Generation 5, Chapter 8


Oh, my God.. My head was killing me.. What the hell happened last night? I remember coming home from Riley’s, talking with Pia and blowing up at her like an asshole, then leaving to go to the bar.. But, that’s it. I couldn’t remember anything else. Oh, shit.. I must’ve blacked out.. Fuck, I really hope I didn’t do anything stupid last night. Starting that early drinking was stupid enough, but drinking all day and into the night and not remembering a second of it? Shit..

I still couldn’t open my eyes after waking up. I could see through my eyelids that it was too bright to open them just yet and I sat up on what felt like a couch beneath me. I let out a tired, painful groan and I brought my hands up to my face, rubbing my cheeks and my eyes as I tried to remember what had happened last night.


“Good, you’re awake,” I heard my brother, Niko’s, voice and I struggled to open my eyes, looking to where I heard his voice and I saw him standing in his kitchen drinking a cup of coffee.

“W-What.. How did I get here?” I asked, my eyes continuing to struggle to focus as I stood up with weak legs from the couch to join him in the kitchen. 

“Wow, you really were trashed last night.. Trashed enough to drive here at three in the morning and wake us up,” Niko pointed out in slight frustration and I watched as he grabbed a second cup of coffee he had already made for me and handed it over. I leaned against the counter as I took the mug and let out another groan as I felt how weak and hungover my entire body was. 

“Thanks,” I said quietly, my vision fuzzy and my ears ringing from a massive headache, “I came here that late last night?” I asked, taking a sip of the coffee.

“Yeah.. You seemed pretty upset, too. You were going on and on about Riley, and something about Alani, too, but I could barely catch any of the points you were trying to make you were slurring so much. Something about love and what not and not knowing what to do about.. Something..? I honestly don’t know,” he reminded me, although it wasn’t much to go on, but I could put two and two together and knew I was probably rambling about what I talked to Pia about.


“I’m sorry, Niko, I didn’t mean to do that.. Was AnneMarie mad?”

“No, more-so concerned.”

“..She isn’t going to tell Riley about this, right?” I asked in worry, but he shook his head.

“No. You asked her not to and she said she wouldn’t, but who knows.. She went out to get something for dinner for us, mostly you, so you’d hopefully feel better.”

“W-Wait, what? Dinner? What time is it?”

“It’s almost five. You slept all day,” he said with a rather displeased expression.

“Jesus..”

“It seemed like you had a lot to drink last night.. And I’m kind of pissed you drove here like that.. You should’ve just called me, I would’ve come and picked you up. You could’ve got pulled over, or worse, gotten into an accident.. You’re really stupid sometimes, you know that?” He disciplined as if he was Dad or Pops and I chuckled softly.

“Heh, yeah, yeah, I do.. And I probably did try to call you, but with the condition I was in, I don’t doubt that I fucked up trying to dial you and just gave up and decided to drive here.. I can’t believe I did that,” I replied with disappointment in myself, taking another sip of the coffee before putting it down onto the counter top.


“Well, it’s fine now. You’re safe, so that’s what’s important,” he said with a forced smile and I smirked.

“Again, I’m sorry.. I didn’t mean to barge in like that and I didn’t mean to get that drunk. It really was stupid of me, but thank you for taking me in,” I said with my smirk still on my lips.

“Always,” he then replied with a genuine smile and I could tell he was finally over it, “So.. About last night, though.. What were you so upset about, anyways?”

“No.. I don’t want to talk about it,” I shied my eyes away to the ground.

“You don’t get to do that, Luca. You don’t get to come here in the condition you were in and not tell me why you did it. I have a right to know, especially when you seemed like you really wanted to talk about whatever it was,” he insisted and I sighed.

“..You’re right.. How long ago did AnneMarie leave? I don’t want to talk about it if she’s here,” I replied, not knowing if AnneMarie really wouldn’t tell Riley about what I did last night and with what I was about to talk to Niko about, it’s the last thing I needed her to overhear.

“She left about ten minutes ago, although I think she’s probably going to that diner across town that serves the really greasy stuff for occasions such as this, so we have time.. Spill it,” he said in his kind, ‘I’m listening’, tone and I appreciated his open ears.

“All right, well.. It pretty much can just be summed up to Pia getting it out of me that I think I already love Riley, but I don’t want to tell her. And somehow the subject of Alani came up and I may have admitted that I still do love her and part of me is, maybe, holding back from telling Riley something that serious in hopes that Alani might eventually come back.. Or not.. I don’t know, really.. I don’t want to tell Riley that I love her because then what if Alani eventually does show up again and I decide I want to be with her? I can’t do that to Riley. I’d be leaving her the same way Alani left me. Tell her I love her, then bam, I’m gone.. All of it makes me feel like such shit and I’m an asshole for even holding onto the shred of hope that Alani will ever come back,” I explained and there was a long silence around us before he spoke.

“Well, that’s, uhm.. Pretty serious, Luca,” he seemed bothered by my words and I didn’t blame him.. AnneMarie and Niko were the ones that set me up with Riley in hopes of maybe trying to help me forget about Alani, but seeing as their attempt at helping me didn’t work, it made me feel even more like shit. They had good intentions and I appreciated it, but I couldn’t help what I still wanted deep down.

“Look, I know you and AnneMarie wanted nothing but the best for me by introducing me to Riley, and so far it’s been really great, obviously, since I feel this strongly about her, but.. There’s still a part of me that I don’t think will ever get over Alani and I don’t know what to do. I’ve already told Riley about Alani and I told her I didn’t love her anymore, so I can’t go back on what I said. It’ll make her think she can’t compare to her or something and the last thing I want is to make her feel like shit over something that’s completely my fault for not being honest about,” I answered.

“Forgive me if this is a little straight forward, Luca, but there isn’t anything you can do. Alani hasn’t come back to you, so there’s nothing to figure out..? The only thing that’s making you think that you still have a chance with her is because you refuse to let her go. You need to let her go, Luca.. If you love Riley like you say you do, then you need to separate yourself from the past and move forward or you’ll never be happy. If you can’t move on, then don’t drag Riley along with you if you’re not one hundred percent sure that you want to be with her,” his words hit harder than I thought they would and my heart started to race a little in nerves.

“You.. Think I should break up with her?”

“Well.. It isn’t fair to her. If you’re thinking about someone else when you’re with her, then-”

“-I don’t.. I don’t think about Alani at all when I’m with Riley, not ever.. It’s just the downtime’s.. And especially last night when she came up in conversation with Pia. I promise,” I answered sternly and he shrugged his shoulders.

“You don’t have to promise me anything or prove anything to me, Luca. The only person you need to be honest with right now is yourself.. And Riley,” he implied.

“I-” I didn’t know what to say, “I.. Can’t.. I can’t do that. I told Riley that I didn’t love Alani anymore, I can’t just go and talk to her about it and admit that I lied straight to her face.. And telling her that I’m in love with someone else that I haven’t seen in this long? It just sounds ridiculous,” I replied.

“The worst that could happen is you break up, and everyone goes through them, Luca-”

“-You never did,” I pointed out and he shrugged again.

“I’m just lucky, I guess.. But, that’s not the point. People break up every day. It’s nothing to be scared of, it’s just something you’ll have to prepare yourself for just in case. You have time to prepare yourself for the worst this time, too. She’s not going to up and leave you without some kind of notice and vice versa. It won’t be anything like how you and Alani ended it, if it does, that is,” he pointed out and I did agree with what he said, but I still didn’t think I could do it.

“But, I think I love her-”

“-And if you do, you’ll be honest with her,” he insisted, “That’s mostly what keeps love alive, Luca.. Honesty. And if you don’t have that, it’ll never work out,” he added and I knew that to be true, but I was nervous about it.

“Well, what if I just try it out a little bit longer and see if it goes away?”

“Now you’re just trying to avoid something you should do. I know it’s scary-”

“-I’m not scared.”

“Whatever.. The point is, you’re putting it off because it’s something you don’t want to do, but it’s something you should do. She has a right to know that even though you may love her, there’s someone else that’s still in your heart, too. You shouldn’t have lied to her in the first place,” he gave me a parental eyebrow raise and I rolled my eyes.

“I know, I know, but, she asked, and since it was so new, I didn’t wanna blow it so early into us dating. It made me uneasy already dating someone for the first time in so long and I didn’t want to blow it, so-”

“-You told her what you thought she wanted to hear, and what you wanted to believe, yourself,” he finished for me.

“Man, you really like completing my sentences for me, don’t you?” I said with an annoyed snicker.

“Luca, we’re brothers. I’ve grown up learning exactly who you are. I just know you, that’s all, and I’ve come to understand what kind of person you are,” he put simply.

“What, a coward? Selfish? Dishonest?”

“Hey, you said it, not me,” he said with a teasing grin and I sighed heavily.

“We had sex two nights ago for the first time,” I brought up randomly, hoping that maybe giving him that piece of information would trail him away from insisting I tell Riley the truth. Niko’s eyes widened in surprise and he seemed deep in thought for a long moment.

“That’s-” He didn’t know what to say for another long moment, “That.. Makes things a lot more complicated,” he said.

“I know, right?! I can’t tell her something like that when she’s been waiting until she completely trusted me in order to be comfortable enough to have sex with me. I don’t know if she loves me back, of course, but something tells me that she might, or at least have strong feelings towards me, and if I told her about how I truly felt about Alani after she brought her walls down and let me in like that, I just.. I can’t. Not now, at least,” I replied, my eyes going down to the floor again and I felt ashamed for how I felt.

“Shoot.. So, now, if you tell her the truth, she might take it wrong and think you just wanted the sex and are making up some excuse to break up with her once you got it,” he came to a possible conclusion and I nodded.

“More than likely, yes, and that’s why I can’t tell her because I don’t want her to think that for a second.. Had this realization happened before we had sex, sure, I could probably do it, but after all of that and how great it was and how amazing I know she is, I can’t, Niko. I’d double hurt her, and I don’t even want to hurt her once..”

“Jesus.. Why does sex make everything more complicated?”

“Pft.. Like you would even know, virgin,” I teased.

“I realize you’re hurting right now, Luca, but pointing out virginity as a flaw isn’t something I’ll stand for. I’m waiting for a reason and it’s to experience it with the woman I love,” he got defensive and I chuckled half-heartedly.

“Lighten up, I’m just joking around.. It’s beautiful and you’re lucky and blah blah, romantic shit and what not,” I brushed off.

“I don’t really know what to tell you now, Luca. I still want you to be honest with her, but I can understand how it would come across after you two have been intimate. You’re in a really crappy situation and I don’t know what I can say to help you. I think this is something you might just need to figure out for yourself, as hard as it sounds,” Niko spoke at a loss, but before I could answer or try to talk more about it with him, the door was being unlocked and AnneMarie came inside with the food she had gone out for.


She stood there for a moment in slight confusion before fully coming inside.

“Jeez, what’re ya’ll so gloomy about?” AnneMarie wondered as she shut the door behind her. Niko quickly went to her, helping her bring in the food by taking it from her hands.

“Nothing, babe,” he leaned in and kissed her lovingly, “I’ll get us some plates. Thank you for going out and getting dinner,” he continued.

“It’s no problem,” she said with a smile and I walked over to the couch to sit down.

“So, how are yah, sweetie? Feelin’ okay?” She worried about me with a sweet smile, coming over to sit with me and tapping my knee twice before withdrawing it and I nodded.

“Yeah, I’m fine, and thanks to you, I’ll be much better when I get some food in me,” I replied, trying to momentarily erase my emotions from my face and tone while in her presence, “You’re a life saver.”

“Oh, go on,” she said with another smile and I chuckled softly. As much as I wanted to forget about Riley and how much of a piece of shit I was while with AnneMarie, Riley was all I could think about. AnneMarie had the same accent, the same glow in her green eyes, the same kindness. I couldn’t handle it.

“You don’t happen to have anything a little stronger than coffee, do you, Niko?” I asked with a sense of slight shame, but I felt like I needed it.

“This early?” AnneMarie wondered and I chuckled nervously. She thought that drinking at five was early?

“Hair of the dog,” I answered and she nodded in understanding.

“Uh, I think so?” He answered and Niko went to the fridge and checked for me, “Yeah, I got a few beers. But, you only get one, got it?”

“Yes, dad,” I teased and AnneMarie giggled softly.

“Shut up, you know I hate that,” he scolded and I kept my grin. Even with everything I was dealing with, Niko always managed to bring out a little humor in me during hard times and I really needed it. Niko handed me a beer and I took it, hearing the carbonation escape the bottle when I twisted the cap off and took a quick chug of it before setting it down on the coffee table.

“So, what were yah so upset about last night, Luca? You were a drunkin’ mess and we could barely understand yah, but I thought I could’ve sworn I heard you mention Riley.. Is everythin’ between you two goin’ okay?” She wondered in worry and I glanced up briefly to see Niko putting the food onto plates, but he was staring at me, as well.

I put my attention back on AnneMarie and thought of a quick lie, “Oh, uhh.. I-It was nothing.. I just got really drunk and I didn’t want you to tell Riley about me getting plastered like that. I don’t want her to get the wrong impression of me,” I replied, meaning that statement in more than just one way and she nodded.

“Oh, well, don’t worry, sweetheart, I won’t tell’er. Everyone needs to have some fun by themselves every now and then, right? Besides, after convincin’ her to go out with yah, I wouldn’t say anythin’ bad about yah to her,” she replied with a smile, but it took me a few seconds to dissect her words.

“Wait, what?” I wondered and her expression seemed surprised.

“What? What did I say?” She asked.

“You.. You said that you had to convince her to go out with me.. I thought that you told me she wanted to, and I was the one that took the convincing?” I replied and I could tell that AnneMarie was getting a little uncomfortable by the question I asked. Niko came into the room and set down three plates full of food and attempted to change the conversation.


“What does it matter? You two are together now, so that’s that,” he put simply, but I ignored it and continued talking to AnneMarie.

“What exactly did you need to convince her about?”

“I.. Don’t think this is appropriate timin’-”

“-Why not? Because you happened to slip out the truth instead of the lie that you told me?”

“Luca, chill out, okay? It’s not that big of a deal,” Niko jumped in to try to protect AnneMarie and I understood why, but it didn’t help calm me down at all. He must’ve been in on it, too.

I looked at Niko, “So, you can lie to my face, but I’m the one that should be telling the truth?” I referred to our conversation earlier before AnneMarie had gotten there and I could see the guilt in his eyes, “I’m.. I’m just gunna go. Thanks for the dinner, but I’m not that hungry anymore. Sorry again for barging in last night,” I spoke with a tinge of anger, getting up from the couch and walking to the front door to leave. 

“Luca, come on,” I heard Niko say before I shut the door, but I was too frustrated to turn back to hear him out. Why was it that everywhere it seemed I went lately, the conversations always turned into arguments?


I heard the door open and shut behind me as I walked to my poorly parked car and I knew it was Niko.

“Luca, you know what you’re doing right now, right? You’re reaching. You’re finding things to get mad at Riley about so that maybe telling her the truth won’t seem so hard, and that if you do break up over it, you’ll hurt less because you have something on her, too,” Niko called out, still following behind me.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I brushed off.

“I think I do, Luca-”

“-Fine,” I stopped walking towards my car and faced him, “Then cut the crap, stop trying to be the best man in the entire word by shoving this honestly bullshit down my throat and tell me why it took Riley some convincing to date me. Or at least just to meet me. What has AnneMarie said about me behind my back to her all these years? I mean, they’ve been friends since before she met you eleven years ago, she’s known me that long, too, and girls love to fucking gossip, so I don’t doubt there’s been some bad shit said about me to AnneMarie from you, and from her to Riley,” I pointed out.

“If you say that, then you must know already. I don’t need to tell you,” he said with furrowed, worried brows.

“Maybe.. But, I want you to say it,” I challenged and he sighed heavily, “What? I’m not allowed to lie to someone, but you are? To your brother, no less? This isn’t about Riley anymore, this isn’t about some girl, this is about us now. Family. Just tell me what you’ve told AnneMarie and what she’s told Riley about me. That’s all I’m asking. If you can tell me that, then yeah, maybe I’ll take your shitty advice and have the courage to be honest with Riley, too, but if you can’t, if you can’t take your own damn advice, then what’s it good for?” I asked rhetorically and I could see the nerves he was feeling through his eyes.


“Fine.. You’re just.. You just have a bad reputation, that’s all,” he said with a shrug.

“That’s all, you say? And what kind of reputation is that?”

“Please, don’t make me say it, Luca,” he somewhat begged, the hurt evident in his eyes, but I wasn’t letting him off that easy and he finally gave in.

“.. A womanizer,” he said in a way as if he was truly uncomfortable with the word, but I could see why. He was an angel, always has been, and he’d never be anything like me. I grew up knowing how perfect he was because our parents would never shut up about it.

“Well.. Only the ones that believe it are the ones that spread it, right?” I replied and I could tell he felt terrible for even saying it.

“I don’t spread lies, Luca. Every time someone’s talked to me about you and how you are with women, depending on the severity of the situation, I either don’t say anything, or I deny it. I always have your back, but everyone knows that you like coasting through life getting women on theirs,” he answered and I chuckled sarcastically.

Coasting through life? You can’t be serious..”

He continued, “Riley knew this before going on a date with you, because, well.. Yeah, AnneMarie has talked about it with her because Riley’s her best friend and AnneMarie’s practically your sister, she has been for a long time and she’ll be officially part of the family when we get married. But, you can’t blame her, because who knew you and Riley would eventually end up together? And who knew that you would be this.. ‘Charismatic’ with women? ..But, the point is, even when she knew about your reputation, she still agreed to meet you, and things have been great ever since, right? You told me no more than twenty minutes ago that you think you love her and you think she loves you, too. If her view of you hasn’t changed from since before she met you, then how the heck can you stand there and say that? How can you possibly believe she could still think those things about you? She’s gotten to know you and she likes who you are, maybe even loves who you are, so why does a little bit of convincing on her side make that much of a difference? And, really, how could you blame her? ..You needed convincing, too, you know.. Or did you forget that part?” he pointed out.

“Yeah, I had my doubts, too, I didn’t know anything about Riley at the time and she knew all about me. But, I needed to convince myself that I needed to get out more and actually take dating seriously, but she needed to convince herself to go out on a date with a ‘womanizer’.. It’s completely different convincing reasons,” I continued to argue.

“But, you’re still missing the point. If she still thought that, she wouldn’t still be with you. You proved that reputation otherwise to her and she likes you for who you are, not the rumors about what people think you are. I still think you should be honest with her, and I know you’re going to say you’re not scared, but you are. I can see it. And with the heartbreak you went through with Alani, you’re scared it’s going to happen again with Riley, but she’s nothing like Alani and you know that. If she loves you like you think she does, she’ll look past it.. Tell her the truth about both things,” he implied.

“Both things?”

“Yeah.. About you loving her and about Alani. She deserves to know about both,” he continued to insist I be honest with her and myself, but I was still unsure if I could.

“What if I’m not ready to do either?”

“Then keep pretending you’re happy and continue to live your life.. I don’t know, Luca, but I can tell you that the longer you keep it a secret, the more probability that it’s going to come out sometime,” he said with slight frustration, completely at a loss with how to help me.

“Which do I do first?” I asked, still needing help and Niko sighed as he approached me more and stopped just a few feet away.

“Luca, I don’t know.. If it were me, I’d.. I’d probably tell her about how you still feel things for Alani, and if she understands, then tell her the truth about how you feel about her. Maybe she can still look past it and focus on how you feel now about her. But, I want you to understand that this is all about how you want to go about it. Whether you talk about one thing or the other first, who knows how she’ll react to either. You just have to figure it out yourself and hope she’s understanding about both. Other than that, I don’t know what else to tell you,” he tried to explain and I could tell he was getting more and more exhausted by the conversation the more I dragged it out and avoided the deep shit situation I put myself in. He was so used to being there for me through thick and thin our whole lives, he was the mature one with all the answers, the one that always tried his best to help out his siblings, especially me. You could tell that whenever we had deep conversations like this, it took a lot out of him. I was a pretty exhausting person, I guess. Most of the time I often forgot that I was the older brother and I was the one who should be taking care of him.

“Before you leave, I do want to apologize,” Niko added, hanging his head in slight shame for a moment before looking back up to me, “I never wanted you to find out about that, but, at the same time, it should’ve never been something that I kept from you. That argument is exactly why I wanted to avoid telling you, but I should’ve told you sooner, anyways.. I don’t like keeping things from you, or anyone, really,” he said with complete sincerity and I smirked.

“..Don’t worry about it.. I mean, it’s not like I’m completely oblivious to what people say about me, I was just surprised to hear that AnneMarie might be one of those people that help keep the rumors alive. And I understand why you couldn’t tell me about it when you and her first brought up introducing me to Riley. I get that she probably didn’t want me to know and you couldn’t tell me when she was around, which is always,” I chuckled softly, “Not saying her being around is a bad thing, but.. It takes away from time we should have together, you know.. To talk about stuff like this.. It’s been a while since we’ve hung out, just the two of us.. And, if you wanted to tell me, you could’ve hit me up sooner and we could’ve just went out for a bit and grabbed a quick beer together,” I pointed out and he smirked back.

“You’re right. It won’t happen again.. I wish you luck, with whatever you decide to do, and be sure to let me know how everything goes and if there’s any way I can help out, if you need it,” he added and I nodded.

“Will do.. Thanks, bro,” I replied, “And, uh.. Sorry about your lawn,” I said as I looked at my horrible parking job from last night when I was trashed.

“I needed to re-grass it anyways,” he brushed off and I chuckled before getting into my car and pulling out of his driveway.


I pulled out my phone as I drove and I noticed I had a text from Pia she sent earlier this morning.

  • Hey, I’m sorry for what I brought up last night. I hope you’re doing okay.

It read and slowly, as I drove and tried to remember everything that we talked about, it all started to come back to me.. How she was only trying to help me understand the feelings I really had for Riley, and also, how much of an asshole I was towards the end of our conversation and how I just walked out on her.. I felt terrible with how I treated her and she deserved an apology. After talking to my brother about everything, it was all a lot more clear. I wished I had realized it sooner and not been such an asshole to her.

  • Hey, Pi.. Don’t worry about it. I’m sorry for flipping out and leaving you high and dry like that. I know you were just trying to help and I appreciate it. I’m okay, too. I’ll see you later.

I texted back, then scrolled through my contacts and found Riley’s name, wondering what I should do.. Should I text her and see if she wants to hang out? ..Was I ready to do that? I wasn’t even sure if I was ready to talk to her about what Niko and I discussed, but, at the same time, the longer I wait on this, the more it was going to eat me up inside and the more she deserved to know. Was tonight the night I was going to tell Riley I loved her? ..And also someone else?


Fuck it.. I might as well take Niko’s advice and man-up and talk to her. Better late than never and it’s better she find out from me than someone else.. Aka, AnneMarie, just in case Niko were to blab to her about anything we talked about. I took out my phone from my pocket again and decided to text her.

  • Hey, wanna hang out tonight?

I sent, tapping my finger impatiently on my knee with my phone tucked under my thigh as I continued to drive. After she didn’t answer within a few seconds, I already started to think the worst. My anxious mind started to run wild and I already assumed AnneMarie had said something and Riley wants nothing to do with me anymore. What if she never texts me back? It’s Alani and I all over again..

But, suddenly, my phone chimed and I scurried to look at what she said.

  • Yeah, I’d love to. I’m almost done at the salon, wanna swing by and pick me up? Maybe go out to eat?

She replied and relief escaped from between my lips in the form of a sigh and I smirked. However, I didn’t want to go anywhere public. I wanted to get this off my chest as soon as possible and I didn’t want to be around people when I told her. I wanted to be alone with her. What if she cried? What if she blows up, calls me a pig and slaps me? Wouldn’t be the first time.. And even if we get passed the first part of my confession, I didn’t want to be in public when I tell her that I love her. I’d definitely like to be alone for that.

