“Where do you want this one?” Luke asked from my bedroom door, carrying another box. My things had arrived, and it seemed like Grandma Alice had packed the entire house. There were boxes stacked all over my room, and I had already decided that I wasn’t going to unpack it all because packing it back up later would be a pain in the ass.
“Anywhere.” I waved, as I finished unloading another box of clothes into my dresser.
Luke placed the box on a stack of a few others before wiping his brow and heading towards the door again.
“There are three more.” He said, “Are you going to need help unpacking this stuff?”
“I’m fine, thanks.” I replied.
It had been two days since Luke and I made up. He’d been extremely nice to me since then. I just figured that it was because he still felt guilty. I’d let him off the hook, but that didn’t stop him from offering to help me every time that he thought I needed it. I guess that made me lucky, because I definitely needed his help today.
My things had arrived at five in the morning, just before Eddie and Jase left for work. The four of us had managed to get all of the boxes to the basement and then Luke helped me get them to my room, half way through suggesting that he bring the boxes while I unpack. The two of us got it finished quickly enough on our own, without Eddie and Jase.
The last two days had pretty much been uneventful. The night after Luke and I made up I showed up for breakfast in the morning and stopped hiding in my room. Jase and Eddie commented when they noticed that Luke and I weren’t fighting anymore, wondering what changed, but Luke and I just shared a silent smile and didn’t tell them. I wasn’t about to admit that I locked him outside naked and I doubt that he wanted to admit that it had happened. Eddie and Jase let it go soon enough. I think they were just satisfied that some of the tension was gone.
I was still having trouble with Eddie. He didn’t mention what had happened on our outing. I think he had decided to back off and give me some time to adjust, and I was grateful for that. I was even able to be friendly towards him since then, but I had a hard time being alone in the same room as him.
I was afraid that he’d want to talk again, and so far every time that that happened, it had been disastrous. I guess it also helped that he’d been working the last few days, and I’d been spending my time at the house with Luke. We mostly just watched TV, ate and took naps. I figure that every kid should at least spend some part of the summer being lazy. Dealing with all of the boxes was the most work we’d done in the last few days.
At least grandma had labeled the boxes, so I was able to keep some organization, piling the ones that I didn’t plan on unpacking against the wall and the rest in the closet, unpacking anything that I thought I might need as I went.
Luke had just finished bringing in the rest of the boxes when I came across one that wasn’t labeled and curiosity prompted me to open it. When I saw what was inside I dropped down onto my knees and stared.
When I’d left, I’d told grandma Alice that I didn’t want to take pictures of my mom. It had been difficult to look at her, which was probably part of the reason why I was so affected at the park with Eddie. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted pictures of her, but I had thought that grandma would just send them later when I asked. In the meantime I had kept a few things that had belonged to my mom, like her scarf. And, among the items that had arrived, I had a bracelet that had belonged to her, a pair of reading glasses, a copy of a children’s stories bedtime book that had been hers when she was younger, and even a half full bottle of her favorite perfume.
But this box was filled with pictures. I recognized some of them from Alice’s house. They were the ones that I’d asked her to take down when I first moved in, mostly of mom and me. They had been too painful to look at back then. Grandma Alice had been understanding and she took these ones down, but still left several up. These pictures were still in their frames, piled on top of several photo albums, and on top of all that, was a face down piece of notebook paper. I lifted it up and found grandma Alice’s handwriting on the other side.
Grow up and share these with your father.
P.S. Don’t throw your clothes on the floor. You weren’t raised to be a slob.
I shook my head at the note, smiling to myself. Sometimes it was like I couldn’t escape the woman. I looked up when Luke’s shadow crossed over me. He was looking curiously down into the box.
“Wow, is that your mom?” he asked, taking a seat on the other side and lifting out an older picture of my mom and me. I was no older than three in it. “She was pretty. And hey, you were kinda cute.”
“And I still am.” I remarked.
Luke looked up and smirked at me, but his eyes went right back to the picture. I had the urge to take it away from him, not really wanting to share, but the way he was looking at it stopped me. He seemed lost in thought, maybe even sad, which was strange, because I was supposed to be the one who was sad when I saw pictures of my mom.
