Generation 5, Chapter 5

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I don’t usually share my encounters with Tavish and Pia about all the stuff that happens between a girl and I, but today I kind of needed to. It’s been a little over a month, I think, since my big fuck-up at the dock with Riley, but ever since then, I’ve been doing a lot better. I was relieved to learn that she really didn’t care about what I did because we’ve hung out about six or seven more times since then and the time with her all of those days were fun and never awkward. She forgave and forgot, even though I hadn’t forgotten it, but it’s still been pretty okay, none the less. I haven’t tried anything with her, other than making out, since the dock, so I think I’m doing pretty good..? I guess the only reason I was with Tavish now talking about Riley was because we’re not moving fast at all, we’re not even moving at a normal pace.. Then again, I don’t really know what a ‘normal’ pace is anymore when it comes to dating someone, but this just seemed to be a little too slow for me.. We were getting nowhere and I couldn’t help but blame myself.. Was there something about me that she didn’t like?

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“You two haven’t fucked yet?” Tavish asked, his tone at an absolute disbelief and I shook my head as I stared up at his ceiling.

“Nope.”

“How long have you been seeing one another?” He wondered next.

“A month, I think, maybe more,” I guessed.

“Damn.. Why haven’t you done it yet?”

“I don’t know.. She just says that she’s not ready,” I didn’t know how else to put it.

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“What’s she waiting for?”

“How the hell should I know?”

“You haven’t asked?”

“What, to have sex with her?”

“No, dumbass, why she won’t have sex with you,” he continued his questioning and I felt like a patient talking to their shrink, except this shrink liked to give me tough love.. But, I guess that’s what friends are sometimes, right? A shrink that’ll tell you how it is straight up with no sugar coating?

“No..? Why would I ask that? If I did, it would just make me look like I’m getting impatient and trying to rush her or that I’m bored or something..”

“Well, aren’t you impatient?”

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“Yeah, I’m impatient as fuck, but I’m not going to rush her if she doesn’t want to. I’ve learned my lesson once already and I felt like shit because of it,” I referred back to a month ago when I tried to touch her at the dock and she freaked out, “Well, I mean, she does want to, just not yet, and I don’t know when,” I added to my explanation as I sat up and he looked at me curiously for a moment, even slightly impressed, perhaps.

“She’s told you that?”

“Yeah. She said she does want to do stuff like that with me, just not yet,” I repeated for the hundredth time it seemed.

“Wait, wait, wait.. Stuff? As in more than just sex? As in you haven’t hit any of the other bases?”

“Nope.. None of it.. We’ve only made out,” I answered and I heard him let out a heavy sigh.

“Damn.. Have you even touched her boobs yet? Please, tell me you’ve at least done that,” he nearly begged, a pathetic laugh that I couldn’t control escaping me and it was as if my body felt sorry for itself because of my lack of control to keep that laugh in.

“Not that, either,” even now, just listening to myself, it sounded like one big joke and I wanted to laugh along with Tavish and say ‘just kidding’ to all of it, but.. I couldn’t. It was just as sad as it sounded..

“Man.. How are you even alive right now? How fuckin’ backed up are you?” He asked rhetorically, no doubt teasing me and I chuckled softly, “Are you sure she’s not a virgin?” Tav suggested, my expression going from amused to focused, even slight shock, and I thought about it for a long moment..

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“No.. No way.. She couldn’t be,” I tried to wrap my mind around it and Tavish shrugged as he played with the rubix cube he stole from my room.

“Why is that so strange? She’s acting like she is, so maybe it’s true? I mean, it seems like she is the more and more we talk about it.. Think about where she was raised, too.. In the middle of the Bible Belt in a super small town, raised to be a proper lady, probably went to church every Sunday,” he gave examples, but I was skeptical.

“I don’t know, man, that just doesn’t seem right.. She was raised on a farm, so what makes you say that?”

“Well, look at AnneMarie.. She’s, like, the epitome of the perfect southern belle and Riley was raised practically the same way in the same town and everything. I wouldn’t be surprised if they even made a pact with one another to save themselves for marriage and even get pregnant at the same time so their babies can grow up together like they did,” he explained and I chuckled again as I rolled my eyes.

“That’s quite the assumption you thought up,” I replied and Tav laughed softly, “And AnneMarie didn’t grow up on a farm like Riley did, she was in pageants and all that crap.. I know AnneMarie is a virgin because Niko’s never mentioned doing that with her yet.”

“Well, your brother is a gentleman and lot more subtle than you are.. They’ve been together for ten years and you really believe they haven’t had sex yet?” Tavish added with a grin and I glanced down at my chest as I thought about it..

“I guess that’s true,” I couldn’t help but agree, which then made me think how my brother and I were maybe slowly growing apart, if he hasn’t shared something like that with me yet, and I grew sad momentarily for a different reason than the no-sex-with-Riley talk.

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“Okay.. For shits a giggles then, let’s say that she’s not a virgin and she’s just trying to see if you’re worth it, or committed enough. Maybe she’s waiting for something that you haven’t shown her yet and you just have no idea what that is, so you gotta figure it out.. I mean, let’s face it, though, you’re not exactly the greatest example of ‘committed’.. But, regardless, my money’s on virgin,” Tavish put simply with a shrug of his shoulders and I was starting to not like how Tavish could be right.. If Riley was a virgin, who knows how long I’ll have to wait.. What if I have to marry her in order to finally get there?

..No, not happening.

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“..There’s gotta be a way to find out for sure,” I said out loud to myself and I sat up more and looked to Tav when he snickered at me.

“Yeah, there is.. One, ask her, but that’s a little too blunt.. Two, finally have sex with her and see if it hurts her or something, then you’ll know if she was a virgin. Or three, just wait for things to get a little more serious and see if she admits it.. Or just, I dunno, there’s always option four.. Wait until she’s ready and pounces on you or something because even she can’t hold out anymore,” he answered and I gave him a bored expression.

“That’s not helping.. I just want to know without asking or waiting, I want her to tell me why she doesn’t want to, or why she’s not ready.. I don’t care if it has to do with an ex or if she’s waiting for marriage or whatever the fuck it is, I just want to know. This shit’s starting to drive me crazy.”

“And it’s only driving you crazy because you haven’t gotten off in over a month,” he teased and I fake cried.

“It truly is sad, isn’t it?” I asked rhetorically and he chuckled.

“But, really, Luca, it’s not that big of a deal to where you need to get so wound up about it.. I don’t know what you want me to say, man.. You can either be patient and wait for her to be ready, or you can find someone else who’s ready to get down and dirty a little quicker,” he suggested.

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“..You don’t think I have the guts to wait, do you?” I challenged and he laughed.

Hell no.”

“Fuck you, I can be patient,” I blew him off and he laughed harder.

“Ha! Since when?!”

“Since always!”

“Hmm.. I guess you were patient enough to find the right girl to date after seven years of boycotting dating, so there’s one example.. Got anymore?”

Double fuck you,” I answered with a smirk and he snickered again. He really did love to mess with me, but I guess I always had it coming..

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This whole situation perplexed me. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to have sex, or did she just not want to have sex with me? Was there something about me that she didn’t like or wasn’t too sure about yet? Or was it all really simple and she didn’t have any reason why she wasn’t ready yet? I used to like simple, the easy kind of simple, but Riley wasn’t that type at all and I was having a hard time accepting and understanding it. I looked to Tavish who was still playing with the rubix cube, but when I looked passed him towards his computer, ideas started to come to me and I wondered if he would be up for doing me a favor..

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“..You in the mood to do a little cyber-exploring for me?” I asked and Tavish stopped playing around with the rubix cube to look at me.

“..Excuse me?”

“You know.. Hack some shit or whatever it is that you do.. Find out what you can about her,” I suggested.

“..Cyber exploring?” He said with a smile, clearly making fun of me.

“Fuck off, you know what I meant.”

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“Are you really asking me to hack into her Facebook? Her computer? Her medial records? Her bank statements? Just to find out if she’s a virgin or not?” With each example he gave, he sounded more and more excited and intrigued about it, but then again, the more he listed off, the more I wished I never said anything.

“No, not all of those things, just.. You know.. The medical stuff maybe? That’d be the easiest way to find out, right? Doctor’s visits and such?” I replied.

“Man.. I haven’t done something like that in a while,” he said with the same smirk on his lips, my brow raising in curiosity.

“Hey, listen.. Don’t go overboard, just look for the answer to this one question, or at least clues that point to it. Don’t invade her privacy too much,” I made clear and he nodded, but I couldn’t tell if he was agreeing to my words or nodding at himself and his own thoughts of whatever the hell he was going to do.

..I really shouldn’t have said anything at all, but there was no stopping him now.

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“You sure are desperate to figure this out, aren’t you?” He asked, but I ignored it.

“How long do you think it’ll take?”

“I dunno, man, I haven’t even started. It might take me a few hours, so just go get your dick sucked or something and come back later,” he blurted out and I chuckled.

“Yeah, right.. By who? Everyone that knows me knows by now that I’m with Riley, or seeing Riley, or.. I don’t even know what the hell we are,” I said at a slight loss, not even sure if we were anything at all.. Even my own words from my own mouth sounded as if being with Riley was a boring or bad thing.

“Are you guys even really dating if you’ve only made out a handful of times?” He pointed out, “I mean, have you taken her to dinner? Like, a romantic dinner? Or have you guys just been hanging out?”

“Our first date was dinner and drinks and stuff.. The second date was just us drinking at the dock.. All the other times after that just involved us hanging out and having fun. Nothing’s ever been extravagant or super romantic or anything,” I replied.

“Whatever you two have going on sounds like every other mild hookup that’s happened at a frat party where nothing matters and everyone’s just trying to have fun.. It doesn’t even sound like you guys are official or even an item. It just sounds like you guys are friends that make out sometimes..”

“..Yeah, I dunno.. Maybe,” I eventually agreed.

At this point, it really did just seem like we were friends that occasionally made out because we were bored.. Or maybe just because I was bored.. Or just.. I don’t know for sure anymore..

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“Look, I don’t care what you do, man, all’s I’m saying is that you have no idea how long this is going to take, you don’t even seem all that serious about Riley, anyways.. To me, it doesn’t even seem like you guys are anything official, so I don’t think you should feel bad for going out and having a little fun.. Give me a couple hours, I’m sure I’ll have something about her by tonight, then you can make up your own conclusion from whatever I find,” he seemed very sure of himself and I nodded.

“All right.. Thanks, man,” I replied and I left him to it, watching him wake up his computer and already hearing him typing away at his keyboard before I even left his bedroom. 

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I went downstairs and outside, getting into my car and driving the ten minutes it took to get to my parents house. I thought maybe my dad could help me out a little with this whole Riley situation, he usually always had good advice. I appreciated Tav’s advice, he made a lot of points that even I agreed with, but I wanted one more opinion on it before I go out and do something stupid.. I hadn’t been over to my parents place since Niko proposed to AnneMarie, so it’ll be nice popping by to see them. I’m sure they’ll be happy to see me, too, even though I usually didn’t look forward to it all that much, but that was only because my parents, mostly Pop, liked to get on my case about certain things and I hated hearing the same shit over and over again.. I guess it was still nice to see them despite the bullshit, though.

