The Wells Legacy

Without you, today's emotions would be the scurf of yesterday's ~Hipolito


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Gen.10-Alma. Chapter Twenty-Four

Our fun weekend with Gia eventually had to come to an end, but rather than it being bittersweet it was simply sweet. We knew we’d be back together before we would know it. Summer break would arrive soon and we would have plenty of time to hang out together. Luckily, Gia seemed a lot more relaxed heading back to her campus. We all needed some quality time and it certainly helped all around.

Next on my agenda was heading back home for the weekend. I talked to Mom almost every day. Whether it was for an hour or sending a quick text—we always communicated. With my workload being a bit lighter than usual, I figured it would be nice to head back home for a bit. I could pick up my favorite snacks, and of course, do my laundry. I was hoping that Dani would also come along, but she already made plans with Otto (of course).

As it turned out, our late night visitor wasn’t some random solicitor, but Otto. He couldn’t wait another moment of Dani thinking he wasn’t interested in her and finally decided to make it official. Dani and Otto were finally dating.

I honestly should’ve put my money on that relationship.

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“Are you sure you’re not coming this weekend?” I asked while stuffing my laundry into my backpack. Dani, of course, was already getting ready to head out. “I’m bound to see your family at some point.”

“I told Mom that I have a project to finish up, so I’ll probably head back home next week.” She turned around and allowed for her hair to fall at her shoulders. “Kinda bummed you can’t make it this weekend. And you,” she said pointing to Sabin who was laying on my bed. “I’m surprised you’re not going with Alma. Her Mom adores you.”

Sabin sighed and hugged one of my pillows close against his chest. “Yeah, I wish I was, too. I’m really behind on my business class due to my absences, so I’m getting a chance to catch up.”

Dani shrugged and walked past me to pick up her bag. “Well, Otto and I will be at the schools film festival. Sabin, you’re always welcome to join.”

“Thanks, Dani.”

She held up her hand to her lips and jokingly talked aside to me. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure he’s staying loyal.”

“Oh shut it,” Sabin exclaimed before rolling off the bed to make his way to me. “I am always yours, Alma. Hope you know that. Don’t let Dani fill your head with lies!” He smirked before kissing the top of my head.

“Of course I believe you. Dani loves to mess with me, but that’s also why I love her.”

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As I looked around the room, I did a count of what else had to be done. Aside from gathering my laundry, all that was left was for Sabin and I to make it to the train station so I could catch the Amtrak. I admit that I was sad that Sabin wouldn’t be there with me, but at least texting him would still be an option. I knew he’d help me get through the long train ride back home.

“You got everything?” He asked quietly before leaning over to rest his head on mine.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“It’ll be a great time,” he assured me. “It’s your family. You love them.”

“And I love you,” I smirked. “I hope you get some time to rest, too. I know how you get when you’re playing catch-up. Please eat and get enough sleep.”

Grinning, Sabin leaned down and planted his lips on mine. “You always take great care of me, but have a fun weekend. You deserve that, too. Can you do me a favor?”

“Sure?”

“Can you seriously stop by Dani’s family’s diner? Their pastries are like crack. Been craving them.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at that before getting out of the car. “You got it, buddy.”

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“Literally love you even more for this,” he announced before sending me off with one more kiss.

My train ride was long, as expected. Our tickets were stamped and I had to do was keep my mind occupied for the next few hours. While there was no special event going on at home, I figured it would be a nice time to stop by. I missed being at home without the chaos of party planning. Mom would always be in such a frenzy, so I was hoping to have a nice relaxing weekend with my family.

Finally, I was home.

“Hello?” I called into the house. “Anyone home?”

Silence.

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I walked inside and noticed that the house that I was used to definitely went through plenty of changes. And I thought that only humans went through a mid-life crisis. Needless to say, my childhood home went through more remodelling that I ever expected. I mean, the living room? There was another room right next to the kitchen. Was I really gone that long?

Before I could even think about venturing upstairs, I heard the hushed muttering from the kitchen.

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“I didn’t expect anything else, you know?’

“Oh, stop it.”

In the kitchen, Mom and Aunt Arecia were chatting softly. I was still able to make something out, but it wasn’t enough to join in on the conversation. Rather than commenting on the new decor in the kitchen, I was more excited about the fact that Aunt Arecia was there. Between her being super mom and overall awesome human being, it wasn’t often that I saw her while I was at school.

“Um, hello?” I smirked. “Sorry to be intruding, but just wanted to say hello!”

“Alma?” Mom’s smile was spread thinly.

Aunt Arecia shot out of her seat quickly and rushed to me. “Oh my! What a surprise!”

“I’m so glad I stopped by today! Wow! I missed you!” I exclaimed and threw my arms around her.

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We soon traded compliments that were sweet enough to give a child a cavity. But I couldn’t help it! Aunt Arecia was one of my heroes next to my mom. No surprise there–they were the best sibling duo.

“This is such a wonderful surprise,” she said again. “But I’m sure that you’d like to say hello to your mother. I’ll be in the living room, okay?”

“Sure!”

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When my aunt made her way to the living room, I figured I’d snag a few moments with Mom. After all, I made the trip to have some bonding time with her. She seemed surprised to see me despite me sending her multiple text messages accompanied by a flurry of gifs. I suppose her sisters visit kept her from checking her phone for the majority of the morning. Bright side was that I made it while they were actually at home and not out somewhere.

“So, I see you guys also remodeled the kitchen and every other inch of the house?” I pointed out. “Must admit I was worried I was breaking and entering–without the breaking.”

Mom’s exhale was long, but she confirmed. “I suppose we made some changes. The house needed some freshness. I’m sorry for the surprise..”

“Hmm?”

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“I-uh–I didn’t see your text that you were coming over this weekend. I must have not gotten the notification.”

I had to admit I was a bit amused that Mom was so down about not getting my messages. She was a kind soul. That much was true.

“Hey, it’s okay! It happens. I just wanted to see you and I had some free time this weekend. Sadly, Sabin couldn’t come, but he sends his best wishes.”

Mom nodded and turned away to grab the tea kettle. “It’s okay, love. I’ll just get some drinks ready for us. Why don’t you go catch up with your aunt before she has to head out to pick up your uncle..”

I couldn’t say no to that.

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“School is going well, I take it?” Arecia asked when I plopped down on the couch.

Her eyes looked more sunken than usual, but their spark was still there. Ah, the glow of our ancestors was definitely still there.

“Of course. It’s been tough, but I think it’ll be a good end to the semester. Just a bit nervous about what comes after graduation. This whole adulting shindig is not exactly that easy.”

Arecia bowed her head and nodded. “It absolutely isn’t.”

“But what about you?” I asked excitedly. I had been away for months and it felt like I had missed years. I wanted to know everything, every detail.

Before she answered, she spent a good moment studying my expression. Her sincere smile tightened before it began to fade.

“What’s going on?”

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“Your mom didn’t tell you, did she?” Arecia sighed. “Guess this makes your visit that much more of a surprise to everyone. I thought…”

“Thought what? Tell me what?” I didn’t like waiting for news. My anxiety wasn’t something I often doubted.

I could hear Mom stirring her creamer in her coffee from the kitchen. The silence in the living room was so strained that I was beginning to feel restless. I reached out to touch my aunt’s shoulder. Were things not okay between her and her husband? Were her kids okay? I couldn’t think of anything else–it was driving me crazy.

“Mom? What’s going o–”

“My cancer is back.”

The lump in my throat dropped to the pit in my stomach. As she began to explain, her voice began to fade. Her lips kept moving, but my mind was replaying each moment we experienced as a family when my aunt went through her first rounds of chemo. Support poured from every member of our family and while it was difficult on her, she pulled through. She went into remission. The light in her eyes returned.

I looked at her again and fought the quiver in my lips. The light was indeed still left in her sunlit eyes. She had strength that even my mom didn’t have. Mom even knew that–she admitted it on many occasions.

“Alma?” Aunt Arecia started. “I’m sorry,” she smiled, “it’s not exactly light news that you want to hear when visiting home during a stressful time in your life.”

“That’s nonsense,” I sniffled. “Tell me, when do you start chemo? I’ll be there. Every appointment. You won’t be alone.”

She shook her head. “Honey…”

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Mom was already in the living room, but wasn’t saying anything. Not a word. Why was I just hearing about this? I wasn’t some distant relative who just popped in for the holidays. I was the damn heiress of this stupid family and one of the most special people in my life was hurting–again!

Aunt Arecia was looking at Mom before she got up from the couch. “I will not be going to treatment anymore, love.”

“W-what?” I stuttered.

She was smiling, but how could she?

“It has spread quickly and it is much too advanced for me to even consider treatment. Plus, I felt more dead than alive when I was in chemo. You saw me, Alma. You all saw me. I’m trying more medicinal routes now, but I’ve fought my fight. I’ve–”

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“N-No!” I cried out before flinging myself onto her.