“Luke? Are you alright?” I asked.
“Huh?” he looked up and then back down at the picture again, before gently placing it back in the box, “Yeah. So do you wanna unpack later? It’s kinda hot in here. I was thinking about going for a swim.”
“Sure.” I shrugged, standing up as I closed the box up. “Just let me change.”
Luke nodded and closed the door on his way out and I went to my dresser to grab a recently unpacked pair of swim trunks. It was still a little early, but after unpacking what I already had, I didn’t feel as tired as I thought I would have. Actually, after two days I was getting tired of just sitting around the house all day. I definitely didn’t mind the idea of going for a swim, and I thought maybe later, if I could get over the heat, I wouldn’t mind going for a walk. Anything to just get out would be fine with me.
And I had thought about calling Aaron. Actually, I’d been thinking about it a lot for the last couple of days. But, I’d been putting it off. I definitely wanted to call, and I had no doubt that I would, but Luke and I had been getting along for the last few days, and I wasn’t sure how a phone call to Aaron would affect that.
I knew that Luke wouldn’t like it, but I wasn’t really as concerned about whether or not he would like it. I was concerned that he’d go back to treating me like shit again. I didn’t know if I could handle that, not living in the same house as him. With Eddie and Jase at work, and me avoiding Eddie when he was home, Luke had become my one form of constant company.
And I liked Luke, I really did. He wasn’t just a pretty face, not that he wasn’t that too. But, he was also good company. Maybe I thought that he was trying to be helpful because he still felt guilty, but I found that he didn’t really do anything half assed. Helping me with the boxes was just a good example of that. After Jude and Eddie left for work, I didn’t even have to ask Luke for help. He came up with a plan on his own and everything was taken care of. I had no doubt that when he’d asked if I needed help unpacking, he actually meant that he would have stuck around until it was all finished, but just because he was helpful, didn’t mean that I wanted to take advantage.
I was starting to feel comfortable with Luke. I was even getting used to the fact that he had no sense of modesty when we were alone in the basement together. I had a feeling that he had been one of those toddlers that took off his diaper and ran around the neighborhood naked when he was young, because the only time he ever seemed to like clothes was when he was leaving the house. He had helped me with all of those boxes wearing nothing but a pair of boxers.
But, I’d noticed something else about Luke. Actually, it was the same thing I’d noticed about everyone in that house. Everyone wanted to know about me. No one seemed to offer personal information about themselves. Okay, admittedly, that could be because I wasn’t asking questions. But, I didn’t want to ask Eddie questions because that never seemed to go very well. And Jase, well, Jase and I were friendly towards each other but I didn’t see any bonding happening between us in the near or distant future. But Luke… I wanted to get to know Luke. Unfortunately, I was afraid to ask him questions. I knew that he was living with Eddie and Jase because his dad was in jail, and when I’d asked him about that, it was obvious that he didn’t want to talk about it. So, I wasn’t really sure how to ask questions about Luke. I guess in the meantime, I’d settle for just enjoying his company, which I did.
I was kind of nervous about getting in the pool with Luke again, especially after what I did to him the last time. I think part of me was a little worried that he’d seek retribution, but when I reached the pool he was swimming laps. He stopped to smile and wave at me, and seeing that nothing seemed amiss, I scratch Chey behind the ears as she followed me towards the water. I went to the deep end and stepped in.
I sank to the bottom. I always liked starting that way. It was a warm day, already moving up into the high nineties, but I was glad to see that the water seemed cool enough, entirely refreshing as I let it surround me. I didn’t close my eyes this time as I settled at the bottom, so I saw Luke when he came towards me. He took up the position right in front of me, crossing his legs and regarding me curiously.
I smiled at him and then we just stared at each other for a few minutes until Luke’s face started turning red and he had to go up for air. I joined him a few minutes later and found him sitting up on the diving board, staring down into the water.
“How do you stay down there for so long?” he smiled at me.
“Practice, I guess.” I shrugged, turning to float on my back, “Is it always so quiet around here, Luke?”
