Chapter 2

Chapter 2

A Chapter by Jemma Packman

Toyah’s POV

Why is today going so slowly? Is it because Zoie’s barely talking to me? Or is it because I’m bored? Most of the seniors only have, like, four classes this year, but not me and Zoie. Why? Zoie wants to get in to a “good” school, so she’s working her a*s off to get a scholarship, either academic or athletic. She’s on the track team and the soccer team. Not that she needs to, her family can afford to send her to any school in the country. Hell, probably the world, but she wants to at least try to do it on her own. Can’t help but admire her for that. Me? What can I tell you, this distraction issue I have help me fail two classes last year. Worst part, they’re the subjects I find most boring, History and Geography. I mean, why do we need to know about the past, and there was a reason someone invented GPS. What’s that ringing noise? Yes! It’s the bell. The final bell. Time to get out of here and meet Braylee. Not that I’m excited to see Braylee, I’m curious why Miss Yilmaz kept her after class, and to find out if she really spent all day in the library. She couldn’t have. No one has just one class. No one. I walk to my locker and grab everything I need for tonight’s homework. Jesus, I may need a trolley. “Need help?”

I look up at Braylee and smile. “Would you mind?” She shakes her head and takes my books and my bag. “You don’t have to carry them all.”

“It’s only to your car.” What does she mean by that? “I shouldn’t come to your home. We’re not friends, and you don’t know me.”

“I’ve been telling her that all day,” Zoie scoffs from behind me. Why did she have to tell Braylee that? “Not that she’s been listening.”

I roll my eyes. “Nice to see you two agreeing on something,” I state, with a small amount of sarcasm. “But we have a project to do and I’m not staying here. I can’t.”

I start to walk away, and the girls follow me, in silence. We make it all the way to my car before someone speaks. I’m slightly surprised it was Braylee. “I’ve filled in my questions and made a blank copy. You do the same with yours and send it to me. I’ve put my email on the top. We can copy the answers on to the blank sheets, and it’s done.”

I sigh and turn to Braylee. “Braylee, Miss Yilmaz said she’d know if we didn’t do this properly.”

“I know. It’s just…”

Braylee looks at the ground. “Just what? You were ok with this earlier.”

Braylee shrugs. She shrugs? Hell no. I deserve an answer. Zoie snatches my books from Braylee. “Leave her,” Zoie snaps. “Take the paper, Miss Yilmaz won’t know. How could she?”

I unlock my car. “Zoie, get in.” Zoie smirks and gets in the passenger seat. She thinks she’s got her way, that’s cute. As soon as she shuts the door, I lock her inside. She’s not going to be happy, but too bad. I put my hand on Braylee’s arm. “What is it? What did Miss Yilmaz say to you after class?”

“She told me not to try and get around completing this assignment properly,” Braylee mumbles.

“Then why are you?” She shuffles on the spot. She looks like a nervous little kid. Ahh, that’s adorable. Where did that come from? Shake it off, Toyah. Get your answer. “Have I upset you?” A head shake. That’s a start. “Is it Zoie?” No movement. Ok, I got this. I slide my hand down Braylee’s arm and hold her hand. Did she just watch me do that? I guess I would too. Someone I didn’t really know stroking my arm and holding my hand. Soft, warm hand. Braylee’s hand, Toyah. What is wrong with me? “I can talk to her. She won’t be mean to you.”

“Please, don’t. I caused enough trouble between you.”

That’s what this is about? “Hey, you haven’t caused trouble between us. She’s having a b***h day. It happens to the best of us.” Was that a smile? Progress. “I need to get home, and you need to come with me.”

Did that sound flirty? Does it matter? No, it’s working. Braylee looks up. At the sky, but at least it’s not the ground. “Why are you doing this, Toyah?”

Shivers again? I really need to start wearing warmer clothes. “Because I’m not exactly the best student, and I really don’t want to fail this class and have to repeat the year. You don’t want to be the reason for that, do you?” Yes, I played the guilt trip card. Low, I know, but I’m in a hurry. Braylee shakes her head. “Good. You ready now?” She nods. Not much of a talker, is she? “Not going to change your mind again?”

“No. I’m sorry, I freaked out. Won’t happen again.”

