“It got out of control again, didn’t it?”
Macy couldn’t look up. She couldn’t meet her sister’s eyes. Not like this. Not now. Not–again. “I can handle it, Bridgette. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“Well, clearly I do!” Bridgette raising her voice has long since stopped being the scare tactic that it once was. Macy started to zone out, knowing that she was just going to hear a raised voice lecture about responsibility and self-awareness and what it meant to live up to the family name. To be honest, Macy could not have cared less. She’d not cared all that much about the family name when her father was still alive, and now that he was gone, there was nothing that she cared about less. If it weren’t for the fact it was still required on all legal documents–and it did occasionally get her into some really posh events–Macy would have done away with the family name ages ago.
But then Bridgette reached out and flicked Macy hard in the nose. Macy blinked hard as her eyes started water. “What in the world was that for?”
“You obviously don’t care. You don’t care about our family, you don’t care about our parents, you don’t care about anything I have to say.” Bridgette said sternly, “Tell me, Macy. Do you even love me as a sister?”
Macy hadn’t been expecting that. “Of course I love you, Bridge–You are my sister and you are the only family I have left. I do love you.”
“Then for the love of all things good,” Bridgette sighed, “Remember, that it’s my family name too. Every time you drag your name through the mud, you are making my life a little bit harder. Do you think you can manage to remember that?”
Macy nodded quietly, and made a mental note–when she left town, she needed to change her family name.
Monthly Archives: August 2015
“It got out of control again, didn’t it?”
She was baffled by how many time she had to explain that she actually enjoyed being alone. Not always alone, of course, she would hate to spend her life in solitary confinement–that would be too much introversion even for her. But a day alone in her room, no human interaction for a solid twelve hours, eating, reading, watching TV and goofing off with video games all on her own schedule–That just sounded like heaven to her.
But, anytime she revealed those were her plans, there were always the invitations. She could go to the bookstore with them. She could come out for lunch and movie. She could ride along as he did some errands–it wouldn’t be exactly thrilling but at least they’d both have some company.
And then there were the awkward refusals, and no proper way to explain why she’d rather sit alone at home then deal with anyone else. Every now and then, she found a friend who would look at her with a knowing smile, and say no more about her day alone. Most of the time though, she found that her friends accepted it, even if they didn’t understand it. In the few rare and disappointing cases, she had people insist she was lying, insist that she didn’t like them anymore, and if she just wanted to blow them off she should be up front about it. That was no big loss though, because if they didn’t understand that she would be up front with them about that, they probably weren’t really worth being friends with anyway.
So she explained herself, again and again. And she sat alone in her room and was perfectly happy to be there.
He went to see her at work. He didn’t know what he was expecting–maybe that she’d see him again and fall in desperate love again. Maybe that she’d see his face and remember all of the good times, instead of just his last terrible mistake. Maybe that the two of them together in the same room again would cause some sort of magnetic magical pull that would remind them that there were greater forces in play and they were destined to be together.
What he should have expected–what actually happened–was for her to look up, look disdainfully at him, and to cut him off with “I can’t talk to you right now. I’ve got work to do.”
“You can’t work and talk at the same time?” He asked carefully.
She made a small gesture of annoyance in his direction. “No.”
“Do you get a break today?” He asked.
She let out a puff of air through her nose. She looked at him like she was trying to decide whether or not to lie to him. “Yes,” she told the truth, “But it won’t be for several hours.”
He stood up a little straighter, “I can wait.” He crossed to the public waiting area, sitting carefully as to not be obtrusive to the business, but so that every time she looked up, she’d see him. He waited, so that even as she tried to work, she’d have to think of him–at least a little.
He’d broken the rules. He knew that this was all his mistake. He knew that she had every right to spit in his face and call him an ass and demand that he never see her again. And if she did–most likely when he did, he was going to go. He was going to go and he was going to hope that she could be happy with her life, and hoping that he could manage to find a way to be happy without her. He zoned out, flipping pointlessly through a magazine, waiting for his chance to say–anything.
It was several hours later when she came over and stood near his chair. “I’ve got a fifteen minute break. You can have five of those minutes.” He stood up to speak, but she stopped him. “Let’s go outside first. People have the tendency to stare when we start to argue.”
He shrugged and tried not to smile. She intended to argue. That meant she still cared enough to argue. That meant he had a chance. He followed her around to the side of the building, and waited for her to go first.
“Well, I suppose you’re here to tell me that it was all a misunderstanding. You’ve got some excuse.”
