“Hi Kayla,” my mom greeted after opening the door the next day, “How are you doing?”
“I’m good, thanks, Ms. Bishop. Thank you for inviting me,” Kayla said, ducking her head shyly. She peeked up at me through her lashes and mouthed the words “sorry.” It confused me until an annoying high pitched, nasally voice piped in from behind her.
“Hey, Ms. Bishop. I’m Delia. Hope you don’t mind if I tag along with my sister here?” Delia grinned widely as she squeezed Kayla closer to her and winked at me. “Hey Kai. I love your house.”
My eyes widened at how friendly Delia was being. She hated Kayla. She was a bully and she was always up for torturing her. What was her game? I had a strange feeling that something fishy was going on.
“Oh wow, what a nice surprise. Hello girls. Call me Hannah, please,” she waved her hand in a shooing motion towards the kitchen, “You’re both very welcome. I’m glad you could make it. I’ve been dying for the chance to get to know you, Kayla. Kai talks about you pretty much non stop. And of course I would love to get to know you as well, Delia.”
“Mom, I do not. Geez,” I protested tiredly, Kayla laughed and her cheeks were tinted pink, “Hey Kayla. Hey uh... Delia.”
“It’s true. Don’t listen to him,” she leaned in, whispering to Kayla before adding, “We made lasagna. I hope that’s okay. I wasn’t sure what you like.”
“No problem Ms- I mean Hannah. I’m not picky,” Kayla laughed as we sat at the kitchen island.
“Me neither, Hannah. What a lovely name,” Delia butted in, trying to be the center of attention as always.
I gave Kayla a look, trying to ask her what was going on without using words. She shrugged and raised her eyebrows in an attempt to tell me she didn’t know either. Why was Delia here?
“What would you two like to drink, Kayla and Delia? You have such pretty names, by the way. Don’t you think so, Kai?” She rambled, turning to me with a big grin on her face.
“Awww thanks. I’m cool with whatever.” Delia chimed in. I was trying not to be rude to her because my mom kept shooting me strange looks as if to ask what was wrong with me, but I was seriously clueless.
“Yeah, I guess mom,” I mumbled, mouthing “sorry” to Kayla who just grinned. I glanced at Delia who beamed and I rolled my eyes.
“Yeah, anything you have is fine. Like I said, I’m not picky.” Kayla practically whispered. She didn’t seem like herself with Delia around.
“Is soda fine? We have orange crush or cherry cola,” Mom said, holding up two cans for her to choose from.
“Soda’s perfect. Cherry please.” Kayla said softly.
“Can I have an Orange Crush, please?” Delia butted in again, causing me to sigh loudly which produced a smack on my arm from my frustrated mother.
“Alright, there you go,” she said setting the can in front of them and turning to me, “You want cherry too, Kai?”
“Yes, please,” I said with a yawn and she handed me a can, which I took gratefully and chugged half of.
“Did you stay up late playing video games again, Kai? You look terrible,” my mom frowned at me, concern making her eyes crinkle.
“No mom. I’m fine. I just didn’t sleep well, is all. Don’t worry about it,” I sighed, wanting her to let it go.
“Oh was it a nightmare again, hun?” I winced, wishing she hadn’t of brought it up in front of Kayla and especially not in front of Delia.
“Mom,” I began, my voice pleading, “I said I’m fine, okay?”
She nodded at me tight lipped, but didn’t say a word. I knew what that look meant though. We were going to have words later, about my attitude and yadda yadda yadda. When I peeked over at Kayla, she was biting her lip and playing with the tab on her can, doing her best to avoid looking at us.
“So, tell me a little about yourself girls. Do your parents live nearby? Any other siblings? Hobbies?” Mom pressed, choosing to stand instead of sit at a stool like us normal folk.
“There’s not much to tell. Yeah my dad lives nearby, but my mom passed when I was born. No other siblings. As for hobbies, I write poetry and read. Oh and I have a job at the mall,” Kayla replied, sipping on her soda and smiling.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your mom,” my mom said, reaching out a hand to pat her hand, “That must be difficult sometimes.”
