Chapter 20 : Of Ripped Seams
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Christmas time is blissful - is it not?
Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question. I mean I asked Jaclyn that and she wouldn’t stop talking about how blissful it was. Never ask a newly engaged individual if anything is blissful! Their whole bloody lives are blissful. It’s absolutely vomit inducing. She’s my sister, I should be thrilled for her, but after the forty second time of her shouting at me, “I’m engaged!” I am ready to throttle her. And that way I’d get Stephen all to myself. He’s utterly wonderful.
And in all honesty, Stephen is the boy you bring home to mum. He’s handsome but he doesn’t know it. He’s smart but he doesn’t flaunt it. He’s polite and shy. Awkward if you don’t really know him too well and has amazing comic timing without realizing it. He’s driven and he’s obviously committed, I mean can you say perfect boyfriend/fiancée/ husband material? He’s kind and he doesn’t have random tendencies to get angry, insult you and forcefully kiss you unlike a certain pig that I know.
So is it wrong that I may have a teensy weensy crush on Stephen?
Christmas for my family is always nice but also filled with nostalgia and the empty dining room chair at dinner. Sure, my dad died almost a decade ago, but not one of us can keep from feeling a little sad. Especially mom. She gets especially harebrained at Christmas. John, therefore, makes it his duty to be the ‘man’ of the family. It would be much easier to picture John as the ‘man’ of the family if he wasn’t wearing my sister’s underwear over his robes.
We’re all sitting in our small and wonderfully cramped living room around the huge Christmas tree that John ‘found’. Ah, the season of giving and sharing. Wrapping paper is strewn around me in a messy and loving chaos. I gather all my presents in my arms, the poetry book from mom, art supplies from Jaclyn, a music player and a Beatles CD from Stephen and a woven German monk-made blanket from John. We’re laughing and joking and talking. And I feel that tug at my heart that tells me that is where I belong – here in the laughter and warmth and acceptance.
Until my sister ruins it.
“So, Janie, how’s Sirius?” she winks, slinking over to me.
“I wouldn’t know,” I mutter. Immediately the intoxicating feeling of happiness pops and his words pierce me again. And again. And again. “I wouldn’t know because he hasn’t exactly spoken to me.”
It’s true. We haven’t spoken to each other in two weeks. I see him in my classes and I turn a blind eye. I see him in the halls and I duck and go around the school to avoid having to even look at him. It’s hard because whenever I see his face all I see is this big truth. And I refuse to deal with that. I refuse to comply and change myself to conform. What he said was true. I am pathetic. I am afraid of interacting with others because what if in the end I’m nothing more than this awkward invisible girl with communication issues. What if I’m completely unlovable?
I try to shake off the heavy feeling that muddles my thoughts and dampens any feeling of acceptance. I had liked Sirius so much. He had been the one person who could make me feel special, but not special in the mentally ill sense (despite earlier misgivings). More like someone treasured. Every time he looked at me, clichéd as it was, my heart sped up and every time we shared a laugh I felt like I belonged.
Argh. Look at me, I’m completely going mental.
“Janie, what happened?” she says concerned. She wraps me in a big hug, which attracts the attention of the rest of the family.
“Did you not like your present?” Stephen asks nervously from the sofa.
Oh my stars, bless him.
“No,” I exclaim. “I love it. There’s nothing wrong, honestly.”
“Sweet heart,” Mum says softly. She crosses the room, a very short distance, and wraps me in a sweet hug. She strokes my hair and I breathe in the smell of pineapple and honey.
“He broke your heart didn’t he?” she states. I’m not stupid enough to answer it. Besides I think it was rhetorical anyway.
“What?!” John cries out. He jumps up from his recliner and stands in front of me. “Janie, you got your heart broken? Are you mental? You’re not supposed to start dating until you’re finished with school! This is ridiculous. Where does he live? I will bloody beat his little—“
“John, sweetheart,” Mum says tersely. “In a different language if you please.”
John promptly begins cussing in Greek, his personal favorite. I roll my eyes.
“This is ridiculous,” I interrupt.
“Janelle, everything’s ridiculous when it comes to matters of the heart,” Mum states.
I just stare incredulously while John snorts.
“Mum, honestly,” I say and cross my arms.
“What?” she asks affronted. “It’s true. If you don’t have a problem with this Sirius boy you won’t mind it then that Jaclyn invited the Potters to her engagement party.”
“What!?” I explode turning to my sister. “You’re having an engagement party and you invited the Potters?”
“Honestly, Janelle,” my sister chides me. “I’ve only been talking about it for ages. Besides, I thought you liked Sirius. I was trying to do you a favor.”
“Well you’re not! So uninvite them!” I demand.
“The Potters have been our family friends since before you were born, Janie,” Jaclyn snaps back. “And I thought you didn’t have a problem with Sirius.”
“I don’t!” I respond in an increasingly louder voice.
“Good, because the Potters are bringing him,” Jaclyn says in a snotty voice that makes me want to suffocate her with wrapping paper.
My life has just gotten that much more complicated. I’m not trying to be melodramatic but I probably will cry if I have to face him. I will probably plonk to the ground and have a cry fest, which would wipe off the smirk off of Jaclyn’s face and reduce me to sad city status.
Oh my god, and then he’ll have actually proof of my pathetic-ness.
Humina. Humina. Humina.
“So who are the muggles again?” I whisper under my breath to John.
We’re standing next to the muggle bar, while my brother cradles a glass of champagne in his hands. The engagement party, an initially ‘small’ affair, has turned into a family reunion. Stephen’s parents, who are apparently quite wealthy, insisted that Jaclyn host her engagement party at this ritzy restaurant where Stephen’s dad proposed to Stephen’s mum on their trip to England.
