(NO PART OF THIS STORY CAN BE REPLICATED WITHOUT THE AUTHOR'S CONSENT!)
Three tiny little bundles stared back at Elisa Jane. Their faces were scrunched and red as they shuddered and wiggled beneath their monkey print blankets.
They were sorta cute, in an ugly kind of way.
Two of the babies looked back at her. Cooing and making funny noises.
“Aww,” her tiny heart melted as she reached out her hand to let one of the babies latch onto her finger, but she couldn’t shove her hand through the bars close enough to get to him. “Cute.”
Leaning up on tiptoe even higher so that she could get a better look at the triplets, Elisa held tight to the edge of their crib.
“Elisa,” Mama glanced up from her spot on the couch, “you be careful, young lady.”
“Okay, Mama,” she said dutifully, wondering why Mrs. Wright’s face looked so splotchy.
Sometimes Elisa’s face would go splotchy too. Like when she’d fall off her bicycle and scrap her knees. Or that one time she accidentally touched the hot stove. Her face had gone really splotchy then too. There were no scraps on Mrs. Wright’s knees, so maybe she’d gotten burnt.
Pressing her lips together, she turned back to study the babies.
They were grunting and scrunching their noses, their fists had wormed their way out of the snuggly blanket.
“You guys are really ugly,” she murmured, and then quickly glanced back at her mother. Mama would be mad if she heard her calling babies ugly. But they were.
Their faces were so red, and they had no hair. “But you do have pretty eyes,” she said it as a consolation, even though their eyes weren’t all that pretty. And Daddy had told her once that boys weren’t pretty, they were handsome. But she didn’t think they were handsome either.
One of the babies sneezed. And that was cute. It tugged a smile to her lips.
All year Elisa had been so excited waiting for Mrs. Wright to have her triplets. And now they were finally here and that was nice. Of course it wasn’t fair that they weren’t girls. Because boys were dirty, and sometimes mean. But as long as they understood that they couldn’t be mean to Elisa, then she’d be okay with that she supposed.
But it would take a while before they could play with her. Elisa would be three soon. She was the biggest of the big girls and they were just really small.
Two of the babies were blinking huge owl eyes up at her. But the third baby was looking at the wall of the crib with a weird stare. Elisa had been trying for the past ten minutes to get that baby to look at her, but he just wouldn’t.
It made her cranky. Obviously, he didn’t like girls.
“Mama?” She looked up at her mom who was deep in conversation with Mrs. Wright.
“Yes, Elisa,” Mama asked, sounding e-zas-per-tated.
That was a big word that Daddy was teaching her. He said that Elisa always made them e-zas-per-tated.
She huffed the blond lank of bangs out of her eyes. “What names?”
Instead of Mama answering, Mrs. Wright did. Her smile was watery as she said, “Christian. Roman. And Julian.”
She dabbed at her eyes when she said Julian’s name, and Mama wrapped her up in a big hug.
Elisa frowned. Grown ups were so weird sometimes. Turning back around she smiled at the boys.
“Hi. I’m Elisa.”
Christian and Roman cooed. But Julian still wouldn’t look at her.
“Julian,” she singsonged his name, “I’m right here. Hello, baby.”
But he still wouldn’t look at her. Maybe he just couldn’t hear her or sumthin’. She shoved her arm through the bar, but again she couldn’t reach them. Annoyed, she decided the only way to get Julian to pay attention to her was to get in there with him.
It would be kind of tricky, but she was a good climber. Daddy had taught her how to climb the great big elm in their back yard. Glancing over her shoulder one more time to make sure Mama wasn’t watching, Elisa stuck her shiny, black slippered foot on the outer edge of their mattress and stepped up.
Mama and Mrs. Wright had gone into the kitchen to get some more snacks. Which was good, because then Elisa could climb without Mama worrying that she’d do something wrong.
“I’m coming baby Julian,” she grunted as she shimmied her way up the white painted metal side of their baby crib.
