Nick and I break out of the hug and sit there for a moment or two, with Kevin and Joe staring at us intently. I give Joe a look that says:
"What is it?"
"What! And I don't get one?!" He asks in a jokingly offended way.
"Of course, of course!" I laugh, and stand up.
Joe and I hug, and then Kevin stands up as well.
"Okay! And you too, Kevin!" I laugh again, and hug Kevin.
"It's so great to have you back in our lives, Ellie," he smiles as we pull out of the hug.
"You have no idea!" I smile back.
"Alright, how about we get going back to your house, hey?" Nick asks once we've all finished our juice.
"Sure thing!" I say, and go to pick up the tray of empty glasses, but Joe stops me.
"Don't worry about that!" He puts his arm in front of me, blocking me from getting to the tray. "You're a guest in our house!"
"Thanks, Joe!" I say. "That's really kind of you!"
"No problem!" He smiles. "KEVIN!"
"What?!" Kevin winces. "I'm right here, in the same room as you! You don't have to yell!"
"Sorry 'bout that, but could you get the tray? Thanks!" Joe begins to walk out of the room again.
"WHAT?!" Kevin looks offended. "Of course not! You offered to do it in the first place!"
"You see, Paul Kevin Jonas..." Joe stops walking, and begins speaking in a 'wise' voice. "Moving the tray, I never said I would do. Ellie didn't have to move it, was all I said."
"Who are you, Yoda?! Besides, under no circumstances am I moving that tray, Joseph!" Kevin points at the tray with dramatic effect, and scowls in such a funny way that I can't help but laugh.
"Well, in that case..." Joe says matter-of-factly. "It will never be moved!"
"That's really lame, you guys," says Nick with a grin on his face.
"It's a bet, then?" Kevin sticks his hand out for Joe to shake.
"Oh, it's on!" Joe sneers and puts his hand out, but retracts it just as Kevin was about to grab it, and slicks his hair back. "Fooled you! Aaaahahahaha!"
Joe runs to the front door, and Kevin, Nick and I just roll our eyes.
"Let's go," Nick says, and heads for the door.
After we all get our shoes on, and Kevin locks the door, we finally start walking to my house.
"...Sooo!..." Kevin says awkwardly, to put an end to the silence.
"Hmm..." I think of something to say.
"Nice weather were having today, huh?" Nick says, unenthusiastically.
"Yeah...ouch!" I rub my hand."What is it?" Nick asks."Oh, nothing...but I've just had this weird, kinda numb feeling on my hand for the past week or so. It's really starting to get on my nerves," I tell him.
"Oh, yeah?" Kevin asks. "Where?"
I show them my right hand. "Right here in between my middle finger and ring finger - right where they come together."
"Ah, that's so weird. It's probably just to do with the nerve endings," Nick grimaces. "I've had this tiny numb spot on my leg, near my hip, for almost a year now. I know how you feel."
"Yeah, me too!" Joe nods. "I've always had a numb feeling in this general area!" He indicates his head, jokingly, and we all laugh.
"So that's why you're so slow!" I laugh, and roll my eyes.
When we finally arrive at my house and walk inside, it's a little quieter than usual.
"Anyone in here?" I shout.
"Somebody? Anybody?" Kevin shouts.
Frankie comes running out of the kitchen, up from the basement, with some type of foam bubbling out of his mouth.
"Heo yuh guzz!" (Translation: Hey you guys!) Frankie smiles, which just makes even more foam drip from his mouth.
"It's rabies in the hizous!" Joe screams, and attacks Frankie.
They both go running down the hall and through the house. I hear the doors to the backyard open, then close.
"Well, that was sure strange!" Kevin shakes his head.
"What was that stuff?!" I ask with wide eyes.
"Ah, it's just this edible goo stuff," Nick tells me. "When you put it in your mouth it turns all foamy!"
"It's really cool. I've tried it once!" Kevin laughs. "It actually tastes better than you'd think!"
We begin walking towards the backyard doors, only to see Joe and Frankie coming back inside.
"Back so soon?" I ask.
"Yeah, mom and dad told me to go wash his mouth out," Joe says, with a hand on Frankie's shoulder. They both go into the kitchen.
"Awww, all the fun is gone!" Kevin pouts, jokingly.
We all laugh, and continue to head out through the French doors, and into to the backyard patio sitting area.
Denise and Kevin Jonas Sr. are both sitting on a wicker love seat, and my dad is sitting on the opposite one.
"Oh, good," Kevin Sr. smiles. "It's you guys. I thought it would be Joseph and Frankie again!"
"Nope! For once they actually listened to your rules!" Nicholas laughs.
"Nah, they do listen to rules," Kevin Jr. tells Nick. "But only half the time!"
We all laugh, and the parents shake their heads as well as laugh. (It's kind of scary how they all do it in unison...)
"Alrighty then, well we're just gonna check out the rest of the backyard, if that's okay," I tell the parents.
"Go ahead, it's your house, Ellie!" My dad laughs in a kind way.
We then exit through the screen door of the patio, and step out into the sun.
"Wow! You extended your pool!" Kevin says, in awe.
"Yeah, I only remember it being, like, half this size before!" Nick agrees.
"Actually, we dug out all of the old pool, and just kept digging out the ground around it. Then we put an entirely new pool in!" I inform them.
"It's awesome!" Nick states.
"When did you do it all?" Kevin asks me.
"Umm..." I think for a moment. "Just about a year ago. My mom wanted it done..."
There was silence between the three of us. I look down at the sun reflecting off of the pool water and just stare there with a blank face for a minute or two. Kevin puts his hand around my shoulders. He rubs my arm reassuringly. I sort of smile back up at him. It's not really a smile, though...it's more like a half smile.
