Look at the way he's stacking up the wood, like he's some type of macho man. Obviously trying to impress me. He's completely clueless that he's overrated in my mind. And his jeans are way too tight. You know, he's not as hot as he thinks he is with sweat dripping down his forehead. And his neck. And his chest. And- Stop it.

... News flash, Owen. We're history.


19. Nineteen

More wind comes, and it's dark when I open my eyes. The street lights are on, and I see a white van pulling up to the graveyard. And I'm running before he can even try to spot me. My brothers car is behind his. The fence is really short, and I hop over it with no problem. Very soon I start heaving, and I have to stop to throw up on the sidewalk. I feel like I'm still half asleep, and I curse at myself for even falling asleep there in such an obvious place. I force myself to recollect and run again until it hurts. I know the van is following me, but there's traffic in the streets because of construction, so it's easy for me to get away. Cold drool is on my neck and I wipe the sliminess away. My breaths sound like they belong to an animal. I'm a good four blocks away before I see the white van again. I only look for a second, but my eyes stay long enough to see Ava in the front seat. I hear him calling out for me, and then James. I reach what looks like a forest, and I enter it, falling in the process. My stomach is turning and I can't get up. My hands are dry and I think I scratched my chin on a branch. I hear doors slam and I start crying because I'm hopeless. I just want heat and my bed. I want food and my fuzzy blanket. "Baby." James is huffing and puffing and Owen is not far behind him. I don't know who said it, but I assume it was my brother since he's more likely to call me that. 

"Her lips are blue." Owen's voice sounds tired and it makes me wonder what time it is. If it's late then he must have been sleeping. Ava was probably resting with him and that's why she's here. I see the blur of red that belongs to Kaylin's car and she approaches us too. 

"Pick her up." James speaks again and I look at him without saying anything. I decide to stay silent through all of this. Even when he says, "Talk to me, P." Owen picks me up and I feel like my eyes are rolling to the back of my head. I feel like he said it thousand times but he only says it once. It just keeps echoing in my head and it gives me a headache. My body is reacting to Owen's, and I feel like I'm gonna fall so I grab his neck with one of my hands. 

"Jesus, Pres you're freezing." he has a hat on, made of yarn just like my scarf. My head is dangling, and I see Ava leaned against his van, her arms crossed. She's wearing his baseball jersey, but I'm too cold to feel the pang in my chest. I'm numb. Kaylin puts her warm hand on my forehead and strokes my hair back. Then she tells my brother that she'll meet him back at the apartment. 

Owen says to Ava that he's going with my brother and she gets in the driver's seat of the van. She's going to follow my brother's car. We get into James' truck and Owen puts me down gently. I find myself wrapping my body as close to his as possible because I need warmth. I know he can hear my teeth chattering. He starts rubbing my thigh with his hot hand and uses the other to heat up my hands. The heat from his breath makes the shaking in my fingers calm, and he kisses my knuckles. I'm still breathing hard and his eyes are trying to search mine, like he's trying to read me. I make it hard for him and look away, then I push my forehead into his neck to get more warmth. James is driving too fast and I feel like I might puke again. It's almost like it takes forever to get home. When we do I'm daydreaming about my bed. 

We all cram into the elevator and Ava stays outside in the van. Now I'm more comfortable in Owen's arms and I'm cuddled into him. "She's still shaking." Kaylin is touching the top of my head again and I let her. It actually makes me tired. 

James fumbles with the lock on the door because he's nervous. "Bring her to her room. I'll get her something to eat." Owen walks me down the hall and I see my brother kiss his fiance quickly and tell her that he'll be right back. I blink for a second and Owen puts me in my bed. He takes my fluffy blanket and wraps it around me. Kaylin walks in slowly. 

"Would you like to take a hot shower?" she asks and I don't hesitate to nod. I realize that I still haven't said a word. Owen goes to pick me up again but I don't let him, pushing him away. I stand on my own and grab Kaylin's hand for support. A big hand is rested on my back and the three of us walk to the bathroom. "I'll help you." she says, and I know she's uncomfortable when she says it.

"I'll do it." Owen's face is stern but he nods at her politely. He looks at me for permission and I nod because it's nothing he hasn't seen before. He closes the door behind him and I take off my scarf. I feel like I'm moving slow. I guess I am. Owen starts the shower, then goes for my shirt. His warm arms reach around my back to unhook my bra, and he doesn't look. I shimmy out of my jeans and kick off my ankle boots. My spine shakes when he loops his fingers around my underwear and pushes them down. I can finally feel the steam radiating from the shower and he presses a kiss to my forehead before helping me inside. I can see his figure sitting on the closed toilet seat. 

While the hot water falls on my skin, thoughts rush into my mind. Before I fell asleep, I was okay. I was walking fine and processing good. When I woke up it was all downhill from there. The cold must have gotten to me while I was asleep and slowed everything down. Now I can't undress myself or get into the tub for a shower. 