Finally. I unlock the car. “Thank God. Jump in.” She gets in the back seat as I slide into the driver’s seat. I can feel Zoie’s glare burning a hole in my head. “Yes, Zoie?”

“You locked me in the car,” Zoie barks.

“You were being a jerk.”

“Whatever. Can we go now?”

“Sure.”

I start the car, and head home. Zoie fiddles with the radio until she finds something she likes. I don’t care what is playing, as long as it drowns out the silence I here. It’s deafening. I peak at Braylee in my rearview. She has her eyes closed and her leg is bouncing. Is she scared? My driving’s not that bad. That wasn’t a red light I ran, was it? Whoops.

 

We get to my house in one piece, even though Braylee looks terrified. I don’t get that. I’ll ask her later. As we get out of the car, I try to take my bag from Braylee. She shakes her head. “I’ve got it.”

I smile. I don’t understand what Zoie’s problem is. Braylee’s like a little kid. Sweet and adorable, kind of cute, too. It could be an act, I don’t think it is though. If I could see her eyes, I’d know. Nate’s eyes were always hiding something. I found out the hard way what it was. Why am I comparing Braylee to Nate? He was my boyfriend, and Braylee’s my social studies partner. I’m pulled from my thoughts by something hitting my chest. I look down to see my books on the ground. I look at Zoie and raise an eyebrow. “What?” She shrugs. “I’m not your slave.”

Before I can move, Braylee bends down to pick my books up. “Braylee,” I sigh. “You don’t have to do that.”

Braylee gives me a half smile. “You need your hands free.” What the hell for? “To open the door and stuff.”

Right, yes, of course. Is that a blush on her face? She keeps getting cuter. Why does that word keep popping in mu head? “Toyah, lock the car and come open the damn door,” Zoie yells.

I roll my eyes as I lock the car, before making my way to the door. I jump when it opens by itself. Doors don’t open themselves. In horror movies they do. Oh God! I’m going to die! Keep calm, Toyah, things like that don’t happen in real life. Often. Just step into the house, Zoie and Braylee are right behind you. They won’t let anything happen to you. Zoie’s protective of me, and Braylee won’t even let me carry my own stuff. Such a gentleman. Can girls be gentlemen? Arms wrap around my legs and I scream. The crazy killer has me. The crazy killer dwarf has me, and is giggling? “I got you. You were scared.”

Madison? The little s**t. I ruffle her hair and sigh. “Yeah, you got me.”

Zoie walks past me. “Brat scare you again?” I nod, and she laughs. “You’re such a p***y.”

My jaw drops. I’m not a p***y. “Am not!”

“So are.” She looks down at Madison. “What’s up, Brat?”

Madison pouts. “I’m not a brat. You’re mean, Zoie.” Zoie sticks her tongue out at my little sister. They’re as bad as each other. “Toyah? Who’s that?”

Madison points towards the door, and I look over my shoulder. I grin. “That’s Braylee, my new friend. She’s a bit shy.”

Madison walks over to Braylee, and holds out her hand. “Hi, I’m Madison.”

Braylee shakes Madison’s hand. “I’m Braylee.”

“You shouldn’t stand in the door like that. You’ll let all the heat out.”

Braylee steps forward and closes the door behind her. “I’m sorry. I forgot to ask if I could come in.”

“You can come in, if you play with me.”

Braylee looks at me. Is she asking for help? “Madison, Braylee’s here to study, not play with you,” I try to explain.

“No one plays with me,” Madison frowns.

Zoie pick Madison up, turns her upside down, and smirks. “That’s because you’re annoying.”

“Put me down. Put me down!” Madison squeals.

“Got homework?”

“No.” Zoie swings her side to side. “Ok. Yes. I’ve got homework.” Zoie puts Madison down. “I hate you.”

Why did Zoie do that? She knows what happens. Can I stop the tears before they start? Here goes. “Madison, where’s your homework?” She points to the trash can in the corner. Dear Lord. “Why is it in the trash?”

“I don’t like it. It’s hard.”

“You can’t throw it away because you don’t like it.”

“Why? We do with food.”

Damn, that’s a good argument. How do I counter that? “Homework helps you get smarter.” Braylee’s soft voice gets closer. Suddenly she’s kneeling in front of Madison. I can’t wait to hear this. “If you throw it away, you’re throwing away your future. Plus, when you can do something that’s hard, it makes you feel good.” Madison’s thinking. That’s new. “If you want, I could help you and you can help me with mine.”