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I needed a different opinion and a different perspective. My dad’s been through this kind of stuff already, so has Pop’s, so I figured I’d get some real ‘dating’ advice from one of them because Tavish was like me and didn’t date that much, either. I liked Riley a lot and I wanted to be intimate with her, but if she’s not on the same page, or if she’s not as eager to do something like that with me, then what’s the point? I admit that I did make it seem like I wasn’t truly interested in her in front of Tavish, maybe that was a defense mechanism or something, but the truth is that I do like her, I want to do those things with her, I want her to be okay with it before we do things like that, but how long does she need? What was holding her back? I wanted to know if it was the classic “it’s not you, it’s me” bullshit, but in all truth, I really did want to know if it was her and not me.. I’d hate for me to be the reason on why she’s holding back on being intimate with me. I wanted to know if there was something I could do, something that I could change about myself in order to make myself better.. Better for her.

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When I pulled into the driveway, I only saw my dad’s car and no one else’s. Petra, Umiko and Jiro must be out with their friends and Pop must be at work. I turned my keys and the rumble of my engine stopped, getting out of my car and tucking my keys in my pocket before heading in. I was kind of glad that Pop’s wasn’t here and that I’d get a chance to talk to Dad because Pop’s would only make a huge deal about me finally seeing someone after this long, and I felt like Dad would actually let me talk, and most importantly, he’d listen. Pop’s would eventually get to that point after asking me a million questions, but I just really didn’t want to deal with that right now.

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I went inside and didn’t see anyone in the kitchen or the living room, so I went straight to my parents room and peaked in, seeing my dad lying in bed alone with his eyes shut and rubbing his face. He seemed exhausted and for a split second, I wondered if I should let him have his nap or if I should disturb him, but if he eventually found out I was here without saying hi to him, I knew he’d be a little peeved about it, so I disturbed him anyways.

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“Knock, knock,” I said softly with a smirk as I tapped my knuckles on the door frame, my dad looking up to see who was in the doorway and a bright smile riddled with love spread across his lips.

“Luca,” he said softly, standing from the bed and I met him half way and was pulled into his arms for a warm hug.

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“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” I spoke as I continued to hug him and he rubbed my back in a comforting manner, as if he needed a good hug and I’d stay like this for as long as he wanted to.

“Oh, don’t worry about it.. It’s so good to see you,” he answered with a long inhale and letting it out in a pleased sigh.

“Yeah, you, too,” I replied.

“What made you drop by?” He asked, eventually letting me go and looking at me with the same smile on his lips.

“I came by to see you, actually,” I answered, Dad giving me a curious face, “I wanted to ask you some advice,” I continued and a smile replaced his curious expression.

“Oh, of course. Come over here, sit down,” he invited, taking my wrist gently and pulling me over to his bed and I sat next to him.

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“I’m glad to help you with anything.. What’s bothering you?” He asked, his tone full of immense love like it always was and he put his hand on my back to give me any extra comfort that I needed.

“Well, I-” I stopped for a moment, sighing softly before I continued, “I’ve been seeing someone..”

“Oh?” He seemed surprised, very surprised, but also happy, “For how long? What’s their name?”

“Before I go any further, can you not to tell Pop? I don’t want him to make a huge deal out of this,” I asked and he nodded.

“Yes, of course. You can tell him whenever you want to, if you want to,” he answered and I felt relief.

“Thanks,” I said with a brief smirk, “Her name’s Riley, she’s a friend of AnneMarie’s, and I’ve been seeing her for a little over a month now, I think..”

“Oh, AnneMarie’s Maid of Honor, right?” He asked and I confirmed with a nod, “And what’s the problem?” Dad wondered, giving me a welcoming smile that told me I could tell him anything in the world, good or bad, and he’d always love me, but it was a hard subject to bring up. I knew he wouldn’t think less of me, but I couldn’t find the right words to say what I wanted to without sounding like a huge pig. 

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“I.. I dunno.. We just haven’t, you know.. Done stuff yet,” I implied and a chuckle came out from behind my dad’s smile as he removed his hand from my back.

“And you’re, what? Impatient? Wondering if it’s you?” He gave some examples and I nodded.

“A little of both, I guess,” I admitted softly.

“Well, it’s obviously not you, because you’re perfect in every way possible,” he assured me and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes as I smiled, “But, why are you so impatient? Do you really like her and want to show her how much you care in other ways besides dates?” He asked, but suddenly, how he worded it, made me feel.. Uncomfortable.. As if I was in love with her or something and I wanted to make love to her and just.. Ugh, God, this got so awkward so fast..

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“Ahh, jeez.. This is already getting weird,” I stood from the bed, pacing a little around his room, “It feels so weird talking to you about my sex life, I can’t do this.”

“Oh, stop it, don’t be so immature.. It’s completely natural.. It’s not like I was never your age once and wanted that kind of attention from your father, but wasn’t getting it yet,” he explained and I was mortified.

“Oh my God, you just made it so much weirder by saying that! Why did you say that?” I put my hands over my face, as if somehow rubbing my eyes would rid me of what I just heard and the images that flashed inside of my brain, but it was no use. The damage had already been done and now all I could picture were my parents going at it.

I rubbed my temples roughly as I gave myself a quick pep talk. Quick! Think other thoughts! Think other thoughts, dammit! 

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“I guess I could’ve worded that differently.. But, anyhow, come back here and sit down, I want to help you,” he continued and I shook my head.

“No way! I can’t sit in your bed now,” I refused and he scoffed.

“Oh, Jesus, Luca..”

“Can we go into the living room or something?”

“Wherever you want to tell yourself is better, it doesn’t matter to me. I just want to help you, so pick some place and we’ll go there,” he encouraged, not even wanting to question what the hell he meant by that, either, but I really couldn’t sit on their bed anymore. I had to get out of their room in general or else I wouldn’t be able to think straight.

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We came to the living room, it being transformed back into one from being a dining room the last time I was here and we sat on the couch together, but I still didn’t really know where to begin talking about this kind of stuff. My conversation with Tavish was pretty eye-opening, but I wanted an outside opinion, one from my dad that knew nothing about this and could give me a different view on it solely from what I would tell him.

“So, you two haven’t done anything yet? You’ve, what, only kissed?” He began the conversation for me and I nodded.

“Yeah.. Only that.. She’s told me that she wants to do stuff like that with me, just not yet.. But, I don’t know what that means.. Like, is she waiting for me to do something in particular that will show her I’m serious about her? I just can’t stop thinking that there’s a reason she doesn’t want to do that stuff with me yet, like she’s testing me or something,” I said suspiciously, but my dad steered me in a different direction.

“Well, if she’s told you that, then it’s obviously her, not you.. Something is holding her back, but you need to be patient and just wait until she’s ready,” he replied.

“It’s just.. I’m not really used to this kind of thing. I sound stupid saying that I don’t know how to be patient, but I really don’t anymore.. I keep asking myself if she wants me to tell her I love her or some crap before we do anything serious, and I’m definitely not going to do that.. I’m nowhere near ready to do that.. Or, what if she’s a virgin and wants things to be serious before we do that stuff? I don’t know if I’m ready to have both feet in yet..”

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“First of all, yes, you are used to this kind of thing. You’re being patient whether you know it or not because you’ve lasted this long with her without being intimate. You’ve even been patient enough to wait until you found someone you actually enjoyed being around to start dating again,” he explained and I was surprised I hadn’t noticed that until he said it, “Secondly, her possibly being a virgin is none of your business,” he pointed out, “If she is, you need to ask yourself if you’re willing to wait for her to be ready. And, if she is, are you willing to eventually put both feet in in order for her to be comfortable with you, because if you wait and eventually do that with her, you can’t leave her after something like that.. Virginity is a huge deal to some people and if she is one, but wants to make sure you’re the one she wants to lose it to, then that’s her choice and you need to respect that.. If she does want to share that with you, you should feel honored that she wants you to be that person.. You might want to ‘try before you buy’ or whatever nonsense, but you shouldn’t steal and then throw it out, afterwards, you know what I mean?” He added and I nodded in understanding.

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“Let’s say she is.. Do you like her enough at this point in your guys’ relationship to wait?” He then asked and I hesitated.

“..I-I mean.. I dunno.. It sounds bad, I know, but.. Doing stuff like that is kind of important to me and if we don’t, I feel like I might get bored and I don’t want to..”

“You don’t want to get bored? So you do like her?” He said with a slight grin, as if he had successfully pried something out of me and I sighed.

“I.. Yeah.. I guess I do,” I reluctantly admitted, and for the first time, admitting it to someone other than myself.

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“Well, then there’s your answer,” he said simply, as if the answer was right in front of my face this whole time, but I just couldn’t see it yet until now, “Don’t do anything stupid and mess it up. There are plenty of other things you can do to keep yourself occupied, or satisfied, whatever you want to call it-”

“-Dad.. Gross.”

“Oh, hush, I’m just pointing out the obvious.. If you like her, then you can wait for her, virgin or not.. You’re a strong man and you know what you want, so if you want her, then do whatever you can to keep her, and don’t do anything you’ll regret later until she’s ready.. You need to hone in your ability to be patient again, Luca.. It’s been a long time since you’ve had anything serious like this, so you need to get back into the groove of things. Sleeping around might be fun, easy, uncommitted and all that, but it’s always worth it to try things out and stick to one person if you like one another enough.. Plus, you said it’s only been a month, right? A little more than a month? That’s honestly not that long to be worried about this kind of thing already,” he tried to assure me.

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“..When did you and Pop..? You know..?” I implied, not really wanting to talk about it, but I needed something to compare my situation to.

Now you’re okay with talking about that?” He said with a sly grin and I rolled my eyes.

“I’m just curious, so answer with as little detail as possible, please.. I just need some kind of time frame to go off of,” I replied and he chuckled softly.

“There is no ‘time frame’ for this kind of thing, Luca.. It depends on the couple. A month into dating, you’re father already loved me and told me he did,” I saw my dad’s smile grow warm and loving, knowing he enjoyed looking back on the past with Pop and it made me feel good to see the love he had for him written all over his face, “After he told me that, we slowly eased into those things.. I didn’t tell him I loved him until maybe four or five months into our relationship, so he had to wait a long time for that, but you know what? He was patient.. The fact that he told me he loved me so early on helped me be able to get closer to him, it helped me trust him, and it helped me be comfortable with him to eventually tell him those words, myself, when I was ready,” he expressed.

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“Damn, you held out on Pop that long?” I teased and he curled his lips as if my words left a sour taste in his mouth and he ignored my play-fun towards him.

“And to answer your question, our first time was probably two or three months into our relationship the night we first moved in together, so we did that stuff before I even told him I loved him back.. I was the one that was stand-offish at first because I had never had a serious relationship before, and I had never loved someone before I met him.. I was incredibly shy, too, so I kind of side more with Riley, on this one.. Things like that just take time for certain people. Your father is a very patient man, though, and he never rushed me or did anything that I wasn’t comfortable with. He was so patient, in fact, that I was the one that had to initiate everything first because he was so worried about making me uncomfortable, which is why it took us a while to get to the more serious things because I was nervous, maybe even a little scared, too.. Maybe Riley could be dealing with the same thing,” he offered as an explanation for Riley’s lack of intimacy with me and I nodded as I thought about it more in depth.