Kayla shrugged and smiled a sad smile, “It has been, but we each have our burdens to bear, I guess.”
“That we do! You have a great friend here, Kai. You better hang on to her,” my mom chuckled and raised her soda in a sort of toast, “I need to finish up some things for dinner. You guys hang tight, okay?”
“Okay,” both Kayla and I said in unison and then laughed.
“Can I help, Hannah?” Delia said, hopping off of the bar stool and smiling ear to ear.
“No way, I’ve got this covered, but thank you for your kind offer,” my mom said with an appreciative twinkle in her eye and a big smile on her face, but as soon as she saw me, she frowned.
My mom was thrown off a bit, but when she glanced at me intently and I nodded vigorously, I think she got the message loud and clear. She nodded at Delia and thanked her. Delia followed her into the kitchen like a puppy, chatting her ear off.
“Wanna help me set the table?” I asked, breathing a sigh of relief at a Delia free moment.
“Cool. Sounds like a plan,” Kayla said, getting up to follow me as I went to grab dishes.
“Plates are right over here. I’ll grab the silverware and napkins,” I said pointing to a shelf above my head.
Kayla grabbed the plates and helped me set up, staying unusually quiet. Every so often she cleared her throat and snuck a peek at me, then quickly looked away.
“Okay. So, why is she here? What’s going on?” I blurted, breaking the silence while I placed the silverware on the table next to the plates.
“Oh my god. I have no clue. She’s acting so weird lately.” She looked at me with wide, innocent eyes.
“It’s just so weird, right? She’s like one of those pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
“Agreed,” Kayla whispered and then laughed as my mom and Delia walked back into the room.
“The table looks beautiful,” my mom hemmed and hawed as she and Delia set down dishes full of food onto the table.
“Great job, guys,” Delia chirped happily, taking a seat and twirling her necklace around a finger.
“I love your necklace, Delia. It’s beautiful. May I take a closer look?” My mom asked as she sat down next to her and leaned in.
“Thank you! I have a deep connection with the moon,” Then she grabbed a plate and dug in, “Everything looks great!”
Kayla and I exchanged a secretive look at one another, confusion written all over our faces. We had a really nice time chatting and eating. My mom and Kayla pretty much carried the conversation, I only responded when I was talked to directly. Other than that, I chewed in silence, observing whatever show Delia was trying to put on. She grinned so widely, she showed all her teeth when she saw me looking at her, which forced a shudder out of me. Then she got back to stuffing her face merrily. I tried my best to ignore her.
My mom hadn’t had much time to cook recently after her jobs, but she always said how much she enjoyed it. She said it relaxed her. I should have her teach me. I could use some relaxing myself. As I looked at the both of them getting along, I was happy in that moment. Even with Jude glowering in the corner, it was a good meal with good people. Well, mostly good people. I had no idea what was going on with Delia and I didn’t know what Jude’s problem was lately. He was going to have to get over it and soon or I was going to lose my freaking mind. I was so glad when the dinner was over and Kayla left, taking her crazy step-sister with her.
“Oh my god dude, I can’t believe you’re here already!”
“I know, right? These past few weeks flew by pretty quickly. I’m so glad though, I’ve been looking forward to it for a while,” Preston said, hugging me at the front entrance of the Colorado airport.
“Wow, I didn’t expect this place to be so huge! My mom said we could hang out here for a few hours if you want. Go exploring or whatever.”
“Cool. I’ve never been to Denver before. Sounds awesome,” I grabbed one of his bags and followed him outside, “So where is that super hot mom of yours?”
“Gross bro,” I said wrinkling my nose in disgust at the thought, “She’s outside in the car waiting on us.”
He laughed and nudged me, “What? It’s totally true. I was hoping she would be here to greet me, hoping she was finally ready for a real man like me,” he winked.
“That’s disgusting,” I made a gagging noise as we walked through the carport to level four, looking for mom’s car.
“Only for you. It would be a dream come true for me.”
“So, you hungry? Or did you eat on the plane?” I said, changing the subject as I rolled my eyes at him.
“Starved. Yeah, but it was nasty.”
“What did you have?”
