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Chapter 32 : The One Where We Visit Ethan Richards
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I would love to know what you all think, even though I totally don't deserve it for making you all wait. *hugs you all to be forgiven*
Edit: Just realised that I forgot to copy the beginning of the chapter in. *rolls eyes at myself
The Knight Bus was still a weird experience, no matter how many times I had used it before. There was nothing right about speeding through the streets and watching as the bus seemed to fit in impossible gaps, and not destroy anything in its path. The only reason it hadn’t crashed into a ball of flames yet, was due to the amount of magic that had built it.
I was thankful to get off it, hunching over slightly as I breathed the sea air into my lungs and wondered when my legs would stop shaking. Isabella didn’t seem to be fairing much better as she sat beside me on the pavement, her face a little pale. William and James didn’t seem affected, instead waiting for us to calm down. I stood up straight and saw that James was looking at me in concern.
“Are you alright?” he asked me, taking my hand gently. I nodded, not trusting myself to speak just yet in case my body betrayed me.
“Get up you loser,” I heard William say, and turned around to see him nudging Isabella with his foot and her trying to grab it and bite his leg.
I giggled at the scene as she got up off the floor and threatened him. William held his hands up to stop her trying to hit him and James chuckled before leading me along the pavement. It wasn’t long before we got to the end of the road and I realised that we were near the seaside.
The beach was in front of us, a low wall dividing the pavement from the sand as the sun shone down on us. I was disappointed to see that the sea was out, revealing only mud. People were walking through it, headed in the direction of the boats stranded in the mud.
As I lived in Oxford, I didn’t get to see the beach that much, unless my family went out for the day. Even then, it was a lot of effort, and we barely made the trip.
Some of my best memories were family trips to the seaside, eating fish and chips on the sand and throwing our left over’s to the seagulls that hovered overhead before going to get ice cream and eating it whilst we walked around the arcades.
“Where does Ethan live?” I asked James, thankful that I wasn’t feeling sick anymore.
“One of the roads along here,” James told me, pointing in the direction of what looked like a strip of arcades. I smiled at the idea of going into them, feeling like a kid again.
“Come on you two; stop flirting so that we can get going. Ethan is probably waiting for us,” James called behind us. I turned to see that William was behind Isabella, his arms wrapped around her and holding her arms down as he walked them forwards. Isabella was smiling as she struggled to get her arms free.
We didn’t have far to walk before we found Ethan’s road. There were quite a lot of houses around, joined together to form an estate. We had to walk through many alleys between the clusters of houses before we made it the middle of it and to the park. One of the swings was broken, and the seesaw had tape around it to stop people from going onto it. However, sitting on the broken seesaw was a tall dark haired teenager, smoking and looking down at something in his hands.
It was weird to see Ethan outside of school, wearing a tracksuit and with his hair slicked back with gel. I didn’t even know that he smoked, or that he had his ear pierced. It was as if I was seeing him for the first time, and that he had been wearing a disguise the entire time.
Ethan looked up as we neared him, jumping off the seesaw and putting the small thing into his pocket, it looked like one of those talking devices that we learnt about in Muggle studies, that Muggles would use.
He smiled, cigarette in his hand as he neared us, greeting us all before faltering when his eyes fell onto me. I saw in horror as his smile slipped from his face, before his eyes darted around us as though searching for someone. I realised with a sinking feeling that he was probably looking for Michelle.
I knew that this was a stupid idea to come along. Ethan probably hated me. I backed up a few steps, my back colliding with William who didn’t move and was stopping me from escaping.
“I’m sorry,” was all that I could blurt out as his eyes settled back onto me. Ethan shook his head slowly at my words.
“She’s not around is she?” Ethan asked and I shook my head quickly, he seemed to relax at that and the easy smile was back on his face.
“Good.” He nodded, bringing the cigarette up to his lips and taking a drag of it, before nodding behind them all so that they would walk in that direction. “I thought for one second that you had brought her with you.”
“They’re not friends anymore,” James stated coming to my defence.
“I heard that,” Ethan stated, putting his cigarette out on the wall and throwing the end of it into the bin as they passed. I realised that we were walking back in the direction of the beach as he directed us back the way that we had come. “So it seems that she would screw over the one person who was meant to be her friend.”
I didn’t say anything.
“I always wondered what you were doing with her when she dragged you around after me,” Ethan stated, taking me by surprise. “You were always so quiet that I assumed she forced you to go around with her.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, not knowing what else to say, but pleased that he didn’t seem to have any ill will towards me. “I’m sorry for it all.”
Ethan shook his head. “It’s not your fault, don’t worry.”
I nodded as we walked, Ethan finally turned to the others.
“I didn’t know that you smoked,” Isabella stated from behind me, and I was glad that I wasn’t the only one wondering when he had started.
“It only ever happens when I’m at home, depends on who I’m around really. My ‘friends’ here they all smoke, and it helps me deal with the stress of being back in this place. I don’t normally wear all of this, but they do. It’s bad enough that they think I’m better than they are because I go to a ‘prestigious boarding school’ where I’m not allowed a mobile phone. They tend to stop when I’m wearing all of this and being one of them again.”