“No,” he said simply.
She took a step back at that. “No?”
“No. There was no misunderstanding. It was a mistake, and I was angry, but that is no excuse. All I can do is tell you that I’m sorry. All I can do is tell you I love you. All I can do is tell you that it will never happen again. All I can do is hope that it will be okay in the end.”
“It will never,” she snapped, “be okay. What you did will never be okay, and I hope you understand that there are no circumstances where I can ever be ‘okay’ with what happened back there.”
Now he took two steps back. He felt kind of like he’d been punched in the middle of the chest. He’d known she would probably tell him to fuck off, but he hadn’t been entirely prepared for it. “Never?”
“Never,” she repeated.
“Oh, well, okay.” He took a few more steps away from her, hoping somehow that could help him save some face. He also wanted not to cry in front of her. Not now.
For a second, it looked like she was going to be content to watch him go, but then she put out a hand and told him to wait. “What you did will never be okay. But you and I? We might be able to be okay again.” He didn’t dare move in case he broke whatever spell was suddenly turned in his favor. “I’m mad, okay? I am perfectly justified in my anger. You can’t say word one to calm me down. Not yet, anyways. So, I need you to go. I need you to stay away until I call you. You have to wait until I’m less angry.”
With a rush of confidence since the tides were turning in his favor, he took half a step towards her again. “And when you call me? We’ll be…” he trailed off, too afraid to make an assumption or to ask a question.
“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. But one way or another, I will call. I promise I’ll give you an answer–once I have one.”
“That’s fair. That’s perfectly fair. In fact, it’s so fair to me that I’m pretty sure it might be unfair to you and I am sorry about that too.”
She his name twice, to get him to stop. “Just go. I’ll call.”
He left without another word, sure that if he stayed a second longer she would change his mind.
“You have to be willing to lie,” was the first sentence Ari used informing Kelly of his get rich quick idea.
“That bodes well,” She sighed, sinking further back into the couch, “I feel like I should already go ahead and say no to this for legal reasons.”
“Oh, no, it’s completely legal. Trust me, I’ve done all my research on the legality of it. It’s just a social lie you’re going to have to tell. Well, we’ll have to tell. It’s good money, Kell.” Ari leaned towards her, pulling her hands towards him. Kelly still looked skeptical, but Ari pressed on, “At least hear me out before you disregard me completely.”
“Okay. Fine. Lay it on me, Ari. What is this plan? And what lie am I going to have to tell?”
“Well, you’ll just have to say you love me.” Ari said simply, letting go of Kelly’s hands.
“Aw, Ari, I do love you,” She grinned, reaching out to ruffle his hair like she might have done with a much younger boy, “You’re one of the most loveable guys I know.”
“Thanks. I think,” Ari sighed, swatting her hand away, “but no. I mean like, Love Me, love me. As in we’ve been secretly dating and now we want to get married kind of love me.”
That caught Kelly off guard. It took her a while to realize that the appropriate response to that should be, “and how in the world does this get us a lot of money?”
Ari adjusted his seat, and Kelly knew she was in for a long explanation. She supposed that was fair. She didn’t really want a short explanation to the plan that involved apparently a shit ton of money, and a fake wedding. “You know the Pennsylvania grandparents that I told you about? The ones where I have to break out the ties and Jackets every time that I go to visit them and make sure to hide that tattoo on my chest?”
“The ones who make your dad want to swear every time you have to go visit them? And we always have to go out and get shit faced when you get home?”
Ari nodded through her questions. “Those are the ones. Well, I don’t know if you realized this, but they are fucking loaded. Like, crazy loaded. Like at least nine figures in their portfolios alone. They didn’t give anything to my Mom because they think that she’s made a lot of mistakes in her life, such as having a job, marrying my dad, and having me. But, apparently, I can’t be blamed for the sins of my parents.”
Kelly was still unsure how this got them any kind of money for getting married, so she took her best guess. “So—what? We get them to pay for our fake wedding and then take the money and run?”
“No, not exactly. See, we’d have to get legally married. We’d have to convince my grandparents we’re in love. Apparently, they set up a trust in my name, to be awarded to me and my bride following our wedding. I did the research, and it’s not illegal to take the trust as long as we’re legally married. We have to make Grandmother and Grandfather believe we’re in love so they don’t change the trust before the wedding, but from a legal stand point, we don’t even have to be friendly as long as we are married.”
“For how much?”
