Chapter Two, Hopes and Fears
"Car, I need help with this," Lacey said and when I turned around, I saw her standing in my doorway with a book in one hand and a paper and pencil in the other.
"Did you ask Franky?"
"She left to her class a long time ago."
"She's gone, too, and Tina called me stupid."
I let out a sigh and gave a glance at all my books and notes scattered across my floor. I had been trying to study for my physics test that was the next day, hoping that maybe I could potentially ace it and raise my grade to at least a B. I couldn't afford slipping in my AP physics class and especially since my annoying teacher wouldn't stop reminding everyone about the AP test that was two months away. I also had calculus, a rough draft essay for English, and I had to finish an assignment for environmental science. But I stared at Lace and knew that none of that mattered.
"What do you need help with, Lace?" I asked as I stood up from the floor and went to sit on my bed. I patted the space next to me and she walked excitedly to sit beside me.
Before she asked her question, she handed me her paper and then opened up her book to a page she had bookmarked. "I don't understand what I am supposed to do."
"Did Mrs. Colton explain your homework?"
"Yeah, but then when I tried doing it, I got confused."
"What's confusing you?"
"Well, see, first we have to choose who the main characters of the story are. So does that mean I have to read the whole book?"
"No, you can still figure out the main characters from the first chapter. Did you read it?"
"So who is the story about so far?"
"Oh, um," she flipped through some pages and thought with the tip of her tongue sticking out before answering, "Joe, Sam, and Fred."
"Good, and- oh geez, Lace, you forgot to fill out the title of the book, the author, and the illustrator."
"Oh," she hesitantly giggled, "Oops."
I handed her my calculus book since it was the closest thing to write on near me, and watched her write the title and then stop. "Who is the author and illustrator?"
"Where do you look for that in the book?"
"Um. . . the title page thing?"
She flipped to the first page and then asked me to clarify if she had the right names before jotting that down as well. "Okay, what's next?"
"What's the next question you have to fill out?"
"Where does the story take place?"
"I don't know yet?"
"What do you mean?"
"The first chapter doesn't really say."
"Where do you think it takes place?"
"Where do you find gladiators?"
I looked at her incredulously before taking her book and realizing what she meant. "It's in Rome."
"What's a Rome?"
"A place in Italy. There's the Coliseum there where ancient Romans who were gladiators used to fight, and sometimes to the death."
Lace gasped, "Why would they do that?! That's bad. Did they go to jail?"
"No, it was just what they'd do during that time. It was a part of their society. Hundreds of people would watch, and sometimes the men would fight a lion. It was all to prove who was the strongest and toughest."
"Sam and Fred were talking about wrestling. Fred has a wrestling cap."
"Okay, so did you write down the setting?"
"Yeah," she answered as she wrote it down. "Next is the conflict."
"That's the problem in the story. What is Joe's, Sam's, and Fred's problem?"
"Um, they are stuck in Rome with gladiators and need to find The Book to get home."
I gave her a questioning look, wondering what kind of a children's book I was holding in my hand, but shrugged it off and nodded my head. "Good, there you go. Next is the action."
"No, Mrs. Colton said not to do that! She's gonna talk about that tomorrow."
"Oh, well then that was easy. Why were you confused?"
"Because," she said softly and stopped in thought. "I was lonely," she whispered.
I frowned and set her book down behind her before pulling her into a hug, "I'm sorry for leaving you alone, Lace. I've been busy doing my homework."
"It's okay. Did you finish?"
I knew she only asked because she wanted to play, and I really did want to play with her, but now that Lace reminded me that it was only Tina, her, and me at home, I needed to check up on Tina. "No," I honestly told her which made her frown, "But I'm going to take a break for now."
"Does that mean we can play?"
"Sorry, Lace, but no. What other homework do you have? Where's your folder?"
"I already finished everything else."
"I need you to show me. Where's Tina?"
"In Dee Dee's room."
I followed her out of my room and down the hall until I reached Dee Dee's room where sure enough, Tina was sitting at Dee Dee's desk on her spinning chair, swiveling back and forth as she worked on her math homework. I only knew she was doing math homework because she was saying all the problems out loud to herself as she worked on them. In the background, I could faintly hear music playing and knew she was using Franky's iPad. I crossed my arms, frowned, and cleared my throat to catch Tina's attention.
