And the summer sprinted past, gone in a blink, gone before the twins could get used to the idea that they were going into high school (that they were going into high school in different years), and gone before the weather noticed it was meant to be warm. The last day was exciting (for Lox, who was raring to get back into structured learning) and terrifying (for Liam, who didn’t want to face the school alone), and even that was gone too quickly.
“I don’t want to go to bed,” Liam said miserably, perched in the corner of his room, on a new bed and surrounded by new furniture to celebrate their “growing up” despite neither of them feeling particularly grown up.
“Not everyone is as okay with that as you are.” Liam sighed and raked his fingers through his hair. He hoped he would look okay in the school uniform tomorrow.
“Yeah, and I don’t understand why. It really makes life a lot easier.”
“I’m sure it does,” Liam mumbled in response.
Loxley rolled his eyes. He was done with his brother’s moping, and maybe he’d have more patience if he understood Liam’s reasons for being so nervous, but Loxley had never thought the same way as the majority. He was glad for it. Most of people’s insecurities seemed really, really silly.
“Everything will be fine. Illegitimi non carborundum, Lee.”
“The bathrooms are busy,” Faye said when she noticed him staring at her. “I’m stealing your mirror. Won’t be long.”
“Are you going somewhere?”
“Might go out after lunch.”
“So you’re doing your make up to sit around the house?” Loxley blinked.
“Why not? You wouldn’t understand, you’re a guy,” she rolled her eyes and dabbed at a smudge of eyeliner.
“Stereotypes aside, I was hoping to talk to you at some point.”
“Oh?” Faye made sure her hair sat perfectly over her shoulders, combing back any strands of hair that curled over her ears.
“Kane?” Faye paused for a moment to glance at Loxley’s face in the mirror, which remained neutral and calm until she spoke, and then broke into annoyance.
“Yeah, your childhood friend. The guy you never seem to speak to anymore.”
“Friends grow apart, Lox. It happens.”
“Sure it does. That’s not what happened, though, is it? You just decided he didn’t fit the image you wanted to give off in high school.”
Faye huffed. She couldn’t perfect her make up like this. “What’s your point?” she asked bluntly.
There was a hesitation. In anyone else, Faye might have taken it as a pause to collect thoughts. This was Loxley. He was studying her like he would a textbook: closely, missing nothing, completely memorising every detail of the moment. And then – “Don’t you feel bad? At all?”
Faye gave up on the mirror. Loxley’s gaze was too piercing and unwavering and she couldn’t focus. Instead, she turned around to face him, already feeling defensive.
“I’m happy, he’s happy, what’s there to feel bad about?”
Another moment of hesitation, and this time it was for Loxley to take a second to digest her words. “Wow.” He shook his head in wonder. “You’re either really good at fooling yourself or you don’t care enough to look at him. If that’s him being happy, I don’t want to see him sad.”
“He’s a big boy, Loxley, he can get over it. I haven’t spoken to him in, like, two years, so why are you bringing him up?”
“I just assumed you were spending time with him in school, until I saw otherwise,” he said flatly. “You’re even worse of a person than I thought. Get out of my room.”
Faye’s eyebrows shot up. That was so mean! Of course, they had never seen eye to eye even as children, but that was a harsh blow even for him. Faye felt her cheeks colour and scowled at him. “You’re such a dick. ‘Get out of my room’ she mimicked, jerking the door open and storming out. Loxley could only feel satisfied that he’d upset her. Nothing wrong with giving someone a taste of their own medicine.
“Why did we think five children was ever a good idea?” Jessica groaned, stretching her legs over James and leaning back on the low arm of the sofa.
“Well, we hoped they would all get my brains and good looks. Unfortunately we just had to keep trying, they kept getting things from you…”
Jessica gasped and prodded James in his side, making him flinch away and giggle. “You’re so mean!”
“I’m not mean, sweetheart. Just telling the truth.” James winked at her and patted her leg. “I’m worried about Liam,” he said, not bothering to keep his voice down. Only Summer was home and she was working away on her story, and unless James went right behind her and shouted her name she wasn’t going to break out of her writing trance.
“It must be hard to feel individual in a big family,” Jessica sighed. “All we can do is encourage him to try new things. He’ll find something he loves to do, and then maybe it will help him.”
James nodded. Summer had her writing, and Skye liked to bake. Faye was – well, Faye, which was to say she was sociable and not at all academic, and Loxley was quite the opposite. “Their birthday is coming up. Maybe we can take them somewhere new. There’s a rock climbing place opened up in the city?”