Ari couldn’t even hide his smile when he thought about the money, “Five and half million dollars.”
Kelly let out a slow whistle. “That is a lot of money, Ari. A lot a lot of money.”
“Yes. Yes it is.”
Kelly gave him a once over. He was holding out still. “What’s the catch? It can’t be as simple as getting married. There has to be something you’re not telling me.”
“Well,” Ari sighed, “Catch number one is you’d have to stop working. They are wrong, but they think it’s obscene for a woman to be working, especially if she has a man to support her.”
“You mean I have to quit Starbucks to spilt five and half million with you? Twist my arm, why dontcha? No, Ari, what is the real catch?”
“Okay. Fair enough. Catch number one, take two: We’ll have to play our part really well. I know that the grandparents are going to want us to stay with them for a while before and after the wedding—which is also going to have to take place in Pennsylvania, so sorry if you had your heart set on your first wedding somewhere else.”
“Well, I supposed that’s fair enough. If I were giving someone millions of dollars, then I would want to make sure they at least seemed happy together.” Kelly knew better than to relax though, Ari had this tendency to save what he considered to be the worst for last.
“And, the last part,” Ari started, visibly tensing, knowing well aware this was the make it or break it part of the whole situation, “Is the breakdown of the payments. We’d get a million and a half on the day of our wedding, two million on our third wedding anniversary, and the last two million on our fifth wedding anniversary.” Ari flinched, like he was expecting Kelly to hit him.
“So—what you’re telling me is that—to get this five and half million dollar pay off that you’re dangling in front of me, is that I’d have to be married to you for at least five years?”
“Probably closer to six at least, actually…I think if we divorce right after our fifth anniversary, then the grandparents are going to get a little cross and might try to take us to court. I do not think for a second that they would be above suing their own grandchild for everything I’ve got.” He stopped, and for a second I swear he looked shy, nervous. “Why? Is that a deal breaker?”
Kelly considered it. She hadn’t known Ari for long, but she did like him. If somebody had descended from the heavens and told her that Ari would be the man that she married, she would have believed him. True, this wasn’t the ideal marriage, but he’d be good to her, and she’d be good to him. In addition, five and a half million wasn’t anything to sneeze out. Six years with him as a husband would easily be worth that—less even.
“I have one condition,” she finally declared.
Ari looked up timidly, “Oh? What’s that?”
“You’ve got to take me out, something real nice. You’ve got to come up with a proper proposal, something that I can tell my parents and gush about with my sister. Woo me, Mr. Harris, if you want me to be your bride.”
Kelly had never seen Ari smile the way that he did just now. It wasn’t an ideal courtship, but, hey, at least there was mutual attraction here. That had to count for something. “Fair enough. I’ll make it the best date you’ve ever been on.”
He made coming to work fun for her. He didn’t know, of course. It wasn’t something that she could ever admit without enduring all kinds of ridicule from her co-workers. He was the new guy, and spent more time second guessing his job than he did doing things correctly. She had been working there for at least five years and could do (and had done) her job hung over after two hours of sleep without missing a single beat. During their shifts, it was a lot of him trying and her correcting. Sometimes, they got a little frustrated with each other.
But in their down times, the slow moments, he was funny, and he was kind. And it really didn’t hurt anything that he was easy on the eyes. She’d developed quite the crush that she’d never act on. After all, new kids didn’t often stick around, and it wasn’t like they we really friends outside of work. But when someone had to take the shift with the new guy, she always volunteered. It was a win, win. She looked like a good co-worker by helping train him and let the other experienced workers off the hook. And she had eight hours’ worth of eye candy.
And if she wanted to daydream about them becoming something more? Well, what was really the harm in that?
“Ow.” It was the softest noise that Conlyn thought he’d ever heard, but when he saw how Harlowe immediately tensed like she was about to jump into battle, he realized something might be wrong. He turned just in time to see Hana clutch her head and stumble backwards a few steps, but then Harlowe was there with a hand around Hana’s waist, guiding her to the couch to sit carefully.
“What’s going on?” Conlyn asked, but Harlowe ignored the question.
“Get a hot rag from the kitchen, and a glass of water.” Conlyn still wanted to know what was going on, but he knew better than to ignore a direct order from Harlowe, especially if it was Hana’s health that hung in the balance. He ran into the kitchen and got the cloth and the glass of water and brought them back to the living room, standing awkwardly until he knew what to do with them.
