"Happy birthday to youuu. Happy birthday to youuu. Happy birthday dear Savannah and Chloe, happy birthday to you!" everyone in the Camden's dining room chorused. The small group, made up of family and close friends, circled around the two young toddlers' high chairs.
The two blonde-haired, blue-eyed toddlers' eyes wandered around the room, observing the company. Lucy forced back tears, looking toward Roxanne. She couldn't believe her little girl was already one year old. It seemed like she had only been born yesterday.
A few feet away, Lucy's husband was cutting two small slices of cake. "Ow!" he shattered everyone's ears with a screech, and Lucy saw him grip his tallest finger, with an attempt to stop the flow of blood.
Lucy shook her head. "Kevin Kinkirk, for a police officer who handles a gun each day, you would think you would be able to manipulate a knife!" She rolled her eyes, jokingly toward her husband.
"I thought I could too," Kevin mumbled, admittedly embarrassed.
Lucy reached for a paper towel and handed it to him. "Go clean up," she instructed her husband, taking the knife away from him. Kevin lifted a brow, while Lucy huffed, motioning him out of the room. "Shoo, now! I'm not cleaning your blood up!"
"Okay, okay," Kevin moaned, leaving the kitchen.
Carefully, Lucy finished cutting the slices. She brought two small plates to the toddlers, and she set the plates on the high chairs. "Now, girls, you've seen why it's important to never play with knives, right?" she cooed at the babies; neither girls had their attention on Lucy. Instead, both girls glared with wide eyes toward the cake.
Cautiously, Savannah dug her fist through the fluffy, white cake. Clueless with what to do with the cake, she threw it on the ground.
"No, Savannah!" Lucy shrieked. "Let me show—"
Before she could finish her sentence, after seeing Savannah throw the cake, Chloe followed. Lucy felt a boisterous fume travel throughout her body. The girls began to giggle, and both toddlers began repeatedly throwing their cake on the ground.
"Luce, I don't think they care about knives," a wavy-brown haired teen remarked. "Are you sure you didn't want to just clean up Kevin's blood? I'm sure this'll be fun to clean up."
"Ruthie," Annie spoke coldly toward her youngest daughter.
"What? It's true. Obviously Lucy knows nothing about parenting," Ruthie rolled her eyes, looking toward the little girls. The sixteen-year-old took Savannah's and Chloe's plates. Almost immediately, the toddlers' eyes watered up.
"Ruthie, you're making them cry!" Lucy shrieked. "And you say that I don't know how to parent! Give them their plates back."
"Oh hush," Ruthie murmured, and looked at the toddlers. "Hey, girls, look here!" Ruthie took a handful of Savannah's cake and put it in her own mouth. "Mmmm…. Cake yummy." When the girls saw Ruthie place the cake in her mouth, immediately their tears stopped. "Here, you try," Ruthie insisted, taking a pinch of cake, placing it in Savannah's, then Chloe's mouth. Curious expressions overtook the toddlers' faces, as they opened their mouths, wanting more.
Lucy's face blistered.
"See, everyone knows that you have to feed them the cake before giving it to them alone," Ruthie tooted.
"Well, I'm glad you know everything about parenting," Lucy hastily replied. She looked toward Roxanne and Chandler, who both stood behind Chloe.
"Ruthie, I'm sure you'll make a great mother someday," Roxanne insisted; Lucy wasn't sure if Roxanne was being serious or sarcastic. Either way, Lucy knew that Ruthie would not become a mother for a very long time—or else.
At first Ruthie didn't say anything. Then she turned to her mom. "Everything I know, I've learned from watching Mom with Sam and David."
Sam and David, then six—almost seven, hovered over the cake. "We're not babies!" the twins said instantaneously.
Everyone in the room laughed slightly. "It seems just like yesterday you two were celebrating your first birthday," Annie sighed. "Boy, do the years go by…"
"Can we have cake already?" Sam insisted, ignoring his mother's moment of reminiscence.
"Pleaaaaase!" David added.
Chloe Hampton was lost for words. Truthfully, Chloe couldn't imagine what Savannah was going through. Chloe did not want to imagine what it would be like if her own parents decided to get a divorce. It was nothing she had to worry about, though; her parents loved each other, and they would never separate.