But Elisa had overestimated her climbing abilities. Her arms were shaking only halfway up and when she went to pull her leg over the side of the crib she lost her balance and fell hard onto Mrs. Wright’s wooden floors.
Fire exploded down her side and this time it was her turn to shriek.
In seconds Mama had scooped her off the floor, hugging her tight to her breast. “Elisa Jane Adrian, what have you done? Are you okay?”
But Elisa couldn’t talk, because her arm hurt so bad and now her face was all splotchy. She wrapped her arms around her Mama’s neck and cried, feeling bad because the babies were crying too.
Mrs. Wright was over there, picking one up after another, patting their backs and telling them she loved them.
“I’m sorry, Loribelle, I think we’re going to go now. But if you need anything at all.” Mama walked over to Mrs. Wright and gave her a side arm hug. “You don’t hesitate to call me, got it.”
Mrs. Wright sniffed and dabbed at her eyes. “Thanks, Bethy. I will.”
Mama’s hand was big and warm as she rubbed Elisa’s back, already her arm was feeling better. She wished she would have had a chance to say hi to Julian too.
Christian and Roman were still squalling, but Julian was where he’d always been, just staring at the wall of his crib, like he’d never even heard her fall.
Elisa decided right then that she didn’t like Julian Wright much at all.
5 years later
The sea was calling to Elisa today. The sky and water was so blue. Seagulls circled above her sandy playground, crying out loudly. Obviously smelling the hot dogs and hamburgers Daddy was grilling up. The grown ups were further up shore; Mrs. Wright would occasionally cast an eagle eye in the direction of the boys who played along the coastline.
It was the fourth of July, tonight there’d be fireworks. This was really Elisa’s favorite time of year. The fireworks looked so amazing when they shone off the darkened reflection of the bay.
Not to mention no school. No homework. Just fun.
With her boys.
Roman and Christian came running up to her. Their five-year-old legs churned up the sugary colored sand in their wake. Roman was missing his front tooth and his smile was huge as he wildly waved his prize high in the air.
“Lisa. Lisa!” Roman jumped up and down; his turtle themed water shorts flopped around his legs as he did. He had a habit of dumping mounds of wet sand down his shorts. “Look what we found!”
“Well, I found it.” Christian stepped in front of his brother, shoving him gently out of the way as he pointed at his little bird chest.
The boys weren’t identical triplets. But the two of them still looked sort of similar. Where Roman was a little darker, cause of his hair and eyes which were a pretty dark blue. Christian was just a little bit lighter. Looking more like Mrs. Wright with his sandy blond hair and slightly brighter blue eyes. Julian on the other hand looked just like Mr. Wright. Inky black hair, with the most striking and vivid set of bluish-green eyes that always reminded Elisa of the tropical waters she yearned to one day see in person.
Julian was the one that really didn’t look like he was one third of the triplet gang.
Which at least made it easy for Elisa to tell them apart.
She laughed, eyes widening as she stared at the broken bit of shell. Holding out her hand for it, she turned it around and around after Roman placed it on her palm. The outside was dark and gray looking, full of green moss and other yucky bits. But the inside gleamed like mother of pearl.
“Oh, that’s pretty,” she cooed, patting their heads. “Good job,” she chirped, when Christian snatched it back, hugging it tight to his body.
It never really bothered her that she was almost three years older than the boys. Well technically, she was two years and five months older, but that was a bunch older than them.
Still, they were sort of like her brothers. She loved them, kind of. Not when they were being buttheads and tripping her feet out from under her and stuff. But she was the kind of girl that loved fishing, and playing down by the docks, and swimming like a little fish. She guessed because she was more of a Tomboy the boys thought she was all right too.
“Where’s Jules?” she asked, shading her eyes as she searched the cove for any sign of Julian.
Christian and Roman both sighed in unison.
“Julian!” Mrs. Wright’s voice was a sudden shrill that rent the peacefulness of the afternoon. “Julian!”
She came running up, her pale face and normally artfully arranged sandy blond hair that now tumbled haphazardly around her shoulders attested to her panic.