“I can’t do high school work. I’m only six.”

“You can help me with this. I’ve got to ask Toyah about things she likes and doesn’t like, and I don’t know if she’ll tell me the truth. Madison, will you please help me?”

Madison nods, runs to the trash can and pulls out her homework. Got to admit, I’m impressed. Points to Braylee, the Madison whisperer. “Why don’t you take Braylee to the living room and get started?” I suggest. “I’ll get snacks.”

Braylee stands up, and I notice she still has my books. I should really take those from her. Before I can, Madison drags her away. “What just happened?” Zoie sounds shocked. “Brat just did what she was told. Without asking.”

“I noticed,” I chuckle. “I think she likes Braylee.”

Zoie scoffs. “Won’t last. I give it thirty minutes. Tops.”

I can’t help but tease my best friend. “You sound jealous.”

“As if. Why would I be jealous of Brat? Go get the snacks, and don’t forget drinks this time.”

Zoie storms into the living room. Why does she think I meant jealous of Madison? Braylee’s got Madison’s attention, not the other way around. That girl is making less sense as the day goes on. I shouldn’t think about that now, I’ve got snacks to find. I hope someone’s been shopping or it’s crackers. Yum. Not. Into the kitchen I go, in search of sugary treasures in the cupboards of mystery. What did Zoie ask for? Something about pinks? See what I mean? Absolutely no sense at all.

 

We’ve been sat in the living room for a while, and I’ve spent my time watching Madison, sat on Braylee’s lap, doing her homework. Homework. S**t! I really should start doing mine. Where did I put that pack? I’m sure I had it a minute ago. Ouch. What just hit me? “Looking for this?” I turn to look at Zoie. She’s using my pack as a fan. I grab it from her as she laughs at me. “About time you started this. What’ve you even been doing?”

I don’t care how weird this may sound, it’s the truth. “Watching Madison with Braylee.”

Zoie raises an eyebrow. “Why?”

“Have you ever seen her do her homework? Without being bribed?” Zoie shakes her head. “And have you ever seen her so calm around a stranger?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her calm. You and Nixon are usually chasing her around the house.”

“Exactly. I’m trying to figure out how Braylee’s doing it.” Seriously, by now me and Nixon would be trying to find our baby sister. She likes to play hide and seek when she’s meant to be doing homework. You can’t take your eyes off her for a second. Nixon’s better with her than me, not that I’ll tell him that. Where is he anyway? “Madison, where’s Nixon?”

Madison lifts her head to look at me, and shrugs. “He went out.”

Went out? I haven’t seen him come in. “When?”

“After he brought me home.”

That idiot! He left Madison alone. How long for? I didn’t notice his car anywhere near the house when we got here. Zoie must be thinking the same thing. “Brat, how long were you by yourself?”

“I don’t know. I can’t tell time right,” Madison sighs. “But the clock only rang two times this time.”

Two times? Jesus. The clock chimes every fifteen minutes. That means she’s been alone at least thirty minutes. Hang on, what does she mean ‘this time’? “How many times has he left you alone?”

“Only when he’s really busy, and he gives me a dollar when he gets back.”

I’m going to kill him. Madison’s six, for f***s sake. I rub my forehead and sigh. “It’s not ok for him to do that. From now on, I’ll pick you up from school.”

“Will I still get a dollar?”

“No.”

“Don’t want you to then,” she huffs.

Little s**t. How do I explain this? “Madison.” Never mind. Braylee’s trying to. “Toyah’s looking after you. She wants to be safe. She’s worried you might get hurt when no one’s here with you. It would upset her if something happened. Do you understand?” Madison nods. Braylee to the rescue. Again. “I think you should let her pick you up after school. What do you say?”

“But she doesn’t play with me.”

“Big sisters don’t always have time because of school and stuff. If you ask her, when you’ve both finished your homework, I’m sure she’d make time.”

“She’s being mean though.”

“Only because she loves you. Like Elsa does with Anna.”

Yeah, that’s confused Madison. I’m confused, too. Where’s Braylee going with this? “Who’s that?”

