The rest of the weekend Eli spent avoiding me. Annabella came over on Saturday, mostly because she felt sorry for abandoning me Friday. Eli didn’t even remain at home, spent the rest of it at his friends’ house. He didn’t reappear back home until nearly 11 o’clock Sunday night, when he assumed that I was asleep-I had been laying awake listening for him to come home-before he snuck into bed. I didn’t understand why he was going to such lengths to avoid me; I wanted everything to go back to the way it had been. I felt lonelier than ever without him, wasn’t he aware of how he was making me feel? I prayed that he wasn’t because I would hope that he would never go to these extremes just to hurt me.
When Monday finally rolled around, I was probably happier about it than any of my classmates; it was beginning to get cold outside in preparation for fall, it had been a delayed beginning, but it was here none-the-less-it was already nearing the end of September-and the weatherman had said that temperatures would continue to drop throughout the week, into the 60’s and 70’s, from the 80’s to 90’s.
I knew that I had to make sure to bundle up; I easily get cold, and didn’t want to be caught without a sweater on, being on the coast meant that it always got colder here, than inland, and the cold was something I was used to preparing for.
I had on a pair of blue-jeans, and a pink turtleneck sweater, before I wandered downstairs to find my brother, waiting for me. I grabbed an apple for breakfast on my way out. As usual my brother drove us both to school, but today it was in absolute silence, with the radio blaring. I ate my apple, happy for the distraction. He didn’t even take one single glance at me. I assumed he was angry with me, and I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to anger him further.
When we at last arrived at school-it felt like an eternity of silence-I stepped out of his car thanking him for the ride, before hurrying into the building. I couldn’t have been more relieved to get away from him, he clearly wasn’t the brother I used to know, or have. He had become someone I didn’t know, and probably never would again. “Christabella!” the sound of my voice being called in the hallway snapped me from my thoughts, and I turned blinking in confusion as I noticed that the voice belonged to Walter.
He had actually gotten up the courage to speak to me? Really? Did this mean there would be no more gawking from across our shared English classroom? Hell he hadn’t taken the time to even talk to me in nearly five years.
I had thankfully reached my locker, and the second I had turned, confirming that it was him, I unlocked the lock, burying my nose inside, but decided it would be quicker to answer him; get this over with. “What do you want?” I asked still not tearing my eyes away from my locker. I hated to admit it, but he made me nervous, my stomach was tying itself into knots as I anxiously awaited his response.
“You really get right to the point now don’t you? I like it.” He teased, perhaps he was trying to be friendly, but I took it as him being a typical Jock; making fun of me.
“Do YOU have a point?” I questioned, slamming my locker harder than I had anticipated, after grabbing my books from the top shelf, impatience, and irritation beginning to seep through my veins.
“Oh um….yes.” I had knocked him off his arrogance-filled game. Good.
“Well?” I lifted my free hand motioning for him to get on with it, impatiently.
“I was wondering if you would be my date to Homecoming.” His words came out so fast they knocked me off my own game. Damn.
I blinked a few times, all my thoughts had cleared from my head. Me? Be a date? What? No boy had ever asked me out, and I couldn’t believe he was talking to me, let alone asking me. Most were afraid of my overprotective big brother, while the rest simply didn’t glance twice at me. I was surely nothing to look at. Was I? I didn’t even know how to respond, of course I wanted a date, and the most popular guy at school would suffice, but what had motivated him to ask me? Was I being set up? Where was the punch line? I never knew why he drifted away from me, but I assumed there was a reason. What was different now? I glanced around in search of his ‘friends’ waiting to laugh, but didn’t find any. Was he really asking me out?
“I….erm…” Now I was the stuttering fool, my mind had been so preoccupied with thoughts of how I could get my brother to stop ignoring me that I hadn’t even thought about the possibility of being asked to Homecoming. It was in 2 weeks time, and there were posters up all over the school, of course that was why he had been staring at me for the last few days. That thought had totally fled my mind, thanks to my brother, making me worry.
“Sure, why not?” I forced a smile; still waiting for the floor to fall out from underneath me, and when it didn’t I noticed that he was just as anxious as I felt. His eyes were nearly bugging out, and his hands had begun to tremble. Maybe he really did like me.
“Brilliant!” he looked almost shocked that I had agreed, and I cocked my head to the side, “I will text you later with details?” I nodded, and before another word could be said he was gone, dashing off into the crowded hallway, probably not wanting to give me time to change my mind.
