Chapter 4: Closer
Updated: May 7, 2019
"Oh my God, you guys! She's probably laying in a ditch somewhere!" Rachel screamed. "She better be! So help me God, if she isn't, I'm going to put her ass there!" Candace growled. "Maybe she got tired of us hounding her for wanting to be with someone and she finally got laid," Mel added. "Syd, call us when you can," Jamie huffed, being the only level headed one on the voicemail message. I laughed maniacally at how freaked out they were. I just kept replaying the message over and over again.
Danny stepped out onto the front porch, handing me a cup of black coffee. Nothing helped take the edge off of a long night like a warm cup of black coffee. I lit a cigarette as he sat down next to me on the bench and guzzled down half the cup. "How can you drink that without anything in it? It tastes like dirt when it's black," he gagged. I fondly remembered my dad telling me how to nurse a hangover long before I thought of even looking at alcohol. "Gets ya going when you feel like you're going to puke," I said, quoting him proudly, "Sometimes I think I could add a little cream to my coffee. Just how I like my men," I said with a wink. Danny just rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I would say that I liked my coffee like I like my women, but black coffee is where I draw the line." Holy fuck. We were flirting. I didn't want to be all flirty, but honestly it took little to no effort around him. It just came out naturally.
I panicked and quickly changed the subject. "So, why exactly did we come to your brother's house?" I asked, taking another sip from my cup as I folded my legs Indian style. "For obvious reasons. Best place in the county to stay hidden. I don't want anyone to know that I'm back yet." He stretched his arms out, letting a yawn escape from his mouth and then placed his arm behind me on the back of the porch swing. "You know Jada and Ryan. They love their privacy and Jada loves to look down on this town like she's in a castle and the rest of the county was her kingdom."
His brother Ryan and his girlfriend Jada were much older than us. Probably in their thirties if I had to guess and they liked to keep to themselves. We only knew of them. Even before when Danny would hang out with us, we never saw them around much, but we knew that they were close. All I ever heard about Jada was that she was a stuck up bitch that walked around with her nose in the air. Their house was well hidden up in the mountains. Even though it was close to the school, no one ever dared to set foot on their property. I was probably the only one to ever be here and I was hoping to live to tell the tale.
I didn't know what either of them did for a living, but their house was pretty damn amazing. The view from the front porch was breathtaking and it was definitely something I could get used to even though I wasn't a morning person.
"Do you smoke all the time? Like constantly?" he asked with a chuckle. I hadn't even realized that I was on my second cigarette. "You need to learn the meaning of boundaries," I said with a smile. "Alright. You're a big girl," he said, holding his hands up. "Honestly, it's the only thing that keeps my head level. It keeps my nerves from eating me alive." I shrugged and sat back to stare at the trees.
The front door flew open and we both jerked our heads in its direction and came face to face with Jada, the last person that I wanted to see this morning. She stumbled out in a long silk black robe, flowing all around her. Her hair was piled up in a neatly messy bun on top of her head. I didn't know if she had just woken up or if she was planning on storming down a runway.
"Good morning, little brother!" she shouted in a sing song voice. She looked past Danny and right at me and she froze. "Sydney," she said dryly, "I didn't expect to see you. So sorry for your loss," she said with a smirk. I knew that she was just trying to be rude as hell for no reason at all. But it still made my blood boil. I managed to keep my composure. I looked at Danny from the corner of my eye and I could tell that he was getting angrier by the minute.
Bitches like Jada were all the same. They lived a sad life or they went through some sort of tragedy and instead of trying to be grateful that they got away from their past, they just became miserable and shitty people. I never understood it, but I knew how to handle them.
"Jade, don't be an asshole," Danny said with a look that could kill her on the spot if looks could kill. She smiled from ear to ear, carefully placing a large pair of black sunglasses over her eyes. "I'm not being an asshole. I'm just being your big sister. I'm being myself." Damn was she right. She was really flaunting her true colors. Thank God I was holding a cigarette that I couldn't afford to waste between my fingers. On a good day, I would have probably shattered the coffee cup in my other hand and used the remains to threaten her life. "YOU. ARE. A. BITCH! You are NOT my sister!" Danny yelled, his voice echoing throughout the mountains. "JADE! GET IN THE GODDAMN HOUSE!" I heard Ryan yell from a distance.
She rolled her eyes and sucked her teeth while placing her hands on her hips. "Since he probably won't say anything, Danny probably shouldn't spend his time playing with children. Call me when you need someone to show you how to be a bad bitch, Doll," she said with an evil grin on her face. She turned gracefully on her heels and went back into the house.
"I don't know what the hell her problem is. Just ignore Jada. That's what I do," he said, fighting to contain himself. "Eh, sister-in-laws can be bitches," I said brushing it off. "Thanks for standing up for me, by the way. No one's ever done that," I said as my cheeks and ears turned a bright red. No one has ever had to do that for me. Everyone knew that I usually stayed on the sidelines and avoided confrontation because I had a short fuse and it was a nightmare when it came to calming myself down. "It's nothing. I can't stand Jada. Never have, never will."
Danny and I spent the rest of the day catching up, trying our best to avoid bringing up the past and my relationship with Dean. I never realized how much I always loved having him next to me. We didn't have to even talk to each other for me to feel like that. His energy was everything I needed to have a goofy smile plastered across my face.
I was also avoiding calls from everyone. I wanted to live in this moment and enjoy every single piece of it. Most of them were from my friends.
We'd just finished laughing hysterically about the time he and Derek thought it'd be fun to play Dukes of Hazzard while they were wasted. I couldn't control my laughter when I thought of how much of a disaster it was when Derek tried to run and jump in the car through the passenger side window and nearly cracked his head on the pavement when he ended up smacking his face on the door.
