"I told you not to sent them to your parents' house, Penny! Look what happened!"
"Well if you hadn't knocked that slut up, maybe we wouldn't be here!" I knit my eyebrows together in confusion. Knocked up? But that would mean…
"Dad." I say, barely being able to control my anger. "You got somebody pregnant?" I hold back tears. How could he have done this? To Mom, to his kids, to that woman's family? Doesn't he know any better? He's the one who always told me to make good decisions.
I don't see you making good fucking decisions, Dad!
"Dad?" Lawrence asks slowly. "Is it true?" I'm holding on to the last bit of hope I have, but unfortunately, my dad nods his head, looking down at the floor. God, he's such a coward that he can't even look at me!
"Annette, we didn't want you to find out like this…" My mom starts, but I silence her by holding my hand up.
"I don't want to here it!" I scream. My grandmother gently grabs a hold of my arm, trying to calm me down, but I shake her off harshly. "Just get out." I say. Nobody moves an inch. Oh my God, can't they tell that I just want to be alone? "I said get out!" I scream at the top of my lungs. Slowly, they all start to file out. First my parents, who are arguing with each other as if their lives depend on it. Then Ian, Hayley, and Olivia go, who are looking at me as if I'm some sort of monster. Then my Grandparents start to leave, each giving me a quick hug before they do.
"It'll be alright." Grandpa whispers in my ear before he goes like everybody else. Lastly, Lawrence starts to leave, and he's carrying Gracie, who's crying hysterically. Once it's just me left in the cramped, ugly hospital bedroom, I let out a loud sigh.
"I am an awful sister."
I'm discharged from the hospital two days later. I had a minor concussion from the fall I took when I fainted, and they had to stitch up my head. But I'm pretty much all better now. All I have to do is not push myself too hard physically (no running, jumping, swimming, sports, etc.) and make sure that my head-wound doesn't open up again.
Should be easy enough.
The day after I come home, I'm lounging on a pool chair, reading a book and trying to get some color into my freakishly pale skin, when I hear my cell phone ringing next to me. I put my book down and pick my phone up, and I smile when I look at the caller ID.
"Are you okay? I heard that you went to the hospital and…" I cut him off by laughing.
"I'm fine. I just sliced my head open on a piece of metal. No big deal." There's silence on the other end. Okay, so I could have worded that just a little bit better. "I'm all stitched up now. Everything's fine." I add quickly.
"Okay…so when do you think you'll be coming back to Modesto?"
"Hopefully never," I say, chuckling a little bit. "I've been begging my grandmother to let me stay until graduation. I think I'm wearing her down."
"I mean, it's not like they don't have the room. Their house is huge! And I told them I'd do all the cooking and cleaning, so I won't be a burden, either."
"Yeah, okay, whatever. You're leaving us? For good?" He sounds kind of mad. Why the hell is he mad at me? Can't he see what I'm going through? All I want to do is get away from my parents and that tramp that Dad impregnated (I still can't believe that). If he was really my best friend, he would realize this and support me!
"But what about your siblings? You can't just abandon them!"
"I'm not abandoning anybody, Nate." I say slowly, trying to keep a level tone. "I'll go back for the holidays, and maybe they'll come up here to visit on some weekends. I just need some time, okay? Can you understand that?"
"Yeah." I smile. We may not always see eye-to-eye, but Nathan always ends up supporting me in the end (and vise-versa! I'm not a horrible friend, you know).
"I'll talk to you tonight?"
"Sure. Bye, Annette."
"Later." I put my phone down and close my eyes, enjoying the feeling of the hot sun on my skin. I hope I can stay here. I know my parents will be on board with it. One less mouth to feed, one less bed to fill, it'll be convenient for them. I just hope my grandparents will let me stay with them for my senior year.
And yeah, it'll be tough moving to a new school with new people without the support of Nathan and Carly and all my siblings. But it's better than going to my old school and having people label me as "the girl whose parents got divorced because her dad's an unfaithful slob".
I can't live with that. I need to stay here.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the eight dwarf. What's up, Clumsy?" Is he actually making a joke about my head injury? How dare he! I swear, I'm going to…keep calm, Annette. Immature douchebags like him don't phase you.