“The princesses from Frozen. Haven’t you seen it?” Madison shakes her head. Braylee looks shocked, but quickly covers with a smile. “Really? We need to fix that.”

Oh no, she can’t do that. Dad’ll go nuts. I better stop her. “Erm, Braylee,” I call. “Madison’s only allowed to watch things with educational material in them.”

“Frozen’s a life lesson.”

A life lesson? Is she serious? “How?”

“It’s about how an older sister tries to protect her younger sister.”

I can’t argue with that. “Fine, but you can explain it to my Dad if he catches her watching it.”

Braylee smiles. Damn, that’s, yeah. “Deal.” Why am I letting her do this? I guess I owe her for keeping Madison entertained. Braylee pulls a tablet and headphones from her bag. She plugs in the headphones and puts the tablet on Madison’s knees. “Madison, put on the headphones on and touch here when you’re ready, ok?” Madison nods. “When it’s finished, you’ve got to tell me what you’ve learned. That’s my rules.”

“You’re breaking Daddy’s rules, why should I listen to yours?”

That’s a good point. Go, Madison. Get out of that, Braylee. “If you learn from it, we’re not breaking the rules, are we?” Damn, she’s good. “Ready?”

Madison takes Braylee’s cap and places it on her own head. Braylee’s hair is orange. That can’t be natural. “Ready,” Madison cheers.

“Headphones on and then touch there.” Madison follows all the instructions without question. I wonder if Braylee would like a permanent babysitting job? “Toyah, you want to get this assignment done?”

Assignment? Right, the reason Braylee’s here. “Of course. That’s the reason you’re here.” Her hair is orange. How did I not notice that before? Focus, Toyah. “Do you want to start, or should I?”

 Zoie nudges me. “You’re going to need this.” Didn’t I get that back off her already? She drops my pack on my lap. “Ten questions shouldn’t take long.”

Braylee frowns. Is she upset about that? “Ten? Mine has twenty.”

Why is hers longer? That seems unfair. “Can I see yours?” I ask.

“Which one?” Which one? “The blank one or the one I filled in?”

Ah, yes, her attempt to get out of this. “Both.” Braylee nods and holds out a couple of pieces. I get up and go to get it. As I take the papers, I look down at Madison. She’s leaning against Braylee’s chest. “You can move her if you want.”

Braylee shakes her head. “She’s ok where she is. Unless you want me to move her?”

“Not if you’re comfortable with her.”

“I’m good.”

I give Braylee a small smile and sit back down next to Zoie. I read over the papers. They’re completely different. “No wonder Miss Yilmaz said she’d know. None of these questions are the same.” Wait a minute, some of Braylee’s ‘blank’ sheet is filled in. “How did you answer these?”

“Madison helped me. Are they right?”

Zoie laughs. “What would she know? She’s a kid.” I pass Zoie the paper. “She’s a smart kid. Must be my influence.”

“Yeah, that, her attitude, and her modesty,” I scoff.

“Jealous, much?”

She wants to play that card? I’ll get her. “About as jealous as you are about what’s going on there.”

I point at Madison. Zoie’s always had a soft spot for my little sister, even though she’d never tell her. Is she blushing? “I told you already, I’m not jealous of Brat.” Yep, she’s jealous, but I think I’m missing something. “Get me a drink.”

“Get one yourself.”

Zoie rolls her eyes. “You’re a terrible hostess. And sister.” Excuse me? “Not offering your guests a drink, and leaving your baby sister thirsty? Shame on you.”

S**t, she’s right. “Braylee, would you like a drink?” Braylee shakes her head. “I’ll be right back.” I stand up and shoot Zoie a glare. “Behave.”

I rush to the kitchen to grab some drinks. I get a juice box for Madison and a few bottles of water. I think about putting salt in Zoie’s but decide against it. Knowing me, I’d probably end up drinking it, or worse, giving it to Braylee. How is that worse? At least I wouldn’t drink it. Toyah, don’t be cruel, you need Braylee to like you. “What is going on with me?”

I go back to the living room but stop by the doorway when I hear Zoie’s voice. “Why didn’t you tell her?”

“Not my place.” Braylee said that earlier, but what is this about? “Why haven’t you?”

“Do you want me to?”

This is getting weird. Zoie just asked for permission. She never does that. “It’s up to you.”

