I Almost Get a Taste of my Own Poision

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Nathan Mitchell has never been parted away from his sister. However, when a perfect guy comes in and whisks her away from him, Nathan has nothing to do than take her back. Would Nathan let her sister go when he sees how she's happy with this guy?

Submitted: April 19, 2016

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Submitted: April 19, 2016

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Sugar to salt, check! Salt to sugar, check! Water to sake (Don't ask me how I got hold of it but it involved a group of thugs, snakeskin, and a nutcracker. That's another story for another time.), check! Milk to cream, check! Butter to margarine (Better for the environment whatsoever but tastes not as good), check! Cocoa powder to grounded Oreo crumbs, check!

That's probably enough to change a chocolate cake into a calamitous cake! Especially when Gael is allergic to Oreos (I might have somehow snatched his diary while he wasn’t looking). It's a shame how his noble tongue can't tolerate such a wonderful creation.

Oh, you may wonder what's going on. Sorry, the name's Nathan and for you to understand everything, let's rewind back some time.

 

I love my sister.

Okay, maybe that's a bit cheesy as an opening line and it kind of came out wrong. Totally bad for my first impression but if I care, I wouldn't have said it. Especially when we only have each other. Well, apart from our step-parents, but I wouldn't push our luck that far.

So, yeah, I do love her.

Anyway, we always hang out with each other. We used to go to school together, have lunch together, go to the arcade after school together... Well, you get the idea. And everything all ended because that wretch purposefully walked into Lin's life.

Gael Hervey V, preferably to be just called Gael, is a descendant of some British aristocratic family. He just moved to the States at the beginning of the year. Not that I care, to be honest. And there was this one time during lunch when he strutted in straight to my table and singled out my sister. Others might have thought that he looked regal. I, on the other hand, thought that he was a total snob.

 

"Ma'am, are you Linda Mitchell?" Gael sat down on the spot next to Lin's only occupied side. Needless to say, I was on her other side.

Lin blinked her eyes twice and swallowed. I remembered thinking that she must be mentally having some sort of freak-out session. Add to that, she was beyond baffled to have someone, especially a guy like Gael, taking notice of her. Poor, Lin.

She unconsciously put a hand on my arm, asking for help which I was glad she did so.

"What do you want?" I asked impudently and made the sternest face I could.

"Am I interrupting?" Gael eyed Lin and my overlapped hands. Even with how close we were, it was not appealing to be viewed as her boyfriend. Besides, didn't our resemblance mean anything? Raven hair and hazel eyes with honey-toned skin? Or is he the type of person that thinks that soulmates are supposed to look alike?

I cleared my throat swiftly. "I believe my sister here does not want to be bothered with." My eyes became colder, more distant. I also gritted my teeth, sensing how Linda was shuddering harder and harder by the minute. "Leave. Her. Alone."

Much to my irritation, Gael just sighed and shook his head. "Linda, not to be uncouth or anything, but I believe we have chemistry and calculus together— "

"Just get to the point," I growled.

"Nate, don't." Lin shoved me back into the chair. I had no idea when I'd stood up, but it was more shocking to see her taking my place instead. "Let me handle this. I-I think I'm good," she addressed to me before turning to Gael with a shy smile.

She does not look good.

"Hey," she greeted as she fisted her shirt tightly in one hand. "Y-you're Gael Hervey V. Am I correct?"

"Yes, ma'am." Gael smiled as he stood up and bowed lowly before her. What a fraud, I thought grimly. "But it's just Gael."

"Okay, um..." Lin darted her eyes around nervously, perceiving how quiet things were since everyone was intently heeding to every word this phenomenon was heading. Why did I say it was a phenomenon? Well, this was the first time this decent human from the noble bloodline set foot upon the same grounds as us commoners. Commoners from affluent and reputable families, but still commoners.

"Gael, do you want to go outside— "

"Sis!" I interjected and slammed my palms against the table. I saw Lin winced. The impact must have hurt me but the jealousy and ire that swirled inside me, ready to merge into one big form, prevented me from feeling those shots of pain. To me, that was negligible compared to what Lin had just insinuated. What on Earth was she thinking? She had never proposed anything like this before.