  • Yeah, I can come get you. Would you rather just pick something up and go back to your place?

I wondered, hoping she’d be okay with that.

  • No, let’s go out, silly. My treat.

I sighed heavily, “Fuck,” I said softly, trying to think about what I should do. I really didn’t want to go out, but I didn’t want to make it obvious that I wanted, needed, to talk to her about serious stuff.. I was trying my hardest to avoid using the classic line ‘we need to talk’. I didn’t want to give her the wrong idea.

  • All right.. I’ll go home and shower and change and I’ll come by to pick you up.

I replied.

  • I’m almost done with work now, I’ll just take myself home and do the same. Let me know when you’re on your way!

She answered, sending a smiling emoji next and I couldn’t help but smirk. She was so cute, I couldn’t believe the bullshit I was going to unleash on her tonight..



When I got home, I parked my car and noticed that Tavish’s car was in the driveway, but not Pia’s. She must be at work. I went inside and went straight upstairs, hearing music blasting from inside Tav’s room and I doubt he even heard me come home. I decided not to bother him, going straight to the shower and getting last night’s booze smell off of me. I guarantee I reeked. After my shower, I went to my room and picked out some new clothes, trying to look nice for Riley and I’s outing, even though I wasn’t sure what kind of outfit I needed to wear for the type of night we were going to have. I suppose an in between of casual and formal could do the job.



As I put some cologne and deodorant on, I could still hear Tav’s music blasting and he must still not know I was home. It was a good thing, I really didn’t want to talk to anyone else before talking to Riley. I pulled out my phone, texted Riley that I was on my way and headed out of the house. The closer I got to Riley’s, the more my stomach turned and I was starting to feel nauseous, although I couldn’t tell if it was my hangover making me want to vomit or my nerves. 


When I got to Riley’s, I sat in her driveway in my car, starring at her place as I tried to figure out how I was going to go about this. I think I was going to take Niko’s advice and start with how I lied to her about how I felt about Alani, and if she was still able to listen without throwing me out, I’d then tell her, somehow, that I loved her. It would just be too shitty of me if I did it the other way around. Niko was right, I needed to be honest with her, and if she appreciated my honesty, I think I could go forward with telling her how I felt about her. Even though I had figured out what I was going to tell her in which order, I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the ‘how’. I was never good at talking about my feelings, Pia knew that the hard way, but if I wanted this to work out with Riley, which I did, I’d have to find a way.



Riley must’ve heard the loud purr of my engine running and she came outside, watching her lock her door behind her and she was wearing a dress that almost made my heart stop. Fuck, she was so gorgeous.. I almost completely forgot what my plan was to talk to her about. The closer she got to my car, the sound of her clicking heels on the pavement filled my ears and I put on a smile as she opened the door and got in.

“Well, hello, handsome,” she said with an enthusiastic smile, leaning towards me and I quickly leaned in, too, to kiss her lips for a long moment.

“Hey, beautiful,” I replied quietly, reaching gently towards the back of her head and pulling her back into my lips for a longer kiss. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed her in the less than forty-eight hours we’ve been apart. 

“You okay?” She asked after pulling away from the kiss.

“What? Y-Yeah, I’m.. I’m fine,” I brushed off quickly, “So, where did you want to go?”

“Well, I was thinkin’ about somewhere nice.. Like that one place that’s right on the water on Coconut Drive that’s kinda close by AnneMarie and Niko’s house?” She suggested and I couldn’t help but know exactly what she was talking about.

“..Are you talking about my Pops’ place?” I asked and she shrugged.

“Uhm, I.. I dunno, maybe? He owns a restaurant?”

“It’s a restaurant and a bar, I guess, yeah.. But, I’d rather not, actually,” I replied.

“Aw, why not? I swear, I didn’t know, I’ve just always wanted to go there.. But, we don’t have to if you don’t want to,” she said with sincerity and I wasn’t even close to being in the mood to deal with what I wanted to talk to her about, let alone going to my Pops’ place and make a huge deal about meeting my girlfriend. I know he’d go completely overboard and embarrass the hell out of me.

“I really don’t, sorry.. Maybe another time..”

“Okay, well, then.. There’s another nice place by the volcano on Palm Avenue?”

“Sure.. Let’s go there,” I agreed, giving her a quick smirk and pulling out of the driveway.

We got to the restaurant and this wasn’t the usual place I’d be seen at going to, I was more of a mom and pop’s type of guy, or a pub with shitty bar food type. I felt a little uncomfortable here and I also felt under dressed. I could already feel the nasty looks I was getting as we passed tables of people that seemed like they were better than me.

We sat down at our table, a surprisingly secluded corner of the restaurant that made me feel a little better about being here since we were not hidden from dirty glances.

“A waiter will be right with you,” the host said, handing us our menus and walking away and I looked at Riley. She looked so beautiful in the candlelight and when she glanced up at me to give me a gentle smile, I liked how I could make out the flame of the candle flickering in her pupils. The literal fire in her eyes made my heart skip a beat.

“You sure you’re okay, hun?” She wondered and I brought myself out of my trance to give her another quick smirk and I nodded as I then put my eyes down to the menu.


We ordered our food, made idle chit-chat during our meal, and when we had nothing left but our drinks, my heart started to pound a little harder the more I thought I couldn’t hide what I wanted to talk about anymore. I could tell that she could see something was bothering me and I appreciated her not prying to get the information out of me, but the more I sipped on my drink, the more I was being brought back to how drunk I knew I still was when I woke up at Niko’s. I had a little liquid courage flowing through my veins and I thought that, maybe, this was as good of a time as any to start getting this heavy shit off my chest.

“Hey, I, uh.. I need to talk to you about something,” I spoke quietly.

“Oh? What is it?” She asked with a smile, taking a sip of her red wine before setting it back down and giving me her full attention. I secretly hoped that she was a little buzzed so she would be a little more casual and understanding about what I was about to spew.

“Promise you won’t hate me?” I asked and her smile slowly slipped off her lips.

“Is everythin’ okay?” She wondered, now seeing the worry begin to fill her green eyes and my heart was pounding out of my chest.

“..Please, don’t say anything until I’m done talking, okay? I need to say everything I need to before you respond,” I slightly begged and she nodded nervously. 

“The only reason I’m telling you this is because I care about you, I care about you a lot, but.. I lied to you.. Back when we had our first date on the dock, you asked me about my ex and if I still loved her and I said no. I said that because at the time, I wanted to believe it so badly that I’ve been telling everyone for years, even myself, that I didn’t because I didn’t want it to be true anymore. It seems so, so stupid for me to still feel that way because I haven’t seen her in so many years, but the reason why I think I still do is because it never officially ended. We never broke up, she just disappeared and I loved her so much at the time that I continued to so that just in case she’d come back, I’d still hold that torch for her and she wouldn’t feel as if I gave up on her, even though it’s clear to me now that she gave up on me. I know it’s stupid of me to still have feelings for her, but I do, I won’t deny that.. I’m sorry for lying to you.. I think I said that I didn’t love her, too, at the time because I wanted you to like me and I wanted my first official date date after so many years to go smoothly because I didn’t want to fuck it up. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d still even call it love, more so that I still care about her because I still do wonder what happened to her.. But, I shouldn’t have done that to you and I should’ve been honest straight out of the gate.. I’m sorry, Riley,” my eyes slowly went up to her face and she wasn’t looking at me, she was staring at our hands like I had been, but when she went to open her mouth, I stopped her. I reached forward and took one of her hands within my own, knowing she could probably feel it shaking a little, but I needed something to focus on while I talked. 

“Please, I’m not done yet,” I added, seeing her eyes meet mine and I could tell that she was hurt, “Thank you for listening so patiently so far and not walking out yet, because there is still one more thing I really need to say,” I added and she nodded. I squeezed her hand a little tighter and rubbed my thumb over the back of it.

“I know after what I said, this probably isn’t the right time, but, I don’t want to hide anything from you and I want you to know exactly where I stand when it comes to us.. Ever since we’ve been hanging out, spending all this time together, getting closer and everything else, I’ve loved every minute of it. Every second that we spend together is another second less that I think about my ex. I care about you more than I care about her anymore. I don’t want this to sound like I’m making up more lies, either, but, honestly, in the time that I’ve been telling you all of this.. Looking at you, touching you, even just being in your presence, I realize that you make me happier than I ever was with her. I won’t deny that she is still on my mind on very rare occasions, but you are on it so much more and I want to do my best to show you that you’re everything to me now,” I could tell Riley was getting emotional, her eyes getting glossy and her eyebrows curling upward as if she was touched by my words, “I know we haven’t been dating long and I hope you know how hard for me this is to get off my chest after everything I’ve been through, and knowing what you’ve been through, too, I don’t want to be a disappointment to you and I don’t want to hurt you. I want to be completely honest with you from now on and I’ll try my hardest to make myself into a man that you can look at and adore and love as much as I adore and love you,” I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest and I was going to look at it beating on the white table cloth as I looked into her now surprised glossy eyes.

After a long silence and Riley still not saying a word yet, I wondered if I should repeat myself, “I, uhm.. I love you, Riley,” I tried again, seeing her then somewhat snap out of her trance and she let out a nervous breath.

“I-I,” she started, but stopped. I blew it, didn’t I? 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to spring all of this on you out of nowhere..”

“No, no, it’s-”

“-I’m such an idiot,” I pulled my hand away and out of her grip, “I admit something so fucking selfish and terrible and then on top of that, add in something serious and completely uncalled for right after as if I expect you to just forget about the bomb I dropped and I’m just.. Out of my fucking mind,” I started rambling, trying to fill the incredibly awkward silence with literally anything and I felt like such a fool. 

“Luca.. If we’re bein’ honest, I.. I brought yah here to tell yah the same thing,” she replied and I looked up to her with the feeling of relief setting my heart a little.. However, something wasn’t right.

“I feel like there’s a ‘but’ coming..”

“..Listen.. I do, too.. I do love you.. But.. Now that I know you still have feelin’s for that girl, I don’t know if I can trust what you’re sayin’ to me-”

“-I don’t, Riley.. Not anymore.. How else can I prove it to you? I mean, sure, I still wonder about her, but.. She’s nothing to me now, not anymore.. It’s been years, almost eight damn years and I’m fucking stupid for holding on, but ever since I met you, she’s been in my mind less and less and now barely at all.. I don’t love her anymore, I love you,” I continued to press.

“Five minutes ago, you said you still thought you did.”

“And I also said that now that I was explaining myself, it turns out to be less of a ‘love’ and more of a simple curiosity of what happened to her. I promise you, I’m not just saying this just to say it. I don’t love her. What can I do to prove that to you?”

“Luca, how can you come to such a serious conclusion like that in a matter of minutes? I can’t believe that.. If you want to continue to be honest with me, then stop sayin’ things you want me to hear and start sayin’ things you really do feel.. I love you, too, Luca, I really do, and it’s hard for me to admit that, as well, but.. I-,” she paused for a long moment, her eyes going down to the top of the table and avoiding eye contact. Her eyes were starting to tear up a little more. Oh, fuck..

“..I think that, maybe, until you can get your feelin’s straightened out, we shouldn’t see each other anymore.. Just until you can truly only love me,” this was it.. She was breaking up with me. Here I thought that when I talked to Niko, I thought I might have to break up with her for the same reason she was giving me. I thought I was in complete control over our relationship, but now that I proved to her that she can’t trust me like she thought she could, she called the shots before I could do the right thing and break up with her first. I should’ve did it first. Maybe she’d still have some trust in me if I had respected her enough in the first place.

“Luca..?” She seemed concerned and I bit my bottom lip in pure frustration with myself.

“..I get it,” I said quietly, staring down at the table top in shame, but she caught my attention and I looked up to her.

“Hey.. I love you.. I do.. But, you understand why I can’t do this, right?” She asked and eventually, I nodded.

“I’ll give you a ride home,” I replied in a weak tone, but she denied me.

“..I think I should take a cab,” she answered and that was the icing on the cake of how much I realized I fucked up. She didn’t even want me to be in the same car with her.


After paying our bill, I walked her to the side of the road, my hands tucked into my pockets and my eyes glued to the ground as I waited with her for her cab to arrive. Standing there in complete silence with her was both awkward and agonizing. I didn’t know what else I could possibly say to her to make her reconsider. I wanted to say anything else that I could if only I knew what I could say to change her mind, but I also hated the idea of begging and groveling, even though I was deathly close to dropping to my knees and giving it a shot. 


My eyes looked anywhere but at her, although I couldn’t help but look to her feet when I noticed them face me and she stepped closer. Slowly, I felt her hands slide over my shoulders and her arms wrapped around my neck, holding me tightly and the breath that escaped her nose onto my neck gave me chills down my spine. I shut my eyes, pulled my hands out of my pockets and wrapped my arms around her, my hands gripping her tightly and pulling her as close as I could. Thankfully, the silence that was swarming us a moment ago wasn’t agonizing or awkward anymore, it meant something that I couldn’t put into words. I heard her sniffle, no doubt trying to hold back from crying and I hated to admit that I was trying to do the same, too. This was harder than anything else. I thought trying to forget Alani after her disappearing was hard, but actually saying goodbye to someone I loved was so much harder. So, so much harder. I guess that’s how I knew now that I loved Riley more than her, but it was too late now.


As we continued to hug tightly, I heard a car pull up and I assumed it was her cab, but she didn’t let me go. Not yet.

“Thank you for being honest with me,” she cooed sweetly into my neck and I nodded.

“I’m sorry.. For everything,” I whispered back and she then pulled away and looked up to me.

“Don’t forget about me, yah hear?” She said with watery eyes and struggling a sweet smile.

“Never,” I replied sternly, “..I love you,” I said one last time and she kept her smile as she slowly leaned forward and pressed her lips to mine for a long, long moment. I held her tight, trying to keep her with me as long as I possibly could, deepening the kiss by massaging out lips together for an even longer moment and she breathed in harshly towards the end of it, needing air as it seemed that I had taken it all away from her. 

The second we finally let one another go, she quickly turned and walked towards the cab, curling my lips into my mouth and licking them as I watched her get in and shut the door. I sniffed harshly, trying to gather myself as I watched it pull away and I quickly tucked my hands back into my pockets and headed towards my car. In the back of my mind, sure, I knew there was a chance that tonight would turn out this way, but, the majority of me thought that it would’ve turned out a hellova lot better than this. I knew she would be upset, but I didn’t think she’d break up with me. I guess I deserved it, though. I lied to her, kept the truth from her for months, then when I finally gained all of her trust, I threw it out the window. I hated myself. I didn’t deserve her, but I definitely deserved to feel like this much of a piece of shit. I was a child in thinking that nothing bad would happen, and I was foolish to think that she wouldn’t have enough respect for herself to break up with a loser like me for treating her like I did. She made the right choice, she always did. I need to be more like her, more like Niko, more like everyone else in my life that had more than half a fucking brain as me.. Maybe then I wouldn’t be such a cruel joke in human form.

Generation 5, Chapter 4

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I can be pretty competitive. It depends on what it is, who’s around and if there’s a prize at the end, but even a friendly soccer game between my brothers and my friends can get a little.. Out of hand at times.. But, hopefully today, we can keep it together and avoid a fight at the end. The fights, if any, are usually between August and someone else, but I’m hoping that he can keep his cool today.

This is the first time we’ve hung out ever since I went over to his place last week, but so far he hasn’t mentioned anything about it, so neither have I. Even if I wanted to help him out of the situation he was in with Dad, I still had no idea how to do it, so for now, I think I’ll try to mind my own business like Tavish told me I should do from the beginning.. At least just until it gets out of hand, if it ever does. But, enough about that.. Today was about having a friendly game of soccer and that’s exactly what I intended this game to be. Friendly.

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Our games tended to draw in a small crowd sometimes and even though it was mostly made up of our girlfriends or friends, there were some strangers that would see the game and stop by just to watch for a little while, but for now, the stands were empty. Our games tend to be pretty entertaining, though. Not only did all of our competitive natures come out during these games, but also our athletic abilities and the games can get pretty rough at times. I got kicked in the face once, if you can believe that. We tend to pull off some pretty risky moves that could cause a sprain or even a broken bone, but that’s what made them so fun. Of course, we tried to avoid these things, but.. Accidents do happen.

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I was one of the strongest players, so was August, Pia and Tavish, but everyone else in the game was pretty good, too. Pia could definitely hang with the boys, but she was best at being a goalie and could block any shot that came to her. Tavish was usually always my backup to make goals, and I, his. Anthony and Ian were friends of mine and they attended the games religiously. Then there was Jiro, the one that was the baby of the game and was able to play only because he was my little brother, and mostly because he talked to Dad and Pop about it.. Even though I’ve told him to buzz off, our parents were able to convince me to be nice and let him play.

Niko was back in town solely for the game, which most of the time he can’t make because of school, but since it was the weekend and he didn’t have class or any assignments to turn in for a few days, him and AnneMarie drove out here. I loved seeing Niko and I wished I could see him more often, but the seldom times I did get to see him were that much more enjoyable. I was actually pretty fortunate to be able to see him twice in the past two weeks.

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“Are we playing football rules this time, or no?” Ian asked in the circle we had made, discussing the rules. Sometimes we played tackle rules where anyone that’s on your side of the field with the ball on the opposing team can get tackled by whoever is closest to them, so you gotta be fast if you want to score that goal.

“Nah, we did that last time. And Jiro almost got his elbow broken because Anthony tackled him so hard,” I replied with a smirk and Jiro rolled his eyes.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Jiro tried to brush off and Anthony laughed as he punched Jiro’s arm playfully.

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“You almost cried, little dude!”

“No I didn’t!” Jiro defended himself, but we all knew that he really did almost cry and he tried his absolute hardest not to let a single tear fall from his eye so he wouldn’t get made fun of.

“The next time that rule is in play, though, and we’re on opposite teams, you better watch out, kid,” Anthony poked fun at him and the group gave mixed laughs and chuckles as Jiro stood there a pouted.

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“All right,” I added, bringing the conversation back to the game, “So, no football rules, just normal play. Everyone know their teams?” I asked and everyone nodded, “Cool. Well, let’s do this, and try to avoid being dicks to each other so we can avoid a fight.. August,” I singled him out and he mockingly gave a fake laugh before we all separated and went to our designated spots.

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So far in the stands were only AnneMarie and Lien.. Dad and Pop sometimes came by to watch the games, but they weren’t here yet and I wasn’t sure if they were coming or not. I hoped they would. It was always nice seeing them on the sidelines whenever we were on a team of some sort in school when we were all little, so seeing them still come to our games now, even just-for-fun games, meant a lot.. But, then again, it was the weekend and all the kids were out of the house, which usually meant they enjoyed their alone time to do things that I didn’t dare even try to waste my time thinking about. They deserve these short breaks with one another after raising six kids, so I could safely assume they weren’t going to show up.

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I started the game off with August, AnneMarie coming to the middle of the field to drop the ball in to begin it all.

“I want a clean game, boys. No rough housin’ and be nice to one another. Ya’ll seem to forget sometimes that it’s a game just for fun and ya’ll are friends,” she instructed and I chuckled.

“You got it, sweetheart,” I replied.

“Can’t make any promises, but I’ll try,” August added and AnneMarie readied herself, holding the ball out and ready to drop it, though also standing in a way where she was ready to run, knowing August and I are rough players and she needed to get out of the way as fast as she could.

“..Okay, ready? Andddd… Go!” She called out, dropping the ball and running as fast as she could off of the field.

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August and I fought only a second for the ball, but I quickly got it from him and kicked it to Tavish who was already heading for their goal. Anthony was trying his best to get it from him and he eventually did before Niko could get close enough to take a shot, using a powerful kick of his to get it across the field and away from our goal. Tavish jumped to use his chest to stop it and he brought it back to the middle, more than ready to be the first team to get a point and I was right there with him. Even with only four people on a team, our games were still played at a very quick pace and taken just as seriously as a professional team, though I guess there was a little more leniency when it came to ours since we were all friends and family. Either way, it was still a blast every time because everyone always put in their best effort, aggressive or not.

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I ran towards their goal and Tavish managed to launch the ball straight at me, jumping up to chest the ball like he had done to gain control of it and the second that it hit the ground, I kicked it hard into the goal straight passed Anthony and Ian and my team cheered.

“Fuck yeah, Luca!” Tavish called out.

“Woo! Already off to a good start!” Pia added from our goal and I went back to my side of the field, more than ready to do that again.

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“Nice job, man,” Niko complimented and I grinned.

“Why, thank you. Why don’t you take this next one, try and impress your lady?” I implied and he smiled.

“I’ll try.. I’m not as good as you three, though,” he said modestly, but he was just as competitive as the rest of us, just way less aggressive and the only one that actually tried to avoid hurting anyone the most out of all of us. If he could be goalie every game, he would, but one of the rules was that if you were goalie the last half of the last game, you couldn’t be the goalie again in the first half of the next. It was just to keep things interesting and to mix up the game a little.. Keep things fair, for the most part.

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A quarter of the way through the game, the score was already three to two and our team was winning thanks to those two goals being mine and one to Tav, and although August’s team was sticking close with us and it was hard to keep ahead of them in score for very long, we still managed to keep our team ahead. Every game, we played until one team got to ten goals and even though that seemed like a lot, if we made the score any lower, our games wouldn’t last long and we all wanted to make these monthly games worth it. We all liked making a day out of them and some of us even treated them like a vacation day because some of us had to work all the time or be at school all the time, so these games were a nice get away.

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Half way through the game, I switched out with Pia, standing in front of the goal and watching the game play out in front of me, but when I noticed a head full of shiny, eye catching silver hair, I lost my focus on the ball and stared.

..Riley came?

Damn.. AnneMarie must’ve invited her..

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As she scanned the field, I looked back towards the game to make it seem as if I hadn’t noticed her yet, but out of the corner of my eye, I could tell she noticed me. When she assumed I hadn’t seen her yet and I refused to look directly at her, she then stepped over towards AnneMarie and they hugged, then sat down together to watch the game. I don’t usually get nervous about this kind of stuff and even though I didn’t think there was anything between us anymore, I hated that I still had a strong urge to impress her. 

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“Luca, heads up!” I heard Niko yell and I looked to the field to see Jiro coming in and kicking the ball straight at the goal, but right before it was too late to catch it, I stopped it from going in by catching it before it devastated my face.

“Ha-HA!” I said cheerfully.

“Aww, man!” Jiro whined.

“You almost made it, it was a good try, bro,” I reassured him, but he still pouted.

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“Why are you the goalie? Why can’t Pia still be the goalie?” He asked and I tossed the ball at his chest roughly, Jiro letting out a sound of mild pain and the ball bounced off of him and I caught it again.

“Ow! What the fuck?!” He let out as he tried to catch his breath.

She would’ve been able to stop that and not have taken it like a bitch, so you wouldn’t have scored, anyways.. Plus, you know our rules, we switch out half way through, so deal with it or don’t play,” I pointed out with a smirk.

“Whatever,” he replied as he rubbed his chest.

“Stop complaining and go away. We still got a game to play and the goal isn’t to bitch and moan all the time,” I instructed and he grimaced at me before jogging away from the goal and I kicked the ball back into play, launching it across the field.

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The rest of the game was rough.. With me taking over as goalie for the last half of the game, I wasn’t even doing a good job at it since I couldn’t stop thinking about Riley and glancing over towards her.

Goal. Goal. Goal.

I don’t know how they were getting passed me, but they were, and I could tell everyone was getting a little frustrated with me. But, Riley was so distracting, especially in the outfit she wore. It was a simple outfit, not even all that revealing, but the memory of what she wore around me last weekend was still engraved into my mind and I knew a lot of what the clothes she wore now were hiding. I haven’t been with anyone in the week I haven’t seen her, which is something that was even surprising to me, but the build up without any release was starting to kill me inside and even a gentle breeze that would blow passed me and up my shorts made me hard. 

