I grown in pain as my head throbs. I shouldn't have smoked on an empty stomach so early in the morning, I lectured myself as I grabbed my head in pain. My head hurt so bad that I could barely eat the yogurt placed in front of me.
The sound of Joan's heels slamming against the floor became noticeably louder as she made her way into the kitchen. Her long blonde hair was curled perfectly. Her black dress was elegant as always, hugging all her curves perfectly.
"Are you okay?" Joan asked as she walked by me.
I continue to grab my head, looking down at the table. "Yeah, I just have a headache."
"Take some IB prophen once you eat." Joan said as she grabbed a coffee cup from the cabinet.
I nod, "Okay." Now if only I could get this yogurt down...
Once Joan filled up her cup with coffee she took the seat two down from me. After a few seconds her eyebrows raised, "Do you smell cigarette smoke?" She asked.
Fuck. My eyes widened and my heart begins to pound in my chest. I continue to stare down at the table, not moving a muscle. I knew that if I looked at her to answer she would read me like a book. "No, why?" I grown, grabbing my head once more.
"It's this kitchen." She looks around the room. "I thought I smell it last night, too. Are you sure you can't smell it? That's probably what's giving you the headache. I know it always gave me head aches."
Awesome. I wanted to slam my head into this granite counter top in front of me. Not only because my head was throbbing, but also because it was just another similarity between Joan and I. "Did you use to smoke?" I ask her, surprised.
I was hoping she would say yes. I would be very surprised, but happy. Given the fact we were so much alike, she would understand my addiction… wouldn't she?
"God no!" Joan exclaimed, scoffing at my suggestion. "One of my ex-boyfriends did. It's one of the reasons why we broke up, actually. The second hand smoke would always give me headaches, especially in the morning."
Who was I kidding? Joan was perfect. Just like most woman like herself, she thought smoking was disgusting and something she would never consider doing. I was stupid to believe we were anything alike on that aspect.
I bit my lip, regretting the first time I had tried it. All it took was one time, trying to fit in, and I was addicted. It wasn't the art of smoking -even I thought it was disgusting. It was the feeling of relieving stress that drove me. Whenever I was stressed or needed to talk, it was there for me.
"Yeah, it is pretty disgusting." I muttered.
Joan nodded, studying me. "If you don't eat, you can't take the medicine." She warned.
"The yogurt is making me feel even sicker." I admitted, closing my eyes.
She stood up, her heels clicking as she made her way across the kitchen. Joan grabs a piece of bread from the bread box, placing the bread into the toaster before she turned around. Even though my eyes were shut, I knew she was studying me.
"I just can't figure out where the smell is coming from." She let out.
I didn't know if this was Joan's way of letting me know she knew, or if she literally thought it was coming from the kitchen. I wished and hoped it was the lather one.
As soon as the bread jumped out of the toaster, Joan picked it up and placed the piece of toast on a plate. After she buttered it with just the right amount of butter, she placed the plate in front of me. "Toast is easier to get down." She explained.
She made a piece of toast for me? Without me even asking? Just like a mom would… It was the little things that made me love Joan. "Thank you." I look up at her and smile, "I really appreciate it."
Joan studied me. "Relax." She said calmly. "It's what I'm here for."
It was amazing how the annoyed feeling I had gotten around Joan yesterday had completely disappeared. Now, the only thing I wanted to do was hug her and call her 'mom'. It had to stop.
I didn't know where the sudden change in emotions had come from. Was it the cigarette that had calmed me, making me less irritable? Or was it the fact that it was the first time a mother figure had volunteered to help me when I was sick? 'It's what I'm here for' played back in my head. She was so sweet and loving that my heart was melting.
"Morning Ladies!" Arthur announced as he emerged into the kitchen.
The happiness in his voice made me cringe. I remain quiet, knowing that my bitchy attitude could not continue. I had made a promise.
"Good morning." Joan muttered before she took another sip of coffee.
Arthur, waiting for a response from me, watches me as he made his way to the coffee pot. You're not getting one, asshole.
"Sutton has a headache." Joan explained to Arthur, covering for me.
I nod, closing my eyes.
I listen to Joan's heels collide with the tiled floor as she made her way to where I was sitting, taking the seat next to me. She placed her hand on my back, sliding her hand up and down in a continuous pattern.
The minute Joan placed her hand on my back I felt comforted, cared for, and loved. It was something I had never felt before from just a simple hand on my back. The emotions began to run through me. Tears began to form behind my eyes.
"Eat something, honey." Joan said as she continued to rub my back.
Hearing Joan refer to me as 'Honey' was just the tip of the ice burg. Her hand on my back mixed with the tone in her voice made me something of an emotional mess. The control over my emotions was completely out the window. I look away from Joan, not wanting her to be able to read me.