At my outburst, every head seemed to lean in further toward our little conversation. "You can't just go outside with a stranger!" I raked my fingers through my hair brashly in frustration. "Lin, you've never done anything like this!"

Fun fact: Lin had never been before known as an extrovert. She only had one best friend who had already moved to another state with no known reason and no contact was possible. Because of that, Lin's heart had been crushed with the lesson to remind herself to be more self-dependent. 'Friendship never lasts,' she had snapped at me once when I had coaxed her into making more friends. It was for her own benefit, really, and definitely not because my friends gave me looks when she was always with me...

"He's not a stranger." Lin frowned at me. "I-I do recognize him from chem and cal. He probably just wants to talk to me about school-related matter." Lin gave me a reassured smile before eyeing Gael warily. "Right?"

"Certainly. Nothing else involved." Gael nodded and held up three fingers as if suddenly caught himself in a secret oath or a sacred pledge.

"Good, thank you." Lin breathed out a relieved breath. Why did she have to thank him, anyway? "Nate, stay here."

"What?! No!" I quickly yelled back. "Lin— "

Lin silenced me with her glare. There was a finalized aura in it.

"Fine!" I threw my hands up in exasperation. "But you'd better tell me in great details about it."

"Let's go." Lin ducked her head as she trotted out of the cafeteria.

...So, when this Gael Hervey V suddenly decided to separate the Inseparable Siblings, I gotta say that I did not only go through the roof but was also ready to take back what was mine, what has always been mine, and what will continually be so.

Who said boys can't get jealous...or even envious?

"I assume you're Nathan Mitchell, Linda's younger brother. Don't worry, kiddo." I sent him a last contemptuous glare. His smile didn’t waver, though. "No harm will be done." And he had the nerves to bend down and pat my head!

"She didn't promise me!" I yelled to my friends and to make my day worse, they all agreed in consensus that it was a fat chance Lin would inform me everything, much less anything that went on between her and Gael.

0o0o0o0o0o

And to my distaste, my pals were right because Gael is now Lin's boyfriend. They didn't even tell me of their relationship status until their— was it second, third, or thirteenth? — something date!

To be succinct, Gael is perfect. To elaborate, he is handsome. He's tall, rich, and industrious. He even has noble blood coursing through his veins. Best of all, he has a positive influence on Lin.

Presently, Lin has loads of friends, enters every available clubs and committees that would take her in, and rarely stays home. I know I should be happy with her and that she deserves him since she is both rich in beauty and kindness.

Except...I'm not.

For one thing, I'm pretty possessive of her. For another thing...well, this story would be shortened too much. So, nope! I'm at my utmost degree of discontent.

0o0o0o0o0o

It was just a few days, really, when Lin asked for my advice. Without any psychic abilities, I was able to deduce right away that it would be about Gael. No doubt. The Gael that made Lin care about her body shape and clothes, and made my life hit its culmination of misery.

"What is it?" I enquired casually to Lin's benefit (I had— and still have even now— a hard time suppressing the wrath boiling in my very veins from the fact that Lin lied to me a dozen times just to sneak out and meet that Mr. Perfect. That ire is not even multiplied by the hiding of their relationship status and Lin's behavior of being distant with me).

"Nate, it's our six-month anniversary this week," Lin commenced, her confidence having improved to a satisfactory level. You know the reason why; only one person has that much impact on her. "I'm just wondering how I should plan it. Should we go to the movies? A restaurant? Maybe to an art gallery— "

"Why don't you ask him?" I idly leaned down on her bed, giving her a sideways glance. "It's him you're celebrating with. Not. Me."

"Nate." Lin hastily stood up from her chair, which squeaked horribly against the floor. "Why can't you open up your mind a bit? Why can't you at least take a peek at how better I've become? You're just jealous— no, it's worse than that; you're envious— of me and Gael. Aren't you?!"

"Perhaps," I pushed myself up from the bed and was now standing face-to-face with her in one quick action. "Perhaps you should say that to yourself. About being open-minded. And I'm not jealous! So, being envious is out of the question." I glared at her, which I never did but feeling the need to contradict her even when she was being perfectly correct about my emotions. "I simply asked you that question for the sake of asking it! I'm being pragmaticl! If you want a perfect plan for your date, ask him was all I said because no one knows him better than himself!"

