Book 2 SOPHOMORE YEAR
DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Chapter 19 QUESTIONING THE ANSWERS
I walked out of Jaime's room with purpose and headed for the waiting lounge. Too many things were happening at the same time and my mind is filled with matters that need immediate attention, resulting to a really strong urge for me to be as cliché as I can be and scream 'THIS IS SO UNFAIR! WHY ME? WHYYYYYYYYY?' and fall to the ground and wait for someone else to be the Hercules to my Atlas.
But that just happens in books and movies . . . and this right here is real life.
I needed to clear things up and find out what the hell was going on before I succumb to the urge I mentioned earlier. These kinds of things don't happen for no reason. Jaime got beaten up because his attackers thought he was me. Seriously? How fucked up is that? And why were they looking for me in the first place? What did they want? What did I fucking do?
Anyway. . .
"Keith!" I growled in the silent hallway as soon as I spotted him huddled in a corner with Jaime's parents, Luke and the twins. The rest of the group: Richie, Tyler, Garret, Stephanie, Stacey, Tessa and Diane, had already left earlier but I noticed that the occasional staff and the few other visitors alternately eyeing us haven't diminished by the least. Or maybe eye-fucking us would be the more accurate of terms. Can't blame them, really. Not being a conceited asshole but all five of us were muscular, half-naked and still gleaming with sweat and moisture. That tends to happen when you're happily spending your time on the beach and suddenly someone needs to be rushed to the hospital.
"Is he alright?" Keith detached himself from the group to approach me but I went on walking as if he hadn't spoken.
"You. Me. Outside. Now." I hissed instead without stopping and strode towards the exit. I took a quick glance and saw that Mr. and Mrs. Dela Cruz, Luke, Jake and Blake were watching us. I walked on.
I stopped beside a tree near the sidewalk. I can't remember what specific tree that was, so don't ask me. But I so remember him pull me around to face him.
He looked into my eyes for a few seconds but I wouldn't dare return his stare. He stepped closer. "Hey, what's up?" he asked when he had me trapped between his tree-trunk legs and the actual trunk of the stupid tree behind me.
"You tell me," I spat, mostly because I was becoming uncomfortable with the sudden nearness: the smell of his breath, the warmth from his hands, the feel of his body this close to mine. Memories of that night rushed into my mind and I wished I was somewhere far from him. Stupid tree!
He frowns. "What do you mean?"
I shook my head. Clearly he has no idea what I was talking about. Not yet, anyway. So I gave him a humorless laugh, despite my nervousness. "Don't play dumb, Keith. I heard you talking on the phone." I answered bluntly with as much patience as a burning matchstick.
"'It was really a pleasure to finally meet you, Sir, sans the technicalities.'" I repeated his words on the phone earlier and raised a brow. "Who was that, Keith? Who were you two talking about?"
Realization dawned on him and with that he raised his arms as if to calm me down, thus raising my already amplified anger. "Danny, it's best if you don't -"
"No, Keith. I hate it when you treat me as if I was a child. Or have you forgotten? I'm older than you!" I backed away from him but soon realized I was not going anywhere. Stupid tree! I was seething; my heart was beating so hard against my chest and I finally looked him in the eyes. "Don't fucking lie. Don't fucking sugarcoat it. I want to know what the fuck that was about. Jaime said that those guys were looking for me. Then I hear you on the phone talking about keeping watch on someone. About keeping someone safe." I growled and I felt like the ground beneath my feet was shaking. I gripped the trunk behind me for balance. "People are after me, Keith. Why are they after me? What do they want?"
I was nearing panic and I know that tears would be falling any second now. So I thanked for the trunk behind me and I gripped it, feeling the bark cutting my skin. Because Keith can't see me shaken. He can't see me weak. I need to be strong for this.
"Danny, you can't know that for sure." He was shaking his head.
"Jaime told me himself!" I breathed out.
I felt the tension radiating off of him. It was obvious from the knot of muscles jumping on his jaw; from his hands clenching the circulation out of them; from the deathly glare his face was wearing. I knew that expression all too well. He was pissed. But why the hell would he be pissed? Is he pissed at me? Why? People are after me. I. SHOULD. BE. PISSED!
I blinked a few more times to cease the tears from falling.
In a calm and soft voice that completely contradicted his turgid stance I heard him say, "Danny, this situation is like a really big puzzle. There are a lot of blanks and spaces that you can't know and can't be sure of." He held my shoulders firmly. "I don't know what happened with Jaime. I don't know anything about people wanting to come after you. I mean . . . I can't even think of anything that they could possibly want from you." he cried dubiously. "You haven't made any enemies that I don't know of, have you?" I shook my head. Then seeing the desperation in my eyes, he added, "The guy I was talking on the phone with was a friend of my dad's. We were just talking about his . . . his son. Okay? He's been in trouble these past few weeks and his dad just wants me to, you know . . . to keep an eye on him."
I forced another breath out of my lungs. "Really?"
"Really. Danny, you've got to believe me on that. That phone call has absolutely no connection with you," he stressed. "And on the matter of Jaime's attack; is he certain that those guys were after you? 'Cause, dude, that would really suck!"
My head lifted for a nod.
"Fuck." Keith left me leaning on the trunk and walked a thin line before me, like what he usually does when deep in thought; emerald eyes brooding, dark brows almost meeting at the center, lips resembling as thin as the line he was making it was almost non-existent.
My gaze kept on following his movements while he muttered to himself. I hear him cursing every now and then. Then I too felt the anger coursing through my veins. I don't even know who I was more angry at right then - at my best friend for possibly keeping secrets from me, at Jaime's attackers for harming such an innocent individual, or at myself for the fact that I might as well have brought it out on him.
But I heard the truth behind Keith's words. He has no idea. So I decided to let it go. For now.
"Are you stuck?" I looked up to find that Keith's questioning glare was suddenly on me and it brought me out of my reverie.
"You've been glued to that tree for almost five minutes now. What are you doing?"
I threw myself from the stupid tree and huffed in frustration. "Whatever," I gritted. "If you say that you have no idea on what is going on then, fine, I believe you. But you better not be lying. Because, man, once I find out that you were lying to me. . ." I couldn't finish what I was meaning to say. I walked to the curb and left Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.
7 Fucking Weeks Later, 1st Week of June 2011
"Mom? Are you home?" I called out after carefully locking the door behind me. Okay, I was never the paranoid guy who keeps on looking behind him for fear of someone jumping up on him and beating the shit out of him, but ever since I learned that those guys and who knows who else were out there looking for me, I can't seem to help but be extra vigilant. Sometimes I even feel like someone was watching me. Creepy, I know, and totally not cool. So I figured that you can never be too careful, or whatever, right?
"She left earlier." I yelped a very manly yelp and whirled to Stephanie who, up until then I haven't noticed, was on the couch reading a magazine. "Like waaaaaay earlier."