“I’m not fooling anyone, especially myself. I’m enjoying each day that I have with the people that I love. Please don’t cry…” She begged.

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It was hard not to cry. How was it that she was keeping her cool and I was crumbling before her. She was insanely strong and I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

Fighting the urge to cling to her, I stepped back and wiped my eyes roughly till I felt my skin grow hot from the pressure. “How are you feeling?” I finally asked. “I mean, are you hurting?”

She shook her head slowly. “I have my good days and my bad days. I take it one day at a time.”

“But,” I whimpered. “I don’t want to miss anything anymore…”

“Of course, love,” Aunt Arecia nodded and kissed the top of my head when she embraced me. “Don’t you worry. I’m not giving up. I have to see you graduate and open up that flower show, right?”

I sniffled. “Y-yes.”

As I stood, still petrified from the news, I watched Aunt Arecia make her way past me to saw goodbye to Mom. They whispered something and before I knew it, Aunt Arecia was out the door.

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After she left to go pick up her husband, I didn’t say a word to Mom. I grabbed my bag from the hall and retreated upstairs to where I hoped my room would still be. Luckily, it was. Sure, there were some changes that were made to it, but the bits that really made it my room were still there. I needed some familiarity to think about what happened earlier that afternoon.

It was a nightmare.

It couldn’t be right.

All my worries that I had about growing up and moving out…

How could I say all that?

My loving aunt wasn’t even thinking of that anymore. She wasn’t getting treatment anymore. I couldn’t comprehend the reason when I knew so many people loved her. Her kids, her husband. Us.

It was insanely painful to think about losing a loved one. Grandpa passed away and it was painful enough being at his funeral. But Arecia? No! I couldn’t even think of that. She was a fighter; she was strong; she wouldn’t give up.

I swiped the thought from my mind and swayed in my seat until I heard my bedroom door creak open.

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I didn’t have to turn around or even ask to know it was Mom standing behind me. The aura was tense and guilt-ridden.

“Can we talk?” she whispered. Her voice was hoarse as if she spent the last hour crying.

Honestly, I didn’t want to, but I wasn’t about to kick her out of a room in her own house. Technically, I was just a visitor now, so I got off the swing and dragged my feet to my bed. At least the soft covers would comfort me.

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“I made sure we kept your room as close to the original as possible,” she said. She never was too good at breaking the ice. This was no excuse and I wasn’t going to let her just brush it aside.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Mom?”

What small talk she wanted to make was not going to happen.

“I tried,” she admitted. “I drafted message after message and tried to bring it up during phone calls, but Alma-” she whimpered. “How could I when I can barely bring myself to admit this is happening? She’s my sister. My only sister. My best friend.” I heard her voice crack before she collapsed at my bed. “I spent all this time trying to convince her to go to treatment.”

I quickly sat up and reached out to touch her hand. “Why won’t she?”

“She was miserable in chemo…”

“But she beat the cancer,” I pleaded.

Mom nodded. “Believe me, I tried. Your dad tried. Your uncle tried. We all did, baby. We all did.”

Hearing that still didn’t make me feel better, but I heard the pain in her voice. I did feel bad for assuming she was keeping the news from me, but it was impulse. It hurt and I knew I needed to take it out on someone. She had a point. Aunt Arecia was truly a strong woman and a weak person could never make the decision to just live out the rest of their remaining days.

“I’m sorry, Mom…”

She nodded and wiped the stray tears from her cheeks. “I am, too. It’s not how I wanted your visit to go, believe me. We’ll figure this out, but we have to respect her decision…”

“What?”

Mom nodded. “As much as it pains me.”

“What about Grandma Atoli and Grandpa Crescendo?”

Mom shook her head. “They’re not taking it well, which is to be expected. What parent wants to outlive their child? Anyway,” she sniffled and got off the bed. “I just wanted you to know I didn’t want to hide this. It’s just something I haven’t come to terms with yet. I love her and she has been my rock since forever. I can’t think of a world without her.” Mom kissed the top of my head and exhaled slowly. “I’m going to speak with your father. Just please try to get some rest…”

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I couldn’t.

When Mom left, I wandered around my room until the emptiness finally began to annoy me. My old books, my plants–everything began to make me cringe and despise the space I was in. I walked out of my room and down the hall where I could hear the faint sounds of laugher.

I knocked on the door and entered.

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“Hey Kaden,” I started. “Can I join you?”

He looked past his shaggy hair and nodded, patting the empty space on the couch.

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The moment I sat down I felt some relief even when it involved watching ridiculous stunt videos with my brother.

“So, you heard.”

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Gen.10-Alma. Chapter Twenty Three

Screenshot-425.jpgMy race around campus was leaving me out of breath, but it finally brought me to our dorm. The first floor was relatively vacant with the exceptions of a few students walking around in search of an afternoon snack.

“So you call me over and then nothing?” I mumbled before I felt my body nearly topple over at the force of someone jumping on me.

“Surprise!!”

I never spun around so quickly as I did then. Luckily, it wasn’t some assailant trying to end me, but rather my best friend who was chilling/studying on the other side of the country—Gia!

“Oh my god!” I shrieked and immediately wrapped my arms around her. “Are you seriously here?”

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The moment I hugged her, I only hoped she didn’t catch a whiff of sweat. Mine of Sabin’s. God, I needed a shower.

“Yes, girl! It’s really me! In the flesh!” Gia posed before looking me up and down. “You look a bit all over the place, no offense. What’s going on?”

“Are you the reason that Dani was blowing up my phone?” I grinned, finally putting two and two together.

“Oh shit. She did that, huh?”

“Gia, I ran.”

“Fuck. Yeah, let’s get you all settled. Dani knows how to make someone panic, huh?”

I rolled my eyes as we walked up the stairs. “You have idea.”

There was no doubt that Dani was already in our room. Clearly she was getting a kick out of it, but it definitely didn’t compare to what she was going to hit me with. As expected, Dani was hanging out on the couch with a wild grin plastered on her face.

“You made me panic, jerk!” I said, tossing my backpack at her.

“Well, you left me no choice, honestly. “

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While I expected Dani to analyze my appearance and my lack of response, she played it cool while we caught up with Gia. We talked about school and how time was flying quicker than either of us anticipated. I mean, before we knew it, we were on the brink of graduating. Last we knew, we were shopping for school supplies and now we were all hanging out just like old times. I loved them. I truly loved them. But of course the catching up would always ended and we ended back in the present moment.

“Okay, so are we going to talk about Alma’s sex hair?” Gia smirked.

I rolled my eyes and shrugged. “Yeah, okay. Sabin and I had sex.”

Dani’s face lit up as she flung herself at me. “I have been waiting for you to say that! Girl! YES! Alma Fucking Wells got some!”

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“Oh hush!”

“Can’t. Can’t. Was it good? No regrets? How’s that body though?”

Gia sat down and motioned for me to continue.

Was I like that when I found out Dani slept with her boyfriend (at the time)? Ah, the natural bestie curiosity, but I understood. So, naturally, I told them how it went down from point A to point B. The memory was still so fresh in my mind. The way his body moved, the way that I felt when he touched me, and god—the way his lips curled when he heard me moan. I loved every bit of it and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The entire time Dani snickered and Gia responded by nudging her to the side so I could keep talking.

“It was honestly great. Um, my cooch is definitely a bit well…”

“Sore?” Dani sighed.

“Amen, girl.” Gia agreed. “What stinks is that you feel similar discomfort when you don’t sleep with someone in a while either.”

I didn’t even want to think about that. Frankly, I was done talking about myself and ready to move on to the guest of honor.

“Gia, so what’s going on with you? I think I missed your message about you coming for a visit. Greatest surprise might I add, but is something going on?”

Gia shrugged and leaned back on the couch. “I needed my girls. I think it’s time for a girls night. I am ready to dance-“

“TAKE SHOTS!”

I rolled my eyes at Dani.

“Yes, Dani is right. You don’t have any plans with Sabin, do you?”

I shook my head. “Not that I’m aware of.” Which was true. “I think he’s just wondering what’s going on since I ran out of his room with my pants barely buttoned up right after we had sex. Think that sent a good message?”

Dani smirked and spun her phone around like a sheriff in a cheesy western. “All in a day’s work.”

If I rolled my eyes any harder, they would have landed in the back of my head. “But no, I don’t think we have any plans. I’m all yours.”

So, it was decided that we would go out, and it would be the full package. We would get all dolled up and hit the local bars where Dani and Gia were bound to let loose. I wasn’t much of a dancer like they were, but after a few drinks, I always loosed up. Then, and only then was I a good dancer.

I waited till almost the last second to get dressed. I watched Gia and Dani pick out their clothes instead, and well, checked my phone.

