Today was turning out to be rather interesting. Okay, that sounded completely and utterly wrong, didn't it? Goodness, today has just been really...unusual. Yeah. That's the word. Unusual.
When Lyn came back with the music player and asked me to dance with her, how was I supposed to react? It wasn't as if I was some awkward 8th grader whom never danced with a girl before, but I didn't expect Lynette to ask me these sort of things. Or anyone really. But there we were. Dancing.
If there was one thing you had to know about Lynette was her frank behavior, and when she grabbed my hand and pulled me to the middle of the room, I shouldn't have been surprised, but then again, Lynette was always coming around and surprising everyone, wasn't she? Now that I think of it, before the school year began, I knew nothing about her. She was just another students at the same school, with no name and no face. She knew me somehow – How couldn't she? I was the straight A kid with a tendency to be a little anti-social so there's no wonder there was a few whispers behind my back. She probably thought I was some pompous freak with a little too much hot air in his head. But she came to me, asked me for my help, and now we're literally only a few inches apart from each other.
Who would've thought, right?
When the songs turned from up beat to something slow and a little cheesy, her laughs and outrageous giggles stopped and she simply smiled softly. I hadn't paid it much mind, but my body unintentionally moved much closer to hers. And I doubt she noticed that she did the same. I felt as though a heavy curtain draped over me, but the burden of its weight vanished just as quickly as it came. It wasn't some sort of hot rush of fury or something cold and suffocating, but warm and easy. But that one bright and beautiful moment had to end when something in my head screamed, “Ethan! For God's sake, what are you doing?!” and my legs felt tense and uneasy. I moved away just when she did.
She kept smiling, but timidly now. “That's enough dancing for now.” She said and I silently agreed, feeling a tad light headed. “You want to go?” Speechless, but trying my best to hide it, I only nodded.
When we made our way to the kitchen, I silently thanked the deities above for Alexis. The first time I saw her, I knew that she'd be the talkative type. I suppose that's what made her so similar to Lynette although there was certainly something different about the older sister that I couldn't describe. Maybe it was maturity, but if I said that out loud, I'm sure Lyn would try to hurt me. Or burn me alive. Or hang me. Which ever way is more painful, really.
Alexis was warm and welcoming, probably much like their mother by the way Lynette described her. The hug was a tad awkward though. Just saying.
After she poured Lyn and me some wine – which frankly was very uncomfortable, to be honest – Alexis seemed to become this big time starlet, with her eyes bright and shining and her smile just the same. Her teasing glances to Lynette didn't go unnoticed, by my at least. I'm not sure what was going on between the two, but when the older sister bent down and whispered into Lynette's ear, I remembered Riley and how much of an annoying brother he was to me: it seemed that was much like the case with the Brooks sisters. And with that thought in my head, I somehow had a picture of Alexis and Riley on their wedding day, chastising and mocking both Lyn and me. Oh God.
I choked a little, and couldn't suppress the cough that tickled at my throat. “You alright, Ethan?” Alexis asked, not too concerned and a little amused. She must have thought I heard whatever she whispered into her sister's ear.
“Oh, um, uh...” I stammered. I could see Lynette turning beat red and flush,, trying to search for words. “Um, quite find Ms...Excuse me, Alexis. The wine went down too fast.” I smiled anxiously. I must have looked like a weirdo because the older Brooks gave me a mischievous grin that vanished just as quickly as it appeared.
“I see...” she hummed and lightly bumped Lynette's elbow. Was that some sort of sisterly gesture that meant “Get this freak out of my kitchen before I show him all your baby photos?” or something equally threatening? Lynette looked awkwardly between her sister and me, before she cleared her throat – rather forcefully-- and said, “You know, we should go check out the garden and leave Alexis alone with her wine.”
Alexis arched her brow. “Are you saying I'm a drunk?”
“Kind of. You did offer me and Ethan wine and it's barely two-thirty.”
