’Twas the morning after the single most amazing moment of my eighteen years on earth. I lay snugly held in Joseph’s arms. Careful not to wake him, I readjusted myself in his hold to get a better look at him. I studied his sleeping figure for a while, admiring his features.
From his thick eyebrows of which a beauty mark adorned the right one, to his long eyelashes that naturally folded toward the skies. All the way down to his nose and how it twitched ever so slightly as he slept. With my fingertips, I carefully moved a few loosely fallen curls from his forehead and awed.
“You are so beautiful...” I whispered.
“And you are adorable.”
“Joseph!” I shrieked, nearly falling off the bed. “You were awake this whole time?!”
When he sat up, the blanket fell and revealed his bare chest.
“I didn’t mean to scare you. You were being all romantic and I just wanted to listen.”
He extended his arms for a hug, but I declined, scooting away from him.
“Please?” he whined, tugging on my arm.
When I didn’t budge, he came to me himself and peppered both of my cheeks with a million kisses.
“Ah! Let me go, crazy!”
“Never. Your skin is so soft, I could kiss you for hours,” he mumbled against my shoulder.
“Haven’t you had enough? I barely slept a wink last night because of your never-ending kisses.”
It was hard for me to act disinterested when I was more than enjoying his affection.
“Oh, Lady, not nearly enough.”
The deep rasp of his morning voice sent a wire of electricity down my spine. His lips glided across my neck and I sighed at the attention given to the most sensitive part below my jaw.
“Wait.” He pulled away, fixing me in his arms so that I was facing him. Concern was etched on every line of his face.
“Last night, I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
“No, last night was perfect.” I grabbed his hand in a reassuring squeeze, but he didn’t seem convinced.
“But I remember your legs shaking. Like crazy.”
If I wasn’t embarrassed then, I was mortified now. “Ugh. Be quiet, Joey.”
“Why? You feelin’ shy?” he asked, scrunching up his face as a teasing smile grew on his lips.
“Of course I am.”
“I just want to make sure you’re okay, that’s all.”
It was then that I allowed myself to lean into his embrace. “I am. I promise.”
“Okay,” he said, finally convinced.
“You can take a sh- shower if you’d like,” I told him, in between a yawn.
“Go ahead before me, I can wait.”
“Okay. I won’t be long.” I said, grabbing a towel and heading off to the bathroom.
About twenty minutes later, we were both cleaned up and minty fresh. I was hunting for something Joseph could wear. It felt like only yesterday he was doing the same for me. Thankfully my dad had recently done laundry. I snagged a couple of things from the bin in the hall. Hopefully what I picked would pair well with black dress shoes...
“You really didn’t have to go through the trouble. I could have worn what I came in.”
“Nonsense. These should fit you perfectly. Besides, you’ll have your dignity intact when you’re doing the walk of shame, is it called?” I teased, handing him a pair of sweatpants and a red t-shirt.
“Walk of shame?” He shook his head. “Nah, it’d be the walk of pure delight, cause there was nothing that happened in the last twelve hours I could ever be ashamed of.”
My entire body flushed as I remembered our night together.
⋅. ✯ .⋅
The two of us made our way downstairs for breakfast. Joseph stood by the kitchen aisle while I cooked on the stovetop.
“What is it, do you not like rice and eggs? Tell me you do,” I said, preparing a warm bowlful.
“No, it’s not that. I just wanted to ask you something,” he said.
“Alright. What’s on your mind?”
The sound of car doors opening and closing caught my attention. My parents. I was quite lucky they hadn’t decided to come home early last night. At the same time I was surprised they stayed out so late. It was 9 in the morning.
“Hold that thought,” I told Joseph as I turned off the stove. “My parents just pulled in.”
“Should I hide?”
“No. Stay where you are. I can handle it.”
Fifteen seconds later, my parents entered the kitchen.
“Buenos dias mi amor —”
“And Joseph?” my mom said, finishing my father’s sentence.
“Oh. Right, Joseph was out on a run and stopped by to say hi,” I said with a casual shrug. He shuffled closer to the counter, trying to hide his feet.
“That’s fine,” my mom answered, heading for the coffee machine.
It seemed to me she was hungover. She spoke very faintly and seemed a little lethargic. Not to mention that her usually neat hair was gathered into quite the mess of a half bun, half ponytail.
My father, on the other hand, was as chipper as ever. Rounding the kitchen aisle, he waltzed over to me and placed a kiss on my forehead. I handed him the bowl of rice and eggs I just finished making.
“How was your night, Princesa?” he asked, happily taking the bowl.
“Hm, I was just about to ask you the same thing. Good thing I didn’t wait up, huh?”
He laughed as he plucked a fork from the dish rack and began chomping away. “This isn’t about me. This is about you,” he continued.
“Prom was amazing. I danced almost the entire night,” I stole a glance at Joseph who’d already been staring at me.
