Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 8

Elena

The rain blankets me - providing cool relief from my heated confusion over Mike. He just left. What did I say? I don’t think I said anything wrong.

The rain is turning into heavy droplets. If I don’t get inside soon, I’ll become cold and drenched. I pick up my thoughts from the muddy ground and jog over to my front door. Dad isn’t home yet; the cop car he picked up from the station on our first night isn’t in the driveway. As I enter the house, I see the many boxes that are still packed. In need of a distraction, I welcome the stacked boxes with open arms.

Once the kitchen supplies are all unpacked and put away in various places within the small kitchen, I decide to make dinner. There isn’t much food to choose from because we just took what was in our cabinets from our old house. I settle on spaghetti. Taking my hair tie from my wrist, I pull my hair back and fill a pot up with water. I dump the contents of the spaghetti into the pot and transfix my sights on the steam as it fills the air.

As the noodles cook, I text Dad: Making dinner, will you be on your way soon?

I really didn’t want to have dinner by myself. I had a really weird day, and I want to talk with my dad about it.

Maybe I should call Rachel. She must be dying to hear how my first week is going. While I pour the sauce into a pan, my phone vibrates. Unlocking the screen, I see a text from my dad: Great! Be home in about twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes is a good amount of time to talk with Rachel while getting dinner ready.

​ “Hello?” Her voice is always so cheery.

​ “Hi Rachel, oh my gosh, I’ve missed you!” I exclaim. I do miss her.

​ “Elena! You’ve only been gone for five days–you can’t miss me that much.” Her smile over the phone is contagious.

​ “Oh, Rachel, you have no idea. My first week at this school has been so weird.”

​ “What happened? Who do I need to beat up? Tell me everything.” She sounds a little worried. I laugh out loud at the notion of her beating someone up, not that I don’t think she can’t. She can. Her older brothers taught her well.

​ “I don’t even have the slightest idea of how to begin,” I tell her about my classes, and then I encourage her to share how her day was.

The inevitable strolls in and Declan comes up. She squeals so loud on the phone that I need to remove it from my ear.

​“Is he cute? Are you going to go out with him next Saturday night?” she asks.

I swirl the sauce around with the ladle and ponder, then let out a sigh. “He’s... not unattractive.” I turn the knob for the spaghetti to ‘low.’ “I’m not sure, Rach. I don’t know him all that well...” drifting off, Mike’s words slither into my mind causing me to doubt Declan’s intentions. ‘He wants to fuck you,’ ‘I don’t trust him,’ ‘something’s about him is off’... Rachel’s voice cracks through his overpowering statements.

​ “You have almost a little more than a week, so you can always cancel if you feel uncomfortable with him, El. Besides which, that’s what dating is for - to get to learn about someone.” Turning the burner on simmer for the sauce and checking the noodles one last time, I smile. She’s right. It’s nothing I need to worry about right now, but that doesn’t stop me from bringing Mike up.

​ “There is this other guy–” Before I’m able to continue, she cuts me off.

​ “Another guy? How many guys are after you, Elena! My goodness!” she squeals.

​ “Just one guy,” I laugh. “This other guy–Mike, he’s strange.” How do I describe him?

​ “How so? Is he hot?” she asks over the receiver.

​Letting out an exasperated sigh, I lean into the counter next to the stove. “Eh,” I laugh awkwardly because he is more than hot. That man is smoldering. “He’s my neighbor, and he’s in every single one of my classes. When he found out that I was pondering the idea of going out with Declan, he freaked out! He claims he is only being neighborly, but he really doesn’t like or trust Declan. The man doesn’t want me to have anything to do with him.”

​ “Does he know Declan?”

​ “I don’t know - he’s a transfer student, like me. Although he has been living next door for a while before we moved here,” I answer while remembering back to when I first met him on the front lawn in my robe. How long has he been here? Does he know something about Declan that I don’t?

​ “Weird.” Silence. “Well, maybe he likes you too. Perhaps he’s jealous or something,” she offers in theory.

My nose scrunches as I glance at the sauce to make sure it isn’t bubbling too much. “I don’t think that’s it. He made it very clear that he is just looking out for me because I’m his neighbor. Evidently, that’s what people do here. It also doesn’t help that my dad seems to be way too keen on him, and so quickly. I mean, Dad said that he knows him, but I have never heard his name come out of Dad’s mouth.” I roll my eyes as I see headlights from the window in the kitchen.