“The one with the mustache is Stephen’s dad, the women with the pink hat is his mum, the little girl with blonde hair is his cousin or something,” he whispers conspicuously. “The Americans.”
I shift uncomfortably on the high heeled shoes that Jaclyn and mum forcefully put on my feet. What were they thinking? I’ve already tripped four times, hit a waiter once, and knocked over an expensive looking statue. Normally, I usually limit my clumsiness to about one trip per every two hours, but tonight the impending arrival of a tall handsome arsehole is making me especially jumpy
I tug at the ridiculous dress that Jaclyn threw at my face this morning. Earlier in the morning I had thrown my toast at her face after she kept giving me smirks. I’m apparently grounded now so it was quite understandable that she picked out the most hideous looking dress of the century and chucked it at my face. It’s short, above my knees mind you and the black lacy frills that hug my body make me feel like a tart. It’s itchy and I’m so worried that somebody might see my knickers if I sit or bend down that I haven’t taken a seat since I put it on. It has been two hours.
“Oh, the Potters are here,” John states as he brings the glass to his lips.
Before John can take a sip I snatch the glass from him and take a swig.
“Oi!” he exclaims. “You’re underaged!”
His chastising falls on deaf ears as my eyes are immediately drawn towards a tall boy with long black locks and mischievous grey eyes. I swear he gets more and more good-looking. Stupid wanker. I look away because looking at him I think of rejection and the feeling of inferiority. Unconsciously I take another sip but John snatches it out of my hands so quickly that I barely get a few drops in.
“You’ll thank me later,” he admonishes and turns around and leaves me standing next to the bar all alone. Merlin, it’s so like him to leave me standing here awkwardly on my own.
I need to find somebody I can pretend I’m having the biggest laugh with. I scan the dimly lit restaurant and find Stephen’s little blonde cousin. I shrug. She’ll have to do. Anything is better than standing next to a bar, alone, while the boy that you liked but thinks you are pathetic comes waltzing in looking like some movie star and concludes that you are nothing more than the biggest loser on the face of the planet.
“Hi sweetie,” I say as I approach the little girl. She looks up at me cautiously.
“My mommy says not to talk to strangers,” she states. I look behind her and see Sirius approaching.
“Mmm,” I answer distractedly. “Listen darling, could you pretend to laugh for a moment? Like I made you laugh or something?”
“That’s stupid,” she retorts crossing her arms. “You’re not making me laugh at all.”
Okay, this is what my social skills have come to, arguing with a seven year old American child who apparently has no sense of humor. I glance behind her and see Sirius coming ever closer.
“Knock knock,” I say hurriedly.
I bend down so we’re eye level. That’s when it happens. A huge ripping sound. I immediately snap back up. I gaze down in horror at the split seam on the side of my dress that causes my whole right side to be exposed.
And of course now the devil child laughs. Oh so now she laughs. Frick my life.
Unfortunately for me every eye is on me now. I feel my cheeks heating up as I try to pull the seams back together in an effort to shield my sister’s in-laws, friends, family members, and Sirius Black from seeing my granny panties and bra.
I want to die.
“Does uh…” I say to the stunned crowd. “Does anybody have an extra dress I could borrow?”
This earns me titters and a few laughs. A cold hand rests on my shoulder and I expect to find my brother handing me his coat. I stop in mid turn when I follow the hand to its owner.
“Here,” he simply says. He hands me his black muggle coat.
I have become deaf, dumb and blind in a span of the second it took for him to hold my shoulder and let it go. I must have kept staring because instead he guided my arms through the sleeves of his coat. The coat smells like him. I am momentarily stunned by the contact.
“How are you?”
We say simultaneously.
“Good,” he replies.
“Peachy,” I mutter.
We survey each other warily.
“Well, if you’re expecting me to apologize,” I finally say. “You are sadly mistaken.”
“I wasn’t going to apologize either,” he says crossing his arms.
I swear we’re both children stuck in sixteen year old bodies.
“So we are back where we started,” I sigh. “Awkward silences and forced conversation.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, pointing out awkward situations doesn’t lessen the awkwardness,” he says as he combs his fingers through his hair in frustration.
“Forced conversation it is then!” I exclaim sarcastically. “How was Christmas?”
“I don’t want to do this,” he says flatly.
I swear with each word he spits out I feel my whole body being compressed, like a huge hand is squishing me, making me smaller and smaller and smaller. I hate him for this feeling and I wish I didn’t give a damn but I do and it’s unfortunate.
“So don’t! Nobody is forcing you,” I snap back.
I whip around and walk angrily away. Merlin, I feel like this is going to go forever, the party, the unexplainable feelings towards a particularly cruel boy, my awkwardness. Is it so wrong for me to want something and actually have it? Because it is apparent that somebody up there is seriously not rooting for me to ‘get the guy’. In fact, I think God thinks I am just one big laugh. Why else would he not bestow me with good looks, charm and grace?
I move my way past family members and Jaclyn’s friends to the bathroom. The lighting in the bathroom is dim but in a fancy way that just screams, ‘atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere.’ I turn on the gold taps; close my eyes and splash ice water on my face. It was supposed to feel refreshing but I just feel wet and cold. I blindly reach out for the little rolled up towels. I put the towel over my face and let it sit there. And I feel every droplet and every fiber of the towel until I feel like I’m no longer there. With the palms of my hands I press the towel harder unto my face hoping it will stop the sudden flood of warm and wet tears.
A/N: Hey guys! Sorry for the slow update and I hope you can forgive me. I want to thank everybody for reviewing and offering to beta. I was stunned by how many people offered. You guys rock. A big huge huge thank you to Nora for betaing and being overall incredible! I hope you guys enjoy and please review! :)
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