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“So.. If I’m patient and don’t rush her or do anything like that, she’ll give me the signs when she’s ready?”

“Well, I don’t know.. She might. I don’t know her, Luca, I’m just telling you how it went for your father and I.. But, my guess is, yes, she’ll probably just let you know when she’s ready whenever she truly is. You can’t rush her or imply that you want to do those kinds of things because it’ll just make her uncomfortable and push back whatever progress you’ve made. It will seem like you’re rushing her. I can’t say this enough, but you really do just need to practice patience and you’ll get better at it to the point where you won’t even think about this kind of stuff when you’re with her. Whenever you hang out with her, just keep your mind from wandering too far off the path, know what I mean? Enjoy her for who she is and then whenever you guys finally do something intimate, it’ll be that much more special and it’ll feel ten times better than just some quickie with a stranger,” he added and I nodded again, taking his advice to heart.

Dad put in a better perspective, too. I never really admitted to Tavish that I liked Riley, I kind of just went along with the wall I put up when it came to being serious with someone, so his advice was to mainly not take it seriously, but.. I like her more than just a friend.. I like her more than I portrayed to him than I portrayed to my dad, so the advice was miles apart and I was glad I came over to talk to him.

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“What if we don’t do anything like that for a few more months? Or a year? No matter how much I may like her, how do you wait for someone that long..?” I asked next and my dad gave me a slightly worried expression.

“Well, now you’re just making up excuses.. When you say things like that, it makes me wonder if you truly even do like her.. It just sounds like you want to get into her pants and that’s it, and if there’s no sign of that soon, you’re going to lose something that might actually be good for you because your basing all of this on just sex, which is all that it is.. Just sex,” he pointed out and my view met the floor, “You’re scared of getting hurt again, aren’t you?” He continued and I looked back up to him, “Is that why you’re making up excuses? So you can maybe leave her before she leaves you?” He continued to pry and I couldn’t help but think he was right. Maybe I’m just using sex as a means to determine if we should stay together and I know I shouldn’t do that, but I am.. I didn’t realize that that’s exactly what I was doing until he pointed it out.

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“I-I dunno.. Maybe I am just using it as an excuse.. What do you think I should do? ..Overall?” I wondered genuinely and my dad looked at me as if he was proud, in a weird way.. I think he was liking the idea of me with someone more than he portrayed vocally, or maybe he was proud that I was opening my mind a little and actually heading his word. I truly was taking his advice. As weird as it sounds, I felt like it was helping my soul recover and talking to my dad was the best decision I had made today.

“I think you should do whatever your gut is telling you to do, not what’s between your legs is telling you,” he said with a simple chuckle, “Despite the excuses, I do think you like this girl, and I think you should see where this relationship takes you.. I know first hand how bad things can get and being broken up with is the least of your worries, trust me.. You’ll bounce back if anything happens. You’re very smart and strong and everything else that’s good under the sun.. If it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out, and if it does, then that’s great and you’ll look back on this in the future and you’ll be glad you can say that you stuck with it. You’ll be able to say that you tried, no matter what happens,” my dad said with a smile throughout his entire answer and he lifted my spirits up so much. My conversation with Tavish made me think I should break up with her, but my conversation with my dad made me think I could make it work and he gave me the strength that I was lacking to be able to keep this going.. I’m glad I came here to talk to him.

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“Thanks, Dad.. I think that’s really what I needed to hear,” I replied with a soft grin and the smile on his lips grew warmer from my words.

“Anytime.. I’m always here for you, Luca, and you don’t ever have to be embarrassed to talk to me about these things, okay?” He assured me, standing from the couch and I stood with him, both of us simultaneously coming into one another for a hug before pulling away.

“Where’s Pop, by the way? And all the others?” I wondered.

“Oh, he’s at work, Petra’s at a job right now giving an estimate on a remodel, and Umi and Jiro are out with their friends.. I think Umi’s at the mall and Jiro’s paint-balling with some of his friends,” he replied and I nodded.

“Cool.. Well, I don’t want to keep you from resting. You actually have the house to yourself, so go back to bed and nap.. I didn’t mean to disturb you,” I implied and he scoffed.

Disturb me,” he mimicked my words in a teasing way and I smirked, “It’s all right, really.. Were you hungry or anything? Do you want me to make you something?” He asked and I smiled at his kindness and still wanting to take care of me even though I could take care of myself.. But, well, after the conversation we just had, I guess I did make it pretty clear that I couldn’t take care of myself.

“No, Dad, I’m okay.. I should be getting back home, anyways. I think Pia’s making something,” I lied, I had no idea if Pia was making dinner tonight, but I just didn’t want to burden him anymore than I had and I didn’t want him to wait on me.

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“So.. Is Riley going to be your date for Niko’s wedding then?” He changed the subject out of nowhere and I sighed heavily, “What? She’s going to be there anyways since she’s AnneMarie’s best friend, might as well go together, right?” He implied and I shrugged.

“Yeah, maybe.. I dunno.. I don’t want to think about that just yet,” I tried to avoid talking about it.

“Well, I’m only suggesting it because it might be something that she’s been thinking about, too.. And, if you want her to see that you like her and are serious about her, inviting her to be your date for a wedding is pretty romantic, actually. A little serious, but not too serious, you know?” He tried to coax me a little and I had to admit that it wasn’t that bad of an idea..

“I guess you got a point.. I’ll think about it,” I said with a tone that cancelled out this conversation immediately and he respectfully backed off.

“All right, no pressure.. Just food for thought,” he said with a soft smile.

“I’ll see ya, Dad.. Thanks again, and give my love to everyone, yeah?”

“No problem, I will. Thank you for coming to me about this, I’m glad I could help in any way possible and it was good to see you.”

“Yeah, you too, Dad.”

“I won’t keep you anymore.. I’ll see you soon, I love you,” he said with a smile and a gentle, caring squeeze of my arm.

“Love you, too,” I replied, leaving the living room and going back outside to my car so I could head home.

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When I got back home, I came upstairs to Tavish’s room and knocked, hearing him make some kind of noise and I assumed I could come in, so I did. He still sat at his computer, typing away and clicking from tab to tab and I then noticed Pia sitting on his bed.

“What are you doing in here?” I asked Pia.

“I came to his room to see if we should order a pizza or something tonight, but he refused to give me a straight answer because he was distracted, so I asked what he was doing and he told me,” Pia replied, giving me a rather annoyed look as if she was disappointed in me and I sighed.

“Why’d you tell her?” I asked Tav, but before he could answer, not that he would’ve anyhow because he was too preoccupied, Pia butted in.

“Why the hell are you making him hack into your girlfriend’s accounts and shit just to find out if she’s a virgin? That’s none of your damn business, you perv,” she scolded, using some of the same words my dad did, but in a much harsher way.

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“I’m not making him do anything, he offered,” I defended myself.

“After you asked,” Tav said under his breath and I sighed again.

“..You’re not exactly helping me here-”

“-And I didn’t tell her,” Tavish explained, “She hovered over my shoulder like a gargoyle until she figured it out herself. After she figured it out, I may have mentioned the reason why I was doing this in the first place, that’s all..”

“All right, whatever.. So what’d you find?” I asked, coming up behind him as he continued sitting.

“Gimme a second, I need to find the right tab,” he replied, watching him still looking through the tabs he had opened.

Jesus, I told you not to go overboard.. How many things did you look up on her?” I asked, a little confused and already somewhat regretting this the longer I waited.

“You could always, you know, mind your own fucking business.. You still have time to do that before geek-face tells you what he found,” Pia added.

You know, so why shouldn’t he?” Tavish said to Pia and I looked to her.

“What? You know, too?” I asked, getting frustrated, “Why’d you-” I then asked Tav, but I stopped myself, “-You know what? Never mind. I can’t have the both of you knowing something about Riley that I don’t, it’ll eat me up inside, so just fucking tell me,” I gave up, looking back to Tav’s computer.

“Ah, here-” Tav found what he was looking for, “So, from the beginning, or just straight to the point?” He asked and my heart started to race a little, knowing that once I heard this, I couldn’t un-hear it, but, fuck, I wanted to know.

“The beginning, I guess..”

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“Okay, so.. She dated this guy named Jeff for a little less than a year. Apparently from her Facebook, the things that she deleted, that is, that I managed to dig up, was that in the beginning it was nice and fun and whatever and she really liked the guy, but once it hit the six month mark, her status’s changed and she sounded a bit more depressed and stuff. I found some photos she was tagged in that have since been deleted, but I dug them up, too, and in most of them, she has bruises on her arms and legs, some on her chest and neck.. Kind of just all over the place at different times and in different photos the longer the relationship lasted, so the dude was obviously roughing her up.. So, when I figured that might be the case, I decided to go digging for police reports and stuff and I found something,” he continued, looking through a few tabs until he came across the police report he had found.

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“The night they finally broke up and she got away from him, it was a nine one one call she put in because he was going crazy on her and she managed to lock herself in the bedroom of his house that he pretty much made her stay at, got a hold of a phone and called.. The audio from it is pretty scary.. The police report was of domestic abuse and there’s pictures, but I’m not going to show you those-”

“-No.. Show me,” I demanded and Tavish looked over his shoulder at me briefly before sighing and looking through his tabs again. From the beginning of the story, I felt sad for her, but now, I was angrier than all of hell and I just couldn’t believe someone as sweet as Riley could be treated in such a manner. I just wanted an answer to a simple question, not something like this..

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“She had red hair back then, but-”

“-Yeah, that’s her,” I confirmed as I stared at the photo from the police report, her beautiful green eyes full of tears, her face bloodied and bruised and swollen, her lip cut.. What kind of a fucking scumbag would do this to a woman?

“Poor thing,” Pia said with a sad tone.

“What’s the audio? I wanna hear it,” I insisted and Tav looked at me as if I had lost my mind and was fueling the fire to my anger.

“..Are you sure?”

“Yeah, just play it,” I stressed and he seemed reluctant to do so, but he searched through his tabs again and found it after a moment of digging it back up.

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I stood there quietly as I watched the green line bounce on a black background whenever a voice could be heard. Pia stood from the bed and stood on the other side of Tavish and she looked to me with a worried brow before looking back to the computer.

“Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?” The woman asked and at first, there was just loud banging in the background and you could hear someone whimpering and crying on the other line, “Hello? Is there anyone there? Do you need any help?” The woman asked and there was a few seconds of silence.

“I-I need help,” I heard Riley’s soft, whispered, rattled tone from the other line as the banging in the background continued, my heart sinking as I imagined what Tav had told me and it must’ve been her boyfriend trying to get into the room she had locked herself in.

“Ma’am, what’s wrong?”

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“M-My boyfriend, he.. He’s hit me a few times tonight, and now he wants into the bedroom, but.. I-I’ve locked the door and he won’t leave me alone.. He’s going to get in soon,” she continued to whisper.

“Please, stay on the line, ma’am, I’m sending a unit over to your location right now,” the woman answered.