“I guess.” He replied. “This is our first summer in this house so…I dunno. My friends used to be closer. I like it though, the quiet.”
“I guess it’s okay.” I admitted.
“Feeling homesick?” Luke smirked at me.
“A little.” I admitted. “I guess I’m just used to it, when there’s always something going on, you know?”
“So you miss your friends?”
“Them too.” I nodded. “And my grandma. It’s kinda weird. She used to drive me crazy. And after my mom died, and I had to move in with her, I didn’t think that I could ever think of it as home. But I sort of got comfortable there.”
“And then you had to come up here.” Luke smiled, “I guess it couldn’t have been easy…but, you know, you could get comfortable here too. Maybe even think of it as home.”
“I don’t know about that.” I frowned, “I mean, it’s just a lot, you know? I don’t think I’d want to stay here any longer than the summer.”
“That’s because you’re too busy being pissed off at Eddie to enjoy yourself.” Luke smirked.
I sank under the water for a second and then came back up and looked at him.
“I can’t help it.” I stated. “And I don’t know what he expected anyways. It’s not like I ever needed him before. And he can’t just become a father overnight, especially if the kid in question’s done just fine without him for the last sixteen years.”
“I think you’re being to hard on him.” Luke said flatly.
“And what would you know about it?” I smirked.
I watched as Luke stood up on the diving board and then cannonballed into the water. I sunk under the surface again, avoiding the splash and when I came up he was swimming towards me.
“I happen to know that Eddie’s had the last six years to learn how to be a father.” He informed me. “I was twelve when I moved in with him and Jase, Rory. And maybe he’s not my real father, like he is yours. But back then, I needed one and he was it. Jase was always like my big brother, but Eddie…he didn’t even know me, and he took me right in.”
“How come he didn’t know you?” I asked, “Did Jase know you?”
“Well, yeah.” Luke frowned, “Look, it’s complicated, Rory.”
“People keep saying that.” I frowned.
“Eddie can be a good father.” Luke insisted, “You’re just not interested in giving him a chance. I mean, your mad at him for something that wasn’t even his fault and if you keep shutting him out…”
“What do you mean it’s not his fault?” I cut him off.
Luke stopped and frowned, looking frustrated as he wiped some water away from his face.
“Damn it.” He frowned, and then looked me in the eye again, “Look Rory, I probably shouldn’t be saying anything because I promised that I wouldn’t, but there’s something that Eddie hasn’t told you. And I’m not going to say what it is because I promised, but if you want to know why he wasn’t there for the last sixteen years, you need to ask him. There’s an answer.”
“I don’t need to hear his excuses.” I frowned.
“Hey,” Luke suddenly grabbed my arm, getting my attention, “It’s not an excuse, Rory. Just ask him.”
I stared at Luke, definitely curious. He seemed serious. I guess maybe there was something that I should be asking Eddie. But, I wasn’t sure that I’d have the guts to do it at this point. I definitely didn’t want to hear the excuses, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to hear a reason either. Even if it was a good reason. It probably sounds stupid, but I was actually content being mad at Eddie.
In some ways, I felt like as long as I had a reason to be pissed off at him, I didn’t have to give being in Arizona, or Eddie, a chance. And I was still to busy being pissed off to want to give it a chance. I think I was also a little scared. I was afraid that if his reason was good enough, then that would mean that I was wrong about him.
The last thing I wanted was to owe Eddie an apology. But, despite all that I found myself nodding to Luke. Maybe I would ask Eddie why. I suppose I did deserve an explanation. And I guess maybe Eddie deserved the chance to give me one. I just hoped that the next time we talked I could keep my emotions in check long enough for him to do it.
“Good.” Luke smiled at me, and then promptly placed both hands on my head and dunked me.
As soon as I was under the water I attacked his ribs with my fingers, tickling him. I never would have guessed that Luke was so ticklish. He went under, curling himself into a ball and then came up sputtering while I laughed.