“I’m glad, honey. You deserve everything good in this world,” he told me. Smiling, I squeezed his torso in a loving hug.
“Damn right she does,” Joseph murmured to himself. My lips pulled into an even wider grin that my dad definitely didn’t miss. However, he let the moment pass and went on to finish the rest of his food.
I walked over to where Joseph now sat at the dining room table, he wore a grin that matched mine.
“It’s kinda freaky how similar your dad and my mom are,” he said. “No matter the time of day she’s just a ball of positive energy.”
“Which is funny, seeing as David comes across a bit more reserved, kinda like my mom. I guess opposites really do attract when it comes to our parents,” I added on.
“What about us?” Joseph asked.
I quirked a brow in question. “What do you mean?”
“You say opposites attract, but I really don’t think you and I are all that different next to the trivial things.”
“Yet here we are,” I whispered.
At this moment I’d have liked to give Joseph a quick peck, but two things stopped me. One, being my parents in the same room as us, and two, the sudden harsh pounding on the front door that made everyone freeze in their positions.
Curiosity nudged me toward the closed kitchen door, but my father told me to stay where I was. He set down his dish and went to answer it himself, returning a moment later.
“Joseph, your mother’s outside. She says it’s urgent.”
A pang of fear shot through me. Joseph sped out without a backward glance. I immediately walked to the kitchen door and pressed my ear against it. There was a light hum of voices, one being Marlene’s, in which there was a tremor.
I pushed the door slightly ajar and Joseph caught my eye. His face was pale like he’d just seen a ghost. He mouthed an apology before rushing out of the house altogether.
Back in the kitchen, I looked helplessly at my father.
“What’s going on?” I asked him as if he had the answer. He did when it came to most things.
“I don’t know, sweetheart. I’m sure he’ll explain everything when it’s all dealt with. For now, try not to worry,” he told me.
I nodded, starting to worry anyway.
After I wrapped up talking to my parents a little while longer, I excused myself to the living room and grabbed my phone from my clutch that was left in the entryway. With an exaggerated flop, I sat down on the couch and thumbed it to life. There were no messages from Joseph and I didn’t want to bother him, so I sent a text to Alex asking if she wanted to go out to eat with me; knowing her, I wouldn’t even need to ask.
“Pa! I’m going out to have breakfast with Alex at the diner!” I called out.
“Bueno, hasta luego,” (Okay. See you later.) he replied.
I slipped on my sneakers by the door when my dad called my name; likely wanting me to bring him something on my way back home.
“Can you pick up a donut for me por favor?”
As I predicted.
“You got it.”
The walk to Alex’s seemed to get shorter and shorter every time. As I rounded the corner, I saw that she was already outside. But instead of walking up on the normally empty pavement driveway, there was a brand new Mercedes parked in it and I knew exactly who deposited it there.
“He’s ridiculous, Sienna!” Alex exclaimed. “I’m returning this to wherever it came from because I’d rather walk a hundred freaking miles than drive a block in that damn car. I’m not some charity case, I’m his daughter!”
“Come here,” I hushed, pulling her onto the steps.
“He called me ungrateful,” she began, laying her head on my shoulder. “I never asked for this car or the jewelry, the electronics, or the fancy-ass European soaps he’s always mailing to me. I just want a dad who loves me and is here for me, but apparently, that’s a lot to ask for.”
My heart shattered when she started sobbing silently. I cradled her trembling body in my arms as a hurricane of emotions ripped and rocked from inside her.
“Oh, Alex... I got you,” I cooed, rubbing her back. “I don’t know what’s going on in your father’s head, he’s wrong for leaving behind such a beautiful girl like you.”
I felt her shake her head against me.
“I’m sure you know this already, but Josie and Lucas are as much your parents as they are mine. We love you, and if living here gets to be too much, you can stay with us.”
Sniffling, she peeled her head from my shoulder to look me in the eyes. “You sure I won’t be too much trouble?” she asked.
“Of course not. Yes, we may have to shop for groceries twice as often, but you won’t be trouble in the slightest,” I reassured her, giving her a small smile.
“Okay, I’ll think about it,” she told me.
“Do you wanna go inside?” I instantly regretted asking. Of course, she didn’t want to be stuck in an empty house way too big for her needs.
“No. Let’s just take a walk,” she said.
“Wanna go to the diner and eat? My treat,” I asked.
“Yes, please. I could go for an omelet, but let me clean myself up first.”
About 5 minutes later she came hopping down the stairs. “I’m ready.”
“That’s my girl.”
She looked at me quizzically.
“What, do I have dried toothpaste on my face or something?” I questioned.
“No. Your smile just seems... brighter. I should have brought a pair of sunglasses because it’s starting to blind me,” she said, covering her eyes.
“Ha, I guess you could say I have a few reasons to smile these days. But I can say the same about you.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your mystery date at prom. You looked head over heels for the guy.”
