Lucas felt no sickness as he pulled up at Lincoln Drive, counting each number as he cruised past.
“…Two, three, four.”
“You can park in the driveway; Keith keeps his car in the garage,” Andrea interjected.
“Shan’t.” And he lowered the handbrake as he parallel-parked level with one corner of the building. Lucas beamed to himself; driving his Opal was one of the things he could control with detailed efficiency.
Andrea skipped out of the car before Lucas had his chance to welcome her out. He nodded to her as she headed to ring the doorbell, her bounce somewhat failing over the distance, a path she had once walked so many times… When Lucas met up with her, locking the car remotely- and suavely- from over his shoulder, the door was already beginning to swing open.
It was Keith who answered the door, and the look on his face revealed that he was close to punching Lucas. Both met stared into the other’s eyes for a minute, not letting either waver.
Lucas felt the dainty hand on his shoulder, and, though he had planned to pull back anyway, Andrea barged in front of him, standing between her loves so that Keith’s exact plan would not come to be reality.
“I’m here to pick up my sister,” Lucas remarked, leaning to the side to see the man he was speaking to. “Is she ready?”
“She should be.”
“Can we come in, Keith?”
Keith eyed Andrea. There was no denying the sorrow that clung to his eyes, too.
“Come in,” he answered, without resolution.
At first, Léa was nowhere to be seen. Lucas called her name. Seconds later, her brown fluff of hair poked down from the stairs. This was followed by a body and soon Léa stood on the stairs, hands on her hips.
“I’m just checking I have everything. I’m sorry, Lucas.”
“That’s fine. Though, I thought you said you were ready when you phoned me.”
“It’s best to double check,” she replied.
“And are you?”
“Give me…two minutes.” With a giggle, Léa disappeared back upstairs, leaving Lucas with the clattering sounds of wood against wood.
In the background of his vision, Lucas caught the look Keith gave Andrea. She shrugged and turned her attention to him, as Lucas moved away.
“Keith,” Andrea spread her hands wide. “I’m sorry?”
“I don’t know. I want you to understand that…I don't want things to be bad between us.”
“It’s going to take more than sweet words to fix this,” said he, ominously.
Lucas kept his back to their conversation, feeling himself blush profusely, utterly embarrassed. He could tell that Andrea was withholding what she really wanted to say, namely because he featured in most of her argument for leaving. Lucas had seen enough of that yesterday evening to know when he was not wanted in a house. Nevertheless, Lucas pretended to study a painting of roses on the wall, hoping that Keith couldn’t see him fidgeting. It wouldn’t do to be weak.
He desperately tried not to listen to the silent argument brewing behind him, but it was hard to ignore the electrostatic in the air. Andrea bristled with a sigh. Lucas would have liked to turn around, expecting her hair to begin to frizz, as it would if they were performing one of Ryan Garner’s balloon experiments on her.
Instead, this time, he noted the uneven layers of books and trinkets that Keith had dotted around his townhouse; on the ledges, the tables, and everywhere he turned, there was a stupid mismatch of items, stacked so as if they didn’t belong together.
Lucas winced to himself.
“Can I at least explain?” Her tone was rising.
“Hmm. You explained quite thoroughly last night.”
“Keith! This is why we ended up in that situation!” Lucas forced himself not to turn, despite the distress in Andrea’s voice.
“I’m sorry;” Léa’s fruitful voice echoed throughout the crackle of the living room air. Silence, then: “have you seen my jacket?”
Both Keith and Lucas turned at identical moments.
“It’s upstairs in the…spare bedroom, Léa. The desk-chair, perhaps?”
And he’d already replaced the belle with Lucas’ sister. Lucas shook his head before a hand on his arm roused him. Andrea was gently smiling.
Léa herself sprinted upstairs, returning in a second as the door behind her snagged against the tacky panelling.
“Ready?” Lucas asked.
“Yes. Andrea, all your stuff is in its usual place. Keith…thanks for…yeah.”
“Hmm,” said he.
At the front door, Léa stopped, causing Lucas to jump back so that she would not crash into him. Her face, tight and sleep-stained, was turned towards Andrea, already laden with the multitude of personal belongings that she had just stolen from the room upstairs.
“Do you want me to shift some of that stuff into the car, Andrea?”
“Oh, no,” Andrea remarked. “I’m walking back.”
“What? But you’ve got so much.”
“My house is the opposite direction to Redshire,” Lucas told his sister. “It just wouldn’t be productive.”
“No!” Léa sprung back from Lucas, her hands up defensively. “I won’t deprive Andrea of a lift. In fact, let me help you there.”
Lucas crossed his hands over his chest. He shot his sister a glare.
She spun, too.
“I am not letting Andrea suffer for my escape. Besides, I haven’t seen Lansdale yet. I’m in no rush to leave.”
“That’s not what you said on the phone.”
“I’m not going to argue with you, Lucas.”
“You already are.”
Lucas rubbed his forehead, puzzled.
“And just where are you going to stay? I don’t have any room. What about your own stuff?”
“You can stay here,” they heard Keith saying. It took a minute for the information to hit Lucas. Léa, however, bounced up to Keith, bobbing in her sharp heels.
“Well, you dealt with Lucas so brutally. Anyone who does…” A tiny smile slid onto his lips. Keith was almost blushing!
“What a difference the sister is!” Léa said in a smarmy tone. She put on the crafty expression that she used when talking to her own friends about Lucas.
“But you can’t stay here; that just wouldn’t work,” Lucas countered, hands still folded. He didn’t like the way Léa looked at Keith, as if she had never been unreserved before. Luckily, in a fragment of a second, her expression had mutated back to that of discomfort.
“Of course not,” she said, as she examined her hands, turning away bitterly.
“You could,” added Andrea. She didn’t even catch Lucas’ second glare. “The townhouse has space enough. And I’ll leave some of my clothes and toiletries here. If we pop upstairs, I can find some outfits that might fit you. It’ll help me, too, if that’s what you would like, Léa.”
“Umm…” Léa paused. On came the insecure face.
Only one voice broke her silence.
“It would be nice to have the company.”
“Really?” Léa spun to face Keith once more.
Keith extended a hand.
“Really. Welcome to Lincoln Drive.”
“Okay,” Léa replied, taking the hand nervously. “I promise I won’t be…in your hair for too long!”
Keith gave a curt nod, but Léa was already brimming with two much excitement to notice. She gestured wildly to Andrea, her Gorge genes seeping through, something which did not go unnoticed by Keith at the other side of the room.
“Upstairs, come on! Let’s sort out what we can, and then I’ll help you carry some of that to the car. Just put it on that chair, or something.”
“Andrea,” Lucas called as he went at the door, feeling the heat on his face from Keith’s stare.
“Yes?” She turned to him, and Lucas was suddenly surprised at the amount of expectancy in her eyes.
“Umm…I’ll be in the car.”