Lin's breathing hitched. Before coming into her room, I had thought about not being angry with her for asking me to give her some consultation. Seemingly, her out of the blue anger was the only catalyst needed to enrage me. She was the one being preposterous, not me.

"You're no longer yourself, Lin," I carried on. "Not the one I've been used to since I can remember. I want my sister back!"

"You"— Lin pointed sharply at my chest, teeth chattering from rage— "want me to return back to my old ways? You, of all people, want me to be a stagnant person wh-who can't let go of her past? Is that what you really want?!"

"Can't say that better myself." I snickered, seeing how nonsense this conversation is going. "I want the old Lin who grasped my hand as we walked down the hall on my very first day at school." I paused to swallow a hard lump that gradually forms in my throat. She really had no idea how it was to be me. "I want the Lin that took me to carnivals or the one that woke up at night to check up on me when I had a cold!"

Lin went stock still. She was averting her eyes from mine and was frantically nibbling her bottom lip.

"Don't blame yourself," I said, not referring to just the recent event. "We have a mom and a dad that love us now, despite the fact that they often go on business trips. Forget about the biological dad that refuses to be found, and the mom that slapped you in the face or called you names for finding her... It's not your fault."

Lin was still silent. Somehow, she had managed to inconspicuously sidle closer to shield herself in the closet's shadow.

"Fine, we're done here." I sighed, tossing her another glance before opening the door. "Oh, and one more thing," I said without turning, "you're good at baking. How about a surprise cake for your anniversary?"

 

Think I was so guilty that I decided to help her? Wrong. I planned that. Since I'd known what she wanted to talk to me about, I used that as an advantage to drive her into feeling guilty herself.

One thing she was right that I would never confess to her, though, was and still is how I've always been envious of her and Gael. I could literally see myself getting engulfed by the green fire of envy. So, what? It felt too exhilarating to let it get extinguished. I intended to end this. ASAP.

Six-month anniversary? Huh, good luck with that! Oh, we just missed out one monumental fact: it's my birthday on the exact same date. My sweet SIXTEEN BIRTHDAY! What's more important than her brother entering another stage of life? Instead, Lin chose to make goo-goo eyes, thinking about that lad and asking for my advice!

Where's the fairness in this world?! Oh, erm, right. There isn't, but just because I'm also a male doesn't make me a know-it-all about this gender. No, I certainly don't understand what we, men, like or dislike.

0o0o0o0o0o

Now, you understand why I was messing around with the ingredients but it wasn't like I meddled with them without Lin's consent. On the contrary, she entrusted me with this job— with a different objective, of course.

"Nate, is everything ready?" I can clearly hear her scuffling around inside her room. "I'm almost done with homework!"

"All set, Lin! Ready to use!" I shout back cheerfully like an obedient little boy waiting for a compliment.

Why wouldn't she prepare the ingredients herself, do you ask? To say the least, Lin's sort of like a punctuality freak. She sets everything on her schedule, including toilet breaks and time for checking her phone! So, yeah, being unable to proficiently multi-task due to the fear that everything would come out wrong urged her to hand me one of her works.

"Thank you," Lin says as she emerges from her room, her body language sends a vibe of apprehension and fidgety. For a fraction of second, I have a feeling she is back to her old self.

"What's the matter?" I chance a question at her.

"Nothing." She shakes her head and sighs. "I guess I'm just scared of ruining everything. I-I sometimes fear that I don't deserve him, Nate. Gosh, Gael... He's just so sweet and awesome. He's the best definition for perfect."

Jesus Christ. I hope she's not doing this on purpose. I look at the ingredients that are lining up nearly on the counter with shame. The small fragment of goodness inside of me is berating myself to just abort this plan. Do I really want to disrupt Lin's relationship just for the sake of my delight? What can this deed possibly lead me to in the end?

