"Bitch... what?!” Alex gasped, covering her mouth.
“I woke up this morning with his arms wrapped around me, and it was one of the best feelings in the world,” I told her with my hand on my chest, attempting to calm the rapid beating of my heart.
“He freaking gives me heart palpitations and even though I’m a little scared, I want nothing more than to be with him.”
I took a breath, trying to steady myself as I looked back at my stunned best friend. Moments later, she pulled out her phone and began typing.
“Are you kidding?? I bare my soul to you and you’re not even going to respond? Isn’t this what you wanted?!” I questioned, raising my voice again.
“Um... what are heart palpitations?” she asked.
“You know what? Figure it out while I pay for the food,” I retorted, quickly seeing the cashier before storming out of the diner.
“Sienna, wait!” Alex called after me.
I halted at the corner of the street with my back facing her. “Are you ready to be a good friend and help me?”
“Yes, I’m sorry.”
I turned around to face her.
“I’m just shocked that’s all. I can’t believe my two best friends actually...” She trailed off, making an obscene hand gesture.
“Well, how do you think I feel?” I asked, dropping my arms to my sides in exasperation.
“I know, I know. Okay, tell me everything from the beginning,” she said as we began walking down the sidewalk in-step.
Starting with the night Joseph and his parents came over for dinner, I told Alex about everything all the way up until prom.
“That explains the whispering over the phone and the whole ‘sleeping together’ thing,” Alex commented as realization began to dawn on her. “Talk about foreshadowing.”
“He called you that night?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she said.
“What did he say?”
“He was just filling me in on your situation so I’d have an alibi in case your mom came over to check in.”
“So that was after I passed out.”
The two of us walked for a while, passing house after house, fence after fence.
“If I’m being honest, it wasn’t in my drunken stupor that I realized I liked Joseph. I felt something for him the night he took me to the cliff, but it wasn’t as intense as it is now. Every other moment after that just solidified my feelings.”
“I’m happy for you, Sienna. I really am. But Joseph has been through a lot, some things that still affect him to this day... he has the best heart though. Please don’t let him down and please don’t hurt him,” she said, giving me a pointed look.
“I promise I won’t.”
“I’ll be telling him the same thing. On another note, I still can’t believe he almost fought that guy at the bar.”
“Yeah, it was scary.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “I’m just glad he didn’t get hurt. I’m even glad that sleaze came out okay cause if the look in Joseph’s eye was anything to go by, he was ready to unleash a demon.”
“Mm. I can’t say Joseph’s ever lashed out like that. But fast forwarding back to the present, has he contacted you at all?” she asked.
“No. I really hope everything is okay.”
“I haven’t heard anything. Want me to give him a call?” Alex suggested.
“It’s up to you.”
She pulled her phone from her back pocket and dialed Joseph’s number but was instantly sent to voicemail.
“His phone is either dead or turned off,” she said.
“Let’s just give it time. Will you be okay walking to your house from here?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’m good,” she replied with a smile.
“See you on Monday.”
⋅. ✯ .⋅
“Pa!” I shouted, taking off my shoes by the door.
My mom entered the living room, draping a freshly washed linen over the back of the couch. Her eyes looked much brighter than they did earlier, and she was now dressed in comfy house clothes and had her hair done in a low ponytail.
“You just missed him, hon. Your father is on-call today and was just asked to go in.”
“Hon,” that was new.
“Ah, well okay. I had brought home a treat for him,” I said, holding up a paper bag.
“Just put it up on the counter. I’m sure he’ll get to it later.”
“Sure. I’ll be finishing some work in my room,” I announced, marching toward the stairs.
“Sienna?” my mom called.
“Yes?” She looked at me for a long minute before responding. That made me question whether what she said next was what she really intended to.
“I’m making your favorite for dinner tonight.”
“What’s the occasion?”
“No occasion, it’s just been a while since I’ve prepared it for you... and I know that I’ve- I know you have a cookie stash, so don’t fill up on those,” she said, exiting the living room.
When I reached my room I collapsed onto my bed, letting out a groan as my body melted into my soft mattress. I grabbed a pillow and buried my face in it. Oh my, my, my did it smell like Joseph. The scent of vanilla and pine invaded my nostrils and I fully welcomed it.
I snuggled up more comfortably, throwing my blanket halfway over my body. I didn’t even realize how tired I was. When I glanced over at my digital alarm clock, the time just hit twelve noon on the dot. I figured I could sleep just for a little while.
“Just for a little while,” I told myself, hugging the pillow tight.
⋅. ✯ .⋅
“Sienna!! Come down and eat!” my mom called out from downstairs.