“You think Liam will want to go rock climbing?” Jessica said doubtfully, thinking of their reserved and easily intimidated youngest son.
“Maybe not. It’s just an idea. Maybe he’d like some music lessons, or money put towards something. I could ask work for a few extra days when I go to France later in the year, and take him along.”
Jessica tilted her head to the side and thought about it. The problem remained the same: even though they suggested these ideas to Liam, he never seemed that enthused. They couldn’t force him to find a hobby.
James reached out and placed his hand over Jessica’s stomach, remembering the times they would sit on their old sofa and discuss other parenting issues while her belly grew ever bigger. “He’ll find something eventually. All we can do is keep trying.”
Faye wiggled the cursor until the screen brightened. The laptop hummed as the document flashed back onto the screen in front of her, and with some surprise Faye realised that Summer hadn’t logged out. This must be the story that she had been working on for the last… year? Two years?
She scanned the words. She didn’t know much about writing and what made something good, but it flowed well and before Faye knew it, she was a few pages down and enjoying herself.
The main character was awesome. Her name was Shanna and she kicked ass, and then came the troubled relationship with a girl – a girl called Unna.
Faye leaned forward and read some more, scrolling down until Unna’s name came up again. The girl acted remarkably like Uma, who was in Faye’s friend group at school.
“Huh,” Faye sat back in her chair. Was Summer gay? Did she like Uma? How cute!
Summer’s distraught voice kicked Faye out of her thoughts and she jumped, banging one of her knees on the underside of the desk.
“Ow,” Faye complained. “Don’t creep up on me!”
“Are you reading my writing?” Summer demanded, arms folding over her chest self consciously. Faye barely spared her a glance.
“Yeah, it’s really good. Hey, is Unna based on Uma?”
“Get off! Now!”
“I don’t care, you should have logged off! That’s my writing, I can’t believe you looked at it!”
“Why can’t I? You’ve showed some to Skye!”
“Yeah, tiny sections! If I wanted you to see it, I would have asked you to read some.”
“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” Faye assured her with a smile. “Like I said, it’s really good.”
“Ugh, that’s not the point!” Summer yelled, hiding her face in her hands briefly until the anger got too much. “I can’t believe you, Faye. You’re so – so insensitive! Don’t ever look at it again!”
Faye stood up from the desk chair and watched her sister with a sly smile. “You’re totally embarrassed because Unna is based on Uma, right? Do you like her?” Faye’s eyes were round. She could totally set them up! She’d have to find out if Uma was gay first, though, which she wasn’t sure the girl was, but it was worth a try.
“Oh my God, you’re not listening to me! This was a – a breach of my privacy, alright, and fine, I do like Uma, but I am not telling her that, I am not telling anyone at school that, and I certainly didn’t want to tell YOU that!”
Faye’s face, so full of joy at the thought of setting her sister up with someone, suddenly fell. “Why not?” she asked in a small voice.
Summer laughed in disbelief. “Are you really asking that? You’re such a gossip. Anything Skye and I tell you gets right back to your horrible group of friends and then we have to put up with them being even MORE bitchy to us than they already are.”
“I wouldn’t tell them that you’re gay,” Faye promised, wounded but becoming defiant as Summer’s words sunk in. Why were her siblings being so horrible to her all of a sudden?!
“Good. Keep out of my writing. Don’t you dare tell any of your friends about my book or – or -” Summer flailed for an appropriate punishment and came up with nothing. She had no power over Faye, couldn’t use anything against her, and had to share a room with her. “UGH!” She turned on her heel and stormed to her bed. “I’m having a nap. Just go away!”
Faye rolled her eyes. “Someone’s PMSing,” she mumbled, sauntering out the room and happy to have the last remark. She’d only tried to compliment Summer and look what happened! If only her sister wasn’t so immature.
This whole “relationship” thing seemed to get more confusing each day. Skye had thought that the natural progression was to get closer over time, to kiss for longer and deeper and feel that spark of excitement for something more. This, though… this was weirdly boring.
It was like she was waiting for Joshua to catch up to where her thoughts were, to play his part in this daydream of a romance, but he seemed perfectly happy with how things were and didn’t care to advance anything. Everything was chaste and proper, and it was like there was this wall that always had to be between them because… Skye wasn’t really sure why, come to think of it. The idea of the relationship wasn’t very exciting anymore. But her parents had always said it starts out bright and passionate before becoming more familiar and stable. Maybe this was what it was supposed to be like.
