live in peace now knowing that he was a different person. Knowing that I had no reason to talk to him anymore. It was a bitter sweet feeling.

“You seem pissed,” my sister’s voice came from ahead. I turned my attention away from the tiled floor and to Parker, who’s pale face was concerned.

“That would be because I talked to Jacob.”

“I’m confused. Isn’t that a good thing?”

“Not when he’s turned into an ass,” I clarified. That’s all she needed to know. She nodded, changing the subject.

“At least you don’t have Marcus to bug you.”

“About that…” I trailed, digging my phone out of the back pocket of my shorts. I unlocked it and navigated to messages, where Marcus had been filling up my inbox since approximately 6pm last night. He wouldn't leave me alone.

I handed my sister the phone and she scrolled through, laughing at points she thought were amusing.

“How great is it?” I asked, my voice coated in sarcasm. “I just wanted to get rid of all the annoying people in my life and now they are popping up everywhere.”

“We’ll just have to come up with a plan to kill them,” she shrugged, as if she had just suggested we go get icecream after school.

“You scare me, sometimes,” I admitted, laughing and linking my arm with hers.

“At least I keep things interesting.”

“You certainly do.”

Parker reminded me on the drive home from school that she was going to a friend’s place and that Atlas had a late class, meaning I would be home alone. She dropped me on the curb and sped off, leaving just me and the house.

I sighed, traipsing up the path and to the door. I didn’t mind being alone, but I hated being at home alone. There were too many triggers that would set me off into a bundle of tears that I seemed to avoid with one of my siblings there, but when I was alone they screamed for my attention.

I made it to my room with my mind in tact the shutting of my door caused a photo frame to fall off my dresser. There wasn’t a smash so I didn’t bother with a dust pan and brush. Instead, I set my backpack down on my neatly made bed and padded across to where it had landed on my carpet. It was face down, but I could see the dark blue frame that was all too familiar. With a sigh I picked it up and was faced with two middle aged people, one with beautiful long dark hair like my own and the other with graying brown hair. They had the biggest smiles on their faces which caused my heart to falter, knowing I’d never…

A sob caught in my throat and I lost my train of thought, melting into a puddle of tears on my floor. I may have been the sweet, happy girl on the outside, but inside I was a mess.

Atlas found me a few hours later. I was on the carpet, drifting in and out of consciousness with tear stained cheeks and the picture frame clung tightly to my chest.

He helped me into bed and pulled closed the blinds, and sat with me until I drifted to sleep. Like he had done so many times before and would do again.


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