But he doesn’t know. That’s why he doesn’t finish his sentence. If he knew, he wouldn’t be doing this. If he cared, he wouldn’t be doing this. I was wrong. My brother is a sellout. He went back on our pact. He’s going to end up just like Dad.
Unable to hold it back, I drop my cell and puke in Dad’s prized grass.
My jaw is like, on the floor. My sister Lora, sophomore in college, is getting married. Married to someone we’ve never met. Because they haven’t been dating all that long. I mean, she stayed in Boulder for summer school and for Thanksgiving, and I guessed it had something to do with the boyfriend. But he was just a boyfriend. Now he’s a fiancé!
What happened to all her lectures? School first, career second, boys third. Always. I’ve looked up to her because of this for years. And I know that seems crazy because I’m dating James, but he and I have the same goals. We’re both going to med school, and we both get how much pressure is on people in our position.
Mom’s smiling in the kitchen, putting dishes away before work. Since she’s a chef, she’s completely meticulous about how things are done, and our kitchen is the biggest and only up-to-date room in the house. Mom’s light brown hair is cut short, and her tiny figure moves through the room with lightning speed. I can’t believe things are still so normal after Lora’s ridiculous decision.
“Mom! How can you be so calm about this?”
“Your sister’s a smart girl.” She shrugs. Shrugs! “Her fiancé Derrick and I talked on the phone, and we had so much to say, we talked for over an hour. He really has his head on straight. And he’s from Portland, too! Isn’t that fun?”
I narrow my eyes. I’m totally suspicious for a million reasons right now. The first one being that Mom’s way too calm about this.
Wait. “Does Dad know?”
She lets out a long sigh. “Of course your father knows.”
I cross my arms and slump down in my stool. I hate being the last to know stuff.
Dad’s an ER doctor at Providence St. Vincent. He loves every second of it, and his job makes me even more determined to go to med school. The problem is that he’s home almost as little as Mom is, so I never know who knows what about whom. I really want Dad on Team Ziah for this one.
“Your sister will be home in a few days for Christmas Break. That’ll give us all a chance to meet him.” She pats my back and walks out of the room. “I’ll be late tonight.”
Isn’t she always?
Maybe I can talk some sense into my sister while she’s here. Christmas break in college is a whole month, so I’ll have a while to talk her out of it. Who gets married in college?
Alyssa and I are both on our stomachs in my room over our calculus texts. It seemed like a good idea to take this class at the beginning of the year but not so much anymore. She’s totally absorbed, which is cool, but she’s usually the one turning the music up too loud and teasing me about being so serious.
“Yeah?” She doesn’t look up.
“We’re okay, right?” She’s been so… studious. And that’s a little weird. I mean, she’s in hard classes. She just usually floats through them. And here we are a day away from Christmas break, and plowing through another assignment.
“Yeah. I’m just… You know how spacey I can be, and I haven’t always made the best decisions. I’m just trying to get myself on track before college.” She sounds rehearsed and is still working her way through the problem I just finished.
“I still can’t believe we’re in senior year, and I can’t believe my sister thinks she’s getting married.” I blow out to get the loose strands of hair off my face.
Alyssa chuckles. “So, what else is going on tonight?”
“James is coming over in a bit.”
After the party, I was desperate to feel that tingling in my gut I felt with a total stranger, and I started something I didn’t mean to with James. When I met up with him the next day, I kissed him like I hadn’t in a long time and even slid my hands up the back of his shirt. He took that as a sign I wanted to go further, when that wasn’t completely my intention. Ever since he’s been pushing me for more, and it’s not like him. Or like us. I’m starting to miss our comfortable relationship.
“Oh. Right.” Alyssa’s eyes are practically plastered to the problem in front of her.
“Do you suddenly have a problem with James?” I realize it’s been a while since we all three hung out.
“No, why?” She scribbles out the next step in the problem she’s working through.
“I don’t know.” Mostly ‘cause she’s not looking at me, and I don’t know if I’m being paranoid or if they got in an argument or something.
“You’re funny, Ziah. It’s just senior year and busy.” She shrugs before sitting up and closing her text, but she’s also still not looking at me.
“Hey.” James stops the second he’s in my room, and his eyes go from me to Alyssa and then back to me.
“I gotta run. My parents need my babysitting skills tonight.” And Alyssa’s gone before I really have time to process her leaving.
In the next second, James’s lips are on mine.
“Hey.” I laugh as he kisses me again without giving me a chance to breathe. I want to ask him what happened between him and Alyssa, and if I’m going to have to start scheduling around their sudden dislike of each other.