"Sorry!" she yelled as she jumped up, clearly frightened that she was caught. She loudly groaned when she saw it was me standing in the room. "What do you want?"
"You and I both know that Dee Dee only lets you in her room when she's here and Franky doesn't like you using her iPad."
"Dee Dee said I could before she left."
"Are you sure?"
"What did Franky say?"
She hesitated before groaning again and answering, "If Franky didn't want me using her iPad, then she wouldn't have given me the password."
"You can continue doing your homework here, but once you're done you have to leave."
"Okay, that's what Dee Dee said."
"You have to put Franky's iPad away where you found it."
"Carmen!" she whined in protest.
"And you're telling her what you did when she comes home."
"But Carmen!" she whined again.
"And you're apologizing."
"Please Carmen! Can't you just do me this one solid?"
"It's not fair to Franky. Remember what happened last time you used her iPad without asking?"
She stared at me with wide eyes before turning the music off and picking up the iPad. As she walked it by me, she said, "This freaking sucks."
"Don't worry, it's only going to suck more when you're older. You just have to learn to deal with it now so you'll be able to get through the more sucky parts later."
"Can I borrow your phone?" Tina asked when she made it back to Dee Dee's room. I raised an eyebrow at her and she sighed, "I mean, may I use it?"
"Yes, but if I get a text, you have to bring me my phone and can't reply and text people."
"Not even if you know the person."
I handed her my phone and she immediately unlocked it. "Niall texted you and asked what you're doing."
"Just this one time you can reply. Tell him I'm sorry and am busy. If he replies, just ignore him."
She typed away, and I probably shouldn't have trusted her, but I needed to get back to my homework and studying. By now I was just wasting time, at least it felt like it.
"He asked if he could come over. Oh! Can I say yes? Please, please, pretty please?"
"No, he can't come over. Tell him I'm watching Lacey and you- speaking of her, where is she? Also tell him that I am swamped with studying and homework."
She was typing as I talked and a few moments after she replied, she already had an answer, "He's on his way."
"Fudge, well don't say anything back. . . or to anyone else. I'm going to check on Lacey. How much more homework do you have?"
I nodded wondering how both Lacey and Tina didn't have a lot of homework, but once I reached their room, it didn't matter. "Oh my god, what in the world is going in here?!"
Scattered all across the floor were papers and brushes and paint. There was paint everywhere. The worst part was that the paint wasn't only spilt on the tile, but on the large rug in the middle of the floor. And the paint wasn't the water color washable ones, but the finger paints that stain- the ones that aren't supposed to be used unless our mom, Franky, or I am present. It was everywhere. I didn't even think about questioning the brushes at the time.
"What are you doing?" I asked calmly to Lacey who was now standing in the far corner of the room away from me with the most frightened face, because she knew she did something wrong and was in big trouble.
"I-I was. . . uh, I was just trying to paint," she whispered so softly. It was then I noticed the paint all over her hands and arms and clothes and just all over her. I kept asking myself how, how did she create this gigantic mess? I had so much work to do.
"I want you to wipe your feet on the blank piece of- is that the printer paper? Just wipe them on the paper if they have paint on them." She shook her head vigorously to tell me she didn't. "Now, very, extremely carefully walk over to me."
She listened and did what I said. I watched her walking and it was like she was going through some pretend obstacle course. A part of me wanted to laugh, but I knew I shouldn't. She's going to be in trouble when our parents come home and I have to try and clean everything before the stains really set into the rug.
As soon as Lacey reached me, I had her lift her arms up and pulled off her shirt. Then I took off her shorts and walked her to the bathroom. Meanwhile, Tina decided to see what was going on and once she saw the room, she screamed, yelled at Lacey for being stupid and ruining their room, and then laughed at her because she was in sooo much trouble. By then, I was starting to lose my patience.
"Tina, if you don't shut up and go back to doing your homework, I'm going to call mom and tell her that you've been bullying Lacey again."
"I'm not bullying her."
"Yes you are! You were yelling at her, calling her mean names, and laughing just now! Apologize!"