“It’s not, is it? Not really. It’s as much on you as it is me. Maybe more.”

“If you want to tell Toyah why you hate me that’s your decision.”

“That’s not fair, Braylee. There’s more to this than that, and you know it.”

“What do you want me to do?”

Zoie sighs. “Nothing. It’s what you’re good at.”

I’m so busted, someone’s walking towards me. Ok, Toyah, play dumb, it’s the best option. Zoie almost walks into me. God, she looks upset. “You ok?” She nods and keeps walking. “Where are you going?”

“Bathroom.”

Now I’m really confused. Zoie looks like she’s about to cry. She never cries. What the hell is going on with these two. I need to find so I can help my best friend. She’s obviously hurting, but why? I’m going to ask Braylee. This s**t needs sorting. I walk into the living room and look at Braylee. She looks defeated. Her eyes are closed and she’s rubbing her face. I can’t ask her now. “Braylee?” Her eyes open. They look so sad, and blue. She turns her head away so she’s not looking me in the eye. “Are you ok? What happened?”

“I’m not sure,” she sighs.

“To which question?”

“Both.” She shakes her head. “I’m sorry. We should get started. Can I have my answer sheets back please?”

“Sure.” I pass the sheets back to Braylee and sit back on the couch. “So, how many questions do you have left to answer?”

Braylee looks at her papers. “If these are right, four.”

“They’re right. I didn’t know Madison knew that much about me.”

“You’re her big sister, she looks up to you. And Zoie.”

Zoie sits back in her spot next to me. “What about me?”

I throw my arm around her shoulders and grin. “Braylee say Madison looks up to us.”

“She could have worse examples to follow.” Was that directed at Braylee? I guess Braylee thinks so, too. Her shoulders drop and she hangs her head. I glare at my best friend. “Have you two even started yet?”

“Just about to. You started yours? What is it again?”

Zoie shrugs my arm off her shoulders. “Yes. I’m doing an essay on how secrets effect society.”

Odd topic. “Why secrets?”

“Everyone has them so why not?”

I gasp and fake hurt. “Zoie, we’re best friends. You shouldn’t keep secrets from me.”

Zoie rolls her eyes. “Please. You have secrets too, so don’t even.”

“Not from you. I tell you everything. Secrets are like lies. Right, Braylee?”

Come on, Braylee, back me up. A head shake? Damn it. “I don’t think so. Not always.” She looks at Zoie. “Secrets are kept to protect either yourself or someone else. Some are yours to keep, some aren’t.” I follow Braylee’s eyeline, and her and Zoie are having some kind of staring contest. Weird. “It’s a trust thing. If you trust someone with a secret, or them you, then it’s something you shouldn’t break. Unless you feel you have a good enough reason to.” Braylee glances at me before training her eyes back to her paper. “I mean, you wouldn’t tell me any of Zoie’s secrets, would you?”

“Of course not. Apparently, I don’t know any.” I pout as Zoie laughs. B***h.  Push Zoie away. “Ok, so I’ve got ten questions and you’ve got four. I’ll ask two then you ask one. Sound good?” Braylee nods, even though she seems a little uncomfortable. Is she worried about answering these questions? Too bad. “First question. What’s your full name?”

“Braylee Grimaldi.”

“Birthday?”

“April 24th.” Not so hard. “Erm, first kiss?”

That’s on her list? I should’ve read those questions better. “A boy called Bradley when I was ten. I met him at a family fun day my Dad’s old company held.”

“And it was magical, and I’ve never felt the same about anyone else,” Zoie mocks me. She deserves the punch to the arm I give her. “Oh, I’m sorry. Was that a secret?”

I’m going to ignore her. For now. “Any siblings?”

Braylee closes her eyes and shakes her head. “No.”

Her voice shakes slightly, and is she holding back tears? Is everyone emotional today? “You ok?” Braylee nods. “Question four. Favorite hobby?”

“Reading or star gazing.” Star gazing, that’s cool. I’ve always been fascinated by the stars and space, but never took the time to learn. Maybe Braylee can teach me? “Favorite type of music?”

That’s easy. “Eurodance.” Braylee tilts her head to the side like a confused puppy. Cute. “You know, it’s retro dance.”

