East Side Academy

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Chapter 58 - All You Did Was Save My Life

“The story’s been told a million times / but it’s different when it’s your life / I won the lottery tonight / The lottery tonight / I’m not dying / All you did was save my life / Pulled me out of that flat line / Put the heartbeat back inside / I’m not dying / All you did was get me through / I owe every breathe to you / Heart and soul unparalyzed / All you did was save my life” – All You Did Was Save My Life, Our Lady Peace

James

It’s late when I walk into the house. I expect everyone to be asleep, but from the kitchen, I can hear the TV on. Probably Rachel. But then I hear voices talking. Voices that are not coming from the TV. Is Grace up as well? Can’t be my mom, she’s working the late shift tonight. Grace can’t stay up this late or else she’ll be exhausted for school tomorrow. I go into the living room, expecting to see my two sisters but that’s not the case.

“Arya,” I say when I walk in and she looks up to me from the couch and smiles. Rachel is sitting next to her.

“James!” Rachel says, “You’re home! Arya came over to see you.”

“I can see that,” I say.

“And then she invited me to watch the Bachelor so I couldn’t say no.” Arya smiles.

“Don’t you think you should be in bed Rachel?” I ask, not trying to be too obvious that I want to get rid of her.

“It’s almost done, James.” Rachel says, “It’s the rose ceremony.”

“It is almost done, James.” Arya repeats, “This may be where Cassie gets voted off!”

“She’s still there?” I ask.

“Why don’t you watch it with us?” Arya asks.

I roll my eyes at her. “I’ll wait for you in the kitchen,” I say and turn away from them.

“He totally wants to know who gets the final rose.” I hear Arya whisper to Rachel, and she laughs.

As I start emptying the dishwasher, I feel her presence in the room. She comes up close behind me and places her chin on my shoulder and wraps her arms around me and I stop what I’m doing. She kisses my neck and it stirs up something inside me. I turn around in her arms so I can look at her and hold her myself. “Didn’t expect you here, but it’s a very nice surprise.”

“I wanted to see you.” She says and I kiss her forehead. “And I also wanted to talk to you.”

“About?”

“Is everything okay with work and your uncle and everything?” she asks. I shouldn’t be surprised she’s asking about this. I don’t think everything got fully resolved from Saturday, but I think I have some news for her that might make everything better.

“Funny you should ask.” I say, “My uncle spoke to me today. He’s given me a raise which hasn’t happened since I’ve started! And he’s also going to hire someone to work part-time to eventually take over when I leave for university, so I won’t be working the crazy hours anymore, but I will still be making the same amount of money.”


Earlier That Day

“Thank you, Uncle Terry.” I say, “This means everything.”

“You deserve it.” Uncle Terry says, “You are the hardest working guy out there. I know I can be hard on you, but it’s only because I want the best for you.”

“I know,” I say.

“Your dad would be proud of you.” He says.

“You seem to have completely changed attitudes.” I say, “Not that I mind, but I’ve gotten used to you telling me ‘No distractions!’ or ‘You have to work hard if you want to get out of this town!’.”

“I guess some people helped me see that working you into the ground day after day was probably not the best for you.” Uncle Terry says, “I said it built character.”

I laugh. “Believe me Uncle Terry, you have helped me so much over the years. I’ll never be able to repay you.”

“James.” Uncle Terry says, “It’s the other way around. Not only with work but you have taken care of my brother’s wife and kids better than anyone else could have. It’s me that will never be able to repay you.”

“They’re my mom and sisters,” I say.

“You have done more than and have been through more than any teenage boy should go through.” Uncle Terry says, “I miss your father all the time and I know you miss him as well. He is always with us, James. He sees you taking such good care of your sisters and mom.”

“I just wish he was here,” I say quietly, barely getting the words out.

“We all do James.” Uncle Terry says, “Everyone loved your father.”

“I get sad sometimes,” I say, “when good things happen in my life and he’s not here to see them, to tell me he’s proud or to joke around with me.”

“It’s understandable, James.” Uncle Terry says, “You are lucky to have such great people around you though that care about you so much. Your family, your friends, your girlfriend.”