“Riley? Open the fucking door!” I heard her boyfriend’s voice in the background, along with a few more bangs on the bedroom door.

“Please, please hurry!” She stressed in a harsh whisper, hearing her continue to cry over the phone and that’s where Tavish stopped the audio. I had goosebumps on my arms.

“After that, he just keeps banging on the door and within about a minute, you can hear the sirens in the background and they manage to get to her before her boyfriend does,” Tav filled me in.

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“Jesus Christ, man,” I let out, a little rattled already from all of this and that audio made me a little sick to my stomach. Even though it had already happened and had passed, I wanted to be there and stop all of that from happening, myself.. I felt the strong need to protect her.

“Keep going?” Tav asked, looking over his shoulder again at me and I nodded.

“Yeah, keep going,” I replied, trying to find all the strength in me that I could to not drive down to Alabama, myself, and track down this piece of shit.

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“She got a restraining order against him the next day and apparently, they haven’t been in contact since, thank God.. The guy went to jail for it and a few other things, but he gets out in a year,” he added and I couldn’t comprehend all of this.. Riley was so driven and strong and the most gentle woman I’ve ever met, I really didn’t know how she could get over something like this so quickly.. Or, maybe she was just hiding how she really felt about it. If he was abusing her like this, there’s no doubt in my mind that he was most likely sexually abusing her, too, so it made complete sense on why she was so jumpy whenever I tried to touch her without her fully knowing what I was doing first.

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“Fuck.. I feel so shitty for her,” I said softly, feeling Pia’s hand touch my back and she rubbed me softly to try to give me comfort.

“..There’s more,” Tav reluctantly continued and I looked at him questionably, “That break up was about six months ago.. I went and looked for medical stuff after all of that and two months after he had gone to jail, she, uh.. She had an abortion.. Two months later, she moved here, my guess is to get away from that guy even more and as far away as possible just in case he would ever find out about it.. So, yeah, about a month after she had moved here and got settled, she started seeing you,” he finished Riley’s blast from the past and I was dumbfounded, angry, and I pitied her..

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What made it worse, however, was thinking back to what I tried to do at the dock with her and how startled and scared she was.. This was the perfect explanation as to why she acted like that and I felt like even more shit because of it.. She tried to make it less of a deal than it was, so maybe she’s over everything that happened, but maybe her body still wasn’t? Whatever the case was, I still felt like an asshole now more than I did before.

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“..I don’t even really know what to say,” I spoke softly.

“Well.. Now you know she’s not a virgin,” Tav said, though I wasn’t sure if he was throwing a joke into this mix or not.

“Not funny!” Pia scolded, smacking him in the shoulder.

“Ow! I wasn’t trying to be! ..I’m just saying, now you know.. Fuck,” he replied, rubbing his shoulder and I sighed heavily.

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“I thought this would just be something simple.. Like some little clues on her Facebook or through some emails, like dirty gossip with her friends or something that you’d come across.. But this? ..This just sucks,” I expressed with a depressed tone, “I should’ve just minded my own damn business. I can’t un-know this shit now,” I came to the conclusion and Pia gave me a dirty look.

“I tell you to do that all the time, but you never listen,” she pointed out and I glared at her for a short moment.

“This makes me feel weird, though.. You’d think after something like that, something that traumatic, she’d want nothing to do with a relationship, or even men in general, for that matter, and I wouldn’t blame her.. She seems so cool with me, though.. I don’t know how she hides this stuff so well,” I was a little perplexed, stepping over to Tav’s bed and sitting down.

“Maybe she wanted to be with someone that she already knew and someone that AnneMarie trusted.. You have a good rep, for the most part, besides all the random sex with strangers,” Pia added and I glared at her again for her comment, “Hey, you’re a good guy, and your a big guy, too. Maybe she wanted someone that she knew wouldn’t do something like her last boyfriend did, and maybe she wanted someone for, like, you know.. Protection or something?” She said with a shrug and I furrowed my brows.

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“You think she’s using me?”

“Well, no.. Not exactly.. But, maybe? ..Kind of? ..I dunno,” she shrugged and she must’ve noticed that my expression was a little hurt.

“I want her to like me, not use me-”

“-And I’m not saying she doesn’t like you, I’m just saying that if someone roughed me up, I’d either come and get you guys to beat their ass, or I’d just use excuses to be around you guys because I know I’d be safe,” she pointed out and it made a lot more sense coming from her.

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Tavish jumped in, “Maybe just take it as a compliment, even if she partly is? She feels safe enough around you, you know? Making a girl feel safe is never a bad thing,” he added and I nodded.

“Yeah, I guess so.. It’s just that, if I’m being used, I’d like to be used in every way possible, you know?” I implied and he chuckled briefly.

“Still got your mind on the important things, I see,” he said sarcastically.

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“Sorry about your girl, man, that sucks.. No one should ever treat a woman like that,” Tavish grew serious again.

“I kind of wish that AnneMarie had told me a little more about her before we got this far..”

“Why? Because she’s damaged goods and won’t have sex with you?” Pia teased and I shook my head.

“No, because I would’ve never acted the way I did around her if I had known what happened to her.. I would never have tried to touch her or anything like that, too,” I said with slight disappointment. 

“You can’t blame yourself for this shit now, there’s no way you could’ve known,” Tavish explained, “The only reason you feel this bad about it now is because you know what happened to her.. And, you know, maybe even AnneMarie doesn’t know the extent of what Riley went through..?”

“They’re best friends, AnneMarie had to of at least known about her boyfriend and what a piece of shit he was.. The abortion, she could’ve easily kept to herself, but AnneMarie should’ve warned me to be a little more patient and gentle with her or something.. Instead, I’ve made an ass out of myself more than once because I’ve been completely unaware of what she’s been through and I’m a horny piece of shit.. It just would’ve been nice to get a heads up,” I said with a shrug and he nodded in understanding.

“Yeah, I know what you mean, but, you can’t do anything about it now.. At least now you know so you don’t fuck up anymore,” he said with a smirk and I suppose he did have a good point.

“Thanks for looking into it for me, even though I still kind of regret it now.. I know how time consuming that stuff is.”

“Eh, no problem.. Only took me an hour or two, and if it’s helped you at all, then it was worth the time,” he said with a brief smirk and I smiled appreciatively. 

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“What are you going to do now? Do you want a drink or something?” Tav wondered and Pia jumped in.

“We probably should so we can trick our minds into forgetting this depressing shit,” she encouraged, though she might just be using it as an excuse to drink, and I chuckled softly. 

“Actually, yeah, I think I really do need one,” I agreed and I watched as Tav faced his computer quickly.

“Let me just close this stuff out and wipe my computer clean,” he said rather impatiently and I nodded encouragingly. 

“So, what are you going to do when you see her next?” Pia brought up, making conversation as we waited for Tavish.

“I don’t know.. I guess just act like things are completely normal. I mean, I’ll have to, because if she ever found out I fuckin’ spied on her, then there’s no doubt in my mind that she’d break up with me. I just gotta be careful and watch what I say, and especially watch my fuckin’ hands, because I couldn’t stand myself if I tried anything with her and scared her again, especially after now knowing what I know about her. I’m a scumbag, in my own right, but not that much of one,” I burned myself.

“You’re not a scumbag, her ex is a fucking scumbag. You’re completely different breeds. He’s an abusive piece of garbage and you’re a slut. Big difference,” she teased and I chuckled, “Well, you’re not a slut anymore, I should say,” she added and I smiled, needing to agree with her since I haven’t fucked anyone since I met Riley and I had to admit I was little proud of that.. I guess my dad was right, I still do have the ability to be patient.

“All right, done.. Let’s go get shit faced,” Tavish announced when he was finished and we all went downstairs to the kitchen to make some stiff drinks.

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Even though I made it seem like I was a dog with a permanent bone, I’d like to think there was more to me than that. A small part of me still wanted to be intimate with Riley, but now, after hearing what I heard from Tavish and heading my dad’s advice, that was the last thing on my mind. My dad told me to enjoy her for who she is and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to try my hardest to not pressure her, I’m going to try my best to treat her as well as I possibly can, and I’m going to go out of my way to give her what she deserves.

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I wasn’t going to do this just because I felt sorry for her, either, I was going to do this because I cared about her and I was going to do this because she deserves to be happy and I want to be the one that makes her feel that way. I want to make her smile and I want to tell her how beautiful she is until she finally believes it and doesn’t tell me to stop saying it. I want to do so much for her that it made my heart race with nervousness while also making me weirdly excited.. I haven’t felt like this in a long time. 

..It feels kind of nice.

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 Five Heir Vote!

Gen5HeirVote

Three possible outcomes, three possible stories. This is why I need your guys’ help! I have a lot of ideas for all of the boys, but I want you to decide for me because I really can’t choose between them, so pick who you want to read about the most. Study their traits and such, remember their personalities I’ve written in the story (or what little I’ve written about them), etc.. Choose who you think would most interest you.

Below, I’ve listed all of their information; their traits, their faves, zodiac signs and short bios, all the info you need to help you make a decision. Although right now in the story where Generation four leaves off with them still a child/toddlers, I’ve aged them all up to Young Adult and all of their traits are listed below! Since seeing the teens and not the young adults is what the majority of you voted for on this poll, that’s what is pictured below and their young adult versions will be revealed in Generation 5, Chapter 1!

Choose wisely!
This poll will be open for one week and you can vote once EVERY DAY, so everyone technically gets up to 7 votes each.
I don’t know why I’m doing it this way, it just seemed fun haha

I’m not sharing the results until it’s over, either!

This poll will be open for only ONE WEEK

November 8, 2015 (10:00 AM) -to- November 14, 2015 (11:59 PM)

AugustBryce

Traits:

  • Insane
  • Disciplined
  • No Sense of Humor
  • Hot-Headed
  • Over-Emotional

Favorites:

  • Music: Beach Party
  • Food: Potato and Truffle Torte
  • Color: Lime

Sign: Gemini

Lifetime Wish: Jack of All Trades

Story Personality: A no-nonsense, serious (potential) heir that has a hard time taking a joke and with a temper that can be easily triggered, it’s wise to stray away from saying anything that can make him angry. Although there is the potential of him being sweet and caring, if you’re on his good side, there are many layers to the ‘onion’ that is August. He hates making his own choices and doesn’t like being put on the spot, possibly being a prime candidate of indecisiveness, but he’s always convinced he knows what’s good for him in the very end.. Or so he thinks.

LucaSukai

Traits:

  • Insane
  • Athletic
  • Daredevil
  • Commitment Issues
  • Kleptomaniac

Favorites:

  • Music: Island Life
  • Food: Ceviche
  • Color: Orange

Sign: Gemini

Lifetime Wish: Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law

Story Personality: This rambunctious, thrill-seeking (potential) heir lives for things that get his adrenaline pumping and his mind and body active. Whether it’s getting himself and his friends into possibly dangerous situations by running from the cops or maybe even having the time of their lives without getting caught, he absolutely loves it. Although it’s a little difficult for him to stick with anyone or anything, Luca also has no self control when it comes to keeping his hands to himself and it’s hard to stop his urge to have anything that he doesn’t have already.