“I’m not sure, but it was really, really gross,” he laughed, waving at my mom as we spotted her standing by the trunk. “I think it was chicken and rice with gravy, but it smelled like cat food.”
“Preston. So good to see you. It’s been quite awhile,” my mom said, going in for a hug.
“Sure has,” Preston said with a smirk, waggling his eyebrows at me while they hugged, milking it for as long as he possibly could.
They pulled back and my mom grinned at him, looking him over, “Wow. You’ve grown up! I can’t believe it.”
“Thank you Ms. Bishop,” Preston said politely, loading his luggage into the trunk of the car with our help.
“Please. Call me Hannah,” my mom smiled over at him, unaware that it was making him blush, “Ms. Bishop makes me sound so old.”
“You? Never,” Preston flirted, but my mom was oblivious, thankfully. Poor guy didn’t stand a chance.
“Mom, do you want to go out to eat? We’re both hungry,” I said hopeful, rubbing my belly for emphasis.
“Sure! What are you two boys in the mood for?” Mom said as we all hopped into the car and buckled our seat belts. Preston was shotgun and me in the back seat, naturally.
“I don’t know. I’m up for whatever. Just super hungry,” I said, wanting to stop the growling in my stomach before a feral beast jumped out of my body and devoured everything in sight.
“Me too,” Preston said with a chuckle, “You pick, Hannah.”
“All right. What about tacos?” Mom suggested as she started the engine and backed out of the parking spot.
“Yum,” Preston and I said in unison.
“All right, tacos it is,” mom said with a snort, exiting the carport.
We ate in the car while my mom drove, which probably isn’t the safest option now that I’m thinking about it, but we were all hungry and not thinking clearly. Besides, everyone does it, right? Along the way, Preston filled us in on what had been going on in his life since we left. My mom kept asking him questions, which he was delighted to answer. Honestly. He knew he had no chance with a grown woman, didn’t he? If not, he was seriously delusional. We went to a few stores in Denver we had never heard of, getting a few souvenirs, various movies for entertainment and some clothes that were on sale.
“Wow, your dad bought a boat? Have you been on it?” Mom asked with a broad smile as she started for home, “I’ve always wanted to go sailing.”
“Yeah I’ve been on it a couple of times. It was pretty cool, I guess,” he admitted with a grin.
“Did you get motion sickness?” I jumped in, trying to keep his attention on me so he’d stop thinking about my mom.
“A little, but they have patches and all sorts of stuff for that nowadays. It wasn’t a big deal,” he said with a shrug, trying to appear nonchalant.
“That is very true,” mom said.
Preston went on and on and on, but it was nice to hear him talk. It had been too long since I last saw him. By the time we reached town, I was yawning.
My mom smiled, pulling into our driveway, “Well, we’re here. This is us.”
“It’s really nice. I like the stone work and the gray shutters. Cool,” Preston commented, seeming genuinely impressed, “Whoa! Your tree is massive.”
He of course was referring to the gigantic fake white tree my mom set up for Christmas. It was decorated with silver tinsel, silver bulbs and white lights. She goes a little overboard for the holidays. Thankfully, she hadn’t found the box of the other Christmas decorations or our whole place would be covered in wreaths and stuff.
“Thanks kiddo! We like it.” I covered up a giggle with a cough as Preston grimaced. So much for him thinking he had a chance in hell with my mom, “I wish I could find that darn box of stuff. I miss having lights on the outside and putting up our stockings. I just haven’t had time or money to buy much more. It sucks that we have to rent, too, but once we can get a good savings built up, we can get something more permanent.”
“Wait until you see my bedroom though, Preston. It’s pretty huge,” I chimed in, biting my lip to keep from laughing at his sour expression.
“Awesome,” he mumbled, pouting slightly still at being referred to as “kiddo.”
We got out of the car and brought his bags inside, placing them in my room. My mom went to get ready for work, leaving us both in my room. He looked around at my artwork and posters, commenting on some of the new stuff I had done before I left Chicago.
“Your cast is coming off while I’m here, right?” Preston asked, tapping on the ghastly thing like he was knocking on a door or something.