Just checking you’re OK

            -Sabin

I quickly responded to him, letting him know what happened and what we had planned. I had to offer some explanation since it looked like it was something much more serious when I ran out. Had to give him some piece of mind that everything was fine. Once I was able to get that across, I quickly rushed to my dresser to pull out what I deemed as appropriate “clubbing” clothes before running to take a quick shower.

I showered as quickly as I possibly could, but Gia still came in to keep me company.

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“I’ll do your hair, okay?”

“So, how are things at school?” I asked while Gia brushed my hair.

“Ah, you know,” she sighed. “It’s a lot of hard work, but I love it. I’m excited to be finished because frankly, I couldn’t imagine living out there all alone. My family is all here and so are you guys. What about you? Do you have plans to spread your wings and float on away?” she smirked with one arm around my shoulder.

I honestly didn’t know. I hadn’t thought out my future quite that far ahead. All that I was focused on was keeping my plants alive, Sabin in touch with me, and my grades up.

So, I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

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Gia soon applied the final touches to my hair before coming around to look at me. “So, this Sabin guy—he’s the real deal, huh?”

Flushed, I asked her what she meant.

“You love him?”

“Yeah, I really do.”

Once those words left my lips, Gia stepped away from me and grinned. “You know, I’m really happy for you. You’ve really changed quite a lot since high school.”

“Really?” I tilted my head to the side and looked in the mirror. “Maybe my hair?”

She smirked and nudged me. “You know what I mean. “

Maybe I did.

“You’ve opened up. Of course your passions are still very much part of who you are, but you’re just glowing now. The couple of boyfriends you’ve had since middle school, none of them even match the look you have now.”

I couldn’t help but smile at that observation. She had a point. Sabin was definitely the first man I loved and one I actually considered as a special part of my life. Heck, he’s the only guy I introduced to my family. That had to mean something, right?

Trying to steer the attention to Gia, I leaned against the counter and clicked my tongue. “So, come on, is there someone special in your life? You’ve made your observations about me already.”

Gia adjusted her top, making sure her “girls” weren’t popping out, before responding.

“I don’t really know how to answer that question, so for now I’ll say maybe.”

When there was talk of feelings, Dani was never far behind. She walked into the bathroom and exhaled. “I think someone needs to spill the beans!”

Gia wagged her finger in Dani’s face and stuck her tongue out. “Not until I’m three shots deep!”

“Three?” I asked.

“I’d be talking silly after five, so this is a nice balance.”

“Well, shit! Let’s go!” Dani proclaimed before rushing out the door.

Our campus wasn’t so much about the clubbing scene, which I was secretly thankful for, but we did have some cool bars. The DJ’s weren’t too shabby, which mean hangouts like this were quite fun. We dressed up for the occasion and we were definitely ready to get the evening going. As promised, three shots in, and Gia was already letting loose. Dani was close behind while scoring us free drinks with her shameless flirting. If only our parents could see us now. Knowing Mom, she’d just join in. I guess I didn’t have the guts to do something like that.

“So, you promised,” Dani said while sipping on a vodka cranberry. “Who is on Gia’s radar?”

She rolled her eyes and shrugged. “Some guy from my history class, but eh…”

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t want to live there forever. Once I graduate, I’m coming back.”

“Doesn’t hurt to take him for a spin, Gia,” Dani commented after throwing back the last drop of her drink. “Test the waters with some good ‘ol casual dating.”

“That’s on my agenda, but we’ll see how that goes.”

“Who knows,” I uttered, “maybe he’ll like you so much, he’ll follow you back to St. Claire!”

“Oh stop!” She grinned. “And drink some more!”

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With everything that happened, it sent my mind into a frenzy—goint out with Dani and Gia was perfect. My mind was still reeling from that afternoon with Sabin, but this allowed me to just really enjoy the moment. Maybe it was all the endorphins making me feel so damn good, or the alcohol, or the music, or maybe a combination of all of those, but I spread my arms out and spun with my friends.

Gia made a good point. We were almost finished with school and we would soon have to think about what our next steps were. Was my step going to include going back home, or moving somewhere else? Was Sabin going to stay with me? I was feeling more confident about Sabin than anything else, which meant that once all the dancing was done I would have to devote some time to thinking about the future.

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But for the moment, we had the music, the drinks, and the company I could never tire of.

Like all evenings that involved alcohol and a ridiculous amount of dancing, we all ended up back at our dorm to snack on all the things that comforted us.

Cheetos, pizza–just about anything greasy that we could pick-up or heat up in the microwave.

We had finally arrived at the moment in the evening/early morning where it was Dani’s turn to get grilled.

“What about you, Dani?” Gia asked.

“What about me?” she responded after stuffing a Cheeto puff in her mouth.

“What’s going on in your life? Alma tells me you’re dating again?”

We listened as Dani skipped around from story to story that involved Otto. Already we could tell that she was speaking about him with sincere emotion. We didn’t hear that with the other guy. That’s for sure. It made sense, really. Otto was genuinely kind and Dani deserved to be treated with respect. It was amazing to see her beaming with joy. I could even see Gia smiling from the corner of my eye. How could you not feel great when you saw your best friend happy?

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“You look awfully smitten, Dani. It’s kind of gross,” I laughed, rubbing my forehead.

“Well, you can’t be having all the fun now, eh?” She sighed happily. “I really like him, but of course we’re not really dating, so it’s not like I can just sit around and hope it’ll be something, right?”

Gia shifted her position to her knees before tapping Dani’s leg. “You can ask him. Last thing you’d want is to be completely invested and the guy just keeps you around as a bedroom pet, ya know?”

Dani nodded, but before she even had a chance to think of her response over, we were interrupted by the sound of someone knocking on our door. It was nearly 2 AM. I knew that Sabin wasn’t going to be stopping by.

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Dani, being closest to the door, got up and went to go see who was causing a commotion so late in the evening. We were pretty quiet, so it couldn’t have been a complaint! Regardless, Dani kept us in the dark even after she opened the door. She disappeared almost immediately and shut the door behind her. So much for being kept in the loop.

“You think it’s someone looking for booze?” Gia asked. “I think we’re out now…”

“Luckily, I don’t think people go door to door looking for booze. At least as far as I know,” I laughed. “But listen,” I motioned to the door again. “Dani isn’t yelling at anyone, so I think we’re fine.”

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Gia nodded and climbed onto the desk chair Dani was sitting on before. “Who knows maybe it’s someone just wandering. You know how people get on the weekend. Or even better,” she sighed while leaning forward to rest her head on my shoulder. “Maybe it’s that pizza I thought about ordering…”

No one really knew at that moment, but it couldn’t have been bad if Dani didn’t slam the door. Who knew, maybe it was a message for her?

Danika Lace, one of my dearest friends, deserved nothing but the very best. Somewhere, I felt that things would really start turning around for her.

Until then, we would simply have to wait until she walked back inside.


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Gen.10-Alma. Chapter Twenty Two

Weeks after our movie night, Dani appeared to get better. She sulked less and started dressing like herself again. By that I meant, with more effort than I ever put into my outfits during the week. I wasn’t going to take credit for anything, but I noticed that Dani’s change in attitude only became more apparent the more time she spent with Otto.

Yeah, I was going to take credit for that. She’d deny it, but when I looked up at her from the floor where I was sorting through my papers, I had every bit of proof I needed.

“So, Otto and I are heading to the arcade and to grab some beers. You in? Sabin’s welcome, of course.”

I cocked my head to the side and smirked. “You’re going out to the arcade?”

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“Yeah,” she scoffed.

“With Otto.”

“Yeaaaaah,” she grinned. “Now, don’t say anything. I’m just going to let this play out. I mean, he even invited me to come visit his family with him.”

“Oh wow, that’s really good though. You like him, huh?”

Dani rolled her eyes, “Are you coming or not?”

I took a moment to think about it, but I just kept thinking about how Otto was already thinking about introducing Dani to his family and they weren’t even officially dating, as far as I knew. On my end, Sabin did meet my family, but it wasn’t often he talked to me about his family. Guess that stumped me for a second before I looked back up at Dani.

“Ah, I think we’ll pass this time. We planned on staying in and getting some studying done. I have an exam next week and he offered to help. Maybe next time? I’m pretty good at skeeball,” I smirked.

Dani didn’t seem convinced. “A night in, as in, you two are getting busy?”

“You make that joke every time,” I stated.

“And it never gets old.” Dani smirked and grabbed her coat. “Well, be safe with your studying!”

Before I even got a chance for a comeback, Dani was out the door.