“Basically, if it’s got no real instruments, is repetitive, and annoying, she loves it,” Zoie scoffs.

“It’s better than that screaming you listen to.”

Zoie rolls her eyes. “No taste. Continue.”

“Favorite sport?”

“I’m not a fan of sports,” Braylee shrugs.

“Do you like any?”

“Not really.”

Moving on. “Sexuality?”

“Seriously?” Zoie exclaims. “Everyone knows that.”

“It’s on the sheet.”

“Lesbian.” Thank you, Braylee. “Last relationship?” My fist clench, and I tense up. “You don’t have to answer.”

“Yes I do. It’ll effect your grade if I don’t.”

“Not by much,” Braylee shrugs. “That’s too personal.”

Is she honestly willing to get a lower grade for me? Madison pulls on Braylee’s shirt. “Braylee, I’m thirsty.” I pass her the juice box I’d in no way forgotten to give to her. “Thanks. I like this movie.”

She starts to drink her drink, not taking her focus off the screen. I’ve never seen her sit still for this long. Braylee has worked some real magic with her. I should do this. “I broke up with my ex-boyfriend three months ago. I walked in on him having sex with some faceless s**t.” Why does this still get me angry? “I’d been with him for almost a year.”

Zoie rubs my back to try and calm me down. “She said you didn’t need to answer that,” she coos.

“I know.”

“I’m sorry.” Braylee’s voice was soft and calms me more than Zoie. “He shouldn’t have done that to you.”

“It probably wasn’t the first time he did it, just the first time he got caught,” I shrug. I pat Zoie’s leg to let her know I’m ok. She moves her arm and goes back to her work. “Next question, what religion are you?”

“I was raised Catholic, but I don’t follow it.”

That’s interesting. “Why not?”

“Is that the next question?”

She really doesn’t want to expand on her answers. “No. I just wondered. Favorite TV show?”

“Anything Marvel or DC related.”

Anything what now? “I don’t know what that is.”

“If it’s not reality TV, you’re clueless,” Zoie chuckles.

Not a bad thing. Real life has everything. Drama, comedy, romance. I still need an answer to put down. “Can I get an example?”

“Or a clue?” Zoie mumbles. I punch her arm again. “What was that for?” I raise an eyebrow. Like she doesn’t know. “Just put Gotham, Agents of SHIELD, Runaways, and Arrow. Unless you want different ones?”

Braylee nods. “I like Agent Carter, Daredevil and Jessica Jones.”

Maybe I should watch some of those. “That’s a lot, and I don’t think I’ve heard of any of them.”

Zoie shakes her head. “No culture. That’s not even all of them, and there’s plenty more movies.”

“Really?” Zoie and Braylee nod. They have something in common. Good to know. “Are they any good?”

“Of course they’re good. Marvel is the better of the two. Stan Lee’s a genius.”

“Who?”

Zoie gives me a very disappointed stare. “How are we even friends?” I stick my tongue out at her. She knows she loves me. “Braylee, ask her your question before she embarrasses herself more.”

Braylee nods. My complete lack of knowledge about this Stan guy is bringing them together. “Favorite color?”

Surely Madison knew that? Isn’t it obvious anyway? My car’s purple, my bag’s purple, and most of my clothes are various shades of purple. “Madison didn’t know?”

“She said it used to be purple but lately you keep telling Zoie about blue.” Oh my God! Has my little sister heard us talking about Bradley? What has she told Braylee? Calm down, Toyah. It doesn’t matter if Madison told Braylee, does it? Not at all, it’s not like they know each other. “Which is it, or shall I put both?”

Which is what? Both of what? Color. Totally paying attention. “It’s purple. I only like a certain type of blue.” Question answered. I can hear Zoie rolling her eyes. “My turn. What do your parents do for a living?”

There’s that look again. The sad look. Maybe I should hug her? Would she let me? “My mom was a nurse, and my dad was next in line to take over the company business.”

Was? I really want to ask more but I can’t bring myself to. She looks heartbroken. “Last one. Do you currently have a crush on anyone?”

Braylee blushes. That’s so cute. Again with that word? “I wouldn’t call it a crush, but, yes.”

I want details. Who is this girl? What does she look like? Why does my chest hurt? “Who? Do we know her? Does she like you? Does she know you like her?”