So, I wasn’t the only one who would do anything to fit it and make my life easier. Ethan seemed like such a strong person that wouldn’t let anyone push him around, so to know that he would change himself to fit in shocked me.
We were finally back on the seafront and were heading to the sand. “Thanks for meeting up with me. I hate being back here,” Ethan stated as he sat down on the sand. We all sat with him and looked out at the mud, although I could see the sea in the distance.
“Why didn’t you stay at the castle over the holidays?” Isabella asked. James moved behind me so that I was sitting between his legs and wrapped his arms around me as I leant back on his chest.
“My mum isn’t very well, so I come back whenever I can to help look after my little brothers and sisters. My deadbeat dad is no good, spending all of his time at the local pub instead of helping, so I do what I can to give my mum a break from it all. Sadly being here means I have to deal with the shit people that I grew up with. I honestly can’t wait until I get my N.E.W.Ts and can get out of this dump and live in our world. I’ll be able to get a job and help mum afford a place out of this hellhole. If I had to be here for a few more years I’ll end up going crazy.”
I couldn’t help but look at him sadly, and Ethan was digging into his pocket for something, as we were all silent around him. He pulled his empty hands out, clearly not finding what he was looking for.
“Can someone talk about something else, before I feel the need to smoke,” Ethan gave a small laugh and a shake of his head. He turned to look at William and Isabella who were sitting close to each other.
“What’s the deal with you two, now?” he asked. I smirked as James laughed behind me, the vibrations of his chest against my back as he did so.
“There’s nothing going on,” Isabella stated, as William rolled his eyes beside her in amusement. She nudged him when she saw.
“Right, you’re not flirting with each other and I’m dating that nut job Michelle. Oh wait, those are both lies,” Ethan joked, before quickly turning to me to offer me an apology. It still felt weird that I didn’t have to worry about people joking about Michelle, even if it did make me uneasy. I gave a small shrug, and James rubbed his hand down my arm comfortingly.
We each recounted what we had done with our holidays so far. James bragged about the amount of Easter eggs that he had received and eaten, and Isabella doing the same.
“I’m jealous,” Ethan stated shaking his head as he leant back on the sand. I moved my feet and cringed a little as the sand went into my sandal, it didn’t help that James had spent the past few minutes using his own foot to cover my legs with the sand as well.
“Did you not get any?” Isabella asked sounding horrified at the very thought of it. I received a few, but I hadn’t had the time to eat them yet.
“I got a few, but I split them up to give to my brothers and sisters,” Ethan shrugged and I couldn’t help the ‘aww’ that escaped my lips.
Ethan seemed abashed at that and ducked his head for a moment, looking back out towards the sea that was slowly starting to come back to the sand.
A loud noise filled the air, causing me to jump in James’ arms and drop the handful of sand that I was planning to put down his t-shirt. James chuckled behind me and Ethan pulled the small thing out of his pocket, pressing something on it and putting it up to his ear. I heard a muffled voice the other side that I struggled to understand.
“Calm down, Beth,” Ethan stated, a hand risen up to run across his forehead as he spoke. I exchanged looks with Isabella, who gave me a small shrug in reply. I looked up at James, who had leant down to kiss my forehead.
“I’m at the beach,” Ethan continued as though we weren’t there. He stood up and turned around so that he could look over the wall, we watched in curiosity. “I can see you. Turn left. No, that’s right, I said to turn left. Walk in a straight line over to the beach and you’ll see me.”
He waved his arm around, before moving the object from his face and putting it back into his pocket. He brushed the sand off his trousers and it wasn’t long before a girl was at the wall and looking down at us all shyly. I knew that it was Ethan’s little sister Bethany from Michelle, who had pointed her out quite a few times when we were talking.
“What is it?” Ethan asked. Bethany leant forwards to talk to her brother quietly, a worried look on her face as she spoke.
“Did he?” Ethan asked angrily. Bethany looked like she was about to be on the verge of tears and I had no idea what had happened, but it sounded quite serious. “Fucking bastard.”
Bethany glanced at us all again, before looking at her brother, who had reached into his pocket and pulled out a few notes that I saw was muggle money.
“Take this and get one of those family meals from the shop you like,” Ethan told her, handing the note over. “I’ll go and get him out of the house.”
James tensed behind me, standing up at those words, as did William. I stood up slowly; ignoring my need to cringe at just how much sand had filled my sandals at the movement and from James. I dusted the back of my shorts off as Isabella moved towards me.
“Is everything alright?”James asked Ethan, clapping him on the back as he put his money back into his pocket. The annoyance seemed to be radiating off Ethan as he shook his head.
“Just my good for nothing dad,” Ethan stated, turning to look at them. “I thought he would be at the pub all day and I would be able to spend the day out with you lot, but apparently he gambled his drinking money and went back to the house to take what was going to buy the kids dinner. I just need to make sure he actually leaves the house and lock him out.”
“We can help you,” William stated, and Ethan shook his head quickly.