NikolaiMizu

Traits:

  • Insane
  • Good
  • Neurotic
  • Great Kisser
  • Proper

Favorites:

  • Music: Latin
  • Food: Grilled Salmon
  • Color: Green

Sign: Aquarius

Lifetime Wish: Super Popular

Story Personality: A caring and lovable (potential) heir with gentleman like qualities, whose heart couldn’t be melted by the cuddle bug, Nikolai? He’ll give you his money if you have none to buy yourself a meal, he’ll give you advice and be there for you when you truly need it, and he’ll always try to protect someone or something he cares about. Although, at times, he can get a little overwhelmed with wanting to keep everyone happy to the point where he forgets about taking care of himself, he’s always ready for the challenge of making you smile. His neurotic nature makes it hard for him to concentrate under stressful, filthy conditions or situations where he feels uncomfortable, but he’ll still try his absolute hardest to concentrate on you before himself.. If possible, of course.

Time to Choose!

Thanks for voting!

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– P.S. –
(non tidl and tidl related)

I’m getting a new laptop very soon and I wanted to wait to start generation 5 until I got it. I kind of want to have a ‘fresh start’ for generation five. With that being said, I’m doing a little challenge in the mean time while I wait to get the new laptop and transfer everything and such.

Whoever wins the heir poll, I’m going to be doing a BFC, a Best Friend Challenge. I don’t know if this has ever been done, but instead of a bachelor challenge, it’s pretty much set up the exact same way, but instead of looking for a spouse in the end, the winner (or top two winners, I haven’t decided yet how many people I want) will become the heirs best friend(s) and be featured in quite a few chapters of generation 5! After this poll is closed and the winner is announced, I will be posting the results as well as some information about the BFC and guidelines on how to sign up. I don’t know how fast/slow spots will be filled, but it is first come, first serve (and I will NOT be holding spots for anyone that expresses interest in it now OR before this announcement). There is a certain number of spots open, but if more people are interested in joining, I’ll consider accepting a few more.

<3

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..

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After trying my hardest to fight back tears while telling James everything that had happened, I finally got it all out without too much of a struggle and I could tell James was completely blindsided.

“Jesus, Isaiah.. You haven’t heard anything yet, too? What the hell is taking them so damn long to give you a update?” He asked with annoyance in his tone.

“I-I don’t know.. A little over an hour ago, the doctor came out to tell the girl about her dad dying and when I asked about Oliver, all he said was that he was still in surgery, then he went back to it and that’s the last thing I’ve heard.. I don’t know what to do. I’m starting to get more worried the longer it takes.. Shouldn’t he be in recovery by now?” I asked.

“Well, without knowing the extent of his injuries, I can’t answer that.. But, you should go up to someone and demand answers, it’s the only way to get any information out of these people. They’re updating their charts constantly, they just don’t update the family until there is a stable enough answer to give them. They know exactly what’s going on, you just have to keep asking to find out. Be completely annoying if you have to,” he replied.

“All right, I will-”

“And I’m coming down there,” he added.

“No, James, you don’t have to.. You’re at work and-”

“With all due respect, man, save it. Can’t talk me out of this. I’m leaving now and I should be there within the hour. I’ll start calling the hospital and see if I can get any information out of them, but you should do the same so you know what the hell’s going on. I’ll call you if I’m able to get any answers before you, too.”

“All right.. Are you going to tell Katalina?” I asked and he sighed.

“No, I don’t think so, not yet. The baby is so close to it’s due date that she doesn’t need any stress like this, it would only cause harm to her or the baby and worrying about Oliver is plenty enough on my plate already.. She’s gunna hate the hell out of us for keeping it from her, but, I’ll handle it, okay? You just worry about Oliver and getting answers,” he encouraged.

“Okay.. I’ll see you soon,” I replied and we said our goodbye’s. 

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The first thing I did was go to the reception desk by the entrance, completely forgetting my coffee that was probably cool enough to drink by now, but the adrenaline that had returned and coursed through my veins again was enough to keep my body awake for at least a few more hours. I stood there at the desk arguing with the receptionist for at least half an hour, seeing now what James was talking about by how she was trying her hardest to avoid the subject and she told me over and over again that there was no news about Oliver yet and that I should have a seat and wait, but I was done with waiting.. I had been waiting for close to three hours now and I was sick of it. During our arguing, the phone rang a few different times and I could tell it was James calling like he said he would, but even as I stood there, she was telling him the exact same things she was telling me. No matter how hard I pressed, there was no getting through to these people and I was right back where I started.. Not knowing a goddamn thing.

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I sat in the lobby alone, the time getting close to three in the morning and when the doors came flying open, I looked to see James rushing in. I stood to greet him and the moment he saw me, he rushed to my side and gave me a warm hug, something that I didn’t even know I needed until I had wrapped my arms around him, as well, and didn’t let go for a long moment.

“It’s okay, Isaiah. I’m not leaving until we hear about Oliver, I promise,” he said as we hugged and we then let go of one another, sitting back down and he sat next to me.

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“So, they’re still not telling you anything?” He asked and I nodded, “Damn.. Have you told Cybal yet?”

“No, I was going to call her tomorrow sometime.. I don’t want to tell her now because if I did, I feel like she’d rush to down here to be with me and she’d bring the boys with and I don’t want them to be here.. Not yet,” I replied and he nodded in understanding. 

“Well, I agree that right now isn’t the best time to call, but you really do need to call her first thing in the morning. Your boys should know their dad’s in the hospital. I know you don’t want them here, hospitals can be pretty scary for kids, but having the boys here might even help his recovery.. And yours.”

“You’re right, I’ll do it in the morning, but I don’t even want to think about it right now.. They are going to be scared and I honestly don’t think I have it in me to calm them down when I can’t even do that for myself,” I answered and I felt his hand on my shoulder, attempting to give comfort.

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“I know it’s hard, man, but Oliver is a strong guy when he needs to be. After everything you two have been through and especially after finally making up and getting things back to normal, I doubt he’d let himself give up. The kids could be that extra push he needs, too, and so are you. I’m not saying Oliver doesn’t have a chance, but you’d be amazed at how many times I’ve seen people who are in bad shape come back during their recovery because their loved ones talk to them while they’re unconscious or whatever the case. It’s kind of like a miracle, in a way. Nothing medicine can even come close to,” he added and I looked over to him, seeing a smirk on his lips.

“Thank you for coming, James. I don’t know how much longer I could’ve gone without anyone with me..”

“It’s okay. This is a pretty huge deal to keep to yourself, I’m surprised you lasted as long as you did, but I’m glad you called. Sometimes it’s hard to carry the weight of something like this all by yourself and it’s a lot easier to keep yourself from going crazy if that weight is distributed,” he answered and I nodded in agreement. 

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James and I sat there for roughly twenty minutes together, not saying much at all and I knew James wasn’t talking on purpose because it was a little obvious that I didn’t want to talk, but just his presence and knowing I wasn’t alone helped keep me the calmest I’ve been ever since the night took a cruel turn. Every time the emergency doors opened down the hallway, both of our heads jerked quickly towards them, but every time I didn’t see doctor Avery, I let out a heavy sigh and went back to staring at the floor. 

“Why is it taking so goddamn long? I feel like we’ve been sitting here for hours,” I said under my breath in annoyance and James looked over to me.

“It’s gunna be all right, Isaiah. Sometimes when they take a long time like this, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. They’re probably making sure everything is okay before they close him up, or they could be all done, but waiting for him to wake up so they can see if he remembers who he is and how he got here.. You never know. Just because it’s taking a long time doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad,” he encouraged, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly as I thought about his words and they made me feel better, but only a little.

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“Mr. Yamato?” I heard my name being called and I looked immediately to my right, seeing doctor Avery standing outside of the doors that I wasn’t allowed passed and he looked around a little before finally making eye contact with me down the hallway. I was frozen where I sat, completely stuck and even though this entire time I’ve been dying to know what’s happened to my love, now that it was time to find out, I wasn’t ready.. What if he isn’t doing well? ..What if he’s gone..? I never got a chance to speak to him again and now I never will..

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“Isaiah.. Isaiah?” James caught my lack of attention, seeing him standing in front of me with a worried yet comforting smirk on his lips, “Come on, you can do this.. Let’s go see if he’s all right,” he encouraged and I nodded, slowly standing to my feet and I could feel every inch of my insides rattling with nerves and fright and worry and everything in between.. James patted my shoulder, trying to loosen me up a little and to get me to not worry so much, but this was something that couldn’t be helped.. The way the doctor looked at me made things worse because he didn’t have a smile, nor did he have a frown, his expression was, well.. Expressionless.. It made everything that much more nerve-wrecking and terrifying. I wasn’t ready for this, I wasn’t ready for any of this and all I wanted was for Oliver to be okay and for this nightmare to be over with. 

____________________________________

Eight Months Later . . .

____________________________________

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“You guys excited for the beach?” I asked, Luca running and jumping around his room in excitement as I fastened Niko’s waterproof diaper. 

“Yeah! Yeah! Let’s goooo!” Luca exclaimed and I chuckled.

“All right, we’ll leave in just a minute. I still need to grab a few things and make coffee, little man,” I replied and he groaned.

“Hurrryyyyy,” he whined as I slipped on Niko’s swim suit onesie and fastened it.

“The ocean’s not going anywhere, Luca. Be patient, okay? Just a little longer,” I answered and he sat down on the ground next to his building block table with a impatient frown on his face.

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Once I was done dressing Niko, I held his hands so he wouldn’t lose his balance as he stood there. He knew how to walk now, but he was still trying to get the hang of it.

Why don’t you go pick out a toy to bring with?” I asked him and his eyes lit up with excitement, watching him race over to the toy box and he began picking something out. Nikolai started talking, finally, a few months ago and his first word was ‘boo’, though I think he means ‘blue’, because whenever he says it, he always points to the walls in his room or the color of some of his toys. It didn’t take long for him to start trying to say other colors and things, then he started saying ‘da’ and ‘pa’ for Oliver and I.. He now knows a pretty good mixture of words and although he’s still not as talkative as Luca and he still struggles with pronunciation, he’s getting better at it every day.

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When Nikolai found what he wanted, which where a few different things, he brought them over to me and made a pile in front of me and I couldn’t help but find it amusing as well as completely adorable. 

No, no, just pick one or twoYou don’t want to bring a lot and then lose any, right?” I asked and he stared at his choices for a while, trying to decide which were the best ones.

Niko never spent nearly as much time in the water as his brothers did, he more so enjoyed lying on the towels with me under the beach umbrella, so I always let him bring a toy or a stuffed animal that he adored in order to make sure he was happy. He wasn’t afraid of the water by any means, I think he just really enjoyed being outside and relaxing with his toys under the shade. Besides walking and talking, another thing we’ve been able to accomplish, like we had to do for August and Luca, was to get Nikolai to ease off of the pacifier.. He still refuses to sleep without it, but at least he doesn’t cry for it like he used to every second he was awake. 

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Once Niko had picked out his favorites, he handed them to me and I took them, “These two? Are you sure?” I asked and he nodded, “All right. Let’s go to the kitchen and pack snacks, then we can go to the beach,” I added, putting the toy and the stuffed animal into the beach bag.