It sounded funny to her and I’m sure to anyone who heard any of our conversations while passing by, but I guess I felt a little off. Now, I wasn’t holding back from having sex because I was terrified. I wanted to, believe me. Sabin was older than me, some would say significantly older, and I really loved him, more than anyone before. In fact, he was the first person I even considered sleeping with. In my head, I pictured the perfect moment where I would look attractive and be super smooth with my words. I didn’t want that dirty stuff, but the right set of words that would just make the moment perfect. Being that Sabin was older, I knew that he definitely had more experience than I did, so I didn’t want to come off as this inexperienced child. I hated that feeling but what if he would be super into it and I would just lay there like a pancake? I couldn’t handle that. Ugh. The thought made me tense, but I tried to shrug it off. Maybe it would just be easier to go ahead and study.

Later at Sabin’s place we spent a good hour going over our studies before we landed on the couch with the TV on. As usual, we had on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. The ridiculous antics of the group never failed to make us laugh. It was the perfect show to have on in the background.

“God damn rum ham…gets me every time,” Sabin chuckled.

I’ve seen that episode so many times and I still found it hilarious, but instead of watching Danny Devito on the screen, I stared at Sabin. I couldn’t stop thinking about him and well, who he was. As much as I already knew, I wanted to know more.

“You know, I can feel you staring at me, right? Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose?”

Half-snorting, I shook my head. “No, just thinking.”

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Now apparently interested, Sabin paused the show and turned to face me. “Want to talk about it?”

I actually did.

“I already feel like I know a lot about you, but come to think of it I haven’t heard anything about your family. What are they like?” I smirked. “You basically know my family and they already love you…”

With a long sigh, he scratched his head. “Wow, where to begin. I have three sisters, all who are younger. So, I guess I’ve always been very protective of them, but they’re the same way with me, considering, well, you know…”

His PTSD.

“What are they like?”

I watched Sabin’s cool exterior soften the moment I asked him. “Leela is the oldest girl, but still 3 years younger than me. She’s definitely spirited. She’s the only kid in my family that settled down and got married. So far, at least.”

He soon shifted his position on the couch and sighed happily. “Then there’s Moli. She’s the middle sister who definitely has more of a rebellious side. Acting out and all that. She’s studying film in New York. She has spirit and it definitely helped having her around when I returned home after my deployment. She’s that spunky kid that keeps you distracted from the monsters in your head.”

“So far, I feel like I’d love all of them,” I uttered.

“That makes me really happy to hear, but wait till the third little lady.” He clicked his tongue and chuckled. “That’s Poppy. She’s the youngest and well, that about says it all. She’s quiet and kind, and I feel like I’m writing their dating profiles. Jesus.”

Amused, I leaned into him and kissed his cheek. “Well, they sound amazing. I’d love to meet them some day.”

“And I’d love that, too. Sorry, I didn’t bring it up. I’ve been trying to keep tabs on all this crap going on. Therapy, class, and wanting to seem normal enough for you.”

“Oh stop.”

“It’s true, though. My family means everything to me. Introducing you in person would be a big step considering the last time I had a serious relationship it ended up poorly. I mean, a real shitstorm.”

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“What do you mean, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“I don’t mind at all. It’s just, the second time I was deployed, I was engaged to a girl I knew since I was a little shit, you know? We were inseparable until the incident overseas and well, when I was diagnosed with PTSD. She couldn’t handle the episodes, the screaming, and the anxiety. She left me for a guy she was seeing while I was away…”

All this was new to me and it came crashing down like a cyclone.

It felt like a kick to the face, but it was nothing in comparison to what Sabin must have felt. All I knew was that I wouldn’t, no, I couldn’t even think of doing something like that to him.

“Sabin—I…”

He chuckled and wrapped his arm around my shoulder to bring me in closer against him. “So, as distant as I am sometimes, I want you to know I love you. I really enjoy the time we spend together like this. You’re beautiful and you make happier than I’ve been in years. The things you do to me,too,” he smirked when my face turned two shades of a deeper red. “Do you know that it’s hard not to kiss you when you make that face? Can’t keep my hands off you…”

“T-then don’t.”

I didn’t know what it was, Maybe it was the strength of his grip around me, or how intoxicating his breath was, but my heart was pounding incredibly strong in my chest to the point it could be heard how staggered my breathing was.

“Wow…are you okay?”

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My next moves  weren’t too thought out. It didn’t look like something out of a romance novel. Not even close. I quickly wrapped my arms around him and kissed him with such passion that I could feel him flinch against me. He could have pushed me away, but his body reacted in response to mine with just as much emotion that ended up with his hand pushing against the small of my back to get me as close as I possible get.

“What’s going on here?” Sabin whispered against my lips before gently nipping at my lower lip.

Unable to answer, my hands crawled up his shirt. My fingers traced his muscles like braille and I found myself urging him to do the same to me. I wanted Sabin to touch me with a hunger that I could only imagine in my filthiest thoughts. I wanted him more than I could verbally admit, but I had to. He was surprised, but not rejecting my advances. I couldn’t pretend I knew exactly what I was doing anyway.

“Y-you keep doing this to me and I won’t be able to stop,” Sabin exhaled against my neck. His arms were snaked around me and already under my shirt where his hands found their way to my breasts.

“Please don’t. I want this, Sabin. Do you?”

He pulled away for a moment and nodded. “O-okay. Absolutely. Yeah…”

I felt like I was impressing him, especially since when we were making out, I could feel the bulge in his pants against my leg. God–I wanted so much for this to finally happen, but I felt like I would make a fool of myself unless I told Sabin that he was going to be my first.

“I just,” I groaned, “I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t done…”

My lips didn’t even have to utter the words to finish the sentence before Sabin got up from the couch, picking me up in that same motion.

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“You want me to stop anything at any moment, you just let me know,” He said quietly. “If something doesn’t feel good, or if it does, just let me know…”

“It doesn’t bother you, though, that I haven’t had sex before?”

Sabin rolled his eyes. “All I care about– all that matters to me is you. No, it doesn’t bug me.”

I could feel his heavy breath against my chest when he returned his focus to what was going on between us. His sighs were deep as his hands traveled all over my back and down to my rear. Was I really doing that to him? I kind of liked that.

We ended up in his room and returned to our embrace, except this time while our lips were locked and traveling from each others mouths to our necks, and arms, we were working on stripping each other of our clothes. Sabin’s shirt went flying to the other side of his bedroom before he dropped to his knees to kiss my stomach while his quick fingers undid the buttons on my shorts.

Oh my god…

I held my breath in hopes that I wouldn’t let out a sound, but the way my body flinched was enough to give away how I was feeling.

“Good?”

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Impatiently, I shimmied out of my shorts and kicked them out of the way. I did the same with my shirt, which finally left me exposed in front of him. I thought about this moment for the longest time. Standing in front of someone who I was ready to sleep with and it wasn’t just some smutty dream I was having. No, this was the real thing.

My face was red-hot, but I didn’t want to pause.

Sabin was still down on his knees, his lips grazing the edge of my panties while one of his hands pushed me closer into him. His hot breath against my skin resulted in goosebumps erupting all over my arms and legs, and especially my stomach. His light grazing turned into hot kisses from my stomach to between my legs. I could barely stand by then. I had to hold onto his head, doing my best not to pull his hair, before I was ushered to the edge of the bed.

“My god are you beautiful,” He smiled widely. “Every inch of you.”

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“Words are nice, but why don’t you show me, and I’ll show you how much I like you, too.” My words were laced with lust of adrenaline-juiced hormones.  Even I turned red when I heard myself, but it only seemed to fuel Sabin’s desire to get closer to me. He seemed to enjoy it and I wanted every bit of him. I wanted to touch him, taste him–I moved back on the bed and watched him follow until my head was resting on his pillow and my face was cradled in his hands. He soon moved down to my breasts, nipping at my skin in between kisses. Each peck inched lower and lower…

“Ahh!”I exclaimed when I felt Sabin’s lips between my legs. Sure I touched myself, but what he was doing to me did not compare to the one-woman show.

I felt him flick his tongue, tasting my wetness. “Is that good? Let me know how much you like it,” he smirked, lowering his head back.

“O-oh god, Sa–”

“Come on…”

“S-Sabin, let me feel you…”

My body trembled under him when he crawled back on top of me. Before he even had a chance to confirm, again, if I really wanted to sleep with him, I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him in close. My lips instantly found their way to his. I was more than ready for a lot of things with him, but this was something truly special. In the midst of the heat, I watched Sabin’s body. I observed every scar on his stomach and his arms. I couldn’t imagine loving anyone but him, not just in that moment, but every moment in between.

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I knew in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t exactly be the best feeling at first. The pressure was rough, but Sabin took it slow until I began to relax.  It got better with each thrust of his hips into me, and with each touch. But what really mesmerised me was hearing Sabin moan. His forehead was beaded with sweat, but each time he looked in my eyes, he never fought back a smile.

“It’s not raining sweat on you, is it?” He chuckled, kissing my cheek.

“No,” I giggled.