“You don’t play fair.” He remarked, and then began to splash me, catching me off guard. I moved onto my back and retaliated by kicking my feet. We continued this for a good five minutes while Chey barked at us, until I sank under the water in defeat, swimming to the other end of the pool to place enough distance between Luke and I to give me enough time to wipe the water from my eyes.
He laughed at me as he reached out and took hold of the edge of the pool for a rest and then looked in my direction again, “Hey,” he called, “You wanna go do something today? We can get out of the house.”
I smiled; obviously Luke was tired of hanging around there too.
“Where?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he shrugged, “We haven’t had breakfast yet. We can go grab something to eat.”
“Soon?” he asked.
“Sure.” I replied, lifting myself out of the pool, “Let me just grab a shower first.”
“Go ahead and use the one downstairs.” Luke replied, “I’ll go upstairs.”
I nodded. It looked like he was going to swim a few more laps so I went inside to take my shower. I decided to make it quick, going directly into the bathroom and turning on the water before I climbed in and then dropped my trunks.
I moved fast, lathering up and then rinsing off. It didn’t really occur to me that I hadn’t grabbed my clothes before I stepped out, and there were no towels hanging either. I guess it didn’t matter. I had more modesty than Luke, but I definitely wasn’t shy. But that didn’t mean that I was comfortable walking around a house that I felt like a guest in, completely naked.
I reasoned that Eddie and Jase weren’t there, though. And Luke was upstairs, so after brushing the water from my short hair I made my way out of the bathroom and my eyes settled on a closet that looked like it might have towels in it.
Unfortunately, all that was in the closet at the moment were washcloths. But, it was better than nothing so I grabbed one and started to pat myself dry. It was the sudden laughter behind me that caused me to spin around and stupidly hold the flimsy washcloth in front of my groin.
“Here.” Luke smirked, tossing me the towel that he’d been using, leaving him as naked as I was.
Now, I wasn’t shy, really. But being naked, and being naked with Luke were two very different things. I already knew what effect Luke being naked had on my body. Reminding myself that we were related didn’t seem to be helping either. He was definitely attractive, and I was definitely attracted to him, which is why I didn’t hesitate to wrap the towel around my waist, liking that it seemed heavy and wet from when he dried off with it.
“Thanks.” I mumbled, but when I looked up Luke was staring at me. At least, I think that’s what he’d been doing because he lifted his eyes when I looked at him. The whole thing made me feel a little self-conscious. What happened next just freaked me out.
“No problem.” Luke smiled before moving past me. I guess the hall was narrow, but not that narrow. So when he passed and placed his hand on my shoulder, and then I felt a distinct bulge press against my ass for a full moment before he continued on his way, I about jumped out of my own skin.
I think I stood there for a full minute before I shook it off and went to my room. It obviously hadn’t meant anything. It was just the narrow hallway, after all. Of course, that didn’t change the fact that I was now tenting the towel and would definitely need to jack off before I even considered leaving my room again.
It was already ten o'clock in the morning and the scent of food flooding my nostrils made my stomach growl as I walked into the small road stop diner with Luke. We had driven twenty minutes to get to it, and now I was starving.
“Order the waffles.” Luke told me as he ignored the ‘please wait to be seated’ sign and headed for a booth in the back. “Strawberry’s good, and so is the peach one. Stay away from the blueberry, it’s questionable.”
“Alright.” I laughed.
“And don’t order the sausage here.” Luke insisted as he slid into the booth and I made myself comfortable across from him. “They have trouble cooking it all the way through. And the bacon’s greasy. Really greasy, kinda soggy too. And you definitely don’t want the pancakes.”
“If the food sucks so bad then why did we come all the way here for it?” I laughed.
“For the waffles!” Luke replied, as if it were obvious.
“Alright.” I smirked, “I’ll take your word for it. Any beverage recommendations?”
“Definitely chocolate milk.”
“Uh-huh.” He grinned. “Trust me.”
I shrugged, pushing my menu aside. I didn’t really think I needed it, and I guess I was right because Luke took both menus and shoved them aside just as someone reached our table to pick them up. I didn’t even realize that it was someone who we knew until Luke grinned up at the server and was promptly slapped on the top of the head with the menus.
