Location: Bathroom en suite from bedroom, Lake Texoma, Texas/Campus of Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Timeline: March 22nd, 2010, 2:00 am
A long, tense pause followed Gabe’s question, then Jana cast a glance at Trevor, then back at her brother. “Why is your tutor here? Why should he care about any of this?
Gabe opened his mouth, but Trevor switched the hands he was holding Cole with and touched Gabe’s shoulder. “No. Please. We don’t want a scene right now.”
This whole moment was puzzling and frustrating Jana, but she didn’t really have time to process it. Cole needed her attention.
She reached out and placed a hand on her brother’s shoulder. “Let’s get this one to bed and call Aunt Mariah before she freaks and blows our batteries.” They were, she saw with dismay, out past curfew. She ignored Simon’s rolled eyes, though he pulled back the covers to help her put Cole to bed over Cole’s protests that he felt ‘fine’, since her baby brother just kept getting taller. Not that she begrudged him the inches, but he was going to tower over her like Gabe pretty soon.
“I wanna go back! Tim-bo-lake was playing!”
“You can’t even stand up straight. Lay down.”
As she pulled off Cole’s shoes, she heard the door shut again. She looked to see Gabe throw the lock this time, looking angry. She turned back to take off Cole’s socks, wrinkling her nose. She was sure they were clean before he put them on. Meanwhile, Trevor gave Gabe a level look that promised they would talk later, in private.
Jana lifted her arms, let her hair down, pulling it out in front, and went to take off her shoes.
“What are you doing?” Simon asked.
Jana sighed. “It’ll be easier for him to sleep if I’m right next to him.”
“You mean the way he is now?” the Brit asked, pointing to the bed. Jana looked, and he was right. Cole was just about to pass out, despite his claims that he was fine and could walk. Obviously, he was done for the night.. It was all a bit much, especially with Gabe still very cranky.
Suddenly, Cole was grinning widely “You just want me to go to bed ‘cause you’re totally gonna make out.” Obviously, he’d noticed Simon.
Jana looked at Simon, who was smirking, then Gabe, who was outright scowling. “So not helping, Cole. Go to sleep,” she said through clenched teeth.
She turned to Gabe. “I’m going to call home,” she said, a bit louder than necessary, glaring at the cranky boy in question.
Gabe stayed silent for a moment, then sighed. “Yeah, I’m not so hot getting grounded over this.”
They both made the call, Jana feigning a low battery to avoid too much conversation with her aunt when she asked about Cole. It was Gabe’s turn to roll his eyes when she said he would call on his phone to check in, and she looked out at the balcony, then decided against it. It was still raining much too hard. She decided to hide in the bathroom.
She had a lot to think about.
She walked in and shut the door behind her, locking the door behind her. She put her hands on the sink, looking in the mirror. Everything seemed to be going wrong tonight.
It might not mean anything, but Cole almost never slept without smelling her hair. It left her feeling a bit bereft, as if some of her purpose had been taken. She sat on the toilet, looking and feeling utterly heartbroken. She wanted him to be more independent, sure. She just wasn't sure she was ready for him to be independent.
Gabe was being weird, tonight. Letting a girl grind against him. Roping his tutor into helping him with Cole. Maybe his reaction to Simon wasn’t so weird, but nothing had happened. He was totally overreacting.
Trevor’s presence seemed weird, but he kept Gabe calm. She appreciated that at least.
And then there was Simon himself. She still didn’t think he was being totally honest, but she couldn’t push him about it while Gabe and Cole were there. As much as she hated the idea she would have to wait.
Jana looked down, seeing her phone still in her hand. She wiped the moisture from its case and thought. She couldn’t call Kenzie, her favorite cousin in the whole wide world. They’d had a fight before she left because she’d sided with Aunt Mariah, and they hadn’t spoken since. The girls she met earlier would just tell her to go for what Simon wanted, and there was no chance in heaven or h*ll that she was going to call Aunt Mariah again, even if she hadn’t feigned a failing battery.
It was times like these that she missed her parents. She had no idea what her father would have thought, let alone her mother, but the idea of being able to talk to either one of them made her heart ache.
She could only think of one person whom she could call, and while she didn’t know if she would answer, she had to try. She was losing her mind trying to manage a situation out of her control, and she didn’t know what the right thing to do was, anymore.
Finding the number in her contacts, she tapped it before she could rethink it and put the phone to her ear. Please, she thought. Please.
Clarice Darling barely held in a groan when her phone woke her up. She was a light sleeper on campus, especially with her sister getting farther along in her pregnancy. Had to be ready for ‘the call’. Still, she loved sleep.
Not more than she loved Ben, but she loved sleep.
She picked it up, and blinked at the readout. The family had programmed three new numbers into their phones before she left for school last fall, but she’d never thought she was going to see one on her phone.
Particularly this one.
Shrugging, she answered it. “Jana? Honey, what is it? It’s,” she glanced at the clock, “it’s early, and I have a morning class.” Economics was going to be the death of her.
“I’m sorry,” came the distressed voice over the phone. “Just… I need to talk to someone, and I couldn’t think of anyone else.”
Clarice put a hand through her hair. “What about your brother? I thought you were close.” It almost seemed like they were Cole’s parents. Which didn’t seem healthy, but she wasn’t going to mention it. It was none of her business.