Fuck, I need to get laid.

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“Time out!” Pia yelled and I snapped back into the game instead of daydreaming about Riley.

“Why a time out?” I asked as Pia, Tavish and Niko came over to me.

“Luca, where the fuck is your head right now?” Tavish asked, ” It’s nine to six. They’re ahead by three points and it’s because you keep letting them score. They only need one more goal to win.”

“I think that’s the reason,” Niko pointed out, nodding his head over towards Riley. Tavish and Pia looked towards where he had gestured and slowly, they both smirked and looked to me.

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“Oooooh, that explains it. Now I’m going to be distracted, too.. She’s super hot,” Pia replied and Tavish chuckled.

“Makes a lot more sense now,” he teased and I scoffed.

What? I didn’t even know she was here,” I tried to defend myself and Niko laughed.

“You’ve been looking at her ever since she got here,” he continued to call out exactly what I’ve been doing, but I ignored it.

“What are you doing watching me and not the game, huh? You’re as much of the reason why we’re losing as I am. Let’s just finish this game so I can get out of here,” I expressed in annoyance.

“And where do you have to be?” Pia asked defensively, as if she knew I had nothing to do, and since she was right, I stuttered for a split second.

“N-None of your business,” I replied with a rather childish tone and Pia laughed at me as they all went back to their places on the field. 

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This time, I was focusing, or at least I was focusing a little better than I was a few seconds ago. I still glanced over at Riley a few times, but I didn’t nearly stare as long as I had been and I gave equal attention to her and the ball. Tavish was fighting August for the ball, but August soon prevailed and came straight for me and the goal. Pia and Niko tried to stop him, but Ian and Anthony helped clear him a path by blocking them off and when August was about twenty feet from the goal, he completely psyched me out. He acted as if he was going left and so did I, but when I noticed he was faking me out and going right instead, it was too late. I slipped on the grass trying to fix my error and the ball flew passed me, brushing against the tip of my middle finger and straight into the goal. 

“Dammit..” I let out in defeat as I continued to lie on the ground and August cheered for himself and his team and their victory.

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Tavish, Pia and Niko came over to me and looked down at me on the ground.

“I’m sorry,” I said with a large sigh.

“It’s no big deal, you were really close at stopping it. Augie’s really good at those fake out’s, that’s all,” Niko said with a warm smile.

“Yeah, I know. I noticed what he was doing too late and I fucked up,” I continued.

“Well, now that the game’s over, you can go and do whatever it is that was so important,” Pia teased and I chuckled, Niko holding out his hand, wanting to help me up from the ground and I accepted it, standing to my feet.

“Good game, guys. Next month I’ll do better,” I replied, grabbing the ball from the goal and walking over to the bench I had left my bag on.

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As I packed up a few of my things, Niko and AnneMarie came over to me to say goodbye.

“Well, we’re headed out,” Niko began and I zipped up my bag before looking to him.

“Always good seeing you, bro. Until next month, yeah?”

“Yup, until then.”

“And don’t forget about me. You can call me from time to time, you know.. We still have to discuss when you kids are getting married so I know when to plan the bachelor party,” I said with a grin and Niko smiled.

“Don’t worry, I’ll call you soon to keep in touch. And AnneMarie and I still have to talk about a date, so I’ll get back to you on the whole bachelor party thing,” he answered and I nodded.

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“AnneMarie.. Always good to see you,” I added and she came in for a hug.

“Likewise, Luca,” she replied, but hesitated a moment after our hug ended, “You know.. Riley said that your guys’ date went well, but she hasn’t heard from you since. Is she wrong in thinkin’ it went okay?” She asked and I sighed softly.

“N-No, it, uh.. It did go good, I just haven’t had a chance to call her again,” I lied, “I had a few appointments during the week and I’ve been a little exhausted, that’s all.”

“Oh, well, you should tell her that, because she’s gettin’ that feelin’ again like you’re not interested,” she pointed out.

“She still is?” I asked and she nodded.

“Of course she is! I talked to her the day after and she said she had a great time and couldn’t wait for another date,” she explained and I was surprised.

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“..She said that?”

“Yeah! What, did ya think she wasn’t interested anymore after that date?” She asked and eventually, I admitted it.

“Well, yeah, kind of..”

“You two really need to learn to communicate better,” she said jokingly, “Both of you are feelin’ the same thing when both of you couldn’t be more wrong.. Talk to her, you’ll see,” she advised and I nodded in agreement.

“I will.. Thanks.”

“See ya, Luca,” Niko said with a smile and AnneMarie gave me a smile, as well, before they both walked away to the parking lot.

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Tavish and Pia came over to me after everyone else had gone, though Riley was still sitting on the bleachers not too far from me, waiting for me, no doubt.

“Hey, we’re gunna go grab some drinks. Do you and your sexy lady friend wanna come with?” Pia teased and I smirked.

“Not now. I’m going to sit here for a bit and talk with her. Maybe we’ll meet you guys there later, just text me and let me know where you two end up,” I replied and she nodded.

“Want me to take your stuff home so you don’t have to worry about it?” Tavish offered and I smiled.

“Thanks, man, but I got it.”

“All right. I hope you meet up with us later,” he answered.

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“You better come out, it’ll be fun!” Pia added and Tavish wasn’t expecting her to jump onto his back for a piggy back ride, but he caught her after a second of catching on.

“I’ll see what she wants to do. Maybe I’ll see you guys later,” I answered and Tavish carried Pia back to his car.

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Well, the moment I was nervous about was finally here, but, what made me a little less nervous about talking to Riley was what AnneMarie had told me. I shouldn’t have assumed everything went to shit after I had left Riley’s house and I shouldn’t have avoided talking to her and just found out for myself what she thought of the date.. I need to get it through my thick skull that it was a date, not something that was only meant to last a night and getting turned down for something as serious as sex on the first date really wasn’t out of the ordinary. 

I threw on a clean backup shirt I pulled out of my bag and left my stuff on the bench, taking a deep breath as I looked over at Riley and finally walked over to her.

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“Hey,” I began and she looked up at me.

“Hi,” she said softly, a smile on her lips.

“Can I sit?” I gestured towards the seat and she nodded.

“Of course,” she answered and I smirked nervously as I then sat down next to her.

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“How’d you like the game?” I started the conversation with something less interesting than what we should really be talking about.. Us.

“Well, from what I saw, it was pretty excitin’. Your brothers and friends are all pretty competitive. I thought you’d be just the same, but you seemed pretty laid back standin’ in front of the goal,” she pointed out and I assumed she only saw the second half of the game where I was too distracted by her to do good anymore.. I usually always aimed to impress when I had the chance to, but my performance in the last half was anything but impressive.

“Yeah, well.. I wasn’t really into playing this one, I guess. I don’t like being goalie, so I don’t try as hard as I should,” I made up an excuse and she nodded in understanding. 

“I never knew you had such a big tattoo, as well. I only noticed the one on your arm last weekend, but you had your chest hidden. I was a bit surprised when I saw it. Didn’t know it was you at first,” she brought up, still holding a smile on her lips.

“You don’t like chest pieces?”

“No, no, I’m ain’t sayin’ that. I’m just sayin’ that I was surprised, that’s all. It seemed interestin’, but you were too far away on the field, I couldn’t tell what it was of..”

“Well, maybe I’ll give you a close up of it someday,” I couldn’t help but flirt, seeing her cheeks flush a soft pink and her view went to the grass in front of her. I’ve heard that remark from a lot of different women already, it was a good ‘in’ for them to flirt with me, but in my reply, I’d usually switch the word ‘someday’ with the word ‘tonight’. The reply I gave to Riley was out of my control and it just rolled off of my tongue, I don’t think I could’ve held it back even if I wanted to.

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“So.. AnneMarie tells me that you had fun on our date,” I began and she nodded as she continued to look down at the grass.

“I did, yes.. But, by how I hadn’t heard from you, I didn’t think you did.. Am I wrong?” She asked, looking up from the grass over to me.

“Yeah.. I had fun, too,” I replied, seeing her smile grow warmer and I couldn’t help but smile, as well, by how pleased she seemed to hear me say that.. But, I felt as if I should tell her the truth on why I hadn’t called her sooner.

“Look, I, uh.. I’ll be honest. I didn’t think you were interested because I might’ve been too aggressive and I wanted to apologize for that,” I said truthfully and her cheeks went a slight pink again as her eyes went right back to the ground.

“Oh, Luca, you don’t need to apologize-”

“-No, I do.. I don’t really date, like, at all, and it’s been a really, really long time since I ever even considered dating again. I’m used to, uhm, different company that doesn’t involve anything serious later on, so.. I, uhm.. Well, the truth is.. I was really bummed getting turned down that night. So much to the point where I overthought everything and assumed you didn’t like me as much as I thought you did.. Usually my behavior is welcomed, but when you told me to stop, it just.. Caught me off guard, I guess,” I explained. 

“So, you worked hard with no reward.. You ain’t used to bein’ turned down, is that what you’re sayin’?”

“More or less.. Yeah,” I admitted in slight embarrassment.

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“Well, thank you for tellin’ me that and I appreciate the honesty, but just because I turn you down doesn’t mean I don’t like you, and just because you told me that, doesn’t mean I won’t turn you down in the future, too, if you try anythin’ again that I ain’t ready for. I’m not goin’ to pity you just because you’re sad you didn’t get laid and I don’t feel guilt when turnin’ a man down,” she said with a grin and I chuckled. I actually admired that and it make me like her more.

“Understood.”

“And, since we’re bein’ honest.. I thought that you weren’t interested anymore because I turned you down. When AnneMarie invited me to the game today, I had already convinced myself you were just some kinda pig, but I decided to come anyways and when I saw you on the field, I didn’t think that was the truth anymore. I was nervous to see you and a little angry, but, I figured I owed it to myself to talk to you and see where things might’ve gone wrong before tryin’ to get you outta my head, so I came.. You actually played well in the first half,” she admitted and I loved everything that she had said, warmed by her words, even the insults.. It told me that even though she had some bad thoughts about me, I was still on her mind.

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“..So, you did see the first half of the game?” I asked and she nodded.

“I did,” she said with a sly smirk as she looked at me, “Please, tell me if I’m wrong, but I wasn’t the one that made you laid back during the second half, was I?” She put emphasis on her words, knowing that what she really meant was to say ‘distracted’ and I chuckled.

“And if I said you were?” I asked with my own sly grin and she giggled softly.

“Then I’d be awfully flattered, although I’d feel bad, too, since I’m pretty much the reason why your team lost today,” she replied and I shook my head, disagreeing with her.

“Well, you were right. I was distracted by you, but no, I’m the reason we lost today, not you. I’m even a little surprised the game didn’t come to an overall standstill when you walked up,” I complimented, my eyes traveling down her body as she faced towards the ground again with pink cheeks and a smile on her lips.

“I’ve thought about you every day since last Saturday, you know,” I spoke quietly only to her even though there was no one else around to hear me. 

“You have?”

“Mhm..”

“What about me?” She challenged and I snickered.

“I don’t think you’d like me anymore if I told you,” I replied and she laughed softly.

“And just what does that mean, huh?” She asked.

“Only good things, don’t worry.. And you can’t act so surprised, I was laying it on you pretty hard that night and you looked so gorgeous.. How could I not think of you?” I added and she let out a slightly nervous laugh, “And you can’t even act like you haven’t thought about me every day since, too, right?” I asked back with words abundant in self esteem and she smiled.

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“And what if I say I hadn’t?” She wondered and I put my hand over my heart.

“Damn, babe.. That hurts,” I said with a fake, pained expression and she giggled again.

“Fine. Maybe I had thought of you every day, but with each day you went without talking to me, the thoughts got meaner,” she admitted and I laughed.

“I guess I deserve that.. But, the phone goes both ways, you know,” I pointed out and she slowly began to nod.

“..You’re right. Let’s just both admit we messed up and leave it at that,” she concluded, looking over at me with a sweet smile.

“Sounds fair,” I answered, observing her prepossessing skin of her legs that shined in the sun, her alluring hair and enchanting green eyes that shined just the same, and I noticed all over again how completely beautiful she was.

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“My roommates are going out for a drink.. They invited me along and want me to bring you.. You interested?” I asked and she nodded almost immediately.

“I’d love to.. Are your roommates the ones that were playin’ soccer with earlier?”

“Yeah, Tavish and Pia,” I replied and she seemed a little confused at first.

“Oh.. From your team? I assumed one of the boys from the other team, but.. You live with a woman?” She seemed a little concerned, but I didn’t blame her since she didn’t know Pia.

“Don’t worry, we’ve been best friends since freshman year of high school and she’s like a sister to me. Even if she wasn’t, I don’t have the right stuff between my legs. I guarantee she finds you way more attractive than she finds me,” I pointed out and she gave a rather surprised smile. 

“Oh. Well, that’s a little relief then,” she answered and we both stood from the bleachers to walk back to my car.

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“..Isn’t it a little too early into this for you to be getting jealous already?” I asked with a sly grin, nudging her playfully and she scoffed.

“I am not jealous. And why would I be? This is only our second time hanging out.. We aren’t even that serious yet,” she pointed out and I kind of liked how she used the word ‘yet’.

“So, you’re dating other people while trying things out with me?” I asked and she looked at me as if I had insulted her.

“Oh my Lord, of course not! Didn’t AnneMarie already tell you that I don’t know anyone ’round here? I only know you, her, your family and a few clients from the salon, that’s it.. I’m there so much during the week that I don’t have time to go out, and when I do, it’s on the weekends and I usually just stay home.”

“Or go out with me,” I added with another grin and a proud nudge and she smiled.

“..For the past two weekends, yes.”

“Well, then hopefully we can have as much fun tonight as we did before so I can see you again next weekend. And of course, if you can’t wait until then, just call me and I’ll come right over. I’m sure we can think of something fun to do,” I teased and she giggled.

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“I think our ideas of fun, at the moment, are wildly different,” Riley joked back, stopping at the passengers side of my car and I stopped with her.

“All right, then give me some examples,” I requested and she thought for a moment.

“Hmm.. Mini golfin’, goin’ to the beach and swimmin’.. Snorkelin’ and maybe even fishin’,” she named a few things.

“That’s all you got? What are we doing, going on a vacation with our parents?” I teased again and she smiled as she shoved my arm playfully, “Hey! What’s that for?”

“Don’t you be makin’ fun of the things I like! Besides, I’m almost afraid to ask what your kind of fun is,” she said humorously and I stepped closer to her.

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“I’d be more than happy to show you,” I spoke smoothly, looking down at her lips briefly before looking back up to her eyes.

“I think I’d let the suspense kill me before I’d agree to that,” she replied, not going for any of my flirting or advances and she really did seem to have her do’s and don’t in order. This ‘hard to get’ game she was playing was killing me, but.. For some reason, I really liked it.

“Mind if we stop at my place so I can take a quick shower? I feel like I smell and should change,” I wondered with a soft laugh, “And I won’t even joke and ask if you want to join me.. Of course, unless you want to, then feel free,” I continued and she looked at me with smirk, though her eyes were scolding me.

“You can shower, but I’m definitely not joinin’ you,” she replied and I laughed, Riley putting her hand to my chest and giving me a gentle push so she could open the passenger side door to get in my car. A smile was cemented on my lips as I walked around my car and tossed my bag in the back, getting in, revving up the engine and driving us back to my place.

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When we got to my house, Riley and I got out of my car and walked up the steps.

“You live here?” She seemed skeptical.

“Yeah.”

“It’s huge..?” She added with surprise and I chuckled.

“Well, it wasn’t always a house. It used to be a law firm or something run by this guy and his two sons, but when they left, we all pitched in and bought it from them ’cause it was pretty cheap. We fixed it up a little and with a lot of help from my savings, it turned into this,” I explained as we approached the door, taking out my keys and unlocking it.

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“It looks amazin’. You guys did a great job,” she complimented as she looked around after we came inside.

“Thanks.. Tavish and I added a few walls to help separate the place, although this is mostly Pia’s work as far as decorating. A woman’s touch is one of the best things in this world, wouldn’t you say?” I asked, shooting her a quick grin and she rolled her eyes with a smile.

“Go take your shower,” she brushed off my comment and I chuckled as I began walking upstairs.

“Fine, I’m goin’.. Make yourself at home, I’ll be back in ten minutes,” I answered and she gave me a quick smile before giving herself a tour of the place as I went up to the bathroom.

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I quickly rid myself of my clothes, cleaning my hair and my body hastily under the water so I had time for some relief after today. No matter how much or how little I flirted with Riley and got nothing in return, not being able to have her was beginning to build up and although I’ve taken care of myself during the week without seeing her, seeing her today made it build up all over again. Normally by now I would’ve gotten off with a handful of women, but I couldn’t do that when Riley was the only one that clouded my mind and no one else would do. Instead of seeking relief with someone else while thinking of her, I started taking care of things myself. It just seemed easier that way.

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Getting hard was no problem since all day today I’ve been trying to fight it back and the warm water with the help of Riley’s lips and body on my mind instantly got me there. I shut my eyes and took a hold of myself, stroking slowly at first as I thought about Riley lying on my bed completely naked, starting at her mouth and imagining her biting her bottom lip in anticipation to my touch. Begging for it. Her neck, her bare shoulders, her clavicle, her breasts that lay so perfectly as I knelt on my bed before her. Her tight, lean, soft stomach. Long, smooth legs that I spread open myself to reveal her tight, moist warmth that I can barely wait to dive into. I imagine myself falling over her, my lips going straight to hers and I kiss her hard as I guide myself into her using only my hips’ sense of direction and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I knew exactly where I’m going and how to get there. I’ve had too much practice to not know exactly what my hips needed to do and I didn’t need guidance by anything else.

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How I imagine what she might feel like inside makes me breathe harder, makes me stroke faster. I plant my hand on the shower wall for leverage as I continue to shut my eyes tightly and think of Riley and how hard and fast I wanted to thrust into her. She’s panting. Moaning. Saying my name. Clenching the bed sheet under her. The warm water from the shower with the help of my clenched hand painted me a perfect picture in my mind of what she might feel like and the harder I went in my mind, the closer and closer I got to coming against the tile wall. 

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“Ahh, fuck, just a little more,” I told myself just above a whisper in a slightly desperate tone, now going full force at my thoughts and fucking Riley silly until I imagined her telling me she was close to coming. I squeezed myself a little harder to imitate the feel of her insides tightening from reaching her climax and with a few more rough strokes, I came against the tile wall of the shower and I hummed a long moan at the intense feeling of my own release.

God damn, did I need that. Knowing she was here in the house, too, made it a little more exciting.

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I panted heavily as I stood in the shower, finally opening my eyes as I now put both of my hands against the wall to hold myself up and I watched as the evidence of my release was slowly washed away from the hot water that continued to pour over me. After it was all gone, I finally was able to stand normally and support myself on my own two legs without the need of the wall, reaching up to pull my hair back and let the water wash over me for one last minute before turning the faucet off and stepping out.

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After rubbing down my hair a little and drying some of my body, I wrapped the towel around me and walked out of the bathroom, but I stopped in the hallway when I noticed my door was open. Riley was brave enough to venture into my room without asking? She better be wearing next to nothing and lying on my bed if she thinks she can just barge into my room like that.. I know I told her to make herself at home, but.. Really? She went as far as my bedroom?

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I stepped up to the open door and looked in, seeing her looking out my window closest to my bed and I leaned against the frame of the door as I watched her.

“You really took ‘make yourself at home’ pretty literally, I see,” I spoke and she turned around quickly.

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“Oh, I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to invade your space or anythin’.. I was just kind of curious about what your room looked like,” she replied, seeing her eyeing my body for a moment before turning her attention to the ground.

“How’d you know this was my room?”

“It smelled like your cologne,” she replied and I was a little flattered by the fact that she had memorized it already.

“You got a good nose,” I complimented with a smile and she looked back up to me with a smirk on her lips.

“How was your shower?” She wondered and I stepped up to my dresser.

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“Very relaxing,” I put simply, undoing my towel and letting it drop to the floor.

“Ah! Luca! Why did you do that?!” She exclaimed in a panic and I looked over my shoulder to see her covering her eyes.

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“Do what?”

“Drop the towel!”

“Hey, this is my room. If you’re going to invade my space, you best be ready for what I like to do in it, and what I like, is to get comfortable enough after my shower to change into my clothes. I can’t get dressed with my towel still on, now can I?” I put simply and she still seemed rattled.

“You couldn’t have asked me to leave?!”

“Where’s the fun in that?”

“J-Just.. Just put some clothes on, please!” She requested and I simply turned around and leaned against my dresser.

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“All right, all right.. There.. You can look now,” I replied and she dropped her hands, but instead of seeing what she expected to, I gave her a full frontal and she gasped.

“Oh, my God! LUCA!” She exclaimed again and I laughed as she put her hands back over her eyes and turned around as fast as she could, “What the hell?!” She asked and I continued to laugh.

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“Hey, I warned you.. My space, sweetheart. Don’t be surprised by anything I do, you asked for it by coming in here,” I continued to justify my actions.

“So this is what you do in your ‘space’? You flash women your genitals?”

“That’s usually what happens if there’s a woman in my room, yeah,” I agreed with a slight attitude, “But, most of the time the lack of clothes I have on is more expected and welcomed rather than shocking.. Although, no, some women have been pretty shocked, actually, when I drop my pants.. It’s a compliment, really, so I guess I should thank you for your reaction,” I said with a grin, turning back to my dresser and picking out some clothes to wear for real this time.

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“You’re unbelievable.. I can’t believe you just did that..”

“Did you like what you saw?” I asked with an ego that my room could barely contain and she scoffed.

“You’re a jerk, you know that?” She expressed with a little annoyance in her tone.

“What? How?” I asked, perplexed by her words as I slid a pair of underwear up my legs and secured them around my hips.

“Just because,” she answered and I chuckled as I slid a pair of pants on next, then threw a plain shirt.

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I stepped over towards her and stopped an arms length away, “You can look now, no more surprises,” I assured her, but she didn’t budge.

“I don’t believe you,” she replied with a stern tone.

“I promise.. You can even kick me in the nuts if I’m lying. Free shot,” I offered and I heard the tiniest giggle from her that I assumed she probably didn’t want or expect me to hear.

“I wouldn’t do that.. I’d leave and never come back, that’s what I’d do,” she threatened, but I knew she was bluffing.

“Okay, fine, do whatever you want. Just turn around, please?” I answered.

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Riley ever-so-slowly looking over her shoulder, removing her hands from over her eyes and she looked me up and down quickly, seeing that I was telling the truth. 

“See? I don’t break promises,” I added and I wasn’t sure if she was acting angry despite hearing her giggle a little just moments ago, or if she was actually a little angry with me now.

I stepped closer to her, closing the gap between us and I reached to touch her hips, expecting to be pushed away, but surprisingly, I wasn’t.

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“Hey.. I’m sorry, okay? A lot of the time, I don’t think before I do things,” I apologized with a slight smirk, slowly wrapping my arms around her.

“Well, maybe you should start usin’ that brain a’yours a little more often when I’m around,” she scolded and even her angry face couldn’t get me to stop smiling.

“I kinda like when you’re angry.. You pucker up your lips a little like you just ate something sour,” I pointed out and her cheeks turned a light pink.

“I do not,” she defended and I laughed softly.

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“Yes, you do, and it’s adorable,” I complimented, pulling her in a little more and pressing my lips against her cheek that lasted only a few seconds, “You ready to go?” I wondered and she nodded with a smile, pulling herself from my grasp and I followed her out of my bedroom and back outside to my car.

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As I drove Riley and myself to meet up with Pia and Tavish, I kept glancing over towards Riley, seeing how relaxed she was in my car like she was already used to it. Legs crossed, arms and hands limp, her face relaxed as her eyes scanned both things close and far away, as if not wanting to miss a single inch of anything. My favorite, however, was watching her hair be tousled around by the wind that blew into the car and there wasn’t a single inhale I took in that didn’t have her scent all over it. I enjoyed how she looked at the world with such a sense of wonder and amazement and not as if she were bored seeing palm trees over and over again. 