“You're such a brat, Lyn. I'm going to hurt you one of these day, you know that?” The older sister muttered, taking another sip of her wine.
Lynette looked incredibly impressed with herself while I just stood there, almost enjoying the exchange between the sisters. I wasn't sure whether I should intervene or not, but then again, no one did when me and Riley scrambled like six year-olds with wit. Oh God, I wonder how Riley's going to react to all this?
Stupidly, I became too engrossed in my thoughts that I completely became disconnected to their conversation, as it continued right before my eyes. In the midst of my silence, I heard a sharp voice call, “Ethan? 'Ello, Earth to Ethan of space? You there, handsome?”
I looked up, wide-eyed, at Alexis. I stuttered again. “Uh, sorry. Got my head lost in the clouds.”
“Uh-uh, you do that, do you? Nice catch, Lynette, the best guys are dreamers. Trust me, I know; I'm married to one.” Alexis laughed and winked at her little sister.
I blinked, my face blank. Now, how does a guy my age respond to that? Either unsubtly was a gene that ran in the family, or Alexis was just really bad at passing hints to her little sister. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and watched the younger one of the Brooks go red again. I could almost see hot air stream out of her head when she glared at Alexis.
She turned to me and roughly grabbed my arm, dragging me out of the kitchen as she yelled, “Go back to drinking, my alcoholic sister before she start telling us a sob story about your life.”
Alexis shrieked.“I am not an alcoholic!” Perhaps not, but I think she had a little too much either way. Thankfully, I lacked the courage to say that to anyone holding a glass of wine. I'm not Lynette, and I don't like provoking people who may or may not be drunk. Besides, she's a Brooks. If there's one trait she might have, it's the crazy-person gene. I don't want to be tackled again, thank you very much.
We were walking down a white hallway when I finally wiggled out of Lynette's infamous death grip. “Firstly, I just wanted to say: Ow,” I rubbed my arm and she smiled sheepishly, “and secondly, where are we going?”
Lynette snorted, almost mockingly. “To the garden, you nerd. You seriously need to stop day dreaming.”
I rolled my eyes for once. “Right. You want to go over how you used to get bad grades?”
“Leave your judgment at the door. Okay? Thanks.”
“I'll leave the judgment at the door, if you stop mocking me.”
Her eyebrow arched. “Are you proposing a truce, Mr. Marks?”
“I wasn't aware that we were at war.”
She laughed. “We aren't are we? But still, let's make a deal.”
Now I was interested. “If this deal involves me parading around school in my birthday suit when or if things go sour then think again, Ms. Brooks.”
“Hardly, Mr. Marks,” she said, looking haughty and prideful. “Because things will not go sour. In fact, if they do, I promise you that there'll be no showing of full frontal-nudity to the entire school body or anything equally humiliating. No repercussions of any sort, actually. Promise.”
I wasn't sure where this was leading and all I knew was that I was incredibly amused. I should come to the Brooks estate more often; it's a constant source of entertainment and insanity, apparently. “Fine, fine,” I chuckled, “What's this deal, you speak of Ms. Brooks?”
Lynette reached out and unlocked the back door to the patio and then onto the garden. I whistled at the large plane. Being a rich boy, myself, I almost wanted to call the Brooks a bunch of rich bastards, but I wasn't getting near the of a risk a black eye anytime soon. “So this is how it looks during the day time? Impressive.” I muttered, shoving my hands into the pockets of my jeans.
Lynette just shrugged and moved. “Thanks, but it kind of neglected. As you must've notice, my families pretty small. No little siblings around 'ere to go demolish the garden, and last I checked, Alexis doesn't have any secrets kids I don't know about.”
“You want some nephews and nieces to push around, don't you?” I grinned, but I thought the wish to be kind of endearing. My family was similar to hers. We were a small family, but we didn't have a large house that needed the giggles and chatter of little feet to make it any more homey. I love the house I grew up in; it was filled with so many happy and bittersweet memories.