"Damn it, Stephanie! Don't do that!" I plopped down beside her after calming my pounding heart, picked the remote up and turned the television on. "Wait, she was here hours ago? Didn't she have work? Where'd she go to?"
"She was already here around lunch when I came home. Okay, would you stop glaring? I had no class this afternoon so I went home early," she said, answering my questioning look. "I don't know what her excuse on why she's here early is but as soon as I got through the front door she said she had to buy milk and left without another word."
I got up and went to the fridge and brought out a milk carton - oddly, an unopened milk carton - and showed it to my sister. Stephanie just shrugged.
"Mom's been acting weird these past few weeks," Steph remarked.
Well, shit, it wasn't just me who noticed.
I took two soda cans and returned to the couch. I watched a family dramedy - complete with mom, dad, kids and dogs - while Stephanie muttered the latest gossip about her favorite stars. She was in the middle of downsizing some British actress when Duke barreled down the stairs from my room and settled between us. He whined and curled towards me, resting his head on my lap, asking for attention that I was only too willing to give.
"Steph, don't you ever think about Dad?" Somehow the question came out of my mouth.
Now you're getting sentimental, Danny?
Stupid television show!
Stephanie put down her magazine and stared at me while I was petting the furry beast on my lap. "Sure, I do." she said in a small whisper. "I mean, I never really knew him but . . . he passes my mind every once in a while. You know, when we're at school and I'm forced to think about fathers in general." She gave me a sad smile before returning to her magazine.
My heart ached seeing my sister like that and I forced myself to look at the T.V. screen instead. Because unlike me who had the chance to actually see and remember my father's face, Stephanie doesn't have anything about who he was.
"Well . . . have you talked about him?" I prodded.
"Talked about him, what do you mean?" she squinted.
"With Mom, I mean."
"Oh," she breathed. "Well . . . I tried asking about his name, who he is, where he lives, why he left and all that stuff but . . . Mom never answers anything. You know how vague she gets when it comes to him." She paused to stare at me again. "Why are you suddenly asking about Dad?"
"I'm home!" The discussion was cut off by the front door opening and my mom coming into view. "Oh, there you two are. I'm home!"
"Yeah, we can see that." I teased. "How was your day, Mom?" I yelped a very manly yelp - again - when she pinched my ass while I was kissing her cheery cheeks.
"Well, our new boss is the most arrogant man I have ever known! He's demanding and selfish and doesn't take no for an answer! Like, who does he think he is, flirting with every woman in the office?" She ranted heatedly but cut herself off before turning to Steph with another mega-watt smile.
Is it normal to smile despite having a boss as horrible as that? I just scowled at her bouncy behavior.
"Steph said you went out to buy milk." I mentioned after she hugged my sister.
"Oh. Yeah. I did? Oh, yeah, I did." Her eyes kept bouncing from one side to the other. Her bottom lip caught between her teeth. A smile plastered all over her face.
"It's been over three hours now, Mom. Where'd you shop, Alaska? And unless you bought the invisible kind, where is it?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest, bunching the muscles in my torso, and raising a questioning brow at her. This is definitely odd behavior.
Now, something's going on with her, too?
"Um. I forgot?" She quipped with a sassy smile and turned away like it was nothing. "Okay. I got to go change, and then I'm making dinner. We're having my specialty for tonight - Stir-fry!" And she hummed a song that suspiciously sounded like one of Norah Jones'.
I stood frowning at the spot where she was just seconds ago. "Odd." I finally remarked after I heard the faint sound of her bedroom door closing. "She didn't say that she went out with Vivian or one of her friends, didn't she?"
"She didn't." Steph muttered, already engrossed in her magazine.
"And did she just say that she forgot about the milk that she was supposed to buy?"
"She did." Steph muttered again.
"And she was just wearing a little black dress, was she? And a pair of those red, sexy Loubo-somethings?
"She was. She was." Steph continued to answer dryly.
"At work with a boss that's a terrible flirt?"
Oh, my God! What if . . . ?
"Steph, did you hear her come in last night?" I asked in a rush.
She frowned. "Um . . . I haven't really noticed."
Shit! I haven't heard her, too. If she wasn't at work and still in her OOTD from the day before then this means she's been wearing that dress since yesterday! Ex-cheerleader, yes. But my mother preferred to wear slacks, blouses, jackets and jeans! But not these past few weeks! Why haven't I noticed this before?
That woman was not my mother! What the hell is going on with her?
I turned to my sister in wonder. "And she was smiling, right? I mean, really smiling? Like the-cat-who-finally-caught-the-canary smile."
"Hmm." That is odd. Sexy dress. Sexy shoes. Makeup. Contented smile. All these are normal for any thirty-something single woman, but completely odd and suspicious when we're talking about my thirty-something single mother. I wonder what my strict and uptight yet loving and caring mom is up to.
I have a really wild guess.
But, surely, it can't be . . . right?
"So, just because she is dressing up and putting on a little make-up doesn't mean she's seeing someone. Daniel, that's ridiculous. Mom hasn't seen anyone ever since . . . ever!" Stephanie exclaimed while I paced the living room area.
"Don't you think I don't know that? That's what makes this whole situation odd." I countered in exasperation. "That is the only logical conclusion that I can get from all of the things that I have seen so far. That and the fact that she said she was going out with Vivian tonight, when I know that Vivian is in Arizona for the weekend to visit her Grandma. That just backs my suspicions up. I talked to Vivian on the phone as soon as mom said she was 'going out' again." I made air-quotes. "Another thing, she was obviously dressed up last week when she said she was 'buying milk'. And now she's dressing up. Again. She has got to be going out on dates and just doesn't want to tell us yet."
Stephanie mulled my words in her brain for quite some time. "Oooookay." She conceded. "If you say so."
I know so.
"Come on, get dressed."
"What?" She blinked.
"Deaf, Steph? I believe I didn't mumble, little sister."
"No, I heard what you said, asshole. I meant, what are you up to?"
"We're following them."
"We're - wait, what?" she cried. "Wait! Who are you calling?"
"We need his car to be able to take surveillance."
"Sur-veil-lance? Daniel, listen to yourself! If Mom is truly going out on dates, then I say she can date whoever she wants, whenever she wants! She's a sexy, single woman and I completely trust her decisions. Can you just leave me out of this?"
"No," I turned to her with a pointed, determined finger. "You're my mother's flesh and blood and innards and it's your responsibility to watch out for her. What if her date's a total psychopath who likes to tie his women up and spank their asses 'til they're red?" Ugh, now that image of my mom will be forever etched on my mind.
Stephanie made a weird face, gaping mouth and all that. "I did not just hear you say that!"
"What? The spanking?"