For a moment I wondered if he even had my phone number, then I thought back to the time we had been partnered up in History last year (the first time we had talked since we both got cell phones), and had had to exchange numbers. I took my phone from my pocket, looking through my contacts, and sure enough there was his number, typed in as “Walter” I had forgotten I even had it, so many numbers were in my phone after all. I shoved my phone back into my pocket, and continued on my way to first hour.
I made it to lunch- I am not entirely certain how I made it-my morning was hectic enough, with a pop quiz in Math, and Anna nearly chatting my ear off through World History, while we were supposed to be working on a project. Now Anna was seated beside me, and I had still yet to tell her that I had a date to Homecoming. I am not entirely certain why I have kept it from her, I just don’t want her to feel jealous, or perhaps I am ashamed.
I rubbed my temples, and at last blurted it out-figuring it would come out eventually-“I am going to Homecoming with Walter.” She stopped mid-sentence her fork frozen in place.
“WHAT!?” She nearly shouted, and glanced around, realizing that anyone in the cafeteria could have heard her-not that they would have cared-“And you haven’t told me all morning!?” She gasped.
I shrugged, “It’s not that big of a deal…” I tried to shrug it off, but she wasn’t having any of it.
“Not a big deal!? Are you insane?!” I thought she was going to give herself a heart-attack, “This is HUGE!” She threw down her fork, and shoved aside her food, “I want to hear ALL about it!” She insisted, and I obliged telling her about everything that he had said, and everything I had.
“Do you realize what this could do for your reputation!?” She asked, and I furrowed my eyebrows, I didn’t care about my reputation, she was the only one that cared about those kinds of things. My brother played Basketball, and he was probably the best player on the team, but being his sister didn’t give me much fame around school. My brother on the other hand, he was popular enough to be known by most of the school, even my classmates knew him.
“I don’t want to be popular, you know that…” I explained, my mind was elsewhere, blocking out her response to my words, as it was, and my eyes lingered over to the table my brother was seated at surrounded by his friends, laughing, and joking as if he didn’t have a care in the world. His eyes never once roamed towards me, it was as if I didn’t exist to him. I don’t know why it bothered me so much, but it did.
When he finally did glance over catching my eye for a brief moment, he just as quickly looked away, “Fighting with McHottie?”
“No, it’s nothing.” I insisted, and it was nothing. Wasn’t it?
She jabbed me in the side with her elbow, “Incoming 12 o’clock.”
“Huh?” I asked, following her eyes, and there was Walter, in his royal-blue lettered jacket, perfectly fitted jeans, and flawless hair, approaching the lunch table, his eyes dead-set on me. I faked a smile, shaking off the irritation I held towards my brother, as he sat down, across from us. Did this mean he was my boyfriend now? I couldn’t help, but to wonder, he had never sat with me before now, then again he probably figured he wasn’t welcome anymore.
“Hi Walter!” Anna said in her most enthusiastic, voice, making me want to crawl into a hole, “So you and Christabella eh!?” She beamed, “I always knew you would find your way back to each other! How romantic!” Now I really wanted to crawl in a hole, and just die.
“Yea I guess it is…” Walter replied while turning a dark shade of crimson, looking in my direction for what I assumed was help.
“Why yes!” I beamed in an attempt to play along with what Annabella wanted; I knew that if I didn’t begin to act even somewhat interested in my reputation that I was going to wind up with a feud on my hands. I reached out my hand taking his-it was resting next to his lunch tray on the table-I squeezed it gently, and my eyes lingered again over towards my brothers table. He had stopped talking, and frozen, his eyes resting on our joined hands.
He appeared to clear his throat before looking back towards his friends-offering an excuse I assumed-before exiting the cafeteria. He seemed to be in quite a hurry, to leave, he even threw the door open in…rage? I didn’t understand why. I tried to push it from my head, and glanced back towards Walter, the fake smile still plastered firmly across my face, “Oh the happy couple!” Anna exclaimed; completely unaware of my brother’s reaction, for which I was thankful, I didn’t want to have to try to explain his odd behavior to her.