“What are you doing here?” Dave asked Luke as I looked up and saw that it was him working.
“What do you think?” Luke retorted with a smile, “I’m hungry, feed us.”
“Right.” Dave rolled his eyes, “But you’d better leave a tip this time.”
“I can give you a few tips.” Luke laughed, earning him another slap on the head.
“Hey Rory.” Dave smiled at me, “Is this guy through being an asshole to you?”
“We’ll see.” I smirked. The last time I’d seen Dave was when Luke had been treating me like I had the plague.
“Hey,” Luke replied, “I said I was sorry.”
“I know.” I replied, and he returned my smile.
“So what can I get for you, Rory?” Dave asked.
“Uh, waffles.” I replied, taking Luke’s suggestion. “Strawberry.”
“Don’t forget the chocolate milk.” Luke stated.
“And chocolate milk.” I added, unenthusiastically.
“Are you gonna eat with us?” Luke asked Dave.
“I can take my break.” Dave shrugged. “I’ll be right back.”
I noticed that Dave didn’t bother to ask what Luke wanted, but I guess he probably didn’t need to, and when Dave returned he was carrying three plates of waffles and the chocolate milk that Luke seemed to have been looking forward to.
Luke moved over for Dave as he joined us and we wasted no time digging into our plates, although Dave seemed less enthusiastic about the food than we were.
Luke had been right about the waffles. I wasn’t really a waffle kind of guy, but these ones were great, and filling. I was definitely satisfied with my breakfast.
“So did you ask them?” Dave suddenly asked.
“Yep.” Luke smirked at him.
“And?” Dave sounded excited about something. It got my attention and I found myself looking up.
“They’re okay with it.” Luke replied, “They just want to talk to Rory first.”
“Talk to me about what?” I asked, a little annoyed that Luke was talking like I wasn’t there.
“Sorry.” Luke laughed when he saw the look on my face. “I would have asked you but I figured if Eddie did it, it would be an excuse for you two to talk.”
I glared at Luke for that, and Dave smacked his arm.
“Just tell him.” Dave insisted, but then proceeded to tell me before Luke had the chance, “It’s Rick Leto’s birthday in three weeks.” Dave explained, “He turns seventeen and we wanted to throw him a party, but the only place big enough for it is your guys’ place.”
“Jase and Eddie said that we could use the basement.” Luke explained, “If it’s alright with you.”
“And I’m sure it will be ‘cause you’re invited.” Dave grinned hopefully at me.
“It’s your place,” I shrugged, looking at Luke, “It doesn’t matter to me.”
“You live there too.” Luke frowned at me; “If you’re not cool with it we won’t have it there.”
“I’m okay with it.” I insisted.
“Are you sure?” Luke asked.
“He’s okay with it.” Dave hissed, slapping Luke’s arm before he ginned at me again, “It’s gonna be a lot of fun anyways. Angela Conner is going to be there with some of her friends.” I noticed that Luke rolled his eyes at this, “I’m gonna ask her out.”
“You just keep saying that.” Luke muttered, shaking his head, and then he smiled at me, “He’s been saying it since eighth grade.”
“Well I’m gonna.” Dave frowned.
“You should see him around this girl.” Luke laughed, “He gets so freaked out. The last time he tried to ask her to dance, and ended up spilling grape soda all over her.”
Dave blushed, shaking his head and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“That was an accident.” He protested. “This time’ll be different.” and then he changed the subject, looking at me, “so Rory, do you have a girlfriend back home?”
Luke looked up, seemingly interested as well, and I suddenly felt put on the spot.
“Nope.” I said flatly.
“Oh, come on.” Luke smirked at me, “there’s gotta be someone. I bet the girls are all over you.”
“He is kinda cute.” Dave added teasingly.
Now it was my turn to blush and they both cracked up laughing.
“There’s no one.” I muttered, and then did a subject change of my own, “so Eddie and Jase are really going to let you throw a party at the house?”
“They’re pretty decent about stuff like that.” Luke explained, “as long as one of them are going to be home and we clean up after ourselves they’re okay about it.”
“Hmm.” I nodded.
