As I woke up from an uncomfortable sleep, I instantly heard the trickling of rain against my window, gently tapping it with spatters of raindrops. I yawned, stretching out to loosen up, and felt a sharp pain shoot from my temple to the crown of my head. Nothing Tylenol and a cold compress couldn’t fix.
Walking into the kitchen, I found Erica at the table eating her cereal and reading the morning newspaper, laughing at some silly comic that she, for some reason, reads every single morning. “You know, you should read more than just the comic section of the newspaper,” I joked. “Maybe you’ll like something like Gone With the Wind.”
“Get real,” she said with a groan. “I already have to read some stupid book called Fahrenheit 451 for American Lit, and it’s come to my attention that I really had classic novels. They’re old, ridiculous, and hard to follow.”
“But they’re well written.”
I glanced over at the sofa to see Malerie asleep with her hair in a mess and mascara smudged down her cheeks. This wouldn’t be the first time Mal got drunk and couldn’t make her way home, so she would make a pit stop at our flat to crash on the couch. But now with the mascara, I wasn’t so sure. “When did she get here?”
“About two this morning. Sober, if you can imagine.”
“Was she crying?”
“Heavily. She and Byron split and he kicked her out.”
I scoffed. “What an asshole. See, that’s just why I don’t deal with men.”
Erica shrugged and sipped the milk from her now-empty bowl of cereal. “I saw it coming, and I warned her, but you know how she is. She was really upset though. I felt bad for her. If I was a good friend I would have cried with her, but I’m not.”
“Oh shut up, yes you are.” I took her bowl and poured some corn flakes of my own and fixed a glass of apple juice. She watched me the entire time, waiting for me to say something or do something or maybe even fall over dead. I couldn’t determine which. “Do you work today?”
“Yeah in about an hour,” she replied, turning her attention back to the paper. “Actually um, I was looking in the classifieds for a new job. The store is awesome to work in, but I make hardly anything and with finals ending tomorrow, I’ll have more time to actually work. Hey! Did you text that guy?”
“Hell no,” I said, sitting down across from her at the table. “That’s the last thing on my mind.”
“I’m about to steal your phone and text him for you.”
“You could try.”
She sighed and flipped the page of the paper. “Whatever. Are you coming to my game later?”
“Wouldn’t miss it. I’ll bring Mal.”
“Okay. And you need to tell her, Carrie.”
I ate my breakfast in silence while Erica read some more comics, laughing at each little thing she encountered. Finally, after about forty-five minutes, she closed it and went to get dress for work. She left shortly after, and I woke Mal up to tell her about what happened, although I wasn’t quite sure how she would take it. If I knew Malerie, she would probably make a big dramatic scene out of it. Either that, or she wouldn’t take me seriously and think I’m joking.
I shook her arm. “Mal, get up. It’s morning.”
She groaned something along the lines to, “Leave me alone.”
“No, come one. I’ll make you some breakfast.” I shook her harder and she came too, fearful and glancing around. “Whoa, easy there.”
“Oh!” she said, surprised. “I forgot I was here.”
I helped her to the bathroom to wash off her face, questioning about the whole Byron situation, in which, if you want my honest opinion, I never thought he was good enough for her. Mal might have been a little out of control, but she was a very sweet girl who had this array about her nobody could deny. And on top of that, she was smart. Not book smart like me, more like wise. She knew about situations and she had answers for them.
“And when I got home, he was there with her. Ugh, I just can’t even believe that Erica was right. Again! And I never listen. Never.” She wiped the smeared black off of her cheeks and eyes and took a deep breath in the mirror. “I really thought he was different. And I really have to tell you something.”
She looked over at me guiltily and then back down to the sink drain as the water dripped from the faucet. “Then tell me,” I encouraged her.
“Two days ago I found out…” she sighed again and sat on the toilet seat, resting her head in her hands. “I didn’t want to tell you guys so soon. Erica doesn’t know yet, but you’ll probably take this better than her.”
“Oh my god!” I half-shouted. “Malerie Jane Tyler! Are you pregnant?”
She nodded and a large tear fell from the duct of her left eye. “I’m sorry.” I knelt down to her and wrapped my arms around her shoulders. “I’m so sorry, Carrie. I really am.”
“Shh, don’t be sorry. These things happen.”
I decided now wouldn’t be a good time to tell her. She had enough to worry about at that moment, and I wasn’t about to give her more. It seemed like girls those days always got pregnant young and out of wedlock, not that I had that traditional state of mind. I just thought Malerie should have been more careful considering she and Byron had nowhere near a good relationship. It wasn’t the first time he cheated on her, but she assured me it would be the last.
“I’m thinking,” she said, sitting up and wiping her eyes, “about other options.”
“Well, I don’t want an abortion if that’s what you’re thinking. I don’t know, maybe adoption. There are tons of people out there that want kids but can’t have any of their own, and I would know that my child is being taken care of properly.”