“I thought Arya was just a distraction?” I ask, curious to see what he was to say about her now.

“I might have been wrong about her. Your aunt convinced me of that.” Uncle Terry says, “I cannot judge a person just because they have money, it’s not what defines them.”

“She makes me happy.” I say, “She brings out the best of me. I know my dad would have loved her. I think that’s why I feel closer to him having her in my life. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what it feels like.”

“Do you ever feel sad with her, or after she is gone?” Uncle Terry asks, “That your father is not here to see this good thing in your life?”

“No.” I say, “For some reason, I feel like he already knows her. I feel like he knew she was coming.”


“So how do you feel now?” Arya asks.

“Good.” I say, “We had a good talk. Talked about my father too which we don’t normally do. I forget sometimes that he lost a brother that day as well. I think he saw me as his responsibility to take care of when my father was gone.”

“I’m glad,” Arya says, and then rests the side of her head on my chest. I pull her in closer to me and smell her hair. It smells like vanilla. “You can always talk to me about your dad, James. You don’t have to keep that to yourself.”

“I’d like that,” I say and then I pull away from her slightly so I can look at her and she looks up at me. I brush a piece of hair out of her face and behind her ear. “My uncle seemed to change his mind about you as well. No longer thought of you as a ‘distraction’.”

“He’s not a bad guy,” Arya says, “he cares for you and is just a softy on the inside.”

“You talk like you’ve met him?” I ask. She’s silent. Her eyes turn to panic. “Did you meet him?” I ask letting her go to put space between us.

“Very briefly, James,” Arya says.

“I told you not to interfere, Arya,” I say, trying to piece everything together in my mind. No wonder there was a change in my uncle. No wonder he changed his mind about Arya. No man can resist her charm, not even a man that wants to hate her.

“I was just trying to help, James.” Arya says, “It wasn’t me that changed his mind, it was your aunt.”

“You met her too?” I ask, starting to feel the anger build up inside of me.

“James,” she says and comes up to me and grabs my arms, trying to soothe the anger inside of me.

“Is this why you were talking to Malcolm the other day?” I ask.

“What are you talking about?” she asks.

“I saw you at his locker,” I say, “I saw you talking with him. You were talking about me.”

“Yes.” Arya says, “He worries for you too.”

“How many other people have you spoken to about your ‘overworked’ boyfriend?” I say angrily, raising my voice at her with each question. “Is this how you try and solve things?! By going behind my back?! By bringing as many people into the situation as possible?!”

“That is not it at all.” Arya says, “I didn’t know what else to do though. You won’t listen to me, you shut me out when it comes to your work.”

“And so you go behind my back to try and fix things that aren’t broken?!” I yell at her. “I told you I could handle it. I told you I would come to you if I needed you. I told you to let me handle my uncle and to stay out of it.”

“You would never tell me if things became too much for you because they already were!” Arya yells at me.

“You frustrate me to no end, Arya,” I say, still angry at her.

“Would you prefer an obedient girlfriend that just did whatever you said?!” she yells at me, “A girlfriend who just sat back and didn’t care?!”

“Sometimes, yes,” I say to her. But then I look into those big beautiful green eyes and see the kind, loving girl that cares so much about me that she would go to the end of the world and back if necessary, for me. Why am I angry at the girl that has given me my life back? “But unfortunately, I am in love with you.”

Arya

“What did you just say?” I ask James.

“What?”

“You just said you love me,” I say and smile at him.

He smiles back. “I guess I did. I hope the feeling is mutual.”

“Very much so.” I say and wrap my arms around his neck, “I think I have loved you since the beginning.”

He kisses me then, wrapping his arms around me to pull me close. I pull him closer to me so there is no space between us. He grabs me underneath my thighs and carries me to the dining room table and places me on top, never breaking the kiss. I keep my legs wrapped around James, my hands touching his face, his neck, his arms, anywhere I can reach, while his hands touch my torso, my hips, my back. James’ kiss becomes more intense. I wrap my left arm around his neck, pulling him down to me, I lean back, using my right hand to support me on the table, but then, I hear glass shatter.