Laughter aside, our bodies moved in sync that afternoon. Despite the occasional discomfort, I enjoyed every minute of it. I was lost in ecstasy with Sabin and I didn’t want to come back. Of course, unlike movies that talk about making love for hours on end, our time wasn’t quite that long. We were human after all, and we got tired. but it didn’t mean that we didn’t go back for seconds…and thirds. I didn’t think that I could get tired of him and all the ways he made me feel. Physically, he satisfied me in every way I could think of. Emotionally, I loved him and I wanted him to always know that. I didn’t know every detail of his previous relationship, but I would never give up on him. What we had was a partnership, and I would stand by him. Always.

When we finally decided to slow down, we still didn’t get dressed or even think of leaving his bedroom. Instead we watched each other and basked in the moment of what just happened.

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“How are you feeling?” Sabin asked, playing with a strand of my hair.

“Mmm, tired, but great.”

“Did you want to get any of that studying done?”

Of course that was a joke, but I still shook my head and nestled against him.

“Frankly, I’m just going to enjoy being near you while not thinking about studying, or what I’m going to tell Dani when she asks how my afternoon was.”

“You think she’d know?”

I sat up. Oh, if only he knew.

“Dani will know the moment I step in the room. My face always gives it away, I’m sure. Plus, we have a 6th sense type of thing when it comes to stuff like this. We’re basically sisters at this point. We’ve come to know the norm, but this?” I pointed to his body and then my own. “This she will know immediately.”

Intrigued, Sabin reached over to take my hand in his, “What would you say about this then?”

“A review?”

He snorted. “Whatever you’d call it.”

“A great experience with a man I love,” I paused and shifted my position, “that may result in some soreness tomorrow.”

Before Sabin could utter another word, we heard the door to their apartment slam shut.

“Yo, Sabin! You here?” It sounded like Dani and Otto’s arcade date ended earlier than anticipated.

“Uh, yeah…?”

“Alma with you?”

Not how I pictured this.

Sabin quickly slipped into his jeans and stuck his head out from him room. “What’s up?”

I couldn’t see what Otto’s expression was, but I could only imagine what I would be hearing later.

“Uh…sorry to interrupt, but Dani has been blowing up Alma’s phone for the last 4 hours.”

While Sabin was talking with Otto, I sprang from the bed and worked on picking up my clothes from the floor. I didn’t even try to keep it down. Otto already knew I was there.

“Hey Alma! Having fun?” I heard him say, half-chuckling.

“Uh-huh! Can you text Dani that I’ll get back to her soon?”

I was frazzled to say the least when I finally got my clothes on and ran out of the room to yank my phone out of my backpack.

58 texts.

5 Facebook messages.

2 phone calls.

All from Dani.

“Oops,” I winced at the sight of my poor phone blown up with notifications. I did my best to scroll through all the messages, but I kept seeing:

“BITCH! GET OVER HERE!”

Clearly, it was something of a significant importance. How could I tell? The phone calls. Dani never calls unless the Earth is shattering. At this point I was slightly worried, so I ran back to Otto, gave him a quick hug, and wrapped my arms around Sabin before giving him a quick peck on the lips.

“Love you! I’m so sorry, but I have to go see what’s going on with Dani!”

Was the campus on fire? Did I miss a fight?

Oh my god.

Did she kill my plant?

At this point, I quickened my pace into a legitimate run.

God, I hoped everything was okay…


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Gen.10-Alma. Chapter Twenty

Before I knew it, my holiday break was over and it was time to get on a plane and head back to campus. As much as I loved my time spent with family, I was extremely excited to see Dani back at our dorm since she was spending the holiday break with her boyfriend, Saul, and his family. Guess things were also moving along well for her with her relationship and I couldn’t wait to hear all about it. I half-expected for her to be off with Saul at his place, but Dani was actually in our room seated on her bed with a pillow in her lap.

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“My sista!” I exclaimed and threw down my bag. “I’ve missed you! Tell me everything! You’ve been radio silent this entire time!”

Which was odd, by the way.

It wasn’t till I got closer to her that I noticed how swollen her eyes were. I immediately dropped my playful demeanor and rushed to her side. If there was anything that set me into full Mama-Bear mode it was knowing something was wrong with my friends.

Dani only looked down and mumbled incoherently. Her speech soon became riddled with her heavy sobs.

My arm quickly found its way to her back, so I could soothe her any way I could.

“Hey,” I whispered, “what’s going on? Was your trip no good?”

Dani snorted and looked up. “Alma, there was no trip.”

“Where were you then?” Heck, she could have come spend the break with my family.

“Visited family…”

“Well that’s good, but weren’t you supposed to go see—”

“Nope. Not once I found out he was fucking some freshman.”

“Woah, what. Hold on. WHAT?”

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Dani took her time explaining since she had to take breaks to sniffle and apologize (no matter how many times I told her it was necessary). She never caught him in the act. She never noticed anything pop up on his phone. Nothing. There was nothing that would be stereotypically assumed of a cheater. Saul actually approached her and said it to her face. The nerve!

She wiped her eyes and sighed. “He told me that he was seeing someone else and that he cared about her. He’d rather introduce her to his family than me. I mean,” She winced as the words were forming. “Is there something so wrong with me that he doesn’t even want to consider introducing me to his family? Why did he suggest it? Why did he invite me before?”

I placed my arm around her and pulled her in close before she started wheezing as her questions quickened. One followed the other till she was crying again. It was hard to see her like this, because Dani always carried herself in such a way that made her seem impenetrable.

We were only human.

For a while I didn’t say anything. I just hugged her and listened because I could tell she needed to talk. Sometimes it was incoherent, but it was her expression and I was going to be there for as long as she wanted me to be there. After a while she stopped sniffling and sighed slowly.

“Do you think there’s something wrong with me?” She asked quietly.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. “You’re a kind and courageous woman. You rock colored hair like it’s nobodies business and you’re someone your siblings look up to. You’re amazing. Things didn’t work out with Saul because—” I paused. “His head is so far up his ass he can’t see what a mistake he made. That only means that he’s not the guy for you, and that’s okay, because that means you’re going through the duds till you find that right person who treats you the way you deserve to be treated.”

She did her best to smile. “You mean like a ‘Sabin’?”

I shrugged. “Could be like a Sabin. You know, speaking of which, we were going to have a movie night. I figured you’d be out tonight, but why don’t you join us?”

Dani’s eyebrows raised. “Um, you sure? Aren’t you two going to get all naughty and stuff?”

I fought the blush and shook my head. Sabin and I hadn’t actually been quite that physical yet, but I wasn’t going to get into that.

“No,” I smirked. “Just movies and junk food. I have a lot of comedies lined up and B-Horror movies…”

“Mmm, I guess I don’t see why not,” Dani smiled. “Thanks, Alma.”

“What are sisters for?” I grinned.

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As much as I wanted to be by her side every second that day, I knew she needed her space as well. I used that time to catch up with what was going on around campus. The snow was light this year, so the ultimate Frisbee team was still going at it when they weren’t trying to have “epic” snowball fights. In the quad, there were always activists handing out flyers about the next events they were going to host. They were passionate and very free-spirited. It was awesome to see them participating in important events and speaking about circumstances that would affect many people.

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While I walked around campus, I took in all the sights of everyone returning to their routines, so naturally, I returned to mine. Like an instinct, I walked down the winding paths to my safe haven, the best place to get a damn good cup of coffee.

“Didn’t take you too long to stop by,” the barista laughed once I approached the counter. “Same thing?”

I nodded. “You can’t go wrong with the usual.”

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The conversations I had with the barista were always excellent. I never left without having a good laugh with them, even more so on that day when I was startled at the feel of a hand on my shoulder. Luckily I didn’t have a drink in my hand, otherwise it would have gone flying.

“Boo?” Sabin cackled. “Oh, you’re very jumpy before you have your coffee.”

“I thought you’d know that by now,” I smirked before reaching on the tips of my toes to give him a quick peck on the cheek. “When did you get in?”

“Late last night,” he replied. “Still on or movie night? I picked up the movies.”

Since I spent the majority of the morning with Dani, I failed to let Sabin know what happened, so once I got my drink, we moved to sit at a table. After I explained the situation, I watched Sabin’s expression soften. I didn’t know why I expected him to not be on board with the idea of having Dani with us. It was Sabin after all. The moment I introduced him to my friends, he was extremely friendly. He was a great person all around and it didn’t matter if he knew the person for years or if it was someone who he had just met. He treated everyone with equal respect. For a moment we sat in silence until I had a light bulb moment.

“What’s up?”

“Why don’t you invite Otto to join us?”

Sabin smirked and nodded. “Sure. I don’t think he has any plans tonight, so I’ll ask him.”

Now, I wasn’t trying to set anything up. I simply wanted good company for a movie night, but I guess I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t hoping for some sort of spark. Otto was one of the nicest people I had ever met. He was with Sabin for a long time. They had gone through a lot together, so it certainly said something special about him. I loved Dani like a sister, so I only wanted her to be happy. At least if Otto was there for our movie night, it wouldn’t seem so much like her being a third wheel.