Lacey was already crying as she stood in the tub with me scrubbing her body with soap hard enough that her skin was turning red. I groaned and stopped only for Tina to start crying too. I put my head in my hands, but that was a bad idea because they were still soapy and soap had gotten in my eyes. So now I was dealing with two crying kids and I couldn't stop thinking about how I still had all my work to do and I really needed to wash Lacey's clothes and clean her and Tina's room and my eyes stung really bad.
"Look, Tina, I'm sorry for yelling. But what you did was mean to Lacey and you need apologize to her."
She stopped crying and wiped her face. "Sorry Lace."
"I-It's o-okay," Lacey answered, hiccuping and coughing as she still cried.
"Go back to Dee Dee's room, Tina."
"Do you need help?" she asked. I wanted to to tell her yes and give her a short list of things to do, but I stopped myself. I couldn't have her do anything because I didn't want anything else to happen.
"No, but thanks."
She nodded and scurried away. My eyes still stung as I looked at Lacey. "I'm sorry Lacey."
"It's okay," she answered. She stopped crying and hiccuping, but was still coughing and now sniffing. "I'm sorry."
"It's alright, but what you did in your room was wrong. You know you're not supposed to use those paints without asking, and then you made a very big mess."
"I tried using the papers to clean it."
"Next time ask me or someone and tell us when you spill it. No one will be that mad or upset, okay?"
"Am I in big trouble?"
"Yes, but don't worry about it. I'll talk to mom and dad. Why'd you do it though? I told you to show me your homework."
"I was going to, but then you were talking to Tina and I figured you were gonna be a while. I still wanted to play and wanted to paint, so I thought if I did something quick, it would be fine."
"You were working too fast and spilled it, right?"
"Yes. It just kept spilling and going everywhere."
"Okay, can you finish washing yourself?"
The bell rang right then and I internally groaned and cursed Niall. "Have Tina bring you a fresh set of clothes."
She nodded before I left the bathroom and closed the door so it was only open a crack. I practically ran to the front door and opened it only to glare at Niall.
"Hi beautiful," he greeted way too cheerfully.
"I told you not to come here."
"No, you didn't," he answered with a confused look.
"Niall, I told you I'm taking care of my sisters and have studying and homework."
"No, you didn't."
Now I was confused until I remembered. I slammed the door and shouted, "TINA."
"God, they're amazing," Niall laughed as he sat beside me on my floor.
I glared at him, "It's not funny."
I had just told him everything that happened prior to him ringing the doorbell, and all of it he found to be hysterical enough to laugh at. When I thought about it more, it was, until I remembered how frustrating it all was for me and especially because all my books and notes were left in the same spot since Lacey had asked me for help.
"Isn't it a good thing I came though? I helped you clean their room and now I can help you with your homework."
"You're not taking AP physics or AP environmental science, you always ask Brandy for help in math, and you hate English."
"I can still help."
"By distracting me? I think my sisters took care of that."
"You asked me to come."
I rolled my eyes, "Tina did."
"Whatever. I'll help you by splitting up the work. I can do your environmental science homework while you do your calculus homework. Then we'll both study physics and write your paper."
"That's cheating and like half of it doesn't make sense."
"Fine, I have a better idea that'll help you finish fast." He had a smirk on his face and I knew not to trust him, but the fact that it would help me finish fast was too tempting to pass up.
"For fifteen minutes you work on your homework undisturbed, and afterwards we make out for five minutes. And then we'll just keep doing that until you finish."
"When I said undisturbed, I meant that I wouldn't disturb you and will make sure your sisters don't disturb you. I'll even check on them too."
"Yes?" He had moved closer to me, close enough that he was sitting so that we were touching and I could feel his breath on me.
"I can't guarantee one of your sisters will walk in on us kissing," he said with his voice low, "But that's a risk we have to take."
I bit my lip, regretting what I was about to say, "Sure."
I expected him to kiss me, but he pulled away so quickly and smiled. "Great! Fifteen minutes start," he took out his phone to see the time, "Now."
"I hate you," I grumbled as I picked up my physics notes to begin studying.
He reached over and gently took my chin in his fingers to turn my face to him. He smiled and finally kissed me. "I like you."
Then he got up and left and I wished he had never come over. Not really. I was actually grateful because I found myself studying more and concentrating better, working harder to get through the fifteen minutes so I could kiss him. I was surprised that his work ethic was useful and productive. I had half a mind to always ask him over, but then even when I didn't want him over, he'd still come.