Yanking them each by the arm, she gasped, “Where is he?”
Christian’s eyes grew wide. “He’s…he’s over there.” He pointed to a sharp area of rock.
And sure enough, a dark head could be seen bobbing up and down around the dangerous bed of sharp rock.
Suddenly everyone seemed to become aware of what was happening. Mr. Wright, Mama, and Daddy—all of them rushed toward Julian who seemed completely unaware of the fact that when the tide rose and covered the rocks they became too slick and dangerous to walk on.
Elisa had lived along the coastline long enough to know that the tide had already begun to shift and in moments those rocks he now played on would be hazardous. She didn’t stop to question her actions. With her heart lodged in her throat, she ran.
She was already wearing her swimsuit, she could slice through the water and make it to him before anyone else could. His parents were close to the rocky outcropping, but they wouldn’t reach him in time, they’d have to step carefully themselves.
Elisa was already a champion swimmer and as capable in the water as any average adult.
She didn’t shiver when the cold water rushed up the length of her calves and thighs. Instead, taking a deep breath, she dove into the almost frigid waters, breast stroking expertly out.
Mrs. Wright screamed when Julian did exactly what everyone expected him to do. With a strange, garbled sound his arms wind milled violently, and like a cartoon falling in slow motion, Elisa caught a glimpse of him from the corner of her eye crashing into the dangerous waters.
Julian could swim, but just barely. He was really only good enough at keeping his head above water. She swam harder, kicking with all her might, when she noticed he was barely moving.
Elisa knew how badly head wounds could bleed. She’d seen her Dad crack his forehead open once; she just hoped Julian was okay.
Kicking her feet with all her might, and with five more powerful strokes, she got to his side. He’d turned over on his back, floating with his arms spread eagle and moaning loudly. Already she could see a purple knot swelling on his head, but thankfully there was no blood.
“Get him, Elisa!” Mrs. Wright called, waving her hand as if guiding Elisa toward the spot where she stood.
Julian was heavy, but the water made him buoyant enough that Elisa was able to wrap her arm around his middle and gently kick her way back toward the rocks, where Mr. Wright waited with arms wide open.
“It’s alright, Jules,” she whispered as she concentrated on getting them back to safety. He was gurgling, his fingers digging like claws into her wrists, as he held on to her tight.
“I’ve got you. Don’t worry,” she soothed.
Her arms trembled when she finally was able to hand him over to his father. Mr. Wright plucked Jules away from her easily, wrapping his arm around his son, and smiling down at her with a proud beam to his ocean colored eyes.
“Good job, girl. Good job.” Faint lines around his eyes crinkled as he gazed down at her, she was only thankful that she’d gotten to Julian in time. It could have been so much worse.
Arms feeling like wet noodles, she gave him a weak grin as she latched onto her Daddy’s outstretched hand and landed on the rocky outcropping beside Mr. Wright. Gratefully accepting the towel Mama held out for her, she wrapped it around herself twice, before patting Julian’s back.
“Hey, Jules, you okay?”
He didn’t respond to her question, but he did respond to her touch. He had his face pressed into his father’s neck, but his brilliant blue-green eyes were just for her as he nodded. As if to say “thank you”.
She smiled. “You’re welcome,” she said, even though she knew he’d never hear it.
Because Mama was a nurse, she checked him out quickly and determined that aside from the fact that he might have a bad headache later that night, he didn’t need to go to the hospital.
That night they watched the fireworks in silence. She and Jules held hands on the beach together. He’d moved to her side after supper, and though she knew he couldn’t hear the booms or even see the colors, his eyes lit up as each firecracker danced through the air. And it made her happy to sit right there on that wet sand and listen to his happy little gurgles of laughter.
Elisa didn’t know what she would ever do without Julian Wright in her life.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years.
Elisa was almost ten years old the day she learned the devastating news.
The day had started out like any other day. She was happy because now she was a fifth grader, next year she’d go to middle school.
