Chapter 34 : The Beginning Of Christmas Break
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I had planned for this chapter to actually be three times longer, but I knew I had to update, and I felt like I could cut off some events from this chapter and prolong the ending of this fic. I had maybe 2 or 3 chapters left but since I cut this one short it should make the others longer ;) I think I ended it on a good spot, this chapter. It's so short and so unlike me lol, I'm sure you can tell.
This fic is almost over... thank you for your love and support and patience, it's been a few days over six years since I started this fic and I couldn't have done it without my readers and reviewers. Thank you! A few more to go and this will be the end.
Have a happy reading!
My father still reads the morning paper with his granola breakfast loaded with fiber and a whole bunch of stuff that supposed to help you poo. Petunia stomps downstairs at 9am and still yells “bye” before storming out with food in her hand, off to work. And there are still a million things around the house that I could be doing. But instead of picking up where I left off, I feel put off. Sort of alien, almost. The feeling in this house isn’t the same anymore. I don’t know if it’s because of me, or if it’s because of everything else BUT me.
It’s been two days since my arrival back in my neighborhood and it just doesn’t feel the same. It could maybe be my situation with a certain raven haired boy that’s sort of ruining my emotional stability. But I’m still not sure. It could also just mean I grew up one bra size. Remind me to pie chart this later.
It bothers me that things in this house are still the same. On top of it all, I thought I’d be relaxed at home. At ease. And in retrospect I am, because I can adapt and make myself comfortable in my own house – but I’m becoming more and more annoyed with my father. It’s like nothing has happened since I’ve left. I feel like I’m a totally different person. I grew up so much these past several months and the aggravation growing in my stomach every time I see my dad read the paper is unsettling. Seeing as how my father hasn’t changed at all and still smiles the same way he always does. He still expects me to do everything. And all I’ve done a complete belly flop into a humongous tub of self discovering jello and then fallen down the metaphorical stairs of teenage angst this school year, so you can understand my annoyance with his simple smiles.
I mean… I wasn’t expecting this. To come back months later a different person, and yeah, I guess my dad didn’t expect that either, but damn it. Can’t he just see me a little bit differently? He treats me the same and it’s like he expects me to understand him the way he is and I’m afraid that it’ll always be like this. I don’t know. I don’t even know what I’m saying. I’ve been trying to ignore these conflicting emotions whenever my dad’s around because I love him and it’s holiday, but something is telling me that it’s not going to get better any time soon. And I’m not going to let go of this feeling. I’m not sure if I can.
I liked consistency in my life. I used to thrive for it. But I don’t think I appreciate it all that much anymore. And I’m not even sure it means the same thing anymore either.
“The weather sucks here,” Jessica rants to me one day on the phone. “It’s sloshy and cold and no one knows how to drive properly. Bike lanes are meant to be respected. Some spare bloke almost took my arm off.”
She grunts. “How’s home?”
I don’t know what to say or how to respond, so I just tell her how it usually is; quiet and still. But not the same.
There’s a long silence and it takes me a while to remember that I’m on the phone with Jess when her voice suddenly cuts off my thoughts. “Do you think that- Lily, do you think that maybe… everything else is the same, and it’s you that’s come back not the same?” Her voice isn’t accusing me of anything but I can sense her timid tone over the phone. This makes me feel bad.
Jess is not guilty of anything except caring about my mental well being.
“Maybe I… maybe I’m just going through that typical teenage stuff, you know?” I sound weak, and I can tell she isn’t buying it. My fake nonchalant attitude is total crap and she knows it. “Stupid existential thoughts that people are supposed to go through, probably.”
“Oh, right... Of course. That’s probably it.”
Another silence. I think about how I was before I went off to school, I think about how I used to live in this house with the same two people I do now, I think about why I feel like I’m on the verge of screaming until my throat bleeds, etc.
I sigh before speaking again, this time truthfully. And I don’t try to hide the disappointment in my voice. “I don’t know, Jessica. I think I’m upset that I grew up a bit and changed and the rest of the world didn’t. I’m annoyed that my dad can’t tell the difference and I’m angry as hell about my feelings for James.” I think my words through and say them honestly, albeit slowly. But it feels like the words are rushing out of me like a waterfall anyway.