Savannah's parents loved each other, too. And they were one of the last couples in Glen Oak anyone would ever picture parting. The Hampton and the Kinkirk families were two of the most well-known families in Glen Oak. The families had worked together for years, trying to make Glen Oak a better place.
Chloe's father and Savannah's mother worked in the ministry. Weekly, they visited people in the hospital; together they had started a teen mother's group; they had sponsored Habitat for Humanity and various other organizations. There wasn't a question about it. Savannah's mother had a heart of gold, because Chloe knew that her father wouldn't do any of those things on his own.
While her father and Savannah's mother had been donating their hearts to charity, Chloe's mother and Savannah's father were protecting the town. Chloe was aware that Chloe's mother and Savannah's father had been partners since before Savannah's parents were even married. Savannah and Chloe were also both aware that their mothers actually used to hate each other.
Chloe and Savannah had always found that little fact amusing. Imagining their mothers ever even arguing seemed impossible. For as long as the girls could remember, their mothers had been the closest of friends. They spent hours upon hours together; as the girls were growing up, their mothers would go out for a 'girl's night' at least once a month.
The car beckoned complete silence as Chloe drove from the Promenade to Noah and Jacob's house. Chloe couldn't help but notice the distant expression Savannah wore on her face. Her thoughts seemed to be a light year away.
It was four o'clock when Chloe pulled into Savannah's cousins' driveway. The driveway was empty, which meant the boys weren't back.
"Where the heck is Noah?" Chloe heard Savannah mumble, and then Savannah shrugged. "It's all right, Chloe. You can leave Krysti and me here. We'll be fine until the boys get back."
"But your aunt and uncle aren't home, are they? You won't be able to get in the house. I can't let you stay outside by yourself," Chloe insisted, frowning.
"I'm a big girl, Chlo. I can take care of myself. And besides, I know where my aunt and uncle keep the spare key, so I can get in the house." Savannah rolled her eyes, and pushed the door open. She gazed at Krysti in the back seat, hinting at her to do the same. And at the same time, Chloe turned her car off and pulled her keys out of the ignition.
Chloe had never seen Savannah so irate before. Compared to other girls their age, Savannah was mature. She always had a strong head on her shoulders; when other girls would whine and complain, Savannah would try to see the good. According to Savannah, "There was a reason for everything."
There's something she's not telling me, Chloe thought, wondering what her best friend was hiding from her.
"What are you doing?" Savannah snapped, her vivid blue eyes stared directly at Chloe.
"Staying here with you," Chloe insisted. "Come on, Savannah. You're in no—"
"—I see what this is," Savannah cut in. "You just want to be here when my cousins back so you can get your paws on Jacob. That's what it is, isn't it? Well, Chloe, I've been holding my tongue for awhile, but I can only hold it for so long. He doesn't like you. Get over him. Move on."
Chloe felt her face flush from tan to bright red. The boiling hot feeling sweltered all over her face, and she felt chills wither down her spine. She couldn't believe what Savannah had just said. Who is this, and what has she done with my best friend.
Chloe's eyes wandered down Savannah's small figure, which she'd inherited from her mother. She turned to a dumb-stricken Krysti, who also clearly couldn't believe her own sister's words. Chloe opened her dry mouth, looking for words, but no words formed.
Her keys fumbled in her hand as Chloe reached her hand out to open her car door again. Embarrassed and confused, Chloe fell back into the driver's seat. And just as she was about to insert the key into the ignition, she heard the engine from the car that had pulled directly behind her. In her rear-view mirror, she saw a 2015 Ford Mustang, equipped with a gorgeous, sandy brown haired teenager in the driver's seat.
She swallowed hard, watching Jacob remove himself from the car. The door opposite also opened, as Aaron exited the vehicle. Chloe noticed that Julian wasn't in the car.
Chloe felt her heart begin racing rapidly as the boys came closer to her car. Out of curiosity, she found herself lowering the window on the driver's side.
"Well, I didn't expect to see you girls here," Jacob stated. He turned to Chloe, "We just dropped Julian off at your house. He did really well at try-outs, by the way. I think there's a good chance that he made the team."
"T-That's … great!" Chloe tried to show enthusiasm for her brother, unlike her earlier attitude.