Mama had also told her she could finally go to a school dance. Next week was that dance and last week Mama had found her a pale pink dress that fell to her knees in soft waves. It looked super pretty on her. But even better, Mama had gotten her her first stick of lip-gloss. Elisa couldn’t wait to wear it. Janet was gonna be so jealous too, because her mom still wouldn’t let her wear make-up.
Of course her date was Christian, which totally didn’t count as a date, but she was still excited, even if he was a third grader.
Mrs. Wright had put the boys into school when they were just barely four. So even though they were almost three years apart, they were only two grades apart. Which was still sort of young, but she liked Christian and unlike most boys in school, he could actually dance.
Of course, it would have made it even better if she could have gone with Joey Crawford, he was only the cutest boy in fifth grade. But Joey had a stupid girlfriend and probably wouldn’t have asked her anyway.
Brushing out her hair one final time, she slipped it into a ponytail, pulled on her prettiest purple bathing suit, and tried to ignore the nervous flutters in the pit of her stomach.
Today was the biggest day of her life. Qualifications to get to be a part of Mt. Rodgers Middle School swim team.
Roman and Christian told her she had it in the bag. Which she totally thought she might, and even though she was fast, she was scared she might not be as fast as some of the other swimmers trying out.
What if she didn’t make it?
Or worse yet, what if she did?
There was a heavy knock at the door. “Elisa, you dressed?” Her father’s deep baritone was a muffled sound.
“Yes.” She nodded, still hanging tight to her stomach.
He opened the door and she smiled when she saw him. Daddy was still the most handsome guy she’d ever seen.
There was some gray now at the corners of his dark brown hair, but she thought it made him look very distinguished.
He grinned, but the smile never really touched his eyes. “You look nervous, little bit.”
She plopped onto her vanity stool and nodded. “I’m terrified. I’m not sure I’m good enough for this.”
Snorting, he sat on the edge of her day bed, and nodded. “Oh, I understand that feeling. I’m always nervous before a big race—”
Daddy was a professional triathlete. Mama said that was where Elisa got her athleticism from, which was probably true; the most Mama ever did for exercise was gardening. She claimed to be allergic to running, which Elisa had totally believed, until she turned eight and realized allergic was just another word for lazy. It had made her laugh when she realized how gullible she’d been.
“—but that’s how you face your fears.”
“How? By failing and coming in last?” She made a wound between a whimper and a whine.
Crossing his leg, he ran a hand through his hair. “If you try your best and come in last, there’s no shame in that. The only shame is if you defeat yourself by not giving it your all. No matter the outcome, we’ll be proud of you.”
“I love you, Daddy.”
Getting up, he came to her and wrapped her up in a big, soapy scented hug. His hug lasted a long time, longer than normal, and he kept clearing his throat. It was starting to make her nervous, but she thought maybe she was just imagining things when a second later he took a step back and smiled down at her. And this time his smile did reach his eyes. Eyes that looked a little more wet than usual. “Ditto. Now lets go.”
Blowing out a deep breath, Elisa got up, slipped on her shorts and shirt, and nodded. “Okay. The guys are coming too, right?”
The grimace had happened so fast that Elisa almost couldn’t be sure she’d seen it happen at all.
“Yep. Sure, they’ll be there. Where else would those rugrats be? They only worship the ground you walk on.”
She laughed. “They do not.”
But she knew they totally did. That was okay though, she pretty much adored them herself. Being an only child may have been a sad life for her if it hadn’t been for her three friends that were more like brothers.
She leaned her head out the car window and waved just as the Wright’s came tromping out of their house ten minutes later. Daddy was taking her ahead of the crowd so she’d have time to warm up before the competition.
But she frowned when not one of the boys waved back at her. In fact, Mrs. Wright didn’t look well either.
Her nose was a bright cherry red.
Elisa jumped to her knees and stared out the back window of her family’s SUV as they drove off—watching as Mama walked out her home and over to Mrs. Wright before pulling her in for a tight hug.
“Daddy, is something wrong with Mrs. Wright?”