Walter cleared his throat, before squeezing my hand back; his own was beginning to sweat against mine. I could tell he was genuinely nervous, maybe I was entirely wrong about Walter; perhaps he was one of the good guys after all. I had convinced myself back in 6th grade when he had tripped Hank Dianthus, and dumped his lunch all over him that he was evil, but he had changed since then, stopped hanging around the people that would influence him to do such things. I knew him to be a sweet boy, and if truth be told we had been friends back in 3rd, and 4th grade. He was nothing like Anna, I didn’t tell him all of my secrets, but we did get along, he would even come over after school sometimes. Our history was short in comparison, and in 5th grade when he had started hanging around other people, he had drifted away, stopped sitting at my lunch table, and stopped calling altogether.
Our history was the reason that I was skeptical about him in the first place, but he was slowly starting to prove himself. I knew that by sitting at my lunch table he was probably getting laughed at by his friends, just like they had laughed yesterday in class.
“You two are going to be an amazing couple.” Anna gushed.
“It’s just a date…nothing is set in stone yet…”Walter defended, probably already irritated by Anna’s ferocious personality.
“Yea…I mean c’mon he’s an old friend.” I shrugged, and he pulled his hand from mine, beginning to eat his lunch.
He was quite for the rest of lunch, and I hoped that my words hadn’t upset him; I hadn’t meant them that way. But it also could have been the fact that Anna didn’t stop talking the entire time that we were there, until finally the bell rang. I told her to go, and that I would catch up, and she nudged me knowingly. Finally we were standing alone; the lunch room had started to clear out. I took his hands, “Why now?” I shook my head, uncertainty rushing through me, “After all this time?”
He had started to tremble again, an uncertain smile beginning to appear, “I thought you hated me.” His eyes held truth in them, and I felt sorry for him.
“I don’t hate you.” I laughed softly, and squeezed his hands, glancing down at them for a moment before a sigh escaped my lips, “We had better get going.” I mused and he nodded letting go of my hands.
“Wanna’ walk me?” I swayed from side to side. I was giving him a second chance to prove himself so far he was passing with flying colours.
“S-sure.” He lifted his bag off the ground hoisting it over his shoulder, before taking mine gently from my hands, and slinging it over his shoulder as well.
I took his hand walking in silence from the cafeteria, my thoughts jumbled around in my mind, and for the first time in days they weren’t entirely about Eli. Walter was mixed into them as well. “What does this make us?” I glanced down at our joined hands.
“Friends?” I realized the stares we were getting in the hallway, some of shock, others from disgust. It made me let go of his hand. I was already an outcast, but not a hated one. The last thing I needed was haters.
“Perfect.” I took my bag from him, realizing we were standing in front of my class, “Text me?”
He nodded, “Later.”
I nodded, and with that he was off propelling towards his own classroom.
By the time school was over, I was thoroughly exhausted, mostly from not sleeping much the night before, but also from everything that had happened. Annabella had cheerleading practice, and was then going over another friend’s house today, which I was somewhat thankful for since I was too tired to entertain her today. I found Eli, but I didn’t greet him the way I normally do, and he didn’t say a word to me. He didn’t even say hello. The entire car ride home was spent in complete silence. Arriving back at the house, I wandered inside, and up to my room without a single word. I finally collapsed onto my bed, kicking off my shoes, the exhaustion taking over; I curled up, falling asleep without even changing.
“Stop looking at me…please just stop.” That one constant thought was echoing through my head, taking over my mind, slowly, mindlessly I was driving myself insane. Walter Ryan McCarthy, his dark-hazelnut hues were burning holes into the side of my face, while I subconsciously chewed on my poor defenseless testing pencil.
I, Christabella Marie Brimble, with my utterly skirmish, 5’3, 110 pound, petite-framed body, and my straight-ironed-naturally curly-blond hair, with greenish eyes, was apparently irresistible, or at least that was the way it appeared. I have been trying for days to wean his eyes away from me, he makes me nervous, and rightfully so. He is the captain of the football team, and also the biggest jerk in all of high school (that’s what I tell myself to make it easier to hate him, but in actuality he is sweet, and kind). Me I was a scrawny 15 year old with natural beauty (according to my mom, and big brother), with no real talent. I was no captain of the Cheerleading squad if that was what you were going to offer as my defense.
“Take a picture!” I finally had the gumption to say, and the second the words emitted from my lips, I wanted to take them back. Had I really just spoken!? I wouldn’t have believed it myself, if I hadn’t have had every single eye in the 9th grade shift to me, though it appeared to work, Walter flipped his perfect dark-hazelnut hair to match his eyes, before shifting them back onto his test. I had grabbed the teacher’s unwanted attention though as well. His eyes shifted off of his computer, and directly onto me.