I hated that all it took was Joan to just simply touch me and every wall I had ever built came crushing down. It didn't matter who it was, Foster mother and father's, best friends, boyfriends; keeping walls up was second nature to me. But the ability to control and hide my emotions, that I had perfected over the years, was no good when it came to Joan.
I squirmed like a worm, making Joan immediately retrieve her hand from my back. I had literally given Joan the cold shoulder.
You could tell by the look on her face that me rejecting her hand on my back I had offended her. I had absolutely no intention to hurt Joan, but it was the only way I could protect myself from her. Joan was my weakness. And the fact that I had found someone who was, ate at me.
I took a bite of the bread. And another, and another… I needed to get this IB Prophen now. Joan watched me from out the corner of her eye as she talked with Arthur about some meeting Arthur had to attend tonight. I was too busy rubbing my temples and forcing bread down my throat to take in the details. Honestly, I don't think I would have even if my head wasn't burning in my skull.
"Arthur…" Joan interrupts him, her eyes still on me. "Grab me the apple cider vinegar."
I open my eyes to convey the same 'what the fuck' look that Arthur had on his face. Why the hell would Joan interrupt Arthur out of complete no where to get Apple Cider Vinegar? Out of all the things in the world…
Arthur put his hands up as if he wasn't going to ask any questions. He turns around, walking over to the Lazy Suzy where he pulled out a glass bottle. Arthur treads across the kitchen, handing the bottle to Joan.
"As I was saying…" Arthur continued.
Joan didn't even glance at him, she was too focused on the bottle in front of he, and me. She screwed open the top, bringing the bottle towards me. If she wants me to drink that shit, I'm done.
I look at Arthur, his eyebrows meeting as she watched Joan play doctor with a glass bottle of Apple CIder Vinegar in her hand.
"Inhale this through your nose." Joan commanded, holding the bottle up to my nose.
I gave her a look as if she was crazy. Was this bitch high?
"Just do it." Joan said, almost annoyed.
I inhaled, just as she told me to do. I inhaled once more. Each time, more and more pressure was released from my head.
"Better?" Joan asked with a smile on her face as she studied me.
I nod my head in disbelief, "Yeah." I scoff.
Joan's smile widened. "My grandmother used to make me inhale this whenever I got migraines. Each time it'd would work like a charm for me."
And that was one thing I was thankful we had in common. I inhale once more. My headache was practically gone now. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it. I'm just happy it worked." She smiled back at me before looking up at Arthur.
I look up at Arthur too. He had the biggest smile on his face that I've ever seen. It was as if seeing Joan be motherly towards me made him the happiest man alive. Why? Was it because this was a scenario between Joan and I that should have gone down years ago? Maddison, you're not Sutton. Arthur isn't your father and Joan isn't your mother. He probably just finds "motherly" Joan attractive, I remind myself.
"You still need to take IB Prophen, though." Joan said, getting up from her seat next to me. "I'll be back." She said before making her way out of the kitchen.
"Feeling better?" Arthur asked me.
I nod, "Yes, Arthur."
"Dad." He corrected me, smiling.
I nodded, "Yes, dad." I smiled at him.
Even after I gave myself a pep talk to bring myself back down to earth, the 'what if' questions still burned in the back of my mind. I felt as if everything that Arthur did and said was some kind a cryptic message for me to analyze. As if everything was just another clue, set up for me to find.
I dismiss it, knowing I was five thoughts away from being pronounced 'mentally' insane. I take another bite of toast.
Arthur continued to study me with a smile on his face, leaning against the oven. His eye left me the second Joan walked into the room, watching her take the seat down next to me. Joan placed two orange pills in front of me. "Could you get her a cup of water?" She asked Arthur.
Arthur grabbed a cup from the cabinet, filling the cup full of water. He set the glass down in front of me.
I grab the glass and the pills, looking up at both of them. "Thanks guys." Never before had I had adults take care of me like this before. Usually it was me on my own, finding ways to take care of myself. And here I was, having two adults take care of me like I was their own. And as much as I loved every minute of it, sometimes I wish they'd just be mean, just to remind me it wasn't real.
"Don't mention it, Sutton. It's what parents are for." Arthur smiled before he whirled around, making his way to the coffee pot.
And there it was again, another cryptic meaning. It drove me crazy for the past few days, eating at me everyday, from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep. It wasn't possible, was it?
"Okay, well, it's time for me to leave. You coming with me or do you want to go with Arthur?" Joan asked me, getting up from her chair.