Braylee shakes her head. “They’re not on the list.”

“I can write them on,” I grin.

She flashes a half smile. “Don’t think you’ll get extra credit.”

I should. “One small detail?”

“She’s amazing.”

That’s it? Like getting blood from a stone. “You should tell her.”

“Just did,” Braylee mumbles. I don’t think I was supposed to hear that. Never mind. Braylee glances at Zoie and sighs. She starts packing up her things. “I should go.”

What’s the hurry? Oh, I get it! She’s just told Zoie she’s amazing and Zoie either didn’t hear her or ignored it. Poor Braylee. I was right about her liking Zoie. Well done, me. Pain in the chest, again? What is that? “You don’t have to go.”

“The assignment is finished. That was my reason to be here.”

That’s true. S**t, why can’t I think of a counter? Why do I want to? I’m about to open my mouth when I hear the front door close. “Kids, I’m home.”

Dad? He’s home early. “In the living room, Dad,” I yell back to him.

Dad walks in and looks around. “What’s this? Study date?”

He looks at Braylee, waiting. Waiting for what? Braylee clears her throat. “Sorry, Sir. I’m Braylee,” she introduces herself.

Dad raises an eyebrow. What’s he doing? He’s never been like this before. “She’s my social science partner. We had an assignment to do,” I explain.

He nods and turns to me. “Where’s Madison and Nixon?” he asks.

“No idea where Nixon is, but Madison,” I point towards my little sister, “is right there.”

“Do I want to know?” I shake my head, and Dad sighs. I’m lucky he’s so laid back. He watches Madison for a while then frowns. “Have you drugged your little sister?”

I laugh. Told you no one has ever seen Madison so calm. “Nope. Braylee’s had her like that pretty much since we got home.”

“Really?”

“Yep, and she got her to do her homework. Without bribing her.”

Dad’s jaw falls open and he drops to his knees next to Braylee. “You have saved us all. Please, teach us your ways, O Great One?”

What an idiot. You have to laugh at him. Well, me and Zoie are, Braylee just looks nervous. “Dad, stop it. You disturb Madison, she’s all yours.”

Dad stands up and pouts. “I don’t know where you got your cruel streak. How can I get her attention? I’d like to say hello to my youngest.”

Braylee touches the tablet and removes the headphones from Madison. Madison quickly turns her head, giving Braylee a questioning glare. Where did she learn that? “Your dad’s home,” Braylee explains.

Madison looks over Braylee’s shoulder and squeals. “Daddy!” She passes Braylee the tablet, jumps up and runs the short distance to Dad. Dad picks her up and hold her on his hip. “Braylee’s letting me watch Frozen. It’s got a talking snowman in it.”

Oh no. Dad’s giving Braylee a look as she gets to her feet. “That so?”

“Yep. She said it has life lessons in it.”

Dad holds Braylee’s gaze and I can see her gulp. I should probably help but, I want to see how she handles this. “Sir,” she starts, “I believe every movie has a lesson in it. You only have to look at it the right way.”

Madison taps Dad’s shoulder to get his focus on her. “Daddy, I’ve got to tell Braylee what I’ve learned when I’ve finished watching.”

Braylee picks up her bag and puts it on her shoulder. “Madison, I have to go now. How about you tell your dad what you learn?” She places her tablet on the coffee table. “I’ll leave that here so you can finish it.” She looks at Dad. “Is that ok with you, Sir?”

Dad nods and smiles. “Nice shirt. What’s your name again?”

Braylee holds out her hand. “Braylee, Sir. Braylee Grimaldi.”

Dad takes Braylee’s hand. “Grimaldi? As in Kyle Grimaldi?” He lets go of her hand when she nods. “It’s been a long time. Do you still want to ask me that question?”

How does he know Braylee? What question? Why is Braylee blushing? “I do, Sir, but perhaps another time.”

Madison starts squirming in Dad’s arms. “Daddy, put me down,” she whines. As soon as her feet touch the floor, she wrapped herself around Braylee’s legs. “Do you have to go?”

Braylee moves Madison’s arms and kneels down in front of her. “I do,” she nods. “I have to get back to my house.”

“You can stay here.” She looks up at Dad. Puppy eyes in full force. “Daddy, Braylee doesn’t have to go, does she?”