"Well, how can you say that?" I appraise my sister cautiously as one of her hands hugs her elbow, whereas the other...reaches out and grabs each container with an ingredient, sniffing and inspecting each one halfheartedly. She has this faraway look as she mutters under her breath occasionally, checking off her mental list of required items. "You've improved him lots of ways, too."

Lin instantly focuses her glance on me, but warily. She still mumbles to herself, though. "I mean he used to only spend time alone, right? I don't know how he's in class, but he'd never attended any extracurricular activities or set foot into the cafeteria until you came along," I went on.

"Who are you and what have you done with my brother?" Lin asks but I can see that her heart is not in the question.

"Still here," I say with a shrug. My eyes swiftly sweep to and fro. Seriously, can't she just skip right to the baking process? I obviously can't linger any longer for my plan to work. "I wasn't appreciating him, just so you know. I was appreciating you. Lin, your generosity has never failed you."

"Uh-huh." Lin nods slowly. She puts down the last bowl containing two cups of salt instead of sugar. "Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I didn't ask him to go outside." She cranes up her neck and scrunches up her face in a funny-looking way. "Heck, I wonder what would have happened if I didn't talk to him at all."

"You made it sound like you regret your choice," I say at last.

"No." She stops her eyes to meet mine. "I would never think that. Just sort of grateful."

Realization hits me and makes me wide awake better than a bucket of ice cold water. Lin's trying not to cry! This, in fact, compels me to complete my mission. She's getting too attached to Gael and I have to pull her back before she can't remember the life before him.

"Good," I say calmly but I can feel the compression of my chest resisting to be incinerated by the flames of envy. It slowly shrouds me with emotions of anger, disappointment, and anguish. A torrent of feelings swirls inside me. Not here, not now, I muse. I rapidly dissipate those atrocious thoughts that keep pooling into my mind, clouding it. I discreetly take deep breaths and relax my gritted teeth.

"Hey," I say. The best way to quench the fire, I learned, is to change the subject to a completely random thing. "Isn't it time for Lancaster's walk?"

As if knowing how to read the time, the Pomeranian came ambling into the kitchen, its cute bark travelling to my ears before I can even see its tiny frame. I rush to it and gather it into my arms. Lancaster has delivered me its leash, and is trying hard to both signal me by barking to take it and not dropping it at the same time. See, I do have a heart, if you're wondering.

"Oh, who's the cute boy? Oh, yes you are. Yes, you are," I literally talk to the puppy as it tries to lick my face and bark. Pomeranians do love to bark, I've got to tell you. It's appropriate to always keep them within your arm’s length or your face will get gnawed without any warning.

A girly giggle stops me in my track. I cuddle Lancaster against my chest as I rigidly turn to meet my sister's look of pure mirth. Right now, my face must have a countenance of Oops, I'm busted. plastered all over it. I clear my throat and gently put Lancaster down. Unbelievably, my soft spot for animals has brought the world to come crashing down upon me.

"Nathan," Lin says in a singsonged voice, smiling. "I didn't know you like Lancaster so much, considering the person who bought him."

"Right..." I haven't thought of that. Lancaster was bought by Gael a few months afore as a present for Lin's birthday. For some reason, she named it Lancaster because that's Gael's hometown, which would act as a reminder for him to take her there if they have a chance. "But I don't think I should condemn a person or thing that knows or has been touched by the person I have a conflict with. That wouldn't be just, would it?" I stoop and scratch Lancaster's head. He sits still, while he just wound around my legs a few minutes ago, possibly sniffing my smelly feet. If I wasn't just standing there, I would have tripped and fallen flat on my face.

"No," Lin says in a way that intimate how my words make sense for once in my life. "Very well, then. I should really begin putting my culinary skills to a fruitful use. Enjoy your little walk with Lancaster. Good luck."

"Sure." I scoop Lancaster up without a further argument. I know better than to pester her when she's in the middle of something.

I smirk as my plan is running smoothly. First, Lin doesn't seem to be suspicious of me. Second, I get to spend time with Lancaster. Third, Lancaster gets to exercise to stay healthy. That means he can stay even longer with me. Nothing can get any better!

As I cross the threshold, an idea pops into my mind that I should spy on Lin just in case she suddenly becomes aware of what I've done. In the end, I decide against it, though, for Lin's still too oblivious even with how much she's changed. Guess, one thing never changes.