“Kinda. The house seems quiet, you know? I mean, when Alexis leaves, it'll just be me and Dad. During the time I was getting bad grades, you can't imagine how silent the house became.” There was a small smile on her face, as she stretched her arms and leaned against the stone railing, gazing down onto the garden. “Not to mention that dinner time was just down-right awkward and suffocating, but it'd be nice to have a little sister or brother or something, you know?”
“No, I don't know. Only child remember?”
She looked back at me, a bit surprised. “I thought Riley was your brother when we first met.” The thought almost made me laugh. Life with Riley would've been hell as I grew up. Heck, it would probably make a good TV series as well. Life with Riley Marks. Ha!
I shook my head, smiling to myself. “Nah, he's my cousin, I told you at the dinner. Thanks for the bone-crushing hug by the way.”
She grinned right back at me. “You're welcome. If there's one way to get revenge, best do it with bear hugs and pain.”
“I hardly saw any reason for you to get revenge. We had an argument; it's not like I poisoned your cat or something.”
She bit her lip. “True, but do you really want to talk about this?”
No, I didn't. I knew I'd saying something about hating Jason Crowe or perhaps stammer out something equally stupid. Out of nowhere, I muttered, “Hey, what about that deal you mentioned?”
Lynette turned around and sat on the railing, swinging her legs up like a four year-old. “Ah, my proposal, yes. I wonder, Mr. Marks, will you be brave enough to accept it?”
I chuckled. “Depends, Ms. Brooks. I don't walk blindly into the sunset without sunglasses on.” She just laughed. “Right, right of course.” she giggled, “But see here, sir, my deal is very important to keep the balance of peace and sanity between us. That's why I bet that you and I can't tease one another for at least two weeks.”
I arched my eyebrow. Was she kidding? Me and her, not mocking each other? It's in our blood to. I mean, how else would we...you know, interact? “You realize you're sort of betting against yourself, right?”
Lynette shrugged sheepishly. “Yup. If I didn't, you'd pick my side of the bet and God knows what that smart brain of yours can come up with.”
Smart brain? Really?
I licked my lips and thought for a moment. She wasn't serious; we'd both break by the end of the first week, I just know it. Besides, me and bets don't mix well together. I shook my head and said, “No thanks, Ms. Brooks. I rather not.”
She snickered a little.“What, worried that you wouldn't last a day?” she mocked. I rolled my eyes at Lynette, and looked around us for a moment. I didn't want anyone to hear what I was about to say.
“I have more self-composure than you think, Lynette. It's just....” My hands left my pockets and they clasped together, threading and un-threading the fingers together as I looked around anxiously. “You see, Brandon and me made a bet when we were, uh, in the 7th grade and it kind of went sour.” I mumbled slowly. Ugh, horrible memories of my (mildly) disturbing middle school years returned to me as I tried to find the words to continue what I was saying. The problem with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders is that one or the other ends up doing something stupid at one point and that kid will grow up and somehow be reminded of the moronic things they ended up doing. I was one of those kids, sad to say, but so was Brandon, more or less. Brandon lacked shame (as well as subtlety, but that's a another story) and I didn't.
As for Lynette though, I had a feeling she caught up with my rising shame, as she smirked and swung her legs up higher. “Brandon? You mean the guy who tried to hit on me awhile back with that blonde friend of yours? Uh, the one with purple stripes in her hair? Is he her brother or something, they seem a lot alike. I mean by their looks; not so much their personality.”
“Yup. That's Brandon and Ashley. You have a wonderful memory with faces, just not with names, you know that?” I replied, trying to steer clear from the topic I unskillfully brought up.
Lynette shrugged again. “Yeah, my dad always says I'd be a horrible a politician because I'm better with faces than with names.” She shook her head. “Or I'd make a good one. Until, you know, I tackle someone.”