"Never mind the spanking, Daniel! And besides, I think you got the places kind of mixed up. Shouldn't the mother be the one who watches out for her -?"
"Steph!" I cried in impatience. "I want you back in the living room - dressed and ready - in under five minutes." Then someone answered the call. "Hey, Rich, thank God! Are you free, man? I need a favor."
"Name it," he answered.
"I need your car. ASAP. No, I need you and your car, actually. Do you mind playing driver right now? It's kind of an emergency."
I heard something thump, then a groan, then, "OH MY GOD! What happened? Where are you? Is someone hurt? Is someone dying?" he answered in typical high-pitched, panicky-Richard style. I bet the bastard fell out of bed. I resisted the urge to laugh.
"Richie, no one's dying! Stop being so dramatic and get your ass off the floor."
"Oh. Oh. Oh, my God! Thank heavens!" he breathed, and then chuckled. Told you: dramatic. "So, where am I picking you up?"
"Okay, I'll be there in ten. And if this is something big, then I'm gonna want some details, okay? See yah!"
You and I both, Richie.
A few minutes after hanging up, I heard my mother's brand new heels - a silver one this time - click-clack on the wooden floorboards on the hallway. "Kids, I'm off. Dinner is on the stove. You can reheat it if you like. Mrs. Harriet from down the street will be keeping watch. I'll be back in a few hours."
Keep watch, my ass. Mrs. Harriet can't even see past her own nose anymore. I bit my tongue to keep my mouth from saying anything about our ninety-something 'babysitter'. Like we needed one.
And then she turned the corner and I saw her for the first time tonight.
"Oh, Mom." I gasped.
"What?" she asked, suddenly self-conscious. "Steph helped me with the curls and the make-up. Too much?"
Date. I knew it.
I cleared my throat. "Oh, no! No! It's . . . Stephanie did great. You look really beautiful, Mom."
She blushed, smiled and crossed the room to give me a tight hug.
"Thank you, Daniel." And she released me.
"Have fun with your friends, okay?" I chimed too enthusiastically I earned a death glare from my sister who was just coming down the stairs.
"Love you." Stephanie called too sweetly; I rolled my eyes at her in return.
"Love you more, sweethearts. Stephanie, do as your brother says. Daniel, take care of your sister." And then she was out: upswept hair, killer heels, sexy dress and all.
Just then we heard a car pull up on the curb. Richie. We scrambled for the door.
"Mrs. M, if I was straight, I would definitely do -"
"Thank you, Richard." My mother cut Richie off before laughing - no, she was giggling. "Now, run along! Daniel's inside." Ugh! I never thought I'd heard my mother giggle in a while. That can't be because of what Richie said.
Was it because of her 'man'?
"I knew it! It's that man! It's the same man!" I exclaimed after I saw my mother park beside the automobile that I saw months ago. "Colleague, my ass! I've seen that car before." I said, pointing to the Land Cruiser.
"Well, whose is it?" Richie exclaimed excitedly.
"I don't know. I haven't seen his face. Wait, he's getting out. He's opening Mom's door. He's . . . ewwwww . . . he's kissing her! He's kissing our mother, Steph!"
And I felt like I was seven again and scared of getting girl cooties!
"I wanna see!" Stephanie shuffled beside Richie to watch through the driver's side. "Can you see him?"
"All I see is a really broad back and a really tight ass." I can actually see Richie's drool from where I was seated. "Damn, Daniel, your mom knows her way with a hook and a line! You gotta admit he's a fucking catch!"
"Shut up, both of you. You two are not helping." I resisted the urge to laugh at the tangled mess that they suddenly were, trying to watch trough the tiny window at the same time. "Let's go. They're going in."
"What? You want to follow them in there? Wearing a shirt, a pair of sneakers and ripped jeans?" Stephanie gasped in horror.
Oh, God! Hand it to Stephanie to be conscious about my preferred choice of wardrobe. Curse you, ANTM! Actually, curse all of you, fashion magazines!!!
"Well, what are you suggesting? Go home and get dressed? Wait until they finish their dinner?" I answered impatiently.
"Do you have any other plans besides making a fool of ourselves in a fancy-ass restaurant?" she retorted scandalously.
"Stephanie's right. And besides, from what I happen to know from living in the Big Apple, they'll probably be there for the next hour or so. Do you really see us waiting here in the cold, dark streets of Frisco for two hours?" Richie added with a kicked-puppy look. Drama Queen!
"Fuck." I groaned. "Does it really take that long to eat a chunk of meat with fancily named greeneries at the side?" I groaned just to make my point. Both simultaneously rolled their eyes. "Fine. Let's grab something to eat. Then maybe we can return after."
Our San Francisco Stakeout Operation was a total bust. After having dinner at a burger joint nearby, we returned to the restaurant to find my mother and her date gone. So, Richie took us home and Stephanie retreated to her room with a sympathetic "better luck next time".
I triple-checked the locks in the house before going to bed. Earlier when we were in Richie's car, I again had the feeling that someone was watching me. I slept that night with dreams filled of sinister eyes laughing at me.
The next morning, Saturday, after stumbling over the debris - mostly sheets of discarded paper, books, bags, clothes and undergarments - that the recent school week have left, I decided to tidy up my room a bit. The school year was about to finish; the Seniors will be having their exams next week and then the rest of us will have ours the week after next, so all the requirements needed made cleaning up my room fall to the bottom of my to-do list. Or at least that was my logical excuse. Mom thinks I'm just too lazy to clean up after my mess.
I was just about to place a duffel bag into the closet when an envelope fell from an unzipped side pocket.
I looked at it lying on the messy floor with the messy things in my messy room. Something was extremely familiar about the little envelope, I thought. As I picked it up and turned it over, I realized why.
I called Richie. Again.
~* ~* ~* ~*~
"Read it." I instructed while catching my breath.
After tidying up my room and while I waited for Richie to arrive, I went out for a short run. However, when he did finally arrive and we got to my room, he just kept looking at me. Staring. Bottom lip bit, eyes smoldering and hungry, fingers stroking and clenching my friggin' mattress! Suggestively!
"Richard Connor, what the hell is wrong with you?" I said as slowly as I could. "Read!"
"Oh, shut up, Daniel! You just can't see the vision that I'm seeing right now." But he continued looking at me. "Oh, fuck!"
"What the fuck are you -?"
"You, dumbass!" he shrieked. "You're so fucking hot sweating and wearing short, tight, running shorts and nothing else, and you don't even know it! I can even see that giant dick of yours!" he exclaimed like it's my fucking fault. "How do you expect me to concentrate on reading when you have all those bulging, rippling, sweaty muscles on display? And where did those muscles come from, anyway? I haven't seen those when we first met! Fuck, I consider you my friend but you make me want to lick those gleaming, sweaty muscles from head to toe; friendship be damned! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"
An eye roll made him groan and I distinctly heard him say, "Fucking hot bastard" before breaking his gaze from me and looking down at the card grasped in his hands. "I found you at last," Richie muttered and looked up at me from my pillows. "So? Am I supposed to jump up and down with love and happiness that after a very long time you've finally found me?"
