Lena had been shocked when she'd entered the room without Sarah. She wasn't usually so shy. Thankfully, now the little terror had warmed up considerably.
"And then, and then Lena burnt the food 'cuz she was too busy looking at the cookbook!" said Sarah giggling with Louis.
"Really now!" he said, locking eyes with her and flashing her a small smile. "Has her cooking improved at all since then?" He really had some nice eyes. She could see why he was Sarah's favorite. He acted a lot like her.
"Yeah, 'cept she likes to make soup a lot. And I hate soup, but Lena says that it helps things stretch."
Lena laughed nervously at that, while some of the boys looked embarrassed. Nothing like broadcasting poverty levels with a neon sign like that, Sarah.
She wished she had taught Sarah proper manners beyond her pleases and thank-yous, like never bringing up money to people you've only just met. But Sarah was ten, she reminded herself. Ten-year-olds don't need tact. They should be playing outside and being carefree, not worried about making ends meet.
"We're doing our best to make ends meet," she said, smiling instead and putting her arms around Sarah. "I'm sure you guys can understand. I'm a part-time manager at the cafeteria at my University, which puts out a decent amount of money. And now that I've gotten my Bachelors in Engineering, I'll be able to get an even bigger amount of money." She kissed Sarah on the cheek who wrestled out of her grip."So no more soup after that, sweetie."
"Yeah," offered up Niall. "I mean, we all had normal childhoods, so we've all gone through the soup phase in one way or another."
"I failed my A levels," said Louis suddenly. The room got quiet. "Yeah, the first time around, I failed them miserably." Noticing Lena's confused look, he added "they're like super important for entrance to Uni and for what you want to major in, and I had to retake them. I did a bunch of odd jobs too, part time work before getting to this point."
He paused again.
"I don't think any of us take this for granted. Being able to reach out to people like you and Sarah here, well, thats a blessing."
"Can I get a donut?"
"Sarah, it's rude to interrupt, but yes, you may get a donut."
"YAY!" screamed Sarah. She barrelled right through the body guards with an "excuse me" and began piling her plate.
"I wouldn't normally let her eat that much sugar," she said, sighing again, "but she needs it. I'm so worried that she's going to grow up malnourished or with deficiencies because I can't feed her properly."
"You sound like a house-mom," commented Harry.
"Shut up, man," said Zayn, glaring at him.
"No, I might as well be," she smiled sadly. "I'm twenty-one. I'm finishing up my undergraduate studies. And I've been trying to keep that little one-" she nodded her head towards Sarah, now in an animated conversation with a bodyguard "-fed, and clean and well-rested. Since she was seven."
"What happened to your parents, if you don't mind me asking?" inquired Niall.
"Man!" said Zayn, in an annoyed voice.
"No, it's ok. I don't know why I'm telling you guys this. Probably just to get it all off my chest, but they died in a car accident together. They had a lot of debts, my student loans including so I had to switch to a less-important school that would offer me a scholarship. We lost the house because IRS took it as payment for my parents debts. So we've been living from lease to lease for the past couple of years, in some not-so-nice areas to make things work."
Lena took a deep shaky breath.
"Whew, that was hard to talk about. I'm sorry, I've probably annoyed you all. This isn't something you talk about when you first meet people."
"No, not at all," said Louis. "I think I speak for most of the guys when we say we'd like to help you out a bit,"
"No, no, no, please," begged Lena. "I've got it under control. The hard part is over. I can get a high-paying job now. This is not some charity case. Sarah and I just wanted to have fun for two weeks with her favorite band. We haven't had a vacation for a while, and-" she glanced back over at Sarah, now sharing her donut with the bodyguard to make sure she wasn't listening, "-I thought that this could ease the transitioning a bit, since we'll need to move again and get resettled in a different area, which Sarah hates."
Sarah then came bounding over and Louis' attitude changed instantly.
"Hey, gorgeous! Saw you talking to my mate, Jones over there! He steals all my oreos, did you know? I'm surprised he hasn't turned into one, or a donut for any matter, i mean look at him! Pounding all of them back like that!"
Sarah giggled. Yep, Lena could definitely see why Louis Tomlinson was her sister's favorite member. He was more than just a pretty boy in the limelight. He was a person with a good heart.
All of them were, in fact. It was easy to judge from tabloids, not that she read any of them anyway, but they seemed quite nice. Except Harry, for that house-wife comment. And Niall, well he seemed a bit nosy. But oh well. She was used to nosy. She wasn't used to kindness. Or the compassion they'd shown her so far.
"I'm going to get a donut too," she said, smiling at Sarah.
"They have boston creams," said Sarah with her eyes wide.
"I'll have to try one!"
Louis smiled at her again. This time, she smiled back.