“Christabella! Do I honestly have to tell you that there is no talking during a test?!” Mr. Haralson demanded, his stern, piercing grey eyes boring into me like a log. He was a burly, gray-haired, mid-thirties teacher, and one tough cookie; no one messed with his English class. No one was stupid enough, except me apparently.
“Tell that to my brain.” I wanted to say, but didn’t dare, “No sir!” I managed to squeak out, before burying my nose back into my test trying to hide my now thoroughly scarlet cheeks, and my impending embarrassment. At least he wasn’t looking at me anymore, thank god; At least not for today.
After the test was over, and the bell had rung, I couldn’t leave the room fast enough, the thought of having to face Walter, or anyone else for that matter was not something I wanted to think about. All I knew was that it was Friday, and I wanted to make it home, safe and sound. I had to find Eli.
Gabriel Elijah Brimble. My older brother-by a year and three months-was 16, and a sophomore, he was 5’5, 125 pounds, with dark-brown-almost black-hair, and strikingly ocean-blue eyes. Our mom says that he looks just like his father, not that we would know since he split before we were old enough to remember. I am a spitting image of my mother; I have even her hand gestures down to a tee. Gabriel doesn’t resemble much of either of us; he is exceedingly generous, but nearly impossible to read most of the time; when he doesn’t want you to know something, you don’t. Even I don’t always know what he is thinking. As a baby I couldn’t pronounce his name so I called him Eli, the name stuck, but he doesn’t allow anyone at school to call him by that name, not even our mum calls him by that name. Only me.
He waits for me every single day at the bottom of the stairs, nearing the end of the freshman hallway. I couldn’t have made it there any faster if you had paid me. I beamed up at my brother, finally standing face to face with him, “Bonjour, Mon Amour!” I greeted as I always do, (Bonjour Mon Amour means “Hello, my love” in French I used to tease him when he was younger that he was my one true love, back when we used to play prince, and princess, and for some reason it stuck, now it’s my greeting to him) tugging on his arm I gave him a bright smile, trying to get us both out of this school as fast as I could, not waiting for his response-which is always “Bonjour my Belle”-which is a nickname he too came up with when we were younger, and he couldn’t pronounce my full name. Belle also means beauty which he always used to tease me that I was the most beautiful girl in the world to him, but that was when we were younger, now it is just an ongoing joke; light-hearted; something I don’t think about.
“Belle what is wrong with you?!” He mused, as I half-dragged him towards the doors, he may have been my brother but he wasn’t naïve to my intentions, I wanted out of there.
He finally managed to halt my movements once we had made it safely to the parking lot, the warm September sun beating down on us. He forced me to face him, his eyebrow raised in anticipation, “You aren’t even going to find Anna?” he questioned, and I silently cursed myself.
I had been in such a rush, I had totally forgotten about Annabella Slayton, my best friend. I do say best friend lightly, since she is popular, and I evidently am only ogled by the jerk of the school, which doesn’t do much to boost my popularity. She has been my best friend since 2nd grade, and since we have always been best friends she doesn’t have the heart to dump me, even though she was accepted into the popular crowd, and I wasn’t.
“Not today…can we please go home…” I managed trying to give him as little bit of details as was possible to give.
“Did someone do something to you?” he inspected me, his arms were stronger than they looked; he easily forced me to turn in a circle to make sure I wasn’t physically harmed in anyway. I was wearing an ebony-black tank top with an open button-down checkered-brown plaid t-shirt, to match a presentable ebony skirt, with ruffles.
“No…nobody did anything,” I pushed his hands away from my sides, not wanting anyone to see my big brother, fawning over me like he always does. It was sometimes embarrassing for other people to see me with him, he was so overprotective, though I secretly loved that part of him, and I didn’t want the rest of the school to know, as it was I was already getting odd stares from our peers as they passed us.
“I still don’t believe you.” He insisted, but he had finally stopped trying to inspect me to find evidence to the contrary. He moved towards his car, he had gotten the car from our grandparents and mother for his sixteenth birthday. Our mother spoke of our family as the middle-class. We weren’t rich, but we weren’t poor either. Our mother is a Lawyer, which means she isn’t home much, we generally take care of ourselves; I learned to cook by the time I was twelve, though Eli can’t seem to cook without burning everything he touches. He is a terrible cook, even though I have tried to teach him many times.
