B E L L A M Y
The week dragged on, but luckily for me, Noah had barely been home.
If I was to believe what Isaac told me, he was helping a friend with some construction work. Could I honestly tell myself that I didn’t care where he was? No. I liked to be prepared. After all, I didn’t want a repeat of what happened the last time I saw him.
Friday afternoon, I was just about to change into my swimsuit and take a dip in Isaac’s new pool—which had been staring at me all week—when the man himself came home.
“Hi,” Isaac said, dropping his keys on the dining table with a sigh.
“Are you ok?” I asked, sinking in one of the chairs instead of going upstairs.
“Yeah.” He took a seat next to me, smiling at me. The fine lines around his eyes stood out against his skin, even more than usual. They didn’t make him look old—not at all. It was more like one of his features. Just like the birthmark I have near the corner of my lips.
He shifted in his seat, but his face relaxed. “It’s just been a long week, that’s all.”
I gave his hand on the table a little squeeze, and stood from my chair. Just as I was about to move to the kitchen, someone’s phone went off.
It was Isaac’s, and I suppressed a groan when I read Mom.
He picked it up, and I quickly walked to the kitchen to grab a drink for us both.
“Hey, mom,” he answered.
I couldn’t hear the conversation on the other end, and I tried not to listen. Sure, I was curious about what they were talking about, but it was none of my business.
“Yeah, Bella’s here.”
Or was it?
I placed Isaac’s drink in front of him and received a nod as I sat down again, grabbing my own phone to kill the time and act distracted.
“I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to see you tonight at dinner,” Isaac said, smirking mischievously at me.
I rolled my eyes but ended it with a smile, nervous but happy to see my parents again. Besides, I had to one day.
“Hmm, yeah, he’ll be there too,” Isaac went on, and my eyes widened. He?
I tried to act casual, sipping my soda until Isaac hung up the phone and sat back.
“Oh, she asked if—” He got interrupted by the sound of the front door opening, and we looked up. “Speak of the devil.”
He’s a devil alright.
“Really?” I whispered, holding up my hands in defeat when Isaac shot me a warning look.
“Just the man I wanted to see,” Isaac said, turning in his seat to face Noah, who had just kicked off his dirty boots and walked to the kitchen.
“Here I am,” he replied casually, grabbing an apple from the bowl on the counter and taking a loud bite.
I knew where this was going, and I wasn’t really interested in being in the same room as Noah for much longer than necessary, so I quickly made my way up the stairs.
Sighing, I pulled open my wardrobe, scanning the contents until I found an outfit appropriate for dinner with my family. And Noah.
Just before six, I walked into the living room, ready to go. I hadn’t put too much effort into my appearance, partly because I didn’t want to pretend I was someone that I’m not in front of my parents. Even though that’s kind of what I was doing by lying to them.
“Ready?” Isaac asked, smiling up at me.
I nodded, walking up to the two men.
Noah’s eyes landed on me, and I suddenly felt very vulnerable under his gaze. He looked me up and down, and I noticed that his eyes lingered on my legs.
Did I shave this time? God knows I have to do it at least twice a week to look decent.
“What?” I snapped, and Noah slowly looked up, frowning before he walked to the front door.
“Bella.” Isaac sighed, but I shrugged.
“Let’s go,” I said softly, and he grabbed his car keys.
I let Noah ride shotgun, even though it was more a matter of him not giving me a choice.
Staring out the window, I watched the streets flash by. There was something peaceful about the car ride. Soft, slow music played in the background and Noah managed to keep his mouth shut, and when we left town, my eyelids got heavy.
My stomach turned, however, when Isaac steered off in a different direction than expected, and my eyes shot open.
“Where are we going?” I asked hesitantly, wondering if I missed something about my parents moving. Which...was unlikely.
“To pick up Katy.”
Noah and I let out groans, and I noticed that Isaac rolled his eyes in the rearview mirror, but didn’t respond.
Five minutes later, Katy had managed to talk Noah into sitting in the back seat next to me, and she sat, chatting loudly next to Isaac as we continued our journey.
My entire body had tensed when Noah got in next to me, though he tried to keep far enough away to stop us from touching.
Ten minutes later—and about five minutes from our destination—I stared straight ahead out of the side window, not even registering what flashed by.
I was very aware of Noah’s long legs that were forced apart in the small space behind Isaac’s seat, and I couldn’t help but watch his reflection in the glass in front of me.
He looked just as tense as me, staring out of his window, one arm propped up against the door and his fingers absentmindedly playing with his lower lip.
I frowned slightly at the scared look in his eyes, but quickly looked anywhere but him when he turned to me.