I almost laughed at that, but with rising awkwardness to consider, I knew whatever came out of my mouth next would make me sound like a buck-tooth nerd who didn't know how to act around a girl like Lynette. Then again, what boy would? Jason Crowe? Eh, doubt it.
“So...” Lynette began, after a moment or two of silence, “You going to tell me about this bet, or do I have to go ask your friend, Brandon?”
I tried to be smooth. “Don't bother trying. He'd just hit on you for awhile until you sucker punch him.”
She rolled her eyes. Ha, attempt failed. “Shut up and tell me already,” Lyn ordered.
I sighed and felt a bit twitchy. I shifted my weight from one foot to another, contemplating whether I should really tell her. Hell, the only people who know aside from Brandon was Ashley and Riley. Well Riley knew little (the less he knew, the less he can use against me), but he still knew something. But Lynette was there, looking right at me with that little teasing glint in her stare and a grin across her mouth, just twitching to blurt a witty insult or two. I huffed and looked up to meet her eyes. “Alright,” I muttered, regretting everything I was going to say, “I'll tell you. Just...don't tell Jason or something. He'll never let it down.”
She frowned, her grin gone. “I don't share my friends' secrets with my boyfriend, Ethan.” I ignored her. I'd never trust Jason, but I dropped it anyway.
I crossed my arms and began: “Back in 7th grade, me and Brandon – even then – were close. Ashley was going to an all-girls school at the time, so she knew nothing about the trouble Brandon got me into. So, uh, half-way through the school year we got a transfer student. A girl named Ellen or Ella. Brandon had a thing for her and always volunteered to partner up with her which kind of lead to –”
“Let me guess: All the boys started teasing him because he had a crush?”
“Yeah, the wonderfulness of pre-puberty boys. Anyway, they....well, we taunted him and made a bet about if he had the guts to kiss her or not. Brandon, instead of kissing Ella-what's-her-name, turned the tables on me. He said I'd never kiss a girl, I said would, and he said if I could then I would kiss the transfer student instead of him. So, I, um, followed her into the girl's bathrooms after a pep rally and I kissed her right on the lips. Then I ran out of there and pretended to be sick for the entire week so I wouldn't have to go to school and suffer the humiliation.”
Oh horrible memories came back to me in a flash and I began to hate myself all over again. Jeez, the stupid things we did as kids right?
Lynette blasted out laughing, her face practically going red. Forget what I said about the things we did when we were kids, how about the stupid things we did as teenagers? Surely, trusting Lynette Brooks with this sort of things is one of them. God, I can picture the months of therapy I'll be needing after this.
“You! Her! KISS!” she managed to squeal out.
I blushed.“Right,” I said, attempting to sound pissed and annoyed beyond belief, “Knew you would laugh. Stop it, it's not like you didn't do stupid things back when you were in middle school.”
“Of course I did! But I'm not the one who followed a girl into the bathroom and kissed her! Oh wow.” Lynette stopped laughing for a bit, taking a few deep breaths. Ugh, the image of her face would be stuck in my head for week, I just knew it. “Right,” She cleared her throat, “what happened next? After you came back to school?”
“Uh, apparently she had a crush on me and was absolutely delighted by kiss. She ended being my girlfriend. Well, if you call following me where ever I went and eating lunch with me as being my girlfriend then yeah. Brandon wouldn't speak with me for weeks after that.” I summarized, my voice sheepish.
She muffled another outrageous laugh with her hand. “Oh my God, Ethan, what would your mother say?”
I shrugged. “I don't know. Maybe she'd be rolling in her grave?” My mouth fell shut. Did I really just...?
That was a careless and cruel thing to say, but talking about my mother didn't hurt as much as it did years ago. She was dead; I moved on – but some part of me nagged that I was being disrespectful. Mother would've hated that.