A sigh. “He’s part of the problem. Look, I’m sorry, maybe I should-”
“No, no!” said Clarice, throwing back her covers. She was in a lace peignoir in pink. She looked around. Her roommates seemed to be feigning sleep as they made ‘sleepy’ noises and rolled over in bed, and while she trusted Rison, the other two could go to…
She found her shoes. “Give me a moment.” Sliding her feet into them, she picked up her robe, putting it on before finding a light coat. She left the bedroom and shut the door. “Sorry, my roommates won’t ever stop jabberin’ about a 2:00 AM call from you, but if they don’t know what you said, I can do damage control. What happened?”
A moment of silence. “You’re not mad?”
Clarice headed for the stairwell. “Honey, if you knew half the things my friend Claree has called me about over the years, you wouldn’t even ask. I’m worried that you’re calling me at a G*d-awful hour for reasons unknown. Seeing as you haven’t so much as texted me before, and the problem involves Gabe, I’d say it’s serious enough to get me out of bed, wouldn’t you?”
“...I guess.” A small laugh. “Make that definitely.”
“Ab-so-lutely,” Clarice corrected, making it onto the quad. Finding a private nook, she settled in. “Now, what’s the problem?”
“It’s a... guy. Okay, now I feel stupid for calling...”
Clarice gave a small chuckle. “Anyone I know?” It was strange to be in a ‘big sister’ type role, but it felt… good. Right. Like a pair of shoes that was her size, on sale, and the very last ones on the rack.
“Um, no, he just transferred from England in the fall. He’s on the wrestling team with Gabe.”
Clarice nodded. “Do they not get along?”
“Well,” soft snort, “not anymore, if they did.”
That was ominous. “Was it something he did? Or was it Gabe?”
“I’d say it was definitely Simon’s fault.”
“Ooo, Simon,” Clarice teased. “Sexy name.” She thought about it. “I think someone mentioned him. Friends with the son of a baron?”
“Yeah,” came the reply. “Yeah, that’s him.” Jana sounded surprised.
“You hear all kinds of things in the grapevine.” Foreigners in Texas stood out. “So… what did he do?”
Jana told her.
Clarice sat there, stunned, as the whole story came out. Starting with that first wink, all the way down to the scene Jana had escaped from just before calling. It was shocking.
She wasn’t given much to anger, much less rage, but the thought of Simon, or any boy, making that kind of proposition to her only baby girl cousin made her want to track him down and hang him up by his toenails. Though if she told Benny, the entire Shooter clan would be behind her. And her future Daddy-In-Law belonged to the NRA.
“Can’t blame Gabe for wanting to string him up by his toes,” Clarice said mildly, covering up her strong reaction. “Why aren’t you letting him?”
Jana sighed. “There’s something I’m missing, I think. I don’t know, just, what he says makes some kind of sense, but… maybe it’s just wishful thinking.”
Clarice leaned back against the cold stone in her nook. “I don’t know, sweetie. You have to decide that. I do know one thing, though.”
She heard shifting, as well as the rain still going where her cousins were currently stranded. “What?”
Clarice smiled a little. “You just left a sleeping brother, an angry brother, and a poor, innocent tutor in the same room as this guy. What’s wrong with this picture?”
She heard Jana say something very unladylike, and some scrambling. It sounded like she was trying to stand up. Hours on the phone with her friends made her better able to tell. “I have to get back in there. Thanks.” Pause. “Thank you, Clarice.” It was sincere.
“You’re welcome, hon. Sleep well.”
They said their goodbyes, and Clarice hung up. She hoped things turned out well for her.
Jana slid her phone back into its hiding place in her bra, and she went back into the room. Fortunately, there was no blood on the floor. Yet.
What she saw when she came in was Simon and Gabe seeming to circle each other, Gabe’s hands fisted at his sides while Simon looked ready to dodge. Trevor was off to the side, looking worried. That was justified. And, Cole was finally asleep. Good. One less thing.
She walked in. “Okay, break it up,” she said, coming to stand between them. “This is going to be the Rotherbridge room. Anyone without that last name needs to leave.” She looked at Trevor. “Sorry.”
He looked grateful, though some other emotion she couldn’t read chased gratitude across his face. “Don’t worry, no offense taken.” He looked at Gabe, they exchanged nods, and Trevor left.
She turned to look at Simon, ready to put her foot down. He simply cocked his head to the side, then smiled. “Very well, love,” he said. He walked forward, took her hand, kissed the back of it, then left. Gabe growled as he watched the door close behind the other boy.
Jana walked forward, locked the door, then turn to face Gabe’s glaring look. “Later,” she said. “We’ll talk about this later. Turn down the lights and come to bed.” It was going to be a tight fit, but she didn’t want to argue over bed versus floor. She walked back to the bed, feeling the moisture on her feet. Maybe taking off her shoes earlier had been a bad choice.
She heard Gabe sigh, and he took her by the shoulder. She turned to face him.
“You know I love you, right?”
Jana nodded. He was right. “I know. I love you, too. Truce?”
Gabe smiled, looking a little sad. “Yeah, truce.” They hugged, and he followed her to the bed. Once they were in it, he wrapped an arm around both her and Cole. Soon, they were all asleep.