"Don't you have work to do?" I ask boredly, picking up my book, trying to find the page where I left off.
"Actually, your grandparents asked me to take you out. You've been here for a week and haven't made any friends." I roll my eyes.
"I don't need to make new friends. I've got my books and I've got Nathan." He smirks at this.
"Nathan? Is he your boyfriend?" He asks teasingly.
"No, he's my best friend. It's possible for people of the opposite sex to have a non-romantic relationship." Good going, Annette. Use those sexy words that make this sound like a science class.
And the funny thing is, Nathan and I actually were romantically involved for a while. It was kind of inevitable, really. I mean, we've known each other since we were three, we've been best friends since we were seven. He knows everything about me and I know everything about him. We spend practically every second of the day, every day of the week together. When you're with somebody so much, it'd be odd if you didn't develop romantic feelings for them. Nathan and I started dating at the beginning of sophomore year. But after about a year-and-a-half, we decided that it'd be best if we just stayed friends.
"Whatever. Just get changed and meet me in the driveway in ten minutes." Beau says. Oh, please. Like I'm going to listen to him.
"I don't know who you think you are, but I do not take orders from you. In fact, it should be the other way around. You work for my grandparents, I'm staying in their house, so you kind of work for me, too." I say, crossing my arms, hoping that acting like a total bitch will get him to leave.
"I don't want to be here anymore than you do. Believe me. But your grandmother asked me to show you around the city, so that's what I'm going to do."
"Whatever she's paying you, I'll double it." I really don't want to go out. Especially not with him.
"Oh, come on! What are you afraid of, huh?"
"Wondering into a dark alley, getting kidnapped, raped, eventually rescued but the trauma will be unbearable so I'll turn to drugs and alcohol, and eventually get murdered by my drug-dealer because I owe him too much money." I reply robotically. I swear, I think about the weirdest things when I'm about to fall asleep.
"Um…okay." He says, looking at me as if I'm the strangest person he's ever met. I probably am, but whatever. It's not like I care what he thinks. "But seriously, just come have lunch with me. I promise nothing bad will happen to you." I don't know what makes me give in. Maybe it's the fact that I know he won't leave me alone until I do, or maybe it's that sparkle in his blue eyes. Either way, I put my book down and let out a loud sigh.
"Fine. But if I die, I'm blaming you."
He takes me to this little café about ten minutes away from the house. It's nothing special, just a regular diner. But still, I can already tell that I'll be hanging out here a lot.
"So why are you working for my grandparents, anyway. You can't be older than nineteen. Is this just some sort of summer job? Are you going to school in the fall?" He laughs.
"No, I don't go to school anymore."
"High school flunk-out?" I guess.
"College drop-out, actually. I didn't need it. I already knew everything that they were teaching and I didn't want my parents to waste money on my tuition."
"Too cool for school, are we?" I ask, laughing. He laughs too, running his fingers through his messy brown hair.
"I guess." We walk to the outside tables with our food and Beau looks around for a couple of seconds before he walks over to a table where five people are already seated. When he sits down, all of them immediately greet him with friendly smiles and laughter.
So, yeah. I feel just a little bit out of place.
"Come on, Annette!" Beau yells at me. I walk over hesitantly and sit at the only empty chair. I awkwardly look around the table, and twirl my hair nervously when I see that everybody is looking at me expectantly.
"You might want to introduce yourself." Beau says.
"I'm Annette." I say shyly. I've never really been good with meeting other people. I'm always so scared that I won't be accepted.
"I'm Reyna." A girl with short mousy brown hair and hazel eyes says, stretching her hand out for me to shake. "That's Derek and Mellie, or Dellie, as we like to call them. They're so in love it makes me want to vomit," I look over at the couple to my right. The girl has dirty-blonde hair and blue eyes, and the guy's got light-ish brown hair and golden-brown eyes. I can tell that Reyna is right. They are in love. I don't even think they noticed that I sat down at the table. They're in their own little world, smiling and laughing and holding hands under the table. It's totally sickening.
And I'm totally jealous.
"I'm Avalena," A girl with long, curly dark brown hair, brown eyes, and a pretty nice tan says. She's got a little bit of a Hispanic accent. "My friends just call me Ava."