“No, it’s fine. I appreciate it, but it’s easier if I do it. He’s scared of me because of my ‘talents’,” Ethan glanced around at that word to make sure that he wasn’t overheard, and I knew that he meant magic. “It won’t take much to get him to go away. I just wish that he didn’t take the money, now I’ve got to use mine and hope that I have enough to get me the train back to London so Bethany and I can go back to school.”
I wished that there was something that I could do to help. Aside from offering to give him money, that I knew he wouldn’t take from me, I was at a loss.
“If you don’t have enough money just let me or William know. You can stay at one of our houses with Bethany the night before and we can bring you with us,” James stated, and I felt a swell of pride fill me at his words. “My parents won’t mind at all, and I know that Duncan will do anything that he can do to help.”
“Thanks everyone, I appreciate it,” Ethan stated, his head bowed again humbly. He gave a loud sigh. “I honestly thought that I would be able to stay out longer. I’m sorry that you all had to travel down here to see me.”
“Don’t worry about it, Ethan, its fine,” I stated, wanting to reassure him. He seemed like a good guy, and I hated that he was going through this. He gave me a smile, before holding his arms out to hug me goodbye. I was surprised as I hugged him back, and he turned to give Isabella a hug as well.
“I should get going,” Ethan said regrettably, as he patted William and James on the back and pulled himself up onto the wall to climb over it.
“We’ll probably be down here for a while if you wanted to come back,” William stated, and Ethan nodded before disappearing.
Ethan didn’t come back, but we still had fun down the beach and seafront anyway.
“I had a great time today,” James told me happily, leaning his forehead against my own as we stood outside of my house. He had walked me here, leaving Isabella and William at the top of the road so that we could say goodbye to each other. I would be seeing Isabella the night before school so that we could travel to the station together, and we planned to have a sleepover.
“I did too,” I agreed. It has been a lot of fun today, all of us spending the day at the arcades and along the beach. We even went into the small theme park that was along the seafront, watching as the Muggles went on the ride, and talking about which ones we would go on ourselves. We all made plans to return in the summer holidays and drag Ethan with us for a much-needed day out. After that, we got burgers and drinks and sat on sand to enjoy them, before messing around on the beach.
Although my favourite part of the day was when Isabella had shoved William into the sea, and in the distraction that caused I managed to put sand down the back of James’ top.
“I still have sand in my shorts,” he grumbled at me, kissing me lightly on the lips. I grinned at the knowledge.
“I had to get revenge for you putting sand on my legs earlier,” I told him honestly. I leant closer to kiss him, but James pulled away from me, his head turning to look at the front room window of my house. I turned to look and saw that Darryl was watching us through the window, glaring at us and tapping a make-believe watch on his arm.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head, realising that the moment between James and I was gone as I unwrapped my arms from around him and took a step backwards.
James looked away from my house and back down to me, reaching for my hand, and bringing it up to his lips to kiss it. My stomach felt like jelly at the act, and I smiled fondly at him.
“I’m sorry we didn’t get time for you to meet my parents,” James told me sadly, both of us trying to ignore that my brother was still at the window watching us. I really hoped that he didn’t come out to escort me inside.
“Its fine,” I told him, knowing that his parents had been too busy with work for the days that Abigail had free.
“You’re definitely going to meet them in the summer holidays,” James told me, “I hope that you like them.”
“I hope that they like me,” I corrected him. I really hoped that they would, I didn’t want them to hate me or be disappointed in me. What if they didn’t think I was good enough for James? What if they expected someone better looking, or with a better personality.
James kissing me stopped my internal worrying, and I stopped thinking as I clutched hold of the fabric of his top in an attempt to centre myself. When he pulled away, I tried to catch my breath, and stared up at him.
“Abigail, they will love you. I’m one hundred percent sure of it,” James told me. He sounded so honest and sure of himself, but I couldn’t help but worry.
“How do you know?” I asked him.
“Because you’re one of the best things that’s ever happened to me,” James said, kissing me on the lips again, but this time it was brief. “Now, you should probably get inside before your brother hurts me.”
“He knows better than to hurt you,” I told James truthfully. I would hurt Darryl if he done anything to James, and I knew all of his secrets so it was easier to hurt him.
James smiled and waited until I got to my door and opened it before he walked back up the street and towards William and Isabella who were waiting.
When I closed the door I turned around to see that Darryl was staring at me expectantly, his arms folded across his chest.
“Wait till I tell dad that you were kissing James outside the house,” he threatened me. I knew that he was doing it jokingly as he was struggling to keep a straight face and his eyes were glinting happily. My brother was all bark and no bite, and he knew that I knew it.
“If you do I’ll tell him that you used to sneak out of your bedroom window when you were fifteen to go clubbing with your friends.”
Darryl dropped his arms, and looked at me in shock and I knew that I had him. What I hadn’t counted on was my father coming out of his office and looking at us both with his eyebrows raised.
“If you both think that I don’t already know those things, you underestimate me. There’s not a thing that goes on in this house that I don’t know about,” he warned us.
Darryl gulped and I tried to keep the guilt of potentially spilling Darryl’s secret from filling me.
Sometimes I wondered if my dad really was a superhero.
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