I swatted his head with the shirt that I was about to wear. "Stop being a smart-ass. You remember the incident with Murphy from November, right?" he nodded sadly when I've finally put the shirt on. "Well, I found that card in this envelope when I broke my ankle and was brought to the hospital." I handed him the envelope. "At first I thought it was a "Get Well Soon" card, but it wasn't. Then when Jaime gets beaten up last April, he told me that those goons were looking for me and I realized that the intended target was supposed to be me. And now I think this card is connected to some -"
"Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa! Hold up! You lost me at intended target! Daniel, what are you talking about?" he sat up from my bed with worry now on his face.
"Those goons who beat Jaime up . . . Richie, they were looking for me." I answered.
I watched his jaw drop to the floor. "They're . . . those . . . but you . . . but what for? Why am I just hearing about this now? And I'm sorry, no offense, but, if they aren't into hot, hung, muscular jocks then you're basically a no one! What would they want with you?"
I shrugged. No offense taken. "Beats me," and I chuckled. "No pun intended. So, now, I recovered this card from the duffel bag that I used in the hospital." I continued.
"So, what . . . you think they're connected?" Richie asked and I nodded. "And, look at these; the "S" at the back of the card and the "S" on the envelope. Does that symbol mean anything to you?"
I shrugged. "No. It doesn't. The first time I saw that symbol was when I received that envelope. I'm sure I haven't seen it before."
Richie was lost in thought for a few minutes, and then he muttered. "Maybe it's a clue. And, look, these symbols are made of entwined flowers and chains to resemble the letter "S". Maybe it's a gang's logo or mark or something. Though, I wonder what gang has flowers in their insignia." he chuckled wittily. "I might just be inclined to join."
A gang. The Mafia? I shuddered when I thought of the possibility. "Maybe."
"So, why beat Jaime up when the card says that he, she - shim - has already found you?" Richie remarked after a short pause.
"I told you, they mistook Jaime for me. They must've followed him thinking he was me. Then when Jaime told them he wasn't, they asked for me but Jaime wouldn't give me up. That's why he got beaten, I guess. Thank God Timothy Garret was there with him."
"Damn!" Richie mumbled to himself. "That straight Filipino ass just gets hotter and hotter every second. I wonder if he's single. . ."
I groaned, loud enough so he'd know I could hear him.
Richie huffed. "Anyway, this whole situation is just shit! You're being tracked down by whoever gangster that is that sent you that card and turned Jaime into a punching bag, and my latest worry is that it's Dad's turn to cook dinner tonight. So if news gets out that Will and I died tonight, know that it was because of my father's cooking!"
We chuckled because it was a known fact: Carl Douglas Connor couldn't cook shit even if his life depended on it. But the fun was short-lived.
"I don't know what to think of this, Richie. I don't know what to do."
He cleared his throat. "Have you told anyone about this?"
And from his look I knew who he was talking about. But Bruce Adams was still missing. He hasn't texted. He hasn't called.
Then not to mention this situation that I have with Keith. We've hung after school every day like always but we haven't breached the thing about that phone call again. I can't seem to be angry with him for it because I know that whatever secrets he has from me, I have double from him. Which makes me feel like shit all over again. He swore he doesn't have any idea what the hell is going on. That that talk has no connection to what was going on here with me. So I have nothing to do but trust him on that. He's still my best friend, after all.
'So, why are you talking to Richard about this?'
I ignored my subconscious.
Suddenly, Richie's eyes lit up and he yelled. "Daniel, you can hire someone for these kinds of situations!"
"Yes! Like a P.I.!"
"A private investigator. So you can finally get to the bottom of this mess." He was beaming with his idea. "Tell him your story. Give him the clues. Let him do the rest. I'm sure, in time, he can find the one who's responsible for what's going on."
He was right. Hiring an investigator was probably the best thing to do right now. But there's one problem. . .
"Richie, I don't know anybody who knows anybody who knows a private investigator. I guess I'll just go to the cops and then -"
"Oh, sure you do!" Richie grinned and my brows rose in expectation. "You know me."
"Oookay, so, you know someone?" He nodded. "But I don't have any cash."
Then a musical tone rang from Richie's pocket. "Oh, shoot! Listen, I forgot. I gotta be somewhere." He instantly shot out of bed after reading the text message and gathered his things, more excitement in his eyes.
"But where? Richie, you still have to help me with this fiasco!"
"Just . . . I need to be somewhere. Sorry." He took a piece of paper, scrolled through his phone, and wrote a name and contact information on it. "Call him."
"But, wait, are you sure this guy is reliable?"
"Sure, my dad and Will hired him before when we were in New York." He answered in a rush.
I wanted to ask why they needed a P.I. then but he was already packing his things up.
"So, he's from New York?"
"But we're in California."
"I mean, would he take a job three thousand miles from his office?"
"Sure. He's a P.I.," he answered in exasperation. "It's par for the course, Daniel. Listen. Just give him a call and you two can talk about the specifics. Tell him what you want to know, and if he accepts the job, make a financial agreement and let him do the rest." His phone rang again. "Oh, shoot. Daniel, I really have to go. I need to get home right now. I'm . . . uh . . . cooking dinner. See you Monday!"
But he was already gone.
I thought Douglas was making dinner.
Hmmm. Something tells me that something's up. Oh, shit! Now, something's going on with Richie, too? Richie rarely lies to me and I know when he's lying about something. And I need to find out why he needed to lie about it.
I picked my phone up and pressed one. He answered on the second ring.
"Hey, where are you? You doin' anything? You're around the block? Oh, you're coming over? Great timing, man! Come on, drive faster. I need you to be here before Richie leaves the front door."
"This is Tyler's house," I muttered, stating the obvious. "What is he doing here?" I got out of the passenger's side and started for the porch.
I heard him getting out of his truck. "Hey, where are you going?"
He chuckled. "You know you suck at surveillance, Danny."
"Oh, shut up, Nattie! I know you just want to come and spy with me." I fluttered my lashes at him.
"Dude, I don't!" he huffed indignantly from behind. "What're we, five?"
"Really? Okay, then stay in your big-ass truck if you're so manly and all!"
"Wait," he whisper-called after me when I started walking again. "Alright, I'm going with you. Jeez, you're so uptight."
"I am not!" I huffed indignantly.
"Hey, do you wanna know what Connor and Jones are up to?"
"Then shut your pie hole and follow me." What? Pie hole? Seriously? He inspected the door then gave me that infuriating patented, sly, one-sided smile of his and I shoved him forward. Infuriating, but sexy as hell. "Come on. It's open."
