Posted on Wed Jun 4th, 2014 @ 11:10am by Unawakened Jana Rotherbridge
Date: March 22nd, 2010
Time: 12:30 pm
Location: Lakehouse on Lake Texoma, near Dallas, Texas/One of the Lynds homes, Fallbrook, California
The whispers started almost immediately.
Jana found herself moving closer to Simon. When he’d suggested that they ‘spike [Bridget’s] guns’, she hadn’t thought about what that would mean. But now she knew for sure what it meant. It meant a lot of attention, and more than a few stunned looks. Something like a low-level hum started to build beneath the surface as they walked through the halls, her new boyfriend all but ignoring the stares from the people they passed.
“Where are we going?” she finally asked.
“The kitchen,” Simon told her, keeping her close. “The center of all social interaction at a party like this.”
Jana snorted. “Like what? A glow party that gets stranded at the lake?”
Simon chuckled. “I really should take you to a garden party in the English countryside. It is much the same, except there is more… discretion.” That was said as they passed a couple that couldn’t have cared less that Simon and Jana were creating a scene. They were busy trying to eat each other alive.
Jana laughed low in her throat. “Yeah, well, they won’t know each other on Monday.”
Simon shook his head. “Americans.” He looked at her. “Present company excluded, of course.”
Jana snickered derisively as they entered the kitchen. There were various people in the process of preparing food. She found one of Gabe’s friends staring at an avocado. He was the Asian, though his name escaped her at the moment.
Then he looked at them, his eyes going wide as saucers, and bolted, heading for the stairs. She wasn’t sure why, but decided that was okay. Boys were weird. Present company excluded, of course.
Jana went over to the avocado. It was one of five, the other four in a mesh bag. She picked it up, checking for ripeness.
Simon stopped next to her. “We’re at a party full of teenagers, and you’re holding perhaps some of the healthiest food currently up for consideration.”
Jana smiled at him. “Oh, you don’t know. Guacamole is the best for tortilla chips. Mom used to make it all the time in the summer…” Her voice trailed off. Talking about her parents, past tense, was still fairly new. It made her feel guilty, like she was forgetting them already. She looked down at the fruit in her hands. “Want to see if there’s salsa in the fridge?” she asked abruptly.
Simon nodded, squeezing her shoulder as he went. “This being Texas, I have no doubt,” he said. It was probably meant to be a joke, but it came out reassuring, instead. She nodded as he left her for a moment. She started to empty the mesh bag.
She couldn’t help but remember the last time she was in Cali. Guac had been present for that, too.
Finding herself suddenly in possession of a knife and bowl, as well as the requested salsa, Jana started to halve, seed and peel the avocados, just as her mother had taught her. Cole would need something substantial after his ordeal last night.
Finding Simon helpful was strange, considering his motives. She had no idea how she had gotten so much power in the situation, and while she didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, there was something off about his behavior. She just wasn’t sure how to take it.
As she let the soft halves fall into the large bowl, her mind went back to the previous August. School had been about to start again, and like now, the atmosphere was charged…
Jana Rotherbridge, one of three recently numb and heartbroken orphans, was leaning over a pie plate full of guac on the kitchen peninsula, arguing with herself over how much lime juice would give it enough kick. It was nearing the end of the season, so this would be the last truly California fresh guac she was going to have for a long time.
Her cousin, Kenzie Lynds, stomped into the kitchen, glaring at Jana with her big bluee eyes. She looked like she’d already been crying. “Is it true!?!”
Jana blinked at her. Her own emotions were on a bit of a time delay since the accident. “Huh?” Jana was a in crop top and shorts, staring at her cousin. She wanted to squint to see if steam was really coming out of her ears.
Kenzie stood in front of her, wearing a knee-length loose skirt and a short-sleeved peasant blouse. “Did that witch actually take Uncle Brian apart in court? He could be disbarred!”
Jana’s mind caught up with what her cousin was saying, and she rolled her eyes. “She didn’t *literally* take him apart, Kenz. She just told the judge why he shouldn’t be our guardian, but she should. That’s all.” She wasn’t going to defend the ‘witch’ thing. Aunt Mariah was a force of nature and she knew it.