“The trees and the ocean are my favorite,” she spoke softly, turning her head towards me and giving me a quick smirk before looking back out the window.

“You’ve never see a palm tree or the water?” I somewhat joked and she looked back over to me.

“Well, I saw the water when I was a little girl. My mom once drove me down to Mobile Bay on the Gulf of Mexico, so I saw the water, but palm trees don’t grow down there. So, I guess, yeah, I’ve never seen a palm tree before I moved here, and I absolutely love them,” she continued, keeping the smirk on her face the entire time she talked and it was easy to see that she really did genuinely enjoy her choice in moving here.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to go to the party anymore. For the first time in a long, long while, I actually wanted to, well.. Just talk.

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“Change of plans,” I announced, taking a turn down a different road when I was meant to keep going straight.

“Where are we goin’?” She asked with the same smirk on her lips, curiosity evident in her brows.

“It’s a surprise.. Do you want me to tell you where, or can you trust me?” I asked, giving her a quick grin and she gave me a suspicious smile.

“If it’s anything like the surprise you gave me in your bedroom, then no,” she replied and I laughed.

“No, no, nothing like that.”

“Well, all right then,” she agreed, putting her view back out the window and I kept my excited grin as I continued down the road of changed plans. 

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Before taking Riley to the surprise location, I stopped at a liquor store and grabbed a nice bottle of wine for us to share. She gave me another suspicious smile as I gave it to her to hold onto, but I didn’t say a word as I continued on our way to where I wanted to take her, as well as a place I knew she wanted to go. 

When we were finally there, I pulled into a small dirt path meant for a single car to park and Riley looked to me with a rather happy face.

“Is this the dock?” She asked and I nodded.

“Yup.. You still wanted to come here sometime, right?” I asked and she nodded with a strong sense of enthusiasm, “Well, let’s go,” I added, shutting my car off and getting out as she opened her own door and did the same. 

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“I should warn you that it’s a lot more boring here without a huge group of people to get drunk with, but it’s still nice,” I pointed out as we walked up to the dock and she shook her head, disagreeing with me.

“I think it’s beautiful and romantic and I like it better without a lot of people. It’s quiet, you can listen to the ocean and relax, and we don’t need a ton of people to get drunk with. I don’t mind spending the night alone with you, anyhow,” she replied and I gave her a rather mischievous brow with an accompanied grin on my lips and she suddenly changed her expression, “Don’t you look at me like that. You know exactly what I meant, so.. Whatever you’re thinkin’, stop thinkin’ it,” she disciplined me and I couldn’t help but give a quick chuckle.

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied as I bit my bottom lip and checked her out without her noticing.

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When we reached the edge of the dock, we stopped and looked out onto the water, standing there and listening to the ocean for a moment together.

“Thanks for takin’ me here. I already think this is a lot more fun than a party where I won’t know a single soul,” she expressed and I nodded.

“Sure thing.. Besides, I’d just be introducing you to people and I doubt you’d remember every single person’s name. Who knows if you’d even get any drinking in or even have any fun at all. Plus, the moment Pia met you, I bet she’d drag you away from me somewhere and that just won’t do,” I replied with a coy smoulder and even now, I could see her cheeks turn a soft rose hue. Riley then peaked over the edge of the dock and a gentle gasp came from her.

“My gosh.. This is the dock you were talkin’ about where you were drunk and fell off with Niko, right?” She asked and I nodded again.

“Yup. Long fall, huh?” I asked rhetorically, seeing her continue to look over the edge and I grinned as a playful prank came to my mind.

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I took a strong hold of her hips and pushed her forward a little, “Don’t fall!” I said, but quickly pulled her back so she wouldn’t and she let out a quick, quiet, panicked scream before whipping her body around and clinging to me. I couldn’t help but laugh as she held me, knowing she was trying to figure out what the hell just happened, and when she finally did, she released me and hit my chest.

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“You really are a jerk! You know that!?” She expressed in both anger and relief.

“I’m.. I’m sorry,” I tried to speak through my continued laughter, “I just saw the opening and couldn’t pass it up,” I continued and she hit my chest again before I managed to put my hands up to try and block the blows.

“My heart’s beatin’ so fast right now! Good lord,” she continued and I finally managed to die down my laughing enough to speak clearly.

“Okay, okay, stop hitting me, I’m sorry! I’ll never do that again, I promise, it was just a joke!” I said with a apologetic smile, trying to get her to not be mad at me and when I noticed a gentle twitch of a smirk on the edge of her lips, I held out my hands to invite her into my arms.

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“Come here,” I invited and she slowly stepped over towards me.

“You ain’t gunna try to push me again, right?” She stopped to ask just before she was within my reach and I chuckled.

“No, never again,” I assured her as I leaned forward so then she was within my reach and I grabbed her hips, pulling her the rest of the way into me and securing my arms around her. Riley put her arms around me, as well, although her lips puckered a little like I’ve noticed they do when she was a little angry.

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“Aww, are you still mad at me?” I asked as I observed her face, though she shook her head.

“..Just tryin’ to get my heart to stop racin’, that’s all,” she expressed with a slightly embarrassed smirk and now I was genuinely starting to feel bad.

“I’m sorry.. I didn’t think it would scare you that much, but it was a stupid joke and I shouldn’t have done it,” I apologized again, but she shook her head as she looked down to my chest.

“It’s all right, it just startled me, is all.. How about I get the wine from the car? You still seem to like makin’ me a little nervous, so.. Maybe that’ll help me loosen up a bit,” she admitted, her eyes coming back up to meet mine and I nodded.

“Yeah, sure. I actually forgot about it.. I left my car open,” I replied and let her go, watching as she smiled and let go of me, too, then walked back down the dock and back to my car.

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I liked how she admitted she was still nervous around me, because I was still a little nervous around her, too, even though I never really seemed like it. Her being nervous made me feel like she still liked me a decent amount and was still willing to put up with my stupid jokes, and really, overall stupidity, which was nice.

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Although I liked that she was getting the wine so she could loosen up to be on my level of apparent relaxation, I suppose I should do some compromising, too, and not be so loosened up to the point where it seems like I don’t care. I needed to try and stop playing it this cool because it reminded me of how I was with other girls, ones that I would only know for a single night, and I constantly needed to remind myself that she wasn’t one of them.. At least I didn’t want her to be.

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When I noticed Riley coming back, a smile grew on my lips as I watched her trying to figure out how to open the bottle, but it was no use. 

Riley handed it off when she reached me, “You got a cork screw?” She asked and I thought for a quick moment, then patted my legs looking for my keys, knowing I had a mini pocket knife attached to them that had a mini cork screw on it and I took the bottle as I pulled my keys out of my pocket. Flipping out the cork screw with my thumbnail, I began twisting it in and when it couldn’t go anymore, I put the bottle between my knees and pulled. A loud ‘pop!’ came from the bottle once I’d opened it and I handed it back to Riley as I tossed out the cork and returned my keys to my pocket.

“We’re just drinkin’ outta the bottle since we don’t have any cups, right?” She asked and I chuckled.

“Yup.. I guess I forgot to pick up some plastic ones while I was at the store,” I replied and she shrugged, not caring at all.

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“What should we toast to?” She wondered as she observed the bottle and I thought for a short moment.

“Hmm.. To avoiding a potentially awkward and crowded party.. And having a second first-date that isn’t a blind one, instead,” I offered up and a warm smile came to her lips as she looked to me.

“I like that.. Cheers,” she replied, taking a quick swig of the bottle and handing it off to me as I then took a quick chug, as well.

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I stepped over to the edge of the dock and sat down, letting one leg hang off the edge and the other lying comfortably on the dock and Riley came to the edge, too, and joined me in sitting. She hung both legs off, staring off into the ocean and I figured I should think of something to talk about since I was the one that decided to suddenly change our plans and choose to be alone.

“Do you remember any more of that day your mom took you to Mobile Bay?” I asked, bringing up the subject she was talking about in the car and Riley took another sip of the wine before setting it down.

“Yeah, I do.. I was about eight years old and my daddy had just passed about six months prier,” she began and I already felt bad for bringing it up again.

“Oh.. I’m sorry to hear that,” I added before she continued and she looked at me with a genuine smile.

“It’s all right, I’ve come to peace with it. He was very sick, so it was only a matter of time,” she looked back to the ocean, “But, that trip with my momma helped me recover from the loss, in a way.. My momma did everythin’ to distract me from grievin’ and she did a good job. The months after he died were rough, but, eventually my momma was thinkin’ that we need to move on and experience the world a little more like my daddy loved doin’ instead of bein’ sad all the time.. She’d cry alone by herself sometimes, like she didn’t want me to see it. I knew she was havin’ a hard time, we both were, but I think she mostly put it behind her for my sake. She wanted me to be strong, so she had to set an example..”

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“Understandable..”

“My parents first date was at Mobile Bay, actually, and she even took me to the seafood place that they had gone to on the shore that made the best crayfish dinners and pecan pies.. I absolutely loved goin’ there and eatin’ the same meal they fell in love over,” a bigger smile came to Riley’s lips and it was contagious, a smile spreading on my lips, as well. Her voice and the way she described things made me think I was listening to a narrator in the first opening scenes of an old, southern love story, or something like the opening to the movie Fried Green Tomatoes that Pia forced me to watch with her. It was actually quite soothing listening to Riley talk and I didn’t mind listening to her one bit.

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“What did your dad do? If you don’t mind me asking,” I wondered and she looked over to me.

“He was a butcher, a farmer, a fisherman, a tractor and heavy machinery mechanic.. Pretty much anythin’ that had to do with farm work, he did it. When I mentioned him experiencin’ the world, I meant that he would catch his own fish and crayfish, butcher his own born and raised cows, chickens, pigs, and what-have-ya and go around to so many different towns, cities and states and try to get them to buy their product from him. Everything he did was clean and natural, no added anythin’ to the feed of the animals or in the water he used to grow his crops. He was a kind, gentle, but very persistent man and he had an amazin’ way of talkin’. You ever heard of the sayin’ a good businessman can sell a ketchup popcycle to a woman in white gloves?” She asked and I shook my head, though it did paint a pretty good picture at how good he was, “Well, that’s exactly what he could do.. Every place he’d visit, too, he’d always bring me home a souvenir. My momma then took over the business after he passed and has kept it goin’ ever since. He built it up so good for us that whatever you find in a grocery store in the southeast is probably from our farm,” Riley finished and I took a quick sip of the wine before addressing her words.

“Damn.. With all that on his back, he must’ve been working twenty-four-seven,” I pointed out and she giggled softly.

“Dawn to dusk. Momma and I would help, of course, but it was hard work. She had to hire a few people for help after he was gone because he did so much around there that her and I combined couldn’t even do half of what he did.. But, luckily we could afford it thanks to him bein’ the good businessman he was and gettin’ the farm some buyers for our products before he was gone,” she answered.

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“Well, he sounds like he was an amazing man,” I complimented and she smiled with a nod.

“Thank you.. He was,” she answered, grabbing the bottle of wine and taking a generous sip of it.

“So, then.. What made you want to become a beautician? You didn’t want to work on the farm anymore?”

“Well, I’d always loved hair and nails and fashion and all that stuff ever since I was a little girl. There wasn’t much of a fashion scene in Maycomb, so when I saw stuff like beautiful celebrities in magazines and on TV with these perfect nails, perfect hair, perfect makeup, I kind of became obsessed with it because it was just so different from what I was raised ’round.. I used to always take tiny paintbrushes and paint my Barbie dolls’ nails, or take scissors and try to cut and style their hair,” she laughed at herself in such a cute way that it made me smile more, “I even cut our dogs hair, put bows in it, and painted their nails when daddy wasn’t lookin’. Man, they would be so pretty, though, running around all dolled up chasin’ the sheep,” she continued her laugh and I joined in with a genuine chuckle from picturing it. Seeing her this happy talking about where she came from and looking back on her past made my heart race a little. Every smile, every laugh, every look she gave me when talking about it was so pure and honest and if she talked about it for hours and hours more, I don’t think I’d mind.

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“What’s the craziest thing you’ve done? By yourself, with AnneMarie, anything,” I asked next and she thought for a moment before answering me.

“You know what a longhorn is?” She asked and already I was a little weary.

“Yeeaaahh..”

“Well.. We had this one named Pinky, but don’t be fooled by the name. He was huge, and so were his horns. My daddy let me name him when I was real young and he was all black with a bright pink snout, so that’s why, but.. We pretty much grew up together and one day, I wanted to try to ride him,” she explained and my eyes widened.

“Holy shit.. Were you able to?”

“Oh my Lord, of course not!” She said with a gentle laugh, “He was big and mean and hated everyone but my daddy. I don’t know what I was thinkin’.. But, when we were dumpin’ the feed off the back of the pick-up we had, he was walkin’ along the side of the truck and when my daddy wasn’t lookin’, I climbed over and jumped on his back. Huuuu-wee, did Pinky get mad.. He let my daddy pet him, so at first, for a split second, he didn’t notice because he was eatin’.. He probably just thought it was my daddy pettin’ him, but when he turned his head a little, he suddenly noticed me and the very second that Pinky made a fuss, my daddy saw me, too, and dropped the feed and grabbed me off of his back before he could lash about to get me off. Pinky sliced some pretty good gashes into the side of the truck from his horns, and the idea to ever try that again was far, far from my mind. I was terrified of him after that, but it was my own fault,” she finished and I sat there in slight awe.

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“Jesus.. I definitely need a drink after just hearing that story,” I replied and she laughed a little as I picked up the bottle of wine and helped myself.

“Enough about me now, tell me more about you.. Like, where’d you get that scar on your face, if it ain’t too much to ask?” She asked, taking the bottle from my hand when I was done with it and taking a sip, as well, then setting it back down.

“It happened about a year ago. I was hanging out with Pia and Tavish at a bar and we were pretty drunk, but Pia was completely wasted.. There was this guy that wouldn’t leave her alone and one minute she was there, the next she was gone and we knew he had something to do with it. Tavish and I caught up to him pretty quick, though, because she said she was going to the bathroom, but she was gone longer than we thought she’d be.. He had taken her behind the bar and of course we had to intervene. Dude had a knife, though, so he pulled it out and he managed to catch my face with it before Tavish got the knife away from him and knocked the guy out. It’s a boring story and I wish I could say that I saved the day, but I was useless and all credit goes to Tav,” I summed it up quickly, not really justifying it with any details because I believed it was more of a story that Tavish told best, not myself.

“You were anythin’ but useless. Doesn’t matter who knocked the guy out, you both stepped in and helped her. Who knows what would’ve happened if you hadn’t.. You’re a good friend, Luca, and the thing that matters most is how selfless you were in that moment.. Don’t sell yourself so short,” she replied with a smile and I had lost count on how many times I’ve heard that before.. Not from her, but from everyone else, too.. Especially Niko.

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“Besides.. The mystery of it before was hot, but the story behind it makes it sexier somehow,” she complimented and my left brow perked up curiously as a grin slowly crept over my lips.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yup,” she replied casually, gazing back at me as she blindly lifted the wine bottle to her lips and took a quick sip before offering it up to me. I took it without question and took a generous sip before setting it aside and scooting a bit closer to Riley, one tiny scoot after another in a rather too-excited manner and she couldn’t help but laugh as I made it obviously how much I loved her words.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said anythin’,” she joked.

“Nope, too late. Can’t take it back now,” I replied with the same grin on my lips and she giggled as she faced back towards the water.

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“Your stories are so short and I feel as if I’ve been talkin’ the most tonight.. Talk about somethin’ else now,” Riley brought up, leaning back and getting comfortable as my left hand came over to her leg and my fingers slid slowly up and down her thigh. But, Riley soon couldn’t contain a soft laugh and she stopped my hand.

“Stop doin’ that, it’s only ticklin’ me and makin’ my leg twitch,” she said with a smile and I chuckled softly.

“Can I just leave it here then?” I asked, pausing my hand in its place and gently gripping her left leg before then caressing her skin with my thumb.

Riley smiled and nodded, “I guess that’s all right,” she confirmed and I was happy that she seemed relaxed enough to let me get a little touchy with her.

“So.. What do you wanna know? Ask me whatever you want,” I offered and her view momentarily went to her lap before looking back up to me.

“You’d mentioned before that you haven’t dated in a long while before you met me, so.. Mind if I ask why?” She wondered and my expression fell blank very quickly.

Fuck.. Ask me anything else but that..

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Riley seemed to notice my reluctance, “I’m sorry, you don’t need to tell me if you don’t wanna.. I shouldn’t have asked, anyways,” she apologized, but I smirked softly and brushed it off like it was nothing.

“No, no, it’s fine.. It’s just kind of an annoying subject because everyone else but me seems to want to talk about it,” I let out a quiet chuckle and my view went down to her thigh that my thumb still continued to rub gently. I sat there silently thinking to myself about what I should and shouldn’t say, but, I suppose honesty was the best way to go about this, not to mention that I thought I might score some points with her if I opened up a little more, but.. Opening up to a woman like this was still a little difficult. It was a pretty foreign need of mine.

“Well, uhh.. Fuck, I don’t even know where to start,” I took another quick moment to gather my thoughts and Riley took that short time to drink from the wine bottle, “It was a long, long time ago.. I met this girl when I was sixteen and it was kind of an unhealthy infatuation straight out of the gate.. We were inseparable for the entire year we were going out and a few days after my seventeenth birthday, she kind of just.. Disappeared,” I explained and her expression went remorseful. 

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“That’s awful.. Did you ever find out what happened to her?” She asked and I shook my head.

“Nope.. Never heard from her again. No call, no letter.. She wasn’t even at school the next day, or ever again. The only thing that I managed to find out was that she left school without dropping out, so her mom must’ve took her out with the right paperwork or maybe made her transfer, I don’t know, exactly..”

“..Did you love her?” Riley asked next and the question made me a little uncomfortable, but I let out a soft laugh to cover it up.

“I don’t know.. Can you even be in love that young?”

“I believe so. Look at Nikolai and AnneMarie.. They’ve loved one another since they were preteens,” she gave an example and I scoffed.

“Yeah, well.. They’re both freaks of nature,” I replied and she giggled softly as I took the bottle of wine and had myself a hefty chug before putting it back to the side of her right leg.

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I cleared my throat before I continued the conversation, but finally decided that maybe taking a leap into the unknown might be good for me. I do it a lot anyways, just not really in these particular circumstances. 

“I was,” Riley looked to me, “In love with her, I mean,” I finally admitted, “It seems stupid now looking back and knowing I was, though. I even told her I did on my birthday and she said it back, but I didn’t realize just how much I was until she left a few days later.. Made me wonder if she was lying to me and just saying what she thought I wanted to hear, or maybe she just said it as a birthday gift or something and I actually scared her off.. I was young and dumb and obsessed with the ‘first love’ blinders I had on. But, I was just a kid.. I didn’t know any better yet,” I explained.

“..Do you still love her?” She asked, and although I only hesitated for a second, it still seemed like too long of a pause.

“No.. Haven’t for a long time.. I struggled a lot after that, acted out and was a huge pain in the ass.. I’m sure my parents hated me for a while, but eventually I got out of the angry-rebelling or whatever the hell I was doing to deal with her leaving and started to get my life back on track.. Tried to forget her and stuff..”

“So, you’ve been avoidin’ daitin’ seriously because you don’t wanna get hurt again, right?” She asked and I nodded.

“Yeah, I guess.. To be honest, I was soooo not looking forward to being set up on that blind date with you and I mostly didn’t want to go because I hated knowing that Niko and AnneMarie and probably everyone else thought I was lonely or some bullshit, and I agreed to it to kind of prove them all wrong.. But.. Turns out that the blind date was fun and I was fixed up with the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” I explained and I could tell how flattered Riley was just by the look in her eyes and how she shied away her gaze down to her lap to hopefully avoid me noticing how pink her cheeks were.

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“She was real stupid,” Riley said softly with a slight sense of anger as she stared down at her lap.

“Who?”

“Your ex.. I bet that leavin’ you was and will always be, by far, the biggest mistake she’s ever made,” she replied, my heart beating a little louder for a split second from her words and she finally lifted her gaze to look at me again, “You’re sweet and funny and outgoin’ and easy to talk to and fun.. So many great things in one package that any woman would be lucky to have,” she went on, but the more that she said, the less I believed it. I’m no prince charming, no knight in shining armor, and I’m not too good for her or anyone else, which is what she’s making it sound like. I just never saw myself that way.

“You don’t have to say those things to make me feel better about myself or to feel better about what happened or anything like that..”

“And I’m not. I’m sayin’ it ’cause it’s true.. All that you did was love her and look what she did in return. Forgive me if I’m comin’ off as rude or anythin’, but by how it sounds and how you describe it, I can tell you blame yourself for why she left and you have no reason to do that.. Maybe you should start thinkin’ that she was the mistake, not you,” she explained and I didn’t know what to say. Every person I talked to about my ex would just call her a dumbass or a bitch for leaving me. It would make me laugh and it did help, but only for a short time.. I’d never heard it put in the way that Riley said, though, and it actually did make me feel better about it all.. More at peace with it.. I hated admitting that the subject still bothered me, but it did, and I knew it always will, but hearing Riley’s view was what I needed to hear in order to truly realize that it really isn’t my fault.. It never has been.

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“Thank you for saying that.. I think it’s something I always wanted to believe, just never could.. It’s hard not to blame yourself for things going wrong when you get no explanation for why they really did,” I spoke quietly, my fingers idly fiddling with the fabric of my pants.

“I’m sorry it took this long for you to see that,” she replied and I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Heh, yeah.. Knowing it a lot sooner would’ve been nice and would’ve saved me a lot of time beating myself up, but, had I realized it sooner, I might’ve already been dating someone and I wouldn’t have been introduced to you,” I answered, giving her a soft smirk and she gave a bashful smile.

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There was a long pause after my words, watching as Riley picked up the wine bottle we seemed to have ignored for a short while and taking a few generous sips from it before handing it off to me, and I did the same before setting it back down.

“..I like you, Luca,” she admitted with a hushed voice, staring down at her lap as she spoke and a smile slowly crept over my lips.

“Then you’re even crazier than I am,” I replied and she looked up to me as if she couldn’t believe that I had just said that.

“It’s really not all that strange for someone to like you,” she pointed out and I looked away from her and out towards the water.

“Yeah, well.. Didn’t go too well last time, so you can understand my skepticism..”

“Hey,” Riley grabbed my hand that I still had on her thigh and she held it tightly, “Look at me,” and I did, “I promise that if there’s anythin’ wrong or if there’s ever a problem, I’ll tell you. You know that I’m honest, I really do try to be, and I’m not goin’ to hide anythin’ just to spare your feelin’s. If for whatever reason this doesn’t work out, I won’t abandon you, I’ll tell you why it didn’t, but for now, there ain’t anythin’ wrong with you, or me, or us. I understand you not likin’ the idea of it and you don’t wanna get hurt again and I do understand your hesitation, but I wouldn’t have said it if I hadn’t meant it. I do like you, Luca, and I wanna keep seein’ you.. If you wanna keep seein’ me, too,” she answered, her last sentence sounding almost like a question and oddly enough, I felt a sense of relief.

“..I do want to keep seeing you,” I finally replied, making up my mind and deciding that maybe this could be worth it. Maybe, despite my reluctance and uncertainty, I wanted to see where all of this would go with her. I was still going to be careful, I was still going to just try this out instead of putting both feet in at once, and I hoped it wouldn’t turn out like last time.

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Riley has made me feel things that I never thought I’d feel again. The need to kiss and show affection, the need to share and be shared with, so many things that I couldn’t put into words just yet, but it felt good. It even scared me a little to admit it to myself because part of me, most of me, didn’t want to believe that someone like her could have the ability to put up with someone like me, but the affectionate side of me that only my close friends and family saw was something that I wanted to start showing her.. Riley was easy to talk to and she understood things without all that much explanation needed, and I thought that came in handy since it’s a little difficult for me to share, especially with a woman I just met, but..