Careful, or he’ll think you’re checking him out.
I didn’t dare to move a muscle after that, and I needed to stretch my stiff muscles when we arrived at our childhood home.
“What are you doing?” Noah asked with one brow raised, but I ignored him, cracking my neck and turning my torso back and forth.
I straightened up when I heard my mom’s voice, a smile spreading on my lips when she came running out in a flowery dress.
Nora Powell was never seen without any sort of flower, be it on her dress, in her hair, or in her ears.
I pulled her tight against me, burying my face in her neck.
Though I didn’t always tell my parents everything—cough—I loved them to pieces.
“Hi, Mom,” I greeted when we let each other go, and she studied my face, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear.
“My little girl really has grown up,” she mumbled, before looking into my eyes. I stared back into the pools of blue I had inherited, realizing that it had been weeks since I saw her.
Was I a Mommy’s girl? Pretty much.
“What a warm welcome,” Isaac spoke from behind us, and Mom looked over my shoulder to her other child.
She stopped herself when her eyes fell on Katy, but she managed to quickly put a somewhat forced smile on her face. “Good to see you, Katy.”
I decided to look for my father, who was probably cleaning his golf clubs for the umpteenth time today.
“Dad?” I yelled through the house, peeking into the kitchen when I passed it, but my assumption had been correct.
“Hi, Bella,” he greeted me from the backyard, the two sliding doors wide open and the sun making the few grey hairs on his head sparkle.
I gave him a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek before I took a seat outside.
“How’ve you been, baby?”
Trying to refrain from sighing, I smiled up at him. “I’m good.”
“Good, good.” He wiped his driver for the last time, putting the sock on and placing the club back in the bag.
The sound of the clubs clinking together gave me a feeling of nostalgia, immediately thinking about the times Dad had taken me and my brother to the driving range, in an attempt to make us enthusiastic about golf.
“Ezra, Bella! Dinner!” My mom’s voice sounded from the dining room, and my dad and I made our way inside.
Luckily for me, Katy wouldn’t shut up, but once the table was cleared and we were ready for dessert, all attention was on me.
“How’s your job, honey?” Mom asked, and I swallowed hard. She believed I was still working as assistant manager at a local business. I never told her they went bankrupt, or that I’d been fired long before that.
“It’s nice,” I replied, quickly taking a large gulp of wine.
Katy opened her mouth to say something, but to my surprise, Noah changed the subject.
“How is your new flower arrangement workshop, Nora?” he asked, leaning back in his chair and quickly shifting his gaze to my mother when I caught his eyes on me.
I knew my parents and Noah were close, especially since they had practically taken him in a few years ago, but the fact that he knew more about what was going on in my mother’s life than I did, stung a little.
“Well, I assumed it would be a casual thing, working with beautiful flowers, a little bit of gossiping, but no. It’s so competitive.”
I chuckled softly, rising from my seat to get dessert.
Apart from the constant tip-toeing with Noah and Katy around, I ended up having a good time.
It was amazing to see my parents again.
At one point, Noah had stepped outside for a smoke—probably, and Isaac and Dad were cleaning the kitchen, so I was left with Mom...and Katy.
The witch hadn’t said anything mean all night, but I was sure she was bursting with stuff to make fun of or be nasty about. She probably wouldn’t unload in the car or when we got home, but I just hoped she would slip up and mention something in Isaac’s company.
“I’m getting a promotion!” Katy beamed, and I blinked rapidly.
“Oh, how amazing,” my mother replied, giving Katy an awkward pat on the shoulder.
“Yeah, amazing,” I repeated softly, but nothing got past Katy.
“Did you get a promotion...ever?”
I clenched my teeth, trying to remain calm. She’s just trying to get a rise out of you, Bella.
“I’m sure you’ll get one soon, you’re only twenty-two of course,” Mom said, giving me a comforting smile.
When Isaac returned to the table, I decided to step out and see what Noah was up to. I needed to release some anger, and he was the perfect target.
With no hesitation in my step, I walked into the backyard, my eyes falling on the man I expected to see, sitting on the porch swing. He was rolling a cigarette between his fingers, watching the white stick move.
He seemed in trance, and I was about to say something and make myself known, when he grabbed his lighter and brought the cigarette to his lips.
There was sadness in his eyes, but I tried to ignore it.
“Smoking kills,” I said softly, but loud enough for him to hear.
He looked up to me, taking a puff before grabbing the cigarette between his fingers.
“That’s the point, Bellamy.”
My eyes widened slightly, and so did Noah’s, showing me that he let himself slip up—let me see a part of him he tried to keep hidden.
It made me wonder.
What demons was he fighting?