I specifically remember my mother saying that I was an adult now that I'd graduated, so I had my freedom. This itinerary did not say freedom or even free will.
*Mandatory was next to most of the schedule. This just screamed Aunt Liv. She was always running things on schedules and ordering people to be here and there at certain points. Hell, she’s where Mom and Declan had learned that shit.
She had even planned 3 days on a yacht with the entire family, starting tomorrow.
Arlee hadn’t been involved in anything the past 2 days. She was even skipping meals. If this shit was mandatory and it was her mother’s wedding, why the fuck wasn’t she around?
According to Chloe and Gina, she’d been on the boat when we arrived, but I still hadn’t seen her.
Tonight was another mandatory dinner though, so she had to be there. She couldn’t hide on a boat, even one this size.
I spent my afternoon in the gym, burning off my energy, before showering and heading to the dining room for dinner.
I froze at the site when I walked into the dining hall. Everyone was mingling per usual, but off to the side was Arlee, talking animatedly with Gina while Ian lurked behind her.
The fact that Ian was checking her out pissed me off more than anything. If I wasn’t allowed around her, his ass sure as hell shouldn’t be.
I wasn’t for her though. I knew that. I was too... Well, intense for sweet little, innocent Arlee.
I found myself staring though. She didn’t look like the girl I knew months ago. Her hair was a lighter blonde, most likely from the sun and chlorine of the pool, and she was wearing a really pretty dress that, although was hippy like, wasn’t her normal attire. Since when did Arlee wear dresses?
“She is so adorable.” Chloe came up next to me, “I could just eat her up!”
Chloe and Arlee were in the same grade and would both be seniors this year. They were friends, although I didn’t think their friendship went beyond school and family gatherings.
“Yeah, fucking adorable.” I looked to the fully stocked bar. I needed a drink for this shit, but the parents were everywhere, there was no way I was getting away with anything right now.
“What is your damage?” She narrowed her eyes at me, “I see how you watch her all the time. You say you don’t want to date her, but the evidence is there. Especially when you get all jealous.”
“I do like her,” I spoke low, not to be overheard, “I have liked her for a long time.”
“Then, what’s stopping you from asking her out?”
“Let’s just say that she wouldn’t be into me, if she knew what I was really like.”
“Please,” She rolled her eyes, “The McGhee passed you up. You have your mom’s temperament.”
She was wrong there, but I wasn’t going to admit that I was more McGhee than Welch. I was only able to hide it because I had my outlets.
More recently, my only outlet was the gym, twice a day, but it still helped me control my inner rage and shake things off.
Like the fact that I was essentially the joke of the family, being kept out of serious things, being pushed aside and ignored.
Hell, if they wrote a book about my family, I’d probably be mentioned and cast off somewhere, but at least they didn’t expect anything out of me.
“You two were close for a while. I thought she liked you, but you pushed her away. Why did you do it, if you like her too?”
“I listened to Ian.” I shrugged, “He had a point.”
“You know, everything went down when Arlee started at our school.” She tapped her chin in thought, “Around the time you screwed that Summer chick.”
I glared at her, ”I was stepping back, like Ian told me to.”
“Why would you listen to Ian?” She gave me a look of disgust.
“We have a band. It was either step back or hurt the band. He didn’t think Arlee could handle the real me and told me to step back. I agreed.” Hell, she definitely couldn’t handle me, “I slept with Summer to prove to him that I could get over my attraction to Arlee.”
“Noah, what aren’t you telling me?” Her brow furrowed in confusion.
“She’s not like us. She doesn’t need someone like me. She has Julliard and she has plans and a future that doesn’t involve us.”
“Noah, it’s obvious you like her.”
“And it’s obvious that I shouldn’t.” I shrugged and walked away.
“No, we need to figure this out and I really think Arlee should have sent her piece in before us.” Ethan was standing his ground, “If she’s not accepted for her talent you and I, my dearest June, are fucked.”
I had let them hear me sing last night and to my surprise, now they were telling me I needed to show Julliard what I could do.
“Not true.” I tossed my rolled up towel at him. I had been using as a pillow while we laid in the sun to dry off from the pool.
“Totally true.” He pointed at me, “I mean, if I had that kind of talent, I wouldn’t even apply to Julliard. I would just head straight to Broadway or at least start a band.”
“I can’t just start a band, Ethan. I know nothing about that stuff.” I shook my head, not believing what I was hearing.
“Look around you, Arlee.” June motioned to everyone around the pool, “Pick a person. Every single one of these people knows what they’re doing. Obviously! Look at this yacht!”
“I can’t ask any of them. They’ll laugh at me.” I shook my head, “Julliard is still my goal.”
“The hunky, hottie McGhee boys are staring at you again.” June wagged her eyebrows, “Well, one of them.”
I sighed and gave them a glance. Noah was the only one watching us, while the other two watched him.
“Noah got super buff.” I giggled to June.
“You mean he got tasty...” She bit her lower lip seductively and I slapped her arm.
“I’m not going there.” I pointed at her, “I have goals.”
“The wrong goals, if you ask me.” Ethan pointed at me again, “I think you should try this band thing at least. You’ve got a drummer, if you need one.”
“Ethan, you don’t mean that!” I gaped at him.
“I do.” He gave a firm nod, meeting my gaze. “That’s how much I believe in you. You have talent. You can write, sing and play the violin and piano like nobody’s business.”
“I’m not changing my direction, Ethan.”
“Then who are you living for?” He asked, “You can’t live for your mom and everyone else’s expectations. You need to do it for yourself. It’s your future.”