But instead of answering he clicked on the car radio and the nerves that’d been simmering in her belly now flared back to life.
All of that was forgotten the moment she arrived at the swim meet.
Elisa shouldn’t have been worried, her form was top-notch, her strokes sure. She’d slid into first across the finish line, even beating out two boys from her class who’d sworn up and down they were faster than her. Blinking water droplets out of her eyes, she scanned the bleachers for Mama and the Wright boys when she stepped out of the pool.
But the only face she recognized was her dad’s.
He was clapping and gazing down at her proudly. “Good job, little bit.” He scooped her up and twirled her around, but his voice seemed to lack some of the joy he normally enthused when she won a competition.
With a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach, she wiggled out of his arms. “Dad, where is everybody?”
It was rare that the Wright’s ever missed any of her meets. In fact, it’d only happened once before and that was because Roman had gotten a sudden case of appendicitis.
Suddenly the smile was gone. His face turned very serious and grave as he held onto her hand. “Lisa,” he sighed, “baby girl, we need to talk.”
She couldn’t do anything other than grab onto her stomach. People kept coming up and clapping her on the back and congratulating her, but she couldn’t respond back because she knew something was really, really wrong.
Letting her father guide her over to the bleachers he sat her down and waved off her coach as he made his way over. Her Father was never rude, now she was even more scared.
With a mouth grown dry, she swallowed hard. “Daddy?” her voice trembled.
Tipping his chin up toward the sun, Elisa knew she would never forget that moment. Never forget the way his face suddenly looked so shattered, or the way he inhaled three deep breaths, or how rough his palms felt when he grabbed her pruny ones.
“There’s no way to put this that won’t hurt you, Elisa. Mr. Wright died last night. It was very sudden and unexpected. Mrs. Wright is taking the boys to her family for a couple of weeks and—”
She couldn’t take a proper breath. It was like her lungs had suddenly stopped working correctly. “But…but.” She shook her head, because there were too many thoughts.
Mr. Wright was dead.
Mr. Wright was dead.
Mr. Wright was dead.
Mr. Wright was dead.
He shook his head.
What did that mean exactly?
“Daddy, have they left already?”
“I’m afraid so.”
She screamed, hugging her arms to her middle. “But they’re coming back, right?”
He didn’t answer her, and even though she could feel the press of eyes all over her, she couldn’t seem to stop the tears from falling fat and heavy down her face.
“Daddy, please tell me they’re coming back.”
“I’m sorry, baby girl.”
He tried to wrap her up in his arms again, but she wouldn’t let him. She ran for the car. Maybe if they were fast enough they could get back. Maybe they could…
“Elisa, stop!” Her father ran after her, his footsteps pounding the pavement.
“Why did you bring me here!” Twirling on him, she balled her hands into fists. “Why would you do that to me?” She swiped at the tears dripping off her nose, angry with her father, with herself for caring so much about a stupid swim meet. “I should have been there for them. Daddy, why?”
His brown eyes were sincere and shimmering with wetness. They had attracted a large crowd, but none of it mattered.
She needed to see them one more time. Needed to say goodbye at least. They may not have been blood, but they were her brothers. They’d grown up together, she’d tended to their scrapes, played hide and go seek, listened to them talk all about their stupid cartoons because she loved them. From the very first minute she’d seen the triplets she’d fallen in love. They were her family.
“How could you do this to me?” she hiccupped.
“Because your mother and I thought it would be best, Elisa. We know how you feel about them. What finding that out would do to you. You couldn’t stop them from leaving, they’re already gone. All you can do now is live, baby girl. That’s what this is about. Living. Remembering that no matter how sad, or tough, or hard things get, sometimes there’s nothing you can do to change it.”
Her lower lip quivered. “I hate you.”
“I know you don’t, sweetheart.” And this time when he pulled her in for a hug, she let him. Crying for Mr. Wright, crying for Mrs. Wright, but especially crying for the loss of her boys.
The Wright’s returned back to Sunny Cove, Maine three weeks later to hold Mr. Wright’s funeral.
