Sixteen Years Later

I hated this. 

My fingers tapped to the lazy rhythm of the clock. My mind elsewhere. Like how happy my friends would look when I showed them the gifts I bought for them. Or how nice it would be to be back home after a tiring summer spent at Cadet Camp. 

I slouched in my seat while my gaze slid across the desk to the Camp Coordinator. His lips moved in slow motions, the edges tilting ever so often. A feminine laugh sounded beside me. On my left, my mom leaned forward and the Coordinator's eyes followed her. To my right, my dad shuffled in his seat; blue eyes glanced at his wristwatch. 

A few papers were pushed towards my mom, but before she could pick them up, my dad snatched them from the desk. His gaze flashed over the papers, and he whipped out a pen from his shirt pocket. 

The papers were slammed on the desk with a splat. Scribbling found my eardrums. When done, my dad pushed his chair back and stood. 

A smile tilted my lips as my heart sped up, excitement coursing through my veins. This was it. This was goodbye.

The Coordinator stretched his palm to Mom, but Dad forced his hand in the way and grabbed the man's palm. Their firm shake and measured stares spoke volumes. 

The men retracted their hands, and I jumped to my feet, happy to depart this place. It was mom's bright idea to put me here in the first place. Her exact words before I was shipped off was I needed to control my temper. Not that it was all bad. I just got into one fight, or maybe two. Okay, so it was a few, but no one got any major damages. They were healthy brawls; boys being boys. High School was a monster. People tended to be jerks, and to handle a jerk, I had to become the jerk. And, teenage boys tended to mess with stuff that didn't belong to them: like Sophia. 

Her radiant smile danced to the forefront of my mind. 

Our steps carried us out of the sheltered building and out into the heat of the sun. 

"Well, he was nice. Bryan is such a gentleman," Mom beamed as soon as we were seated in Dad's Mercedes. 

Dad scoffed. "Right." 

Mom rolled her pink eyes. "Ugh, come on, Peter. You know he was nice." 

She had once again removed the contacts. She often complained about them. Dad called her a whiner.

Dad chose to remain quiet, and instead started the vehicle and drove off the Camp premises. 

A low long breath left Mom's red-coated lips. Her eyes then flashed to the rearview mirror, right at me. "So, sweety, how was your time spent at camp? Did you meet any new friends? Learned anything?" 

I eyed the wrapped present sitting beside me on the back seat. All of her questions had a different meaning. What she wanted to ask was if I had my anger issues fixed.

"I learned a lot, Mom. And, I don't need new friends. I'm quite fine with the ones I already have." 

Alex and Sophia were the only friends I needed. 

Alex's mother and mine were best friends, who got to experience pregnancy together. Therefore, Alex and I had known each other since birth. Most people thought of us as twins. We were born on the same day and in the same time frame. The difference was I was born several minutes before him. Boy, did he used this disadvantage every chance he got. But, I loved the guy. What could I say? He was my best friend. 

He was the one I trusted with any secret, including who I was. 

Then, there was Sophia —otherwise known as Sophie— with her hazel green eyes and silky blonde hair. She was perfect. 

"Hmmm, but you can have more than two friends. Look at your dad." Mom's words drew both mine and Dad's attention. "He has a lot of friends." 

Dad shook his head at me but smiled at mom when she looked at him. 

Dad was a businessman. I doubt all the people he knew were called friends. 

"I have a lot of friends, Mom." My words came out more like a whine rather than convincing.

She arched a brow. "Oh, do I know them?" 

I sighed, slouching in the seat. 

It was of no use arguing with her. More friends were not what I wanted. Maybe she thought more friends would make everything okay. But, I never wanted okay, I wanted to be normal.

Normalcy meant no Guardians watching my every movement. None of the fake friends would drool over my hot mom. I wouldn't have to lie or hide my family history. I wouldn't have flashes of migraines and anger problems or dark dreams of ending the world and killing everyone. I would be normal. I would be happy with minor teenage problems like everyone else. 

"Shelliot is going to be happy when she gets back from her visit with Father," Mom beamed, rubbing her hands together. 

I sighed, staring through the window as we zapped past vehicles, trees, houses, and more vehicles. 

More of Shelliot. Yay. Guardians were pains.

My mind wandered to Sophia. I could remember the day she moved into town like it was yesterday. We were eleven at the time. Alex and I were playing ball on the beach. Then there she came walking her dog, Rover. No, it was Rover who was walking and dragging her along. 

A soft chuckle slipped out.

She had seen us, strolled right up to us, and introduced herself. I thought she was the most beautiful land girl I'd ever seen. I often wondered if any of her ancestors were merpeople. 

We had hung out that day playing ball. After which, hanging out together was our everyday routine. Even more so when she started attending our school. As time went by, she became a part of our little pack.

Then, she blossomed into every guy's fantasy. There were days when Alex and I would compete for her attention or got into fights because some hotshot thought they were bad enough to ask her out. We'd be upset with each other for days, but, once we heard of a threat, we were ready to wage war. Until my mom got worried. 

I spent a summer in Cadet camp because of that worry.

It didn't take us long before we were pulling into our driveway. The ocean breeze and its aroma engulfed us as we exited the vehicle. 

The excitement returned. My heart raced while my feet bounced. 

I had waited all summer for this. Sophia and I had begun to wander over the boundaries of friendship before I was shipped off. It was nothing serious, yet. Now I was back we could make it official. 

My heart skipped a beat at the thought. 

I grabbed the gifts and my backpack, running after dad with the house key. As soon as the door opened, I dashed past him, into the house, up the stairs to my room. 

"Aren't you a little too old to being running in the house?" Mom yelled. 

Sixteen was never too old. 

Unzipping my backpack, I unloaded the clothes I had stuffed there last night and replaced the space with the two presents. Done, I dashed back down the stairs and out the door. A quick, "I'm going out!" blurted over my shoulder. I never waited on a response. Mom would never let me go yet if I did. 

Near the coast, people were scattered on the beach. Some playing in the cool water while others took sunbaths on the white sand. 

I traveled past them.

 A few years back, I had found a cave further down the beach. The water there tended to be unpredictable, so no one ventured into that area. Thus, we used it as our hang-out spot. 

My pace lessened at the outskirts of the cone-shaped cave. If anything, my heart drummed faster. My fingers tighten on the straps of my backpack.

How hard could this be? I would give Sophia the necklace I bought and then ask her the lucky question. Easy peasy. 

My palms became clammy. Heat crept up on me. 

Maybe I should have asked Alex first. We both knew he liked her too. Maybe it was the best thing to do. Dad said it was always honorable to be honest, and brave to face our fears. Not that I was afraid. I mean, I was Marvelon the great. 

The cave grew taller, bigger. 

I paused. 

Shit! Maybe I should have called first. What if they weren't here. Damn! How could I just assume? 

My palms slid across my pockets. 

And, I left my phone. Great! 

If they weren't there, at least I wouldn't have to do this now. Yeah, tomorrow would be a better day. I could even get some more practice in. 

Shit! Maybe I should practice now. 

At a snail's pace now, I blew out a quick breath before starting in a low whisper. "Sophie, we've known each other for a while. And, I think we should be more than friends." 

God, that was awful. 

I raked a finger through my hair. 

"Sophie, your smiles are like the sun. Whenever I see you, I can't help but feel happy. We have known each other for a while, and so I want to ask will you be my girlfri—"

The last word disappeared from my vocal cords at the scene before me.

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