As I am saying my goodbyes to Rachel, Dad walks inside. Rachel makes me promise to keep her up to date about my “love life.” It causes me to laugh, but I agree.

​I set my phone on the counter. “You need to lock that door, whether or not you’re inside,” Dad barks, catching me off guard. He does this sometimes. Out of the blue, he will be moody.

​ “O-okay. Sorry.” I just thought that with how safe this town seemed to be, it wouldn’t matter.

​He sighs, takes off his jacket, and places it over the chair as he walks towards me with his arms open. “I’m sorry, kiddo,” he says as he brings me in for a hug. “I just had a long day.” Dad leans over the stove, taking in the aroma of dinner being prepared, and says, “Dinner smells wonderful.”

​After pulling out of his hug, we set the table for the two of us while he talks about his day, and we dish out the spaghetti with the sauce onto our plates. Dad rolls up his white dress shirt sleeves so as to not get any food on them, and I see the tattoo. I’ve asked before where he got it and if it meant anything to him. All he ever said was that it was a dare during spring break one year. A skull head with pistons crossed over it - why did he have to get such a menacing-looking tattoo? Couldn’t it have been a lightning bolt, Scooby-Doo, or... something else?

Following some uncomfortable silence, my dad asks how school was, as he has every day since my first day. I tell him more about my teachers and my classes; he nods his head as he listens. I swirl the pasta around my fork and decide to tell him about Declan; he about spits out his water.

“What?” He’s shocked.

​ “Well, nothing is in stone; I can still back out.” I try to soften the blow. “But so far, I would like to go whenever he asks me.” A wrinkled spot on his tie causes me to zone out. He stares at me for a moment. I’ve never been on a date before; this is fresh territory for both of us.

Dad brings a napkin to his mouth. “Does Mike know?” Why on earth would he care about that?

​Hesitantly, I respond, “Yes. He does... why?” I cringe as the memory of Mike’s words flood my mind again.

Dad shakes his head. “Well, he’s been going to and from school with you. I wasn’t sure if you both talked about it. What does he feel about it?”

​I’m getting a little impatient and ticked off. “Why does it matter what he thinks? I’m the one going on a date, not him. How are you so okay with him anyway? I don’t get it!” I don’t realize my voice is getting so loud.

​Dad remains calm, but his eyes are blazing. He seems to struggle with what he wants to say. “He doesn’t like him, does he?”

My face is burning hot. “No, he doesn’t.” My voice cracks at the last word. “Answer my questions–please?”

Scooting back in his chair, he rests his arms on either side of his plate. His knuckles knock on the oak table three times before looking at me. “Like I’ve said when I introduced you two: I-I’ve met Mike on a couple of occasions while interviewing for my current position and looking at this house,” he pauses. “I’m also acquainted with his family-from when I was growing up. He’s a good kid.” The fact that my dad is familiar with his family brings in a bit of understanding. “Besides, you don’t think I’d let him around you if I didn’t do a background check, now would you?” A playful smile dances on his lips.

​I smile back at his playfulness as he clears his throat. “How did you meet his family? How long have they all lived next door?”

​He runs his hands over his face. “So many questions.” While I wait for an answer, I discover a chip in my glass, probably from the move or maybe from the unpacking.

“His dad and I went to school together. We were friends. It would help if you listened to him. He’s wise beyond his years, and he can read people very well.” My eyes cut to him; he used the same phrase as Mike did earlier today about reading people.

Dad sighs. “Do you have any homework tonight?” He’s diverting. He does this whenever I try to get anything out of his past. His present. Any information from him at all, really. I’ve become so used to it–I drop the matter and trust his judgment on Mike. I won’t tell him I’m still leaning towards going on a date with Declan. Not tonight, anyway.

​“Yeah, I have some English lit homework.” My voice sounds heavy.

​Shortly after our bizarre conversation over dinner, he helps me clean up the kitchen while discussing Rachel and how her first couple of days at school without me were.

Removing my homework out of the backpack, I sit back down at the kitchen table to rack my brain around English lit. I stare down at my notebook and try to answer questions about the chapters we are supposed to read in Lord of Flies; my mind keeps dancing between the green-eyed boy and dad’s tattoo.

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