Chapter 4:

            Los Angeles International Airport is crowded with incoming tourists with cameras strapped around their pale necks and wearing gaudy shorts. Some are sporting ridiculous visors dyed in bright pinks and blue tones, while others look more like they'd arrived in the seventies rather than Los Angeles. 

            Though there's air-conditioning, I can feel the beads of sweat collecting between my back and my bag. My tank top and shorts would have worked perfectly back in Toronto, but I have no idea what will work here. Not that I even care.

Sophie told me that the guys here are supposed to be gorgeous and that celebrities are as common as the sun's rays over the city of Los Angeles. Except, I reminded her, I'm going to Trent, which, if I may so kindly state, is in the middle of freaking nowhere. Not exactly celebrity or boy heaven. Not that I'd care anyway, I've never been one to attract many boys. 

            "I'm so excited," mom giggles for the millionth time today. Five hours on a plane is bad enough without having my mother continue her enthusiasm through my much-needed sleep. "I haven't seen Maria in so long, not since you were four. I wonder how she's changed and if she's still as beautiful as before." 

            I roll my eyes and continue pulling my rolling suitcase behind me. "You'll know soon enough, won't you?" 

            "Just try to be nice, okay Kris? We're staying with her and her son after all."

            "I wouldn't have to be nice if we hadn't of moved at all," I murmur low enough for her not to hear me. 

            A family with three toddlers is walking ahead of us and I try to ignore the only girl of the three as she picks her nose. It's pretty nasty. She does this thing where she sticks her pudgy finger in her small nose, then pulls it out slowly so that whatever she's found strings out, like a sticky spider's web. One of the boys is passed out as his dad carries him, his hay-blond hair sticking up from several cow-licks. The other is talking to his mom, hardly breathing, about how there are so many colours in this airport. God, I hope this isn't what awaits me in this State. 

            "Lisa?" A shrill voice calls from somewhere ahead of the family and I finally tear my eyes away from the nose picker. "My gosh, look at you!"

            My mom then proceeds to squeal like a high school girl (mind you, I've never done such a thing) before running down the remaining few steps left to enter the arrivals area. Around me, a chorus of excited cries and laughter erupts as families and visitors spot their loved ones. 

            Finally turning my eyes back towards my mom, who is now engulfed in a sea of crazy curls and tanned arms, I spot possibly one of the hottest guys I've ever seen. I mean, he is what Sophie would call, "Typical L.A." which in her language translates to: Way hotter than average. His dark brown, almost black curls are gelled expertly and his light brown eyes observe my mom and this stranger with curiosity. If I wasn't so embarrassed with their behaviour, I would have said something flirty, which isn’t how I normally act around guys. I shake my head and force the thought out. This place is already messing with mind. 

            "Maria, oh wow, you look amazing," my mother gushes. "Your hair is just as awesome as ever!" 

            I cannot believe my mom just used the word "awesome". But I have to admit, Maria is really pretty. For a mature woman. Okay, she's gorgeous, but it's all semantics really. My eyes move from the cooing pair back to the tanned masterpiece in front of me. His wife-beater makes a wicked contrast against his tanned skin and his muscles appear to want to jump out at me. 

            "Maria, this is my daughter Kristina. Isn't she something?" My mom always has this note of pride when introducing me to her friends, like a trophy for the supposedly awesome life she's been living. But who are we kidding? "Kris," mom turns to me, "you may not remember her, but this is Maria!" I roll my eyes again. I am getting so good at it that it just comes out automatically. 

            "Yeah, mom, I was four. Don't remember much," I state, giving her the stink eye. 

            A flash of annoyance sweeps past her eyes, but no, she won't let her reluctant teenage daughter ruin her special reconnection with her friend. "We've known each other for a long time, Kris." She states this proudly and I know that she is trying to rub something in my face; I just can't pinpoint exactly what it is. "It just shows how strong our friendship is if we can still be this close so far apart."  Ah, there it is. Just because Sophie and I aren't prime examples of best friends (she kissed my only boyfriend in grade ten at a party and my mom never forgave her) doesn't mean that we won't last through this separation. When we go back, I gulp, if we ever go back, I'm sure Sophie and I will still be like two peas in a plant, or however the old saying goes.

            "Kris, very nice to see you again," Maria smiles warmly at me and I can't help but give her a small smile. I guess this lady is used to awkward teenagers. "Do you remember my son, Gabrielle?" She leans back and grabs a hold of the broad shoulder belonging to the insanely hot guy that I'd been eyeballing for the last five minutes. Well, at least I can see the resemblance. They both have the wild hair and brown eyes, but he's got a different facial bone structure than she does. While her face is feminine and soft, his is ridiculously rugged. I know this sounds corny, but he’s got the strong chin and powerful cheekbones. This guy shouldn't even be standing in front here with us; he should be in a freaking ad somewhere. 

            Then I remember that this guy and his mom encouraged my mom’s the idea to move.

            "Hey," his voice is deeper than I'd imagined it would be. He smiles weakly at me and if it weren't for my anger towards him, I would have called it insanely cute. Instead, I just stare at his pearly white, straight teeth and look away from him. 

            "Hi," I say in a low voice. Beside me, I know my mom is having an intense inner struggle with herself about whether she should scold me in front of her friend or later in the privacy of my, ick, new room. Whatever, she brought it on herself. 