"You know, you really should give him more credit. The kid deserves it. Don't be so harsh on him." Jacob insisted. He winked, and suddenly Chloe felt like a complete and utter bitch. She didn't need to be lectured on how to treat her brother, that's what her parents were for. It coming from Jacob made it ten times worse.
Aaron had moved closer to Savannah. He was frowning, seeming to take note to Savannah's somber expression. "Sav, are you all right?" He placed his hand on Savannah's shoulder, but Savannah pushed him away, shaking her head.
Jacob's attention immediately directed toward his cousin. "Savannah, what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," she merely shook her head, twisting her blonde hair with her finger. "Do you guys know where Noah is? I let him use my keys so he could come home while you guys were still at practice. He's not here."
"Huh. That's weird. That kid usually can't pull himself away from the couch to go anywhere. I can't see…"
Another car's engine interrupted Jacob's statement. Savannah's car had just pulled into the driveway with Noah at the wheel. All eyes were on him, and Chloe had no way of getting out the Camden driveway with all the cars behind her.
When he'd gotten out of the car, he called forward, "Darn, I was hoping to get back before you, Savannah. Since you were low on gas, I went and filled it up for you. It's the least I could for you letting me use it and all."
"That was nice of you," Savannah said, forcing a small smile. "But, you don't have any money. So how'd you manage that?"
Noah turned pinkish. "Dad's credit card…I don't think he'll mind, seeing as it went for a good cause, and you are his favorite niece, after all."
Savannah nodded with annoyance. "Uh-huh. Right, and that was sweet of you and all, but you really should consult your dad before you do those things…"
Jacob was nodding. "And let me guess, Noah. You weren't planning on telling Dad either, were you? I second Savannah. That was nice and all, but really…"
"And excuse me," Krysti had her hands on her hips. "I thought that I was Uncle Matt's favorite niece. That's what he told me!"
Savannah rolled her eyes.
"Shut up, Jacob! You don't have to be such an ass about everything. Just because you're taller than me, doesn't mean you're any smarter or better than me. Heck, in fact, I think you've forgotten that I'm two minutes older than you!" His round fists clenched together, and his forehead wrinkled as he glared at his brother.
"Dude, whatever. I really couldn't care less," Jacob cackled.
Savannah's arms were still crossed, and her uncanny solemn face brought on only confusion. Aaron tried to place his arm around her again, but she only moved away.
"I'm going to go visit my cousin…Charlie. I haven't seen him in awhile, and I miss him. So if that's okay, I'm off. Krysti, I hope you don't mind staying here. Otherwise, I could take you home…or, I guess if you want and Chloe doesn't mind, you could go over to Chloe's."
Chloe's raised her brows, almost hoping that Krysti would choose to come with her.
"Eh," Krysti shrugged. "I'll just stay here with the boys…I'm good. I have some questions for Uncle Matt when he gets back."
Savannah almost snickered, but she bit her lip. She nodded and looked at the three boys. "I hope that's okay with you. But I'm out."
"Yeah, sure…" Jacob shrugged. Aaron didn't respond. His melting brown eyes only showed concern for Savannah.
"Don't worry about me, Aar," Savannah whispered, quickly giving Aaron a peck on the cheek. "I can take care of myself." Aaron turned slightly pink, and nodded.
"I know you can," he whispered back.
She took her keys from Noah and jumped in her car. Within moments, Savannah was gone.
Still, the car that Jacob had driven was parked directly behind Chloe. Chloe glared at Jacob, who suddenly seemed to realize the problem.
"Oh. Right, I'll move the car so you can leave."
I'll move the car so you can leave. Chloe's heart sunk. She couldn't believe he wanted to get rid of her that badly. What Savannah had said was true, she just knew it. Surely Jacob had told Savannah. He had no attraction for Chloe, and the chances were, he never would. He was a lost cause, and she might as well move on.
In a matter of seconds, the car was moved, and Chloe had a clear path. Before Jacob could even get out of the vehicle, Chloe had begun reversing the car. She turned into the road, driving toward her house. Right behind her, she saw Jacob and Noah's parents pull in the driveway.
One thing was for sure, Chloe Hampton's heart was broken. Not only did she feel like she was losing a best friend, but she felt like she had lost any chance she may have once had with Jacob Camden.