It was like the ultimate decision, even though Joan made it sound so simple. I knew that if I were to choose Joan, her face would light up and she'd be happy for the rest of the day. But I also knew that choosing Joan would entitle me to a car ride full of questions. And even though Arthur would most likely ask those questions as well, he wasn't my weakness. He couldn't read me like a book, like Joan could. And last, but not least, I could control my emotions around Arthur.
"I'll go with Arthur." I state. Joan's eyebrows raise as if she was surprised by my choice. I felt bad. Hurting her was not what I wanted to do. "I spent the morning with you." I explain. And what a emotional roller coaster that was...
She nods a few times as if she understood. Joan grabs her coffee from off of the counter before whirling around to kiss Arthur. "I'll see you both there, then."
"Bye Joan, thanks again." I smile brightly.
She just nods once at me before turning around. Joan gave me the cold shoulder as her little way of letting me know that she was hurt by my decision. Joan had spent her whole morning taking care of me and I repay her by choosing Arthur. I just wish I could tell her the real reason why I chose Arthur over her.
"You and Joan were getting so close there for awhile." Arthur started, turning the radio down.
And so the questions begin… I nod a few times, "We still are getting along."
Arthur nodded, removing his eyes off of the road to look at me. "She likes you a lot."
I bit my lip, forcing myself to remain calm. "Good. I like her too." A little too much, actually. I wish I didn't like her. My life would be so much easier if I hated her...
"I know you do. Which is why I found it odd that you chose me over Joan this morning."
I turn to him and smile, "Because I wanted to spend some with you." I said. And thats all it took to make Arthurs face light up. What kind of spy was he?
Wait... the thought dawned on me, was I Arthur's weakness? Was that why he believed anything and everything I told him?
I continue, "I spent the morning with Joan so I wanted Arthur time." How was that for a "fixed" attitude, mother fucker?
And that's all it took and Arthur was putty in my hands. He looked away from the road to smile brightly at me. "Good, I need some Sutton time, too."
The car goes silent for a few minutes. Arthur awkwardly clears his throat. "So, what's going on with you lately? It's not just the change in attitude, you've changed, too."
I bit my lip, thinking of something to tell him that Arthur would believe. "I have just been under a lot of stress lately with everything and I took it all out on you and Joan." I pause, looking at him with the sincerest face I could conjure up. "And I'm really sorry about that."
"All is forgiven, Sutton. I was just making sure you're okay. This morning things have started to feel back to normal, and I'm happy for that. So thank you."
Yeah, you're welcome. I should be getting a mother fucking academy award for this acting. Like seriously. 'And the academy award goes to Maddison for her role as Sutton Campbell.'
"No problem. It was never my intention to be bratty and disrespectful towards you and Joan." I said.
"Again, that's all in the past. I'm just wanting to make sure you're okay."
I nod, "I'm okay now. Especially since my headache is gone."
"I'm glad to hear it." He said, glancing in his review mirror before switching lanes.
Jackson and I begin to run, following the "future" agents in front of us. Within a few seconds I begin to cough. Pain shooting from my chest, fighting for the air in my lungs. My lungs felt as if I was stabbing them with a knife, repeatedly.
I continue to cough, stopping from the jog. Jackson continues to jog with the group, quickly turning around to jog towards me, once he notices that I was gasping for my next breath.
"Sutton, are you okay?" Jackson asked, placing a hand on my back.
I cough once more. "Yeah." I let out, air finally filling back into my lungs.
"What the hell was that?" His eyebrow raised.
"I don't know." I shook my head, lying my ass off. I should have known the cigarettes would do that. Fuck me. "I got to get out of here."
"Do you want me to go with you?" He asked.
I shook my head back and forth, "It's fine. I'm going to go see my dad." I lied, not wanting Jackson to come with me.
He nods, "Okay. You have my number if you need anything. Feel better."
I nod, "Thanks." I said before making my way out of the gym.
I never knew a fountain could be so god damn entraining until now. The way I had been staring at it for the past twenty minutes I probably looked as if I was counting the water drops as they fell of the angles' arm. I gave up at fifty, I swear.
I didn't even know what this room was for anyways, but they had a room similar to this on almost every floor. Why the C.I.A invested so much into garden rooms, I had no idea. I, of course, was on the fourth floor, which just so happens to be Joan's floor.
Joan was who I wanted to talk to right now. She was the first person that popped into my mind to come to. But I couldn't and wouldn't allow myself to. The closest I got to her office was the garden room, on her floor.
My heart begins to pound in my chest as I watch Joan walk past the glass windows. As if on cue she turns her head, spotting me. Joan looks through the window for a second glance before retracing her steps to the door. Even though every fiber in my being told me to run, I remained seated, not moving a single muscle.
Within seconds, Joan takes the seat next to me on the bench. I still managed to not move a muscle, not even to look at her.