Boy, how wrong am I...

0o0o0o0o0o

"Mom? Dad?" I stare at my parents confoundingly, having just returned from the walk. Beside me, Lancaster is waggling his tail wildly as he walks in a loop around Mom and Dad. Often, he barks. I'm amazed at how his energy seems to be in an eternal supply. Me? I'm sweating like crazy and just want to collapse in my bed. "What are you doing here? I thought you're supposed to still be in— what? — Bali?"

“When our girl invites a boy over," Mom started, "we must see him ourselves."

"Gael?" I gasped out in horror. "He's here, now?" I did not expect that comeback. Dread fills the pit of my stomach and I can taste bile in my mouth. This is not good.

"Son, you look so pale." Dad looks at me with concern, whereas Mom just looks at me with her lips pursed, deep in thought. "Is anything wrong—?”

I burst through the door even before Dad finished his sentence. I can see my plan crashing to the ground. No, I think to myself. This isn't how it's gonna end. In spite of knowing that with Mom, Dad, and (possibly) Gael here everything's doomed, I still can't accept the truth or it's more like I just can't submerge this fact into my brain.

"Lin!" I trot into the kitchen, red-faced from the heavy blood circulation. "What's going on?! Why are Mom and Dad here?! Why did Mom say that Gael's here...?" My voice trail off as I see Lin's smile. Really, what's going on?! She does not usually give me a devious grin. Very unlike Linda. Indeed, very unlike her.

"Surprise!" Lin takes her time getting to me from where she leaned against the counter.

"And what a great surprise it is," I say sarcastically during the time which I cross my arm across my chest, looking akin to a nearly erupted volcano or a five-year-old kid ready to throw a tantrum.

"You don't seem that glad," Lin notes the obvious. She purses her lips, a posture that makes me shudder at how she quickly picked up Mom's habit over the years.

"Well, if I can recall correctly— and I know how impeccable my memory is— I think I just mentioned what a great surprise you have prepared for me," I quip all the while keeping my voice from quavering and holding a steady gaze between my sister and I.

It's only when my eyes lose their focus and travel to Lin's hands that I gulp. In them is a plate with a thin slice of chocolate cake. Something tells me that I'm going to need the bathroom soon...

"Wh-what's that?" I say, finally lost the control over my voice. I swallow again, slowly backing away into the living room.

"Nate, what's wrong with you?" She asks in a too-sweet tone and the way she's advancing on me is threatening and grisly. "I only want you to taste it before anybody else."

"H-how kind of you," I stutter and stammer, looking over my shoulder nervously once in a while. "But I-I'm not a l-lab rat o-or a guinea pig o-or a gerbil. M-moreover, y-your cooking's probably in the top rank within th-the Tri-State area." I'm rambling. I'm rambling! Should I repeat that this is not good?!

"This time's different." Lin shakes her head dejectedly. "This time, my hands trembled and my body got tense a lot and there was this feeling of trepidation nagging me."

I'm thinking of stalling for time when my knees hit couch and I inevitably flop into it. There's no escape. On either side of me are the coach’s arms. In front? Lin's figure languidly looms over me, blocking my vision as well as indescribably cutting my air reservoir. I feel trapped and pressured and I hate it.

"It's because of Gael!" I wail just to eradicate the suffocating feeling of confinement. "I- yes, everything happened because of him."

"Taste it first because I'm sure you don't know what you're talking about." For once, she really looks like a big sister. Not that I'm calling her immature. No, not at all. Frankly, we're almost like friends.

With the plate thrusting into my face and Lin's demeanor being all hopeful and encouraging, I have to say it's that simple to relent. I sigh before taking the cake.

I look at it with disdain before sniffing it gingerly (Don't call me strange. This poison is about to surge through my veins and smelling it is likely to kill me but that's utterly better than ingesting it. After all, the olfactory nerve is connected to the taste buds.). But just the odor is enough to let me know that it's—

"I-it's not," I only manage to sputter that much.

"Happy Birthday." Lin gives me an assured smile. "And, no, it's not."

"Wh-what?"

