A/N: Sorry this took so long! I promise not to quit on this story. I have it all planned out in my head. I couldn't possibly just stop. Just please be patient with me. It may take me some time to update. Thank you and don't forget to review.
I was heading for the parking lot when someone bumped my shoulder. Hard. My notebooks fell to the ground, papers flying everywhere. I looked up and saw Sophie walking away. She was peering over her shoulder with a smirk on that pretty little face. Then she slid into a waiting car and slammed the door shut.
I guess that was for our little encounter at lunch today. I sighed, kneeling down, when someone offered me a hand.
"Is she still giving you a hard time?" Emily asked, handing me some papers. I managed to gather it all together and we stood up.
I stared at her for a second, noticing how much happier her eyes looked than when I last saw her up close. "Well, she hasn't been… Guess that ends that."
Emily shook her head "She has serious issues."
"Do you think we help her? They way she helped us?"
Her face darkened. "No. She's on her own now."
Right behind us, someone sounded their horn. I spun around to see Owen, smiling at me through the window.
"Owen seems really nice." Emily said "You guys are pretty serious, huh?"
"Yeah, we are."
She smiled, looking at me now "I'm happy for you, Annabel."
I heard Emily's name come from across the parking lot and she turned to see who it was. A few of her friends were calling her over.
"I'm happy for you too, Emily." I said.
She beamed "I'll see you around. Have a nice vacation."
"You too." With that, she went to go join her friends. Although Emily was younger than me, I looked up to her. She never tried to hide it. She had the courage to confess. Then there's me, who said nothing, thinking there was no way anyone could ever understand or help me.
"That was Emily, right?" Owen asked, interrupting my thoughts. I pulled across my seat beat and he automatically pulled out his hammer, buckling it with several taps. Of course, I told Owen all about Emily. He knew what she had gone through. What we had gone through.
"Yeah… She's doing well." I said, nodding.
Owen fell silent, looking thoughtful. "So am I." I added "Like it never happened."
He glanced at me, knowing that was a lie. I sighed "Okay. It happened and I'll probably never forget. But I'm better now. Much better. You said so yourself: People recover."
Same goes for my sister, Whitney.
Owen smiled a little "You know, I don't agree with something you once told me."
"Well, what else is new?"
His smile grew "You once said you envy Emily, because you think she's stronger than you."
"Isn't she? I mean… Emily came right out with it and I never said a word."
"But you did. It just took you a little longer. You're just as brave as she is."
"But if it wasn't for you, I would have never-"
"Maybe I helped." He cut me off "But I didn't force you to tell me or anyone else. You did that all on your own."
"Hmm." I looked out my window, seeing the middle school as we pulled into the parking lot. "I guess you're right."
He looked at me, knowing he was right. I guess, in the end, I managed to save myself.
Owen went along the curb and put it in park. Seconds later, Mallory was opening the back door, shouting goodbye to her friends.
"You guys aren't going to believe what happened today!" She exclaimed, slamming the door behind her.
"Mallory, easy." Owen said
She leaned in, resting her elbows on our seats, and turned to me. "Remember how I was telling you about that boy I like? Scott? Well, today he asked me if he could borrow a pen. So I gave him one then he smiled and said 'thanks so much'. Can you believe it?"
"Wait, that's what happened today?" Owen asked. "Are you kidding?"
Mallory rolled her eyes "It's obviously a sign that he likes me back. Right, Annabel?"
Ah, middle school crushes. I remember those. How one little thing could mean so such to a thirteen year old girl. Of course I'd play along. "Oh sure! He could have just said 'thanks' but he said 'thanks so much'. There's a huge difference."
Owen shook his head. I smirked at him.
"That's exactly what I thought! And after class, he made sure to give it back. How sweet is that?" She sighed "We're so meant to be."
Then she gasped "Hey! Turn this song up!"
Owen was bummed because his CD player broke the other day. I pointed out that the car radio was better than silence. He agreed. So this meant I would flip through the stations, searching for songs that met his approval. He was fair and settled for my songs too. Just no Jenny Reef. And I declared no techno.
"Mark my words: This will be our wedding song." Mallory said
I recognized the catchy love song right away. It was a big hit when I was in middle school but Mallory seemed to know it, singing along to every word.
"Mallory, please." Owen groaned.
"Lighten up, Owen. I bet Annabel likes this song."
"Oh I bet she does." He agreed, like it was a bad thing.
I took that as a challenge and decided it was my turn to sing along. Because I too knew every word. It's funny how you can remember a certain song even after years of not listening to it. I glanced at Owen, who looked less annoyed now. He was trying to hide a smile.
Mallory frowned "Hey, how come you don't get mad when she sings?"
"I like it coming from her." He shrugged then added "Besides, you tend to make dogs bark."
Mallory punched his shoulder and sat back in her seat. I giggled and he smiled at me.
As we pulled into my driveway, I could see Whitney at the kitchen table, scribbling into a notebook. I looked at Owen "Kristen's coming home tonight with her boyfriend. We're having a big family dinner. So I was wondering if you wanted to come by later?"
He smiled "Sounds good. Count me in."
My parents went to pick up Kristen and her boyfriend from the airport. This would be my second time seeing Brian. Kristen had brought him home with her one weekend as a surprise. My parents loved him right away and frankly, so did I. He seemed like a really nice guy. And smart too. I always pictured Kristen with a reckless bad-boy type of guy, considering the ones she dated in High School. But Brian seemed to be quite the opposite.
Meanwhile at home, Whitney and I were making dinner. My sister really liked cooking. Cooking and writing: her two favorite things.
Her eating disorder was over. "It's all in the past" she told me. And I believed her. Whitney was better than ever, really. Happy and healthy. She smiled more and went out with her friends often. Whitney got a fresh start at life, setting new goals for herself. She's been attending a local college and taking two writing classes on the side. She even promised to let me read some of her work (whenever that may be).
Then the door bell rang. Whitney looked up from chopping vegetables. "They're back already?"
"Nah, I invited Owen over."
He smiled when I opened the door, holding a pie in his hands. "Courtesy of my mother." He explained.
I took it from him, feeling curious. "Hmm… apple?"
He nodded "Your favorite, right? I put in the request."
I smiled. Owen remembers all my little details. Take this apple pie for instance. He never misses anything I tell him.
We went into the kitchen where I put the pie on the counter. Owen took a whiff "Smells good. What are we having?"
"It's Baked Ziti." Whitney said, looking into the oven. "My specialty" She slipped on an oven mitt and took it out to cool. "Why don't you set the table, Annabel?"
I nodded, reaching for a cabinet. I pulled out the fancy plates we only use for company. "So you get to meet Kristen's boyfriend tonight." I said, as he helped me set the table.
"Yeah? How's he?"
"Really nice. And they're pretty serious. I have a feeling Kristen's going to have big news."
Whitney overheard this, placing a bowl of salad in the center of the table. "What? Like a proposal?"
I shrugged with a smile. "You never know."
"There's no way. They've only been together for a few months."
"Like, four." I corrected her "And he's all she ever talks about. They're engaged. I just know it."
Whitney shook her head "How much do you want to bet?"
I looked at her. Whitney never bet on anything. Meaning, why would she start now if she thought she might lose? But I felt so sure about this. "If they're engaged, you do my laundry for a month. If not, then I do yours."
She considered this for a second then nodded "Alright. Deal."