"Sydney, it's Mom. Let us know if you and Candace are wanting to come to the beach with us this year. It's your senior year and we want you girls to have some fun. Love you." Shit. After hearing the voicemail from my mom, I couldn't believe that I forgot all about our annual beach trip. "What's wrong?" Danny asked, ready to spring into action for no reason at all. "Nothing. My mom just called to remind me about our beach trip. They always take me and Candace before school starts back. It's kind of a tradition," I said, shrugging my shoulders. I loved the beach and I loved the independence that my parents always gave us when we went. They would rent two condos, one for them and one for me and Candace. We would only see each other if they called us up, wanting to have dinner together and when we finally went back home. There was no way that I was going to pass up a trip to the beach. After my break up with Dean, I almost didn't want to come back home that year.
But the thought of being away from Danny left me nervous, sad, and confused. Nervous because I didn't want him thinking I was trying to distance myself from him. Sad because I simply didn't want to be away from him. Confused because I had no idea why it felt like we were magnets, clinging to each other like it was the most natural thing in the world.
He placed his hand on my thigh and smiled from ear to ear. "How much should I pack?" he asked cheerfully. My heart skipped a beat and I quickly turned my head and raised an eyebrow at him, curious to know if he was serious or not. "Dead serious right now. I won't get to see you as much once school starts back," he said, making a pouty face. It was my favorite pouty face. I smiled and grabbed his chin, just like I did before he left when he would make that face and I pulled his face into mine and pressed my lips against his without thinking.
We were both frozen. How could I have been so stupid? How was I not paying attention? How hard is it to avoid pulling someone's face into yours to kiss them? If things weren't confusing before, they sure as hell were about to. So much for taking things slowly.
My cheeks and ears were flushed again and I look like a deer caught in a set of headlights. I quickly snatched my hand away from his face and locked them together in my lap. He didn't say anything and neither did I.
"I need to go," I said quickly. I stood up from the porch swing, making sure I had my phone and cigarettes. I went to step off the porch when he caught my hand. "Are you going to ghost me?" he asked, raising both eyebrows. It made me a little sad that we were both afraid that the other would just disappear. I'm pretty sure we'd be insane if that happened all over again. He looked into my eyes like he was trying to crawl his way into my soul. I took a step back and sat back down. "No. I won't and please don't make that face again," I said with a smile creeping across my lips. "Will it get me another kiss?" he asked. I smiled so wide that I thought my cheeks were going to burst and I looked down into my lap for a second. My heart was fluttering. "Maybe. If you play your cards right, you might see me again. Text me," I said as I made the bold impulsive decision to wink at him. I grabbed his hand and squeezed it before taking off down the stairs.
I didn't live that far from the school and the weather wasn't scorching, so a nice long walk was probably what I needed to think things over.
"Jesus Sydney! What's wrong with you?!" I asked myself, smacking my forehead when I was far enough away from the house where he couldn't see me. My heart was racing and at this point, I was ready to run home. I felt embarrassed and that was because it looked like I only wanted to play with his emotions. That wasn't me at all. I knew what it felt like to have my heart played with and it fucking sucked.
I lived in Maitland Bottom which wasn't too far from city limits. It was right before you made it to Kimball, which became even more of a ghost town than Welch when the floods hit back in 2001 and 2002. A lot of my dad's family and friends lived there as well as Keystone, Northfork, and Maybeury respectively. Most of the kids that lived there would travel all the way to Stewart Street where Reggie lived for the parties. It seemed a bit excessive and completely out of the way, but Reg threw some pretty damn good parties.
By the time I made it to the road to my house, I was huffing and sweating bullets. Not because of the heat or the walk that was longer than I expected. I was going to worry myself to death about that kiss. I kept my head down, looking at my feet like I was going to run into him again.
When I made it to my porch and looked up, I was hit with something much, much worse.
"Where the HELL have you been?!" Candace growled. I rolled my eyes and tried my best to ignore the three of them sitting on my front porch. "Mind your damn business Candace," I threatened. "Well why'd you go ghost on us? We looked everywhere for you," Rachel asked in a much more civil tone.
I didn't know if Danny would have wanted me to tell people that he was back. We were so much alike when it came to being social but also liking our privacy at times. Plus, making them guess was more fun than I imagined.
"I wasn't with Dean. So, no need to worry," I said nonchalantly, lighting a cigarette. Rachel's phone vibrated and it caused everyone to look at her except for me and Jamie. "Did you spend the night with anyone at all?" she asked with a grin on her face.
"She sure did!" Rachel announced proudly. "Get on Instagram!" she added. I noted the excitement in her voice, so now I was curious. I opened the app, scrolling through the posts on my feed as quickly as possible. Jamie and Mel squealed when they found what they were looking for while I was still in the dark. Rachel was grinning from ear to ear and staring at me like a lunatic. "Reg, just sent me this," she confessed, turning her phone to show me.
And there I was. Staring out into the trees with a cigarette in my hand and my hair looking like last night. I looked like I was deep in thought and I probably was. The caption read, "My view is so much brighter," and my heart fluttered. I was caught off guard and on his social media for the whole county to see.
"Does this mean what I think it means?!" Rachel yelled out loud, trying her best to contain her excitement but failing miserably at it. I was still frozen. My mouth was dry and I was sweating bullets again. "Hell yes!" Mel shouted. "Danny Connor is back in town and he's staked his claim!"
I swallowed hard. I was getting used to this up until this point. I didn't know how comfortable I was going to be with him claiming me right when everyone found out he was back here. It wasn't exactly the worst thing to happen to me, but we were about to find out.