An hour passed and we had made out four times. Surprisingly, Niall was totally calm and kept to himself while I worked. He would check on my sisters, but then he would quietly lay or sit on my bed with his phone in my hand or one of my books. It wasn't until the hour passed and we finished making out the fourth time that Niall was finally bored and growing impatient.
"How much longer?"
"I only need to write my rough draft. I can do that and study more for physics later."
"Awesome because it's like five-thirty and I thought that-"
"Are you serious?"
"This whole time I didn't know the time! Oh my god, shit."
"Whoa," Niall grabbed my arm before I could leave my bed and room, "Slow down. What's wrong?"
"My mom is going to be home any minute now and I haven't fed my sisters dinner. Also, I'm supposed to be picking up Franky from her class and Dee Dee from her friend's. Actually, it's her boyfriend's house but I am supposed to keep that a secret because-"
"Shhh," Niall shushed me with his finger on my lips. "I'll pick up your sisters while you feed Tina and Lacey. I'll just say I offered since I was on my way over. No big deal."
"I hate that you're doing this."
"Helping me fix all my problems today. I don't need your help."
"If I didn't help you, you would have lost your shit and exploded. You don't have to thank me, it was all my pleasure."
"Thank you, Niall. Just keep in mind that one day there's going to be a huge problem you can't fix."
"I don't believe that. I like to think I'm everything you need. Remember what happened last year? I helped you."
"Yeah, but that was different. And you're not everything I need. Right now I need you to pick up my sisters and you're still here."
"Where does Dee Dee's secret boyfriend live and are you going to explain it when I come home?"
After giving the address to him and literally shoving him out the door, I managed to get Lacey and Tina to sit at the table and have their dinner. It took a lot of persuasion as usual and a compromise with Tina. I owed her an hour with my phone. I expected my mom to come home any minute after getting Lacey and Tina to eat, but she didn't come. I checked my phone just in case she had texted me saying she was stuck at work, and sure enough she was. So instead I waited for Niall to come home with Franky and Dee Dee. And when they did, it was like the end of the world.
"Where the hell were you?!" Frank yelled as soon as she walked in the dining room.
"Taking care of these two. Did Niall tell you what happened?"
"Yes, but you could have texted me! I had texted you multiple times."
"Tina," I groaned, "She had my phone and was supposed to tell me if anyone texted me."
"You know you can't trust her. I bet she used my iPad while I was gone."
Tina didn't say anything, but just kept shoving her vegetables in her mouth. I sighed, "Tell her Tina."
"I'm sorry, but I used your iPad while you were gone to listen to music."
"Ugh, whatever," Frank replied, already annoyed and done with everything. She went into the kitchen and started serving herself dinner.
Next it was Dee Dee's turn to yell at me, "Why'd you tell Franky about Carlos?!"
"I didn't, I swear! I only told Niall and I'm sure if you ask, he'll tell you he didn't say anything."
"Why'd you say anything in the first place?! Ugh! I bet mom knows."
"She doesn't and she's coming home late."
"She'll be home in half an hour to forty-five minutes."
"Does dad know?"
"Nobody knows except all of us now," I assured her.
"None of you better open your mouth to mom and dad," she threatened Lacey and Tina who were still eating quietly.
"Leave them alone. They've had a long day. Plus they're both going to be in trouble when mom and dad are here."
"Yeah," Dee Dee laughed, "One screwed up the room and the other was a jerk."
"Hey!" both Tina and Lacey called out as they pointed their forks at her.
"Yeah, and you're being a jerk too. Go eat dinner before I tell mom and dad you have a boyfriend named Carlos and visited him today."
She glared at me, but listened. Niall, who had been standing off to the side, finally sat next to me and Frank joined the table. I thought my sisters were done, but I was wrong.
"Tina, did you leave my room when you finished your homework?"
"You better not have touched anything."
I rolled my eyes and looked at Niall who was already looking at me. "Are you going to have dinner?" I asked.
"Did you eat?"
"No, not yet."
Without saying anything, he left and served both of us food just as Dee Dee had finished.
"Awe, how sweet is Niall?" Frank said. I glared at her, hoping she wouldn't start anything.
"Yeah, he came over and helped Car and now he's serving her dinner," Dee Dee added.