I liked her, too, and that scared the hell out of me.

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I noticed Riley gently bite her bottom lip and I assumed she wanted me to kiss her, but even though I don’t much care for that kind of thing, I felt a strong want to do it with her. A need to. I leaned in rather quickly, but she wasn’t surprised by it, and the moment my lips touched hers, I was brought back to last weekend when we were standing outside her home on her doorstep, but this time was different. This time it felt less like a goodbye kiss and more like the start of something exciting, the start of something new and terrifying, but, fuck it. I was sick of living in the past and constantly being reminded of it, and I was sick of people looking at me as if I needed to be pitied or coddled because they thought I was alone and lonely. 

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Our kiss was electric and I felt a tingling down my spine as she made the kiss deeper by letting go of holding my hand and bring it up to grip the back of my head. She pulled at a chunk of my hair, her nails gently raking against my scalp, her mouth opening more for exploration and my hand that still remained on her thigh gripped at her a little roughly. She was so damn sexy and all I could think about now was touching her, pleasing her, making her feel the best that she possibly could and I wanted her to feel it with me.. I wanted to be the one that she’d remember and the first one that would come to her mind when she would think about a time she felt the best she ever had.

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We were breathing a little harder than normal, every now and then she’d even moan against my lips and it made me melt just knowing that a kiss between us made her feel this good. Riley brought her other hand up to touch my neck and she gripped another chunk of my hair that made my loins quiver in excitement. She didn’t strike me as the rough type, but with everything she was doing, pulling my hair, quietly moaning, her thigh tensing up every time my hand gripped it roughly which told me she was just as turned on as I was.. It drove me wild. I could even feel through her leg every single time her hips would gently flex as if she wanted to grind on something, my something, and I couldn’t control myself anymore.

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I brought my hand away from her thigh and it traveled straight up to the warmth between her legs. I rubbed her over the thin fabric of her shorts, giving her hips something to grind against until I could get her back to my car and have her grind in my lap instead, but what came next was something I should’ve known would happen..

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Riley gasped softly against my lips and immediately pulled back, No, please don’t-!” She let out in a panic and the second I heard the ‘no’, I had already jerked my hand as far away from her as I could.

“Shit! I.. I-I’m so sorry, Riley, I’m sorry!”

“N-No, it’s-” she stopped to take a deep breath, “It’s okay, I’m just-”

“-No, it’s not okay and I’m so sorry, I’m such a fucking dumbass,” I said with disappointment and embarrassment.

“Luca, really, you just startled me, is all.. It’s-”

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“-I just thought that-” I couldn’t believe how stupid I was, “I.. I don’t know what I thought.. I’m sorry, Riley, I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me,” I said in complete disbelief, as if I had no clue what the hell my hands were thinking.. What the hell was I even thinking?

“Luca, don’t.. It’s really not you, I’m just.. I’m not ready, is all, all right? It’s completely all me, I swear. I’m sorry I panicked like that and scared you, I don’t know why I did that,” she continued to try to put the blame on herself, but her apologizing to me for what my stupid, idiot self did make me sick to my stomach. I don’t understand why I can’t keep my damn hands to myself.

“Don’t apologize to me for stopping me, please don’t.. You’ve already made it completely clear that you’re not looking to move that quick and I don’t know what I was thinking.. I.. I don’t know what I was thinking,” I kept repeating, sitting there with a storm cloud over my head, gloomy and disgusted with myself.

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“..I’ll take you home,” I assumed she wanted to leave, about to get up to my feet, but Riley stopped me.

“No, I don’t wanna leave like this,” she urged, reaching out to touch my face and she made me look at her, “Listen to me. It’s o-kay. I’m sorry I reacted like that. I-” she paused for a moment, “It’s been a while for me and you just startled me, all right? I ain’t used so movin’ fast, but I do want to do things with you, just not yet.. Okay?” She tried to make me feel less bad about it, but that wasn’t going to happen. I was so disappointed in myself that even if she didn’t want to go home yet, now wanted to.. 

“..I’m still sorry,” I replied and she gave me a warm smile.

“I know, and I forgive you.. Believe me, when I’m ready, you’ll definitely know,” she encouraged and I nodded in understanding, giving her a fake smirk and Riley leaned back in again to briefly kiss my lips, “Have you stopped punishin’ yourself yet?” She asked and I nodded.

“Yeah,” I lied.

“Good.. Then now you can take me home,” she said with another smile, standing up and I stood up with her, leaving behind our empty bottle of wine and walking off the dock back to my car.

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Driving Riley home was agonizing. She tried her best to lighten the mood, trying to talk to me or make me laugh or whatever else, but all that I could really give her back were one-word answers and half-assed laughs that I forced myself to muster up to not make her feel bad. No matter what she tried to do, I still couldn’t get my mind off of what I did at the dock. God, I’m seriously such a fucking idiot! I’m used to getting what I want, but this was something else. This was me trying to get what I wanted without permission and I couldn’t get my stomach to stop turning as I replayed the scene over and over in my mind. Riley’s voice and the tone she used kept replaying, too. She sounded so startled and even a little scared.. Just the thought of me possibly scaring her made my stomach turn even more.. This wasn’t who I was, so why did I act that way?

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When I parked my car in her driveway, I didn’t even have the confidence or the strength to walk her to her door. I stared down at the steering wheel for a long, silent moment, and it wasn’t until Riley had reached over and touched my hand did I come out of my trance.

“Are you all right? ..Truly?” Riley asked, looking over to her and nodding a lie.

“Yeah.. I’m fine.. Are you?”

“Yes,” she said with another smile, “Do you wanna do somethin’ next week, or next weekend again?”

“Yeah.. Call me whenever you want to,” I offered back, feeling a lot more comfortable if she were the one to do it first and she nodded.

“All right, I will,” she replied, a quick, awkward silence then filling the car as she continued to sit in the passengers seat.. I thought she would’ve bolted out of my car by now.

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“Are you gunna kiss me goodnight?” She asked next and I chuckled softly.

“Only if you want me to,” I replied and her expression filled with a slight concern. 

“Of course I do.. You don’t need to ask permission for every little thing, just the more serious things, okay?” She made clear and I nodded, seeing her lean towards me and I did the same, meeting in the middle and our lips were locked for a few long seconds before she pulled away with a smirk on her plump lips, “Goodnight, Luca.”

“Night,” I answered, watching her get out of the car and I sat in her driveway until she had gotten into her place safely. 

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I pulled out of her driveway and went straight home, coming into the house and hearing Pia and Tavish and a few other people they brought home from the bar in the living room, being loud and laughing and drinking, but I wasn’t in the mood. Luckily, I managed to come inside undetected and I went straight up to my bedroom.

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I left my lights off, stepping over to my bed and throwing myself onto it, lying on my back and staring up at the ceiling and letting out a deep, heavy sigh. I was so disappointed with myself. I just couldn’t understand what was wrong with me.. Why did I do that? Why did I touch her like that when I knew well enough not to? I just can’t get anything right..

Not a damn thing. 

Generation 5, Chapter 2

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Growing up, my parents always showed so much love to us and to one another to the point where it would be hard to ever live without. I always looked up to them and wanted to have a type of relationship that they did.. Not afraid to show affection, casual, stupid and flirty jokes, the way they look at one another and being able to see their love so clearly every time they exchanged a simple glance or a subtle smirk that said a thousand words without making a sound.. When I thought I had found the same thing, I held onto it, cherished it, surrounded myself in it and let it become the center of my universe.. I completely drowned myself in it, which is why it killed me when it was taken away at the blink of an eye. Since then, I’ve done nothing but avoid relationships and have focused all of my attention on surrounding myself with my family and as many friends as I could get so whenever I start to feel abandoned, hated, ignored or anything else that reminds me of what I failed to achieve and what I lost, I have plenty of people that I can go to and get my mind off of it with.

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Right here is a perfect example of what I grew up with and why I now hate being alone. Well, I guess maybe I didn’t hate being alone, per say, but more so strongly preferred not to be. My parents loved me and the rest of us with every ounce of their being and they were never afraid to show it.. But, my Pop tended to love a little too much sometimes. I really enjoyed the first half of this hug, it made me feel amazing and loved and cared for, everything that I want, but as it went on and Pop refused to let me go, it started to become a little redundant.

“Pop, you’ve been hugging me for, like, a minute straight,” I tried to get out of the hug he had locked me in.

“I haven’t seen you in what feels like forever. I’ve missed you so much,” he tried to justify his suffocating love.

“I’ve missed you guys, too, but I was here a few weekends ago,” I pointed out, although the second that that short time frame came out of my mouth, I could guess word for word what he was about to say next.

“And it’s felt like an eternity,” he replied and I chuckled at how right I was.

“Isaiah, let the poor boy go.. You ambushed him the moment he got out of his car,” my dad tried to help me and eventually, Pop did as he said and pulled back to then have a look at me.

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“Are you eating enough? You feel skinny,” he said with worry as he examined my body.

“Yeah, I’m eating fine, Pop. An apple a day, yadda yadda,” I brushed off and he smiled as he then reached to touch my face briefly.

“This is healing nicely, too. You can barely see it anymore,” he gestured towards the scar over my eye, “But, I still wish it didn’t happen to your beautiful face,” he said with a furrowed and worried brow.

“Oh, come on, it ain’t so bad, Pop. I kind of like it.. Makes me look like a badass, doesn’t it?” I joked, but by the expression he gave me, I could tell he didn’t enjoy my attitude about it.

“I hope you don’t go looking for these scars, Luca-”

“I don’t.

“And why do you always have such dark circles under your eyes? You’re not getting enough sleep, are you?” He continued his questioning and I sighed.

“Uhh, I dunno, Pop.. I guess not. You know how it is, us troublemakers don’t like sleep,” I took a small stab back at him.

“That’s not what I meant and you know it, I just want you to be taking better care of yourself and-”

Okay, Isaiah.. Stop interrogating him and let me say hi to my son,” my dad butted in and I was so thankful he did because he’s the only one that could get Pop to stop being so parental. Don’t get me wrong, I know he’ll never stop being that way, he’s my father, after all, but man, did it get exhausting.. I was twenty three years old and I’ve been out of the house for a couple years now.. I want him to just lay off once in a while, but that’s just too much for a child to ask their parent.. Especially my parents.

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I then stepped up to my dad to greet him, too, since I hadn’t gotten the chance to yet thanks to Pop.

“Hey, Dad,” I said warmly as I hugged him and he hugged me tightly in return for a short moment, much shorter that Pop had.

“How are you, though, really? You doin’ all right?” He asked and I smiled as I nodded.

“I’m doing great, truly. How are you guys?” I asked in return and Pop gave me a look as if I had just insulted them. 

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“We’re fine, but don’t you worry about us, you’re not allowed to. You just worry about yourself and staying healthy and finding someone to give us grandbabies with, understood?” He made known, meaning for it to be a playful little joke, but I also knew that he couldn’t have been more serious at the same time.. And this wasn’t the first, or second, or even fifth time I’ve heard it, he’s been mentioning it ever since I turned eighteen.

Dad then grabbed Pop’s wrist, “Isaiah, that’s enough.. Leave him alone, huh?” He pressed and I laughed softly.

“I think that’s Niko’s job to provide that for you guys,” I replied with a smirk, looking towards the driveway as Niko’s car pulled in, “Speak’a the devil,” I said as I gestured towards Niko and Pop took his attention off of me to go smother one of his other children with love. 

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“..I’m sorry,” my dad said with a guilty smirk, apologizing for Pop being so damn impatient about grandchildren, but I brushed it off with a light chuckle.

“Nah, don’t worry about it. I know he’s always loved kids, it doesn’t bother me. Can’t blame him for being himself,” I replied as I looked back over towards the driveway and Pop was hugging Niko and refusing to let go just as he did to me a moment ago. Niko looked to me and he mouthed the words “help me” and I laughed softly, enjoying that he had to go through what all of us did and there was absolutely no way of escaping it. His hugs were like Chinese finger traps, the harder you tried to get out of it, the tighter his hugs got.

“Well, I also mean sorry because I don’t think he realizes how hard that break up was for you years ago-”

“Dad, I.. I really don’t want to talk about that right now, or ever again, actually,” I said with a pathetic smirk that pleaded for him to stop this.

“My point exactly.. If you were over it, I don’t think you’d mind.. But, there really isn’t anyone that you like yet? No one you’ve been seeing steadily?”

“Dad.. Please-”

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry, I’m done,” he said as he looked forward and I looked forward as well towards Pop now hugging AnneMarie the same as he hugs his own kids and I felt sorry for her, but he absolutely adored her like all of us did and he treated her like one of his own daughters. It was inevitable. 

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When I looked back to my dad, he was still looking at Pop, Niko and AnneMarie, but I could tell that he was still thinking about the subject I obviously didn’t want to talk about and it also seemed like he was trying not to look at me.. It made me feel guilty for making him feel like there was nothing he could do, or that I couldn’t talk to him about this stuff, or maybe even that he thought he had offended me when he didn’t, but it was so simple.. I didn’t want to talk about it..

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Dad was a lot more sensitive than Pop was. His feelings can get hurt a lot easier and he tends to think way too much into things that ultimately result in him being depressed about it or cause himself unneeded stress, something that I’m a little familiar with, but when it happened to him, it was a lot more intense of a feeling than I could ever experience and I hated seeing him like that.. Unless you tell him right away exactly what’s on your mind, he automatically dwells on it and thinks the worst, then beats himself up over it when really there isn’t anything to worry about. I didn’t want to make him feel like we weren’t close anymore, because we still very much were, I just didn’t like talking about that one subject and I wanted him to understand that.. It was nothing against him or Pop or anyone else, I just hated reminding myself of it.. He needed to hear it, too, or else that casual little dismissal I gave him will eat him up inside.

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“Look.. Yes, the subject still bothers me, I’ll admit that, but I only don’t want to talk about it because I don’t like thinking about.. I don’t like reminding myself of it, okay? If I find someone, then I find someone, and you guys will be the first to know. Until then, I’m just having fun, all right? That’s it,” I continued and Dad looked at me as if he was happy I had said something and involved them somehow, though after my words, he still seemed a little concerned.

“..Are you being safe?” He asked and I couldn’t do this anymore, not even to make him feel better.

“I’m going inside,” I replied to avoid the subject and he chuckled.

“Hey, don’t go in yet.. I’m sorry, okay? I’m your dad, I can’t help but worry and make sure you’re making good choices, and I know you are, it’s just.. Those kind of questions just come out of me without even thinking twice,” he explained himself and a light smile came back to my lips.

“Yeah, I know.. It’s all right, it’s just hard because the only subject that I don’t want to talk about is the one that always comes up when I’m here.. It’s a little frustrating because I try to surround myself with good things and people that I love and people that love me back, not ones that used to, you know?” I explained myself, too, and my dad nodded in understanding.

“I completely understand.. I’m sorry.. I’ll talk to your father about it, too, and see if I can get him to back off a little.. I’ll do the same.. But, just know that if you ever need to talk, any time at all, you can always come over and I’ll help you with anything.. We’ll help you with anything.. You know that, don’t you?” He tried to compromise and I agreed.

“Yeah, I do.. Thanks, Dad,” I replied and he finally seemed at ease about our conversation.

“All right.. Go inside and see your siblings, they’ve been waiting for you,” he instructed and I smiled, nodding softly and going inside to see Petra, Umiko and Jiro.

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I stepped into the foyer and over towards the kitchen, but when no one was in sight, I walked down the hallway and peaked into the old dining room they had turned into a new living room, but still saw no one. 

“Must be outside,” I said to myself as I then made my way over to the back door that led to the pool.

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When I got to the back door, I noticed Petra and Umi under the shade in the lounge chairs talking, but I still didn’t see Jiro. I walked outside and the girls looked up right away with big smiles on their lips when they saw me. 

“Hey, Luca!” Umi called out with a wave and I walked over to where they were sitting to chat a little.

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“Hello, sisters of mine,” I pointed out the obvious, “How’s everything going?” I asked, sitting down next to Umiko and Petra went first.

“I had my first design job earlier this week,” she said with a smile and I was excited for her.

“Really? That’s great! How’d the client like it? Wha’d you do?” I asked.

“Well, they just bought a new, small house on the other side of town and their daughter, who’s a friend of mine, showed them some of my ideas and a few pictures of what I’ve done to my bedroom here, as well as the guest house bedroom upstairs. They liked what I did and wanted a summer, beach type of feel to their living room. You know, kind of like wanting to bring the outside in, so I did that for them. They ended up loving it! It only took me about two days to repaint and refurnish with the funds they gave me, but they really loved the end result,” she explained.

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“Wow, that’s really awesome, I’m proud of you,” I answered with a smile, “How much did you get for it?”

“None of your business, nosy,” she said with a smile and I chuckled, “But, it was a pretty nice chunk of cash. I put it in the bank,” she continued.

“Good girl,” I commended and she seemed a little more proud of herself than she portrayed just a moment ago. I knew she loved being praised for her hard work, and man, did she deserve it. At only nineteen, she was starting her own line of interior design work and I was floored that she managed it so well, especially so soon after getting out of high school. 

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I then looked to Umi and asked her the same thing, “Anything new to report, baby sis?”

“Hmm.. No, not really-”

“What are you talking about?” Petra interrupted, “You’re grounded because you got caught having Mike over and locking your door,” she told on our little sister and Umi reached over to quickly, but gently hit Petra on the shoulder.

“Shut up, Petra!”

“Ohh, you adventurous little devil,” I said with a proud grin and Petra giggled, though I then grew a little more serious, “He treatin’ you good?” I asked with a more protective tone and Umi rolled her eyes.

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Yes, Luca.. No need to scare him away with your subtle, brotherly warnings,” she said with a sarcastic grin.

Petra jumped in, “Yeah, if he knows what’s good for him, he’ll continue that good behavior. Andy was lucky enough to experience it first hand,” she said sarcastically and I chuckled.

“Well, he should’ve never made you cry,” I justified my actions of scaring the shit out of Petra’s now ex-boyfriend, then put my attention back to Umi, “You let me know if he does anything you don’t like and I’ll be at his door quicker than-”

“Okaaayyyy, thanks, Luca.. But, I will let you know if he ever does.. Until then, don’t worry, okay?” She said reassuringly and I nodded.

“I know.. I know you can handle yourself, but you can’t blame me for wanting you to be treated well and wanting to make sure of it,” I replied and she smiled appreciatively.

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My relationship with my sisters was very strong, and by strong, I mean I’m incredibly over protective of them. We’re a very tight knit family and we always look out for one another, although out of us boys, I think I’m the most protective over the other siblings.. I guess I was the biggest and most intimidating, so my words and my fists were something that everyone wanted to avoid, and if they were smart, having only good intentions when getting involved with my siblings was a must or else there’d be consequences.. There’s even been an instance where I was pretty close to putting someone in the hospital for how they acted around AnneMarie when we went out together to buy a birthday present for Niko a few years back. After knowing her for so long, I consider AnneMarie to be one of my sister’s, too, and I’d do anything for her just as much as I’d do for my blood.

Our parents don’t even know half of the things we’ve done for each other, they worry too much and telling them anything wouldn’t be good for any of us. We take a lot of our matters into our own hands to protect one another and not give our parents the unneeded stress..

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I noticed Petra’s eyes look behind me and she gave the slightest smirk, telling me without using a single word that Jiro was coming up behind me and I knew it was him.. He always did this.. I waited patiently, sitting there minding my own business, but the second I heard one of his steps right behind me, I stood up quickly, turned around and grabbed him, putting him into a headlock and laughing.

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“Thought you could sneak up on me, huh?!” I disciplined, rubbing my hand roughly back and forth on the top of his head to mess up his hair.

“How do you always know!?” He asked as he struggled to get out of my grip, but I wasn’t letting go.

“You little shit, you do this every time I come over! You’re so predictable!”

“Fuck you, lemme go!” He exclaimed and every time that I saw my baby brother, I swear he gets more and more like me every time and I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing at this point.

“No way! You need to pay for your non-stealthy ass trying to out-wrestle me all the time and always losing!” I replied as I kept a grin on my lips and Umiko and Petra only laughed at our play fighting.

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I then instinctively picked him up, heading for the pool and he flailed within my grasp to try to get free, but there was no competition. He was going into the water and that was that.

“Luca, no, no-no-nO-NO-NO, LUCA!” He called out as I threw him in, hitting the water and I blocked the small splash he made from hitting the girls.

“You’re so mean to him,” Petra said with a smile and I laughed.

“Nah, he deserves it. He knows I’m just fuckin’ with him, too,” I replied with a triumphant grin and Jiro popped up from the water with an angry look in his eyes.

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“I hate you so much..”

“No, you don’t! Come on, man, where’d your sense of humor go? You didn’t lose it like Augie has, did you?”

“No! I just don’t like being thrown into the pool whenever you come over!” He argued and I laughed.

“All right, all right.. Now get out and go change, I’ll get yelled at if Dad or Pop sees you like that,” I said with the grin I couldn’t get rid of.

“Not my fault!” He rubbed in my face and I could only laugh more as he got out, soaking wet and dripping onto the walkway under him.

“Then just be better at sneaking up on me and this won’t happen. Succeed, or this is your punishment,” I put it simply and he fake laughed at my joke as he wrung out his clothes.

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“Whoa, what happened here?” Dad asked when he came outside and saw us all by the pool.

“He fell in!” I said with an innocent smile and a shrug, speaking before Jiro could, “Didn’t you teach him how to walk when he was one or two? You’d think he’d have learned by now!” I said with the same grin that was a dead give-away and Dad looked at me with a slight smirk, but still gave me the eyes of ‘I know you did that’, yet he still didn’t address it.

“Jiro, go upstairs and change,” he instructed and Jiro went inside soaking wet.

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“And Luca?”

“Yeah, Dad?” I asked with my continuously innocent smile.

Stop throwing him in the pool,” he instructed with the smirk now gone from his lips and I knew I needed to behave just from the look in his eyes and the tone he used.

“It won’t happen again,” I replied, “Today..” I said quietly and he shook his head as he followed Jiro inside.

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After they were gone, Niko and AnneMarie came out through the same door and the girls immediately popped up out of their lawn chairs and went over to them.

“Niko! AnneMarie!” Umi called out and both her and Petra gave them a hug, then started chit-chatting with AnneMarie as Niko came over to me.

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“Hey, Luca,” he said with a warm smile that I didn’t realize how much I missed until now.

“Hey, short-stuff. Been a long time,” I said with a smile and he held his on his lips as he rolled his eyes to my comment and we both hugged for a moment.

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“I missed you,” he replied and we let go of one another and he sat down on one of the lounge chairs as I sat on the other.

“Likewise.. How you been?”

“Good, good.. Same old stuff,” he shrugged off, “How about you?”

“Nothing new.. So, what brings you guys back in the middle of March? You usually just come home for the summer and the big holidays,” I pointed out and he had a huge smile on his lips as his view went to the ground.

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“What is it?” I asked with my grin slowly getting more suspicious, yet bigger, and he looked back up to me.

“..I wanted everyone here tonight because, uhm.. Well.. I haven’t told anyone this but you, so..”

“Okay, out with it.. I have to know now,” I encouraged bravery and he glanced at the ground once more before looking back up to me.

“..I’m gunna ask AnneMarie to marry me,” he replied and the smile left my lips as my expression went from happy to excitedly shocked.

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“No fucking way! Really?”

“Be quiet! She has no idea and I want to try to keep it that way.. After dinner, I’m going to take her down to the beach behind the house and ask her. Not even Dad or Pop know, I was just hoping to ask her and surprise everyone afterwards, but.. I had to tell you,” he confirmed and I could feel goose bumps forming on my arms.