"You skipped the farm today." She asked, surprised. "Why?"
I was too busy coughing up a lung. No big deal. I raise my shoulders before letting them fall. "I didn't feel like going."
"Name one time you actually did feel like going." Joan challenged, staring at me as I watched the water fountain in front of us.
She had a point. I never felt like going to the farm. If it was up to me, I'd sit on my ass and watch Grey's Anatomy all day long, curled up in a blanket. I didn't respond, not having an answer strong enough to defend myself.
"What's wrong?" Joan asked, placing a hand on my back.
As soon as she placed her hand on my back, I suddenly had emotions flow through me like a river. I felt…vulnerable? Insecure? Fragile? I didn't know a word to perfectly describe what I was feeling. "Nothing." I finally let out. I was surprised at how controlled my voice sounded despite how uncontrolled my emotions running through me wildly were.
Joan sighed heavily, conveying she knew I was lying through my teeth. I hated that she could read me so well.
"I can feel you internally debating something for the past few days." Joan stated. "What's bugging you?" She ask, skipping the 'how are you' bull shit.
She could 'feel' me internally debating? Is that how she could read me so damn well? Did we share the same brain wave, too? I bit my lip, forcing myself to remain silent.
"Maybe I can help." Joan let out after I failed to respond.
Bitch, you were what I was internally debating on. Trust me, you've done enough helping. "I'm okay." I let out, looking at her for the first time.
Joan shook her head back and forth briefly, "No, you're not."
I suddenly had this urge to wrap my arms around her and cry into her chest like a child. As badly as I wanted to, I knew I couldn't let myself do that. Ever. I look away from her, gathering myself again. I suck in a lung full of air before letting it out, forcing myself to remain calm. I stood up from the bench, "Thank you, though." I said before making my escape.
Joan grabbed onto my wrist. I whirl around to face her.
"When you decide that you do need to talk, because eventually you will, I'm here. Day or night, I'm here." Joan said before letting go of my wrist.
The urge to cry into her came flooding back, stronger than the last time. I needed to leave now, while I still had some form of control over my emotions. "Thank you." I said before walking away swiftly.
And 'thank you' was not even close to what I wanted to say to her. I was more than thankful; I was surprised and overwhelmingly touched. Never before had I had an adult care so much, and try so hard to be there for me. She truly was everything a mother was suppose to be, and that was another problem that ate at me. Another problem I wanted badly to open up and discuss with Joan, but knew I never could.
Joan walked into Arthur's office with two files in her hand. Arthur looks up from the paper on his desk as she approached him. "I can't move any further on Operation Stevenson until you sign this."
"My signature is the last thing needed for that operation." Arthur raised an eye. "What's wrong, Joan?"
She rolled her eyes, shrugging. "Nothing, I just need your signature."
Arthur nodded, letting his wife's denial slide. He rose from his seat, following Joan to the table. She handed Arthur the file and a black pen.
"Something is eating at Sutton and I just wish she'd tell me what it is." Joan blurted.
Arthur dropped his pen onto the counter after he finished signing. He looked up at her, crossing his arms. "Maybe it's something from her past that she is too scared to tell you about."
Joan shook her head back and forth, shooting that theory out of the water. "No, it's something recent. I have a feeling it has something to do with why she's pulling away from me."
"She has only been here for a week and a half." Arthur's eyebrows raised.
"Yes, but a good portion of that week she was put together. I got a good sense of who she is. And towards the end of last week, we were getting along great. Now, it's a challenge just to get her to talk to me for a minute." She took a step closer, "You're one of her favorite people, and I even see her pulling away from you. She has been snipping and talking back to both of us recently, even after we had that talk with her."
Arthur's eyebrows met, "She hasn't snipped at me today."
Joan shrugged. "She did to me." She swallowed hard, "I tried to touch her and she…just…flinched away…"
He stared at her motionless, not knowing what to say.
Joan continued, "And then she even skipped class today."
"Sutton skipped class today?" Arthur asked, surprised.
Joan nodded, "Yes. I found her sitting in the garden room on my floor just a little bit ago. So unless class got over extremely early today, she skipped."
"She is a teenage girl, Joan." Arthur reminded, placing a hand on her shoulder. "They are suppose to snap at their parents, keep secrets, skip school, and go through bi-polar mood swings. Don't read too much into things."
Joan crossed her arms, shaking her head back and forth. "No, something is bothering her. She was begging for my attention, and the second I gave it to her she started to slowly pull away from me." She paused, debating whether or not to state her theory, worried about Arthur would think. "I think she thinks I'm going to leave her or something." Joan raised her shoulders before letting them fall. "I don't know why else she'd pull away."