Who knew, maybe the move night would prove to be the right distraction for Dani. If she ended up having a great time and making a new friend in the process, then how could any of that go wrong?

All I ever wanted was to know my friends were happy and if there was anything that I could do, then well…

I would do it.

[Author’s Note: To my readers in the good ‘ol USA: Happy Independence Day 🙂 ]


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Gen.10-Alma. Chapter Eighteen: Part Two

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We ended up at a small café not far from home. Sabin would be coming early the next day, so I didn’t have much time left for preparations. By that I meant: getting my family ready to meet him without asking unnecessary questions that could make Sabin’s stay unpleasant.

You know, nothing too crazy.

My younger siblings were becoming old enough to know when to suppress some questions that wouldn’t be appropriate, so they weren’t the ones I had to worry about. My main issues were with trying to figure out how my Dad would react. Mom let me spread my wings, but my Dad was something else. Not that he kept me from doing what I wanted, but he was looking out for me, or so he said. Especially when it came to people I was interested in.

Dad looked at me from across the table. We had gotten through the entire meal without actually having mentioned anything about Sabin. While he waited, I took my time to make sure that the food I consumed would stay down.

“You’re awfully quiet,” he mentioned.

“I know…”

“Know what? That you want to tell me something about your boyfriend?”

I stopped and leaned back in my seat. “Well, yeah, I guess. How’d you know? Did Mom tell you?”

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He shook his head. “It’s his first time coming here, so I figured you’d be giving me some information so I don’t blow a fuse.”

Funny how right he was.

“I already talked to Mom, because I really needed her to listen. You, though,” I paused, “Sabin isn’t like you or grandpa, or anyone else, really.”

Dad chuckled, “I’d say that’s pretty good news to me.”

I managed a weak smile. “Sure, I guess I could say that as well.”

There was no other way of doing it than to really jump into the fact that Sabin had PTSD, and he was much older than me. My favorite anecdotes of my boyfriend came flooding out of my mouth to help underline that fact that he was still someone I loved very much despite what he has gone through. I spoke so quickly and excitedly that it didn’t give Dad much of a chance to even react to the initial news. Sabin was someone I cared deeply about, but I didn’t want anyone in my family to shun him. We’ve all gone through great ordeals in our time, and we all got through it.

I just needed Sabin to be treated the same way. He wasn’t broken.

He simply lived.

Finally, I stopped to catch my breath and waited.

“Dad?”

He was quiet and that was what made me nervous. He was quiet for too long. If I knew my father, then he would have been making a scene about two minutes ago.

Still, nothing.

He finally exhaled sharply. It was painful to hear, but I prepared myself for whatever backlash I would get. Funny—backlash for loving someone.

“I see why you wanted to tell me in public,” he began. His hands were balled up into fists to the point I could see his knuckles turn white. “Wow,” he breathed again, “this is a lot for anyone to stomach. This man is how much older than you?”

“Almost 11 years.”

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“That doesn’t bother you?”

“No, it doesn’t.”

Dad leaned back in his seat and looked at me. His eyes moved slowly, studying each line of my face, as if trying to find a trace of uncertainty somehow hidden in my expression. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t find any of that. All that he would find was his daughter asking to give her relationship a chance.

“You and Mom are a few years apart, and look what that brought you!” My exclamations somehow struck a chord with him.

“Yes, we are, but neither of us have PTSD,” he sighed. “Look, I’m not saying that he’s an awful person, because I can’t say that. I don’t know the guy. I’m simply a father trying to protect his daughter from the world. It’s what parents do.”

I bowed my head because he was right. There was no reason to be upset over that, because he was a good parent looking out for his child. Out of the corner of my eye, I looked over to see if anyone was staring. Even if we weren’t yelling, anyone could hear what we were talking to. Would they also think I was crazy for fighting for my relationship with Sabin? I hoped not, because I needed someone on my side. I needed someone to understand.

“Are you listening?” Dad asked.

“Yes.”

“I don’t mean to sound like I’m scolding you, Alma. I just hope you understand what this is you’re getting yourself into. The man has his own battles to face, and regardless if he’s trying to or not—you will end up mixing into it all. That’s a lot to handle. Getting involved with someone from a broken home is one thing, but doing the same thing with someone who is suffering mentally after a traumatic experience?” He shook his head. “Have you thought this through?”

Even as he warned me I could still feel the warmth of my father. My heart was already heavy from worrying like a nut over all this, so I simply nodded. Yes, I had thought it through. Yes, I made numerous lists. Yes, I considered not seeing him anymore, but in those times that he was gone and not speaking to me, I felt like something was missing from me. It felt silly to say or even think, but I missed him terribly. Whatever he had going on in his life—I wanted to be a part of it. We were partners and I wasn’t going to step away from a chance of being a part of his life.

“Then that’s that,” Dad sighed. “We can only do so much, Alma. You know we’re only looking out for you though, right?”

“Yeah,” I responded. “So, you’ll be okay when he’ll be here for Christmas?”

Dad shrugged.

“Oh, come on!”

“Sweetpea, I will be as normal as possible, considering your mother is making mixed drinks. Her ratio of booze to mixer is killer.”

I rolled my eyes and reached out to grab his hand. “Thank you for this. I’m sure you’ll grow to really like him.”

He chuckled and squeezed my hand. “I’m sure I will.”

 


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Gen.10-Alma. Chapter Eleven

Winter break for college students meant that finals were finally over and it was time to sit back, relax, and go back home to spend the month with family. I was eager to go back home since I hadn’t seen my family much since the beginning of the school year. I knew I missed a lot, because each time I would call or Skype with my mom, she would fill me in on all the different happenings in St. Claire. Now I had an opportunity to be part of these moments rather than just hearing about them through the grapevine.

My semester concluded with average grades. Well, three B’s and one A’, which to me wasn’t as well as I knew I could do. There was always next semester to really kick butt. Dani was in the same boat as I was, however her sorrow did not come from having average grades but rather knowing that she would be leaving Saul for a good month. Unless they would find a time to meet up over break, which as romantic as it sounded was close to impossible being that Saul’s family lived in Washington and we were all the way on the other side of the country.

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“I’m going to miss that big goof,” Dani sniffled in the taxi that was bringing us home from the airport.

“Aren’t you going to Skype and stuff?” I asked.

“Well,yeah, but you know that it’s not the same.”

I was going to say something about it being a good way to stay in touch over long distances and periods of time, but I knew that it wasn’t the communication that she was talking about, but rather the physical aspect of her relationship with him.

“Ah well,” I cleared my throat and gave her a pat on the back. “The Holidays will be over before ya know it. Then you’ll be able to get back to him.”

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While Dani’s mind was elsewhere, I looked out the window as the suburban area of St. Claire finally came into view. One by one, we drove by all the decorated houses. I always loved the holiday lights. All the bright colors illuminated the front lawns and even if the town was behind on getting an adequate amount of snowfall for that time of year, the feel of the holidays was apparent.

I said goodbye to Dani once we made it to my house and as the taxi drove down the street with my friend, I stopped to gaze upon my home. Bright lights were hung up along the roof and festive decorations were set out on the lawn. It had been quite some time since I saw that lawn, and it felt like it was ages since I saw those decorations. Not wasting another moment, I threw my bag over my shoulder and pulled my suitcase behind me until I got to the door.

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The door swung open and I was nearly tackled to the ground by my twin brothers. Holy smokes! Those little rascals were not so little anymore and their excitement to see me was truly appreciated.

I ruffled their hair with the palm of my hand and laughed only to end up coughing due to the cold. “I take it you missed me?”

“Yes! So much! Caius sleeps in your room all the time now! Old kitty!” Oren exclaimed while Jax huffed and puffed—trying his best to climb on top of us.

I smiled at the thought of Mom’s cat sleeping in my room. Caius had been with us for such a long time now, and even though I knew that he probably wouldn’t be around forever, it was nice that he was able to be around for everyone through all the years. We didn’t know how that cat was still going so strong, but who knew, maybe we had a super strong cat.

Unfortunately I knew the same couldn’t be said for poor Angelo, who had “run away to join his bandit brothers”. At least that’s what Mom wanted the twins to think. Normally she would tell us the truth, but over the years it had appeared that she had softened up a lot more. Well, for the sake of the holidays and the happiness of my brothers, I didn’t say a word about poor Angelo.

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“Thought I heard someone over here,” Dad said, walking through the doorway and straight towards me so he could embrace me. “Aw, pumpkin, good to see you. Was your flight alright?”

“Yeah. It was just fine!”