I wish I could give the typical “I’m seventeen and I’m angry” response but I can’t.
“ I want to know why I’m always left spinning and everyone else around me seems to land.”
“Lily,” she says with affection. “Not everyone is as sure of themselves as you think they are.”
I close my eyes briefly and hop off my kitchen counter. My feet make a soft thump as I land. “I am tired. I’m tired of these feelings that have rooted into me and I want to will them away but if even I had the energy to, I know they won’t disappear. And it sucks. Everyone that used to not bother me at home is bothering me and I’m tired of my father assuming that everything would go back to the way it was- did he always think it would be like this? He knows I can’t stay here forever and why the fucking hell do I still get treated like a baby by everyone when I’ve had to deal with some real shit lately?”
I exhale and rest my head in my hand.
“Because you’ve been a grown up your whole life and you needed freedom and you never got to stop and appreciate your youth. You’re a teenager, love. You shouldn’t have had that kind of responsibility and I think your dad has it set in his mind that if you’re there taking care of things, then he doesn’t have to be sad about anything else.”
I feel my eyes start to sting.
“Not to mention the fact that James Potter has been a part of your life and it’s really difficult to shake off someone who has been there. Even if it was off/on. You couldn’t really escape him, could you?” She asks gently, not needing a response from me. “You’re growing up now, for real. You’re changing. We’re all changing. But it’s different for you because you had to be the adult the whole time; and now you have to deal with becoming an adult for the second time and your problems are all you can think about. And it isn’t fair to you.”
“Jess, there’s this pressure... It’s right in my chest,” I murmur quickly. What am I supposed to do now? Rewind the clock and try to be free spirited and true to myself? I didn’t have a choice. It seems that I never get to have a choice in how anything pans out. “I never complained. I did what I had to do, and I didn’t think it would change anything. I thought it would always be as it was. But I can’t escape any of this and I’m angry as hell.” I’m angry at a lot of things; my old life won’t suffice anymore. I want other things.
I pour myself a glass of water and tell myself to get a grip. Jess tries to assure me that I deserve to be a little selfish, a little messy, and a little fucked up. “We’re not perfect,” she tells me desperately. “Let go of this pressure, Lily. Let go of it. You’ll get wrinkles before you’re twenty. Don’t think about how your problems will affect others and just think about you. It is holiday and I’ll be damned if you don’t enjoy these next three weeks. So, if you could, please don’t try to worry about it. All you really can do is not think about it and that sounds perfectly fine to me.”
I bite my lip. I need to take better control of my life. This is going to be difficult. I know she’s right, and I tell her that.
The next day, I go to see Mrs. Jenkins, one of my neighbors. I haven’t written to her all term, if you’ve forgotten. It’s about time I say hello.
Over, under, across. Over, under, across.
“There you go, dear. You’re almost done!” Mrs. Jenkins is beaming at my half-willed attempt at a new knitting technique she’s teaching me. I smile back at her. She could motivate me to run a marathon, I swear. I’ve been in her house for about twenty minutes now and we’ve been contently absorbing each other’s calmness.
“So how’s the block been since I was away?” I can hear her grandfather clock ding behind me and relish in the quiet atmosphere that’s been absent from my life for months. I dig my toes into her plushy blue carpet and continue to knit.
She gets up and makes a cup of tea for the both of us. “Little baby Sam down the street is in school now. So he won’t be running around the streets naked anymore on Monday mornings.”
That kid has a nudist problem. Way too young to be that comfortable in the cold without clothes.
“I’m sure his energy will be put to good use,” I reply from the living room.
Over, under, across.
“All the children in this neighborhood are starting to get an attitude, Lily. I feel it in my arthritis. One day I’ll fall over in my front lawn and they’ll just laugh and pass by like they do in those horrid dramas on telly. Turds, the lot ‘o them.”
I missed her particular level of senile since I’ve been gone.
