Time passed as I watched the neighborhood wind down until all that remained was the occasional afternoon runner. The sun was beginning to set, casting golden yellow rays through the thick trees that lined our street. I would say it was hard to notice them, the two guys who glistened with sweat as they ran down the sidewalk, but it wasn't. I could see them, only them, while they jogged by me. The taller one had short brown hair and tan skin. His slightly muscular form rippling under his grey tank top. The other black haired boy was slightly more pale. His hair was pulled back into a small ponytail while the flyaway strands that refused to stay bound clung wetly to his skin. I instantly recognized him and my heart skipped. As if reading my thoughts, Jason glanced my way. He smiled and slowed to a stop.
"Hey!" he yelled, waving to me.
Upon noticing his companion had left his side, the brown haired boy stopped as well. He stared at Jason, then at me. He gave me a stern glare as if suspiciously warning me to stay away. It sent chills down my spine.
"Um, h-hey!" I yelled back.
It would have been rude to just ignore Jason, but it seemed as though my acknowledgment angered the other guy more.
Jason leaned on the fence that lined our yard. "So, you live in this neighborhood too?"
"Yeah. Don't tell me--"
"Yep. We do too. We live further down that way," Jason said, pointing back the way they came. "It's on the edge of town, not that this town is very big."
"Uh, yeah," I replied nervously, unable to take my eyes off of the other guy.
Noticing my distraction, Jason punched the guy lightly on the arm.
"You're scaring her, Seth."
"Who is 'her'?"
"I'm Rachel Hill. Jason and I go to the same school."
"She also knows Mr. Carlile."
Seth's eyes widened at the mention of the teacher. He narrowed his eyes at Rachel in confusion. I bet he's wondering how I know him. It felt the same way when Jason saw Uncle.
"Uh-huh. Funny how you failed to mention that, little brother."
"Little brother? You're brothers? No offense, but you don't look alike," Rachel blurted.
"Yeah well, Seth favors our dad while I--" Jason began.
"Anyway, we should finish our run and head back. If we're too late, Dad and Nick will get worried," Seth interjected.
For a moment, Jason looked at his brother sadly. I got the sense that a painful memory passed between them and they left the conversation unfinished. Suddenly, Jason waved his brother off.
"You go ahead. I'll catch up."
"Is this the part of the movie where we both have a romantic moment, kiss, and walk away having feelings for each other? Because I usually gag at that part."
Both of them looked at me in surprise. They obviously were not expecting me to retaliate. Jason then burst out laughing while Seth appeared annoyed with his brother's behavior.
"I gotta admit, I wasn't expecting you to say anything like that! But look, sweetheart, I don't think you're my type so no worries on that end. Even if you were, that look is hardly appealing."
My cheeks flushed bright red and I glared at Jason. His mocking smile infuriated me. Seth shook his head and said goodbye before jogging on. Once he disappeared from view, there were a few moments of silence between Jason and I.
"So, would you like to enter the premises or not?" I asked, still stubbornly annoyed.
"'Course. I kinda wondered what the inside of your house would look like."
"Woah, hold on. I'm not inviting you inside!"
Jason shrugged. "Worth a shot." He opened the gate and joined me on the swing. He instantly shoved his hand in my bowl of popcorn. "Ooh, popcorn."
I jerked the bowl away, leaving him with only a few pieces in his hand. "Hands off! It's mine!"
"Damn, you're so stingy. That's cute."
Again, I turned red. That only seemed to amuse Jason more. Damn him! Why does he always have to mock me? I would never admit it to him, but I kind of enjoyed talking to him.
I ended up sharing with him after all. Well, I say that but he pretty much stole the whole bowl from me. We sat quietly on the swing, throwing the unpopped kernels in the yard. I don't think either of us knew what to say, or rather, what we could say that wasn't going to overstep our boundaries. There wasn't much going on besides school and our home lives. Neither of us wanted to talk about home. So, we just sat there in silence until my dad's truck rolled down the street.
"I gotta go. See you later!...Oh and don't tell your dad I was here."
"Wasn't planning on it. He would only get the wrong idea. See you," I replied, consciously aware of Jason's anxiousness.
Instantly, Jason hopped off the porch and jumped the neighbor's backyard fence. Moments later, Dad's truck pulled into the driveway. I stood up and watched him slam the door.
"Bad day?" I asked nervously.
Dad looked at me tiredly.
"Long story. Is there anything to cook for dinner?"
"Nope. Take out sound okay?"
"That sounds great. Take care of it, will you?"
"...Sure. The usual?"
"With a side of liquor?"
It was a stupid thing to ask, particularly since Dad wasn't in a good mood to begin with. I had a lot on my mind I wanted to talk to him about but he won't listen. I couldn't help but want to pick a fight with him after I spent all that time cleaning up his mess...as usual.
"Don't you start with me, Rachel! What I put into my body is my business! God, you're just like your mother!" Dad yelled.
Storming inside, the crashing thud of the front door startled me as Dad went inside. I could feel his anger and it was only going to get worse with alcohol. Reluctantly, I ordered pizza, grabbed some money, and waited on the front porch until it arrived. I tossed the box on the kitchen counter. Dad was already going to work on his first beer while the ESPN channel played on the tv. Having lost my appetite due to my anger, I put a few pieces on a plate and took it to my room anyway. It sat on my nightstand as I lay on my bed deep in thought.
"I'm just like my mother, huh? If I'm so much like her, maybe I should take off too," I whispered to myself.
Still, those comments always hurt the worst. I knew that no matter how much I wanted to, I wouldn't leave Dad alone. Maybe that's the shred of hope left in me that believes he can change back to the way he used to be. Stupid. It's never going to happen. Get over yourself. This is reality, not a movie. This won't have a happy ending. It can't.
"Any way you look at it. This can't keep going on the way it is for much longer. Something's gotta change. I don't want to be stuck like this for the rest of my life. I don't wanna be stuck here. I want to be free of this place. That's it. That's all I want."
Frustrated, angry, and tired, I cried myself to sleep. Damn, this is getting to be a habit, isn't it?