“Hey.” His smile is brief before his lips are on mine again.
For the past month, every time we’re together, he wants to pick up where we left off the last time. If we left off with his hands up the back of my shirt, we’re at that place again within a few minutes of getting together. It doesn’t feel like it’s about me anymore. It feels like it’s about doing more.
His hand slides up the front of my shirt. This is something new as of a few days ago. I don’t stop him, but it doesn’t really do anything for me except make me self-conscious. What does he think about my bra? Are my boobs right? Do they feel like they’re supposed to? Is my skin being pushed or pulled in a way that makes him think I’m fat?
Now his weight is on me, and his mouth is on mine. I should be feeling something more. Like, shouldn’t I want him the way he so obviously wants me?
A horn honks outside, which almost has to mean that Lora’s here.
James groans before rolling off me. “I’ll walk you down.”
He stands and offers me a hand, which I take. His arms go around me again as he pulls me into another kiss.
“James.” I try to pull away. “My sister.”
“Okay, okay…” He clasps my hand tightly as we walk down the stairs.
He stops at the bottom and leans into me. I really just want around him and to see my sister.
“Ziah.” He puts his hands on my face.
I finally relax and look at him, realizing he wants something else before he goes. “James.”
“I love you. I just… I want to try to find some time to be with you over break.” He gives me a soft kiss.
“We’ll see each other.” I shrug and start to move around him again.
“No. You know. Alone.”
Now I get that he wants a few hours where we can fool around. I’m just not sure if I want that right now. Not for that long. “I’ll call you. It’s always busy when Lora’s in town.”
He nods as I finally step around him and out the front door. I think I preferred James when he was more like my old-man boyfriend.
Lora steps out of the passenger’s side of a sleek, black Mercedes, which is a bit unexpected. I didn’t know she’d be arriving in some overpriced, over-glamorized car. Some guy with almost black hair and striking blue eyes steps out of the driver’s side, and this is it. This is the guy. My stomach flips over, and I wish it weren’t too late to run inside and hide.
“Hey!” Lora half talks, half squeals and waves me down the stairs.
“Well, see you soon.” James kisses my cheek and runs his hand up the back of my shirt before moving toward the steps. I’m still sort of stunned that the fiancé is real.
Lora and I are almost twins. Her blonde is a shade lighter than mine, and she has Mom’s little button nose instead of Dad’s thin, straight one I got stuck with. But we’re built exactly the same and look one another in the eye. Before I can move down the steps, her and the guy and the first load of bags is on the porch.
It’s so weird that she’s here with a guy she thinks she’s going to marry. Before I can make any smart comments about how much crap he’s unloading for a simple Christmas Break visit, her arms are around me practically suffocating me. He’s back down the stairs for load number two.
James gives me a last wave and smile before climbing into his car. He’s been around long enough to know getting between me and my sister is futile.
“Nice to see you, too.” I try to laugh as she squeezes even tighter before letting me go.
“This is Derrick.” Her smile practically splits her face in half as she grabs his arm and pulls him a step closer to me. “Derrick, this is my little sister Ziah.”
Now is when we should shake. I reach my hand out, and wow does he have blue eyes. Party-boy blue.
“Great to meet you,” he says. It’s a good, firm shake—not too hard, not too soft.
“Yeah. You, too.”
Only I have no idea if it’s great or not. It’s starting to hit me. She wants this guy to be part of our family. Our family. Shouldn’t we all get a say in this? I’m not saying I want an arranged marriage, but I’m now seeing the benefits. It’s not that I don’t like him because I don’t know him. The whole marriage thing feels so irresponsible when they’re both working toward degrees.
“I think we’re all getting together for dinner tonight, so I’ll see you then. I gotta get home.” His smile is equal parts charming and sweet. Of course it is—it took something to lure my sister in. I just thought she was above falling for someone over his looks… and smile. And his handshake, though I’m pretty sure the handshake wasn’t the final sale. I’m starting to deflate further. Or maybe at this point, I’m shrinking.
Lora gives me a look like she wants me to tell her right now how awesome he is, when really all I know about him is he drives a nice car, is strong enough to carry her bags, and is really cute.
“I guess I’ll see you then.” I tuck my hands in my back pockets, because my whole body feels sorta weird—like I don’t belong here. I’m not sure what else to do.
Lora walks him down to his car. When they kiss, they don’t come up for air for so long, it’s a little weird and makes me wish I’d stepped inside the house.
Finally he leaves, and Lora and I are on the porch with her mound of bags and her smile. It’s a toss-up as to which is bigger.
“Wow,” I say, because there really isn’t anything else to say.