Stepping into the car after him, I pulled my book bag onto my lap, slamming the old 1988 Black Ford Taurus’ door shut. Eli started the car, putting it into reverse, backing out of the parking space. I kept my head down trying not to be noticed; excited for the weekend knowing that all of the embarrassment would blow over by then. As it was, who cared what Walter thought? I certainly didn’t, I was overjoyed not to.
Finally arriving at home, Eli parked the car in our driveway, outside our middle-sized house. Our house was two stories, but it wasn’t very big. Not on the scale of things. It had three bedrooms, and two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room, and basement. Nothing all that special, it was painted a pale almost completely faded yellow, with paint chipping from the sides. White gutters ran along the roof, and a small one-car garage was up the driveway. Nothing extraordinary, it was only ordinary. The best part about our house was it was located on the Maine coastline, so we had a beach instead of a backyard, which I cherish, I adore walks on the beach, and I even search for seashells occasionally.
“Come on Belle.” Eli teased ruffling my hair, before grabbing his backpack, and stepping out of his old car, he liked to call Smokey, because of its ebony-black colour. I warned him it wasn’t very original, but once he gets an idea in his head it isn’t easily changed.
“I hate when you do that.” I muttered. He had been ruffling my hair like I was little for years, (it was something he hadn’t always done but does now to clarify whom is older), and I closed the car door, walking up the porch steps, pulling my key from my pocket, before unlocking the front door. Our mom had told us she was going to need to stay late tonight, because of the case she was working on, we didn’t expect much else, she didn’t ever have much time for us, not that we minded, we found ways to entertain ourselves.
The inside of our house was immaculate, mostly because Eli and I keep it that way. Our mother doesn’t have time to clean, so we do all of the cleaning for her, it isn’t easy to snag Eli away from his room, sometimes he fights me tooth and nail to not have to clean so he can remain in his room, he likes to play video games, and surf his laptop. Anything as long as it isn’t cleaning.
I wandered over to the sofa, located in the living room, right in front of the television, and plopped down, dropping my bag onto the floor, a big sigh of general relief escaping my lips as I leaned my head back. After a few moments, Eli accompanied me wrapping an arm around my shoulder, comfortingly.
“You want to talk about it?” He questioned which I knew was out of general concern, but also curiosity that was lurking in the back of his mind. I used to be able to tell him everything, there was a time when I would have jumped at the opportunity to spill my guts to him, but when he reached High school something had changed between us, something that I couldn’t explain, he had stopped sharing things with me, so I had eventually ceased as well. He used to tell me his hopes, his dreams, and I in turn would share mine, now we couldn’t even tell each other our daily problems.
“Please tell me there is a party tonight…one that I can forget everything at.” I muttered, leaning my head against his shoulder, and he took note-mentally more or less-of my blatant avoidance of his question.
“Not tonight Belle.” He murmured, but I had the sense he was lying to me. I sometimes catch him sneaking out at night. He doesn’t think I know, but I hear him, cracking open his bedroom window to crawl down the tree outside his room to sneak out. He has always been like a monkey, one of the best climbers I know, he would beat every other kid to the top of the gym rope; he used to brag about it that night at home to my listening ears. I swear he could have been a professional climber if that were a sport, he knows all the right branches on a tree to rely on. He has friends, unlike me, he has many guy friends, most of which are popular, and knows every party-even the senior thrown ones-and he himself will sometimes take me with him.
“You’re such a liar!” I grumbled turning my head to burrow my face into his neck, I drank in his familiar scent, the cologne he wore enveloping my senses, and another familiar scent, which I couldn’t quite place. I don’t know how long we remained in that position, but it felt like several hours-but couldn’t have been more than a minute or so-before at last he maneuvered beside me clearing his throat, causing me to lift my head from his shoulder.
“I have to catch up on some homework.” He mused, and I narrowed my eyes, cocking my head briefly to the side. He hated homework; in fact he almost always waited until the last minute to finish it, I was the school savvy one. He didn’t get horrible grades, but they were nowhere near perfection either. Mine on the other hand were A’s, and B’s. I knew better than to say anything about that fact though, and he stood wandering towards the stairs, climbing them two at a time. I let out a huff of air, before deciding that if I wasn’t going to go burn off steam at a party, then I was going to have to start dinner, and tidy up the house.