"Oh, you know..." Lin takes the plate away and thankfully retreats further away. With a clank! she sets the plate on the floor. "This cake was specially made for you. Not Gael."

I'm too shell-shocked to say anything. I just resort to gaping at her until I fully recover. Well, almost."Y-you meant to say that I-I nearly p-poisoned myself?" I stand up, not being able to withstand the truth.

"Unfortunately, yes." Lin sighs and bows her head as if grieving for the dead.

"Nate, I would never choose anyone over you," Lin says after a long pause. Then, she rams into me, holding me close. "You know that, right? Please, don't think otherwise."

I'm literally choking over my own mashed up feelings, spit, and tears. Yes, tears. Later, I'll never admit this to anyone but I'm on the verge of crying. I hug her back, thinking about how much I love her.

"Lin, I..."

"What you said got me thinking," Lin interposes. "I thought about how I have never baked you a cake for your birthday."

"H-how?" A sob elicits from my mouth. Oh, how embarrassing.

"How what?" We break apart from each other. She looks straight into my eyes. Already, I miss the pressure of our skin.

"H-how did you know that the ingredients would make the cake...inedible?" I stumble over my words.

"It's actually the sake that was a giveaway. Phew"— she pinches her nose— "the alcohol smell sure is acrid."

"I love the smell," I reply lamely.

"And really, Nate?" Lin looks at me with amusement. "Sugar and salt? The first thing I learned about cooking was how to discern salt from sugar."

"How was I supposed to know?" I scratch my neck sheepishly.

"At any rate, I knew something like this would happen." Oh, boy, Happy Time's over. It's in her voice; I can feel it. She's lecturing me. "Nate, it's not because I'm suspicious of you or anything. It's just that I happen to know you well."

I stare at her blankly, still trying to convey the image of an innocent and naïve ingredient arranger.

"But...I guess it's still not enough." Her voice cracks and I swear that there are looks of tears ready to spill out. I wonder what her response would be if I say: Lin, I'm sorry, but this is me. "I want to know why, Nate. Why do you hate Gael so much? The Oreos, he's allergic to them. You could've killed him!"

I flinch slightly and sit back on the couch. Honestly, I'm getting weary of this conversation because I'm horrified with how Lin's able to make my heart weigh heavier and heavier with every word she utters. Like a boulder that gets eroded in a glacial speed from the waves that crash endlessly onto it, my heart is sluggishly eroded by each syllable that comes out of her mouth. I feel ashamed— really, I do— but my vocal chords stop me from proclaiming myself. I'm not sure how long I can hold back the truth...

"Why are you letting your emotions blind you?!" She runs to me and shakes me violently, which prevents me from refuting the assertion. "Don't you know that the fire will smolder you until you realize it too late how disastrous the destruction is?! Trust me, it took all my willpower not to bake that poison and shove it down your throat!" She ceases her movement and resorts to collapsing onto the ground, her body trembling as she breaks down. I turn my face away from the scene in front and proceed with being careless and impersonal. I have to restrain myself from impulsively telling her the truth.

"I will rise from the ashes and nothing will stop me," I say with bitterness. Why the neck did that come out instead? Maybe I'm still rebellious, harmed by Lin's ebullition. She cares about me, but there are certainly other methods of saying or acting that out.

I look at her silently as my eyes roam her face, trying to send the message: Lin, the fire is already out. You can stop now.

"I hope it's not because you love Gael."

I snort. "Really? That would've been the last option I'd suggest if I were you. Lin, you did just ask why I hate him so much—" I jerk, suddenly aware that the voice that spoke wasn't Lin's. Uh-oh...

"Who let you in?" I ask curtly. "Wait, scratch that. I knew you're here and I'm sure it was Lin who let you in. So, where have you been hiding?"

"Pinioned in a space between the fridge and the counter." Gael sits down and embraces Lin into his arms, saying soothing words in the process. Through a different eye, I now see how he can protect Lin like I've always done. I feel like can trust him to take care of her.

"I'm here to help you out, find out what's wrong with you." Gael let go of Lin once he’s sure that she's fully recovered. He still holds her close against his side, though, and a plate of chocolate cake that Lin put down earlier seems to have materialized into his hands. He starts digging into it without anyone's assent.

