Learning to Love

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“Hey Jess! How was it?” Balissa asked. She somehow managed to be both frantically excited and quiet.

I shrugged but I couldn’t stop the stupid grin from spreading across my face. Nor could I stop the blood from rushing to my cheeks.

“Oh my god!” She paused, staring slack jawed and wide eyed. “You really like him.”

I sighed letting myself fall onto the worn leather couch we had taken from my dad’s place. My brothers had been allowed to take their furniture, and Drew had bought all of Aaliyah’s stuff, so only I had been forced to buy new everything.

She sat next to me looking serious, worried, and happy all at once. Her shining hazel eyes looked green today, and bore into me with a fiery intensity. “Jess this is such a big step for you. Are you okay?”

Was I doing okay? I wasn’t sure. I felt giddy and terrified, happy and nervous.

“I think so. I feel guilty though. Like I’m not worthy of his attention. I feel,” I paused, unsure what else to say until suddenly it all flooded out like a tidal wave. “When I’m with him I feel safe, comfortable, maybe even normal. As soon as he leaves though the fear is overwhelming. I realize suddenly how close he’s getting and feel the need to pull away.

“When he’s around I feel guilty that I can’t trust him enough to even tell him Aaliyah exists. When he’s gone I feel relieved that I made it another day without endangering her. I don’t want her to get hurt, but I want to believe he wouldn’t hurt her.”

I hadn’t even realized I was sobbing. Not until Balissa pulled me tightly to her and cradled my shaking form. At not even five foot tall and with a wiry build Balissa was small, so the intensity of her strength always surprised me.

After I had for the most part regained composure, she pulled back and I pulled my knees up to my chest.

“I love you like a sister, you know I will always be here for you…” She said this in a way that made it clear there was a but coming. “However, it’s not fair to judge this guy merely because he’s a guy. I’m afraid you hiding Aaliyah from him may not be the best choice.

“You have to remember that Charlie was the exception, not the rule. Most men are not like that. Even the ass holes aren’t normally that bad.”

I flinched when she spoke his name. Though I knew she was right, I couldn’t get the voice in the back of my head to stop shouting warnings.

“What if he comes back, Lyssa. He still wants her.” I said so quietly I was surprised she heard me.

However it was clear she had. The way her eyes hardened, her jaw clenched, and her lips pursed made her look almost frightening. However with her strawberry blonde hair and heart shaped face she looked too harmless to ever really look intimidating. That was Simon’s job.

“He’s serving a life sentence in a high security prison. He’s not getting out.” She said this as though willing it to be true.

Her tone and determined expression made my heart lurch. An uncomfortable silence fell between us.

“Back to a nicer topic. What’s this Adrian guy look like?” She smiled and shifted so she faced me.

I opened my mouth to respond but she raised her hands suddenly, “Wait!”

She jumped up and darted into the kitchen. She returned a moment later holding up offerings. In one hand she held a bowl of chips and in the other two Mexican sodas, our favorite drink since we were kids.

I smiled. “Let the fun begin.”

“Let the fun begin!” She sang, shimmying her hips.

I chuckled. I was so happy that we had been able to jump right back into our friendship after my absence. Balissa was the best friend I could imagine having.

“I have one more surprise!” She grinned mischievously. Then she reached under the edge of the couch pulling out a few DVD cases.

“You didn’t…” I stared wide eyed at the case, grinning widely.

“Of course! My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and of course Spirited Away.” She grinned proudly.

“Now we can really have fun.”

We both laughed.

The next two months passed in a blur of work, Aaliyah and putting off the date Adrian kept asking for. I was weakening and by mid November I knew I would eventually give in.


I opened my eyes, and was thirteen years old and had just hung up the phone with Balissa, my best friend. I lay on my stomach on my bed. The Lost Oracle by Rick Riordan opened in front of me.

Just as Apollo and Meg were chained together for the three legged death race I heard a loud crash down stairs.

“Drew? Was that you?” I called, staring at my door.

There was another loud crash and I continued to stare frozen in fear. My parents had taken Simon out for some advanced science fair, leaving Drew and I alone.

Suddenly heavy footsteps echoed down the hall growing closer with alarming speed.

“D-Drew?” My voice was barely a whisper.

To tell you the truth, my fear had been getting slightly out of control. I often felt I was being watched and followed. The slightest noises made me jump out of my skin. In the rink I often messed up, because I was too preoccupied with the crowd.

I shook it off, I was being ridiculous. We lived in a high class neighborhood hood with a guarded gate and top notch security system. I was perfectly safe.

Why then did I feel as though my heart was about to run away without me. My doorknob jiggled and I decided I would kill Drew for this stupid prank.

However when the door opened it wasn’t Andrew. Instead a man in his early thirties stood in my doorway. His ivory skin contradicted severely with his black eyes. His light brown hair was done nicely and he wore a grey suit, though clearly thrift store quality.

“Who are you?” I asked stupidly.

Yes, I know. I should have ran, screamed, something, but I was shocked and terrified. I had no clue what I was supposed to do. Before I had a chance to think of the correct action to take he rushed the bed and hit me hard in the head.

I remember being carried and seeing Drew on the floor in a puddle of blood. I reached out desperately, but then lost consciousness completely.

~End Dream~

“Drew!” I woke up screaming.

Simon came in, wiping his eyes.

“Shh, Jess he’s fine. He’s still at work.” He said sitting on the edge of the bed.

I sigh deeply, glad the dark hid the tears brimming my eyes. “I know. Sorry I woke you.”

He shrugged, “I’m just glad you didn’t wake Aaliyah, then nobody would get back to sleep.”

He smirked at me and I nodded.

“You want to talk about it?” He asked the grinning widely added, “I could be like a personal therapist. How do you feel about that?” His tone and expression were suddenly, falsely, serious. He cocked his head to the side.

I rolled my eyes, smirking, “I wouldn’t pay you as a therapist for a dog, much less a human.”

He clutched his chest with both hands, “Ouch, that hurts sis.”

I shrugged and he watched me for a moment.

“I actually wanted to ask a favor of you.” He ran his hand awkwardly through his blonde hair.

I didn’t have to see him to know he was suddenly, uncharacteristically serious.

“Uh-oh. Did you set this school on fire too?” I asked, unable to resist.

He groaned loudly, “For the thousandth time I had it under control. I was simply doing actual science in a science class, sue me. Honestly I think Mr. Zion was more upset he couldn’t figure out why the flames were yellow. Some science teacher. Everyone knows that shade of yellow green is made with barium chloride.”

“The fire department was called.” I pointed out snickering..

“Simply an overreaction. I had a homemade fire extinguisher. The fire was out before they even got there.” He sighed, “Though I’ll admit they had to get a new desk.”

I smiled, “What do you need?”

“I want to meet him.” He said nervously.

Simon was not the over protective brother, but the defensive look in his blue eyes warmed my heart.

“Soon.” I smiled, “If you want to meet him now. You could always come to my work at about eight o’clock. Not that I told you that.”

He nodded grinning mischievously again. “Okay well thanks for nothing then.”

“Of course.” I smiled, “Now go to bed.”

“Yes mom.” He rolled his eyes but stood.

He hesitated by the door. “Andrew is okay, so are you Jess. You shouldn’t let your fear win though.”

Then he was gone.

I sighed and laid back down, surprised at how easily I fell back asleep.

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