"I wish I had someone who did stuff for me."
"Wait, aren't you both graduating?" Dee Dee asked.
"So what's going to happen when you both graduate? Don't you guys want to go to different universities? How's that going to work?"
I thought she was going to say something mean or embarrass me, but I didn't expect her to say anything close or ask those questions. My eyes widened as I thought about the answers because I only knew the answer to one of the questions- the second one to be exact- and it scared me. All this time I never thought about what would happen to Niall and I after we graduated. When we were applying to universities and colleges, we were technically on a break from each other and weren't on speaking terms. After only being officially together for about three weeks since Formal, we never brought up college. We never talked about anything that had to do with our future and what would happen after graduation.
And that scared the shit out of me, because what was going to happen? Was there at least one college that we both applied to that we wanted to attend? Were there any colleges close to each other that we applied to? If we went to different colleges, would we try a long distance relationship or. . . or potentially breakup? I remembered Samantha causally saying the other day during lunch that most high school relationships fall through once they graduate. She made sure everyone knew that wouldn't be Peter and her because they were going to college together. But would that be Niall and I? Would we. . . breakup? I hoped not. But pretty soon letters from the colleges we applied to would arrive letting us know if we were accepted.
I freaked out and didn't realize Niall had brought my food to me and was already eating beside me until he asked, "Aren't you going to eat?"
I silently picked up my forked, but my appetite was gone. I pushed my vegetables around and picked at the rice on my plate, but I couldn't find it in me to eat. I felt like throwing up. I had such a long day and then Dee Dee had to innocently ask two questions I hadn't known I feared the answers to.
"Are you okay?" Niall asked, but I was afraid to lift my head up and look at him. I didn't want to know if Frank and Dee Dee were watching me or what kind of a look they wore. "At least eat some of your food," he insisted.
I listened and figured he knew I wasn't okay. By the time everyone finished dinner, my mom came home with a bright smile on her face. Or at least it looked like she was smiling when she stood in the doorway of my room. I was laying on my bed with my head hanging off while Niall sat on the floor next to me. Looking at my my mom with my head upside down, I thought she was smiling.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Hanging out with Niall," I answered like it was obvious, because it was exactly what I was doing.
"I just had to listen to Lacey crying a river as she rambled about something that happened and that she's sorry. Meanwhile Tina was trying to convince me how good of a girl she is and promise me she'll be better. Then Dee Dee was telling specific details about what her and friend were doing, so clearly she's hiding something. And then Franky is keeping to herself, so something else happened. And now I found you hanging around."
"Yeah," I paused to sit up properly, "I can explain."
"Did the house fall apart while I was gone?"
"It's been a long day. I can vouch for all four of them. It's my fault. I was preoccupying my time with studying that I forgot to watch Lace and Tina. Lace made a mess and Tina was doing things she shouldn't have while being mean to Lace. Dee Dee and Frank are just upset at me because I may forgotten to pick them up and had Niall do it. I'm sorry mom."
"Don't apologize Carmen. I know you're the only sane one while I'm working. Thank you."
"You're welcome mom. Oh, and uh, Lacey spilled paint all over her room. Niall and I did our best to clean it up. We also need more printer paper."
"I can't believe I missed it all today. Thank you for helping out today, Niall."
She gave both of us a wave before leaving us alone again in my room. I laid down again on my bed, only this time my legs were hanging off the edge instead of my head.
"Your mom is nice. I like her."
"I know," I mumbled while staring at my ceiling.
"Are you going to tell me what's bothering you?"
"I am supposed to keep Dee Dee's secret because she caught me ditching school last week."
"You were caught?"
"Yeah, she caught me and I caught her talking to that boy Carlos, so we promised to keep both a secret."
"I'm not being devious, I'm just trying to- okay, I see what you're doing. Shut up."
"What?" Niall asked innocently. As if.
"I know what you're doing. I'm still Carmen."
"Okay? I was just trying to expand my vocabulary. A new word a day keeps your English teacher at bay."
"How's that working for you?"
"I have an A in English, thank you very much."
"Really? I'm proud of you. No sarcasm, I really am. You hate English."
"Thank you, but you've been avoiding the question I asked. You've been off since we ate."
"I don't believe it. You're stressed out. So much that you have a gray hair."