On the one hand, it was wonderful getting to see them. But on the other, Elisa felt terrible. All three boys had been quiet and sullen as they’d entered the church for Mr. Wright’s memorial, Julian even more so than normal.
His eyes as he’d stood beside Mrs. Wright on the stoop after the service accepting condolences had seemed lost and empty.
Dressed in bright yellow shorts, a black and green pinstriped shirt, one blue sock and one red sock, he looked like a kaleidoscope of color.
Elisa frowned at the snickers some of the kids made when they saw him. It was obvious Mrs. Wright hadn’t been in her right frame of mind when she’d allowed him to walk out the house as he was.
Julian was not only deaf, he was colorblind too. Two conditions which had caused him to be picked on in school.
Her lower chin jutted out when she spied both Roman and Christian standing on the lawn out in front of the church surrounded by a couple of kids from their old class. They were chuckling and pointing at their brother.
Furious that Julian’s own brother’s would be so cruel, she marched over to Jules’ side, and tossing the boys an evil glare over her shoulder, stood directly behind Julian to shield him as best she could from their eyes.
“Jules,” she whispered and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. Her touch caused him to look at her.
Tears slipped soundlessly from the corners of his eyes.
Julian was tall for his age. Almost to her height. With a messy shock of black hair and those bold eyes, her heart gave a tiny pang. He looked so much like his father.
Her sign language wasn’t the best, but she’d taken the time to practice a little while they’d been gone. It suddenly bothered her that in all the years she’d known Jules she’d never tried to learn it.
Tapping her pointer finger so that he’d glance at her hands, she spoke to him for the first time.
She didn’t actually know phrases, that’d been trickier to learn so quickly. But she’d learned the alphabet. Painstakingly she twisted her fingers into letters.
It took her close to a minute to spell it out. And he shuddered when she finished. His thin shoulders visibly trembled beneath his shirt.
Biting onto the corner of his lip, he nodded, and did something back with his fingers. But he moved them so quickly it was a blur she couldn’t hope to understand.
Shaking her head, she gave him a helpless shrug. Hating all over again that she’d never learned to talk to him properly. Julian had hearing aids, but the damage to his ears was so bad, that it basically didn’t help.
He relied almost solely on sign language.
He wiggled his fingers at her again, but again, she couldn’t make out more than a couple of L’s and maybe an A. She wasn’t sure.
Shaking his head, as if to say “nevermind”, he then stepped into her and wrapped her tightly into his arms.
She held him tight, knowing it would be the last time she’d ever get to do it with him again.
“I love you, Jules,” she whispered and then kissed the top of his head.
Three hours later the Wright’s had gone back to New York State and Elisa’s world seemed suddenly more gray.
9 years later
“I totally think Joey’s gonna ask you to the dance,” Charity giggled over the phone line.
Elisa rolled her eyes. Of course Joey was going to ask her. It wasn’t like it was the best kept secret, he was a jock, she was a jock, it was a match made in jocky heaven. She snorted and crunched into the red apple. Rubbing her pink and black striped socked feet together as she lay on the piles of pillows her Father always teased was more than any one girl should need for a bed.
“I’m not sure I’m going to say yes. I have a swim meet that morning.”
“Ugh,” Elisa could practically see her Goth friend rolling her heavily mascaraed eyes, “you are so frustrating, do you know that? You always have meets. When don’t you have meets? All year you’ve been saying you wanted to go to homecoming with Joey, now he’s gonna ask and you’re not sure! I mean, hello!”
She chuckled. “Whatever. Ms. dark, black, and deadly, shouldn’t you be getting ready to do some voodoo alter chant or something?”
“Grr. I don’t even know why we’re friends anymore.”
“Whatever, freakazoid.” She laughed, swallowing her bite of apple and then took another. “I think secretly you’re tired of playing Goth so you live through me.”
“I am not a Goth, I just like dark clothes, and you are just ridiculous.”