“Yay! Let’s go, let’s go!” Luca replied and he stood immediately and was already running out of their bedroom and down the hallway.

“Luca, stop!” I called out sternly and I heard his footsteps come to a halt in the hallway, picking up Nikolai in my arms as well as the bag and leaving their bedroom.

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I came out of their room to see Luca standing in the hallway with an expression that showed guilt, “What have I always told you?”

“..No running around or on the stairs,” he replied.

“And?”

“Always hold the railing when walking down,” he continued and I nodded.

“Good. Stop running and go slowly,” I instructed and he walked instead of ran towards the stairs, doing as I said and taking each step carefully. Luca always had so much energy and we always had to be on alert with him more than we needed to be with Niko and August. It was a little stressful at times, especially when his energy put him in situations where he could get hurt.

That boy is going to give me a heart attack one day, I just know it..

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After coming downstairs and into the kitchen, August, Luca and Nikolai ate breakfast as I made coffee and packed the beach bag with snacks, water and beach towels, as well as a bottle for Nikolai and I looked over at August as I made coffee, too, before we left.

“Ready to go, big guy?” I asked and he nodded as he finished his cereal.

“Yup,” he replied, hopping off of his stool and going to the dishwasher with his empty bowl.

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“I’m all done, can we go now?” Luca expressed with more impatience and he bounced in his high chair to show his eagerness. 

“When Niko is done eating, we’ll go. Be patient, Luca, I’m not going to tell you again,” I disciplined and he frowned again, unhappy with how long this was taking, but I wasn’t about to rush everyone when Luca seemed to be the only one who wanted to get to the beach as if his life depended on it. 

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When Niko was done eating and the bag was all packed, the boys and I walked out the back door passed our pool and I watched as August and Luca went ahead of Niko and I. We owned our own little part of the beach down the hill behind the house and we all loved going down there on Sundays when no one had work or school.

“Be careful, you two. Help Luca down the hill, Augie, I don’t want either of you tumbling down and getting hurt,” I instructed towards August and he took Luca’s hand, guiding him down the hill and I held Nikolai close so I had a good grip on him.

“Are you excited to go in the water today?” I asked Niko, watching him smile and he shook his head.

“No!” He replied, though I knew he didn’t mean it.

No?! I don’t believe yooouuuu,” I dragged out, then quickly gave him raspberries on his cheek and neck and he laughed when I had called his bluff.

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When we got to the beach and before letting the boys play, I set down Niko and laid out the beach towels under the shade of the umbrella. After getting everything situated, I put plenty of sunscreen on all of the boy’s skin and once I was done with Luca, he ran off towards the ocean to play. August tended to himself as I then rubbed the sunscreen on Nikolai’s tiny arms and legs and there were some spots where he’d smile and wiggle while giggling from me tickling him on accident.. Which, in turn, made me unbelievably happy, so I then began to do it on purpose just to make him laugh more and how he laughed and kicked his legs made me smile from ear to ear.

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“You ready to play in the water, little bug? Let’s go play,” I tell Niko after he was fully sun-protected, taking him into my arms before standing up. I walked over to August, seeing him playing in the sand with his toys, shovel and pale and I couldn’t help but smile.

“What are you going to make, big guy?” I asked, stopping by him for a moment as I continued to hold Nikolai.

“I wanna build a sand castle.. Maybe even dig out a moat or something all the way to the water so alligators can swim in and protect it,” he replied as he continued playing and I chuckled softly, knowing there weren’t any alligators in the ocean, but I wasn’t about to ruin his fun.

“Elaborate, I like it. I want to see it, so be sure to show me when you’re all done, okay?” I asked and he nodded.

“All right,” he replied, still focused on his building and I continued on towards the shoreline to play with Niko.

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When we reached the shore, I held up Niko before lowering him down into the water, “You ready?” I asked with excitement and he was already kicking his feet in anticipation while starring down at the ocean. The moment I brought him down lower and the lukewarm water touched his toes, he started laughing as he continued to kick his legs and throw around his arms and it brought me pure happiness every second that he enjoyed himself.. I wished Oliver was here to see this, it melts his heart just as easily as it does mine whenever we hear the laughter of any of our boys.

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Whoooaaa! Papa, come look! Come see!” Luca suddenly exclaimed and I looked over to see him waving for me to come over to him as fast as I could.

“What’d you find, little man?” I asked, pulling up Niko from the water and I held him.

“Come looooook!” He continued and I made my way over to him with Nikolai.

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“Look, look!” He said with excitement when we reached him and I smiled as I looked down, seeing a big blue starfish under the shallow water.

“Oh, wow.. It’s really neat looking, isn’t it?” I asked and Luca smiled wide with an enthusiastic laugh.

“Can I touch it?” He wondered, already reaching for it, but I stopped him before he could.

“No, no, don’t touch it. Some are poisonous, that’s why you need to watch where you’re stepping in the water, too,” I replied and Luca seemed upset that he couldn’t touch it, but continued to enjoy watching it move at a snail-like pace, anyways.

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The moment that Nikolai caught sight of the starfish and began reaching for it, as well as humming soft sounds to signal that he wanted it, that’s when I stood back up and took him away from it because he wouldn’t give up unless I distracted him with something else. He was in the ‘I want everything’ phase and didn’t like hearing ‘no’, but I wasn’t about to let my youngest touch a potentially poisonous sea creature without knowing if it was safe or not.

“No, you can’t touch it either, cuddle bug. Sorry,” I expressed as I carried him away, yet he seemed adamant about having it and his soft ‘wanting’ hums turned more into gentle whining and I watched as his eyes teared up, “Aw, come on, don’t look at me like that. It breaks my heart,” I cooed sweetly, trying to cheer him up from this difficult phase he was in by kissing his forehead softly.

“Let’s go get your duck, okay? Will that make you happy?” I asked, walking back towards where we had laid out our blankets and I set him down, looking through the bag I had brought with us as his eyes still held tears.

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When I found it and pulled it out, his watery eyes lit up, “Ah! Here we are,” I said happily and he began reaching for it immediately, chuckling softly as I handed it to him and his mood seemed to change instantly the moment he hugged it. I then pulled out the other toy he had chosen to bring with and set it next to him, knowing that he was done with the water for now and I could relax with him under the shade. He then adjusted his stuffed animal duck so he could use it as a pillow and he laid down as he played with the toy I had given him, bouncing it up and down on the ground to make it ‘walk’ and he was finally content without the need to touch the starfish lingering on his mind. 

“Are you happy now, bug?” I asked and he smiled for his response as he played with his toy, “Good.”

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As I sat there with my youngest, I looked out towards the calm ocean behind August and the sound of the waves and the seagulls that occasionally flew overhead made me relaxed and tranquil, though I couldn’t keep my mind from going to dark places and dark memories that I knew I’d always have to carry with me. I was weak when anything at all threatened my love and my life and I was weak to the memories of that terrifying night eight months ago. I’ll never forget it, no matter how much I try.

I knew it was idiotic to admit, but I missed Oliver.. I missed him so much every second I was without him every since that night and I wished that he was here with us.. It just isn’t the same without him.. It never would’ve been, either, had we all lost him.

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Suddenly, my view went black as I felt hands cupping gently over my glasses and a warm, enticing breath touched my ear.

“Guess who,” the voice behind me whispered and I felt chills up my spine, a smile slowly spreading across my lips.

“The sexiest brunette in the world?” I wondered and I heard him chuckle behind me.

“Mmm, guess again,” he encouraged.

“Hmm.. The sexiest brunette in the world that I’m lucky enough to spend the rest of my life with?” I guessed again and I heard him sigh. 

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“That’s cheating,” he expressed, removing his hands from over my eyes and I chuckled as he draped himself over me.

“What? How is that cheating?” I asked with a grin as I reached up to run my fingers through his hair.

“Because, I wanted you to guess more and I couldn’t say no to that one,” he added.

“I’m glad it’s true, though,” I implied, turning my head towards him and he lifted his forehead from my shoulder to do the same.

“Me, too,” he answered and he leaned in to kiss me. Without him, I truly believed that I never would’ve been able to find such bliss like this ever again.

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Before I could get any time with him, our boys demanded his attention first and I could feel Niko crawling into my lap to get to Oliver as he kissed me.

“Dah! Dah-dah!” He expressed and Oliver and I couldn’t help but smile during our kiss and we pulled away from one another to acknowledge Nikolai.

“Hey, Niko,” Oliver said as he picked up Niko from my lap and held him up, “Are you having fun at the beach?” He asked, though Niko didn’t respond and instead, he pointed towards August.

“You wanna go by Augie?” Oliver asked and Niko nodded, “Okay, let’s go see what he’s up to,” he answered, but I caught his attention before he left my side.

“Come back to me,” I expressed and he smiled warmly.

“I will,” he replied, leaning in to kiss me once more before standing up and taking Nikolai with him. 

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As Oliver spent time with August and Niko, helping him build the sand castle that August had been working on since we had gotten here, I simply sat and watched the photographic scene I had before me. My husband, my children, my life, everything was perfect and just how I wanted it to turn out. If I had any more than I did now, I would truly be the most spoiled man in the world.. I might even already be.

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Luca then noticed that Oliver had made it down to the beach and he ran over to him, “Daddy, come here! Come here!” I heard him exclaim as he tapped on Oliver’s side and Luca then took his hand, pulling him away from the sand castle and towards the starfish that he had found that no doubt had barely moved from where Luca had spotted it. My lips curled into a smile as I watched Oliver be the center of attention, August and Niko watching as Luca dragged him off.

“Daaaad! Come back! I need help with the moat!” August called out.

“I’ll be right back, Augie! Luca wants to show me something,” he replied and I watched him and Luca investigate the blue sea star with a smile on my lips.. This family couldn’t function without Oliver, it’d never be the same without him, and if the world were truly against him like he tended to believe with what he’s been through in his past, he wouldn’t be here today, but.. Thank goodness he was wrong.

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After watching them for a while, Oliver bringing Luca back to the sand castle and all four of them helping in building it, I couldn’t imagine a better scene than the one I had in front of me. The night at the hospital eight months ago was the scariest moment of my life and I wasn’t prepared for the worst, but the second the doctor told me that he was in recovery, I felt my world coming back to life and I thanked whatever or whoever was giving him this second chance. I’ve been with him through everything, the thick and thin, the best and the absolute worst, but it was all for a reason and that reason was right there in front of me.

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Oliver’s recovery took a few months, but once he was back to normal, everything changed for the better and our days together after that were never taken for grated, nor did we ever spend more than an entire day without talking to one another after a stupid fight we might get into.. Then again, we hardly ever fought after that day, anyhow. We focused more on our family and each other and we still upheld to what he had talked about at my bar eight months ago. Cybal was five months pregnant with our fourth child and Oliver and I couldn’t be more excited to have another addition to our family. Oliver didn’t want to let such a potentially devastating bump in the road keep us from continuing our life together after his recovery and neither did I, so we did just that, and we continued to live out our lives.. So many people have tried to ruin such a good thing, but nothing could come between us, just like I always knew nothing could the moment I realized I was in love with him.

It was so hard to picture life without him, but, I was overwhelmingly joyous that I didn’t have to.