I groaned but, still, I followed him into the seemingly empty and quiet house.
We searched for signs of humans but there were none downstairs. We moved upstairs. None. We found Tyler's door - which we were certain was his because of the generic skull and bones icon on it, a police line or tape or whatever across it, and the red, angry, all-caps letters that spelled T-Y-L-E-R artfully nailed below it. Talk about obvious.
We went inside.
"I guess no one's home." I said after checking the room.
"Shit! I wouldn't be so sure of that!" Keith hissed and hastily pulled me into Tyler's closet with him. I was startled at first . . . until I heard laughter coming from downstairs. Seconds later, we heard the bedroom door slam open, then slammed shut, then followed by more laughter and the strong familiar smell of chlorine immediately in its wake.
Oh, obviously. They were in the pool. How could we have missed that?
"Oh, shit! Yes!" I stopped moving in the semi-darkness. A guy hissed from somewhere in the room, his voice hoarse and deep with . . . I couldn't put a name on it.
I stood frozen on the spot where Keith had dragged me, the closet doors millimeters from my face.
I heard a wet, popping sound then another guy whispering sweetly, "You like that?"
The other guy groaned as if in agonizing pain. "Oh, baby, you know I do." he cursed. "Do that again, baby. Ohh!"
And I heard him moaning, growling for more, and I knew. Arousal. His voice was hoarse and deep with arousal.
"I can't believe myself sometimes," the other guy with the softer voice said after I heard him slurp and lick something. "I had to leave Daniel just for this."
Oh, my God, that's -
"What are you talking about, Richie? Just for this? You love sucking my cock!"
Richie was sucking the other guy's cock! And double Oh, my God! Because that other guy is definitely -
"Oh, I love your meaty monster, all right. You don't have to be jealous about anything." Lick. Suck. Slurp. Pop. "But I know you love this more, Tyler." And I heard the unmistakable sound of Richie slapping his ass.
A startled gasp would have escaped my lips if it were not for Keith's hand quickly, efficiently covering my mouth.
I almost forgot about him. Oh, who was I kidding? In the tight, confined space of Tyler's closet, I can feel almost everything around me. The clothes that hung above and all over us. The shoes, the bags that scattered below. The different bits and pieces that littered the messy, closet floor. And Keith's warm body wrapped around mine.
Holy shit! Did it suddenly get a little bit warmer in here? All of a sudden, it was harder to breathe.
We were trapped. We couldn't go forward, we couldn't go back. Trapped.
Minutes passed without us making a noise, without making a move, somehow afraid that Richie and Tyler might discover our presence. Which was ironically funny because it was not us who should be afraid of getting caught with our pants down - literally - it should be them. But I guess voyeurism is just as heavy a crime as doing the act itself, no matter how inadvertent it is.
It took another few minutes to pass until the unmistakable sound of sex became all that I could hear - aside, of course, from the blood pounding and throbbing loudly in my ears.
Yes, of course, I know what sex sounds like! The moans, the groans, the bed creaking, the headboard slamming, and the slap slap slap of sweaty bodies in action, doing what they do best. There're these web sites called Sean Cody, Corbin Fisher and Next Door World where I frequently visit if ever my left hand needed assistance.
Hey, I never said I was a saint.
The heavy breathing, the sweating, the pounding of my heart - this I can easily blame on the arousing image of a straining Tyler pounding his cock into Richie's sweat-slicked asshole; courtesy of the tiny slit in the doors incompletely shut because of a smelly sock stuck in the middle. Fuck, but they were a hot couple!
But I knew that this physical reaction was caused by a completely different reason. And I was currently engulfed in the arms of that reason.
Keith's arms remained wrapped around my shoulders. I don't know why, I already got the idea: No sound. We must not get caught. Maybe he was afraid that a single move would expose our location. Yeah, that's it. There's no other reason, of course. He wouldn't wrap you in his arms just because he wanted to! That's just wishful thinking, Daniel!
But still my silly heart beat faster, and I felt lightheaded. And I had to wonder what happened to the twenty percent of oxygen in the atmosphere. I need to breath, damn it! Instinctively, my lungs did their work. This proved to be a fatal mistake. My nostrils recognized clean, earthy, male sweat. And just like that, my hard-on just got harder than steel. I could not help but moan just from the memory of that smell. His smell. It was one thing to take a subtle whiff when we were together, hanging out, but this - this, with his muscular arms all around me, his thighs wrapped tightly around mine, his warm, powerful chest encompassing my back. . .
"Let me go," I managed to whisper shakily through his hand. But then my lips caught a finger and it somehow slipped inside my mouth. And then I tasted him. Because he was on my tongue. God, I missed that taste. And it was like an aphrodisiac that I couldn't get enough of. And I somehow found my tongue and lips wrapped around that finger, suckling on it.
I squirmed against his body.
"Danny," I felt more than heard his moan. "Oh, God." He went all rigid behind me. And I mean all of him; from his chest, to the valleys on his abdomen, to the unmistakable bulge that struggled behind the denim that barred him from my touch. God, that bulge. My hands were trapped on my sides so I gripped the nearest part of him that I could find instead. And I found myself gripping his ass. And I pulled him to me.
"Don't you remember us, Keith?" I whispered unconsciously, arching my back to feel more of him. His heaving chest on my back, his muscular thighs around mine, his warm mouth on my neck, his straining cock on my ass. Closer. I need to get closer. I pushed myself to the bulge that seemed to keep on growing.
"Fuck, Danny, what are you doing?" Keith hissed in my ear, just loud enough so I noticed. His breath was so warm and delicious on my face.
"OH, YESSS!" Somewhere, someone screamed. And I heard more screams. And that snapped me out of the haze that I was in.
Oh, shit! What am I doing? This is Keith! My best friend!
I stood there struggling with my breath. I opened my eyes. Eyes that I haven't even noticed were closed.
I was too caught up in the pleasure that I felt with Keith that I forgot our situation.
What if I was making noises? What if Richie and Tyler heard me?
Oh, shit! Why am I even thinking about them! What have I done to Keith?
"We should go." I flinched when Keith whispered behind me, his voice void of anything, but his chest was still pumping air in and out like it was nobody else's business. Shit! Was he angry?
"Keith, what just happened, I'm so -"
"Let's discuss this later. We need to go while we can." Detached. Blank. Emotionless. Angry?
"But Richie and Tyler -"
"They're taking a shower." He pushed the closet doors slowly open and pushed me aside. He quickly got out of the room once freed from the closet.
Immediately, the once hot and stifling temperature turned the other way around. I felt cold and alone. Not to mention, extremely humiliated.
Oh, my fucking God! What possessed me to . . . shit! I can't even put into words the things that I have just done to my best friend.