“You’re welcome to stay for dinner,” he offers. “I assume Zoie’s staying.”

“Nice of you to notice me,” Zoie chuckles. “You cooking?” Dad nods. “I’m staying.”

Madison puts her hands on Braylee’s cheeks. “Daddy cooks by phone,” she giggles. “You pick something from the paper, Daddy uses the phone and then someone brings it to the house.” That’s right. My Dad’s idea of cooking is take-out. “Please stay?”

Puppy eyes locked and on target. Braylee has no chance. “I’m sorry, Madison,” Braylee sighs. “I promised a friend my help. I can’t break my promise.”

Holy s**t! She’s immune. Even Zoie can’t say no to those eyes. “Ok,” Madison sighs. “Will you come see me again?”

I can’t let Braylee deal with this alone anymore. “Braylee will visit again,” I tell her. Braylee looks at me with her head tilted. She looks like a puppy, but I’m not saying how adorable she looks. “We’re going to have homework to do together.”

“Promise?”

Braylee turns back to Madison and smiles. “Promise, but only if you do three things for me.”

Madison narrows her eyes. That I know she got from Zoie. “What?”

“You let Toyah pick you up from school every day, do your homework, and the most important thing, look after my hat. It’s special.”

“Why’s it special?”

“Because it’s a superhero hat. Your dad, or Zoie, can explain. Do we have a deal?”

“Deal.” Madison hugs Braylee. “Come back soon.”

When Madison lets go of her, Braylee stands up. “I promised, didn’t I?” She looks away from my little sister. “Thank you for having me. Goodbye, Sir, Madison. Zoie, Toyah, see you tomorrow at school.”

Zoie nods and Braylee makes her way towards the front door. Crap! I drove her here. How’s she going to get home? “Braylee, wait,” I call out. She stops and I catch up to her. She walks fast. “How are you getting home? Do you need me to give you a ride?”

“No, thank you, I’ll be ok. See you tomorrow.”

I follow her to the door. “I’ll bring your tablet to class with me tomorrow.”

Braylee shakes her head. “No rush. I can wait.”

Those words freeze me. They sound familiar, but why? Braylee was gone before I can say anything else, so I go back to the living room. Dad is now sat in my spot with Madison on his lap. “Toyah, Zoie’s going to make Frozen play on the TV. Come watch,” Madison orders.

I smile at Madison’s excitement, and sit in the chair near Zoie. “So, Braylee seems like a good kid,” Dad hums.

I turn to him, and he’s smirking. That’s not a good sign. I shrug. “She’s shy. I think she spoke to Madison more than she did to me.”

Did that sound like I’m jealous? No, that’s ridiculous. Madison puts Braylee hat in Dad’s face. “Daddy, why is this superhero hat special?”

Dad takes the hat and his jaw drops. “It’s Spider-Man, and it’s signed by Stan Lee.” Dad turns to me. “Get that girl back here right now. I need to marry her.”

“She’s gay,” Zoie laughs.

“Then one of you need to marry her.” I roll my eyes. Dad passes Zoie the hat. “Look!”

Zoie stares at the hat. Her mouth is hanging open now. What the hell? “That’s real. It’s not a print.”

“I know.”

Why are they so excited? “Someone wrote on Braylee’s hat?” I ask. They both nod. That’s no help. “What’s the big deal?”

Has Dad dislocated his jaw? It’s dropped again. “Zoie, did she really just ask that?”

“She did,” Zoie nods. “She has no idea what Marvel or DC are.”

Dad shakes his head. “Where did I go wrong with her?”

“I don’t know, Wallis. Let’s not make the same mistake with Brat.”

Dad laughs at that. Why are they making fun of me? A******s. Braylee didn’t make fun of me. Maybe I should go after her? Get away from all this man-spider and Stanley talk. I’m going to look into all this later because right now, there’s only one question that needs answering. Do you want to build a snowman?



© 2019 Jemma Packman


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Added on August 23, 2019
Last Updated on August 23, 2019
Tags: teen, lgbt, discovery, love, friendship


Author

Jemma Packman
Jemma Packman

Hull, East Yorkshire, United Kingdom



Writing
Chapter 1 Chapter 1

A Chapter by Jemma Packman