Nora, Darius and I headed off to the Delaney family ranch for their yearly get together.
"Darius, if you don't stop poking Nikki I swear to God Almighty I will make you walk the rest of the way!" Darius was wedged between Nora and I in the front seat of her car, a car built so that two people and possibly an infant could ride in it. Darius was no infant. Though he sometimes acted like one.
"She's the one elbowing me!" He whined and I jabbed him in the ribs yet again. "Ouch! What the hell was that for?" He demanded.
"For snitching!" I said and jabbed him again.
"Nora, I think it's time you got a bigger car!" My brother-like friend stated, rubbing his side. A loud thump echoed through the small cabin as Nora punched his shoulder.
"Don't say that!" She growled then proceeded to rub the dash board. "It's ok baby" she cooed to the vehicle, "he didn't mean it, you know I'd never abandon you…" Darius shot me an 'are you shitting me?' look.
"She has a problem." I informed him
"Damn straight. How do you know she won't LEAVE you for this thing?" I smirked at him and looked towards the road.
"Because this thing gets her from here to there, but I can take her to outer space."
And then we had to stop for the night on the side of the road due to some huge traffic accident that blocked the entire freeway. People literally got out of their vehicles and set up camp in the field next to the road, it was a hot summer night so it wasn't so surprising. All three of us crammed into the bed of the truck, me between Darius and Nora, looking up at the stars. The sky was cloudless and out away from the lights of the city, the stars shone so brightly they looked almost drawn. Like they weren't real. I smiled as the cool breeze washed over my skin, the smell of summer filling me. Until Darius slapped my stomach yelping "YOU'RE IT!" before throwing himself over and out of the truck the same time Nora did, both of them heading into the vast field of tents and children. Nora ran up behind him, fast as a cheetah, and knocked his legs out as I struggle to get myself out of the car. That adorably playful smack Darius gave me knocked the wind from my lungs. When my feet hit the ground, Darius was still trying to get up and Nora was almost half way across the field. I smirked when I realised what she'd done.
It wasn't for my benefit that she knocked Darius over, oh no. If you don't understand, maybe you should look at it this way,
What would be easier? Out running a pissed off bear, or tripping someone else?
He takes one look at me as I yank off my heels with deliberate jerky movements and he yelps like someone stepped on his tail. "No tag backs! NO TAG BACKS!" But it's too late for him. I already slapped the back of his head and took off in Nora's direction.
"YOU'RE IT!" I howled half mockingly. A couple chuckles from parents and laughter from children erupt behind me.
"You think it's funny?" I looked over my shoulder just as he taps a ten-year-old's head. "Now YOU'RE it!" and then, suddenly everyone was playing, the entire field swarmed with people, old and young running around and away. I didn't stop running until I reached the spot I'd seen Nora at last.
"Baby?" I call out, looking around the long grass and seeing nothing. "Nora, I'm not it anymore!" No reply. I swallow, that twisting fear forming in my gut. "Baby?" and suddenly I'm on the ground, a body pressing mine into the dirt. With a knee jerk reaction, I smash my fist into the side of my attackers head, forcing them off me. I get up fast, heart racing, flipping them over with my foot. I'm ready to punch them in the face when I stopped. The face surprised me. "Bobby?"
"Hey, Nik..." He groans, clutching his stubbly head "Good to see you too."
"Oh shit." Nora snickers as she jogs up. "Bobby, I told you she'd deck you if you tried anything like that."
"It was a playful tackle!" he groaned again "no need to go crushing my skull!"
"Sorry Bob," I said, helping him up. Nora couldn't stop laughing, apparently me punching her brother in the head was hilarious. I, on the other hand, felt like an asshole. An unintentional asshole, but an asshole all the same.
"Yeah, yeah, I'll live." He said, brushing off his jeans. Nora walks around to his side before shoving him on the ground and then proceeded to pull bits of grass from my hair.
"You ok?" she asked and I nod as she cups my face gently, using her thumb to wipe away dirt from my face. But, our moment was only temporary as Bobby flies through the air and takes down his sister. So I stood there for a couple minutes as they wrestle around, Nora clamping her younger brother in a head lock.
"Alright!" I said after a few more minutes as Bobby just beginning to get the upper hand. I grabbed the back of his and Nora's shirt, pulling them off each other.
When we finally were going to get back on the road, Darius and I were disagreeing on who would sit in the middle.
"Darius! You sat in the middle yesterday and between us last night!"
"Because I didn't want ya'll making kissy face when I was sitting right there!"
"I'm not gonna budge on this one!" We glared at each other for a long time. I grew up with Darius so it wasn't like I didn't have these confrontations before. Darius' mother used to be our house keeper. I know, I know, doesn't sound so nice. But Rosa was more than just a maid. She also helped my Daddy with me when I was around two or three, when my mother died and he needed someone to watch me when he went to important meetings or out of town. Daddy paid Rosa extravagantly and with a smile on his face. She spent every Christmas with her family and us at our mansion, helping the cooks to prepare amazing meals that, without, wouldn't be a proper celebration at all. She was like a mother to me in some ways, most, actually. Darius and I shared everything growing up, though his connections to the street were far, far different than mine. Be it alcohol, dating news or fast cars, everything we did was together.
So when his mother died when he was nineteen, we shared the mourning, stayed up the entire night after the funeral and just sat by the fire place in my house, my head leaned against his shoulder, tears streaming from both our eyes.
But that was a long time ago. And now he was trying to steal my spot.
Time to pull out the big guns.
"Good thing I don't need your permission." I turned to the car window, which Nora had rolled up to block out our bickering. Her hands drummed on the steering wheel to an old Elvis song. I shook my head slightly, letting my hair fall around my face the way I know Nora likes it. I tapped on the glass and caught her attention.
"What? You gonna ask her if she's looking for a good time?" I punched him in the gut, forcing him to keel over, immobilized on the ground. Phase two: Complete.
When the window was finally rolled down all the way, I crouched down, leaning on the frame of the door and giving her that smirk I know she liked oh so much. She smiled back, draping her right arm on the back of the bench seat, giving me a 'what are you up to?' playful look. "Hey." She said, a careful tone in her voice. I let my head tilt slightly and blinked slowly.
"Hey, darlin'." I drawled, making sure my cleavage is just the right amount. seeing her eyes narrow. She knew what I was doing. And she knew she was a helpless fly in my web of love.
"You see, Darius and I were havin' a bit of a dispute over who got to sit next to you for the rest of the way."
"I told you guys, whatever you figure out is alright with me. Don't go dragging me into this."
"Nora." I said as she turned away. I pouted and reached in just enough to brush her fingers with my own. "Baby…" She was being careful not to look at me, knowing that that was how I'd pull her in. But, I wasn't going to give up so quickly. I walked around the front of the car, lightly trailing my finger tips over the hood. I smiled at her as she wheeled down the window, her lips quirked in her signature lopsided smirk. She was on board already, that much was obvious; she was just enjoying the ride. I reached through the window and slowly down, never breaking eye contact. My fingers slowly trailed to her thigh and then squeezed. She withdrew a shaky breath before shoving open her door for me.
I smiled at her again and kissed her gently before climbing over her and into the middle seat. I intertwined my fingers with hers and leaned my head on her shoulder. "You'll be the death of me, woman." She chuckled, shaking her head.