Arthur raised a shoulder as he nodded. "That's very possible. And if that is the reason, can you blame her? She hasn't lived with the same foster family for more than six months."
She nodded, agreeing with him.
"You're an excellent mother figure. Maybe she is finding herself getting too attached to you and with her past as a warning, she is pulling away as a defense."
"I'm not going to leave her." Joan stated defensively.
A smile appears on Arthur's face. "I know that, but does she? Talk to her."
"I tried to talk with her just a little bit ago." Joan sighed, "She doesn't want to talk."
"Do you want me to talk to her?"
After a few seconds of Joan analyzing her shoes, she looks up at him and nods. "Will you?"
Arthur nodded, "Of course."
The elevator was crowded. So crowded that I almost just turned around and used the next one, but that's when I saw Auggie. I get onto the elevator with a smile on my face, standing right next to him.
He stood straight with a flashlight in one hand and a plate with a piece of cake on it in the other.
Ding. An idea popped into my head. My smile widens. I take the fork from off of his plate and take a bite of the delicious four layer chocolate cake.
"What the…" Auggie said, cocking his head back. "Sutton, put the fork down!"
I laugh, others in the elevator begging to turn around. Some smile, some laughed, but the bitches in the back just glared. I set the fork down.
Auggie laughs with me. "Now that, was an Arthur move. I bet you even have his signature grin on that face of yours, too."
The man next to Auggie nods, "Yep. It's definitely a signature Arthur 'I just stole a bite of your cake' grin."
I continue to laugh. "Do you have any milk I could steal, too? It's a little too rich."
"Do I have any milk for you to steal to wash down the cake you stole from me?" Auggie asked, a huge smile on his face. "Hey Jack, did I just hear her right?"
The man next to him nods his head, "You sure did."
Auggie laughed, "Will someone push three? I got to go get Miss. Campbell over here some milk to help her eat my cake." He announced, raising his voice in a playful manner.
Most of the elevator laughed along side Auggie. The lady in a purple dress, standing next to the elevator door pushes the button. "Sure thing."
Within seconds the elevator door opens, exposing the third floor. Auggie grabs onto my shoulder, following me out of the elevator. "Now, let's go get you some milk so you can help me eat this bad boy."
I smile for one of the first times today. "Sounds like a plan."
I had been sitting here waiting for Joan, watching the hand on the clock slowly migrate to the next tick. Even though it had only been six minutes, it had felt like hours.
Joan emerges into her office. Once she spots me sitting on her couch, her eyes widened as if she had seen a ghost. "What are you doing?" She asked, her eyebrows meeting. "How did you get in here?"
"Waiting for you." I said innocently, "Your assistant told me I could wait in your office until you got back."
Her eyebrow raised, "She told you that you could wait in my office?"
"Yes." I nod, "But I can leave, if you want." I point to the door.
Joan shook her head back and forth, "No, I don't want you to leave. I was just surprised she told you to wait in my office and let you close the door behind you…" She trailed off, a light bulb went off in her head, "It's because you're my daughter."
Hearing Joan declare 'you're my daughter' made my heart drop to my ass. I bite my lip, not allowing it to quiver. "Why would that matter?"
"Because she knew you wouldn't have any reason to steal or go though any files." She waved her hand in dismissal, "Don't worry about it. I'm just not use to it, that's all."
I nod. I didn't know what else to say so I remained silent, watching Joan sort files on her desk. The room became awkwardly silent.
"We will leave in a few minutes." She said, "Just let me put these away."
"It's fine. Take your time." And honestly, I wished she would take all day. I was not looking forward to that awkward car ride home.
"Why did you choose to come home with me today?" Joan asked, breaking the awkward silence between us in the car. The radio silently played in the background.
It wasn't because I wanted to talk… "Because Arthur had a meeting until seven." SHUT DOWN….
"Oh." She let out, keeping her eyes on the road.
I hate hurting Joan. I really did. But I didn't know how else to make her shut up. I couldn't talk to her. And I didn't know how to tell her that without exposing at least a few of my problems to her.
"So, how was work?" I awkwardly ask, trying to start a conversation that had nothing to do with me.
"Fine." She said, almost angrily.
The car went silent once more. Hello awkwardness… The awkwardness resembled the conversation Joan and I first had. It was funny how those conversations felt so long ago when really it was only a week. I strangely felt close to Joan, despite us being so far apart. It was strange.
"So, how was whatever you did today?" Joan asked, practically glaring at me.
I didn't even know how to respond. What the hell did I do today? I successfully coughed up a lung, stared at a water fall, avoided talking about my feelings to Joan, stole a piece of cake from a blind man, and I broke into Joan's office. If you ask me, it was a pretty mother fucking successful day. "It was okay." I said, the car still feeling awkward. "I'm sorry for skipping the farm today."