The mix between the hot water and my frozen skin is nauseating, and I hunch over to gag. Owen pulls back the curtain and touches my back. I force myself to stand up straight when I know that nothing will come out, and close the curtain between us. He doesn't say anything, and he doesn't sit back down. Soon the water feels good and my blood doesn't feel like ice anymore. 

I turn the nozzle carefully and when I reveal myself Owen is ready with a towel, the same stern look plastered on his face. Ava is still waiting for him downstairs, and he doesn't seem to have a problem with letting her wait. He hugs my naked body with the towel and we walk to my room. I don't stop him when he starts to look through my drawers for clothes. He gets the fluffiest pair of pajama pants and a t-shirt that belongs to him. It was big and black with a not-so-popular sports team symbol on it. I get my own underwear and put it on, and he helps me into the rest of my clothing. Then he goes into my closet and retrieves a hoodie with my school's name on it. I let him put it over my head and I pull my hair out of the back. I don't expect what comes next. 

"How could you be so stupid?" He's mad, but calm. Very calm. I don't say anything. "Why the hell would you run away?" he's pacing now. "What did you think you'd do? Live on the streets until you found a job? That's what you did. You were sleeping on the street weren't you? Do you know how worried I was? How worried James was?" He was yelling loud enough to get Kaylin's attention because now she's standing behind him in the doorway. "What makes you think that any of this was okay? Look at you, Pres. You're sick. You look like h-"

"Stop talking to her her like that." I've never heard Kaylin speak with such concern. "You've done enough. Leave." her hands are rested on her hips and she's frowning. He doesn't move, so she says it again. "Get out." My face is most likely blank when he takes a last look at me. I can feel it contorting into a sad expression, because I guess that's what I feel. And by his look, I can tell that he feels bad for making me feel bad. But he leaves anyway without another word.

Kaylin gets the honor of hearing my first words, and its hoarse. "Thank you." I'm sitting on the edge of my bed, defeated. And I figure the least i can do it thank her for doing that. She smiles at me and grabs the brush off of my dresser. She crawls onto my bed with her knees and sits behind me to brush my hair. I let her without question, because suddenly I don't dislike her as much as I have this whole time. She's treating me like a real sister, not an evil step-sibling like the cinderella movies. 

She's almost done with my braid when James barges in. I jump because he scares me. "Sorry." he says, his face looking full of guilt. He drops the bags of food in front of me. "And I'm sorry I took so long. I didn't know what you'd want so I got you a burger and fries and cheese sticks and onion rings." He hands me a cup of something that I didn't notice before. "And a milkshake." he hands it to me and I take it while Kaylin unpacks the food in front of me. I go for the cheese sticks first And James kneels in front of me. The three of us are so close together, we're like a sandwich, and I like the warmth. "Baby, talk to me, please." he touches my cheek. "Did anybody hurt you?" I shake my head and put my chin down so he'll take his hand away and he does. He stands up and looks around briefly. "Where's the kid?" I look at Kaylin, and she's glad to answer for me. 

"He had to bring the girl home, so he left." she gives me and small smile and steals one of my fries. James lightly falls onto my bed and I turn my body around so that we're all facing each other. The food is placed in the middle. Although I'm happy to eat all of it, I let them pick at what they want, and they let me stay quiet until James phone rings. 

"Hello? Yeah, yes. We found her. She's safe here with me. Thanks for your help." 

"Did you call the cops?" I ask, and my voice is still scratchy. He shakes his head, confused. But his smile appears and shows me that he's happy that I spoke. 

"It was my boss. He helped us look for you on Thursday." 

"Oh." Kaylin's playing with the end of my braid. 

"Where did you stay?" she asks. 

"I found a friend. I mean, I made a friend. And she introduced me to her friends. And I stayed with them." 

"In a house?" James asks, his mouth full of onion ring. I shake my head. 

"On the um.... The street." He pauses, and nods like its totally okay. 

"Well, I'm just glad your home." 

"And listen Presley," Kaylin puts her hand on mine. "If you don't want to see me as a sister, I'd at least want to be friends. You're amazing, and I haven't doubted that this whole time." I don't know if she wants to say more but I hug her before she can and she squeezes me back. 

"I did hate you. I really did." I say. She giggles. "But I think we can work this out. And I'm sorry for being horrible to you." 

"I'll pretend like it never happened." she smiles at me.

"Okay, enough with the sap. I'm still hungry." I say. Our pile of empty wrappers lay around us. I find a stray fry and pop it in my mouth. "And I'm still cold." 

"Why don't you come and sleep with us?" 

"Ew." I snort and my laugh gets stuck in my throat from the rasp. 

"Come on." James chimes in. He picks me up and starts for his room, and I call out for Kaylin to bring my fuzzy blanket. My brother doesn't throw me, but he doesn't set me down gently. I get dizzy but ignore it. 

We spend the night watching a marathon of family feud, shouting out the answers. James falls asleep first, with his head on me and his legs on Kaylin. I go out next, just when the Harris family wins their brand new car. 


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