“Urghhhnnnggggg!” Groggily, I flipped onto my back and looked over at the time. It read 6:25. I couldn’t believe I slept for 6 hours.
“Sienna!” my mom called again.
“Ya voy, ya voy,” (I’m coming, I’m coming.) I responded, rolling out of bed and onto my feet.
⋅. ✯ .⋅
“Well hello, sleepyhead. Your hair tells me you had a good nap.”
My mom greeted me as I joined her in the kitchen. In front of me was a piping hot plate of steak with gravy over a bed of rice and extra green olives, just how I liked it.
“Does it look that bad?” I asked, trying to smooth down the mess on my head.
I rounded the table to where she was now standing and turned around as she directed. She tucked a few wild strands of hair behind my ear and gathered the rest into a high ponytail.
My body was racked with chills remembering how she did my hair like this for me every day as a little girl. Back then, that was my signature look and I loved how my hair would swing back and forth. I was the sassiest girl at the playground.
“Shh. Let’s eat before the food gets cold.”
We took our seats at either end of the table, and I got to work on my plate. Although the table was a cozy size and we weren’t too far apart, it still felt odd. Ever since the two of us had that big argument, the tension between us was almost always present.
“I just might end up clearing out the pot, mom,” I commented in between forkfuls.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying it,” she said, smiling.
A couple minutes of silence passed as we dined before my mom spoke again.
“So, how are you? How’s school?”
“Don’t you know already? I know you like to keep tabs on those sorts of things,” Is what I wanted to say, but I could tell my mom was trying; I could tell she wanted to have a civil conversation and not pick a fight. That’s what I’ve always wanted, so I made the most of this moment.
“It’s going pretty well, actually. I seriously lucked out for my chemistry final. Instead of taking an exam on everything we’ve been taught since the beginning of the year, we’re learning a short mini concept to be assessed on.”
“Yeah, Mr. H is one of the teachers that actually cares about the mental well-being of their students,” I said, chuckling lightly.
She took a sip of her wine. “Well, I think you’d have done well either way. Full assessment or mini assessment.”
“So, outside of your classes, how are you? Have you made any new friends?” she asked.
Call me paranoid, but my gut was telling me she was fishing for info about me and Joseph and if she didn’t like what she heard, she’d make sure there was distance between us. That was something I wasn’t going to allow to happen, but I went along with it anyway.
“Uh, I’ve made a couple friends working on the prom committee.”
“Yeah, it’s been nice. There’s this girl named Jasmine who is the human equivalent of a firework. She’s...”
I trailed off, noticing my mother push and jab an olive with her fork. She loved olives just as much as I did so I was confused as to why she wasn’t eating them.
“Is there something wrong?” I asked.
“I just- I was wondering if you could tell me more about Joseph and his family.”
I should have known.
“Well, what do you want to know? I mean, we’ve had dinner with both him and his parents. Was that not enough for you?”
I was aiming for a cool, leveled tone, but my words came out a lot harsher and bitter tasting.
“Is it so wrong for me to want to know the company my daughter keeps? And I think it’s odd that I saw him parked outside one afternoon when I told you to come home with Alex from now on,” she said, placing her fork on her half-empty plate.
“Mom, what difference does it make? Alex can’t always chauffeur me to and from school. She has a life of her own. And I think the idea of needing a travel buddy is a bit absurd.”
This was yet another situation my mom searched high and low for a problem with.
“Besides, Joseph offered to drop me off that day as he has many other times. He doesn’t seem to mind giving me rides, considering we’re often going to the same places,” I responded, my voice taut.
“Sienna, I’ve really tried to be lenient with you, but you always seem to find a way to bend the rules to get what you want.”
“Have you??” I asked, letting out an empty laugh. “Seriously? Bending rules to g —”
I was raising my voice, but at this stage I was past caring.
“No. I think you’ve been the complete opposite of lenient. I don’t think you understand how truly difficult you make things.”
The sound of metal clattering against the glass plate echoed through the now dead-silent kitchen as I dropped my own fork.
“Everything I do is for your benefit, why can’t you see that?!”
“You’re suffocating me!” I rubbed my temple, feeling an ache building.
“What upsets me even more is that Joseph is a great person and an even better friend to me, yet somehow that bothers you. I don’t know what you have against him, but you have got to stop looking at him through distorted lenses.”
Huh, I thought she was beginning to change and make an effort to be interested in something other than herself but I was terribly mistaken. I pushed the wooden chair back so fast it made a wild screeching noise and left the kitchen. I lost my appetite.