“He isn’t a mystery. He’s just Ethan,” Alex said, wearing a shy grin.
“So he has a name!” I shouted, dramatically jabbing my finger toward the sky.
“Shut up.” Alex giggled. “Speaking of prom, where’d you and Joseph run off to?”
I fidgeted with the hem of the slightly oversized shirt I threw on this morning. “Oh, right. We went for a walk.”
Which technically wasn’t a lie? I mean, we did walk... for a few minutes.
“For the whole night? Don’t give me that weak excuse,” she said, poking the middle of my chest with her tiny index finger.
“Relax, Officer Johnson. I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry. I’m eating with or without you,” I retorted, leaving her driveway and starting down the sidewalk.
“Okay! I’ll stop for now.”
⋅. ✯ .⋅
“Oh my goodness, these are delicious. So warm and fluffy,” I groaned, shoving another forkful of pancakes into my mouth.
“Those look really good,” Alex said.
“Ah, ah, ah. Eyes on your omelet, greedy,” I growled.
“You know, I’ll never understand why you’re so extra when you eat,” she commented.
“Que quiere decir, extra?” (What do you mean, extra?) I mumbled.
“I’m not sure what you said, but I think you asked why. I’ll tell you why,” she said, propping her elbows up on the table.
“Pancakes and syrup are supposed to mingle together! Why do you separate them?”
“One, I separate all of my sauces when I eat,” I told her, pointing my butter knife at the pool of syrup sitting beside my plate. “And two, how haven’t you learned at least ten Spanish words from listening to me speak it for years??”
“If I didn’t do well with Spanish in middle school, there’s no way I’d do well with it now.”
She took a generous bite out of her omelette and I smiled at her. I was so glad to have a best friend who loved food as much as I did.
“Plus my psych teacher told me that people 18 years or older have a harder time learning a second language. We’re a lot less adept because over time our brains kinda slow down or something like that,” she finished with a shrug.
“Whoa, you actually learned something from a class at school and not from a social media post?” I said, teasingly.
“Oh, relax. I’m not on social media nearly as much as I used to be,” she said, wiping the corners of her mouth.
And she wasn’t lying. In fact, she’d been detached from her phone for the longest time I’d ever seen.
“You must really like him, huh?” I asked, resting my chin in my hands.
“What are you talking about?” she asked, squinting at me.
“Ethan. He’s bringing out a lot in you. Things I didn’t know existed within you, like paying attention in class, studying.”
“Well, that’s because he’s a good teacher.”
“You smile. A lot.”
“That’s ’cause he makes my lips very happy.”
“He makes you more... Alex.”
“He’s amazing. People always categorize him as this brainless, beefy jock since he plays football, but that’s not even close to the truth,” she said, with a firm shake of her head. “Yeah, he can defend himself when necessary, but underneath the shoulder pads and his resting ‘get outta my face’ face, he’s sensitive and sweet. He balances me out,” she finished.
“Lex, you’re gonna make me cry!” I reached across the table to squeeze her hand. “I don’t know anyone who deserves this kind of happiness more than you do.”
“I can think of someone.”
She answered with a pointed look.
“Oh Alex, I’m happy, really. Don’t worry about me.”
“So, in that case let me ask you a question. Does Joseph have anything to do with it?”
There was no point in me even thinking of saying no, because like always, my body would betray me and give away the truth. I’d never intentionally keep anything from my best friend, but I wasn’t exactly ready to get into the details of me and Joseph’s relationship; if I could even call it that. Maybe I could get away with a few vague answers.
Hah, I almost had myself there. No way in hell would Alex settle.
“That’s all I get? A plain old ‘yes’?” she asked, eyebrows shooting up in disbelief.
I simply nodded at her, finishing the last bite of my pancakes.
“If you two are dating, blink once.”
I blinked three times.
“If you’ve kissed at least once, blink twice.”
I blinked twice.
“I knew it! Was it everything you imagined it would be?” she asked, uncharacteristically clasping her hands together with a dreamy look on her face.
“No. It was nothing like I imagined it would be... because I never thought it would happen,” I said, taking a slow sip of my orange juice.
“Sienna, you’re blushing!!” Alex hollered.
“Will you be quiet!? It was just a kiss.”
“Huh. From what I saw out there on the dance floor at prom, you guys might as well have been fuc —”
“Don’t you dare finish that sentence,” I said between gritted teeth.
“Okay, okay, okay. But if all that happened was a kiss, why are you getting so defensive?” she said, with her face scrunched up in confusion.
I was growing more uncomfortable by the second. “I’m not getting defensive, I just don’t want to talk about this stuff right now.”
“C’mon, Sienna. I’m your best friend. Since when do you get anxious talking to me?”
“Alex, please just leave it.”
“Seriously, what’s going on with you?”
“You wanna know so bad?! Fine! Joseph and I had sex!”