“Damn, what a surprise then! Everyone’s going to flip out,” I said with a chuckle and he nodded.

“Yeah, probably. I know it’s been a long time coming, but, it’s finally here, I guess.. And, I think we’re ready.. I’m ready,” he answered and my smile came back to my lips.

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“I’m so excited for you. She’s definitely going to say yes,” I said without a doubt in my mind and his expression went hopeful.

“You think so?” He asked and I scoffed.

“Of course! I mean, Jesus.. How long have you been together? Eight, nine years?”

“Almost ten,” he replied with a smile I didn’t think could get any more genuine and happy.

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“I’m seriously so happy for you. This is amazing news, Niko.. I mean, I knew you guys would eventually get married, but now, finally hearing that it’s going to happen.. I’m excited,” I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm and he chuckled.

“Yeah, well.. I haven’t asked her yet, so-”

“Stop.. There’s no way she would say no to you. You guys are still just as amazing as you were ten years ago and nothing’s change. You’re fucking middle-school sweethearts.. How often does that happen, huh? You’re perfect for one another,” I complimented and I could see in his eyes that he was more than appreciative of my words.

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“Thanks, Luca.. That really means a lot, and actually, it helps a little with these nerves.. I couldn’t even hold her hand driving here because I couldn’t stop shaking,” he said with a hopeless laugh and I couldn’t stop smiling. He’s the most genuine human being I’ve ever known and if AnneMarie even thinks for one second that she should say no, she’s the dumbest person alive. My little brother has been in love with this girl ever since he laid eyes on her and it was still obvious to this very day.

“Actually, if she says yes, I wanted to talk to you about something,” he brought up and I grew curious.

“Oh, yeah? It’s not something we can talk about now? You know she’s going to say yes, so just say it,” I encouraged and he thought for a moment before speaking.

“Well, I.. I was wondering if-”

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“Wait, wait.. Shh,” I said in a slight whisper to give him the heads up and he caught on instantly and didn’t continue the conversation.

“AnneMarie,” I said with a smirk as I stood up, her smile wide and beautiful and she came into my open arms for a warm hug, “How’ve you been, gorgeous? It’s been a while,” I asked as we then let go and Niko stood with us.

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“Yeah, it sure has,” she replied with her soft and sweet Alabama-Southern-Belle twang that everyone adored, “And I’m doin’ all right. Excited to be back in town. I was real excited when Nikolai wanted to make a random visit! I’ve missed y’all,” she said with such charm that I could easily pass out from it. She was seriously beautiful and Niko was a damn lucky man.

“Are you going to talk to him about.. You know?” Niko hinted to AnneMarie and she nodded.

“Oh! Yes, thanks for remindin’ me, baby,” she replied and I already didn’t like whatever they were up to.

AnneMarie had something to talk to me about? ..Specifically AnneMarie? Ah, man.. I think I knew where this was going..

“..Talk to me about what?” I was a little suspicious.

“Well, I got this friend from back where I lived, see? And-”

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“Oh-ho-ho-no. I don’t do blind dates, sweetheart. Sorry,” I put my foot down before she could even continue.

“Luca, don’t be like that, just hear her out, okay?” Niko reasoned, giving me a specific look that he only used when he really needed a favor.

“I don’t do that shit, Niko. It’s way too awkward and being in those positions is just exhausting..”

“Just think of it as a favor, or maybe even a gift of some sort,” he hinted for it to be a wedding gift and I sighed, unable to even deny the request when he was going to pull something like that.

“You’re killin’ me here, Niko,” I replied and he smiled, knowing now that I pretty much had to do it..

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“Fine, let’s hear it.. What’s she like? Does she have an accent?” I asked AnneMarie, never having a Southern Belle before. Accents of any kind were always such a huge turn on, not to mention AnneMarie’s accent specifically was so smooth and inviting and it made my knees a little weak every time I heard it. She completely oozed charm and grace that was, for some reason, insanely attractive to me and if this girl had the same accent and personality, I might open my mind to it a little more.

“Actually, yeah, she does. She’s from Maycomb County, like me. She’s been a good friend of mine since we were young and she moved closer to here for a change, her job mostly, and to be closer to me. Only lives a couple towns south from here,” she replied and I thought for a moment.

“All right, I’m listening,” I replied and AnneMarie got a little more excited when I finally agreed. Man, I hoped I wouldn’t regret this.

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“Okay, first of all, she is so beautiful and I ain’t even fibbin’ with that one,” AnneMarie began and Niko slowly stepped slightly behind her so she couldn’t see him and he nodded indefinitely, telling me the truth that this girl really was pretty.

“Her name’s Riley and she’s real smart, a good sense’a humor, real determined and strong-” she listed a few things off and my eyes kept going back and forth between her and Niko, who was standing behind her and motioning with his hands what she was like on the outside as AnneMarie described what she was like on the inside. His hands curved through the air to make an hourglass figure, then pointed to his legs and nodded strongly with a thumbs up, indicating that they were nice. I always liked a good pair of legs. Niko knew exactly what I liked, or at least the gist of it, and if he was giving me the approval, maybe it might actually be worth meeting this girl. Of course I cared about what AnneMarie was telling me, too, I just really needed to be completely convinced to go on a dreadful blind date, and Niko was also making it more worth it with his visual aids.

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“She’s a stylist that runs her own shop and she’s real gentle and sweet, but she does have a real fun side, like you-” AnneMarie continued and I looked back to Niko who was now showing me her breast size with his hands and he mouthed the words “not fake, all real”, and with both of their descriptions combined, I was getting more and more convinced. I really, really hated blind dates, but it was getting less and less ‘blind’ the more details I got.

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“What color hair?” I asked, crossing my arms.

“Bright blonde, and it’s cute and short, and she’s got these real dark, deep green eyes that you could just stare at for hours,” AnneMarie explained and I nodded slowly, taking it all in. Blonde hair and green eyes weren’t exactly what I usually went for, I liked darker hair and tended to gravitate more towards brown eyes, hazel mostly, but maybe a change might do me some good. I didn’t think that I was picky when it came to looks, but maybe I was wrong.. Maybe I could go against what I usually aim for and see if this girl had any potential. Girls with dark hair and dark eyes tended to be wildcats, at least the recent ones I’ve been with, and I really enjoyed that, but this girl seems like a nice change. Mild-mannered, sweet, respectful, perhaps open to my kind of fun.. Plus, if I were to do it, I’d be doing it for Niko and AnneMarie and doing this as a gift or no gift, they’d still owe me one.. 

I sighed heavily as they both waited for my answer.

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“Does she know anything about me? ..Does she really know what she’s in for?” I asked with a questionable tone, “She sounds.. Maybe a little too good for me,” I continued and Niko then came back into the conversation instead of hanging back behind AnneMarie.

“Would you stop selling yourself so short all the time? If you ask me, I think you should maybe start putting the ‘flings’ behind you and start looking for something more stable-”

“Well, I didn’t ask you,” I pointed out and he rolled his eyes.

“Look, I’ve told her all about you and she knows you’re a little more outgoing, a risk taker, and well.. Fun. I’ve even showed her a picture-”

AnneMarie excitedly jumped in, “And after seeing that picture of you, she was definitely interested,” she added with a sweet smile. At least this girl thought I was hot, that’s always a good sign.

You got a picture?” I asked her, but she shook her head.

“No, I’m sorry, not on me now,” she replied, but even with Niko’s help in painting a nice picture for me, maybe I’ll consider it..

“Can I think about it?” I wondered and AnneMarie’s smile was bright and brilliant, as if she heard me say ‘yes’.

“Of course you can! I’m seein’ her sometime next week, so if I can get a picture of her then, I’ll send it your way to help convince you more,” she replied and I was actually starting to welcome the idea of meeting her, but I still had my doubts. From both of their descriptions, she seemed a lot like AnneMarie, herself, and I’ve always thought she was an angel. I think I’ll wait until I see a picture to make up my mind.

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“Hey! Dinner time, you guys!” Pop called out from the back door and we all looked in his direction momentarily.

“Comin’, Pop!” I called back to him and he went back inside.

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“Go on, babe, I’m right behind you,” Niko encouraged and she smiled again with a nod, walking back over to the house and a grin crept over my lips as I watched Niko watching her until she couldn’t be seen anymore. He really, really did love that girl.

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Niko finally looked back to me, “Thanks for doing that.. She’s been trying to find someone for her for a while and when she thought of you, she couldn’t get the idea out of her head,” he said with a smile and I chuckled, throwing my arm around him and we walked back to the house together.

“I haven’t said yes yet, little brother,” I replied and he smirked.

“Oh, you will after you see a picture,” he replied.

“And what do you mean AnneMarie’s been looking for someone for her for a while? What’s wrong with her?” I asked and Niko laughed.

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“Nothing’s wrong with her! AnneMarie just wants her to meet new people and stuff so she’s not a stranger out here all by herself. I mean, she has AnneMarie, but that’s just one person, you know? Plus, the whole time she was trying to become a stylist, it was kind of just herself and her mom for a while and she only focused on her schooling.. Never really was room for a boyfriend or anything like that, but now that she’s out here and has her job with her own schedule, there’s time for it now, and I think AnneMarie can tell that she kind of wants someone besides her best friend all the time, know what I mean?” He explained and I slowly nodded.

“Ahhh, I see.. And you think that ‘someone’ is me?” I said with an amused laugh, making a joke at my own expense.

“Well, you never know until you give it a shot, right?”

“I suppose.. So, what you’re telling me is she needs a little hot, tender loving care from me?” I said with a sly grin.

“No! Not just that, you perv..”

“I know, I know, I’m just joking.. But, I will think about it, all right? Just don’t hassle me on it,” I added and he accepted my terms with a nod, “And, hey.. If I don’t get a chance to say it before you go down to the beach later, good luck, man,” I said genuinely and he smiled appreciatively. 

“Thanks, Luca,” he replied and we went inside to eat dinner with the family.

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Despite renovating and changing the dining room into a new living room, my parents still moved around the furniture and converted it back into a dining room whenever all of us came over to have dinner together. It was the only place they had room in the house that would fit everyone. There was chatter all throughout the room and it was noisy, but a good noisy. The room was full of life again with all of us together and I really enjoyed coming to my parents place with everyone gathered and all at the same place at the same time. It reminded me of when all of us still lived here and every night at dinner, it was just the same now as it was then.. But, there was one thing that I didn’t notice until now..

Where’s August? ..Where’s Dad, too?

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I excused myself from the temporary dining room and walked over to the front windows, looking out and not seeing August’s truck parked in the driveway and I wondered if he was coming at all. When I turned around to go back to the living room where everyone else was, I noticed my dad standing in the kitchen, his hands on the counter top starring off into nothing and I grew concerned. Shit, I knew that look.. Had August been here already and left?

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I walked over to the kitchen and stopped about ten feet from him.

“Dad?” I asked and he looked over to me, a smile on his lips, but his eyes showed something completely different.

“Hey,” he replied.

“Is Augie coming?”

“N-No, uhm.. He was here already.. We just got done talking and he had to leave,” he replied, walking over to a bottle of wine that was on the counter by the fridge and grabbing it.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, stopping him from leaving the kitchen and he looked at me as if I needed to get out of his way.

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“Nothing’s wrong. Go to the table and sit down, they’re probably waiting for us,” he answered and I could tell by his tone that he didn’t want to talk about whatever was said between him and Augie, but I didn’t like that he was upset over it and I wanted to help.

“Come on, just tell me. Why’d he leave? What’d he get mad about this time?” I tried to make a slight joke out of it, hoping he might be okay with telling me if it wasn’t that serious.

“Go to the table and sit down,” he repeated, not budging on his solid choice in not answering my question. I guess it was something serious.

“All right.. Want me to beat his ass for you?” I asked and he smirked and laughed softly, glad that I was able to make him laugh, if only for a moment.

“No, that’s not necessary. Now, come on.. Let’s not keep everyone waiting,” he replied and I nodded, walking back to the living room as my dad followed behind.

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When everyone was seated, the kids along the sides and Dad and Pop at both ends of the table, I simply watched and listened in on some conversations as we all ate. Jiro and Niko were in the middle, talking about a new video game they were both playing and comparing it to prequels.. Umiko and Petra sat by Dad and talked about what they should do together tomorrow, I think I heard one of them mention either the mall or the movies.. I sat across from AnneMarie next to Pop at the other end and they talked about mundane things I didn’t care about, my view eventually going to my dad at the other end of the table and he did the same as me, quietly listening to the conversations around him, but his eyes easily read that he was upset about something.. It makes me angry knowing that even if they spend a small amount of time together, August somehow finds a way to rattle him and all I wanted to do was help, but he’d never let me or any of the rest of us in on what they always talk about. Maybe Pop knew, maybe he didn’t, but if he did, he did a way better job at hiding his feelings than my dad did about whatever it was..

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August really has been showing a different side of himself the last few years around us, especially Dad, but I wondered if anyone else noticed like I did..? It was obviously something serious, it was obviously an upsetting subject since my dad always had that same lost and defeated expression, and it was obvious because August hated coming here.. But, why? Did they have a fight none of us knew about and they’ve been arguing about it in private ever since? I didn’t understand, and I didn’t like it, either.

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As everyone was practically done eating, I noticed Niko starring at the table and I watched as his eyes were going around his plate, but I knew his mind wasn’t on food.. He looked like a man talking himself up and getting ready for one of the biggest moments in his life. AnneMarie seemed to notice, too.

“Hey, you all right?” She asked him and he looked at her with a straight face, but soon his expression went soft and loving and I knew the moment he smiled at her, he was ready.

“Yeah, I’m fine.. Uhm.. Can I talk to you out back for a minute?” He asked and she nodded.

“O’course,” she answered and I watched them excuse themselves from the table and go towards the back door, but before Niko left the room with AnneMarie walking ahead of him, he looked at he quickly and I stuck my hand out for the fastest low-five we’d ever done. A simple five like that wasn’t so simple for us and it said a lot more than we could say right now. That gesture meant good luck, go get ‘er, don’t screw this up, I love you.. It meant everything. Besides Pia and Tavish, Niko was my best friend, too, but he was also family, and we didn’t need to use words a lot of the time for us to understand one another.

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After about a minute, the curiosity I knew Pop was feeling was way too much for him to endure any longer..

“What’s all that about?” He wondered, the rest of my family all eventually looking to me and they knew exactly what was going on, they just needed confirmation.. We’ve all been waiting a long time for Niko to purpose to AnneMarie and none of us wanted to miss it.. 

“Oh, nothing.. It’s just Niko purposing to her down at the beach,” I said as if it were no big deal.

“Oh,” Pop replied, not fully grasping what I said so casually until literally a second later, “Oh!”

“He didn’t tell anyone but you?!” Umiko said in a panic, but my dad spoke up to try to contain the excitement.

“Let’s just let them have their moment, okay? I’m sure Niko would like some privacy,” he instructed, but Jiro wasn’t having any of it.

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“Fuck that! I’m watching!” He called out, popping up quickly from his seat and running towards the back door.

“Jiro!” Dad called out, but he didn’t stop.

“If he goes, so am I!” Umiko then announced, following right behind him and Petra simply gave a big, innocent smile.

“Sorry, Dad, but I gotta see, too!” She said with slight guilt, but quickly went with Umi and Jiro out the back anyhow.

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“Come watch, Dad.. If he actually did want privacy, he wouldn’t have chosen to propose here,” I joked, but I still made a pretty valid point.

“He’s right, Oliver. Don’t even act like you’re not dying to see this,” Pop agreed as he stood up, walking over to Dad and he held out his hand, “Let’s go watch our son get engaged,” he said with a warm, loving tone and Dad smiled and nodded.

“You’re right, I can’t just sit here,” he finally agreed, taking Pop’s hand and the rest of us rushed outside to the back yard.

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Petra, Umi and Jiro stood at the top of the hill with a clear view of the beach a few hundred feet away and we arrived there, too, just as Niko and AnneMarie stopped in the sand. I don’t know why, but I was so nervous for him, I’m sure all of us were. We knew how crazy it would be for her to say ‘no’ to him, it seemed flat out impossible that there was any chance she would, but it was one of those things that you just can’t help but worry about.. The big, dreaded, awful “what if”.

Niko was holding her hands and talking to her and we couldn’t hear anything. All we could do was watch and we all watched for the same thing. For her head to nod ‘yes’, for us to hear her scream it from all the way down at the beach, for her to jump into his arms, or, well.. For her to run away.. But, no, that was definitely not going to happen. It couldn’t. 

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There it was, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box, then went down to his one knee and AnneMarie brought her hands up to cover her mouth in shock. I glanced over towards my parents and I could see how much happiness and emotion was beaming off of them, wondering to myself if I’d ever make them that proud..

It made me a little jealous of my brother.. Niko was always praised for his hard work, the dedication he put into balancing his schooling, his relationship, his family and everything else in his life while I barely had or tried at anything. I didn’t get good grades like him and I didn’t go to college, I didn’t have the perfect girlfriend like he did that my parents loved, I didn’t have a clue where I was going in life like he did.. I didn’t have anything.

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The moment that the little box he held opened, able to see the shine of the tiny ring all the way up to where we were, we knew Niko was asking the big question and without hesitation, AnneMarie replied.

“Yes! I will, I will!” We all heard AnneMarie’s answer loud and clear and Niko put the ring on her finger. The moment he stood up, she jumped into his arms and he did everything right, even holding her and twirling her around like I only saw in the movies.

But, just because I was a little jealous of my brother didn’t mean I couldn’t be happy for him, and damn, I really was.

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“Fuck yeah, Niko! Woooo!” I called out first to get the ball rolling and my siblings jumped in right after, making us all sound like a pack of howler monkey’s with how much we loudly rejoiced and cheered from the top of the hill. Even from all the way from up here, we could tell that neither Niko or AnneMarie knew we were watching the whole thing and they seemed a little embarrassed at first, like they’d been caught doing something inappropriate, but that was quickly proven wrong when Niko grabbed her and pulled her into a long kiss.

“All right, now we should leave them alone.. Let’s go,” Dad called it quits, wanting to give them their privacy now more then he did earlier and we all headed back towards the house.

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I sat in a lounge chair back by the pool, everyone anxiously waiting for the newly engaged couple to come back, show off the ring, and share the good news that everyone was already aware of. Dad and Pop even had a bottle of champagne lying around that they brought out, as if they’ve been waiting for this moment forever and they were completely prepared. 

Honestly? ..Kind of made me feel like shit all over again because I was one hundred percent positive they didn’t have anything like that prepared for me.. They didn’t expect great things from me like they did for Niko. 

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After about a ten minute wait for them to come back from the beach, they finally walked up and everyone crowded them, giving hugs galore and praises and good fortunes, but I just simply sat there watching it all with a smile on my face. I’m beyond happy for my brother, I’m beyond happy to have another sister as sweet as AnneMarie, it’s just that, well.. The whole situation made me feel that much more alone and worthless, even with the presence of everyone closest to me standing right before my eyes.

Fuck.. Is this going to be some kind of ongoing joke I have with myself that I go day by day trying to convince myself that I’m genuinely happy?

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When it all died down a little, Niko noticed me sitting off by myself out of the group and excused himself, walking over towards me and the smile that remained on my lips for show got bigger. I rose from the lounge chair and hugged my little brother, holding him tightly for a long moment before finally letting him go.

“I’m proud of you. And I’m completely ecstatic for you,” I began and the most genuine smile I had ever seen him give was right there before me.

“I-I.. I can’t even tell you how happy I am. There’s no way to measure it,” he replied.

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“Earlier you wanted to talk to me about something if she said yes, and.. Well, she said yes, like I fucking told you she would,” I rubbed in a little and he chuckled, “So? What is it?”

Without hesitation, he answered, “I want you to be my best man,” he said with such excitement, still on a complete high from getting engaged and I was pretty speechless. I had never thought he’d ask me to be this for him, for some reason it never even bothered to cross my mind. I always saw their marriage happening, but me as his best man? That’s actually quite the honor and quite the surprise.

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“Holy shit, uh- Yeah, yeah I’d love to be your best man! Thanks for thinking of me,” I said appreciatively and he brushed it off like it was nothing.

“Come on, you had to see this coming.. We’re the closest out of all of them and I can’t ask Dad or Pop-”

“But you would, if you could?” I teased and he laughed.

No, I wouldn’t. I’m just saying that it should’ve been a given. You’re my best friend and you’ve always been there for me. Beat the shit out of kids who looked at me wrong, protected AnneMarie as if she were Umi or Petra, brought me out of my slumps whenever I was in them.. I wouldn’t ask anyone else,” he finished and I was genuinely touched.

Damn, this is pretty awesome.

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“Wow, man.. I can’t wait to plan your Bachelor party,” I said with a devious grin and he laughed again.

“Luca, I don’t want anything too crazy, okay? I don’t want strippers or anything wild, I just want something quiet where I can get drunk with you and a few others and that’s it, okay? That’s it, I’m serious,” he tried to convince me and I smirked.

“Fine, fine.. Whatever you say,” I brushed off, not taking him all that seriously..

“Luca, I am serious,” he stressed, giving me a straight face and I studied it hard. He didn’t blink, neither did I. I squinted my eyes just slightly in suspicion and his eyes remained determined, serious, focused.. However, I was always way better than him at this game, this look we used to read one another and the very second that I saw the edge of his mouth twitch into a smirk, I called it.

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“There it is! I saw it! You’re not serious at all!” I called his bluff.

“Noooo! No! You can’t do that! You were trying to make me laugh!” He contested, but I wasn’t budging.

“Nope, you gave in first, I win,” I replied with a grin still on my lips, but Niko soon turned a little more serious again.

“Luca, come on, please? Nothing too crazy, and even if AnneMarie never finds out about anything that happens, I still want nothing that would make her upset,” he asked nicely with his big, stupid, convincing puppy-dog eyes.

“I’m just fucking with you, okay? I know you. I’ll do right by you, trust me. It’s going to be the funnest night of your life until you go on your honeymoon,” I hinted and Niko smiled bashfully at the thought of it.

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Being chosen as Best Man was truly an honor and I wasn’t going to take this for granted. I was going to do something classy, like he wanted, but I was also going to throw a little more ‘fun’ into the mix and find a really classy girl to take her shirt off for him. I know he said he didn’t want a stripper, but that’s just one thing I have to ignore. I’ll pick a girl that’ll be topless only, which seems a little more laid back, and either way, I know he’ll appreciate it. Niko doesn’t strike me as the type of guy who would like a girl that took everything off and I wasn’t going to get anything too crazy or raunchy. I’m going to do everything he wants me to do, but I’m just going to kick it up a notch, that’s all. I won’t make him regret putting me in charge of all of this.

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The engagement celebration went on for about half an hour, but around the forty five minute mark, I was getting a little tired of it. Even with the good news of Niko asking me to be his best man and feeling so honored to have been asked, I don’t think it was a powerful enough distraction from what I’d been thinking about throughout today. I was over this and wanted to leave. I was happy for my brother, I was happy for my family and how happy they were, but with everything that’s crossed my mind today, I was beginning to look for something else to end my night with.. The one thing that was always guaranteed to distract me from my thoughts and be able to completely let go..

Luckily, I got a text within a few minutes of thinking this.

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The text read from a girl that I hook up with every now and then, wanting me to come over. She was nowhere near what people would think she was, she’s honestly just a fuck-buddy, but the only one that I had that was consistent rather than the random girls I went home with and never saw again. She was twenty and I’d sleep with her every few months or so, but it was never anything more than just having fun and that’s what I liked. Plus, she had a great rack and I felt like I needed a different kind of company than that of my family to end the night right. This is exactly what I needed.

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After wishing Niko and AnneMarie my congratulations and luck, I quickly said goodnight to the rest of my family and left as fast as I could without making it suspicious at all. I revved up my GTO and got onto the road, heading a few blocks from where I was to meet up with a girl I thought was extremely relaxing about these types of situations, not to mention really great at sex. She understood that whatever we do together, we won’t make it a ‘thing’ and it was only for fun.. If we had time, we did it. It not, we didn’t, and better luck next time. Simple as that. 