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End of Generation 4.

 


 

Thank you to everyone that lurks, reads, likes and comments on this story! You’re continued, unconditionally amazing support for this legacy makes me so happy and I really love you all. Thank you for sticking with me this far and I hope you’ll stick around for many more generations to come!

Generation 4, Chapter 20, Finale Pt 1 of 2

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Carefully and slowly, I swayed back and forth, rubbing Nikolai’s back as I held him in my arms and waiting for him to drift off to sleep for his afternoon nap. I stood in Cybal’s living room, taking steps at the pace of a snail as I swayed Niko and although I seemed to be calm and relaxed holding my littlest, my mind was restless. After breakfast this morning when August had just left for school and Luca and Niko played in their bedroom, Isaiah told me he wanted to talk.. He didn’t say much else, he seemed nervous and uncomfortable and so did I by the way he worded everything.. He told me that this had gone on long enough, but instead of asking what he meant exactly, I just stood there like an idiot and nodded without even questioning it.. I guess I was in a slight shock that he finally wanted to talk, so I blindly agreed, and now, as I replay his words over and over in my head, I can’t help but wonder if maybe his words had negative intentions instead of the positive ones I’ve been hoping for for over a month.. My mind always went straight to the possible worst case scenarios and I could never seem to get away from them.

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It’s been about two weeks since I had talked to James about what was happening between Isaiah and I, but I’ve been doing a lot better than I was.. I couldn’t believe I had let it get that bad to the point where my depression was effecting my appearance and it took me a while to realize how terrible I looked, but ever since I had, I’ve been doing laps in the pool, as well as taking the boys to the park more like I used to and running around with them constantly has been tiring as well as rewarding. I’ve been getting more sun, so I’ve looked less pale, I’ve been getting work outs in and I wasn’t nearly as weak anymore, and I’ve been eating better, too, so I’ve had a lot more energy for the boys.. I thought I’ve been doing pretty good and I thought that maybe Isaiah’s been noticing, but I still couldn’t figure out exactly what he meant by his words this morning.. Did he want to fix things, or break up?

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I had an appointment today with one of my patients and Isaiah was already at work, so on days where we needed help, Cybal was always there for us and more than happy to watch the boys while we were at our jobs. Once August got home from school, I took the boys to her place and August played outside with Cybal’s daughter, Juliana, Luca was already asleep in the playpen, and Nikolai had just drifted off to sleep in my arms.. I always loved bringing the boys to her place because they loved being here and it was also the one place I could take them where I never worried about them.. Well, I guess I don’t need to worry about them when they’re at Kat and Jimmy’s house, but Cybal has more experience when handling a lot of children at once and she keeps them calm, focused and happy, whereas James likes to play with them and amp them up to no end and Kat loves to spoil them with toys and sweets, which Isaiah and I don’t really prefer.. Plus, she lives a lot closer than they do.. Cybal isn’t their mother, but they still are her flesh and blood and I can tell she holds them at a much higher importance in her life.. She even treats August just the same as she treats Luca and Nikolai and I’m incredibly grateful for that, as well. She’s just overall the best choice for when we need to put our children in other peoples hands.

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I heard soft footsteps coming down the spiral staircase and I turned to see Cybal, smiling at me as she walked towards the kitchen and I smiled back, then slowly made my way over to the playpen and as carefully as I could, I pulled the fragile, sleeping Nikolai from my shoulder and set him down next to his brother. I was relieved when I noticed I had managed to not wake either of them and I stepped quietly out of the living room, going into the kitchen where I had seen Cybal retreat to.

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I noticed Cybal making something to eat and she looked over her shoulder briefly when she heard me come into the kitchen.

“Hola, guapo. The little ones finally asleep?” She wondered and I smirked.

“Yeah, finally.. Thanks for watching them today,” I replied.

“It’s never a bother, I love having them here,” she answered genuinely.

“Where’s Napoleon?” I wondered, asking about her son that was a few years older than Juliana and August.

“He’s over at a friends house, he’ll be home later.. Are you hungry? I was making something for Juliana, August and I, but you’re more than welcome to join us if you have time before your appointment,” she invited, but I had absolutely no appetite thanks to my nerves..

“No, thank you, though.. Not really in the mood to eat..”

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“Oh? Why’s that? Is something bothering you?” She wondered and although I didn’t want to talk about what Isaiah had said earlier, I felt as if I needed to talk about it with someone or else worrying about it without getting a second opinion would only excel my awful ability to overthink things.

“Well, I.. I don’t know, it’s-” I sighed softly, “It’s nothing, I guess..” I chickened out in the end.

Cybal stopped preparing food for her and the kids and looked to me, “It’s obviously something. Are you and Isaiah still not talking?” She wondered, knowing a little about what Isaiah and I are going through, though she didn’t know any details like James did.

“Yeah, we’re still not talking that much, but this morning he said something to me that I don’t know how to interpret and it’s all I can think about..”

“What did he say?”

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“He said that ‘this has gone on long enough’ and that he wanted to talk tonight, and at first I was happy and agreed to it, but.. It was weird the more I thought about it after, because he didn’t smile, but then again he didn’t show any sign of worry, either, he was just.. Serious.. I can’t tell if he wants to make up and go back to how things were before or if-” I trailed off, not even wanting to say the words as my gaze met the floor.

“Sweetie, I’m sure he doesn’t intend to leave you. He’d be muy estúpido if he did something like that,” she replied and I chuckled, “He probably wants to talk about what happened in hopes of fixing things with you. Whoever needs to say sorry needs to say it and then it will all be fine,” she continued with a smile and I smirked, though when she turned back around to continue what she was doing, the smirk fell from my lips.. I had already apologized to him as many times as he would let me and I didn’t think he had anything to be sorry for, so Cybal couldn’t be right..

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“Listen, cariño,” she began again, finishing her preparation and facing me, “Since he wants to talk tonight, let the boys sleep over here. You two need time alone and there’s no need for you have your hands full when you’re trying to do that. Besides, after you two make up, which is I’m sure what Isaiah wants to do, you’re going to really want that alone time, now won’t you?” She hinted with a grin and I felt my cheeks warm up.

“You really think we’ll be okay?” I asked and she nodded strongly.

“Oh yes, Ollie, definitivamente. I’d like if you guys made up, too, because then that means I get to make another rugrat for this beautiful family of yours,” she said with a smile and I smiled in return at the thought of more children with Isaiah.

“I’d really like that, too.. He told me after Nikolai was born that he wanted to keep going until we had a girl,” I replied and Cybal smiled more.

“See? That sounds wonderful! You think he’d give up something like that? You really think he, after a stupid fight, wants to stop after Niko? Isaiah never struck me as a quitter before, I don’t think he’d start today,” she pointed out and I nodded, knowing full well that she wasn’t wrong about that, at least.

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Thanks for everything, Cybal.. I should get to my appointment, so I’ll see you tomorrow,” I replied and she nodded.

“I’ll let the little ones know they’re sleeping over when they wake up from their nap. I’m sure they’ll be excited.”

“All right.. Tell them I love them, too.”

“Of course,” she answered, coming up to me and giving me a hug goodbye, “Good luck tonight,” she added and I smiled as I let her go.

“Thanks.. I’ll let the kids know the food is ready, too,” I answered, stepping out of the kitchen and going out the back door to find August.

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After shutting the sliding door behind me, I saw August talking with Juliana as I made my way over to them.

“Your mom made a late lunch, Juliana, why don’t you go inside and eat?” I asked, wanting to have a second alone with August and she nodded with a smile.

“Okay!” She agreed, leaving August and I alone.

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Once I heard the sliding door shut behind her, I addressed August, “I’m heading out now to go to my appointment.. Papa and I need to talk, too, so you and your brothers are going to sleep over here tonight, okay?” I let him know and his seemingly happy face fell blank.

“Okay..” He replied and I could tell he was worried.

I bent down closer to his height, “Hey, listen.. Everything’s going to be fine, we’re just going to talk, okay? You gotta talk things out in order to fix things, right? Nothing bad is going to happen,” I said with a smile.

“You promise?” He asked with his big, blue, doey eyes and I wished he hadn’t asked that, or looked at me the way he did, not wanting to give him an empty promise, but..

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“..Yeah.. I promise, big guy,” I replied as I kept my soft smile, tousling his hair and I was happy to see a smile return to his lips, too, “We’ll see you tomorrow. I love you and take care of your brothers, okay? Keep Luca under control,” I continued and he nodded softly.

“I will. Love you, too,” he answered.

“All right.. Go inside and eat,” I instructed and he did as I said, watching him walk off towards the back door and he went inside as I then took my leave, too, and went to the car to go my appointment.

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Now, instead of having Isaiah on my mind, I thought of our boys.. I thought of August and the fact that he was nothing like either Jody or I, which I was grateful for.. He was his own unique person. He wasn’t conniving or demanding or possessive, nor was he shy or weak or unreliable, he was a good, strong kid with a good head on his shoulders, and although it was a little difficult to joke around with him and get him to loosen up sometimes, he was still full of compassion and always knew exactly what he wanted and what would make him happy. I smiled to myself as I then thought of Luca, our wild and crazy child that loved doing things he knew was wrong or inappropriate just to get us to chase after him around the house. He was a lot like Isaiah, outgoing, playful and cocky at times, but a little more rambunctious and he also thrived for attention and looked to impress.. Pretty much everything that Isaiah is, just multiplied by ten. And Niko, our sweet, genuine, cuddle bug, Niko.. Probably the most caring and giving person I’ve ever met and he’s only just under two years old. He’s the easiest to get to sleep, the easiest to discipline because he never does anything wrong, and the one that can melt your heart the quickest. If he’s playing with something and he notices you crying or not having a good time, he’ll give you the thing he loves that he’s playing with just to see you happy.. He also adores being held and shown affection and if you treat him well and with plenty of love, he’ll return the same thing tenfold..

I couldn’t even imagine stopping after him and just the thought of being forced to give up the potential of making more children that I couldn’t be prouder of to call my own made me feel dejected.. I just hope by the end of the night and by the time Isaiah and I finish talking, he wants the exact same thing I do.

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I didn’t have that far to drive, only taking me about twenty minutes to get to my appointment and when I pulled into the driveway, I saw my patient’s mother outside tending to her garden. She was a pretty attractive woman, I guess, though far from being my type.. She was a little too forward and she reminded me of a Stepford Wife.. Who the hell gardens in a dress and heels?

“Hey, Mrs. Green,” I announced when I got closer to her and she looked back at me.

“Oh, Oliver! It’s good to see you,” she replied, acting a little too excited to see me.

“How are you?”

I watched her stand and she faced me as I approached her, “I’m doing just lovely, sweetheart. And how many times have I told you to call me Brooke?” She teased and I chuckled.

“More than I can count on two hands, I believe,” I answered and she giggled. She seemed to like to get a little too familiar with me on occasion and I didn’t really enjoy it, so I preferred to address her formally to help remind her that she was married.. She knew full well that I was married to Isaiah, too, but nothing really seemed to stop her from flirting.. It’s as if she somehow knew I wasn’t only into men and she convinced herself that there was a chance between us.