“Yes, tomorrow. Finally. I hate not being able to draw,” I said sighing as I sat on the edge of my bed.
“Yeah, I can understand that I guess. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I couldn’t play baseball, basketball or run track. That would be the most suck-tastic thing ever,” he replied, sitting on the guest bed that we put in my room a week ago.
“Agreed. You would be totally lost,” I laughed as I nodded.
“Yeah you’re probably right,” he agreed with me, laying back on the bed to stare at the ceiling.
“Maybe you should get some other hobbies, just in case that professional ball player dream doesn’t pan out,” I joked, chuckling.
Instead of laughing like I expected, though, he sighed. “That’s what my mom keeps saying, but my dad says I shouldn’t worry about it because I’m going to be a football legend. I don’t even know if that’s what I want anymore. What if it’s the only thing I’m good at?”
“Wow, really?” I asked with raised eyebrows, “I’m sure you’re good at other things.”
“Oh yeah? Like what?”
“Like,” I paused, thinking of something positive, “Films. You used to make awesome films about our adventures when we were kids. Remember?”
“Oh yeah! I did enjoy making movies. So, my dad is pressuring me to be one thing, while my mom is hoping I’ll be something better than my dad,” he said with a chuckle.
“Wow. That’s harsh I guess.”
“That’s my parents, though. They haven’t changed much from how they used to be. You met them a few times more than was necessary to know what I mean, right?” Preston said leaning up on his side to look over at me.
I did the same, facing him, so I could see him better, “Yeah I guess that’s true. Your parents are a trip.”
“Yeah, a trip down a very long, winding, never-ending hallway to hell.”
“Geez, nice imagery there bud,” I chuckled.
“But it’s true!” Preston insisted, throwing one hand up. “They already have my whole life planned out without even getting my input. I might as well be a ghost!”
“Poor baby. I really am a ghost,” Jude said in a mocking tone, appearing without warning, “At least he gets to have a life. Whether it’s predetermined or not, at least he has one.”
I glanced over at Jude with a small amused smile, but tried not to otherwise react in any way at what Jude had said. He was hovering near my ceiling in front of my closet. The irony was not lost on me.
“I’m going to work, sweetie. You two have fun,” my mom said, popping her head around the corner and offering a wide smile that showed all her pearly whites.
“Alright, mom. See you later.”
“Yeah. Have a good night,” Preston offered politely.
“Thank you. I will try. Hopefully that stupid Randi has gotten her act together. I swear. Working with her is as bad as babysitting sometimes.” She chuckled and shrugged before making her exit.
“So, what do you want to do?” I asked, yawning, “We could watch a movie or play a game or something if you want.”
“That’s fine. Is it lame I just want to sleep, too?” Preston chuckled, yawning as well.
I threw a pillow at him, “Only if you want to act like an old man.”
“Good one,” Jude snickered, looking a little left out over there in the corner by himself.
I glanced at him, feeling guilty that I had forgotten about him. He shrugged, trying to smile, but not succeeding. Poor Jude. It must really suck for him. I wish I knew what to do to make things right for him.
Preston caught it with his face, laughing as he tossed it back, “Hardy har har. Let’s play a game. It’s been forever since I’ve had the pleasure of kicking your butt.”
“I hate to disappoint you, but my skills have improved since you last saw me,” I protested, grabbing the controllers of my PlayStation 4.
“Oh , butt-face? I doubt that,” he raised an eyebrow, laughing.
“Right. I forgot. Well this is going to blow chunks,” I said looking down at my cast and blowing out a breath.
“You guys are just adorable,” Jude said with narrowed eyes as he shot past us towards the ceiling creating a small draft, clearly miffed. “I’ll see you later.”
“Dude! What the frick was that? Did you feel a breeze or was it just me?” Preston exclaimed.
I shrugged and shook my head, not knowing why he was acting so weird exactly. Maybe he was getting jealous that he couldn’t have me all to himself. He was fine when we were alone, but if anyone else was around me, he was a crabby jerk. It wasn’t my fault he was dead. He should stop taking it out on me.
What was his deal anyways?