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I didn’t pull into her driveway, I parked a few houses down in the grass the opposite direction of the way her dad would come home. Her father knew my car.

“I’m here. Down the street a bit just off the road.”

I texted Becca, letting her know I was waiting.

“Be out in a sec! <333”

She replied a moment later.

Becca’s dad had broken my windshield with a bat once because he found us together in my car in their driveway and that whole situation was not fun, but, fuck, was it exhilarating.. That sense of urgency and the feeling of maybe getting caught is what I lived for. I hated him for hurting my car, but getting caught like that? Man, that was such a fucking rush. Maybe that’s why I always tried to say ‘yes’ to her when she texted me, maybe I wanted to get caught again, maybe I wanted another chance to hurt him like he had hurt my car, but either way, getting caught or not, it was still worth it. Still fucking his daughter after his more-than-obvious warning was just another slap in his face and I loved how everything with her involved such potential chaos. Sometimes I really did want to crash and burn, and tonight, I felt as if there was a reason for me to.

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After about five minutes, I finally saw Becca walking up to my car wearing a small top and a short skirt that barely left anything to the imagination. She climbed into the passengers seat and the second the door shut behind her, she gripped the bottom of her shirt, pulled it over her head and revealed the purple bathing suit top she wore underneath. 

“Well, hello,” I said with a grin, a little surprised at how rushed it felt already and Becca smiled wide.

“Hey,” she replied with a seductive tone, climbing over and straddling me in the drivers seat right away as she then reached back and undid her top, knowing exactly what I liked seeing most during our dirty little rendezvous and I waited until I saw her breasts before doing anything else..

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I stared at her chest as she undid the ties and she tossed her top in the backseat of my car, finally seeing what I wanted, and fuck, was it glorious. Such perfect, young, supple breasts before me and I tried to forget about all of my insecurities as I stared at them. This is exactly what I needed, a distraction, a distraction from everything that bothered me and sex was always the outlet that worked best. It hasn’t failed me yet.

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I undid my pants quickly, pulling them down with my underwear and my excitement came out of my pants on its own. I stared at her breasts, letting my mind go blank and succeeding at trying my best to briefly forget about today. These situations were good for neither of us despite how badly I needed it, but with Becca in front of me now, there wasn’t much that could tear me away from this.. Even my thoughts that told me to do different, to pack up and just go home, I ignored.. Becca wasn’t a sure thing, nor was any other girl I’ve slept with, but I was okay with that for now.. Things aren’t complicated, they were good and stress-relieving, and I took full advantage of them. I’m not doing anything wrong, yet at the same time, yeah, I kind of was, and it felt great.

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I pulled her towards me, my lips connecting with the skin of her breasts and planting hard, rough, moist pecks all over them. She arched her back when I bit her nipple and when my excitement grazed against her, I didn’t notice any fabric.. Only moist flesh.

I took my mouth away from her for a brief moment, “No underwear?” I let her know I finally noticed and she shook her head.

“Nope,” she confirmed as she bit her bottom lip with the same smile she held.

“So right to it then, huh?” I asked and she nodded, my mouth going back to her chest. 

I was ready. I was ready to get lost in something that wasn’t right, something that I didn’t care about, something that meant nothing to me all for the sake of forgetting who I am. All I wanted was to let go for a little while, to have something to occupy my mind with for the rest of the night, to bask in my own accomplishment of getting what I wanted without worrying about the approval of anyone else. This was all for me.

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I reached into the middle console storage as my breathing grew a little heavier and pulled out a wrap, tearing it open and securing it on me before she adjusted the skirt she wore and she guided me into her.

“Ahh, fuuuck,” I let out as she took all of me slowly, the depth of me soon hitting her and I felt her arch her back desperately when I was all in. She let out a sharp moan, her chest close to my face and she began going up and down, taking her time at first, but going a little quicker within a minute later.

This is exactly what I needed for a remedy. I needed someone that enjoyed giving me the attention that I wanted, the pleasure I needed, and the company I craved that wasn’t that of family or close friends or anyone else that may think less of me for doing such things as this that I treated so casually and without a single care or regret.

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“I-It’s been a while, you look good,” I complimented as my hand slid up her side and up to cup her breast and she moaned softly.

“Ahh.. Yeah, y-you too.. You’re hair got longer,” she replied as she then reached up and grabbed a fistful of it from the back and pulled at it roughly, “I like it,” she continued and I grinned as she then brought her lips to my jawline and kissed me roughly all the way back to my earlobe.

I inhaled sharply through my teeth when I felt her bite the edge of my ear, feeling her going a little harder from my reaction and she knew exactly what I needed and when I needed it. We’d been getting together like this since she was eighteen, so she knew a lot of things that I liked and I knew everything she liked, too, but we still knew nothing about one another outside of sex. If I were to label this anything, Becca’s probably the closest thing to a relationship I’ve had in seven years, but that still really isn’t saying much at all. We’ve been consistent as far as getting together every few months or so to fool around, but that’s it. Seeing one another outside of these random hookup’s was out of the question for both of us and neither of us ever wanted anything more than what we were doing right now. 

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“So, what’s.. W-What’s the occasion?” I asked through heavy panting and she rode me as she answered.

“Ah! Ah.. I just.. Need to do this one more time,” she replied, slamming down on me a little harder and she leaned in to kiss me, but I pulled back and didn’t let her, causing her lips to land on my cheek instead. I rarely kissed the women I fooled around with on the lips, it was too intimate for me and I didn’t like it, but I thought it was weird that she tried to since she’s tried it before and I told her to never try it again. I only kissed a girl if I genuinely liked her or if the mood was intimate enough to where it called for it, but this? What we do together is random, emotionless, definitely not intimate or romantic, so fuck no, I don’t ever want to kiss her. 

We only had sex whenever it was convenient and the last time I saw her was six months ago, but for some reason, this time seemed to mean more to her than the rest of the times.. The vibe that was coming from her was a lot different than what I remember.. I was starting to not like it.

“Ahh, w-what.. What do you mean.. One more time?” I asked as she continued to go hard in my lap and I gripped her hips tightly for something to hold onto as she rode me, only aiding her movements.

“I j-just… Ahhhhh,” she expressed pleasurably before continuing, “I just needed one more time with you, t-that’s all,” she replied, but even though I was enjoying every bit of this, her words concerned me and I didn’t like how she made it seem like this was our last big ‘hoorah’.

“What are you talking about?” I asked as she continued to grind against me as hard as she could, as if she was trying to beat a record of ours or something.

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“I got a b-boyfriend after the last time we did, you know.. This,” she replied and I suddenly stopped, gripping her hips harder to hold her in place so we could halt for a moment and she looked at me questionably.

“Excuse me, what?” I asked, suddenly out of the mood from her words.

“It’s not a big deal,” she said with a giggle through her panting, leaning in again and trying to kiss me and I pulled back even more.

“What the hell’s wrong with you? Stop trying to fucking kiss me.. And can you explain this to me, please?” I asked as my anger was building.

“What? I got a boyfriend, like, four or five months ago. What’s the big deal? We do this all the time casually and you never complain. I just wanted one more time with you before I moved in with him,” she replied, trying to continue to bounce her hips up and down, but my grip was strong and I didn’t let her continue to tempt me.

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“Wait, wait, wait.. Are you fucking kidding me right now? You have a boyfriend and you’re moving in with him?” I asked, baffled at the news I was just given and she sighed, as if exhausted by me stopping our fun and making a big deal, but what the fuck was this? I never messed with girls that were taken, I had a strict rule about this with myself, and had she told me before I was inside of her, I’d never have let her in my lap. I don’t like messing with other guys girlfriend’s.. It’s fucked up, I don’t know if they have anything that I can get, even with protection, and I don’t even want to get into a fight where it could possibly not end in my favor. I need to figure out what I’m up against before I go sticking my nose, among other things, where they don’t belong.

“Okay, whatever, who cares? You’re better at sex than he is, but I thought we’d do it one more time before I stopped because he’ll get suspicious if we live together and I sneak out for a quick fuck,” she explained as if it were the most logical choice she could’ve made and I was baffled by her stupidity.

“Get the hell off of me,” I said with little interest, completely out of the mood now and she pulled away reluctantly to lay back into the passengers seat.

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“What’s the difference if we stop now or later? We still did it whether you come or not, dumbass. You can’t be serious right now,” she said in annoyance and I scoffed.

“Are you fucking serious right now, Becca?” I then asked angrily, pulling the wrap off of myself and tossing it out the window before quickly pulling my pants back up.

“What’s wrong? I’ve had boyfriends before and you didn’t care then!” She argued and I was completely floored.

“What?! You never told me about them! How the hell am I supposed to just know that if you don’t tell me? I don’t fuck with girls that are taken! Are you serious right now?” I asked angrily again, still baffled by the news she was telling me and she looked at me as if I was blowing her mind.

“Jesus, calm down, Luca! What is your problem? It’s really not-”

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“Get the fuck out of my car,” I said angrily as I stared at my steering wheel.

“..Really? How can you so easily stop fucking me because of this bullshit? What kind of man are you?” She asked and my eyes quickly darted towards her after her comment.

“I’m a man that you know absolutely nothing about. Get out of my fucking car and don’t ever text me again. Whatever the hell this is is over. Even if you said it was the last time, I know you and you’d text me again whenever you got fucking bored with him, so no, this is done. I’m done,” I made it more clear to her and she grabbed her shirt and quickly got out of my car, slamming the door behind her.

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Becca threw her shirt on quickly, “You know what, Luca? You’re pathetic,” she began as she leaned into the open window, “You get mad that I have a boyfriend, but it’s my choice to do whatever the hell I want, and when I tell you I have one, you make it seem like I’m fucking cheating on you! We’re not together, Luca, we never were! We just fuck! Stop acting like I’m only yours, because I’m definitely not,” she argued back and I laughed sarcastically.

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“Oh, believe me, Becca, I’m very aware that you’re not mine and I’m fucking glad! I wouldn’t want some slut anyways that sneaks around behind my back with a better fuck than her own boyfriend. It’s girls like you that make me stay away from fucked up relationships because all you’re ever looking for is the next dick to sit on!” I answered harshly and even through the dark, I could see her eyes beginning to tear up.

Fuck you, asshole!” She yelled at me before walking angrily back to her house.

“Yeah, I’m the asshole,” I mumbled sarcastically under my breath, starting my car and getting the hell out of this mess.

This night couldn’t have gone any worse.

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I drove home kicking myself the whole way there, hating what tonight had turned into and hating myself for it. I wasn’t mad at August, or Niko, or Becca, I was mad at myself. Everything that I did today pissed me off and I’m such a fucking moron. August walks around treating Dad and everyone else like shit and I don’t do anything about it when I’m the only one that can and should, Niko proposes to his girlfriend of almost ten years and all I can think about is myself, and Becca didn’t tell me about the boyfriends she’s had while we fooled around, but I never should’ve been seeing her this consistently anyways, and I should’ve never thought that things with her would never get complicated. I should’ve seen this coming a mile away and I should’ve called it quits after the first time like I do with every other girl. All that bothered me today was all because of me, everything was my fault and I had no one else to blame but myself.

“What the hell is wrong with me?” I asked myself.

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When I got home, I sat in my car for a minute, hanging my head in my own shame and letting it all sink in. Today was just not my day. I felt weak. I am weak. I try so hard to appear strong and resilient and impervious to pain, but the truth is that I absorb it like a sponge and just hold onto it until I can’t take it anymore. I get into my head too much and I end up screwing myself over from having a normal day because I can’t stop thinking, worrying, wondering. I’m at war with myself constantly but no one would ever know it otherwise because I’m so good at hiding it. I ignore it all by distracting myself. I have sex, I get wasted, sometimes I resort to drugs, but the one thing I never do is let anyone see me for what I really am. I can’t risk anyone seeing that ever again.. I don’t want to lose anyone else.

Becca’s right.. I am pathetic.

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“Hey,” I heard Tavish’s slightly concerned voice through the open passenger window and I lifted my head to look over at him.

“Hey,” I replied with little strength.

“You okay?” He asked, able to see that something was wrong, but I was in no mood to talk about it, so I lied.. Something I actually don’t do often, especially to one of my best friends..

“I’m fine..”

“..Looks like you had some fun tonight, eh?” He implied, seeing him nod his head towards the back seat and I glanced back to see that Becca had left her purple bikini top behind.

I sighed and gave a fake smirk, “Yeah, I guess you could say that..”

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“You sure you’re okay?” He asked again, but I changed the subject.

“..Wanna go grab a beer?” I asked, seeing on his face that he knew I needed one and he nodded.

“Sure.. Yeah, let’s go,” he replied, opening the door and getting into my car, not bothering to ask if I was okay again because I knew he could see that I wasn’t, but more importantly, he saw that I didn’t want to talk about it. 

I think I’m just going to wash all of this away with a beer.. Or maybe ten.

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Generation 4, Chapter 20, Finale Pt 2 of 2

Isaiah’s POV

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As I drove home, I was as high as I could possibly be. I had just made up with, as well as made love to, my one and only and I was completely floored by the fact that he was mine again. All mine. I was so damn lucky and even just the sight of his car driving a couple hundred feet in front of me caused my lips to curl into different variations of smirks and smiles as I replayed what had happened between Oliver and I in my office at the bar. James was right, I was being completely stupid and leaving Oliver wouldn’t do anyone any good, not me or our boys or the rest of our family, and making up with Oliver made me the happiest I had ever been.. He even wanted more children and he was the first one to bring it up.. How much luckier could I get when the one that was always so concerned about the choices we made was the first one to bring up the subject of having more children? I was almost excited enough to call Cybal right now at ten thirty at night to tell her the good news, but of course, I knew it wasn’t the right time to do such a thing and I held that thought on the back burner of my mind as I drove behind Oliver.

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A street light we came up on turned yellow right after Oliver had drove through it and I caught the red, slowly coming to a stop and I watched as his car pulled off into the distance until I couldn’t see his break lights any longer. I sat there for a good minute, waiting for the car that had triggered the light to make their move and they ended up turning right, something that slightly annoyed me since the light technically didn’t have to change for a bullshit turn like that and I could still be right behind Oliver, but I sat at the red light anyhow as I waited for no one else this late at night. With my window open, the only sounds of the night that I could hear were the chirping of crickets and the waves splashing against the shore in the patch of water to my right and it was all so soothing, something that only enhanced how relaxed I felt after such a perfect night. When the light finally turned green, I gently pressed on the gas and kept going towards our house, excited to get home and I didn’t doubt that I might even catch Oliver getting out of his car and going inside as I pulled into our driveway so I could catch him and kiss him at the front door as we made our way inside the house together.. I couldn’t wait to be in his arms again.

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As I pulled up to our driveway, I noticed Oliver’s car already parked, but I saw a figure that had blonde hair instead of the brunette that I adored.. I grew worried, pulling slowly into the driveway and when I saw a strange man about ten years older than me standing in shock from my headlights, raising his hand to block the blinding lights from his eyes, I then noticed a shine coming from his hand.. It was a knife and it was soaked in blood.. But, wait, what? What’s going on?! My eyes then caught sight of Oliver on the ground just outside of our front door, blood on the ground and all over his white button-up and I swear I could feel my heart stop and my entire world suddenly went silent.

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Before I could even think about what to do, my foot was already on the gas peddle all the way to the floor and my car skid at first, trying hard to get traction and when it did, the man ran, but he was no match against a speeding car. He got about twenty feet down the driveway before my Mercedes slammed into him, the back of his head and his spine hitting the hood of my car first with a loud crash and he tumbled over my windshield as well as the roof and I could hear his body hit the ground before my car then slammed into the garage.  

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I was dazed for only about ten seconds from my airbag deploying, but I quickly pushed it out of my way and popped it to get it out of my line of sight and my eyes opened wide when I saw blood smeared all over the cracked windshield, but it didn’t phase me in the slightest as I had more important things to worry about.

“Ol-Oliver,” I said with strain as I pushed my door open hard and crawled out, my knees hurting momentarily when I had landed on them, but I quickly stumbled to my feet and ran around my car to go to where he was, jumping over the man that I assumed I had killed.. At least I hoped the fucker was dead.

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I almost fell when I saw him, stumbling more as I ran as quick as I could and tears had already formed in my eyes before I reached him, my hands shaking as I touched his face. 

“Oh my God.. Oliver? ..B-Baby?” My voice trembled as I looked at him and the tears in my eyes made it almost impossible to see. A few seconds went by where I had no idea what the hell to even do, but when I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, I calmed myself for him even despite seeing his white shirt thickening in blood with every second that I wasted.

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I knew an ambulance wouldn’t get here in time, but thank goodness he was still breathing and I turned him over carefully so I could I scoop him up in my arms, my one arm under his back and the other under the bend of his knees and with all the strength I could muster, I picked him up and brought him to his Nissan. I put him into the passengers seat and I shut the door, running as fast as I could to the drivers side and I backed out of the driveway faster than my tears could fall from my eyes.

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As I drove to the hospital at about eighty miles per hour on a street that you aren’t supposed to exceed roughly forty, I didn’t give a flying fuck as I could barely even keep my eyes on the road since I was looking over at Oliver almost every second that I drove. I still made sure to get there as safely as I possibly could to avoid any other grievances along the way, and I knew driving this fast wouldn’t help in avoiding any of that, but I couldn’t risk losing him and if driving this fast to get him help meant he’d be okay, then by all that is holy, I’d drive even faster if I knew absolutely nothing was in my way.

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A large gasp suddenly came from Oliver and it scared the hell out of me, looking over at him and I watched as he clenched his abdomen while letting out a pain-filled groan. He then suddenly started waving his unoccupied hand in front of him and I thought that maybe he still thought the man that had stabbed him was in front of him and I reached over to get him to stop.

Hey! Hey! Oliver! It’s okay, it’s okay!” I tried to calm him and he looked over, surprised to see me.

“Wha- I-Isaiah?” He questioned through his pain and his panting and I couldn’t help but smile as tears still filled my eyes.

“Yeah, baby, it’s me, it’s me! I’m right here,” I comforted.

“Wh-what.. What happe-? Ahhh, f-fuck!” He struggled to ask through his pain as he clenched his abdomen more and just as he was about to look down, I reached to catch his chin and I hold his head up.

“No no no, don’t look, just- Just stay awake, okay? You’re going to be fine, you hear me?”

“Wh-where.. Who..” I assumed he wanted to know about his assailant and I continued to look frantically between him and the road.

“Shut up, Oliver. Don’t talk, okay? Just.. Just don’t talk,” I instructed, but when I felt the weight of his head increase in my hand, I knew he was slipping out of consciousness again.

“Hey, Oliver! Stay awake, dammit!” I yelled, but he had slipped into it, anyways, “Fuck!” I yelled angrily, letting go of his chin as I continued to drive as fast as I could.

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To make matters worse, or possibly better, I wasn’t sure, I pulled out my phone. I called nine-one-one and told them my situation before I got to the hospital and even through the panic that was coursing through me, I somehow managed to tell them everything that happened.. How I had pulled into the driveway and saw Oliver bleeding on the ground, how I had run over the one who had stabbed him, and now, how I was driving him to the hospital. Luckily, by the time I ended the call, a few minutes later I was pulling up to the hospital and a gurney was being wheeled out, putting my hand sternly to Oliver’s chest to hold him against his seat as I slammed on the breaks.

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“Where you the one that called about the stabbing?” A nurse quickly asked me as I got out of the car and made my way to the passengers side.

Yes! Yes, I am!” I replied, opening the door and I picked up Oliver myself, not wanting the small nurses to even bother trying to do it themselves and they cared for his head and his limbs as I placed him on the gurney. I shut the passengers door as they wheeled him into the hospital and I followed close behind them.

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“What’s his name?” One of them asked as I followed close behind.

“Oliver! His name’s Oliver!” 

“Oliver? Can you hear me?” The nurse asked, but his eyelids remained shut and I could see the color leaving his normally rosy cheeks, “Prep O.R. four quickly and page Dr. Avery,” the nurse told another nurse that we approached and they ran ahead of us to do as she had said.

“You’ll be okay, Oliver!” I said in a panic as I continued to follow them, but once they reached a certain set of doors, one of the nurses continued wheeling him on while the other stopped me.

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“Please, sir! I know this is hard, but you can’t go any further,” she explained and I instantly grew enraged.

“That’s my fucking husband! Let me go with him right now!” I yelled, but she pressed harder against my chest to stop me and I watched as Oliver was wheeled off down a random hallway and then take a quick turn into a room.

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“Sir! Sir! Please.. I know you’re immediate family, but you have to stay here! He’s in good hands now, trust me,” she expressed and I stood on the tips of my toes to see him one last time before he disappeared into the room the nurse took him to.

“You people better take care of him!” I almost threatened and she nodded strongly.

“We will! But you need to stay here!” She continued and although I wanted to argue to no world’s end, my heart sank and I gave up, letting her do her damned job.

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I pulled myself away from her and she ran to where Oliver had been brought through the doors that I wasn’t allowed, seeing a bench next to where I was and I sat down heavily onto it. I brought my hands in front of my face, trying to hold my hands steady as my legs bounced restlessly from my adrenaline refusing to go away. Why.. Why the hell did something like this have to happen? It’s as if every time we were close to being perfect or even currently perfect in general, something had to go wrong and I don’t know how much more of this I could take. When would this end? When could we finally live out our lives without something like this happening? 

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“Doctor Avery to O.R. Four. Doctor Avery, O.R. Four.” I heard announced over the intercom.

A minute later, I heard running down a hallway and looked towards the doors that I wasn’t allowed to pass, a doctor then coming around a corner and he ran to where they had brought Oliver. I assumed it was Dr. Avery, the one nurse had paged, and I felt the slightest bit of hope calm my heart. He better be a damn good doctor.

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Roughly ten agonizingly quiet minutes later as my hands continued to shake and my legs couldn’t stop bouncing, I looked left to see another gurney being wheeled in by a paramedic accompanied by two police officers and when I looked to the person lying down it in, I recognized the mans clothes instantly.

“You gotta be fucking kidding me,” I said softly, rage lifting me from my seat and I ran at the gurney, unsure of what I was going to do exactly to the man that stabbed Oliver, but by God was I going to do as much as I fucking could.

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Sadly, right before I reached him, the two officers noticed and stopped me and held me back using all of their strength.

“Hey! Calm down!” One of the officers demanded, but I didn’t give a shit about what he wanted.

“You son of a bitch!” I yelled as he was wheeled passed me, “Doesn’t feel good to get impaled by things, now does it!? My husband doesn’t like it, either, you piece of shit! I hope you fucking suffer!” I continued to yell, unsure if he could even hear me, but I didn’t care as I watched as the man was wheeled into a different room through the doors I couldn’t go passed.

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“Get the fuck off me!” I jerked violently and the officers seemed surprised by the strength I had put behind getting out of their grip.

“Please, try to calm down.. Are you Isaiah? The one that called nine-one-one for the stabbed victim?” He asked and I was in awe by how stupid he was.

“Wow, what gave it away?” I asked sarcastically and the officer didn’t seem to like my tone, “And stop fucking saying that! His name’s Oliver, you fucking prick. I don’t need to be reminded every goddamn minute that he’s been stabbed, all right?!”

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“If you don’t calm down, sir, I’m going to have to restrain you,” he warned and I laughed.

“Calm down? You can’t be serious.. The man that just attacked my husband for whatever-the-fuck reason was just wheeled passed me to an emergency room.. An emergency room adjacent to the one Oliver’s in in the hope’s of saving his pathetic ass! Why didn’t you just let the fucker die in my fucking driveway!?” I yelled.

“Sir, if it means that I have to take you down to the station in order for you to calm down, then I will,” he threatened, but his threat hit deep when I quickly realized that if I don’t try to settle myself, and fast, I won’t be here for Oliver when he needs me the most.