            When I steal a glance back at Gabrielle he is no longer smiling and he has a nervous tick thing going on with one of those luscious lips of his... No! I will not fall for the enemy. 

            "All right," Maria says, oblivious to the dark atmosphere surrounding us, "shall we get going then?" 

            Mom is all smiles as we find our way through the crowds towards the parking lot. Maria and mom are jabbering away like they never skipped a beat ahead of Gabrielle and me. The scent of some expensive cologne wafts off him as hot wind races over us and I steal a glance at his profile. He's carrying one of mom's heavier suitcases, making his biceps bulge against the strain. He isn't a massive gym addict, but he’s very toned in all the right places. He flicks his head automatically, moving a loose curl from his eyes. It's a waste that he is my enemy, it really truly is. 

            We stop in front of a shining black Mercedes Benz and Maria unlocks it with the automatic key chain. Mom said they had money, but I wonder now to what extent. After stuffing my mom's suitcase in the trunk, Gabrielle turns to me, the intensity of his stare nearly breaking through my cold façade. His eyes travel over me, which makes me slightly nervous. What the hell? 

            His eyes pause on the small tattoo of a half-moon on my neck before looking me in the eyes again. "Let's go." 

            I smirk and turn to my mom, who is watching us with some unveiled curiosity. "He sounds like his abducting me," I turn back to Gabrielle to ask what he is talking about, but he is already walking away towards a huge Cadillac across the parking lot. "Hey, wait!" 

            He doesn't stop and I speed walk towards him, before realizing that my mom and Maria are already pulling out of their parking space. I turn and follow them with my eyes as they wave at me and drive towards the exit. I stand there, dumbstruck, for a few seconds before the Cadillac comes to life behind me. Gabrielle starts pulling out, but stops the car in front of me so that when he lowers the passenger's side window I can see him wearing aviators and a backwards baseball hat. 

            Why does he have to be so damn attractive? 

            "You getting in or what?" His words are clipped, emotionless. I guess I really did get to him. 

            "Where did Maria and my mom go?" I ask like a child lost in the middle of the Eaton Centre in down-town Toronto. 

            He sighs loudly, playing with the dials of the stereo system. "Mom thought it'd be good if we drove back together so we can "catch up" on what's been happening in our lives." 

            I do not appreciate him putting "catch up" in floating quotation marks. The action always annoys me. 

            "The point is," he resumes, settling on some random hip-hop station and looking back at me over his sunglasses, "that I'm your ride home, so I'd be nice and get in if I were you."

            Frowning, I cross my arms and look wistfully back in the direction that the Mercedes had disappeared in. This is so unfair. Not only do I have to start everything in my life from scratch, but I also have to live with a super hot, jerk of a guy? This is like my worst nightmare, times three. 

            The Escalade starts turning and slowly moves past me. "Hey!" I call to Gabrielle, my mouth nearly falling open with surprise. "What the hell?"

            "Get in the car, princess," I can't see him through the dark windows, but I can hear that deep voice of his quite clearly, especially on the "princess" part. "Next time, I won't stop." 

            By the time I've stuffed my suitcases (no help from Gabrielle, the jerk) in the trunk and I've locked myself into the passenger's seat, I am fuming. My mom better not expect me to comply with her little dreamer's guide to the perfect reinvention of our lives, especially after today. 

            The sound of some guy complaining about his cheating girlfriend in a badly made rap song is all the sound in the car as we drive down the highway. I can see Gabrielle's reflection in the window since night is falling and I'm surprised to see him so calm, especially since I thought he would be the type to stew in his anger or whatever. 

            "Look," his voice surprises me and for one instant I think he's noticed me watching his reflection, but he doesn't sound a bit surprised, so I calm down. "I get it, okay? The whole "This is so unfair, you ruined my life, blah, blah, blah" kind of deal, okay? But honestly, can't you try to be a little less of a b***h and just deal?" He looks at me then and it takes everything I have to not slap this guy senseless; that, and the fact that my life is in his hands, since he is driving. "Your mom and my mom are happy. Think about it, it isn't so bad." 

            "Whatever," I reply. "You don't know what it's like at all." 

He concedes and nods slowly. "Yeah, maybe I don't." 

            "Exactly, so before you grin on your high horse, why don't you just stay out of it." 

            He scowls, oddly becoming handsomer by showing his annoyance. "I can't just stay out of it when you're staying at our place. Look, mom told me that you and your mom needed a fresh start, and I admit, at first I was a bit iffy about having random people at our place."

            I snort.

            "But," he dares a look at me and I widen my eyes at him, "I let go of the awkward feeling when I saw how excited my mom was at the idea." 

            "You're a momma's boy I see." 

            "Maybe I am," he smiles faintly. "But with good reason, I love my mom and I won't let anyone ruin something that makes her happy."

            "Look, my parents just divorced, I'll probably never see my dad again since mom won the custody battle, and I had to leave everything behind. Thanks for the pep talk Chuckles, but no thanks." I cross my arms and sink lower into the seat, turning my head away and looking out the window at the passing cars. I am literally shaking with anger at the fact that I have just spouted some of my problems to this guy.

            "Maybe there's a reason you don't know about," he pauses for a moment. "Even if you can't see your dad now, you still can in the future."

            The solemn note of his comment makes me loosen the tightness in my arms. I look back at him as he turns the music back up, shutting out any possibility for a rebuttal or, more importantly, any comment on what he’s just admitted.

The End

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