We both pull away from each other at the noise and look towards the kitchen door to see where the noise came from. “I’m so sorry, James!” Grace calls out, with one hand outstretched that was holding a glass that is now shattered all over the kitchen floor. She puts her hands over her eyes. “I didn’t see anything!”

I let my legs fall from around James and we both laugh to ourselves. “It’s alright, Grace,” James says, going to a cupboard to retrieve a dustpan and brush and starts cleaning up the glass. “Just don’t move.” I get off the table and come up behind James.

“You don’t have to cover your eyes,” I say. She slowly takes her hands away, peeking through them first, and then putting them to her sides.

“I was just thirsty, James,” Grace says.

“I’ll grab you a new glass,” I say, getting her a glass from the cupboard and filling it with water from the Brita filter. “Here you go, lovely,” I say when I pass her the glass overtop of James.

“Thank you,” Grace says and starts drinking from it.

“I think that’s all of it,” James says, standing up and throwing the glass in the garbage and putting away the dustpan and brush. “Now,” James says, looking down on his little sister. “I think it’s time to go back to bed. Don’t you?” He comes up to her and picks her up easily and carefully, so she doesn’t drop her glass again.

“I’ll be back,” James says to me and then leaves to go up the stairs with his tiny sister in tow. Seeing him with his youngest sister just makes me swoon for him even harder. How is he even more attractive now?

“Night, Arya!” Grace calls.

“Night, Grace!”

“Does mom know Arya’s here?” I hear Grace ask her brother.

“Let’s keep that a secret,” James says. “You, me, and Arya.”

James

“Do you love Arya?” Grace asks as I step into her room and put her down.

“Yes,” I smile, “very much so.”

“Does she love you?” Grace asks, climbing into her bed.

“Apparently so,” I say, tucking her in.

“You’re not going break up with her, are you?” Grace asks from under the covers.

“Of course not,” I say surprised, kneeling to her level. “Why would you think that?”

“I heard you guys yelling at each other,” Grace says, “I was sitting on the stairs.”

“Were you really coming down for a glass of water, Grace?” I ask.

“Yes!” Grace says, slapping the covers. “I just stopped on the stairs when I heard you two arguing. And then you both went quiet. I was worried that you were going to break up again and that I wouldn’t see her anymore. I like her a lot, James.”

“Grace,” I say coming up close to her. “People fight, even people that love each other fight. Arya and I both want the best for each other and sometimes we argue about it. But we both have our hearts in the right place which is the most important thing.”

“You did break up once though,” Grace says.

“Yes,” I say, “it was a misunderstanding. I only want to be with her, Grace. I love her and I don’t plan on ever breaking up with her again.”

“Good,” Grace says. “You seemed so sad when you guys were apart.” Little kids pick up on everything.

“I was,” I say, “but I think it’s time to go to bed now.”

“Are you going to kiss her again?” Grace asks.

Can’t lie to kids. “Yes,” I say, “and then she’s going to go home to her house.”

“She can’t stay over?”

“I don’t think mom would like that,” I say.

“But you’ve stayed over at her house?” I’m not even going to ask how she knows that.

“And her dad didn’t like that,” I say.

“But he seems so nice, and you guys get along,” Grace says. “Why wouldn’t he want you to stay over?”

“Because he’s a good father that wants to protect his daughters above all else,” I say.

“She’s lucky to have a dad like that,” Grace says.

“She is,” I say, and I know where this conversation is going to go. “But I think it’s time to go to sleep now, you have school in the morning.”

“Do you miss him?”

“Every day.”

“I miss him too.”

“But you still got me, mom and Rachel,” I say. “We are still a family.”

“I know,” she yawns and turns over in the bed. “Night, James.”

“Night.”

I get up and close the door as softly as I can as I leave Grace’s room.

“Did she interrupt your make-out session with Arya?” I hear behind me and turn to see Rachel standing there in the hallway, arms crossed, and a smile on her face.

“No,” I say, and then she raises an eyebrow at me. “Maybe. Why are you even up?”

“You’re only three years older, James,” Rachel says, “stop treating me like a kid.”

“You are a kid,” I say.

“Then maybe I’ll come downstairs in a bit to see what’s going on,” Rachel says.