Before I even made it to the kitchen there was a soft rapping on the door, before Annabella burst on in, (because she has been my best friend for so long, she never thinks to wait for me to answer), “Why didn’t you wait for me?” Annabella pried before she had even stepped inside. She closed the door behind her letting it slam.
“You don’t want to know, trust me.” I muttered, but she was already in the kitchen rummaging through the fridge, before pulling out a Root Beer, popping the tab, taking a sip. She turned towards me slamming the fridge.
“You could at least WARN me when you aren’t going to wait.” She insisted, sometimes I swear she doesn’t hear a word I say. Don’t get me wrong she is an amazing listener-if you can get her to stop talking long enough to catch her interest-but once you tick her off she can go on for hours about it, and that is when she doesn’t hear what you say. Apologizing to her is never easy it can take hours sometimes, but today she seemed to be in the forgiving mood because she changed the subject almost immediately, “Where’s McHottie?”She questioned, referring to my brother, she had made up the nickname for him when she was younger mostly because she used to-still does actually-have a major crush on him. She even calls him that to his face, which honestly takes gall that I personally don’t possess. She tells me all the time how much she dreams about his lips against hers-yes she goes into great detail until I absolutely force her to stop-but Eli is not the dating type. I have no idea why, but he hasn’t ever even brought a girl over-not since he was like 10-he doesn’t do well speaking to girls, or at least that is my assumption. He has many guy friends, but I have never once seen him with a girl friend. I have asked him about it, but he blows me off, I even attempted to help Anna out by asking him to give her a chance, but he blows me off every time.
“He is upstairs doing homework.” I scoffed, with a roll of my eyes, and she nearly choked on her root beer.
“You are kidding me!” Her eyes widened, “Is he alright? Was he recently abducted by aliens or something?” She questioned me, and I shrugged, I had been wondering the same thing.
“I don’t know…but I already caught him in one lie, he told me that there were no parties tonight.”
She laughed again, “Puh-lease, I know of like two freshman parties tonight, there are tons of them.” She scrunched up her nose, and placed the root beer can on the counter next to the fridge.
“I figured you would.” I teased, but I was by no means joking, she knows just about everything even if it is none of her business in the first place.
She shrugged and cocked her head to the side, “Perhaps he is ill, or something.” She thought out loud, contemplating the many things that could be wrong with him, but I blew them off.
“No I think he is just being Eli….secretive as usual.” I wasn’t so sure, but I wasn’t going to let her know that, “At least I have you tonight….right?” I lightly elbowed her in the side, playfully, nonchalantly changing the subject.
“Do you even have to ask?” She shook her head, wandering over to the counter grabbing all the chip bags off of it, along with her root beer, before wandering to the couch to plop down, flicking on the television with the remote, she began stuffing her mouth. I couldn’t help but to laugh, it was so like her to sit back, on the couch and eat all the food. She has always been a big eater, at 5’2, and 104 pounds she is underweight, but eats like a ravenous dog.
I smile, joining her on the couch. We watch old ‘Friends’ re-runs for nearly five hours, when she finally gets a text from her mom telling her that she needed to get back home to babysit her little sister, and brother. She turned to me apologetically, “I guess I can’t stay with you…I’m sorry.”
I attempted to shield my disappointment with a smile, “It’s alright…I guess I will just, bug Eli, or something.” I teased, knowing that the rate our relationship had been going that I would be lucky enough to get him to take me to one of the parties in which I know exist.
“And while you are at it, try and figure out which alien planet abducted him!” She teased, and
I shook my head at her, swatting her playfully on the shoulder.
When she at last departed, I cleaned up the empty chip bag’s, and folded both blankets, replacing them on the back of the couch, before I headed up the stairs, towards my room.
She had promised we could hang out together, and now here I was in the middle of a Friday night, very much alone, with nothing at all that I could do. I stopped, pausing at Eli’s bedroom door; it was closed. I hesitated for a moment, wondering whether I should bother him, or not. He had been so secretive earlier today; that I didn’t know whether I was even welcome. I used to be able to sneak into his room at night, and crawl into bed beside him, because I had a nightmare, and he would comfort me before we would try to go back to sleep telling each other stories, but that had been years ago. I finally tapped on the door, lightly.
“Eli?” I called through the door, waiting for a moment, but when I received no response I turned the knob letting myself inside. He was sprawled on his back, wearing only his boxers-his normal nighttime attire-on top of the duvet, books, and other odds and ends scattered around him, fast asleep. I couldn’t help, but notice how peaceful he looked, somewhat like he had when we were younger. Now he bottled everything up inside, and refuses to even let me in anymore. I fear he will explode, one day, and I won’t be there for him, because he won’t let me in.