Or maybe she just wasn’t trying hard enough?
Sometimes Skye got the confidence to test the waters, as it were, and see if she could push things along. Maybe he was waiting for her to show she wanted more than the quick kisses they shared (and far fewer than she would have liked…)
She shuffled up to him and reached out. His eyes opened as her shadow fell over him and he smiled at her, leaning up and meeting her hand halfway.
“Are you bored of sunbathing?”
“No,” Skye said shyly. “I just wanted to be a bit closer to you.” Her face could have fried an egg at that moment. What a stupid and embarrassing thing to say! Joshua didn’t seem to mind and continued to smile, their position quickly becoming awkward when he said nothing more.
Finally, Joshua sat up. His face was red from the sun. Skye opened her mouth to let him know – he really should have put more sun cream on – but he kissed her before she could speak. All that came out was a squeak. It was a clumsy kiss, neither of them knowing exactly what they were supposed to be doing, and it was weirdly wet and cold and his mouth tasted like the fish he’d had at lunch.
Skye had no idea what those romance books were talking about. This wasn’t exciting at all.
When Skye walked home it was with a frown. She kept her eyes on her feet. Her mind was in a whirl – what was she doing wrong? Weren’t you supposed to know when you liked someone? She thought she had liked Josh, but the kiss made no butterflies start up in her stomach. Was it something to do with practice? If only she could ask someone who knew!
Time always seemed to pass too quickly, except for when Summer was writing. When she wrote, time in the real world meant nothing, and she could progress through whole hours or even make a few minutes last forever.
Though the school year was progressing quickly, and coursework was being assigned and marked and made into a folio in various classes, Summer felt calm when she wrote. She knew all the rules of the world and nothing was overwhelming.
Summer nearly shot out of her seat, and would have done, had her legs not been securely under the desk. She bumped her knees painfully on the rough wood and rushed to minimise her document. She almost clicked the close button by mistake, which gave her a second fright.
“Uma?!” she squeaked, eyes round, finally meeting the other girl’s gaze.
“I need your help,” the girl sighed. “Writing help.”
“Okay, so I got my creative writing piece back. For the folio, you know, so it needs to be good. And it’s really not. I know you already handed yours in and it’s all set already. The teacher said you might be able to give me some tips?”
Summer almost had to pinch herself. This felt like a dream. Uma was talking to her. About writing. “W-writing tips?” she said, her voice wavering with nerves, and she did end up pinching herself. She needed to get a grip! “Do you want to do it here?”
“Well, I was thinking maybe you could come to the bookstore in town at some point. I work there most weekends and it can get pretty quiet an hour or so before close. I might as well use the time wisely!”
“You work in the bookshop?”
“Yeah, I’m surprised I’ve never seen you there before.” She smiled – a warm, glowing smile – and Summer found herself smiling back and was so lost in the moment she almost forgot to answer.
“Oh, I tend to detour there after school. I’m home most weekends. Writing.”
“You write so much! When did you start?”
“Years ago,” Summer said with a smile. “Near the start of high school. I mean, what I wrote then was awful, but I never thought about publishing it then. The main character has grown on me too much though. I’m thinking about starting again, more seriously, and maybe publishing it at some point.”
Uma’s eyes lit up. “That’s amazing! I love reading but apparently I’m not so good at writing. Your expertise would be of great help,” she hinted, and Summer realised that she hadn’t actually agreed to anything yet.
“I’d love to help!” She said it quickly and far too enthusiastically, and hoped Uma hadn’t noticed. “Maybe next weekend?”
“I better go and finish my lunch. I left it when I noticed you weren’t in the canteen, I didn’t want to miss you! I bet it’s cold now…”
Summer’s heart swelled. She didn’t know how to reply without looking like an idiot again, but managed to laugh. “The only thing worse than the school lunches is cold school lunches…”
“Tell me about it!” Uma giggled. “Well, I’ll leave you to it.” She nodded to the screen and stood up, half turning to wave at the stunned Summer, and left the library a moment later. Summer placed her hand on her cheeks. They were burning hot.
After a quick check around her, Summer let out an excited squeal and bounced around in her seat. This was the best day of her life!
A/N: The plots are all underway quite nicely. I know Faye is quite… difficult, and I’m not entirely sure if she’ll improve or continue to be, well, her. On the bright side, we don’t have to see a whole lot of her as heir.