Joan continued to stare at the road in front of her, not saying a word.
I continue, not knowing what else to do. "I know it's the reason that I am here. And I know it's my responsibility to go, but I had a headache and I just didn't feel like going." I lied. I didn't have the headache any longer and 'didn't feel like it' was irrelevant. I couldn't go. My lungs wouldn't have allowed me too. But how the hell was I suppose to tell Joan and Arthur that?
"I thought your headache was gone this morning after you took the IB Prophen?" Joan challenged, taking her eyes off of the road just to glare at me.
Fuck. Um… "It came back. My migraines are really weird like that."
"U-huh." Joan let out, unconvinced. "If you were to tell me the real truth about why you didn't feel like going, I wouldn't be mad." She paused, lifting her shoulders before lowering them. "And I'm not even mad now. I'm just surprised and disappointed."
Again, I didn't even know how to respond. She used words like 'surprised' and 'disappointed' as if she had been my mother my whole life and had known who I was. How the hell did it 'surprise' her? She didn't even know me… "I'm sorry that I disappointed you."
Joan, being lost for words herself, takes her eyes off of the road to look at me. She studies me momentarily before fixing her eyes back onto the road.
I sigh, sinking into my seat. That was the last time I would try to start a conversation today.
Beep. Beep. My phone begins to move across my bed. I pick up my phone, my face lighting up once I see who it was from. "Feeling better? I missed you today." The text was from Jackson.
I bit my lip, debating how to respond. "Yep, all better…Thanks for asking(: I missed you, too." I texted back, a smile left on my face. I was beginning to really like this boy.
A knock plays on my door. I knew it was Arthur. Joan usually knocked three times or none at all, depending on her mood. "Come in." I invite.
Arthur opens my bedroom door, emerging into my room. "Hey there."
"Hi dad." I said, remembering to call him 'dad'.
Arthur smiles brightly at me, as if hearing me call him 'dad' made his day. "Dinner is ready."
I nod once before standing up from my neatly made bed. I turn my TV off, setting the remote down on my night stand. I turn around to find Arthur standing behind me. He places a hand on my shoulder. "Are you okay?" He asked, "I heard about your coughing attack at the gym today."
What the hell? 'Heard'? Who the hell was talking about it? I nod, "Yeah, I'm fine now. I think I just chocked on my own saliva or something." I shook my head back and forth, "I don't even know."
"I'm glad you're okay." Arthur said, his hand still on my shoulder. "If you have another coughing attack like that again, I'm taking you to the doctor. Okay?"
My eyes widen. "Uh, yeah." I swallow hard. Shit. A doctor examination was the last thing I needed.
Arthur took his hand off of my shoulder. "Now let's go eat before your mother gets bitchy."
I let out a laugh. Yeah, I think we are already too late.
I walk into the kitchen to find Joan no where to be found. There was no food, only the smell left. I follow Arthur into the dinning room. The food, drinks, and plates were already set up. The minute I walk into the room, Joan and I make eye contact. I quickly look away, taking a seat down at the table. It was the first time I had seen her since the awkward car ride, which was hours ago.
"Hi Sutton." Joan said with a smile on her face.
"Hi Joan." I said, smiling back so Arthur couldn't say I had an attitude.
Arthur takes a seat, smiling at Joan and I. "So...what did you two do tonight while I was at the meeting?"
"I haven't seen her since Sutton since we got home. She literally ran into her bedroom when we got home." Joan glared, as if she was saddened by me escaping to my bedroom. Bitch, please…
"What were you doing in your bedroom all night?" Arthur asked, his eyebrow raised.
"Watching TV." I state, leaning over the table to grab a piece of bread from off the light green plate in the middle of the table. It was the only thing that appealed to me right now.
"You're always watching TV." Joan snips at me.
I look up from the bread to glare at her. 'Would you rather me be making a bomb in my room?' I wanted to say, just to shut her up.
"If you watch anymore TV, that brilliant brain of yours will turn into mush." Arthur joked, laughing at himself.
"Don't worry, Arthur. Sutton has school starting Monday. I'm sure she won't have any time to watch TV with all the homework she'll have." Joan said sweetly, glancing from Arthur to me to see my reaction.
Oh yeah, that's right. I let out a sigh. Just one more thing to stress over… I'm going to be a fucking chain smoker by the end of these three years, aren't I? 4 packs a day…? Yep.
"Are you excited for school to start?" Arthur asked, cutting his chicken breast into small little pieces.
I shrug, "Yeah." I decided. "I'm excited to make some friends." Friends who were my own age, who didn't work for the C.I.A, who didn't constantly compare me to Joan and Arthur. Just the thought of that made me smile.