Why do I always have to bring up depressing memories in great times like these? ...Actually, in reality, they aren't really depressing memories at all. They're memories of some of the best times of my life. So why am I so sad?
Because she's gone. The little voice in the back of my head informs me. I feel tears beginning to form in my eyes.
But I can't cry about that anymore. I've cried enough talking to my therapist... My mother is with God now, and I just have to keep reminding myself about that. She's in a much better place than I could ever imagine; I'm sure of it. I obstruct my tears from falling, and I look back up at Kevin.
"Thanks, Kev," I smile. "You were always there for me."
"Don't worry about it."
"You're like the big brother I never had."
He laughs, kind-heartedly.
"And you, Nick," I continue, and turn to him. Kevin releases his arm from my shoulder. "Even though you don't say much in situations like this one, you've always been close to me, and you're always available when I need you. Thank you, as well."
"You're really welcome, Elise," he smiles, and softly touches my arm with his hand.
"I'm truly blessed to have all of you in my life," I tell them both. "Frankie too, and even Joe! You've all helped me through good times and bad more than you would think."
The both of them simply smile at me, and don't say anything more.
"Hold on for a moment, could you?" I quickly ask. "I just have to run upstairs to get something, okay?"
I walk back through the door to the sitting area, past the adults, through the French doors, and into the house. As I pass the kitchen, Frankie and Joe are nowhere to be seen.
"Hmm...that's odd," I say to myself, and continue through the living room.
Then the doorbell rings... I put off my going-upstairs to answer the door.
I look through the little blurry window on the door. ...It doesn't look like any of my close friends... Who could it be?
I open the door to see a girl standing there. She's three years older than me (the same age as Joe), and is smiling very enthusiastically.
"Hey, Ellie!" She gives me a light hug.
"I heard the Jonas boys are over!"
"The word gets around, hey?" I laugh, and so does she. "Come on in!"
She walks through the door, into the foyer, where she takes off her shoes and puts them with the rest of ours.
"They're right in the backyard if you want to see them, or talk to them, or whatever," I tell her. "I'm just gonna run upstairs quickly. Sorry, but I gotta get something!"
"It's okay, and thanks!" She begins to walk through the living room, towards the back door, as I run up the stairs and down the upper hallway. I open the door to my room. I begin searching frantically all around the place.
Where could it be?
I keep my room very neat and tidy, so it's not like it could get lost in piles of junk or anything. I continue to look in drawers, under my bed, and in my closet.
Eight minutes later, there is only one spot left to look in my whole room.
Please be under here...please...
I get down on my knees, and peer under my dresser (trying not to inhale dust all the while). It's too dark for anything to be seen under there, so I lie flat on the floor, and reach my arm underneath my dresser. I feel around the dusty ground, and I come to find a small object that feels exactly like the one I'm looking for. I grab the object and pull my arm back out from underneath the dresser. I then sit cross-legged on the hardwood floor, holding the black cassette tape in both of my hands.
Yes! Finally! Now I just have to find somewhere to play it to make sure it's the right tape...
I look around my room and see an old CD/radio/tape player sitting in the corner. I haven't played any cassettes or listened to the radio in a long while, so I sort of forgot that the CD player had other components too!
I walk over to the opposite side of my room. I turn on the player, and insert the tape into the machine. Then I push the small cassette door shut, and push play:
Thirty seconds of nothing...
Forty seconds of nothing - WAIT!
No, that's just the crackling of an old tape...
I wait for ten more seconds, and then a song starts to play.
"Yo, I'll tell you what I want; what I really, really want! So tell me what you want; what you really, really want! I'll tell you what I want; what I really, really want! So tell me what you want; what you really, really want! I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig, ha..." The song continues to play.
"SPICE GIRLS?! Are you kidding me?!" I scream at the tape player, and run a hand through my hair. "Uuuhhhh!!"
"Um...am I interrupting something?" A voice asks, coming from my bedroom door.
I turn around to see Nick standing there with one hand holding onto the top door frame, above his head.
"Uh...sorry, no," I say, somewhat embarrassed, but still kind of angry. "You can come in if you want."
I take the tape out of the machine, then turn the player's power off.
"You've got a really nice room," Nick comments, as he sits down on the corner of my bed.
"I do have a couch in here, you know, you don't have to sit on my bed."
"Yeah, I know. But your bed's comfier," he smiles up at me and pats the part of my bed beside him. "Sit."
I look at him weird, "...Why?"
"You seem tense."
"Well of course I am! I mean, I ran up here searching for something, then I think I find it, and I get all happy, but then it turns out not to be the thing I was searching for in the first place!" I take a deep breath and sigh.
I get up and sit down beside Nicholas, and then fall back so I'm somewhat lying on my bed.
"What were you looking for, anyways?" He asks me.
"I'll let you know when we find it."
"Well, that's a lot of help and insight!" He says sarcastically, but not in a mean way. "...And...we?"
"Yes. You're going to help me."
"Well, you're welcome, then."
"Okay," I say, hurriedly. "But I really need to go and find that tape: there's your first clue."
"Yeah, I already figured it was a tape from when you got mad at the wrong one," he smirks.
I get up and start walking to my door, "Okay, we should really go downstairs, like, now!"
"In a hurry?" He asks, calmly. He's still sitting on my bed, and is also somewhat laughing at my hurriedness.
"YES!" I run back to him quickly, grab his arm, and pull him along out of the room with me. We then run downstairs, only to find everyone in the living room; smiling and listening to the one thing I dreaded them to find.
That thing was the tape I was looking for the whole time.