I turned around, ever-so-slowly closing the door, making sure that it didn’t even make a creek, before I tip-toed to his bed, positioning myself on the edge. I reached out, tenderly stroking his perfect-darkened locks from his eyes. I could hear the sound of his steady, even breathing, and I couldn’t help, but to take note of how peaceful he appeared. As far back as I remember I have been beside Eli, holding his hand, being comforted by him. Even as a small child, I had happily run to my brother for anything, and everything that I had needed. He hadn’t minded taking care of me, walking to school beside me, rescuing me on the school playground, and letting everyone know that I was his little sister; if they messed with me they messed with him. He had even kissed my boo-boo’s when I had fallen outside. Every piece of my past he was there propelling me forward, always remaining one step ahead of me, lest I get hurt. Every second of every day, as children we had spent together, he had taught me to swim, even allowed me to squeeze into bed beside him, when the thunderstorms scared me, or I had a nightmare. He had hummed lullaby’s’ to calm me down. He was so much more than my brother, he had been my best friend, and the one person I could turn to, because our mother was never home, she was always leaving us with a nanny, and by the time I was 7 she allowed us to remain home alone with the door locked.
I remembered back to those times, all of the happy memories that we shared as kids, even as recent as Junior High, but the second he reached High School he had started shutting me out, and every time I would try to keep up with his thoughts, and feelings he would make an excuse to leave the room, or simply ignore it. He doesn’t make fun of me, he doesn’t physically hurt me, what he does is so much more, it’s unprecedented torture. He simply shuts me out by avoiding me, and that nearly kills me. I feel a few tears trace down my cheeks and I quickly brush them away-with my free hand-realizing how juvenile I am being. He hasn’t really done anything that merits me to cry, and yet I can’t stop, once the tears are falling they don’t stop. I wipe at them, and after several minutes, I finally manage to make them cease.
“mmmm…” he mumbled in his sleep rolling onto his side, and I start; pulling my hand back from his hair, “B…elle…” his voice was faint, barely audible. I sit in silence, wondering if I had just heard, what I thought I had, but shook my head he was talking in his sleep, or perhaps he was waking up; surely he had heard my tears….was he feigning sleep?
I jumped at the sound of the front door opening downstairs. I could hear our mom fumbling with her keys, before setting them down on the small table next to the door like she always does, “Christabella!? Gabriel!? I am home!” The sound of her shout startled Eli, causing him to awaken; when he did he glanced at me confused-my eyes must be red and puffy-then at his clock. It read 7:24.
“Must have fallen asleep…”
I nodded; then shrugged.
“How long have you been watching me?” he sounded angry, but it could have been the fact that he was still rousing from slumber.
“A few minutes.”
“You guys even home?” Mom shouted from downstairs, exhaustion lining her voice.
“Yes mum!” I finally yelled down to her, reassuring her that we hadn’t gone out.
“What did you want anyway?” His voice was still uneasy. Had he not yet noticed the tear tracks on my cheeks?
“Have you been crying!?” He is suddenly alert, reaching out to wipe at the remaining tears.
“It’s nothing…don’t worry about it.” I try to sound reassuring, but I have never been all that great at lying.
He eyes me warily, but decides to let it go, after a long moment, “What did you want?” he asks again.
“Oh…well I just wanted to see if perhaps there really was a party to attend.” My voice sounded awfully hopeful, and received a roll of his eyes.
“No Belle, no parties.” He vacated his bed, crossing the room, before pulling on a black t-shirt that had been tucked into his drawer. He sounded annoyed at best, irritated even.
I stood from his bed, tugging on my skirt to smooth any creases, watching as he pulled on a fresh pair of khaki shorts, “Then go out to the beach with me…Like we used to.”I nearly begged, my bottom lip protruding from my mouth.
He seemed to contemplate it for a moment, before he finally gave in, “Fine. I will go with you.” He smoothed his fingers through his hair, before walking to the door prying it open, “Coming?”
I took a few moments to register that he had actually agreed to do something with me-he hadn’t spent quality time with me in weeks-that didn’t involve our mom forcing him to. I followed him down the stairs, my eyes searching for our mom, “How was your day?” She asked, she was seated on the couch, surrounded by files, and other odds, and ends. I could tell that she was in for a long night, she usually was.