Arthur nodded. "I'm excited to see what you think of Swindell."
"Swindell?" My eyes widened and my mouth dropped. "As in the Harvard of Washington's private schools? As in the school the President's kids attend?"
Joan and Arthur both nod.
"Did you think you'd be going to public school?" Joan raised an eye.
I look awkwardly around the room. "Um…well, I guess I never really thought about it." I bit my lip.
Arthur laughed, "You're the daughter of the DCS. There isn't a chance in hell that's happening."
Oh, yeah…How could I have forgotten? I wanted so bad to roll my eyes but I knew I couldn't allow Arthur and Joan to see it. I continued to smile brightly at them.
"It's where our friend's kids go and they love it." Joan smiled.
Great. Awesome. Fucking Fantastic. There was no way in hell I was going to like this school, I could already tell. It was a school full of rich Senators, Officials, and President's children. I could already see the school now: Gossip Girl on crack.
I continue to flash them the best fake smile I could manage, "I have a feeling I'll love it, too." I said before stuffing a piece of bread into my mouth.
"Why didn't you say anything at dinner about her skipping?" Joan glared. "You can't just let her slide, Arthur, or she will do it more."
"She didn't intentionally skip class today, Joan."
"She didn't?" Joan's eyebrows met.
Arthur nodded a few times. "The coach came and asked me if Sutton was alright. She had a coughing attack in the middle of running today."
"What?" She asked, cocking her head back. "A coughing attack? Was she faking?"
"No." He shook his head back and forth, "According to the coach, it was pretty serious. She ran out before the coach could even check on her. He thought that she had asthma or something."
Joan closed her eyes and shook her head back and forth as a light bulb went off in her head. "Oh, boy…"
"What is it?" Arthur asked, looking for an explanation.
"Nothing, Arthur." Joan stated. "I'll take care of it."
"What, Joan?" He asked, a worried line appeared on his brow. "What are you taking care of?"
She opened up her mouth before she shut it, hesitating to speak. "I think it will just end up much better if I handle this."
Arthur's eyebrows met. "Is she okay?"
"She's fine." Joan nodded.
Arthur nodded, not pushing any further.
"She is just a little more like me than I had originally anticipated." She said under her breath as she walked out of the kitchen.
"So let me get this straight. You got up an hour early just to smoke because it's just social." Joan asked sternly with her hands on her hips.
I stare at Joan blankly, sitting on my bed. Thank god she stood across the room from me. She was just enough distance away that she couldn't hear my heart jumping out of my chest. So this is what they mean by 'between a rock and a hard spot'. This fucking sucked.
"Yes." I mutter, looking down at the ground.
"And that's the story you're going to stick with?" Joan asked, her arms crossed. I couldn't tell if she was mad or calm. Honestly, I don't even think she knew.
"It's the only version of the story." I said, looking up at her.
"U-huh." Joan nods her head unconvinced.
I knew that there was no way I was going to convince Joan that I was only a social smoker. However, I knew that if I could get Joan in a tight spot, she wouldn't further this conversation. "Tell me Joan, do you drink?" I ask her, knowing she did judging from the bottles of Whisky scattered around the house.
"Yes." Joan nods, her eye brows meeting. "How is this relevant?"
"And you just drink socially, right? You know, just a glass a wine or a shot of Whisky once in awhile to blow off some steam?"
Joan crossed her arms, glaring at me as she finally saw where I was going with this. "Yes."
I nod a few times. "But you're not addicted?"
"No, I am not." She shook her head back and forth. "But I am an adult…"
I cut her off, "But you're admitting that you can enjoy something without it being an addiction?"
"Yes." Joan admitted. A worried line appears on her brow. "But I'm worried that yours is an addiction. And even if it's not, you shouldn't be smoking at your age, or any age for that matter. Smoking is not only disgusting, but also very unhealthy. Your coughing attack at the gym today, for example. Or even the headache you had this morning. These are all natural warning signs that smoking is not healthy for you. And if you're not going to listen to me, listen to your body."
"You're right." Everything that came out of Joan's mouth was accurate and rational; I knew that. But the craving was still there. I wish it was that easy, but it wasn't. I nodded my head, "It won't happen again." I lied, knowing the second I became too stressed I would be back to smoking again.
Joan stood motionless in front of me, studying me. "And it should be easy not to smoke again, right? Because it's just social, right?" She challenges me.
I nod, afraid my voice would beg to differ.
"I'm going to need a verbal answer." She raised an eye.
My palms were sweaty and my heart was pacing in my chest. "Yes, it's just social." I lied. And honestly, I was surprised at how put together my tone of voice was.