“If you come downstairs, I swear, I’m never giving you a ride ever again,” I say.

She laughs. “Trust me, walking in on you is the last thing I want to see. Just remember mom gets home at midnight and that these bedroom walls are thin.” She taps the wall with her fingers.

“Funny,” I say. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the least patient person I know waiting downstairs.” I turn to go down the stairs.

“What do you like the best about her?” Rachel asks after me and I turn around to face her. Why is this the time both my sisters are asking questions that can be answered tomorrow?

“She’s kind, she loves joking around with me and she has a fiery passion for things that are important to her,” I say.

“You can be honest, James,” Rachel says, “I won’t judge.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s hot,” Rachel says, “that’s why you like her. Her hair and makeup are always perfect, she has expensive clothes that look great on her. That’s why you like her. That’s why all the guys like her.” Is Rachel jealous or does she see that being as pretty as Arya is the only way to get a guy? It probably doesn’t help that her older brother is fitting that idea. But that’s not why I’m with Arya, it’s so much more than that.

“Arya is beautiful,” I say, “but it’s not like that. I like her for who she is, not what she looks like.”

“Guys always say that they are attracted to what’s on the ‘inside’,” Rachel says. “They say they are looking for a girl who eats a lot, is funny, is kind. That they don’t care about what she looks like as long as she’s a good person, but then they turn around and date some super hot chick. It’s what you’re doing.”

“You don’t think Arya is a good person?”

“No!” Rachel says quickly, “She is. I just don’t think you would date her if she didn’t look like that. That’s why you asked her out, isn’t it? A hot, rich West Side chick at East Side. Haven’t dated in two years, but you date her. You couldn’t resist, could you?”

“Actually, that’s the exact reason I didn’t ask her out for so long,” I say. “But something has happened, some guy has done something to hurt you, hasn’t he? You didn’t feel this way about Arya before.”

“James, I love Arya,” Rachel says, “I think she’s great and I love talking to her. She’s like the older sister I wish I had. But you have made it obvious that even good guys like you choose the hot girl first.”

“Who hurt you?”

“No one,” Rachel says, “it’s just fact.”

“You know, my friends thought that I was insane for asking out Arya,” I say, “they thought she was crazy and that she was a stuck-up rich kid. But she’s not. I saw her as someone passionate that was just born in a world different from mine. She has never held being rich over my head and she has never acted like it either. If I didn’t know she came from a rich family, I wouldn’t have guessed it. Not by her personality at least. I love her for who she is. Yes, there is physical attraction, but someone’s personality can make them physically attractive. Do you think I’d like Arya if she wasn’t a good person? I’m not going to lie and say she’s not beautiful, but it’s her personality I’m attracted to. Her personality is what makes her beautiful.”

“I’m sorry, James,” Rachel says. “I know you are not shallow like that. It just feels like guys only go for the super pretty girls. They don’t notice anyone else. I hear the way they talk, I know how guys talk about girls.”

“Honestly, Rachel,” I say, “guys are fuckin’ idiots. Including myself.” Before my dad died, I was the guy that was just dating hot girls, making out with them, and then ending it. I was never disrespectful to them, but I won’t lie about not enjoying joking around with the guys about which girl to go after next. I had to grow up when my dad died and that part of me was left behind. “Best advice? Just stick to excelling at school and sports and be a good person. Don’t get hung up on stupid teenage boys. They’re not worth your time.”

“How would you feel if Arya’s dad said that to her?”

“I’d be surprised if he hasn’t already,” I say. “There was a good period of time where Dr. Secord hated me. I’m just glad he’s not our dentist.” I’d be so screwed if he was.

“Awww, you?” Rachel mocks, “How could anyone hate you?”

“Never doubt the rage of a father when it comes to his daughters,” I say. We laugh.

“Thanks, James. For being an okay older brother.” Rachel says and turns around. “I’m going to bed now.”

“Ah, finally,” I say jokingly to her.

“You know,” she turns back to me, “I’m feeling a little thirsty right now.”

“Get in there,” I push her towards her bedroom door.

“Remember,” Rachel says, “thin walls.” She taps the wall before she goes into her bedroom.

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