Hana looked white as a sheet, her head angled to the ground but her eyes moving quickly like she was watching a whole scene unfolding on the floor in front of her, flinching even from the gentle touches of her sister who was trying to keep her from falling over. He just stood in shock for five, ten, fifteen minutes before Hana suddenly sank back into the couch cushions, looking like someone had just decided to deflate her. Harlowe stuck her hand out towards Conlyn without taking her eyes off Hana, and said “Rag.” He put the rag in her outstretched fingers, and watched as Harlowe wrapped the rag around her sister’s neck in careful well practiced motions. Slowly, the color started to come back to Hana’s face, and Conlyn took a few steps closer.
After a second or so longer, Hana blinked and looked up. “Can someone get me some water?” She asked barely above a whisper.
“Here,” Conlyn offered her the cup that he was already holding, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’ll be fine. It’s just—“she stopped and gave her head a little shake before drinking half the glass in one gulp.
“What was that?” Conlyn asked, looking up to Harlowe.
“That? That was a vision of the sisterhood,” Harlowe answered without looking up, “When she’s ready to tell us, Hana has just seen something that someone thinks we need to know.”
“He’s so small,” Aden smiled, cradling their baby in his arms as he stood by her bedside. She laughed and cried at the same time, only partly due to the cocktail of hormones pumping through her body at the moment. She’d done it—they had a beautiful baby boy, her son, and his father was there holding him carefully. “He’s so tiny. What if I drop him?” Aden looked up at her with worried eyes.
“Well—Don’t.” She advised.
He nodded sagely, like she’d just revealed the meaning of life to him. “Don’t drop him. Okay. That’s good.” He looked back down at the squished pink face. “This is amazing, Brenna. I know that it’s—complicated, this boy and me and you. But—thank you for letting me be here—letting me be a part of this moment and letting me be a part of his life.”
“It is complicated, Aden—but it was always going to be complicated. Besides, none of this was your fault, or his fault, or my fault—so why would I let any of us suffer. Let me say this right now, so that my belief is clear and there is no confusion in the future. As far as I am concerned, you are that boy’s father. The three of us are a family. Add Demi, and we’re an extended family. We’ll have to figure out some of the legal workings—but as far as we should think, should say socially, we’re a family. Deal?”
Aden could only tear his eyes away from the little boy for a second to smile up at Brenna, but she understood that. “Deal. Thank you so much. I’ll never be able to make this up to you.”
“So—“ Brenna shifted to the side of the bed, and Aden crawled carefully into bed next to her, handing over their son she could hold him close as well. “What do you think we should name him?”
Aden reached out to touch the little boy’s nose gently. “You want me to be a part of naming him? Really?”
“Oh Aden,” Brenna laughed, resting her head against his shoulder, “What part of ‘You’re his father’ aren’t you getting?”
“Oh—oh yeah.” Aden laughed too, and the little boy stirred slightly in his sleep. Both new parents were ridiculously still for a moment, to make sure he wouldn’t wake any further, but then Aden whispered. “Well—What do you think about Tommy?”
“Where’s Mom?” Hana asked, lifting her skirts and rushing towards Harlowe coming in the door. “You can’t let her drink or she’ll fall asleep during the ceremony and she snores. I can’t have snoring in my wedding.”
Harlowe caught her sister carefully by the waist, making sure to only grab places on the bodice that wouldn’t rip or wrinkle or otherwise worry Hana even more about the perfection of the day. “Miss Abigail is on Mom watch. She knows the rules, and Mom will be in later to gush and oo and awe over you in your dress, but I thought—and I know I’m right—that you could use a moment to breathe. Just—sit with your thoughts and be happy that today is your big day. Yeah?”
Hana took a deep breath and looked up at her older sister. “Yeah.” She took another deep breath and then crossed back to the couch, where cushions had been set up to help her sit with minimal wrinkling and mussing up. Harlowe sat down on the floor in front of her, helping her keep the hem of the dress from bending as she sat. Hana smiled down at Harlowe, the biggest grin that Harlowe had seen in years, ages, maybe even their whole life. “Harlowe, I’m getting married today.”
“Yes, yes you are.” Harlowe smiled back.
“To Conlyn. When we go to bed tonight we will be Hana and Conlyn of Shelton farm. He’ll be my husband. I’ll be his wife.” Hana continued.
“All also very true,” Harlowe replied, almost automatically as she looked at a loose thread near the bottom of the dress, most of her mind dedicated to the decision-making of whether or not it looked bad enough to mention it to Hana and break out the needle and thread or to just let it lie.