“Jase isn’t going to do what he did last time, is he?” Dave suddenly asked, looking horror stricken, and Luke burst out laughing.
“What did he do?” I asked curiously.
“When I turned seventeen Jase crashed my party and started dancing.” Luke explained.
“That was not dancing.” Dave adamantly insisted. “It was terrible.”
“Really?” I laughed, “Jase doesn’t seem like the type.”
“What do you mean?” Luke asked.
“I dunno.” I shrugged, “he seems kinda up tight.”
“Nah.” Luke insisted, “You just have to get to know him. Sometimes I think that Jase is loonier than those patients of his. You’ll see, he’s just nervous around you, I think. Once you get to know him he’ll lighten up.”
“Nervous around me?” I asked incredulously.
“He’s just quiet when he’s trying to figure people out.” Luke shrugged, “But don’t worry, he’ll lighten up. He knows how much you mean to Eddie.”
I wished that Luke wouldn’t say things like that. It made me feel guilty. I was unsure enough about Eddie as it was. The last thing I needed was to feel guilty too. I mean, maybe I did mean something to Eddie, but I was still trying to figure out what Eddie meant to me.
“Have you ever been out there?” I asked Luke as I looked towards the rocks in the distance. We had just arrived back at the house and he’d parked outside of the garage.
“Yeah.” He nodded, “I go hiking with Eddie and Jase sometimes. We usually wait until it’s cooler, though. Why, did you want to go?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged, “I’m still not used to this damn heat.”
“We’ll go sometime if you want.” Luke laughed, “later in the afternoon, but not after dark.”
“Why not after dark?”
“It’s hard to see where you’re going.” Luke explained as I followed him into the house where Chey was there to excitedly greet us. “We’ve got snakes, spiders, all sorts of things come out at night. It could be dangerous to step on one. And you don’t want to accidentally walk into a cactus. Not to mention the coyotes.”
“You’ve got coyotes?”
“Yeah.” Luke smiled, “We’ve seen a few, so I make sure to keep Chey close, especially at night. They’re mostly harmless, though. They tend to shy away from people, only some of the hikers we get up here feed them and they’re losing some of that fear. It doesn’t hurt to be careful.”
“Maybe I don’t want to go out there.” I muttered.
“It’ll be fine.” Luke grinned, “We’ll go for a hike, we’ll just wait for the right time.”
“If you say so.” I shook my head. “When do you think Eddie and Jase will be home?”
“A few hours.” Luke replied. “I was gonna throw on a movie, wanna watch?”
“Sure,” I nodded, “But go ahead and start without me, alright? I should call my grandma. I haven’t talked to her for a few days.”
We moved down to the basement and as I grabbed the phone and headed for my room Luke hopped over the back of the sofa, already peeling off his shirt. I smiled, remembering my thoughts that morning and about Luke not liking clothes. I’d have to ask him about that some time.
I made sure to close the door to my room before I dialed the number. But that was mostly because I wasn’t planning to call Grandma Alice. I figured that I could call and catch up with her later. The number I called was speed-dial seven.
I felt nervous, waiting for someone on the other line to answer. I felt like hanging up and calling back when I had more control over my nerves, but before I could do that a muffled, sleep filled voice came over the phone.
“Uh…is Aaron there?” I asked.
“Who is this?” came the sleepy, irritated reply. I was pretty sure that it was Aaron, and I was equally sure that I was waking him up. I even glanced at the clock to make sure that it wasn’t too early. I didn’t think that past noon was too early.
“Rory Norick.” I replied.
“Who?” He asked.
Great. He didn’t even remember me. I know we’d only met once, but the idea was frustrating and hurtful.
“We met at the park the other night.” I frowned, “I’m Luke’s cousin.”
There was a pause on the other end, and then the voice that came through was much more awake, and much clearer, like he’d suddenly sat up.
“Oh. Hey. Yeah, I remember you, Rory. Sorry, I’m not all here yet. It was sort of a late night.”
“That’s okay.” I replied, sitting down on my bed. I was definitely relieved to hear that he remembered me.