I cursed myself before getting out of the closet.
"Okay, Danny. Concentrate. Where to start? Where to start? Where to start?" I muttered to myself like a deranged man, looking all around the empty house for a starting point. "Where to start?"
Keith took me home after that night at Tyler's - which now I referred to as 'Closet Night' - and left without so much as a goodbye.
He hadn't even given me the chance to explain myself.
I shook my head.
I need to concentrate.
If I am to hire a private investigator then I should utilize all of the services that he will offer. I'll make him play reverse hide-and-seek; with him looking for my seekers instead of them looking for me. I hope that card would be enough to start with. Then I'm going to use him to look for my father, too.
Yes, my father.
When Steph and I talked about him - remember that time? - it sparked something in me. I realized I wanted - needed - to know where I came from. But for that to happen, I have to find something that would help the investigation. And because my mother wouldn't be of any help in this, I'd have to take matters on my own hands.
The only person that I know of who actually knew my father was my mom, naturally, and from the little info that she had shared with me, they were high school sweethearts. Puke. Mom was head cheerleader and he was a football player, so it's safe to take a guess that they'd be plastered on one of the pages of their high school yearbook. In-crowds usually have that automatic privilege, right? So, now, all I have to do is find that friggin' thing.
I started in our library. Well, it's more of a mini library because of the small number of literary works that are - oh, whatever! The point is: it took me less than a couple minutes to conclude that no such book was stashed there.
She had to have hidden it in her room. Where it's far from the prying hands of - let's say for example - a completely nonexistent sixteen year old kid named Daniel who may use it to learn the identity of his completely nonexistent father aptly named X. It's got to be there.
I slowly opened my mother's door and tiptoed across her bedroom. On my third step, I had to mentally slap myself for being so pathetically guilty about my actions that, even in her absence, I had to rely on my tiptoeing ninja skills to move from Point A to Point B.
'Guilty.' It echoed in my mind.
Oh, well. It's not like I'm doing something wrong, right?
Shut up, conscience!
I am not justifying the fact that going all B&E on my own mother's room is right. I just think that this sort-of-kinda-slightly wrong action may finally make things right.
A few seconds later - yes, seconds - I found what I was looking for under her mattress. Let me repeat that: under her friggin' mattress! Like, seriously? Could she be any more obvious? Isn't that number two in the most obvious hiding places in the world, right next to hiding under the pillows?
Anyway, after a few minutes of going through the Miami Beach Senior High School 1993 yearbook, I learned nada! I mean, I found something, sure, but where his face and name should have been, there was nothing. He was either smudged or completely scratched out. Definitely a heartbroken woman's work of art! Hoorah for Mom!
Of course I've seen my father's face before. It was his name that I was looking for.
This search proved to be countless. I came out of her room with nothing.
Oh, and I tiptoed my guilty ass all the way to my bedroom, too.
~* ~* ~* ~*~
I finished showering and was just about to get dressed for bed when I noticed something stitched on my boxers.
Of course, I've seen those letters before. It was stitched just above where my cock should be. Ooooh . . . MC for monster cock! Ha-ha. But, anyway, I haven't given them much thought because, really, they could've meant anything. They're stitched on an underwear, for God's sake! And add the fact that I haven't given much thought about its previous owner, too.
Haven't . . . until now.
Because aside from the boxers that my dad had given me, I swear I've seen those letters etched on another object, too.
"If these were Dad's . . ." I let my uncertain thoughts trail off and immediately put on the boxers, put on a shirt and raced towards the kitchen.
"Mom?" After my 'identity search', Mom and Steph came home and we had dinner. "D'ya have a minute?"
"Yes, honey. Why?"
"I need to see your locket for a sec."
She let me. And I was right. There they were. At the front of the locket were the letters M and C entwined dramatically and at the back it read "Yours today 'til forever. - C"
So, if the 'M' was for Mary . . . then 'C' has got to be his initial!
He must have given that to mom back when they were, you know, together.
"Mom, what does this 'C' mean?" I asked conversationally, indicating the letter etched on the locket.
If it were not for the countertop, the glasses she were arranging would have shattered on the kitchen floor.
"Mom, are you alright?" I quickly came to her side and helped her with the remaining utensils. Her hands were trembling. She was . . . nervous?
"Why are you asking?" And now her voice was trembling, too. Shit! I don't want her to cry!
"Um, I . . . um . . . I noticed the same letters stitched on my boxers. You know: the one that he gave me." I did not have to explain who 'he' is, right? I paused and waited for a reply, but she was silent, looking out of the window just above the sink, so I went on. "And it's also inscribed on your locket. I just want to know if . . . if it's his . . . if it has anything to do with him."
She sighed and slowly turned to me, running a trembling hand through her hair. "Honey, can we talk about this some other time?" she said shakily. Oh, shit! She's on the edge of crying! "I had a really long day and I have a feeling that, once started, this conversation would take more than just a few minutes. Please?"
"Mom, I just want you to tell me if it has anything to do with him or not. That's all."
'You really have to push her, do you, Danny?'
Shut up, conscience!
My mother was holding the kitchen towel as if gripping the flimsy material would give her the impression that she was strong enough to not break down and cry.
"It's his." I heard her whisper before leaving me in the kitchen.
And that was that.
Now I have the first letter of my father's name. Hoorah for Me!
"Mr. Mockins, I presume?"
I looked up from my coffee and almost choked on it. Shit! Do all of Doug and Will's friends have to look like they just came out of a fashion and fitness magazine? Like, what the hell? Now, I think, this one in front of me came from a business-themed fitness magazine.
Are there even magazines like that?
Anyway, I forced myself to get my head together, avoid lusting after the M-A-N before me, and take care of the matters at hand. "Yes. But please call me Daniel." I croaked; giving him what I presumed was a smile.
"Justin Miller." He extended his beefy hand and I found myself willingly shaking it. So much for avoiding the lust. Damn! Long, warm and thick! And there was something Dylan Vansteenberg-ish about him. "We've interacted by phone and email." He supplied, and that brought me back to Earth. Again.
"Yes," I acknowledged. I subtly shook my head and gestured for him to take a seat. "Please tell me you have found something, Mr. Miller." We've been conversing these past few days after I contacted him and told him about my situation. From the letter/card/note to what happened to Jaime to my incredulous 'gang' theory. And, without Richie knowing, I also asked him to find anything about my father.
He placed a Manila envelope from his briefcase on top of the table between us and ordered coffee. Black. No sugar. Studly. All American Guy!
'Daniel Christopher Mockins!!!'
Shut up, conscience!
"The investigation on the card has led me to nothing. Yet. All the gang members - at least those of importance - here in Southern California know nothing about that symbol. It's possible that it's not of Southern origin. . ."
My eyes bulged at that bit of information. How can he know what those 'important' gang members know about? Smartly, I kept my mouth shut.