“Yeah, you keep telling yourself that and I’ll just pretend that you don’t actually have a voodoo doll hanging up in your locker.”
“I will stick a pin in you,” she growled, “just bet me.”
“Yeah, you go ahead and do that.” She shook her head. Her friend might be weird, but Elisa pretty much thought Charity hung the moon anyway.
“Whatever,” Charity snickered. “Anyway, homecoming. You going, or what?”
Charity and her family had moved from Trinidad and Tobago to Sunny Cove three years ago. At first everyone had avoided the dark-skinned girl with dreds that fell long and heavy down to her butt. She’d been like a bird of paradise stuck inside a monochromatic garden of white roses. She just stuck out. But Elisa had seen beneath the unique exterior to the intelligent, cool girl beneath and in no time the two of them had developed a tight bond.
Eventually Charity had won almost everyone over, with her hint of an island accent and her silky, dark skin the boys had fallen prey to her charms and she’d gone from being the outcast to the girl everyone wanted on their speed dial.
“I don’t know, probably, I guess. If he asks.”
“Jeez, could it have taken you any longer to get that out?”
She stuck out her tongue, curling her fingers through the worn threads of the one and only afghan blanket she’d ever attempted to crotchet. The colors were a mix of black, green, and blue. Colors she’d always loved. “Well, if I’m going, you’re going too.”
“Nah, I don’t do dresses.”
Which was entirely true. Charity had one outfit. Tight black jeans, tight white tops, and a crucifix. Always the crucifix. She was the strangest pseudo Goth/Voodoo Priestess Elisa had ever seen.
Of course, she was the only one Elisa had ever seen, but that was just semantics.
“Elisa!” Her mother’s shrill yell came up the stairs. “Please come here!”
“Oops.” She jerked. “Coming, Mom. Chas, I gotta go. Dinner time. Maybe we can go shopping for some gowns tomorrow.”
“Keep dreaming, girlfriend.”
With a cheery laugh and another goodbye, Elisa hung up. Slipping the cell into her pocket and holding the apple between her teeth, she flew down the stairs and skidded to a complete stop at the sight that met her eyes.
It wasn’t dinner sitting on the kitchen table but the group sitting in the living room that’d made her mother call her down. Four people who’d become merely a memory to her.
Mrs. Wright was no longer as tall as Elisa had once recalled her being. Her skin was pale, attesting to the fact that they no longer lived next to a coastline. Her once shiny sandy blond hair was cut to bob length and now had thick strands of gray between the blond.
But she wasn’t the reason why Elisa suddenly felt like running back upstairs to her bedroom and locking the door.
Three extremely tall males surrounded their diminutive mother. Realizing that she still had the stupid apple stuck in her mouth, she spit it out and rubbed it on her shirt. Which was kind of weird, and dumb, but yeah, Elisa was completely taken aback.
Mom smiled. “Okay, I’ll leave you guys to have your reunion.” She took Mrs. Wright’s hand and led her back into the kitchen where the banging of pots and pans resumed.
“We’re back,” Christian, or Roman, said the moment the four of them were finally alone.
It was really hard to tell the two apart. They looked almost identical. From the Hollister hip jeans, to the collared polo shirts. They weren’t nearly as pale as their mother, but they weren’t as sun kissed as she remembered them being once upon a time either.
Their hair was cut stylishly short and curled around the napes of their necks. She might be sixteen—almost going on seventeen now—and them only fifteen, but it was obvious to her that they were turning into super good looking guys.
The girls at school would eat them up.
Their lips twitched and then the one wearing the red polo spoke up, at a guess she’d say he was Christian since his hair was just a little bit lighter than the one wearing the blue polo.
“We look kind of different, huh? You too, Lisa.” His pretty blue sparkled. “I’m Christian by the way.”
She snorted. “I knew that.”
“Yeah, right.” He yanked her into his arms.
It felt strange being hugged by him. What had once felt so normal now felt awkward. She patted his back, but her eyes drew like magnets to the third Wright boy sitting on her couch.