“So how are you settling in?” he asked, “Still ready to go back home?”
“Yeah.” I laughed, “but I’m getting settled.”
“Good to hear…you know, I didn’t think you would call.”
“I don’t know. I guess Luke didn’t like that we were talking.”
That was an understatement.
“No, it’s cool. I’ve just been busy, you know, moving in.”
“Right.” he sounded sarcastic, “look, Rory, I know how Luke feels about me. You don’t have to spare my feelings.”
“You know, Luke didn’t say why you guys didn’t get along.” I said.
“It’s a long story.” Aaron sighed, “but hey, it’s not import. I’m glad you called, I just don’t want to start any trouble between you and Luke.”
“You won’t.” I insisted, although I wasn’t sure that that was entirely true.
“Well good, um hey…maybe when you’re all settled we can get together. There are a few guys around here I can introduce you to. It could be fun.”
“Yeah, that sounds good.” I agreed.
“We might be going out this weekend, do you think I could give you a call then? We could set something up.”
“Yeah. Sounds good.” I agreed, “I guess you already have the number.”
“Yeah.” He laughed, “I’ll give you a call…and I really am glad you called, Rory.”
“Sure. Bye Aaron.”
I hung up the phone with a smile on my face. It had been a short conversation, but it left me feeling light and happy. There was something about Aaron that had that affect on me. I knew what it was too. I liked him. A lot. I wasn’t sure if that was a dangerous thing or not, and I knew that no one could find out about it. But, right now that feeling made me feel good. I liked Aaron and there was a possibility that I had plans with him this weekend. I was worried about what Luke would say if he found out about it, but at the moment I didn’t want to worry about it. That one, little conversation with Aaron made me feel happier than I’d felt since that first night at the park.
When I brought the phone back out Luke smiled back at me from the sofa.
“How’s your grandma?”
“Fine.” I replied, feeling a little guilty. I didn’t like feeling like I was lying to Luke, even about Aaron. I mean, Luke had mentioned that it was my choice who I was friends with, and he wouldn’t hold it against me if I wanted to be friends with Aaron, but somehow, I just couldn’t entirely believe that.
“So come on.” He called, “Movie’s starting.”
I kicked off my shoes and jumped over the back of the couch the same way that Luke had as he grabbed the remote and turned up the volume. I decided that I’d stop worrying about Luke for the time being. I’d deal with it this weekend, if or when I ended up going out with Aaron. I hoped it was when.
During the first movie, I told myself that I would go finish unpacking my room when it was over. During the second movie, I told myself that I would do it tomorrow. The sofa was comfortable enough and procrastinating sounded like a good thing, as lethargic as I’d become over the last few hours.
At some point Eddie got home and came down to see how we were doing. He even sat down with us for ten minutes. The whole time Luke kept glaring at me. I knew that he wanted me to talk to Eddie. But, I couldn’t get my voice to work. For some reason the idea of talking to him still scared me.
A while later it was Jase who came down, asking what we wanted for dinner. Luke suggested pizza, and because Jase claimed that he and Eddie were both tired, he seconded that. A while later Eddie came down again with a box to leave with Luke and me, and it had been quiet ever since.
Around nine o'clock the basement was dark accept for the TV and Luke and I were both finishing off out food when he looked at me.
“Thirsty?” he asked. We’d finished our drinks a while ago. I nodded to his question and got up.
“I’ll get them.” I volunteered. It was definitely handy having a refrigerator in the basement. Unfortunately, it was void of soda and bottled water when I opened it. “We’re out.”
“Upstairs?” Luke looked at me hopefully.
“Yeah.” I smirked at him, volunteering myself again as I headed up the stairs, out of the basement.
The house seemed quiet, but there was light coming from upstairs. I hoped that Eddie and Jase had gone to bed. I didn’t really want to run into either of them and cause another awkward moment. When I heard their voices faintly coming from the living room, I almost turned around to go back downstairs without the drinks, but something that Jase was staying stopped me.