Leaning back into her recliner, I ask her about something that’s been on my mind since my phone call with Jessica. “Mrs. Jenkins, do you think you can meet someone at a young age and still be affected by them years later? Platonic, of course. Maybe you only saw them once in your whole life. Do you think they could have an impact? Truly?”
She walks slowly back to me after putting the kettle on the stove, and cups my chin. “The world revolves around people, darling. We survive because of each other. Everyone has an effect on you. As you have an effect on them. How do you mean?”
I think for a moment before looking up at her patience face. “I just… I want to know if other people shape you into who you are, or if you shape yourself.”
Mrs. Jenkins looks at me with kind eyes. “Both. Always both. I’m not a scholar but I will tell you this, the effect people have on you can very much impact you and your outlook on your life. It is up to you to absorb what you think makes you a better person,” she finishes.
For the rest of the time that I’m with her, I decide that Mrs. Jenkins is one of the many people who have impacted me in the best way possible. I am a third of the way through my scarf when I finish my tea and kiss her goodbye. It’s raining outside but I don’t put my hood up. I just appreciate the water sprinkling down my face.
It’s around midday when I walk back home. Grabbing the newspaper off the wet driveway, I walk up to my front door. I take off my shoes next to the coat rack when the phone rings. I answer it.
Frank Longbottom screams into the receiver.
“What do I owe this pleasure?”
“What are you doing right now?!” He sounds absolutely winded and out of breath. Is he running?
“Nothing. And after my sister and my dad come home from work in a few hours… more nothing.”
I hear shrieking in the background, followed by a thump.
“Okay, are you-“
“What is going on!?” I yell. “Are you out of breath?”
“Sorry, Lils, I’m trying to run down the street to get to the car my dad’s stupid girlfriend parked four hundred miles away and I ran into this old lady’s shriveled rose bush. Don’t see the big deal.” He huffs for a few heartbeats as he continues to run down the street. “I mean, it’s dying anyway in this weather. ‘Tis the winter season and all that good shit.”
He holds his breath again and grunts. I can almost see him dodge a moving car.
“Frank,” I demand earnestly. “Did she throw something at you? Can you slow down?”
“Yes,” he huffs. “And no.”
I roll my eyes and listen to his grunts and puffs until he gets to the car in question. I hear the jingle of the keys and feel a sort of envy that he can drive. I still have yet to get my license. I failed the test once by a half point.
Still pissed about it, to be honest.
“Okay, I’m good,” Frank shouts happily. “That’ll bruise though,” he says, more to himself than anyone else.
“What will bruise?” I inquire suspiciously.
“My neck. That dumb broad threw a rock at me.” I hear the roar of an engine.
“You think Jess will think it’s a hickey? She’d get so mad, wouldn’t she?” He laughs like a maniac at the thought. And somehow his laughter is filled with endearment. I bite back a grin.
“So where are you going with this car? And why did you call me?”
“I’m picking you up, cupcake.”
My facial expression resembles someone who has been hit with a water balloon. I blink. “…Sorry?”
“You heard me. I’m getting Jess and then we’re picking you up.”
I look around the living room and the hallway to make sure this isn’t some sort of practical joke. “Frankie boy, that’s insane. You live two hours away from me. Are you driving with a Muggle car?”
I can almost hear him winking at me. “Don’t worry, Lily. I got this. I’ll call you when we’re close.”
He clicks off his mobile, ending the call. I’m dumbfounded.
What was he planning? I haven’t seen him since the day before break started… and now he was coming here with Jess? I’m beyond excited. Although it’s sort of strange to think about Frank Longbottom hanging out at my house; that was totally something I never thought would happen before this school year.
I fix myself some lunch and shuffle through the mail that’s been sitting on the kitchen table for a while, and I find a particularly purple envelope that makes me stop what I’m doing. It’s addressed to the Evans family, and only Mrs. Potter is capable of this type of regal calligraphy. It’s elegant and in cursive and the envelope is scented. I completely forgot about this. Every Christmas the Potter’s host an annual party to celebrate the holidays with everyone in the development. Their house is always flooded with people because James’ mother is part of so many organizations and she invites them all to the party as well.