Before long everyone had come downstairs to greet me. I swore we were catching up more much before I even unpacked! My brother was maturing before my eyes and I admit I now had to take back any mocking comment I ever made about his facial hair looking like peach fuzz! Then there was Mom. She looked just as beautiful as ever. I was praying to take after her when I got older, then again I wouldn’t mind if I was more like Dad. I was pretty blessed with two parents who were aging like fine wine! Dang!

As much as I wanted to stay up with all of them and catch up, I knew that I wouldn’t last. The flight from school tired me out and the not so smooth ride in the taxi didn’t help either. I was ready to hit the hay in my own bed, in my own room. Tomorrow would be a day for catching up and reminiscing—a true Wells holiday tradition.

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“Good morning, sleeping beauty.”

After a quick rub, my vision was finally clearing up to see that Mom was moving my curtains away from the windows. “W-what time is it?”

“Sorry to break it to you, but it’s almost nine. I figured I’d wake you so you can come eat some breakfast.”

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I yawned as I sat up. “Who’s going to be here this year?”

It was rather funny. There was once a time when we spent the holidays together. All of us. That meant including all of my aunt’s and uncle’s, but now that everyone was starting families and moving away for jobs and overall better opportunities, such large family gatherings were becoming rare. Grandma and Grandpa were still there, so that was such a special treat for everyone. I couldn’t want to tell my grandparents about school. They were always such a great support when I talked to them about what it was I wanted to do with my life. On more than one occasion, Granny Attie helped talked me out of reconsidering my goals.

“Your grandparents, of course. They’re excited to see you,” Mom admitted as she moved to sit at the edge of my bed. “Aunt Arecia and her sons, and of course your Grandpa Greyson.”

“Really? It’s a for sure thing for Grandpa G?!” I exclaimed. Grandpa Grey was getting up in age, so his visits weren’t quite as frequent. He lived in a retirement home in Hidden Springs, so traveling was a bit much for him often times, but when he was able to visit us it was definitely a great time!

“You bet,” Mom smiled, “know what’s even more exciting?” She added and didn’t bother waiting for my reply. “We’re not hosting this year. Aunt Arecia really wanted full reign of Christmas Eve. Shuyin says he’s pretty excited. They’ve been cooking and baking for a while.”

“Auntie Arecia? Really?” I couldn’t help smiling. “She sure sounds like she’s full of energy.”

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Mom nodded. “Yeah…she’s in remission, sweet girl. Her treatment went according to plan and she’s been fighting so hard. You know, Alma,” she said, getting up from the bed, “you come from a line of really strong women. Maybe I’m not up there with the rest of them, or at least as high, but when I look at you and your siblings, I know that I did something right in my life. So if you’re every feeling down know that it’s in your blood to overcome even the shittiest of situations.”

“Thanks for the motivational pep talk,” I smirked.

“Hey—it’s all part of the job description, okay?”

Oh, it definitely was. If I had any intention of being like my Mom, I had to start memorizing her format for these lectures. No child of mine would  ever go without knowing they come from a line of fierce women!

I got out of bed not long after my chat with Mom. As much as I wanted to sleep the day away, it was Christmas Eve and I was not going to pass up a once a year opportunity to feast on Mom’s gingerbread waffles. It would be sinful! Downstairs, utensils were clanking against plates and my brothers were in the middle of a debate about a new show that they were obsessed with. It wouldn’t be long, I thought. Oren and Jax often wasted little time in dragging me into their little fandoms.

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“Alma! Alma! Good, you’re up! You can help settle a debate!” Jax shouted with half a bite of waffle in his mouth.

“Don’t listen to him!” Oren pouted. “Captain America will survive! He can’t die!”

Once again Jax finished chewing his food and raised his fork up in the air. “Yeah, right! I don’t think so! He’s going up against Iron Man for creating the Ultron program! I’d be angry!”

“They’re a team!” Oren shot back.

“Not anymore!” Jax hollered.

“Nuh-uh!”

“Yuh-huh!”

The back and forth banter of my siblings had me look past them to the end of the table where Kaden shrugged. “They got a hold of my Civil War comic.”

That. Explained. Everything.

Mom turned away from the counter with another plate of waffles. “Alrighty, settle down everyone. Captain America and all his buddies will be just fine. Let’s enjoy our breakfast before we have to really scramble and get ready. Aunt Arecia would like us at her house at five. And knowing us, we’ll have to leave extra early, okay? It’s going to be a long drive.”

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Dad came in sipping his coffee before he joined us at the table. “Which is why we’re all starting early with our coffee, right, kitten?” He paused for a moment, long enough to see Mom bob her head before speaking again. “This is nice,” he said. “It’s been a while since everyone was present around the table.”

That I could definitely agree with. For many months the closest that I got to have a family dinner was sitting across from Dani in the dorm’s dining room, while scarfing down a bowl of ramen noodles. So, being home was nice. Eating food that wasn’t full of chemicals and whatever else it had, was even better….

“Are you happy to be back home?” Dad asked, finally sampling Mom’s breakfast. “Sure hasn’t been the same without you around,” he chuckled.

“Yeah, it’s definitely nice to be able to sleep in my own bed. Super comfy. Finally.” I answered.

“Have you met anyone new?” Mom asked, only I knew in her cheeky tone that she wasn’t asking about friends, but boys.

“Hey! HEY!” Dad hollered, pointing his fork with a waffled skewered onto it at Mom. “S-she’s in school to learn, ya know! She doesn’t need some boy right now! Right, baby girl?”

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I laughed at his sudden protective response, but I shrugged. I thought back to the first party we attended, and then some of the others, but all that time no one really caught my attention. I really found no reason to go out and look when I had Dani to fill me in on all her romantic happenings. After hearing all of that, I just went about my own business. So, to calm down my Dad, and sadly disappoint my mother, I shrugged.

“Nah, I haven’t. I’ve been keeping to myself for now…”

And even as I said those words, I came to wonder if my entire college career would be just that…”keeping to myself”. I tried not to think about it too much, because there were better things to think about at that moment, like if I could manage fitting another gingerbread waffle into my stomach. Which I did, actually. With a few pauses.

“OKAY! Wells family, let’s get these dishes cleaned up,” Mom exclaimed after we finished eating, and giving Dad a playful smack on the arm. “Time to shower, get dressed, and head out! Our Holiday is just about to begin!”

 

 


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Gen.10-Alma. Chapter Ten

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Three months into my first year away at school and my desk was already littered with papers that needed to be proofread, turned in, and filed away. It was to be expected that we were going to be swamped with homework, but the reality always seemed much more intense than the expectations.

I heard Dani groan from her bed as her alarm beeped right on time: ten minutes before her philosophy lecture that evening. Our schedules aligned in such a way that while I was done with class, she was still stuck in lectures, and vice versa.

“It’s too late to listen to a professor ramble on about ancient philosophies.” She rolled her eyes and reached into the cardboard box on her desk, pulling out a granola bar. “Snooze fest. What will you be doing?”

“Um,” I smiled and turned away from my computer screen. “Well, why don’t you come by and take a peek?”

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She did just that and her face immediately lit up at the sight of Gia’s face on the screen. We both managed to have a free moment, so we simply had to Skype.

“Oh my god. I’d freaking skip this lecture and get in on this conversation, but I really need to ace this next test otherwise my Mom will probably smack me upside the head and never let me forget that they’re paying for school.”

“Understood,” Gia laughed. “Kick some ass, Dani, and text me later! We have to catch up!”

Gia was studying at a university in California, which was exactly what it sounded like. It was sunny, it was refreshing, but after all, it was still a university. It wasn’t a vacation. She was studying psychology and was already in the middle of picking out which school she wanted to continue with when she had to get her work experience in the form of research projects. That would probably involve using her fellow classmates as guinea pigs in studies about anxiety and depression when course workload increased. She laughed about that for a bit, however she leaned in close to the camera, so her face magnified.

“So, you—what about you? How are things going for you?”

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Those questions could mean many things, but if I knew anything about my friends, then I knew it wasn’t a question regarding how my studies were going. What Gia was asking about was my personal life, also deemed my “desert-like love life”. It’s not like I was upset about that. My nose was buried in my books and as far as I was concerned, the only evening companion that I needed was in the form of a thick business textbook. I wasn’t really focused on relationships and I wasn’t concerned that nothing was happening in that department. Hey, if I was supposed to meet someone while away at school, then it would happen eventually, right? Well, I liked to think so.

“Just doin’ my own thing,” I said. “Ya know, studying!” While Gia rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue out at the screen I took a moment to look at her background, which I finally found the right moment to comment on. “Well, if you’re looking for some juicy stories, I’m sure Dani would have something. I’m pretty sure she is starting a collection of all the numbers she’s been getting from the fellas, and even some ladies–not that I’m surprised.” My eyebrow raised–Gia finally spotted me eyeing the mass laying on her bed. “I suppose you have some eye candy in sunny California, hmm? Not trying too hard there to hide him.”