Unlike his brothers, Julian wasn’t the all American boy next door. Dressed entirely in shades of black and white, his hair was long. Hanging in a kind of skater style around his shoulders. Soft and wavy looking, and it was bizarre that her heart suddenly started to pound as hard as it did. Especially when she noticed a hint of black swirl’s on his wrists peeking out from under the cuffs of his shirt.
Did he have tattoos?
She wet her lips, jerking her eyes away from his, hoping it might help her to breathe a little easier.
And maybe it had something to do with the intense way he was staring at her. His gaze unswerving from her face, his breathing just this side of heavy, that’d caused her heart to thump so violently, or maybe it was just the shock of seeing people she’d sworn she’d never see again.
Christian stepped back and then Roman took his place. Giving her a quick side arm hug.
“Jeez, I forgot how boring this place was.” Christian snorted when she stepped back.
It took everything Elisa had to ignore Julian’s hard stare. But she felt it move all through her.
“Boring? You’re boring.” She swatted his shoulder. Her legs were jittery as she made her way over to her father’s favorite worn blue recliner and sat on the edge of it.
The boys sat down beside Julian and Elisa was suddenly upset that her mother had failed to warn her company might come over today. She was in short blue jean shorts and a Minnie mouse crop top.
She brushed her fingers down her shirt; thank God it was clean at least.
“So umm.” She giggled, that was always her thing when she got nervous. It was a terrible habit. “You guys here on vacation? Can’t imagine you’d be happy to trade in the bright lights of New York for Maine.”
Resting his arm on the back of the couch, Roman crossed his leg over his knee. “Nope. Here for good. Yay.”
She curled her nose, tossing a quick glance at Julian. Her heart thumped loudly when she realized he was still looking at her. All three of them looked so different from the boys she remembered and yet she could have picked Julian out in a crowd.
There’d just always been something different about him. Something uniquely Jules.
She gave him a little wave.
But instead of waving back, he turned his face and studied her father’s running magazine on the end table.
“Ignore him, he’s still just a freak,” Christian said with a roll of his eyes.
She frowned. Feeling that weird need to defend him, which was ridiculous. Julian was no longer a little boy and she was no longer his sister.
They were all pretty much strangers now.
“He’s not a freak,” she said it anyway.
Roman scratched the side of his jaw. “Yeah, and how would you know? Not like you’ve been around for a few years.”
“Ouch. That was mean.” She crossed her arms. “When did you become such a jerk, Rome?”
Christian shrugged. “He doesn’t mean it, Lisa.”
Roman rolled his eyes again.
Clearly things hadn’t been good since the Wright’s had left Sunny Cove. She glanced back at Jules. He still wouldn’t look at her.
Mrs. Wright came out of the kitchen. “Okay guys, we gotta get the bags moved out of the car. You look so gorgeous, Elisa. As tall as your father.” She hugged Elisa and then kissed her cheek.
It was weird how much a scent could ingrain itself into a person’s brain. How even after years of not smelling Mrs. Wright’s perfume of lavender and verbena, suddenly the smell of it transported Elisa back years.
Memories of seaside barbecue’s, and birthday parties, movies under the stars in their backyards, and all the wonderful times they’d spent together.
She hugged her back hard and smiled, those had been some of the best days of her young life.
“Right boys? Isn’t she beautiful?” She looked directly at Julian as she said it.
Elisa’s pulse pounded hard in the back of her throat when Julian’s sea green stare turned to her.
From the corner of her eye she could see Christian and Roman nod. Julian never answered; instead he stood, shoved his hands into his pockets, and walked toward the front door.
Mrs. Wright’s smile wavered just slightly. “Anyway, it’s really good to see you guys again.”
“You too, Mrs. Wright.”
“Call me, Lori,” she said, and patted Elisa’s cheek, “I think you’re old enough now.”
And just like they always seemed to do, the Wright’s walked away from her again. But this time they were back and for Elisa it was like something in her world had changed forever.
KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES ON THE WRIGHT BROTHER!