The painful secret (1)

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Chapter five

Swoosh.

The basketball glided through the net without even making contact with the red rim it was hooked to. Brian retrieved the ball and dribbled it back to half-court. He always plays basketball as a way to relax and forget about the stresses of life. Taking a couple deep breaths, he let sweat droplets roll off his ripped abs and splash onto the black asphalt in his backyard.

Brian had already been going at it for an hour and he had yet to miss a shot. He pushed back his damp bangs and ran up for a lay-up. The orange ball hit the backboard and then fell right into the next. He was offered a spot on Hilia's basketball team, but turned them down. Doing this competitively would ruin the sport for him.

"Brian," a sing-song voice called out to him.

The said boy rested a hand on his hip and held the ball under his arm. His eyes followed the voice and he saw his mother standing at the sliding glass door, offering a wave when she saw he noticed her.

She was short, about 5'3 and had long black hair that was usually held at the back of her head in a clip, which it was now. Her slender frame and pale skin made her appear frail, but she was strong and worked hard at accomplishing her goals. Her blue eyes sparkled in the sun's rays and she had to cup a hand over her brow to stop from squinting.

"It's time for dinner," she called, a smile gracing her painted lips.

Brian nodded and waited watched her disappear inside the large estate. He shot the ball once more, making it, and picked up his shirt from the grass. Hanging it over his shoulder, he made his way inside as well.

His father was helping his mother set up the table. He also had dark hair and was pale in skin. Brian received his obsidian eyes from him, but his father's gleamed with life while Brian's were usually blank to hide any emotion. "Hey, Brian. How was shooting hoops?"

He shrugged in response. "I'm going to clean up a bit before dinner." Brian left the kitchen and headed to his room. His parents had grown accustomed to his lack of conversation and it didn't bother them at all.

At first, they were concerned. Being therapists, they thought something was mentally wrong with him, but after a full analysis, they figured he just liked his privacy.

Brian stepped into his bathroom and turned on the sink faucet. Cupping water in his hands, he brought it too his face and let the cool liquid trickle down his skin and cool him off. Turning off the water, he grabbed a towel from the small closet and wiped away any remaining water and sweat that clung to him. He threw the towel in his hamper and grabbed a clean tee, putting it on as he headed downstairs to join his parents for dinner.

They were each seated at opposite ends of the small, square table. Brian took a seat on another side and started filling his plate with food. He never said so aloud, but his mother was an amazing cook. Sometimes, he felt she should have become a chef instead of a psychologist.

"How was your day," she asked as he put a spoonful of mashed potatoes on his plate.

"Fine," he replied without making eye contact. He cut off a piece of steak and placed it in his mouth, chewing it thoroughly before taking in another piece.

"What did you get on your art project?" his father asked. "You have been working on it for a long time and, if I recall, you said the due date was today."

Brian took a sip of water. "A." He didn't sound too enthused. It wasn't a shock to him since he was pretty versed in art and always did well. Then he remembered his new assignment and realized that he had yet to run it by his parents. "We got a new assignment," he started, after swallowing his piece of steak. "A classmate of mine has to come over on Saturday to work on it because Mr. Jeffrey put everyone in pairs."

"Oh, how nice," his mother replied. "You never have anyone over. Who is it?"

"Allison Lia," he answered, continuing to keep his eyes on his food.

"A girl?" His mother was almost giddy, making her son frown. He knew she would try to play matchmaker.

His father, on the other hand, had put his fork down and cupped his chin with his forefinger and thumb. "Hmm印ia, you say?"

Brian looked away from his food for the first time and nodded.

His eyebrows furrowed with concentration. "I think匈 think he was a patient of mine a couple years ago. His wife died and his employers told him to go to therapy because he had resorted to drinking. He used to drive a whole hour just to come and meet with me each week. He was serious about getting his life back on track." Then a smile crossed his lips. "He recovered well after two months of sessions. He took up golf to replace drinking and has been sober since."

"Her mother died?" Brian thought. "And then her father became a drunk危aybe that's why she acts the way she does"

"You alright?" his mother asked, noticing her son's expression.

Brian nodded and continued eating, not showing that the red-haired girl was still on his mind. He couldn't say he felt bad for her, it was just the way he was, but he now understood why she is so timid. He also assumed that no one else knew about it.

"Anyway," his mother continued. "Let's be careful about what we say around her. We shouldn't mention it at all."

His father nodded in agreement. "Yes, we wouldn't want to scare off the first girl Brian ever brought over," he teased.

The said boy looked away and started eating again, ignoring his father's comment.

~~~~

All of the teachers in Hilia must have been in a partnering kick because Mrs. Benley decided to pair everyone up in English class that Friday.

Allison now sat next to the dark-haired Alice Anders, silently reading her section and scribbling down the answers to the questions Benley handed out. Alice was doing the same.

The other pairs in the classroom were chatting while working, but they remained silent, though, Allison did feel Alice's eyes glance at her once in a while. But she didn't return the gesture. She just kept her nose in the large Literature book and kept working.

However, Alice seemed to have something on her mind. "Ummm" she started warily.

Allison continued writing, hiding her face behind her hair. "Yes?" she replied, meekly. She wasn't trying to be rude. She was just bad at socializing.

"How are you圬oing with your questions?" Alice's shyness always came back around when she wasn't with people she knew very well.

"Fine" She replied quickly and wasn't going to say anything else, but she thought that would be rude. "How about you?"

Alice honestly wasn't expecting Allison to give more than one-word answers. She was a bit surprised at first. "Good." She smiled. They were quiet again, but the dark-haired girl truly wanted to get to know Allison better and decided to keep the conversation going. "How is your art project coming along?"

"I守m多aven't started it yet" She paused for a second, deciding whether or not she should say more about it. In the end, after sensing the girl's willingness to be kind and interested, Allison continued. "Brian and I are meeting at is house tomorrow to work on it."

"Are you nervous?" she asked suddenly. "I would be."

Allison stiffened a bit and looked up at her partner for the first time since the beginning of class. "Why?"

Alice met her gaze. "You've seen how he is. I know he is Jason's friend, and I shouldn't say anything about him, but he isn't the most pleasant person to be around. I can't even imagine what it's going to be like to sit and draw each other for hours at a time."

Allison frowned. Everything Alice said was true. Being partnered with Brian was nerve-wracking and somewhat intimidating. The worst part about it was that she had worked so hard to get him out of her mind for the past three weeks. Now, she would be stuck in the same room with him for countless hours.

Alice noticed the worried expression on the red-haired girls face and realized that she may have said too much. "I didn't mean to get you all frazzled," she said, apologetically.

Allison forced a small grin. "I'm not nervous," she lied.

Alice blinked. "You're not?"

She shook her head. "If we are going to be drawing, then there won't be time for conversation, or his remarks."

Her partner giggled. "I guess so." She put her pencil down, finished with her work. "You地re nice, Allison."

Allison's eyes widened in surprise. "Th宇hank you." She closed her book, also finished with her work. "So are you." She had been wrong about Alice. She figured her to be rude and mean like Lydia, but she wasn't.

Allison had her all wrong.

A smile graced her lips. "We should" she paused, as if she was contemplating whether or not she should continue. "We should get together sometime危aybe see a movie?"

Allison was taken back a bit. This was the first time, in over three years, where someone asked her to hang out.

So, she nodded, happily accepting the girl's offer.
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