"You make me sound like I'm a lunatic." My breath hitches and my nose flares. I can feel the pressure on me again, pushing me from all sides. This time, I let it control me.

"And what if I am?!" My voice thunders into the room, stunning both occupants. "You really want to know why I keep trying to jilt your relationship?" By that time, I no longer care about their answers; I drone on. "I"— I point at myself— "have a fear of abandonment! I hope that satisfied your desire of wanting to know 'what's wrong with me'." My eyes shine malignly because of myself. How did I let myself to this point? Why do I have to be so fragile? Remotely, I hear my sister gasp. "Yes, it's true. You may have never known this because everyone has secrets... Turns out you don't know me at all, sis." I turn away from them, worn out because of myself.

"It's my fault." Lin starts pacing around the room. "This is my entire fault!"

"NO!" I lash out at her, eyes blazing. "Don't you dare say that, Linda. You're not the one to blame. How can you even think of that?!" I start crying, sinking into the floor. I hate myself, really I do. I'm selfish for dragging her into this with me.

"Lin, listen to me carefully." I sit with my knees against my chest, arms wrap tightly around them. My head is buried against the hard kneecaps. My hair falls into my face, obstructing it. Only a sliver of my eyes are visible. "What you did for me today, it's a big help. I no longer feel this burning sensation in my chest whenever you're with Gael."

"Nate." Lin kneels down, hugging me tightly as if I'm some fantasy. Jeez, I can't just disappear, you know.

"When you said that you could never choose me over anyone, I feel...fantastic. It's— I, er, felt elated and I don't think I could ever ask for more. I know now that you love me just as much as you love him." I smile at Lin and make a move to extricate myself from her grip.

"You really—" Gael wonders but he doesn't have a long time before I give him a man hug with a slap in the back.

"You'd better be capable of protecting my sister like I saw back there." I slightly scowl at him to make my point.

"I-is he possessed or something?" Gael asked, probably perplexed with my sudden shifts in mood.

"I only did want the best things for you, Lin," I say softly, ashamed. "Along the way, I got distracted and I became selfish and only wanted you for myself."

"Wow, I'm amazed how you can quickly mature in less than 24 hours." A playful glint lights up in Lin's eyes. "I'm so proud of you."

"Great, now everything's having a happy ending." Gael smiles. "Why don't we head out? I'm starving. Let's get going to that restaurant I have a reservation with."

"What restaurant?" I prod, hoping I can also go with them.

"It's a get-together dinner I planned with Gael," Lin replies. "We thought that it would be good for our families to get to know about each other on our anniversary."

"You guys are weird," I enunciate each word emphatically. "These occasions, I thought, are supposed to be about just the two of you?" I say like they are now the lunatic ones.

"Love's not only about two people." Gael shakes his head disconcertingly but he seems to know what he's talking about. "Sadly," he adds after musing about something.

"Ah, then I'm glad I've chosen to be single. Can't say I dislike having to untangle the mess I could have prevented myself from enduring in the first place." I shrug.

"When the time comes, boy, you won't be saying this," Gael says. Is he threatening or warning me?

"Hey, let's get going," Lin interferes. She must feel that we can keep going this on forever. "I hope my parents are okay, still waiting outside..." Lin says guilty. "Make haste, then. So, I can also give you this ice-cream cake I made for you,” she says the last part to Gael.

"Our parents are still outside?!" Now, I also feel guilty. I did forget them already as well. "And where did you find the time to bake another cake?"

"Relax, Nate. They're probably having fun talking with Gael's parents." Oh, I mouth. "As for the cake, I made it at the same time as I made yours. See, I can actually multi-task and I can in fact do it well. Besides, I have to show that I love you both equally so nobody is offended in anyway."

"Whatever," I say at the same time that Gael casually says "Yeah, sure."

We give each other a knowing look before he slings his arm over my shoulder. I did the same to him without any hesitation.

"Seriously?!" Lin calls after us as we walk out the door.

It's strange how I'm quickly become acquainted with Gael. Guess I really just need to open up my mind.


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