I let out a heavy sigh, “Fine. I’m calm, see?” I demonstrated sarcastically and he scowled at me, though luckily he didn’t act on his threat.

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The officers stood with me for a moment as I took a seat in a chair that was close, my leg bouncing uncontrollably again, my hands still shaking, my heart dancing wildly, and then like a train hitting me, tears suddenly engulfed my eyes and I broke. I removed my glasses and tucked them away as I sat there hunched over and sobbing quietly into my lap, consumed with worrying about Oliver and I was completely overwhelmed by everything that had just transpired and I couldn’t hold back how helpless I felt.. All I could think about was the night we just had together and how beautiful it had been.. How no more than twenty minutes ago, I was having a drink with him like old times, how he was telling me how much he wanted another child, how he was in my arms giving me everything he is, and it was just.. Too perfect.. Even without him here now, I could still feel the warmth from his fingertips on my cheek, I could still smell the cologne he dabs on his wrists and his neck, I could even still taste him on my lips. It was all still so fresh in my mind that it was still hard to believe I was even here.. No more than twenty minutes ago, I was the furthest away from the risk of losing him that I could possibly be.. It’s just as amazing as it is terrifying how quickly things can change.

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I wasn’t sure how long I had been sitting here, I wasn’t sure when exactly the two officers had walked away from me, I hadn’t even cared enough to notice when my tears had stopped, either.. All that I knew was that I was numb and cold and I felt so alone and helpless as I sat there staring down at my knees that were soaked in tears. I reached up to wipe my cheeks and my eyes dry from crying and when I put my glasses back on, I then caught sight of my vest and jacket.. I touched the fabric then looked to the tips of my fingers, seeing Oliver’s blood stained on both of them and I was mortified at how I hadn’t noticed it sooner. I quickly stood to my feet, desperate to find a bathroom and when I found one, I stepped in, locked the door behind me and went straight to a sink.

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I scrubbed my vest and my jacket as hard as I could, watching the dried blood being re-hydrated as it mixed with the water and swirled down the drain, the color slowly going from a deep red to a light pink, then finally to clear. When I had done my best to get it off, there was still a slight hue of a dark pink that stained the fabrics and I turned the faucet off, sighing heavily to myself when I realized the effort I put into getting the blood out proved to be pointless.. All that it really did was give me something to let my frustration out on and I had even scrubbed to hard that I was causing the fabric to fray.. I decided then that tossing them out in the trash was my best option at this point, not wanting anything in my possession that had Oliver’s blood on it, anyhow.. After washing my hands clean of any remaining blood, I leaned against the counter as I continued to try and calm myself down, but it was so difficult to do alone..

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Will the owner of a red Nissan please move your car from the emergency zone? Owner of a red Nissan, please move your car out of the emergency zone immediately. Thank you.”

I heard over the intercom and I knew that they were talking about Oliver’s car. After taking a long, long moment to try and compose myself, I looked back into the mirror and I gave myself a final once-over to make sure I was rid of everything the color crimson before going out into the hallway. I sighed heavily, drying my eyes as best as I could before leaving the bathroom and I unlocked the door and stepped out, making my way to the emergency entrance so I could move the car as requested.

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The automatic doors opened and I stepped out into the night, a gentle breeze kissing my skin as I approached Oliver’s car and I slowly came to a stop when I caught site of the small droplets of blood on the ground.. However, before I let more tears fill my eyes, I quickly went around to the drivers side to get in and I refused to look at the seat next to me that I knew was soaked in blood as I pulled his car into a parking spot not too far off from the entrance. There was so much blood that stained the seat that I could even smell it and it made me sick all over again, quickly getting out of the car and slamming the door behind me in frustration. I wished as hard as I could that I’d soon be able to find the strength to pull myself together and be strong for Oliver, but honestly, the only thing in the entire world that could truly break me was if anything bad happened to him, and since something had, it was so, so hard to find that strength I so desperately needed.

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When I made my way back into the hospital, I checked the clock on the wall and it read a little after midnight, knowing now it had been over an hour since I had brought Oliver here and there was still no word from a nurse or a doctor or anyone at all. I continued down a long hallway and eventually, I came across a large window to a room that had tiny beds spread throughout it and I stopped to take a look. A few of the beds were occupied by newborns and I focused on one that was closest to the window, a baby girl that was sleeping peacefully and I felt the edge of my lips curling into a faint smirk at the sight of her. I loved our boys, but I’ve always adored the thought of having a little girl with Oliver and I could already see us spoiling the hell out of her. Oliver seemed like the type to enjoy gender-neutral colors given the nursery he had painted and furnished for me at our old condo, but I adored the thought of giving her a pink or purple room filled with stuffed animals and a doll house and wall art that reminded her of being a princess every time she were to wake up in the mornings. She didn’t even exist yet and I already wanted to give her the world.

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“Cute, huh?” I heard a feminine voice and I looked over, seeing a young blonde woman standing a few feet away from me looking at the newborns like I was.

“Yeah,” I agreed, looking back to the little girl in front of me.

“Do you have any?” She asked.

“Yeah.. Three boys,” I replied.

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“How exciting. What are their ages?” She asked next and I looked over to her again, seeing her do the same with a smile on her lips and our eyes met.

“Six, three, and almost two,” I answered and she made a face as if she were already smitten.

“Aww, they’re all so young. Must be a handful, right?” She joked and I smirked.

“Sometimes, yeah, but they’re all pretty good for the most part, especially my youngest. He’s an angel,” I replied and I actually enjoyed making small talk with the stranger.. It got my mind off of stressing about Oliver.

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“I’m Anastasia, but everyone calls me Ana,” she introduced herself and I looked back over to her.

“I’m Isaiah.. It’s nice meeting you,” I replied and she agreed with a nod, “Do you have any children?” I asked in return.

“No, not yet. My sister was pregnant, but she left before I ever got to meet my niece or nephew,” she answered.

“You don’t talk to her or see her?”

“Nah.. Haven’t for over six years.”

My expression grew remorseful as well as my tone, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied.

“It’s all right. We were never really close or even got along, but it still would’ve been nice to know the child,” she pointed out and I felt sorry for her, but in an attempt to change the subject, I brought up something else.

“Tonight, my husband and I talked about having another one soon,” I said and she looked back over to me, another smile running across her lips.

“That’s so sweet. Do you want a girl this time, since you already have three boys?” She asked and I nodded.

“Yeah.. Our boys are amazing and I wouldn’t mind having another, but, a girl would be a nice change,” I replied and she nodded with her sweet smile.

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“Where is your husband? Is he here with you?” She asked and my lips dropped the smirk I held, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

“It’s all right.. He’s in surgery,” I answered, looking back to the newborn and away from the stranger.

“Oh.. May I ask what happened..?” She wondered and it took me a moment to answer her.

“He, uh.. He was stabbed.. Right outside our front door,” I answered and I head her gasp softly.

“Oh my God.. Where was he, uhm.. Where was the puncture?” She asked next while carefully choosing her words, genuinely interested and I looked at my own abdomen.

“Around here,” I pointed and she observed where I had gestured.

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“Well, from what I’ve learned and have seen, it could’ve punctured his stomach or his intestines, which actually can be an easy fix if the organs were only grazed.. But, there’s also a chance that no organs were hit, either,” she advised and I looked over to her, “Probably not very reassuring, but that spot on the lower abdomen is actually a popular spot for something like a knife to penetrate from a mugger or whoever it was that did that.. I’ve witnessed a lot of people living from being hit there, though,” she continued, knowing she was trying her best to cheer me up and a slight hope filled my heart.

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“Really?” I asked and she nodded, “Do you work here?” I asked.

“Oh, uh, no. I’m attending college about twenty minutes from here. I’m trying to become a nurse, though,” she replied.

Thank you for telling me that.. You’ve been more informative in the past minute than anyone else has been in the past hour I’ve been here,” I replied and she smiled sweetly, knowing she was happy that she could help in any way.

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“So,” I began, “What brings you here so late? Do you attend a nursing program here or something?” I wondered and she lost her smile.

“No, uh.. I got a call about an hour ago.. My dad was hit by a car,” she answered and I found it rather oddly coincidental.

“Wow, I’m.. I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied, but she shook her head with an amused smirk.

“Don’t be.. I hope he doesn’t make it through,” she said bluntly and I was surprised to hear that come from her mouth. She seemed so sweet at first, but hearing her say something so cruel caught me off guard.

She noticed my reaction, “I.. I’m sorry.. That probably sounded awful..”

“A little, yeah..” I agreed, “If I ever heard one of my sons say that about me or my husband, I’d be heart broken,” I continued and she looked away from me.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to come off like that.. You have someone in here dear to you that you want to live and here I am hoping that my father dies from his injuries,” she said with slight shame in herself, “Well, he’s not exactly father-of-the-year, he never was, so.. I could care less, honestly.. I know it’s harsh, but.. So was he,” she continued and her words still surprised me, but I decided to not delve any deeper into her reasoning unless she were to continue it, herself.

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But, to my surprise, she did, “I feel like I need to explain myself so you don’t think I’m some heartless witch,” she added and I shrugged.

“Well, it is none of my business, but I can understand where you’re coming from, I suppose. I mean, I don’t wish mine dead, but.. I haven’t spoken to my parents in a very long time and it’s because they don’t want to know me, so I don’t want to know them. They’re workaholics and don’t have time to even remember me. I don’t even think they know I’m married and have three children,” I tried to make her feel less guilty by explaining my own situation with my parents and she seemed rather bothered by my words.

“I’m sorry, that’s just awful.. I guess our situations are kind of similar, though, what with having crappy parents,” she said with a light chuckle, “My mom died about ten years ago and I was the closest with her out of everyone in my family. When she was gone, my dad went a little crazy.. All he cared about was our schooling and he pushed us all really hard to get good grades so we could have good lives and all that, but I don’t think it ever worked.. It was all for nothing, anyways..”

“What do you mean? You seem like you’re doing pretty good for yourself,” I added.

“Well, my dad favored my brother and my sister way more than me.. He wasn’t impressed with my career choice like he was with my brother that wanted to be a lawyer and my sister who didn’t even care to pick anything. I don’t even know why she went to college.. My sister could shit on a pedestal and my dad would think it’s gold,” she exaggerated and I cracked a slight smile at her joke, “My brother was an asshole and him and my sister always picked on me. My brother was convinced that everyone was beneath him and that everyone he met had to kiss his feet or he hated them,” she said with a slight annoyance to her tone.

Was..? What happened to him?”

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“I think his bullying caught back up to him because he wound up dead.. Got two of his stupid friends killed, too.. They still don’t know who was responsible, but I’d probably want to shake their hand if I ever met them,” she answered and it seemed that she was sweet to strangers, but when it came to talking about her family, there was an obvious hatred there that was hard to ignore. Oddly enough, too, that sounded rather similar to what had happened to Thomas, the boy who hated Oliver and attempted to beat me to death.. Remembering that time gave me slight chills.

“What about your sister?” I asked, almost needing to know so I could put this suspicion to rest.

“Well, as you know, she left, but she was worse than my brother.. Disgustingly manipulative and completely obsessive.. I felt sorry for anyone that got involved with her.”

“It’s a was for her, too? ..Did she just leave, or did she pass on?”

“Who knows.. She got knocked up and probably ran away with the guy that did it, or she could be dead, too, for all I know.. It was around the same time my brother died. My dad completely lost it after she left and he was even convinced that some guy killed her.. Wouldn’t surprise me, either, with the type of person she was.. I guess my siblings got my father’s unhealthy obsessive behavior and look what happened to them.. Thank God I take after my mom,” she added and I could feel my hands beginning to shake again. This couldn’t be happening.. What were the chances?

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I grew a little nervous as I looked at her, “Do you mind if I ask their names?” I wondered and she looked to me.

“Thomas and Jody,” she answered and my eyes widened, “Why? Did you know them?” She asked, though she soon took notice of the look in my eyes, “What’s wrong..?”

“Why is it so hard for our families to stay out of each other’s lives?” I asked rhetorically and she grew confused.

“I.. I don’t understand,” she said innocently.

“Your brother and his friends tried to kill me. Your sister tried to ruin my husband’s life, and tonight, your father tried to kill him. I was the one that ran your father over with a car trying to save my husband,” I admitted and her eyes widened from shock.

“Wh.. What-”

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“Miss Zepeda?” A man’s voice caught our attention and we both looked to see a detective standing with the same doctor I had seen running to the emergency room earlier, but that detective.. I remembered her instantly.

May we speak with you for a moment?” The detective added towards the young blonde and we looked at one another with both of us still holding shock in our expressions and her eyes remained locked on mine, no doubt still wanting to talk to me about what I had just said, but she walked over towards them, instead.

I then looked to the detective, “What are you doing here?” I asked with a sense of frustration, knowing she was told to stay away from Oliver and our family, yet here she was.

“I’ll speak with you in a moment, Mr. Yamato,” she expressed in a parental tone and I held my tongue.

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The doctor began, “Your father has experienced a lot of damage to his head and his spine. His skull was cracked and his brain hemorrhaged, and by the time we got in to take a look, I’m afraid there’s nothing we could do for him,” the doctor said, “I’m sorry, but, we lost him,” he continued with remorse and I watched the side of the young woman’s face, searching for any sign as to how she felt about the news, but she didn’t show any inkling of grief in the slightest.. She was telling the truth.. She really didn’t care what happened to him..

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“What about Oliver? Is he all right?” I asked the doctor and he looked to me.

“He’s still in surgery, which I need to get back to. We’ll know more soon, I just wanted to come to Miss Zepeda and let her know about her father personally,” he replied and I nodded as my gaze then met the floor, disappointed that there was no word about Oliver yet, “I’m sorry for your loss, Miss Zepeda, but.. If you’ll please excuse me,” he continued politely, stepping away from the group of us to quickly go back to Oliver.

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After the young blonde didn’t say anything in return, standing there rather lifeless, she looked over and her eyes met mine again, but before either of us could say anything to one another, the detective caught my attention.

“Mr. Yamato, I’m going to need you to come with me,” she requested and I nodded, knowing she was going to ask that and I briefly looked at the ground before looking back up to the blonde woman again. As I began to follow the detective into a common area, the blonde woman stopped me by grabbing my arm gently and I waited for the detective to continue walking so she wouldn’t hear her words.

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Ana looked up at me with a smirk on her lips, “Looks like I got what I wished for, and I have you to thank for that.. I hope your husband pulls through,” she expressed quietly and I still didn’t know how to respond to her.. She was so sweet, but her words held such coldness that I didn’t understand.. Is this what Jody was like? Was she manipulating, yet sweet? Did she look like her? Was she even anything like Jody..? She then let my hand go and I ignored her words, continuing on to follow the detective as I still tried my hardest to fathom the encounter I had just had.. I hit that young woman’s father with my car and killed him for what he had done to Oliver and she was grateful..

She was grateful.

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I sat in an empty lounge with the detective I had met with six years ago, the silence heavy in the air around us and I could honestly say that I had never thought I’d see her again, but when it came to something with Oliver and that dreaded family we just couldn’t seem to get away from, I don’t know why I was surprised in the end.

“I bet you didn’t expect to see me for a while, huh?” She wondered with a small smirk.

“You can bet that I didn’t expect to see you ever again, actually,” I replied and she didn’t contest my words.

“Fair enough.. However, I need to hear your side of the story, so.. What happened?” She asked.

“How did you even know Oliver was here?” I asked in return and she smirked again.

“I’ve been following anything that involves the Dubois name for quite a while now, even before we first met years ago, so it was only a matter of time before I found out. But, please, feel free to answer my question whenever you’re ready,” she replied and I decided to tell her what I had witnessed and done for myself so I could get this over with..

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“I had just spoke to Oliver at my bar and we drove home separately, but together, in a way.. He drove ahead of me and I caught a red light, causing me to be behind him about a minute or so.. When I finally caught up and pulled into our driveway, I saw a blonde man about ten years older than myself holding a bloody knife and when I looked around the driveway more, I noticed Oliver lying on the ground and-” I stopped for a moment, but continued shortly after composing myself, “He was lying in the driveway covered in blood and I put two and two together.. Instead of getting out of my car to check on my husband and potentially getting attacked, myself, I floored it and hit the man that was holding the knife with my car.. After that, I got out of my car and went straight to Oliver.. I knew an ambulance wouldn’t get there in the time I could get him here myself, so I picked him up, put him into his car and I drove as fast as I possibly could to get him here.. I called nine-one-one on the way and told them everything that had happened,” I hesitated yet again for a entirely too long of a moment, but I couldn’t help it, “It was honestly the single most terrifying moment of my life, but.. I didn’t want him to hurt me and I didn’t want him to hurt Oliver anymore than he already had, so.. I hit him,” I explained and the detective nodded.

“I see.. Sounds like self defense to me,” she added and I nodded.

“Yes, exactly.”

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“It makes me wonder, though, why this man even came after Oliver in the first place. What were the reasons behind it?” She asked herself.

“It’s because he was crazy,” the voice of the young blonde came back out of nowhere and I looked to my right, seeing her approaching us, “Can I say something? ..Please?”

“Mr. Yamato?” She detective then asked me and I nodded.

“It’s okay,” I told the detective, seeing her nod and she waved Ana to come over to us.

“All right.. What do you have to say?” She asked the young woman and she stepped closer to our table, taking an empty seat and joining us.

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“As I was telling Isaiah when we were talking by the nursery, when my mother died ten years ago, I noticed a change in my father and my siblings.. Everything unraveled after her death.. My dad became obsessed with our educations and making sure we went to good colleges, my brother developed this god-complex, and my sister grew manipulative and cruel.. When my brother died six years ago, my dad was at a complete loss, and then when my sister disappeared after our brother’s death, my dad got worse and there wasn’t any shred of the father I knew in him anymore.. My father went nuts after they were all gone and he became obsessed with the thought that this one man was responsible for it all.. As crazy as it sounds, he even eventually convinced himself that that man was responsible for my mother’s death, too, but it’s impossible because she had cancer.. He got worse and worse as the years went on, but he never did anything that worried me too much, until now.. He just.. He wasn’t right in the head, neither were my brother or sister, and sadly, I just learned that Isaiah’s husband has dealt with them, too.. I don’t even want to begin to imagine what they all have put him through.. None of them were good people, but, I’m glad that none of them are around anymore to where they can cause more harm to him or anyone else,” she added.

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She then looked to me, “I never knew the name of the one he was constantly mumbling about, but now I know.. Honestly, I thought they were all empty words with no backbone. Had I ever known that he would’ve acted out on his stupid ramblings, I would’ve done something about it.. Had I ever known that he would take his anger out on someone who was innocent, I would’ve reported him as soon as I could.. I truly would have,” she said with a serious tone and expression and I wanted to believe her, but with this families reputation, even after already talking to her for a while, I still didn’t trust her completely.. With what this family has done to Oliver and I, it was almost impossible for me to get passed.

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“So.. Now what? Is that all you needed, my side of the story?” I asked, my gaze now towards the detective.

“Well, it was obviously self defense, and with this young woman’s testimony, you’re free to go. I still need to talk to Oliver whenever he gets out of surgery and is awake enough to tell me what happened, but for now, there’s nothing more I need,” she continued, “I wish you the best, Mr. Yamato, and my condolences, Miss Zepeda. I wish we didn’t have to meet under such circumstances and hopefully we’ll never have to do it again.. Get some rest, you two, it’s been a long night,” she added and we watched her stand from her seat, leaving the lounge area and leaving Ana and I alone together.

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“I’m truly sorry for what my father did.. Since he’s not here to apologize, I-”

“Don’t,” I added, stopping her from talking, “He would never have been apologetic for this, so you taking the responsibility of something that was never intended in the first place is just.. Pointless..” I added, though her expression still remained serious as well as apologetic.

“Either way, no matter how you feel, I do hope your husband pulls through and I truly am sorry for everything my family has done.. I wish you and your family the best of luck,” she added, my eyes looking over to her and I watched as she stood from her seat and walked off down a hallway that led towards the entrance.

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I didn’t feel right saying ‘thank you’ or ‘I accept your apology’, I didn’t feel right saying anything to her at all other than ‘go away’ and I’m glad she had done it without me telling her to do so. She seemed genuine, she seemed nice and a really lovely girl, but I still could never get passed the thought of how Oliver had described Jody to me.. Even by how Anastasia acted, I still refused to ever believe her words. I followed Oliver’s warnings completely as well as all of his opinions of that ‘Zepeda’ name and I wasn’t about to let myself fall under any manipulative words she could’ve potentially spoken. In my mind, no matter how many times Anastasia could say she was sorry for her family’s actions or felt bad for what had happened to us due to her many relatives mental instabilities, I wasn’t going to give her even a slight taste of my gratitude. None of them deserved it.. Not a single damn member of that family.

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I sat there by myself for a long while, staring at the table top and when I looked up and read the clock on the wall, it read a little after two in the morning. My body was growing tired, but my mind was still intensely active and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep even if I tried.. Maybe some coffee would wake me up a little.. I looked around the common area, finding a coffee machine and I stood from the chair sluggishly, making my way over to it and I made a cup for myself with plenty of sugar-packets already opened and ready to be poured into my finished cup. As it brewed, I starred at the steamy stream of coffee going into the cup, spacing out and losing myself in thought and I couldn’t help but wonder if I should contact anyone.. I was Oliver’s spouse, it was my responsibility to tell our family what had happened to him and I knew I should call Katalina and James as well as call Cybal, too, but I wasn’t sure if I should call them before he got out of surgery or if I should call them afterward so I could begin each call with ‘he’s doing okay, but he’s in the hospital’.. I didn’t know what to do.

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When my coffee was done, I added in the many sugar packets I had on the ready and stirred it lazily before stepping away and bringing my cup with me. I tried to take a sip too early and wound up burning the very tip of my tongue, so I set it down on a table to let it cool off and I took out my phone, going through my contacts and when I came to James’ name first, I called him. I came to the conclusion that even if I didn’t want to tell anyone yet about what happened to Oliver, I still needed someone to talk to about it.. I couldn’t stand being the only one knowing anymore and I needed help in getting through this.

James answered after roughly four rings, “Hey, I didn’t expect to get a call from you this late. What’s up? Everything okay?” He asked, always enjoying his welcoming and loving attitude. Hearing a familiar voice helped bring my spirits up a lot, too.

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“You don’t sound tired at all and it’s after two in the morning,” I pointed out.

“Ah, well.. I work about three to four days at a time. I’m in an on-call room, just got up from a nap,” he answered and it made sense now, “So, what’s going on? Did you end up working late, too? I thought you usually close the bar at nine on the weekdays?” He guessed and he wasn’t wrong, though of course, that wasn’t the case.

“Yeah, I usually do, but, uh..” I tried to tell him, but it was difficult to even think about let alone tell him the whole story. It was completely different talking to the detective about what happened, but telling Oliver’s best friend was ten times harder.

“Isaiah? What’s wrong? Is one of the boys sick or something, keeping you up? Making them drink flat soda, like ginger ale, helps calm the stomach a lot and keeps them from throwing up too much.. Saltine crackers help a lot, too,” he continued, giving advice that wasn’t needed, though I couldn’t blame him for already rambling.. Him being a pediatrician helped a lot and I called him quite often whenever one of the boys was sick.

“No, the boys are fine, they’re sleeping over at Cybal’s.. Oliver and I talked tonight,” I replied.

“Oh, that’s great! How’d it go? You two finally back to normal or do I have to come over again?” He joked and I wanted to laugh, but it was difficult to find humor at the moment.

“No, no, uh.. Things went well, really well, actually, but.. That’s not exactly why I’m calling you,” I continued and I could tell that very instant that James knew it was something bad by the silence that lingered between us.

“..Is it Oliver? Where is he? What happened?” He asked and I could tell that there was a slight panic to his voice, knowing now that something far worse had happened..