"What friends?" The guy next to her asks with a slight smile. He has messy brown hair and emerald green eyes, and he's got an athlete's build. She elbows him in the ribs. I raise my eyebrows at them.
"Despite how they act, they're sexually attracted to each other." Beau whispers in my ear. But I guess he wasn't quiet enough, because Ava's looking at him as if he just said that he kicks puppies for fun.
"Ugh! As if anybody would ever want to do him." She says in a totally disgusted voice.
"Your sister did." He says with a smirk.
"Okay, my sister doesn't count. She's a slut."
"Guess that runs in the family." Ouch.
"I swear, Warren! I'm about to-"
"Enough!" Beau yells, and I swear that he sounds just like my dad whenever he breaks up a fight between me and Lawrence. "You'd think I'm raising five-year-olds." We all just talk about random stuff after that, and I have to admit, it's the most fun I've had in a long time. I find out that Derek and Mellie are both going to USC in the fall, and Warren, Ava, and Reyna are going to be seniors at a private school called Chesterfield Prep.
"It's one of the top high schools in the nation. And if you do well, the teachers give you a glowing college recommendation. You can basically get into any school you want if you take it seriously." Reyna explains. Huh. I've never been to a private school. Maybe I'll talk to Grandma about that tonight.
I'm silent after that. I just eat my burger and kind of go back and forth, listening to the conversations around me. Derek and Mellie are talking about college, Reyna and Beau are talking about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (?), and Warren and Ava, well…
"You are the most annoying human being on the planet!"
"Well you're not exactly Little Miss Sunshine."
"Te juro que te mato si no te callas la boca,"
"Hey, Freakin' Puerto Rican. This is America. We speak English here, comprendo?"
"Okay. I'm going to smash you ugly face in with a hammer. Is that clear enough English for you?"
I laugh and roll my eyes. Seriously, they argue more than my parents. It's actually kind of scary. They both look like they're going to wring the other's neck at any second.
Okay, now they just sound like five-year-olds.
"It's your turn, Reyna." Beau says in an exhausted voice. She sighs and clears her throat before yelling at the top of her lungs,
"Both of you shut up! Warren, you're being about as mature as a two-year-old, and Ava…calm your tits, woman. You shouldn't let him get to you like that. Now shake hands and apologize!" I can barely contain my laughter. They both look absolutely appalled at the idea of physical contact. But they turn towards each other, and manage to shake hands without breaking each other's bones.
"Now apologize." Reyna says in a motherly tone.
"Sorry you're such a whore."
"Sorry you'll never be able to get a woman to date you if your life depends on it."
"Would you two just make out already?" Derek asks in an annoyed voice.
"As if." Ava responds just as Warren says,
"Not even if it would resolve world hunger."
"So did you have fun?" Beau asks on the car ride back. I laugh a little.
"Yeah, actually, I did. Your friends are-"
"Interesting," I say. "Ava and Warren…"
"They fight like a married couple."
"More like a brother and sister who hate each other's guts." Seriously, I didn't think it was possible for people to despise somebody that much. I mean, even Mom and Dad are more civilized towards each other than those two.
"Oh, please. The rest of us are taking bets on when they'll just give up and admit that they love each other." I burst out laughing at this. Seriously?
"I don't think that's possible. I mean, they were looking at each other like they wanted to murder each other. You really think they're in love?"
"Stop living in a world of black and white, Annette. Love isn't like the movies."
"True. But I still don't think it's possible for them to even smile at each other, let alone love each other." At this point, we've pulled up at my grandparents' driveway.
"Whatever. I'm still betting that's it's going to happen by the end of first semester." I laugh and roll my eyes. He can think what he wants to think. But I've read enough novels to know that a relationship between those two doesn't stand a chance.
"Thanks for this," I say as I exit the car. "I had a lot of fun." He smiles and drives away.
When I walk into my grandparents house, I'm surprised to see both of them sitting on the living room couch, smiling at me. I knit my eyebrows together in confusion. Who died?
"Um…hi?" Grandpa laughs.
"Annette, dear, your grandfather and I have been talking and…we've decided to let you stay until graduation."