Kenzie huffed, looking at her as if she had two heads. “Are you kidding? That’s not ‘all’. If that was all, they wouldn’t be talking about taking away his license. What did that bitch really say?”
Jana stood up straight, putting down the lime and folding her arms over her chest. “Bitch? Kenz, I don’t think…”
Kenzie, looking royally pissed, stomped forward and swept the guacamole off the counter, sending the whole thing to the floor. “I can’t *believe* you’re defending her! Mom’s crying! Don’t you even care!?!”
Jana watched the pie plate go to the floor, the glass breaking and the contents going all over the floor. Her last bit of California… She looked up at Kenzie, her temper flaring in her brown eyes. “I think I see a bitch, and it’s not Aunt Mariah!”
Kenzie looked stunned. And angry. “What!?! I’m not the one costing a man his job! If you didn’t want to go live with Uncle Brian, all you had to do was say so!”
Jana glared. “All I had to say? I haven’t been able to ‘say’ much of anything since Mom and Dad,” her voice cracked on the next word, “died! Have you noticed? At all!?! I’ve been crying every night and the only person who seems to care had to come from Texas to do it!”
Kenzie’s mouth dropped open, her equally red-haired cousin staring at her, her blonde highlights seeming to glow in her fury. “Noticed!?! How can I not!?! You’re in the room right next to me! But there’s more going on now than just you-!”’
“That’s right!” Jana stated, looking like an avenging angel. “There’s my brothers, Gabe and Cole! Remember them? I do. The two ‘minor children’ that got sent off to live with strangers when their family couldn’t be bothered to take care of them! Oh, I remember that!”
Kenzie stared at her. “Nobody could take them!” she said. “You know that!”
“So they had to go into foster care! I haven’t seen them in over a week! How would you feel if it was Branley and Desiree? Huh? How would you feel if you never got to see them when you wanted because strangers thought it was ‘too damaging’ for it to happen a lot?”
Her cousin drew back incredulously. “You’re lying!” Kenzie accused. “Mom says you get so see them every weekend!”
Jana’s next words were scathing. “Yeah, well, maybe your mom doesn’t know everything.”
Kenzie gasped. “Jana!”
“I don’t even know why I’m still here!” said Jana, giving vent to her frustrations. “Aunt Mariah won! I should be with her instead of listening to you!”
“Why don’t you do that, then?” asked Kenzie, her eyes bright with tears.
“I will!” cried Jana.
Jana didn’t let grass grow beneath her feet, as Mariah would say. Within the next hour, she was packed and ready when Mariah came running. As the limo pulled out of the driveway, Jana watched her Aunt Barbara pull up in front of the house. She felt bad, but pushed it away. Kenzie was the one who did it. She could explain to her mother why there was guacamole all over the floor. Jana didn’t care.
She was done.
Jana squeezed just the right amount of lime into the dish, inwardly cursing herself for shaking. It had only been six months, but it felt like a year. She missed Kenzie, and couldn’t believe they’d had an argument at all, let alone that it had ended like that. Her hero worship of Mariah had lasted as long as it took them to get the boys and go to Texas. There had been so many times she’d wanted to pick up the phone to complain, but couldn’t bring herself to. So much had gone wrong. She didn’t know how she’d ever fix it.
She started when a large hand came into her view, grabbing the bowl. “Oh, so sorry.” She looked up and saw Simon looking almost as surprised as she. “Were you not finished?”
Jana shook her head. “Just a sec,” she said, quickly mixing the lime throughout the guac. “There, now you can take it.” Simon did so, kissing her forehead.
“Perfect, my lovely.” He added the bowl to the tray they were taking down to the basement. He lifted the whole easily. “Shall we?”
Jana was just about to nod before Gabe practically burst into the room, seething. Jana made Simon put the tray back down. No sense in another batch being ruined.
Gabe’s eyes went around the room and rested on Jana and Simon. Before he said anything, Jana told him, “We’re going to take snacks down to Cole and the rest of the Geek Squad. Want to come?”
Trevor rush in right behind Gabe, and once again, Jana wondered why. But then Gabe took a deep breath and nodded, and she felt the knot she didn’t know was in her stomach loosen. He picked up a bag or two of chips and Trevor grabbed some sweet tea. As a group, they left the kitchen.
And instantly found themselves the center of attention.