"What?! I do NOT have a gray hair. My hair is naturally shiny."
"Oh please, it's basically white. You're stressed and you literally can't hide it. What's stressing you?"
"My boyfriend telling me I have gray hairs."
"There's only one drama queen. So what's wrong?"
"Nothing, okay? Don't worry about it."
"Ugh, fine. Dee Dee's questions freaked me out. We never talked about college. Ever. I have no idea what's going to happen after we graduate. Are we going to breakup? You know how often high school relationships make it? Only in stupid movies, tv shows, and books. I feel as if there's an inevitable doom looming around the corner and I hate it. I hope we make it, but I just. . . I don't know."
Niall looked at me like I was insane, and honestly, as if he didn't know or recognize me. I realized then that I had been freaking out for a good reason and we were not ready to have that kind of a talk yet. I caved into his concern and I was weak for that. But then his face changed and he looked more sympathetic. He didn't say anything to me, but he stood up and laid next to. He pulled me towards him and held me close as if a warm and fuzzy cuddle was what I needed. Surprisingly, it was a start to calm me down. It de-stressed me momentarily.
"You wanna know something?" he asked me softly and curiously.
"Before I started talking to, hell, before you transferred, I hated everyone. I just didn't find people pleasant and I had, what I thought were, justifiable reasons for it. Then I met you and you became the only exception. And I didn't just like you; I fell in love with you. I had a massive crush on you, whether I accepted it at first or not and despite popular belief. That much is true."
"Where are you going with this?"
"I screwed up and at what was a very crucial time not only in high school, but in our relationship. I admit it. I'm sorry we never talked about us and our future."
"Apology accepted, but that doesn't change anything."
"It doesn't, but if you want, I can tell you what colleges I applied to and you can tell me the ones you ended up applying to."
"I already know which ones you applied to."
"All the ones as far away from here as possible and I bet you applied to out of state ones."
"And what do think is going to happen? Let's say we fast forwarded to the future, what's it like?"
"This is a disaster."
"I have tape."
"It won't work. It keeps breaking."
"Maybe some superglue will help?"
"No, it won't."
"I'm not speaking hypothetically. I have superglue."
Niall was about to answer, but my door opened and scared the both of us. We instantly jumped away from each other at the sound. I assumed it was one of my sisters wanting to ask me something or bother me, but it was surprisingly my dad who decided to pop in.
"Hi Car, I just came home."
"Hi Mr. Mitchell."
"What were you two doing?"
"Nothing. We were just talking."
"Okay, well it's getting late. Don't forget to call or let your parents know when you're going home Niall."
"Three feet, guys. No less."
He closed the door afterwards and I quickly faced Niall to see he was still getting over being intimidated by my dad. My dad wasn't scary or mean guy. In fact, he was anything but. He was probably the nicest, most kind-hearted person I know besides my mom. It was just that when it came to his five daughters who he treasured and loved dearly, he possibly became a little too over-concerned. He also, may have, scared Niall the first time they met, only because my dad asked way too many questions and made it clear that Niall would never hurt me in any way, shape, or form. My dad probably jinxed him. Anyway, anytime my dad saw or knew about Niall being over, he would always want a space between us. Sometimes I wonder how he would react to Niall kissing me, especially if he found out how Niall helped me plow through my homework and studying.
After Niall regained his composure, he texted his parents to let them know he was leaving my house. I was completely upset because he knew my dad didn't care how long he was over- he just couldn't stay the night. I sighed when Niall scooted over to me and gave me a lingering kiss before standing up and quickly leaving. It was like there was a fatal toxin in the air and he had to go before he breathed too much. I've told him my dad was nice and liked him, but the words went in one ear and out the other.
Since I was alone again, I decided to do the rough draft of my essay and then study before I went to bed. It seemed reasonable enough and I figured I could actually go to bed before twelve in the morning. But once fifteen minutes passed, I felt terrible. I lost my motivation to anything for the rest of the night. My curiosity got the best of me and I kept wondering what Niall was going to tell me before my dad interrupted him.
The curiosity didn't last long. I just wanted him to tell me that we were going to be together after high school. Just like Samantha and Peter, only we were actually going to make it.
I apologize for such a long wait... I had been writing this in Niall's pov... so I had to rewrite everything and I'm sorry ):