She shrugged and I helped her to her feet. “Let’s not think about it right now. You have plenty of time to decide. How far along are you?”
“Just three weeks.”
“Not long at all…are you sure you are pregnant?”
“I went to the doctor last Tuesday cause I thought I had a stomach virus.”
I guess that when it rains, it pours. Having cancer was no big deal to me, but I felt sorry for Malerie and tried to be sympathetic. “Erica’s game is tonight. It’s the championship. Do you want to come with me?”
She nodded and smiled. “Sure, but first I want ice cream.”
“It’s seven in the morning.”
She giggled happily and ran into the kitchen.
To say the least, I was glad when the guys and I decided to take a year off touring to spend time with our families and friends. Anyone that read the magazines or watched the news knew how hectic our lives got on the road, and I was ready to settle down for a bit, relax, and just enjoy the life that I had.
The first stop we made was my Aunt Helen’s, the children’s home in London. We visited there many times before, donated, and played shows for the little kids. We made a difference by funding the renovation for the home, and we would even get to take part in the construction. The five of us looked forward to it, but most of all, I looked forward to just being in England for a while. It didn’t matter where, just home.
My Aunt Helen and I were more like mother and son than anything. She couldn’t have children of her own, and even though she had adoptive children, I was the closest thing to a blood son she had. My three cousins were all brother and sister, adopted when the eldest was only eight and the youngest was barely a month old.
After the boys and I wrapped up, Helen took me in her office to talk as usual, giving me a coke and some crisps. We sat on the sofa like always and talked about everything that had happened since the last time. “So tell me,” she said, popping the tab to her sprite, “how is your mother?”
“She’s mum,” I say with a laugh. “You know how she is.”
“Indeed I do, I tortured her for the first sixteen years of her life. Baby sisters are always resentful. You should know.”
“Definitely. Helen, what are you going to do? You can’t run this place forever. Why don’t you take on some help?”
She laughed whole-heartedly at that like I had really said something amusing. “Please, Lou, I’ve been the one and only instructor here for twenty years. I watched kids grow from babies to adults, saw them find new families to love them, and even attended graduations of several of them. My own kids were raised here.”
“You adopted them here,” I said.
“Yes, well, I am still their mum. Speaking of which, when will I be seeing a little Louis running around?” I shook my head no and she sighed. “Don’t give me that. I know you want one, at least someday.”
“You need a proper wife to have a child,” I stated matter-of-factly. “And Eleanor and I weren’t stable enough for marriage, more than less, a baby.”
She tisked and took a crisp from my bag. “You have girls fawning over you left and right.”
“I’m not in love with any of them, though.”
“It’s not love at first sight. That doesn’t exist. You have to get to know someone before you love them, or else you just love them for the way they look, and that’s not love. One of the kids here told me that. Jonah.”
“You know Carrie?”
I smiled, remembering the brown-headed, blue-eyed girl I met just hours before. “I met her today, actually. Quite a fit girl, but seemed shy. Do you know anything about her?” Helen nodded but didn’t say anything, and I figured whatever she was thinking was none of my business. “Can you at least tell me if she’s single?” I joked and she grinned.
“Yes, she is, but I wouldn’t bother if I were you. Carrie is a lovely girl with a good head on her shoulders, but I can almost guarantee you she isn’t looking for a fling with a popstar. She’s the kind of girl you have to persuade, at least says Jonah.”
“He sounds like a smart kid.”
“He is, and she’s a very smart girl. Their mother died about a year and a half ago. Jonah was eight and Carrie was seventeen. She could have taken custody of him, but the court didn’t see her fit as a guardian. So he came here, and she visits almost daily.”
I remembered seeing something in Carrie’s eyes. When I lookd at a regular, average girl, I saw exactly that: a regular, average girl. But then when I looked at someone who had eyes that divided you in half, saw right past your bullshit, and dove right into your soul…I couldn’t help but be intrigued. I wanted to know Carrie.
“Do you know where she lives?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t. I do know that she’ll be at a soccer game tomorrow night, if you’re that desperate to talk to her. I’ll be there too for Whitney.”
Whitney was Helen’s oldest daughter who played soccer at some university. “I’m sure Whitney wouldn’t mind if I came to her game, would she?”
“Of course not. But Louis, I’m warning you, don’t go through all kinds of trouble just to see Carrie. If she shuts you down, just take it like a man and go on. The last thing I need is for you to get a restraining order put against you.”
“I hope you’re joking.”
She laughed. “I might be.”
“Let’s go Erica, you got this!!” Mal yelled from the crowd while I sat quietly beside her under my umbrella, mindlessly watching the game. Nothing about soccer really interested me, but I always went to them to support my best friend.