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“How are those beautiful boys of yours doing?” She questioned and although I really loved bragging about how wonderful my children were, I didn’t like discussing them with her.. She always found a way to turn innocent chatting about my boys into obvious come-on’s towards me, and that in itself, made me so much more uncomfortable.

“They’re doing really well, Mrs. Green, thanks for asking..”

“One of these days I’m going to meet them instead of just be shown pictures. They’re just so cute and adorable and I have a pretty good guess as to who they get it from,” she hinted and I gave her a rather uneasy pity-laugh.

“Yeah, well.. They take after my husband, mostly, so I’ll agree with you on that note,” I replied and I could tell she didn’t much prefer that response, so she changed the subject.. Thank the heavens.

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“I missed seeing you around here and spending time with us. During your short leave, we had to find a temporary physical therapist, but no one gets through to Blair like you do, so it was difficult. She’s actually rather upset with you and told me to cancel the appointment, but I pushed her a little to go through with it anyways,” she added, feeling a bit displeased with myself for making Blair feel that way, as well as feeling uncomfortable from Mrs. Green’s words and how she probably wanted me here more than Blair, at the moment.

“Again, I apologize for not being here for her, there were just some personal matters that I had to deal with.. Maybe I can get her back to her normal self and hopefully she’ll understand that I didn’t want to leave her, I just needed to temporarily,” I replied and she smiled.

“Well, isn’t that nice. It’s always reassuring to hear that you want to be here and don’t feel obligated like all the rest of them have,” she complimented, touching my arm briefly and I squirmed a little.

“It’s my job, as well as what I enjoy, so of course I’d come back for her,” I paused briefly before trying to get away from the situation and trying my hardest to make her see I was here for my patient and not the patient’s horny mother that I wanted nothing to do with.

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I’m going to go see if I can get her out of bed,” I continued as I motioned with a hitchhikers hand behind me and Mrs. Green nodded when I began to step backwards slowly towards the house.

“Oh, of course, go, go! Listen to me rambling on and on,” she joked, “It’s good to have you back, Oliver, and if you need anything at all, anything, just holler,” she added and I almost gagged.

“Thanks, Mrs. Green,” I replied, finally able to get out of that situation and I stepped inside of the large house.

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Despite the downside of Mrs. Green, coming to this patient’s house was my favorite. Blair was a quiet and shy person, much like myself, but we got along really well.. The first time I met her, the only things spoken were my instructions during her stretching.. I never pushed her or forced her to have a conversation with me, which I’ve noticed a lot of other physical therapists like to do and I think that’s why she liked me the most, the fact that I wasn’t like the rest of them. The second time I saw Blair for an appointment, Mr. Green stopped me afterward and told me how positive she had been lately, and also how I was the first therapist she’s had that’s come back for a second time, or rather, has been allowed back.. I was happy to say that today was my twelfth appointment with her.

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After removing my shoes, I made my way upstairs to Blair’s room, knocking on the door softly and listening for a moment, but I didn’t hear anything.

“Blair?” I questioned, though silence still lingered, “Hey, it’s Oliver.. Can I come in, please?” I continued, but still nothing. This was the same way she acted when I had first met her.. Quiet, stubborn, trying to ignore me.. I could tell she hated being seen in her bed, I knew she hated the fact that she couldn’t go outside and play so easily as she used to be able to, and I knew she hated needing help, which is why it was sometimes difficult for her to let me into her room.. She had a very capable and strong mind and she hated being pitied.. She’s been without me for a little over a month when I normally see her twice a week, so I forced her to be with other therapists that I knew she hated and she had to deal with others that didn’t understand her like I did.. It probably felt like she was starting all over again with trying to find a good therapist and just when she was getting really used to me, I leave her.. I completely understood why she would be upset with me, and upset in general.

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I knocked again, “Come on, Blair..”

“..Fine, you can come in..” She eventually replied and I smirked, opening her door slowly and seeing her sitting on her bed, deliberately not looking in my direction and I shut the door behind myself. At first, I didn’t acknowledge her, knowing she wouldn’t want to talk to me, anyways, so I went over to her dresser and opened the bottom drawer, removing the rolled up mat I had given her on our first appointment and I opened the sliding door to go outside, letting the gentle breeze into her room and I unrolled the mat in an open area for her to sit on.

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I then came back inside and I stood there in the silence of her room, looking at her and waiting for her to look at me, but I knew she wouldn’t.. I stepped up to her bed, putting out my hand for her to take and I watched as her eyes looked at it for a long moment, knowing she was hesitating because she was upset with me, but when I motioned with my fingers with more implication that I wanted her hand, she sighed softly and finally put hers into mine.

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I helped her sit up, Blair then facing me and I then took both of her hands, waiting for her to stand from the bed at her own pace. Her eyes held worry as she looked up to me, but once I gave her an encouraging smile, her view went back down to her legs and slowly, she scooted off of the bed and her feet met the ground. I held her hands tightly, feeling her using me as a support so she didn’t lose her balance and I stepped backward towards the open sliding door that led out onto the deck as she slowly followed, going one hundred percent at her pace as I helped her walk outside. Blair had been hit by a car while riding her bicycle and it shattered one of her knees while the other was only slightly fractured, and although getting her to walk again, let alone back onto a bike, would take a lot of time, she had a strong will and she was moving at a much quicker recovery pace than any other patient I’ve worked with that had bad knees.

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When we got to the mat I had rolled out for her, I knew bending down was still a little much, so I picked her up within my arms and bent myself down to help her sit on the mat comfortably and to not strain her knees too much. I then sat down next to her, looking at her with the same smile on my lips and she still tried to act as if I wasn’t here.

“..Going to ignore me the whole time that I’m here?” I asked and she still didn’t talk to me, but I figured it would be like this for a little while.

“Have it your way..” I continued, deciding to let her be for now, “Why don’t you start by stretching first for a few minutes before we start your exercises,” I suggested, watching as Blair then still didn’t answer me, but at least I knew she was listening to me when I saw her beginning to do her stretches.

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As Blair stretched, I wondered what I could say to her that would get her to talk to me again and I didn’t like the fact that today, I had to deal with Blair who was angry with me, and then later, I’d have to deal with Isaiah.. I didn’t like being surrounded by people that were upset with me and I hated that all that I’ve been saying lately, it seemed, is “I’m sorry”. I really need to work on not fucking up all the time.

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“Let’s do your leg raises now,” I proposed first when I thought she had stretched long enough, watching her lie back and prop herself up on her elbows and I held out my hand above her foot to give her a lift requirement. 

“Do ten lifts up to here,” I began and she started lifting her leg until her toes touched the palm of my hand, but she was still quiet.. 

I sighed softly, “Blair, look.. I’m sorry I wasn’t here.. I know it took a long time for you to find someone you’re comfortable with and I’m sorry for forcing you to get used to other people I’m sure you didn’t like, but.. I had something I had to deal with at home and I just couldn’t do my job. It’s nothing against you, I didn’t see any of my patients, I just needed that time off to fix something I broke, okay?” I tried to console her and she finally looked at me without a scowl on her face that only aimed to make me feel guilty.

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“..What happened?” She asked and I chuckled.

“You wouldn’t understand if I told you. Let’s just say I made some poor choices and my husband didn’t like them,” I replied.

“What did you do?” She asked next and I sighed with a smile on my lips.

“Let’s get back to your exercising, shall we?” I suggested.

“I guess it’s okay,” she brought up as she continued to do her leg lifts.

“What is?”

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“It’s okay that you weren’t here, I understand.. It was just lame because all my mom did was complain and tell me how difficult I was being. She said you’d be back soon and everything, but she doesn’t understand how all of the rest of them make me feel. They push me too hard and they’re always yelling in my face with these stupid dumb smiles like smiling makes it easier and they make me feel like I’m not doing good enough, even if I try my hardest,” she expressed and I felt even more guilty.

“I’m sorry, Blair.. Now keep your leg elevated like this for ten seconds,” I instructed and her face was uncomfortable as the seconds passed, but if she was in pain, she would’ve told me.

When the ten seconds was up, she let her leg drop, “Good job, now the other one,” I advised and she repeated what we had just done with her other leg, “And I know how you feel, Blair, but I don’t plan on taking another leave of absence anytime soon, so you don’t have to worry about putting up with anymore lame-o’s for a long time,” I joked and she giggled softly.

“Good..”

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I had Blair do a few more exercises, including hamstring curls, calf raises, and even hip abductions, for about thirty more minutes before moving on to something else, something that I knew she would both love and hate. Blair wasn’t a fan of walking by herself yet, even though she’s already done it a couple times with me, but with the right persuasive enticements, I knew she could do this. 

“All right, Blair, ready to walk by yourself?” I asked as I stood up, looking down at her and noticing her worried brows.

“Already?”

“Yup, you’re all warmed up now. I know you can and I know you can get further today than you have been.. Come on,” I invited, holding out my hand for her to take and she uneasily placed her hand within mine.

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I pulled her up to her feet and while being her support again, I walked her over to where the decks ledge was, as well as a balancing bar and she placed her hands on those instead of my hands when we reached it. I stepped back slowly, letting her get her balance while remaining on high alert for her just in case her knees were to give out, but I’d be there quick enough to catch her. 

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“How far do I have to walk today?” She asked and I thought for a moment.

“How about all the way ’til the end?” I suggested and she looked at me as if I were crazy.

“What!? That’s so far!” Blair complained.

“You’ve gotten more than half way the last two times we did this and you have both railings to help you, as well as myself, if you need it.. I think you can go the whole way, though, and you know I won’t let you fall,” I encouraged and although she still didn’t seem too thrilled, I had a feeling I knew what I could do to get her to do it.

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“I’ll tell you what.. If you make it all the way to the end without my help, I’ll put in a good word with August for you.. It’ll be your reward for doing good, as well as an apology from me for not being here for you,” I offered and she fell silent as she looked at me with a grin on my lips. I talk to her about my kids a lot and she enjoys hearing stories about them, but she liked hearing about August the most. They were in the same grade, went to the same school, they even had a few classes together. By about our third appointment, she found out I was August’s Dad and ever since then, I could tell she had a crush on my son, though I wasn’t even sure if she knew what a crush was at her young age..

“What makes you think I care? Boys are gross,” she replied and I chuckled.

“All right, fine, if you don’t want me to, then-“

“N-No! Wait! ..I do..” She admitted, seeing a slight blush to her cheeks as she looked away from me in embarrassment and I kept my smile.

“Well, all right then. Start whenever you’re ready, Blair. I’m right here, too, so don’t worry,” I encouraged and I watched her nod with slight concern in her eyes, though the more I watched her, I could tell she was talking herself up in her head and her expression began to turn rather determined.

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It took a moment for her to gather her confidence and her will to do this on her own, as well as needing to make it all the way to the end and I knew she was worried that she wouldn’t make it without my help, but her and I both knew she could do it. I simply kept silent as she began walking, watching the expression on her face intently and the moment she would make a face as if she were in pain, I’d be there to catch her.. But, until I saw her do that, I’d stand here waiting and continuing to let her do this by herself.

“Good job, Blair.. You’re half way.. Don’t rush yourself, take your time,” I advised and she nodde