“You shouldn’t be paying for Gina’s mistakes, Eddie.” My mother. He was talking about my mother. And what mistakes? Did he mean me? Was I a mistake? My curiosity was definitely peaked, and being as much of an eavesdropper as grandma Alice, I found myself creeping down the hall towards the living room so I could hear them better.
“Well what am I supposed to do?” Eddie demanded, sounding angry but not raising his voice. “It’s already been done, Jase, I can’t fix it.”
“You have to talk to him.”
“I’ve tried.” Eddie argued. “He doesn’t want to listen to me.”
“Then you sit him down and you make him listen. You’re the parent, Eddie. You’ve been letting him push you around since he got here.”
“He isn’t pushing me around.” Eddie argued, “I’m just giving him time to adjust.”
“You’re making excuses and you know it.” Jase insisted, “If you sit him down you know he’ll end up listening to you.”
I reached the end of the hall and peered into the living room. Eddie was pacing, looking like he wanted to pace right out of there while Jase was sitting calmly on the sofa.
“I can’t talk to him.” Eddie muttered. “I can’t tell him, Jase. I can’t. It’s the last thing he needs right now. He just lost his mother. Maybe Gina made a mistake but that doesn’t make her a bad person. Rory loves her, if I tell him this…”
“He’ll still love her.” Jase stated. “He’ll probably feel confused, maybe angry, but that’s what you’ll be there for.”
“I’m not going to tell him.” Eddie shook his head, “Not now. It’s not fair to tell him. He’s so protective of his mom. He probably wouldn’t believe me anyways.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Eddie, what Gina did was wrong. You have to see that. And Rory needs to know. I mean, what are you going to do? Let him keep hating you for no reason?”
Eddie finally stopped pacing and sat down, rubbing his temple as Jase placed a hand on his back and I watched and listened, confused, from the hall. What the hell was going on? What were they talking about? And what mistake did my mother make? I didn’t like that they were talking about her.
“And what am I supposed to tell him, Jase? He’s already angry that he has to be here. Am I supposed to tell him that that’s just too bad? That I’m angry too? At his mother? Because I didn’t even know he existed up until six months ago?”
What the fuck?
That’s exactly what you’re supposed to tell him.” Jase stated. “And you have every right to be mad at Gina for this. She kept you away from your son Eddie, and he has a right to know.”
No. No! This wasn’t right. Eddie knew about me. He had to. He’d always known and he hadn’t been there. My mom wouldn’t do that. She didn’t tell me about him because she was protecting me. She didn’t want to tell me that he didn’t want us. She wouldn’t keep me from…from my father. She just wouldn’t. He had to have at least known.
“That makes Gina the bad guy.” Eddie argued, “I can’t do that to him, not now.”
“And you can’t let him go on hating you.” Jase replied, “No one’s telling you to say anything bad about his mom. I know…I know that Gina meant a lot to you too. But it was wrong. Keeping Rory from you was wrong. And he should know the truth. He needs to know the truth.”
I’d heard enough of the truth, if that was indeed it. My mind was racing with questions. The only problem was, my mom was the only person who could answer them and she wasn’t there. Mostly, I just wanted to know why. Why would she keep me away from him?
In her defense, I wanted to tell myself that it was because Eddie was a horrible human being. Unfit to breathe the same air as others. But I already knew that that wasn’t true. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew that what other people kept saying to me was true. Eddie was a nice guy. A nice guy who was my father. A father who my own mother had purposely kept me from.
I needed to get away. I needed to think. I just needed…I needed to know why. I needed someone to explain it to me. I turned away quickly, and in my rush to get out of there I ran right into a wall. And old picture of Luke fell and I froze as it hit the floor and the glass broke.
I spun around and I wasn’t sure who looked more shocked, me, or Eddie and Jase as they stood up, staring at me. Eddie was the first to move, taking a step in my direction.
“Rory…” he started.
I just shook my head, backing away from him and ignoring the sharp pain in my foot as I stepped on a piece of glass. Eddie saw me step on it and he advanced quicker.
“Rory…” he said a little more firmly. But I was in no state of mind to wait. I needed to think. I just needed to think. But I guess the problem was, that I wasn’t thinking, because I turned around and fled, right out the front door.