Do I go to this? Should I bother going to this? The food is always so good… NO. Must not consider food in this equation… ugh, will my dad even want to go? Who knows… we go every year, so why would we stop now? Oh, because James Potter was a total prick to me this year and regardless of who is right and wrong I am still mad at him. There’s a history there and you can’t just throw it out the window for a Christmas party. With really great food.
I check the telly for weather reports and it looks like it’s going to snow in time for Christmas. Ugh. I should be happy about this, but it only makes me feel inwardly colder as I remember how good Mrs. Potter’s spiced eggnog was last year at her Christmas party - and how it would be perfect on one of these night snowy nights to come.
To get my mind off of all things Potter related, I go to separate my laundry and start to wash my blue jeans, until I find a dark pair of jeans that have zippers up the pantleg. During the summer James told me he liked these particular jeans on me. I drop them to the floor and walk out of the room.
I try to bake but the box has instruction on an alternative way to make a “St. James” cake, so I just throw the spatula in the sink and put the box back in the pantry.
I’m starting to get very irritated.
I call my father to let him know that I might not be home when he comes back from work, and I do the same with Petunia’s phone except she just hangs up when I’m done without responding to me. I plop myself on the couch and force myself to find something worth watching on television until Frank and Jess get here. I was in a much better mood after the phone call, but now I’m just bitter. My dad and Petunia and James have just reminded me of the things that just annoy me like no other.
Maybe when Frank and Jess get here, they’ll disappear from my mind.
After what seems like forever, the house phone rings and it’s Jess.
“Lily! Get dressed. We’re going to the aquarium.”
“Followed by the museum.”
That sounds… like exactly what I need.
“Are we really?”
“Yes!” Jessica responds.
Contentment washes over me. How long has it been since I’ve seen the fishies? And gone to the museum? I don’t know how they do it, but I’ve been surged with energy.
“How long until you guys get here?” I ask excitedly.
“Twenty minutes. And don’t wear that hoodie with those jeans again!”
I look down at what I’m wearing and inwardly scold Jessica Finelly for knowing me so well.
“I wasn’t gonna wear-“
“Because you’re wearing them now, aren’t you?”
I huff. “I need to get ready, bye!”
Frank hollers from the driver’s seat. “BE READY, LILS. I GOT SOME GREAT SHIT PLANNED FOR US.”
Such an eloquently speaking young man, isn’t he?
I shake my head and tell them I’ll be ready when they get here. I race upstairs and start going through my closet. How did Jess know I was wearing my old hoodie? What a little arse.
Maybe I’ve turned into a housewife slash Cinderella? Because now that I look at myself in the mirror with my sloppy hair and this ragged hoodie, I’m starting to remind myself of the sad princesses in all the fairytales.
Well this princess is going to the aquarium! WOOOO!
I open my window to change the air in my room a bit. After ransacking through some of my winter clothes that I’ve saved in my bottom drawer, I find a white cable knit sweater. I grab a pair of dark violet leggings and tug them on. In a last effort to try to salvage my hair, I take out my ponytail and brush it thoroughly, before putting it in a high bun at the top of my head. A headband should take care of these fuzzy kink hairs on the side… Oh! Deodorant!
Mother of pearl, I can’t stink up Frank’s car with my sweaty pits! I make sure I put on my deodorant and brush my teeth and slip on my socks before I head out of my bedroom. I stop halfway through my door frame when I remember that I left my window open.
I run back real quick to shut it, when I make the mistake of looking out my window. Right into James Potter’s bedroom.
My breath leaves my body as I’m reminded of how long it’s been since I’ve seen him. Less than a week maybe, a few days give or take, but not that long ago. Except that it feels like too long. He’s drinking from a mug and walking towards his desk when his eyes catch mine. He stops what he’s doing and he walks up to his window. I feel overwhelmed all of a sudden. He’s in a blue t-shirt and his hair’s all smooth which means he probably took a shower not too long ago and wait why am I thinking about this again?
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