“It was pretty uneventful.” I told her, and she nodded, she was only half-listening, I could tell.
“That’s good.” My brother wandered towards the sliding glass door that led out to the beach, he never answered our mom’s questions; he didn’t see much of the point, since she didn’t listen anyway.
“Why are you home on a perfectly good Friday night?” She glanced up again from her files.
“Because apparently there are no parties.” I jabbed, knowing that it would irritate Eli slightly.
“There aren’t any god damn parties!” he nearly shouted, catching both my attention, and our mothers.
“Gabriel, Language!” She feigned horror, but it was the normal in our house to constantly swear at each other, in all honesty our mother probably didn’t have the time of day to care.
He was already out the sliding glass door anyway, and I shrugged at my mother, before wandering out after him. The cool end-of-summer-beginning-of-Fall air hit my face, and a small shiver rushed through my body. I could hear the waves crashing against the shore, and my mind wandered again. Back to school today, to the penetrating eyes of Walter, as he gazed at me. I honestly don’t understand why that boy watches me all the time. It makes me nervous; I am going to have to say something to him about that, not just shout at him in class, but have a real conversation.
I am pulled from my thoughts, by the sound of Eli’s voice, “Belle…what’s wrong?” he was standing beside me, concern lining his features.
“Oh, I just…spaced.” A dry laugh left my lips, and I clutched his hand, in my own before pulling him out towards the sand kicking off my shoes. I loved the feeling of the cool, dry sand against my feet, of course the closer to the water you get the wetter the sand becomes.
I don’t think he quite believed my words, but he didn’t say anything to the contrary, that would suggest otherwise. We walked for what felt like an eternity across our small patch of beach, and ended up seated on the sand, our toes dipped into the very edge of the ocean, as it slowly continued to splash against the shore. He had remained incredibly quite, which wasn’t the way he used to be, he used to talk to me endlessly, now getting him to speak was like pulling teeth.
“I miss this.” I finally broke the silence; my hair was being whipped against the wind, as I turned to face him, his face semi-lit by the back-porch light from our house, the other half was covered by the night’s shadow. I noticed that he didn’t meet my eyes, his own were trained down, gazing at my hands, that were wrapped around my knees.
I didn’t think he was going to respond, so I turned my face back, training my eyes into the distance, but he surprised me, his voice barely a whisper, “I do too, so much.” His words were sad filled with longing, and another emotion I couldn’t quite decipher. It pained me to see him in any form of pain, knowing that I couldn’t help. He wouldn’t tell me what he was thinking about even if I asked him. I knew that just as much as he did.
I allowed a small smile to tug on the corner of my lips, before I gazed back at him, but he was already glancing out at the ocean, his eyes trained on the horizon line; there was something else I noticed as well, his eyes were watery as if he were on the brink of tears. I reached out my hand, resting it gently against his arm, giving it a slight squeeze, but the second I touched him, he pulled his arm away; within seconds after that, he was on his feet, “We should get inside…it’s cold.” He seemed to be grasping for any reason to be able to escape me. Any fool could have seen that, without even waiting for me he headed for the house, disappearing through the screen door, without looking back. I sat bewildered gazing after him.
I know that I will be judged, every second of every day I am judged by someone.I never meant to fall in love with him. God willing, I didn’t. All I ever wanted was to be loved, and now every time I look into his ocean-blue hues all I can feel are my heart palpations, and the blood in my veins beginning to race with anxiety and anticipation. Anticipation of the soft kisses, he would press to my collar-bone, before tracing his lips tenderly to my jaw-line; making his way to my lips. Anticipation of the long walks we would take alone, along the coast, getting lost in our conversations. Anticipation of the long hours spent amidst the field filled with honeysuckle. Anticipation of the feelings my stomach would churn with every night in which I would crack open my bedroom door to sneak across the hall, crawling vulnerably into his arms, to be held and comforted.
I was a meek school girl, barely able to get my point across. I was never stolen for class-skipping kisses, by any boys. Not one. I was a measly little freshman with a sad outlook on life, living on the coastline in Maine.
It didn’t start this way, it was never meant to be this way, and both of us know it, we know it quite well. We know that the moment a single soul catches us we will be separated, never to love again. Caution. It is all we have, and even though the love we feel is more real than anyone else’s, no one can ever know, and for now, it’s our secret.