 

Gia’s face flushed, but it didn’t seem like she was expecting my assumption, which didn’t make immediate sense to me. “Oh! Him?No-no! That’s my lab partner for class. He’s actually waiting for this boyfriend to come for him. We’re going to the arcade later.”

“B-boyfriend?” I asked and she confirmed.

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“Yeaaah, he swings for the home team, but let me tell you it’s been super fun. And I do admit that I am enjoying my stay here. There’s so much eye-candy here, so I think I’ll have to snap a few pictures to show you and Dani. You know, to show you what you’re missing.”

I laughed because I knew Gia would do such a thing. She was a doll and I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed that much during the week. It had been a long time since we had seen each other face-to-face, but we were already planning out our first get together since starting school. She wasn’t going back to St. Claire for winter break since her family will be flying out to her, to spend the holidays with the family they have in California, but Spring Break was sounding like it was going to be a possibility.

Soon our conversation had to end because her lab partners boyfriend did end up showing up, which meant that Gia had to go. It was bittersweet, but I knew that it wouldn’t be long before we would finally see each other again. Ugh, I sure did miss her.

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While many students found sanctuary in the privacy of their dorm rooms, especially when their roommates weren’t present, I couldn’t say the same for myself. There was something about our room that just didn’t settle with me as being the right place to study. At least not when it came to serious studying. Finals were coming up a lot faster than expected, so I was beginning to bond much more with my textbooks at the library than at the dorm.

“Wells?” A young woman at the front desk asked. She appeared to have recognized me from the last four straight nights that I found myself stumbling into the quiet building.

“Back again,” I laughed halfheartedly. I mean, what else could I say? By that point I was sure the girl wouldn’t be surprised if I showed up with a sleeping back.

“The last study room is actually open right now, so you don’t need the key. And just so you know, the library will be open the full twenty-four hours starting next week for final exam preparation.”

As I acknowledged the announcement, I walked deeper into the building. The first few months at the university were spent avoiding this place like it was the plague, because we were too preoccupied with trying to “live life”. Yeaaaah, well living live away at school basically consisted of living without rules and curfew—basically, everything our parents probably wouldn’t let us get away with back home. However, after a few parties, several hangovers (which were caused by my own doing), and a few all-nighters trying to stay on top of our studies, we decided that it was actually time to buckle down and figure out our strategy to still have a great time and not kill ourselves over ten page papers on early modern use of some business tactics, or whatever it was that I had due that week.

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I flipped through my notes quickly while on my way to the study room only to notice that while the first two rooms were occupied by groups of sleep-deprived students struggling to finish their assignments, the third room was occupied only by two people who—let’s just say weren’t preoccupied with books on human anatomy, but rather trying to learn through experimentation.

My head was turned for a moment, to look over my shoulder. Was I just seeing things, or did I possibly stumble upon a moment that was just too good to be true? There was no one to see this but me. Damn. Who would believe me then? Oh wait–I almost laughed out loud. This behavior was typical for sex-crazed college students, wasn’t it? Ah, evening hormones. No thanks. The two people were so closed together that the mix of blond and green hair looked like a weird cotton candy swirl. Cotton candy gone wrong, in my opinion.

“Seriously?” I scoffed only until I did a double-take. Green hair? Wait–I delayed my walk to the room reserved for me, so I could get a closer look at who was inside that room. Curious and not wanting to jump to conclusions, I slid my phone out of my pocket and quickly send Dani a text. If I knew my best friend, she had it on vibrate and she never took longer than five minutes to respond when she wasn’t in class. Without fail, the two bodies soon parted only to reveal that the girl attached to that guys face was in fact Danika Lace!

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The rest of my time at the library was spent pondering about the identity of the mystery man Dani was making out with. I took a few glances at my homework, but trying to pinpoint that guys identity was proving to be a bit more rewarding in my eyes. Dani and I were incredibly close. I mean, we talked about everything, which included nitty gritty details of Dani’s love life. Hey, it’s just the type of friends we were. I’ve known about every boyfriend Dani ever had and each guy she ever had a crush on, so not knowing about this was definitely confusing. Was he new and she was testing the waters, or…I couldn’t even think of it, because it seemed so out of character for her. Was Dani trying to hide him from me?

What reason would she have to do that? It wasn’t like I was jealous. Then again, Dani wasn’t even really lying to me about her whereabouts because, as I checked the time on my phone, Dani was already out of her lecture. So this wasn’t her skipping class to suck face, but doing that after her class. Well then.

 

The confusion–and what I could admit was slight frustration– kept me from  getting any work done. I had to force myself to type out the remaining four pages of my paper for class before even thinking about leaving the library. I was hoping to come back to the dorm before Dani, but we would see how that would pan out. I couldn’t help my curiosity, okay?

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When I got back to our room I wasn’t met with the presence of Dani looking innocent when I knew she was not. My sneaky friend was still out of the dorm, so I made my weekly call back home. Mom loved hearing about my adventures at school, but often times she was just like Dani and Gia–asking me if I met anyone I liked. My Mom was apparently pretty interesting during her college days. So interesting that I wasn’t even told all the details, because Mom always ended up shushing whoever was telling me the story. Just like I told Gia, I told my mom that I was spending my time with my books rather than boys. Dad was definitely happy to hear about that part. My protective papa apparently wasn’t so set on the idea of me bringing a boy home for the holidays so soon. That was actually the next topic we brought up.

“Okay, sweetie, we’re mailing you the plane ticket tomorrow. Do we just send it to the dorm room and address it to you?” Mom asked while the additional rustling of papers echoed into the phone.

“Yeah.” I smirked. “That will be just fine. We have a mailbox in the dining room anyway, so they separate it. I can’t wait to come home. I feel like I haven’t seen you all in ages.”

“That’s because you haven’t!” Dad spoke up. “The boys miss the hell out of you.”

“I miss them too,” I admitted.

“Still getting along with Dani?” Dad asked with a chuckle, which then prompted him to trail off into a story about him and Uncle Reno’s first experience as roommates. Apparently Uncle Reno wasn’t too into the “no girls after midnight” rule. Yikes, that wouldn’t be too fun, but Dani and I were different. We were getting along great aside from what I saw that night in the library, but still, it wasn’t something to lose my mind over. Dani had a boyfriend in her life and the only reason I wanted to know about it was so I could be happy for her. That was it!

Our conversation carried on and eventually ended on the note of a promise that I wouldn’t miss my flight home for the holidays. That I could promise without hesitating. There was no way that I could miss out on Mom’s cooking and Grandma’s baking. Seriously? If heaven had a flavor it would be Mom’s pineapple baked ham and Grandma Attie’s  Gingerbread mousse cupcakes. Nothing could top it!

 

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The door creaked open and Dani finally walked into our room. Without missing a beat, I wiggled around in my bed and sighed heavily. “Sooo, my dear friend, how was your time studying in the library?”

Dani knew me better than most people, and often times I could say that she knew me better than my own mother. So when I asked her about the library, she knew exactly what it was I meant.

“I’m guessing you saw me, huh?”

“Got that right,” I said with a wheeze and helped myself to an upright position before patting my blanket–an invitation for her to sit down. “Girl, you’re keeping a new hunky man away from your buddy!”

Dani smirked, but I could tell that a subtle blush was found on her cheeks. Clearly it was something that actually touched her in a way that well, made her blush! Dani wasn’t an inexperienced virgin, I could say that much, but it was definitely rare for her to not tell me something like this.

“Everything okay? I mean, you know I’d only be happy for you, right?”

She nodded. “I was going to tell you, but you’re so busy with your papers right now that I was going to wait to tell you once you finished. Plus, I was going to bring him over this weekend so he can play some games with us.”

“For real?”

“Yeah…”

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“I don’t know what it is about him, Alma, but I think I actually genuinely like him.”

Hearing anyone else say that would sound a bit odd because if people are dating then it can be assumed that there is a genuine like for each other, but hearing Dani saying that meant a lot. She was never one to really date people for longer than a month. If she were to get a tattoo it would read Carpe Diem, because that was how she lived her life–seizing every moment, living in the moment.

“I think he’s actually boyfriend material, and the type of boyfriend I’d actually want to introduce to my parents. Can you believe it?”

“Well, what’s his name?”

“It’s Saul.” The way she said his name made her smile. It was actually really cute to see a man’s name bring a smile to Dani’s face. If I had to say so myself, I had a feeling that my best friend was falling for his Saul guy. As long as she was happy and he was good to her, then I didn’t have a problem with it. Frankly, I was ecstatic for her, because it was something new and it was something that she wanted to share with me.

“So you’re not too mad, are you?” Dani asked, noticing my silence.

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“Nah, I’m just thinking a little bit.”

“About what?” Dani asked, nudging me.

“About how I’m going to kick your boyfriend’s ass at Mario Party.”

[Author’s Note: Thank you, April for the photo-editing help!]