". . . but I promise to look into every angle as to the hows, the whys and as to where and whom that letter came from." He answered gruffly.
I nodded understandingly. "And about the . . . other matter?"
He gave me a curt shake of his head - his dark brown hair was cut short on the sides, almost to the scalp; ex-Marine, Richie told me dreamily - before answering. "I'm sorry, Mr. Mockins, but with the little to less information you have given me, it's hard to find anything about your father's identity. Are you sure your mother hasn't mentioned a name?"
"Well, I have his initial, 'C', but other than that, I'm sure there's nothing else relevant enough. She rarely talks about him."
"But you have met and spent a short period of time with him, yes?"
"Yes. On my seventh and twelfth birthdays."
"And not one mentioned his name?" He thinks it odd that no one mentioned his name all those 'times' that we've spent together. I did, too.
I explained tentatively. "No one had because on both occasions we spent our time privately. Mom only refers to him as 'your father' when she talks about him."
"Privately?" he inquired.
"Yes. On my seventh birthday, we went to the beach. I can't remember where anymore. It was a private stretch, I guess, so no one was around but him, my mother, Stephanie and me. Then on my twelfth, he only dropped my gift, gave me a hug outside the house and went on his way. I never saw him since."
He nodded. "Very well."
Then a memory sparked and I was on a roll. "Oh, wait! I think I remember something! My mom has been going out on dates these past few weeks, and from what I have seen, it was always with the same guy. He drives a Land Cruiser. Yes. And I heard my mom on the phone a week or so ago. She was talking to someone named Chris. Yes! The initial! C! Chris! Maybe he's my dad! Or maybe he's the same guy I saw mom with last week and -"
"Hold on. Did you say Chris?" he cut me off.
"Yes, I did." I blinked.
"Chris," he muttered while shuffling papers from the envelope. "I may not have found out who your father is yet, but I do, however, have compiled a small list of your mother's male friends around the time when you were supposed to be conceived."
Wow. That must have taken a lot of research. I never thought of compiling a list. "And you have a guy named Chris on that list?" I asked incredulously, thinking about the coincidences.
"Four guys, actually. Yes. Aha! Here they are! A certain Cristo Jimenez, a Christian York, a Christopher Rodriguez and a Christopher McClane."
"Let's go with him first. Christopher McClane?" Excitement pumped through my veins. Could it be him? Could he be my father? "What do you know about him?"
"He was, and I quote, 'the quarterback of our football team', 'king of the in-crowd', 'the hottest guy in campus', 'homecoming king', 'has the biggest dick in the team' . . . should I go on?"
"Um, no. I get the point. That's enough." I said. "Mom said my father was a part of the football team. Now, filter out anything that is not of importance, please. Could he be my father?"
He chuckled shortly then consulted the documents on the table, and a frown replaced the smile that was recently there. "Hmm. I don't think it's possible, Daniel." He shook his head.
"Because he died in a car accident months before you were born. He could not have attended your birthdays."
"Oh." Well, that's crap. "Cristo Jimenez?"
"Cristo Jimenez is also a bad candidate. He never left his hometown and is still living in Miami . . . with his wife, three kids and his German shepherd. And the description that you gave about your father is nothing like Jimenez. Jimenez is Puerto Rican."
"Can't be. Or the church would surely excommunicate him. Christopher Rodriguez has been a Catholic priest for more than ten years now."
An awkward pause. "So, that leaves Christian York."
He nodded. "To make things simple, York is a multi-billionaire with an ego the size greater than that of Texas. He is the sole heir and CEO of the York Enterprises and is this year's Chicago's Most Eligible Bachelor. He matches your father's description. And he was a wide receiver their Senior Year."
My heart sputtered. A burst of hope. Land Cruisers are toys that aren't really that cheap, I hear, and bachelor CEOs can absolutely afford them. But a young multi-billionaire father? "Is it possible . . . that he . . . could he be my father?"
He shuffled through the documents in his hands. "He went to school with your mom; they ran in the same circles. I don't know anything concrete yet, but, I say, there is a great chance that he could be. I'll keep on beating around the bushes." He finished with a small smile. And a friggin' dimple to go with it. Damn!
"Thank you, Mr. Miller." I, too, smiled with gratitude.
Now we're getting somewhere.
"No problem." He pushed the documents back into the envelope. "I'll report once something comes up and you do the same. Keep your phone with you at all times. And don't hesitate to call me if you need anything, okay, Daniel?" He said as he stood to leave and we shook hands.
"So, what you're saying is Dad could be a multi-billionaire, an ultimate playboy, and one of the most arrogant douche bags who ever walked the face of the earth?" Stephanie finished with unbelieving eyes. "And don't think I missed it when you said you used Lily's jewelries for payment?"
"That pretty much sums him all up, yeah." I deadpanned. "And Lily would have understood."
"Oh, I know she will. Besides, she can't do anything about it, anyway, seeing that she's six feet underground. But . . . wow." I can't help but hear the disappointment in her voice. "A douche bag for a father. That's . . . something."
"Yep." I settled down next to her on the hammock. I can faintly hear the twitter-twatter of the birds in the branches above us. "But nothing's certain. The P.I. said he has to dig deeper."
"Hmm. So, what are you gonna do?" she asked me after a few minutes of staring into nothingness.
"Nothing." I echoed my thoughts.
"Nothing." Her face turned to me.
"Nothing?" She repeated and sat up and faced me squarely, a disbelieving expression written all over her face. "You go to all that trouble pawning a dead friend's jewelry, hiring a private investigator to find our father so that you could do nothing?"
She makes me sound like I was the bad guy so I turned to defend myself. "What do you want me to do, Steph? Confront him? Ask him why he left after getting our mother pregnant? Twice?"
A silent pause followed, but not for long, for I heard my sister whisper weakly. "Well . . . yeah. There's nothing else we can do, right? At least we'll know the truth then." she said, "I can go with you."
"Oh, Steph." I groaned and covered my face with my palms.
"Please, Daniel." She shook me and she's giving me the look now. The look that I can't seem to say no to. "If he is our father, then I want to meet him. I have no memories of him, Daniel. Please. I want to see my father's face."
And with that I bent. And crumbled. And crumpled. And broke.
"Okay." I surrendered. "I'll ask my P.I. if there's a way to contact him."
She beamed. "Thank you, Daniel."
I was in school the following Monday and I had an interesting conversation with my friends. It went on like this:
Friend 1: Hey, Daniel!
Me: Oh, Ty. Hey! (I gave him a smirk even though I can feel the redness on my cheeks when I remembered my participation in 'Closet Night')
Friend 1: How you doin'? Are you okay? You look a little red.