That was just one of the reasons it took her so long to respond when Hana said “Harlowe, am I making a mistake?”
Harlowe looked up and blinked at her sister—trying to search for something beyond the face value of the words, a hidden question that Hana had to be asking, because there couldn’t be any way that Hana genuinely thought that she shouldn’t get married. “What?”
“He’s a good guard, Harlowe. He does good work for the lower lands, and I know he was helping some kids get out of the Mercs and there was so much more he could do for them. Am I doing the wrong thing by making him come here? Does this make me selfish?”
Harlowe stood up quickly, pulling Hana up with her into a crushing a hug, not even worrying about the wrinkled dress possibility this time. “Oh, Hana, of course you’re not making a mistake. Conlyn was a great guard, and trust me, if we need him in the Capital I will not hesitate to call him back to service. But he’s not the only great guard, and his work will still get done without him there to watch over it, I promise. He wants to be here with you, and if you send him away now, I can almost promise you that he will never be quite as good a guard again. You get in people’s heads, Hana, and he’ll never let you go. And—even if it is selfish, which I should stress I don’t think it is for either of you, don’t you deserve some selfish, Hana? You’ve done so much so much quicker than you ever should have had to. You deserve this. You deserve him. You deserve to be happy.”
Hana took a step back and looked up at Harlowe with teary eyes. “Thank you, Harlowe.”
“No problem, now—what do you say we pin-up your hair and get you ready to be married?”
The battle lines were drawn. I never expected to actually be at war. I’d done the training with Demi and Aden and I knew that if I had been chosen for the army I would have to go to war, to fight for my city—but I never imagined that I would actually be on the lines of a war. I never imagined.
Aden wrapped an arm around my waist, and guided me into one of the little tents that were dotted through the camp. When we were hidden from the eyes of all the other soldiers, when we tucked away safely, he put his hands on my shoulders and leaned in to press his lips on my forehead. “I’m so sorry, Bree. I never wanted you to be here. I hoped we could avoid this. You don’t want to fight. I know. I just—I’m so sorry, Bree, and if you want to panic, please, feel free.” He squeezed me tight in a hug as if he expected me to burst into tears right there. To be honest, I was fully expecting to burst into tears right at that moment too.
But for some reason, I was calm. “I think I’m okay, Aden.”
He took a half step back, looking at me with raised eyebrows. “You are?”
“Well—Okay might be a bit strong of a sentiment. I am terrified. I wish that Demi was closer to us on the line so that I could see her more and worry less about her. I wish we never had to end up here, and I appreciate that you are sorry we ended up here—but I’m calm.” I offered him my best smile. He watched me for a moment longer, studying my face for any sign that I was lying. There wasn’t one.
“Okay,” He said, standing up a little taller, becoming the warrior I loved a little less than my husband, but the man we needed in the moment. “Okay, let’s do this.”
Hana blinked slowly. Normally, it wouldn’t be the kind of thing that either Harlowe or Conlyn would have noticed–the speed of Hana’s blinking not being something that was high on the priority list, but since this was the first time they were going out since her injuries–everything about Hana was their top priority. They descended on her so quickly that Hana almost fell over just from their “helpfulness.”
“Guys—I was injured—weeks ago. The doctors assured me that I am fine. I feel fine. If anything suddenly changes in regards to that, I’ll let you know.” Conlyn managed to look a little guilty of his overprotectiveness, but Harlowe just watched her sister like a hawk for a moment longer. Just in case. When Hana responded with two very rude hand gestures, Harlowe finally turned and started to walk back down the path.
“How long do you think it will take before I am treated like a self-sufficient human being again?” Hana asked Conlyn, continuing with the rude gesture to the back of her sister’s head a moment longer than was strictly necessary.
“I don’t know. I’m going to say ‘a while.’” Conlyn answered, linking an arm with Hana as they walked a few paces behind Harlowe.
“I see your ‘a while’ and I raise you ‘ages,’” Hana laughed, accepting Conlyn’s arm. She never would have admitted it, but she was already getting tired from the walk. But that wasn’t an injury thing—that was a she’d been lying in bed for three weeks thing. She could push it a little further before worrying.
“Yeah well. She’s your sister. It’s her job to worry less than a month after you’ve nearly been stabbed to death. At the very least.” Conlyn smiled down at him, “I don’t know—but I have been told that siblings tend to be protective like that.”