Joan nodded. "Okay."
Even though the conversation was at a concluding point, I knew it wasn't over. I knew Joan wouldn't let this go this quickly.
Joan took a few steps closer to me until she was inches away. She took a seat next to me on my bed, turning to face me. I look up from my floor to look at her, giving her the 'what do you want' look.
She places her hand on my leg. "Why did you feel the need to smoke this morning?" Joan asked, "And be honest." She encouraged.
Be honest? Even if I was to give her an honest reason, I wouldn't even know where to start? It was the constant comparison between Joan and I. Once I would get used to the fact that we had something in common, another similarity would arise. The amount of similarities between us was so plentiful it was ridiculous. Never before had I had something in common with a foster mother. And here she was, someone I've never met before until now, practically my twin. And to make matters worse, Joan read me better than anyone I've ever met before. And I had this constant urge to tell her everything, hug her, call her mom, and never leave her side. And the worst thing, I couldn't hate her. As much as I tried and as much as I wanted to, it was almost impossible. The urge to know her was still there, constantly eating at me.
And then there was Arthur. Continuously trying to be my father inside and outside the house, as if it was natural. He constantly reminded me to address him as 'dad', even behind closed doors. And every time he spoke I felt as if it was a cryptic message.
But what truly bugged me to the core was the question 'why'? 'Why' did I analyze everything? 'Why' did Joan and I have so many similarities? 'Why' did Arthur try so hard to be my father, even when we were inside the house? 'Why' was Joan able to read me so well? 'Why' couldn't I hate her?
What made Joan and Arthur different than any other foster parents I've had in the past? Was it just because they were the type of parents I've always wanted? Or was it something much more deeper than that?
All of this combined together builded up to one gigantic cluster fuck that made me feel like a bomb, on the verge of explosion. I felt trapped. And honestly, I couldn't fucking handle it any longer.
All of this, I wanted to tell her. To just lay it all out on the table. But I knew if I did, our relationship would forever be ruined. And there were two types of ways it could ruined. On one hand, she could see that I was emotionally unstable and kick me to the curb, seeing that I wasn't stable enough to be apart of the C.I.A. On another hand, she could take it all and help me sort through it, just as she promised she would.
And to be honest, I was scared to expose her to my thoughts and feelings. The emotions I would be exposing to Joan, as I told her everything, would make her my greatest weakness of all. And truth is, I don't think I would be able to handle Joan rejecting me. And that's the thing that bugged me the most. Why the fuck did I even care about what she thought of me? I never cared about what any of my other foster moms thought about me.
Because maybe you're actually Sutton… And as soon as I thought that, my walls came crashing down. The bomb had exploded. Tears began to form behind my eyes. I turn away from her, getting up from my bed. "Because I felt like it." I said, walking across my bedroom, my back turned to her.
"Why did you feel like it?" Joan asked, still sitting on my bed.
I grab my hair brush, combing my hair as I thought up an answer. My back still turned to her, not allowing her to see my face. "Because I wanted to."
The room became silent as she searched for a greater come back. I continued to comb my long brown hair, not looking at her once.
"No, you smoked because you felt like you had to. And you're going to keep smoking until you tell someone what's bothering you. So why don't you just save your lungs the harm and you some stress and tell me now." She said in a slow and calmly manner. "I'm never going to judge you or use anything you tell me against you, I promise."
She was right. I was going to continue smoking. And there was more than one thing bothering me. But as much as I wanted to listen to her, expose my problems to her. I knew I couldn't do it. Ever. "There is nothing bothering me. You're reading too much into it." I lie, hoping she'd believe it.
She never responded, getting up from my bed.
Joan makes her way over to me, pulling me into a hug. She holds me tight. I bit my lip hard, sucking in a breath to force myself to remain calm. Do not cry. You can't cry, I warned myself.
"No matter how hard you try and convince yourself of that, you're problems aren't going to go away until you talk about them." Joan whispered into my ear.
A tear rolls down my face. What the hell was wrong with me? I was a complete and utter emotional mess. It was something I had never experienced until I met Joan.
Joan tries to release me from the hug. I continue to hold her tight, not wanting her to see my face. I attempt to pull myself together as she continues to hold me tight.
I suck in another breath, forcing myself to remain calm as I pull away from Joan. She studies me silently. "When you decide you want to talk, I'm always here."
I nod, "Thank you." I hold my breath, not allowing the tears forming behind my eyes to all.
She studies me once more, reading me like a map. "Good night." Joan offered me a smile before she turned around, making her way for my bedroom door.
"Night Joan." I said under my breath.
Once the bedroom door closed, it was only then that I could breath again. I wondered just how long I would be able to keep hiding my tears and problems from her until I exploded.
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