Erica stole the ball from an opposing player and dribbled it across the soggy wet field and shot it to the net. The goalie jumped and blocked it with ease. Malerie clapped. “It’s okay, you got this girl, you got this! Carrie!” I looked up and saw her staring down at me. “Would you pay attention?!”
“No you’re not, you’re staring into space!”
I scoffed and stood up. “I’m going to get a drink. Do you want anything?”
“Yeah, for you to stop being so boring.”
The line for the concession stand was a mile long, but standing indefinitely sounded like a much better use of my time than being yelled out by Miss Princess. The only reason Erica even played was because it paid for her schooling, and without that scholarship she wouldn’t have been able to afford her education. She didn’t care about the game anymore, and that was apparent.
“Hey you,” someone familiar spoke behind me. I had heard that voice before. “Louis, from the children’s home?” he said finally, and I turned around to face his blue eyes standing in the cold rain.
“Oh hi,” I replied. “How are you?”
“I’m great actually, how about you?”
“I’m…well, dry. And you’re not. Here,” I grabbed his forearm and pulled him underneath my umbrella, raising it just a tad to meet his height. “There, is that better?”
He smiled a gorgeous, pearly-white smile that beat imprints in my eyes. “You didn’t have to, but thank you. Much better.”
“So what brings you here?” I asked him, merely curious.
“I’m here with Helen. My cousin is playing today. Whitney Roge?”
“Oh, of course. Helen’s daughter. I’m sorry, I guess I just didn’t expect to see you here. Where are your little friends?”
He grinned once more and flicked his hair to the side. “They’re visiting their families I’m guessing. What about your friend?”
I pointed over to the field at the blonde and pink-headed girl that I had so lovingly come to watch. “Number one. That’s Erica. She plays like a beast.” He nodded in approval and gazed at her for a moment, watching as her soaked hair stuck to her face and the mud splashed as her feet pounded the ground.
“She’s good,” he said, looking back at me. “Do you play any sports?”
The line moved and I ordered nachos and water. It came up to about five pounds and Louis took over. “Here, let me get this,” he said, pulling out a small wad of cash. “And can I also get a soft pretzel and a coke?” The lady behind the counter added it to the order and Louis handed her a fifty.
“Really, I have plenty of cash. You didn’t have to.”
“I didn’t have to, but I wanted to,” he replied, winking at me from the side. He took our stuff from the counter. “Would you like to sit with me?”
Panic. He was pulling me in. I felt the gravity of him tug at me from my head to the tips of my toes, and no matter how hard I tried I could hardly resist. “Actually, I was just going to stand. So much noise in the bleachers.”
“A pretty girl like you shouldn’t stand. At least let me stand with you.”
Louis and I stood to the side and ate our food, taking turns holding the umbrella without saying hardly anything at all. Silence is golden in my opinion, but I could tell it was really starting to bother him. Finally I said, “I’m sorry I didn’t text you. I kind of got caught up.”
Way to lie, Carrie, way to lie.
“It’s okay. I hoped you would, but seeing you in person is even better.”
Am I blushing?
“So, you’re Helen’s nephew. Louis from the world famous One Direction. Why didn’t I know this?
“Well, the guys and I like to keep a low profile and Helen knows that. So I guess she doesn’t mention it too often. But it’s weird that we’ve only just met. I’ve been to the home a few times just in the last year.”
“I suppose we just didn’t cross paths.”
“I’m glad with finally did,” he said, nudging me playfully.
Stop flirting with me, damn it.
The game ended two minutes later, the opposing team taking the win. “I guess I’ll see you around?” I asked as he helped me to my feet.
“You can count on it,” he replied with another wink. I smiled and turned on my heel, walking away and feeling his eyes still hooked on me. Somehow, I wasn’t even uncomfortable with it. “Hey Carrie?” I turned back around to him.
“Would you like to um…I don’t know…maybe go out for a drink this weekend? Maybe Friday?”
Louis was by all means a handsome guy and seemed very nice and collected. But I was in no position to go on any dates with boys. It could lead to a relationship. And that could lead to love. That’s one thing I just couldn’t do was cause someone else more heartache if I were to die. To me, turning Louis down was my only option.
“I’m sorry, I’ve plans,” I said. “Maybe some other time?”
His face expressed something nothing short of disappointment. “Oh, I um…I understand. Yeah, that’s great, um…you have my number.”
I didn’t take my eyes off him until he caught up with Helen and exited the field, and I felt a twinge of guilt in the pit of my stomach. That’s the first guy that ever asked me out, and I shut him off because life dealt me a crappy hand.
That’s the thing about cancer. It doesn’t care if your heart is lonely and needs someone there to mend it when it’s not even broken. It leaves you there in the dust because in all reality…who would ever fall in love with the sick girl? Not Louis, not anyone. The sick girl has only one purpose, and that’s to make the most of her remaining life before she dies.