My breath hitched at the last words the string of hot tears rolled down my cheek The protective arm circled me it was a comforting hug his fingers combing my hairs his cologne was a mix of warm coffee with a hint of vanilla. I cried wetting his shoulders.
"You know... You can always have these shoulders to cry on." His palm rubbed my back.
"How he died?" I sniffle resting my head on the crook of his neck after a long silence.
I sit straight with pleading eyes until our eyes met he wiped my tears with his thumb.
"You want to know his last words?" His eyes were also glossy He was forcing his tears not to come out he gazed at me.
"He said "Protect my Claire" He tapped my shoulders tears still escaping my eyes.
"He wanted you to be happy Claire, can you stay happy for him."
"All this time I wanted to say sorry to you for what I did in the press room but I am not good at expressing I have not said sorry to anyone but I am sorry Claire I shouldn't behave like this."
"It's okay Ryan, can you tell me more about him?"
"He used to eat chocolate ice cream when he missed you."
"But he hates it right?"
"Yeah, that idiot! I used to scold him but that stubborn ass..." Finally, a tear rolled down his cheek after acting strong he was now all soft.
"Ryan! Do you miss him?"
"Of course I do, but you look so similar to him. Your way of talking, your facial features. you look like his twin."
"No, he was 6 years older than me he always wanted a sibling and when I born he cared about me like a princess even a single scratch on me was enough to switch on his protective mode." I giggled remembering cute memories of him.
"Woah! What's going on? Claire, are you crying?" Aiden came running fast and kneeled.
"Ryan! You made her cry what the fuck bro!"
"She is guilty because she ruined Jade's heels she wants to apologise"
"You are crying because of this? It's okay I will get here new heels of Gucci with two c's what's the point to cry on that?"
"Ah, buttercup! Don't cry why are you so sensitive..."
"Call me buttercup again and you are dead!"
"Thank god you are back to normal Claire, you must be a hungry wait here!" He ran away to the grill where Ava was grilling smoky sausages while Ian was arranging them in buns and saucing them the smell of smoke and spice raised in the air.
Aiden ran with a plate in his hands with hot dogs placed on it.
"Eat it! Or should I feed you?" He grabbed a hot dog and bring close to my mouth I took a small bite which made Aiden smile ear to ear.
"Such a baby!" I glared at him and stole the hotdog from his hand.
"Go away! I can eat myself."
"Are you sure cherry blossom?"
"Call me that again and you will be the new addition to the solar system." He chuckled and then ruffled my hair and went back to the grilling station. Ryan was gone long ago I didn't even notice but things he said will make me stay up at nights. Ava took a seat beside me.
"You know Claire when I talk to you I feel connected you just sound like my little sister."
"She died in a car crash 5 years ago." I saw a frown crept on her face.
"Aww... Don't cry please."
"I will not! Can I give you a nickname?"
"You can call me anything Avie"
"Can I call you Leah? My sister name was Leah."
"Sure Avie!" I pinched her cheeks.
"Do you like these clothes?"
"Yep! Are they yours... Sorry, I ruined your outfit..."
"I just call you sister and you are saying sorry. I am disappointed, Claire."
"Thanks! And these clothes are so comfy."
"I bought them for you remember after the announcement I told you I have a shift. I purchased it from the store on my break."
"Who changed it?"
"I did, you passed out and clothes were dirty I packed extra clothes in case we have to change."
"Ava? Why are you so nice?"
"Because you are so nice, I told you. You remind me of my sister I feel a connection with you."
"Thank you for being with me."
"I am praying! I want to be in your team for a treasure hunt."
"Yeah, there is a forest nearby. We have to find clues and in the end, the person who will find the key will get the prizes."
"I will be fine with anyone but please not Jade."
"Yeah! But I want to be in your unit."
The girl who exposed designer heels came forward.
"Hello everyone! I demand your attention, please." She was carrying a bowl with paper chits.
"I am Crystal Fort and we are about to begin our teambuilding exercise with the game treasure hunt. Pairs will be divided by draw and the team who will win receive prizes."
"What kind of prizes?"
"I don't know it's inside the treasure box! You will have to find clues your first clue will be on plum harden the clues will lead you to the key let's begin she went one by one dividing everyone in the team.
"Jade you are teamed with Ava."
"What!? No, I am teamed with Aiden."
"Who are you to decide that?"
"I don't want to be in your team!"
"Ah! Shut the fuck up we are now doomed it's not like I am happy with you just tolerate me."
"Ryan with Ian"
"Ok, buddy! Let's tell them who we are."
"Aiden with Claire" my heart lurched when I saw my name on Aiden's chit a huge smile plastered on his face he came close and hold my hand.