Me: I'm distraught. (I gave him a devastated look)
Friend 1: (He chuckled) Careful, Daniel. You're almost sounding like Richie. (And the cheeky bastard chuckled more) You care to expound on that one?
Me: They've just cancelled the musicale.
Friend 1: What? I was really looking forward to it!
Me: Sure, you are. (I chuckled knowingly)
Friend 1: Really! I was. (I rolled my eyes at him then) Okay, maybe not that much. But, why'd they shut it down?
Me: Mrs. Giovanni had to leave. She's heading for Italy in two days.
Friend 1: But the school year's about to end. Couldn't she have waited for a few more weeks for the musicale?
Me: She had an offer to exhibit her artworks in one of the museums there. She paints and sculpts, you know. They're really beautiful. It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up, I guess. And I hear they'll be sending a temporary replacement just for the rest of the school year. No more musicale now, though.
Friend 1: Well, good for her, at least.
Me: I know. (Then I saw another friend, and I smirked more) Hey, there's Richie!
Friend 1: Yeah, the hallway just got more colorful with feathers and fabrics all of a sudden. I can see. (He feigned disinterest, but - Holy shit! - it was futile because I can definitely see the hunger in his eyes.)
Me: Hey, Rich. What did you have for dinner last Saturday night?
Friend 2: Dinner?
Me: Yeah. You left me in a rush and said you had to cook dinner that night, remember?
Friend 2: Oh. Yeah. Dinner. Um. (So busted)
Me: Did you cook foot long hotdogs? (I asked just to make him uncomfortable)
Friend 2: No!
Me: Or maybe monster sausages? I know you love your sausages monster-sized. Right, Tyler? Richard loooooooves thick, meaty, monster sausages, right? (I turned and winked at his now beet-red face)
Friend 1: Um.
Friend 2: Daniel Mockins! (He clearly knows I know something about them now, so I laughed at them)
Me: See ya later, alligators! (I called sweetly at their blushing, gaping-mouthed expressions)
I was still laughing hard when I turned the corner and "Oomph!" I grunted as the breath was squeezed out of me. "Hey! What the hell!" I more or less shrieked in the crowded hallways. I can feel everybody's eyes on me. Classy. "Let me go! Let go of me or I swear to God -"
"Did ya miss me?" he released me from his grip and turned me around to face him.
"Bruce! Oh my God!" I practically yelped and threw all of my limbs around him.
"Holy shit, Daniel!" he grunted. "You're like three times beefier than last time! You're so fucking hot, baby. I love it."
Then I jumped back like he just electrocuted the hell out of me, even though I can feel my traitorous heart jumping in my chest. "Wait! I'm supposed to be angry at you!" I muttered more to myself. "Get out of my way and leave me alone! I don't wannna see you!" I held my ground to assess . . . I don't know what. "Get away!"
"You're smiling, baby." He had the nerve to flirt with me? Oh, the bastard! And damn my mouth for smiling! I fixed my facial expression to a scowl.
"I hate you. Get off!" I injected it with as much venom as I could when he went all Kraken on me again. "Get off, Bruce!"
"Nah! You like me doin' this to you!" he whispered playfully like this was fun and all. "I missed you so much, Daniel." I looked around for help but got disappointed when I saw that everyone has magically disappeared. Fuck!
"Oh my God! Let me go! I need to breathe!" I managed to extract myself from one of his constricting tentacles. My liberated hand then gave him a piece of the disappointment that I felt for him, and I got free.
"OW! What was that for?" he growled while rubbing a sore temple.
"That was for leaving, you bastard!" I hissed and turned the other way.
"Hey, wait! Daniel, where are you going?" he called after me.
"Wait! I need to talk to you." He followed me out of the building.
"Oh, now you want to talk to me?" I turned around, just to let him see the anger and disappointment that I felt. "Too bad, 'cause you're almost four months late, Bruce! I know it's foolish of me but I counted! I freaking counted the days you were gone and I guess I shouldn't have because it was useless and it was childish and it was . . . foolish of me to think that I mattered to you. Three fucking months! Do you know how long that is? You asked me out yet you left me waiting in that restaurant! On freaking Valentine's Day!" Thank God the parking lot was empty. "And I haven't heard anything from you ever since and I feared the worst. And now you walk back here like nothing fucking happened? Fuck you!"
"Baby. . ."
"No! Don't you 'baby' me! I ain't your baby! I never was. I never will be!"
"Daniel, I have my reasons, okay? And that's why we need to talk. Please, I need to explain why I left." He's pleading with me now. And a tear leaked down his face. The face that I missed the most. Then his eyes were filled with an intensity that I have never seen in them before. "And I can't tell you how happy I am that you counted! Because that would mean that you cared. I don't care what everybody else says now - fuck what everybody else says - but you matter! You need to know that you matter. So much. You mean the fucking world to me, Daniel! But there's something that you need to know about us. Because I can't let you jump into this with both eyes closed."
What the hell is he talking about!?
I shook my head in frustration and turned around. "You know what? I can see your lips moving, but I just can't get what they're saying. Goodbye, Bruce."
And I left. With the feeling that I just heard him say something important in the end.
"Get dressed. We're going out." My mom announced from the couch once Steph and I arrived from school.
"Really? What's the occasion, Mom?" my sister asked.
"Oh, nothing, honey. We're having dinner outside."
"Well, I have exams next week and I need to study, so why can't we have dinner inside? Seeing that there's no occasion and all that." asked moi.
She sighed and the hopeful and dreamy - but nervous - look that she gave us made me think that my day was only going to get worse. I don't know how, but it would.
"We're going out for dinner . . . because there's someone I'd like you and Stephanie to meet."
The clock ticked. Seconds passed. But "Oh" was all that I could reply. Steph just stood there beside me.
"Be sure you're ready before seven, okay?"
But her words fell on deaf ears because the only things that my brain could process were the words 'meet someone' and 'dinner'.
I've seen enough family drama on screen to know what those words would mean. Especially when they're strung on the same sentence. And, more importantly, when they're spoken by your mom.
*End of Chapter 19*
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Guys, I'm really, really sorry for this really, really late update. Like eight months late! I had a lot of things on my plate these past months - still have a lot actually - but emails were sent, demands were made and a few strings were pulled, so here's a little something-something from me to you to start 2014. It's quite fast-paced and a bit unimproved and it's not much but it's a chapter, so . . . thank you for those who sent me e-mails and for those who followed my Twitter account @ANerdyJock (even though I don't really use it that much). If you want to contact me, here's my e-mail address: [email protected] You can talk to me there. You can send your suggestions and reactions regarding my stories. You can even critique me there and no one will ever know but you and me. AND I've also started sharing my stories through different blog sites. Check out thisnerdyjock.blogspot.com and thisnerdyjock.tumblr.com And don't forget your COMMENTS! COMMENTS! COMMENTS! - XOXO NJ