Lynette's face dropped, her smile gone. I managed to slip a big secret that I thought was obvious to the world – expect Lynette was out of the loop. “Oh.” She said. I saw her swallow as her gaze shifted to my ear. She couldn't look at me directly, when she asked, “Your mother's dead?”
Another thick swallow. “How long?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean...” She licked her lips. “How long has she been dead?”
“Oh, um.” I didn't count the years, the months, or the days since she died. But I think Lynette does – for her own mother.
“She died when I was three or four, I guess so it's been...a long time. I didn't really know her, I guess.” I remembered her, even if some of the memories felt obscure and puzzling, but I remember her. My mother had a sweet smile and smelt like apples. I was reminded of her very scent every time I saw Daniela cutting up some for breakfast or my dad picking one up and staring at it, then simply putting it down again. I knew her voice too – Riley keeps an old tape of my first birthday, as a silent favor to me I'd like to think. “Happy Birthday, Ethan!” she said, straight into the camera, my miniature self in her arms. Those simple words, and every cry and giggle that escaped her was enough for me to imagine her voice and things she would say to me. It was enough to miss her, but not enough for me to know her. Still, she was my mother, and by that single right, I loved her immensely.
Lynette finally looked me in the eyes. “How did she die?”
“Ovarian cancer.” I replied. “It was a long time coming, from what my father told me. We knew she was sick and dying so when she passed away...I don't know, I guess we all got the chance to say goodbye a long time ago, and so did she. I was just a baby, but I think even I understood where my mother had gone.”
I watched Lynette watching me. I broke a fine line between sweet, oblivious glee and...whatever it was she was feeling. Probably nostalgia. A part of me was envious I had to admit, that she knew her mother; that she got to feel that woman's love in full and had more memories than I had, but another part – a silent, partially thankful side – understood that the tragedy she faced wasn't one I could bare to live through on my own.
Lynette looked away from me and turned her head to watch the scenery behind her. She wasn't crying, but I doubt she could keeping looking at me without seeing her own reflection.
“Do you miss her?” she asked. No, but yes. It was hard to crave the presence of someone you never really knew, but I miss...the idea of her. She sounded like...like that one person that seemed to make everything better. Everyone has one.
I sighed, my shoulders sagging. “I don't know. I guess I do, to an extent. But I have my step-mom – I mean it's different, I know it is, but she means a lot and vice versa. And there's Riley, Dad, and Daniela. The Alfred to my Batman.” I laughed, but the sound came out muffled and awkward. “I miss her, but...she's left way too early for me to really miss her. Does that make sense?”
Of course it did, I tell myself. But I had to ask her.
“Yeah,” Lynette replied, simply and steadily. “Yeah, it does. It makes lot of sense.
“...So, was she anything like you?”
I shrugged again. “A little, I suppose. My dad always said that I talk like I know everything, the same way my mother did and I look like her, but Daniela likes to say that I take after my dad, only I'm gentler.” Which made sense, but like hell I would admit to that.
She turned back to me, finally smiling.“Really?” she said teasingly. It was good to see her smile like that. Lynette had a wonderful smile.
I scowled, feigning annoyance. “What do you mean by “really”? I don't like your tone, Miss.”
“Oh golly-gee, sir, I didn't mean to cause offense. You're honestly the nicest, softest, giant bundle of fluff, sir, I'd never mean to offend you.”
“Okay, I can understand gentle, I can understand some other things, but, like, fur? Really? That's not an insult. What am I? A cat”
She was silent for a moment, then she leaned in close and whispered. “Yup.” Then she jumped up and ran back inside, throwing me a raspberry before her epic retreat. I think I heard something along the lines of: “Ethan's a kitty-cat, Ethan's a kitty-cat, Ethan's a kitty-cat” followed by, “Holy hell, Lynette are you drunk? Oh my god, where are you going with my packet of chips, you brat!” and then some giggling and screeching on Alexis' part.
I didn't – never mind. I didn't want to understand.